Archive for May 2011

Fitness is a Lie

The Great Lie

  • Get fit and loose fat
  • Fitness improves your health
  • Increase your longevity with exercise

Give Me a Break

We put our hopes and dreams into ideas.  Fitness can become just an idea.  These supposed lies of fitness could be true as well as not.  There are parts to each of the above that are true and other parts that are misconstrued.  Let’s take a break from whether it is true.  The discussion is specious.  Does this mean we shouldn’t strive to be fit.  Again there is this aspect of talking about it vs getting it done.   The key at this moment is “go” not talk about it.  (now before you leave for your workout…)

Next Step

Best thing to do is stop discussing this idea and start practicing it.  There is a ton of information out there on different programs to help you achieve your goals in becoming better at moving.  This is what fitness does.  It helps you move better.

Everything in our physiology is movement related.  We send signals of back and forth within our body, both chemical, electrical and mechanical.  We push and pull air and fluids throughout our vessels and channels.  We move things inside and outside.  Our thoughts and emotions move into and out of our awareness.  We are a constant complex marvel of an internal and external ballet of choreographed movements.

All this internal movement is summoned up in our expression and dance of movement with our outside ecology.  These exercises we do and the functions we perform in our daily lives and the kinds of relationships we have or don’t have are the final expressions of our symphony of movements.

Fitness Guidelines

  1. Start a regular practice involving large body movements.
    1. Spinal movements
    2. Shoulder girdle movements including the whole shoulder complex
    3. Hip girdle movements including the lower extremities
  2. Include a systematic variety of different types of movements
    1. Endurance both aerobic and anaerobic forms
    2. Stability and strength
    3. Flexible and fluid
    4. Power
    5. Agility and balance
    6. Coordination and motor control
    7. Skill and FUN aspects
  3. Yoga
    1. Develop a philosophy of life
    2. Live both the life of the inner worlds WITH the life of the outer worlds
    3. Be truly happy and know yourself
    4. Skill set of practices
      1. Meditation and concentration practices
      2. Breath training
      3. Internal dialogue
  4. Diet and nutrition
    1. Develop regular eating habits
    2. Proper food selection and supplementation
    3. Proper elimination
  5. Sleep
    1. Regular
    2. Sufficient amount
  6. Sex
    1. Healthy expression
    2. Significant indicator of hormonal balance
  7. Etc
    1. In case I left out anything, please add here

Now What

Do some of you remember Jim Fixx.  Back in 1984, he was on the popular front of running and getting fit.  He had a 2 pack/day cigarette habit and was out of shape.  He stopped smoking, ate better and took up running.  He was the iconic symbol of a fit man when suddenly he died of a heart attack while jogging.  I remember this incident well.  I had bought his book and thought what a great thing for fitness that he was doing.   After his death there was a whip lash effect on this fitness craze of the day.  Some of course used this sad story to incorrectly label the efforts of fitness.

Being fit does not protect you from disease or life.  It does allow you to move better through life, no matter what you have to deal with.  The key again is movement.  Fitness isn’t something that you can hold in your hand as this or that.  But if you have done your practices regularly, then you will be able to live above most that do not.

We all will have some of today’s diseases for a variety of reasons.  Some of us will be heavier.  Some us will be skinnier.  Etc.  Being able to move our minds and bodies well will allow recovery and return to our lives with greater ease.

Look closely at what you want in your life.  Develop a practice to reach those goals.

What you can train, you can attain!

If you are involved in training, congratulations!  Consider reviewing your program.  Look at the above guidelines.  Which areas are you doing well in.  Are there areas that you leave out?  Maybe you don’t even consider them.  It would be another article to speak more directly about using some of these guidelines that may be under utilized (or mis-used) by some in the fitness arena.  Leave a comment about this topic.

If you haven’t started training regularly, then re-evaluate where you are in relation to your goals.  Maybe get some goals and/or redefine them.  Start with a simple plan and then take action on it.

