Latest "Functional Movement" Posts
Hello there! Quick question! How many times did you skip your workout this week? Twice? Thrice? We have all been there – paying for an annual gym membership and visiting the gym once in a blue moon. Most people think fitness is a one-fit for all. If you are someone who thinks the same, keep reading!
The best way to make the most of your workout routine is to identify the workout that matches your personality type. Let’s take a look at various personality types and the workout that suits each of them.
The Control Freak
Control freaks are very precise, calculative, organized and punctual. They are looking for a perfect workout session where they can sweat it out. The best types of workouts that will suit this personality type are full body intense workouts. Barre workout which is a combination of Yoga, Pilates and Ballet is one good example. This workout is very specific and tough. It delivers a very precise and controlled exercise experience. If you are a control freak, try your hand at Barre and feel the grace of Ballet along with the intensity of Pilates.
The Lazy Bug
A lot of us fall into this category. We snooze the alarm at least three times before we finally get out of bed. If you are someone who can relate to this, work out with a friend who is a fitness freak. You can even try your hand at group workout activities. There are many exciting group workouts like Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, Cardio kickboxing, and Group cycling which are very engaging.
Go for fun workout sessions and boot camps which have a high-energy atmosphere and great music. If none of this seems to work, choose a personal trainer or Pilates teacher who will never let you skip a workout. Having the encouragement of a motivational instructor can also help you do better.
Some people just love competition. They live for challenges and thrive for competitive workout regimes. Winning and achieving the goal matters the most to them. Crossfit is the ultimate workout for those who are looking for a challenge. It is extremely tough and pushes your limits. The excessive number of repetitions in the limited amount of time is not an easy thing to do. Crossfit also has a big workout community where you can share your results and set higher goals for the next workout regime.
High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is also an excellent choice for people who are looking to challenge themselves with some tough workouts. Both the competitor and the control freak will enjoy High-Intensity Interval Training workouts.
The Adventure Lover
Adventure lovers are always looking for something new and get easily bored with stale workout routines. They want flexibility and are always looking for a room to experiment with new things. Workout routines which involve a lot of variety and creativity are the best choice for them. A 5-minute intense workout on different machines is good to start with. Power Yoga is another workout which involves a lot of poses in different degrees which are challenging at the same time very interesting. Zumba dance and Aerobics are also for adventure lovers who are looking for something exciting and fun. But even more than indoor workouts, the adventure lover is going to want to be outdoors. Activities like running, biking, hiking, or obstacle racing and triathlon training can provide both a change of scenery for your workouts, and the variety needed to stay engaged.
The Night Owl
The most common reason people skip a workout is that they have to wake up early. Good news to all of you night owls out there! There is no hard and fast rule that you should work out only in the mornings. If you are someone who finds it easy to stay up late but don’t like waking up early here’s a tip: workout when you want to! Find a time that fits your schedule. Lots of health clubs are open 24 hours these days, and even with minimal equipment, there is lots you can do at-home in your living room for cardio, strength training, HIIT, and even Pilates Matwork, and Yoga.
Regardless of your personality type, what’s important is that you find fitness activities that you enjoy and want to incorporate into your weekly workout routine. Whether you’re at the gym, a Crossfit box, Pilates or Yoga studio, Barre or Boxing club, at-home in your living room, or enjoying the great outdoors, finding the best workouts for your personality type can help you stick with your fitness plan.
In fact, night workouts have a lot of benefits. To begin with, you don’t have to fight the crowd, and you may have the gym all to yourself. This leaves you with many options to exercise. You can let out all the frustration from a tough day and have calmer mornings. Night workouts are the best way to de-stress. All the sweat you break can help you sleep better at nights as well.
The Early Riser
The lucky lot are here! People who find it easy to beat the alarm, have a lot of time for everything. Nothing can beat a dawn-breaking sweat session. Since you are up early, you have ample time to complete your workout. You can schedule your week with specific routines for each day. Monday can be abs, Tuesday for arms and so on. Getting a personal trainer can make your workout session all the more effective.
