Happy New Year! I know all that sugar and cheese has got you thinking about becoming a workout Queen (or King). Maybe you’re thinking that by the end of January you are going to be working out 5 days a week… heck with that, you're pulling 2-a-days y’all. Good on ya. But first ask yourself some questions.
What was my routine like before the holidays?
If you had a strong fitness routine before the holidays, chances are you can ease back in without too many hiccups. However, if you just coming off a desk job during the week, and binging college football or netflix on the weekends, or *insert wintertime activity*, then you might take pause.
Am I in this for the long haul, or am I going to come on strong and maybe fade off by the time March Madness*insert spring distraction* rolls around?
Usually the first two weeks are the hardest. Energy is low, muscles are sore and it hurts to get in and out of the car, let alone sit down to go the bathroom :x So be understanding to yourself.
Set ridiculously easy goals.
Think about being active twice a week. It adds something to your schedule without overloading it. It gives your body time to recover and hydrate while also gets you use to doing more laundry :P When you start hitting twice a week consistently and can get in and out of chair without too much pain, CELEBRATE! Buy a new sports bra, or some new socks, and then kick it up to 3 days week. And then 4 days week. And then, well, I think you get it.
Remember that life gets busy.
But rather than throwing everything out the window and moving up to the next notch in your belt. Remember that twice a week can still keep you moving in the right direction. Keep twice a week in your life for your health, your mindset, or if you’re me, to at least to avoid the leg numbing soreness.
1. No static stretching before a workout
Congratulations on spending some of your focus on warming up before your activity. Your head is in the right place! But think again. Static stretching (stretching your hamstrings by bending forward and reaching for your toes) elongates muscles without necessarily increasing blood flow. Research shows that static stretching before a workout can actually lead to increased injury. Of course there are exceptions, but think of it as a general rule of thumb.
Dynamic stretching (bear walks, walking lunges, Russian baby makers, etc.), is essentially getting a stretch in while you are moving. This allows you to load your muscles, joints, fascia while moving without putting undo strain on them. The idea is to take your joints through their basic ranges of motion and achieving a little stretch at that end range. Here is the RBM in action:
2. Don't just think about pain - Get screened
While it is true that many people come into my office when they are in bad shape, that does not have to be the case! There are signs of injury (decreased muscle firing, posture asymmetries) long before pain rears its ugly head. Sometimes, by the time pain is present, the damage has been done (tears in soft tissue, disc herniation, etc.).
It takes little to no effort to come in, get a structural and functional exam, and get some insight on how to not only prevent injury, but give your performance a boost. Even if you believe you are firing on all cylinders, there is always room for improvement; Which makes it fun, right?
4. If you are scheduled to get surgery, don’t.
Unless you have to. But don’t.
5. Stop the movement before it starts to hurt and don't skip your mobs
Okay, that is two things. Often times I will hear athletes tell me that their neck felt a little bit off, but it didn’t hurt that bad, so they kept going. Again this is your body asking for help. Stop the movement, do some mobility and basic muscle activation and see if you can resume the movement. If it still hurts, it is time to see a professional.
By the same token, do not workout in pain. Of course many professional athletes and competitors will work out with injuries under the care of a pack of healthcare professionals. They are (hopefully) making a well calculated sacrifice in the name of sport. When you workout in pain, you reinforce those pain pathways in the brain. This is often how injuries become chronic. Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course, however I would check with your local body mechanic (i.e. sports chiro).
6. Let me know what your last workout/ training session was
Tell me what you have been doing with yourself. What was your last workout? Did you feel off or have any soreness? Have you been doing your corrective exercises? Did you have some pain overhead or notice that one shoulder tends to want to travel up into your ears? Did you just get off a 5 hour flight? Keeping me in the loop allows me to hone in and assess you at each visit and give you the most specific adjustments and correctives possible. It is truly a team effort!
Your Sports Chiropractor
Yes, it is true - Even I have a hard time getting myself to roll out of bed to go hit the gym on a Monday morning. I work hard, I do a lot of things, I deserve to rest and relax (and also I love bed). Most people who know me know that fitness is very important to me, so I am often asked how I stay motivated.
Motivation does take some thought, so grab a pencil.
1. Step one is putting on active clothing.
Usually if I can muster enough gusto to put on a bunch of bright spandex, I will then be motivated to travel to the gym. Acquire some workout clothes that you like and that are fun for you to wear. It is true that the uniform can make the man (or human if you will).
2. I work out before I know who I am in the morning.
Like I said, my workout is the first thing that I do for the day. I finally fully wake up about half way through the warm up. (Thank heavens I walk and do not drive to the gym).
