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Muscles: We Welcome You Back From The Deep Freeze

Something is happening. Can you feel it in your muscles. The last three days my body has enthusiastically desired exercise and movement and sunlight in a way it hasn’t in months. I can actually feel my muscles again, as if they’ve been frozen and they are officially thawed out.

All winter I biked my way around Northampton. I took a cab on the handful of days the road’s shoulder was full of snow and ice, but mostly I’ve been out there pedaling away this frigid winter. It has been an interesting experiment in the health and well-being of muscles and energy under various temperature changes. My longest weekly commute is under 2 miles with lots of stop signs, making it the worst possible commute for the body, long enough to freeze, but not really long enough to warm up again.

As late fall turned to winter this year and the deep freeze set in I noticed my commute time increase drastically. I was late to everything. I would show up at the door at my usual time and then remember that I had to put three hats on under my helmet and juggle my big winter mittens. Sometimes there was a double layer of pants or on the very bad days, my snowpants. Other days I broke down and wore ski goggles to prevent my incessant tearing eyes or getting hit in the face with pelting snow. Dressing alone added 3-5 minutes to my commute.

Then I would get out there and my trusted biker legs would refuse to spin. They would slowly release downward one side at a time as I watched with disbelief. My legs set their own (unbelievable) pace and I just had to accept it. It was a powerful, comical lesson in acceptance. The cold didn’t just slow down my legs, a couple of nights heading home from the office I found myself getting sleepy to the point of danger. The cold had slowed down my senses so much that nothing seemed to matter at all. It was hard to focus on traffic, to understand where sounds were coming from and to make quick judgments and decisions. The slowness of my body nearly doubled my commute time.

In the past few weeks I’ve watched as my legs want to go faster and how there is more power, more stamina. Nothing has changed except the temperature, but nonetheless I find more bounce. My mind feels sharper and I can listen better to signals around me and interpret them at speeds that would have been impossible all winter.

The muscles are not just thawing out, we are really coming into the season of the muscles and this is a good time of year to be mindful of them. In Chinese Medicine the Spring is associated with the Liver organ. The Liver is referred to as the General, second in command, you might say to the Emperor, or the Heart. The Liver is all about action. Liver time takes us from the frozen drudgery of the winter and gets us out of the house, back on our feet and desperate for the outdoors. Just look at the traffic downtown lately. Everyone and their brother has left their house to be out and about in the world.

But all this reaching and desire comes at a price. Remember most of us don’t have the endurance or the strength to do what our minds and spirits immediately desire. Also the Liver governs what is referred to as the sinews of the body. From a Western perspective you could think of the sinews as the ligaments, tendons and fascial lines of the body. When the Liver is healthy the sinews in your body are flexible, pliable and durable. When the Liver is agitated or weak the sinews tighten and hold the body taut. It means that come spring lots of people have a tendency to throw out their backs or their necks. The body is just more taut than it will be in deep July after so many more months of moving and softening.

So be gentle out there as you reconnect with your body and the earth. Let you spirit be limitless but keep your back and core healthy and strong. This is a great time to get back to the yoga mat to prevent injuries within this volatile season of gardening, yard work and enthusiastic play!

Image credit: yorkberlin / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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