Optimal Level, Part 1

One of my first regular clients, at our first session, told me her goal was to do power-lifting, and she had been training with previous trainers to reach that goal. I reacted with, “Great! Let’s see how you move!” She paused and asked me if I had any reservations because of her age, being in her 70s. I responded with something along the lines of no, age is just a number; I want to see how your body holds up lifting. She breathed a sigh of relief that I do not believe she realized she had been holding during our conversation, and we went down to the rig.

Right off the bat, I noticed her posture needed some work. My client told me that her shoulder occasionally acted up, but she knew her limits and would let me know if we needed to back down on whatever movement we were doing. I love and hate that comment. I know when I say, “ok, my back says I’m done with this movement” or my knees are aching it is because I have pushed myself to the limit of that day. I also know that I have been tempted to use my problematic joints as an excuse to stop a grueling work-out. As I put this client through different movements, I realized her shoulder didn’t just “act up.” It was very limited on range of motion (ROM), and her other shoulder and her back were greatly compensating for that lack of ROM leading to poor lifting form. I switched movements which led to seeing her compensate for a questionable knee. When I asked about that, she kind of waved it away as it had been an issue for years, but she didn’t feel it affected her lifting.

Once we were done with my assessment, we sat down to talk. Having had my life and lifting positively affected and improved through chiropractic care to the point where I actually worked as a rehab tech in a chiro office for a year, I asked this client if she had ever considered seeing a chiropractor. She chuckled and said her daughter had been trying to get her an appointment for months, but she was hesitant about the whole thing. I was able to explain how chiropractic care can improve quality of life across all walks of life. She agreed to go for an initial consult which led to her having regular appointments.

Anyone who works in any aspect of healthcare – preventative and reactive – should have noticed by now that our society is all about instant gratification; they want the quick fix not time and effort on their part.

Over the last several generations, chiropractic care has gotten a negative reputation thanks to quacks who did not know what they were doing or saying, thanks to some specialized medical doctors who were all about the latest drugs (and how they can profit from those latest drugs), thanks to the shift in hospital care from patient care to patient satisfaction scores, and so many other reasons. However, as research continues and is published, the medical and now public opinion is changing for the better, recognizing that there is an appropriate time and place for medicine just as there is an appropriate time and place for chiropractic care. We are going to look at just a few of the benefits of chiropractic care now.

When most people think of a chiropractor, they think of getting their necks and backs “cracked.” What most people do not know is that first, the proper term is adjusted. The cracking is the sound you hear as gases – that build up around the joints causing pressure where you do not really want that pressure (like around neck leading to stiff neck, migraines, etc.) – are released with the adjustment. The second thing people do not often know is chiropractors adjust more than the spine. When I go in for an adjustment, I get the following adjusted:
always full spine, always bilateral knees, always bilateral wrists, occasionally                       my left shoulder, and once I had a couple ribs adjusted (that one is hard to                           explain as the chiro did not actually grab a rib and twist; it was more                                     through the hip-spine-shoulder relationship).
My mother experiences severe chest pain and vaso-spasms that is to say, her blood vessels will constrict making it difficult to breathe, which we all know could be deadly, on top of chest pain from her heart not behaving. Our chiropractors have adjusted her during one of these episodes leading to faster relief than nitro or additional oxygen could provide. She does not run at her 100% best after one of these episodes regardless of the adjustment, but she is able to get to her oxygen and rest without needing a squad and ER visit. Limiting a chiropractor to adjusting just your spine will grossly limit the benefits you can experience from chiropractic care. 

You might be thinking to yourself: this sounds like something that could benefit me, but how do I find a good chiropractor and not one of those quacks?

