Routine and Posture Adjustments

After our ten-day vacation, my evening technical writing classes started, and I got a cold the same week. Then the weather changed and fall came. My daily time management priorities changed too because of all the homework I have every week. Now it’s a month later. It has taken me until this week to adjust my exercise routine and for it to pick up speed.
When I went back to boxing after more than two weeks off, my left shoulder started hurting again during the workouts in a way that it hadn’t in many weeks. This has to do with posture. My shoulders, because of a lifetime of desk jobs, naturally curve forward. When I try to hold them back, so that they make a straight line across, I end up “cheating” by also holding them up with those little muscles that connect the shoulders to the neck. Allowing my shoulders to curve forward when I’m hitting the punching bags is what makes them hurt.
I also discovered that my cardio ability had diminished a little, and when jumping rope it was very difficult to do anything but regular two-footed jumping. Jumping rope, to my surprise, also tired out my shoulders fast—but just the muscle, not the joint as was happening with punching. Just spinning the jumprope is a workout for the outer top shoulder muscle if you keep your shoulders back and down in a stable position.
When Cappy (the boxing coach) asked me how my workouts were going, whether I was still learning new things or whether I was getting bored, I said I was just trying to hang onto my fitness routine after all the recent events. I also told him about the shoulder problem and said I want to concentrate on correct posture until it comes naturally.
He grabbed my shoulders and demonstrated what is right and what is wrong. There’s a tight muscle in the front of the shoulder—or maybe it’s the pectoral—that pulls my shoulders forward, and a muscle under the back of my arm (part of the triceps) that should be helping to hold the shoulders back. But that muscle is not toned enough to counteract the tight one in front. This is if I understood correctly. Finally it simplified in my mind: I’ll try to be aware of my shoulders throughout the day and try not to let them curve forward. They should form a straight line across my body behind my neck, not a bracket shape that curves forward at each end.
Before last night’s workout, I decided to try warming up by doing a few pull-ups (I can only do two at a time anyway) and by hanging from the bar for a shoulder and back stretch. Hanging from the bar with my toes on the floor allowed me to arch my back forward slightly and accentuate the stretch in the fronts of my shoulders. During the workout, I concentrated more on my shoulder position than on hitting hard or fast. This made me feel great after the workout, when I felt that my whole upper body had been stretched and challenged, starting a fine-tuning process that I hope will strengthen my shoulders, lats, and triceps as well as make my posture work better for punching the bags.
Today I repeated the hanging stretch and pull-ups here in our basement and then tried holding 10-pound weights up for three minutes with the proper shoulder posture. The way Cappy teaches us to do this is to align the upper arms parallel to and against the sides of the body; press the shoulders down and back as if squeezing the shoulder blades together; and hold the hands up near the shoulders with or without weights. If you’re holding weights, you should feel the weight going down through the lats and back, not putting strain on the shoulder joint. People who already have the posture down pat can then extend the weights in a mini punching motion, keeping the shoulders back and down even as the arm extends. For me, it’s a sweat-producing challenge just to stand with the weights in the right position. I’m going to do a few minutes of stretching and weights every day for a while, as well as build my everyday awareness of my shoulders, and see if I can fine-tune my shoulders to be less prone to pain.

Soreness

After being away on vacation and then having a chest cold, I went to boxing class for the first time in about 16 days. At the end of the workout, I had a pleasantly feverish, parched feeling. That sounds kind of strange, but once my system got all heated up, it was a relief to feel hot and parched rather than congested and miserable. That was Saturday. By Sunday night, my muscles were so sore, in so many places, that it reminded me of the first time Tom and I took the boxing class, almost two years ago. We were sore for about five days. The first few days it was comical in that we could hardly walk (especially up or down steps) without exclaiming “ow! ow! ow!” Last night, I did some stretching and some leaf-raking to try to work out the soreness. But it was still outrageous in that every time I stood up to move around, for the rest of the evening, I found that I was completely sore all over again.
I don’t mind having sore muscles because I know it’s temporary and is not a sign of injury, and I laugh at myself as I stiffly get up or sit down with a groan. Still, I was happy to get up this morning and find that the soreness was almost completely gone. I can’t go to the workout class tonight because of my writing class, but I did some digging in an old, weedy flower bed and planted some bulbs. (If you’re new to working out and have wondered how to tell whether you have muscle soreness or an injury, the second Q and A on this page offers some insight.)
If cost was not an issue, I’d like to belong to the YMCA as well as the boxing gym. That way, I could work out at times when the boxing class schedule isn’t convenient. Sometimes I work out by going down to the lake and jogging back up the hill, jumping rope on the patio, or doing a hand-weight routine. I like to exercise outside. But especially as the weather gets rainier, it’s fun to go to a nice facility like the Y where I can work out on my own as well as having lots of equipment available to me. That’s where I exercised before we discovered the boxing gym—the downtown Seattle YMCA had just been remodeled, and it’s deluxe!