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Maybe The Flexibility Exercises Are Not Working Because…Stress

Maybe The Flexibility Exercises Are Not Working Because…Stress

“I know the pieces fit ’cause I watched them fall away.”
Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

Ever feel like no matter how much flexibility or mobility work you do you’re just not getting any “looser”. The tension and pain in the body restricts you from doing certain things. Like, when walking around town you feel like a cowboy who just shat their pants and now tries to act cool like it didn’t happen. Well, it did happen. And it doesn’t look cool.

Maybe it’s not the flexibility exercises that are wrong, or that you’re not doing them enough. If you’ve done your best to eliminate the activities that make you tight (hello sitting hunched over a laptop) it’s worth observing your mind.

Hello mind. Remember me?

Enter stress. Not only can poorly managed psychological stress keep your muscles stiff, but it can also trigger and increase pain. As this study states about low back pain, “Having either stress or depression was also significantly associated with greater risk of flare-ups.”

When working with clients I see this highlighted most often in people dealing with the long-term annoyance of low back pain, frozen shoulder or neck pain. It’s not uncommon for them to have a flare up whenever they’re going through a stressful period in their life.

And regardless of what we do sometimes there is only little improvement with pain and tension until the stress subsides.

If you’re dealing with persistent pain get diagnosed by an allied health professional first.

That’s your physio, chiro or osteo. I hate to be all doom and gloom, but you want to make sure the pain isn’t there because of something more sinister.

Besides, once cleared and diagnosed you’ve removed the added stress of worrying about the unknown.

Combine stress management with your training plan

Different tools for different minds. There is no a universal solution for each person. But here are few that I’ve found people having the most success with when managing stress.

  • Prioritise sleep. I know I said there are no universal solutions. But poor sleep is a major piece in why people feel like rusty cowboys. Which makes sleep a universal solution.
  • Daily meditation or mindful breathing. Could be one minute, could be ten. Here’s my favourite no-nonsense meditation app.
  • Daily walks outside. If possible, somewhere away from traffic, concrete and excessive noise. So ideally avoid walking on a busy road that circles a highrise housing a kindergarten. Even short walks make a difference.
  • Laugh often. A short daily clip from Ricky Gervais should be prescribed as medicine.

Yes, working on flexibility is important

And we should keep at it. But sometimes we need to look beyond of what’s going on with our bodies. If we’re doing mobility exercises over and over again without seeing any change it’s worth checking what’s going in that mind of ours.

What Kids Can Teach You About Movement

What Kids Can Teach You About Movement

Dandelion. A great song.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

On our daily walks with our son, I often have to lure him to keep moving forward. With a combination of “there might be a digger around the corner, “maybe we can see a motorbike or a blue bus, or “let’s go and see if the puppy is there today.”*

We also make the walk about collecting leaves and the fuzzy dandelion seed “flowers” which keeps him going for a good while. And I get it, for a two-year-old walking on a flat ground for the sake of just walking is probably as exciting as listening to someone analysing the intricacies of cricket is to me.**

But eventually the kid’s had enough, I lift him on to my shoulders and we keep going. That is until we come to a spot that’s not flat. Be it a grassy hill, an uneven trail to bounce along, or a set of intimidating stairs. Like an emperor on his high chair, he demands to get back on the ground and walk.

The bigger the stairs, the better. He loves going up and down, mostly with a struggle that he can just manage without falling. He finds walking more fun when it’s challenging. Because it’s novel.

And, that’s how he learns.

As adults, we tend to get stuck on doing the same exercises and same jazzercise classes for years on end. We only focus on getting the sweat on while ignoring our movement skills. Adding a sedentary work environment to the mix doesn’t help.

And this doesn’t really bother most people. Until it does. It’s usually a slowly increasing nagging pain or ache that over time becomes a persistent companion in training, and even everyday living.

Most people’s solution is to seek help of a professional, do some exercises for a while and then return to what they’ve always done. And then repeat this cycle over and over again without ever really fixing anything. I get it, we’re all busy.