A good chiropractor does not do what I like to call a “crack-and-go.” A good chiropractor should be able to feel your spine and other joints to recognize where the problem lies. While I trusted my chiropractors because I had already seen how they helped my mother, I was still incredibly relieved when they got a set of full spinal x-rays and took the time to look at them, deciding a course of treatment, before they adjusted me. That is something for which I look in a chiropractor, but x-ray machines are expensive. Do not let lack of x-rays deter you from a chiropractor with a solid education which includes a LOT of hands-on training.

A good chiropractor will take the time to explain what is going on with your adjustments, how each area being adjusted will affect you, and what to expect in the upcoming days. Soreness after the first couple adjustments is completely normal. Your body has been out of its proper placement for however long and needs time to get used to being back to proper positioning. Your chiropractor should give you some basic stretches to help retrain your muscles around the adjusted joint. For example, I have always had problems with my knees, partly from sports and training for those sports, partly from work, and partly from how I was born. When I was limiting my chiros to just adjusting my spine, I noticed my knees hurt more than usual. This was because now my spine was being adjusted to the proper placement; exercises were being done to retrain the muscles around the back to move properly. For over a decade, I had been strength training, building muscles in the wrong place in my body. They were being built around where my spine was and not where it should have been. Because my back was finally starting to move properly, the leg muscles – which had also been trained around joints located anatomically incorrect – were now being forced to move differently which was my knees. The answer? Let them adjust my knees. They were already problematic and hindering me at work; I was already avoiding my orthopedic surgeon who had been wanting to replace both my knees since I was 17. I could only benefit from adjustments.

I have been kicking myself for the last several years for going to a chiropractor for several MONTHS before I let them touch my knees. My partners on the squad noticed I was able to lift heavier, that I could jump in and out of squads without the “ouch” sound effects, and I was usually in a better mood because I was not in constant pain. It was the same in my work-outs. I could lift more, go longer, and had greater ROM thanks to the exercises accompanying the adjustments. This leads back to my client mentioned at the beginning of this post.

At the chiropractic office she chose, the client was given the option of ordering a knee brace to be worn during activities to help her knee move on the proper track. This client noticed an increased ROM in her shoulder and knees and could recognize without my correction when her form was slipping because her back felt off. I was able to correct her form and lifting technique to help her continue to work toward her goal of power-lifting. Recently, she has not maintained her chiro visits which has been noticed by the both of us in our sessions. I have had to decrease her weight to keep her form; she is again compensating for decreasing ROM in her shoulder regardless of the stretches I have her do each session. The time came when I had to insist she get back in to a chiro office to get adjusted because her mobility had decreased nearly to back to where she had been when I first took her as a client which increased her risk of injury. I also re-emphasized the need for her to continue to stretch and do basic ROM exercises at home to continue her progress. One week later, I was able to push her harder than I had been in recent sessions due to her body being back on track to function at the best of its ability.

The picture attached to this post (found on Pinterest courtesy of Digital Spine Medical) gives other benefits of chiropractic care you and your clients can experience. If you have any questions, leave a comment or go to the “contact” page of this site to reach me. If I can answer your questions, I will. If it I do not know the answer, I will reach out to one of my chiropractors or refer you to a credible source of information.

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Getting the Driving Force

Glass globe in water

My state has the most strict laws and guidelines on what a person working as a trainer or Exercise Physiologist can share about nutrition compared to a nutritionist compared to a Registered Dietitian. I very much appreciate this because that means that textbooks and continuing education materials use my state as a reference or example when it comes to explaining scope of practice. Growing up in a family of emergency healthcare workers, scope of practice is nothing new to me and is in fact quite important. I decided that I was not satisfied with what my EP-C allowed me to tell my clients about nutrition – mainly because I disagreed with most of the outdated, proven-by-science-to-be-wrong nutrition guidelines set by our federal government. Wanting to give my clients the best coaching I could, I’ve enrolled in a nutrition specialist course to expand my scope of practice. This does not make me a nutritionist, but it allows me a bit more freedom when giving nutrition guidance.

