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An Apology to My Back and Shoulder

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

An Apology to My Back and Shoulder

Dear Shoulders and Back,

I'm sorry. I haven't been treating you very well. You've been abused by all those years studying hunched over books followed by years of sitting in front of a computer. You've been trying to tell me to take better care of you. You started with my posture, shoulders rolling inwards and forward while shoulder blades started drifting farther and farther apart. Then, you started developing muscle imbalances. Some muscles became over-used and tight while others became under-stretched and shortened. Finally, you threw my alignment off. The muscles in my middle back and between my shoulder blades, neglected from working all day at a computer, started to lose their mobility.  Shoulders - it became harder and harder to pull you down and away from my ears and stand tall. 

I really started to notice my neglect when I started surfing. It was hard to paddle on a surfboard. I couldn't fully lift up my chest from the board to look up and see where I was going. It was also hard to breathe. Then, when a good looking wave presented itself, popping up to ride it was a challenge because my chest wasn't open. 

I thought all that I had to do was strengthen your surrounding muscles and everything would be OK. But that didn't work, huh? It just made my already dominant chest and front shoulder muscles even more tight. I didn't realize that I needed to improve your flexibility and mobility first, especially along the mid-back. I needed to be able to stabilize and control the movement of my shoulder blades before I could build up your strength. With greater mobility around the mid-back, Shoulders, you would start falling back and away from my ears and it would be easier to maintain proper alignment and increase your range of motion.

So, I promise to treat you both better. I promise to become more aware of my posture so that I can counteract these muscular imbalances. I promise to:
  • Stretch my chest muscles, for example, standing in a door frame with my arms out to either side and elbow bent up at a 90 degree angle and leaning forward into the door frame.
  • Use my foam roller to gain mobility in my middle back by doing passive foam roller stretches (lying down on a foam roller in a vertical position placed at the base of my spine) as well as actively roll out my back (with the foam roller in a horizontal position just above my belly button and rolling back and forth along my spine). 
  • Do scapula squeezes, pulling my shoulders back and down while squeezing my shoulder blades together and holding for a few seconds 20 times, three times a day.

Let's work together to relax, retrain and lengthen your muscles. We already had one falling out - literally you fell out of your socket - so let's stay strong and healthy so that we can surf, swim and do lots of other things together for a long long time to come, okay? 

love you

{Here are two great articles on Surfline, one keeping shoulders strong and injury free and one on paddle power advice from some of the world's best.}

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At March 4, 2012 at 2:42 PM , Blogger Surfing Grandma of OC said...

Oh Yeah.. YOU gotta keep working on that..BUT I have learned there is no other exercise that really works your paddling muscles..than paddling. It is a conditioning thing. The more you do it the better you get. When you slack or been out for a while.. YOU have to recondition.BUT it does not hurt to work them out. I do push ups and strength training with dumb bells and YOGA Yoga yoga.

At March 5, 2012 at 12:20 AM , Blogger Christine said...

I guess I was most surprised by the muscle imbalances that seemed to creep up on me and the importance of retraining my muscles, how I needed to build flexibility before strength. Love yoga and have been practicing for a while. It's really helped with my body awareness to counteract the imbalances. When I started surfing, I definitely noticed how much my yoga practice helped my surfing in terms of balance and flexibility. But, seriously, I can't wait until I can get back out on a board and paddle for real :-)


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