Nature vs Nurture, What are Your Disease Risk Factors

Treating the source or treating the symptoms of the source?  That is a question for the human condition.  Medicines make trillions of dollars a year treating symptoms.  If medicines treated the source to eliminate symptoms, how would the human condition improve?

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COVID-19 brought a flurry of activity to quell symptoms, and a flurry of controversy in the process.  The human condition is driven genetically with some results we cannot change, and some that are 100% in our control.  The science of epigenetics says 5% of disease risk factors are in the cannot change category, and 95% are related to our environment and choices regarding foods, exercise, and stress management.  Early on in the pandemic, those with higher risk of severe symptoms and death were those who were obese, overweight, and over 60 with additional health problems.  Was this really a surprise?  To me as a fitness expert, not at all.

We cannot consciously control the ingredients of our genetic material.  All humans have the same genetic code, it is just arranged differently for each of us.  What dictates 95% of our gene expression are nutrition, air pollution, physical activity, stress, water intake, what we think, and what we believe.  All of these factors directly contribute to our immune systems and the ability to fight viruses, bacteria, and environmental stressors.  When these stressors overload our genes’ ability to adapt, we are more likely to have severe symptoms from viruses and bacteria.

I work in a health club, which is populated by generally healthy individuals.  Yes, some members and employees contracted COVID-19.  Nothing can stop a virus from mutating and spreading, that is scientifically proven.  Unlike places where people with high disease risk factors lived or worked, there was not an outbreak of severe infections.  Is this coincidence, I think not, it is more scientific evidence through gene expression.  Healthy individuals have a higher antioxidant level through proper nutrition, hydration, and exercise, than those that are sedentary with poor nutrition.

Lean protein sources

Regardless of what side of the political aisle you are on, the one constant is nobody in public health discussed the SCIENCE of improving our immune systems to naturally fight infections.  Instead, public health said gyms are infection spreaders and then don’t leave the house unless you have too.  If public health is really about public health, they would say to exercise 150 minutes per week at a moderate-to-vigorous level, do weight training twice per week, and eat a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, with plenty of water on a daily basis.  That message never got out as your body’s best defense against severe symptoms and death, even though the CDC has evidence to show it. 

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Back to the question beginning this blog, treat the source or the symptoms?  By treating the source, proper diet and exercise, the risk of severe symptoms take care of themselves in 95% of the population.  The human body is the most resilient and efficient machine on earth.  Unfortunately, 1/3 of Americans treat it miserably, and almost half or more terribly.  Yes, that corresponds to 1/3 being obese and half or more overweight.  No medicine can improve our immune system, it only treats the symptoms of disease the immune system cannot handle.  Medicines can only go so far on their treatment efficacy.  When the body is in shambles from disease and abuse, the dyke will have more holes than fingers to plug the holes.

I am my own testimonial to the contents of this blog.  Since 1997, I have not seen a doctor for illness, or have been on any prescriptions.  At the age of 46, I eat, drink, and consume alcohol moderately.  My weekly exercise exceeds the 150 minutes, yes, and I do not jog or run for any of my aerobic movement.  Am I a freak of nature?  No.  Am I superhuman?  No.  I take care of my body and trust it to work properly because I treat it properly.  Funny how that all works, isn’t it.

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!

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
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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. 

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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.

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. 

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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!

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.

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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!

Tips for Healthy Eating While Working From Home

You are what you eat.  I’m sure you heard that numerous times in your life.  March is National Nutrition Month by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  If you’ve been working from home or sheltering in place, your eating habits may not be as healthy as they used to be last year.  Without dressing up for work, moving around much, and easy access to your kitchen for random snacking, the “WFH 15” may have invaded your waistline.

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Fear not!  March is the perfect month to regain control of your eating habits, and it can taste good too!  Week 1 encourages you to eat a variety of nutritious foods daily.  Try a new fruit or vegetable this week.  Raw is always the healthiest way and gives you the true flavor.  Pick fruits and vegetables with different colors because they have different antioxidants and nutrition profiles.  Also drink plenty of water, not soft-drinks and juices.  If you haven’t read a nutrition label before, read a few on the items you normally buy, could be eye opening!

Week 2 is about planning your meals.  From my experience, this is where people fall off the wagon.  When you don’t know what your next meal is, you make impulse choices which usually aren’t good!  You’re in a rush and find yourself starving!  The downhill spiral begins and it’s hard to stop.  Plan healthier meals with your family for everyone to learn new ideas and get on board with healthy lifestyle choices.  It doesn’t have to suck when one person is on a “diet” and can’t eat the same as others in the house.  By planning and cooking healthier, good tasting food, everyone enjoys together and reaps the benefits.