Even before I expanded my scope of practice, I was able to and did work with my clients on their hydration status. Nearly every, single day, I had a client saying they were dizzy; their blood pressure was low; they had no energy; and the list continues. Every single day I asked, “how much water are you drinking every day?”

Everybody thinks they drinks lots of water, definitely enough, throughout the day. Most everybody is wrong! The general rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces.

For example, I weigh 200 pounds which means I need to be drinking 100 ounces of water every day – roughly 3 liters – to keep my body functioning at optimal level as far as hydration is concerned. Again, this is a general rule of thumb when it comes to water intake; if you have any health concerns such as kidney or liver disease, you should check with your doctor or a Registered Dietitian for advise specific to you. (Nutritionists are not allowed, in most states, to give advice based on your medical history because they do not have the in-depth training – education and experience – to know how your body will react to different diets.) 

When I tell clients how many ounces their weight indicates they should be drinking, the reaction is typically the same, along the lines of:
I’ll be running to the bathroom all day!
                    That’s a lot! Does coffee count?
                    How am I going to do that?!

How I answer them is a very basic, simple explanation with the offer to come back the next session with articles if they would like a more in-depth answer.

Your body is essentially in survival mode right now if you’re not getting enough water. It’s holding water weight (one potential reason you cannot seem to shed those extra inches or pounds even though you exercise daily) to ration out to the different body systems as needed. Body systems that need water include your organs including your skin, nervous system, and musculoskeletal system (think around your joints).
When you start drinking that amount water, yes, you will be running to the bathroom more frequently because your body is not used to getting that much water. Once it realizes that this is the new norm, that it is getting enough water to properly function to where it does not need to store water for future use, those trips will become less frequent. You will likely feel more energized or alert now that everything is able to function at optimum.

No. Coffee does not count, neither do energy drinks, tea, alcohol or any of that awful, awful pop. Those all have side effects causing your body to work which means you’re having to use some of that energy provided by water to filter through the coffee and such.

Get a good (ideally BPA free) water bottle. Mine are mostly 1 liter water bottles so I know if I drink 3 of them, I’ve hit my daily goal. Carry it around with you. In this day and age, work places and schools allow water bottles to be kept within easy access if not right beside you. Since I’m at work most of my waking hours, I split that time in two and have the goal of drinking one liter in each half. When I get home, I drink the 3rd liter.

From personal experience, once you have been in the habit of being properly hydrated, you know when you did not get the proper amount of water. I feel sluggish, don’t want to move let alone work or exercise. Reflexes are slowed or at least feel slowed; level of alertness is lowered and so on. That’s just the energy level, not even counting the joints that feel more stiff or food that does not sit well!

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” Leonardo da Vinci

 

Photo found via google search, credited to Robyn Tucker, Water Technology.

The Ages of Exercise

setisundial

I was doing some continuing education this week for my EP certification. The first course I completed was on Resistance Training for older adults (aged 65 and over). The end of video seminar had a quote by a Dr. Bortz:
Exercise for the young in an option.
Exercise for the old is an imperative.

At first, I really liked those lines! Most of my clients are in that older age group leading me to have the privilege of seeing the benefits of exercise in their lives. I have seen blood pressures lowered and medicines reduced. I have seen the effects of diseases which were essentially death sentences or a guarantee of being bed-ridden in a nursing home (Parkinson’s, MS, etc.) reduced to where they have hope of leading a normal or near-normal life longer than ever hoped.

Then I looked at the line about exercise being an option for the young. The more I thought about that line, the more I disagreed with it.

With everything we know about the treatment benefits of exercise for someone diagnosed with any sort of health concern – cardiac, neuro, respiratory, GI – and the benefits of risk reduction in those who could develop various health concerns, why would exercise not be imperative as, at the very least, a preventative measure for the young?

This exercise, activity, needs to be started as soon as possible.