There are so many things that can come up throughout the day that can make your workout seem less important. (i.e. dinner, happy hour, laundry, running to the store, last minute meeting, children). Plus, when you have your workout done first thing, whatever else you accomplish that day is a bonus.
3. Think of yourself as a skilled participant in your sport.
If you think of yourself as an athlete or a yoga goddess, you will start to treat yourself like you are. Visualizing the person that you want to be is a good start to help with the other habits that come with exercise such as diet, sleep and hydration.
4. It has to be something you actually enjoy.
This can change. I danced ballet for 20 years and did dance team in grad school. Soon I found myself lifting heavier and heavier in the gym between practices, so I naturally started doing crossfit. After a bout of whiplash left me having a difficult time getting out of bed, suddenly snatches didn’t look so fun. I became a hot yoga devotee for the next year and half. Then, I gained enough stability and I am back to PR-ing my lifts. My fitness has changed so much throughout my life and it will always continue to. You never know when I will get an inkling to get back in the pool and swim some laps, or pretend that I love trail running during the fall months. Your fitness can change just as you do.
5. You gain a community.
Fitness can be performed alone, however if you choose to perform fitness with other people, in my experience, the effect multiplies. (This has even held true for my group meditation experiences). I love group classes. I go harder because I know people around me are going hard too. I am held accountable. If you go to a regular class, people will notice when you are not there and may give you some light digging (only because they want you to succeed). Plus, If you weave fitness and being active into your social fabric, it becomes your way of life.
6. Anchor to something larger than this week.
If I am super failing to release my clutches from my nicely blanketed bed, I force myself to take a look at future Krystal. Future Krystal is 80 years old and kickin butt. She is active daily, travels, reads, and goes on plenty of social outings. 80 year old Krystal lives this way because she gets her butt out of bed in the morning.
Your anchor is going to be something that is personal to you. To create a habit, you have to have reasoning that goes beyond your day to day and perhaps even beyond yourself. Many people want to stay in shape so they can be active with their children or grandchildren. Whatever it is, think of something that you value above all else that goes beyond looking good naked (which doesn’t hurt).
7. Success in fitness parallel success in life.
The mental acuity that is necessary to become disciplined to be active regularly and to refine your body movement will drive you in all areas of your life. When you workout when you don’t want to, when you press on through a workout even though your muscles are depleted, when you take a deep breathe and master a new skill - you expand your drive and realm of experience. You will find that you do not let trivial things bug out your day. When it is Friday afternoon and you’d rather leave early after a long week, you will dig a little deeper and push out another idea.
This concept is better articulated by an exert from a book that comes required reading at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools, "Compelling People" by John Neffinger & Matthew Kohut.
“While we cannot rewire our natural responses completely, we can still create change when we need it through brute force of will. Focus on why the task is important and how it connects to your values and your sense of how you want to be in the world. Then resolve to do it, no matter how it feels. Finally, make yourself do what needs to be done, even if that is not at all what comes naturally to you in the situation.”
In other words, practicing strength, even physical strength and regular fitness, bleeds power and confidence into all areas of life. What better excuse for working out is better than that?
Stay iron willed my friends,
Functional fitness has made a huge impression on fitness culture in a seemingly short amount of time. However, unlike Jazzercise, functional fitness looks like it is here to stay. I believe this to be a good thing. Instead of just jumping around to dance music (which is one of my favorite activities), or lifting weights to bulk out our beauty muscles, professionals everywhere are attempting to be more mindful of how movement affects our bodies and our minds. They are looking to movements that we do in everyday life, like lifting an object, getting out of bed, sitting on a chair, climbing over an object, and breaking them down to basic levels so that we can perform them optimally. These movements can even be broken down to movements that we acquire during childhood development and how these movements affect brain development.
But today we are asking..
“ Is the bicep curl is still cool?”.
In grad school, the bicep curl was the go to exercise, second only to the push-up. I would rise early on a Saturday morning to get to the gym and see men and boys getting a quick pump up in before hitting the pool in sunny Atlanta. A beauty exercise. Aside from bodybuilding, does this exercise have a place in functional fitness?
It depends who you ask.
If you are a lifetime athlete that has been training and performing upper body exercise for years on end, there is probably not much use for the bicep curl in your repertoire. However, with the trend of functional fitness and let’s just say it, CrossFit, there are new specimens of athletes. More and more people that may have not played upper body dominant sports are picking up barbells and kipping their way to pull up and muscle up victory. (The same trend is happening in rock climbing). People are valuing their health more and more and are realizing that movement (be it functional or what you have you) is essential if they want to continue doing the things that they love into old age. And we are living longer AND healthier.
