Getting The Month In

Discomfort will never sale well, but I think it’s a vital ingredient to keeping a healthy mind and body. Now of course, this can be easily taken to unhealthy extremes. We don’t want or need to maximize discomfort. But what are some ways to -optimize- it. Thrill! In August I had the opportunity to experience and think about various forms of the discomfort that we seek, usually in the name of thrill.

The major league coasters at Hershey Park were fun. But while waiting in line I often found myself staring at the trees, visualizing tree challenges and pathways for climbing to roofs and beams.DDDC16EB-7F6D-4976-80BC-88418AE983F3

I bounded around a trampoline park while celebrating my daughters birthday. I usually judge the parents sitting in the chairs along the side. Most of them could be doing -something-. But I always end up pushing the envelope, leave feeling like whiplash. I assume the sedentary parents do not.

One Saturday included five hours of cliff jumping into a lake. This was outstanding. But I grew weary of the scalpels prodding at my 42-year old feet, and marveled at the kids sauntering up and down rocks and gravel.

I loaded a barbell to bodyweight and squatted it 65 times in three minutes. This too was a beautiful hit of adrenaline, growth hormone, challenge, exhaustion, and gains. But I can’t imagine doing it for twenty more years. A few days later, I flew through the woods on a mountain bike, down a perfectly groomed trail with ramps, drops, and banked turns. Now THIS was in my wheelhouse! But again…for how long?

Finally, I jumped in the Atlantic ocean at dusk in a chilly wind. I did venture far in. This was amazing. In the past I’ve jumped into the spring fed-creek in our back yard. These require minimal skill and place practically no strain on the musculoskeletal system. You return to what you were doing, normal adulty responsible things, feeling magnificent. But why?

I think about this stuff; optimizing performance, fitness, and health. That’s what I do. What else am I going to think about? Sales funnels (see previous post)? The government; pro sports; a color to repaint the foyer? Those are not my things.

Children eagerly hit the water every day. They are curious and do not fear discomfort. They are in and out ten times while adults find every opportunity to avoid it. I understand. Cold water hurts.

With age we all become more limited in our skill set and risk tolerance. That’s all the more we need to seek out resiliency and overcome fragility.  Some recommend Floating in body-temperatankture saltwater, in a sound controlled tank which affords complete comfort. This is said to support the immune system, promote relaxation, recovery, pain suppression, release beneficial hormones, and unlock the doors of perception (meet Jim Morrison?), and to expand consciousness itself. But cold water immersion is has been said to fulfill the exact same list of claims.

So then, which should we be doing?

What the literature says: Despite much funding in product design and marketing, there is little evidence concerning the effects of sensory deprivation. The mind is powerful, and we tend to believe what we want to believe.  It feels good to relax and lay down for a nap.

On the other hand, we have legitimate evidence regarding the beneficial effects of cold on the immune system. Full body COLD resulted in increased metabolic rate. It reliably produces a sustained increase in norepinephrine, which substantiates the long-term pain relief touted by cold gurus. Cold has also shown promise for those with chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic heart failure, and even some types of cancers.

We should be supremely thankful when we do not have to endure slavery in exile, long and barren winters or marches through the snow to achieve independence from tyranny. But for many modern lives, comfort, and our quest for it, is killing us at worst and making us numb at best.

We are like a frog boiling in a pot of comfort that has been slowly turned up. And we could use a sensory reset. **Extreme or harsh and prolonged discomfort is unnecessary. What are you, crazy ; ??

We work, live and drive in climate controlled environments. For many of us, even time exercising involves somewhat comfortable exercise machines, massage chairs, televisions, and not even a little bit of dirt. We should not wonder why life stress, physical and mental, perturbs us.

There is nothing “natural” about complete sensory deprivation. Unless, of course, we’re talking about the miracle of sleep, which is free and under utilized. If you want to pay $200 for a nap in warm salt water, have at it. Let me know if it’s truly worthwhile, beyond scheduling an hour of your day to relax and pray and nap. Seriously – I’m listening.

Prescription: Getting the month in

An older acquaintance once told me of his routine that involved jumping into a creek every month. “I always make sure and get the month in.” This has been on my mind for over five years, as the research on the benefits of cold and the marketing for both comfort and discomfort therapies continues.

