Moderation Examples, Not Extreme Behavior to Achieve Your Resolutions

Extreme right wing, extreme left wing.  Extreme heat, extreme cold.  Obesity, anorexia.  Overuse injuries, injuries from underutilization.

When it comes to new health and fitness goals, extremes are way to common for January resolutions.  Waking up at 5:00AM to run 3 miles when you never wakeup before 6:00AM and haven’t run since PE in high school.  Drop 40 pounds on a liquid diet in 15 days, and you barely drink 3 glasses of water per day.  What are the odds of success in these situations?  Not much.

Photo by Charlotte May on Pexels.com

As a fitness industry expert, I have personally gone through different extremes with my body.  None of these extremes have ever lasted long for many reasons.  The body and mind cannot deal with depravation and over training for long periods of time without injuries.  What has lasted is a moderation of healthy lifestyle habits and activities that I enjoy.  The lessons learned from training for a bodybuilding contest and elite level obstacle course races, helps me maintain a fitness level that works for my personality and body type.

  • “I need someone to be super strict with me or I’ll never lose weight.”
  • “I have to workout for two hours every day.”
  • “I’m cutting all carbs from my diet and eating only meat.”

Do any of these statements make you nod your head in agreement?  If so, has that thought process worked for you beyond the length of a program/diet/contest?  If the answer to the first question is yes, the answer to the second is no.  You have reverted back to your previous self and feel like a failure for doing so.  This cyclic behavior is self-destructive and why your resolutions never work every year.

Regardless if you started and stopped already, or haven’t started yet, try a new moderate approach to changing your lifestyle.

  • No alcohol Sunday-Thursday
  • Replace soft drinks with flavored mineral water
  • Join a group to try new physical activities like hiking or cycling

In an article on NPR about a Swedish study on factors that help keep resolutions, ones that are for pleasurable activities instead of depriving are more successful.  Moderation in your lifestyle can lead to better choices overall.  Look at choices about exercise and food changes with an “if I do x, then I adjust y”.  For example, you’re going to dinner with friends on Thursday night.  Adjust your breakfast and lunch choices to allow for anything you want at dinner.  You fully enjoy the outing without guilt and still on track for your goals. 

NPC Physique competition 2014

Life is meant to be lived, not constantly have the fun taken away.  For 6 years I have maintained body fat percentage around 10% or less.  I don’t skip meals, turn down alcohol, or workout excessively.  The hard work was done during the bodybuilding contest prep.  Since then, I learned that is not the lifestyle for me.  Overall, I don’t drink sodas, keep alcohol to the weekends, and don’t buy sugary foods at the grocery store.  Total calories I eat are more than most people daily, the food is just not processed and full of fat. 

2021 doesn’t feel much different so far than 2020.  What you can take into the new year is a more focused view on your health and fitness to strengthen your immunity and reduce risk factors for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.  In turn, you will be happier and have more self-confidence to take on the challenges 2021 will bring you.

For help with your goals, feel free to email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Join the Athlete in the Game of Life Team on my website and receive a free copy of my book!

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On Your Butt and In Pain – From My Book The Athlete in the Game of Life

I have a client who has no choice — she has to sit on the job.

That’s because she’s an amputee who lost her left lower leg in a lawn mower accident as a child. She now works in medicine, assisting surgeries for most of the day and in her office for the remaining hours—and during all that time, she’s sitting. When she started experiencing pain because of it, she came to me. Since I’m a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I was able to assess and work with her in addressing the dysfunction in her hips and hamstrings, the result of prolonged sitting.

Many fitness trainers, however, ignore those particular muscles. They’re used to guys who want to bulk up the upper half of their bodies and women who focus on glutes, quadriceps, triceps, and anything abdominal related. So, I felt gratified and validated when my client showed me an article in a magazine dedicated to helping amputees in all aspects of life. The article suggested all the exercises I had her do in previous sessions to increase mobility and strength in her hamstrings and hips — and she was impressed that I knew to focus on those muscles, since I had never worked with an amputee before.  I told her it was simply a result of all my experience working with executives and other individuals who were relatively sedentary — I learned over time where the physical problems hit the hardest and how to correct those imbalances.