Check this ninja out:
As a result more and more people are walking into my clinic with elbow tendonitis, shoulder injuries, neck strains, you name it - from their newly found and beloved sport. The focus here is an increasing amount of elbow tendonitis & elbow muscle strains. Think about it; You take an individual who uses their arms primarily to lift their cell phone and wipe their… face, and you start having them do pull ups, push ups, snatches, deadlifts - those tendons just aren’t ready.
So there is a place for the bicep curl?
The bicep curl can be a low stress, safe environment to wake up and condition the elbow and the muscles and nerves surrounding the elbow to begin to take on new stresses. However, as with anything the site of pain is rarely the problem. If people who begin these new sports aren’t using their elbows with proficiency, chances are that they are not using their shoulders well either. If you cannot execute proper shoulder movement, guess who gets punished - the middle guy - your elbow.
As with any new exercise regimen, perfect and calculated form always win the race. Oh, and finding a coach or clinical athlete that will support you in that approach. It is way worth your time and investment for your new found athletic endeavor.
In the meantime you can sell your tickets to the gun show,
First, let’s define an athlete (roughly).
ath·lete ˈaTHˌlēt/ noun: athlete; plural noun: athletes
Thank you, internet.
While some of us may fancy ourselves athletes, others are active merely as a health staple: heart health, brain health, weight loss, tapping the brakes on aging, etc. Still, others have more of a weekend warrior approach. Whether you consider yourself an athlete or not, you are a human that uses movement to heave yourself around this planet. So, we should move proficiently, right?
Let's Start With Standing - Here we will go over six hallmarks to ensure proper footing.
1. Foot Placement
The most common stance I see outside the office is the duck foot position. This position occurs when both feet are angled outward or away from each other. This stance puts uneven forces on the knees and may result in overpronation. Overpronation occurs when the feet have a tendency to roll inwards, which can lead to bunion formation, abnormal callous formation, and even arthritis.
And guess what, if you are standing like a duck, you are running like a duck as well.
This means that as you are pounding the pavement all of those abnormal forces are being transferred up to your hips, knees, and low back. Knees hurt? Check your stance.
The feet should be parallel to one another. If you picture the foot without toes, it looks like a rectangle. You want to put even an distribution of weight on each corner of the rectangle. I may explain it a little better IRL:
Mattresses Have a Bad Rap
How "comfortable" a mattress is does not determine how well it supports your body. Before you run out to buy the mattress that makes you feel like you're sleeping on a cloud, followed by you setting a small money pile on fire next to it - heed this message.
The Exception: The Slouchy Mattress
We have all seen this mattress. This is the mattress that doesn't quite have a shape. Or the mattress that seemingly looks rectangular, but then deceptively folds in two when you sit on it. This is not the mattress for you. If your mattress has you slowly being swallowed into a cocoon when you lie on it, that is not good news for you body. If you are lucky or unlucky enough to have a sleeping partner, you do not want to be slowly falling towards the center of mattress throughout the night, eventually ending up smashed up against one another - unless that works for you.
The Real Culprit: Inactivity
Showering, riding the bus, or brushing your hair do not count as activity. All of the joints in your body must be articulated in every range of motion that they are able to. This helps you keep the integrity of the joint. In other words, if you do not move it, you lose it, and then you degenerate which brings you - you guessed it: pain.
Inactivity's Friend: Poor Posture
If you are Mr. or Ms. Slouchy McSloucherson all day, and then you attempt to lie flat for (hopefully) 8 hours every night, how do you expect your body to react? That aching, nagging low back feeling is telling you that you're doing it wrong.
What Getting Vertical Really Does
Resting your body at night is a good thing. In fact, we require it. When we lie down for sleep it allows water and nutrients to rush into your disc. This is good because your discs do not have a blood supply, so normally the only way they get nutrients is through movement or when we get horizontal. There are more details about how the discs in our back operate here.
If your back is unhealthy and your discs have degenerated, when you lie down at night water flows into the disc and it will make your discs swell. This makes your joints angry and they will be sure to let you know in the morning as you try to get out of bed. This is most common for people with osteoarthritis.
The Truth - Growth Hormone
The truth about sleep is that it is amazing, right? The whole idea is that we rest and heal up from the labor, and sometimes stress, of our day. And that is exactly what happens. Growth hormone is released at night. This little hormone is often regarded as the "fountain of youth" for the amount of repair and growth it yields in our bodies. It is because of these properties that growth hormone has the potential for abuse as well, but the jury is still out on that.
What do I do then?
Fix your life. Start a 5 minute daily yoga practice. Treat your body better. Go see a body & brain specialist (i.e. a chiropractor) and get yourself healing right so your body can benefit from the hours of the day when the higher centers of your brain are turned off (also known as sleep).
