Posture? I Hardly Know Her!

Around the beginning of the year, a reader wrote in and asked how I felt about New Year’s resolutions.  I said I thought they were a good thing - though it doesn’t matter if it’s because a new year has begun, a psychic told you to do it, or if a goat looked at you sideways and you took it as a sign from God.  If you want to improve your life in some way, anytime is a good time.

Psychics and goats aside, there is something about the New Year specifically that inspires us.  Yet, the tricky thing about it is that somehow this “New Year” doesn’t do a great job of holding us accountable.  I have never been able to put my finger on why this happens; therefore, I’ve remained in the middle of the road about making my own resolutions.  

Photo by Rob Kavalek

Photo by Rob Kavalek

I decided I wouldn’t ever just do a resolution just to simply have one.  I needed to have an authentic craving for whatever it was I wanted to change, or I wouldn’t bother with it.  It just felt like a better option than feeling disappointed with myself in three months or less.

This year, however, I decided to make not one, not two, but THREE New Year’s Resolutions.  The previous couple of years of my life (my writing journey) have been a bit sloppy. As we have come to learn, I don’t do well in unstructured environments and so things kind of became a mess.  

The first resolution was to get my book published by spring.  I originally had March in mind and now it is coming up on May.  So, clearly, the struggle still stayed real. But it’s happening regardless.  

The second resolution was to have more of a social life.  I know it looked like I had an incredible social life on social media the last two years, but that’s because I was using travel benefits and flying around to meet up with folks.  Because of this travel, I had no time to nurture any friendships in my own city as I had to make up for lost writing time.

The third resolution was to work on my posture.  It had been conveyed to me three times (as they say, all things come in threes) this last year that I would be more attractive if I didn’t slouch.  This often came in the form of a backhanded compliment, so I never knew if I wanted to thank the person or give them a good old-fashioned kick in the shins for saying it.

I’m not sure if I have always had bad posture or if it has just come about over the recent years.  Either way, I suspect this problem is a result of my massive chest. Now, before you say “oh, boohoo.  That’s so terrible your big chest makes you slouch,” I have to clarify something about my chest.

The reason my chest is so big is because I have an extended sternum.  I talk about this a bit in Breaking Glass Balloons (the upcoming book) and how this fun little fact was/is the root of my body dysmorphia.  I began working out to put on muscle to hide this and it worked. People began giving me chest-compliments rather than ask why it looked weird (yes, people literally asked this).  This change really boosted my confidence.

However, getting told I should fix my posture slaps that confidence around in the face a little bit.  I fully admit that I totally sulked whenever someone said it. But I had two choices in the matter: either continue to sulk and feel self-conscious, or I can take charge and do something about it.

I think the challenge in fixing my posture might be somewhat more difficult than the average bear.  That extended sternum not only sticks out, but it pulls on that developed muscle, which then pulls my shoulders forward with it.  So, I suspected the journey would be a tough one.

I began the process of working on it last year and, after doing some research, I found out that the best place to start would be with a physical therapist.  They help pinpoint the problem, work on it, and give you exercises to do at home.

But who has time to be gallivanting off to physical therapists?!  I was writing a book, dammit. I had no other choice but to do the next laziest thing: search YouTube videos so I could figure out the exercises on my own.

Some good resources popped up, and it didn’t hurt that they were done by some very attractive men.  Supposedly all it would take was ten minutes a day, every day. I started off strong and could feel a difference.  But between the book, the blog, social media, the gym, quality time at home, oh and don’t forget those friendships I wanted to nurture, AND my severe case of ADD, it all fell to the wayside.  

I had a dozen excuses and just decided this was not the right time and that 2019 would be the year to work on it.  HELLO, THIRD RESOLUTION!!!! But why did I think the year of 2019 would be any less busy? If anything, it was getting worse with the book publishing timelines.  At this rate, I was never going to lock down a physical therapist.

In the meantime, I’d go about other routes to help fix my posture.  Fortunately, since the internet spies the shit out of you, ads for posture products began popping up on my Instagram feed.  As creepy as this is, I also caved and clicked on an ad to buy one of those braces that are supposed to pull your shoulders back.

