This is a whole blog post about laying on your back doing nothing for 15 minutes a day.
Get your mind out of the gutter. Not THAT kind of laying on your back and doing nothing.
By now we all know there is more to training properly for a distance race than just running a lot. Varying your distance, varying your speed, varying your terrain, running in various climates, cross-training, rest, eating right, and so on and so forth. But I’m here today to talk about a form of rest that is conscious, specific, and makes you feel less like a lazy slob using “Netflix all day” as a synonym for “rest day” and more like you actually did something productive toward training for your race.
This may look simple at first. And it is simple, really. But we don’t do it most of the time. If you’re like me, your comforter is WAY too soft and pillowy and like a sleepy wonderland. Also if you’re like me, you have terrible posture and spend most of your work day with your legs crossed, or if you’re standing around, with your weight shifted to one side, or if you carry things you like to hoist them on one side and rest them on your hip maybe… and things get a little out of whack.
When I was in college, I double-majored in English and theater, because I wanted to be really, really rich, of course. Long story short, after 4 years of tuition, I decided I hated spending the majority of my time around theater people (God bless y’all’s hearts, but you know y’all are a special kind of pill to swallow) and really liked spending the majority of my time around animals. So career switch and voila, I don’t do theater anymore.
HOWEVER. You may recognize the above from a yoga or meditation class, even if you aren’t an actor who was trying to teach yourself neutral body. It is the semi-supine position, which I learned through Alexander Technique in my movement classes in college. We learned a lot, through my amazing professors, about how much we take onto our bodies to compensate for things that have hurt us over the years, whether physically or psychologically. Maybe we’re always sucking in our stomachs to look thinner. Maybe we’re always squeezing our tushes in anxiety. Maybe our shoulders are always up around our ears from stress. Maybe someone made fun of us for being super tall in middle school, so we subconsciously hunch to look shorter.
Maybe carrying overloaded backpacks through grade school, slung to one side to look more casual, threw our posture off.
If you lift, if you run, if you’re a person, you may have noticed that sometimes you have bad posture. Bad posture is a lot of the reason I developed hip bursitis this past fall while training for my marathon. After a certain distance, my core was weak and disengaged, and one side of my body really felt the impact of every step more than the other side, as it was much weaker than the other. I had to go back to basics, what I’d spent the first 5-15 minutes of every Movement class doing.
Good ol’ letting gravity take over my back and letting it flatten out.
“So what, you just lay on your back?”
Mostly. But what I find to be most effective are included in the following easy 5-step guide.
- Make sure your feet are about hip-width distance apart and your heels a bit away from your butt, feet flat. The distance from your butt might be different from me, but you’ll know if you’re too close or too far from the shape your torso is in. “Your knees are bent but not strained so your lower back is not arched but is in contact with the floor,” asthis website puts it. The goal is to eventually let gravity bring your lower back to be flat with the floor, not shoving it down there to be flat.
- You may want to put a book or two under your head. If your neck feels crunched at all, slide a book under it until your spine feels comfortable.
- I usually do this with my hands by my side, palms facing up, but some instructors might tell you to place your hands on your core. Just like, make sure they’re both doing the same thing and that that thing is simple and not distracting.
- Try to keep your eyes open. This is waking, conscious rest. You may feel twitches as your body settles. You may notice things about your body as gravity does its thing. Just notice them. Be awake to notice them. You don’t have to analyze them. But notice how much your body does when you think you’re doing nothing.
- If your two Bonnie and Clyde weirdo cats discover you in this position and begin to circle and sniff you, resist the temptation to react to them. Try not to pet them, and if they go behind you and you can just feel their presence there, do NOT twist your head around to look. Let your spine be. Your cat is simply there to see if you are dead and he can eat you. Breathe and assure him you are not. Consider getting a dog.
So why did I bring this up, you ask? I am supposed to do a long run today, but I have a pesky little pinch in my back ever since my shorter run on Friday. It wasn’t there after I did Body Pump. I only started noticing it after my outdoor run. I can’t say what exactly caused it other than bad posture is exasperated by running. And running is improved with good posture. So I took 15 and did semi-supine, reminding myself this used to be something I did daily. Even as I sit here writing this at my desk I keep reminding myself to uncross my feet and place them flat on the floor hip distance apart.
It’s all about #InjuryFree2015 y’all.
Alexander Technique Classes, Lessons, Workshops by Brett Hershey in Los Angeles Burbank at www.alexandertechla.com