Do not underestimate the power of your Form. Not only does proper form help protect you from injury, it also works to strengthen your core, and is wonderful for your posture—and good posture affects how you look, yes, but also how your innards do their jobs.
When I’m in the gym and see someone’s form out of whack, it’s all I can do not to go over and correct them. Why don’t you correct them? you may so innocently ask? Aw lawd, folks, you’d think this would be something they’d appreciate, but that ain’t necessarily true. Even when I worked in a gym (and I was the Personal Trainer supervisor) and wore a shirt that read STAFF on it, people would get they’s pannies in a twisty knot if I went over to tell them their form was off or they were doing an exercise incorrectly—and I was nice about it, and professional, and wonderful—how could this face (see sincere face) be anything but one
you’d say, “Why Thank Yew! You are exceptionally wonderful and sincere and all you want to do is help and I am ever-more grateful-fied!” But nope, sometimes people would snarl at me most snarlingly. And now that I do not have STAFF on my shirt, welp, that means I have to mind my own beez-wax.
People use the gym equipment in such a way that I know they are going to hurt. Oh yeah, uh huh, PT Kat knows. They are going to H U R T hurt. Their shoulders, knees, their back, their wrists, their necks—all because they do not know how to use the equipment properly, or they think they have to lift/pull/push at lightning speed (SLOW DOWN Y’ALL!) or—especially men (sorry men, but it’s true)—put way too much weight on and then struggle to lift/pull/push the weight. Oh, and sweetie-ums? Y’allses do not look machofied when you are grunting and unghing and your form is all to hell and back and you look as if you will—may I be indelicate?—crap a load-a-bricks from all that weight you obviously are not in control of (yeah, I know what bitty grammar faux pas I just made and I liiiked it — oh I liiiiiiked it *pant pant*).
Control – give me a C! give me an O! give me the rest — N T R O L – what’s that spell—CONTROL! Say it again: CONTROL! One more time—nah, that’s enough.
When you are flapping and flopping and jerking and S T R A I N I N G, not only will you’ses hurt your poor wittle selves, you’ses—I’m talking to both men and women—are not effectively working your muscles.
Your form should never be broken. You should not try to lift/pull/push weights that cause you to lose proper form. You should not do any exercise that knocks your body out of whack. You should feel right about how your body feels—pay attention to your body. If it feels wrong and hurts in a way that makes you go “oh-oh” then for all gawd’s sake stop it now! Exercise should feel challenging, and sometimes we do want to feel “the burn” of taking an exercise just to that point of “oh boy, I am feeling this!” but we should not Hurt. We should not feel as if we are going to snap something in half/tear something/feel a weird awful pull/vomit/bleed/pass-out. We should not wake up the next day and be unable to walk. We should not feel so discomforted that we do not want to exercise ever ever again.
Pay Attention (yeah, if y’all are reading my Monday Classroom posts, you know I say this in the writing, too—huhn, imagine that, the idea of Paying Attention in life!)—do not daydream; do not talk to your friend; do not look around the gym (no sillies, when I am looking at people, I am not lifting/pushing/pulling—I only look at others when I am between exercises or when I am shooting the exasperated eye to the people who sit on nautilus machines between sets, or as they talk to their friend, or on their cell (oh, don’t get me started on cells in the gym), et cetera: Bad Gym Etiquette! If people are waiting, please move your arse off the machine as soon as you are finished with your set (but I digress, once again!); oh, and I clean the machines/weights before and after I use them, because I don’t want someone else’s nasty on my skin—ewww, just sayin’.
Proper form does not mean an exaggerated “military stance.”
All right, eyes are forward (are you holding your breath? stop it!). Chin is lifted—not that high! We ain’t looking up and we ain’t looking down and we ain’t looking all around. We are looking eyes forward—chin lifted and neck elongated in a—say it with me—natural and gentle way, not in a stiff unyielding way.
Imagine a silk thread is linked from your upper chest to the ceiling. That little thread has pulled up your upper chest—
now this isn’t a weight and pully jerking your chest up, but a gentle taut tension between your upper chest and the ceiling to where as the imaginary silk thread pulls up/lifts your chest, your shoulders naturally fall down and back, softly fall down and back, gently fall down and back, easily fall down and back, fall down and back in a way that feels RIGHT. You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable or as if you are holding yourself stiffly in a position—ATT’N’SHUN!, but instead as you lift your chest, your shoulders slide down and back in a relaxed natural way.
Next, pull in your abdominal muscles—not like you’ve been punched in the guts! Lawd no! Once more, in a relaxed and casual la tee dah, as if you want to trick your belly muscles into a nice little package of muscley tension. Pull in. You can try taking a breath to fill your chest/rib-cage and then as you release the breath through your nose, pull in your abdominals—feel them? The abdominals? Yeah, didn’t know you had those, did you? Haw! They are there, trust me. And they can become stronger if you give them just a chance. Poor neglected abdominals. So try that again: fill your chest/rib-cage, and as you release the air through your nose, tighten your abdominals (you will be protecting your back, too).
Now, as you lift/pull/push the weight, you are keeping that chest lifted (thread from chest to ceiling), shoulders down and back, your abdominal muscles pulled in—not desperately sucked in, remember what I tol’you!,—your eyes straight ahead. You are breathing breathing breathing. Don’t hold your breath during exercise. Now, as you lift/pull/push that weight, breath in on the easy part, and then release your breath on the more difficult part—and as you release your breath, pull in your abdominals.
Pay attention to the muscle(s) you are working. This is part of your form because paying attention keeps you in
form and helps you to connect to your body. Do not think about bills, kids, spouse, work, Housewives of Atlanta/Orange County/New Jersey, the person who cut you off in traffic and you have vowed revenge, the cheesecake in your fridge, how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop. No no no. All you think about is your form and the muscle(s) you are working. You are in the moment. You are in Now. You are in tune with your body and what it is doing at the moment. This is Your Time. Oh you have a beautiful body that is wondrous and full of mystery! It begs you to keep it healthy. It urges you to see what it is capable of ( :-D ). It wants more oxygen. It wants to stand tall and strong. It wants to carry you upright until you are laid down forever (lawd).
This Form should be for your regular every day posture as well. Practice it and I promise you will feel taller and more mindful of your body as you go about your business, and as you exercise.
A reminder: don’t try to be a “hero.” You aren’t fooling me—I know who goes home and can’t rise out of bed the next day, or who will be groaning in pain. Yup, those who try to over-do it, or who do not pay attention, or who think they have to go full throttle right out the old starting gate instead of pacing themselves, or the show-offs who think they are looookin’ gooood when all the while I am going, “Oh geez.”
Pay Attention. Pay Attention. Pay Attention. Breathe. Posture. Mind-to-body. Appreciate your body. Pay Attention. And, as always, consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.
Are you mindful of what you are doing in The Now? How is your posture?
(I have been listening to Sweetie on “draft” audio-book. How exciting and strange to hear the voice-artist’s interpretation of my words! Soon as I know when it will be released, I’ll let y’all know. Same with Tender Graces and the anthology that Petey is in, both of which are also in the works.)