BE GOOD TO YOURSELF
by Mikaela Reuben
You’ve been on a flight for hours heading to your next destination. Trapped in the way-too-small airplane seat, you try desperately to get comfortable, but you always end up slouched over in defeat. The seatbelt light finally chimes off, so you spring into the aisle, grab your bag from overhead, and exit the plane as fast as possible.
We spend a lot of time in positions that aren’t good for our bodies. Driving, sitting, slumped over, surfing...the net. These positions all contribute to poor posture. Stretching and posture are deeply connected and essential to preventing injury and chronic problems, especially for athletes. Every sport exploits a unique muscle set and requires specialized stretching strategies to accommodate what needs to be stretched.
Many parts of your body can be affected by poor posture, but the pectoralis muscles, the fibers that make up the majority of your chest, are a major concern for surfers. The rounded shoulder position that we attain with our poorly postured day-to-day lifestyle is linked directly to tight pec muscles. Muscle tension torques the body in weird positions, forcing other muscles to work harder to restore balance. It takes a ton of core strength to paddle with your chest above a surfboard for long periods of time. Tight pecs or lack of endurance in the back extensor muscles can create shoulder overuse injuries and poor posture.
Lots of paddling can help make sexy pecs, but it can also lead to overdeveloped and extremely tight chest muscles. They pull the shoulders over and down when tight, and the scapular retractors are stressed to pull your shoulders back and flat against your back. Pecs need to be stretched in order to avoid susceptibility to injury. Surfers especially need to strengthen and stretch their entire shoulder complex for maximal performance and endurance.
When groups of muscles continuously contract while others lengthen it leads to poor posture. This is often caused by daily activity, whether that’s sitting for hours or repetitive motions. The body needs balance and balance comes from stretching and strengthening the opposing muscles groups to correct alignment. Posture is the result of many biomechanical processes repeated over time. Activities with force and repetition and jobs with stress and strain impact your posture.
Our muscles are like rubber bands designed to expand and contract as our body moves. Without taking the time to gently encourage dynamic movements and static stretches, our muscles become brittle and tight…the perfect concoction for injury. Flexibility is important for injury prevention and performance. Take some time before you jump into activity after a long flight or day at work. Jog the beach and stretch your upper body. Do some dynamic stretching before, and prolonged stretching after you play. Listen to your body and stretch what feels tight for you. A key in the surfer flexibility toolkit is the doorway stretch that provides a counter-pose to shoulder-rolling power for paddling.
1. Stand in the middles of a doorway or between two trees.
2. Place the palms of your hands against the doorway or whatever you are using as resistance at 90 degrees.
3. Step forward with one leg and lean forward without arching the back, so you feel a stretch across the front of the shoulders and the chest.
4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to stretch the chest, and simultaneously press your hands against whatever you’re using. Do that 10 times.
5. Keep your back leg extended and you will also feel a stretch in your calf muscle. Two birds. One stretch. You win.
6. After you stretch one area feel free to move your arms around to target different parts of the chest. If you change the angle repeat the stretch another 10 times.