It’s all fun when the weather is warm and friends are near. But with this essay, I’m committing to Getting The Month In. This is not a fitness challenge or plunge for charity. This is not about recovery from training or competition. It’s simply something that I’ll be doing for health of body and mind, a “sensory reset.”

[The practice of icing immediately after intense training limits the beneficial adaptations involved with recovery. If you did not hear that, please know that extreme cold such as ICING AFTER A WORKOUT ACTUALLY RESTRICTS YOUR GAINS. ]

I will continue to train (and train others) outdoors when possible, in any conditions; 20 minutes or an hour outside in the beautiful and ugly. The discomfort itself is the full dose of an exercise session. Breathe in those gnats for extra gains.

Where thousands will spend time in float tanks and cryotherapy protocols, I will be grateful for the fountain of youth in mA80D519F-F68B-4D91-9CD6-5F73C975641Ey backyard. Soon it will be a rainy day in November, and I will walk bare footed through the grass and sticks. I will ease in and try to stay put for 30 seconds or a minute.

You are welcome to it. Who’s with me?? [crickets] Yeah, I don’t blame you.

But I’ll be paying attention, betting that a -certain- amount of discomfort makes the mind, and possibly the body, more resilient, capable, and even grateful.

…will keep you posted.

Summer Review – What Matters In Training

8A79A6CC-3EF1-4773-86BE-DBE8CC36D411I recently came across a video of a coach romping around a massive high school stadium. His head was forward, neck veins popping, arms flailing, demanding the best effort from his athletes. Later, I saw a peppy personal trainer dressed in much tighter clothing than I’ve ever worn, bounce around a state-of-the-art gym while blabbing motivation and no-pain-no-gain.

These gave me a slight sinking feeling. Then I remembered How It Actually Is.

I chose to spend a significant portion of my life at Full Reps Training Center and in my basement and backyard helping a hand full of like-minded athletes, young and old. I drive a 2004 Mid Size SUV, do what I love for a living, and get to spend a reasonable amount of time with my family.

So many choices…

Over the past several weeks, many if not most of the athlete who regularly train with or around me have broken through barriers.

They have achieved new heights of throwing velocity on the radar gun, pushing into the 80- and 90-mph range. Throwing in the 80s is a big deal when you’re an adolescent. Hitting the 90’s even more so, at any age, when you’ve sat in the mid 80’s for years. Any improvement that can be attributed to the “natural adolescent growth spurt” has long dried up.

My athletes have become stronger than ever. The baseball guys know what it really means to do 20-reps squats. I have a handful of 14-year old female soccer players that easily press 80 lbs overhead and can bring nearly twice their bodyweight off the ground.

Most of the crew has lowered their 40-yard dash by 2- to 3/10ths of a second. They explode out of the gate, run with powerful pushes and improved stride frequency, and lay on the effort without their form falling apart.

Most of them work with me only twice per week; three times per week at most. Sure, they also practice, play and train on other days within their sport. But all of them were away playing in games or on vacationing for some period over the summer.

How did all of these athletes transform their bodies and performance -despite- these interruptions to their training time?

And where was the yelling and arm waving?  Where were the “ass whoopings,”  the nasty attitude  in their face, pushing high intensity all-out 120% all out effort? Sure, we push hard at times. I’ve been told that I have a skewed sense how much weight a human can push and pull and lift. But we pick our battles. Where were the daily epic workouts that leave them rolling on the floor fearful and nauseous?

Any half-rate inexperienced trainer can come up with a “workout” that leaves you in a heap on the floor. But we’re primarily after PROGRESS. Progress in training is often challenging and sometimes boring, but not often crushing.

How in the world did they show up for the workout without the peppy and/or high-strung trainer and strength coach to motivate them?

I know how. I know -exactly- how. And it wasn’t just the killer playlist! : )

All

these

gains…

despite only working with me a few times per week, having typical summer interruptions, and not having a high-strung or over-the-top fitness caricature to guide them.