There are many personality tests online which you can take to identify your type and begin with the workout routine that will suit you. To all the lazy bugs out there, the most important thing to remember while working out is to keep it consistent. If you are a control freak make sure you give your body the appropriate rest. Stay fit! Stay happy!
Guest post for Centerworks® by Edgar James.
Edgar James is a prolific fitness writer and editor for Garagegymplanner.com. He writes in-depth fitness equipment reviews for home gym owners and motivates others with his personal experiences. A true naturalist and outdoors-man, Edgar loves hiking through forests and reconnecting with nature.
By ramping up your fitness frequency you can start enjoying the benefits of better whole-body health.
Why should you care about fitness frequency? As Americans we spend waaaaay to much time sitting on our rumps, slumping with poor posture. This not only affects our strength, flexibility, and physical ability to move, but sitting – at work, commuting in the car, watching tv, and staring at your computer screen or other digital gadgets – is wearing the body out at a rate that might be affecting your lifespan too!
In a U.S News & World Report article, James Levine, an endocrinologist and researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, addresses this idea of a lack of fitness frequency. And, while this article was written in 2012, I’m afraid conditions may be worse now than they were 5 years ago. Are we moving more, taking better care of our health? Or, are we struggling, battling diseases and chronic health challenges caused by inactivity and poor lifestyle choices?
“The human being is designed to move,” says Levine, “you need to move your body. If you stop your body, idle it—which sitting is—it crumbles on every level.” What can result is an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease,” says Levine.
Studies show that the average American sits for about eight hours a day. “Sitting is like a disease,” says Edward Phillips, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. “The goal is to avoid prolonged sitting and to add any kind of physical activity to your day.” Any movement you can do, even something as simple as tapping your feet, is a start, says Phillips.
From my perspective as a Pilates expert and functional movement specialist who spends a lot of my time with clients who are challenged with pain and chronic posture-related wear & tear injuries from lack of use and repetitive mis-use, we need fitness frequency executed with the best possible breathing, body alignment, and proper muscle firing patterns or we’re putting more stress on the body and increasing the risk of injury from our workouts.
There must be a good balance between fitness frequency, intensity, and healthy movement habits to enjoy the best possible health benefits from your efforts.
If you don’t realize that every time you do a squat, you’re rolling out on your feet, or twisting your hips to use one leg a little more than the other… and you do this over and over again (with or without weights for extra resistance) sooner or later your ankles, knee, hips, or back are going to bail out causing pain and potential injury. But, taking the time to focus on your form and learn how to find and use the right muscles from your feet, through your hips, core, and all the way up to your head, you can do lots of squats to stay fit and injury-free! This is just one example of using an exercise to benefit your health.
If what you’re doing hurts…it’s probably not something you should continue. But that doesn’t mean that there is NOTHING you can do safely to keep moving! You just might not know what you can do; or how to do it correctly. This is when seeking expert advice can make a huge difference in the results you’re getting with your fitness program to be confident that you CAN do more, and more often without risk of getting hurt.
It’s not all about having 6-pack abs, or a body-builder physique… If you want that, you’re going to really have to work for it. Fitness frequency, to me, means moving well on a daily basis to keep my body feeling good, staying strong, fit, and flexible so that I can enjoy sports and activities. This also allows me to do what I want, when I want, because my body will let me! It’s learning to take what I’m doing with my muscles and movements in my fitness workouts and applying them to all my daily life activities. So, when I sit, I’m sitting taller; when I climb stairs, I’m using my glutes and hamstrings more than my knees; when I carry laundry and groceries, I’m using my core; as I’m driving, I can be confident that my shoulders are relaxed instead of wrapped around my ears. I can easily bend down and pick something up, standing back up without throwing my back out! My feet don’t hurt so I can walk, jump, and jog. I practice fitness frequency so that as I continue to age, I’m not getting old – feeling old or forced to acting old because I’ve gotten lazy, or let the little aches and pains I had incapacitate me.
Yes, rest when you’re injured. Continue to do things that hurt? You will stay hurt! You might need a mental adjustment to help shift your focus and find things you can do that don’t hurt. Even if it’s not your “favorite” activity, it’s allowing you to move safely. In the end it’s going to be a good choice to help you up your fitness frequency and improve your whole-body health.
