Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Pondering Posture

Recently, I was contacted by BackJoy to participate in their #PosturePledge.

May is National Correct Posture Month.  (Yep, there's a month for everything!)  Posture is one of those things most of us don't even think about until we're in pain or we see someone who has a VERY poor one.  It's definitely something I need to mind now that I'm getting older.  I've mentioned a few times in this blog (example) that I have occasional episodes of back soreness, particularly in the lower region.  At work, I even have a small cushion for that area, which has helped a bit.  Of course, I still find myself struggling to hold myself up in the correct position after a while.  Lately, my middle back has become sore as well, probably due to slouching and compensating for other parts of my body not exactly being aligned.  I'm sure my awkward sleeping positions aren't helping, either.

I'm pretty sure this problem will get worse before it gets better, so I was excited to try BackJoy's SitSmart Posture Plus (left) and Stress Roller (right).


The SitSmart is a hard shell that is placed on a chair, and when you sit on the curve, your back is supposed to fall into the proper alignment.  Amazingly, this did happen.  I was tired from a day of work when I took this picture and was not going out of my way to sit straight.  I want to bring this into the office with me!  No more lazy sitting!


Also, the Stress Roller, which looks like two tennis balls sewn together, has been GREAT for my middle and upper back.  I have been using it standing against the wall, which was hard to get a picture of, but you get the idea.  In fact, I just used it this morning.  The Stress Roller comes with a small booklet with diagrams of other ways to use it -- rolling hips, feet, etc.

For more information about BackJoy and their #PosturePledge, click here to visit their Facebook pageEdited to add: The first 500 people to take the pledge will receive their own free SitSmart Posture Plus!  As of this edit, there are more than 300 left!!

Also, below are some of their tips to improve posture everyday:


BackJoy’s #PosturePledge Celebration ~ Top 10 Pledges AND Tips to Get You on Track

1. Improve sitting posture at work (this is the one I chose)

TIPS: Head back, shoulders back, and hips upright with an ‘S’ curve in your spine. Maintain good ergonomic principles: find a good chair, use proper pelvic support, knees at 90 degrees (hard for me because my legs are short), raise your monitor height level with your eyes. Get up and walk around once an hour. 



2. Ditch the heels and invest in “zero drop” shoes

TIPS: Find shoes that keep your heel and toes at the same height. Find a wide toe box so your foot can move naturally and keep your weight evenly distributed across the whole foot. 



3. Sleep on your side or back instead of your stomach

TIPS: Find the right pillow that preserves the curve of your neck on your back, and keeps spine parallel to the bed on your side. Place a small pillow between knees on your side, and under them on your back. 



4. Be conscious of “technology posture” and “text neck” – The 3 T’s Texting, Tablet, TV (Gaming)

TIPS: Keep devices at head height and don’t excessively bend neck down or to the side. Don’t slouch onthe couch, and get up and exercise more than your thumbs! 



5. Incorporate core exercises into your workout routine

TIPS: Back exercises are as important to your core as abs are. Mix them both in with your daily workout routine. 



6. When you lift heavy things (weights, boxes, kids), bend at the knees, not the back

TIPS: Think like an Olympic weight lifter and get low. Use muscles that keep the ‘S’ curve in your back and avoid the ‘C’ shape hump back. Functional fitness training can help. Wear posture-enhancing shirts or sports bras for support and muscle memory. 



7. Tell your mom “thanks”! She was right-- sit and stand up straight

TIPS: Give her a big hug, buy her some flowers and admit she was right all those nagging years! 



8. Consult with a posture professional (PT, chiropractor, ergonomist)

TIPS: Find a medical professional you trust. Look for a physical therapist, chiropractor, ergonomic specialist, or massage therapist. Search local listings and check out reviews on Yelp! 



9. Stretch—do pilates, yoga, swimming…

TIPS: Pilates, yoga, swimming, foam rollers or other self massage devices are a great start. Focus on stretches and movements that lengthen chest, biceps and hip flexor muscles in the front of your body. Once you start there you can think about the back. 