  • Expectations: The athletes -knew- from the beginning, that it was on them. It was never my job to motivate them. Sure, I speak up and get excited when it’s called for. But I never play televangelist or cheerleader or army sergeant. Boot camp is now the industry standard. Why did those in the sports performance and health/fitness industry ever think it was appropriate to treat -everyone- like they are dealing in the literal life-or-death situations of the military? Gaining velocity or running speed or strength and winning games and losing fat is most definitely not “Do it correctly as a unit or you and your comrades actually die.”
  • Sweat is good; knowledge is better: I always thought that it would be a shame to just provide “workouts.” Trainers and physical therapists who truly want to help usually go out of their way to educate rather than just provide exercises.
    • “This is challenging yet reasonable progress in weight on the bar.”
    • “This is the rhythm of work and rest and recovery.”
    • “This is what your squat form should look like, and you can use these cues and corrective exercises to eventually make it easier.”
    • “Progress is not linear…nonlinearity.  Sometimes you push aggressively. But other times you get the moderate or low intensity work in because it’s essential to setting up the next push.” You accept that you are human and sometimes life deals you a tough run, sometimes you just feel flat or over- or C0DAC487-3601-4B3B-9416-3F3133A5E856under-worked.
    • You listen to those who have gone before you. But also to your own body.”
  • Inspiration comes first: Sure, I help them improve by identifying the root of the problem behind weak and painful areas. I provide some basic gear, training protocols, and culture to train in and with. But more than any of that, they are inspired to own it, keep at it over the long haul, and create margin – time to get the work in. The discomfort is tuff but reasonable and worth it. I love  to see someone who I have not worked with in weeks or months come back and crush their personal records. We learn something together, including what they have been up to. Personal records don’t just happen.

I know they were inspired to move and improve because many of them straight-up told me. And I’m truly grateful.

So…how was your summer?

Moderately Successful Ways to Market Your Services

When business minded people quote or refer their students to Dale Carnegie, I barf inside my mouth a little bit. Even the idea of “How to win friends and influence people” has always struck me the wrong way. How to pretend to be nice and manipulate? No thanks. What’s the secret  to my own “success?”

Success, you say? If by driving >10 year old vehicles and still paying off student loans at the age of 42 is success to you, then yeah, maybe you want to hear from me. If success means making a decent living while doing something you love and having a reasonable amount of time with your wife and five children…then okay, we can talk.

It’s mostly about life choices.

If I amassed a fortune doing something else and had traveled the world a little, paid off the house and student loan, then had time to do what I wanted, I would work with – as in actual do the work of- rehabbing and training athletes of all abilities and ages at Full Reps Training Center, and in and around the back yard at Bonny Lane.

I had a dream that I would intentionally drive an older car, still be thankful to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, still be looking at the back yard with a creative eye to make seriously fun and effective training equipment and challenges. I hope that I would have the courage to give much of that fortune away.

One thing I would certainly NOT be doing is sitting on my rear creating sales funnels, on-line platforms and other techniques that would allow me to be off in Punta Cana while computers or someone else does all of the work / receives the real gains for me.

I see an awful lot of ads for physical therapy companies and their services. It’s no surprise that I would take notice and be sensitive about it. Some of the ads are good. Some are interesting, genuinely informative, or plain entertaining.

Other physical therapy marketing techniques are either ‘meh’ or plain embarrassing. It looks to me like they are selling pizzas. Or they promise to hold THE answer to your every ache, pain, and existential dileC9FA72CF-0825-4EE9-A690-9FF74BBF922Emma.

– – – – – – – –

“I believe that the community – in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures – is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

 

So without further ado, here are 15 long, drawn-out, backwards and moderately successful techniques to market your physical therapy services.

***My parents and grandparents never sat down and spoke with me about business. But they had a huge role in teaching me what is listed below. Some of them I have miles to improve. Each point is absolutely true in the sense that I’ve lived it. And yes, “got business” out of it.

 

