Where does most injury come from in training? Most people think injury comes from miss-stepping or overstretching a muscle. This may cause an injury, but the root cause lies much deeper in our physiology. The ability of our bodies to move functionally and properly can prevent injury. It is not the miss-step or the fall that causes the injury; it is our lack of supple muscles lost from improper movement over the years.
Proper functional movement allows our bodies to move the way they are supposed to. Functional movement is something that people are often intimidated by. They don’t understand the purpose and see it as something difficult. In fact, functional movement is a core principle the body gravitates towards. Our sedentary lifestyles in the 21st century that have limited it.
Credit goes to Dr. Mia Ortega D.C, M.A.Ed. for advising on the proper posture and breathing techniques. Without her, this post wouldn’t be possible!
Travel Requires Smart Functional Movement
When we’re traveling we often come across many new terrains and situations. As travelers, we need to be aware of our bodies and how we move. A miss-step can cause injury especially with poorly maintained roads and trails. On the road, we are putting ourselves in these situations more often. Many people take travel as the opportunity to add more adventure. This can be in the form of a trail run, hike, mountain bike ride, or a paddle. Without proper functional movement, these activities can result in pain and at the worst injury.
This makes it even more important to incorporate functional movement for frequent travelers. We are constantly coming across new terrain and situations that our bodies have to adapt to. A functional movement practice can keep us moving strongly without pain and injury. It will also allow you to connect better with the environment bringing an awareness to your travels. This is even more important when training on the road. So how do you begin incorporating functional movement? It is easier than you think.
Functional Movement Begins with Posture
The basics of functional movement are posture (yes, that easy)! Posture is the form our bodies take in any particular movement or even non-movement. Posture is important whether we’re sitting, standing, walking, or even lying down. Proper posture involves the ideal balance and alignment of the structures in our body to prevent muscle strain and shortening.
Often times we are unaware of poor posture until it leads to injury or pain. It can be difficult to maintain proper posture with the various demands in a day. For example, someone who works at a computer all day can have poor posture from hunched shoulders and a protruding neck. A student may develop shoulder pain from carrying a heavy backpack for much of the day. A child caretaker may have a shifted low back and hip from carrying children at the side.
Poor posture from any of these situations can lead to stress on the joints and ligaments, and even pain and micro-trauma within the muscles from overuse. A combination of postural awareness and workplace ergonomics can help prevent these injuries.
Proper Posture Begins with Breathing
One key to maintaining proper posture is breathing. Many people use the accessory muscles for breathing instead of the diaphragm. The accessory muscles are located on the front and sides of the neck and at the top of the chest. When we are stressed these muscles will shorten along with our breaths. They aren’t meant to be primary breathing muscles. This habit will then cause the neck to push forward and the shoulders to hike up and roll forward. This poor posture can result in an Upper Crossed Syndrome leading to an increased risk of pain and injury.
To reap the benefits of the air we breathe, we have to use the entire length of the lungs and activate the diaphragm, located at the bottom floor of the rib cage. To get a feel for this, place one hand on your chest and one hand just below the rib cage, and take a deep breath. If the hand over the chest moves, but the hand below doesn’t, then you are only using your accessory muscles for breathing. Consequently, you are not activating the diaphragm.
Try activating the diaphragm and breathe for a few seconds to watch the lower hand rise. Ideally, only the lower hand will move, with a minimal amount of movement from the upper hand. It may feel awkward at first since it’s not something you are used to. But the more often you practice proper breathing, the easier it will become a habit. This article gives, even more, tips on breathing properly!
Proper Breathing Leads to BETTER Posture
When you’ve gotten a feel for proper breathing, you’ll be ready to correct your posture. Try sitting with your weight equally distributed between your buttocks. This means leaving the legs uncrossed with the feet flat on the ground. Roll your torso forward and backward slightly until you find that point of even distribution. With your hands resting on top of your thighs, roll your shoulders backward and push them down. You should feel the bottom tips of your shoulder blades moving behind you.
Move your shoulder blades slightly in and out until you find the point where you feel neither strain on the front or the back of your shoulders and neck. Lastly, with your eyes looking straight ahead at eye level, slightly tuck your chin back toward your neck. Then roll your neck forward and backward until you find the spot where you feel the least strain on either the front or the back of the neck. This final form is your proper posture. Sit here for a few seconds to get a feel for the idea balance between your anterior and posterior muscles. Check out this awesome article which highlights some great tips for good posture.
Posture for the WIN
It may not be easy to correct your posture. You can try by setting hourly alerts on your computer or mobile device that will remind you to be aware of your posture. Additionally, it is important to take breaks throughout the day. This applies whether your responsibilities include prolonged sitting OR standing. Much like the diaphragmatic breathing, the more you practice proper posture the easier it will be to maintain. You may notice that it is easier to engage the diaphragm when breathing with proper posture. Or the opposite may even be true. Developing this healthy habit can help to reduce stress, prevent injury, and prepare you for your training program.
Posture seems simple, but it’s something we often overlook. Start with this simple breathing and posture practice to enhance your functional movement. It is the first step to moving better and more naturally. Take some time to think about posture every day. At first, it will seem awkward, but soon it will become a habit.
The Beginning of Functional Movement are SIMPLE
Posture and breathing are the backbone of a functional movement practice. They can help prevent injury in training and in basic activities. As travelers were are exposed to the hazards of the road. Incorporate breathing and posture to avoid injury and pain! To start your functional movement routine:
- Realize the benefits of a functional movement process
- Understand that as travelers we are exposed to greater hazards on the road
- Begin with diaphragmatic breathing.
- Practice proper posture with the prescribed procedure
- Stay aware of your posture and breathing every day
Functional movement sounds intimidating, but the start of the practice is very simple. Start with breathing and posture. It’s that simple. You will be surprised at how much better you move!
What functional movement techniques have you incorporated into your life? Do you find yourself more prone to injuries on the road? Have you experimented with proper posture and breathing? Let me know in the comments!
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