By Charlie Smith
For more than a decade in the 1970s and 1980s, local boy Bob Lenarduzzi was a Vancouver Whitecaps fan favourite as the team’s star right fullback. What he didn’t realize back then, however, was the importance of loosening up his muscles before a game. “I’m not going to undo the damage of never stretching as a player,” Lenarduzzi told the Georgia Straight in a recent phone interview. “But I hope that I’ll be able to at least curb the locking and the stiffness that are bound to come as we move through life.”
Nor did he pay much attention to his posture during his career. Now, as the soccer club’s president, Lenarduzzi wants to ensure that young players don’t make the same mistake and pay a price for it when they get older. This is one reason why all three Whitecaps teams—the men, the women, and youths in the residency program—are assessed for their posture management by Rob Williams, owner of Performance Posture, a multidisciplinary clinic near Coal Harbour.
Williams, a former president of the B.C. Association of Kinesiologists, told the Straight by phone that he began integrating posture assessments into his work about 10 years ago at his rehabilitation and fitness centre in the Vancouver Club. He said he started taking pictures of his clients’ posture because talking to them wasn’t enough. “When they saw the images of their own alignment, that was a real eye opener and a hook that got them willing to make some changes,” Williams noted.
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Lenarduzzi said that a couple of years ago, he began feeling discomfort in his right hip while jogging in the sand in Hawaii. When he returned home, he contacted Lynda Cannell, CEO of SportMedBC, who referred him to Williams. “I went in and had the assessment done on me and found that I was in pretty bad shape from my feet right up to my head,” Lenarduzzi said with a laugh.
Now Lenarduzzi is a regular at Mixx Fitness Studio, which is part of the Williams Fitness Group. About two years ago, Williams opened Performance Posture next door. His team includes three chiropractors, a registered massage therapist, an athletic therapist, a kinesiologist, a podiatrist, and an ergonomist, who will visit clients in their offices to ensure their workstations don’t interfere with optimal alignment.
Williams is convinced that poor posture can compromise physiological systems by contributing to excessive pressure on the spine. He said that this, in turn, can lead to muscle weakness in the leg, which is a condition that every soccer player wants to avoid. He added that posture problems affecting the upper back and neck may reduce cardiorespiratory capacity, which can have an impact on circulation.
“I’ll take the photos of all the players and identify any significant red flags with their alignment,” Williams said.
He noted that soccer players often don’t realize that their posture is a problem prior to the assessments. The reality, however, is that as the curve increases in the upper back, there is a corresponding drop in the range of motion in the shoulders. He said that this curvature can also interfere with how much the head can rotate. Williams added that if this is combined with a discrepancy in a person’s leg lengths, the range of motion is diminished even further.
He said older clients are mostly concerned about the health benefits of proper posture whereas younger clients sometimes seem more interested in the benefits to their appearance. “If you’re an athlete…it’s all about performance,” he stated.
Williams is also passionate about applying the principles of good posture to preventing bullying of children. He said that bullies select their prey within the first 20 or 30 seconds by seeing how the other child carries himself. He created a program called Proud Posture for Youth to encourage kids to reduce the likelihood of being victimized. “When your child walks into the room for the first time and they’re standing tall—their chest is up, their shoulders are square—they won’t be targeted,” Williams insisted.
Cannell said that SportMedBC, which assists high-level athletes, incorporated Williams’s posture management into its performance-enhancement program two years ago. She said that Williams combines athletic function and posture in a very intuitive and clear way. “He brings an added dimension that we weren’t doing before to an already really good program,” Cannell said.
For those who wonder about their own posture, Williams has a tip: stand an inch or two away from a wall and see if your hips, shoulder blades, and skull all touch the surface. “It’s a simple little way of assessing any regression in your alignment,” he said.