By Luca Williams
Since we were kids, my brother and I have had our own private war: the computer versus the trees. Our family owned one of the first personal computers – the TRS-80 – and my brother fell in love while I proclaimed, at age eight, that computers would destroy the natural world. Now he asks me to take him for a hike in the trees and I beg him for computer help.
These days I’m thankful for my cell phone, my mini personal computer, because it is one of the few ways I can communicate with my teenager who will text me every once in a blue moon. I get so excited when he does that I text him these long rants – about the bills he has to pay and how he needs to be responsible and then, strangely, I don’t hear from him again for another month or two. I coach myself during the quiet times to quit haranguing him, but the cycle starts all over again on the next text exchange, because we all have our weaknesses and this is mine – I nag the ones I love most.
The thing is, I don’t reserve my nagging just for loved ones. I find myself nagging my clients too. I hide my nagging with a professional voice while I encourage them to take care of their bodies when they are texting, typing, driving or even riding their bikes. One of the biggest detriments to our bodies in this modern age is that we spend so much time looking down with our arms bent in front of us. The bones, muscles, connective tissue and skin on top of our shoulder blades migrate upward and forward, and our chests cave as the muscles that stretch from the front of the shoulders to the chest tighten down.
We don’t just practice this poor posture while typing, texting and driving: when we finally get on our bikes to get some exercise, our arms are out in front of us once again. Thankfully, new mountain bikes are more ergonomic with wider handlebars, but road bikes still place a great deal of strain on the shoulders, neck, arms and chest. So I have a simple mantra (or nag): Look up, look around, swing your arms and stretch your chest whenever you get off your phone, your computer or even your bike.
To check the tightness of your shoulders and neck, put your arms at your sides. Take one hand and place it on the front of the shoulder and then on that spot that gets so tight in most of us between your neck and your shoulder (Figure A). Bring your arm up as if you are driving, typing, or texting (Fig. B). Do you feel how the muscles on the front of your shoulder and between your neck and shoulder are tighter?
Now, move your arm outward keeping it shoulder height (Fig. C). Feel the front of your shoulder again. Notice that your shoulder isn’t as tense as when you had your arm right in front of you. That’s why wider handlebars are better for us. The tighter the front of our shoulders get, the more our neck recedes into the chest.
To stretch the front of your shoulders and chest, stand in a doorframe or in the corner of a room. Place your hands and forearms on the doorframe and with elbows about shoulder height step through the door with one leg, gently stretching the front of your shoulders (Fig. D). Take a break and walk around, then step through the door with the opposite foot forward and repeat the stretch on the opposite side. Now walk around and notice that your chest may feel more open and your arms may swing with more ease.
Take the time to do this throughout the day in between typing or texting and you can mellow or reverse the effects of this modern age of computers.