  1. The Land: First and foremost, find a geographical area and commit to it. Truly love the land you are on. You will be -shocked- what develops from it. The people you cross paths with, the impact that you have, the sense of purpose and contentment that you have been looking for. I have not done so, but have a hunch that this is especially rewarding if you settle upon the inner city or very rural countryside where nobody else wants to be.
  2. Need Others: Hire local help where you need it. Take the car to the small garage owned by the guy who lives nearby. Know your dental hygienist by her first names. I always thought that Aldo was too serious until he came and sat down to talk, had his employee at the register pour us some wine while waiting for my pizza.   Do none of this to make other feel important or to make you think that they think that you think that someone made an impression on someone. Do it to be a decent human. Eventually, they will not mess up your order.
  3. What You Show > What You Say: Go to your primary care physician and “represent.” By this I mean a consistent life of wellness, and NOT how much you know about physical therapy, medicine, or (especially) alternative medicine. They will hear about your abilities as a PT soon enough, and a sense of humility regarding the entire human body (not just the musculoskeletal system) will shine forth like the sun. Annual physicals will be awkward.  Likewise, watch and listen to others -for a while- before you believe them. The time factor there is really the only way to not be fooled by what they say.
  4. Like-Minded Pilgrims: Don’t pick up golf in order to meet doctors and other big shots. Do what you love and be open to helping and learning from others who pursue similar interests. You’ll make a handful of lifelong friends this way. I formed so many deep, long term and meaningful relationships while just doing what I enjoy (basketball, mountain biking, outdoorsy stuff, fitness culture) that I never had to sink so low as to golf with a doctor ; )  .
  5. Interesting: Don’t try to be an interesting person. Be curious. Look for ways to be genuinely interested in the world and in others.
  6. Listening > Speaking: Practice your “elevator speech,” sure. But perfect the art of active listening.
  7. Do Throw Your Hat in the On-line ring. Have an on-line presence. Talk about your work and business, but not exclusively. Be a friend on line. You can and should have opinions. But don’t be a jerk or get overly involved in divisive subjects.
  8. Earn Your Right to Open Your Mouth: Serve the community without an agenda. Before five minutes have passed, people will ask where you live and what you do for work. In five months or years, they will be coming to you with medical questions. Some of them you will be unfit to address, but you will know that you’re trusted.
  9. Open to New Ideas: Spend a lot of time learning and thinking about the diagnosis, activity, or sport that seems to keep popping up in the clinic, whether or not you like it. Pretty soon you will probably learn to like it or at least appreciate it. Who knows, one day you may spend most of your weekends actually glad to be driving your children to it.
  10. While you could be watching TV: Show up at your clients competition or event. Not with a handful of business cards, Dale Carnegie, but because you’re interested in seeing them in action. Your performance in Netflix Marathons and Fantasy Football and other Pro Sports will definitely suffer.
  11. Always a Student: You MUST be a perpetual student and enjoy it. If not, you’re either inexperienced or obsolete. Take the courses because you want to learn, not just to fulfill CEU requirements. Read the books by day and the articles by night, again because you want to. Process what you study and filter it through your unique real life experience. Where and when you can, put that into writing or speaking.shoes creek
  12. Know Your People (Target Audience): in this field, the customer is NOT always right. But you do need to learn something from every single criticism received. Watch closely for patterns because they reveal your blind spots or choices that you have knowingly made but may need to compromise on. Patterns that keep coming up are usually a clear indicator for some course correction on your end. But on the other hand, do not try to please every person every time. You truly cannot connect with and please them all. The patience and gentleness that you show with one -type- of client will be perceived as lack of determination or ineptitude by the next. The Army Sargeant mentality that connects with some parents will cause their adolescent children to find reasons why they cannot work with you. You ain’t Jesus. Trying to be all things to every person will leave you with sleepless nights, an ulcer, or worse.
  13. Go for the assist. When it comes to marketing, getting an assist is even better than scoring the goal. So establish a handful of trusted complimentary services. MDs, pain management specialists, personal trainers, massage therapists, etc. Make those connections, fitting the right person to the right service. Call them. Do tell your clients to mention who sent them. It’s a genuine win-win-win.
  14. Oh yeah, the actual work: At the end of the day, you must deliver the goods in providing a service that is worth the time and cost involved with peoples lives. You may have an advanced degree in this or that as well as a CNP (Certified Nice Person), but there’s absolutely no substitute for competency. Do not mistake this for “Get everyone better” because that’s not realistic. Sure, most people will achieve drastically improved function and less pain with physical therapy. But even those who do not ultimately fulfill their goals can and should have a great experience. At the very least, they should have learned a lot…about their problem or have established connections to others (#12 above).

15. Sales Funnels UGH: Did I mention that this marketing model is not scalable? There are no pathways or sales funnels. Sales funnels are going to come and go, but you will still have to go outside and look your friends and neighbors in the eye! Of course, all of my marketing techniques are no way to build a corporation. They may not even be a great way to run a small business. I don’t know yet.

Student loans will suck the life out of you. But you will be part of a community of people you care about and who care about you, and you will lean on each other for help. In the end, you will have years of meaningful work, many interesting stories and laughs to remember, and hopefully joy as well. It will work out. Well, it should. But who knows. My own story unfolds…and I hope you learn from it.

