Category Archives: Recovery
I often get asked when and how often people need to do prehab/rehab stuff for aches, pains and even old injuries. They ask how often they need to foam roll, stretch and even do activation exercises.
And my answer….
Before you have pain!
If you’ve had an injury or you know you are prone to aches and pains in certain areas, you need to take care of those areas before pain arises or before you do things that could lead to pain if those areas aren’t loosened and activated.
And if pain has flared up in an areas, you need to be extra diligent to do everything you can to alleviate.
How often you need to do the prehab/rehab will vary. If you stay on top of things, a few minutes each day may suffice.
If you wait till things start to flare up, you may have to spend more time on prehab activities.
But I would like to point out that if you have neck, shoulder or upper back pain from sitting at a desk all day, rolling out for one minute every other day isn’t going to do it.
Just think about how long you sit with poor posture….Does one minute of pain prevention (aka foam rolling, stretching, activation) really seem like it equals the time you sit with poor posture?
Does it really seem like that minute can counteract the 9 hours?
So why do we all expect results when we basically spend only minutes a day doing the right things and hours doing the wrong things?
The thing is we can’t.
While there is no exact amount of time we need to spend doing rehab/prehab exercises and stretches, we do need to consider just how much time we spend each day doing things to counteract all the good we do in the gym.
That one hour each day we spend there with our 5-10 minutes of warm up (foam rolling, stretching and activation) simply isn’t enough.
But that doesn’t mean you need to spend hours each day to see benefit. Five minutes when you wake up, the occasional stretch or rolling at your desk, 5-10 minutes before you workout, a few minutes after your workout and maybe a minute or two before you go to bed.
If you did that every day…WOAH!
At most, what I outlined above, is like 30 minutes out of your day…AT MOST.
And yet we can’t find the time for that?!?
Suffering from pain and injury is our alternative and yet we skip those 30 minutes and wonder why we never get better.
30 MINUTES a day! An excuse to get up and stretch while sitting at our desk all day! Or heck simply a stretch in the doorway when we get up to go the bathroom. (AHEM…Look at all those stretches you can easily do at your desk!)
Or some balancing and leg swings when we brush our teeth to keep our ankles strong.
This is seriously not hard stuff. Shoot it isn’t even as hard as finding 15-30 solid minutes to workout! Almost all of these things can be done while doing something else.
Watching TV? Sit on a ball on the ground to roll out your glutes, hips and low back to get rid of your achy low back!
Simple little prehab/rehab things can go a long way to keeping an area pain and injury-free.
Because even if you did the initial rehab after an injury, you are never done.
You ALWAYS have to take care of that area and make sure to maintain strength in the muscles up and down the kinetic chain from that disruption.
Because every day we do things to create imbalances and potentially upset old aches and pains or create new ones.
So to live pain free…What is a few minutes each day on exercises to keep you balanced?
Are you diligent about doing prehab activities – foam rolling, stretching, activation, balance and stability stuff?
How do you fit those things into your day?
Here are some great tips and exercises to help you prevent and alleviate minor aches and pains:
- 5 Quick Fixes For Wrist and Elbow Pain
- Alleviate Low Back Pain
- The Complete Foam Rolling Video Course and E-Book
NOTE: This is discussing previously rehabbed injuries and minor aches and pains. If you suffer from an injury, make sure to do the physical therapy rehab prescribed to you!
So at the beginning of this month I got contacted by Vegas.com.
And I was like, “What the heck could they be contacting me for!?!”
Her email was about April being National Stress Awareness Month and it asked me what I did to “let loose” and be in a “Vegas State of Mind.”
It got me to thinking about stress, how it affects our health and the things we can do to fight it.
I honestly have come to believe that stress is a HUGE determining factor in how healthy we are.
EVERYTHING in our life comes down to stress – everything is both affected by it and influences how we perceive and deal with stress.
Stress is both a cause and a results of our daily actions and habits.
Stress is part of what I call the Five Pillars of Health:
- Vitamin D/Sunlight
These five pillars are all interconnected to make us healthy or unhealthy. You aren’t really HEALTHY if you just focus on one.
Health is about balancing ALL of the pillars.
But while I often discuss how to be more active or create a healthy diet, I don’t often discuss how to deal with stress.
Stress is very unique. It isn’t something we can fully control yet it isn’t out of our control.
While stress may creep in without you realizing, you can STOP stress in its tracks.
You can choose to reverse your attitude, yes stress is all about attitude, and calm yourself down.
