THE OTHER 23 HOURS: POSTURE EDITION
Consider that it’s not advanced age that makes our bodies ache. It’s the habits we’ve adopted over years and years that do.
Many seek the help of a personal trainer or movement specialist to help them move and feel better. We spend the day sitting at a desk or in the car. We Netflix and Chill on the couch more and more as the cold weather settles in. We spend a good amount of time looking at our smartphones and tablets with our heads in front of our bodies.
Needless to say, there are many reasons our bodies may not feel fabulous when we move about the world. Seeking the help of movement pros like us to feel and move better so we can be stronger and healthier is a great first step! So then you spend a few hours every week at the gym. And you feel better when you walk out! And when we see you again the following week and we ask how your body feels, turns out it still feels achy and not close to 100% again.
Because when we leave the gym we might be going back to our same old posture habits that are creating the problems in the first place.
What are some of these postures and what can we do instead? Allow me to show you!
Sitting In a Chair
Oy, sitting in a chair. What more can I say about this topic? We all KNOW what we’re supposed to do but nevertheless we slouch! We have rounded shoulders, scooped-under pelvises,
forward head posture. Our upper traps always feel tight at the end of the day, our low backs feel dull and achy. It's a mess.
The Fix: I want to share two things: First, I’m going to share this video by body guru Evan Osar (who I’m giving a shout-out to right now because this post was inspired by his talk at the Elite Fitness and Performance Summit this past September!). In it, he demonstrates where your hips should be situated in a chair to allow your spine to be optimally aligned but ALSO goes through the importance of breathing and not holding in your stomach all day (gripping, as he calls it). OMG I cannot underscore the importance of this point. But I’ll try later on in this post. In the meantime, please take 5 minutes to watch this video.
Second, check your feet. If you’ve gone through all of the tips Evan talked about in his video but your feet don’t quite lay flat on the floor, you may be in a losing battle. Your feet will find the floor and that might mean your low back ends up mega rounded. Do your feet not feel the floor? Elevate them!
Do you sit cross-legged? And favor one side over the other? Your low back, hip and/or knee pain could stem from this position. Crossing your legs elevates your crossed-side hip which changes the position of your lumbar spine which alters the position of your mid back and shoulders. Looking below the hips, sitting this way can also cause knee pain.
The Fix: See “Sitting in a Chair Posture”. If you really, truly love sitting cross-legged, use it sparingly and try switching sides.
You get your phone out to look up what else A Star Is Born actor Sam Elliot has been in. [PHOTO] Over time this forward head posture can contribute to pain not only in your neck but in your mid-back and even low back because of the strain it's causing down your spine. The further forward your head is in relation to your body, the heavier it feels in your spine. I'm sticking this image in to illustrate.
So what do you do?
The Fix: Hold your phone in front of your eyes!
You’re working at a coffee shop on your laptop. Your laptop is likely lower than eye level so you have to compensate by rounding out your upper and mid back as you extend your neck forward. Over time you may feel this in your jaw, neck, front of your shoulders, upper traps, mid back and low back, hip flexors.
The Fix: Find something to elevate that laptop so the screen is at eye level!
Couch Posture: The Slug
You’re Netflix and Chilling and are becoming one with the couch. I think by simply looking at this picture you’ll FEEL where you may find pain over time, right?
The Fix: Similarly to sitting in a chair, you want to get “tall” through your sits bones, find lumbar support for yourself (or create it by placing something by your lumbar curve) and find a good place for your feet and legs so that they’re not dragging you down into a rounded back position. Having something like an ottoman can be ideal.
Couch posture: The Mermaid
You’re Netflix and Chilling and sitting into your hip like a mermaid. Over time you may feel this in your hips, knees and low back.
The Fix: See the description of the Fix above but if this is truly your FAVORITE couch posture, try not to favor just one side and get up occasionally for some resets.
Criss Cross Apple Sauce
This has been my favorite sitting posture for as long as I can remember. Sadly, it’s taken its toll over time and isn’t so kind to my knees. In this position, you’re forcing your thigh bones into external rotation and creating tension in your knee joint.
The Fix: I’m sounding like a broken record but if you’ve got aches and pains and this is your preferred sitting position, use it mega sparingly.
Standing With Knees Locked Out
Standing desks are all the rage since sitting is so bad for us! That said, there are still some things to consider. The body wants the path of least resistance so when we stand, we tend to do it with knees locked out. What does that do? [PHOTO] It sends our weight into our heels and places our low back into hyper-extension. Sometimes it also means we place more weight into one leg than the other, hiking that hip up.
