Congratulations! You are in the gym 24hrs a day.
Without letting this article dissolve into existentialist philosophy I am going to work on the assumption that you, dear reader, are out there somewhere. As you have a body all the time it is always doing something. Your body does not know when you are in 'the gym' or in 'a workout' and that it is only meant to adapt to those things.
Even if you have never been in a gym or ever formally 'exercised' or 'trained' your body has adapted to whatever you have done with it. Your heart and lungs can cope with the stairs in your house and your muscles can lift your body weight and bend far enough to allow you to scratch your head and tie your shoe laces. The misconception that physical fitness is all about looking good naked or sports performance is harmful. Fitness is just being able to perform the tasks in your life easily without pain or risk.
If you had a harder life your muscles may have gradually adapted to lifting heavy weights or moving very fast. These adaptions would involve having large dense muscles and strong connective tissues. This is usually considered a good thing.
If you have however had an easy life your body will have gradually adapted to maintaining a slouched sitting position for hours and hours at a time. These adaptions would involve tightening of the muscles at the front of the hip and at the top of the chest and shoulder. This is a very bad thing.
Now sit down cross legged with a straight back and lift your arms straight up over your head... If you managed that fine then congratulations and please forward this to everyone else. If that was no fun at all keep reading. FYI this is often called Upper Crossed Syndrome.
This combination of tightness will cause weakness in the opposite muscles in your bottom and in the upper back. This leads to an attractive hunched look as well as a ton of tension that can lead to headaches, back pain and injury. It means you are not 'fit' for the task of sitting.
This is a huge area of interest with me and will be the subject of many more posts after this.
What I want to be understood is that 'fitness' is not something you can opt out from being involved with. Even standing very still or never leaving your bed is still a decision with its own implications. In order to have a healthy body it is a requirement that you balance all actions with their opposites to avoid becoming over adapted.
- If you do something very active ensure you rest enough after.
- If you use the muscles on the front of the body a lot then use the muscles on the back of the body a lot after.
- If you use your right arm a lot then use your left arm after.
And so on. The challenge is to balance out what can often be 8 to 10 hours sitting without needing to add another 8 to 10 hours of the opposite activity to the day. This is where the weights come out and where the non gym goers start to grumble and shuffle about a bit.
It is simply about efficiency, the built up stiffness and weakness from multiple hours of leaning forwards would take an awful lot of gentle backwards stretching to fix. Teaching the back of the body to resist a weight pulling you forward will give a stronger or at least equal message to the body as multiple hours of lightly pushing yourself forwards as you slouch over a computer monitor.
If you or someone you know spends a lot of time sitting, driving or leaning forward over things in a standing position you or they are already in training. If you want to improve or avoid the back pain, headaches and posture that comes with this it is required you add the opposite movements to your training.
A few of my favorites will be coming in my next article. If you would be interested in speaking about lifestyle and training please contact me here.
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