The second course of con-ed I completed was resistance training and children. To summarize, the majority of children start moving early in life. If they keep moving as they age – progress to sports or other forms of organized activity such as a resistance training program, outside on playgrounds or in their yards and neighborhoods – they have a better chance at staying active throughout the rest of their lives, decreasing their chance of various injuries and disease. They would age stronger decreasing fall risk and maintaining a good quality of life when they are deemed old.

If we stress the importance of exercise in our young now, if we make it imperative now, then we can decrease health costs and concerns for future generations of elders.

Breaking & Making Habits

Walt Disney

Disclaimer: I have not been working in this field long and am in no way, shape, or form claiming to know everything. I will never claim to know that as this branch of healthcare is a constantly changing field with new research always being completed and shared, and every professional should want to learn as much as they can about their field throughout their time in it. However, I have made a few observations.

I was listening to an NSCA podcast this morning as I worked on various chores about my house. One of the questions asked of the guest speaker was, if he was starting a new strength and conditioning program, what three things would he absolutely need or want? My mind, as I’m sure the minds of many others did as well, jumped to equipment. Not his. He said three good coaches. That’s it. He continued about how three solid coaches would be able to develop and run a solid program without needing a bunch of equipment. If they wanted something to lift, they’d go out and find rocks.

I have been working to make sure my new clients have good form with body-weight exercises before I let them touch the plates and bars so they don’t end up unable to stand up straight or raise their arm above their head in the future. They don’t just do a few air squats and call it a day; I’m still putting them through a solid work-out that has them huffing and puffing, sweating, and leaving red-faced. Once the warm-ups are done, if I’m ok with their form, we go to the weights; if I’m not ok with their form, I get out resistance bands.

Oh the complaints.

My favorite complaint to despise: we’ve always done it this way.
My usual response: yeah? how’s that working for you? Have you met or come closer to meeting your goals? Are you able to perform all these movements without pain?

I explain everything we do – what muscles the exercise is working, why we do warm-ups, why I choose to have them do 3 sets of 10 with 30 sec of rest between sets for one movement and 3 sets of 3 with a minute of rest between each set for another movement. I remind them of the goals they gave to me. If increased flexibility is a goal, then stretching/cool-down is going to be a little longer some days than others.

Some of the complaints have started to decrease; others are becoming more stubborn and looking for any little thing about which to moan even while being happy with the improvements they are now noticing with increased range of motion or being able to add another 10# to the bar after being stuck at the same weight for a month or so.

Going back to that podcast, if I’m unable to train my clients without extra equipment, without the bars and plates and rigs and machines, I would most definitely not be a resourceful trainer or coach. Without being resourceful, I would not ever be able to call myself a solid coach let alone expect anyone else to say that of me. The ultimate fail, in my opinion, is a trainer who knows the form of their clients is not proper, but lets them continue down that path that will eventually lead to an injury simply because it’s the way they’ve always done it.

Moral of the Story: It’s great to question your trainer as in, what is the purpose of this movement? Why are we doing different sets/reps for this exercise than for that one? It keeps us on our toes and gives us practice and the chance to explain something we love. But please don’t be that client who complains about everything even as you see yourself improving and coming that much closer to your goals. We have, or should have, your best interests in mind as we create a program for you. It’s our job to keep your injuries and medical history in mind as we create a program for you. We observe that wince of pain – not challenge – followed by slipping form as you go for that overhead press with increased weight. That tells us we need to modify your program a bit. Maybe an old shoulder injury is keeping you from moving your arm properly, and you would benefit from more ROM exercises for that shoulder before trying that weight again.

We’re trying to help you break bad habits developed over the years and help you create good habits in movements and patterns even while we work towards bettering ourselves as trainers.

 

Getting Guidance

effortYou may have heard or seen the phrase “new year, new me” floating around on various social media forms. New Year resolutions are a tradition that’s becoming a joke. People resolve to be better in various ways in the upcoming year. However, the plan to be better typically ends before the third week of January for different reasons including but not limited to: lack of will, lack of finances, lack of time, lack of results, lack of knowledge, lack of a plan, lack of guidance.

