The quality of your posture can make a big difference in your life. It is the first thing I start correcting when personal training new clients. Good posture can make you look and feel younger, stronger and more confident; and can help improve your breathing, advance your sports performance, decrease your risk of injury and improve your biomechanical efficiency. And, over the course of your life, good posture can prevent painful physical strain in your joints.
These are telltale signs that you need to improve your posture:
Changing Bad Posture Habits
Here are just a few quick tips of things that you can do to help improve your posture. Little changes can make big differences over time.
Vary Your Position. Counter the damaging effects of constant sitting by standing as much as possible. Standing in correct alignment requires much less muscular effort than sitting with proper form does. Try using a drafting table or stand up desk so you can stand when working. Stand up when you are watching television, opening mail or talking on the phone.
Change your head position when looking at your phone or tablet. Never lie down or lean back in a chair with your body flat and your head tilted forward looking at your device. This puts a great deal of strain on the neck muscles. Instead, sit up tall when using your device and put pillows on your lap to hold it closer to eye level. When standing, allow elbows to be tucked into sides and try to support the device at eye level using two hands.
Update Your Exercises for working the abdominals. Do more active stabilization training rather than just traditional torso curls and sit-ups, which focus almost exclusively on the trunk-flexing function of the obliques.
Do you have frequent neck, shoulder or back pain? You may have a recently identified condition called "text neck." The repetitive strain injury occurs when you spend considerable time looking down at your phone. Over 70 percent of Americans own smartphones; and because of this, it's likely to affect many of us at some point if we do not change the way we use our phones.
What Causes Text Neck?
Your neck is designed to support the weight of your head in an upright position. Dropping your head increases the amount of pressure placed on the vertebrae in your neck and also strains muscles in your neck, shoulders, and back.
When you hold your head at a 60 degree angle, like when you look down at your phone, it's as if you suddenly added another 50 pounds of weight to your head. Because your neck was not designed to support so much weight, permanent damage eventually can occur. If you spend a lot of time texting, playing games or surfing the Internet on your phone, the curvature of your neck may even be permanently affected.
Symptoms of Text Neck include:
About 15 years ago I was told by my dentist that I should be wearing a night guard to bed because my teeth were showing signs that I was grinding them during the night. Two things came to my head right away. No way did I want to sleep having a bulky thing inside my mouth for 7 hrs. The other was how much was it going to cost for this contraption. After some serious thought and talking to some people, I decided to invest $200 for it. Pretty pricey I thought but the benefits sounded like they outweighed the cost. I can honestly say it was one of the best investments regarding my health.
The first thing I noticed after using it for only a week was that my face, neck and shoulders felt so much more relaxed upon waking up. Because of this my workouts seemed better too because the muscles around my upper back and shoulders didn’t get fatigued as quickly as they usually did. When seeing a client repeatedly raise their shoulders doing upper body work and noticing the tightness in their traps, I will often ask if they grind their teeth or clench their jaw at night. Many times they say yes and tell me they were told by their dentist that they should be wearing a night guard. It definitely shows in their posture and movements!!
Headaches would occasionally occur during my day, probably because of the tension that the grinding created at night. That would always put a damper on wanting to exercise because it would only make my headache worse. Once I started using the night guard, though, the headaches went away. I very rarely ever get one anymore so there is never an excuse that I have a headache and don’t have the energy to move my body.
Everyone should consider wearing a night guard, even if they don’t grind their teeth like I used to. However, don’t use a generic sports mouth guard because it may damage tooth alignment. Custom dental guards may even improve alignment. There are many more options to getting one these days than just through your dentist. You can get them online as well which is the less expensive route. Either way it is money well spent!!
Are you at peace with your back? Since we spend more money on chronic back issues than any other part of our body, not liking our back is a major problem. Unfortunately, we cannot get away from our back; and if our back is in chronic pain, we usually don’t enjoy ourselves or anyone else around us either.
When a new client comes to me, we spend the first 15 min. going over their health history. Almost every person that comes to me has had or currently has back issues. What frustrates them the most is that the back never seems to totally feel good again once they incur their first back issue. Even if the pain isn’t showing up at the present time, the client knows that it can surprise them at any given moment in the future. Why is that?!!
It is made clear to my clients that there are three areas of their daily living that we need to look at together before they even start personal training with me. These areas are what everyone spends the most amount of hours doing in the course of the day. They subtly will turn your back against you.
Question 1 - What does your posture look like when you are sitting down. Do you use a lumbar roll in your car, at work, at your computer at home and in your living room while watching television. If you answered no to most or all of these, then you are slouching for hours a day with pressure in your low back.