It isn’t always easy, but it is possible.
Below are some thing I do to relax and de-stress every day:
- 15 minutes of ME-TIME – Be it watching something I want on TV, going for a walk with Coconut or simply lying on the ground staring at the ceiling, I take 15 minutes to just not DO anything during the day. On a good day, I do this a few times. I just get up and leave the work behind for a bit so that I can take a chance to BREATHE! Everyone has 15 minutes. Take that time for yourself even if you simply use it to dance around your kitchen to some music!
- BREATHE – We can control our breathing and our breathing can be very linked to how stressed we feel. When you are anxious, your breathing changes from when you are relaxed. Slow down your breathing as if you were relaxed and you WILL relax. Focus on slow inhales, holding the air and then an extra slow exhale. Just a few slow breaths can relax your body and mind and allow you to refocus.
- Take a second to laugh – When I find my anxiety level rising, I try to step away from the situation a bit and make myself think of something else. Often I find it best to go do something, even for a second, that makes me smile or laugh. When we are in a stressful situation, we tend to get more and more overwhelmed as time goes on if we can’t remove ourselves and get a clear perspective. Just take a second and step away. Allow yourself to calm down and when you come back with a better ATTITUDE, you may find the situation doesn’t have to be stressful at all.
- Exercise – Be it a short walk around the block or an intense session at the gym, I do something to be active every day. Not only does the activity itself boost your mood, but getting away from life and giving yourself something new and immediate to focus on can help your stress level.
Also, to help myself unwind at points during the week, I take nice relaxing walks with Coconut and Ryan.
We don’t power walk. Just a nice comfortable pace where we can talk and enjoy the sunshine.
We unplug and leave behind technology so that all we can do is focus on being together and enjoying the time away from everything.
Hiking for us has always been a way to relax.
We can chat with no interruptions and talk through both things that are bothering us or stressing us out and things that we are excited for in the coming future. We can release the tension we may have been holding and share our excitement.
The fact that we can talk while unbothered by work or anything else, really helps us unwind. And being outside playing in the sunshine doesn’t hurt either (Vitamin D another pillar of health!).
Actually, I was amused when I got asked this question by the woman from Vegas.com. I was amused because “hiking/walking” is the first thing that comes to my mind when someone asks me what I do for stress release – AND outside of Vegas on a HIKE, 4 years ago, Ryan and I actually got engaged.
Random, but we did. On a hike in Red Rock Canyon.
Anyway, what do you do to unwind? Do you unplug from life a little each day or do you take long breaks once or twice a week?
What are your favorite ways to “let loose?”
I’ve discussed this before, but reducing aches and pains is a process. Simply taking time off isn’t enough and often doesn’t even heal the problem.
To reduce aches and pains, you need to do the following things:
- Massage or Self-Myofascial Release (foam rolling)
- Ice and/or Heat
While rest is important, often chronic aches and pains are caused by the muscles of our body being out of alignment. If we never loosen the tight muscles and activate the weak muscles, then we are going to continue to have problems no matter how much we rest.
All components of our body must be working together for us to move properly. If one part of our body isn’t working properly and efficiently, then other parts will have to compensate. And when other parts take on a load they aren’t supposed to handle, they break down. This overload and faulty movements lead to INJURY.
So those minor aches and pains could accumulate if you don’t do something to correct them!
Being healthy is about more than working out or eating well – it is about balancing what I call “The Five Pillars of Health.”
These five pillars are:
- Vitamin D/Sunlight
When you do your best to get the most out of all five pillars, you will be healthy. Ignore one and all of your hard work with the others may go to waste.
Being healthy is all about BALANCE.
Let’s take a look at all five pillars and how they each contribute to us being healthy.
I love using yoga pose variations in my recovery workouts and even in some of my strength training routines to develop stability.
All too often we skip from basic balancing moves that develop stability to big heavy lifts that develop strength, forgetting that without stability we won’t truly be strong.
That is why, every few weeks or so I dial it back and work on building my stability (or depending on my routine, it may even be added in when I’m lifting heavy!).
To dial back my deadlift, I like to use the Warrior III yoga pose to develop stability and work on my balance. (It is actually one of many yoga poses I love to use.)
The Warrior III pose is a great way to work on balance, core strength and activate the glutes. It also can help improve your mobility and the flexibility of your hamstrings and hips.
However, I don’t just hold the Warrior III pose.
Here are the 3 Warrior III variations I love to use to develop stability and balance all while activating my glutes and improving my mobility.
