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

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

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

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

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

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

Calf stretch with toe up
Staggered stance calf stretch

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

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

Strengthening the anterior tibialis

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

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

3 Moves Guaranteed to Reduce Low Back Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Minute Routine at Work to Reduce Back & Neck Pain

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

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

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

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
Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

A typical home office day:

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

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

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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!

How to Reduce Your Chances of Shin Splints

Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome is pain in the front of the tibia caused by an overload to the tibia and the associated musculature.  MTSS is more commonly known as shin splints.  Athletes and weekend warriors of all ages have experienced shin splints at one time or another, and I’m one of them.  In high school I had shin splints playing soccer at various times, and in training for soccer during distance running regimens I also had the pain.  For most cases, simply buying newer and better supporting shoes can solve the problem.  Let’s look more in detail at how you can prevent MTSS without spending money on footwear.

The science behind shin splints from the National Academy of Sports Medicine says (Moen, Tol, Weir, Steunebrink, & De Winter, 2009), it is an overuse injury thought to be associated with the improper loading of impact forces and a more rigid foot type (Hubbard, Carpenter, & Cordova, 2009).   In regular English, this is referring to how your foot strikes the ground with each running step or jump landing on one foot, typically during sports.  Most athletes and common gym members don’t train, or think about, how they land during a jump or how their foot impacts the surface as they run.  Without a professional to analyze your gait for improper muscle function, why would you?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

When you land from a jump or running step, your lower leg absorbs all the forces from your body.  Your hamstrings and glutes play significant roles also, we are focusing on the lower leg, specifically the tibia, for this blog.  Your lower leg muscles stiffen up to protect the tibia from bending upon impact.  Depending on the angle, shoes you wear, and force your produce upon landing, the body automatically stiffens appropriately to avoid injury. 

Shin splints occur when the lower 1/3 of the medial tibial area cannot absorb landing forces appropriately.  If not treated, you could cause stress fractures to your tibia and possibly further damage.  According to NASM, risk factors for MTSS include improper footwear, over-pronation, rigid foot type (supinated), glute weakness, and delayed stabilization on impact.  Stretching and strengthening muscles around your ankle and in your feet are the best ways to prevent shin splints, besides replacing worn out shoes.

Calf stretch

What muscles need to be stretched?  Before athletic activities, use a foam roller along your calf muscles, and/or roll a frozen water bottle with the bottom of your foot.  Hold your body on the roller for 15-20 seconds on each tender spot of your calf.  Do not roll along your calf like rolling out dough.  Yes, it will hurt, and that’s part of the roller breaking up knots in your fascia.  Spend a couple minutes on each leg.  When you finish rolling, spend 20-30 seconds holding a calf stretch on each leg.  Do not bounce!  Repeat this process before every run, workout, or sport practice.  Also stretch after your activity.

What muscles need to be strengthened?  The muscles along the bottom of your feet and in the shin.  The anterior tibialis is the muscle that draws your foot up.  You can attach a band to a bench and pull your toes toward you.  Another alternative is to walk like you have swim fins on and deliberately point your toes up as high as you can, placing your heels on the ground with each step for 20-30 steps.  Do this for 1-2 sets.  Perform a short foot movement like the picture shows: bring the ball of your foot towards your heel without using your toes.  It’s tricky and takes practice. 

Short foot start
Short foot finish

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!

Get Your Ass Into It! – Glutes Are Not Just for Sitting On

“Get your ass into it!” yells your coach as you half heartedly go through the motions of a workout or practice.  Does he really mean to use your butt muscles, or more metaphorically to put more effort into your movements?  The answer is likely a little of both, and you know that from way back when.

Let’s drill down into why “using your ass” in sports and gym exercises is critical to power, strength, and speed.  Regardless of your age and talent level, being able to successfully incorporate the glutes can transform your workouts, give you more distance off the tee, and allow you to hammer that ace first serve.  Unfortunately, most executives, professionals, and older adults use their glutes for resting their body weight on, aka, sitting a majority of the day.  Obviously sitting does nothing to make the glutes stronger.  Sitting makes your glutes lengthened and more difficult to generate power for working out and playing any sports.  Most people don’t know the potential that lies in the biggest muscle on their body.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

The main function of your glutes is to extend your hips.  The easiest way to explain it is standing up.  When you stand up from a seated position, your glutes contract along with your quadriceps, to get you off the chair.  Most people over rely on their quadriceps for these movements, which are shortened and tight due to sitting hours daily.  The quadriceps cannot generate the power and strength of the glute muscles when they are shortened, and often lead to knee-cap pain when they dominate in pushing movements. 