Question 2 – What does your posture look like when you are walking. Do you wear good supportive shoes throughout your day and in your house at all times; or do you wear a shoe style during the day that is too flat or high and then come home and walk around in socks or soft slippers. If you answered the later, then your back and knees are going to let you know it. I always tell clients that it is much better to have a healthy back wearing shoes in their house than clean carpets by wearing just socks.
Question 3 – What does your posture look like when you are sleeping. Do you use a good supportive head pillow, knee pillow and pillow between your arms. If you answered no to even one of these, then your back, hips, knees and shoulders are going to be talking back to you in the morning.
I take each new client through these three areas on the first day we meet and show them what a difference it makes to their posture with just a few small changes. They always come back to the second session saying that they can immediately feel an improvement in their low back and entire body.
Helping my clients build strength without addressing these issues is like trying to build a house without a foundation. Start making friends with your back by changing the way you sit, walk and sleep. Your back will thank you for finally taking the burden off of it and giving it to other areas that should be doing the job.
Are you enjoying your food choices every day of your life? Or have you made a series of choices resulting in disappointment and weight gain. Do you ever have the feeling that every good food choice you try to make requires great effort and produces little reward. Don’t spend your time and energy mourning all the bad food decisions you have made and don’t overthink all the good food choices you try to make. There is hope for you!! The way to overcome the results of a series of bad choices is through a series of right choices---one choice at a time.
Maybe the circumstances of your life have caused the series of bad choices you have made. You may be in debt. You may be lonely because of a series of bad choices in relationships or the way you treat people. You may not be getting enough sleep. You may be working too much and not having enough balance in your life.
You cannot make a series of bad choices over time that resulted in weight issues and then a few good choices and expect all the results of all those bad choices to go away. You did not get into deep trouble through one bad choice; you got into trouble through a series of bad choices. As a personal trainer working to help my clients achieve their weight goals, I tell them that if you really want your weight and life to change for the better, you will need to make one good choice after another, over a period of time, just as consistently as you made the bad choices that produced negative results.
No matter what kind of trouble or difficulty you find yourself in, you can still achieve your weight goals. You cannot do anything about what is behind you but you can do a great deal about what lies ahead of you.
Look in the tab “Trending Articles” on my website, dynamicfunctionalfitnessllc.com, to give you a start in making one good food choice at a time. Posting nutritional articles is important because it gives people knowledge to go forward and more tools to add to their health toolbox.
Changing habits will not happen just by wishing they would change. Successful changes happen when you make a plan and talk to yourself about that plan constantly. You should think about the things you want to change often; and if you make what you think about MATCH what you actually want to do, your brain may not like it at first but it will eventually go along.
I sleep great just about every night and tonight I am sure will be no exception. When my alarm goes off at 5:50 a.m. tomorrow to exercise for an hour before my personal training sessions begin, there is nothing that I would love to do more than to just stay under my warm covers and go back to sleep for an extra hour-- but I don’t. I have a plan. This plan is already laid out in my head tonight that I need to get up at that time in order to execute my plan for tomorrow. I start telling myself the night before I work out what is going to happen so I avoid any battle from taking place inside my head the next morning. Do you make an effort to choose your thoughts or do you just act on whatever falls into your head at the present time, even if it is in total disagreement with what you have said you wanted to do?
I want to encourage you today to know that you CAN change your habits. We are in a war and the mind is a battlefield. I tell my clients over and over that exercising is 75% mental and only 25% physical. The mind has to be in on the plan. Eventually it will go along and make things much easier for you. Learn to think ahead and your emotions will start lining up with your thoughts. If you have had years of experiencing wrong thinking and letting your emotions lead you as I have done in the past, then changing habits may not be easy and will definitely require a commitment of time and effort. However, the results will be well worth it.
Don’t say, “I am just an emotional person and I can’t help the way I feel and what I do.” Take control. You can do it!!!
Chronic pain is one of the hardest issues when training clients. It is very complex because of the way it is processed through the nervous system and brain. As a personal trainer, it is my job on the first day we meet to get their health history of joint and muscular pain that they have experienced in the past and at the present.
Listening to their health history and how they act when they are talking (facial features, sound of their voice, description of pain) gives me a good idea of how they will react when they begin exercising that area of chronic pain. For example, a person with chronic shoulder pain will be overprotective of the affected area and cringe at visually seeing their arm raise in front of them. Their brain will associate this visual feedback with pain and then send that pain signal to the nervous system to create a heightened stress response. To avoid this from happening, I modify exercises and then alter the visual proprioceptive feedback by having them close their eyes (see Mind-Body-Spirit blog) and breathe deeply while moving the arm to only where they feel relaxed. Since they can no longer visually see it moving, the nervous system stays quiet and allows the muscles to gradually move into a larger range of motion over time.