The most common, or apparently common, resolution involves health and fitness, whether it is “get into shape,” “get back in the gym more,” “eat better,” and the list continues. Like most other resolutions, it is also easily and commonly broken. Let’s address that now.

Every one of those lacks or excuses can be resolved by finding a good trainer. Please note that the word “good” is in bold print. In my relatively short time working the fitness world, I have already had the pleasure of working with different types of person trainers. Here are some simple guidelines to follow when choosing a trainer.

  1. Check their Credentials.
    There are several big organizations that have high standards for their certified members. I am certified through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Other organizations include but are not limited to ACE, NCSA, and NASM. There are data bases on their websites where you can search for your trainer, although, not every trainer may choose to be searchable by non-certified members. However, the websites will have the scope of practice and description of each certification level. That will give you an idea of what the person into whom you looking into as a trainer can actually do for you. For example, ACSM certified Personal Trainers (CPT) and certified Exercise Physiologists (EP-C) are different in that the CPT works with healthy individuals and EP-C can work with healthy individuals or those with medically controlled diseases.
  2. Plan to Answer Questions
    Once you have decided that the trainer you are meeting for the initial consult (which should be insisted upon by the trainer when you are setting up your first meeting), start planning on answering questions along the lines of the following:
    How many days a week will you commit to exercise?  This is not how many days you want to exercise or train; this is how many days you will train based on your work and family schedule.
    What specific and realistic outcome would you like to see from this training? Saying things like “oh, I just want to be in better shape” or “I’d like to go from a size 18 to a size 2 by this wedding in 5 weeks” is not overly helpful for your trainer to create a program for you. Using clothing size is an awesome way for you to measure your progress. Telling your trainer that you want to get from a size 18 to a size 2 gives them an idea of what to plan. If you want to be able to lift or press a certain amount of weight for whatever reason, maybe work duties, have that in mind to tell your trainer.
    What sort of exercise have you tried before and liked? What have you tried before and not liked? Do you love running but hate weights? Do you hate weights because you do not know how to use them properly? Do you despise running but are ok with biking or rowing? Trainers want to create a program that you will enjoy and want to continue.
    What past injuries have you experienced that the trainer should know about before creating a program for you? Have you recently injured your back or your shoulder at work? With injuries, have your medical history – including medications – available at time of initial consult.
  3. Check your Finances before the Meeting
    This might sound harsh, but it is necessary. Every trainer has different rates. Know going into the meeting how much you can spend on a weekly, monthly, and annually basis on training. If you have concerns, before signing anything, talk to the trainer. Ask about payment plans. Ask about meeting only once a week instead of two or three times a week if that will help you. Again, every trainer has their own way of handling this sort of situation.
  4. Realize a Few Key Things
    The first of which includes rate of progress. You might and should feel as if you are stronger, faster, more confident after only a couple weeks of training. You might wonder why you feel so much better but the mirror does not confirm those feelings. Keep in mind that physical appearance, on average, does not start changing until around week 6 of committed training. What you feel is likely a neuro response to the training. The brain is processing the movements faster and signaling to the muscles which are reacting faster and stronger than before you started increasing activity and exercise time.
    The next big realization: it is not the sole responsibility of the trainer to get you to your goal. The trainer guides you and provides accountability, but you are the one who determines how much effort you put into yourself. If you work half-heartedly, you are only hurting you. You will probably also be frustrating your trainer who wants to see you succeed. Are you making you a priority?

Make yourself – your health – a priority in the upcoming year.

Getting Started

rocky-quote

Everyone is quite busy these days, rushing about from point A to point B. Who has time to just drop everything and start working out daily? That is just one more thing to add to your already chaotic schedule.

This post is dedicated to simple ways to increase your daily physical activity without having to add anything to to-do list. This is not taking the place of regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise, but these tips will help get you moving for greater health benefits and desiring more exercise.

