Lately when teaching classes or coaching clients I have been trying to remind them that how we feel in class is a direct relationship to how we stand, move, lean, sit, and carry things in our daily lives. Body imbalances when working out, whether strength or flexibility, are things that aren’t always caused from movement, but a lack of movement or poor movement and posture quality.
I find that people often begin a work out, identify problem areas (whether it is a lack of range of motion, muscle soreness, or a strength imbalance), and then complete it anyways. However, what I have been challenging my clients to do lately is to think of the warmup, workout, and cool down/recovery components of the workout as links. Everything relates. How we feel when warming up will dictate our performance; during the cool down, the problems areas are usually identified when stretching.
I used to always throw around terms such as “my glutes are ALWAYS tight” or “my posture isn’t the best…but it is because I played field hockey”. It is a great thing to identify the issue. That is definitely step one. But we can’t possibly imagine anything to change if we don’t start attacking those things head on. Below are my tips that I have been trying (and not always succeeding at) to help aid my recovery, improve movement and posture, and reduce imbalances in my body.
- The warmup dictates your workout. We can never be masters at every single thing in a workout each day. If we are, then the workout can and should be modified to challenge the body further. If I have a particular workout programmed and a body part isn’t feeling 100%, I allow myself to ease off on the intensity and work on form instead. Alternately, when things are feeling good, I recognize that those are the days I want to challenge and push myself further. Listen to how your body feels while preparing it for the workout and train accordingly. It doesn’t mean the entire workout changes – but be open-minded to the fact that it can.
- Rest and recovery is okay. Our bodies need time to change and adapt. If we don’t provide ourselves with proper rest and recovery protocols, injuries can occur and we ultimately can’t perform as well in our next workout. I see people often post on their rest days of them doing some core work or other movements deemed “not as intense”. The reality is, if we are always pushing our limits (even if it’s not always the same ones every day), our muscles can’t recover fast enough to keep up with the demands and it can lead to burnout. Mentally and physically rest is a must! One off day a week is what I try to implement each week.
- Take action on the problem areas. It is one thing to identify the issue but an even bigger step to make a change. Whether it is committing time to work out, strengthening a particular body part, or increasing your flexibility of a certain area, implement the action to do so. If we only stop at identifying, changes won’t occur. When training for my half marathon, I was doing a bunch of glute activation to reduce knee pain - if I didn’t, the knee pain would have continued while I kept telling myself my glutes weren’t firing as efficiently as they needed to.
- Change up your daily routine. My brother has been talking about a standing desk for years and now it is a huge thing. Repositioning the height of your computer, chair, computer mouse, etc. can positively affect your posture. Think about how you walk your dog, pick up your kids, or carry your groceries home. Practicing good habits in our daily lives will allow our bodies to feel better when we do get to move.
How we move in our daily lives affects our movement moments in a day. But, let’s start thinking the opposite. Think about the perfect posture you master while performing a squat, deadlift, or overhead press. Then mimic that in your regular routine. We work on a neutral spine, and moving efficiently in workouts, but sometimes this can be forgotten once we leave the gym. This week, start to think about how your posture and movement patterns can be improved in the hours spent outside of the gym – hopefully you find yourself heading into the long weekend standing taller, with less neck and back pain, and ready to move well in your next workout!
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