Patriotism in International Sports

Playing for your country, a dream most of us athletes have as we grow up.  No greater honor than playing in your country’s uniform and winning a medal or trophy.  As a fan, I love watching the Olympics and events in which the USA has a competitive team.  The feelings are different than rooting for my favorite professional and college teams.  There is a cohesiveness because the entire nation is represented, not just a city or region. 

Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

My favorite international events are the World Cup, EURO Championships, CONCACAF Championships, and Copa America soccer championships.  Yes, I played soccer my whole life and watch professional leagues now, so that helps.  Beyond that fact, the passion players and fans have representing their countries for soccer is more than other international sports like basketball and hockey.  Whole countries come to a stop when their teams play.  It is a national day of mourning or celebration depending on the outcome. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of the most patriotic scenes is the playing of each country’s national anthem before the game.  For every game in every round, the players and fans sing loudly and proudly, REGARDLESS of political affiliations and views.  How can this be?  They all surely cannot agree with what their governments are doing back home, yet that doesn’t matter when representing their families and neighbors.  Everyone at least appears to be grateful and happy in their moment, showing the world the pride of their nationality.  As American athletes and fans, that is not always the case.

America is the great experiment in freedom with our Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  We are the worldwide leaders in democracy and economic development.  No other country allows the freedom of expression and ability to leave and return home as we do.  Other countries look up to us because of our freedoms.  When the opportunity arises to represent the United States of America as a fan or player, why would we show anything but gratitude and patriotism REGARDLESS of our political affiliations and views?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Somewhere along the way Americans stopped being proud of their country and now choose not to sing, mock people that do sing, look ashamed when the national anthem is played, or hide their heads in a towel.  Once again REGARDLESS of political affiliations and views, it is an honor and privilege to represent America.  Millions of people around the world risk their lives to be in our country every year.  Our heads are so far up our asses to notice how ungrateful we are for being born in a free society.  The door is open to live somewhere else and become a citizen of another country for those ashamed to be Americans.

I applaud the patriotism shown by every athlete and fan this year at the UEFA Championships.  You are proud and courageous to show your love for your country through your own struggles and strife.  There will always be two opposing sides to any government.  Showing the world, you can unite and find a common ground through sports soothes the soul for all involved.  Also, kudos to ESPN for showing both national anthems, the players, and the fans while the songs are being played.  No backlash from groups whose feelings are hurt on either side of the aisle.

Americans, we need to stop the entitlement and be proud of our flag, our athletes, and our country when in international competitions.  Singing, holding your hand over your heart, and standing cost no money and prove we can unite over a common good.  For at least the length of the game, we can be on the same team and support those on the field.  The athletes can show their support by being proud and showing respect while the national anthem is played for THEM.  Lest Americans forget a war dividing friends and families was fought to achieve independence from England.  Take up your flag, Americans, and be proud of who you are like citizens of other countries are proud of who they are.

Are You Getting 150 Minutes per Week of Moderate-to-Vigorous Intensity Exercise?

You have heard it so many times that the message now sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher, move more and eat less.  Easy to say, a lot more difficult to do.  Over one-third of American adults are classified as obese by the CDC, that does NOT include those people who are overweight.  Let’s be honest, fat parents usually raise fat kids.  How does the future look?  Not real promising for the American population. 

Are you a couch potato?

The internet and social media are full of trendy gimmicks, pills, and workouts to lift your ass cheeks.  Do they work is another story for another day, but they do make money.  In 2018 the CDC wrote their second edition of physical activity guidelines, this time including the cognitive benefits of exercise.  For this blog, I’m talking about the weekly minutes of physical activity you need to have for basic health.  My guess is most of you who read this blog are not getting these minimum requirements:

  • 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week, or in conjunction with
  • 75-150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, and
  • 2 days per week of moderate or greater intensity muscle and bone strengthening activities

At the most basic level spread out in a “payment plan”, that is about 21 minutes a day of moderate physical activity, seven days per week.  I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes, you can combine muscle and bone strengthening activities into an aerobic session thus killing two birds with one stone.  To stay in line with the CDC’s obesity stats, one in three who read this are obese, and at least half are overweight.  With those facts in mind, you are very likely not meeting these minimum standards for basic health.

