Holiday Movement

Who’s starting to get a little freaked out about everything that has to be done before Thanksgiving, let alone all that comes along with the December holidays? Both hands up high over here! (Actually, that’s kind of a nice stretch, especially with a little reach side to side.) Ahem. Anyway, it’s very easy to decide we don’t have time to exercise until January 1st.

There are plenty of great articles out there that can explain all the reasons why you should, in fact, keep exercise on the priority list during the holidays. Please refer to them about exercise. I want to talk about something a little different, though. I don’t want to add another item to anyone’s “to do” list. Instead, I want to talk about things to do that can be part of the celebrations by changing how we approach things. Some of them take more time, and may not be appealing to you. That’s fine, if you find one little thing in there that works for you, use that and ignore the rest!

  • One of my favorite ideas, especially at Thanksgiving is to get out and move before you sit down to eat. For those of us in this area, the Incline won’t quite be open yet by Thanksgiving, but I did that one Thanksgiving with a friend before we went to a dinner with a big group of us and that was a blast. There are often the various Turkey Trots that can be a lot of fun, but if they are on the weekend before, find something to do that day as well. You can use it as another way to do things with family and friends (or as a way to escape, as suits your needs!) For some of us, a bike ride might be an option, but almost any of us could go for walk or a hike. I know someone who would set up an obstacle course for the family and make it a competition.
  • Those of us that are traveling need to stop and get out of the car a lot. This year, I am traveling, and my little hip problem does NOT appreciate that much time in the car. But even if you’re not dealing with any nagging problems, it is not good for us to spend hours in a car not moving. It’s also a great time to let kids and pets work off a little energy. Just make sure you move with them instead of watching them. And if you see a weirdo hanging on a tree at a rest stop, come say hi! I love hanging to stretch and open up my shoulders after they’ve been stuck on the steering wheel for a while.
  • I also like to go for a walk after dinner. Most of us are going to be chatting with whoever we’re around anyway, so much better if some of that can be walking instead of sitting on the couch.
  • Sit on the floor. I know, I always come back to that, but it’s a great way to engage any small kids in your life, it’s great for hip mobility, and it makes you get up and down from the floor. Plus, there’s limited seating compared to the people who will be hanging out where I am, so I can happily give the chairs to those less mobile.
  • For most of us, there will be some time sitting around. There are football games to watch, and sometimes it’s just nice to sit and talk. However, if it’s not too disruptive to the conversation or the people around you, there’s always the option to get a little stretching in while you chat. Sitting on the floor definitely makes that easier.
  • Admittedly, Black Friday is not my thing, but if you like the competitive shopping scene, use it as an opportunity to maximize some movement. Find the Siberia section of the parking lot, because that’s where the only parking is anyway, so instead of driving in circles looking for the perfect spot and getting angry with all the people in your way, you could be walking. (Or is that just me? There’s a reason I stay away!)

Please feel free to let me know what your favorite tricks are to move more during the holidays!

*That snow on the Crags is from a couple of years ago, but can you tell who’s starting to dream of snowshoeing?

Sweating the Small Stuff

I was out for a hike today, and spent 12 miles trying to land each step with precision and control. Okay, not the whole 12 miles. Sometimes I was distracted by blue skies and gorgeous sunshine, logs to balance on, rocks to climb, and different ways to carry my backpack. (That’s my kind of multitasking; time outside, time to play, working arms and core as well as legs and cardio.)

Anyway. To my point. A lot of us don’t like to focus on the little things. We walk all the time, and we know how to do it, right? Maybe you’re better at it than I am, but I have learned things in the last few years that help me to walk farther with less pain, but I have to work at it. One of them is just thinking about “walking quietly” or “walking lightly”. I tend to land hard when my heel hits the ground and that’s usually a sign that I’m actually falling just a bit as I move forward rather than walking well. It’s really hard on the joints and promotes over use of the quads (the big muscles of the thigh in front) and the hip flexors that are all over short and over active from sitting too much. As soon as I paid attention to walking quietly, I could feel a lot more activation of my calves and glutes (basically the butt muscles, if you’re not familiar).

Sometimes I feel a little silly that I have to think about how to walk, but I love the fact that it doesn’t add any time into what I was already doing, and paying attention to moving with excellence always seems to pay in dividends. For one, I now have very little knee pain with hiking, and that always used to be a problem for me.

10 Minutes That Changed Everything

One cold morning several years ago, I sat on the floor to eat my breakfast. It felt weird, but I was curious. The bright morning light was streaming in on the cushion where I perched and I tried really hard to hold myself upright, rather than slouching. My low back was tired and my upper back was burning from the effort of sitting up straight. I eat quickly, so the whole experiment couldn’t have lasted more than 10 minutes, but it was 10 minutes that completely changed the way that I view movement.