We will never be able to out-exercise our diet! And if you are sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day at work, then go home and watch tv for another 2-4 hours, sit for 1.5-3 hours a day for meals, and lie down to sleep for 7-8 hours a night, you’ve spent roughly 18.5 – 23 of the last 24 hours not moving! Even a 1-hour workout daily can’t completely offset this lack of physical movement. Get up and get moving!
What can you do to up your fitness frequency?
- Plan more moments of movement into your daily routine.
- Stand up, walk, squat, lunge, stretch your arms, legs, and torso, bend in all directions – forward, backwards, twist, and side bend.
- Start your day with 10-15 minutes of exercise.
- Take the stairs whenever possible.
- Park your car farther away and walk. When you get home, take a quick 10-15 min walk around the block before you go inside. Walk slow, walk fast, walk, walk, walk…
- Set an alarm to get up out of your chair at work and do at least 2-3 minutes of simple standing stretching and movement exercises every hour.
- Be conscious of your posture habits. Be sure they are good posture habits!
- Find a variety of physical activities and sports you enjoy. Do something daily to improve your cardio, strength, and flexibility! (keep in mind how many hours you’re not moving… be sure you’ve got lots of minutes build into your daily routine to be moving too!)
Unfortunately, younger and younger people are dealing with health issues that used to only challenge an older population. A big part of this is how much we’re NOT moving. Get inspired, get off your duff, and plan more minutes of fitness into your every day and weekly wellness routine. Move it or lose it! Use more minutes of movement to amp up your fitness frequency, improve your longevity, and help make a positively impact on your whole-body health.
Stop Struggling to Get Benefits from Your Workouts and Reduce the Risk of Injury by Paying Attention to Work vs. Force.
What are Your Movement Habits?
Are you able to efficiently maximize the benefits from your exercise program, or do you tend to force your way through, pushing hard to get it done, whatever the exercise might be? When we exercise it’s called a “workout” because there is effort involved in doing the work necessary to improve cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility. But how well are you really working out?
Maybe you’re not sure what the difference between work and force is and how it might be affecting your ability to get the health improvement benefits you want from your efforts. I believe the work vs. force dilemma is something relevant for people at all ability levels on the spectrum of health. If you’re highly fit, strong, and flexible your ability to “push” is greater. Along with this push comes a much higher risk of injury. It can be easier to override signals the brain sends out – be cautious, rest, don’t push as hard – because you ARE an athlete. You expect your body to do what you tell it to, when you tell it to, because you are always striving to do more.
At the other end of the spectrum are people like me who, for whatever reason, have chronic health challenges, fatigue, inflammation, and injuries that take longer to heal. These folks may have the tendency to sit back and do nothing, waiting until their body feels better. But this isn’t always the best health improvement strategy either.
Regardless of whether you’re a super-fit athlete, someone who is struggling with chronic health challenges, or somewhere in-between, having a better understanding of work vs. force to connect mind, body, and movements during your workouts can help you harness the energy you need to stay safe, pace yourself appropriately, and ensure that you’re using the right amount of muscle to do the work, without forcing the body past the point of no return leading to injury.
Have you ever done the “push” test with a friend? Find a buddy and stand facing each other. Place your palms together in front of your chest like a push-up. Gradually, one of you starts pushing – when this happens, what does the other person automatically do? Push back, right? The one who pushes the hardest will force the other person off-balance. If there is equal force, you will both just stand there pushing hand to hand, going nowhere. And what if nobody pushes?
When doing a sit-up, do you throw your arms forward to get up and yank on your head with your hands? Or, are you using the muscle work of your abdominals and core to sit up? Do you find your arms and shoulders to doing most of the work? Either way, you’re going to get up. However, the question is which of these options is actually working to improve your technique and get the right muscles working to improve core strength.
