The past four years I have been paying my dues traveling around the Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, Germany, Amsterdam and my shop in Oshkosh, Wisconsin...working for various sign shops, wrap firms and design houses installing nothing but wraps and adhesive-based vinyl products. Usually, these are timeline sensitive, large square foot project installations that consume a large amount of labor hours and demand the ability to maintain a physical endurance and focus through lengthy periods of time usually spent on our feet. I have come to appreciate how physically demanding the job of an installer is. It is a job that requires flexibility and balance, on top of wits and talent. Some days I find myself on ladders and scaffolding engaging my core muscles laying murals, while other days I find myself laying flat on a garage floor elongating my spine while wrapping a bumper.
I have a busy life...wife, kids, dog, business, travel. I rarely make it to the YMCA for a workout and eat carne asada tacos rinsed down with Stella Artois as often as possible. But I’m getting older and want to make sure I live as long as possible and want to feel like I got some pep in my step when I’m older yet. I have taken Yoga and Pilates classes to stay young and have found that applying some of their basic poses, stretches and strengtheners in my daily wrap workflow has helped me stay healthy and limber. I figure if a professional athlete, using their body to make a living, is trying to nurture their bodies, I should probably, too.
From that, here are a couple of Wu-Tang-like ideas I put together called “Wrap Yoga.” I’ve planted these thoughts in the back of my head and apply throughout my day to keep a fluid range of motion, stay flexible, remain loose and cut the tension.
CORE POSITIONS—Posture is key! By visualizing the stretching of my spine and neck as I lift my head and arms toward the ceiling, I engage my core muscles and elongate, stretch out to maximize my body’s throw. I pay attention to stacking one spine vertebrae on top of the other until finally standing tall reaching toward the ceiling stretching my whole body long.
I stretch both arms up, clasp my hands and rotate from the waist clockwise a couple of times, and then I switch to rotate counterclockwise a few rotations.
I do this throughout the day to release stress and stay loose. If I am working on a panel or installing in the same position for a long period of time, I try to be mindful of these and try to keep my knees directly over my feet to minimize lower back stress.
Arm Stretches—Standing tall in a doorway, I extend both arms and lean forward to stretch my shoulders and open my chest. This helps correct my posture, elongates my arm throw/squeegee stroke and loosens up my arms before/after long periods of install. I also stretch my shoulders by placing one arm across my body/chest and pulling on this arm with my opposite arm. It definitely helps relieve tension and keep me flexible. To stretch my arms/back/legs, I put my hands behind me, clasp them, then bend at the waist and pull my shoulder blades together while lifting my clasped arms toward my head, letting the gravity pull them.
Leg Stretches—Standing tall, I bend at my waist and reach for the ground or the back of my calves to grab. I hold this for about 30 to 60 seconds and repeat as much as I like. From this position, I am mindful of the stretch in the back of my legs and back. I am also aware of the gravity pulling on my shoulders and arms and allow them to stretch toward the floor. I then slowly stand tall like in the first position I discussed, paying attention to stacking one spine vertebrae on top of the other until finally standing tall reaching toward the ceiling stretching my whole body long.
I also like to do Butterfly Stretches at home. While sitting down, I grab both feet so that they're touching and press down on my thighs with my elbows. This stretch opens up the hips and thighs to improve flexibility. I feel this helps a lot when working on ladders or skateboarding to the shop.
Mix and Match
I repeat steps 1, 2, 3 throughout my day and mix and match them depending on which part of my body may be feeling fatigue. I feel that incorporating these basic movements into my work day, and normal life keeps me flexible and, for the most part, ache-free. They are simple and quick enough to be able to sneak into my day and don’t at all deter from keeping up to speed or affect those around me. Anyone that has seen me install has seen me stretch and practice what I preach above. I’m thinking “Wrap Yoga” is the key to my longevity.
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