“The world has room for many people who are content to live as humans, but only for a relative few intent upon living as giants or as gods.”
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture
“The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Green Prophets

1frogI have a fascination with frogs, and could -almost- be one of those people who hoard along a theme.

I would collect all things related to frogs. Large ceramic frogs would line the front yard and small frog knick-knack would sit on the window seals. There would be two frogs on an old rusty bike, green frog-shaped candles, cat tails in the corner of the foyer, a frog dream catcher in the kitchen, and one hanging from the fireplace mantle by it’s front legs.

Many people get weird with their Steeler, Yankee, ‘Sixers etc, regalia; their Gnome and Santa figurines. And I would have my frogs.

Frogs represent the natural world and stealth. They breathe transdermally (through the skin), require fresh clean water, and are a key indicator of the health of the environment. They reproduce by the tens of thousands, filling a huge ecological gap.

And God said “There are an awful lot of animals that live in and around the waters that need something to eat. And there’s a lot of annoying insects too small for them. Hmm.” And so God made frogs.

I once had an elderly patient who spent his entire career as a professor and educator on environmental protection. He spoke to me about how many in his circle called the cause environmentalism while others hated environmentalists, and preferred to label themselves  “good stewards.” Both groups got the same lecture, were chasing after the same thing, for the earths sake.

The story in the Hebrew Bible about Moses’  plague of frogs was really a dig aimed directly at the Egyption fertility goddess Heqet who was represented in the shape of a frog. To try pinning down exactly how many frogs there were and how that could happen is missing the point. The story is in there for a reason, among nine other plagues meant to roast the Egyption gods.

“THERE’S your god! You’re up to your ears in your gods. And the God of Moses is in control.”

But I think the ancients had it partially right. Frogs are a creature of new beginnings. To me they represent the spring of the year and of my life.  I remember first being told that tadpoles turn into frogs. How could this crazy idea be so; that a creature which clearly exists as as aquatic in structure and function could also be so obviously meant for land? Frogs are the ultimate underdog.

I spent much of my childhood chasing after frogs, eventually collecting every species native to PA, including massive Bull Frogs caught with a dry fly on fishing line.  I loved them all, though my favorite was always the pickerel.

I moved on with life. Learned to talk on the phone and go fishing like a proper adolescent instead of stomping through the swamp with a net. I found a love of sports, getting a degree, this obsession with (human) health and athletic performance, and then winning at adulting. Or, at least not losing while dealing with various responsibilities.

“I’ll miss the playgrounds and the animals and digging up worms

…I’ll miss the boredom and the freedom and the time spent alone.”

But all the while, if up to me, I would return to the frogs. They’re accessible but sly, just enough of a challenge to capture. To this day I continue my mission to find tadpoles that are stuck in hoof prints and ruts along the side of ponds and roads, and various evaporating puddles, in order to transfer them to lakes and streams. Even in college, not owning a single net, I kept an eye out for swamps and vernal ponds. I would retreat to them, squish-squish into class with a muddy shoe and a hint of the organic, dead-leafy smell. It’s no wonder that I didn’t date much before meeting Amy.FF4DD638-229B-4AB9-9BAF-C24583E772FD

Should it be surprising that when the days work is through, I can easily get lost in the back yard or at the pond? I don’t care too much about Sports Center, video games, golfing, repainting the hallways, or even training. Seeing my kids eagerly walk down the road with a net and bucket in-hand is like a dream.

Hopefully the kids will enjoy and protect simple things in the natural world. They will understand and appreciate green spaces at a gritty, not-just-academic level. Maybe they will even try to live simply and sacrifice some comforts for…well, really for their own good; for the good of everyone.

At dusk I hear frogs calling, filling their role far beyond the food chain. They are prophets of all that creepeth, singing hallelujah praises for undeveloped space, proclaiming a warning to those who willingly or unintentionally pollute their own lands and lives with toxins, excess, and frantic busyness.

And too many knick-knacks ; )

The Narrow Gait to Progress

B41A9010-9D2D-42A2-8F1D-A0E247A90C12

“Train with intensity in the weight room two or at most three days per week. Rest well. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to various lack of gains, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to spectacular, game-changing progress, and only a few find it.”

