Shouldering my Shoulders

The shoulders are a fascinating complex! We certainly take them for granted and expect them to do as we wish: driving, carrying groceries, picking up kids, typing, grabbing food from the shelf, reaching from something in the back of the car, drinking a glass of wine, washing our hair, weight lifting [any form of exercise for that matter] and the list goes on.

When we get a twinge in the shoulder we tend to cOoKiE cUt the issue blaming it on a particular muscle and giving it a specific mobilization, treatment, and/or exercise. “I will stretch the pec minor because that’s the problem”. That’s great! I do it too. In fact, I do it a lot because it can absolutely help! I would just like to add one more piece of vital information about the shoulders. Natural, whole body movement is a necessity and requirement to “reset”, “restore” and ultimately provide “lifelong health” to our shoulders.

The brilliant ancient movement of walking is the answer Yes, by walking everyday your shoulders will feel the love. It takes more than a few days! You need patience and persistence. The contralateral movement of the arms set the perfect amount of balance between lengthening and strengthening the tissues around the shoulders. Repeated again in a different way: The natural swing of the arms allows the use of your shoulders as designed in perfect harmony.

“But I hate walking!” I can relate. You wouldn’t catch me dead in high school walking. I was a runner and I would do anything but walk: rollerblade, skate, run, bus, hop, skip, skateboard. Actually, I didn’t start really ‘walking’ until my 30’s because I didn’t believe it served me any purpose. If only I could go back in time… I would make sure to incorporate walking as part of my daily activities not only for my own better body movement including my shoulders but also to help with sport recovery. It truly is incredible!

Note: There is a caveat regarding walking. It means you do it with the appropriate shoes (no high heels), nothing in the hands or arms (no leashes, no loved ones hands, no waterbottles or iPods), no bouncing up and down, no race walking. It is simply your arms swinging normally, as in ‘au naturel’ with no frills. One day you can walk 10 minutes and another day 80 minutes. You can do 5 X 5 minutes or 5 hours straight (although I wouldn’t recommend it if you haven’t done the lead up). Also think about varying the environment for the feet and body (hills, flats, grass, sand, pavement, track, rocks, etc). Have fun!

A Shitty Affair

[If you are easily offended or disgusted by human fecal matter please do not read this!]

Have you ever left skids marks after dropping the kids off at the pool? {For those untainted ears that means have you ever soiled your undies slightly after going poo}. Don’t lie 🙂 It’s a trend with men and women, boys and girls. I’m not talking about when you are sick and are excreting nasties from both ends where it’s hard to keep up. I’m talking about day to day toilet activities. One thing we have in Western civilization is toilets that require people to sit as if they are sitting on a chair. From today’s standards this seems perfectly logical and safe. Unfortunately, the toilet industry is just as pervasive as the food industry (i.e. government food guidelines) in the sense that neither is that great for your health.

Sitting at the toilet prevents you from fully excreting your stool. Yes! That means you never 100% dump it out. Your puborectalis muscle CANNOT fully relax when you are sitting- the ONE muscle needed to release the stool in the first place. This is why many people make sound effects, have grimaces, stop breathing and hold on to their butt cheeks to help relieve themselves. It’s also why the drug industry worldwide is making kazillions of dollars on people’s issues (hemorrhoids, appendicitis, colitis, constipation, colon cancer, tears, pelvic floor difficulties, etc).

Imagine if all you had to do was squat to solve your problems…. WAIT. Yes! Just squat. 😉

*PSA- There is a small percent of people that will need to do more than this of course!

Are you murdering your pistols?

