What a piece of work is Maggie. Can you see where I’m unbalanced?
Go to one physical therapist and they will focus on the injured side. Go to another and they pay attention to both sides. Come to my Pilates class and though I’ll attempt to work you out evenly, my lack of counting skills may get in the way. So, does it matter? What you do to the right, must you do to the left? Must we work both sides of the body evenly?
When I first started teaching I thought balance was the key to everything. If anyone told me to only work one side, I’d have thought it was an atrocity. Apparently with my youth came a sense of hyperbole in movement. Now I’ve come to realize we will never be even. No matter what we do in our 1-hour exercise class, what we face in life will strengthen and alter one side more than the other. Striving for absolute balance is an impossible task. Our heart is more to the left. Our liver is on the right. We aren’t perfectly balanced to begin with. Balance and symmetry is good to a degree, but we should strive to feel good when moving. If you pelvis isn’t perfectly level, but you have no pain, who cares? Let’s set the bar at being able to walk, run, swim or do any of our favorite movements without pain.
When we have pain or an injury somewhere in our body that area may require special attention. But other parts of the body are often working harder to pick up the slack for the injured part so those areas require some TLC too. Realistically each side might be seeking different types of movement to feel good. The body isn’t as linear as we’d like to think. Of course we should always strive to move and work both sides, but we can get a little less compulsive about it.
That doesn’t mean that we should only focus on one side, especially if we are injured. We don’t want to exacerbate the differences between sides when we exercise. So just because you might be able to lift more weight with your right arm than your left doesn’t mean you should do bicep curls with a 20-pound weight in one arm and 15-pounds in the other.
For better balance throughout the body, we can challenge ourselves doing random tasks during the day. Try using your non-dominant hand to answer the phone, brush your teeth (use caution) or unlock the door. Try wearing your purse or carrying bags on the arm that you don’t normally use. Altering our daily activities will ultimately probably balance us our better muscularly than one hour a day of exercise.
The ultimate take away—work both sides. Try to be even when you can, but cut yourself some slack. If it’s not perfect, it’s okay. Life’s not perfect and our body has to fit into our life. If one side feels tight and you only make time to stretch that one side it is still better than doing nothing.
Just try to move as much of the body as you can each day.