Training the glutes to be the prime power generator is not simply doing squats, lunges, and deadlifts till they fall off.  It starts with smaller isolated exercises like lying face down and raising your straight leg high as you can off the ground.  Another move called a bird dog helps to activate your glutes and your rear shoulder muscles.  Being able to contract your glutes for full hip extension takes the strain off your quadriceps and knees, allowing for more range of motion for any squatting movements.  This also means picking up a bag of mulch or dog food from the ground easier and putting less stress on your lower back.  Being an athlete in the game of life isn’t always about lifting weights or playing sports, it’s about doing life’s activities easier and more often.

Photo by Florian Doppler on Pexels.com

For women, they love training glutes for that curvy look.  Aesthetics are important and I’d be telling a lie saying I don’t look at a woman’s butt that’s shapely.  Ladies, you look at women’s butts too AND men’s.  Everyone knows it. From a functional standpoint, learning how to activate your glutes helps you to stand up taller, shift your weight in a golf swing for more distance, explode into an overhand smash and serve, and sprint faster in a race.  Look at a Thoroughbred’s rear legs and glutes.  That’s what powers those amazing animals to run at the speeds they do.  Once you learn to activate the glutes in a lunge, squat, and deadlift, your lifting amount increases while chance of injury decreases. 

To learn how to train your glutes as part of a total body exercise program, sign up for my executive or active aging coaching program at mattpeale.com.  I just scratched the surface in this blog on why getting your ass into it is the game changer your posture and athletic performance need.  You can take any tennis or golf lessons you want, unless you learn from me how to activate the muscles you sit on all day, you’re missing out on your potential.  Go to my site and invest a few minutes into what Competing as an Athlete in the Game of Life can do for you!

Why Your Hips Hurt From Sitting at Your Desk

Men and women exercise very differently even though the biology and anatomy of muscle functions are exactly the same.  Men focus on the upper body, and mostly the “show’ muscles of chest, shoulders, and biceps.  Women focus on glutes, quadriceps, triceps, and anything abdominal related.  The real story relates to the muscles often forgotten, hamstrings and hips.  For older adults, and successful executives and professionals, sitting dominates a large portion of the day.  The muscles that become weak and cause pain in other parts of the body from hours of sitting are the hamstrings and hips.

I have an amputee client who is a successful medical professional.  Her left lower leg was lost in a lawn mower accident when she was a child.  In her medical profession, she sits while assisting for surgeries the majority of her day.  Even when not in surgery, she’s sitting a lot!  As a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I can assess and work with the dysfunction in her hips and hamstrings that result from prolonged sitting and a propensity to not be as active with her prosthetic left lower leg. 

After a training session in her home, she showed me an article in the magazine Amplitude, which is dedicated to helping amputees in all aspects of life.  The article, “Which Muscles Are You Forgetting?”, discussed all the exercises I had her do in previous sessions to increase mobility and strength in her hamstrings and hips.  It was validating and refreshing to read from a corrective standpoint, the importance of hip and hamstring mobility for amputees.  Without previously researching specific movements for amputees, I used my knowledge and experience from people who sit long periods daily to correct her imbalances and dysfunction. 

Foam rolling the priformis

Mobility in the hips is key to movement in all directions.  The glutes are the largest muscle of the body and responsible for producing power when you squat, lunge, jump, swing a golf club, pick up a bag of mulch, and all other movements related to bending at the knee and lowering your hips.  Without proper mobility, your lower back and quadriceps take on the load.  Have you thrown your lower back out?  Probably because your hips lack the strength and flexibility to function properly.  If you’re an avid gym goer and do deadlifts without good hip mobility (as I see most people do), your low back is a ticking timebomb to blow out.

Working from home over the past few months and sheltering in place exacerbated this already dangerous problem.  Older adults begin to weaken naturally, and hips become brittle from lack of use.  Balance issues are huge for older adults and anyone who sits for hours daily, which often stems also from weakness in the hips.  Pain can be felt in the knees and low back, even though it originates from weakness in the glutes, hamstrings, and hip rotational muscles.  One fall leads to another, and I see it in people starting in their early 40’s.

Bird dog

“Weak glutes can contribute to many issues such as tight hips and lower-back pain.  When we sit for long periods of time or hold poor posture, these muscles disengage,” says article writer John Pope CS, CSCS, MPO, in Amplitude.  Additionally, you can’t stand up straight and fully extend your hips because they are to tight.  Have you seen older adults shifted over and lose height?  This is a prime reason why, and it started decades ago in their 30s and 40s. 

