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Lifestyle Perspectives Training

Fix Neck & Shoulder Pain Without Exercise!

Set an alarm for every 20 minutes as a cue to get up and move for a minute. That’s it! No “Hold these stretches for 30 seconds,” or “Do these exercises everyday, three times a day.” All you have to do is get up and move. For those of you that are too lazy to read any further, there’s no need, you’ve got the main point.

Over this past year we’ve seen an increase with neck and shoulder discomfort. More people are working from home stuck in front of a computer screen craning their necks forward to get a better view of that tiny person speaking in that oh so very important Zoom meeting and afterward relentlessly pounding away at the keyboard hunched over like Quasimdo bending over to pick something up. After realizing that they haven’t moved in over eight hours, they peel themselves out of their chair, shimmy over to another and plop down in front of a television with their Smart Phone to decompress.

The small relief of the few steps we used to take to get to work, or at the very least from our cars or public transit on our daily commutes have vanished. As have the few moments we might have raised our heads a little to converse with a co-worker or maybe even go grab a coffee.

The most frequent question I’ve had over the past year is, “What sort of stretches or exercises can I do to help with this neck and shoulder pain?” My answer is, “None.” Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t do them even if I did give you some, and the few seconds or maybe even handful of minutes (if you’re a keener) a day you’d spend on them aren’t going to have any impact against the eight plus hours you’re spending looking like a question mark in front of your computer. The most effective thing you can do is stop drinking the poison that’s making you sick! Now I know you still have to work, but you can change or create better habits while doing so.

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” – F.M. Alexander

Our tissues adapt to repeated exposure of the stresses placed on them. There are good adaptions like say if you exercise consistently, your muscles get stronger and toned, and you look like a million bucks! Then there’s adaptations that occur out of necessity, that serve a purpose in protecting you in some way, shape or form, but aren’t optimal and don’t feel very nice. Like those damn callouses on your hands from those workouts! Callouses are not very pliable and generally uncomfortable, but in order to protect your hands, the tissue adapts by thickening and hardening so that your hands aren't raw from overuse. Similar adaptations happen to the tissues within our body as well. So if your head is always in a forward position straining your neck, you can now imagine just some of what may happening to the tissues surrounding that area.

This brings me to a very quick explanation of fascia. Which in short, can be described as a continuous web of connective tissue that surrounds and links virtually every part of our internal body. Just how abundant is it? Well, it accounts for about 16% of our total body weight and 25% of our body’s total water content! It has the tensile strength of soft steel and is the reason our bodies are so resilient.
Fascia starts to recalibrate or adapt a new blueprint every 20 minutes or so. So, if you’ve been sitting in one position for longer than that, this web will slowly start to adjust, cinching into this position so that your can body can withstand the demands of what is being asked of it. You know that moment when you go to get out of your chair and you feel like you’re stuck in that position as if a pair of freshly washed jeans is wrapped around your body? It takes a little bit of stretching and shaking out before you can actually stand upright again.

This brings us back full circle to the very first line of this article. Set an alarm for every 20 minutes as a cue to get up and move for a minute. I’ve given this advice to many people, and the ones who have followed it have reported how much better they feel, how much more energy they seem to have and how much less things ache all over. Enjoy!

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Lifestyle Training

Movement Tip: Adductor Stretches

The hip adductors (groin muscles) are notoriously tight for many people. With the daily routines that most of us have, we constantly have these muscles in their shortened positions, rarely engaging them with any purpose to keep them stimulated and healthy. For the most part our adductors perform the functions of squeezing our legs together and assisting with some hip flexion, with the adductor magnus also assisting in hip extension. These days our most common position tends to be seated with legs together or often crossed, placing these muscles in their shortest positions. We spend hours like this, so it’s no wonder these tissues start to adapt and become short and lazy. They attach to the pelvis and femur (thigh bone) apart from the gracilis crossing the knee and attaching to the tibia (shin bone). Due to their attachment points they play an often-overlooked roll in pelvic stability and angle. The stability and angle of the pelvis has large implications throughout the rest of the body, low back discomfort being at the top of the list. So, it’s important to keep these muscles pliable and healthy.

Stretching is one option that’s an easy way to help stimulate these muscles. A couple of options for you to try are the Frog Stretch which targets the short adductors that only cross the hip joint, and the Goalie stretch that targets the long adductors that also cross the knee joint.