Imagine you are doing a standing bicep curl exercise. If you lean back with your body to “swing the bar up,” are you working the bicep muscles, strengthening the arms, or are you using momentum (and your lower back) to do the movement? You’re either working the biceps, or you’re forcing a bar up that’s too heavy for you to lift correctly with the right muscles. Which of these is going to maximize health benefits?
Using the correct muscles to work is important as you move. If you aren’t able to move using the right muscles, how many of the wrong ones will your body recruit to “force” the body to complete the task? Doing this over and over again, will cause your brain to start to believe “The muscles I’m using right now and the way I’m doing this exercises is the correct way to do it. Always do it this way.” Suddenly you’ve created a habit, or movement pattern, that will have you repeatedly reinforcing bad habits. The body might be able to do it this way for a while, but sooner or later the repetitive wear and tear will take its toll and an injury will occur.
As you work you should actually become more conscious of your movement habits, posture, breathing, body alignment, and how to do the work correctly. This means your workouts become a continuous improvement program. The last rep you do should always be your best one. And if you’re too fatigued to do a good one STOP before you recruit muscles that don’t need to be involved!
A part of why I love Pilates is because the Pilates Method brilliantly helps train the mind-body-movement connection, improves posture and body alignment, can help retrain and rebalance muscle habits, and focuses on low reps so that the last one IS always the best one. I also believe it’s easier to learn how to “work” with the resistance of a spring. And of course, with time, everything you can learn through Pilates can transfer to every other sport, physical activity, and exercise you do.
My husband, Ford, is a cyclist; a consistent work vs. force example. When you ride a bike, you can either mash down on the pedals (forcing them to turn) or you can “spin” them by using a balance of quads and hamstrings to both push down and pull up on the pedals – creating a work vs. force movement.
When the group of guys my husband rides with meets, they start by deciding as a group what kind of ride they’re going to do that day. Some days it’s long and fast; other days they decide on long and slower; other days shorter; or, because they had a hard ride the day or two before, they might do a “recovery” ride.
If you’re really in-tune with your body, there will be days where you can push harder and do more, and days where you need to coast – keep moving, but do less, do lighter, go slower. This group of cyclists has identified the need to vary their workouts to give themselves the recovery they need to correctly move, or rest, those muscle groups. They understand that you have to put forth effort that is in line with the energy you have to expend rather than forcing the body to do more than it’s capable of that day. Tomorrow, check-in with your body and perhaps it will be refreshed and ready to work harder.
Regardless of the type of workouts you do, keep in mind the thought of work vs. force. Remember the saying, “You can’t force a square peg into a round hole!” Forcing your way through an exercise will not improve your health. Forcing your body to do a long, hard workout, when it needs an easier “recovery” day won’t help either.
Work efficiently, work effectively, and work smart to optimize your efforts for health improvement during all your fitness workouts.
I have posted several blogs about Osteoporosis and exercise, and seemingly this is a topic that I get questions and comments from readers quite frequently. Over the years, I have had numerous clients with osteoporosis, and we’ve adjusted their Pilates workout programs to keep them safe based on their Dexa-scan results. I’m also reaching the age, where I need to be a little more careful with my own bone-density issues.
But with this said, I don’t necessarily consider myself an “osteoporosis expert.” So when I get specific questions about personal health issues, or osteoporosis and exercise, especially from readers all over the globe who cannot come into the studio and work with me personally, it’s nice to be able to refer people to a professional I trust to help answer questions.
Sherry Betz, PT, GCS, CEEAA, PMA®-CPT is a leader in the field of exercise, Pilates, and osteoporosis. Her company, Thera Pilates® offers Physical Therapy and Osteoporosis Programs.
American Bone Health is a non-profit organization that provides education, resources, and tools to help you understand bone disease and bone health.
Here’s a helpful Poster from American Bone Health for improving your bone-healthy habits during everyday activities. Regardless of whether you have osteoporosis or not, these tips and exercises can benefit your whole-body health!
Continue Reading ‘Osteoporosis and Exercise: Keeping Your Bones Healthy – Exercise Safety Considerations and Resources
Did you know that by practicing the Push-Up Pull-Up phase of your push-up exercises you can improve upper body strength and successfully do a great, get all the way down and back up again push-up?