I’ll explain more about the intensity levels to help you understand if you are achieving them or not.  Moderate means your breathing is labored, and you can have a conversation with another person.  Vigorous means your breathing is harder and you cannot maintain a conversation.  Taking a stroll around the block while easily chatting with your friend or on the phone is not at the moderate level.  Many adults and older adults give themselves a break by saying they are active because they walk daily.  The truth hurts, and they are not at the moderate level the CDC states is needed to reduce health risk factors and improve cognitive function.

The best news is you can achieve the 150 weekly minutes in any way you want!  There are many options you can enjoy elevating your heart rate using all your body parts, and they are all correct answers.  Combining resistance training with aerobic training is the best bang for your buck.  Can you workout to hard?  You do not want to injure yourself of course, the answer is still no.  The more intense and longer duration of your physical activity the better for every aspect of your physical and mental health. 

So, you’re still holding on to the excuse of the gym not open, or not open at full capacity.  These requirements are still in effect 365 days of EVERY year, including 2020.  Even more so with a pandemic because stronger immune systems are directly associated with higher levels of fitness.  If reading the stats of mortality rates and health risk factors relating to COVID-19 has not changed your mind on being physically active, then death at an early age is what you are rightfully earning. 

Your living room can be a great workout studio if necessary

Use these straightforward guidelines for what they are, guidelines to help you make good decisions on how much exercise you need each week.  Color in the template using whatever crayons you want.  The artwork looks good on the refrigerator door regardless of the color combinations.  Pledge to yourself on achieving the minimum 21 minutes a day of moderate exercise.  Oh, and you can break that time up into smaller bouts of even five minutes, four or so a day.  BOOM!  I just blew your mind and pulled the excuse rug out from underneath you.

Email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and I can help you set up a program.  Go to my website, mattpeale.com, and download my video series and free report to help you use exercise to overcome chronic pain.  Buy my book while on my website as well to improve your knowledge.  Just because you are over 40 does not mean you are exempt from being healthy, active, and happy!

If You Know, or Are a Man Over 40, Read This Blog! Tips to Help Celebrate National Men’s Health Month

Muscularly Enlarged Neanderthals aka Men.  Well, maybe that is not what men stands for, but it’s damn sure close!

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

We are testosterone based which makes us hairy, more muscular than females, and often times hard-headed when you try to reason with us.  As teens, we are true assholes that know everything and are indestructible.  In our twenties, the brain finally forms fully, and we begin to calm down with life’s responsibilities.  I’d say Neanderthal characteristics are still in effect during this time because the sense of immortality still lingers until we hit 30.

Into our 30’s men learn what being a father and husband means.  Our friendship circle changes from only college and high school friends to couples’ outings if we’re married and hanging out with coworkers.  We go to bed earlier, wake up earlier on purpose!  Hangovers hurt more and something happens with our waistlines and hairlines, one gets bigger and the other smaller in the wrong directions.  Domestic stresses of home ownership, honey do lists, and shuttling kids around to dances and sports.

I can only speak of what I know, and that knowledge stops in the 40’s decade.  Sedentary life begins to take affect from a lack of exercise the previous 10-12 years.  Extra weight stays on and doesn’t come off through half-hearted attempts at dieting or doing some fad exercise program for a week.  Our testosterone levels begin to dip, and we don’t feel as strong anymore.  It takes us a few minutes to warm-up and aches and pains linger past where we think they should.  College expenses are for real and maybe a Brady Bunch family happens after divorce and a second shot at marriage.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The constant through all of this is the accumulation of poor health habits that lead to serious health risk factors into our 50’s and beyond.  June is National Men’s Health Month and when we have Father’s Day to celebrate one of our major achievements of raising offspring.  One of the best features of the human body is its resiliency.  Regardless of how bad you treated it in the past, there is opportunity to completely change the future.  No, you can’t naturally grow back your hair without weaves and potions.  You also can’t recover quickly from a hard night of drinking anymore.  What you can do is make small daily changes that add up to major positive outcomes in 90 days or less.

