Summer Fun Comes with Sitting
With summer comes so many indoor and outdoor events. I have family, friends, and clients who have kids in sports, swimming lessons, concerts, etc., and they end up spending hours sitting on hard bleachers. A client recently came to me with a great idea for a blog: she told me about how sore her tush was from sitting on bleachers the weekend before. She asked me how she could prevent “bleacher butt.”
What exactly is “bleacher butt?” Well, that’s when your butt hurts from sitting on bleachers for long periods, of course! The part that hurts is often the “sit bones,” or those bones you can feel in the middle of each glute (butt cheek). Bleachers are often made of metal or wood and are made to be very sturdy and hold lots of people in a small space. Consequently, they are often not super deep. They often look much like what you see in the photo at the top of this page. When they are narrow and unsupportive, you must rely on your own postural muscles to keep you upright.
Sitting upright and unsupported is a problem for many people who are used to sitting in chairs with backs or curling up on soft couches. With constant supported sitting, we lose the smaller and larger postural muscles we need to sit unsupported. Additionally, if we’ve been sitting with poor posture and are now stuck in that posture, sitting unsupported becomes demanding work. This can lead to a sense of soreness throughout the whole body after sitting unsupported for hours.
Floor Sitting Can Be Equally as Challenging
I remember a time (over a decade ago) when I was required to sit unsupported on the floor for many hours during yoga teacher training. We were in the middle of a large room, so we didn’t even have the wall to lean against. During that time of my life, I was a desk worker and had not yet begun my natural movement journey. (It was the natural movement that really upped my understanding of the importance of posture, the postural muscles, and the role of fascia in this arena.) After sitting for hours unsupported, I was sore, tired, and grumpy! Now, I can sit unsupported for quite a while, and I often prefer it over other options.
What You Can Do
Let’s take a look at the photos below.
Photo 1: Engaged in the Game!
This is how most people sit on bleachers, at least at first. They are leaning forward and engaged in the event going on before them. There are two important things to notice. One, sitting at the edge of the bench puts most of the pressure into the sit bones. Two, leaning forward puts additional strain on the entire spine to hold the body upright when most of the upper body is forward from the center of gravity.
Photo 2: Getting Tired.
What tends to happen next is the back gets tired and starts to flatten out. You sink down and the tailbone turns under. This can cause pressure on the tailbone which over time can be very irritating. Flattening the back can also lead to disc issues over time.
Photo 3: Practicing good posture.
Sitting upright with your shoulders and head stacked over the hips takes a lot of pressure off your spine. Sitting with the hips in neutral is ideal. If you are not sure what that means, look at how the top of my hips are rolled back in photo 2 and rolled forward to achieve the position in photo 3. They’re not completely rolled forward. If they were, my low back curve would be super deep. In photo 3 my low back curve is in my neutral or ideal position for sitting.
Photos 4, 5 & 6: Practicing variety.
In photo 4 I’m scooted back on the bench. This allows more of my thighs to be on the bench. Having more surface area of my body in contact with the bench takes some of the pressure off any one area, especially my sit bones. I’m still maintaining my good neutral posture.
In photo 5 I’m crossing my leg and leaning to one side. This gives my hips a little variety and lifts one sit bone off the bench in order to allow some blood to flow back into the area. Photo 6 is also practicing some variety by tucking a foot under my hips This position also gives my sit bones a rest. You can probably think of other ways you can practice variety.
Another obvious idea but it bears repeating is to get up and move. Get the blood flowing. Take a short walk, stand in the back for a while, or do a few quick stretches. What should you stretch? Think about which muscles shorten when you sit: the shoulders, hamstrings, hip flexors and the backs of the knees. Stretching these areas will help a lot. Need some ideas? Check out my fascia self-care page.
Finally, do what I did. Create a body that can handle it. We aren’t made to sit long periods of time in a chair let alone hard, narrow bleachers. We are made to sit on the ground in lots of positions, squat deeply, stand in lots of positions and walk a lot. If you can do these things for reasonable periods of time, your body will be able to handle quite a lot when it comes to daily activities or occasional ones, like baseball practice. My movement classes (I prefer movement over exercise) include lots and lots of variety with the intention of challenging the uniquely often to create a body that can handle life.
All these ideas can be applied to sitting in other types of chairs including office chairs. But(t) for now, practice them when sitting on a hard bench or bleachers for the rest of the summer and enjoy the game!
Amy Mayer OTD, OTR/L, RYT