Thursday, April 16, 2015

alignment & a new order

At the end of March I wrote a post on thinking positively about goals, which were two-fold:
  • I will sit up tall and straight through my core - with lifted belt buckle and open shoulders
  • Legs (and knees!) will stay long and down - with toes pointing forward
Obviously I haven't spent much time working on these goals bc I plain old haven't spent much time actually, ya know, riding, period. 

The exception was riding Peanut last weekend (total awesomesauce!). She and Isabel are similarly sensitive and reactive - the difference is that Peanut is actually pretty trained up, dressage-wise. 

notice that my shoulders are inching up toward my ears and are very rigid

We already know that Isabel does really well when I get myself properly positioned and aligned - but this lesson made it absolutely clear that good position isn't just a matter of helping the horse succeed. No, Peanut actually could NOT get her job done - I was quite literally *blocking* her with both my seat and hands. 

The seat problem will just have to be a work in progress for now (unless you know of any magic bullets that I can throw money at to fix it! lol). But the hands thing? I have a few theories. 

um... a few things to fix here... but 'open shoulders' is definitely on the list

During the lesson P kept telling me to soften my hands, which I did to the point of pretty much losing the reins entirely. But - the videos showed it's NOT my hands causing the problem. The tension/stiffness actually originates farther up in my shoulders, which are hunching over my collapsed core. I'm compensating for the shoulder/core issue by focusing on my elbows... but the end result is still more stiffness. 

These aren't exactly new issues for me - not by any stretch. But I'm honestly getting pretty sick of looking at picture after picture and just thinking, 'for love of all things holy Emma, just SIT UP and SHOULDERS BACK!'


So I'm trying a new approach, and ordered a product that comes highly recommended by L. Williams at Viva Carlos and Jen from Cob Jockey. I read both of those reviews when they were written, and thought both times 'that product would probably help me... but eh, not gonna spend the $ on it.'

The product costs less than a riding lesson tho. So my new reasoning is: my poor position is hindering progress in lessons, and I'm paying week after week to repeatedly hear 'sit up and open your shoulders.' Therefore this might be considered an investment in maximizing lesson productivity... right? Haha I can rationalize anything...



But seriously, tho. I'm going into this with high hopes (mixed with a bit of dread about being pretty sore initially... my poor atrophied back muscles!). If all goes to plan tho, I'll be able to at least make some headway on the goals listed above. 

Starting this weekend I'll be back in the saddle with Isabel - mostly walking for the first week. My plan is to really work on myself during these rides, and try to commit a new and improved position to my muscle memory while Isabel stretches out her lungs. Wish me luck! 

26 comments:

  1. I have had a similar problem with my instructors telling me to soften my hands and I'm like "but I'm already soft! I'm barely holding the reins!" and it took me a long time to realize that what I think "soften your hands" actually means is "soften your muscles from your hands to your shoulders." Not that I don't still totally struggle with it, because I totally do! And I often still look at pics of me and say "For love of all things holy just SIT UP and SHOULDERS BACK!' So I'm interested to hear how you like the shoulders back! I have never tried them, but always been curious.

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    1. ugh the struggle is real haha... plus i tend to hold all my tension in my neck and shoulders anyway.. so yea. hopefully this works!

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  2. I would also love to suggest more yoga and stretching as a way to improve shoulder posture. This video in particular has really helped me (way more than the shoulders back contraption which I find to be incredibly uncomfortable). http://www.fitnessblender.com/videos/better-posture-workout-exercises-to-improve-posture-and-prevent-hunched-shoulders

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    1. thanks for that link!! i'm pretty sure it's objectively true that yoga would help me... and yet i can't seem to make myself try it haha. but i really need to get over that...

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  3. Thank you for the lightbulb moment! I was hearing soften your hands but feeling "hello! if I let go any more I'll be riding without reins". So next time I hear that, I am going to start with my shoulders!

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    1. lol there's always another step beyond whatever we're working on... the moment i get my shoulders all set will be the same moment that my core will need work etc etc... haha

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  4. Great plan! I second Hawk's suggestion - any yoga-type workout really gets you focusing on your body alignment and I always come out of it feeling taller and straighter. For the soft hands/arms thing.. what helps me is to think about "dropping my elbows" and to seek for my connection with the bit to feel like a bungee cord. Good luck!

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    1. taller and straighter is exactly what i need haha, so i might try the yoga thing despite my typical aversion to it. re: the soft hands, i'm a little worried that i'm already focusing TOO MUCH on my elbows, while ignoring what's happening higher up in my arm. we'll see tho - it's all related anyway haha

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  5. Great idea! I love your reasoning of it costing less than a riding lesson. I can't wait to hear how it goes!!

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    1. i'll definitely keep you posted!

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  6. I had a similar problem (super tall girl probs) with my shoulders and my instructor told me to roll my shoulders back every time I walked through a door way. Planks are great too for building the core strength to hold everything up and out.

    I don't slouch much anymore. ;)

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    1. that's a great idea! rolling my shoulders around really helps alot (even tho they're a tad crunchy sounding when i do it haha)

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  7. Hope it helps! I'm a huge sloucher and have been wondering about getting one of these as well.

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    1. yea... the slouching problem is real, and self-perpetuating i think. i actually considered replacing my desk chair with one of those big pilates balls but they're not tall enough for my desk :(

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  8. Looking forward to your review once you give it a go! Now if only there was a "heels back" kind of product...

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    1. haha seriously - there are quite a few products i wish they'd invent lol

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  9. Can't wait to hear what you think of it. I've been spending ~20 minutes a day walking around a track with my hands clasped behind my back and I ended up so ridiculously sore I laid in a epsom salt bath and pontificated on how horrible I felt to my half-listening SO for nearly an hour... but it got better and I'm seeing the results in my riding.

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    1. oh man, the stretching behind the back is sooooo good (but yea kinda hard haha).. that's definitely part of the plan too

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  10. That's a great idea to use that. I've heard people mention it before.

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    1. i'm definitely excited to try it!

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  11. This may help you. When you put your shoulders back don't think of it as pulling them back - ROLL the shoulder blades back.

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    1. YES - that's the key, i think. my bio-mechanics trainer actually said once that when i'm so slouched with the shoulders pulled forwards, it's actually bc my arms aren't even properly in their sockets. so i need to roll and rotate them around to get everything actually aligned in there... tuff stuff haha

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    1. lol i need all the help i can get

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  13. I hear ya..I curl up like a cooked shrimp! Would love to hear how the Shouldersback product works for you!

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    1. haha - love that metaphor... it's so accurate!

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