"Back" to reality: working on my posture

Last week, my back started hurting like crazy. Not in a “something is wrong” way; more just in a “your muscles weren’t meant to be sitting in front of a computer fourteen hours a day” kind of way. My bad.

By Thursday, it had gotten to the point where I was so desperate for relief, I considered asking a coworker to just hold up their hand so I could jam my back into it repeatedly in an attempt to get out the knot that was lurking squarely in between my shoulder blades. Luckily, before I actually did that, I got a better idea – putting an apple in between my back and my desk chair and leaning against it foam roller-style. Surprisingly, it worked pretty well and helped me feel a bit better…

…at least until my flight home that night. By Friday morning, I was begging BF to help (which he did, thank you!), and trying to figure out if I had room in my packed schedule to book a real massage. As luck would have it, I already had a deep tissue massage booked for Sunday afternoon (thanks to winning the Equinox challenge with Melissa), though, so I decided to try to hold off till then. (Painfully!)

The Equinox spa turned out to be very luxurious and chi-chi, and I started to relax as soon as I put on the thick robe and sat down to a cup of tea in the waiting area. How could I get this experience at home??? I made a mental note to call Alice’s Tea Cup and find out exactly which blend of tea they had provided to Equinox. When I met my masseuse, he asked how long it had been since my last massage (hey, at least that meant I wasn’t making a fool of myself in the waiting room acting like a newbie!), and I told him it had been “a few months” (true, but not in a place as nice as this). At first, I chuckled inwardly when he responded that I was obviously long overdue. But after he worked out all the tension, I felt phenomenal – perhaps something like this should be a regular activity.

I started thinking about massages the same way I learned to think about visits to a psychologist: sometimes, investing in something that makes you happy and keeps you sane is worth a lot more to your well-being than whatever else you would have spent the money on. I left on Sunday feeling incredible, but after just one more plane trip and one more long day back at the stress of work, my back is already tense again. I can’t say that I’m going to be able to afford weekly sessions at Equinox, but perhaps I can find a less glam and more affordable setup that will give me a good deal if I commit to coming regularly? It’s worth looking into – I felt so blissed out after Sunday’s massage and I’d do anything to get that feeling on a regular basis, and perhaps not let the tension build up quite so much.

In the meantime, I want to figure out what I can do on my own to reduce my neck/back/shoulder tension… and I’m starting with a new workout routine. The last few weeks, I’ve been becoming pretty gung ho about both running and Crossfit – and haven’t hit the gym even once, since I do both of those outdoors. Crossfit certainly involves plenty of strength training, but I am definitely missing my normal lifting workouts at the gym, and I’d like to make that a part of my routine again. Since I’m taking a few days off from running anyway due to the beginning signs of shinspints (ugh, yeah, did I mention how I went gung ho with running? Dumb Laura), I thought it’d be a great time to create my own lifting program and really focus on muscles that will help my posture. Here’s what I’ve got:

Superset A: 3 sets
10 reps bent over reverse fly
10 reps alternating overhead press

Superset B: 3 sets
10 reps single leg deadlift
10 reps cable row

Short, but sweet – which is I think exactly what I need so that I can combine it with both the Crossfit and running. I’ve gotten pretty obsessed with doing a travel workout of the day in the morning, so this lets me get some training in while still having time for a short Crossfit challenge before heading to work. Now I just need to come up with a good set of exercises for a “day 2” of my newly designed “program”, and hopefully my back will be straight and relaxed in no time.

Anyone have any posture / relaxation tips to share?


  1. I pulled a muscle in my back in May and ended up having some physical therapy this summer (as well as a couple emergency massages!). I now have a routine of 4-5 exercises that really help. These are all for stretch rather than strength, so no weights needed. “Bird dog” yoga pose (i.e. left arm/right leg extended), 3 x 20 sec on each side. Child’s pose to 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock, 3 x 30 sec on each side. Use a yoga strap to stretch hamstrings while lying on back on floor, again 3 x 30 sec on each side (many back problems really are a symptom of relatively weak hip flexors and tight hamstrings, so make sure to address those as well). Then one exercise I can’t really describe – on all fours, imagine you have a ball beneath your chest, and lay outside of arm on that ball, then roll it to the left and back in – 30 on each side. Anyway, try some of the stretching, it can’t hurt! I have also found Pilates very beneficial for this sort of problem – less intense than yoga, but strengthens and stretches some of that core and hip stuff that is often the underlying issue.

  2. As a former consultant (I still love saying that!!) and one who always had back problems (scoliosis, etc.) the only way I have been able to find relief is a weekly 90 minute yoga class. It’s cheaper than massage, still exercise and allows you to go as deeply as you are able to manage each week.

    Only other tip is to stand up while you’re on conference calls. Gives your back a bit of a break during the day.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I find myself hunching over the computer at work because I am sitting to far away from the computer and/or keyboard. Try sitting closer so you are sitting upright and not hunched over. Also, get up and walk around every once in a while. Humans were not made to sit down for 14 hours a day.

    As for a massage, you can use a foam roller on your back. My foam roller came with an instructional dvd but you can probably find videos on youtube if your roller did not come with a dvd. Stretching before bed won’t hurt either.

  4. Even if you weren’t the fastest, I am sure you’ve run 15x the number of marathons anyone else there has! It’s so easy to compare yourself as a woman. But believe, me from my perspective, you’re as awesome as it gets :)

  5. Great tips everyone, thank you!

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