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!

What is the Best Kind of Cardio Workout?

I’m often asked what the best exercises for a variety of body parts are, and for cardiovascular workouts.  In keeping with American Heart Month in February, I’ll discuss the cardiovascular workouts in this blog.  The number one secret nobody will ever tell you about establishing a true healthy lifestyle for heart health, do whatever you like the most!

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“But, Matt,” you say, “running is the best because it clears my head.”  If running indeed clears your headspace, then run.  For me, running makes me angry and I hate it, so not going to happen.  The only way human beings stick to anything that requires a little work is if there is a modicum of happiness that accompanies it.  This is why diets fail 90% of the time, because they are about deprivation with an ending point.  When the diet is over, you go back to your old ways of eating and gain all the weight back if not more.

The best cardio exercise is the one you have some kind of enjoyment during the process.  This is why people play tennis, racquetball, and adult basketball leagues, they have fun and don’t do it consciously thinking about the benefits to their heart.  The heart will beat faster and pump blood to the needed muscles whether you run, cycle, play soccer, or swim, it does not know the difference.  Your brain knows what limbs are moving and how to initiate nerve impulses that go with the physical activities.  Your heart cannot think and therefore just does its job of beating and keeping you alive.

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There are methods to maximize the time you spend doing cardiovascular training.  In my blog last week, I talked about one called Tabata.  The principle behind Tabata is interval training, where you do short bouts of intense movement followed by rest or slower movement.  The CDC says even five-minute bouts of moderate-to-intense exercise are beneficial for the heart and brain in their 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Report found on their website.  The interval training concept focuses on how quickly you can recover from an intense bout before going back to that higher intensity.  Benefits of interval training:

  • Can be done in shorter amounts of time than steady state
  • Any type of exercise can be used (walking, running, swimming, weight training, etc)
  • Doesn’t need any extra equipment
  • Mimics all sports involving a cardiovascular component

Using the FITTE method is how personal trainers work with clients.  So, here’s your free insight!  Frequency Intensity Type Time Enjoyment.  There’s that enjoyment piece again.  FITTE is how you can adjust the variables for maximum efficiency and enjoyment!  Interval training uses all aspects of FITTE to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, which is time spent on the activity. 

Frequency is how many times per week.

Intensity is your heart rate percentage related to your maximum rate.

Time is how long are you doing the activity.

Type is whatever activity you choose to do.

Enjoyment is purely subjective based on your happiness.

Example A using these variables for a 20-minute cardio session:  twice per week on the assault bike doing intervals of 1 minute all out, 2 minutes slower pace.

Example B using these variables for a 30-minute cardio and weights session: three times per week broken into four, six-minute circuits with a minute rest between circuits.

Your heart doesn’t know the difference between the examples.  It loves the process and results either way.  Get off that hamster wheel of a treadmill unless you really LOVE it.  Adapt and adjust the variables to what gives you the most enjoyment.  I guarantee you will stick with it once you practice the adjustments to help achieve your goals!

For more help, please email me at athleteinthegameoflife@gmail.com.  My coaching programs are also available on my website.  Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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!