My business name is Dynamic Functional Fitness. I chose this name because my goal is to have each client move well in all areas of the body so functional day-to-day tasks can be done with no thought of pain anywhere in the body. If they are in pain coming to see me; and then experience even more discomfort after leaving my studio because I didn’t validate the client’s story of chronic pain, then the only outcome my client will have is a feeling of isolation and frustration from not being taken seriously.
You may see this phrase in various articles you come across or notice it posted at your gym. People use this cliché so often that each word ends up being ignored and neglected. Have you ever wondered what it actually means or what steps are necessary to achieve this trifecta?
When asking someone in the health field what this means, you could get 10 different answers from 10 different people. Well, Carol Bucci is here to give you her own experience of understanding and achieving this connection based on 16 years as a certified personal trainer and 25+ years of working out.
The Mind - Do you ever put on earbuds when walking/jogging or weight training and try to forget about everything around you except the music? If so, you just lost the mind connection to the mind-body-spirit phrase. Instead of tuning out, you should be tuning in to your mind and actually focusing on what your body is doing at every moment of exercise movement so the correct muscles are recruited by the brain through the nervous system. As soon as you disconnect, the brain will send neurons (signals) to the same muscles paths you always use, which could be wrong for the activity you are doing at the moment and cause you to get injured. For me to experience the mind connection, I have learned to keep the music turned off so I concentrate on my muscle movements and staying relaxed with no distractions.
The Body - As I gained more body awareness through complete concentration when exercising, the muscles and joints were secretly getting organized and harmonized without telling me. This was due to the improvement of my stability and mobility from staying focused. When they work together, the human body can move efficiently without wasting energy or minimizing movement performance. Stress then moves from specific areas in the body to the whole system sharing the load. The bottom line – my stress level, both physically and psychologically, started to go way down.
The Spirit - While the mind-body connection continued to improve as the months went on, something wonderful happened without even noticing it was happening. My connection to God became really strong. A relationship with him was already there before my exercising behavior changed and it actually felt like a pretty good one. However, it wasn’t until after the stress went down that I felt my heart truly open up like never before. I found myself handling problems and relationships with a completely different mindset. Many things that might have irritated me in the past no longer get any attention. My gratitude to God for leading me on this journey has made me even more passionate as a trainer to reach out and help as many people as possible experience this trifecta for themselves.
Nearly 40% of Americans have suffered from heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is the most common cause of foot pain but a lesser-known condition is called heel pad atrophy, which might also be to blame.
Plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation of the fascia, the tough tissue that wraps around your heel and extends forward to the base of the toes. The inflammation occurs when there's excessive stretching where the fascia attaches to the heel bone.
There is a thick wedge of fat in each heel that works like a shock absorber. It can wear down over time which then causes heel pad atrophy. There is also a fat pad under the ball of your foot. It can also wear down and cause pain but it mostly occurs in women who regularly wear high heels.
If you have plantar fasciitis, the pain is most severe when you take a step after being off your feet, such as when you get out of bed or standing up after sitting for a long time. Once you start walking, the fascia stretches and the pain usually subsides. Heel pad atrophy becomes more painful the more you walk or place weight on your heel. The pain subsides usually when the heel is cushioned.
Plantar fasciitis hurts more towards the inside of your foot, around the heel. Heel pad atrophy is very focused in the center of the heel. People that experience this often feel intense pain when they push on the foot's center.
Plantar fasciitis can happen for many reasons. It can be caused by weight gain, worn-out shoes, increased exercise, and walking in barefeet(socks). With heel pad atrophy, the fat pad just wears down with age.
Plantar fasciitis will usually go away in less than a year if you avoid the activities that irritate the area. The tissue will stretch out and become looser over time thus decreasing inflammation. Placing cushioned arch supports in your shoes can speed up the heeling process and help avoid a recurrence. Icing the area and using anti-inflammatory drugs (Aleve, Advil etc.) can help as well. However, the best thing you can do is stretch the affected foot. Try this stretch:
1. Cross the leg with the painful foot over the other leg
2. Hold the painful foot and pull the toes back toward your shin. This will create tension in the arch of the foot. It should feel taut and firm, like a guitar string.
3. Hold the stretch for a count of 10. One set is 10 reps.
4. Do at least 3 sets of stretches a day. You can't do the stretch too often.
Easing heel pad atrophy is easier. Place a gel-type heel cusion (or full-foot gel pad if the pain is centered on the ball of your foot) in each of your shoes.
Whatever you do, don't ignore the pain or problem because it will only take that much longer to get rid of it and keep you from doing activities that you love to do.
I can't tell you the number of times people come to my personal training studio and ask me these two questions. There are different answers for each individual but there are also answers that can help everyone relieve some of their back pain or avoid getting it in the future. Maybe you fit into one or more of these areas. If so, a quick fix may lead you to a pain-free back.