Out Of The Box – 304

outofthebox304

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Posturific!

Donald Duck sway back angry walk

I know, posturific isn’t a word.  The angry, red squiggly line screaming at me from underneath the title as I type this is doing its best to inform me.  This is me not caring, squiggly line… this is me NOT CARING!

Anyways, yes.. about posture.

I have long-sought an answer to the question of why my knees sometimes hurt when I jog.  Over the years, a myriad of possibilities (often overlapping one another) have presented themselves as potential culprits: stride length, pace, horrible luck, footwear, scoliosis complication, one leg being longer than the other, various muscles being too strong/weak.  It’s this last one that I had been reading up on lately when I fell into a new possibility: posture.  It started by my comparing different views from different resources, from those espousing stronger gluteal muscles to those who suggest the fault is in overly-strong quads or tight hip flexors, and then I came across a term and subject of which I was already familiar but hadn’t done much with in the past: APT — Anterior Pelvic Tilt.

APT is not a new concept to me, but this was the first time that I really took a look at it as if it might seriously relate to my own body.  After just a quick examination, it was pretty evident that I’m  yet another victim of the condition.  What is APT?  Well, it’s all right there in the name; the pelvis tilts forward.  You can check it out for yourself in the basic diagram below:

posture skeleton good bad pelvic tilt

Now, the cause of this isn’t necessarily singular.  My butt muscles could be weak in some ways, my core not strong enough, and it could even be that my forward-pulling head has forced my pelvis to compensate (though that one is a chicken-and-the-egg scenario, as I’m unsure which caused which).  Either way, I set about trying to remedy the situation, as while my posture isn’t necessarily evidentially bad to the layman, I was now quite aware of it.  What’s more, it may very well be the limiting factor in my ability to run well!  That’s how I even fell into this rabbit hole of physical well-being discovery; an article I read discussed the issue of runner’s knee being related to poor posture-muscle usage.  I tried running with my pelvis tucked a little more down in back, mainly by holding my abs tighter, and by golly it felt like I was doing this “running” thing for the first time.  It felt so unique!  Not necessarily brilliantly better or painfully worse, but very unique.  My knees didn’t get sore, but my legs sure burned in new ways.  Not only did I try jogging in a fresh way, but I’ve also really been focusing on my daily-living posture… trying to hold my core from the front, walking and standing with my butt muscles tightened, holding my shoulders back and down, and definitely trying to pull my head back.  It ain’t easy, kids!  Posture is mostly just habit, though, so I’m making a concentrated effort to maintain new ways and do what I can to help rectify my past slouchings.  I am doing my best to consistently remind myself to be aware of this posture correction when driving, sitting at work, and even when laying in bed.

This has had an impact on my workout efforts, as well.  I have put a lot more focus on my backside muscles — the posterior chain, as you may hear it called by fitness folks.  I’m spending extra energy on exercising my butt, my hamstrings, and my back, along with a reinvigorated call to attention on my core strength.  Granted, I had already put these muscles at a slight priority, but I have doubled my efforts… increasing the volume for these muscle-groups while letting the front-end muscles see a little less activity.  I discovered a great way to focus on the back of my shoulders, too, which had previously been pretty much ignored in my movements, so this whole endeavor has really been a bold new adventure.

Time will tell as to whether or not any of these posture-related factors make an ultimate impact on my knee problems when running (my fingers are certainly crossed), but even if they don’t… I’ll be really glad to start standing not only a little bit taller, but a whole lot better!  And if you see me in person with my back swayed and my head pulling my neck forward, you have my permission to gently smack my arm and tell me to straighten up😉.  I said GENTLY!

Check yourself out, too, and see how YOU fair in the posture department.  And if I need to give you a gentle smack on the arm, just let me know; I’m happy to help🙂.

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Out Of The Box – 303

Out of the Box weekly stick man web comic 303 Lil' Help?

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Out Of The Box – 302

Out of the Box weekly stick figure web comic 302 It's Just A Back-and-Forth Step

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I Can Dance!

strictly ballroom dancing together

But I won’t leave my friends behind😉.

So, over the last few months, my group of pals and I have been going to a great swing dance venue in San Diego, Dance For 2.  On Friday nights, they offer swing dancing for a few hours, then turn it over to blues music for the rest of the night.  For a little on top of admission-price, one can take a beginner lesson for either dance style, or both, and I have taken the swing class each time we’ve gone.  The first couple of classes I wasn’t a huge fan of the instruction, but I was slowly improving each time.  My goal was to be comfortable enough with the basic steps that I could make it through a whole song when joining up in the dance hall.

Last night, I got there🙂.