Expect to train and practice for a long time.   Many fitness gurus and research speak of short term training programs.  There is value to including short term effects.   The real value in practice and training is over the long term.  It is always surprising to me how much change happens from year to year.  Most are familiar with the change of degradation from year to year.  The changes I find that are most sustainable and profound actually take place over many, many years.

Now for some, a longer view is a kin to a prison sentence, at least emotionally.  OK, that isn’t uncommon.  It is just unproductive.  This evaluation of the value of long term training actually allows for all of us to attain whatever it is that we are training.  This statement kind of reminds me of a money back guarantee.

Just don’t be planting carrot seeds and expecting apple blossoms.  I’m not kidding.  Many people say this type of training just doesn’t work.  Often these critics do not even participate.  They are the arm chair quarterbacks or the box seat critics.  You have to be moving and doing (before you re-hang around being).

But again the main point is that what ever we do, what ever we eat, what ever we think/feel becomes what we are.  If we have a particular result, it is due to all that we have done or not done that leads up to this result.  Again this can become a challenge to survive/manage/overcome or an obstacle that seems insurmountable.

Develop the fitness of the mind and body.  Engage fully in life.  Practice!

Best of the best in your endeavors–peter

Shoulder Stabilization in Asana/Posture and Movement

Shoulder Stabilization in Posture and Movement

In Yoga and many times in athletics/sports, we are often looking at physical flexibility.  This is great in the proper context.  Flexibility which is certainly stressed in yoga asanas has it’s compliment in stability.  We often talk a good line about balancing the body.  Often in practice we don’t notice what kind of balance we are creating or have created.  Since I often hear instructors in yoga class repetitively encouraging a student to go farther into the asana, I wish to focus on this incomplete perspective.

We will look at a case example from my Physical Therapy clinic.  Before moving into looking at this specific example of shoulder instability, let’s speak more of this flexibility vs instability issue.  Is it that one is better than another.  (of course it is and of course it is not)

Posture or Asana Guidelines

This is old material for many who know it, but a brief review will be stated.  The first of the three Yoga Sutras of Patanjali on asana starts out as:

Sthira-sukham asanam

Asana or posture is steady/stable and easeful/comfortable.  I don’t know how many teachers and students who can recite this and more, still persist in having someone focus over and over again in trying to stretch further.  Many people will look at a picture of someone who has tremendous physical flexibility, and they will effort to accomplish more range of movement.  (Just like in the picture of their mind)

This perspective of overdoing the flexibility aspect of asana is not being balanced out by proper training of the needed stability.  There must be good reasons why such an authoritative text like the Yoga Sutras has started out with stability and not about flexibility per se.  (I know the context is stability of the mind–but we are starting with the body part of the mind here)

Developmental Guidelines

When babies start to move around, what is the first thing they do?  In one way they start just moving.  They seem to come equipped with great flexibility, right? (Wouldn’t some of us love to have that now days.)  Well they don’t get very far until they develop significant stability.  They do a ton of core work on their backs while seemingly flaying around their limbs for example.  I will not get into the large amount of work they do sucking and orienting their eyes and head, etc.  I just want to focus on this idea and observation–they don’t get up and get around until they develop their stability.

So if someone has the proper mobility then stability comes in conjunction to complete many of the functional movement patterns or exercise/sport  patterns that we are involved in.  What if we don’t have the flexibility, let’s say for the a particular asana.

We need to have movement.  What is the relationship with movement and stability?  Does one come before another?  Well—it depends.  (great words of wisdom : ))

Flexibility Problems and Of Course Stability Problems

Flexibility and Stability are both needed.  It is the prescription of how, when, and where–including dosage amounts and timings.

For the past several weeks I have been seeing a client for shoulder and neck pain.  Basically when he raised his arm above shoulder level in abduction, he has a painful arc of movement from about 110-150 degrees.  Also this is his limit of movement on first examination.  He can stretch it farther into the ends of range to 160, but it is just more painful in this case (not a true painful arc, per se).  His neck movements were slightly limited in rotation and side bending away from the affected side.  Mainly stiff lower cervical segments as a group.  Also his thoracic spine rotation was markedly restricted bilaterally.