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The brace did what it said, but it also done made me extra fidgety.  Instead of focusing on my work, I would sit there, trying to test it - purposely rounding my shoulders to see how good it worked.  Then it started itching my back. Then it started hurting my armpits. Then I threw it under the bed where the only thing it would “pull back” were the dust bunnies.

What I really wanted was one of those little electronic devices that you attach to your back and it vibrates when it senses you slouching.   They call it a “posture trainer” and lord knows I got a ton of Insta-ads for those too. But they were expensive - starting at a hundred bucks.  Once they sensed that I kept looking at it but not buying it, they sent an extra coupon my way. Nothing baits me better than a coupon. And, by dropping the price to $73, I decided to splurge.

When the device arrived, I figured the best place to start with it was at my new office job since that’s where I slouch the most these days.  The moment I attached it and it lit up underneath my shirt, my boss saw and called me Robocop. I acted offended, but secretly I liked it.

You have to calibrate the device by “setting the posture.”  Once I got that done, I sat at the computer with perfect posture, hoping I could be disciplined enough so it wouldn’t yell (aka vibrate) at me.  But also, I kind of wanted to make sure it would yell at me. Like the brace, I began testing its limits. What I discovered was not encouraging.

If I leaned forward, but had perfect posture, it would buzz.  Yet, if I slouched and leaned backwards, it wouldn’t buzz. If I calibrated it well (which was not always easy) and stopped sitting like a lazy-ass, it would do a decent job reminding me to sit upright.

But then came the sad fact that it only lasts for four or five hours.  At this point, I had to take it off and recharge it. If I wanted to use it again later, I would have to use another adhesive strip.  This didn’t seem like such a huge deal until I went to buy more adhesives. They cost a dollar each.

If this does not sound like much to you, let me walk you through the math (because who doesn’t love it when guys talk math to them?).  If I were to use the device for five days a week, two times a day, that would be $520 a year. If I thought the $73 purchase was pricey, then this felt ludicrous.

I’d also like to point out that sometimes the adhesive failed to stick.  If you attached the device incorrectly along your spin (which is hard to do by yourself) and have to reattach it, then it would not last more than an hour.  When Luke and I took a trip to Austin, I busted a light sweat one warm afternoon and this also made the adhesive fail. Then a couple of times it failed to stick for no reason at all.  This meant I would need to buy even more adhesives.

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The name of this product is “Upright Go.”  At first, I wasn’t going to share the name in this essay for the fact that I was writing such lousy things about it.  I also didn’t want people to think this was going to be some sponsored post if I dropped the name right off the bat. But in the end, I didn’t want other people to waste their money on this thing like I did (I can’t get reimbursed for those failed adhesives).

Thank God the company offered a 30-day, money back guarantee and so I could at least guy my $73 back (minus S&H).  If this sucker wasn’t so glitchy, it might be worth the cost of the upkeep. But alas, this was not the case. Sending it back hurt me more than it hurt them, though.  I truly thought this was going to be my golden ticket to good posture. Now, I felt hopeless.

Then I immediately felt stupid.  If I was going to be really honest with myself (which is what this whole transparency thing is about), then I had to admit that the problem wasn’t the brace or the glitchy “posture trainer.”  The problem was that I was not taking charge of my posture as I had proclaimed earlier. I was taking shortcuts.

I expected these things to do the work and solve the problem for me.  And I’ve learned before that the less we have a hands-on approach, the less we have a handle on the situation.    Even if the brace or the Upright Go device had worked well, I think I would have only become dependent on them for good posture.  As one guy described the Upright Go in a review, “it was more of a ‘reminder’ than a ‘trainer’.” I would have remained a slouchy mess for the times I left them in my drawer or under the bed.

I don’t want to call my third New Year’s resolution an “epic failure,” but it certainly hasn’t been a success. This reminded me that I need to get back to my original plan of going to a physical therapist who won’t catch a fish to feed me for the day but teach me how to fish to feed me for life.  Fish = Success.

And wouldn’t you know it that I am somehow busier than ever.  The publishing process is far more chaotic than writing the book itself.  I have come to accept this for the time being and revoked my posture plan as a New Year’s resolution and renamed it a gift to myself when the book is done.  Because, like I said at the start, anytime is a good time to make a change.