Working on a laptop is bad for your posture. With so many people spending most of their time glued to this portable screen, neck, back and shoulder issues are certainly cropping up. While most runners don’t associate neck and back issues with their running form, everything is connected, and stiffness from the spine can easily turn into a lower limb injury.
Jess O’Connell is a 2016 Olympian and coach who has been doing one simple drill to keep her thoracic spine (a.k.a her upper back) in order. It involves a hockey stick, and that’s all. The runner didn’t play hockey growing up, but had the stick in her house because her boyfriend plays in a pick-up league. She jokes that the stick has gotten more of a reaction than the actual exercises.
“About 30 people have messaged me on Instagram about the specific stick I’m using,” she says. “The Sherwood 5030 is a real hit, but you don’t have to use this specific model.”
She adds, “But seriously, rotation through the upper back is so important for runners because it allows force and power to be transferred optimally through the body. My back is brutally stiff, and I bet yours is too, especially if you work a desk job.”
Hockey stick exercise Number One
Hold a dowel, hockey stick or broom at belly button level. Move the stick by rotating through the upper back, keeping your hips perfectly stationary (there will be a tendency for them to swing with you). Once you’ve mastered this, add in a small back step, swinging the dowel the same way you would your arms in a running stride.
The next level
In this plank exercise, O’Connell uses the stick to monitor her posture.
“There’s definitely a tendency to arch your back when you’re in the plank position. If you’re arching your back up or down, it means you’re not engaging your core properly. The stick serves as a really good form reminder when you don’t have someone watching you. While this isn’t spine-specific, a strong core makes for better posture.”
The most difficult hockey stick exercise
If runners want to take it up one more notch, O’Connell says they should try squatting, while holding the stick over their head. “It’s very difficult but really effective for posture and hip mobility.” As always when squatting, try to keep you back straight and knees behind your big toe–think about engaging your glutes, not your quads.