10. Eat healthy and watch your weight

TIPS: Eat a healthy diet to support your muscles and drink lots of water so they can function well. People
with extra weight around the mid-section can pull the pelvis forward and add stress on the lower back. Overweight and obese adults are also more likely to have disc degeneration in their lower back than normal-weight adults, according to a new study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.



ALSO...take a minute to assess your posture

Wear something form-fitting and have someone two full-body photos—one from the front, one from the side. Relax your muscles and stand as tall as you can, feet hip-width apart.

FRONT

  • Head above heart above hips
  • If ear is forward of center line, your head is too far forward.
  • If you see your shoulder blade, your back is too rounded.
  • If your belly sticks out (even if you’re fit), you have an anterior pelvic tilt. 
  • One shoulder shouldn’t appear higher than the other.
  • One knee shouldn’t be higher than the other. Both knees should point forward, they should not face inward. 
  • Your toes shouldn’t point excessively outward or inward more than 10 degrees either way.

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FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of the BackJoy SitSmart Posture Plus and Stress Roller to review but was not otherwise compensated to provide a positive review.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: Physique 57 - Volume 2

"Believe in yoursellfff!"  This is the first thing you hear when you pop in one of these Physique 57 Volume 2 DVDs, the three-disc follow-up to Physique 57 - Volume 1.

By now, I've been doing Physique 57 workouts for over a year.  Granted, I was not consistent with it until closer to the end of the year, but due to my lack of gym membership, I have enjoyed them as part of a balanced fitness routine. 

Lately, I've been doing barre exercises more than any other kind.  I've been popping in Physique 57 2-3 days a week, mixed in with some Xtend Barre, Focus T25 (I'm still on the Alpha phase...), Jillian Michaels, or Insanity.

Once again, these DVDs offer a variety of exercises done in small movements to create lean muscle.  Now, as someone who used to gut it out in my running shoes or some kind of intense interval training for an hour a day or more, this sounds totally ineffective, but alas, I think it is.  My glutes and legs look a lot more -- toned, but not in the huge-quad way like I often have been.  I think the biggest change has been in my arms -- they are actually leaner than they have been in a while, without killing myself with cardio (which even then didn't always work).

For these DVDs, you'll need an exercise (yoga) mat, a playground ball (a mediocre one comes with Volume 1, so I use that, but eBay has better ones for cheap), 3- and 5-lb weights (having a set of 8's would help, too), a chair or other stable furniture that's approximately waist-high, and a thick towel (they use a nice cushion that I really want; using a towel isn't all that great).

So I will say now that these three discs are definitely harder than Volume 1, though they are both beneficial and I do both.  These discs offer advanced variations and much-needed variety if you depend on these for your daily workouts.

Advanced Full Body (57 min) - Upper body with 8- and 5-pound weights.  Dare I say it's still easier than the Arm & Ab Booster from Volume 1?  Thigh work, then seat work on the floor.  I actually like this, as you feel the burn, and the moves seem like they can be done when you're laying on the floor, watching TV.  Hah!  The ab portion is tough, but fun.  There is also a lower back segment, which I don't like because I don't like using a ball to leverage myself.

Thigh & Seat Booster (30 min) - I like this one because I know I'm burning a lot of calories (over 200) since you basically spend the whole time working the larger muscle groups (legs) rather than arms/abs.  This one requires some balance, or you can use your chair for balance, which is often what I do!  It is definitely a challenging disc -- not for beginners!

Advanced Full Body Express (30 min) -This is definitely a bigger bun-burner than the first "Full Body Express."  I turn to this workout a lot because it is all-around challenging while targeting everything.  The ab work in this one seems easier than others, but the thigh and seat portions burn a bit more!

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FTC Disclaimer: I received these as a personal gift and was not compensated to provide a positive review.