Tagged: advice

Rules of the Body

Jill Miller, who is the inventor of a program called Yoga Tune Up, recently revealed on her blog about a month ago that she needs a total hip replacement.  At the age of 45.  Now, she has been absolutely instrumental in helping many, many people discover a modality that can really help irritated tissue and brought it to the main stream.  The story, however is what I want to bring your attention to today.

What was telling about her first blog post, which you can find HERE (and I’ll link to the second part HERE) is that she felt nagging pain not only for most of her life but for the past seven years.  Until recently she didn’t bother to have it looked at because she was worried about surgery for personal reasons.  That’s fine.

This is one of the most respected and knowledgeable (from an anatomy standpoint) body teachers IN THE WORLD and even she ignored her symptoms.  We all do it, from your fellow office worker to high level athletes who want to keep competing.

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This is all too common with athletes.

“I’m okay, I just need to stretch.”  “I’ll start using my therapy ball.”  “I’ll take a couple of weeks off from running and everything will be fine.”  And then we go back to doing the same thing that caused the problem in the first place and are suddenly surprised when the issue comes back – and worse.

Just this week another client of mine’s husband after almost a year of pain finally decided to go to the doctor and get checked because his knee wouldn’t stop failing and buckling.  My prediction is either a torn ACL or a severely torn meniscus (or both).  The problem is that he’s been walking around on it for the better part of a year without any treatment or attention, and likely it’s gotten a lot worse.  This might mean that something that could have been helped with therapy before might need surgery now.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Your body isn’t stupid.

Pain, collapse, restricted range is a signal that something is wrong.

The sooner you figure it out and fix it the better off long term you will be.

If you have water coming into your basement, you figure out where it is coming from and plug the leak.  You don’t sit there and wait for it to subside, clean it up and then wait for it to happen again.  Mold sets in.  The leak might get bigger.  Other things can come into play that make a simple leak a catastrophe.  Your body is no different.

When your body is subjected to stress, it responds to it.  This can result in either stronger muscles, or deterioration and loss of integrity.  A large part of my job is finding out the perfect balance between just enough and too much load, stress or torque on joints.  You need to consider your body as a whole and what loads it is being subjected to daily, weekly and annually to really figure this out.

And in case you’re wondering, sitting is a load.  Driving is a load.  Weight training is a load.  Yoga is a load.  I remember when I sat through the Yoga Tune Up course (I did not certify because I have no desire to be a yoga instructor) and a room full of body practitioners looked at me like I had two heads when I suggested that yoga poses – especially extreme ones – are still heavy forces through joints.  They are, in case you’re wondering.  Jill Miller says that herself in her articles.  Years ago I wrote a post about why a downward dog is downright dangerous for most people.  It’s HERE.

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Is this good for your hip socket?

One big fundamental rule I teach my clients is that they should walk out of a workout feeling better – not worse.  This means they are far more likely to have had an appropriate level of stimulus and will have a better long-term response.  They won’t get worse, they will get better.  Isn’t that the whole idea?

The point of this is that nobody is invulnerable to the rules of the body, even people who have spent their whole life practicing something that is supposedly therapeutic.  Don’t assume that if you have a problem that things like stretching and pounding yourself with a yoga ball is the answer.  It might just make things worse over time.  Seek out someone who knows the rules of the body and can identify a proper strategy to bring your body back into balance and stop overloading tissue.

So the next time you work out, try taking a step back.  Are you pushing through pain?  Have you had a problem for a while and have been ignoring it?  Take a really close stock and tell yourself that you should probably get that taken care of before subjecting your body to even more stress.

Because nobody wants a hip replacement at the age of 45.  At least I don’t.

Feel free to message me or find me on social media if you have something you would like to identify or a question.  Injuries and providing solutions are what I deal with every day.

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Why Walking Doesn’t Cut It

When I’m driving my kids to school and heading to work, I see a ton of people out in the mornings for a walk.  Sometimes with an animal, and sometimes holding a set of Nordic poles.  Enjoying nature, and getting in a great workout, right?  Well, as with anything – it depends.

