And the day came

For that is just the place and time that the tide will turn

Do you do a lot of sitting? Do you suffer from back pain occasionally? If you do, you are part of the majority. We can probably blame technology for the amount of sitting we do. Technology be it computers or other devices is ubiquitous. Most of our devices are used while we are sitting and less time is spent out of the sitting position. And, the majority of people are not getting an adequate amount of exercise weekly (some studies have concluded that the number is as high as 80%). Today  I came across an article saying it’s time we pay employees to exercise.

This post isn’t going to get into the benefits of having a workplace that encourages working out, but I think this shows the importance and the slow realization that we perform better when we are active or workout.

My point I guess is that our body is taking a beating from all the sitting we do, and it needs to be addressed. Outside of working out, I want to spend some time on explaining some of the things we can do to loosen those tight hip flexors.

What are they

Hip flexors is a general term used to refer to the muscles that move our femur to a flexion position. There are a number of muscles that comprise what we call the hip flexors. I’m not going to name them but instead I want to explain what they do. Flexion is the movement that decreases the angle between two bones at a joint. Hip flexion brings the femur (the bone in our legs above the knee) closer to our body. Now if we compare the position of the femur when we stand to when we are sitting you can see that the femur is closer to our body when sitting. Muscles can only contract and pull so to bring the femur closer to our body our hip flexors pull the femur to keep it in that position.

And because we keep our legs in flexion state because of all the sitting we do, these muscles stay in the contracted position and end up becoming tight. We probably don’t even realize it. The indicators of tight hip flexors don’t so much point to the hip flexors as the issue but instead manifest in other issues such as back problems, knee problems, hip problems and so on.

Alright, having said all that let’s spend some time looking at what can be done to loosen our hips. I’m going to list some stretches you can do, but I will defer to external sources for some of these because I can’t really explain them well enough for you to get the benefit.

The remedy

I’m going to start with one of my favourites, and oldie but a goodie, the kneeling lunge. This one is really straight forward, easy to do and doesn’t require much.

Kneeling lunge: Start by kneeling on one knee. The front leg should be bent at about 90 degrees. The back leg should be straight behind you, having your foot as far back as it can go. Have your foot on the back leg positioned so the top of your foot is on the ground. Keep about 55 – 60% of your weight on the front leg. Gently press your hip forward feeling the stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds then switch legs.

Things to watch for: Watch that you don’t extend the front knee forward of your toes. Keep the leg that is behind you straight back from your hip. Don’t let it move to the outside or the inside.

Half Pigeon Pose: This is one of the stretches that I’m going to defer to external sources.  I would recommend that you take yoga classes to learn this pose. The half pigeon pose is great for stretching the psoas muscle which is one of our hip flexors that end up becoming tight. It’s a tough one to do if you have tight hips but if you work at it you will loosen up your hips.

Things to watch for: This can be a tough stretch. Ease into it. Let time do it’s thing to loosen up the muscles.

Kneeling lunge variant: This stretch is the same as the kneeling lunge with the modification of putting the back foot up against a wall behind you. Position yourself so your back knee is about 8 inches forward of a wall. Now with your leg bent, rest your foot against the wall. Now lower your hips until you can feel the hip flexors of the leg that has it’s foot up on the wall start to stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds than switch legs.

Things to watch for: Same things as the kneeling lunge.

So much more

It shouldn’t take much to do these stretches but the benefits will be huge! Try to make it part of your weekly routine, and then maybe your routine every other day. Watch for the progress and see if other parts of your body feel better, are less injury prone.

It’s your body, give it the respect it, and you deserve.

Yours in health,

Darryl

I know I tried

bold and strong, waiting for the world…

It doesn’t always go the way we would like it to. We try our best, our hardest, damn it, why doesn’t this work, but the end result is not always what we want it to be, what we hope it to be. Our minds don’t function to the best of our abilities all the time. It sucks and I don’t like it. But it is my reality and I have to deal with it.

Dealing with it may mean a flood of emotions; anger, disappointment, frustration sometimes to the point that we are overwhelmed and want to walk away and forget that today ever happened. We have those days and they are defeating. Some people are so defeated that it is the end to what it was they were pursuing. That’s an unfortunately ending because although these days happen, they are not every day.

