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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 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.

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Perspectives Training Uncategorized

Movement Tip: Isometric Low Range Squat

Isometrics can be a great way to strengthen weaknesses throughout a range of motion in a movement.

In this example I’m using an assisted low range isometric squat, but you can take the principle and apply it to anything.  Use that pause to connect with your muscles and feel what’s working, what’s not, what should be.  Take the time while in that pause to figure it out and get everything responding the way it should be and then groove it proper.  You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so find it and strengthen it.

I’ll typically start people between 2-3 sets of 3-6 reps with 5-6 second pauses per rep.  I like this for slowing down mechanics and working on grooving proper patterns.

I’ve found this exercise to be an excellent way to get people comfortable with the bottom position of a squat. (Note:  Make sure the range of motion is there first.)

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Lifestyle Perspectives Uncategorized

Sleep Well with S.E.L.F. Correction

Rest and recovery are often undervalued components when it comes to fitness and achieving performance goals.  Many people feel that they need to do more in order to achieve more, which may be true if you’re currently not doing much, but if you’re already grinding away, then doing more is often not the answer.  Quality restoration is crucial to optimize performance and so I’d like to share some of the highlights and strategies that I found valuable from Eoin Lacey’s presentation on Sleep at the 2018 SWIS Symposium interlaced with some of my own findings on the topic.

Your body rests in cycles as you sleep and there are 4 stages within a sleep cycle.  There used to be 5 stages, but recently stages 3 and 4 have been lumped together as researchers have stated that there were no physiological changes between the two stages to necessitate having two different stages.   Each cycle can last from 90 to 120 minutes in length.

Stage 1 – Is usually the shortest stage lasting from 5-15 minutes where your eyes are closed, but you can still be easily awakened.

Stage 2 – Is a little longer in length than stage 1, but your body temperature and heart rate starts to drop along with a reduction in muscle tone as your body prepares for deep sleep.

Stage 3 – Is usually the longest stage where you are in a deep sleep.  In this stage physical restoration such as tissue repairs occur along with strengthening of the immune system.  If you were to be awakened during this stage, you would feel a little disoriented and groggy.

Stage 4 (REM Sleep) – REM stands for” rapid eye movement” and happens around the 90-minute mark of the sleep cycle.  In the first cycle it usually lasts about 10 minutes but increases with each successive cycle of uninterrupted sleep.  During your final sleep cycle REM sleep may last up to 1 hour.  The REM stage is where you may experience intense dreams as your brain is the most active during this phase of sleep causing the rapid eye movements.  Heart rate and breathing quickens along with an increase in oxygen consumption by the brain.  This stage is thought to be the most restorative stage for our brain and central nervous system.  While some may use alcohol to aid in falling asleep, it interferes with the body’s ability to achieve REM sleep and will reduce your overall REM sleep.

Ideally, we would like to get between 3-5 uninterrupted sleep cycles each night.  That’s about the popular 7-9 hours we’re accustom to hearing, but 1-2 hours should be a deep REM sleep.  According to studies, most people get about 60% of the sleep they need for optimal functioning.  Most of us are going through our daily activities only having a 60% recharge!  Most of us don’t like leaving for work in the morning with a cellphone that’s only got 60% of a recharge, yet we do this with our body and mind regularly.  If you consider that studies revealed that people who suffer from sleep apnea are 3 times more likely to develop diabetes and 23 times more likely to have a heart attack, that drives home the importance of getting proper restorative sleep.

So how can we improve our sleep at night?  There’s an array of tips out there for what is known as Sleep Hygiene that we’re familiar with such as sleeping in complete darkness, set a cooler temperature, avoid caffeine 6 hours before bedtime, reduce blue light exposure, etc.  While many of these tips have been shown to help, they are usually part of a wind down routine performed close to bedtime.  But it’s what you do upon waking in the morning and your habits throughout the day that have a greater impact on how you sleep at night.

S.E.L.F. Correction is an approach that might be of greater value, especially if these habits are stacked with good Sleep Hygiene.  Before I break down the S.E.L.F. acronym, I’m going to quickly explain the hormone cortisol because it is mentioned a few times throughout the S.E.L.F. Correction approach.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands and released into your bloodstream.  It helps with many of the body’s functions including the control of blood sugar levels, metabolism regulation, blood pressure, helps reduce inflammation and assist with memory formulation.  It is a crucial hormone for wellbeing.  It has a bad rap as it is well known as being the “stress” hormone.  There’s a lot of articles about lowering your cortisol levels, but we absolutely need cortisol for proper balance.  The problem comes when we secrete too much cortisol too often and have sustained high levels.  Sustained stress is one of the top culprits for that happening, which causes the release of too much cortisol as our body tries to combat the stress.  Cortisol is trying to help us, it’s not the bad guy.  We want to lower stress to properly balance our cortisol secretion.  That generally means a lifestyle shift that involves less stress.  Proper sleep habits and S.E.L.F. Correction can help with this by boosting cortisol when it’s supposed to be high and having it taper throughout the day.

