It’s always a struggle, isn’t it? “What is?” you may ask. Well, everything. Loading the dishwasher last week became one. The simple stretch from standing up to leaning six inches with a nearly weightless fork in my hand resulted in a ‘ping’ I recognized as a warning from my back that I had forced it to do something for which it is not, at this time in life, designed.
How can a person know when leaning over is a good thing or a bad thing? It all seems so much the same. Thirty times a week, I can lean over to the same dishwasher with the same fork (I bought cheap forks four years ago and we don’t have many left) and nothing goes wrong. The thirty-first time becomes a different story.
Once when I had been talked into three sessions with a physical trainer, the tiny young sweet girl related that you never strain your back if you remember to tighten your gluts before you lean. I looked at her, smiling, nodding my head, and never once letting her see what was going on in my mind. First, the thought that everything is simple and flexible and sooo doable when you’re nineteen. She probably didn’t even need to think about her gluts or leaning or tightening. It just all worked. Simple, she said with a smile. Which leads to the next issue. What exactly are gluts?
Maybe I’m the only one on earth, but all this referring to body parts by their scientific name – even shortened ones – is a bit off-putting. Lats, flexors, fascia. “Use your deltoid,” says the training instructor. I’m sweating, straining and tired, and now I have to put my mind to figuring out labels from a uni-sex naked body on a poster from my doctor’s office that I study for 36 seconds twice a year when I visit her. Something’s going to give, with that much concentrating, and I’m hoping it’s not my mind. If the trainer would just point, or use general vocabulary, “Tighten your arm. No, farther up,” that might work. Come to think of it, pointing is the best solution, especially for someone my age. Which is my final comment.
I’m not at the age when I’ve given up trying to focus my mind. But I have learned that I should focus on one thing at a time. Lean over and think about leaning over, meta-cognition about something that should be instantaneous, for me is really a multi-task, and I have given up multi-tasking. I can tighten my gluts, after I remember where they are, and I can lean over, but those two (three?) functions are not going to happen at the same time. And leaning over? That task is so automatic it requires no thought at all, making me mentally back-up to stop that reflex action. So to do what the trainer assumes is as simple for me as for her, I would really have to think about four things at once.
- Don’t lean over until I tighten my gluts
- figure out where my gluts are
- tighten them
- then try to remember what I was going to do and why my bottom is all squeezed up.
It makes me long for my yoga days. In fact, I credit the fact that my back gives me warnings – instead of emergencies – to sun salutations and the occasional back-stand and spinal twist. Maybe, after this fling with spin class and Zumba, yoga will remind me it was my first love.
For a couple days, I relived the ping in my back, a wonderful reminder two or three times a day to stop whatever I was doing and stretch. I swam more and funked less. A week passed. Things got better. Never once was I motivated to name that specific place in my lower back that pinged. But, I can sure point to it.