One essential piece in the puzzle of fitness is good posture. It is something I talk about often in class because it truly does become the foundation from which every move will start. Good posture provides a state of balance between the skeletal and muscular systems. It will ultimately help you guard against injury and protect you from negative structural changes an imbalance can produce. It is never too late to start addressing the areas you know or suspect are out of alignment.
It is important to understand that if we can’t maintain a balanced and functional position while standing still how can we hope to be our optimal best in any sport or workout? Once you are able to evaluate and correct how you stand, sit and move so many other aspects of your life will improve. An understanding and awareness of where the different parts of your body are relative to each other is a gateway to better fitness and better performance. It is a precious linked chain that you want to protect.
Optimal standing posture (viewed from the side with head facing forward) will allow a vertical line to hang from the top of the head through the earlobe, through the cervical vertebrae, the shoulder joint, the lumbar spine and mid-line of the knee. The spine has three natural curves: cervical, thoracic and lumbar curving slightly anterior, posterior and anterior (respectively) on either side of this line. When you view yourself from the front you want to see equal and balanced halves on either side of this vertical line. Look at the balance of your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. The more you stand up straight, pull the shoulder blades back, down and together, align the pelvis…the more you will notice how you inevitably engage your core to create a brace of support. Seeing a specialist to evaluate your posture may be especially valuable in the long run.
Take a look at how you work at your desk or on your computer. If you have a tendency to slouch by rounding the shoulders forward and collapsing the abdominal area you put unusual stress on the ligaments of the back. This may create a laxity that translates into instability and weakness. This position tends to also result in one of the most common postural problems for all age groups, forward-head posture or FHP. Check yourself often. Be aware, adjust, align, contract, pull in...whatever it takes. These constant internal reminders help better positioning become habitual, your new normal.
It is also valuable to add some workouts/classes to your schedule that focus on posture, alignment, stability and balance. Consider working with a trainer or physical therapist, or design your own workout that that allows you to focus on the basics of good positioning. You must balance your sports, cycling, running, weightlifting, aerobics/step with classes or exercises that slow you down to help keep you on top of “how” you are moving.
You will need to strengthen weakened areas that may now be elongated and stretch shortened areas that are pulling you out of alignment. Feeling that your body is “stacked” in ideal neutral position will give you the confidence to stay active longer, work smarter, and progress more aggressively. You don’t want to lose your range of motion, coordination, balance and agility simply because the body has deteriorated from the stresses of misalignment.
I can’t emphasize enough that this is a lifetime commitment and endeavor. The passing years and new phases in life introduce different challenges. I continue to discover developing issues with my own posture, alignment and abilities every year. Aging is a challenge that we all deal with, and we are fortunate for that opportunity. Good posture is going to improve all aspects of daily living. It is time to rise to the challenge, take an active approach and help your body be the best it can be… for a long, long time!