The top thing I hear from potential clients who are overweight and want to lose weight and get more active is “well, I walk.”  The invention of the FitBit and devices like it have made getting in 10,000 steps a day a bit of a craze.  And I’m all for people getting more active and healthier, but for the majority of people who really want results like weight loss, more strength and pain reduction, simply going for a walk isn’t going to get you there very quickly, and here’s why:

Walking Isn’t Intense Enough

To change the body, you need to provide a stimulus that is beyond what you normally do.  Now, most people will think walking for 20 minutes is great – and if it’s more than you normally do it might be.  However, most people simply go for a stroll at lunch and expect to lose weight.  Simple math will tell you that this walk burns 140 calories, which is replaced as soon as you eat an apple.  Even five days a week the calorie equivalent is basically one good solid hour long workout of high intensity.  This is again, better than nothing, but please don’t expect any miracle weight loss.

Nordic walking at 4 MPH (which is quite fast for most people) burns 220 calories in 30 minutes.  This is with the added pole movement.  It feels great – and can be excellent for your mental health – but for fitness it is a bit lacking.

Walking will make you better at – walking.  Unless you’re getting your heart rate up significantly you’re not getting any cardiovascular improvement.  Unless you’re performing some body weight movements along the way (which is very easy to do) you’re not getting any strength improvements.  So, what’s the benefit?  One might be getting away from a seated position for a little while and destressing in the outdoors, but this again won’t give you any benefits for strength or weight loss.

People Use It To Justify Overeating

The amount of times I’ve heard “well, I went for a walk” at Starbucks while a person digs into a caramel latte could fill ten books.  It’s the equivalent of the ladies who do Zumba or Aquafit at the gym and then promptly order a sugar loaded smoothie at the juice bar (often because they think it’s healthy – thanks, smoothie bar owners), instantly replacing every calorie they just burned.  Plus, because they went to the gym that day I’m sure an extra glass of wine is fine at dinner.  And then they wonder why they aren’t losing weight.  Unless you’re paying attention to your nutrition weight loss simply isn’t going to happen.  It’s a massive part of the equation.

This does not mean that you need to severely restrict your diet!  There are simple changes you can make to support your new healthy habits (read my article HERE if you want some tips).  You can still enjoy social time with friends and drink green tea or something that isn’t loaded with calories.

It’s Easy to Overdo It

I deal with overuse injuries on a daily basis.  In fact, just because I spent the past weekend in Toronto and walked everywhere even my joints are a bit stiff today.  If you suddenly take yourself from zero to a hundred without any progression then it’s easy to run into problems in your hips, knees and feet and ankles quite quickly.  Then you get discouraged and stop.  Many people join a group or start walking way too far way too soon because “it’s just walking”.  It’s still loaded movement and repetition.  The last thing we want is for you to get discouraged or injured before you even start, and walking is one of the chief culprits for this.  Don’t even get me started on running.

So What are your Solutions?  Again, there are some easy ways to ramp up something as simple as a walk and it doesn’t mean you have to run, enter an idiotic boot camp or kill yourself.  In fact, for beginning exercisers this is a recipe for disaster.

It’s fairly simple to increase the intensity of a simple walk into something that will provide some results:

Get Your Heart Rate High, Even For Short Intervals

Studies show that increasing your heart rate to over 83% of your maximum for even four minutes can have a remarkable effect on your heart and lungs.  This doesn’t mean you need to run – simply walk faster and with deliberate speed.  It won’t take long for your heart rate to increase to the point where you are getting out of breath and you feel your muscles burning.  Then stay there.  Use the timer on your phone or other device and hold onto that level for 3-5 minutes.  Even one minute has an effect, you just have to do more intervals.  This is called interval training and it’s been proven to be the most effective method for increasing heart and lung capacity.

Add Some Strength Work

People seem to think that strength training is this horrible thing you need to do in a gym.  Almost daily I provide simple isometric exercises for people they can do literally anywhere against a wall.  In your office, at home or even at the gym with zero equipment required you can still generate strength.  Do me a favour right now and find a wall.  Stand with your back to it, rotate your foot out and left the side of your foot into the wall.  Feel your butt fire?  Great – push a bit harder and hold it for 30 seconds.  Hang onto something if you need to for balance.  You just gave your glute a workout.  Most people while walking barely use their glutes at all because of the motion they are doing – so do this simple isometric (and a few others) in between those interval bouts – and give yourself some strength work at the same time.

All day long you’re going to pick things up, put them down, rotate your trunk, sit, sprint for the bus and many other things that need joint strength.  It’s easy to add this into your daily walk with isometrics or bodyweight movements.

