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!

How to Retain Clients: Experiences of a Fitness Professional to Help Your Business Grow

Client retention is the key to any successful business.  While acquiring new clients is the lifeblood of a growing business, it cost a lot less to keep them than constantly having to find new.  The fitness industry operates the same way.  How can professionals retain clients for services that are 100% based on disposable income?  There is no one single answer.  I will share my experiences to help you in whatever line of client business you are in.

The first step in retaining clients in a business based on disposable income is to have a salesperson mindset.  A huge problem in the fitness industry is that personal trainers think people will come to them because they look good and like working out.  That is the farthest thing from the truth!  Unfortunately, personal trainer certifications wait until the last chapter of a 500-page book to give any information on sales and marketing.  38 chapters are dedicated to anatomy, biology, physiology, and how to partner body parts together for an effective workout routine.  One chapter half the length of all the others gives any info on how to gain and retain clients.  The same goes for doctors, lawyers, and accountants to name a few.

Janet MacDonell

The second step is to work with a wide variety of clients with different goals and ages.  To many trainers want the perfect client who does everything like them and has the same amount of time to spend as they do.  The overwhelming majority of clients have jobs and families that require 99% of their attention.  A couple hours per week with you is not their life.  By working with a variety, you learn how to relate and adjust your style to different people based on where they are in their life.  I had a female trainer co-worker who only wanted to work with other females who were “serious” and had time two days per week at 5:00PM or 6:00PM.  Because she was so restrictive, she missed out on a long-term client that became one of my best friends.  Needless to say, she isn’t employed by the health club anymore or has any clients attempting to train privately.

The third step is to be a product of your product.  People only invest when they see a potential ROI.  Fat and out of shape trainers are broke.  It doesn’t mean you have to be a fitness model or competitive bodybuilder.  You do have to represent a healthy, active lifestyle, and be able to do the workout yourself that you’re making the client perform.  I say this because sometimes the obvious is not so obvious.

Rob Tepper

The fourth step is to be authentic.  People hire other service providers based on some type of emotional connection and justify with logic.  If you are fake, good luck in retaining any clients beyond an initial package.  Because fitness professionals are completely optional, clients are not required to stay with you or even finish out a package they purchased.  A person invested in you because they felt a connection that makes them want to show up before or after work when they have better things to do than waste it on a flake.  Some of my best friends were and are current clients.  You can maintain professionalism and cultivate personal relationships outside the gym when you are authentic.

Hank Adams

The fifth and final step is be teachable.  Continuing education credits are required for any professional service provider.  I’m not talking about going through those motions.  Listen to other gym members, co-workers, managers, and industry news.  Don’t be afraid to implement new ideas and techniques to keep your clients and you interested.  I always have my ears and eyes tuned to other trainers on how they work with their clients.  Give credit to them when you use their ideas and techniques.  It fosters a giving relationship at work and one of trust.  A couple other trainers bought and read my book.  I was honored they thought highly of me enough to invest into my philosophies and practices.

It is easy to think your business is different.  The truth is it really is not when dealing with people.  The service or product you represent is different, how you interact and relate to other humans is the same across all businesses.  For more info on how I work with clients, please email me, Matt Peale, at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com, and go to my website, mattpeale.com.

3 Tips to Choosing a Fitness Professional For Your Exercise and Health Goals

What makes a fitness professional worth the investment?  Working out on a few machines every week isn’t that difficult right?  Adjust the settings to your size, figure out a weight to do 10 reps with for a couple sets, and you transform into a fitness model in 30 days or less guaranteed!  That’s what social media and advertisements have you to believe.

Since I was a early teenager I have been attracted to working out.  Even though I played soccer most of my life along with other sports growing up, weight training was something I knew I needed for better athletic performance and because I had little self-confidence as a thin kid.  As most teen boys wanted, I also had the desires to bulk up and look HUGE!  All I needed was to lift a bunch of heavy weights, read some bodybuilding magazines, and instant massive physique! Wrong.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Finally, at the age of 18 I received my first gym membership after working out in my room with a curl bar and doing push-ups and pull-ups.  Unfortunately, I still had no idea what I was really doing until I studied for and became a personal trainer in 2008.  I went 15 years of bumbling along reading only the same bodybuilding magazines as a guide.  Let me guess, you have done basically the same thing with some kind of magazine and now YouTube sensation to guide you.  I’m willing to bet a large sum of money you also are still clueless and have not achieved what you want regarding your athletic performance and overall health.

