Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Lower back pain

Does your lower back hurt? Is it stiff, achy, always tight? It might be near the sacroiliac joint (above the buttocks) or the quadratus lumborum (four 'guy lines' running between the bottom ribs and the top of the posterior pelvis).
You might think you have back problems, but you might be wrong. At least half of my clients over ten years of personal training have seen their back pain disappear as we went after the real culprit - the hips!
This is very often the case - a client works at a desk, sits in a car, then sits on the couch. Any time you sit in a regular chair, you are contracting the hip flexors - the muscle group that brings your thigh up closer to your stomach. This group becomes hypertonic - always ON. So when this tight hipped person tries to stand upright, the hips remain tight and so the lower back arches to allow the motion of standing. The psoas, a particularly strong flexor, actually wraps from the front of the hip to the lower back, so if it is tight, the pelvis becomes tilted forward and the lower back automatically stays in an excessive arch.
Good stretches for the psoas and hip flexor group are a runners lunge and a spinal twist.
And stay out of chairs!

Monday, 4 September 2017

They call me Miss Abs

I know it's been a long time, but I'm back and ready to blab!
I think it may be time to share a few secrets on how I got my most coveted body part - ABS!
Now, I know you all know that diet is important but it's not. It's EVERYTHING. You cannot out-train a bad diet, so if you eat junk or simply eat too much, you will never be lean enough for abs to show no matter what you do in the gym.
Okay, diet isn't everything. There is an exercise component. Actually there are four.
1. Go heavy. If the muscle is bigger, it is more noticeable, and for muscles to grow you need heavy weights with cable crunches, loaded crunches, and some ab machines. 
2. Go light. Keeping the muscle pumped makes it show. Do lots of light crunches, ball pulls, and other fun things that work the muscle but lightly at high reps. 
3. Do planks. And when you can hold a plank for two minutes, put some weight on your back. Or lift one leg. Or lift one leg and one arm...make it HARDER is what I'm saying!
4. Obliques, or side abs, don't really need to be big. But toned is nice, and frames the centre six-to-eight pack nicely. Side planks, Paloff presses and light rotational movements like wood chops fit here. It's also a good idea not to ignore the lower back, because that is part of the core. Bird-dogs and back extensions will do the trick.
So, there you have it. Happy ab hunting!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Being Human

I'm reading a book called 'How to win friends and influence people'. It was recommended to me by a co worker who regaled me for some time about the things he had learned and used from it's pages. 
Self-help?! I'm there.
It has good advice - never criticize, show appreciation - and the author reminds us often as to the potential monetary gains from basically caring about people instead of just yourself, but he hasn't yet adressed the gains we can make in ourselves. 
It feels GOOD to pay someone a compliment and they brighten up. Sometimes you have to look pretty deep, but most people have some place you can reach them. (Many a relationship has its roots in a shared love of cats!)
When you're nice to people, nice things happen. People sometimes let you go ahead of them in line at the grocery store. Or you get a great gift or other 'pennies from heaven', I call them.  Sometimes life just goes well for awhile. It's because when you're nice you can bring out the nice in other people and that makes the world a better place.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

I Was Forced To Write This😼

My cat got a blanket for Christmas. Actually, I got a heated blanket from my brother, but Beau thinks it's his. 
Beau is thirteen, missing one eye and blind in the other, but he still finds things to make him happy. And this blanket - OH how it makes him happy! 
What I like about cats, and I think Beau is extra-special this way, is that they find the little things in life to take joy from. 
For this and about ten thousand other reasons, people should be more like cats.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Oops I did it again!

I'm back! 

A situation is unfolding in my life that is teaching me SO much, I had to share.

I did something a little bit mean. And just before I did it, I thought 'should I?'. And I knew the answer was no but I did it anyway. In my defence, I was a tiny bit drunk, but I wish I could take it back.

I think I hurt someone's feelings - NOT my intention - I was just trying to be funny, but I'm pretty sure it's because of my silly action that now I'm on the hotspot.

What am I taking from this? First, I'm going to apologize. Second, I realized that every time I do the slightest thing that could be taken as mean, and behave in a way that I know to be contrary to my true self, it comes back to bite me in the ass, harder than I think I deserve. EVERY TIME.

The universe is trying to tell me that I need to be true to myself and my mission to make the world a brighter, not darker place. What you put out, you get back.

And now I am at peace.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Sleep Hygiene

PThe other part of my talk was on sleep hygiene. Sleep is when our brains and bodies rest and repair. Adults need 6.5-8 hours a night. More is not good either, unless it's catch-up, because the lymphatic system becomes sluggish and this can increase the risk of certain cancers. 
Before sleeping: 
Get up at the same time every day.
Get outside during the day and get some exercise. Let your body know it's daytime.
Go to bed at the same time each night - and with a soothing routine beforehand, if possible. Dim the lights, listen to soft music, or read.
The bedroom should be for sex and sleep only. Keep it cool and dark.
Bright lights before bed. This includes computers, phones, TVs and actual lights. They confuse the brain into thinking it's daytime.
No drinking two hours before bed. This seems self-explanatory, but I'll also add no alcohol to this rule. It may help sleep come on but it dehydrates the body and that can wake you up.
Meditation can help if you have trouble falling asleep, and it can be as simple as counting your breath.
Sweet dreams!

Are you ready?

Okay, so it's been awhile. And I'll tell you why. My mother, who was bipolar all her life, committed suicide by stepping in front of a train over a month ago. 
It's sad, tragic, and has been very stressful on my family. But I like to try to put a positive spin on things, so in pointing out the positive aspect, I'll say this - I won't go out like that.
Two weeks after I heard the news, I gave a talk on the importance of exercise and sleep in terms of mental health. It was hard, but I wanted to help. Exercise, for me, has literally been a life saver. I had a few episodes in my late 20s when I didn't want to live. It's not that I wanted to die - it was just that living held only pain for me  and I needed a way out. 
I've done the medication thing, which proved to be disastrous for me, but what helped me cope daily was using my body for work, feeding myself good food and getting my rest. 
Nearly a third of mental health patients (bipolar, anxiety, depression) don't respond to medication. Exercise can be as effective as meds as they change brain chemistry by stimulating the pituitary gland to release endorphins - that's right, the feel good hormones. You're also taking an active role in your own recovery, which further boosts self-esteem. Cardio - the term we apply to steady-state exercise where the heart rate remains elevated - is the fastest producer of the runners' high, but any moderately intense excercise counts. Riding a bike, using the elliptical, walking the stairs or just walking, are all examples. Weight training, which I think everyone should do, can also give that high feeling. For me, there's something very cathartic about abusing inanimate iron. 
What about yoga? Well, in a word, perfect! It combines strength and flexibility and the meditative aspect cannot be beat for calming and entering a frazzled mind.
What I learned through this group meeting, and through my recent loss, is that stuff can happen at any time, and you have to be ready. If you have certain tools in place - like nutrition, exercise, rest, support - you'll be better able to cope when things happen.