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Week 3 is taking your planning from the previous week and learning new skills to make delicious dishes that are good for you.  Try using fresh herbs, or new spices on meat, chicken, and fish that you already cook.  Stay away from breaded and fried, all you are tasting are breadcrumbs and flower anyway, not the protein you are frying.  You may even feel better and not have a stomach-ache after eating grilled and backed items instead of fried.  Wasting food truly is a sin in many ways.  Make smaller portions or reuse the leftovers in different dishes if you’re sick of the same taste.  Freeze what you don’t use after three days in the fridge if possible.  Your wallet will thank you also because a dollar can be stretched when you repurpose food items for other dishes.  How do you think gumbo and jambalaya became popular?

Week 4 is a good time to make an appointment with a Registered Dietician Nutritionist (RDN).  An RDN is educated on how to work with any special diseases and conditions you have.  They can also give more detailed guidance for weight loss and sports performance than a personal trainer or Corrective Exercise Specialist as myself.  Knowledge truly Is power and combining an RDN’s knowledge with a fitness professional’s knowledge gives you the total package for maximizing and enjoying a healthy, active lifestyle.

You can’t out lift, run, or cycle a bad diet.  Poor refueling choices have negative effects on everything you do and feel physically.  Being sedentary multiplies your bad choices to increase health risk factors like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.  Those are three of the top five killers of Americans annually, and many could be prevented.  Add to it COVID-19 as a risk factor, and you know who has the most negative effects and chance of death, people who are obese.  Approximately 1/3 of all adult Americans are considered obese by the CDC, this does not include the millions that are overweight and headed to obesity.

For more information on nutrition and healthy eating choices, go to myplate.gov, cdc.gov, and eatright.org.

10 Minutes a Day Keeps Heart Disease Away. WFH Tip for Simple Home Workouts

How many 10-minute blocks of time do you waste mindlessly scrolling through social media platforms daily?  And at the end of that 10 minutes, nothing productive happened except you are a little dumber now than before.  In that same small amount of time, you can reduce your risk of hypertension and cognitive decline all from your living room office.  Not to mention feel and look better.

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I’m sure you heard of Tabata, 20 seconds of activity followed by 10 seconds of rest then repeat in four minute circuits.  It fades in and out of being trendy, and always stays effective.  A full Tabata workout is 16 minutes (4 circuits of 4 minutes each), you can add or subtract to that time based on your fitness level and available workout time.  No special equipment is needed, just a little courage to try something new and a timer.

With connectivity up two more hours working from home than at the office, taking a few minutes for physical activity is essential for physical AND mental health.  If your gyms are closed, you only have at home indoor options.  The CDC says bouts of activity lasting little as five minutes have beneficial effects on the brain if they are moderate-to-vigorous.  Boom! You’re winning the mental health battle already! Your heart benefits automatically when you elevate it from exercise, regardless of the type, another win.

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People tend to complicate exercise by thinking it has to be elaborate moves with multiple equipment types.  If you ever worked on a farm, you know how heavy the workload can be and not a barbell to be found, yet your body is put through the ringer.  A Tabata workout is similarly effective.  I jokingly call these types of workouts “prison style” because it’s just lifting your body weight various ways.  If you were stuck in an 8×8 cell, you can do the following workout:

Circuit 1: 4 minutes, do the exercises consecutively 20 seconds of work 10 seconds rest, then repeat for 2 total circuits.

  • Body weight back row pulling yourself towards the bars
  • Squat jumps
  • Push ups
  • Bicycle crunches

Circuit 2:  Same as circuit 1 flow

  • Pike push ups
  • 2 leg glute/hamstring bridges
  • 2-foot hops
  • Mountain climbers

Total time with even a brief rest between circuits, 10 minutes.  No equipment provided in jail.  At home you could hang underneath your dining room table and do the body weight row, everything else can all be done with a small floor space.  Sure, working from home may seem prison-like now after almost a year, so I get it.

Most music apps have a Tabata playlist which includes the timing for start/stop.  If you have dumbbells and/or a resistance band, now you’re really in business!  There are no wrong answers for exercises, just make sure every part of your body is worked at least once.  If you’re a newbie, one round may be enough at this intensity.  If you’re a novice, two rounds are great.  10 minutes, three times per week can make a major positive impact on your health.  Give it a try!  As you gain experience, add more circuits throughout the day.  Compared to wasting an hour daily on social media with no physical and mental benefits, you have now changed your outlook on life.  Congratulations!

For questions about Tabata, feel free to email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Go to my website and order my new book, The Athlete in the Game of Life, to learn how exercise impacts the brain.  Plus listen to my interviews from radio stations all over the country.  I promise you will learn more than you imagined!

Text Neck: How to Overcome the New Pandemic in Neck Pain

Imagine a society where hardly anyone looks where their walking and is constantly staring down at an object in their hands.  They experience tension headaches and their bodies have remodeled themselves to look alien-like with their heads protruding forward and shoulders looking like Igor the hunchback.  Oh, that’s actually today’s current culture!

