Archive for category Body Mechanics

What matters to you?

I would like to give a shout-out to my sister and her colleagues as April is OT Month.

Occupational therapists play a vital role in helping individuals participate in things they want and need to do and to help manage their health to be as active and independent as possible.  One of the first questions they will ask is What matters to you?, rather than What is the matter with you?  Common interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.

Many people question the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy.  PT deals with pain, strength, joint range of motion, endurance, and gross motor functioning, whereas OT deals more with fine motor skills, visual-perceptual skills, cognitive skills, and sensory-processing deficits.

Occupational therapy is often thought of for adults only.  But that is not the case.  According to the AOTA, kids with these medical problems might benefit from OT:

  • birth injuries or birth defects
  • sensory processing disorders
  • traumatic injuries (brain or spinal cord)
  • learning problems
  • autism/pervasive developmental disorders
  • juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • mental health or behavioral problems
  • broken bones or other orthopedic injuries
  • developmental delays
  • post-surgical conditions
  • burns
  • spina bifida
  • traumatic amputations
  • cancer
  • severe hand injuries
  • multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other chronic illnesses

The “occupation” of children is to thrive, and occupational therapy practitioners work with children and young adults, from infancy through college, and their families to facilitate participation and independence.

Thank you to all OT’s as they help to improve our lifespan.

be well-

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21 Miles, all Smiles

Signs of spring are popping up all over the place.  The snow is melting, a few flower buds are sprouting and many of the runners preparing for the Boston marathon likely had their “last long run,” before Marathon Monday.  Today’s weather conditions were much like what I ran through last year at this time for my last long run prepping for Boston, with my dear friend, Alex.  A few layers needed but the sun was shining.  Here is a before and after picture at the beginning of our 21 mile run.

With running season ramping up, I asked my running expert friends and family members for some race day tips, whether you are training for a 5k, marathon, ultramarathon, or an event like Ragnar.  Here’s what they had to say.

  • Trust in your training.  If you have followed your training plan, trust that you are able to finish the race.
  • Come race day, DO NOT CHANGE anything!  This includes nutrition, pace and clothing.  Do not buy any special shorts, pants or tops to wear race day.  If you have not trained in it, do not wear it – you don’t know if any discomfort or chaffing will result in new clothing and you don’t want to deal with pain caused from new hot spots.
  • Don’t get caught up in the hype…ie, don’t let the atmosphere and other runners alter your pace.  You have trained to run a certain pace, don’t end up bonking because you went out too fast.  You want to have a negative split, meaning your second half of the race is faster than your first half.
  • If you have friends/family attending the race, have them spread out throughout the course.  If they are able to get to desolate/isolated parts of the course, even better.  It’s great to see familiar faces in lonely parts of the course.
  • Many races have a camp to hang out at before the race.  Bring toilet paper, you don’t want to get stranded.
  • Even though you may not feel thirsty, it’s usually a pretty good idea grab a drink at the rest stops.  Alternate between water and sports drinks.
  • Have fun and enjoy the experience.

be well-

 

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Practicing what we Preach

Ambitions have started to fade for many people as we head into the lull of new years resolutions.  Motivation, or lack of, affects every one of us at some point- including fitness professionals.  I thought it might be a great idea to reach out to some friends and family in the health and wellness industry to get their strategies for keeping motivation and practicing what we preach.  Here’s what a few of them had to say-

Kelly- Director of Healthy Living, Minnesota
I always have a water bottle with me, I get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, I lift weights regularly, and enjoy hiking and biking outdoors (particularly at state park trails) any chance I get with my husband and 1-year-old son.
It’s important to me that I lead by example so that I can influence others daily so that they can live their lives to the fullest! Many times I share my passion and excitement for outdoor adventures my family has recently done and others want to do the same which is great!

Kelly hiking at Grand Portage State Park on the MN North Shore/Canadian border.

Kelly hiking at Grand Portage State Park on the MN North Shore/Canadian border.

Lynda- Trainer and Group Exercise Instructor, Virginia

Every day is a struggle for me and I know that there are many worse off than me. I used to be able to jump out of bed, go for a run, work out, look after my job hold down a full-time job. But now I force myself to do something. It bothers me a lot that I do not have the energy or enthusiasm I once had. In fact it depresses me.Today was a bad day. I felt so tired. I went to the gym…walked in…looked at the treadmill…and walked out. I felt so hungry, so tired and I went to bed. Tomorrow is a new day.

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Lynda looking great after teaching a spin class.

 

Courtney- Professional Wellness Coach & Personal Trainer, Virginia

First, some clarification on “wellness coaching.” Where personal trainers and nutrition counselors (who are sometimes now referring to themselves as “health coaches”) address the physical aspects of their client, a coach addresses the behavioral aspects. Wellness coaching is much like life coaching with a more specific focus, i.e., incorporating exercise, changing eating patterns, stress management, weight loss, work-life balance or any lifestyle factors that will increase a client’s health and wellbeing. Most clients know what to do and how to do it. They just can’t seem to figure out why they can’t do it on a regular basis. Coaching helps the client uncover behavioral patterns, self-talk, beliefs and perceptions that are keeping them stuck. It helps them shift their paradigm from the lifestyle they are living to the lifestyle they desire.

