If you’ve been working from your couch, these 4 moves can help you fix it.
The coronavirus pandemic threw most of us into new routines unexpectedly. For those fortunate enough to be able to transition to working from home, the quick shift may have left you without a proper desk—and six months later, you’re still working from your couch or kitchen table. Because of that, you might even notice some pain you didn’t feel sitting in a desk.
Turns out, hunching over your computer all day in places that aren’t exactly ergonomic (such as your bed) could be wreaking havoc on your runs. We tapped two experts to break down how your posture is affecting your workouts, and what you should do to stay pain free throughout the day.
How can you fix bad posture habits?
“I always tell my patients that they should adjust their position every 20 minutes. A trigger point or knot, a taut band in the muscle that becomes tender to touch, can take 20 minutes to form if the body stays in a static position. So get up and stretch or take a walk around the office, or your house,” Fulop says.
And, be sure to get up every 45 to 60 minutes and do some chest opening exercises or hip extension stretching exercises to take your body out of the “bad” position you might’ve slumped into.
“Remember that a variety of movement and postures is key,” Mena says.
Below are some stretches Fulop suggests doing two to three times throughout the day to get your body moving and improve your posture.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Place a resistance band around your legs just above the knees. Lie faceup with knees bent, feet flat on floor, and arms resting at sides. Push knees out slightly so that there is tension on the band. Squeeze glutes and hamstrings to lift hips up off floor, keeping core engaged throughout so body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Lower hips and repeat.
(This move can be done with or without a mini band)
Upper Trapezius Stretch
Sit on a chair or bench, so that you can maintain a 90-degree bend in the hips and the knees. Pull the shoulders slightly back to sit up tall and anchor left hand under the chair or hook it under the thigh. Lean your trunk away from the left hand to create a stretch in the top of the arm. Tilt head away from the left arm to feel the stretch along your neck. To deepen the stretch, gently place the right hand on the side of the head above your ear to bend the head a little bit further to the side. Repeat on the other side.
Updog (Lumbar Mobilisation Stretch)
Lie facedown on the floor. Bend your elbows to place your palms flat on the floor beside your ribs. Press firmly into palms and straighten arms, lifting torso, hips, and the tops of thighs up off the ground. Hold for a few breaths before lowering back down.
Why should runners pay attention to their posture during the day?
Runners who sit all day without intermittently getting up (once an hour is recommended) may start to develop stiffness in the hamstrings, hip flexors, hip joints, thoracic spine, and pectorals. This can make your dynamic movements—such as lunges, overhead presses, push-ups, and rows—less effective.
“Specifically for running, sitting or standing in compromised positions over many hours and months on end can affect the lengthening of the spine and the mobility of the hip. This can affect the pushoff phase of your gait, make arm swing inefficient, and cause instability of the trunk due to malignant [positioning] of the pelvis and rib cage, which will affect diaphragm function,” Mena says.
Another issue that can come from sitting all day is dormant butt syndrome, which is weakness in the glutes and tightness in the hip flexors, Fulop explains. IT bands are also shortened with any type of sitting, so stretching these large muscle groups is important. Sitting in a crisscross position for too long can lead to an imbalance in the pelvis, increased pressure on the spine, and pain. You will want to stretch the posterior chain if you find yourself often sitting in this position, particularly the hamstrings and gastrocs (calf muscles).
How will this pain affect your workouts?
Extended periods of “bad” posture that cause structural change can cause stiffness of the hip. This increased compression affects the lumbar spine, excessive thoracic flexion, and stiffness, which can promote excessive cervical spine extension and scapular abduction. This can cause neck pain, which can lead to headaches. It can also cause excessive anterior gliding of the shoulder—also known as instability—leading to shoulder pain, especially with overhead (pushing/pulling/swinging) movements.
Stiffness and excessive flexion or extension of the spine will affect the ability of the abdominal muscles to properly stabilize and lengthen the spine and all of these things will affective ability to train and workout efficiently, Mena says. Overall, the risk of injury increases.
“Poor posture increases tension in the muscles, which can cause injury and even joint damage,” says Fulop. “Beyond affecting the spine, poor posture can also impair your lung function and lead to poor circulation which will have adverse effects on your workouts.”
How to make your work from home set-up posture friendly
If you are working from home, invest in a good ergonomic setup, Mena says. She suggests making sure that your chair has armrests that properly support your arms and reduce the load on your neck, that the monitor is at eye level, and if you have a laptop, investing in an extra keyboard will limit the time you spend looking down.
If possible, your computer screen should be about 20 inches in front of you (an arm’s length). Your elbows should be resting comfortably at 90 degrees and the wrists should be straight. The hips and knees should be positioned at 90 degrees with your thighs parallel to the floor and feet flat on the floor. Be sure to lean all the way back in your chair, with your backrest positioned comfortably on your low back to allow the upper body to be properly supported, Fulop says.
In general, working from bed or a couch is not ideal, Fulop says. Sitting on the couch displaces your weight and puts pressure on the back and hips, and using a laptop on the couch causes the body to slouch forward. But since it may be the only option for some of us right now, it’s important to keep your back straight and to prevent your shoulders from rolling forward. If the couch is deep, then use pillows to support your spine. Keep your feet flat on the floor with the hips and knees positioned at 90 degrees.