I think we need these days, some days.  I believe that ultimately we become stronger because of them. Why? Because you came back. You came back to face the same tasks that put you into that feeling of defeat. You got up and came back to better yourself. You have grown for the better. You fell down, got back up and continued. You didn’t let this moment defeat you or define you. It shouldn’t define you because it’s not a reflection of what you can do. It’s not a reflection of what you are.

Our minds although powerful do fail us and we can’t always control that. Whether it’s the time we freeze while writing a test and we know the answer but it eludes us at that time, or it’s the time we are performing and we can’t remember a sequence. We can’t control that. What we can control is what we do moving forward. We can either let those moments defeat us, win over us, or we can accept it as part of being human and dust ourselves off and give it another shot. We can grow from the experience and ultimately we become stronger than before. Do we get upset, do we get mad, do we cry? Yeah. And that’s perfectly fine. The emotions are there for a reason and they have to happen. Sometimes letting those emotions happen help us feel better, help us get back to tackling what it is that put us there. Don’t let someone tell you that you need to suck it up. Sure, move forward and try again but we need to let those emotions happen.

Those bad days are going to happen and they will happen again. The bad days don’t define you, what you do with those days, and following those days is what defines you. Know that you are not alone in this. You have company. We’ve all been there.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Put me back on the line

Give me more of a reason

I look at things that happen in my life, things that I see, questions asked, people’s experiences and I look at these things and see if I can find a lesson in them. Maybe find something that I can pass onto you that helps you with your training and helps you reach your goals quicker.

That has always been the purpose of my blog, to help. To help you grow in the part of your life that is fitness. If only one article has done that, than I have succeeded.

A new one

I recently revisited a client of mine that I started training about eight weeks ago. This client of mine is very goal oriented and had a specific goal she wanted to achieve – to better her game by increasing her strength and power.

I liked the idea of training this person because her goal was very specific and I felt it would be very challenging. She is a very athletic person, I have known her for probably the last 4 years and already knew her work ethic. This is partly why I had no issue leaving her on her own to train. I have said in previous posts that I don’t feel that everyone needs a personal trainer for all their workouts. Some people? Yes. But not everyone.

The purpose of this visit was to reevaluate her performance and to touch base as to the next 4 weeks. I was anxious to see what the results would be.

No hiding

I said I was anxious but I was also nervous. There is no hiding from the results, or massaging the results to provide a different outcome than what it is. The numbers don’t lie. It can be like shining a bright light onto you. Success or failure, there can be only one outcome.

Success! The reevaluation showed lots of positive gains. Vertical jump increase, drastic increase in leg strength, increase in chest strength and so on. The program I had put together worked and I am seeing the results.

But the results were not evident to my client, until we measured them.

Tracking

It wasn’t until I tested my client again and compared the results to the initial test that she realized that she was making gains. Part of this is due to a good part of the program designed around exercises using body weight making it difficult to see increase in strength since no dumbbells or barbells were being used.

At the end of the evaluation my client was so pumped seeing the increase in strength. Could she of seen this earlier? Absolutely.

Journal. That’s it. Recording each workout on paper. Capturing what you have accomplished. It’s also a good way to capture your general feeling that day; tired, energized, strong, weak. A journal can be a great way to see your progress as weeks go on and to keep yourself motivated in reaching your goal, or goals. I think we underestimate the value of capturing each workout and the impact it can have.

The payoff

If my client had a journal, she probably wouldn’t have been as surprised at the results. It was the action of me reevaluating her that showed the gains made, but it didn’t have to be. The gains were there, just not being measured. Record everything, from day one.

How do you measure your progress if you don’t know where you came from?

Yours in health,

Darryl

I want to

A bright light in the darkness of defeat.

Workouts have been awesome lately. You’ve be killing it, walking away feeling really great, tired but you know you’ll be able to do more later. But lately you’ve been struggling from almost the beginning. 2 minutes in feels like 60 minutes. It sucks. Why do you feel this way? You didn’t feel this way last week.

