Maybe you can relate to the following story. You have been sitting around thinking about committing to that new fitness plan some of your friends are doing. It has taken you awhile, but you finally have all your gear. You have even carved out the time to make it happen. And so you begin! You are off running, lifting, swimming, or whatever it is you chose. Things are going great, but you suddenly start to feel sore. Not the normal sore from a good workout. No, this is more like, pain. A pain that should not be there. Maybe it’s in your knees, your hamstrings or lower back. Regardless, something is wrong and it is making your workouts miserable, if not entirely impossible.
So you take some time off, ice it, work on your stretching. Maybe you throw in some yoga because you have heard that it can help out with flexibility issues (you would be correct by the way). Three weeks later, you feel like hitting the ground running again, and so you do. Fast forward a little more and you find yourself back in the same position. Ever been there? I know I certainly have. In fact, my number one inhibitor to exercise was never a lack of resolve, but an abundance of injury. Now to be clear, there can be any number of reasons why you are experiencing pain. I certainly can’t diagnose the one thing that will fix all of your problems. I can however talk about something I have been doing in my own fitness journey. This one thing has revolutionized all my work outs. I want to talk about the power of posture.
As it turns out, improving my posture has been the single biggest help in all my workouts.
You may now be having some awful flashbacks to a parent or teacher scolding you over your poor posture. Personally, I wish I had listened to those people in my life more. They were only trying to help me. As it turns out, improving my posture has been the single biggest help in all my workouts.
This may sound silly, but if you think about, your body is a functioning work of art. There is a purposeful design to every joint, bone, ligament and muscle.
Imagine getting the latest and greatest smart phone, getting it out of the packaging and using it as a paper weight. Will it work as a paper weight? Sure. I would, however, argue that you are missing out on a lot of functionality.
Your body is the same way. It is designed to do certain things a certain way. While you can use it improperly (see slumped shoulders, weak core, neck down, feet going in odd directions), it won’t help you be at your best. While your paperweight phone is unlikely to break, your body isn’t quite so lucky. Hear me clearly on this: if you are consistently putting undue stress on the wrong muscles, you’ll inevitably wind up with an injury.
My journey with improved posture started off earlier this year. My first step was working on my flexibility for my legs. I was doing all the yoga I knew how, but I could still barely touch my toes. Nothing seemed to be helping. Turns out that no matter how much exercising you do, if your form is off, the help it provides is severely limited. So I started looking into posture. Here are the three most important ways I started working on it.
Hear me clearly on this: if you are consistently putting undue stress on the wrong muscles, you’ll inevitably wind up with an injury.
The first was doing a Beachbody program called Tai Cheng. To be honest with you, I had been thinking about doing this program for over a year. I kept avoiding it though because I thought it was weird. Dumb move. I should have been doing it all along. Tai Cheng is based off the Chinese martial art of Tai Chi. It will help anyone, regardless of age or physical prowess, focus more on their posture and core strength. I came to realize in the first week that I was relying on all of the wrong muscles … not just in my workouts but in getting around period. I needed greater core strength, and to stop stooping my shoulders over. I would highly recommend Tai Cheng to anyone who is prone to chronic injury, especially if it is due to their posture. What’s nice also is that Tai Cheng has been added to Beachbody on Demand, so it’s available in their library of streaming workouts.
The second way I improved my posture was through yoga and core strengthening. Yes, I know I mentioned it earlier as the thing I did a lot, but to no avail. There was a major issue with all of my yoga though. I was doing it by myself. Yoga is great by yourself. But it is even better if you can do it with a seasoned instructor, or group of people. I was doing yoga, but my form was so far off, all I was doing was reinforcing my bad habits. Going to a class with other people, mirrored walls, and an instructor is immensely helpful for posture and core strength. So if your posture is off and you know it, take some yoga classes. Even if you can’t commit to them long-term, you can use what you’ve learned and incorporate it back in your home gym workouts.
For all the runners reading this, pay special attention here. The third way I have been practicing the power of posture and working towards injury free exercise has been ChiRunning. Closely related to Tai Chi, ChiRunning applies many of the martial arts’ principles to how you run and move through space. No surprise that the basics of it are all tied to proper posture and biomechanics. This was another, “that sounds really weird” thing to me. However, I’m on my feet a lot and love to run (most of my injuries seemed to pop up only when I was out for a run), so it made sense for me to give it a try. I am currently in the middle of a six-week course on ChiRunning. I have to say, I have never enjoyed going out for a jog more than I do now. If you are looking to work on your posture, run injury free, and actually relax (yeah, I said it, you can actually relax when you run), then you should check this out.
RECOMMENDED READING: Want to learn more about ChiRunning? Check out ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury Free Running, written by ultra-marathoner and running coach Danny Dreyer.
So take some time to check your posture. Look in the mirror, ask your mate, or pull a friend aside and solicit some feedback. Certainly, if you find yourself trying to straighten up a slouch while at your desk, you should follow up on the things I mentioned here. I wish I had done them sooner. Having great posture is a lifelong endeavor, and can truly help you be the best version of you possible. Start the journey into discovering the power of posture today!