Look at your father and his health, what kind of picture is he?  Remember, the beer can doesn’t fall far from the trailer, so if you do not want to follow in those footsteps, the time is now to make those edits.  Here’s how:

  • Cut down the alcohol to weekends only and find more ways to drink water daily
  • Meal prep for taking lunch into work and better choices at dinner (also saves $$$)
  • Get 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous exercise (21 minutes per day)
My client Neal Hightower and I

Life is a process, and the results of these actions will not all become apparent until a few months down the road.  Changing a habit, good or bad, takes 60-65 days, so this will be a challenge with ups and downs.  Nowhere did I mention bench press 300 lbs, run 10 miles a day, or eat only tofu.  Stop making up bullshit excuses like these.  Any man can adapt to these changes over time and turn their lives around.  Your LIFE DEPENDS ON IT AS WELL AS THOSE WHO RELY UPON YOU.

If you need help, I am here for you.  Go to my website and look at my online course to help you overcome chronic pain.  Order my book and get expert insight into your health.  Listen to my interviews from around the country.  Get my free video series and report about back pain.  Let me be your guide to a healthy and active lifestyle.  You only live this life once, invest in yourself and you are guaranteed a 100% ROI!

“Peter Pan Syndrome” and Turning 46

The ongoing joke, that to me never gets old, is I’m turning 29…..again!  I’m sure you have a similar line or thought when it comes to your birthday.  Some people deal with the passing of the years better than others, and admittedly, I do not.  On May 25th I turned 46. 

Every year since I turned 40, I weigh and measure my body fat percentage at the health club I work at.  Each measurement has been in the single digits for body fat, and weight around 163-165 lbs.  Yes, I am very thankful for my dedication to a healthy and active lifestyle.  Many people from my graduating high school class have not taken care of themselves, and it shows. 

We can’t change time and stop aging.  All we can do is take care of each day to the best of our ability for the future.  In my mind, and I’m sure in yours, I have similar thoughts and rationales like I’m in my late teens to early twenties.  Those are the years that still form a big part of my self-image and likely keep me young at heart.  Living back in the same town I graduated high school from for the last 6 years, my close friends are the same as 1990-1993.  Surrounding myself with them keeps me in that mental and emotional space of 25 plus years ago. 

Mardi Gras Day 2019

Exercise and fitness have always played a large role in my life.  I played organized sports from first grade through college, including two years on the Southern Miss Men’s Club Soccer Team.  Working out was something I’ve done since junior high with push-ups and pull-ups in my room.  I do not know how to be sedentary, and that choice shows in how I have aged physically and mentally.  What you do now at your age plays a major role in your condition twenty years from now.  Studies show that active people in their 40’s have less physical and mental health problems in their 60’s compared to sedentary ones.

My grandmother and son in 2017

My grandmother on my mother’s side turned 94 a few days before my birthday.  She has moderate dementia and is also physically healthy with no serious issues.  My family is constantly amazed she goes for a short walk daily and is adamant about it.  From her late 50’s through now, exercise and fitness have been a part of her life.  She never did anything extreme or competed in contests.  She went to the senior center a few times a week and/or walked a few miles at home.  Her diet wasn’t anything special and she ate moderately healthy, drinking whenever she wanted.  I made her quit smoking when I was in elementary school and she never looked back.  Do I have good genes?  A focus on moderation combined with good genes can enable me to live a long life.

Even with science on my side, I am not embracing closing in on 50 in a few years.  To me, that is OLD, and I am not old.  Peter Pan syndrome is real!  I do refuse to “grow up” to an extent with reducing my physical activities and cutting back on the amount of weight I lift in the gym.  This month of May I bench pressed 225 lbs and squatted 315 lbs again.  Age is not and will not be an excuse for me.  I am hitting the golf ball farther than I ever have, yes thanks to some lessons also.  Overall, I am not slowing down and do not look to do so any time soon.

