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Small Changes, Big Impact

As athletes, we move. We work hard. We do the best we can to take care of our bodies by addressing our diet, our heart rate and our sneakers, and by putting in extra training hours. However, most of us are falling short and don’t even realize it.

Did you know that if you had better posture your running form and performance might improve, or if you spent less time looking down at your smart phone your swim stroke might get better? What about taking three to five minutes a day to meditate to help decrease stress and improve sleep?

It doesn’t matter what your sport is: golf, lifting, playing soccer, running, cycling, swimming, yoga…the list goes on. Posture, lack of movement and the stress of our adult lives impact how we perform.

Here are a few tips that are easy to implement into your daily routine without giving you another item for your to do list.

Tip 1: Move more

This may seem like a strange thing to say if you already spend three to six hours on a bike, are in the pool for two to three hours and run 30+ miles a week, but doing all of that exercise then sitting for eight hours is rough on your body.

1. If it's possible, walk or ride your bike to work instead of driving.

2. If you sit at a desk all day, take more walking breaks to the bathroom or the water cooler.

3. Walk over to speak to your colleague rather than sending an email.

4. Walk outside and get sunshine at lunch - both for movement and a mental break.

Changing positions frequently and getting up from a desk will help decrease our tendency to stick our chins out while looking at the computer screen, roll our shoulders forward and slouch - all common contributors to headaches and to back, neck and shoulder pain!

Tip 2: Change your desk setup

The more we vary our postures/movement patterns, the more muscle we use and the less physical stress impacts the same ligaments, joints and muscles regularly.

1. Get a standing desk so you can vary your posture at your desk (remember: make sure the top of your screen is at eye level); spend some time sitting and some standing.

2. Sit on an exercise ball to force your deep abdominal and back muscles to work harder while you work. Think of this as secret training!

Tip 3: Take mental breaks

The mental aspect of your sport is frequently underestimated. We know that mental imagery and visualization can improve our performance; however, what good is it when you are always distracted and overwhelmed? Managing the distractions and learning to focus and be present are integral in athletes. 

  1. Set a timer at some point during the day to take three to five minutes of quiet time. You can meditate or just get up and sit somewhere quiet - away from technology. This will decrease your overall stress, which ultimately impacts your heart rate, training, ability to heal and sleep.

  2. If you are overwhelmed, ask for help. If you are anything like me, my old habit was to work more when I was stressed, but honestly the work I did was not nearly as good. My new jam is to do less when I am stressed so I can think and problem solve the issues more clearly. The results are better for my job and for my body. 

Remember, don't make a lot of changes at once or nothing will stick. Try to make one change at a time and track how you feel - are your shoulders and neck less tight? Are you sleeping better? Is your performance improving? Good luck!

Dr. Edwards is a doctor of physical therapy, a board certified orthopedic specialist, an author and CEO/founder of Precision Performance & Physical Therapy. 


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