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When you think of having good posture, do you think of woodworking? I do. The workshop

The workshop

When I’m working with a gamer, athlete, or client, I always approach the person as a project in progress. None of us are in our final form. Our bodies and minds are always changing and adapting each day, month, and year. Think back to a year ago. How was your body at that point in time? It definitely was not the same as it is right now. It would have changed and adapted in some way.

I want you to think of a long plank of wood - straight, smooth, and freshly sanded. You can slowly bend the piece of wood into a curve by mounting it in the middle and placing some resistance on either side of it. Eventually, over time, it will curve more and more until eventually, it is far from the straight and flat shape it started out as. The same can be said for your posture too. Continual and consistent stooped posture physically changes the shape and structure of your spine. 

Thinking back to the plank of wood. If we applied a force in the opposite direction as the new curve we can help to re-bend it back into its original position. The same, to an extent, can be said for your posture too. We can do this by stretching and strengthening the muscle, and tissue around the spine. 

There is a point when you are bending wood that you can bend it too much or in the wrong way and snap it, causing permanent damage. You can glue it back together, but it will not be the same again. Once again, you can also damage your spine, and glue won’t fix it either. The main point is not to let it get to the point of no return.

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No bad posture

There is no bad posture unless that is the only posture that is available to you. Whether you are standing or sitting, you are able to move around and adjust how you are positioned. I am a firm believer that sitting in a bad position is not the be-all and end-all, so long as you are able to mix it up. When you are in a position repeatedly for a prolonged period, that is where the problem lies. Our bodies are a reflection of our daily habits and our environment. 

They adapt to whatever it is that we do. If we start to stretch daily, our limbs become more flexible. If we start strength training, our muscles become stronger and increase in size. Similarly, if we sit with a stooped posture with our neck in forward flexion every day, our body adjusts to that position and thinks this is the normal posture to be in, which can lead to neck, back, and shoulder pain. If this pain and discomfort are negatively affecting our gaming performance and everyday life, then that is not good.

Have you seen the driving position of a formula one driver? They are basically lying down in the same position as when you are lying down in the bathtub. You would think that after driving a car repeatedly for hours for most of the year that they would have permanent bad posture, but this isn’t true. 

The drivers and their physical trainers realize that they will be in this compromised position and train their necks and backs to counteract this unfavorable body position. We can adopt a similar approach for those of us who are highly computer bound for work, competition, or pleasure. And this is the same approach we adopt for gamers and esports competitors that we work with.

A formula one driver cannot sit upright in a car. It’s not feasible, as cars are not designed or developed that way. Gamers tend to have a specific gaming posture that they prefer to adopt while playing. They have become accustomed to this specific posture, and that is totally fine. It’s what they are doing when they are not gaming. When they are browsing the internet, sitting at the dinner table, or scrolling on their phone, this is where it is important to have alternative postures to use.

So, what can you do to help take care of your posture? Here are some tips below:

Take a break - the back arch

Most of the time we just need to take a break away from our desks or whatever activity we are performing that places us in a less agreeable posture.

Description: Stand up, place your hands on your glutes, and arch your back for 10 seconds, repeat 2-3 times.

This movement lengthens the hip flexors and loads the spinal column in the opposite direction, helping to provide relief to those structures that have been loaded up while sitting. This would be a good time to walk around for a few minutes to recover your executive function.

Sitting 101

Here is the blueprint for sitting properly at your computer:

  1. Your back should be straight
  2. Shoulders relaxed, and arms at a comfortable angle
  3. Your feet should be flat on the ground, and the monitor should be at eye level

We could go into all of the nuances of screen distance to the eye, chair type, foot elevation, lumbar support, forearm support, room lighting, seat depth, optimal recline angle, peripheral positioning, et cetera but that is probably a bit much and doesn’t change the fundamentals of sitting. (I love to talk nerdy about ergonomics - hit me up)

Sitting at a computer all day can be brutal on your back.

Finding good posture at the computer can help you perform better and save your back and neck.

Stretch and strengthen

Let’s bend that wood back into position. We don’t need to dunk you in water and strap you down, just a couple of stretches and exercises will do.

  1. Neck extension stretch

Description: Sit upright, place your hands behind your neck in a V shape, look upward toward the sky until you feel a stretch in the front of your neck. Hold for 10-15 seconds and repeat 3 times.

2. Neck lateral flexion stretch

Description: Sit upright and place your left hand behind your back. Place the right hand on the side of the head and gently move your ear towards your shoulder. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

3. Neck tucks

Description: Sit or stand upright, and lengthen your neck by tucking your chin down and back (giving yourself a double chin). You want to think about making yourself taller. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 5 times in total.

Common sense disclaimer

If you are in a significant amount of pain or have injured yourself, or something doesn’t feel right, go and seek help from a medical professional. The exercises and advice above may not be appropriate for you and a medical professional (doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, etc.) will be able to give you specific treatment for your case.

Just like a master woodworker, you can pick and choose which tools and techniques you use to create your masterpiece (body). Ultimately, aiming to use good posture and practicing good ergonomics will yield the best results for your health and performance. Have alternative postures you can use throughout the day. Add in some movement, strengthening, and stretching to counteract the bad postures. With all of this combined, you can set yourself up for success both in the short and long term.