(This post with tips to improve your push-up pull-up technique is Part 3 of a four-part article series to help you improve your Push-Up Exercises)
If you haven’t read my previous articles in this series, you might want to check those out first; Push-Up Prep and Practice Better Push-Ups.
I was helping a client improve their Push-Ups recently and had a cool A-Ha moment. We were working on improving her upper body strength to maintain a better Push-Up position, working in a full range of motion to lower the body down in one long, strong piece. We spend almost ALL day using our arms in front of the body. Push-Ups, Bench Press in the weight room, or Chaturanga in Yoga class are all different forms of a Push Up. I see so many people struggle with good form to get down (and back up) for a good Push-Up. Who has ever cued you to pay attention to the work that’s happening behind your back — with your arms, shoulders, and upper back to control lower the body down for your Push-Up Exercises? Let’s talk about the Push-Up Pull-Up phase of this exercise…
It’s funny, I like to do hanging Pull-Ups in a Plank Position for my circuit workouts at the park on the playground equipment. And when my husband joins me for a workout, he hates this exercise. It’s difficult to do a hanging Pull-Up because it’s basically a rowing exercise against your body weight (a reverse Push-Up because the back is doing all the work). On the Pilates Cadillac, we have a version of this exercise too; usually reserved for more experienced “advanced” clients and a slightly easier version standing on the Cadillac (the Spread Eagle). After 40 plus years of coaching experience and 22 years of teaching Pilates, I have a newfound appreciation of hanging Pull-Ups and the huge benefit they can offer to help you improve your Push-Ups. Are you ready to take your understanding of Push-Up exercises to the next level?
Not everybody needs to dash out to the park to play on the playground (although if you feel inspired after reading this, go for it!). However, I do want to share with you some things to think about from a technique standpoint for why paying attention to the Pulling/Lowering Phase of your Push-Up exercise is important.
Continue Reading ‘Push-Up Pull-Up: Tips to Improve Upper Body Strength for Push-Ups
Core conditioning is a multi-faceted jewel that is key to enjoying a healthy life. On so many different levels we need to be more focused on improving core conditioning. I’m going out on a limb here and saying that I believe that at least 95% of “issues” related to poor health are a result of a core challenge.
For years I dealt with an abdominal muscle tear that made doing sit-up exercises impossible! I felt like a hypocrite, spending all day teaching my Pilates clients how to find and use their mid-sections, and mine was so broken I couldn’t even roll over in bed! But what I learned through the process of recovering from this injury, was how many other muscle groups, besides just the fab 4 abdominal (Transverse, Internal & External Obliques, and Rectus) muscles are necessary for healthy movement. And I was forced to listen to my body and act accordingly. You see I had about 10-12 years where flexing my rectus, or doing 1-sided exercises caused me immediate abdominal pain, and prohibited my injury from fully healing. I had to get creative in finding other muscles to help support movement so I could continue to be active. I had to make smart exercise choices that allowed me to enjoy full body workouts without causing strain and pain on my abdominal tear. I had to let go of my ego and be happy that I was able to do something, and not whine about what I wasn’t able to do. Then I had to do what I could do regularly, listen to my body, and just work at my own pace. And patience…. lots of patience.
Now I can pretty much do what I want with my abs without fear, pain, or negative repercussions. But it was a looong time getting back to this point. Even when I work with clients who have never had an abdominal injury – it can be quite the journey trying to find, feel, and activate the right muscles to maximize healthy movement.
Continue Reading ‘Core Conditioning – Are You Listening to Your Body to Improve Core Strength and Whole-Body Health
Are You Ready to Take Action and Do Something About Your Back Pain?
Back pain can be anywhere along the spine from the tip of your tailbone, all the way up to the base of your skull. Regardless of where it hurts, or what you’ve done to aggravate it – the truth is, that all anybody ever really wants is a quick fix to make the pain go away.
I know personally how life-altering it is to live with chronic back pain. I was born with defects at L5-S1 and that instability has made maintaining my core strength a necessity to keep me healthy. And if you’re low back is out of alignment, nothing stacked on top of that is quite right either so back pain can result anywhere from the bottom to the top.