A fitness professional is an investment, no doubt.  Remember that fitness professionals also made an investment in themselves by spending $400-$500 on a certification, sometimes multiple certifications.  Plus, they have continuing education credits to maintain that certification, which are also a financial investment.  Fitness professionals are not just the biggest guys and hottest girls in the gym. 

How do you know who to invest in for your health and fitness goals?  I’ll share with you three characteristics of a good fitness professional.

  • Relationship oriented: they show a true interest in their clients beyond taking their money.  You truly matter to them beyond the 30 or 60 minutes a couple times per week.
  • They are a product of their product: they “look” the part and enjoy being fit.  A fitness professional doesn’t have to be the biggest, fastest, strongest, and best looking, they do need to exemplify a healthy, active lifestyle. 
  • Their own workouts are similar to what you enjoy: fitness professionals train others similarly to how they workout, it’s being human.  Watch them and see if you gravitate to their style.

Not all clients stay with the same professional, and that is fine.  Work with a few until you feel comfortable.  Ask them questions about their experiences both in fitness and life overall.  If you’re a 55- year-old male, a 27-year-old female may not understand what’s going on in your stage of life.  The relationship has to be win-win.  Fitness professionals are also counselors because our clients are in a vulnerable state and they feel comfortable sharing about their lives.  Being able to trust each other is crucial for maintaining a long-term relationship.

You are investing in their knowledge and expertise to get you where you have not been able to go.  If you’re health is worth it, then hiring a fitness professional is worth it.  Just like having a CPA.  Sure, you can do your own taxes, is it worth the risk of fines, penalties, and levies if the job isn’t done right?  Only you know the answer to that.  Your health is the same risk assessment.

For questions about my experiences with clients, email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  Go to my website and learn how to be on the Athlete in the Game of Life Team to receive a FREE copy of my book.

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!

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.

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!

Keeping Gyms Closed is Killing a Community

Gym members can be extremely OCD about their gym time.  Literally come hell or high water, “the regulars” will be waiting at their usual ass crack of dawn time, or whenever their normal time is, to get inside.  They question the safety and sanity of others who prefer waiting for the safe signal to be given before venturing back on to the roads after a storm.  Working in gyms since 2008 in various states, this same profile exists everywhere.  You know who these people are in your circle of friends!

As a personal trainer, gym members seem to think I spend 10-12 hours a day at my place of employment.  While it seems like that some days, I’d venture to say they are at the gym longer than I am.  Obviously being at work opposed to working out, are different mindset hours to me, but not to the members.  When they are at the gym, it’s off time and they think it’s similar for me.  My working and workout hours are very different. 

My senior small group training

The gym is an important part of the social fabric in a community.  It truly does serve as a social outlet for people of all ages.  Friendships and dating relationships are made in the gym.  When this cog in someone’s life is taken away for any reason, there is a feeling of loss and anxiety.  The old adage of the car driving itself definitely applies to gym people in their daily habits of showing up at the same time regardless.  Is that really healthy?  There are worse addictions and OCD habits!

When gyms were and still are forced to shut down, it does more than take away a place to exercise.  The daily contact with friends of years and sometimes decades, disappears.  Mental health is not a common aspect thought of for gyms and health clubs.  Eliminating this socialization has a negative effect that is the same as any other club or meeting group.  Unlike the WFH movement, you can’t really get the same workout physically and mentally in your spare bedroom or living room. 

Gym people are their own breed.  Their lives often intertwine outside the gym into comingling at social events in the area.  The common themes automatically lead them to showing up at a festival, restaurant, or race.  I taught a group class for older adults that turned into us having lunch out locally each quarter.  This was a highlight pre-COVID for everyone because of the relationships built from seeing each other multiple times each week.

Health clubs are different from gyms like Anytime Fitness, so the community feeling is not as strong.  Smaller gyms do have their own sense of camaraderie with people who always show up the same times you do.  In this case, you’re forced into expanding outside the gym because there aren’t facilities like a executive locker room or café/grill to interact when not exercising.  When you see someone from your small gym out at the store or in a restaurant, you automatically have a friend! Sheltering in place has been especially hard on those over 65.  Many have not come back to their gyms, health clubs, and senior centers for fear of coronavirus.  Unfortunately, state, and local governments lump gyms in with bars as spreading centers, which is not true.  Research is out that shows gyms and health clubs are on the lower end of transmission compared to restaurants and bars.  The populations in fitness facilities are typically healthier with less obesity risk factors that lead to COVID-19 deaths.  Make your own decisions based on your health, please don’t lump fitness centers into the forgotten and trash piles as places you will never return.

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!

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

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!