So you want to get bigger or stronger, faster, quicker, or more powerful over the summer? Do you work hard in the gym and on the playing field, and want to see freakish and sustainable results? The kind that make someone see a performance and say, “Oh it’s just genetics.”

Genetics do matter. But it’s definitely not JUST genetics.

facepalm
Athletes who grossly over-train by simply following the instruction of their two, three, or four coaches make me do a quadruple face palm.

Athletes, coaches, parents…let’s quit pretending that this is a mystery. Or rocket science. This is VERY basic human physiology.

You need to train with intensity; work hard to stimulate adaptation. But then you need to recover. Recovery doesn’t mean sitting around. But it does mean intentionally holding off on intense work, in favor of doing other things that are less stressful. Recovery means not confusing training and preparation for competition with actual competition!

When you’re in your teens or twenties, it’s easy to establish a pattern of doing far too much or nothing at all. Some athletes want to train with intensity for four, even six days per week. But just because you can get away with abusing your body by training hard every day does not mean that this is optimal.

The challenging, hard-to-find, and narrow road, is to work hard, and smart, and deliberately rest and recover.

The body functions as a unit, recovers as a unit. The stress (catabolic and energy producing) hormones that cause you to go hard on “shoulders day” or conditioning or long distance runs are the same hormones interfering with getting the FULL benefit from that killer workout that you completed yesterday.

That’s why I advise full body training days for everyone except those primarily interested in competitive bodybuilding. Unless you have a great reason to train yourself like Frankenstein’s monster. For every day that you train with high intensity […I know that most motivated athletes won’t listen to me, but…] you really should have one, even two days of rest or relatively lower intensity work.

If you want to get stronger and  more athletic, remember that less is more. Fill your “off” days with a light hike. Seek out some jumps and stumps with a mountain bike. Pick up trash along the highway. Team athletes, spend the “low intensity” days working on tactics or skill work, but -intentionally- no hard running, intense games, or conditioning. Learn to kick-flip a skateboard. Write a letter to your grandparents. Stop with the “recovery run,” the “little bit of abs, chest, and calves” or whatever, and just sit the heck down and recover.

Are two weight training days per week really enough?

Absolutely! If you are a hardworking athlete interested in working smarter and not just harder. This advice is not meant for a casual gym-goer or a slacker. That crowd can train just about every day because they never -truly- stress the system. And typically, they get bored or injured at around the 8-week mark, and fall back into the typical altogether sedentary lifestyle.

I built my deadlift to over 600 pounds, bench pressed 375, squatted 500 lbs for reps, (at under 200 lbs body weight), chin-ups with well over 100 pounds added, all while weight training two days per week. ***Please believe this – I’m not special. I can roll out exhibit A, B, C, D, E…all real people who had been training for years and then were startled at the results they saw when CUTTING BACK to two hard training days per week, and doing some general activity or light corrective exercise on the off days.

Either that, or all of the guys and girls who I train for the long-term just happen to be “genetic freaks.”

Please don’t confuse this with general activity for weight loss. Body composition changes happen in the kitchen and through exercising for better movement quality which allows you to do more things, more often, out in the real world. To lose weight, you will need to be physically active more than twice per week.

And don’t confuse this with two days per week advice with physical therapy rehabilitative and corrective exercises. These are mostly lower intensity activities which should be completed more frequently.

Don’t confuse “recovery” with fancy diet schemes and supplements. Nutrition certainly effects recovery, but for now I will assume that you’re going to eat mostly non processed foods most of the time. Just drink -some- darn milk, eat the lean protein and vegetables. Eat moms home cooked soup or stew and there’s no need for the fancy collagen supplements ; )

Two days per week does not include a lot of random stretching or doing the seated leg curl machine. You can do “cardio” and foam rolling on your own time. When training day comes, you need to get down to business. The two days per week plan has you doing a targeted mobility / stability warm-up, then getting on with the fundamental movement patterns and “big lifts” suited to your body and interests.

Ahhh seriously. Just see how far you come, how you look and feel and perform, when you train with consistency and -truly- respect recovery.

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Four Ways That We Sabotage Our Shoulders

We rarely think shoulderabout our shoulders until something goes wrong. A shoulder grumbles when you reach up to grab a bowl from the cupboard. It yelps when reaching across to buckle the seat belt. Once shoulders have been provoked, they’re often easily offended, taking issue with benign stress like your favorite sleeping position or pouring a cup of coffee.

