A Long Blog Post For Benjamin (Heartosaurus) On Flexibility As He Ages

Hi folks,

There are two main species of British barnacles on the shore, are identified based upon their opercular plate pattern. I thiink these are C. stellatus?

The are two main species of British barnacles on the Welsh shore are identified based upon their opercular plate pattern. I suspect that these are C. stellatus?

Today my workout will consist of a long walk enjoying an exploration of the littoral zone (shoreline) ecology of this region of Spain. It is limited in scope because the Mediterranean Sea has very shallow tides due to flow constraints in the Strait of Gibraltar, but there is still a rich sea life to be seen. As I always do when I walk along a coastal shoreline, I’ll be musing about my experiences as a teenager attending the Sea Shore Ecology Field Course, in Haverford West, Pembrokeshire, Wales, fifty (50) years ago. Is it really that long ago that I learned to tell Balanus balanoides from Chthalamous stellatus by their opercular plate pattern (right angle versus acute angle of intersection, if I remember correctly) and their preferred habitats on that beautiful tidal shore? Yep! Furthermore, it would be another ten (10) years before Benjamin Carey, of Heartosaurus fame, would be born, and another forty (40) years before he would send me the following long and interesting e-mail message:

“I had open-heart surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm when I was 37. I bounced back and ran a marathon a year later. Generally I feel great, and I turned 40 this year. Am I considered a “fit old dog” yet? Hahaha   Anyway, my question has to do with flexibility. I remember as a kid in sports my coaches always used to joke around about “wait till you get to be my age and see if you can touch your toes so easily”. I couldn’t comprehend it, but I have to tell you that right now, flexibility is my number one challenge. My lack of it as I’ve gotten older is nagging and constantly contributing to backaches, hip aching, and a general annoyance. I can touch my toes, but my flexibility has gone to hell, as I’ve gotten older. I never ever thought I would see this day! I stretch once or twice a week, but it doesn’t help much. Should I be stretching everyday? Twice a day? My hamstrings, lower back, and quads are the biggest challenge. I still haven’t adapted to how long recovery takes as I’ve aged. It’s another surprise to me, but it really does take my body longer to recover between workouts. I learned that quickly when I was training for the marathon. I tried running everyday like I did when I trained in college (sometimes twice a day workouts) and I just couldn’t do it. I finally gave in and realized I can achieve better results with more rest.  So anyway, how is your own flexibility? Do you have any secrets, tips, or advice to share?

I do have some advice to share as this blog is loaded with it, though advice is one thing and getting results is quite another. I’ll summarize my thoughts on your message:

Specific Issues:

I turned 40 this year” – Yep, aging begins at 40, though I suspect that our climacteric starts in our early 20s. Get ready for bifocals if you don’t have them already.

Am I considered a “fitolddog” yet?” – Oh to be so young again, though you are entering the stage when younger people will pass you by, however hard you train, but you’ll pass a lot of younger people who don’t train enough! Suck it up, my friend, and enjoy it!

My flexibility has gone to hell as I’ve gotten older.” – You have neglected it, that’s all. If you continue down that road you’ll be out of the race, so start a well thought out flexibility program now, and do it daily as part of your life. I work on balance and flexibility when waiting in the grocery line, in a store, hanging around waiting for a friend, and so forth, plus I use rollers before and after running (after a while this will only take a few minutes, but it takes 15 min/2x/day for the first few months).

My hamstrings, lower back, and quads are the biggest challenge.” – Join the club, these are problems for everyone in our situation, but take care, a hamstring pull can be bad. Quads are easy to fix with a roller. For lower back you have to determine which muscle group(s) is affected, but it is generally a tight hip flexor (psoas) that induces lower back pain in runners, which can be fixed without too much trouble as long as you haven’t pulled it, and then it can take months to fully recover normal function. Power Cranks are the best tool to fix hip flexors for running, but take care if you go down that road.

I tried running everyday like I did when I trained in college.” – I don’t think that competitive run training every day is a good idea at any age, as it just beats you up. You need a good coach to guide you on this, which I wouldn’t be without in spite of the cost. There is also loads of training advice online. It is critical to cross-train, listen to the experts, and I would take a look at the books by Jack Heggie and Earl Fee, linked elsewhere on this site. You’ll do a great marathon running 3x/week, slowly building skill, cadence, endurance and pace (the most dangerous) as part of your plan. You have a plan? 


General Comments:

  • FitOldDog's Mom, Joan Key, tying her shoes at age 93, and still no major flexibility issues.

    FitOldDog’s Mom, Joan Key, tying her shoes at age 93, and still no major flexibility issues.

    There is a genetic component to flexibility, but generally what you start with is what you get, so you can’t blame it on that.

  • You don’t have to become incapacitatingly less limber as you age, but you apparently cannot avoid becoming increasingly desiccated, which makes flexibility a challenge.
  • You have to work on flexibility, balance, and symmetry all your life if you want to be effective as an endurance athlete – and let’s face it, marathons are endurance races.
  • Every muscle is different, each like a unique animal in your body (which they are, really). This means that you can release your psoas muscle with your thumb, while such treatment will have no effect on your forearm muscles, and it will put your Quadratus lumborum (QL) into spasm – my advice on QL (like two crazy octopi sitting on your lower back) is to treat them like rabid dogs and leave them alone if you can.
  • Balance, posture and optimal biomechanics are critical for life-long flexibility.
  • Based on my studies of The Feldenkrais Method and Continuum, I prefer to lengthen rather than stretch muscles, though active isolated stretching can be very effective, as can rollers.
  • Benjamin, you have to get to know your body, look for signs of guarding, don’t force things, don’t overtrain, and say kind things to your muscles because they are in charge.
  • Remember that the brain and body are all one machine, so listen to your muscles and they’ll let you know when they need attention.
  • A good massage therapist will help you find tight muscles before they become injured muscles.
  • Pain in one region of the body does not necessarily indicate that the problem is in that location, and this is true of muscles. Pelvic imbalance can lead to both calf and shoulder muscle tightness and then pain, for instance.
  • Underneath tightness lies weakness, but you have to discover where exactly the weakness lies before you can correct it – this is at the heart of The Feldenkrais Method.
  • I work on flexibility, balance, and posture daily, but it only takes a little while, and you can do it pretty well anywhere.

Just build flexibility into your life as part of your training. Yes! I can touch my toes, but I have to work at it or I’d be screwed in Lake Placid.

Thanks for the question as it totally fits my key long tail keyword, Safe Exercise For Better Health. Oh! Yes! And I expect you to kick my ass at the New York City Marathon in the fall.

-k @FitOldDog

Today’s workouts:

Meandering along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea reminiscing about those field courses I enjoyed before Benjamin, aka FitYoungDog, was born, and long before he stiffened up.



  1. The Change Your Age program (based on The Feldenkrais Method) was developed for just this reason. See http://changeyouragenetwork.com/. And do the program from the book Change Your Age by Frank Wildman. Your muscles will lengthen, your flexibility and coordination will improve dramatically, and you will run as you have never run before! Once you learn the program, a few minutes review 2-3x a week will allow you experience the benefits, as well as slow down the loss of mobility and flexibility we experience as we age.

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.