I consider my self to be pretty healthy, and I spend quite a bit of time making sure my fitness level stays high. This includes weekly yoga, strenuous hiking, and weight training. But there’s one thing that’s truly kicked my butt over the years: chronic lower back pain. Due to numerous back injuries, hiking with a heavy backpack, and lack of a clear strategy for eliminating the cause of the pain, I’ve struggled with this problem far longer than I want to remember.
While yoga has helped, it’s a tricky balance between doing enough and doing too much, which can lead to injury (as it did with me). I’ve tried other approaches such as chiropractic and stretching, but never with lasting results. Most of the cures out there focus on eliminating the symptoms (pain), where as I wanted to eliminate the cause. Oh and by the way, doing crunches until your dizzy does not strengthen your core as so many are lead to believe.
I recently discovered a book called “Foundation” (and accompanying DVD/video download) which outlined a program that claimed to reduce and even eliminate back pain. The basic idea is that back pain comes from weaknesses in the muscles of the posterior chain—the muscles that run along the entire back of the body from the shoulders down to the buttocks and hamstrings. By specifically focusing on this huge and powerful muscle chain, the body would learn to move in a healthier way, avoiding stress along the lower back, improving posture, and hence reducing and/or eliminating pain.
I had my doubts, but started the program at home 6 months ago hoping I might get lucky-I felt I deserved it after so many failed attempts. And my back has never felt better. I had my reservations at first, but stuck to the program as best I could, and it has done wonders for me. My back pain isn’t completely gone, but for all practical purposes is a non issue. The exercises can be intense at times, but the results speak for themselves.
My routine takes about 25–30 min to complete, and I do it about 3–4 times per week. Best of all I don’t need any special equipment or space, I can do the exercises anywhere. This is huge for me since I’m often traveling on a photo trip or teaching a workshop. You can also custom tailor the program based on your particular fitness level. I started as a beginner, and after a few months was doing the advanced routine.
So what does this have to do with landscape photography? If you hike to your photo locations with a heavy backpack, then I would say quite a bit. There’s nothing worse than back pain to dampen your mood and spirit when you want to get out into nature with your gear.With a stronger back, you’ll tackle difficult hikes with more confidence, and experience less fatigue which leads to more time in the field.
If you have any problems with back pain, or just want to strengthen your core, check out this book and program- the DVD is also great to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly, and for motivation. It has really made a difference for me.
PS- I am not an affiliate, and get no compensation for promotion – I just like to share stuff I think is truly valuable and has worked for me 🙂