If it’s not your low back that’s bothering you, it might be your mid-back, or upper back / neck and shoulders. It’s nice if a chiropractic adjustment can get you back in alignment, but then the question remains – how long will your adjustment hold before it hurts again? Pills and shots tend to mask the pain so you feel amazing while you’re medicated, and worse off when it wears off!
There are 2 critical things to pay attention to that can quickly begin alleviating your back pain problems.
- Better Posture
Ideally our spine is designed to move freely in all directions. When the bones are “out of balance” it restricts movement. Muscles get into tight over-holding patterns, and the daily activities we do over and over sometimes only make it worse. Muscles move bones, so getting the right muscle balance to maintain healthy body alignment for better posture really does matter if you’re serious about fixing your back pain problems. We need stability AND mobility.
It’s nice to think, “ If I could just “relax” my back would feel better.” But the truth is, it’s a combination of both work and release that will make the biggest difference to improve your health. Right now that work/release balance for good posture is out of whack, and the only way your body can tell you there’s a problem is with a pain signal.
Improving posture is going to be a long-term project… There is lots to become aware of, bad habits to replace with better habits, and never-ending opportunities to incorporate posture-improving exercises into your weekly workout program. If you’re interested in getting started paying attention to your current posture habits click here to take this Posture Quiz.
Now let’s talk about breathing: Keep reading and take in a few deep breaths. Notice where the air is going inside your body.
- Does your low belly stick out when you inhale?
- Does most of your air rise up into the front of your chest?
(Both of these not-so-hot breathing habits are contributing factors to low back pain.)
- Are you able to take a full, deep breath, or are you a shallow breather?
If your back really hurts you might be compensating by not breathing deeply enough to avoid more pain (when in fact this choice is only making the lock down effect worse, and creating more tension.)
- Do you breathe evenly into BOTH lungs? Or tend to fill one side more than the other?
(Not breathing evenly, back muscles are not working/stretching evenly.)
- When you inhale do you lift your shoulders up around your ears, or is the ribcage lifting and the shoulders are just riding along on the lift of the cage?
(If you’re actively hiking your shoulders up, you’re jamming your head/neck into your body compressing the cervical spine.)
Since so many people these days have forward head posture your poor neck and shoulder muscles are already on over-drive to keep your head from falling off your body, which is a part of why your shoulders want to hike up to begin with and why you may be dealing with neck pain, mid-back pain or both.
Poor neck! Poor shoulders! Poor back! Have I gotten your attention yet?
Continue Reading ‘Bye-Bye Back Pain By Practicing this Simple Back-Opening Breathing Exercise
Are you sick and tired of aggravating neck and shoulder pain, and ready to change your habits to help alleviate shoulder tension?
I’ve had the opportunity to help so many clients over the past 20+ years teaching Pilates who have walked thru my door complaining of neck and shoulder tension, stress, chronic pain, or rotator cuff injuries. It’s amazing how quickly things can improve with a better understanding of posture, breathing, body alignment. Then getting the right exercises into your weekly workout program to reinforce healthy new movement habits and alleviate shoulder tension is the ultimate way to keep the pain away.
It’s a 3-Step Process to get your brain and body in sync for better health. We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s impossible to make corrections or improvements with our movement habits to alleviate shoulder tension if we don’t realize we need to change, or have never been shown a better way to stand, sit, breathe, or move.
Step 1: Your brain has to be able to send the right message to your muscles. Cognitively understanding what needs to happen is the first step. If you don’t even realize that there is something you’re doing with a daily habit, task, or exercise that is creating the pain, OR that there is actually something that you can do about it, how on earth can you ever fix it? Your brain is the master controller for the rest of your body. Your body sends a message to the brain that there is pain… The brain is then supposed to help the body fix it! How often do you ignore the pain and just keep doing what you’re doing? (or try medicating & masking the pain with a pill – so you can ignore the problem and hope it will just go away?)