First will be the way you can increase physical activity, and second will be the why or the reasoning behind that way.

Way #1    Park farther away from buildings.

Why #1    You’ve probably already guessed the reasoning behind this way, but parking farther away causes you to walk more than if you parked in that desirable, closer spot. Walking has many, many health benefits including reducing your risk of heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and the list continues. Walking is a cycle of overcoming friction and gravity every time you take a step, forcing your body to work for those benefits.

Way #2    Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Why #2    Taking the stairs causes the same cycle of overcoming friction and gravity the same as walking but to a greater extent. It’s going to work your musculoskeletal system more than walking, so you may see or feel more benefits sooner than walking.

Way #3     Fidget

Why #3     I know, this sounds crazy. I, personally, was quite happy when one of my university professors told us that fidgeting – tapping the foot, little kicking of the foot in class, clicking pens – is actually good for combating sedentary behavior. I was known for fidgeting in my seat during class, church, work, as means of trying to stay awake between working several different jobs, the full-time of which was a 7p-7a shift, and full-time class schedules. Fidgeting still promotes blood-flow, so while not as powerful as walking or taking the stairs, it still is good for you as a simple way of increasing physical activity. With fidgeting, I’m going to add standing when able to avoid sitting. If you have an office job, find out if it is possible to get a desk accessory that elevates so you have a standing desk. You’ll find yourself moving more with this set-up, even if it’s just shifting from foot to foot.

There you have three very simple, practical ways to increase your physical activity level without buying any equipment or services. Again, this a first step to bigger and better thing, but everyone has to start somewhere!

 

 

The photo featured in this post was found via Pinterest.

Strength & Honor

sweatMany have said and currently say that the God of the Bible, that Christians, promote weak women – mentally, physically, emotionally. Many have never read the Bible.

Saving the topics of feminine education, business, and emotion for another time, let’s look at the physical attributes praised by Solomon, the king of Israel blessed by God with the greatest wisdom known to man with the exception of Jesus, who is also God.

The book of Proverbs holds the majority of my favorite verses in the Bible such as Proverbs 31: 25*

            Strength and honor are her clothing.

Proverbs 31 has long been titled – in Bible, sermons, and discussions – as “the virtuous wife” when talking about character qualities. However, those sermons and discussions often leave out her overall efficiency, business sense and her literal physical strengths. Earlier in the chapter, verse 17, we are told “she girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms.”

Basically, the virtuous wife, the woman to which every girl in church and Christian schools have been taught to aspire to be and every boy has been taught to desire as a wife, is a woman who cares about her physical condition and is known for that action.

Clearly, strength is not always in reference to physical strength when mentioned in the Bible. Proverbs 24:10 states that “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” I have applied that verse as a challenge to every aspect of my life. In my line of work, I have to be emotionally strong to act as support for my co-workers and patients as well as their families. I have to be mentally strong to know what I am doing and physically strong in order to be able to do my job and keep my people safe. As workload increases, my strength needs to increase to be able to stand in the day of adversity. If you are not spiritually strong – knowing what God says in the Bible, constantly in contact with God, and in-fellowship with other believers – you will faint to temptation of all types in this incessant battle we have with Satan and his followers.

Honor has many definitions, one of which includes “a woman’s chastity or her reputation for this” or the first definition of high esteem**. Neither of those definitions are or should be undesirable. Either the clothing of the virtuous wife are strength and chastity (moral purity) or strength and esteem – both calls for being above reproach and should be natural for a woman.

A somewhat humorous summary of this post: the next time a guy tells you, jokingly or otherwise, to get back to your place in the kitchen, tell him your place is also in the gym.

 

*All passages from the Scriptures are taken the Holy Bible: New King James Version printed by Thomas Nelson Bibles, Inc.

**Definitions were provided by the Oxford Dictionary via Bing search.