CoreWalking combats pain, bad posture at their roots: Stretching Out

By Zachary Lewis, The Plain Dealer,

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio - That I have poor posture is no secret. The exact nature of my problem, however, has been a mystery.

No longer. After a session with Jonathan FitzGordon, founder of a program called CoreWalking, I have both a better grasp on the fundamental issue and several promising tools to help correct it.

Don't mind me now if you spot me lying on the ground with my arms in goal-post position, or walking deliberately with my entire upper-body tilted forward.

A recent transplant to Shaker Heights, FitzGordon is now doing in Northeast Ohio what he started out and achieved some renown doing in his native New York: helping people look, move, live, and feel better by addressing structural weaknesses and misunderstandings. Fix the way a person walks and thinks about movement, he believes, and you can fix or at least improve just about any situation.

Even, amazingly, a situation as seemingly hopeless as mine, in which I can't straighten my arms behind my head and my upper back appears permanently sloped.

Turns out, my whole concept of standing straight is flawed. Instead of arching my back and thrusting back my shoulder blades, all I should be doing is bending forward a few degrees at the hips.

I didn't have to accept the claim on blind faith. FitzGordon's "before" photo of me attempting to stand straight my way looked awful, while his "after" photo of me in his prescribed pose revealed a straight spine and vertical alignment between my hips and shoulders. Even the stripes on my shorts hung in a truly vertical position.

I was dumbfounded, as standing FitzGordon's way felt completely unnatural.

Walking his way, however, felt great, albeit a bit odd. With a simple shift of my torso and pelvis, I took the pressure off my hips and knees and transformed from a heavy heel-striker into a gentle mid-foot walker.

As for my shoulders, well, that's a tougher nut to crack. Almost literally. Not even FitzGordon, with all his books, DVDs, online videos, and remote analysis tools, is in possession of a quick fix to a problem some 40 years in the making.

His prescription? A simple daily exercise, and a great deal of patience. After ruling out core weakness as a factor, FitzGordon told me just to spend five minutes a day lying on the floor with my arms bent 90 degrees at the elbows, like a goal-post or cactus. The idea, he said, is to let gravity pull down my arms and gradually regain the range of motion I've lost from years of slouching and stooping.

It's not a bad idea, and so far, after about two weeks, it appears to be working. The point where my shoulders stop is inching lower and lower, and I'm not using a single weight, band, or other piece of equipment. Now all I need to do is stick with it.

What FitzGordon is selling isn't rocket science, or quackery. It's wisdom from personal experience. Before he launched CoreWalking, he suffered no fewer than three knee injuries doing yoga. Now he's an avid walker and (healthy) yoga practitioner.

All of which bodes well for me. If FitzGordon can recover so soundly from something like that, my shoulders and back should be a piece of cake.