Recently I have been working with several individuals who are dealing with issues directly related to their body being out of position and de-conditioned. These issues have led to a breakdown somewhere in the body resulting in pain. Usually this situation takes a while to develop and sometimes it takes something very small to set it off. We seem to take our bodies for granted and we seldom address issues until pain or injury is present. Try looking at the body as an extremely complicated machine that needs to be maintained to function optimally.
If you think of maintaining your body in the same way you think about regular maintenance for your car, you can see the parallel between these two complicated, complex systems. You probably used a vehicle for some sort of transportation today. Odds are, someone or something you came into contact with today also used a vehicle for transportation. Vehicles are part of our everyday lives and they require maintenance. No one in their right mind would own a vehicle for 30 or more years and never change the oil, buy new tires or replace a part that had worn out and then expect that same vehicle to take them across the country on a road trip without experiencing a problem. It seems like common sense to maintain a vehicle so it will not let you down when you need it most. For some reason though, we don’t apply this same principle to our own living machines, our human body.
You can’t expect your body to perform for you later in life when you do nothing but live a sedentary life, eat processed food, neglect your muscles and cardiovascular system, and sit, stand and walk in bad posture. I see many individuals who have developed pain, tendonitis, and arthritis in their shoulders, knees, low back, hips, or other areas of their body who were simply doing an everyday activity when suddenly, the lack of body maintenance caught up with them. After this happens it is extremely hard to reverse this condition and take away the pain.
Now you might say that you don’t fit into the categories described above. Maybe you are past your thirties or forties but have always been active in sports such as running, biking, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, or other physical activity. You might even have a job in which you physically exert your body every day. You might then think these physical activities already provide your body with the scheduled maintenance it requires. The truth is, however, I see just as many people who have always been active who end up developing chronic pain and injuries because they have been doing all these activities with bad posture or incorrect body mechanics. Sometimes endurance athletes are even more prone to developing a chronic overuse or poor body mechanics injury because they try to develop a groove to the motion they are doing. This allows them to push their body down the slope, along the trail, or along the road more quickly. However, if the groove they are using doesn’t use proper body mechanics, their body will compensate and develop pain or an injury somewhere as a result.
Whether sedentary or active, anyone can benefit from correct posture and body mechanics conditioning. Some examples of body maintenance activities you can do to help restore good body mechanics are to foam-roll painful muscle tissue, which may be short or tight, to intelligently stretch muscles to expand tight tissue, and to practice exercises that reinforce good posture. These three things together, if done regularly and properly, will allow you to keep your range of motion, maintain your muscle mass, and keep your body functioning optimally, whether you are a weekend warrior, an endurance athlete, or just want the capability to better perform everyday tasks like working in your yard or walking up stairs. Remember, regular body maintenance is just as important as regular car maintenance if you expect your body to serve you well for years to come.
Marcus Trusty, CSCS