Monthly Archive: November 2014

Back Pain Prevention and Posture Challenges

Vitruvian Man

I’ve always had fairly poor posture.

Most people develop kyphosis (rounding of the upper back and shoulders) by spending too much time sitting.

While I did hold a corporate job (aka professional sitter) for many years, other factors may have contributed to my own posture challenges.  I underwent 2 pneumothorax surgeries for collapsed lungs years ago, and recall being told not to stretch or open up the chest area, as that would result in further scarring. Somehow, that thought stayed with me for a bit too long…

I’ve never experienced any back pain (at least not yet), but the kyphosis has also led to a forward chin posture and tight shoulders. And when I did exercise (in years past — I’m smarter now), I was doing it all wrong. Too many bench presses and situps — which were only helping to reinforce my forward flexion.

While I’ve made some efforts to restore my thoracic mobility and improve my posture over the past few years — patterns are pretty difficult to break. I’ve improved in several areas — but not enough.

It’s time to get serious. Time to treat this issue like I approach my regular training.

Gym Work:

I’m still deadlifting and front squatting heavy. But I’m humbly lowering my weights on my overhead presses until my form improves. And I’m working in lots of barbell rows and dumbbell movements that involve the rear delts, traps and lats.

Mobility:

Supine bridges, wall slides, warrior lunge stretches, pec stretches, lounge chairs, and cobras…I’m working all of these into my regular joint mobility routine.

Supplementary Posture Devices:

I’m trying a few things to see what helps:

Foam Rolling:

I do some foam rolling daily, focusing on the lumbar and thoracic areas of the spine.

Health Bridges:

prod_backBridge

The Health Bridges are hardwood arches that you lie down on (supine position) so that the arch is on your back and your butt remains on the floor. The creators of the Bridges tell you to use them for 10 minutes at a time, twice a day — and that everyone, regardless of mobility, should start with the lowest arch (Bridge #1) for at least 30 days before progressing to Bridge #2.

When I first tried them out, even Bridge #1 was like torture. I couldn’t stand much more than 5 minutes at a time. But regular use has made it possible to work up to 10 to 20 minutes at a time, easily.

I’ve since progressed to Bridge #2, although I still use the lower arch daily as well. The higher the bridge, the more the thoracic (middle) spine is targeted. I have to say I’m a big fan of these products.

Dr Cohen’s Acuback:

Acuback-System-34881_a1xl

While I prefer to stand, sometimes sitting is necessary when doing office and computer work. For those times, I’ve found the Acuback to help in restoring the natural curve of my spine. It’s a simple device — a firm textured roller that fits into your lower back against a chair, causing you to sit upright instead of hunching forward.

It’s also heatable — a nice bonus.

Manual Therapy:

I’ve also been getting regular massage by my RMT, and in January I’ll be seeing the folks at Fallingbrook Family Chiropractic for some additional help. If you’re in the Toronto area, I highly recommend Dr Adam Bletsoe and his staff.

Awareness:

This is likely the biggest area where I can improve. Using the devices above and working on the right movements has not only helped my posture directly, but putting things into practice has really improved my overall postural awareness. I’m so much more conscious of poor movement patterns. Slowly, they are being inhibited, while newer and better ones are becoming second nature.

If you’re also wondering about your own posture, I encourage you to get some help from a qualified health practitioner who can put a treatment program together with you. You’ll learn how to stretch certain muscles while strengthening others. You’ll not only look better, you’ll avoid future health problems.

 

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What’s Your Fitness Baseline?

The other day I noticed that I’d been slacking a bit in my training.

I’ve felt that way ever since I returned from my last vacation. The vacation was amazing, and I was getting in daily workouts, eating healthy and hearty meals, and enjoying life to the fullest.

But when I got home, I just couldn’t seem to “get back into the groove”. I wasn’t chasing my goals. In fact, I wasn’t even focusing on any specific goals at all.

It happens to the best of us. We can’t be running at 100% all the time.

When I feel like I need a change of direction or that I’m losing a bit of steam, I rely on my “fitness baseline“…

 

I ask myself “What’s the minimum I have to do in order to stay healthy and fit”? And I keep it simple.

Then, I write it down.

fitnessbaseline

My baseline is this:

  • 10 mins thoracic and shoulder mobility — daily
  • squat, deadlift and press — once a week
  • short session of interval training – once a week

And that’s all. It’s like fitness minimalism.

If I do those things (and most are only done once a week), I’ll maintain my good health and stay strong.

I also have diet baselines that are minimalist:

  • prep at least 2 meals ahead of time, even it it’s a few boiled eggs and a few spears of frozen broccoli
  • base meals around a good protein with some vegetables
  • eat more slowly

All of that seems very doable to me. And it allows me to stay the track while I work on new goals.

I think we all get overwhelmed sometimes. We tackle things that are unsustainable. Having a fitness baseline allows us to do things that are so easy, it’s really difficult to screw up. So we actually do them.

We build habits. We get more consistent. And we build on our successes.

Here’s a task for you:

  1. Think about your own fitness baseline. What’s the minimum you would be willing to do to stay healthy and fit? (Your’s will likely look different from mine)
  2. Write them down.
  3. Post them in a place where you can see them (whiteboard, planner, etc).
  4. Put them into practice, every day.

Try it, especially if you think you’re in a slump. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to get results this way!

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