Step 2: Improve Your Body Awareness. Being able to find and feel things working differently in your own body is step 2. It’s important to be able to notice when you’re doing things right or wrong so you have an opportunity to make adjustments for better health. There is a level of trust that needs to be restored between your brain and body, to improve confidence that if there is a problem, you acknowledge it, and will take action to improve the situation.
Step 3: Practice Good Posture and Healthy Movement Habits. By applying better body mechanics to every physical activity you do, you get to put your new-and-improved posture habits into practice to help re-train the right muscles to support healthy pain-free movement; reducing your risk of injury and ensuring that whatever activity you do it’s safe and effective to help you stay healthy. This not only helps alleviate shoulder tension, but helps develop a well-balanced body to keep your whole-body healthy!
Even when we’re sitting still, doing nothing, it can be challenging to alleviate shoulder tension! Just thinking about things that increase our stress level can effect the amount of neck and shoulder tension we’re holding onto. Being cold and shivering will wrap your shoulders up around your ears quickly also, and you might not even realize why it’s happening. Too much time in front of your computer, sitting in a recliner watching TV, or bending your head forward to text message on your phone all are daily life activities that may be contributing to neck and shoulder tension problems.
If you’re tired of complaining about neck and shoulder tension and ready to start paying attention to what you’re doing along with learning how to take better care of your body, there is something you can do about it. Yes, getting a massage might help you enjoy some temporary relief, but for lasting results it’s time to take control of your body and be pro-active to improve how you stand, sit, and MOVE.
Shoulder Tension, Stress, & Shivering
Have you ever thought about relationship being cold has on the amount of shoulder tension and neck stress you’re holding onto in your body?
If you’re in a colder climate do you seem to feel worse in the Winter, and not-so-bad in warmer months? Are you one who usually blames the stress of the Holidays for your neck and shoulder pain? Lack of sunshine might not be the only reason your body is feeling more tight and achy than usual.
This year it has seemed quite a bit chillier here in Kansas, and maybe that’s why I’ve noticed how the winter weather is effecting shoulder tension. It seems a lot of my clients are catching on to the connection too. The body’s natural reflex response when cold is to shiver. These little micro, muscle contractions are designed to create heat and energy to keep us warm, maintain our internal body temperature. These micro, muscle contractsion are a great reminder that hypothermia might be where we’re headed if we don’t do something soon to warm up. However, in the process, we end up creating lots of internal shoulder tension we might not be taking the time to clear out of our system.
Think about it; If you just sit in your chair reading this and “pretend” your cold, how does your body react? Do you slouch more, trying to curl up in a fetal position? Did you draw your shoulders up and forward around your ears? Did you head drop even farther forward off your neck? Did you slump into the pelvis and collapse the ribs and back? Did you start shivering a bit while you were “pretending” to be cold?
Here’s the thing… If this is what happens when you’re “pretending” for only a minute, how long are you hanging out in this awkward poor posture position throughout the day? Or, for days on end? But what if we hang on to this awkward, poor posture position throughout the cold winter months? Aren’t we just reinforcing bad body alignment and creating chronic neck pain and shoulder tension?
Awareness is the first step in taming winter neck and shoulder tension. Pay attention to your posture, because there’s a very good change that YOUR posture habits are creating the problem!
Is it possible to just never be cold so you don’t shiver? Probably not. But knowing that the posture you put yourself in while shivering is wreaking havoc on your health, means that taking the time to bundle up to stay warm when you’re outside is important, and taking a little extra time to “undo” the effects of shivering will do your body worlds of good to help keep your neck and shoulders happy and stress-free through the winter while we await warmer months.
Have you taken my quick Posture Quiz? Improve body awareness for better posture to help get those shoulders down away from your ears. For more low center support (and fitness for whole-body health) get a copy of the e-book The Pulse-Power Daily Dozen – 10 minute Workout. The Pulse-Power Daily Dozen exercises are easy-to-learn, and great for a warm-up, cool-down, or as a stand-alone quick whole-body conditioning program to deepen your mind-body connection and help you get more from your core to help keep your shoulders away from your ears to reduce shoulder tension.
