A good trainer will work to not only make you stronger, more fit, and less squishy, but also to help improve your overall movement and to contribute to healthy joints and tissues. We do this by working on symmetry, and focusing on stability and mobility in the right places. But typically, the time you spend working out is just not enough to counteract the habits we all have throughout the “other 23 hours of the day”.
What habits am I talking about? The way we stand, sit, walk, sleep, watch tv, and drive all impact our bodies. We all have habits that we do every day. Many of them seem to be so minute, and yet we do them so much that in fact we do them in huge volumes. That adds up and can have a big impact on our ability to move well. Do you know what yours are?
Do you talk on the phone a lot at work? If so, where is your phone when you are at your desk? If you have to reach too far for it, and you are doing so multiple times a day, that can be a problem. For instance, if you have to reach to the right each time you grab the receiver, you may find that you get low back pain on the left side. Sound familiar?
How is your driving posture? I recently was screened with the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) golf movement screen and discovered that I have limited thoracic spine rotation on the left and that my shoulder external rotation is also limited on that side. Several hours later while driving I noticed that I always drive with my left hand on the top of the steering wheel in a position that has my left shoulder stretched forward. Then I started to wonder if that might be the cause of the limitation. Do I know for certain if it is? No. But I do suspect it is a contributor. How could it not be? I spend hours fixed in an unnatural position that now feels normal to me and “coincidentally” I have a movement limitation around that same joint. I’m now working on consciously changing this habit. It’s taking a while, but I’m managing to break the habit. How do you drive? Same as me? Shoulders forward? Hip hiked over to one side? If you spend a lot of time in your car, these small deviations from normal posture can be causing problems.
Ever sleep on your stomach? And do you get low back pain often? Sleeping on your stomach tends to leave you with excessive extension in your low back which can cause problems over time.
How about watching television? Is your television over to the left so that your neck is always turned one way whenever you watch? How many shows a day? And you say you get neck pain on the right? Maybe it is time to move the furniture around.
How about when you unload the dishwasher? Or grab something from a low cupboard. Do you bend at the hips or the back to get those dishes out? Not sure? Check it out next time. Those of you who bend at the back, how’s that low back doing? And for those of you who bend at the back, can you touch your toes? If not, I bet you think it is because you are not flexible? Guess what, it’s probably not your flexibility. It’s that you bend wrong. Crazy sounding, I know! But in about 3 minutes, I can improve your range of motion in a toe touch by several inches. The fact that that’s possible means it’s not flexibility. It’s movement patterning. Now think about how many times a day you bend to pick something up or get something from a low cupboard. How many bends is that in a year? A lot! Your poor lumbar discs don’t like bending like that.
Over the next week, take stock of how you move every day, and try to find some of those things that are a little off, but that you could easily fix. Feel free to post your habits.