Thursday, September 26, 2013

Countdown to TTC: Week 45

Etiquette lessons from Sofia: the proper sitting posture

Proper Posture

Again this week, I decided to begin working on something that's a bit more challenging for me than some of my early goals: posture.  Honestly, if I just make a little progress on this one it will be a big improvement, because I have been hunching for as long as I can remember.  Maybe it's because I'm taller than most women, or maybe it's a holdover from my awkward teenage posture, or possibly I'm just too lazy to stand up straight.  Certainly adopting a lifestyle that involves sitting at a computer most of the day hasn't helped.  Whatever the reason, I know it's probably bad for my neck and back in the long run and I especially want to improve my posture before I get pregnant.  I've read numerous times that posture during pregnancy is even more important than it usually is because your body is changing and working hard to support extra weight that's all concentrated in one spot.  Women are already understandably more prone to back pain during pregnancy, so I really don't want to make it even worse by slouching all the time.

Although the origin of my bad posture is somewhat unknown, the reason for its maintenance is fairly obvious--my core, back, and neck muscles are weak.  Plus, I am so used to having bad posture that I almost can't even tell if my posture is good or bad at any particular moment.  Thus, my first course of action was to buy an inexpensive posture corrector to remind me to sit and stand up straight.  The particular corrector I ordered is made of elastic material that stretches around your back and shoulders and wraps around under your chest to attach with velcro.  It could be worn by a man or woman, but I feel it is particularly designed to strap under a woman's bosom.  I opened it as soon as I saw that it had arrived and started wearing it.  As various reviewers had mentioned, the material and the velcro are not very comfortable, so I wore a t-shirt underneath and padded some of the spots that rubbed (under the armpits, probably because my arms aren't as slim as the models) with washcloths.  While it doesn't exactly force you into the correct posture, the elastic is strong and definitely pulls my shoulders back without me doing anything.  Because of the way the getup looks and the fact that I am wearing it over clothes, I have no intention of wearing it out of the house.  Instead, it is a way to practice a couple of hours at a time sitting with good posture and hopefully that will slowly train my muscles and also make me more conscious of what proper posture feels like.  Even after just a few days I do feel like it is a little more natural to rest with my shoulders back rather than hunched forward.  But I'm sure it will take a long time to break my bad habits for good.

In addition to my sessions with the corrector, I am beginning to try a few other strategies to make my posture improvement a speedier and less unpleasant process:

  1. Work on back and core strength.  There are numerous online articles and video explaining and demonstrating exercises that promote good posture.  In general, it is easier to support your head and keep your shoulders back if you have good upper back strength and to support the weight of your body if you have strong abdominals.  My typical exercise routine doesn't focus much on strength, and when it does I focus mostly on my arms and legs, so these are definite weak spots for me.  
  2. Stretch.  There are lots of good stretches that promote better posture and reduce back and neck fatigue/pain.  Stretches can even be done at a desk at work. 
  3. Adjust my sitting position.  If you're going to sit all day, it's better to sit properly in an ergonomic chair with legs straight down and preferably feet slightly elevated.  Or even better to use an exercise ball or a kneeling chair rather than a traditional desk chair.  Since I share my office space and take whatever chairs are available, for now I'll settle for getting up frequently, setting my chair to the proper height for my computer monitor, and trying to to cross my legs or lean to one side for a long time while I work.  
What about you?  Have you done anything to improve your posture recently and, if so, what was your strategy?  Do you have any experience with the effects of good/bad posture during pregnancy or have any words of wisdom to share?

For more in this countdown series, see last week's challenge about Having an Active Lifestyle. 

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