The fix: It’s never a good idea to lock joints out or just sit into them. Unlock your knees and shift your weight from your heels to juts behind the balls of your feet. You may feel your pelvis soften down and your low back release! Then, just be aware that you're placing equal weight on both legs (or at least MOST of the time).
Carrying a Bag on One Shoulder
You may be carrying a diaper bag or a giant purse with a computer, full water bottle and your life in it. On one shoulder. The weight? I just weighed my bag and it came in at ten pounds. What might this do to your body? It can shift your rib cage to the opposite side of the bag to even out weight distribution. That shifts your spine laterally so over time you could be giving yourself lifestyle-induced scoliosis. One shoulder sits higher than the other. Your pelvis may rotate which means your hips will be in a compromised position which can leave your knees and even ankles unstable.
The Fix: Either get yourself a hot little bagpack, get a rolling bag or switch shoulders throughout the day. Or, if you can figure it out (because I have not), try carrying less around with you!
Carrying Baby in One Arm
Moms typically have a preferred side to carry their baby and there’s already SO much to think about and do while you’ve got the babe in one arm but over time, this can shift the position of your rib cage off to the side, strain and overwork your shoulder and elbow, hike a hip up and curve your spine laterally in a few positions.
The Fix: Do your best and be aware of your posture. Try to even out which arm and hip you hold your bundle of joy!
Butt- and Ab-Gripping
Sadly I'm not providing photos for these ;) What I mean by "gripping" is holding muscles in their tightened positions over time. Like the muscles are trying to "grip" something the way a baby grips onto a finger. Keeping your abs and glutes tight for extended periods of time is the equivalent of holding your shoulders up to your ears. It's no bueno. Many of us have been taught to "hold in our belly buttons" or "suck it in" or "squeeze your butt". There are times and places for these cues (like if you're deadlifting a heavy weight for example). But when you go about your day, your stomach and glute muscles should be nice and relaxed. Most of our body pain comes from not being able to breathe properly and most of the time we can't breathe properly when our muscles are all tensed up.
The Fix: BREATHE. Do a body scan throughout the day to check that your stomach muscles and glutes aren't "white knuckling". Adjusting to this new "norm" takes time and step one is to be aware of when you're gripping.
I swear I’m not trying to use scare tactics but I am trying to drive home the point that these seemingly benign postures we take up can, over time, really alter the state of our bodies.
If you can optimize what happens to your joints in the other 23 hours you are not at the gym, you will soar with strength gains and feel better.
Did I leave anything out? Are there postures you’ve abandoned and felt better without? Share in the comments! Do YOU need help feeling and moving better? Contact me on the phone or text or by email!
The Stories We Tell Ourselves
Imagine being in a sled on top of a newly-snowed-on hill. You've got your snow goggles on, ready to zoom down that hill. But if you've gone sledding before, you'll know that that very first ride down the hill can be a little rough-going since the snow is brand new. As a new pathway gets sledded on over and over again, the sleeker said pathway gets and pretty soon you're ZOOMING super fast without even trying!
If you've ever learned a new skill or exercise, the above situation might feel familiar: The first time you learn how to do something, it feels challenging because new neural pathways are being created (THANKS, neuroplasticity!). The more your nervous system recognizes that pattern, the more natural and ingrained and second-nature it becomes.
The. Same. Thing. Happens. With. Your. Thoughts. The more frequently you tell yourself a story, the more ingrained and a part of you it becomes.
And those stories and thoughts: They turn to into your values and beliefs which turn to your ACTIONS.
Imagine these scenarios:
“I’m fat and disgusting,” you think. You start to believe and see yourself in a world where you are “fat and disgusting”. How do you think you'd treat yourself if this was the story you told yourself all the time?
“I’m so weak,” you think. You start to believe and see yourself in a world where you are “weak”. How do you think you'd treat yourself if this was the story you told yourself all the time?
“Ooh, I am feeling and looking GOOD!” you think. You start to see yourself in a world where you believe you feel and look good. How do you think you'd treat yourself if this was the story you told yourself all the time?
Take a few minutes and give this a thought. I’ll wait.
I have some follow-up questions:
In your experience, have you been able to snap your fingers and change your habits and actions overnight? Snap your fingers and show up at the gym three times per week? Snap your fingers and eat the appropriate ratio of carbs, proteins and fat?
