Updated: Aug 2, 2020
I have been a part of the fitness industry for almost a decade as a trainer and a therapist. I have completed hundreds, if not thousands of assessments in this time and have taught countless clients how to move properly.
Yet even after “seeing it all”, to this day it continues to amaze me how little attention we pay to our bodies. The human body is a magnificent creation that lets us generate power, strength and flexibility beyond your wildest dreams when we pay it the attention it needs. On the other end of the spectrum, if you don't pay attention to it, daily tasks like walking, sitting, sleeping, playing with your kids, raking your lawn, shoveling your driveway, and bending over to tie your shoes can become painful, and at worst, an unrealistic dream in some cases. It saddens me when I see people accepting their physical discomfort as a natural byproduct of aging and resolve to live their entire lives in pain, because it doesn’t have to be this way.
The truth is, most of your physical problems including neck, back, knee, hip, shoulder issues can be addressed and solved by learning how your body moves and paying attention to its cues. You only get one body to live in, so keeping it in good condition is in your best interest. If you don't intend to use your retirement funds to buy gadgets that will help you walk, then it’s time to bring awareness to your body—a long lost habit in our modern society.
Through my work as a trainer and a therapist I have encountered dozens of common elements that have helped my clients to improve not just their movement patterns but their entire quality of life. I want to share some of them with you in this article.
Let’s start with answering a key question. “What is pain?”
I consider pain as your body's “check engine light” that goes off to grab your attention. Now you may think, “What does that mean by getting my attention? …And if I am sitting in the office and my back starts to hurt what should I do?”
The first step of assessing the body’s engine light is recognizing the pain for what it is. Feedback. Your body is telling you to change something. In a lot of cases this is as simple as the position you’re sitting or standing in. Humans are not meant to be in one position for long period of time. If you’ve been sitting at your desk all day, try this:
· stand up,
· lengthen your torso
· lift that ribcage out of the abdominal fascia
· get yourself in a good standing posture
· bring your attention to your feet, as if your feet can feel your body weight.
· Keep your attention on the physical discomfort you are experiencing and breath (diaphragmatic breathing, I will touch on that in a bit) for couple of minutes and see what happens.
Most likely what you are experiencing will start to dissipate. If it doesn’t, keep trying. Our bodies need attention but most of our conscious attention goes to our minds resulting in anxiety, stress, anger, and fear. If you can change that and start paying attention to your body, you’ll be rewarded with a feeling of control, liberation, freedom, confidence, and empowerment.
In addition to the office exercise I gave you above, I challenge you to try this exercise before you go to sleep every night.
· sit on the side of your body maintaining a neutral spine and close your eyes
· bring your attention to your breathing
· feel the stomach inflate and deflate and now try to feel your feet and hands
· focus all your attention to your entire body as you feel and visualize the energy flow through the body.
Try these steps for five minutes before you go to sleep. Bringing your attention to your body before bed allows you to recover faster, sleep better and wake up with a more positive state of mind. If you find it hard to shut off your mind, don’t be disheartened. It is a learning process! Reset the time and try again, it will become easier to execute this over time.
Lastly, I want to talk about one other problem that I encounter more and more clients struggling with. Compromised breathing patterns.
Our society, and especially the fitness industry, is largely driven by aesthetics and there is not necessarily anything wrong with that. But how does that link with breathing patterns?
People nowadays are obsessed with keeping there stomachs sucked in because they try to fit an image they see in Men's Health or some other popular fitness magazine. In the process they adopt compromised breathing patterns by not using their diaphragm as a main breathing muscle. So what does that result in? The pec minor, scalenes and intercostal muscles are forced into overdrive. In other words, neck issues and shoulder problems.
These issues are very hard to diagnose or treat unless breathing is addressed. So this is a big one people, breath through your diaphragm. Let that stomach inflate with every breath. When you do that your diaphragm stimulates your deep fascial network and has a positive effect on your mobility. Breathing shallow might make your tummy feel tighter but it’s an illusion—an illusion that will cause neck and shoulder problems, and rob your body of good mobility—especially in the hips.
As I said before, the human body is a work of perfection and all systems in place internally complement each other. When you compromise the function of one part of your body, you will loose the functionality in the others. This is a common problem, but it doesn’t need to be inevitable.
It’s time to bring your attention to your body and breathing and get out of the habitual state of living so you can enter an intentional, pain-free state of living!
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