When teaching Pilates, I am always telling clients to keep their shoulders away from their ears. Raised shoulders is a sign of serious tension in the neck and upper back and over time it will create pain. Not only that but it wastes energy and can make surrounding areas not function correctly. Pilates clients aren't the only folks with tense necks and raised shoulders. I see this posture all the time when people are working out with weights, biking and running.
In an effort to keep the shoulders down, people tend to tense their necks even more – as if the sheer weight of their neck will calm the busy shoulder joint. Or people tend to grab in their lats or arm pits, which also increases neck tension and interferes with free movement of the arms.
To effectively relax your shoulders, you need to focus on your shoulder blades (scapula) sliding down your back. The muscle that anchors the blades is the bottom part of the trapezius muscle. You also want to feel your collar bone (clavicle) widening and the scapula sliding slightly toward one another. The end effect is an open chest with relaxed shoulders and neck. Nothing should feel pinched or gripped. Imagine the scapula is a slippery bar of soap sliding up and down the back. Try it next time you do bicep curls, sit in freeway traffic or ride your bike.
I admit it. I love to watch myself when using weights. It's not because I love staring at my toned muscles; it's because I'm checking my form.
It's great to make sure you're doing strength-training moves correctly, but if you turn your head to take a peek, you could strain your neck or upper back. So instead of glaring over at your deltoid, stand in front of a mirror to watch yourself, making sure to keep your neck in line with your spine. You can also have a session with a fitness trainer so he or she can watch you do your moves and give you pointers on how to perfect your form.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Don't be Nora Ephron. Take care of the skin on your neck, and you will avoid turkey-wattle skin when you're older. My cohort Giggle knows this, which is why she decided to test-drive a neck cream for our necky edification. Take it away, Giggle:
"Befine Neck Cream ($27.99) has mushroom extracts for firming, iris flower for tightening, and caffeine to even out and smooth. It has a wonderful smell and feels great as a light moisturizer. As far as smoothing or tightening my neck, though, perhaps this is something I might see after long-term use, but I can't say I noticed anything different than I would have with a good moisturizer. I would stick with a heavier moisturizer over a cream formulated for your neck, because I have dry skin."
Both of us like how the Befine product line has an earthy, natural approach to skincare, basing its products on foods that are good for the body with the mantra "you are what you eat." The other ingredients included in this particular product sound promising: sugar cane to help with cellular regeneration and collagen production, and rice peptides to provide antioxidant protection. I still say that sunblock is the best way to prevent wrinkles, but if you're a mushroom fiend who wants to avoid turkey-neck, this cream could be gravy.
Nothing feels better than stretching it out when you’re done for the day, especially if you've been sitting at your desk all day long.
Try these four exercises to ease tension in the back, neck, shoulders, arms and wrists.
Back stretch: With your arms crossed over your chest and feet on the floor, lean against the chair back and allow the mid back to curl back over it, lifting elbows up to the ceiling and allowing your head to follow your neck. Hold for a moment, then return to an upright position.
Neck stretch: Take your left ear over to your left shoulder to stretch the muscles on the right side of your neck. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the right, aiming for two to three repetitions on each side. Then, with your chin tucked in, slowly turn your head to the right and left, five times on each side.
Shoulder soother: Roll your shoulders to the back, and then to the front – then lift them right up to your ears, tensing the muscles, and allow them to drop completely.
Arm and wrist stretch: Hold your right arm straight out in front of you with your palm facing up. Use your left hand to pull your fingers back and down to the floor. Feel the stretch on the underside of your forearm and wrist. Now turn the arm palm down, and draw the fingers back towards the forearm, keeping them straight. Swap sides.
Fit's Tip: Most people frown upon taking shoes off in the office so when you get home, take off your shoes and rise up on to the balls of your feet and then back down to the heels, to boost the circulation in the lower legs.
Oversize bags, purses, and gym bags can be convenient, but they're not good for your back, your shoulders, or your neck. O magazine loves to give tips on being both trendy and healthy. And what's more important than a woman's health and her purse?
Here are a few highlights on keeping your bag safe for your body:
- Your weight and your fate: (New York-based chiropractor) Isis M. Medina's rule is that you should tote no more than 10 percent of your body weight—so a bag that's more than five pounds when empty is a bad start. If your load is excessive, your head and neck jut forward rather than staying over your shoulders, which can lead to headaches, neck tension, and back pain.
- Getting a handle: Long-strapped shoulder bags are out: They tug you to one side in a C shape, with the purse bumping at your hip and the strap slipping (so you hunch up your shoulder to keep it in place). Avoid chains, too; they tend to gouge the flesh. Look for short handles, not too flimsy or narrow (with very skinny straps on a hefty bag, you're asking for trouble).
- No feed bags: Slouchy may be in, but Medina likes structure: When items shift around and aren't well distributed, your balance is thrown off. Even an oversize bag can work, the doctor assures us, if it's got a definite shape, a firm base, and inner compartments to keep belongings stable.
- Easy access: If you have to do a major dig to find your phone or comb, you're twisting and distorting your torso. You want possessions to be reachable yet secure—a long top zipper or magnetic closure helps; Medina also likes outside pockets for frequently needed essentials.
Fit's Tip: Check out the Puddle Jumper Bag for all your gym gear, it's one that I think Medina would approve.
Throughout the month of October, the skin care brand Duchess Marden will donate 10% of all sales from their Damascena Neck & Décolleté Serum ($64) to the Young Survival Coalition. The YSC is the only international non-profit organization that helps to educate the medical community, research teams, breast cancer and legislative arenas.
For those of you who aren't yet familiar with the Duchess Marden Skin Care brand, all of its products come from pure, natural, plant based elements so not only do they smell great, but they are also great for you!
This special serum is a beauty booster for anyone looking to help firm, tighten, lighten and speed up the regeneration of their facial cells. It also restores serious moisture to dry, damaged and dehydrated skin. Whaddya say—Do you think you'd be interested in trying a new neck-nourishing solution like this?
If you are anything like Nora Ephron and you worry about a saggy neck revealing telltale signs of your age, fear no more! Bliss has just launched a brand new preventative cream with a cheeky title: Bliss Thinny Thin Chin ($48). So far the buzz it's getting is pretty impressive!
With consistent use, this citrusy smelling cream is supposed to tone and tighten "jiggly jowls or a droopy dècolleté". In addition, it hydrates the skin to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Could this be the miracle cream that emancipates you from hiding under turtlenecks this winter?
Remember Nora Ephron, the screenwriter of When Harry Met Sally...? Lately, it seems like all she wants to talk about is how she feels bad about her aging neck. "The neck is a dead giveaway," she writes. "Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn't have to do that if it had a neck."
Maybe so, but your neck doesn't have to be any less gorgeous and healthy than your face. The key to avoiding "turkey neck" in your golden years is to stop it before it starts, and fortunately, doing so is easy. Wear sunscreen every day (even on cloudy days and in winter). When you apply your moisturizer each morning, cover your entire face, then apply lotion on your neck and decolletage, too. With vigilant use, the book you write in your 60s will be I Feel Great About My Neck. As for writing hit romantic comedies, well, you're on your own with that.