It all centers on the hips. From an evolution standpoint, we weren’t built to sit for long periods of time. Your muscles have to work overtime to support it, and you end up stretching hamstring muscles, tightening your quadriceps and remodeling your hips. Also, nerves can become compressed and common issues such as sciatica (back pain) can occur.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

When you stop sitting and decide to get upright, you’ve got more potential problems on your hands — or more accurately, in your hips. When you go to stand up, you end up trying to put the pelvis back into a standing position and some of these muscles get irritated and strained in the process. Lower back pain is a frequent result. The hips, while often overlooked, are critical to your body’s alignment of your legs and torso. They must be strong to do that job — but sitting weakens them and gravity suddenly becomes your worst enemy. Your legs will collapse inward, put pressure on your kneecaps and eventually cause flat feet.

But at any rate, now you’re standing. When you go ahead and take a step, however, and the hips are no longer strong enough to hold themselves up, you end up with hip pain. Meanwhile, the lower back tries to take some of the burden off the hips — and that’s not good for the lower back. The pain that results travels up the spine and in your neck. And you can also end up throwing out your lower back.

All of this negatively affects your posture, because you’re twisting your muscles into positions they don’t much care for. Those muscles become strained and it creates more weakness in your body.

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

The fact is mobility in the hips is key to movement in all directions. The glutes are the largest muscle of the body and responsible for producing power when you squat, lunge, jump, swing a golf club, pick up a bag of mulch, and all other movements related to bending at the knee and lowering your hips. All those movements become much more difficult when your hips lack the strength and flexibility to function properly. As you grow older, you begin to have basic balance issues and falls are the unfortunate result. I actually see this developing in people as young as their early 40’s!

To order my book, The Athlete in the Game of Life, go to my website mattpeale.com and click the banner at the top. You can also download my free report on back pain to enter for a free signed copy of my book. You win either way!

Reject the Resolutions in 2021!

Reject the Resolutions for 2021!  Am I crazy?  Well, yes, I am to an extent.  At least I now have your attention!

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

Every January is like Groundhog Day for the same resolutions that go unresolved year after year:

  • Lose 20-30 pounds by February 2nd
  • Make 20% more income by March 1st
  • Run a marathon by February 30th

Why do we put ourselves through this process like a bunch of zombies who continue down the same road?  First it starts with a mindset of making small, weekly changes that are enjoyable.  If you don’t have enjoyment in some of the process, you won’t stick to the results.  Second, forgiveness of yourself if a day or two doesn’t go as planned.  You miss a day of exercise and have a piece of cake, so what.  Your resolution isn’t done and over, to wait for another year.  Tomorrow get back on your plan like the previous day didn’t exist.  Third, be a little vaguer in your steps to achieving a goal.  If you’re goal is to lose 20 lbs and you hate jogging and early mornings, don’t set the process to running at 5:30AM, four days per week.  Go hiking (an urban hike around your town also counts) with a friend twice per week at a time that suits your mood and schedule.

Here’s an example of what changing your mindset to a healthy lifestyle looks like:

  • Exercise twice per week
  • Drink water when I’m thirsty instead of soft drinks
  • Join a group for running a 5K

These new plans are FREE, have wiggle room if you miss a day or two, and can have fun in the process.  You may look at this new list and think it’s very doable, that’s the point!  Think about your goals for 2021.  How can you create them to be enjoyable, vaguer, and attainable?  There are many right answers.

Photo by Nina Uhlu00edkovu00e1 on Pexels.com

In a study by Per Carlbring in Sweden, he analyzed two groups who made resolutions.  One group was specific and had support from friends and groups to achieve their goals.  The second group was more uncertain and received minimal to no support from groups and friends.  Believe it or not, the second group was more successful!  55% of the second group’s participants achieved their resolutions.  Another factor that led to a higher success level was trying something new instead of cutting something out, or deprivation.  When you try something new, more happiness is usually involved than depriving yourself of something that previously made you feel good, even if it wasn’t good for you.

