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Alignment: A Key Component of Fitness
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Over and over we are being told to get healthy by eating healthy foods, exercising and sleeping. You can control what you eat and how much you sleep but exercising is a little different. Why is exercising any different? Perhaps you exercise everyday but unless you are doing it properly you may not be reaping the rewards that you so eagerly await. Alignment is a key factor in all types of exercise. Alignment is often referred to as posture but usually we think of posture as a position and then stick our body in the position. Do you remember when you were a kid and a teacher or a parent told you to stop slouching and sit up straight? In response I'm sure you froze your body in a straight and stiff manner with your head held high. The truth is the spine of the human body is not straight.

The spine is made up of vertebrates. Depending on size the vertebrae belong to one of the following groups; Cervical, Thoracic or Lumbar. If you were to look at the spine from a lateral (side) view you would be able to see the curves but looking at it from a posterior (back) view it would seem rather straight. It is essential to understand the natural curves of the spine and it's relation to other parts of the body when exercising. It is a common mistake for people to position their bodies while performing movement that moves through space and is ever changing. By placing or positioning the body you are neglecting the natural and most functional ways of moving. What's the problem? By neglecting the natural patterns of moving we are over exerting certain muscles which produce bad habits and inevitably prevents optimum results.

Take running for example. Running seems rather easy but lots of runners, especially beginning runners do not yield into the floor and propel themselves forward through a cross lateral (diagonal) connection. This connections begins with the back foot pushing into the floor sending the force from the floor into the upper leg, into the spine, rotating around the spine through the opposite arm reaching forward and up as the other arm counter-balances by pulling behind and down. Because of heavy shoulders, a forward neck, contracted abdominals and over worked Rectus Femoris (quads) and Gluteus Maximus (gluts) most people don't even get close to proper alignment. As proper alignment is never achieved due to lack of knowledge some people only get one benefit from running; a work out of the heart. Now, let's not down play the importance of strengthening the capability of the heart because it is vital to health, but why not use your exercise time to not only increase your heart rate but sculpt your body by releasing unwanted tension.

A ballet dancer lost 2 inches off her thighs when she understood her alignment and what muscles need to work in order to get her leg high. Do you have a friend who exercises less than you but has toned up quicker? People who reap the full rewards of exercising are usually born with a natural sense of alignment or find that it comes easy. Sadly, most of us have to constantly remind ourselves of alignment, where we are carrying our weight and if we have recurring injuries. Injuries often happen because of incorrect alignment somewhere in the body.

If you want to work on your alignment but don't know where to start, here are some suggestions:

  • Have someone watch you exercise or video you. Evaluate...
    • Where you hold tension
    • What does your spine, shoulders, head, arms looks like, is it stiff? Are you holding it in a position? Does it look stuck?
  • After working out evaluate how you feel, where you ache. If you feel really tight in your shoulders perhaps you are holding your arms in a position and need to release and allow them to swing through space
  • Learn about the anatomy of your body. Look at pictures of where your muscles are and which ones will best serve you in your chossen exercise.

Alignment is a key factor in all movement and if activated correctly the body can perform its tasks with greater ease and efficiency. Remember, even the greatest of athletes are constantly reminding themselves to improve alignment. This is a task that should be ever constant in your mind whether exercising or just sitting down. Begin the journey of seeking proper alignment and all the freedoms that come with it.



By Worldwidehealth Editor
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