We ask a lot of our shoulders, and it should be no surprise that they are problematic. While our fingers and elbows must frequently bear high loads, they only have to bend and straighten. And while hips and wrists move in multiple directions, they act in a relatively limited total range of motion.  But our shoulders move frequently, in all directions, and through an extremely large range of motion.

How can we care for and nurture our shoulders? Are there stretching or strengthening exercises, manipulation, or dietary supplements that help? Some of these are beneficial, depending on the exact nature of the problem. But first, we should avoid issues as much as possible by being aware of these four ways that we often sabotage our own shoulders.shoulder ood

  1. Slumping when we sit:

The foundation of many shoulder issues is poor sitting posture. Our thoracic spine (mid back) slumps forward, our head protrudes, and our shoulder roll inward. Our neck, back, and shoulder blades are placed in this tucked forward position while we sit during our morning commute and during the work day, at lunch and while driving home, while eating dinner, and watching TV. Much of adult life is sit-sit-sit-sit. And after that, we sit.

Sitting in itself is not stressful on the shoulder joint. But all the stiffness and poor alignment that has developed over months and years translates into problems when we reach or lift something over head.

The first key to shoulder health is being aware of the long duration postures that we apply to our bodies over months and years. If your upper back and shoulder blades are kyphotic, your shoulders don’t stand a chance when you go to use them. Sit up tall. Stand up and move. Pull your head and shoulder blades back.

2. Reaching and lifting with poor form:

Shoulders functions best when the top portion of the humerus (the upper arm bone) has margin to spin and glide in the “socket” that is formed by the shoulder blade (scapula) and collar bone (clavicle). If you lift and carry objects with the palm of the hand facing downward and your elbow out to the side, the humerus is less stable in the shoulder socket, and the rotator cuff muscles and bursa can easily get pinched between the moving bones.  But if you reach and lift with the palm or thumb facing upward and elbow in, the humerus will be in a more stable position and spacing will be adequate for the muscles to do their work.

Whenever possible, reach overhead and lift with the palm of the hand facing up and your elbow more toward the center of your body (rather than out to the side).

3. Weekend Projects:

High performing athletes diligently train their bodies and closely monitor use of their shoulders. Swimmers and pole vaulters cycle the intensity of their practices. Baseball pitchers keep careful pitch counts. But the average adult with little physical preparation frequently dives into weekend painting, trimming, and cleaning projects that put their shoulder through thousands of loading cycles over a few days. Even with perfect posture and lifting technique, chances are slim that the shoulder muscles, ligaments, and tendons will hold up.

Be aware of the demands that weekend projects place on the shoulders. Temper your expectation and find time to prepare by stretching the chest, upper back, and strengthening the muscles of the shoulders and upper back.

4. Exercising our shoulders:

You read that correctly! Exercise programs are absolutely one of the biggest risk factors for shoulder injuries. Many people with the best of intentions take on too much – too soon (inappropriate progression), they perform exercises that are simply not a good idea (inappropriate exercise selection), or they fail to address postural and alignment issues (number one above) prior to performbad idea shouldersing typical upper body strengthening and stretching.

Seated Dips (on the right) are a common terrible exercise selection. They place the upper back and head into a slumped position while the upper arm bone is jammed into the shoulder socket.

Exercise is great, unless you hurt something. Here are a few general guidelines to get the benefits of exercise with less risk of shoulder injury.

 

machine-side-raises
Seated Shoulder Impingement   Machine

-Stay off the machines. Most resistance machines require you to sit and press your hands overhead or raise them to the sides. But these can not possibly fit all different shapes and sizes of people correctly, they place you in the same chronic sitting position that you already had too much of, and they do not require you to activate the core muscles that support good posture and movement of the shoulder blades.

If a machine or rack or person must hold the weight up for you, it may be more than the shoulder is prepared to handle. What cannot be lifted off the ground in good form should not be pressed overhead.  For example, sitting or standing dumbbell presses are self-limiting. This is favorable because these exercises demand support from the stabilizing muscles in the torso and you will not even attempt to shoulder what you cannot lift up off the ground.

-Stretch what is tight but not what’s already loose. For most people, this means not stretching the shoulder joints aggressively, but instead stretching the upper back and pectoral muscles.

-Strengthen what’s loose but not what’s already tight. Most of us need more upper back strengthening work, and less strengthening exercise of the chest and biceps, which act to pull the shoulder blades and humerus forward.

