Posture is what you do

5993912_sAs I move throughout NYC for private consulting work, I’m selfishly absorbing all the amazing efforts I’m seeing trainers put forth to really make a difference in the lives of others.  Not just for weight loss and toning efforts but also to improve posture which largely impacts how we feel about ourselves.

Improving people’s posture is typically not at the forefront of one’s mind when considering becoming a trainer. We tend to think about lifting, cardio and dynamic activities that move people towards their goals. Within the last 10 years, however, there has been a shift towards corrective exercise. The reason this approach became popular was purely out of need.  People with movement imbalances and poor posture were simply reaching body limitations before they were reaching their goals. People’s bodies were literally getting in the way of progress.

As we assess posture, we realize it’s a whole body issue.  A rounded back, forward head, and butt out posture add up to a less than desirable physique. Posture IS what you do and don’t do. If your job requires that you spend a lengthy amount of time in a flexed posture, you will start to look that way. Sitting at a desk is a perfect example of this.  Once you’re aware your posture is not where you want it to be, you may start to think about standing taller, pulling your shoulder blades together or drawing your navel in.  While the intention is great, the outcome is not.  Reason being, these are isolated attempts at addressing an integrated problem.

If you’re looking to improve your posture, think about your core: your ribcage and your pelvis.  When posture is inhibited, these regions tend to be “stuck” together.  When you start to perform movements that create space between them, your core muscles get turned on and you’ll start to immediately notice that you feel more upright.

Give the following routine a try from these two stride stances: 1. Right foot ahead of left and 2. Left foot ahead of right.  You will reach both sides 5x each, switch foot position and repeat.  Move slowly to your end range without forcing it.  While in stride, consider this:

  • Start with a stride that’s just right, not too short or too long
  • When in stride, widen (not lengthen) your base so your balanced
  • Make sure your back foot is pointed straight ahead

Reach #1- Up and Over
Reach your right hand straight overhead as high as you can.  When your hand reaches, your ribcage should lift.  You should feel your ribcage tilting to the L when your R arm goes overhead.  Reverse the motions and repeat 5x.  Perform from both strides.

Reach #2 – Bow and arrow
Reach your R arm out in front of you as you pull your L elbow back.  This will twist your ribcage to the left.  Reverse arm motions and repeat 5x.  Perform from both strides.

Reach #3 – Up then back
Using one arm at a time, lift your Right arm up and overhead.  Reach up first, then back.  This should give you a nice stretch through the front of your belly.  If you feel your back, reach higher and not as far back.  Bring the Right arm all the way down and repeat on the Left, 5x per side.  Perform from both strides.

After performing this routine, you should feel more upright. Remembering that your posture is dynamic and takes on the shape of what you do, adding this routine into your daily repertoire, especially after sitting for prolonged periods of time will be very beneficial.  People always ask me: Will I have to do this routine every day forever?  And my question back is: How important is your posture?

Let’s find a simple balance between stuck in certain positions and restoring our body’s with healthy movement so we remain Conditioned for Life!

If you have any questions or would like to attend Condition for Life’s posture workshop, UpRIGHT, you can email me at  mike@conditionforlife.com.  If you found this information valuable, please share this post with your friends.  Thanks.  Be well.

No Pain, ALL Gain

7031407_sWe all know the old cliché, no pain, no gain.  If you don’t plan to work hard and suck it up, you might as well give up, right?  I probably used to embrace this slogan as a young trainer in my early twenties.  But as I’ve come to learn more about how the human body works, I’ve realized there is a better way of doing things: no pain, ALL gain. Sounds too good to be true?  Keep reading…

Let’s start by agreeing that pain is a byproduct of surpassing your threshold.  What I mean is that you are placing a demand on your body greater than what it’s capable of handling.  I think a mild soreness after working out, particularly with unfamiliar movements, is OK. But, if you have to walk down the stairs sideways because you don’t want to bend your knees, that’s a little over the top.  Is there a balance between the extremes of doing too much and not enough?  I definitely think so but here’s a way you can see for yourself.

Play with these variables during your next workout to explore your threshold: Load, Speed, Reps, Range.

  • Load is how much weight you are lifting. Should you do body weight or use external weights?  Remember the weight shouldn’t be so heavy that movement becomes clunky. Aim to move with fluidity and spring.
  • Speed is how fast or slow you move.  Moving faster creates a stronger contraction of muscles which can lead to more soreness than you were anticipating. Moving slowly keeps your muscles under tension for longer which can also evoke soreness.  Neither is right or wrong, they just are.  Play within the speed spectrum to keep your workouts fun and effective.
  • Reps are how much volume you perform.  Depending on your goal, there are different rep ranges you can complete. Ultimately, heavier loads are generally lifted for lower reps and vice versa.  How heavy a weight is should be relative to your abilities, not what your friends are lifting. Again, remember to keep your exercises resilient and dynamic.  Progress your volume in a logical fashion according to your response to your last workout.
  • Range of motion is how deep you go into a movement.  First things first: deeper ranges are not better or even beneficial all the time.  There are three ranges of motion to consider: initial range, mid range and end range.  Explore new movements in shallow ranges and progress from there.  Moving more quickly is typically done through less range, while moving more slowly can be performed in deeper ranges.  For what it’s worth, most of the movements you perform daily are done in initial and mid ranges of motion, rarely in the end range.

