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One Small Change

6 Reasons to Stretch Daily

I’ve been on a cruise ship for just over two weeks now, steadily making my way across the Pacific to Hong Kong. Despite the injuries I detailed earlier in this blog and a few rough sea-days that made any type of exercise challenging, I haven’t missed a yoga class and am managing to stretch for about 90 minutes daily. So perhaps it’s a good time to assess the effect that all this is having on me—both the training and life on the Lido:

1. I feel younger.

If you ever want to instantly feel like a kid again, go on a cruise with lots of senior citizens. I am the “youngster” at every function; I feel incredibly fit by comparison (especially after lapping one elderly gentleman 27 times while running a mile on deck); I have more women (albeit 80-plus) swooning over me than Keith Urban; and I’ve reclaimed my party-animal status, shutting down karaoke each night at 10 p.m. Oh, and I suppose the stretching might have something to do with it, too.

2. I’m not as hungry.

This is really strange given that I’m surrounded by more food than Billy Joel in his favorite Italian restaurant. But it’s not wise to stretch on a full stomach and a rocking ship, so I usually skip breakfast. Then after yoga, all that gut twisting has squelched my appetite so I can usually get by with some fruit and coffee for the rest of the morning. I think I may even be losing weight.

3. I’m more aware of my body.

And it’s not just because the eightysomethings are hitting on me. I can’t remember the last time I went barefoot, but yoga requires it. And it feels good. I’ve also noticed that I’m much tighter on my right side than on my left. And after being bent into some Gumby-like positions, I’m also aware of some moles I need to get checked.

4. I’m becoming more balanced.

This skill improves naturally on a moving ship, but there’s more to it than that. Because life naturally imbalances our bodies, once you know your tighter side, stretching expert Ann Frederick recommends stretching muscles on a 2:1 basis. “Always stretch your tighter side first,” she explains, “then stretch the other side and then come back to the tight side. This will balance and strengthen you better than if you just stretched both sides equally.”

5. I feel healthier.

Maybe it’s all this fresh sea air, or the fact that the food and water on ship is ultra-purified and there’s an ongoing war on germs rivaling any maneuvers in Afghanistan. But a part of it is also that I’m getting fit in a new way. I always knew there were multiple parts to total fitness (e.g. strength, endurance and flexibility), but I never consistently trained that last component.

6. I’ve gotten taller.

This sensation could be stemming from being with an army of 4-foot-3 grandmas and lots of equally diminutive Filipino pool boys, but I suspect it’s also because my posture has improved. After a lifetime of being hunched over a computer or bent over in sports such as cycling and running, I’m finally opening up and standing tall. And whether it’s just being on vacation or starting each morning with a series of sun salutations, I’ve felt the stress lift from my neck and shoulders like morning fog off the bridge.

I feel like I’ve discovered a new universe. Could this be how Columbus felt upon sighting the New World?

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Stretching, Flexibility, Leisure Time, Travel