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Pick up your head and look around.  Does your neck hurt just do that motion?  Do you find it difficult to hold your head up straight, ears lined up with your shoulders?  If you answered yes, then you have forward head position (FHP), which is also called “Text Neck”.  Spinal surgeons report an increase in young patients who are experiencing upper back and neck pain due to cell phone use (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). A new diagnosis, known as text neck, has been established to describe this condition (Cuéllar & Lanman, 2017). 

Muscles, tendons, and ligaments can be altered over time from postural malalignments and injuries.  The body adjusts its shape to compensate for how you move and don’t move on a daily basis multiplied by weeks, months, and years.  This action is called spinal remodeling, and can work positively to reshape yourself into correct position, and negatively, which is likely your current postural alignment. Spinal remodeling increases the risk for degenerative changes to occur in the spine over the lifespan (Pop, Mihancea, & Debucean, 2018; Stone et al., 2015). Similarly, adults can also develop pain and other musculoskeletal symptoms by maintaining poor posture when working at their desk or workstation for extended periods of time. For example, frequent computer users commonly experience pain in the cervical spine, shoulders, back, and wrist (Borhany, Shahid, Siddique, & Ali, 2018).

How does this affect you in these pandemic times?  People working from home are spending more time on their laptops and devices than ever before.  Work is stressful enough, and you may think that is the cause of your headaches.  Sitting with abnormal head and neck posture while using computers on a regular basis is also associated with higher incidences of headaches (Mingels, Dankaerts, van Etten, Thijs, & Granitzer, 2016).  Does this ring a bell for you? 

The more we rely on technology, the more we fall into these patterns I’m talking about.  The good news is you can overcome them without needing surgery and missing work in physical therapy.  An exercise prescription can be the best medicine, and it’s a whole lot cheaper than pills and potions!  Here are a few tips to help you deal with FHP:

Foam roll your upper back and shoulders (thoracic spine) 2-3 days per week.

Thoracic spine foam rolling

Stretch the muscles of your neck and trapezius by holding each stretch for 15-20 seconds in 1-2 rounds.

Stretching your neck muscles

Strengthen your scapula by practicing retraction movements.  Remodeling back into proper posture is not solely based on stretching.  Strengthening the corresponding weak muscles is critical.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps with heavy enough weight that you can’t do more than the suggested reps.

Ball squat with scapular retraction

Whether you’re currently working out or not doesn’t matter to integrate these stretches and exercises into your lifestyle.  If you don’t belong to a gym, don’t worry about it.  Use what you have at home to do this simple routine.

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 Exercises for an Improved Golf Stance & Swing

The pandemic gave me an opportunity to renew my passion for golf.  I grew up playing it sporadically with lessons from my grandfather and father, who were close to scratch golfers themselves.  In my 30’s and 40’s, golf took a back burner to life and reduced to an annual tournament with my alumni Sigma Nu brothers.  Now as I get back into it, and have become the author of Athlete in the Game of Life and a Corrective Exercise Specialist, the importance of building mobility into your fitness and wellness regiment is crucial for a proper golf swing.

Getting ready for my next round

To hit a golf ball where you want and the distance you want is almost counter-intuitive.  It’s not a baseball swing requiring a massive amount of swing speed and torque.  With technology, golf clubs can be purchased to match your natural swing speed to hit the ball competitively regardless of age and gender.  Obviously getting lessons from a professional is a big help, yet that can only take you so far if you have back pain, neck pain, and poor mobility to execute even a fundamentally sound swing.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

Working from home and being more sedentary since the pandemic started, has created more problems for older adults, executives, and golf enthusiasts.  While golf courses have been deemed essential and a “safe” activity, preparing yourself to execute a good golf swing has become harder.  Everyone thinks about working your rotational muscles as the only way to hit the ball farther.  If your posture, grip, and address aren’t right, it doesn’t matter how good your rotation is.  I’m going to share three exercises to help with your posture.

