Archive for January 31, 2017

TTT: UNround those Shoulders!

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Trainer Tip Tuesday: Tips for Un-Rounding Those Shoulders

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For me, in both my personal and professional experience, posture is a combination of elements: genetics/anatomy, areas of relative muscle tightness, areas of relative muscle weakness, and a whole ‘lotta habitual sitting/standing/moving patterns.

 

 

When these things get added up over the years, the result is often some kind of uncomfortable or unhelpful posture.

 

 

The way I go about addressing posture issues, both personally and professionally, is therefore focused in these three areas:

 

 

  • stretching chronically tight areas that contribute to postural discomfort issues, strengthening weaker areas that contribute to postural improvements,
  • and putting a TON of emphasis on paying attention to and actively improving on existing postural habits.

 

 

 

Stretch.

Strengthen.

Mindful Posture and Movement Work.

 

 

 

First, Let’s Talk Stretching/Mobilizing

Areas that tend to be tight, especially in the women I work with, are: the front of the shoulder/chest area and the upper traps (area just under the neck).

 

 

 

We tend to hold much of our tension in our upper backs and this often causes a ‘turtle-like’ neck shrinking posture where the shoulders creep up towards the ears.

 

 

Add in chronic forward-facing, forward-reaching activities (e.g.: desk jobs, driving, time on computers and other devices, holding kids, nursing babies) and you get a tighter, forward head, shoulder-rounded posture over time.   And if you were a girl who developed breasts early or have had large breasts much of your life, then it’s pretty likely you’ve developed a forward-shoulder posture as a means of downplaying their size/avoiding unwanted attention. That’s tough!

 

 

 

So to first deal with these common tightnesses and postural tendencies, we can do the following stretches and mobility drills to get relief—over time, and with consistent practice, of course!

 

 

 

Stretch:

Doorway Stretch

 

Arms behind the back stretch

 

SFG Neck Mobility Series

 

GS Mobility Series*

 

Chin Tuck

 

Supine Overhead Reaches

 

Wall Slides, Floor Slides

 

Table ‘L’ Stretches

 

Extended Arm Doorway ‘hang’ stretches

 

Dislocates

 

Thoracic Twists

 

Thoracic Bridges

 

Downward Facing Dog (plus plank dynamic movement)

 

 

Next, let’s work on getting stronger in the places that will help the most!

Areas that tend to be weaker and not get the time and TLC they deserve are: the muscles in the backs of our necks, the muscles that control and guide the shoulder blades, the muscles we sit on much of the time, all of the trunk muscles (not just those 6-pack muscles, lol), and the paraspinal muscles.

 

 

 

When we spend so much time in forward-facing work postures, we need to spend extra time working on all of those ‘back half of the body’ muscles (aka: your posterior chain).

 

 

 

To do this effectively, we need to work on strengthening our middle and low traps, scapular stabilizers, all of our trunk (aka: core) muscles, our glutes and our spinal erectors and stabilizers.

 

 

 

Exercises we can do regularly—both at home AND in the gym—to help ourselves out are:

 

Strengthen:

Scapular Packing

 

Side Planks

 

Bird Dogs

 

Rowing: seated band, one arm, TRX, ring rows

 

Band Pull-Aparts

 

‘Cheerleaders’

 

Kettlebell swings

 

Kettlebell Deadlifts

 

Farmer’s Carries

 

Half Kneeling presses, band chops

 

Half-Kneeling Pallof Presses

 

Scapular pull-ups

 

Turkish Get Ups

 

Kettlebell Arm Bars

 

Hollow Holds (ground, bar)

 

 

 

 

And then comes the element that will make the MOST difference for us: Mindful Posture Practice.

 

 

 

The good news? You can do this ALL the time, no matter where you are, how old or young you are, or how fit or out-of-shape you might be.

 

 

 

The bad news? It’ll take lots of mental and physical effort for a while until these postures normalize (aka: become a new habit and feel like your ‘new normal’).

 

 

 

The other good news? You’ll immediately look taller, more confident, and potentially slimmer. You’ll feel better AND you’ll get better (and more pain-free) results in the gym, too.

 

 

 

So the time and effort you put into changing you sitting, standing, and moveing posture will be well worth it because the payoffs are both huge and lasting.

 

 

 

Mindful Posture Practice Tips: Think about…

 

  • Stacking ribs over pelvis “Make the Canister”

 

  • Bracing abs

 

  • Squeezing the glutes

 

  • Keeping the chin back and the next long

 

  • Pulling the shoulders out of the ears

 

  • ‘Packing’ the shoulder blades—pulling them down and in

 

 

 

 

 

Even if you’ve had some posture issues most of your adult life, it doesn’t mean you can’t make improvements that make a big and lasting difference in how you look, move and feel each day.

 

 

 

All that you need to do is make sure that you stretch what needs to be stretched, double-down on strengthening the muscles that will help you most, and stay mindful/pay attention to your head, shoulder and spinal positions until better posture becomes your ‘new normal.’

