What are you training for?
Whether you recognize it or not, you're in training!
If recent data are to be believed, we are all spending way too much time training ourselves into pain and bad posture. Let's say that our body doesn't discriminate between "good training" and "bad training". Let's say that our body views all of the activities we spend lots of time performing as "training". Meaning, our body will become skilled at performing these activities as efficiently as possible, regardless of whether that's ideal for our long-term health. Let's say that what we do consistently with our bodies is what the body views as our program.
If our greatest number of hours is spent sitting slumped in a chair staring at a computer screen and we don't have a good deal of muscular strength and endurance in our back and abdominal muscles to support good alignment, our bodies will have to adapt. An efficient way to maintain that position over many hours is to "turn off" spine-stabilizing muscles in the abdomen, breathe in a shallow fashion and high up in the chest, and jut the head forward so that we can read the screen when we're tired. To a non-discriminating, efficiency-minded part of our body, getting really good at this makes sense, because we're likely to keep asking our body to do it. We'll pay for this, however, in lost energy, a diminished capacity to breathe fully and into our bellies, with neck and shoulder pain, headaches and a lumbar spine which lacks responsive support. What's a desk jockey to do?
Most professional athletes and coaches utilize the practice of cross-training: adding low-risk exercises and activities to develop weak areas and promote well-rounded balance and strength in the system. Consider yourself an athlete, regardless of your current level of physical fitness! What areas of your body need daily movement, exercise and stretching in order to balance the effects of your training? What movements - even those that are traditionally thought of as "good exercises" - might you need to discard from your current personal workout plan or movement practice? Why might you do that? Well, if an exercise or a stretch mimics the movements you're already doing way too much of, is it really healthy or helpful to you? Do you need to become even stronger in a hunching-forward movement (i.e. traditional sit-ups, some pushups)? Likely not!
Several newsletter episodes back, I spoke about my fondness for prescribing passive chest stretching on a half foam roller to my clients. The reason I'm so fond of this is that my clients tend to really like the way it feels, and so they do it. And because they do it on a regular basis, it works! So, that's one tool to combat the text-neck epidemic you read about in the articles I linked to above. Other tools may vary depending on individual bodies and lifestyles, but might include active chest stretches, and exercises to strengthen the back and all of it's supporting musculature (without repeatedly flexing/hunching the spine). Another intervention, which we can all implement immediately, is to hold our phones at eye level and read or text from there. Find good posture, and then alter the activity to fit it!
Perhaps this will get you thinking differently about how you're using your body, and perhaps you'll get a new idea or two about how to promote balance for yourself. If you need assistance looking into solutions to the questions above, I can help you! Move Well sessions do exactly that, and if you mention this post in the notes when you book your first Move Well session here, you'll get $15 off!
Now that you know you're an athlete, watch for next week's newsletter for professional instructions on how to warmup for your daily training. And if you're already doing a good job balancing the effects of your training - BRAVO! Keep up the good work, and enjoy feeling your best as the payoff!
Wishing you each a vibrantly healthy week! Be well, dear clients!