Photo by Any Lane on Pexels.com

Make 2021 a year of happiness and enjoyment to becoming healthier and more active.  2020 sucked, we all know and are ready for its continuation to end.  Start today, you don’t have to wait until Monday to add a smile to your daily ritual.  Smiling takes less effort than frowning, remember, and it matches every outfit in your closet!

For more information on how to be healthier and active in 2021, go to my website mattpeale.com, or email me at athleteinthegameofife@gmail.com.  To register for an autographed copy of my new book The Athlete in the Game of Life, download my free report on back reducing back with tips your doctor doesn’t even know.

15 Minutes of Stretching and Strengthening a Day Preserves Your Back and Brain, Guaranteed

The virus rages on across the globe doing exactly what a virus does, spreads and mutates.  What also rages on is the push to work from home and not go back into the office.  Some companies like Google, are offering a split work week to compromise on the benefits of both.  While it’s not my place to opine on how a company needs to manage its workforce, I can take an expert position on what constant connectivity can do to your physical and mental health.

There’s a popular commercial that says, “15 minutes can save you hundreds on your car insurance.”  My phrase says, “15 minutes of stretching and strengthening a day preserves your back and brain, guaranteed.”  How can that be you ask?  Let’s look at this from a simple time standpoint:

  • Hold a stretch for each leg @ 20 seconds each twice a day = 1 minute 20 seconds
  • Perform a strengthening exercise for each leg for 15 reps twice a day = 2 minutes
  • Repeat the sequence for a similar stretch/strengthen on the shoulder area = 3 minutes 20 seconds
  • March in place at your home “desk” for 4 minutes twice a day = 8 minutes
  • Total time is 14 minutes and 40 seconds
Glute bridge activation
Dumbbell scaption

You don’t need a gym, health club, or heavy dumbbells to do any of it.  You can also break it into a morning and afternoon break.  No athletic skill, talent, and coordination is required.  Gender equality also exists because these benefits apply to all HUMANS! 

Here is the research that supports my guarantee:

  • The effects are found across a variety of forms of physical activity, including aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking), muscle-strengthening activity, yoga, and play activities (e.g., tag or other simple low organizational games)*
  • A single bout of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity will reduce blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, improve sleep, reduce anxiety symptoms, and improve cognition on the day that it is performed.*
  • Strong evidence demonstrates that acute bouts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity have a transient benefit for cognition, including attention, memory, crystalized intelligence, processing speed, and executive control during the post-recovery period following a bout of exercise.*
  • The largest positive effects are observed from 11 to 20 minutes after the bout of activity.*
  • *Source: 2018 CDC Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report

I called said insurance company to a quote to reduce my current rate, they couldn’t do it.  On the contrary, when you follow these CDC guidelines in conjunction with specific exercise I can provide you through my programs, you are guaranteed to reduce risk factors for diseases, improve your mood and boost productivity.  For more information on how 15 minutes a day preserves your back and brain, guaranteed, email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com TODAY!

You Have “Text Neck”. Why? Because You’re Staring Down at Your Phone All Day

“Text Neck” is a term coined by Dr. Dean Fishman, after he noticed more and more  people were coming to his office with the same complaint — they all had neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, or numbness and tingling into the upper extremity. This was concurrent with the rapid rise of smartphone usage.

After studying the new phenomenon, it was found that text neck (also called “iHunch” by some) leads to premature wear-and-tear on the spine and degeneration. It’s also become a pretty widespread condition. “It is an epidemic or, at least, it’s very common,” Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine, told The Washington Post. “Just look around you, everyone has their heads down.”[1]

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

You might ask, “So what’s the big deal with putting your head down to check out an email?”

Fair enough. Let’s start with the fact that the typical human head weighs about 12 pounds. And the neck is fine with holding that amount of weight up, it was made to carry heads around, right?

Right. However…

When you bend that neck forward and down to check out something on your phone, the weight impact increases on your cervical spine (the structure of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that extends from the base of your skull to the top of your shoulders). For example, at a 15-degree angle, your head puts 27 pounds of pressure on your neck. At a 30-degree angle, it’s 40 pounds. At 60 degrees, it’s 60 pounds.

