This new series is guest blogged by Doug Logan.
Doug Logan was the CEO for USATF from 2008 until September 2010. He was also the CEO, President and Commissioner for Major League Soccer from 1995 to 1999. To read more about his background and involvement in Track, Soccer, Rugby and the Music industry, read my Freelap Friday Five Interview
This is his 13th article. Click here for his entire series.
SHIN SPLINTS REDUX
Stand Up Straight!
When I managed a sports arena in the early eighties, we used to conduct a mass hiring of prospective ushers, ticket takers and other customer-contact employees. It took place about this time of year. I would personally lead workshops on proper demeanor and body language. The focus would quickly turn to proper posture.
One of the most difficult behaviors to change in a young person’s physical appearance has been their predisposition to slouch and to avoid eye contact. Somehow the post-James Dean generations have considered the mannerisms of this anti-heroic figure as the epitome of “cool”. Studies of effective customer-contact interactions all conclude that erect posture, squared shoulders and direct eye contact facilitate favorable reactions. We stressed techniques of military training; shoulders squared towards the rear, hips rolled forward, hands out of your pockets, weight balanced on both feet. We literally had to beat the “cool” out of the rookies.
Though we go through a period of volitional slouching in our teens, the curse of poor posture returns with a vengeance as we age. And, as a visual tell-tale of aging, a sloping spine often encourages others to label us as infirm, non-productive or irrelevant. The danger is that” we become what we look like”.
Dr. Hilary Tindle of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine recently wrote a wonderful book, Up, on the power of positive outlook in the areas of health and aging. In it she made the following statement: “The name of the game in aging is to retain as much executive function as possible for as long as possible, so that we can more fully enjoy the things that we love to do, which will keep us happier and healthier.”
I suggest that a full definition of “executive function” means retention of the respect accorded us when we stood straighter and taller. I therefore have made it a priority to mitigate this indignity of aging.
There are many contributors to the erosion of good posture in the elderly. The diminishing of core strength is one, and that can be tempered with an exercise regimen. A second contributor has to do with poor balance which drives one to look down to make sure one does not trip and fall. Again, there are exercises one can do to improve overall balance.
My problem is a bit more complex. In 2004 I took a bad fall on the ice on a New York City street which resulted in compression fractures of four vertebrae. Subsequent tests showed I had bone density issues and the onset of mild osteoporosis. In my last two physical examinations, the diagnosis of Kyphosis, or forward curvature of the spine, was noted.
In October of 2011 I went to see Dr. Bruce Long at the Cleveland Clinic, a noted authority on bone issues. After examining me he recommended three things I should do. The first was to take 1,000 units of Vitamin D3, daily, at supper to facilitate calcium absorption. The second thing he suggested is that I should wear a backpack several days a week on my daily five-miler and I should carry 15 to 20 lbs. of dead weight in it. This would change my posture as I walked and throw my shoulders and upper back to the rear. This made a lot of sense.
The third recommendation was very interesting. He described a research project that was done with former athletes. In this study they tried to determine what athletes had the least predisposition to osteoporosis and other complications like Kyphosis. The results showed that former basketball and volleyball players had the best outcomes. They concluded that the action of jumping and jarring the spine contributed to this protection. Dr. Long showed me an exercise he called “heel drops”, where you go up on your toes and then drop to your heels. He prescribed I do 50 a day.
I have taken the D3, worn the backpack and done the heel drops now for nearly two years. I feel I am more erect but it took an encounter last Sunday to validate my regimen.
I was having lunch in a coffee shop when I was approached by an old friend and neighbor, Coach John Cook. John is a former professional soccer player and has been one of our pre-eminent long distance running coaches. He has worked with Shalane Flanagan, Abdi Bile, Leo Manzano and Shannon Rowbury among others. He is also a bit of a fitness freak.
John mentioned that he had seen me walking the Florida roads several times in the past few months. He kidded me that I was walking at a faster pace than he was running. He then remarked twice that I seemed to be walking much more erect, with much better posture.
Homo Erectus! Thank you, Dr. Long