I appreciate interesting questions that are seldom asked…yet that every single person is affected by. Such is this question from Michael:
“Hi there, thanks for your generosity offering to answer community questions like this! I’m sure you’ll be swamped. I daresay my question is a bit of a childish one about priorities, but forgive me I’m only 25. It relates to health and fitness.
“So there are quite a lot of human pursuits which require obscure, specific movements patterns or, even worse, the adoption of a particular posture and the requirement that you don’t move. Examples for me would be reading a novel (I can be sure I’ll be sitting or lying in one of about 4 positions no matter how many hours I read), playing a computer game (standing/walking desks definitely seem cool, but they aren’t going to allow you to perform your best in-game) and playing my flute (I have to support the flute in a highly asymmetrical, torso-twisted stress position to play well and beautifully).
“My question is: Is it best to try to nurture only health-building hobbies and interests as far as you can, or can carefully balanced training (body and mind) totally make up for the negative sides of other pursuits, allowing you to continue at them whilst overcoming the problems that they present?
“The example with the flute is the one closest to my heart. If I play my flute for more than an hour or so I get a lot of back and shoulder pain. I haven’t regularly played my flute for years now, but the issue is still there. I am of course trying to fix the problem, but I wonder if it’s not just an indication that playing that instrument is not good for me and I should just forget about it and move on.”
Your posture during activities is an important thing to consider.
This is also a great example of why “hard work” is not a necessity in transforming the body. Simply sit down for 8 hours a day or take any of these positions for extended periods of time, and your body will adapt to it. “Trying hard” is not required…just time is and the body adapts, not always for the better.
That is an important fact to recognize.
But does that mean you need to spend an equal amount of time to unwind such patterns? No.
If you love the flute or any such similar activity, don’t give it up! Simply find out what can be done to balance it out. And this is likely going to result in something quite unconventional when it comes to training.
Let me give you an example…
I knew a man that was a barber. He spent many hours of almost every day cutting people’s hair. This put him in a position of working with his arms out in front of him a lot. (Very similar posture to those of us, myself included, that work at a computer regularly.)
And after a while, he started having chronic pain in his back and shoulders because of it.
It was his livelihood so simply giving it up wasn’t much of an option. So what did he do?
He found out that the best corrective exercise was rows. This makes sense in that you’re working the opposite musculature from this postural position.
But it wasn’t just a few sets and he was all better. What he ended up doing was rows pretty much every single day…and for high volume with lots of variation of them. Barbell rows. One arm rows, kettlebell dumbbells, inverted bodyweight rows, etc.
This was what was required to balance out his body and bring him out of pain.
The human body is adaptable. It can take sitting, lying down, standing, almost any position for certain amounts of time. But in the end, being sedentary is the issue. Any lack of movement should be balanced with movement. In general, the more the merrier.
And when you have a certain position such as a twist for playing the flute, how can you balance this out?
Twisting motions can be done in the gym. Perhaps going ONLY the other direction. Perhaps doing this every day.
You could also look at other ways it could be incorporated. Could you read while sitting in an opposite twist?
Could you also work on opening up the spine and hips more (something just about everyone needs more of) with something like the gymnast bridge?
I can’t say for sure what exactly will help you but playing around with these ideas and working towards getting out of pain is what needs to be done.
If you want some more of my ideas, then check out The Indestructible Body.
You can also check out Shadow Strength which includes various postural exercises that can balance out the body.