That’s a lot. 

Imagine carrying an 8-year-old around your neck several hours a day (and just imagine it, don’t try to actually do it!) and you’ll get the idea.

As you stretch the tissue for a long period of time, it gets sore and inflamed. That causes muscle strain, pinched nerves, herniated disks and, over time, it can even remove the neck’s natural curve. And the other thing to keep in mind is you’re also engaging in poor posture when you’re in the “text neck” position and that causes other problems. Experts say it can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30 percent as well as cause neurological issues, depression and heart disease.

Oh, and those headaches you might think are being caused by the tension and stress of your job? The truth is it’s highly likely they’re being caused by text neck because it’s another common symptom. They feel exactly like tension headaches…but aren’t.

I know it’s silly to think all these bad things can happen just as a result of staring at your smartphone. But Google “text neck” for yourself and you’ll see for yourself — these physical outcomes are all the real deal.


[1] Lindsay, Bever, “Text Neck Is Becoming an Epidemic and Could Wreck Your Spine,” The Washington Post, 11/20/2014 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/20/text-neck-is-becoming-an-epidemic-and-could-wreck-your-spine/

If you want to read more about “Text Neck”, and other chronic pain issues, go to my website and order my new book Athlete in the Game of Life.

1 Move to Diagnose Your Mobility and Flexibility, Guaranteed

“I haven’t got time for the pain,” was the jingle for a commercial in the 80’s and maybe 90’s.  Granted, it was for menstrual cramps and this pain specific pain does not apply to everyone!  The mantra, however, is what most people live by as they just figure pain can be hidden, avoided, and swept under the rug.  While you think this is possible and will stick to your story regardless of how bad it hurts your quality of life, I know better as a Corrective Exercise Specialist! 

Am I a soothsayer, profit, or wizard?  It’s distinctly possible if you ask me.  The truth is I’m trained to look at your movement patterns and can diagnose why you have problems with your mobility, flexibility, and strength from one simple exercise.  Is it magic?  Well my one of my nicknames is Magic Matt, but the ability to slip into VIP areas unseen has nothing to do with helping you to relieve your chronic pain.

What is this unseemly exercise I talk about?  It is the overhead squat.  A simple move raising your arms straight above your head and performing a squat.  You can hold a PVC pipe or broomstick above your head to show more of what pains you if so desired.  How can this simple, not necessarily easy, move show all your postural sins?  The movement places you in an extreme, not damaging, position that requires motor control, mobility, flexibility, and strength from every joint in your body.  Because you have nothing to hold for balance and form, everything has to work in unison to function properly.

The main culprit that destroys overhead squat form is sitting for long periods of time.  It is easy for me to diagnose these issues by the way you lower yourself, raise yourself, and what happens to your fully extended arms in the process.  Here are three areas that cannot be hidden no matter how hard you try:

  • Arms falling forward – this shows me how tight your chest and mid back muscles are, in addition to the weakness in your upper back and shoulder areas
  • Excessive forward lean – this shows the tightness in your hip flexors, calves, and quadriceps, in addition to weakness in your hamstring, shin and glute areas
  • Knees caving in – this shows the tightness in your groin muscles, in addition to the weakness in your hip rotator area

Performing the overhead squat is one of the first assessments I do with clients and is the basis for their exercise program.  Nobody is perfect, and that’s okay.  We all have tight and corresponding weak areas to work on.  The pros and cons are that this struggle never ends.  Humans are creatures of habit, and we like to be efficient to use minimal physical and mental energy in all we do.  Your job makes you do the same thing for hours daily, and yest, sitting is a repetitive movement through lack of movement.  This repetitive pattern produces overuse injuries and pain when not dealt with properly.  Humans don’t like change, even though change is where growth happens physically and mentally. 

The goal of using the overhead squat is to quickly and easily assess progress through an exercise program to keep challenging you and giving you the results, you desire.  The cool thing about the human body is that change happens when you stay consistent to stretching and strengthening.  I see it daily in my clients and they comment about the pain they don’t feel anymore.  Can it work for you?  Absolutely!  I’m offering a free overhead squat assessment to the first 10 people who email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and put OHSA in the subject line.  What’s the catch?  You will be amazed how much I can tell about you!