Lying Down For Success
There are things you can do to get in the most ergonomic position for sleep. (Hint: This does not include the popular fetal position). If your body is going to stay in a sleeping position for several hours/ all night, it should be supported, right? Watch the video below for 3 tips to get you in a better sleeping position. If you like it, share!
Sleep well, my friends,
We have all heard it.
People shrink as they get older.
But what does that mean?
Why does it happen?
Is there anything we can do to stop it?
I, for one, do not want to shrink. I am six feet tall, and I never want to have to tell anyone that I am anything under that. (I may be 5'11 3/4). Shhh.
I am going to tell you how people shrink.
We all walk around the world on 2 legs (hopefully), while swinging our arms, which are all connected to our spine. The vertebra, or bones of the spine, are designed to protect your spinal cord, like armor. This is good thing as it is through this cord that your brain is able to communicate with your body.
However, the bones of the spinal cord MUST be able to move separately and independently of each other so we can do complex motions like twist, bend, kick a soccer ball, and get dressed in the morning. Your discs are like these shiny, hydrated shock absorbers that are located between each of your spinal bones to cushion them as you move about the world and your life.
What happens as we go through all of the things we go through in life - aging, poor posture, car accidents, traumatic birth, work/ relationship related stress, having your brother punch you in the face while you jump on the couch together when you are 6 years old (That last one may be a personal story) - What happens as all of these events happen in your life is that the bones in your back become locked up and stop moving. This is known as a subluxation.
At this point, you may or may not have pain. One of the things that happens when you have a subluxation, is that the disc in between the spinal bones that have stopped moving, starts to have fluid leech from it. This happens because the disc is avascular, meaning that it does not receive any blood flow. No blood = no water & no nutrients.
So how does the disc survive then?!?
Your shiny disc shock absorbers receive nutrients from movement. So when your spinal bones stop moving, your disc gets dehydrated and starts to degenerate. I am sure you know and have seen an older person that has started to hunch forward with age - This is how we shrink.
The sad thing is that I see teens and young professionals with this posture as well! Our smart phones are keeping us super connected, but wreaking havoc on our posture and our height.
Are you headed for a life as a shorter adult? Learn how to check your posture and see if you have it under control after watching here:
Stay tall, my friends.
This is a good thing, right? I mean collectively as a culture we have recognized that smoking was/ is contributing to much disease and suffering within our cultural framework and have actively taken steps to discontinue its use. Albeit that habit and addiction are a tough thing for people to beat.
So how is sitting the new smoking? A study done by the American College of Sports Medicine found that those whose work involved mostly standing/ walking about, had a 32 percent decrease risk of early death than those who worked in sitting jobs. Our sedentary life, social, commuting, and work styles are feeding the amount of lifestyle disease and depression that is widespread in our country; Mostly because we were not built for it. We were never designed to sit hour to hour, minute to minute, in a fixed position as we draft emails, study in lectures, travel in automobiles, or watch football for hours on end. We were made to get up every day, to forage for or grow food, and hunt to support our families and carry on our evolutionary genes.
Our body is made of various materials, all of which are fixed to, intertwined, and dynamically connected with fascia. Think of fascia as this spider web material that is easily molded and tapered with every movement. This fascia is what enables us to move all of our individual muscles, bones, nerves, arteries, veins as a singular vessel - Our Body.
If we spend a majority of our time in one position, our bodies will become molded tn that position. This leads to decreased mobility. Decreased mobility translates to poor movement strategies which leads to poor quality of life.
How can you gauge how sitting is affecting your life?
Pain, or lack of health, is one way to know that you are not moving enough. But, we do not want to wait until warning signs show up to take action for our health do we? We must be proactive here.
The Sit to Stand and Stand to Sit Test
To perform this test you simply evaluate how you go from a standing position to sitting position on the floor, and from sitting to back to standing. The goal is to perform these motions in one fluid movement without the use of knees, hands, or props. Sound impossible? View a demonstration of the test below.
If you perform the test as demonstrated, you receive 5 points for standing to sitting, and 5 points for sitting to standing, totaling 10 points. Then, subtract one point for every form of assistance used: hand, knee, hand on knee, chair, etc. (Minus half a point if there is a sudden plop to the ground from standing to sitting).
Researchers out of Brazil monitored 2,000 people and they found that there is a high correlation between your point system and your longevity of life. For every point you have you experience a 21% increase in longevity. Neat huh?
Try it out and post your results here.
Social change begins with ourselves. Self awareness is the first step. Encourage your friends and loved ones to try out the test. If they do not like their score, encourage them to move more with you.
Dr. Drwencke is a sports chiropractor, speaker, & clinical athlete in San Francisco. Her posts reflect some of the day to day interactions and questions from patients and clients. Dr. Drwencke strives to empower people through injury rehab and sports performance to lead healthy, productive lives.