written by Lisa Byrne

Hold your breath; close your eyes and GO!

If it could only be that easy…voila, and it’s moved, nobody gets hurt!

Sure, this applies to all items that you carry but for today we are going to pay special attention to the heavier ones. What are some heavier items that you carry? Dog food, birdseed, water softener salt bags, cat litter, cases of drinks, bags of soil & mulch, furniture, and pool chemicals are some that come mind. Perhaps someone at the store loaded it into your car, but maybe you are the only one that can get it out of your car and into your house. Most likely these objects will be in your trunk, back seat, SUV hatch or passenger seat. All of these places have one thing in common…you must reach in and down. Even if you don’t have to reach down, the ‘in’ part is enough to make you aware that you better get ready. Lifting is the first part, carrying is the other. So let’s put some perspective into how we can do it best.

Probably the most fundamental technique that you need to apply is one that is so botched that it is actually confusing. Oftentimes, with the idea of encouraging you to get ready, these suggestions have come out of the mouths of fitness trainers and the like: “pull your stomach muscles in; navel to spine; suck in your middle; pretend you got punched in the stomach; pull in your abs like you were putting on a tight pair of jeans”. This sort of imagery may do it for some, but how about if you are clueless?

First of all, may I clear up my largest pet peeve? The stomach is an organ used in digestion. It has smooth muscle that is involuntary and unresponsive to any deliberate strengthening. Please don’t use that when referring to your abdominal area, even if Dr. Oz does.

Okay, now let’s get down to basics… stabilizing your spine. If you do not pay attention to this, you are making yourself vulnerable right off the bat. This is the key ingredient in having a successful lift and carry. Your abdominals are the root of your trunk and their job is to support and brace the spine so that the rest of your core can perform its function.

In Pilates, we refer to this area as your powerhouse and the abdominals are a portion of this powerhouse. I think this is what some people refer to as the ‘stomach’. An efficient powerhouse environment relies heavily on the pelvic floor muscles. Engaging these muscles first is critical to accommodating a stable base for movement. Remember, stability is how you hold onto yourself and /or the ground. Since the pelvic floor muscles help to support the lower abdominal cavity thinking of pulling this interconnected web, kind of like a hammock, ‘in and up’ will work in concert with the muscles of the abdomen, trunk and low back.

Below are 5 elements that you always want to incorporate into any lift and carry:

Address the object with a shoulder-wide stance
Soften your knees; make them ‘bouncy’
Use a flat back when lifting the object
Lift the object with the power of your legs and buttock muscles
Keep the object close to you

Here’s a secret that I always keep in mind when I lift and move anything. I imagine what it will feel like once I grab it; how I will hold it; and finally, how I’ll endure the strength to get it where I want. I see the whole picture in my mind. Perhaps this is because I do it automatically every time and over the years my awareness is tuned into this imaginary ‘measurement’ before I even lift anything. Try it.

If you decide that you cannot lift what you want, be smart about it. Get someone to take care of it. That is a good decision and will save you frustration and possible injury later. If you can lift, look at every event as a practice carry. Start paying mind to exactly what you are doing and you will notice that your power will change. Power is a physical might and it is also the capacity for being acted upon. Will, determination, confidence, optimism, intelligence, and clear thinking all factor into using your power and getting good at it.

We carry all sorts of things and, yes, even the grocery bags should be approached like this. Just because they are smaller and weigh less the same lift and carry elements will serve you no matter what’s on hand.

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