Here’s what S.E.L.F. stands for:

Social stimulation – within your first hour of waking, interact with someone or people.  Whether it be your partner, children, possibly even some emails if you can’t be face to face with a real person.  Social stimulus boosts cortisol levels which is what you want in the morning to feel awake.  As the day goes on cortisol levels should taper down as adenosine (sleep drive) levels rise toward the evening.

Exercise – get moving sooner than later upon waking.  There is a post exercise spike in cortisol levels which will contribute to that wakefulness, not to mention increased circulation and the array of other health benefits exercise has to offer.

Light – natural light is preferred, but light first thing in the morning will help shut down melatonin and boost cortisol levels to wake your body up keeping your circadian clock on a healthy sleep/wake cycle.  It’s recommended to get at least 1000 lux of light in the eyes for about 20 minutes upon waking.  (This does not mean stare at the sun.  Please do not do that.  You will go blind.)  1000 lux is comparable to an overcast day.

Food – What you eat and when you eat it throughout the day will affect cortisol levels and mood.  Food creates stimulation in your body so eating breakfast and consuming the majority of what you will eat throughout the day earlier on will help make winding down at the end of the day easier.  Foods such as legumes, lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, leafy greens and colorful vegetables, whole grains, dairy, lower sugar level fruits such as berries, and healthy fats are good options for breakfast and early day meals to help boost morning cortisol.  Starchy carbs boost adenosine and serotonin levels and actually help you wind down, which is one of the reasons why you feel nice and lethargic after eating meals with a high carbohydrate content.  I can sum this up as saying eat balanced meals comprised of real food, don’t get crazy with extremes.

I hope that you have found this information useful!

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Lifestyle Training

Movement Tip: The Banana Stretch

Most of us are one-side dominant in our daily activities.  We typically open doors, carry groceries, get in and out of vehicles more frequently on one side than the other.  Over time these unconscious movements add up and create imbalances in our body which can sometimes lead to insidious aches pains or injuries.  One of my favorite stretches that can both expose imbalances from left to right and help restore some balance is the Banana Stretch.  Here’s a quick video tutorial! Hope you enjoy!

The Banana Stretch can also be performed in a door frame.
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Lifestyle Perspectives Training Uncategorized

Tips for Healthy hips!

Our hips play a huge role in our mobility.  They are at the center of where all the action takes place.  Just about every way we move involves the hip joint in some capacity, whether it be direct or indirect when we initiate movement, forces travel through the area.  It’s needless to say that keeping them healthy will have a huge impact in our overall well being and quality of life.

So, how do we keep them healthy you ask?  With 21 muscles crossing this incredible piece of architecture you might think that the answer is going to be complex.  Many experts will give you numerous stretches and exercises to take to task however the most important thing to do is keep them greased by keeping them moving regularly through all their movement ranges.  This is something that should be done daily however most of us have set patterns throughout our day that have us using our hips in a very limited capacity and so they become limited to that.

There are 6 primary ranges of motion that the hip joint provides for us:

Flexion – when the thigh bone moves forward ahead of the hip.

Extension – when the thigh bones moves backward behind the hip.

Abduction – when the thigh bone moves out to the side of the hip.

Adduction – when the thigh bones moves across our mid-line.

External Rotation – when the thigh bone rotates so that the knee points out away from the body.

Internal Rotation – when the thigh bone rotates so that the knee points in toward the body.

Do you move your hips through all these ranges in a deliberate manner daily?  Chances are that you don’t and by limiting the range of motion and freedom of your hips the cascade effect of compensatory patterns and the insidious onset of pain occurs.

To help mitigate this terrible outcome, I’m going to provide you with one simple dance that takes just seconds to perform to keep those hips greased and mobile daily.  Whether you’re young, old or currently experience some form of discomfort, this little jig has got you covered.  I have to give full credit to Kevin Darby, strength coach/educator extraordinaire and the authority in Canada for Fascial Stretch Therapy, as I picked this up from his playbook.

You can read this description, but the video provides a clear and easy visual as well as instructions.  While my mother is from South America, you’ll see that I clearly didn’t inherit those well greased dance hips often associated with South American populations.  Enjoy!

