Many people suffer or have suffered from shoulder pain. The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and weakness and/or tightness in this area can easily lead to strains and injuries. It is smart to take preventative measures and work on strengthening your shoulders so that they are strong and supported. This will lead to improved posture and the ability to lift things more easily in daily life. Here are a few quick exercises that can get you on your way.
1. STANDING ROW: Stand facing a chair with 8-10lb weight in hand. Bend your knees and make sure that your back is flat. Place one hand on the chair and engage your abdominal muscles. Lift the weight up to the side of your chest whilE maintaining a flat back. Do 15-20x and repeat twice on each arm.
2. PENDULUM: Lean forward with a flat back and bent knees and place one hand on a table or chair for support. In the working hand hold a 5lb weight. Engage your abdominals up toward your lower back and begin to gently rock the weight from one side to the in a horizontal fashion 10x. Repeat the gentle swinging motion going the other way 10x. Next draw circles with the weight 10x – repeat that going the other way 10x. Repeat on the other arm.
3. ROTATOR CUFF: Lie on one side with a rolled up towel under the top arm. Hold a 3-5lb weight in your hand and bend your elbow to a 90 degree position. Gently lift your hand up toward the ceiling while maintaining the position of your elbow. Think of your elbow joint as the hinge of a door. Repeat 10-15x or until your shoulder fatigues.
Ankle strength and stability are vital to maintaining healthy balance and posture in the body. I often notice weakness in the ankles in my clients and it is clear how repetitive imbalances in the position of the feet and ankles create muscular weaknesses and lead to a decrease in the person’s ability to balance.
Ankle stability and strength can make a big difference in your everyday quality of life. Standing in line, reaching comfortably for something that you dropped or hid too high in the cupboard, and landing gracefully in a fall are ways that ankle strength can support you. Gaining strength in the feet and ankles often doesn’t take much effort as most people do not put their attention on these areas.
Ankle Circles: Before you arise in the morning or retire at night begin to circle your ankles slowly and deliberately in one direction 10x. Try to feel each little part of the circle. If you do it right you will start to feel fatigue in the muscles. Repeat to the other direction.
Flex to Pointe: Lift one leg up in the air any amount and flex your foot strongly. Slowly roll through your foot to a pointed position being mindful to lead with the ball of your foot (similar motion to pressing the gas pedal in a car). 10x each foot
Seated Heel Raises: Sit on a chair or stability ball and make sure your feet are parallel. Lift your heels in the air so that the weight goes pushes down into the big toe side of your foot.
Standing Heel Raises: Stand parallel and lift your heels into the air 10x, making sure your weight travels over the big toe side of your foot. Repeat this action in a slightly turned out position and a slightly pigeon toed position 10x each. Use a wall if needed for balance and work up to doing it without.
How balanced are you?
There are many layers to the concept of balance and stillness or steadiness is often associated with balance. Quite the opposite is true; balance is a very active state of being.
Stand on one foot for a moment and feel all of the little muscles in your foot and ankle working to stabilize you. There is a lot of movement happening and the same is true in life. Balance requires regular reevaluation and the ability to course correct as you go.
The 9th definition of balance from Merriam Webster is mental and emotional steadiness and this rings true. Amidst the hustle and stress of contemporary living, time to unwind and simply be is very rejuvenating. Working on physical balance quiets the mind and requires focus, which naturally shifts the energy into a more quiet and relaxed state.
Prescription for Balance:
1) Allow yourself a few minutes of quiet time each day as a way to practice balance, believe it or not even five minutes can make a big difference.
2) Try doing a mundane task on one foot, such as washing dishes or brushing your teeth. You’d be surprised how much stronger your balance will become from a few moments a day.
One way to sustain health for the spine and hips is to keep the psoas in a balanced state. From sitting at the desk while working and driving, most people allow their spines to move into flexion (a bent forward position) and their pelvis’ to move into a posterior tilt (tucked under). As a result, the muscles that surround the spine become weak (by being held in a stretched position) and the hips become tight (due to the hip flexors being engaged).
The psoas also plays a key role in stabilizing the spine and this makes sense because has it’s origin point on the spine. Common belief amongst fitness professionals is that the psoas functions primarily as a hip flexor, but there is research that suggests it’s role is to connect the torso with the legs, act as a stabilizer of the spine, pelvis and hips during movement, and to decelerate the trunk and hip during walking.
Here is one way to test and see if your psoas is healthy and functioning properly.
Lie on your back with one knee bent and one leg straight. Engage your core and then allow the bent knee to open out to the side slowly. If you notice that the opposite hip goes with it, then this is a sign that there is some dysfunction.
One exercise to strengthen this area is to lift your feet into the air in a bent position with flexed feet so that your knees align vertically on top of your hips. Then place your hands on the outside of your thighs and push outward into your hands gently. While maintaining an active core and engaged legs, breathe fully and deeply into the area right below your belly button for 5-8 full breaths. Make sure that your hip flexors are relaxed as you perform this movement. Strengthening your psoas will help prevent lower back pain and keep you in proper spinal alignment.
Photo Credit: Alexa Miller
Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
There is a lot of talk about self-love in the world today and for a long time I thought that loving myself was another thing to work at and make happen. The truth is that when there are no blocks against it love flows naturally. So, it is a removing of barriers that is the work at hand.
It is the same with fitness. The body loves to be strong, flexible and agile. It is the burning away of excuses and habitual procrastination that prevents people from accessing their optimal state of health. Once the blocks start to be removed and a commitment of regular time and attention is made to being physically fit, it is amazing how well the body responds. Taking care of the body is one of the most loving acts imaginable – for with a healthy body all other goals and dreams become possible. Keep it moving!
photo credit Alexa Miller
One major misalignment that I observe in most of my clients is a lack of gluteal strength. Due to an increase in sedentary lifestyles, many people have practiced unconscious compensation patterns that make it very difficult to activate these muscles. Getting the glutes to wake up can therefore feel next to impossible for many people because they are used to firing their hamstrings and lower back muscles instead. Some reasons why the glutes are crucial to having a healthy body include: lower back stability, proper placement and tracking of the patella, hip and ankle strength and maintaining proper alignment during walking and running.
Activating the glutes properly is a process that takes time and focus to practice the correct firing patterns and get them to coordinate with and support the rest of the body. The gluteal muscles are a group of muscles that include the gluteus maximus (the largest muscle in the body), gluteus minimus and gluteus medius with the tensor fasciae latae slightly front and side of the rest. Part of what makes it tricky to strengthen the glutes is that many of the hip extension exercises are done with improper form, which only strengthens the improper firing patterns that are already in place and therefore brings the person into deeper misalignment.
Here are some of my favorite exercises that target different parts of this group, which all need to work together in a balanced fashion in order to maintain a healthy system.
BRIDGE Lie on your back with feet flat and knees bent and lift your hips in the air for a count of 20. REPEAT 2x
STANDING SINGLE LEG LIFTS Stand up tall and reach your arms forward while you lift one leg to the side 20x. ALTERNATES SIDES 2x.
SIDE PLANK + HIP ABDUCTION Lie on your side with your feet flexed and stacked on top of one another. Place your elbow underneath your shoulder. Lift your hips in the air for a count of 25. ALTERNATE SIDES 2x.
CLAM SHELL Lie on your side with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle and feet stacked on top of one another. Open your knee to the side while keeping your hips still and stacked well on top of one another and ankles touching 20x. ALTERNATE SIDES 2x.
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