The gentle torture of exercise
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Here’s a quick way to know if you have imbalances in your posture. First, take off your shoes. Stand normally and relaxed. Take 5 deep breaths and look down at your feet without moving them. Are your feet pointing straight ahead (parallel as if you are wearing skis) ? If the answer is NO, you have a postural imbalance.
Here’s another one. In the same position as above, standing relaxed with your shoes off…close your eyes and feel your body weight in your feet. Is your weight shifting as your eyes are closed? Do you feel weight more in one foot than the other? Is your weight more in the toes or in the heels? If you answered YES to any of these questions, then congratulations, you have a postural imbalance.
In a standing position, your body should look and feel balanced from side to side, and top to bottom. When it’s not in balance, the body will adjust how you stand or shift your weight to accommodate the imbalance. Sometimes these imbalances are easy to see by a friend or even in a mirror. And if you are not balanced, the possibility for injury or pain is increased when compared to having a balanced posture. It’s like riding on a bicycle with a bent rim. It’s a rough ride, and only a matter of time until the tire pops or comes off during a ride…Ouch!
In fact, when your posture or mechanics are not in balance, everyday movements become the problem. There is an old saying used by exercise people all over the world, “any movement is good movement.” And it’s true when it comes to overall health. More movement good - Less movement bad. But when you’re moving a crooked old machine with postural imbalances and compensations created by too much inactivity, even the smallest movements can hurt. So while going for a run may be good for you in theory, doing it on a crooked leg or a bad arch is going to hurt like hell, and discourage you from wanting to make running a regular activity.
Well, if running or cardio hurts, what kind of exercise can you do to gain strength and be healthy? Should I lift weights? Adding strength to an imbalanced structure only serves to strengthen the imbalance. It may feel ok for a little while, but eventually it too becomes painful and not worth the hassle. Getting into a pool seems like a good solution to getting a good cardio workout, and offers no stress on your joints. However, it’s a solution that signals an attempt by us to get a workout, and not hurt while doing it. Of course, that's only an option if you have access to a pool. Only then does the pool offer a great cardio workout. And the minimal stresses on your joints, while floating weightless, are much more comfortable than the pounding your body takes on land. The euphoria of being weightless is only wonderful while you are weightless. The imbalances return as soon as you are back on dry land.
The answer is really to correct the imbalances rather than try and pick workouts that hide the imbalances. Get straight, then strengthen. When you improve your structural balance first, then apply strength routines or cardio workouts, you will find that you begin to strengthen the positive. Fix the bent rim on the bicycle, and then go for a bike ride. You’ll get more out of the ride, with less pain. Less pain when you workout is a great recipe for longterm health. Positive reinforcement for exercise is critical when it comes to all of us sticking with it. If I could see results from my exercise programs immediately, then I’m putting my sneakers on every morning. I wouldn’t need any extra prodding, and I wouldn't come up with so many excuses when I know it’s good for me.
Exercise should feel good. It should feel like it did when we were kids...like play. So often, it feels like a gentle torture as we age. If you get a routine of corrective exercises to address your mechanical and postural imbalances, it will produce a smile rather than a trip to the pharmacy.