Do these things

  • Train in a way you enjoy
  • Make sure you are able to lift, carry, climb, run and jump a bit
  • Sort your posture out
  • Sit less
  • Free your feet
  • Listen to your body, try not to injure yourself (don’t be stupid)
  • Eat proper food – if you don’t understand the words on the label don’t eat it
  • Enjoy treats sometimes – don’t be a bore
  • Be nice to people
  • Think things through, make up your own mind, make decisions
  • Chill out – it’s probably not that important
  • If it is that important – share it with someone that you love

 

Advertisements

Book review – Sad dog, happy dog by Kathleen Porter

Sad dog, happy dog by Kathleen Porter is a book designed to help parents and teachers promote good postural alignment in children. I’m a big believer in the importance of posture (see here, here and here) and want to do what I can to help my girls maintain the effortless good alignment they currently have.

This book is designed to do just that.

The book is split up into a number sections:

Background
This section uses babies as examples of good, natural alignment. They haven’t been around for long enough to pick up bad habits and learn to sit and stand by finding a natural balance.

Porter highlights how posture can break down as people age with lots of visual examples of both good and bad alignment. This section also introduces Porter’s sad dog, happy dog concept and how it can be used to teach good alignment.

Why natural alignment matters
This section runs through the various systems of the body (circulatory, skeletal etc) explaining the effect poor alignment has on their function. It’s not good news.

Keeping children naturally aligned
This chapter is main reason I bought the book. There are tips on adjusting buggies and car seats to help maintain the natural alignment of children, and also how to use wedges to help children sit with better posture if it has started to decline.

One great thing about these tips is you can easily adapt them to adult car seats and chairs. The book is aimed at helping children but the content can also be applied to adults.

There is a large emphasis in this section on doing as well as teaching, which is great. The book encourages teachers and parents to be a good example and actually do the things you are teaching, which is great advice (and not just in this context!).

Instructions to align yourself naturally
The first part of this section is a step by step guide to sitting with naturally aligned spine. It is explained very simply and is easy to follow. Each technique has basic instructions that use imagery to help them be easier for children to follow.

There are also more detailed instructions that delve deeper into anatomy and what the various body parts should be doing – this is great if you like to get more information about what’s going on.

After the guide to sitting with good alignment the book explained how to apply these principles to standing, walking, bending, sleeping. The basic principles are the same the whole way through so it’s all very easy to follow.

The section finishes with a few more visualisations that can help keep you aligned. I have found these incredibly useful in keeping aligned while moving about.

What I liked about the book

  • The method is incredibly simple, as you would expect as it is designed to be taught to children. It is the easiest to follow that I’ve come across.
  • I love the emphasis on walking the talk. We should set good examples for our children, they are far more likely to form good habits if they see their parents doing them.
  • Although more detailed information is included for each technique, the initial descriptions use imagery which is much simpler to remember and follow. I now use this imagery alone when thinking about my posture.

What I didn’t like about the book

  • The attitude to gym traing and its effect on posture is a bit blinkered. The book suggests all gym training is bad and that postural alignment is all you need to be fit and strong. Instead, I would suggest improving alignment, then getting stronger in that position.
  • Some of the information about keeping a child aligned is a bit brief. It states that ‘some buggies can be adapted’ but doesn’t really show how. You can work it out fairy easily but having it more detail would make the book more ‘complete’.

Conclusion
I only have minor grumbles about this book. I mostly loved it.

Although it is designed for children, it is the posture book I would most likely to recommend to anyone. I expect I will refer to it again and again over time.

Fitness attributes – posture part 3

This is the next in my series on each of the aspects in the What do you need to do to be fit? post and is the third part about posture, parts one & two can be found here & here.

In the first two parts I talked about why posture is important, what good posture looks like and reviewed some of the great books I have used to work on my own posture. In this post I’ll look at three things you can do to help fix some of the more common postural issues.

1) Wear minimal, flat shoes, go barefoot were possible
This is the single most important thing you can do to help your posture. These crude stick men drawings show what a modest heel will do to the bodies angle. 

Stick_men

Obviously, people don’t walk around leaning forward like that. Your body changes it’s alignment to remain upright and this will make good posture difficult. If you try and fix your posture while still wearing heels you are unlikely to succeed.

There are now companies that produce heel-less shoes with minimal soles that are suitable for work and the choice for casual wear is endless. It’s pretty easy to do, they might not be the height of fashion but so be it – this stuff’s more important in the long run.

While you are at it you may as well go barefoot when ever you can. Shoes don’t get much more minimal than that.