 

 

 

If I can do it, so can you! Take heart, believe in what’s possible, and get busy doing the work on the regular—the results will come.

What do you do when you F— it all up?

 What do you do when you F- it all up?

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You had the best of intentions. 

You were off to a great start.

You’d made so much progress.

You’d gotten so much stronger.

The workouts were easier.

The pants fit better.

Things were really starting to fall into place…and then.

And then something knocked you off-course or for a loop.
A vacation.
An illness in the family.
A super stressful event or period of time.
And then…you find yourself struggling again, feeling like a failure, feeling shame you ‘couldn’t hack it,’  that you let yourself down, or family or friends down….
It happens!!
To even the best of us.  From time to time, we all struggle.
Some life event impacts our routine, disrupts our ‘normal,’ causes resistance, or throws us back into old coping mechanisms.
Sometimes this means we stop working out—or working out as much.  Sometimes this means we stray too far and too long from our better, more healthful eating patterns.  Sometimes this means we burn the candle at both ends, leaving ourselves a fried mess unable to cope—or using unhealthy or unhelpful coping mechanisms.
  And we feel bad—because we KNOW better, right?!?
Again—it happens.  What matters more, what matters the MOST, really, is what we do next.
So we F’d it up again.  Well, done is done.  We can either wallow in it, tell ourselves how weak and pathetic and stupid we are, thinking that berating ourselves will lead us to ‘behaving’ again, or….Or.
Or we can do a few of these things:
1.  Acknowledge our F-Up. 
Name it, own it, then leave it behind us.  Done is done, and no good comes from beating the proverbial dead horse; clinging to our ‘failings’ actually prevents us from growing and changing.  Move on!
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2.  Look for the Lesson.
As much as we might hate it, there’s always a lesson in those hard moments and times, or an opportunity for personal growth.I’ve learned over time, through dealing with and recovering from numerous injuries and health issues over the years, that there’s always something that can be learned out of an illness or injury.
Sometimes that means learning to literally DO things differently—in the gym or at home.It can mean learning how much eating well impacts how we feel or makes or breaks our health.
Sometimes it means reevaluating our lifestyle, and cutting out the things that really aren’t working FOR us, even if those changes are unpopular.
Sometimes it means checking our ego at the door—either the ego that’s prompting us to do things that aren’t good for our bodies because we think we can or should or have something to prove, or the ego that screams at us: “I want what I want and I want it right NOW and I deserve it right NOW,” like an angry toddler would.
Whatever knocked you off-track, hung you up, derailed your efforts, or sidelined you (temporarily), there IS a lesson in there.
Look for it, ask the hard questions:
  • What did I do to get myself here?
  • What do I need to do to get myself OUT of here?
  • And what can I do to avoid doing this again??
3.  Take action—NOW.
It doesn’t have to be huge or perfect, it just needs to be action.
  • Start by eating a veggie at your next meal or snack.
  • Get up and go for a walk.
  • Do a few squats or push ups.
  • Read an article or book that helps you ‘grit it up’ a bit more.
  • Listen to a podcast that inspires you.
  • Call someone who supports you (not an enabler, but someone who loves you and will help you take the next step forward).

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DO NOT TEXT OR EMAIL OR SEND ANY KIND OF ELECTRONIC MESSAGE—CALL THEM.  You know, in real time, just like the good ole days 😉
4.  Use the Lesson(s) to make a new plan. 
  • What did you learn from this experience? 
  • Where did you ‘fall down’ or where did things go sideways on you?
  • What can you do to be derailed LESS by this same kind of situation, should it happen again?
  • What can you do to avoid the same, or a similar, pitfall?
  • What resources do you need?
  • What kind of planning do you need to do?
  • And how are you going to go forward, from right where you’re at, right now?
5.  Just get moving.  Keep moving.  Find a mantra or create a mantra, and put that puppy all over the place.
Mantras can add to our grit, shore up our commitment to a goal or project–even when it’s not going well; mantras can help refocus us when we feel like we’re on the ropes. They can create positive energy, and keep us focused on moving forwards and doing our best.
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And if you don’t have one yet, maybe finding a short, meaningful and memorable saying is just the thing you need to help keep you motivated, focused and positive!
As Mahatma Gandhi said,
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
And remember this, above all else:
“Failure is not in the falling down, but the staying down.”
~ Unknown
If you’re not sure where to start, your fitness or nutrition have been lagging, let’s chat!
We can get on the phone, or email or FaceTime or Skype, etc, and start working out a plan to get you heading in a better direction again.  20 minute ‘Recharge’ chats are totally complementary 🙂
You can reach me at kate@reallifefitbykate.com
And if you’ve fallen off the workout ‘horse,’ try climbing back on with this simple ladder workout you can do pretty much anywhere!  https://youtu.be/BZF91zEUBZU
Keep your head up and keep moving forward!
Kate