Elite level obstacle course race

Are you exercising regularly and eating in moderation?  Do you feel and/or look older than you are?  How you age is your choice, not a genetic disability.  Being in my mid 40’s was a contributor to why I wrote my book, The Athlete in the Game of Life.  You may not feel and look 25 anymore and wonder where the time went.  Now is the time for you to take steps for the next 20 years to make sure they are what you want them to be.  You are only competing with yourself and can only control what you do.  Unfortunately, you cannot truly play defense against Father Time.  You can only go on the offensive with healthy habits, and teach those after you to use you as an example of what to do. 

Compete, and compete hard in your game of life.  It is worth every grueling session now for the enjoyment later.  When you need help, I am here for you.  My website has great info on my coaching programs, online course, and ordering my book.  You can be the best athlete in your game of life, I promise!

Do You Know the Biggest Muscle on Your Body & How to Engage It?

What is the biggest muscle on your body?

  1. Pectoral muscle (chest)
  2. Gluteus maximus (butt)
  3. Latissimus Dorsi (back)

I’ll answer that question shortly in this blog post.  Giving it away now defeats the purpose of reading and building anticipation! 

Let’s look at the function of each muscle and see if you can figure it out.  The pectoral muscle is used to extend your arms horizontally in a pushing motion.  The latissimus dorsi is used to lower your arms from an overhead position and helps to bring them back from a fully extended horizontal position also.  The gluteus maximus is used for hip extension.  If you workout regularly, hopefully you are using all of the muscles equally throughout your weekly routine.  If you don’t workout at all, lack of use is a direct cause of pain and weakness.  Any clue yet to the answer?

If you guessed B. Gluteus maximus, you won!  And no, J-Lo is not the only person to enjoy this biological feature.  Every person needs to have strong glutes for lifting objects with their legs, not their low backs.  Incorporating the biggest muscle on your body for squats, deadlifts, and lunges is paramount for power and strength.  Surprisingly enough, doing squats, deadlifts, and lunges does not specifically work your glutes unless you have learned to activate them.  Even the most active gym goers out there typically sit all day at their jobs, much less those that abhor any type of exercise.

Yes, your glutes are needed for many activities besides sitting on them for 8-10 hours a day.  If you like landscaping and gardening around your house, you need them to lift bags of mulch, flats of flowers, and pavers for a new walkway.  Similarly, if you enjoy remodeling and redecorating houses, you need your glutes to pick up heavy furniture and boxes.  Your glutes are responsible for helping you maintain good posture and be able to get up out of a chair without using your hands.  None of these activities are done in a gym or for anything athletic, these are activities of daily living that require the biggest muscle on your body to be functional.

From a biomechanical standpoint, your glutes are the primary mover for hip extension.  Hip extension is involved in standing up, walking, running, and proper posture.  When your glutes are weak from sitting, the muscles in your quadriceps and low back take on their role, leading to low back and knee pain.  Again, none of these motions are specifically for sports or in the gym.  Here are three exercises you can do to strengthen your glutes, and they can be done by men and women!

Bird Dog
  1. Bird dog – get on your hands and knees with a straight back.  Extend the opposite arm and leg simultaneously.  Keeping your fully extended and raise your leg as high as you can using your glutes to lift it.  Do not rotate or tilt your body to compensate.  Repeat for the opposite side.
  2. Romanian Deadlift/Straight leg deadlift – start with no weight or light weight depending on your experience.  With your feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly flexed, hinge at the hip and push your hips back.  Keeping your back straight and head aligned with your spine, lower your torso down to parallel to the ground.  Your weight is on your heels and toes may raise slightly.  Feel the stretch in your hamstrings as you go down.  Focus on using your hamstrings and glutes to contract as you raise back up to the starting position.
  3. Glute bridge – lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor close to your butt.  Push through your feet and raise your hips as high as you can, then lower them down slowly.  Your arms are relaxed next to your torso with palms up.  You can do this with both legs or one leg at a time for added difficulty.  You will feel a stretch in your quadriceps and hip flexors and your hamstrings working.
Glute bridge
Romanian deadlift with dumbbells

Regardless of your athletic ability and workout experience, including these moves will help you activate your glutes for all of life’s activities.  Low back injuries are reduced, proper postural alignment can be achieved, and increased enjoyment of the activities you like most are all possible when you practice these basic movements.  If you are wondering do I include these movements into my normal routine, the answer is a resounding yes!  I practice what I preach.