How I practice what I preach: I understand that living a healthy life is a choice. It’s not always an easy choice and there are many things that can get in the way. However, it is still a choice as is everything we think, say, and do. I practice what I preach by:

  • Working out most days of the week on a regular basis. I don’t love working out, but I love how I feel because of it. I do some sort of cardio (run, power walk, elliptical, or bike) for 30-40 minutes and an integrated weight-training circuit for 10-30 minutes. The time depends on my schedule and how I feel. The key is to “Just Do It!” even if it’s for only a few minutes. You’d be amazed how much you can get in just 10 minutes.
  • I keep up with the LATEST research on food and nutrition. As a result, I eat mostly vegetables, fruits and lean meats, fish, eggs, and poultry. I limit grains (white flour especially) and processed foods.
  • I meditate most days of the week for 20-60 minutes. I mostly use guided meditations.
  • I try to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. I say “try” because my body doesn’t always cooperate.

Why is it important to practice what I preach?  It’s important to practice what I preach because the only one that can affect my level of health is ME. I am 59 years old and I don’t believe aging has to mean physical decline. I believe I can be as healthy at 80 as I am today if I continue to keep up with the latest breakthroughs in neuroscience, diet, and exercise and practice what I preach.

Courtney,

Courtney, Professional Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer

The last few weeks have been difficult for many people because of grey skies, cold weather and record-breaking snowfalls.  Reignite the flame, find what motivates you to keep moving forward.

be well-

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Issues live in our Tissues

A few years back I was hosting a weekend workshop led by Nikki Myers, creator of Yoga of 12 Step Recovery.  Attendees ranged from yoga instructors looking to add another layer to their teaching, yoga students looking to deepen the understanding of their own practice and others were members of various 12 step programs.  Much of what we talked about and shared with each other was very real and raw.  Emotions run high and low, digging deep to rise.

A portion of the lecture was about trauma.  Trauma can mean anything from a child experiencing their parent’s divorce, to surgical procedures to physical and sexual abuse.  Clearly at some point during this part of the weekend, emotions started to stir in me.  As a young child, I spent many days in the hospital for various surgical procedures and illness.

25 years later at this particular workshop, all that trauma I was holding onto was released.  I remember the exact moment…we were in the middle of a yoga practice and I was holding a high plank.  My body was trembling like an earthquake.  I’ve held this pose many times before but never with this experience.  What was going on, I wondered.  And then in savasana, it hit me.  Tears were rolling down my cheeks and I felt a sense of lightness.  All the heaviness I had been holding onto was now being released.

Last night I had a similar experience.  On Monday I started a book called Proof of Heaven by Ebon Alexander, M.D.  As I lay in bed finishing the last few pages, I started to feel the region around my solar plexus becoming stuck.  There’s good reason for that.  I was able to read this book from three different perspectives at any given point.

  1. having also experienced being hospitalized with bacterial meningitis
  2. having been at the bedside and holding the hand of a loved one who was in the hospital
  3. the lay reader

Emotions and thoughts were coming to surface and my body was holding onto those.  That is why I was feeling stuck.  I took several long yawns and that started to loosen things up.  And then I got out of bed, did a few stretches and backbends.  Last night was filled with lots of vivid dreams, yet one of the most solid night’s of sleep I’ve had in a long time.

So why am I sharing these two stories?  I would like to revisit a post I wrote about a year ago.

Finnish researchers studied 701 subjects, asking them what they felt in their bodies as they experienced 13 different basic and complex emotions.

 

“We often think the emotions are something that happen only in the mind, but there’s also lots of evidence suggesting that they also happen in our bodies,” says Lauri Nummenmaa, assistant professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Aalto University School of Science in Finland.

Using warm and cool colors, the body maps reflect the subjects’ bodily experience of an emotion. As these images indicate, feeling happiness increased activity throughout the body and particularly in, the chest area and head. This might reflect an increased heart rate and more rapid breathing, the study noted. In contrast, feelings of depression were marked entirely in black and blue, the cool colors reflecting an overall decrease in bodily responses. Nummenmaa clarified that the subjects, according to their own report, were all healthy. The experiment reflected feelings of depression and not a clinically diagnosed state.

For Nummenmaa, one of the most surprising results of the study was the consistency he found across Eastern and Western cultures. The study included subjects from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan. “So it seems to be unrelated to the cultural background that the individual has pointing towards a biological basis for these bodily responses related emotions.”

Link to the study

I am a strong believer that our issues live in our tissues.  This phrase I learned about six years ago and wholeheartedly believe to be true.  Our body is a vessel for everything we take in.  Including food, drink, the air we breathe, the products we apply to our skin and the emotions we take on.

