Hangin' Tough

For many of us, something important is happening over the next two months.

It's called " Summer Vacation", and it's a quaint old custom harkening back to the days of yore when it was entirely possible to support a family on a single income, and half of the population blissfully structured their schedule around child-rearing. Excursions to fun parks, beaches, and family vacations are planned, and playgrounds all over are filled with rambunctious tiny humans who easily consume their body weight in food every couple of days. No matter how you may see yourself fitting in to the above scenario, we can agree that spending more time at the playground is a net positive, so I designed this blog with a play structure in mind. 

One of my criteria for "Breathe In, Work Out" is that the sequences should be able to be done by most everyone, most anywhere, with most anything. So the exercises are simple, and when props are used, I try to keep it to things you have lying around the house, such as beds, balls, and socks. Going " All Terrain" allows us to make use of a different environment, and that can be good for your body in and of itself. Stagnation equals death, and you wouldn't want your exercise routine to become stagnant any more than you would want to read the same book every night while putting your child to sleep! ( insert laughing while crying emoticon here

This week, we're hangin' with the shoulder girdle. I'm preparing to teach an Archway training this August, and as I review all of the material, I find myself back up in the anatomy of our upper body, with some very clear principles for approaching movement there. 

My schedule this weekend is entirely dedicated to caring for four of my favorite tiny humans (  yes - the four featured on the "album cover" of this week's blog) and so much as I would love to sit down with some wine and whisper sweet nothings about anatomy to you, I'm going to synthesize this one down to a few key points: 

1. You have muscles all around your scapulae ( shoulder blades). Both on top and underneath, which allow the scapula to glide along the ribcage. If you want to feel some of the underneath ones, stick your finger in your armpit, rest your elbow on something and move your shoulder up and down). These muscles extend from the top of the neck all the way out the shoulder and in to the arms, as well as all the way down your back. Some of them even connect to your chest. 

2. These muscles are designed to move your shoulder blade in a circular fashion. In, in and up, up, up and out, out, out and down, etc. The "resting position" of your scapulae on your back is determined by what muscle groups are holding the most tension. 

3. Your scapular movement also depends on the body's awareness of the ribcage beneath it. Just as we unconsciously rely on all kinds of proprioceptive information from our feet in order to not stumble while walking, so the scapulae depends on "feeling" the ribcage underneath it in order to move over it. Breathing is a motion that expands the ribcage, increasing the surface available for the scapulae to glide, and making movement easier. So if you're having issues with moving your shoulderblade in some direction, pause there and inhale a few times, trying to feel the ribs move underneath your " stuck area". 

4. Your ribcage is circular. Therefore, when the scapulae are lying on it correctly, they are actually lying at a 45 degree angle to the spine. When they glide, they will also follow this 45 degree angle, wrapping around the sides as they slide outwards. 

5. Healthy muscles require contraction and extension, not to mention the ability to hold one static position. Many times, muscular tension comes from a muscle being "frozen" in one position, and the issue isn't so much the length of the muscles as it is the fact that it is no longer contracting or extending. So if your neck or shoulders are stiff, you may have better luck releasing them by squeezing them a few times, as opposed to asking your partner to massage your neck ( after packing lunches, changing diapers, and convincing your two year old to get in to his carseat). 

So I created a short workout using the bars of a play structure to assist with traction and contraction for the shoulder girdle.


For those of you without tiny humans ( which are usually your passport in to a playground), you can easily recreate this workout on a subway car or at the gym. If "freestyle exercise" makes you feel sheepish, please take a look at this other clip and allow this woman's creative enthusiasm raise or lower your bar accordingly. 

Many many thanks to Hanif Wondir for the "album art", as well as the loan of his two amazing boys for the weekend. Summer wouldn't be the same without you guys.