For an all-inclusive workout, learn about my course Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening.  I guarantee it will work for you or your money back.  You can also order my book and read about why your having pain.  Pain is not normal, and you do not have to live with it.  Go to my website, mattpeale.com, and find free videos and a report that can change your life today!

Coffee or Exercise for More Productivity at Work?

An important meeting is 30 minutes that needs your utmost attention and participation.  Your boss is expecting you to fill in vital details that can close a huge sale.  The problem is you’ve been sitting and staring at spreadsheets for the past hour and about to fall asleep.  What is the best course of action?

  • Drink 2-3 cups of coffee to wake up
  • Do nothing
  • Walk up and down the stairs in the emergency exit for 10 minutes, 15 minutes before the meeting
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Typical thoughts would be the first choice.  Some may try to push through and step into the room like a superhero and nail the presentation.  Science and the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report by the CDC states the last option is best. 

I know what you’re thinking, “how can walking up and down the stairs for 10 minutes do anything but get me sweaty and out of sorts?”  Let me calm you fears, my friends, with some facts not fake news.  These are some of the findings in the CDC’s report from 2018.

  • 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.

Granted, the CDC is under fire for their confusion on pandemic guidelines.  These came out two years before the word coronavirus was trendy.  Also, they spent 10 years researching and updating their original report from 2008 to deliver these guidelines, not 10 days as it seems now. 

You can apply these principles to any complex task you have at work.  They also apply equally well for your children before taking tests.  Maybe schools should read this evidence, but that’s another story for another day.  Of course, you know the physical benefits a few added steps can do for your heart, lungs, and weight loss. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The key phrasing in all of this is moderate-to-vigorous.  That means your breathing is a little labored, yet you can still hold a conversation.  It is not a leisurely stroll around the parking lot or to the break room for another donut.  Some exertion is required, also does not require playing a 90-minute soccer game.  Using that as your template, there are many activities you can do that you enjoy achieving moderate-to-vigorous.  Point is, do it!

An even better part of these findings is they occur naturally.  You do not have to make crystallized intelligence and processing happen, they do automatically in the brain just from elevating your heart rate to moderate-to-vigorous.  How awesome is the human body?!  All of these are organic byproducts of moving around a little more with slightly higher intensity.  No purchase necessary and no negative side effects. 

If you do not experience what a 10-year study says, I will send you a $10 gift card to the coffee store of your choice!  Email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com and give me your details why the evidence did not work for you.  If you need more suggestions, email me also.  My aim is to help you perform better in your career.

Move or Die! Sitting All Day Is Not Natural for Humans

Fact or Myth:

  • Ancient gladiators had a fully equipped gym with an outdoor area for tire flips and pushing the sled
  • Native Americans based their nomadic movements on where the local gyms were at
  • The United States Colonial Army used TRX classes to prepare for defeating the British

Which one of the above statements is correct?  That’s right, none of them!  Without gyms and health clubs, these people were studs and could literally kill a bear with nothing but a knife or bow and arrow after stalking the animal on foot for miles.  No Group X classes either for the women left at home while their husbands were away fighting or kidnapped by the enemy.  They too had to be strong and survive physical tasks just to get food on the table and care for the children.

Why am I going to this extreme to discuss health and fitness?  Because over 1/3 of American adults are considered obese.  Millions of workers and older adults increased their sitting time over the last 18 months from the pandemic, making them more susceptible to death from heart disease, COVID-19, diabetes, stroke, and falls (older adults).  As our ancestors showed us, you don’t need a modern gym to be healthy and active.

