Improving your posture. Why? What? and how?
What to look and feel confident? Forget muscle building and hours at the gym. Just improve your posture! It doesn’t matter how much you bench, squat, deadlift, or how big is your arms if you slouch and walk with your chin down. Actually, your body shapes who you are as reasonably argued by Harvard Business school professor at TED talk. In short, displaying confident body language creates same associations in your mind. If you stand tall with good posture, you send you brains confidence affirmations that you are doing good.
It’s not just about confident look and feels because bad posture causes neck and back pain. Your body is not properly aligned which causes extra tension in muscles. For example, on some estimation, every inch of your head leaning forward adds extra tension to your neck which equals to several kilograms. This is why neck hurts.
Three essential parts of good posture which is mobility, stronger back and consistent good posture
How many times have you heard “don’t slouch” as it straightforward to do? Many would suggest “just lift your chin up, straighten up and problem solved”. But is it actually true? Well, it’s only half of the story.
On one hand, you have to be aware of your posture all the time, on the other, your muscles become stiff and weak as you age. For example, kids have naturally good posture. Look at them, effortlessly walking around even if it’s their first steps in this world. Moreover, they are extremely flexible compared to average Joe on this 30th birthday.
As years go on, we spend our time wired to desks, barely moving for most of our days. Let’s face it, sitting for the majority of the day is not natural. Also, muscles become stiff for reasons including poor posture, too much sitting, bench-pressing and pushups. Carrying your heavy backpack would also impact it.
In developing countries, many people have great postures and flexibility. Not because they stretch daily, but because they never lot it initially. Imagine walking with a bucket full of bananas on your head. Sometimes our neck just gets tensed and sore without any added weight.
Carrying stuff on your head requires perfect posture. At Madagascar in 2013
Frankly speaking, the more I travel to Africa, the more I realise something when wrong in western society regarding posture. My recent visit to the touristic island in Cape Verde strikes me. In the island, beaches were unrestrictedly divided into main locals and mainly holidaymakers. As we’re walking on locals beaches, most of Cape Verdians were in good posture, reasonably slim, but when we crossed into foreigner’s part of the beach, it changed. Many people were naturally slouching, some even humpbacked. I’m not even starting with the overweight issue.
My routine to good posture
Achieving this goal, my routine will be subdivided into three different routines: always trying to keep good posture, stretching using office hours and stretching at home.
Always keep good posture
This is hard to track but consider getting anti-slouching gadget
During office days.
12 min routine. The routine includes active stretches, passive stretches and back muscle strengthening.
This was your office routine, which requires just a resistance band and could be done sitting or standing. Next is home routine.
Home stretching routine
Do 90-120 seconds each. Repeat for several sets
That’s it. A simple routine, but effective!
How to track done routines? You can use your memory, or pen and a pencil, but for me, it rarely sticks and I get lost of a track. I press start activity on my Fitbit and it automatically gets synced to Fitbit calendar on website and app. I have also developed an app at blog post Playing with AWS Lambda, Scala and Terraform which syncs Fitbit calendar to Google.
The goal is to stretch 4 times a week, preferably in the morning as it sets good habits for a day. Another 3 times to stretch using home stretching routine. Remember to add your goal to www.stickk.com so you stick to it!
Measure of success
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” – Lord Kelvin
Good posture is a subjective goal which might vary depending on the situation. One has to pick a measurable goal. My personal main issue is stiff upper body muscles. Therefore, I’d use mobility as my measurable goal.
One of Functional Movements System (FMS) task is to reach hands behind your back. See pictures below. Last time I did FMS test with a personal coach, I scored 1, and because I slightly lied that I feel no pain. Otherwise, it would be zero points.
So my goal is to improve distance between my arms to receive 2 points from FMS. Currently, it’s 12 inches on my left side, and another is 9 inches.
This is it. I’ll update on my progress reaching my arms behind my back.