Our bodies are certainly adapting and changing every day.  What does your body map say about you?

be well-

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Tuning the Body like a Guitar

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There are a lot of clichés used in the fitness industry.  While attending a workshop last week, I heard another and this one really stuck with me because I can relate to the analogy.

Rather than just picking up the guitar and start jamming away, I need to make sure it’s in tune.  Likewise, when I begin a workout, the body should be in tune before starting the workout.  This will help reduce the risk of injury, whether during exercise or in everyday life.

90% of injuries are soft tissue injuries; sprains, strains, contusions, tendonitis, and stress injuries.  Injuries can happen as a result of a single episode such as a fall, sudden twist or blow to the body.  They can also happen over time from repetitive motions such as carrying a child on one hip, swinging a golf club or tennis racquet, or prolonged use of the computer keyboard and mouse.

Each person is unique and therefore, how we tune our body is going to be unique.

Below are a few examples in how we can do that.

Nerve Glides- Nerve gliding exercises encourage the nerves to glide normally as you move your joints. A nerve may not glide well if it is injured or inflamed, as it can get entrapped in the surrounding soft tissue.

Neural Glide Video

Foam Rolling/Self Myofacial Release- SMR focuses on alleviating adhesions (also known as “trigger points” or “knots”) to restore optimal muscle motion and function.

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Dynamic Mobility- This helps to get the joints unstuck and warm the muscles, fascia and connective tissue.

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Open and CloseIMG_3413

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Hip SwingsIMG_3416

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Side Step and Overhead Reach

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Low Lunge with ReachIMG_3432

 

Side Lunge with Reach

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ScorpionsIMG_3437

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Stag Stance Back Bend
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Using any or all of these techniques will help tune your body to reduce risk of injury, decrease pain and improve performance.

be well-

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Simple doesn’t always mean Easy

I had a recent conversation with a new friend about my journey into yoga.  Nearly ten years ago I started my own practice as a way to supplement all the physical work I was putting my body through training for triathlons.  My muscles were tight, my posture was compromised and my mind was a bit chaotic.  Through yoga, much of that changed.

Fast forward a few years, I attended my first 200 hour training.  Here I learned much more in-depth about philosophy, the eight limbs, meditation, sequencing, anatomy and the asanas (the physical practice).  This training set a strong foundation in what I do and how I approach my own practice and as an instructor.

We tend to over stretch where we are bendy and collapse where we are dense.  Finding correct alignment rather than always taking the path of least resistance is a challenge.  So this is where we set the foundations for future poses.  Simple doesn’t always mean easy.  Learning to breathe.  Creating space.  Taking time.  Allowing ourselves to really explore.  Instead of using the body to get into a pose, use the pose to get into our body….

During the conversation I had with my friend, I said that I still was not super flexible and that’s why I teach beginners.  I love teaching to students who come to their mat for the very first time and can be in the same room as someone who has been practicing for 20 years.  Taking a basics yoga class is something we all need.

I think it’s great that people try to challenge themselves with new and more difficult poses.  But at the end of the day, a true yogi will say, “Great if I can, Great if I can’t.”

The pics below are me exploring off the mat at Mt.Chocorua in New Hampshire.

 

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553_0378be well-

 

 

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Don’t hold your breath…

Breathing is an action which is one of the few functions considered both voluntary and involuntary.  Right now, take a moment to notice the rhythm of your breath.  Does it feel like long steady inhales and exhales?  Or does it feel a little more shallow or disconnected?

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The breath is a great tool we can use to help guide us.  When all systems are working together, the breath tends to be soft, free-flowing.  But when there is a disconnect, it may feel otherwise.  Sometimes we feel this uneasiness when a situation becomes difficult or we experience a strong emotion such as anger or excitement.

Breathing exercises offer us the opportunity to reduce anxiety, stabilize our mood, improve our VO2 and help us feel energized.

Stress Reduction- 

  • Inhale for a count of 1, Exhale for a count of 1
  • Inhale for a count of 2, Exhale for a count of 2
  • Inhale for a count of 3, Exhale for a count of 3
  • Repeat this pattern, matching 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 for five total rounds

Mental Energizer

If you need a pick-me-up or are feeling a bit anxious, try the following breathing exercise; it can help to bring energy and clarity to your mind. The first time, do it for just 15 seconds, increasing the duration by five seconds every time until you can complete one full minute. Always breathe normally between exercises.

  • Sit upright with your back straight, eyes closed, and shoulders relaxed.
  • Place the tip of your tongue against the bony ridge behind and above your upper teeth.
  • Breathe rapidly through your nose, in and out, with your mouth slightly closed.
  • Keep your inhale and exhale short and equal. Your chest should be almost mechanical in its movements – rapid, like air is pumping through it.
  • Try to inhale and exhale three times per second, if you can, keeping your breath audible.

Improve Lung Capacity

  • Stand up tall, exhale all the air in your lungs.
  • Slowly breath in to your max capacity, feeling the lungs and belly expand.
  • Hold for 10-15 seconds.
  • Gently release the air.
  • Repeat 3-4 more times.

Breathe…

be well-

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