All his movements demonstrated poor sequencing of the scapular component.  He was very weak in scapular retraction against resisted rowing movements, especially on his affected side.   (The gleno-humeral joint was  also anteriorly subluxed slightly)  He was unable to retract or move his scapula’s together with resisted pulling movements when his forearms were more vertical.

I often use a mini band at this point to see if they can maintain their forearms in more of a vertical position as they pull the band apart and try to retract the shoulders.

Often they are grabbing this mini-band with their hands vs just wrapped around their wrists.  You can see here that the band is at the top of the chest level.  If you try to have them start at their nose level and then try to pull it apart–you will often see them only able to pull it while allowing it to come to their chest level again.  Their scapular stabilizers with abduction of the arms are quite weak.  The classic testing of shoulder stability with the elbows at the sides of the trunk are for very weak folks.  Much of compromised work is with the hands/arms raised over his head.

Flexibility and Stability Retesting

Once I found both a flexibility and a stability problem, I will start to stimulate one area like the above scapular retraction with the mini bands.  (As this scapular component could be at the base of his flexibility problem–as the shoulder blade is literally the base of the arm AND it was the most asymmetrical problem).   Then I will retest their original complaint.  In this case, he had pain with limited shoulder abduction.  He immediately showed improvement.  So then just for an experiment in his case, I tried doing some gleno-humeral (shoulder ball and socket) mobilization and mobility exercises.  He didn’t respond as well upon retesting.  I  also tried improving his thoracic rotation.  We used combined active movements of rotation and side bending of his trunk in sitting.  He improved in shoulder abduction a few degrees, but not nearly the improvement as seen with the direct scapular resistance.

This particular fellow is rock climber and surfer, etc.  He is very active and very strong in other ways.  In other words, when I asked him to do a push up, he just dropped to the floor and pushed away with no problem.  Please note that in this push up position, he locked his upper arms in close to his side.  His scapula’s were quite stable, with no winging or instability.  Very impressive.

Note that his instability (and seemingly inflexibility) is when his arm and hand are above his head.

Stability Rehab

This client case is just to emphasize that some people will have a lack of movement.  Their lack of movement does not always respond to stretching.  In this particular case it made no difference, except it was actually more uncomfortable with end range stretching.

He has responded well to starting with side plank positions.  He is fairly unstable and has very weak endurance in this side plank position.  The forward plank did not demonstrate enough change.  The bulk of his program that has proved most helpful has been with these pulling movements at different angles.  We often focus on holding the pulling movement and then working on eccentric/concentric contractions of this movement pattern.  We change the angles over time, trying to find the weakest and most unstable position.  We back away from it slightly and work before that place and after that place and then through that place that is difficult.  He still uses thoracic mobility exercise to his advantage too.

Limitation of Yoga Asana

He has done very well.  It is interesting to note that in traditional Yoga Asanas:

…most asanas develop forward pressure movements involving the upper body

He was originally trying stretch it out for weeks and weeks.  There wasn’t much change.  All forward pressure movements did not significantly help him either.

Summary

Realize this is a case example–speaking to the importance of assessing both mobility and stability.  Certain protocols/sports/movement paradigms are biased in direction of movements and particular activities.  These are constraints that can lead to significant imbalances.  It is not that something is bad or good for you directly.  There has to be an evaluation of what are your weaknesses and strengths.  Often we are involved in activities that strengthen our strengths and do not do much for our weaknesses.

I know that in other people, they have more of a mobility restriction in their particular case.  Therefore work more on mobility.  Remember it is identifying the problem(s) and then a key is to RETEST.  This retest provides the feedback.  It isn’t this paradigm vs that paradigm.  These topics of controversy, if they truly are, only should lead to examination not to reverential following.

Strengthening your ability to observe is paramount.  Also you must ask a lot of questions.  Be systematic in your focus of questions and answers–(most really are not–their mind immediately jumps away to a more familiar aspect of their inquiry–more to say about this in another post)

OK, make some comments.  Share what you find works.  Let’s build a community together.

Strong Mind and Body–Peter