Movement throughout the day is natural for mammals, and humans are mammals.  Sitting and staring at your laptop and devices are not instinctual lifestyle patterns.  This is why you get that feeling to stand up and move around after being seated for hours, it is hardwired into our brains that movement is natural and must happen regularly. 

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov on Pexels.com

If you read LinkedIn articles, you have seen the topic about mental health problems from isolation and being chained to laptops for longer than when people went into the office.  Physical health problems are directly related to mental health problems, and both could be resolved with more physical activity daily.  This goes for adults and children on distance learning programs.  I’m not going down the rabbit hole of reopening schools or not.  Physical exercise and physical activity are mandated by the CDC for children to have proper mental and emotional health.  In fact, 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, with two days per week of bone and muscle strengthening, is the bare MINIMUM.

It’s time to stop the excuses for no gym membership.  Walking, doing push-ups and pull-ups at a park, and some basic stretching costs nothing, requires no home equipment, and suitable for all ages.  Pills, potions, and shakes do not and cannot replace physical activity and exercise.  To stay ahead of the Grim Reaper, you must get off the couch, turn off the device, and get moving!

Back to our ancestors, movement was part of their normal lives.  In today’s culture, you must make the decision to stay moving, or face the consequences of early death by disease and viral infections.  For me, it is a no brainer to stay active with hobbies I enjoy.  There are plenty of options that trick you into thinking you’re not exercising while you actually are.  Use your social networks to find bike rides, fun runs, baby & me, pub crawls, anything that includes moving while enjoying the company of others.  There is not a wrong answer for picking any activity that involves movement, fun, and socialization.

Get out and do something active daily for 30 days.  Share it on my Facebook page @athleteinthegameoflife, Twitter @MattPeale, or LinkedIn @MatthewPeale. Invite family and friends to participate with you.  Getting used to physical activity on a daily basis can do wonders for your mental health and positive attitude! 

To signup for my monthly newsletter, go to my website mattpeale.com.

Staying Grounded: How to Keep Your Feet & Ankles Healthy and Reduce Risk of Injuries

Do you have happy feet and ankles?  Yes, it may be an odd question and hard to define just what happy feet and ankles are.  For the purposes of this blog, happy feet do not refer to the animated movie or how you feel after getting a pedicure.  People that are unhappy with their feet and ankles are easy to pick out in a crowd.  They can’t stand very long, have possible issues walking or running, are prone to injuries, and may have swelling or inflammation regularly. 

Foot and ankle problems are not race, gender, sexual preference, age, or religious affiliation biased.  Many problems with your feet and ankles could be alleviated, or at least made less severe, by treating the muscles around your ankle joints a lot better.  Your knees could thank you also for being nicer to your feet and ankles.  Even your hips and low back benefit from heathy feet and ankles. 

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

April is National Foot Health Awareness Month by the American Podiatric Medical Association.  Most people take the health of their feet and ankles for granted, or that pain will stay with them forever.  This blog is to educate you to change your thinking on both.  Your feet and ankles are the foundation of balance and stability for the body when standing.  The major muscles around the ankle joint are the soleus and gastrocnemius, which compose the calf, and the anterior and posterior tibialis, which are on the shin.  The calf muscle points the toes down and the shin muscles point the toes up.  It’s vital to keep them in balance to avoid injuries and dysfunction all the way up to your lower back.

Typically, most people have overly tight calf muscles and overly weak shin muscles.  The calf muscles are one of the easiest muscles to stretch on the body.  The first stretch is very simple:  stand in a staggered stance with your feet facing forward, the back heel on the ground, front leg slightly flexed, back leg straight, and lean forward slightly.  Do not bounce, ease into the stretch and hold for 20 seconds then switch feet.  The second stretch is to put your heel on the ground in front of wall and point your toe up high as you can, like your foot is on the gas pedal.  Lean forward into the stretch keeping your toes pointed up, do not bounce, and keep the leg straight.  Hold each foot for around 20 seconds.

