Use It or Lose It. A Different Kind of Flexibility

The other day my son who loves golf asked me to play a round with him. He has been chomping at the bit to get out and play golf now that ski season is over and the snow has finally melted. I quickly agreed and we were off to the course for a round. It was wonderful being outside, swinging the club and spending some time with my son.

Fast forward. Next morning. I wake up. I have a migraine and cannot move my neck without pain. I feel like I got hit by a truck. Ok, we are talking about golf now, not sky diving. What just happened?


 Boy, did I love the old days where I could just grab my tennis racquet and head to the courts for a game. Or grab my golf clubs or grab my skis and just go. Sadly, those days seem to be over. My mind is fighting it. I feel like the same person I always was but my body is having none of it.

Daily Maintenance has become my new anthem.

Leg exercises   small-green-checkmark

Neck stretchessmall-green-checkmark

Arm curlssmall-green-checkmark

Workout on bike or elliptical small-green-checkmark

Face washed, creams applied, sunblock applied small-green-checkmark

Teeth brushed small-green-checkmark

Shower and hair styled small-green-checkmark

Makeup applied small-green-checkmark

Healthy breakfast prepared and eaten small-green-checkmark

Medicines taken small-green-checkmark

Dogs walked small-green-checkmark

Ok, great! I am done with my checklist just to keep myself together.

I look at my watch. It’s 11 am and I am ready to start my day. WHAT????????

Do you feel like the older you get, the more maintenance you require?

There is a disconnect between how I view myself and what my body is actually telling and showing me. What just happened? I am the same person I have always been.

Age doesn’t reflect how people are living their lives these days. People are more active than they have ever been and many older adults have young children in tow which somehow negates their real age. Or does it?

What I have learned is as you age if you don’t stretch and move, your joints start to get less flexible. It’s really important to keep your joints moving.

For most of us, especially as we get older, our lifestyle dictates that we’re sitting either behind the steering wheel, at a desk, at home watching TV or socializing with friends and family. This one single act (sitting) causes many muscles to remain at their most contracted (shortest) state and therefore, when we try to stand up and move, our bodies don’t react the way we would like for them to. If I had to pay $1.00 to my kids every time they hear me say “I am stiff as a board” they would be millionaires. I first started noticing it on long car trips when I would get out of the car and almost stumble out, feeling like I couldn’t even walk.

And some parts of our bodies suffer more than others. The older we get, sitting more, our hamstrings tend to get tight and we stiffen up. I had knee surgery last year because of that exact issue. My IT Band which runs down from hip to knee got so tight despite physical therapy and all kinds of stretches and exercises that I ultimately chose surgery as a last resort. Warning: the time it takes for muscles to atrophy after surgery is not equal to the time it takes to build those muscles back. The atrophy struck as fast as lightning. Building back to my original state has taken a year.

The good news is that if we build habits of daily exercise and healthy living, with some work, effort and dedication we can counteract some of the aging process and actually regenerate those muscles and other parts of our body. Bad news. It takes discipline and commitment and shifting around priorities for the day to do it.

Ok, so my husband and my sons make fun of me when I pull out my contraptions. My arsenal, including the wall where I do my neck stretches provides them with hours of material for jokes at my expense. Let them joke. No worries on my end.


There are the small and large foam rollers, the stretch bands, the arm weights, leg weights, stability ball, balance pad. Then best of all, my two favorite tools.

First, my  “go to” tool is the stick. This tool is described on Amazon as “a toothbrush for muscles”. The Stick is used to compress and stretch your muscle. It has made a big difference for me. I find if I use it first thing in the morning or before exercise or sports it really helps loosen the muscles.

Then there is the body back buddy. It is a trigger point massager. I use it for my neck and back. Basically, it is another way to help loosen things up.

My other tools are things I learned from a physical therapist or in an exercise class. The bottom line is you can do a lot on your own at home and many of our aches and pains may be minimized by regular maintenance or if we are injured or feeling pain there are many avenues and alternatives to explore besides surgery. The choices I have explored are physical therapy, therapeutic massage, Pilates, yoga, personal training, and chiropractic treatments. The list goes on and on. Sometimes it exhausts me but I know there are answers out there to reach my objectives to keep strong, flexible and all in one piece!

The issue for most of us is time. We are already overscheduled, overworked and exhausted. Each time I go to an appointment to address some ache or pain they give me more “to do’s”. “Here is another exercise to add into your routine.”  YIKES. STOP. NO MORE. I am spending my entire day focusing on my body. It is going to be hard to explain why the fridge is empty, there is no dinner, the laundry wasn’t done, my blog wasn’t written, my business calls weren’t made because I was working on my body all day.

In the end, I find it is about making choices. Some days routines may be abbreviated and I will find ways to simplify things but with the understanding that if I skip my elements completely I will be hobbling around by the end of the day and paying for it.

So there you have it. One of my secrets is that I am really falling apart. Behind the curtain is an arsenal of tools that have become part of my life that keep me going. What are your tools or secrets for maintaining a healthy body?

Stay tuned for more in this series about health and wellness.

About Shari

I am a two-time cancer survivor and patient advocate. Diagnosed as a young adult, at age 25 with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I had to quickly face the reality of life’s curveballs. My treatment offered a potential cure while at the same time, underestimated the long term side effects including a secondary cancer (breast cancer) nine years later. Shortly after my breast cancer treatment ended, my youthful, seemingly healthy mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and passed a year later. I have lived the cancer experience as a patient and a family member/ caregiver and understand both sides. Life after treatment is often challenging emotionally and physically and there is a gap in providing needed support. I don’t consider cancer a gift as it is not something I would ever want to give to someone. Rather, I view cancer as an opportunity; one I received at an early point in my life to live intentionally, understanding how things can change at any moment. I live without regrets, fully understanding the gift and fragility of life.
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