A few facts and stats on shoulder issues:

Shoulder pain is the 3rd most common musculoskeletal problem treated by physical therapists.

Shoulder problems are generally higher in women (15 to 26%) than in men (13 to 18%).

Shoulder problems are most common in middle age, and the onset of pain peaks at around 50 years of age.

The strongest evidence for managing long-term shoulder pain is exercise.

Ironically, one of the biggest risk factors for shoulder injuries is exercise. Do not assume that all stretching and strengthening is good for you. Make sure you’re attending to posture and form, making good choices on exercise selection, and using reasonable progressions.

  1. Kooijman MK, Swinkels ICS, Leemrijse CJ, de Bakker DH, Veenhof C. National Information Service of Allied Health Care. 2011.
  2. Barrett E. Examining the Role of Thoracic Kyphosis in Shoulder Pain, 2014
  3. Pribicevic M. The Epidemiology of Shoulder Pain: A Narrative Review of the Literature. Pain in Perspective 2012. InTech.
  4. Luime JJ, Koes BW, Hendriksen IJ, Burdorf A, Verhagen AP, Miedema HS, Verhaar JA. Prevalence and incidence of shoulder pain in the general population; a systematic review. Scandinavian journal of rheumatology. 2004 Mar 1;33(2):73-81.
  5. Shoulder Disorders and Occupation at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4836557.

Backflip tutorial for amateurs (checkpoints to determine if you’re ready)

It has been approximately seven months since I have done a flat ground backflip. I’m a 41-year old father and new business owner and it just doesn’t seem to be a topic that comes up. I know it won’t be forever that I can pull this off, and I still want to try it. So…here goes.

Prerequisites for a flat ground back flip:backflip guy

  1. Remember ***This is far more of a showboating skill than a training movement. Unless you are training to be a gymnast, run from any personal trainer who uses or pushes backflips as part of a training plan to improve strength/speed/power/athleticism etc.

2. You shall not worry about doing a backflip if you don’t want to. So don’t let anyone pressure you into trying it. This is only for those who want to do it and are willing to take on the relatively small risk of learning in a hurry (without years of gymnastic practice).

3. You need to have some degree of air awareness. If you don’t, stay on a trampoline and progress gradually until you are -very- comfortable going backwards and have build some -natural- understanding of where your body is in space.

4. You should not try a flat ground backflip until the trampoline backflip (with minimal spring, lean-in, and no layout) is very easy AND you know that your vertical jump and hip flexion/tuck are sufficient.

5. You need to be able to easily tuck jump over or onto something that’s over belly button height.

6. This tutorial is meant to provide simple, applicable and basic progressions along with some benchmarks to help you easily identify whether or not you are ready for the next step. Don’t listen to me if you don’t want to, or if you know a better way.  I’m only a self-taught physical therapist, not a gymnastics instructor.

That being said…I see nothing like this on the internets. Most of what I see is not really all that helpful or overly technical. Something like

1. Step one, lay down and practice tucking tight, 2. Step two, do a backflip.       —or— long drawn out gymnastic pieces that don’t help you determine what progression you are ready for.

Here is my simple, 6-minute video on everything I know about backflips. One take! Detailed progression but not overly technical!

1 Build general air awareness on the trampoline.

-once you have mastered that…-

2. Practice getting big with hip and trunk extension and then quickly tucking (do this laying on your back and in the air).

-once you have mastered that…-

3. Lean back for a layout backflip on the trampoline where you can easily spot your landing.

-once you have mastered that…-

4. Turn that into a vertical jump and tuck on the trampoline, but with minimal use of the springs.

-once you have mastered that…-

5. Get on the ground and do some plyometric activities to give your body and brain the feel of flat ground.

-once you have mastered that…-

6. Make sure that you can easily tuck jump to about belly button level. You may need to spend weeks or months building total body strength (resistance training) and explosive power (plyometrics).

-once you have mastered that…-

7. Have a soft, graded surface (or small step down) to buy you some space on your first “non trampoline” attempts. Have a spotter if that helps you feel better.

-once you have mastered that…-

8. Go to the flat ground. If you commit, even with poor form, the worst that you will do is bust up your feet or ankles. If you hesitate at the wrong time it could be very bad news and it’s simply not worth it. Go back to the previous steps until you are confident enough to commit.