Calf stretch with toe up
Staggered stance calf stretch

Strengthening the shin muscles is also simple and can be integrated into your normal lifting program or done at home for overall health.  Walk like you have swim fins on, exaggerating your toes pointing up with each step as your heel strikes the ground.  Walk 30 total steps for 1-2 sets.  Another simple, not always easy, exercise to do is practice standing on one foot for 15-20 seconds.  If your balance is bad, stand close to a wall or stable object you can hold if you lose your balance.  Balance is a function of proprioception, how your body reacts to various stimuli in space.  It is a use it or lose it skill and can be regained through consistent practice. 

Keeping proper length-tension relationships with the muscles around your ankles can go a long way towards preventing Achilles’ tendon injuries, ACL injuries, low back pain, and shin splints.  While this list is not inclusive of all feet and ankle injuries, nor is it a fail proof method to avoiding all feet and ankle injuries, keeping the mobility, flexibility, and strength of this important joint is crucial for Activities of Daily Living (ADL).  If you’re a runner or weekend sports warrior, healthy feet and ankles are mandatory for providing the enjoyment you get from participating in such activities. 

Strengthening the anterior tibialis

For people with structural issues in their feet and ankles, please see a medical specialist who can help with your specific problems.  Wearing proper footwear for your activities that is in good condition is also important for avoiding injuries.  Ladies, high heels look great, but they are not your friend for keeping the ankles happy.  Also, performing squats elevating your heels also increases your chances for injuries by shortening your calf muscles and restricting range of motion.  Do NOT believe magazines and websites that tell you this position is great for your glutes.

To help you with ankle joint health, I have written an online course just for you called Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening.  It provides pictures and videos for stretches and exercises that can help everything I mentioned in this blog.  I also guarantee or your money back after completing the course, if you do not see the results you desire.  Trust me, this can be life changing now and for years to come.  Check it out and also my website for more details and how to sign up today!

3 Moves Guaranteed to Reduce Low Back Pain

The presence of low back pain is significant in U.S. society with up to 35% of individuals experiencing reduced activity due to chronic back conditions and approximately 7% of that number with back issues that persist for 6 months or more (U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019).  Whatever you do to reduce this pain never seems to work right.  You take ibuprofen, try to stretch in some way, even stand once-in-awhile to take the pressure off.  All to no avail and the vicious cycle continues.  I promise you are not alone in this struggle!

Let’s face it, your job description is not changing to give you more freedom away from that laptop, phone, and tablet.  So you have to do something different for pain relief than before or it is the definition if insanity.  Only because you haven’t studied like I have, do you understand which muscles to strengthen and which ones to stretch.  Luckily for you I took the guesswork out and created a self-paced course you can follow online.  It is simple to follow, easy to understand, and guaranteed or your money back after completing it, if you do not get the results you desire.  The course is Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening.  Click on over to it and take a look.

Today, I’m sharing a little secret from it and giving three movements you can do from home to help alleviate that nasty low back pain! 

Erector Spinae Stretch
  • Prone floor cobra – lay face down on the floor, your arms are at your sides with palms down.  Slowly raise your chest off the floor, squeezing your glutes and shoulder blades together.  Keep your face looking down and head aligned with your spine.  Hold for a count at the top of the movement and lower yourself down in a controlled motion.  Some people also lift their legs to activate their glutes, and that is fine also.  Perform 15-20 reps for 1-2 sets
  • Erector spinae stretch – sit with one leg out in front of you, the other leg crossed over with your foot flat on the ground next to the knee of the extended leg.  Turn your body towards the up leg and place your opposite arm against the outside of the up leg.  Push slightly on that leg as you rotate your upper body as far as you can.  Feel the stretch on the outside of your glute and in your lower back.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds then switch.  Perform this 1-2 times per side
  • Plank trio – get into a plank position with your forearms and toes supporting your body weight.  Hold this position for 20-30 seconds depending on your strength level.  Immediate turn to one side with that forearm supporting your weight, your legs are straight with one on top of the other.  Hold this for 20-30 seconds then repeat on the other side.  Place your hand down for support if needed, and stagger your legs with each foot on the ground if more help is needed.  Perform the sequence three times with 60-90 seconds rest between each sequence
Prone floor cobra
Side plank