Working with a trainer or corrective exercise specialist like myself can help you integrate these types of movements safely and effectively.  To learn what a comprehensive corrective exercise program can do for you, go to mattpeale.com.  Who is a corrective exercise program good for?  Everyone!  We are all athletes in the game of life, it’s time you treated yourself like it!

3 Moves to Relieve WFH Chronic Pain (Pain isn’t your new normal)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau as quoted by Monica Fike on LinkedIn, 37% of employees were teleworking in late October through early November, with the majority living in major cities.  Because numbers can be read in different ways, that’s about 74 million people, or one out of every three people you know.  This number does not reflect jobs that have pivoted to more teleworking as part of their usual routine, like pharmaceutical sales reps for example.  Do you think employers have invested dollars to help their employees with appropriate workstations at home?  The answer is very likely no.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

People are working at their dining room tables, on their couches and beds, and at small desks in guest rooms.  None of these are truly appropriate for 8-10 hours of sitting that being constantly connected creates in this WFH environment.  What is the big result on their bodies?  Remodeling to with weak low backs, rounded shoulders, and text neck (forward head position), all of which create chronic pain and discomfort.

As I am interviewed by podcasts and radio stations around the country, they all ask the same question, what can these workers do at home to counteract their ‘new normal’?  In this blog, I’m sharing three body parts to stretch and strengthen right at your makeshift office to help the 74 million people out there suffering in silence.

  1. Stretch your chest/Strengthen your upper back – put your arm at a 90 degree angle in an L shape, place your arm against the corner of a wall and lean forward.  Stand up tall with proper posture and activate your core.  Hold for 20 seconds on both arms.  To strengthen, hold your arms out straight in front of you at shoulder height.  Pull your elbows back like there is a string attached, keeping good posture with a tight core and your neck stationary.  Hold soup cans or light dumbbells if you have them, for added resistance.  Do this for 15-20 reps once or twice a day.
  2. Stretch your quadriceps/Strengthen your hamstrings – grab your left foot with your left hand in a runner’s stretch, use a wall for balance if needed.  Make sure to pull your left leg in line with your right leg and your upper body is erect, hold for 20 seconds, and do the same for your right leg.  Strengthen your hamstrings by lying on your back, knees bent like you’re doing a sit-up, feet almost touching your butt.  Push your hips up as high as you can, keeping your feet flat on the floor.  Slowly lower your hips and repeat for 15-20 reps.  If that is to easy, do one leg at a time.
  3. Stretch your groin/Strengthen your hip rotators – stand with your legs wide apart, toes pointed forward.  Shift your weight to one side keeping the other leg straight, and the knee your shifting towards directly over your foot.  Do not excessively lean forward, then shift the other direction.  Strengthen your hip rotators by getting onto your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders.  Keeping the 90-degree angle in your leg, externally rotate one leg to feel the side of your glute contract.  Do not shift your weight while doing so.  Repeat 15-20 times per leg for a couple sets.

You can do all three of these movements 3-5 times per week as you feel throughout the day.  It’s important to keep proper form to maximize the benefits of the stretching and strengthening.  Don’t worry if your range of motion and strength are limited at first, they will improve as you do these over time.  Your pain will subside, your energy levels improve, and your ability to do activities you enjoy, increase!  This is your PROPER normal, get used to it!

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

Raging With Your Machine. How to Fuel the WFH Body – From Athlete in the Game of Life

The following is an excerpt from my new book, Athlete in the Game of Life, available on Amazon and on my website.

For the moment, however, I want to remind you that your body is a machine. And all machines need the right fuel to keep them operating at peak efficiency.

If you haven’t guessed already, I’m about to talk about a big four-letter word — diet.

The first three letters of the word “diet” spell out “die” — and maybe that’s why people hate to think about it. But instead, maybe we should all make an effort to stop associating healthy food choices with death!  So, lose the term “dieting” and instead, embrace the good feelings you’ll gain just from changing up what you’re eating. It can make a big difference to your overall wellbeing.

