Flexibility with Foam Rollers

I once worked with a personal trainer who couldn’t touch her toes. It used to give me great satisfaction that I could do this without  too much difficulty while she ran out of stretch when she reached mid-calf. For this reason, I signed up for a couple  of flexibility classes at DFC assuming that I would shine. Not so. Indeed it appears that parts of my anatomy have entirely seized up.

The first alarm sounded during circuit training. I couldn’t move the shoulder press at all–and that was without weights. The shoulder exercises in the pool give me problems too so it seems fair to assume that my trapezium has lost its swing and that my rotator cuffs would be better labeled as rotator ffucs.

Even worse than my flexibility is my balance.I took part in a class intriguingly titled “Flexibility with Foam Rollers”. I had imagined Hilda Ogden’s accessories and something more akin to a craft class than a work-out. Wrong again. The instructor, who walks like a ballet dancer, bade us lie on mats with what looked like a 4 foot polystyrene bolster beside us. “Scoot your lower half up on to the roller” she said “and then slide your top half up there too” I tried to scoot and slide but to no avail. Try it if you happen to have a railway sleeper handy—but bear in mind that the roller, well, rolls.

With a little assistance I made it to the top of the roller. Imagine a watermelon balanced on a cheese stick, or Humpty Dumpty lying on the ridge of the wall. I ached at the shoulders, back and hips. The proposition seemed to be that we should work out in this position. Ana Pavlova (not all the instructors are named for desserts) suggested we lift both legs straight into the air, still balancing on the poleaxed foam pole. My feet seemed inclined to stay firmly on the ground, and I can’t say I blamed them.

The fitness staff at DFC emphasize a mix of aerobic work out and exercises designed to improve strength, flexibility and balance. When I look at people not much older than me struggling to go down stairs, trying to haul themselves out of chairs or having trouble walking with their lunch tray, I begin to see the value in stretches, twists and reps.

I wonder if I could find my old personal trainer again. We used to go on hilly walks and she would tell me her life story. A Brit, she first crossed the Atlantic to become an undercover drugs officer in the Caribbean. She was lesbian but married a gay American Airlines exec so she could live in the U.S. and his mother could die content. The marriage wasn’t particularly happy. Her small talk was worth keeping up with and I bet she has several new exciting instalments by now…

About Liz Barron

US Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia. Permanent address in Washington DC. Deep roots in Northern Ireland and persistent Belfast accent. Blogger,cook, mother, grandma, Scrabble-player and enthusiastic world traveler.
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