This may seem like a simple breakdown – because it is!  Taking something like walking as a healthy habit and turning it into something much more effective over time isn’t difficult.  If you’re trying to introduce this into your life, feel free to reach out for more detailed suggestions.  I have an entire isometric at home system that I can share with you.

And, as always feel free to comment, tweet, add me to Facebook and reach out if you need anything!

5 Nutrition Basics You’re NOT Doing

I have clients who constantly talk to me about nutrition.  I’m not an expert (even though my first certification ever 17 years ago was in nutrition) and usually will refer out if someone is looking for specific advice.  Meal plans can be found readily online (for free, don’t know why people pay money for them), but people simply don’t stick to them.

However, there are some universal nutrition items that come up in everyone I deal with who is trying to lose weight or change their body composition.  These are some harsh truths, but I hope they resonate with you.  It’s nothing complicated.  As with exercise, people obsess about the last 10% when they should be focused on the first 90 for real results.  These are simple fixes and don’t take a lot of effort to adjust, but the results in a period of time can be staggering.

Here’s a quick list of 5 nutrition basics that you’re probably NOT doing:

You DON’T eat vegetables, or enough of them.

Most of us default to vegetables being a second thought when it comes to what goes on our plate.  It’s a side at a restaurant that isn’t even considered beyond what kind of topping you’ll get on your baked potato.  We will also eat fruit instead of vegetables and consider that just fine because it’s the same thing.  Well, it’s not.

Fructose is more easily converted into fat – if you’re overeating, which most of you are.  If you’re eating within your caloric energy requirements then it gets converted into blood sugar like any other carb and you use it for energy.  However, if you want to remove that small risk (and greatly reduce your calories to boot) try changing out your banana for some carrot sticks or celery.  1 large banana is 140 calories and a cup of carrot sticks is 50.

You don’t get rid of starchy carbs when you can. 

“Hey, instead of the pasta or mashed potato side can you just double my vegetables or give me some rice?”  said nobody in any restaurant EVER.  They will do it, by the way all you have to do is ask.  This falls under the heading of portion control.  One small serving of (1 cup) ravioli can be 200 calories and a cup of broccoli is 30.  In a restaurant where you can actually control what they make and that you are PAYING FOR is where most people don’t limit the choices they should.

When was the last time a restaurant gave you a portion that was 1 cup?  Again, never.  This leads to overeating.  If you now look at menu items in a typical restaurant you will see how loaded they are in calories (thank God for that) and that you can eat literally half and be just fine.

You don’t limit your added sugar intake.   

One of my clients’ husbands literally took one step and started drinking his coffee black instead of double double at Tim’s.  He dropped 8 pounds in two months DOING NOTHING ELSE.  Traps like specialty coffees at Starbucks or protein smoothies which are touted as good for you are the worst culprits.  I can’t count the amount of women who would do a group exercise class and then head down to the front desk for a “healthy” smoothie loaded with frozen yoghurt, replacing every calorie they just burned plus extra and wondered why they weren’t losing weight.

There is hidden sugar in many things we consume all the time, so adding more into it isn’t a good idea especially since again – more sugar in the blood gets converted to stored fat FIRST.  Believe it or not, if you eliminate it for a couple of weeks you may go through withdrawal.  That’s how prevalent it is in many things.

You don’t track your calories.  Honestly.

Fitbits and other wearable devices have made exercise accountability easy and mindless.  If only there was something you could do to track your calories.  Oh wait, there is!  There’s probably about 100 apps you can load onto your phone, and god forbid you have to type something into a database and press a couple of buttons.

Many of my clients complain it’s too hard and I give them my patented withering look.  It takes five minutes a day.  Literally.  Delay the Netflix queue and input it and BE HONEST.  If you had a handful of M+M’s at work, that goes in there.  If you had sugar in your coffee or a glass of wine, it goes in there.   You don’t stop recording on the weekend because “you were bad” and feel guilty.  This is called self control and consistency, both of which are exactly what you need to lose weight.

You indulge “once in a while”. 

Be honest with yourself.  If you were, you would realize that the reason your weight isn’t under control is because you reward yourself and indulge way too often.  Once a week MIGHT be fine for some people, for many it isn’t if you have a serious goal and a commitment.  If you’re exercising intensely several times a week (which again, most of you aren’t – be honest) then you can get away with more.