Heart Health is More than just Cardio.
Yes, the heart is a muscle and it’s important to do activities that get our blood pumping. To keep our heart strong and work on improving heart health with exercise it’s important to do at least 20-60 minutes of aerobic activity (walking, running, biking, swimming, rowing, elliptical, hiking, skating, dancing…) Any activity you enjoy that gets your body in its optimal target heart rate zone for aerobic activity, at least 3-5 days a week.
You’ve got lots of options to improve hearth health. And there are good reasons to do Pilates, because a vigorous Pilates workout IS improving heart health. (In more ways than just strengthening the heart muscle and improving blood flow.)
Yes, it’s true that Pilates is not considered an aerobic activity. But here are ten good reasons why doing Pilates regularly IS important for your Cardiovascular activities to help improve heart health.
10 Ways Pilates Can Help Improve Heart Health and Enhance Your Quality of Life
- Pilates helps develop better posture. With better posture and good body alignment, there will be less wear and tear on your body while you’re “pounding the pavement” and getting your cardio workouts done.
- Pilates helps improve body awareness to find and use the right muscles to move. (Regardless of the activity, overusing the wrong muscles ultimately will lead to injury. And most cardio training activities involve repetitive movements.)
- Pilates posterior-lateral breathing improves breath control. Pilates breathing helps you get more nourishing oxygen INTO your body, and more waste out. Better breathing habits makes it easier to enjoy cardio training plus you will get better benefits from your efforts.
- Pilates helps improve balanced muscle development to avoid injuries. If you’ve ever had an injury or accident, or have dealt with chronic to foot, knee, hip, back, shoulder, or neck pain problems, getting your body in balance matters to stay healthy!
- Pilates connects mind, body, and movement to help boost confidence, and learn to trust AND listen to how your body feels. By paying closer attention to what you’re doing when you move, how you move, what you’re using to move, and how you feel, it becomes easier to adjust, and pace your workouts to stay safe, healthy, and injury-free.
- Pilates is a system to MOVE well for better health. Pilates isn’t just a bunch of exercises done on a mat or machines for a “workout.” Your ultimate goal is to take what you learn with Pilates out the door into your daily life activities, and other fitness workouts.
- Pilates takes stress OFF the joints while helping you get an effective whole-body workout.
- Pilates combines strength and flexibility into each and every exercise.
- Pilates improves core support. Which is much more involved than just working your abs. Effective use of your core helps stabilize the pelvis, improves gait, strengthens the back, takes the stress off hips, knees, and feet, helps shoulder mechanics, and supports healthy movement habits.
- Pilates helps lift your Spirits, reduces mental stress, and improves your life! So many people during cardio workouts put on their headphones and jam, watch TV on the treadmill, and completely tune-out what they’re doing with their body during cardio. Pilates helps improve your focus to pay attention to what’s going on INSIDE the body during your workouts, so you can take good care of yourself! Do this enough, and regardless of external stimulus, you will always make smart choices to stay safe and healthy.
On a historical note: Joseph Pilates did incorporate jogging, jumping jacks, and more vigorous calisthenic exercises into his workouts – take a peek at some of the old historical films, and you’ll see how much he believed being outdoors to breathe in fresh air and move was a part of his philosophy for better health.
Then there is the jump-board option on the Reformer… Although 20-60 minutes on the jump-board (in my opinion) does not fall into the 3-5, up to 10 rep philosophy of working the Pilates system for a whole-body workout in an hour. But it can be a great lower-impact option to work some intervals into your Pilates workouts.
Whatever you choose to do… Take time to take care of YOU! Get your weekly cardio workouts in, do Pilates, get regular health check-ups with your Physician. Your heart health matters – physically, mentally, and emotionally. We’ve only got one ticker, and it doesn’t get a break, the beat must go on. Enjoy better health with a healthy heart.
Interested in adding Pilates to your weekly workout routine? Want to try something fun and new to challenge your cardio workouts? Contact me for details to get started at Bodhi Body Pilates – A Centerworks Studio with our Pilates programs and Coreglide Cardio+ class.