You are probably aware that when you sit or stand, you tend to hang out in postures that feel comfortable to you. Standing with one hip higher than the other, abs not engaged, shoulders not quite pulled back.
Your sitting default mode is probably easier to figure out. If at work or on the computer, you probably have to work hard to make sure you are sitting up straight, not rounding your shoulders, or not in the habit of looking forward and down at your desk. When at home relaxing, many times all that goes down the tubes, and you are truly slouching.
Yes, it is important to try to be aware of these possibilities, and to slowly change over. Once you do, you start to feel the difference. This difference may even feel foreign and uncomfortable at first. After awhile, however, you may notice that your body feels better, and more energized. In other words, you are giving your body it’s best chance to function well for you.
This is great, and is a worthwhile endeavor that will take you to levels of function that you had not been aware of before. But, what about the rest of the time? How about when you are moving around or exercising? Many of us do not realize that we have a default mode for those things as well. Becoming aware of that can be a game-changer.
Notice that most professional athletes have a coach. This is not just for honing technique and skills. It is for feedback. Our bodies do have a mechanism for letting us know where our bodies are in space, but that is not enough. Our bodies also like to do what they are used to doing. In order to get better at a sport, working out, or moving through our days, we need to take that into account. It means making the effort to do two things:
- Take some time to check things out and become aware of how you move. Sometimes a coach or trainer can help with this, but the more you can do this for yourself, the better. After all, you can’t have a trainer with you all the time!
- Get some information on how things are supposed to be with your body, and slowly make changes for the better. (See my blogs, “Truth or Consequences: Is Your Back Curved or Straight?” and “Fitness/Body Assessment: Why Start with Posture?”)
Here are a few suggestions for how to do that.
Busting Default Mode during Strength Training
Especially when exercising, don’t just rush through what you are doing in order to get it off the “to do” list. It would only take you a few seconds to pay more attention to your form, your posture, and your range of motion.
EXAMPLE: Let’s say you are using dumbbells or even the machines in the gym for some strength training.
Slow it down.
Pay attention to how far and how fast you normally lift. Do you complete the motion?
Do you pay attention to which muscles you are using to complete the action?
Do you take as much time releasing the weight as you do lifting it?
Do you pay attention to your breathing and synch it with your lifting?
Optimizing Form during Walking, Running, or Cardio Activities
EXAMPLE: You are out and about for a walk or run, on a treadmill, elliptical, or other cardio machine.
Take a few strides slowly and notice what your feet are doing. Are they slapping down or are you using your toes to push off (this would not be the case on the elliptical, but it would for the other modes).
This may seem obvious, but are you wearing shoes that enable you to do this, and give you proper support?
Are you getting a full stride, or chronically pulling up short? A shortened stride will severely limit how your muscles are used. In this scenario, some of your muscles may not even be recruited for the task. Eventually, this becomes a habit, and you and your body suffer. A chronically short stride can restrict many of your other activities, reduce calorie burn, and even limit your ability to sustain aerobic activity because your capacity to “kick it up a notch” disappears.
Speaking of “kicking it up a notch”, once you feel comfortable with your stride, push yourself here and there. Do some intervals where you are going faster for 20-30 seconds. This will recruit your muscles in different ways, and engage your tendons to help them stay elastic, and long. Not only does this help your day-to-day activity, but it also comes in handy if you ever have to recruit muscles to keep your balance, stop a fall, or do any quick, unexpected, move.
None of these suggestions take any time at all away from your workout, but they can make a huge difference to what you get out of it.
If you have any techniques of your own, feel free to drop me an email and let me know. I would love to hear from you!
© 2018 Kristen Carter. All rights reserved.