The impetus for this little venture was an article that I had read on Facebook the previous evening. In it, a biomechanist named Katy Bowman was talking about how we outsource our muscles’ work to furniture all the time. She mentioned floor sitting as a way to reclaim some of that strength and work, and so I gave it a shot. I had to laugh at the amount of fatigue that I had from simply sitting upright for a few minutes, but it was also sobering to realize how little I move on a daily basis. Sure, I work out. But one hour of working out doesn’t offset 23 hours of moving very little.

That 10 minutes on the floor led to a complete paradigm shift. I no longer look at movement simply as the times of the day that I am doing exercises, but as how I move through my entire day. How I sit, how I sleep, how I stand, how I walk, how I get from one place to another, what varieties of movement can I do in different situations.

This shift of looking at how to move more and move better in my daily life has been a blast. Moving more is fun, feeling better is fun, being stronger is fun. It changed my understanding of how we get to a lot of our nagging muscle imbalances (and therefore injuries). Because of that, I have been able to see results in the clinic beyond what I used to be able to get to with patients.

And, yes, I can now sit on the floor for longer than 10 minutes.

Recovery

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Signs of late Fall.

I don’t know what my hip is unhappy about, but it is talking to me a bit today. It could be the hiking, or the driving, or the crawling on hands and feet while stabilizing a load on my back, or the sitting while eating great food and drinking even better root beer with friends at Eddyline Restaurant, one of my new favorite places. The food definitely wasn’t the problem, but the prolonged sitting may not have helped.

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The 13’er that I wanted to hike, but couldn’t due to a closed trail.

Anyway, the point is that even though Sundays are typically a recovery day for me, it’s needed a bit more today. It’s not that my hip is killing me; it really doesn’t hurt much (2/10 if you want to know the answer to insurance’s favorite question). I have learned to pay attention to the little things, however. I know that rest today and gentle stretching will probably mean that I will be able to go back to normal activity tomorrow. If it’s still a little sore, I may not be able to go to the gym tomorrow, but I’ll substitute with other less aggravating activities. The pain is not that bad (it barely deserves the word, “pain”) and I could push through it, but why? I’m not training for anything in particular right now and a couple of days now is a lot better than a couple of weeks of getting it to calm down.

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The only reason that I’m telling you any of this is that we tend to ignore these little pains. We figure that unless they become big pains, they are not worth our time and attention. I’m here to say that the little pains are your friends! Listen to them and listen well! They are there to tell you that there is a problem. If you address it while it’s small, it can head off the bigger, much more difficult problems. For me, I have some pinching in my hip (probably femoroacetabular impingement, or FAI, if you want to get technical). It is definitely an issue that can become a big problem, and I have not done as much stretching as I should in the last few weeks. So I see this as a friendly little pain to remind me to do a little more stretching and recovery.

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At least the view from the saddle was amazing!

I did come across this video the other day, and I love some of Kellen Milad’s stuff. It’s a great little active recovery sequence (though all the things with the feet held off the floor are NOT good for FAI, so if you have an issue like that, or a lot of hip flexor tightness, do what I did and skip those particular movements). Even though I couldn’t do the whole thing, what I could do was perfect for today.

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Amazing that there was still a flower or two clinging to life.

 

Why the Photos?

I realized that I am posting all these posts with photos that don’t particularly “go” with the content of the post. Most of them are scenery and don’t show any movement or anything. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. I like to take pictures, and I like to share them.
  2. I think it’s a lot less boring than stock photos, plus I don’t have to pay for them.
  3. For me, one of my favorite parts about moving is getting out into the mountains and exploring. Moving well goes hand in hand with living well, and this is part of what that looks like for me.

“Normal”

In this post, I was talking about the gap that occurs between what we accept as “done with therapy” and “back to normal”. For a visual of this, let’s return to our super awesome graph of amazingness:

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As a quick review, the blue dots are our “normal”, the red dots are people with injuries, the dark black line is often where insurance says, “good enough”, and the yellow area is the gap that remains and that needs to be addressed further.

I still think this model is missing a very important point. There is a deeper reason for my referring to “normal” in quotations, beyond lax grammatical usage. It’s huge, and for me, it is the reason for writing a blog like this, and for trying to break out of the current healthcare box and keep pushing for more.

“Normal” is not good enough.