Sitting lengthens the hamstrings and glutes, tightens the quadriceps, and hinders external rotation of the hips.  Focus on strengthening the hams and glutes while stretching the quadriceps.  Most people stand up after long periods of sitting and stretch the hamstrings, further pulling themselves out of position.  For more specific help, find a Corrective Exercise Specialist like me.  We can work with you to stretch and strengthen the proper muscles for improved movement quality in all your activities.  My website, mattpeale.com, has great info on the programs I offer for older adults, and executives and professionals.  You only have one body, and investing in it gives you the highest ROI for everything you want to do in life.

3 Upper Body Stretches to Loosen Up the Working From Home Executive

Working at home during the Coronavirus pandemic has executives and professionals all tensed up and feeling tight.  Not that it’s out of the norm to feel that way mentally, I’m speaking physically in regard to muscles from sitting and typing on your computer.  A whole host of movement dysfunctions result from hours of daily sitting that most people believe are their new normal.  This blog will help you with three specific upper body stretches to mitigate pain and discomfort in your upper body from working extended hours on your computer.

  • Stretch Your Biceps

“Stretch my biceps?” you ask.  Yes, your biceps!  Sitting with your arms bent at 90 degrees or more puts your biceps in a flexed position.  You don’t have to be in the gym pumping out barbell curls to have your biceps experience tightness.  The bicep muscles contract and bring your hand towards your shoulder, not much else purpose for them.  What is important are all the reasons why you bend your arm at the elbow to bring objects and your hand closer to you shoulder, face, and head (bringing food to your mouth is a vital function).  Being in a constant state of flex makes your biceps tight and over time, you can’t extend your arms fully without pain in your shoulder and elbow.  Stretching your biceps like the picture allows the proper length-tension relationship to return to your arms.  Pain in your elbow and shoulders, along with proper function, can extend your work life.

  • Stretch Your Pectorals (Chest)

Sitting with your hands on the keyboard, as I’m doing now, brings your arms together and contracting your pectoral muscles, also over stretching muscles in your upper back.  Over time, this position rounds your shoulders, makes you appear shorter, tightens your chest muscles, and reduces mobility of your shoulders and back.  If you workout, your bench press is impacted negatively from a reduced range of motion.  You literally become closed off and look unhappy even though you’re an upbeat person.  A simple stretch like the image below, is done with your arms in an L shape at 90 degrees leaning into a door frame.  It’s important to also stand up tall while leaning into the stretch for maximum effectiveness.  You will feel more open and give the appearance of more confidence with your shoulders back and head up!

  • Stretch Your Trapezius Muscles

Ever shrug your shoulders?  Of course you have, many times a day.  When you do so, your trapezius muscles pull up your shoulders to your ears.  With your arms elevated on your keyboard, your trapezius muscles are engaged to help keep them in this position.  Long hours of typing letters, presentations, and emails keep your trapezius muscles engaged.  Similar to your pecs, tight traps can give you the appearance of being shorter and hunched over.  Tight and consistently elevated traps pull your head forward extending your cervical vertebrae to potentially cause disc herniation.  Tension headaches also occur as a result of tightness in the traps and cervical spine area.  How can you stretch them out, place your body like the picture below.  Be sure to pull lightly on your neck to avoid injury.  Keep your back straight and upright pulling your keeping your head neutral with the ear lined up with the shoulder.  Do not pull your head forward or back, just directly to the opposite side of your extended arm.

Integrate these stretches a few times a day during your working hours.  Stretching these muscles makes a world of difference in how you feel and look.  During these unprecedented times of longer hours working from home, you need the stress relief!

Consumer Shift in the Fitness Industry as Gyms Reopen

Gyms, health clubs, and fitness facilities were among the first businesses, along with bars and restaurants, to be closed in March for the Coronavirus pandemic.  As a personal trainer working in gyms and health clubs since 2008, my world flipped upside down literally overnight.

Over the past few months, home gym equipment has leaped off the shelves of big box stores and backordered for months from online retailers.  Amazon delayed any shipping of fitness equipment until mid-May and into June.  Companies like Peloton are now having record breaking sales with people forced into purchasing higher priced items from continued gym closures and reduced capacity once reopening begins.

at home senior exercise

National and local gyms, and personal trainers of all types have taken to offering free or reduced-price classes to keep members and clients plugged in.  The health club I work at in the New Orleans area also took and is still taking part to an extent, with this model.  With a set of light to medium dumbbells, gym goers can do body pump, Zumba, yoga, cardio kickboxing, etc., from the comfort of their living room any time of day.

