Lee-Anne Wann: Exercise safe as houses

By Lee-Anne Wann

Getting into a routine means fixing posture first, says fitness advocate, Lee-Anne Wann.

Fitness expert Lee-Anne Wann has published a book called No-Fuss Fitness: Your Guide to Working out in the Real World. Photo / Supplied
Fitness expert Lee-Anne Wann has published a book called No-Fuss Fitness: Your Guide to Working out in the Real World. Photo / Supplied

Fitness coach Lee-Anne Wann has been through her own struggles with weight loss, burnout and depression. Her new book, not surprisingly then, shows how to achieve real-life fitness. But first, she writes, you need to understand your body and the best exercise and nutrition for it.

The key to any great house is to ensure a solid, strong foundation. It does not matter how amazing the house is, if the foundation is shaky or weak, there are going to be some serious problems for the occupants down the track. Even if we repair the cracks that appear in the ceiling and cover the leaks sneaking down the walls, we are fighting an uphill battle. Unless the cause of the problems - the weak, unstable foundation of the house - is addressed, nothing we do will stop the problems from occurring.

You may wonder why I am talking of houses and foundations. I have not lost the plot and gone off on one of my usual tangents: I talk about houses and, in particular, foundations of houses, because we can apply the exact same principles to our bodies. Like houses and their foundations, your body requires a great foundation for it to be at its best for you.

Your posture is your foundation and it enables you to do the things you want to do, move the way you want to move and look the way you want to look. Sure we can cover up the cracks and hide the leaks of poor or less than ideal posture, but for how long? Sooner or later we can no longer cover up those symptoms of a poor foundation, and we begin to pay the price.

Unlike housing, though, we only have one body to live in. If we don't like the one we're in, we cannot buy a new one or move.

Often it begins slowly: we put on a little bit of weight around the stomach and wonder how that got there. We feel a little bit of pain now and again in the lower back - must have been from sitting in a funny position. We get a bit out of breath climbing the stairs - there must have been more stairs than we thought. Tightness in the neck, a bit of a headache, fat creeping around our sides and starting to climb up the back, feeling tired, just wanting to sit down and take a load off ... When we do realise that things are well and truly heading downhill, some of us take that as the call to action to do something about it. So we immediately put ourselves on a restricted diet and either head to the local gym, preparing to wage war with ourselves, or dust off those old exercise DVDs and start working out like there's no tomorrow.

Now stop right there! Yes, that's an order. This approach often ends in tears. It is simply too much, too quickly. We let the rest of our lives suffer and, as a consequence, we cannot keep it going. We end up back where we started - or worse.

Here's great news: we can get off this merry-go-round; in fact, it is very easy to get off. We simply take a little time to empower ourselves with a little knowledge - and that's it. If we understand the importance of a great foundation and take some small, simple steps to repair and rebuild our posture, the results will speak for themselves.

The reason our foundations are so very important is that things just don't function the way they should when our posture is not at its best. When we do movement or exercise with a poor foundation, the body often uses the wrong muscles to do the job and this actually makes the situation even worse.

Take a person who is hunched over from sitting at an office desk all day; pop them into a gym, and chances are they will workout in that same hunched-forward position. Not only will the body tend to use the overworked muscles - in the case of the office worker, this means the stomach muscles and hip-flexing muscles (the ones that help you bend forward) - those muscles will be working overtime, while the back muscles and hip extension muscles (the ones that pull us backwards and straighten us up) will be sitting back having a holiday, as they are weak and long from being stretched all day. So not only is the workout not helping as much as it could be, it is also likely to cause injury.

If we return to our house analogy, it is the same as having the foundation piles the house sits on all different sizes and shapes. Some are tall and skinny, some are wide, some are short, some are slightly bent - that is definitely not a stable, sound or safe house. It is one I would not want to live in - and I am sure you feel the same.

Doing something about your foundation is the most important thing you can do before starting to exercise and move. And the great thing about fixing our foundations and correcting our posture is that not only will we feel great and reduce our risk of injuries and other conditions, but the exercise and activity we do will be that much more effective and efficient because everything is working as it should be - and this means better results with less effort!

* Reprinted with permission from No-Fuss Fitness by Lee-Anne Wann (Penguin NZ $35)

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