That’s right. Our current normal stinks. “Normal” is just like everyone else, or at least the average of everyone else, and so we accept things like nagging pain every day. We accept being sore when we get out of bed. We accept poor range of motion. So what if we can’t reach all the way overhead? Neither can 80% of the other people we know and a lot of them are worse than us, so we’re good, right?

Wrong.

Our current normal comes from habits and patterns that we all do as a society. It is normal not only to wear shoes, but typically to wear shoes where the heel is higher than the toes. This has a lot of biomechanical implications, but we don’t think anything of it, because it is our “normal”. We sit in chairs a vast majority of the day, and if we move, we move forward on flat, level surfaces. We don’t miss the lack of variety with movement, because this is also “normal”. This is what we see everyone else doing, and we don’t think that there is any need to do things differently.

We do know that we need to move. Many of us do have sports and physical activities that we greatly enjoy. Still, even for those of us that are more active than average, if we “work out” an hour a day, that’s still only 4% of our day. What about the other 96%?

The whole point of this blog is to address going beyond normal and reaching for optimal. What does that look like, and where do we begin, and how do we make it serve our life rather than be another drain on our time? Therefore, I am not going to get into the specifics of any of that in this post. This post is to get us thinking about what “normal” really means and is that good enough for what we want from our lives?

One more visual:

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What if, instead “normal”, we want to be the green? I think that it’s within our grasp. Yes, there is work involved, and it’s harder than we think. Not harder in terms of pushing as hard as possible, but harder in that we have to be patient and look for optimal in a lot of small ways before it adds up to big changes. As one friend says, “It’s easy to do hard. It’s hard to do smart.”

As I have said before, I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found some that work really well, and I’m here to keep searching for deeper understanding and better results. I’m here to share what I find and resources for those that want to keep looking for more.

4 Times to Stop Moving

This is a blog about movement. (I’m not sure if you caught that, but I thought I’d explain, just in case.) I like movement. I like to move, I like to study movement, and I like to write about movement (preferably while I’m moving, maybe doing a little stretching). (I also like parentheses. I have a problem. But that’s between me and my English teacher, who has just ruined her computer with red ink if she’s reading this!) More movement is good. Greater variety of movement is good.  Movement makes the world go around. (Really!)

Yet, we have to know when to just say no. There are times where more movement does NOT serve us well. It pains me to say so, but there it is.

1) If it hurts, stop.

It sounds obvious, but it is amazing how often we ignore this. If we hurt when we move, our body is telling us that something is not right. We need to listen! If your arm hurts when you lift it overhead, you need to try to avoid the range where it causes pain.

Now, that doesn’t mean that you should never raise your arm overhead again. It means that you need to figure out why there is pain and correct it so that you can raise it overhead again without pain. If there is enough pain, especially if it is causing difficulties with work or daily activities, you need consult a healthcare provider. (I may be biased, but might I recommend a physical therapist?)

2) If you can’t do the movement with good form, stop.

Walking through the gym sometimes makes me want to poke my eyeballs with a forkNot bad enough to cause permanent damage, of course, but enough to make my eyes water so I can’t see all terrible things that people are doing to themselves in the name of fitness! I swear I once heard spinal discs begging for mercy.

I don’t care how tough you want to look. If you can’t maintain good form with a movement, then you are overdoing it! Back off to a level where you can use good form, and then slowly build from there. If you don’t know exactly what good form is, do some research on your movement of choice. However, a good rule of thumb is that you should be able to move slowly and with control through whatever movement you are trying to perform.

3) Rest is a good thing.

I am not encouraging you to slouch on the couch and not move until you grow mold. A lot of people who would take the time to read a blog about movement are the type of people who are used to doing a lot and being a lot in all aspects of their lives. We need rest to help us recover! Those hard workouts are great, but if we don’t have recovery time, we don’t have time for muscles to build and adapt. There is no need to sit at home while recovering (though down time is a beautiful thing). Easy walking and stretching are great things to do while recovering.

4) To smell the roses.

Or look at the sky. It’s good to occasionally just enjoy being where we are and what we’re doing.

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Gray Cook, of Functional Movement Systems, often says, “First move well, then move often.” We like to jump right into moving often. We like maximal, because it is easier than optimal. This is the boring stuff first, like learning how to stand and walk well before we run and jump and climb and bike and lift, and ski, etc. Can I tell you a secret? I love the boring stuff, the stuff that’s so little it seems like it couldn’t matter. I love it because ever since I’ve learned to respect it better, I do the things I like to do, and I feel good doing them. My aches and pains don’t last nearly as long as they did 5 years ago. I also love it because when my patients embrace it, they are able to do more movement with less pain.