Christine Felstead teaches yoga for runners, and emphasizes alignment and increasing the range of motion in the body. The key for all stretches, she says, is to breathe. “When holding each pose, inhale and exhale through the nose. Breathe deeply to feel the breath expand the back and side ribs, and hold each pose for five to 10 breaths.”
Everyone knew Christine Felstead was a runner. She was out there four or five days a week. She logged upwards of 150 kilometers each month. She’d even knocked off a pair of marathons. Plus, it was clear she was a runner from the way she moved: In the morning, she’d hobble to the bathroom, where a long, hot shower was required to straighten out her spine; in the evening, out for drinks, she struggled to pull herself up from her chair. By 2001, after 20-odd years of solid running and creeping stiffness, Felstead finally had an awakening. “It was hard to say I didn’t want to run anymore because it had become such a big part of my identity,” she says. But she was barely in her 40s. “I didn’t want to keep waking up feeling like I was 95.”
You don’t have to be a marathoner, however, to suspect your body might actually belong to a nonagenarian. So many of our daily activities, from driving to desk-sitting to doom-scrolling on our smartphones, serve to keep us static; throw in 19 months of a global pandemic, which left most of us clenched like hell, and it’s little wonder we’re all achy and tight.
That can be especially scary when, like Felstead back in 2001, you’ve barely reached middle age—if things are this bad now, the future must mean a sentence to Tin Man levels of creakiness. “The physiology in our body changes over the years, and we do get stiffer—that’s just the physiological effect of getting old,” says Melissa Doldron, a registered massage therapist at Toronto’s Rebalance Sports Medicine clinic. “But no one wants to be that caricature of the hunched-over old person.”
Here’s what’s going on: As we age, our muscle mass drops, our tendons, and connective tissue become stiffer, and we lose muscle fibers, which means our muscles aren’t as quick as they once were. “We become slower, and people often start having trouble with their shoulders, hips, ankles, and spine,” says Lora Giangregorio, University of Waterloo professor and Schlegel Research Chair in Mobility and Aging. Our mobility—which is to say, our capacity to move our bodies through their whole range of motion—starts to suffer. That’s when it can become considerably harder to function the way we want to, whether that’s carrying heavy groceries and putting them away, or climbing up and down the stairs, or bending over to lace up our shoes.
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