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!