As always please consult a health professional before attempting new exercises, as the following suggestions may or may not be appropriate for you.

For these stretches there are no specific time rules of how long to hold positions. You are moving through different ranges of each stretch and if you feel more tension in a certain range, you can spend a little extra time there. The goal is to feel some tension release and balance throughout the different ranges and from side to side.

Dynamic Frog Stretch

Dynamic Goalie Stretch

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Training

Movement Tip: Band Quadruped Leg Extension w/Lateral Challenge

Today’s movement prep exercise is awesome for not only activating the muscles surrounding the hips, but also the entire core system! The lateral resistance challenge from the band makes this a lot like a Palloff Press but with your leg instead of arms. Here is how to do it:

-Focus on your frame. While the movement and challenge from the band is with your leg, the stability of your frame is where the magic is happening. Although you will feel the band tensioning the leg you extend, the muscles of the core and stabilizing hip need to anchor and work equally as hard if not harder to provide the proper base of support for that extending leg to leverage off of and perform the motion.

-To create a strong frame your points of contact with the ground must be firm. Spread your fingers apart providing greater surface area for a larger base of support and use those fingers to grip into the ground as well. Activating those intrinsic hand muscles also generates more wrist support and space in the joints for pain free wrists! The knee that you will be posting on is equally important. Make sure it is comfortable and well grounded.

-Anchor a large loop band to a stable post about knee height when standing. Loop the free end around the mid-foot of the leg that you will be extending.

-Facing sideways to the anchor point at a distance where band tension is appropriate for you, start on hands & knees with shoulders stacked over hands & hips stacked over knees with neutral spine. Think of being long from the crown of your head down to your tail bone and scooping your shoulder blades and filling up your mid-back to create proper stability through your shoulders.

-With an engaged cinched core keeping hips and shoulders square with one another and the ground, slowly extend the leg with the band around it while resisting the lateral tension keeping it inline with body. Move with purpose and think of placing your leg where it needs to be.

-Extend the leg so that it is aligned with your torso height and hip. Hold for the specified time before slowly returning to start position and repeating.

-Complete a full set with your weaker side first before switching.

My preferred variables for this movement are 1-3 sets, 3-6 reps/side with 5-10 second holds at the end range. Enjoy!

Categories
Perspectives Training

2 Key Points for a Solid Push-Up

I could rant on about a few things when it comes to the push-up, but I’ll choose two key points that I believe to have the greatest overall impact.

 

Core Stability – Everyone knows they need to “strengthen their core,” but few do.  This is by far where I see the biggest breakdown in push-up form and the cascade effect of a weak core will result in poor biomechanics everywhere else.  You shoulder hurts when you do a push-up?  It’s probably because your core wasn’t strong enough to support the variation you were attempting.  Work on core strength and stability first and choose a push-up regression that allows you to promote proper engagement and sequencing of your core at a difficulty level that you are actually capable of.

 

Points of Contact – I find this to be one of the most overlooked areas with any exercise.  Your points of contact are arguably the most import aspect of any exercise.  They anchor you to the external object that you are leveraging off of and transferring force through.  If you do not have solid contact your are giving away leverage and therefore strength.

 

With the push-up the main contact points are your hands.  If performing a push-up on the floor, spread those fingers apart and create as large a surface area.  The larger your contact surface is on your base of support, the greater your stability, feedback loop and force transfer will be, giving you more strength.  Whether you are gripping a bar or using the floor, use the muscles in your hands!  You need to have an active base.  Your wrists hurt when you do a push-up?  There’s a good chance you’re not using the muscles in your hands and wrists that provide support and create small space cushions around those joints.  Actively squeeze into the ground with those fingers and hands, or if on a bar, crush it.  Not only will this help protect your joints, the radiation effect of engaging those muscles will increase your overall strength in the movement.

Make sure your feet are well anchored as well.  They are another contact point and your body will leverage from them as well.

 

My favorite push-up regression is the incline push-up.  The incline can be adjusted to any level to make the movement achievable for all with out shortening levers such as with a bent knee push-up.  This promotes learning to engage your body and move it as an entire unit, maximizing the safety and effectiveness of the movement.

