I am so excited to share this with you!
In only two weeks of practicing the calf stretch from biomechanist Katy Bowman, SC’s back feels about 75% better! That’s what Daily Body Maintenance does, Folks!
I love chance meetings. Although it is quite telling that my chance meetings tend to coincide with daily errands. About two weeks ago I crossed paths with a friend whom I met eight years ago, when our kids were in kindergarten together. We run into each other a couple times a year…usually at the grocery store! Busy mom’s need to cut to the chase and so our 5 minute conversation covered a lot. My friend, SC (who also subscribes to my blog) so when she sees me will tell me that she is up to date on my writing. She quickly filled me in on her ‘bad back’ which referenced my latest blog post and within seconds I did a quick body analysis a la Katy Bowman and was able to get her to transfer he weight back on to her heels. From there I promised to send an email with some instructions on how she could start the process of releasing the tight muscles going up the back of her legs which would be the primary cause of her aching back. True to my word the following is the email that I sent. Feel free to follow the instructions and share it with others. All the information in the email is directly taken from the work of biomechanist Katy Bowman. But first to inspire you on your way, I thought I would share SC’s progress report which arrived to my inbox yesterday!
Hi Kathryn! Okay it’s amazing the impact of these small changes on my back.
I didn’t realize I was leaning forward when I walked! I find that alarming b/c I walk every day and I’ve been leaning forward!!! – when I see elderly people doing that and ironically I always think to myself, geez, I wish I could tell them they’re leaning forward and if they straighten they would feel better, and here I was, leaning forward! NOW I am constantly telling myself not to lean. It’s a tough habit to break. I find doing chores (i.e. washing dishes, cooking, computer work and even brushing my teeth) the most challenging as I’m used to doing all these activities at a severe forward angle! Now trying to break the habit is an hourly challenge!! I can’t believe how ignorant I have been about my posture!
I have been stretching my calves 3-4 X daily – and I’ve been doing it over the yoga mat. It’s kinda nice b/c one of the girls usually will join me and we talk while we stretch. By the way, we have not been stretching efficiently or correctly. C [10 year old daughter] has been in orthotics for over a year now and her calves are SUPER tight! I’m hoping all the stretching will help her feet as well!
My back feels about 75% better.
At work downtown, I have adopted WORK SOCKS that I slip over my regular shoe socks but I can only wear these WORK SOCKS within 8 metres of my desk. If I venture any further I may be confronted by a VP or worse, an external customer… so yes, I am finding the NO Positive Shoes a challenge. But making the best of it. Also, I know my left shoulder is injured and will need physio.. there’s weakness and compromised range of motion so I will need to seek professional help on that. [I think that the next series of restorative exercises will correct her shoulder but that remains to be seen].
By the way, I have forwarded your email to a couple of my girlfriends who are feeling pain in their back as well. I hope that is okay. If you have any other recommendations, I will gladly receive and practice them 🙂
Again THANK U! I’m so glad I saw u at Choices that day! -SC
Here is my email: Hi SC, nice seeing you the other day! Change is difficult for people who really like change (like I do!), so I am very sensitive to how challenging it is for people who want to feel better but don’t really want to make any big or small changes. But it needs to be done and the best way is to start with one change at a time. So this is what I propose for you:
For one week only (The following are some images I pulled from google just to help clarify what you are trying to do).
1) No positive heeled shoes Ideally, try to not wear any positive heeled shoes (any shoe that brings your heel above level with the rest of your foot). Which of course is difficult to do because even running shoes are often heavily padded under the heel. Avoid those rocking shoes. In any case, when you are home try to be bare footed.
The reason? Positive heeled shoes cause muscles to shorten and joints to become misaligned which are at the root cause of foot, knee, pelvis and back problems. The calf stretch (below: 3 & 3A) is just one of many exercises that is designed to help you lengthen all the tissue most commonly shortened by certain footwear. “The amount of time you spend in shoes with geometry-altering components is the time you spend shortening up all those muscles that you have been stretching out.” – Katy Bowman
In other words: for all the time you spend in footwear with heels you will need to spend that amount of time undoing those forces with these stretches. i.e. to restore your alignment. Can you still wear positive heeled shoes? Sure, but if you want to fix your back then you really need to stop wearing them for a while and reserve them for very important (occasional) occasions 🙂 The image below shows the distortions/ compensations that our body makes when we wear positive heeled shoes. 1A) Evaluation Notice when you are standing (flat footed) if you are transferring your weight forward onto the front of your feet. Don’t do that. Ensure that you are weight bearing over your heels – all the time. When you stand, walk, stretch etc. Why? The bones of the forefoot are not designed to be loaded with our body weight. The heel bones (calcaneus and talus) are meant to hold our body weight. Which is another example why positive heeled shoes are so bad for us.
2) Parallel Feet When you walk, stand or STRETCH, ensure that your feet are parallel. The outside of your feet should line up as in the image below (left). Notice that the toes are all pointing forward. 2A) No Turn out This is how most people walk, with the foot (image 2A showing right foot incorrect) turning out. The left foot shows correct alignment so that all the joints work efficiently
3) Calf stretch with 1/2 foam dome. If you don’t have a foam dome you can roll up a yoga mat or towel. (image to follow 3A)
Do the following stretch 3x per day minimum. Work your way up to holding the stretch for 60 seconds each time.
How to do it:
- you can hold onto a chair back, table top or wall for balance. Eventually you won’t need to.
- place forefoot on top of foam. Press heel into floor.
- ensure your body weight is back over your heel. i.e. your pelvis over your heel, ribcage over your pelvis, shoulders over ribs, head over torso…you get the idea.
- your supporting leg also will have your weight back over that heel. (as in 1A)
- Aim to get your hip over the heel as shown in the photo below (3).
- Be mindful of how your upper body responds to the stretch.
- Careful not to let upper body hunch forward.
- Remember to keep your feet parallel when you walk and when you do this stretch
1/2 foam dome (they sell them at local Fitness stores or on Amazon.ca ) If you can incorporate this into your life for the next one to two weeks then I would like to give you the next restorative stretch. Following these instructions alone will be very beneficial.
Good luck with it. Kathryn
This post clicks with me big time
I am lucky: I wear Vibrams 100% of the time, no problems at work with that.
Add the standing workstation and the swiss ball as a chair at work and I am a happy “back and posture” camper
Check Esther Gokhale’s book “8 steps for a pain free back”, amazing, it was (an still is) my inspiration.
Yes, I learned about Esther Gokhale last year, when her TED talk was popular. She is saying very similar things to what Katy Bowman is talking about. For whatever reason, I wasn’t ready to explore Esther’s work in more detail at the time. Good thing I finally came around to it though!