I feel as though I was already sitting in a bad position in the womb. Whether that feeling has any foundation, having just turned 50 and spent most of my life either working a desk job or studying, the outcome is the same.
Up until a few years ago, I would go to the boxing gym twice or three times a week for a long, gruelling workout that could involve running over a hill with someone else on my back, or tensing my abs while getting punched hard in the stomach by my partner. But one day something changed. My right shoulder had a nagging pain from punching the bag and my knees started to hurt when I went running. I asked Chongsu for advice. He said shoulders and knees are both significantly affected by back tension. So I reduced my back tension and, thankfully, I am now boxing again (Covid safety permitting). Here are two tips I found useful:
Situps make you strain your lower back as you go up, which can obviously make it sore. Planks are a great substitute, because they work your abs – without straining your back. But planking is abominably boring. To keep myself from falling asleep, I put my elbows on a folded sweatshirt on the wooden floor: that makes my elbows slide and keeps me busy holding the pose. I also use the timer on my phone to concentrate on holding the plank for at least 1:30 to start, then go straight into some “plank exercises,” like lifting my legs up behind me or pushing my knees forward in alternation. Those help work different ab muscles and, crucially, make the plank less crushingly dull. Yes, you can strengthen those abs to take the punches without hurting your lower back!
I also set a 20-minute reminder App on my phone. Each time it goes off I stand up and do a quick stretch. Before, my legs would sometimes go numb with too much sitting down. Now, the regular stand-up-and-stretches stop the back tension from building up. And they help me remember there’s a life beyond my screen.