Do you wear lifting shoes (or anything other than flats) to do pistols? Do you cheat by using your forefoot and toes instead of your heels? Are you having trouble even performing pistols? BE honest. I’m not hear to judge. Trust me, I just figured out how to do them yesterday.
Many articles have been written and videos taped regarding the “how to’s”; but, every single one of them completely negate one simple fact. People have forgotten how to use their butts and hamstrings (a.k.a. the posterior chain) all day everyday so they have a ridiculously hard time trying to use them while exercising/ training (like in crossfit or anything else for that matter).
Are you one of those people?
Here is a straightforward test to tell. Stand up with barefeet, ensure both feet are underneath your hips and your toes are pointed forward, your pelvis is neutral and your legs are STRAIGHT (meaning you are 100% NOT bending at the knees). Make sure you’re actually doing this properly otherwise the entire purpose of the assessment is lost. The pelvis can be tricky to put in neutral [i.e. what the heck does that mean?]. Touch your crouch bone (pubic symphysis- look at first image) and the front of your pelvis on either side (ASIS- anterior superior iliac spine- look at first image) seeing to it that both (ASIS and pubic symphysis) are on the same line, vertically staked (see the profile picture of the pelvis). Once your pelvis is set while standing tall [relax your ribs all you rib thrusters!] and legs straight => raise and lower your kneecaps. Translation please: Contract your quads to raise your kneecaps, then completely relax your quads to allow them to fall. There ought to be zero tension in the quads whilst the kneecap is relaxed.
Can you raise and lower your kneecaps (without cheating)? Most people deceive themselves, thinking- I can do it, I can do it!- so have someone else look at you while doing it. Any form of altered body movement is a telltale sign that you are a quad dominant person all day everyday while standing, walking, stepping, moving. PERIOD. We have patterned our neuromuscular network to basically mess up our bodies. Unreal!!!
On a positive note you can change it. YES! Just relax your kneecaps. Hahahaha. I’m funny! Easier said than done right? Firstly MOST people have super stupid ‘tight’ hamstrings. Having the antagonistic muscles tight (hamstrings) to the agonist muscles (quadriceps) will make it crazy hard to to relax the quads. Several times a day stretch, roll, mobilize, voodoo floss, go through ranges of motion for your hamstrings (as much as possible NOT including the time you are in the gym/box doing your workout. That doesn’t even count!). After the hammie stretches you can do this routine: start by sitting on the ground with the legs out in front of you to see if you can raise and lower your kneecaps. Then start standing up while hinging at the hips so you have less ‘strain’ on the quads to raise and lower your kneecaps. As it gets easier slowly start standing up to a ‘normal’ standing position. Finally when you can do that then try and walk! Or stand up from a seated position! Or step up stairs all the while relaxing your kneecaps and not dominating with your quads. Your quads are on your body for good reason but NOT to muck it up!
You might say “Whatever! I can do pistols but I can’t raise and lower my kneecaps. Screw this!” As you wish. I’m just letting you know your risk of injuries to your body significantly increases to areas such as the knees, hamstrings, pelvic floor and the pelvis (just to name a few) …. in addition to more pressure placed on the toes and forefeet equating to other forms of impairment. Maybe not today or tomorrow but down the road.
Just imagine if you properly engaged your hamstrings and glute muscles all day everyday how much easier working out would be? How much more you could lift? How much easier pistols would be? How much less aches and pains you would have in your body before, during and after a workout? Yup, that’s right.
The next time you do a pistol take your shoes off and emphasize using the heel part of your foot so you can activate your posterior chain (let go of using your forefeet and toes). If you can’t do a pistol like this, then continue on with barefeet or flat shoes – always focusing on the heels- and go back to progressions using a box or strap or whatever it is you like using. Far better for your body to learn to move better in the long run than to wreck havoc with your tissues, causing injury and weakening your chances of those extra few kilos of a PB while lifting!

 

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Take responsibility for your body

I love moving! My entire life has revolved around physical activity and sport. It’s fun, challenging and keeps me out of trouble. As a person with common sense I know there is an inherent risk of injury when participating in such ventures… as there is risk in everything we do on a daily basis. All of us subconsciously assess risk 24/7 from walking across the street, changing lanes while driving, taking a step up the stairs, sipping a hot drink and of course while engaging in sport.

The past 15 years (and even more drastic, the past 5 years) I have noticed an extreme shift in who is to blame for accidents in sport/physical activity. I use the word blame because some participants [I am only taking about adults not youth in sport- that’s an entirely different set of rules] actually believe that they have no culpability in the act. What do I mean? Here’s a simple story:

Three weeks ago I injured myself jumping up and down from a 30’ inch box. I love box jumping because it’s easy for me and it is part of what I do in sport at this particular moment. I wasn’t paying attention for a split second and missed the box with my feet. In that instant, it just so happened my right shin hit the box instead. Oops! My mistake. It was an accident. Yes, an accident. I went to the hospital, got my stitches, took drugs for a few days and healed up nicely after a couple of weeks. It IS as simple as that.

A few days after my incident I was speaking to someone about my leg and she was horrified. She wanted to know if the gym paid for my hospital bills and gave me some sort of compensation. I laughed. I honestly could not believe the thought process. For those of you that are on a certain mindset that ‘blame everyone but yourself for your mistakes’ I am here to tell you TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your body. The box did not jump at me, I was not forced to do this workout, I am aware that anything I do takes a fundamental risk. No matter what you do in life, ultimately responsibility ends with you. When shit happens, LAUGH it off and move on… otherwise it will take a hold of you.

Me at the hospital before getting stitched up!

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Heart Rate Training Part V

 

I need to use my HR monitor every time I train! Not true. When you are ridiculously tired or stressed [other reasons are in Part II] just try the “Talk Test”.

That is stupid!~ some people might say. Contrary to what you may think a lot of research has been done relating to the “Talk Test”. It showed that when people had significant difficulty with their talking, they were at/ or very close to their lactate threshold [where muscles can no longer metabolize and remove lactic acid as it builds during exercise].

So the next time you go running, you can leave your HR monitor at home and try the “Talk Test”.

Easy: carrying on a conversation with no effort

Medium: having to pause for breath after a sentence (or two or three)

Hard: cannot carry on a conversation (just maybe a few words here or there)