Let me break down some primary food categories and how much you should be eating of each.

  • Carbohydrates

Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans are all examples of carbs. You’ll also find some in nuts and dairy products. Carbs have been a little demonized by the media and the no-carb diet fanatics, but your body likes to use them for energy — so ignore everyone and put ‘em on your plate. You need carbs after a workout to replace your glycogen (which helps you maintain your blood-glucose levels). What you want to avoid is processed and sugary goods that contain them.

According to the Institute of Medicine, carbs should make up 45 to 65% of your daily caloric intake.

  • Fats

Fats are another victim of food prejudice, but the truth is they also aren’t always bad for you. Olive oils, fish and avocados are all healthy sources of fat, while processed and artificial foods deliver unhealthy fats. In any event, it’s almost impossible to entirely eliminate fats from your daily diet, as most foods we eat contain them. Just educate yourself by reading food labels to make sure you’re having the suggesting serving size to minimize fat consumption. Fats are worse than carbs, because a gram of fat has FIVE MORE CALORIES than a gram of carbs. So tread carefully.

According to the Institute of Medicine, fats should make up 20%-35% of your daily caloric intake.

  • Proteins

As most of you know, meat, eggs and seafood all contain protein. You’ll also find it in beans, legumes, nuts and dairy. Ingesting protein contributes to a healthy lifestyle, but keto-style diets centering around protein-packed foods isn’t recommended for long-term health. To build lean muscle mass, protein is a must — your muscles use it to rebuild after a workout.

According to the Institute of Medicine, protein needs to compose 10%-35% of total caloric intake.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

The Side Effects of Sitting – An Excerpt from my book Athlete in the Game of Life

The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Athlete in the Game of Life, available on Amazon:

The Side Effects of Sitting

Just because you think you’re doing nothing doesn’t mean your body agrees.

For instance, some part of your body may have started hurting you on a regular basis. Could be your back, your neck, your hips, or another place entirely. And maybe you can’t get that part of your body to stop hurting. You ice it, get massages and try to avoid putting stress on it…and yet, it’s still bugging you constantly, despite the fact that you’re not overly active in your day-to-day life and you’re exercising regularly.

First of all, the place where it hurts you? It could be completely caused by another part of your body entirely. For example, knee pain could be the result of dysfunction or impairment at the hip, ankle or both. The term for this is “regional interdependence,” a relatively new idea conceived by therapists and rehabilitation professionals as a way to describe how one part of your body depends on the proper functioning of another part. 

Second of all, our lives — and our physical health — have been transformed by technology in ways we still don’t understand completely. Our work and home environments are filled to the brim with tech gadgets, such as computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones and even a good old-fashioned TV set or two — and our eyes are glued to the screens of those gadgets for hours every day. Our jobs depend on it and our personal lives often revolve around it.

Result? As many as a quarter of Americans engage in no leisure-time activity at all, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This creates a “kinetic chain” in our bodies that is less prepared to adapt and recover from times when we do engage in activity, leading to increased injury rates. (We’ll get more into detail on that chain in a later chapter).

Photo by Robert Nagy on Pexels.com

This negative affect on our physicality directly impacts what happens to our bodies 20 years down the road. As I noted, we grow less flexible and mobile with our movements. When we do play that occasional game of tennis or golf, our motions become stiffer and more limited. A sitting position also puts huge stress on your back muscles, neck, and spine, especially if you slouch. There’s also the issue of postural decline. When you’re leaning over to look at your phone or tablet, your body does what’s called “remodeling.” It adapts to that position and locks it in as your natural state — and that can create some serious pain, because your body simply wasn’t built to be in that leaned-over position for long periods of time. For example, you’re probably sitting as you read this book — and that caused your body to automatically mold into what you feel is “normal.”

We also end up putting on weight — nobody gains 40 pounds in two weeks. You gain that much by putting on a couple month-to-month until you wake up and discover you’ve put on that 40 over time. Too much sitting can also raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. None of those conditions, obviously, are good things.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Finally, there’s one more part of you that can be seriously affected — and that’s your mind. At present, sitting and staring at screens can actually boost your anxiety levels. In terms of the future, the damage can get much more serious. According to the National Institutes of Health, a lack of physical activity can boost your chances of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline.

