Some Homework for the Class of 1960

courtesy of Al Veerhoff

Lie on your back, knees locked, toes locked upward. Raise your left leg as high as you can without unlocking the knee and swing it very slowly over the right leg as far as you can comfortably reach, and hold it there while you count down from 20. Then very slowly bring it back to the starting position. Rest a few seconds, then raise the leg again and repeat the stretch. Remember to move slowly. Five repetitions both legs, resting a bit between lifts.

Now, stand up. Any change in your back muscles?

A few reminders for this exercise: move very slowly to maximize the pull on your muscles; keep both knees and feet locked during the lifts; swing your leg only as far you can without lifting your hip and only as high as you feel comfortable, and avoid longer counts and additional repetitions. This activity stretches nearly all of your core muscles simultaneously. With a septuagenarian body, you can overdo it.

Do the workout daily, twice daily if you wish, and you’ll feel your back, abdominal and thigh muscles tighten; the IRS will send a refund; your old college girlfriend will call, and your high school will install a bust of your likeness. And if you go to reunion you’ll know who did and did not exercise.

BTW, if you are regularly biking or swimming, you probably don’t need to do this.

I do. In the past 5 years I had a stroke and a lumbar laminectomy for a spinal infection. Add to that a sore knee that had me hobbling half the time. This led to a continuing program of learning how to walk properly, hold my body straight, and strengthen the muscles above and below my knee to reduce stress.

Thus I gratuitously offer to the Class of 1960, besides the daily monster exercise above, some activities I learned to improve stride and balance.

1. Stand between two chair backs for support and balance on one leg and then the other, for 30 seconds, 1 minute, 2 minutes.

2. Look at how you normally place your feet. Are they under your shoulders, straight out? Where you often stand for long periods, put down two strips of tape the way you should be standing and keep your feet on the tape.

3. To walk straighter, pick a line on the sidewalk or floor tiles and try to keep one foot parallel to the line. Practice until you feel your body change the way it moves.

4. Ease your leg muscles when you sit — think quarterback and shove your butt back toward the seat.

5. For balance, strengthening your back and fixing your stride, slide your feet along a straight line sideways, using a basketball crouch (hands and shoulders high) or tennis crouch (arms and hands in front). Then try to do it with your eyes closed and keep moving on that line.

I can’t boast that I’ve mastered all of these exercises, but I recommend finding ways to incorporate them into your daily schedule. Consider these efforts a tuneup, not an engine overhaul.

. . . At our last reunion I watched my how classmates were dancing and I suggested to a reunion aide that she probably hadn’t seen so many gyrating septuagenarians. Oh no, she said, the Class of ’59 was just like that. Those fogies? Maybe my classmates at the 55th reunion will be standing straighter. . .

To say that I’m looking forward to reunion is an understatement. I learn so much from my peers whenever we meet. Another thing that always amazes me is how many of my classmates married up. (You know who you are; I don’t need to name names.) For the life of me, I don’t know what she sees in you.