When Good Posture Goes Bad — Nerd Body Problems

Ever since I was little, Mum’s been in my ear about sitting up straight. I used to think it was about “ladylike aesthetics”, but as I got older, I noticed so few of my friends (especially my girl friends) sat up straight. So, like, what the hell, right?

Now that I’m in my thirties and hitting the gym, I’m hell grateful for all that nagging.

This isn’t about issues from congenital or acquired conditions (eg. scoliosis, ataxia). Those are kind of beyond your control.

It’s the problems arising from habits and lifestyle factors — aka. my own choices — that scare the crap out of me. I don’t want to get to old age, riddled with issues like tension headaches, back pain, neck pain, nerve problems, heart disease, depression, etc. and suffer the terror of knowing I chose (however indirectly) to end up that way.

Adaptive shortening — aka. what happens when you sit badly. Every day. For years.

I first heard the term adaptive shortening in an Athlean-X video about bad posture.

This is when your muscles become short and tight from spending long periods in certain positions. It’s a natural body process, but when it happens around an unnatural position, you lose the robust mechanical structures that keep you mobile and pain-free.

So, say you spend pretty much everyday hunched over a keyboard. This position tends to see us sitting with our arms forward, chest closed and shoulders rounded in.

Without sufficient stretching and strengthening activity, the muscles of the chest eventually shorten, while the muscles in the upper back and shoulders get slacker and weaker.

This leads to a semi-permanent rounding of the shoulders, a hunched posture, “nerd neck”, reduced mobility and range of motion, weakness in certain muscles and joints, and increased potential for injury when other parts of the body try to compensate during certain activities (like reaching for something in the back of the car, lifting your arm up when you shower, or helping a friend move house).

More than a headache

Bad posture can give you headaches. Literally. It messes with the nerves and muscles in your neck, shoulders and back, adding tension where it doesn’t belong. But you probably already knew that.

What you might not know is the link between poor posture and incontinence, constipation and heartburn. Which is just… wow. I would never have imagined that.

I’ve also seen stuff about bad posture being linked to cardiovascular disease, though I’m having trouble finding a source I’d trust enough to share. I’m sure there’s a relationship there, though. If you already have bad posture, you probably have a lifestyle that affects your cardiovascular health anyway. Plus, if you’re suffering the obvious effects of bad posture, you’re not going to be in the mood to exercise or do anything particularly active or healthy.

Not a life sentence, but still takes time

Bad posture brought on by habit and lifestyle isn’t a forever problem. Your muscles adapted their way into this mess. Which means you can adapt your way back out again. But it won’t happen straight off the bat.

You need to target the shortened muscles with exercise, helping them stretch and become supple again, while strengthening them so they can continue to adequately support you.

You also need to target the opposite muscles, aka. the antagonist muscles and their surrounding helpers. In the case of shortened chest muscles, the opposites are the upper back and shoulders. Targeting the opposites will help your body retain the benefits of workouts targeting the shortened muscles, and generally keep you fit and strong in the long run.

Things to watch and learn

Here’s that Athlean-X video I mentioned before. This is my favourite resource for learning about physiology and exercise. It’s not some roided up meathead channel. There’s body science here, and the muscle marker stuff is so interesting!! 👌

Here are a couple of short videos about working your shoulders:

This is from an article about planking, which is a nice and simple exercise to help your posture and core strength:

By strengthening your back, chest, shoulders, neck, and abs, this exercise makes it easier to keep your shoulders back and your lower back in a neutral position while sitting or standing — two vital components of good posture.

Planks also help you develop isometric strength in your core muscles, which gives you the power to keep from hunching while standing or sitting for long periods of time.

Plus this article on how to plank properly so your exercise is more effective, along with some soft, low-impact core exercises you can do… in a field? 🤷🏻‍♀️

Finally, yoga can be decent for posture work too. Look for chest openers or “heart chakra” stuff. Some of the more advanced yoga poses can be hazardous if you’re not ready (physically, mentally, educationally), so start slow and work your way up.

If you’re pregnant, have very bad posture already, or have any pre-existing structural issues that might increase your risk factor, please talk to a doctor, physio, certified PT before smashing a new workout.

