I want to be surfing in my 80’s. 90’s if possible. 100 would be pretty cool too…but that’s more about my ego than anything sane.
How then are the 40 year olds who are already getting back issues going to last?
I come across them regularly…most often the ones who have shifted to stand up paddling as a lesser test on the lower back and neck than paddling a board lying down. Unfortunately it’s not the solution. You may as well put a deposit down at the nursing home now. Nothing against the SUP’s of course! It’s just a slippery slide of removing movements from your life because you don’t know how to do them without pain. If your back is too tight to lie down on a board then it’s only a matter of time before it will be too tight for SUPs too.
Let’s be honest, surfing is not great for the average back. Sure, it looks like a healthy activity and certainly images of fit surfers make it seem as though surfing creates these bodies, but it actually does more damage than good if you don’t know what you’re doing the rest of the week.
How does one remain flexible enough throughout their life to continue enjoying the surf?
It doesn’t begin on the board.
Just as the self-funded retiree didn’t arrive at his sports car and yacht without working for it…maintaining mobility needs to be a constant focus.
Our western lifestyles revolve around sitting. We’ve all heard the latest fear campaign…very well spruiked by the stand-up desk marketers I might add, “Sitting is the new Smoking”. True enough, being sedentary is taxing on all areas of our body. Standing at the desk isn’t the cure-all…especially if a tight back is your main motivator.
Not being able to sit balanced means you are unlikely to stand balanced either. This lower back compression amounts to many more hours than you can possibly keep up with stretching, gym or yoga. So let’s see how to improve what you’re already doing before rushing out to “do more”.
At your desk:
1. From a sitting position, hinge your body all the way forward until your head is almost on the desk and you can feel a good stretch in the lower back. (a small gap will most likely appear between the back of your pelvis[sacrum bone] and the seat)
2. Lift your bum up and put it further back into the seat.
3. Now bring yourself back up into upright…noting how much taller you are sitting.
4. Bring the keyboard toward you so that your elbows are under your shoulders.
5. If you can’t touch type…no chair, no desk, no ergonomics can help your neck/upper back issues…can’t be clearer than that.
In the car:
Follow steps 1-3 above. (head to steering wheel)
4. Adjust your mirrors, slide the seat forward a fraction and notice that your arms aren’t reaching out to the steering wheel quite as far now.
Benefits: Less load on the shoulders and neck with head back, lower back discs are not being compressed backward as far, breathing becomes deeper.
On the couch:
Humans are meant to be upright and soft couch surfaces are a relatively recent invention in human evolutionary terms. Limit your time slumping on the couch to 1 hour a day and make sure there is something supporting the back of your head.
If you’re going to be there longer than 1 hour, kneel or squat on the ground for a short while to break it up.
Your surfing depends on the condition of your body.
What do you spend the majority of your time doing each week? This is what “conditions” your body. A few hours each week with the Personal Trainer is just a speck in the big scheme of things.
Being vertical the majority of your week will improve your surfing mobility. Try it for a month and see what happens… worst case scenario, your posture will improve.
Paul Cook runs workshops on self-education in posture, back-care and self-treatment of symptoms. His Relaxaback [www.relaxaback.com.au] program has alleviated and/or solved thousands of back issues over the past 5 years. He is a teacher of the Alexander Technique working from The Healing Ground at EcoVillage, Currumbin Valley. firstname.lastname@example.org