 

How to perform the push-up:

  • Whether on an incline, decline or the floor, start in a front support (straight arm plank) position on toes, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width and inline with shoulders.
  • Fingers should be spread apart to create more surface area while actively engaging hand and forearm muscles.
  • Head shoulders and hips should be in a neutral aligned position squared up with one another. Picture as steel rod going through your body from head to toe. Squeeze thighs, glutes and abdominals thinking of holding in your poo and pee.
  • Fill-up mid-back by driving hands through the floor, scooping your shoulder blades and slightly corkscrewing them into the ground by thinking of turning your hands out.
  • Initiate movement by thinking of actively pulling your torso toward the ground allowing elbows to bend. Head, shoulders and hips must stay aligned and all move together as one unit.
  • Lower until chest touches the ground or object you are on.
  • Drive hands through the ground maintaining tight body position returning to start.
  • If you cannot get your chest down to your target object, you are performing a variation that is too difficult for your current level. Squash your ego and regress the movement so that you can perform it properly and then as you get stronger, slowly increase the difficulty.

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Lifestyle Perspectives Training

Knee Pain? Do this! Front Foot Elevated Split Squat

The full range split squat is one of my favorite lower body movements and even more so when the modification of elevating the front foot is added.  If you experience knee pain, this modification might be an easy fix that allows you to keep your joint moving and strengthen the surrounding muscles to help improve its alignment and stability and alleviate some of that pain.

 

We live in “use it or lose it” bodies and brains.  Numerous studies have shown that when we cease to use our muscles and joints in certain patterns, the ability to perform those patterns diminishes, the same happens with the neuroplasticity of the brain.  That is why it is so important to keep moving and practice full movement patterns.

 

When we move our joints, a lubricating fluid is produced that helps keep them healthy and nourished.  Without movement, this fluid becomes absent and the joints will become stiff, immobile and possibly achy.  This is another reason why joints need to move.

 

Knee pain is often the result of an alignment issue causing excessive friction to the structures surrounding and/or within the joint.  One of the common areas where pain is felt in the knee is under or around the knee cap.  This pain often flares up with activities that produce a forward and down force, such as walking down stairs.  When the knee bends under this kind of pressure, the thigh bone glides forward creating greater tension on the tendons and ligaments surrounding the kneecap and on the cap itself.  If these structures are already exasperated due to another mechanical issue, this simple motion will cause pain.

 

We learned above that movement is important to maintain and restore joint health.  But we don’t want the movement to cause pain.  We need to modify the movement in order to achieve the results we are looking for.

 

The split squat incorporates multiple joints and muscles all important to knee health as well as challenges balance and proprioception.  Its functional carry over is undeniable.  But sore knees don’t like this movement pattern unless we add elevation to that front foot to distribute the load and force appropriately.

 

This video provides a quick overview of why we might elevate the front foot for the split squat and how to perform it properly.

 

Hopefully, you find these tips helpful.  Thanks for watching!

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Lifestyle Nutrition Perspectives

Recipe: Chicken Dumpling Soup

Sustainable healthy eating habits rely on good eating, and good eating means good cooking.  Unless, you have your own personal chef, you need to learn how to cook and make it taste great!

 

Many of us will not get a better opportunity than now to hone our cooking skills and learn some new recipes to add to the arsenal.  The excuse of, “I just don’t have the time,” is out the window here. (Written during the COVID-19 isolation.)  A lot of us have all of the time right now, so why not put it to good use and learn something that will help carry you through life.

 

This is a chicken dumpling soup.  I can tell you what’s in it, but the measurements will be poor because I cook like my mother and just throw things in by feel. Lol!  So, if you’re attempting this, use your taste buds and test to see if it’s to your liking.

 

Rough measurements:

2 Tbsp - butter

½ cup of each – Onions, carrot, celery

½ a shallot

1 Tbsp of each (but probably more) minced garlic, minced ginger root

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 bay leaf

Sprig of Thyme

2 tsp. of each – curry powder, turmeric

1 tsp. cumin

**I probably use more of the spices than what I listed here, but this is a good start point for most.

1-2 Tbsp’s of chopped parsley & cilantro

6-7 skinless boneless chicken thighs cubed

1 to 1 ½ cups of cubed potatoes

1 to 1 ¼ litres of chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Dumplings

1 cup of all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tbsp. butter

½ cup milk

 

Melt butter in a large pot.  Saute onions, carrot, celery, shallot until softened. Add garlic & ginger, mix in and cook for about 1-2 mins.  Add bay leaf, thyme, stir in.  Add chicken, mix in and cook about 2 mins, add spices, salt pepper and lemon juice and mix in and cook until chicken looks cooked through.  Add potatoes, parsley & cilantro, stir in.  Add chicken or vegetable stock.  Bring to boil and cook until potatoes cook through.  I spoon out some potatoes and broth at this point and puree them and pour it back in to thicken the soup broth.  For the dumplings, mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, salt.  Melt butter and slowly mix it in to dry mix until it becomes crumbly.  Add milk and mix into a batter.  Spoon out dollops into boiling soup and cover at let cook at low for about 10 mins.  All done!