What’s different

As best as you know, nothing is different. You’re doing the things you have always done. There could be a number of reasons why you feel like you are lacking energy, or you actually are lacking energy. Have you been doing the same things that you have been doing when you don’t feel this way? Things such as getting enough rest, eating enough carbs before your workout. Fueling before a workout is very important, so much I wrote a post about it.

But, there could be other things going on, things I would like to write about.

What else

There is a lot of chemistry happening for our body to perform and perform well under harsh conditions. Our body requires vitamins, minerals (micro nutrients), carbs, water to create energy. I have excluded fat purposely because if you are burning fat for your main source of energy, you are not working that intensely. Let’s take a look at things that if we are lacking proper amounts of our performance goes drastically down, so much that we take notice.

Magnesium: Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body and is needed for breaking down glucose into energy. Not having enough magnesium will result in a higher heart rate and the need for more oxygen to work out.

If you feel you aren’t getting enough magnesium, be sure to consume more almonds, hazelnuts, or cashews. Also, you can increase your intake of whole grains.

Iron: Iron deficiency anemia is the most common type of anemia which occurs when the body does not have enough iron. Your body needs iron to produce red blood cells which bring oxygen to the bodies tissues. Your muscles and tissues need oxygen to perform properly. If you aren’t getting enough iron it makes sense why you would be tired. You are also probably tired outside of any exercising that you do.

If you feel this is you, get your blood tested to see if you are deficient in iron.

Water: They say by the time we realize we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated. Water plays an important role in the chemical process of creating energy. If you feel you are not getting enough water, well, drink more water!

Vitamin B: B vitamins are responsible for the conversion of carbs into ATP, the currency of energy. They are needed. Plain and simple. Lacking in B vitamins will make it very difficult for your body to convert carbs into energy. So you might be getting the proper amount of carbs, rest and so on, but if you are lacking in B vitamins, more than likely you will end up lethargic.

Be sure to eat foods high in B vitamins to get what you need and supplement if necessary. Dark green vegetables, grains, lentils and nuts are all good sources.

Vitamin B12: Being deficient in B12 can also lead to a low red blood cell count, and we now know the detriments of that. No wonder you don’t have energy. In fact, for people who are constantly tired, doctors have prescribed B12 injections. If you feel you aren’t getting enough B12, or aren’t sure, have blood work done. An easy way to get more B12 is by supplementation. Stick with the pills that dissolve under the tongue for better results.

Lets look at other things that can impact our performance.

Thyroid: It could be possible that you have a low thyroid function issue. If you fatigue is an ongoing issue, have it checked out by your doctor.

Rest: Rest, sleep. Quality sleep. Hopefully you are getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, and hopefully they are quality hours. If you find that you are having a really hard time getting out of bed when the alarms sounds, that you are constantly hitting the snooze to get more sleep, you aren’t getting enough quality sleep. Quality sleep. I qualify this with the word quality because just sleep isn’t enough. Your brain has to go into the proper state for your sleep to be adequate. Alcohol can be a contributing factor to not getting quality sleep even though you tend to sleep.

It’s really straight forward. Your body, and your mind need sleep. That’s it. It’s basic.

Carbohydrates: Hate me if you want to, but I don’t agree with high protein/low carb diets. Our bodies need complex carbs for energy. Carbs are what gives us glucose and glycogen which is converted to ATP the currency of energy for everything we do. If you are lacking in carbs your body will convert protein (sometimes existing muscle)  into carbs through a chemical process, but it’s inefficient and why would you want your exiting muscle converted to carbs anyways? Doesn’t make sense, does it.

Sickness: It could be as simple as you are sick, fighting some bacteria or a virus. But, if a couple weeks pass and you are still lacking energy, see your doctor

Seek

If you are feeling this way, you feel your performance is not where it should be, and it’s been more than a couple of weeks, see your doctor. You will want to have blood work done to see if there are any vitamin or mineral deficiencies, if you have a thyroid issue or if your lack of energy needs medical attention.

Training and feeling like there is an additional 50 lbs on your shoulders, or an anchor tied to your body is not fun at all. We are supposed to be making gains, not feeling like we are moving backwards. It can be discouraging, even depressing. Take the steps necessary to see if any of the above is going on. Don’t delay it unnecessarily as you will only feel worse as time goes on.

