Ch-ch-changes

Beautiful fall colors in the Cascade Mountains, about an hour and a half northeast of Seattle. Did I mention I live in paradise?

Beautiful fall colors in the Cascade Mountains, about an hour and a half northeast of Seattle. Did I mention I live in paradise?

Fall is officially here! One of the things I love about this time of year is watching the leaves change colors. While Washington is known as the Evergreen State, we still have plenty of deciduous shrubs and trees that put on a show.

While fall seems to go by quickly sometimes, other changes are not so speedy. For instance, making real, lasting changes in the body is SLOOOOW work, and sometimes it can be disheartening. Every once in a while I wonder if all of the calf stretching and rhomboid pushup-ing and the myriad other RE exercises I do on a regular basis - not to mention the walking, hanging, and climbing - are actually doing anything. Yes, I am in much less pain than I used to be, and overall I just feel healthier, but sometimes I want to SEE the differences. Bone and other soft tissues DO change shape over time if you change the loads you’re applying to them, but the pace at which they do so can feel glacial.

Photo from July 2014. I'm trying SO hard to get my hands and arms flush with the sides of my body while maintaining a neutral shoulder position. Years of repetitively using my arms in specific ways has actually caused the soft tissues to change shape so that this exercise is (at the moment, anyway) impossible for me.

Photo from July 2014. I'm trying SO hard to get my hands and arms flush with the sides of my body while maintaining a neutral shoulder position. Years of repetitively using my arms in specific ways has actually caused the soft tissues to change shape so that this exercise is (at the moment, anyway) impossible for me.

That’s why I was so happy to come across this photo of me from July of 2014. A trained (RES) eye would see enough wonky things happening with my alignment to fill quite a few blog posts. Perhaps one of the oddest, though, is how my forearms stick out to the sides. To be clear, I wasn't intentionally holding my arms away from my body. In fact, I was actually working very hard to "seam up" my arms to the sides of my body while externally rotating my shoulders to neutral, as told by the elbow pits pointing forward. (FYI, this exercise is MUCH easier if done with the shoulders in internal rotation, but that doesn't count, because your shoulders were designed to work best in a neutral position.) Ideally, if all the joints and soft tissues in my arms, shoulders, and torso were functioning as they should, the entire length of my arms, from shoulder to hand, would be flush with the sides of my body. Really and truly.

What’s causing the weirdo arms is many years of moving in ways that have created a ton of inappropriate tension throughout the hands, arms, shoulders, chest, and who knows what else. My body, from the bones outward, has compensated by creating this shape, which is not very functional to say the least. Imagine trying to shake someone's hand, paint a picture, or do the dishes with your arms sticking out to the sides like this! Of course, we do all of these things and more, but only by relying on compensation patterns that seriously damage the joints over time.

Photo from today. I think I'm getting a little better at this! (Please disregard the possessed cat in the lower left.)

Photo from today. I think I'm getting a little better at this! (Please disregard the possessed cat in the lower left.)

Fast forward to September 2015. My arms still have that funny little bend at the elbows, but notice that I can actually touch my elbows to the sides of my torso?! Overall everything is looking a little more balanced. I do think that some of the improvement is actually coming from doing a better job of respecting the boundaries in other areas of my body, such as my shoulder blades and thoracic spine. But respecting your body is a good thing, so I'm not complaining!

So, if this master of being overly-self-critical can stop and give herself a pat on the back every once in a while, so can you!