Some of the muscles you my know involved with low back pain are the piriformis, psoas, and erector spinae.  Sitting keeps the erector spinae and piriformis weak and overlengthened, while keeping the psoas constantly contracted and overly tight.  The muscles in your abdominal region:  obliques, transverse abdominus, and rectus abdominus, are shortened/contracted, further pulling your low back muscles into an overstretched position.  What a person has to do is stretch the ab muscles and strengthen the low back muscles.  Doing sit-ups till you can’t move after sitting on your couch with your laptop only makes the problem worse.  By lengthening and strengthening simultaneously with the plank trio, you are helping to stabilize and reduce pain in your low back. 

These three movements can be integrated into your existing workout routine or become the start of a daily healthy lifestyle regimen to feel better overall.  Your golf swing, tennis serves, squats, gardening, etc., will all benefit from these simple exercises.  Remember, my course goes over these moves and more that can make a major impact on your quality of life.  I guarantee your satisfaction after completing it or your money back, I promise.  Click Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening to sign up today!

5 Minute Routine at Work to Reduce Back & Neck Pain

The end of the pandemic is here!  No, it’s not.  Yes, it is!  No, it’s not.

Whichever end of the spectrum you choose to believe in, the truth is your neck and back pain from siting are here to stay unless you do something about it.  Every article on LinkedIn pushes a hybrid working from home and going into the office.  Whether that is true or not remains to be seen.

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A typical going into the office day:

  • 30–45-minute commute sitting each way (driving, carpool, public transportation)
  • 6-7 hours sitting at your desk, in a meeting, on sales calls, etc
  • 1 hour sitting at lunch
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A typical home office day:

  • 8-9 hours sitting at your dining room table, couch, or home office chair
  • Driving an hour for carpool or sports practice
  • 1-2 hour sitting while on devices/TV at night

Regardless of which method or combination of methods you choose for work, developing chronic pain from sitting is guaranteed!  What the pandemic did was increase the attachment to devices by requiring workers to be on more meetings than before as a way to ensure people are “working”.  If you were in denial of feeling the pain before March 2020, you probably aren’t now.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

How can you alleviate your muscle imbalances and pain while still being productive?  There are a number of stretches and exercises you can do standing next to your workstation, whether it’s in a traditional office sense or at your dining room office.  I’m asked in all my interviews by radio and podcast hosts how often should a person stand up and move around.  The answer is whenever possible.  Use that technology to set an alarm as a reminder to at least stand for two minutes every hour at the minimum. 

For those a little more ambitious that care about their health, here is a five-minute routine you can do twice or three times per day, without getting sweaty.

  • Arm flaps:  extend your arms at shoulder height to your sides, thumbs up.  With shoulders back, head looking forward and in line with your spine, raise your arms to touch thumbs above your head.  Lower them back to shoulder height in the starting position.  Repeat 15 times
  • Face pulls:  extend your arms in front of you at shoulder height palms facing down.  With shoulders back and head in line with your spine, pull your arms back toward your face, then return to the starting position.  Repeat 15 times.
  • 1 leg RDL with reach:  stand on one leg (use a wall or chair for balance if needed), extend the opposite arm at a 45-degree angle toward your head.  Reach across your body and touch the opposite knee of the leg you’re standing on keeping your arm straight and return to the starting position.  Do not lock your knee, keep it with a slight flex as you normally would while standing.  Repeat 10 times on one leg then switch.  As you get stronger and better balance, touch lower on your leg toward your foot.

These three movements can be done anywhere and anytime without weights.  All age groups (yes even kids doing online school) can do these and benefit.  The muscles worked are your hamstrings, rear deltoids, rhomboids, and mid trapezius.  These are muscles that get over-lengthened while sitting and typing on your laptop because you are hunched over.  Give them a try and email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com with how you feel after trying daily for a week.  You can also post on my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Want more help?  Sign up for my course Overcoming Chronic Pain Through Stretching & Strengthening.  Guaranteed to make a difference or your money back!