THREE Things to Start Doing Today: Decrease Pain, Move Better


As you cross decade birthdays, your very own special 'musculoskeletal issue' is likely start to slowly creep out of the woodwork.  A few of the most popular are tight hips, bad shoulder, and bad back. It takes thousands of iterations before a poor movement pattern or static activity begins to create pain and reduced range of motion. This is lucky -- and not. Usually we don't realize we have a problem until pain occurs, and by then the movement pattern that helped make us hurt more is waaaaaay ingrained! To exit this predicament requires that we (1) strengthen weak & stretch tight muscles, and (2) re-learn the movement using the intended muscle groups.

Simply put, if you aren't moving well, you will eventually start to experience musculoskeletal pain. Flexible people, you might also be susceptible. (You may be hypermobile if you can press your palms together behind your back or hip hinge from standing and put your palms on the ground.)

Here are THREE ways to keep pain away and become more mobile.

1. Start using more than two static body positions. 
Okay you got a standing desk at work. Yay. What about the rest of your day? Sitting, maybe? We now know that the amazing life-changing invention of the chair is like the drive-up lane at McDonalds: it gives us a shortcut to the "finish line." Sitting daily for four or more hours during leisure time alone was found to not only do a number on our metabolism, body composition, and lifestyle disease risk factors, but it can also literally smash your glutes into endless sleep, shorten your hip flexors, and reduce your squat depth to 90-degrees*.

In that instance, what follows is a sad attempt by smaller, less-qualified muscles to be someone they're not (our gluteal muscles are the largest muscle group in our body), which can drive those underequipped muscles to painfully do what I professionally call "spaz out." Oh - you're a hypermobile person? You may instead feel a similar type of spazzy pain in your low back, since your spine is so happy to bend any which way. 

Did I scare you into submission yet? Here are some ideas for other ways to leisure (and work). 

  • Kneel on the floor and stretch your hip flexors, alternating a knee down every few minutes (or kneel on both knees). If you can crowd back against the wall you can even throw in a couch stretch! 
  • Whenever possible, sit on the floor. This best applies to playing board games, watching TV, reading, and scrolling. If you cannot sit on your ischial tuberosities (sits bones) without rounding your back, elevate your rear under folded blankets or make your own bolster.
  • Since I know I'm preaching to the choir about not sitting, when you do stand, do so with intention. Here's a great standing position check sequence you can do whenever you remember. He's a little bit nuts -- tutorial starts about halfway through.


2. Start figuring out what needs work.  Remember, pain is the LAST signal that tells you something is wrong. Here are a couple simple tests to evaluate common locations we find impending 'issues.'

  • Hip mobility issue: stand up and look at your knees. Now look just past them to your feet. Do you stand with duck feet (or foot)? This could be a sign of shortened, overworked hip flexors. Feet should stand parallel.
  • Shoulder mobility issue: when you stand with your arms hanging freely with a pencil in each fist, do the pencils point slightly inward or greater toward one another? This could be a sign of a weak rear shoulder capsule and/or tight anterior shoulder and chest muscles. Your pencils should point straight forward or away from the body.
  • Shoulder blade mobility issue: This one is tricky because the scapulae are responsible for being both stable and mobile. If you can't make it to class this week, get a buddy and check out this tutorial.

3. Do something for your baseline mobility every day. Especially if If you're working out semi-regularly, and especially definitely if you're running 3+ times per week. IF you aren't helping your mobility daily, whether you feel it or not you could be on your way to pain in some part of your body. Methods includes but are not limited to:

  • Massage: foam roll, stick roll, peanut roll (lacrosse ball/tennis ball), cupping, trigger point massage. Anything that de-laminates the layers of tissue in tight parts of your body. These methods also improve post-workout recovery by decreasing inflammation and increasing cell recovery mechanisms.
  • Prehab: perform sets of banded/dumbbell, body weight, or otherwise gravity-assisted exercises that focus on a specific mobility issue. For example, if you have been diagnosed with sleepy glutes, you're doing (at the least) glute bridge variations and supermodels. If you have a shoulder blade that you can't stabilize, you're doing scap push-ups or banded rotator cuff strength work. 
    • If you have no pain and are not sure if you even have an issue after trying one of the tests above, I suggest one or both things: do something every day anyway, rotating through a body part each day (It's called prehab for a reason).
  • Stretch Hard. Mobility is defined as flexibility at the end-range of motion. That means that to get more flexible, you've got to stretch with intention, and stay in it long enough to get to the true end of your flexibility, typically about two-to-four minutes.

Lastly, if you're having pain, consult with a local professional and find out how your body's operating. PDX peeps, I can supply you with a starting point: Physical Therapy, Athletic Training, or a collective of professionals who do body work. 

How to Be Happy

"When I lose 20 pounds, then I'll be happy." 

"When I make more money I'll plan a trip to Thailand."
"When my kids start sleeping in past 6:30 I'll start a morning meditation."

This is one way we approach goals that offer no favors. We allow ourselves happiness that is conditional to the success of the goal. And we often approach the goal with willpower alone to keep us on track. This is why so many goals are SO HARD to finish!

There's a concept I want to introduce to you. I keep stumbling across it in the recent past, and I think I finally smack-in-the-face get it! Here's the first iteration: "Be the person you wish to become."

When I've seen this phrase before, I've gotten stuck at the nebulous idea and the enormity of the work involved in figuring that out. ("Sure I want to keep evolving. Who IS the me I want to be? I don't know where to begin, and now I gotta go to work/fix dinner/go pick up kids.")

If you're also feeling like you're racing along checking boxes and never giving yourself time to think deeper about where you're at today and what you want most of all, I invite you to do so with me now.

Last week, I heard somebody say this on the Barbell Business podcast: 
"Most people want to know what they need to DO to HAVE the things they want and BECOME the person I want to be." Turns out that's backwards. 

To get what you want, you need to reverse the order from Do-Have-Be, to Be-Do-Have.

Let's take weight loss as an example:
If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you first need to become the you who already weighs 20 pounds less, who wears smaller clothes than you used to and feels confident. The you who weighs 20 pounds less does so many things differently than the you of now: the way you enter a room, your relationship with your alarm clock, what you do outside of work and sleep time, the rank of your own needs compared to others, your relationship with food, the people in your inner circle, how regularly you work out, and on and on. You must become this person before you lose even 1 pound, and you need to decide how those 'little' things will work. Then the DO-ing will come easily. And soon you will have that amazing and confident feeling. 

Try this exercise:
1. Pick one thing you want to HAVE. Happiness, a six-pack, a new job or career, adventures, true love, a zero balance. 

2. Ask yourself: what version of myself am I when I have that thing? When addressing any change, you may have to address your own fears and belief systems about money, relationships, jobs, and your own self worth. 

3. Pick one or two ways that you will start living like that person now. Some things will be tougher than others, especially if your values don't yet match your goals. 

Now get out there and BE!

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Your Prehab. You're Welcome!

Today's core workout is 66% about the back side of your body. How often does THAT happen, right?!

Also, you get a rare glimpse into the other part of my life as a Summertime SAHM (Stay-At-Home-Mom). :)

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We've Graduated to Hollow Rocks

Ah, yes, my "nagging injury" is making an appearance. It's okay -- it's my canary in the coal mine. I've just started doing again what I should have been doing all along to stay out of pain.

Do you have a canary in your coal mine?

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