So…if you think just sitting around means you can’t get hurt, well, you should probably have another think. Because chronic pain can easily result from that lifestyle, along with all the other conditions listed above.

To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!

3 Muscles to Strengthen for an Improved Squat

You hit a plateau at the gym.  Don’t worry, we all do it.  The question is how do you overcome it?  Let’s talk about one of the mainstays of all lifts for everyone: squats!  If you’re a typical 9-to-5 worker who sits all day (yes WFH also), you have a constant battle of tight quadriceps (thighs), calf muscles, and hip flexors.  What you don’t realize are their weak counterparts that need strengthening to help you push through the plateau.

“I really don’t warm up except for a light stretch or 10 minutes on the treadmill, if that.”  Again, you’re a typical gym goer trying to maximize an hour away from kids, spouses, errands, and reality.  While you don’t really push yourself for fear of injury, you know there’s a hole in your heart because you’re capable of more.  I’m not talking about doing a 405lb max lift.  If you can get another 3-4 reps or add 20lbs more, the feeling of accomplishment is priceless.

What are those complementary muscles I previously mentioned that need strengthening?  They are your hamstrings, anterior tibialis, and glute medius.  You’ve heard of hamstrings and glutes, but what are the anterior tibialis and glute medius?  The anterior tibialis is the muscle in your shin, they contract when you point your toes up.  The glute medius is on the side of your butt muscles and help pull/rotate your leg out/away from your body.  All these muscles become weak and lengthened as we sit for hours each day.  True, there are more muscles that could be strengthened, we will stick to these as a foundation.

Starting with the ground up, the anterior tibialis is rarely thought of much less worked.  A very simple exercise to increase mobility and strength is to do ankle flips.  Ankle flips are walking like you have swim fins on.  Take a step and put your heel on the ground and point your toes up high as possible.  Walk about half your normal stride, repeating this process with each step.  Perform 24 steps total (12 per foot) for two sets as part of your warm-ups.  Or, have a friend hold a band or tubing around your toes and pull your toes towards you without lifting your leg.  Strengthening these muscles reduces your forward lean and helps you stay balanced and get lower on your squat descent. 

The hamstrings are usually worked in a leg routine.  I’m going to discuss how to isolate and strengthen them as part of corrective exercise, not just your normal workout.  If your gym has a leg curl machine you can do with one leg at a time, use it.  Here’s the difference: you’re doing a 4 second down portion of the lift, 2 second hold on the bottom, and 1 second to raise back up.  Do 12-15 reps for 2 sets.  You can use a seated or lying leg curl machine for this tempo. This method is called eccentric or negative training and is very effective for overcoming muscle imbalances.

The glute medius is more worked by women in their attempts to get a shapely and/or bigger butt.  It is what it is, I’m not judging.  What most women don’t know is what muscle and why they’re doing it, only they read it in Shape magazine or saw a YouTube video.  From a functional standpoint of squatting, stable glute medius muscles are important to keep the knees in line with your toes and to counteract tight groin muscles.  You can put a band or tubing around your knees, squat slightly into an athletic position, and side shuffle deliberately 15 steps out then back.  Another option with or without bands, is to get on you hands and knees, then raise your leg like a dog at a fire hydrant/tree.  Be sure to concentrate on using the glute medius and not the leg muscles to raise your leg.  Keep your lower and upper leg at a 90 degree angle.

Integrating these three types of exercises into your regular routine or warm-up can pay big dividends in posture, reducing pain in the knees and hips, and increasing the amount of reps and pounds you squat. To learn more about preventing injuries, increasing mobility, reducing joint pain, and getting more out of life, please go to my website, mattpeale.com.  I offer group and personal instruction via Zoom weekly sessions to help your tennis, golf, workouts, and lifestyle hobbies.  Download my free report, 3 Tips to Reduce Back Pain Your Doctor Doesn’t Know.  Guaranteed to open your eyes and give you a new direction on staying healthy and active you didn’t know possible!