52 HEALTHY HABITS: STAND UP STRAIGHT!

Welcome to the latest edition of 52 healthy habits, where each week we tackle a new healthy habit in order to improve our lives. Healthy habits are the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. When we work on improving our habits one at a time, a healthy lifestyle emerges. It takes time, but it's worth it when willpower and motivation are no longer needed. I invite you to follow along with my habits each week, dig into the archives to work on a past habit or make one up of your own. Pick something you want to work on and get started. 

Some weeks in the 52 healthy habits series I give you ideas of healthy habits you can work on. Some weeks I tell you about the things I am working on. This is one of those weeks. 

Speaking of healthy habits, I got a massage last weekend and I had an interesting conversation with the massage therapist.

"Your shoulders are rounded forward. This happens from sitting at a computer all day, looking down at your phone, even driving."

"I do all those things at least 10 hours a day, probably more."

"That's the issue. But it's no problem. We can work to correct it, but you need to work on your posture throughout the day. Push your shoulders back and down and hold your neck neutral whenever you think about it during the day, set a reminder on your phone if you need to. You can't correct it in a day, a week or even a month, but if you make an effort to improve, make this small posture change repeatedly on a daily basis, over time your body will respond." 

It struck me that he was talking about building a habit of good posture. It's exactly what I teach here week after week. Make an effort at the small things that seem insignificant and big results will follow.

It's funny he mentioned it because it was something I noticed myself just a week earlier. I am working on body composition improvements so I asked hubby to take some "before" pictures so I could note visual changes as the weeks progress. (I know better than to rely solely on the scale when working to increase muscle because the scale is a damn liar.) I was shocked when I looked at the first side view picture. My shoulders were hunched over visually but I was standing normally. 

 Left: anterior rotation of the shoulder. Right: shoulders back and down, neck neutral. Note to self: comb your hair next time. Hah.

Left: anterior rotation of the shoulder. Right: shoulders back and down, neck neutral. Note to self: comb your hair next time. Hah.

Now I have something new to work on. Just like any other healthy habits we talk about here, it's the small incremental changes that lead to big results over time. You don't notice the difference in one day, one week or even in a month. When you eat slowly, drink more water, sleep more hours, eat more vegetables, eat more protein, you won't notice the changes right away but changes are happening.

Just like my rotated shoulders. It didn't happen overnight, but the cumulation of my bad habits (slouching over a computer, looking down at my phone scrolling Instagram, not paying attention to posture while driving) added up over time. It works both ways. We don't notice the small things, but it's the small things that make a big difference. 

Standing up straight or working on posture seems like a small insignificant thing. The small things are easy but they are also easy to overlook or skip. Do the small things to make big progress. 

AWARENESS

Awareness is always the first step. Now that I am aware of my shoulder rotation, I can work to correct it. How many years did I walk around slouched over, blissfully unaware? Now I know better and can work to improve. That's the first step. This applies to anything you want to change. Understanding that you need to make a change and a willingness to work on it is the first step in the right direction

ACTION

Even the smallest action will move you forward. I'm not going to fix my shoulders overnight, but the actions I take today will pay dividends in the future.

SHOULDERS BACK AND DOWN

Shoulders back and down when walking. Every time I stand up to walk or when I walk my dog (Hi, Ollie!) I would make a conscious effort to keep my shoulders back and down. 

FOAM ROLL & STRETCH

The massage therapist told me to lie on my back parallel to the foam roller with my head hanging off the end. He said not to roll, but to press my back into the foam roller, then lift my shoulders up, then press them back down for scapula retraction. Do 12-20 reps. This felt amazing. I am adding it into my daily workout. 

He also showed me some stretches to release my tight pectoralis muscles which is part of the reason my shoulders are rounded forward.

 foam roller and skull leggings for the win!

foam roller and skull leggings for the win!

In our current environment, rounded shoulders is a common problem. We are looking down at our phones, spending hours in the car and in front of computer screens. Working to correct posture is a healthy habit that can be cultivated and built into our daily routines. 

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