Try these exercises for your back muscles to keep you standing tall and marching with less pain.
Back health is extremely important, especially when you spend a lot of time standing and traveling. Here are some exercises to keep your back in good shape and to help alleviate pre-existing pain during this marching season and throughout your whole life.
In the morning, warm up your back and start to engage your abdominal muscles, which are very connected to your back, by doing a few rounds of cat-cow yoga poses.
Start on your hands and knees. On an inhale, engage the abdominals, keep your shoulders rolled back, lift your chin, chest and tailbone to the ceiling, and let your stomach drop slightly to the floor, like a cow. As you exhale, tuck your chin in toward your chest and lift the center of your back toward the ceiling, so that your back mimics a scared cat.
Think about your abdominals squeezing from the sides of your body in toward the center of your stomach. Do a least five rounds of cat-cow.
Strong abdominals are key to a healthy back. If you have been standing for a long period of time, a good way to check in and see if you are engaging your abdominal muscles is to do a few side stretches. Standing up tall, raise your arms over your head, and press your palms together. On an inhale, lift through your chest and lean over to your right side. If you feel a “crunching” feeling in your lower back, then your abdominal muscles are probably not engaged.
Make sure to tuck your tailbone and engage your abdominal muscles. Then try the side stretches again on both left and right sides. Do two repetitions.
A good stretch for your back is an easy forward fold. This stretch is also nice for the hamstrings. Stand up straight. Roll forward and down from the crown of your head. Bend your knees slightly. Make sure the crown of your head is parallel to the floor. Clasp your elbows with the opposite hand above your head. Take at least 10 breaths. Unclasp your hands and then roll up slowly.
In the evening, a spinal twist is a great way to literally unwind. Lying on the floor, pull your knees into your chest and then shift your hips to the right and your knees to the left. Make sure that your knees are in line with your hips. Take your arms straight out from your shoulders and press your palms down into the floor. Turn your head away from your knees to the right. Let your shoulders release and open with each exhale. Each breath moves you deeper into the twist, wringing out your spine.
Paying your back a bit of attention and keeping your abdominals engaged while you are marching will help keep you standing tall.
About the Author
After dancing since the age of 3, Haley Greenwald-Gonella thought it was time to try a new art. In elementary school, she began playing the flute and was in the marching band in middle school and for the first two years of high school. She also played the bassoon during concert season. Dance drew Haley back while in high school.
She graduated from the University of California, Irvine, with degrees in dance and English. She recently graduated from the University of Southern California with a master’s degree in Specialized Journalism (The Arts).
Haley is also a certified registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance. She draws upon her dance and yoga training when it comes to all things fitness and the arts.