#Reopening.  Along with other businesses, gyms are now faced with decisions on how to reopen “safely” at 25-30% capacity in most states.  Some states as of this blog are already up to 50%.  Social distancing and sanitation/hand cleaning requirements also add into the mix for attracting members to come back.  To be honest, most of the sanitation issues have been rules posted in gyms for decades.  Members did not follow these rules and yet somehow aside from an occasional cold or flu, everyone miraculously survived over the decades.

While you may think people are lining up to pack the gym at its reduced capacity on day one, you are sadly mistaken.  Fear still dominates members’ minds even though guidelines are in place.  Realistically, it’s not possible for some of the guidelines to be implemented.  What do members do with all the home gym equipment and accessories they invested in?  Using their membership is great, yet a new routine has taken hold over the past 60 days and now is entrenching into a habit.  Free online classes are still available.  Older members are remaining at home.  Childcare is still closed for a little while longer.  Food services and gatherings for coffee or lunch are still off limits.  Personal trainers also remain furloughed in some health clubs or are making more money traveling to clients’ homes.

Fit and healthy people have stronger immune systems, regardless of age, and are more resilient to bounce back from illness.  Unfortunately, this was and is overlooked by public health, and an industry that literally can save lives, is currently in the doghouse as a den of Covid filth.  Many larger health clubs will feel the economic sting more than smaller ones.  Large health clubs have higher overhead, higher dues, and require more employees to operate.  Small gyms like an Anytime Fitness, typically have minimal to no staff, and at primetime, are still way under the fire marshal 25-30% capacity.  Could the fitness industry see a shift away from high-end, large footprint health club back to smaller boutique or franchised business plans?

A small footprint doesn’t require childcare, group classes, paid training staff, and food services.  Membership costs are low and 24/7 access from a network of locations may make these now more attractive than ever for investors, and members seeking to reduce personal expenses.  A market will always exist for higher incomes wanting perks and the latest in gadgets, classes, and equipment.  What happens to the remaining 80% of potential gym goers who are evaluating their options?  Time will tell the changes in consumer confidence and tastes for what they desire.  The gym landscape has shifted indeed.

How to Add Balance Training for Seniors

When working with clients over the age of 60, balance is always a concern.  They ask me how they can work on it because they’re noticing a decline, which also means a decline in confidence and quality of life.

Doing exercises that challenge a person’s balance are scary, fact.  Nobody wants to fall, and nobody wants to look foolish practicing and stumbling as they do so.  The cold hard truth is you have to stumble as you work through improving balance.  There are reasons why over time you lost confidence and ability, same as gaining weight.  The process takes time and consistent work to improve and maintain balance.  The CDC says a person should be able to stand on each leg without falling for 15 seconds.  To assess, do a simple test by seeing if you can stand on each leg for 15 seconds without falling.  Depending on your results, it’s time to implement more work.

The brain has the ability to rebuild neural pathways as the result of varied stimulus.  This process is called neuroplasticity and is responsible for helping stroke victims relearn speech, for example.  Harnessing the power of neuroplasticity is simple and doesn’t require conscious thought and effort.  Standing on one leg and reaching above your head in a shoulder press motion for two sets of 10 repetitions, can build a new neural pathway that allows this motion to be performed easier with practice.  After a few weeks of doing this motion two-to-three times per week, you notice it is easier and have more confidence.

Let’s take this example a step further.  You have cups on a top shelf cabinet to put away.  It requires you to perform almost the identical motion that you’ve been practicing in your exercise regimen.  Now instead of asking someone for help, you put the cups away without much thought.  Balance has been restored to your life, so activities of daily living are easier and automatic.  Neuroplasticity allowed you to rewire your brain and the results are life changing.

How can you implement a balance program without feeling awkward?  Begin with Movement Academy’s Active Aging Home-Based Exercise Program is a great way.  The focus begins on balance and stability movements accessed from your phone or any device.  15 minutes a day, a couple times per week and suddenly difficult physical tasks become simpler, guaranteed.  You don’t have to worry about what to do next because the program automatically progresses and challenges you with updates each month.  No embarrassing time spent at a gym necessary.  Soon your friends notice a change in your attitude and a renewed confidence.

If for some reason you’re still afraid to use a home-based program, try standing on one leg for the CDC required 15 seconds.  Practice it multiple times a day per leg.  You will get better over time and with consistent effort.  If you’re an experienced gym goer, do some of your standard exercises on one leg.  You may need to reduce the weight you use at first.  The added difficulty helps your proprioception, which is how your body reacts in various spatial environments.  For example, do dumbbell biceps curls standing on one leg.  Do one set on your right, then one on your left leg.  Any small change the body must adapt to makes a big difference and improvement!

To get your first month 50% off for the Active Aging Home-Based Exercise Program, enter code BRAIN at checkout.  Go to Movement Academy and get started today!