Address this issue as soon as possible and get back out there, killing it like you do. You are a beast and need to get back on your feet as close to 100% as you can be.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

Our black letters cross on tightrope lines

push…pull. push…pull.

I hope this post doesn’t discourage you, or make you think ‘Ugh, something else I need to worry about’. If you feel this way after reading this post, read it again and focus on the message. The execution of the message is a matter of changing what you do. It’s not going to be something else you need to add onto your busy schedule. Knowing that, this post can benefit you short term and long term. There is a Chinese proverb; “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best is now”. Lets plant that tree now.

Common

You may have noticed that some of my posts cover the same subject but each in a different way. I like to think all things I write about are important, they are, but some are more important than others. Think of the car analogy, keeping your car clean is important for longevity, but changing the oil is more important. My goal is that if I write about these important things more than once, and in different ways, people will start to implement these things and ultimately benefit from them. We’ll see.

On that note let me write about something that we all have. Some more than others, some less. Muscle imbalances. Specifically 2 common imbalances. Pretty much everyone has imbalances from one side of our body to the other, left and right, but this post will focus on imbalances between opposing muscle groups.

Muscle imbalances can cause us discomfort, and can ultimately alter our posture to a very negative state (Postural kyphosis, or hump back is an example of this). Imbalances can cause injuries, injuries we had no idea were due to imbalances.

Through identification of the imbalances we have and taking corrective action these imbalances can be reversed. Let’s get into two common imbalances.

The two

Rounded Shoulders: This is very common as a large amount of us work with our hands out in front of us. Another cause of this imbalance is having a workout routine that is heavy on the chest and pressing type exercises and light or non-existent pulling exercises.

Is this you? Stand up straight with your arms by your side. Relax. Look down at your hands. Are they more towards the front of your legs, or are they down the mid line of your legs. If they are front of the mid line, congratulations, you have pecs and front delts (shoulder) that are strong. Now all you need to do is strengthen the opposing muscles, the back muscles.

The antidote.  Any exercise that has a pulling element to it will strengthen your back muscles. Seated cable rows, dumbbell rows, pull ups, lat pull downs, bent over dumbbell rows. These exercises will strengthen the back muscles and the rear delts. To help balancing things out, you will want to focus more of your stretching on the chest and front delt muscles. Try the chest expansion stretch, or the doorway pec stretch.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt: Have you suffered from lower back pain? Did you think it was due to spinal issues such as disks, vertebrae? Believe it or not, back issues can be caused from muscle imbalances such as tight hamstrings and tight hip flexors. This can cause an anterior pelvic tilt. This is when the pelvis is no longer in a neutral position, and ends up with the front side lower than the back. A way to test if you have an anterior pelvic tilt is to see where your belt buckle points when wearing pants. Does it point straight ahead, or to the ground? If your buckle points to the ground, your pelvis is anteriorly tilted. How did we get here?

When muscles are tight, the pull on the bones they are attached to. The 3 muscles that make up the hamstrings are connected to the base of the pelvis and the upper tibia and fibula. So when these muscles get tight due to fighting the tilting pelvis, they pull on the bones they are connected to causing a change to our body mechanics that can result in injury. Have you wondered why you have knee or hip pain when or after running? This could be why.

Why do we end up with tight hip  flexors? Mainly due to too much sitting which causes our hip flexors to constantly be in the contracted state. When we stand up the tight hip flexors, which are connected to the femur and the pelvis, pull. The femur (the bone in the upper part of our leg) doesn’t move so it’s the pelvis that ends up rotating. So what is joined to the pelvis? Yeah, our spine. If the pelvis moves the spine will move with it. It makes sense, the constant pulling of the hip flexors causing tension on the spine due to the pelvis be pulled.

Not only can this cause back pain, but it can also lead to hip, knee, shoulder, neck pain and headaches. Just like the song, our bones are connected. When one moves from it’s normal position due to tight muscles, the bones that are connected move too. And when the spine is moved to an unnatural position that can cause a lot of discomfort that may get misdiagnosed.