Dumbbell scaption
  1. Dumbbell scaption – Being able to retract your scapula and keep your upper back straight in address sets your rotation up for success.  Most people bent over a laptop all day have a weak upper back because your shoulders are rounded.  You can’t bring the club around into its on-plane position in a full back swing with rounded shoulders.  The dumbbell scaption strengthens and mobilizes your upper back and shoulders to stay retracted and in position to bring the club up to parallel to the ground, and positioned with your lever arm straight.  To perform, stand up tall with your shoulders retracted.  With or without light dumbbells held in a thumbs up position, raise your arms in front of you at a 45-degree angle from your body.  Bring them to shoulder height and lower in a controlled manner.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15 repetitions.
  2. Glute-hamstring bridges – Sitting lengthens and weakens your glutes and hamstrings, contributing to low back pain.  Addressing the golf ball with proper posture requires strength and mobility in your hamstrings and glutes to generate the power you need.  Your upper body hinges at your waist with knees slightly flexed depending on the club you’re using.  If your low back is in constant pain because it’s weak, you can’t even address the ball properly, and no golf lesson can fix that.  Lie flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent as you would for doing a sit-up or crunch.  Your arms are at your side palms up to prevent them from helping you perform the movement.  Push your feet into the floor and raise your hips to fully extend them.  Keep your knees in line with your feet and don’t let them flare out or rotate inward.  Slowly lower your hips to just above touching the ground and repeat the motion.  Perform 2-3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.
  3. Straight leg/Romanian deadlifts – For the same reasons mentioned with weakened hamstrings, the ability to hinge at the hip is vital to maintaining proper posture in your stance.  Performing straight leg deadlifts requires you to practice hinging and strengthens your hamstrings, glutes, low back, and abdominals.  This exercise brings the benefits of dumbbell scaption and glute-hamstring bridges into harmony.  You can use a barbell or dumbbells, I suggest a broomstick or PVC pipe for beginners and I’ll explain why.  To perform the movement properly, you must half a straight back with retracted shoulders, knees slightly flexed (I call it soft), head in neutral alignment with your chin tucked, and push your hips back allowing your weight to be on your heels.  Hinge your upper body without bending your knees more into a 45 to 90-degree angle.  You will feel this in your hamstrings and possibly calf muscles if they are tight.  Raise your body up into full upright position again after the hinge.  For those beginners, hold a broomstick behind you with the back of your head, between your shoulder blades, and at the bottom of your back all touching it.  Keep this contact on all 3 points and hinge.  If any of the points come off the broomstick, adjust your range of motion or posture.  Once you master this, move to a barbell or dumbbells for more resistance.  Beginners practice the hinge for 3 sets of 15-20 reps, more advanced lifters do 3 sets of 8-10 reps with resistance.
Glute-hamstring bridge

You can integrate these exercises into your regular workouts if you’re not doing so already.  The golf swing is about tempo and rhythm, not raring back and being out of control.  Unfortunately, most of us rare back with poor posture at address and we’re doomed to only be lucky when he hit a good shot.  Putting everything together: lessons, mobility, strength, and practice, yields you the results you want.

Straight leg deadlift

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!

How to Reduce Your Risk of Ankle Sprains

Have you every sprained your ankle?  If you played sports at all growing up or now, you likely sprained an ankle.  Ankle sprains are reported as one of the most common sports-related injuries (Herzog et al., 2019) accounting for over 50% of basketball injuries (Fong, Hong, Chan, Yung, & Chan, 2007).  Playing soccer mostly as a child through college, I had a few along the way.  For some people, they seem to get ankle sprains more easily than others.  Let’s look into some of the reasons why and what causes ankle sprains in the first place.

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

Ankle sprains can occur on the middle and side part of your foot.  73% of ankle sprains occur to the lateral aspect of the joint (Raghava Neelapala et al., 2016).  Sprains occur when your foot turns inward during a step with enough force to cause a trauma to it.  This can be done while walking and tripping, making a cut during an athletic activity, or instability in your footwear (high heels).  You know it the instant the sprain happens.

Typically resting, icing, compression, and elevation (RICE) is an acceptable treatment for a sprain.  After a few days you test how much stress the ankle can take and make your best judgement on when to resume sports participation or wear those stiletto heels again.  Without proper healing time and making certain adjustments in your training, you can develop chronic ankle instability.  Several risk factors for ankle sprains and chronic ankle instability have been identified, including previous sprain (Morrison & Kaminski, 2007), increased arch height, or a supinated foot type as well as footwear, intrinsic muscle weakness, and even glute weakness (Friel, McLean, Myers, & Caceres, 2006), according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

The way to build up ankle strength is doing exercises that increase proprioception.  Proprioception is how your body reacts to various stimulus in space, like standing on one foot with your eyes closed.  Anyone can increase foot and ankle proprioception by working on their balance doing simple tasks like washing dishes.  In the gym, try doing your normal standing type exercises on balancing on each foot for a set.  You can also do these activities barefoot to force the muscles in your feet to react and strengthen. Single leg balance and other types of proprioceptive training have been shown to be effective at enhancing ankle joint stability (DiStefano, Clark, & Padua, 2009). Barefoot stimulation and intrinsic foot muscle strengthening has also recently gained attention as an effective way to enhance ankle joint stability and position sense (de Villiers & Venter, 2014).

From experience, these small changes in your workout routine pay big dividends!  Older populations lose their balance more easily and are susceptible to broken hips and other broken bones in the arms and shoulders from impact.  Once you fall, your chances of falling again are guaranteed.  Build balance movements into your routine for all ages.  The same exercise has a completely different feel when you do. 

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, contact me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and 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!