The Dance:

Step 1:  Take one foot and plant it to the ground.  Remember, plants don’t move so this foot will stay where it is for the whole dance as we maneuver around it.

Step 2: Take your other foot and step forward. (Planted foot hip is now in extension)

Step 3: Take that same foot and step back. (Planted foot hip is now in flexion)

Step 4: Now take a step across your planted foot to the side. (Planted foot hip is now in adduction)

Step 5: Step over to the other side. (Planted foot hip is now in abduction)

Step 6: Step back over to the other side crossing that planted foot and facing your whole body that way. (Planted foot hip is now in internal rotation)

Step 7: Now step back over to the other side again and rotate your whole body to face that direction without moving that planted foot.  (Planted foot hip is now in external rotation)

Can you see how we’ve just covered all of the primary ranges of motion for our hip?  It’s genius!  You can repeat these steps and each time you go through them as your hip frees up, you can take larger and deeper steps increasing the range of motion.

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Perspectives Training Uncategorized

Avoiding Knee Pain During Hill Training

We have an annual hill climb challenge at Active Life Condition called the Grind.  It’s about a 2.2km trail that ascends 237m up Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ontario.  With this challenge seems to come a sudden increase in the amount of hill climb training volume and in the past, this has led to the surfacing of knee aches and pains.  I wanted to highlight an often-overlooked weakness that can contribute to knee pain to help mitigate these issues.

Often the knee itself isn’t the initial problem but becomes the primary concern when other structures in the body aren’t functioning optimally.  Hips and ankles are the two most common areas that directly effect the health of your knee.  When we look at the biomechanics of a hill climb, due to the incline and increased forward angle of the torso, the demand placed through the hips differs from walking or running on a flat surface.  The force that is driven through the ankle and foot also changes dramatically due to these angles and combining this with the uneven ground surface of a trail, the demand for ankle and foot mobility intensifies as well.  Having the stability and awareness to maintain the proper alignment to channel these forces through your body in the safest most efficient manner is crucial, and what we often see is the poor knee having to take up the slack being sandwiched between rigid or unstable hips and ankles.

The glutes get a lot of attention when it comes to hills or stairs, but I find the hip flexors tend to be a little more overlooked.  With an incline they are required to move the thigh higher into a range of motion often not used and generally weaker.  This leaves them prone to quicker fatigue and compensatory patterns occurring to achieve the hip flexion movement.  The videos below lend an explanation as well as an exercise tip to help create strength within this range.  Remember, this is just one of many things that could be occurring, it’s important look at the big picture, and take everything into consideration.  Enjoy!

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Perspectives Training Uncategorized

Movement tip: Isometric Straight Leg Raise Adduction

In the past I’ve mentioned how I’ve felt that the hip adductors seemed to have been a little neglected with the glute focus that’s been so prevalent in the past few years.  I’m happy to see a lot of higher profile “guru’s” starting to bring them back into the fold again due to their importance in core, pelvic and knee stability.

If we look at their functional anatomy we can see that they play a huge role in core and pelvic stability.  In my experience I’ve found that many patients with deep core dysfunction also have dysfunction with their hip adductors or vice versa.  If you follow the deep front net of Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains, this makes sense as you can see how these structures are interwoven with one another.

In my practice I’ve found a lot of people unable to coordinate this sling which leaves them very vulnerable to back strains or more serious injuries.  In working with a soccer team over the winter months (who won a tournament in Italy in the Spring.  So proud of them!), my colleague and I noticed many of them were giving up a lot of power due to this instability.  This movement prep exercise was discovered to try and help them connect and strengthen this line.  I’ve found it to be quite effective with most populations.  It requires the deep core and hip adductors to work together creating that link.  Give it a try!

Isometric Supine Straight Leg Raise Adduction

  • Attach a large O-band to a secure anchor about knee to mid-thigh height.
  • Lie on your back with body parallel to anchor placing feet inline with the anchor point.
  • Position yourself away from the anchor point at a distance that will provide a challenging tension for you.
  • Loop the O-band around the mid-foot portion of your inside leg.
  • With the band under tension, clamp your body into the ground maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Use your hamstrings and glutes of the outside leg to squeeze into the ground and anchor your sacrum and hips keeping them square with shoulders throughout.  Lock down this position.
  • Ensure that rib cage does not rotate or glide laterally out of alignment with hips.  These are common errors.
  • Start movement by raising inside leg up to about 30-45 degree angle and squeeze in toward mid line of body keeping leg straight with knee and toes point up toward ceiling. Hold contraction for specified time.
  • Slowly release but do not let leg drop before repeating next repetition.

Suggested variables: 

2-3 sets, 4-6 reps of 5-10 second holds per side.