Does this sound like you? Wouldn’t that be great news that all your discomforts are because of an imbalance such as tight hip flexors? Something you can address and fix through stretching. Throw away the pain meds and stop worrying about back issues * see note below.

The antidote.  Stretching. Stretching the hip flexors will help lengthen the already tight and shortened muscles. The kneeling lunge stretch is a good one for this. Some other stretches are the butterfly stretch and the pigeon pose. If your job requires you to sit for long periods see if you can get up out of the chair every half hour to walk around and relax the hip flexors. Have a phone call to make? Get out of the chair. See if you can get a work station that can accommodate you while standing. I know it’s probably an expensive option but so can being off of work due to injury. On a side note I wish companies would take workplace ergonomics more seriously.

Only two

Only two muscle imbalances but these two can cause a lot of problems if not addressed. If you have either one, or both of these imbalances try to change your workout to accommodate the ‘fixes’. Mark it in your calendar the day you decided to take control of your body and not let external forces rule you.

One more thing I want to say. By no means do I take back pain lightly. My comment to stop worrying about back pain if you happen to address your muscle imbalance is more of a perfect storm scenario. It would be great it that was the impetuous of your back issues. In no way do I mean to marginalize other issues that can cause back pain.

Make the change and do yourself and your body a favour. This small change might result in a large gain.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

…more frequent than to fail

Easy to understand time, that dark process.

It’s something I did today. Something I have been doing over the last 4 weeks. I know about this, I’ve known about this.

It’s really simple. But knowledge is fleeting and we are not aware of it, or pay it no attention. Time to make a change, time to take control.

Do as I say

I’m not the best when it comes to doing the things I should be doing. I know the things that need to be done but don’t always listen to myself, I don’t always listen to reason. As an example I’m one of those people who tell others that when they are injured they need to take care of the injury, rest, ice, compression and so on. I’m not the best at doing those things myself. I usually try to ignore the injury and continue in what I am doing. I know, not the smartest thing to do. But I have my reasons, or motivation.

I’m someone who enjoys the feeling of getting my ass kicked and finishing my workout drained, tired. Not really a good excuse is it. Not the best thing to do, but like I said, I don’t always follow my advice. I should.

Kill it

Fuel. We overlook the importance of how we fuel our body and when we  fuel  our body. Don’t! Let me lay  it out to you. Do you want to feel like crap during your next workout, or do you want to feel like you can keep going, and going strong?

The latter, right? Why not? It feels awful when working out and you are drained, you don’t know how you will make it through the next 60 minutes, or half hour. Time to change that. Time to kill it.

Just like a car, a furnace, stove or anything that moves, we require fuel to perform. And optimally we want the best fuel there and ready to feed our muscles. How do we do that? A couple of things can be done.

2 hours

2 hours before you work out be sure to consume a meal high in complex carbs so your body’s fuel tank has some fuel in it to provide the necessary energy for your workout. But that’s not it. 20 minutes before you start your workout consume something high in carbs. You can try a pre workout energy mix, or something else like figs, dates, or dried cranberries. The idea is to get something sweet into your body, but also something beneficial. Don’t think you can down a soda or eat a brownie and get the same results. You won’t.

The testing

For the last 4 weeks I have been consuming a pre-work out drink to see if it’s something that works or just a waste of time. Should it work? Absolutely, the pre-work out drink provides the fuel my body, or our body needs for the workout. The workout has been a workout that goes for 90 minutes and I’ve been doing this workout for a few years now. I have a baseline to compare it too and so far the results have been good. I feel better during the workout, not so fatigued or drained. At the end of the workout I’m tired, but I’m not dead. Am I working just as hard? Yes.

That should be no surprise. The body requires fuel and if you don’t fuel it, it can’t perform to it’s best level.

Now this test of mine is in no sense all that scientific. No beakers have been harmed. But, it does go along with the principle that our bodies need fuel to perform and to perform well we need to have the right fuel at the right time.

Change

Try it. Try it with what works for you. It’s science, and you will feel the difference. I almost guarantee it.

Yours in health,

Darryl