The last time we went, for the first time I began to finally feel comfortable enough with the steps that I didn’t have to think about them so much.  One of my friend-partners commented during an early lesson that she could see me figuring out what steps to do next, just by looking at the obvious concentration displayed across my face.  The funny thing is, last night I saw the same thing on one of MY lesson-partner’s faces, so I get what she was saying now.  It’s tough being the lead as a beginner, because not only does one bear the responsibility of leading one’s partner, but one also has to remember what the heck the darn steps are in the process😉.  Of course, I can imagine how tricky it can be to simply follow, too, especially if one’s partner isn’t fully competent.

After a few weeks’ break, I took the lesson again last night, just for the refresh, and I was very happy to find that I got right back to where I was the last time.  I wasn’t thinking about what steps came next, it had all placed itself well enough into my muscle memory that I could just go with it and lead.  Please don’t imagine that I’m some swing-pro, or anything… I’m just doing the very basic steps, but by golly I’m finally comfortable enough with it that I’m having fun!

The best part, though, was that I felt at ease enough with my skill-level to finally ask a stranger to dance.  Most everyone in the dance community whom I’ve met is pretty cool — if I approached some babe who really knew what she was doing and told her I was a beginner as I asked her to dance, she’d likely still be game.  What I really wanted, though, was to be able to approach the women who were NOT being asked to dance.  Each time we’ve gone, I’ve seen a few gals who end up just sitting by themselves, unasked for a dance, either the entire time or most of it.  Maybe they’re not the hottest, prettiest, thinnest, whatever-est, but it kinda breaks my heart to see them not out there having a good time… because that’s why we’re all there.  So, last night I was feeling good enough about my skills that after I left the lesson and chatted with my friends for a moment, I spotted one of the gals from the lesson sitting off by herself and approached her.  It seemed like she’d come there alone, so I asked her to dance, and by golly… we danced.  I made a mistake or two, and she had some hiccups, but it felt really natural and it was fun to be out there just comfortably enjoying myself.  Plus, not that I’m Brad Pitt times Super-Dancer, but I was happy to have been able to let a gal have a nice time out on the floor who otherwise might not have.

So, in other words… I can’t wait to go back!🙂

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Out Of The Box – 301

Out of the Box stick man web comic 301 Le Race Du Chase

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Exploring Isometric Training

Braveheart hold

I’ve been consistently exercising for a few years, now, and in that time I have made a lot of progress in strength and movement-capability, but I have also tried a lot of different ideas in terms of how I work out.  Pull-ups and calf-raises are pretty much the only exercises I started off with that I still do; everything else has at least altered a little.  It’s interesting to me, though — finding new movements that challenge my body and exploring new paths towards getting into better shape.

While seeking out a simple exercise plan for a friend who found basic bodyweight workouts boring, I was reintroduced to the concept of isometric training, and while it was something I’ve been familiar with for years, this time around it simply piqued my interest in a whole new way.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term, isometric exercises are performed by the tensing of muscles in a static position, as opposed to using them in motion.  Think of holding a plank (static) vs a crunch (motion).  That’s a simplistic definition of the method, but it’ll do.

My interest in isometrics really stemmed from an admiration for the control of yoga movements.  I started following a yoga gal on Instagram mainly because it’s fascinating to me to watch just how slow and concentrated she is when moving.  She’s also cute, but that’s irrelevant here😉.  I’ve been practicing my handstands every time I work out, but I still kick up into mine.  The level of strength that she displays below, though, is something I aspire to:

A new friend of mine expressed an interest in learning yoga, herself, and I’m very game to join her in a class, but as to my own exercise efforts, I wanted to see what I could do to improve my everyday fitness methodology towards this more deliberate, even static, strength.

My first venture into a purely isometric workout came today in the form of a towel-routine.  Working with nothing but an old towel and my own self-resistance, I went through the exercises as presented on that blog post, adding a few more for lower-body concentration, and I tell ya — it was just about the hardest I’ve worked in some time.  I have tried running sprints, I’ve lifted my own body up while hanging from a bar, and I have moved heavy weights, but this seemingly simple routine kicked my butt in a very exhilarating way.  There was so much testosterone flowing through me that I could’ve lifted a darn mountain.  I felt a little gym-bro-ish, as after some of the exercises I was so pumped up I offered a few growl-grunts and paced my room a little.  Nobody had to watch, though, so it was okay😉.  Self-resistance training is really interesting, though, in that it scales with one’s strength-level.  I’m not necessarily weak, so with my right hand pulling hard on the towel in one direction and my left pulling hard in the other, I was able to put all of my effort into the movement against myself.  It felt great!

I won’t say that I’m entirely shifting my routine completely to isometric exercises, but by golly am I interested in seeing where I can go with them for a while.  I like bodyweight exercise because as I gain muscle-weight, it’s like very slowly adding how much weight I can lift, but the intensity of isometric resistance really feels like it’s a whole new ballgame.

Plus, all I need is my own muscles and a towel, and that’s about as simple as it gets🙂.

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