Melissa tugged on my left leg as I pulled, face screwed up in pain.
“Boy are you tight today,” she said, referring to my left hip joint. “What have you been doing?”
Um, not doing, I might add.
Melissa is my uber-talented Thai masseuse. Especially when I’m in training for some epic adventure, or recovering from injuries (as now) she’s one of the team members who keeps me fluid and moving.
My hip joints were as tight as lacrosse balls. Ow.
This morning I pulled out my Shiva Rea yoga tapes (they’re eleven years old but they are superb) and clicked to the series on hip flexors.
OW. OW. OW. OW.OWOWOWOWOWOW.
I got through the whole program (minus the headstands, thankyouverymuch, I like my furniture), I was reminded of why we cross train.
The original notion of cross training was for runners. To only run was to overtrain, and to leave other parts of our bodies underdeveloped. I used to be one of those. I ran eight miles a day, had toothpicks for arms. My cardio was good. And I was as flexible as a floorboard.
And I injured a lot.
People who run, ride horses, ski, skate, board, hike, all those sports that involve considerable leg movement, need to stay limber. Hips suffer.
Ask anyone at the end of the Everest Base Camp hike what aches the most. Not the calves. It’s the hips.
The good news is that many more of us do yoga these days. That’s an essential, if not THE essential, part of cross training. But even that has its pitfalls.
I’d memorized a routine from yoga star Shiva Rea so that I could do it on the road. Great. Fine.
However, this particular routine, which in every other way engaged most of the body parts, didn’t stretch my hip flexors. I skipped that routine. Why? Because it’s hard and it hurts.
Which is precisely the feedback that tells me how badly I need to do it.
Being human (read, lazy) I would do the easy routine out of habit. I added kickboxing, after which I’d forget to stretch out. I’d ride horses, cycle, or run Red Rocks, or hike. Bodybuild. Or whatever. In all ways I’m thinking I’m taking care of myself, right?
Regarding my hips, I’m no more limber than that guy I saw at my 24 Hour Fitness two nights ago who looked like a bright red Michelin man. He could barely bend his elbows, much less tie his shoes. A walking stereotype.
Meg Hansson, my longtime mentor who passed away last October at the fine age of 93, adopted daily yoga in her early 20s. Long before it was popular. She was even an instructor. She credited her yoga routine with her remarkable flexibility. She was running, hiking and active well into her early nineties, and continued to work with a trainer three times a week until she passed. This was of course supported with a very intelligent diet (virtually no sugar) and meditation.
As more women hit the cracks and the crags and the pitches and the peaks, do 100-mile endurance races at altitude and Tough Mudders, it’s even more important for us to mind our hips.
Good reason, folks. There’s been a 200% increase in hip replacements in those of us ages 45-54. Far too many of those are younger women, and far too many of those are from exercise overuse.
I can’t speak for anyone else but I just don’t see undergoing hip replacement as a fun option for overdoing it. For anyone, young OR old.
It’s great to see us out there. It’s not great to overdo it, male or female. Varying what we do, how hard we push, and providing a core stretching program like yoga, which is a body’s best friend (um, especially if I happen to actually DO the hip flexor stuff) is what keeps us in the game and out of the surgical theater.
My hips bark at me when I don’t love them. One of the best ways is hit the pool. When I fractured my pelvis in two places (the result of a spectacularly entertaining ass-over-teakettle flight down 32 stairs in Isafjordjur Iceland two years ago), my sports chiro said, in effect, “Get Thee to a Pool.” Roger. I was back on my horse in six weeks, and running Red Rocks in seven. I was 62.
These days, I run 65 laps (with tunes attached to head) in chest-high water. I circle around the Silver Aerobics folks and run as hard as I can, laughing at George Carlin. It keeps my hips juicy. Three times a week. No impact.
If I skip, as I did lately, my hip joints remind me that a little love is in order.
I’m as big a fan as anyone of seeing powerful women out doing extraordinary things. But in this as in all other areas, overdoing it is just plain foolish, and can be incredibly costly. You’re not proving anything to anyone if you end up unable to walk.
I can’t speak for you, but I prefer the pair I was born with.