Play safe, friends! 🤗

My fitness goals (Aug 2018)

July was going to be a big month—a BIG month!! But then I got sick 😵 All my plans took a nosedive. I’m still dealing with the lingering effects of this cold, but after a decent week of football and gym, I’m ready to get back on track.

From April–June, I rekindled my relationship with the gym. I set broad and ambitious yet non-specific goals, knowing I wouldn’t necessarily hit them, but that they would motivate me to establish good fitness habits.

My upper body strength has come a long way from what it used to be, but I’m not quite confident in it yet. So in August, I’m looking at my functional fitness, particularly in my upper body and my knee.

Chin-ups x 10

Set of 10.

Right now, I can do 2 clean, or 3 with struggle. Before I got sick, I was doing 3 clean, so I’m thinking if it can fall away that fast, it can come back fast enough.

Each gym visit, I’m having a crack, and supplementing with weight training on bicep night.

Pull-ups x 1

I just want one.

Just one to break the seal. The first one is naturally the hardest because this is still a foreign movement to my body. But if I can hit it once, the rest is just rinse-and-repeat.

Right now, I can do halfway up. I’m aiming for halfway holds and reverse halfway holds each gym visit, along with some weight training, scapular pull-ups and other lat activation exercises.

Knee care

Strengthening + management.

My left knee isn’t tracking properly. My physio reckons it’s due to tightness in my iliotibial band (ITB) and a weakness in my vastus medialis — together, those muscles stabilise the kneecap. The pain is more prevalent in winter, though heat patches seem to help a lot.

I must make a point of doing more foam roller, knee extension, and squat work, particularly through cold weather.

Martial arts: research project

Initial outline.

I had a long conversation today with our school’s chief instructor about how I should/can approach my training now that I’m no longer a beginner. Among the personal physical and mental challenges at this level, there’s an area of martial arts that I’m especially interested in.

This month, I’d like to make a start on planning my research. My instructors have greenlit this project, and I expect I’ll learn a lot from it.


Product review: NEO WAYmat by We Are Yoga

This is an independent review of the purple NEO WAYmat by We Are Yoga. I am not affiliated with We Are Yoga.

I started falling out of love with my rubber yoga mat when it started to break down. Ours was a short affair — the rubber began to fray and pill just a couple weeks after I started using it. I thought it might stop eventually but it turns out this is a natural part of the rubber degradation process.

Fair enough. I bought that rubber mat for the environmental factor, so sure 🤷🏻‍♀️ do your thing, buddy. But do you need to get your blue sheddings all over me while doing it? And must you take up that much room?

Enter the NEO WAYmat, a neoprene + cotton yoga mat that’s both foldable and washable. And, despite its softness, offers reasonable padding between your body and the hard floor. I was skeptical at first, wondering how a soft product would fare any better than a beach towel, but the supple neoprene is enough to both grip and protect.



Shipping to Perth costs a pretty penny. I paid twice the retail price of the mat in getting it over here, and when it arrived, the parcel was so bulky, I’d wondered if I’d made a huge mistake.

But I was pleasantly surprised — the mat unrolled easily, lay flat enough on the floor, then folded up easily into a shelf-friendly rectangle.


Purple yoga mat folded into a rectangle

Purple NEO WAYmat folded into a rectangle. Source: We Are Yoga


The We Are Yoga website is light on details, but from what I can gather (ie. what they say about their other products vs this one), the NEO WAYmat should be hand-washed and hung up to dry so the neoprene and cotton layers remain intact.

I’m under no illusion about neoprene’s questionable relationship with the environment. I wasn’t a fan of the tangy, chemical smell that hit me when I unwrapped my WAYmat — it airs out eventually, so make of this what you will in terms of the eco factor. I understand you can find “neogreen” materials, but I’m not sure whether the We Are Yoga mats use it.

Either way, I plan to get full use out of this mat over what I hope will be a few years — effectively running it into the ground to make sure I waste as little as possible of its potential.

Would I recommend this product?