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Lifestyle Training

8 No Equipment Hacks to get your Back Jacked

Need a killer back workout but don't have any equipment or access to gym? No problem!

This video provides no equipment home exercise solutions to get your back jacked! Gravity is a powerful form of resistance. Proper leveraging of your body weight with gravity can provide just as much muscle building stimulus as working with weights. We provide exercises for your lats, mid-back and lower back muscles as well as give you a free workout using the exercises shown in the video. The suggestions in this video range from beginner to advanced and will provide a challenging workout with zero equipment for anyone. If you find this video helpful, please subscribe to my YouTube channel, hit the like button and let us know! For customized training programs, video suggestions or inquires please contact us.

Have something you want me to make a video about? Let me know.

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Lifestyle Training

Free Follow Along Workouts

Amidst all the crazy COVID-19 stuff going on, a couple of my colleagues and I put together some free follow along workout videos to help keep you moving and healthy.  Please share this content with your friends and stay safe and healthy! I hope this finds you well. Enjoy!

Hip Mobility

Lower Body

Upper Body

Pilates with Lisa

Pilates with Anne

Fight Fit with Rob

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Lifestyle Perspectives Training

Successful Changes often take a Paradigm Shift

In making a change that is permanent it’s important to appreciate the small changes that accumulate.  Hitting a home run is always nice, but most games are won by the successive accumulation of base hits. A strategy to keep in mind is to ask yourself what is just a little bit better or a little bit worse than what I’m currently doing now.  In other words, how can you get on base?  An example might be taking an elevator to go up 1 or 2 stories at your condo or work versus taking the stairs to add more movement into your day.  Many people will hear this advice and feel that they need to immediately start taking the stairs every day.  If they miss a day, they feel that they’ve failed, which leads to discouragement and giving up just as fast as you started.  This is an all or nothing mindset that nine times out of ten leads back to where you started.  A shift in perspective needs to happen where you can appreciate the success of making it up the stairs for 4 of those 5 days.  In truth if you make it up those stairs only once during that week, that’s a BIG win because it’s better than what you were doing previously.  You got on base!  This shift in mentality can keep you driven and accumulating the habits required to lead you to your desired outcome.

 

You’re not going to reach your big picture goal overnight or even in a couple of months, so throw those expectations out the window and appreciate and celebrate the small gains achieved over time.  You’re sculpting a masterpiece out of stone.  You won’t see even hints of the final product after only a few chiseled pieces.  It takes hard work, time, patience and the accumulation of many chiseled pieces slowly being removed to shape your work of art.  While some days it may not seem like you’re making a lot of progress, as long as you’re still chipping away changes are occurring.  Sometimes you might need to take a few steps back and change your viewpoint to realize how far you have come.  It’s not as easy as working with Play-Doh, but a stone sculpture will last.

 

Change that sticks comes best from within.  A teacher or coach might be able to plant a seed, give you some suggestions on where to start and provide guidance to streamline the process and keep you moving forward, but the solutions that stick best are the ones that come from within.

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Training

Movement Tip: Get More Out Of Your Hip Flexor Stretch

Tight hip flexors are common these days.  Here’s how to get more out of your hip flexor stretching.

We’re going to use a PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) technique, also known as MET (muscle energy technique).  Some benefits of using this over a passive stretch are:

  • Getting a deeper stretch
  • Building a neuromuscular connection
  • Creating mobility, not just flexibility
  • Longer lasting effect

How does this work?  By using a submaximal contraction of the same muscle we are stretching followed by the stretch itself, we can take advantage of a response called autogenic inhibition.  Without getting into the fancy terminology, this basically creates a relaxion response that allows us to sink a little deeper into the stretch.  By contracting the muscle in the lengthened position we’re creating neural pathways that let the brain and body know we can use this muscle in this lengthened state.  Knowing we can use the muscle begins to create a new range of motion that you can build control with.  Control of your flexibility is mobility.  This gives you a longer lasting effect.