2) Straighten your back
This is primarily for people with an upper back and shoulders that slump forward. If you work at a computer all day it’s likely to be you to some degree. There should still be an S curve in your spine, but probably a bit less than you have. Take a look in the mirror and make an honest assessment of where you’re at.

There are likely to be two things going on: a tight chest and weak upper back.

  • Chest stretches – there are some good ones here. If you work at a desk it would be worth scattering these stretches throughout the day.
  • Upper back strengthening – the main muscles to focus on are the rhomboids and lower traps. They bring the shoulder blades back and down, which in turn will help create an upright upper body posture. Good exercises include band pull aparts, dumbbell bent over lateral rows and pull up/dip shrugs. Locust pose can also help.

Additionally, Dr Barker’s book has a great exercise for promoting a straighter back that I’ve seen great benefit from, it’s worth a look.

I would also recommend looking at Esther Gokhale’s stuff to learn how to hold yourself more upright when sitting and standing, if you’ve been practicing slumping for 20+ years you’ll probably need to practice upright a bit as well.

3) Strengthen the glutes
The glutes play a large role in good posture as they both stabilise the body when standing and also rotate the pelvis into its proper position. Unfortunately, they become weakened by excessive sitting and stop doing their job. At the same time the hip flexors at the front of the pelvis get tight, further inhibiting the glutes and also pulling the pelvis out of alignment.

Again, there are two things to be doing:

  • Stretch hip flexorsthese ones from K Starr are great, a basic lunge stretch would be fine though. These can also be done throughout the day.
  • Strengthen the glutes – I think there are three stages to strengthening the glutes and increasing awareness of the muscle:
    1. In isolation – both glute bridges and hip thrusts will strengthen the glutes in isolation. The most important thing here is to really feel the muscle working to build awareness.
    2. Integrated in a gym setting – exercises like lunges, step ups and squats use the glutes in conjunction with the rest of the lower body. Remember how they felt in isolation and get them going in these exercises as well.
    3. Integrated in real life – the last stage is to use them in daily life. When standing give them a pinch to check they are working. Gokhale’s book has a great style of walking that engages them strongly. Also stairs are good, concentrate on extending the hip not the knee and you should feel exertion round the back rather than the quads

Personally, I need to continue working on all of these aspects. I spend a lot of each day sitting and that won’t change any time soon, as a result I need to work to counteract this.

That’s it for posture stuff….

PS – if you have any postural issues that involved twisting of the torso, or something effecting one side more than the other – check out Pete Egoscue’s book.

Do this one thing for better day to day health

Ok, I have told a little lie. It’s not just one thing but a few things, but doing this one thing (which is good for you) makes it easier to do a bunch of other stuff that is also good for you. This tip is especially useful for anyone that spends a lot of their day sat at a desk. And the tip is:

Drink more water.

How is that going to make a difference? Firstly, as you sit at your desk tapping away you are probably not drinking enough anyway so increasing your intake can only be a good thing. Secondly, as you drink more water you are probably going to want to do something else more. This will make you walk at least as far as the toilet more often than you do at the moment. Getting up and moving more during the day will help reduce the negative effects of sitting.

Every time you go to the loo do a little something to loosen up any parts of your body that get tight when sitting. It doesn’t have to be much, but just enough to get some blood flowing to the areas that have gone to sleep. Things you could try are:

  • Hip mobility
  • Hip flexor stretches
  • Trap/upper back stretches
  • Thoracic spine mobility
  • Pec stretches
  • Shoulder mobility
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Glute activation
  • You get the idea…….

Exactly what you do isn’t that important. The point is to make sure you create some blood flow and do something other than sit at regular intervals during the day. This is just an example of how a simple behaviour change can help make that easier.

Strength day – a way to get it all done

I read something a while ago that a good way to fit in some extra mobility/postural type exercises I’d to them in your rest breaks. It makes perfect sense, if you sit all day you need to do more of that kind of thing but there are only so many extra exercise sessions you can fit in.

Using this technique, plus combining exercises into unrelated pairs means you can get a lot of work done in limited time and still get decent rest breaks.

Joint mobility warm up

Pistols (partial ROM, 6kg counter weight) – 2 x 3R/3L
(prone cobra, 1kg – 3 x 10)

Ring routine (pulling*) – 1,1,1,1
Partial HeSPU (7cm) – 5,5,5
(fire hydrant – 3 x 10R/10L)

GHR (assisted) – 4,4,4
Towel chin up – 7,6,6

Powergrip 200 – 4 x 3R/3L
One leg glute bridge – 2 x 10R/10L

DB side lever, 2kg – 2 x 12R/12L

Back bridge – 3 x 20sec

* L pull up, inverted hang, back lever, german hang, front lever