Yes, if…

  • You want a less bulky yoga mat that still offers grip and comfort.
  • You don’t want to worry about your mat disintegrating after a bit of summer sunshine.
  • You want something easy to store at home.

No, if…

  • You prefer multi-function products — WAYmat does sell towel-mats with grippy bottoms (yep, you can use it as a mat and a towel). I had considered getting one of these instead, but the NEO’s hard floor claim won me over.
  • You want something totally portable for travel — yoga gloves and socks might be a more appropriate option.
  • You want certainty about the eco factor — maybe a jute yoga rug would be more your thing.

Thank you, Jen Mollo from We Are Yoga, for your help in getting my order shipped to Australia.

Does taking workout selfies mean you’re conceited?

I used to feel awkward about getting footage of myself working out. Would people think I was conceited? Am I actually superficial and image-conscious? Or worse, am I secretly a narcissist?

The answer is… maybe. But that’s irrelevant anyway.

Conceited or not, you can learn a lot by watching yourself move. Are you in the right position? Do you favour one side? Is your posture appropriate for the activity you’re doing? Are you generating power from the hip (if you’re a martial artist)?

It’s easier if you have a fitness buddy who can shoot/film you, but propping up your phone nearby will do the trick. You’re already a step up with anything that captures key points in your workout from an outside perspective.

practising a handstand against a wall

My lower back posture is bad here (banana back). Seeing it in a photo helps me recognise the problem so I can fix it.

Workout selfies have a psychological benefit too

Especially when you’re trying to motivate yourself to work out more. Seeing yourself in the midst of fitness reinforces the idea that you’re the sort of person who exercises.

Over time, this becomes part of how you see yourself — your identity — making you more likely to keep exercising. That’s the theory, anyway. If you want to look it up, it’s called Identity-based motivation theory.

From Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year:

Each action you perform is driven by the fundamental belief that it is possible. So if you change your identity (the type of person that you believe that you are), then it’s easier to change your actions.

This explains how some people can change, seemingly overnight.

Like my father-in-law, who was a pack-a-night smoker party boy in his youth, until he made a bet with his mates that he could beat them in a marathon race. The next day, he flicked a switch in his mind and decided: “I am a marathon runner.”

To be honest, I don’t know if he got his arse kicked in that race, but he cold-turkey quit smoking and started running. That a pretty good win, if you ask me.

Do the people who judge you set a good example?

Because, you know, they’re sitting around judging you instead of doing something healthy and meaningful. And if you take their advice and do (or don’t do) what they do (or don’t do), you’ll probably wind up just like them.

Is that how you want to live? Is that the life you want to look back on?

I mean, it’s OK if you do. Not judging.

But if you want to work out, want to motivate yourself to work out, want to see yourself as someone who can do the thing, then by all means, take a selfie and don’t feel silly about it.

It’s no one’s business but yours 😊

Who am I? Why am I doing this?

Hey there!

My name is Sandy. I’m a late-30’s so-and-so from Perth, Western Australia. Since my mid-twenties, I’ve done some kind of sport/fitness thing. But before then? Very little.

I was a sedentary computer nerd from a not-sporty family. I mean, sometimes I’d ride my bike a bit, pretend to shoot hoops and walk around the ‘burb with friends, but really not enough activity to count for much. My ideal weekends were spent between bed 🛌 computer chair 🎮 and pantry 🍪

Now I live a pretty active lifestyle involving calisthenics, yoga, gym, martial arts, indoor soccer and other physical things. It balances out the hazards of writing for a living.

Earlier this year, I started sharing my pursuits on Instagram (@sandysweats). I found it made me more interested in, committed to, and aware of the role exercise plays in a happy, healthy life.

Wow, that sounds so wanky 🤓

This isn’t even really about exercise. It’s about enjoying my body while I still have it. Life is short. Science isn’t advanced enough yet to keep us functioning forever. So we need to make the most of what we’ve got.

I’m not a ninja, not a black belt, not a yogi. I’m not super fit, not hyper-flexible, and definitely not a badass. But I don’t let that stop me (at least not all the time). I just try my best and do what I can.

Welcome to my blog. Learn with me. Let’s get better together 🙌