Be sure to continually assess your responses to these variables and adjust accordingly. Remember your workouts should help you Condition for Life, not struggle through it.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at mike@conditionforlife.com.  Be well.

Connecting the Dots

It’s really great to see our clients connecting the dots on WHY we are doing WHAT we are doing.  Once they are able to step back and look at the big picture objectively, it changes their perception and their experience, which ultimately impacts their beliefs.  This week I wanted to share the story of one of our clients and what she said she has learned so far:

connectingthedots“C4L is here to get me on the right track and to be my resource for anything that I may need. They give you wisdom instead of knowledge, so that you can take control of your own life and so that you may continue to make good/better decisions in your own life when you are outside of their “care.”

You (the individual) are in control of your own success — C4L is there to help you along the way and give you the support and tools you need in order to become successful and remain successful. Obviously, reaching your goals is only half the battle — maintaining them is the other. I know that without my efforts and decisions to make changes towards a better quality of life, change for the better cannot be expected.

What I have also been learning with changing my habits is that this is not and should not be a race to the finish line. Better things will happen and you will start to feel better.  But things must be done in baby steps so that you do not become discouraged. Everything will not be better right away. Allow yourself time to make these adjustments and to see and feel results. In time, if you are treating yourself well, your body will show you and thank you for it — if it’s fighting you, that’s a warning sign.”

 

Core Strength DOES NOT Fix Back Pain

19557896_l-1030x1025Client: I want to start doing some ab work.

Coach: Your abs are working intensely during every single movement we do.

Client: No, I want to feel my abs more when I train them.
Coach: OK, you mean you want to isolate your abs.

Client: Yeah!
Coach: What types of movements do you feel help most with that?

Client: Crunches, planks and whatever else you know of.
Coach: We can definitely add these movements to your routine, but I’m curious as to why.

Client: Because I have back pain.
Coach: Ah, so crunches and planks strengthen your abs which will eliminate your back pain.

Client: Exactly!
Coach: It doesn’t really work that way.

Client: What?
Coach: Let me explain…

Core strength is an excellent goal, especially when considering all movement transfers through your core. But if you’re hoping that core strength will improve your back pain, you may be disappointed after spending countless minutes holding planks and endless reps of crunches.  Let’s try to better understand how movement occurs efficiently and why when it doesn’t, your back will hear about it. 

With all movement, two things are required: mobility (range of motion) and stability (control).  When a joint has the optimal amounts of motion and control, movement is comfortable and you feel both capable and confident. When this balance is disrupted, pain is inevitable. Along with this subtle imbalance, you may feel a lack of balance, coordination, precision, agility and confidence while moving. Not to mention, you may feel weak in an area of your body, making you prone to injury.

There are two ends to this spectrum:
1. You lack mobility and compromise stability
2. You have too much mobility and compromise stability
Mobility creates stability and vice versa…both are equally important.

So if your back is painful, it’s lacking a balance between motion and control. Will crunching or planking change this relationship? Even if this were the ideal way of creating core strength, do you have the necessary motion to develop the strength? Remember, motion precedes strength and more specifically, controlled motion develops strength.

Let’s take the all too common sprained ankle to understand why back pain doesn’t always have much to do with your back, let alone your abs and core strength. You were playing soccer, you were stepping off a bus, it was an icy night, you “turned the wrong way” and then WHAM, you roll your ankle. Depending on the severity, you either walked it off with your pride lagging behind or you got up and realized that was not good.

In either scenario, your body is going to respond to this situation. More often than not, your body will lose the ability to efficiently bend your ankle and move your foot. This bending and moving is needed to absorb shock as you walk, control squatting as you reach for the frying pan and provide the agility you need to grab that rebound and change direction. Rolling your ankle has lead to a limitation of motion that has compromised your stability, comfort and confidence. But if the motion isn’t coming through the ankle, where are you getting it from?  Good question.

Since the body is a chain reaction, everything has to work with everything. When you’re walking, your foot and ankle must bend and move, but when they don’t have the motion, it will come elsewhere excessively—from somewhere you weren’t designed to get motion from. Think of it this way:  a rigid foot is going to make your knee, hip and back above it move more than necessary. And it’s only a matter of time before these other areas breakdown, namely your back.  Add to the fact you are likely tied to a desk 40+ hours a week and moving freely is not an option. 

So back to core strength, how will strengthening your abs address the mobility issue down in your foot?  The unfortunate answer is  it will not.

We live in a world of where pain is fixed by pills and our desires show up to our doorsteps with the click of a button. We’ve become accustomed to immediate gratification. It’s convenient to think we can simply strengthen the area that’s hurting and it will feel better. Even better, someone is willing to sell you that message. But the complexities of movement force us to consider a whole picture approach to enhancing the quality of our movements and our lives.