That means ONE drink at Starbucks, not 3-4 times a week.  That means ONE decadent dessert a week, not a couple of cookies every night.  It means getting in touch with the reasons you’re eating the stuff, not just eliminating it.  All those brownies, chocolate, sodas, restaurant food and French fries add up over time.  And it takes time to eliminate them.  Yes it tastes good.  And yes, it helps when you’re stressed or feel like you need a hit to calm you down or feel better.  But if it’s contrary to your goals then just STOP.  Take a good look at your habits and figure out what patterns you have or what your relationship with food is and adjust it accordingly.  Easier said than done I know, but it is the right step to take if you want to get your weight and health under control.

There you have it. 

Did any of these resonate with you?  Maybe more than one of them?  Well, the best time to start a new habit is today.  Don’t worry about days past and failed diets and bad things you have done previously.  Today you can start a new habit.  Start with the five items here and work on them and I can guarantee that you’ll be in a better place months from now.  Get CONSISTENT.

As always, if you enjoyed this feel free to share and like it, or subscribe to my Facebook page.  Comments are also always welcome.

Starting at the Beginning

Recently I took a course in NeuroKinetic Therapy, which was a great weekend of learning.  Not only did I get to experience a great new modality to help my clients but I found out some things about myself.

As practitioners we often overlook little flaws in what we do because we think we know everything.  My strength levels are good, my mobility is excellent and I have a great amount of power and endurance.  A funny thing happened though.

When I got my deep abdominal layer tested it was a MASSIVE fail in one area.  Having the humility to analyze that made me realize that I had to go back to the drawing board and rebuild what I had been working on for my own workouts.  And this meant going right back to some very basic exercises that I had been overlooking for years.

One of my roles as a coach is to remind people of basic fundamentals, and I spend a lot of my time during sessions doing just that.  Reminding people to slow down, focus on form, even adjusting loads constantly to create the ability to control muscles and joints.  More often than not my athletes have overlooked that if they can’t do A properly, then they have no business doing B.

So here’s the question I ask people – are you good enough at the simple fundamentals before you jump into more advanced things when it comes to your training?

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I’ll give an example of my runners.  So many runners are notorious for simply strapping on their shoes and going out for runs without having strong lower limbs or backs and then wonder why they are constantly getting hurt.  My runners get trained like powerlifters in the gym because their bodies HAVE to be able to take a large amount of load constantly.  This means they need to be able to have strong backs and hips which means great form during heavy lifting.  Then, they need to be able to run short distance consistently day after day with good form and recovery principles in place before expanding their distance and speed.  This takes months for many of them, not days or weeks.

If your goal is to deadlift heavy weight, can you even get into lifting position (ie a fairly deep squat) without compromising your spine first?  Have you worked on basic position fundamentals enough to then be able to load the bar and try some controlled repetitions?Practice this first and make sure you have it down.

If your goal is to play a sport, can you do the basics like push hard anaerobically for 45 seconds without getting completely winded repeatedly and losing form during your movement?  No?  Maybe you need to focus on just doing hard repeats before getting back on the ice or track.

Or, if your goal is simply to get into a good exercise habit, can you perform some basic bodyweight movements – at home – for 10 minutes every other day and establish a habit before you even think about joining a gym?  This can also take weeks for some people.  And before you say an excuse, remember that it’s only 10 minutes.  Drop one episode of Netflix or don’t hit the snooze button.

If you have tried to change things in the past and keep going back, sometimes it takes a complete step back to the very start and beginning there again before you move forward.  for many this requires some humility, but if it will get you to your long term goal faster and without hurting yourself then it is worth the investment.  Nothing in life comes without some hard work over time, and this is usually months, not days or weeks.

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So my lesson today is to take a look at your program and maybe take a step back if you’re not seeing progress or you have gotten out of a good habit.  Break down what you’re really trying to accomplish and begin with the simplest parts.  Once you have mastered that, then you have the right to move onto more difficult parts.

I’m already applying this to my own exercise practice and seeing improvement even after two weeks.  You can easily do the same.

By the way, this doesn’t have to apply to exercise only.  Whether it be work goals, life goals or even family goals starting with simple fundamentals is always the best course of action.

If you need help figuring out where to get started, I’m happy to help.  Reach our at strengthrehabottawa@gmail.com, on Facebook or on Twitter or Instagram @strengthottawa.  I look forward to the opportunity to help you move forward.