If you're like me the answer is a big no.
If we truly want to change something in our lives, we have to start somewhere, right? But could it be our Point A should have actually been Point D? Instead of jumping straight into changing our actions, what if we started with changing the stories we tell ourselves FIRST, made THAT Point A?
How do you do that?
Well, I decided to ask my good friend, leadership coach and CEO of WeInspireWe, Tami Chapek. She explains, "[Self] awareness is the mission-critical first step in any kind of self-improvement effort. When wanting to make a change, one must first identify their current beliefs and behaviors around the topic. Easier said than done, I know, which is a huge reason why coaching exists (we don't often take the time to ask or push ourselves on the hard questions).
"Discovering this takes a lot of soulful reflection and time answering 'why' like, 'What are these habits I want to change?' followed by, 'Why do I have these habits in the first place?' and 'What's holding me back/why can't I move forward?'
"Answering these questions with a really honest answer - not the easy answer - is key.
"The 'why' helps us to discover what is going on under the surface and what internal block is getting in the way. In coaching, we say there are four blocks that can stop us from being successful and/or hold us back from making a change:
"We want to identify what block is holding us back. Each has a slightly different nuance in how you'd try to address it but the overarching theme is to challenge that thought/belief with 'how true is that?' and 'how is that serving you?'. The main idea is to really identify what the block or thought is (awareness is key!!) and then begin to think about how to reframe it, rethink it, challenge it, restructure it, etc."
What are the next steps, you ask?
Need more guidance or want to be contacted with Tami? Please feel free to reach out to me my email or phone!
Tami Chapek is the founder and head coach of WeInspireWe – a unique career coaching and leadership development company dedicated to building strong leaders and enhancing performance for teams. This includes working collaboratively with clients together to answer two fundamental questions - "who are you" and "what do you want"? The combination of these results work together to establish vision and clarity so that they can move forward with confidence, focus and commitment to get that new job and reaching new heights both professionally and personally. With 18 years in a corporate environment, WeInspireWe brings a blend of coaching, leadership development and branding expertise together to support clients in creating their unique "story" to exponentially further their growth and leadership potential.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that I came home from the Elite Fitness and Performance Summit with so many things I wanted to share with you. This week I want to talk about how pushups have inspired me. No, we did not learn about pushup technique (this was a business summit), and no, we did not find out that the next trend in fitness is pushup-only Crossfit.
What I did learn is the power of community coming together for philanthropy. “What does THAT have to do with pushups?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you AND if you read all the way to the end of this post, you’ll get a link to a handy video to help you do some awesome pushups yourself, no matter how versed in fitness you are!
We know that 1 out of 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and TruFit certainly has a good number of survivors under its small roof. We also know access to get a diagnosis or to receive care isn’t easy for many women to afford which is why we’ve chosen the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force to be our charity this month. TruFit is pledging $.50 for every pushup done at TruFit* from October 1-31. As of right now, the clients who train at TruFit Evanston have done over 600 pushups! That means we have raised roughly $300 and counting to date! WOOOHOOO!!!! (Huge shout-out to my friend Jim Herrick from Power Source for this idea!)
One of the coolest things I get to do as a business owner is to have philanthropy as part of my business’ core values. I was inspired to do that by my business coach Pamela who created a program that coaching partners like myself can participate in called Revolution for a Cause. Thanks to RFAC, fitness businesses around the world (like IzzyFit and TruFit) can support each other to give back, either by raising money or volunteering hours for causes or charities we care about. Since RFAC started, we have raised a combined total of $873,681 (SO CLOSE TO $1M!!!) and have volunteered 5012 hours and TruFit and IzzyFit are proud of being a small part of those numbers for the last three years.
I have felt really conflicted in the past about talking about philanthropic efforts because I was brought up believing that doing good should NOT be done to gain the praise of others (it shouldn’t). I also know, though, that it’s thanks to other people’s philanthropic stories that I’ve gotten really excited about it. My purpose for giving back is to practice empathy and because I’m fortunate to GET to do this. For others, purpose may be to find a cure; to help people find love; to drive conversations about difficult topics. No matter what, I hope we can all get behind helping make this world a better place together in one way or another.
That’s my story this week, friends. To find out more about our October challenge (and maybe how to get involved in one of a few different ways), click here. And to watch our handy-dandy pushup tutorial video, click HERE!
*Up to $1000 plus $.10 for every pushup after that.
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