…don’t you fall, oh… What does it mean to stand tall?
For Burton Cummings, these words purportedly were born from heartache and despondency. Potentially an anthem encouraging himself to stay strong, not give in to the temptation to do something he might regret later.
For me the notion of standing tall is so powerful and multifaceted. I should first mention that you don’t need to be tall in order to stand tall. In fact, when your centre of mass is lower, it can be easier to hold your ground. And figuratively, someone who stands tall is one who is courageous. Refuses to retreat in the face of danger or adversity. One who is strong, stable, unyielding, dependable, and centred.
Biomechanically, standing tall is extremely interesting and valuable. We are stronger physically when we are balanced and centred. When our feet are evenly anchored and our skeleton sits stacked right over a strong base of support.
When one part of our skeleton curves or reaches away from a centred midline, another part of the skeleton ultimately responds to counterbalance that movement. Both over the short term (quick reaction) and long term (postural adaptations).
Have a look at the two images below.
It’s pretty clear the gentleman on the right represents standing tall. It’s also clear that same posture is more centred, a better “stacking” of the spine, and will ultimately likely do a better job of withstanding the negative pull of gravity.
However, which man would currently hold steady better is not immediately clear. If the skeleton has taken years to assume the posture on the left, then many adaptations have occurred to create functional strength and stability throughout that body. The shoulders rounding forward and pelvis tucking under for example, shorten some of the abdominal tissues and may encourage effective bracing. It looks like the knees are slightly bent (in part due to tight hamstrings and calves in response to a posterior pelvic tuck) which lower the centre of gravity and may ensure the hip flexors and quads are constantly firing. And the forward angulation of the head and neck also lower the centre of gravity (though this of course places incredible strain on the neck muscles).
Still, you can see – feel even – that the posture adopted on the right hand is preferable.
Note: The two postures I’ve used in both examples above are dramatically different. Likely all of us have at least small deviations from our own ideal stand tall posture. And so, all of us would benefit from starting to shift those deviations back to being more centred.
The tricky thing is, if the body has adapted over years, it can’t exactly unadapt over a few moments. Daily, mindfully shifting how you stand, sit, walk, and climb will begin to rewire your muscles, adjust the placement of your bones. Regular mobility and stability exercises that reinforce your tall posture, and target muscles that are too tight, too long, and/or too weak will create a more centred, stable body. Also, you can’t simply address one spot in your body. Your alignment is dynamic. As mentioned earlier, one shift is almost always matched by another to counterbalance the initial deviation. So, simply addressing one troubling spot can be ineffectual at best and have negative repercussions (imbalances, asymmetries, injuries) at worst.
For example, when we think of improving our posture, we are likely to pull our shoulders back. If we keep our thoracic spine rounded, the shoulder blades will travel back yes – but also up – which isn’t ideal.
To get the shoulders down and back, we typically need a little more extension through the thoracic spine. Which is wonderful, except if our head and neck tend to crane forward our head is not even further from our shoulder girdle and mid spine, and our neck is working even harder. At the same time, once you’ve extended the thoracic spine and brought the shoulders back, the lumbar spine and pelvis start to shift as well to counterbalance the shift in the centre of gravity you’re creating through the top of the body.
So, let’s try walking through top to bottom. (Everyone’s postural deviations are different, so this is just one of many examples.)
Think tall. Imagine space between your shoulders and ears… between all the vertebrae in your neck. Gently tuck your chin in a little as you extend the top of your head towards the ceiling.
Think tall. Open up your chest by making your collarbone wide and imagining space between the vertebrae in your midback. Now try rolling your shoulders down and back. This will open up your chest even more.
Note that the space between the base of your ribs and your hip bones may now be a little larger. Concurrently your lower back may have arched a little as your pelvis tilted back a little (think tailbone up!) in response to the adjustments around your shoulders. In this position your abdominals and glutes tend to be turned off. Let’s fire them up. Draw your ribs a little closer together to each other and closer to your hipbones. Try to keep the top of your chest “open”. Flex your glute muscles. This together with your ab flexion should create a more neutral pelvis. That is, your tailbone isn’t arching back so much. You can now flex your quads to actively extend your knees, lengthening your calf muscles. Press the soles of your feet into the floor. Spread your toes to ground you better. As you press into the floor imagine you can slightly rotate each thighbone outwards. This will activate your glutes more effectively and potentially your quads as well. Take a deep breath in through your belly. Exhale drawing the lower part of the ribs down, opening up the chest, and “floating” your head above your shoulders.
Thursday? Some of the stability work that compliments this taller posture.
Inspiration of the Day
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein
Live Workout of the Day
Today we’ve got a couple of live workouts on the schedule.
MOBILITY & MUSCLE WITH LAUREN
Today, Lauren’s stepping in for Matt and bringing you your lunchtime pick-me-up! This workout will focus on the shoulder, hip, and ankle, moving you through a full range of motion. There will be additional stability work for the glutes and core included!
Recommended equipment: chair & towel
Join Lauren at 12:00pm (35 minutes) from your own living room.
Click here to join the workout.
Meeting ID: 892 2779 8538
ON CORE WITH GARTH
Garth’s back with another week of On Core, where you’ll challenge your core and stabilize your trunk in just 30 minutes!
Recommended equipment: light/medium dumbbell or weighted object (water bottle, book, etc.)
Join Garth at 5:30pm (30 minutes) from your own living room.
Click here to join the workout.
Meeting ID: 868 1155 7138
Click here to review this week’s schedule.
If you have any questions about our virtual live workouts, please reach out to Lauren.
Superfood of the Day
Sweet potatoes are starchy root vegetables that are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They contain fiber and antioxidants that promote the growth of good gut bacteria and contribute to a healthy gut; are rich in beta-carotene and anthocyanins, antioxidants that may help prevent vision loss and improve eye health; and are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A and help support your immune system and gut health.
Sweet potatoes are very easy to add to your diet. Enjoyed with or without the skin, they can be baked, boiled, roasted, fried, steamed, or pan-cooked. Their natural sweetness pairs well with many different seasonings, and they can be enjoyed in both savory and sweet dishes.
Some popular ways to enjoy sweet potatoes include:
- Sweet potato chips: Peeled, thinly sliced, and baked or fried.
- Sweet potato fries: Peeled, cut into wedges or matchsticks, and baked or fried.
- Sweet potato toast: Cut into thin slices, toasted, and topped with ingredients like nut butter or avocado.
- Mashed sweet potatoes: Peeled, boiled, and mashed with milk and seasoning.
- Baked sweet potatoes: Baked whole in the oven until fork-tender.
- Sweet potato hash: Peeled, diced, and cooked with onion in a pan.
- Spiralized sweet potatoes: Cut into spirals, sautéed, and sauced.
- In baked goods: Sweet potato puree adds moisture without fat.
Preparing sweet potatoes with a little fat — such as coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado — can help boost the absorption of beta-carotene since it’s a fat-soluble nutrient.
Although cooking sweet potatoes slightly reduces their beta-carotene content, they still retain at least 70% of this nutrient and are considered an excellent source.
Do you have a “Something of the Day” you’d like us to share?! Email Meg.