But, a better option would be to get off that cycle by copying what kids do. By leaning into the basic movements we’ve forgotten and now find challenging. We could proactively put these movement problems into a judo arm lock*** before they get a hold of us.

Instead of only focusing on what gets you sweating, focus on what’s difficult. And I guarantee you’ll break a sweat doing them. These movement, whatever they are for you, will feel like you could fail at any moment.

With enough concentration you manage to get them done. And you’ll get better.

Just like a kid learning to walk up and down the stairs does.


*These are not lies. We see those things on most days.
**I get it. There are sticks, it goes on for months, and you like tea.
***I hope that’s a term. I’ve never done judo. Except the verbal version.

Are You Getting Functional Training All Wrong?

Are You Getting Functional Training All Wrong?

“Functional training is only functional when your body is functioning well.”
Dr. Andreo Spina

Ah, functional training, one of the many great fitness buzzwords. Remember when being functional was synonymous with arm curls on a Bosu ball and back squatting on Swiss ball. Yep, we used to call it functional. Luckily things have moved on and most folks now understand that stuff that’s great for circus and Instagram isn’t always the stuff that actually serves a purpose in real life.

Unless that purpose is Instagram, or circus.

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Insights from Move Strong’s Kettlebell Workshop

Insights from Move Strong’s Kettlebell Workshop

I acknowledge that 99% of my readers are not health and fitness professionals. I will briefly explain what the workshop was about and then go into how you can improve your kettlebell training.

I recently took part in Move Strong’s An Introduction to Kettlebells for Rehabilitation and Performance –  workshop in Sydney.  The founders of Move Strong, Matt and Andrea, both chiropractors, have noticed a void in the industry and are on a mission to educate other clinicians, as well as personal trainers on how to better serve our patients and clients.

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How to Fix Back Pain

How to Fix Back Pain

Chains. Heavy. Also, this could be an entrance to Batman’s wine cellar. Keeping that sneaky Robin from drinking all the Merlot.

I am no stranger to back pain. There are more than few clients I see that have either had or a still dealing with the bane of back pain. And I’ve had my fair share of back issues in the past.

There is just something wrong about the evolution of the human animal. Wait, maybe it’s that the human animal hasn’t kept up with the fast-paced evolution of the world around it. The world raced from active manual labor (not that heavy manual labour was making great backs either) to days of prolonged sitting.

Alas, instead of cursing the world for what it has become and done to our lumbar spine and transverse processes, let’s instead see what you can do to feel better.

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Good vs Bad Fitness Hacks

Good vs Bad Fitness Hacks

Anything you say, I believe.

We love hacks. The quick fixes, the shortcuts, the simple solutions that promise to solve our most complex issues. Most hacks give us a false sense of hope that we can skip the long road ahead. They lure us away from the actual work in hopes of an easier way.

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How to Be as Flexible as JCVD (in the 80’s)

How to Be as Flexible as JCVD (in the 80’s)

Strength. Control. Flexibility. Grace. And trees. Trees are good too.

 

Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg.
Jean-Claude Van Damme.
JCVD.

A man who moves smoother than Morgan Freeman’s voice and drops into splits faster than you can say “moules-frites”. If, god forbid, you ever get into a situation where you are required to talk dirt and handle splits and scissor kicks, you need JCVD on your side. 

And the next best thing if Jean-Claude is not on your speed-dial? Make your body move like his.

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Simple Way to Improve Joint Health

Simple Way to Improve Joint Health

Mad finger joints 

Before I unleash this monster of a post to your eyeballs: I am experimenting a new posting schedule. I’ll try to make every second post a more technical, relevant to what I am studying yadi yadi yadi stuff. That being said, if you bear reading through them you will get value out of of each one.

If you feel like a certain post is not for you, come back for the next one and hopefully it is something that cranks your camel, humps your tractor and oils your iPad.

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