Warrior III Variations:
With the increased popularity of Olympic lifting and the fact that Crossfit has brought it to the masses, now more than ever, we need to consider how our day job affects our bodies and may actually be at odds with the exercises and workouts we may want to do.
We may want to do Olympic lifts. We may want to do gnarly, cool exercises.
Heck we may even technically be strong enough to do them.
But before we can, we have to make sure our body is mobile and ready to truly move through the range of motion.
Because if our body can’t truly do the motion, we are going to compensate and end up getting injured.
I know I’ve written a lot about Isometric workouts over the last few months, but they truly are one of the most under utilized tools out there.
They are great to improve balance, stability, coordination and the mind-body connection. They can help prevent and even rehab injuries. They can reduce pain throughout your body. They can help get muscles activated so you can lift more.
Heck they can even make you mentally stronger.
They are great for recover and great to help you improve your strength.
Basically no matter who you are, you need to include them.
Maybe you make them into their own workout or maybe you simply include them in a workout or even a warm up.
Isometric moves help your body activate the correct muscles and even help improve your mobility. Plus they help create stability in your body so you can LIFT MORE without injury.
Below is a Quick Isometric Workout to reduce your pain and injury and help you get more out of your workouts!
While many people come in with weight loss goals or even performance goal, the true goal of a workout program is to make you FEEL better.
Your workouts should help you prevent injury. They should help you feel stronger, more coordinated and ready to take on daily life.
They should help your body stay young so that at 80 you still feel free to move around and chase after grandkids.
Last week I discussed the importance of agility and balance training to improve our mind-body connection and help us move WELL.
Today I want I just want to harp on the importance of ACTIVATION exercises.
Any good program needs to start with mobility work. But many people are now starting to recognize this.
However, all too often exercise routines are still devoid of activation exercises.
Activation exercises are important because they get the CORRECT muscle groups working.
Muscles that aren’t always active because we sit at a desk 9 hours a day hunched over a computer.
Our poor hunched-over-a-desk-all-day posture causes us to sometimes overuse smaller muscle that shouldn’t be doing the brunt of the work…And this leads to injury.
So to truly feel good, prevent injury and get the most out of your workouts, you’ve got to get those big muscle groups active and working.
And since many people have also said they want to be able to do a pull up this year…..
Here is an ESSENTIAL activation move we all need to be doing – THE SCAPULAR WALL HOLD!
This move will help alleviate neck and shoulder pain. It will get your lats and your mid and lower traps activated and working.
It will help you have better posture AND do more pull ups!
For a breakdown of the Scapular Wall Hold and a few other scapular hold variations, click here!
I’ve written before about how much I love isometric moves.
Holding an exercise is not only a great way to develop physical stability and strength but also a great way to develop mental toughness.
They can be a great workout on their own or they can be used to help you warm everything up and get the correct muscles activated.
Isometric moves are essential for everyone from the elite athlete to the person stuck at their desk for nine hours a day.
They help create stability and get the correct muscles activated. They can also help us create mobility and flexibility all while making us stronger.
For some great isometric moves and some workouts do to with them, check out the two links below:
Also, if you caught my post on Thursday about stretches to alleviate desk job aches and pains, you may also want to check out my post on Redefining Strength about ESSENTIAL isometric moves for anyone with a desk job!
Isometric moves are also a great way to get in a workout over the holidays if you don’t have any equipment and very little space to work with!
Sitting hunched over a computer all day can leave you feeling stiff, sore and in pain.
Muscles get tight from our hunched-over seated posture, which not only causes us pain, but can also cause us to get injured during our workouts.
If we want to live injury free AND get the most out of our workouts, we need to take time to roll out and stretch those tight muscles.
Below are some great stretches to help you alleviate those desk job aches and pains.
10 Essential Stretches For Anyone With A Desk Job
1. 3 Way Neck Stretch – Bend your elbow and reach one hand behind your back. Then grab that wrist with the other hand. Pull the arm behind your back toward the opposite side. You want to create a “chicken wing” with the arm that is pulling. Then lean your head to the side you are pulling to. Do not tense your shoulders and bring them up toward you ears. Relax into the stretch. Start by looking straight ahead. Then look up and hold for a second or two. Then look back straight ahead. And then look down. Move your chin as you look and not just your eyes. Changing the direction of where you look, will change exactly which muscles in your neck and upper back that you stretch.
2. Forearm, Wrist and Bicep Stretch – Stretch one arm straight out in front of you. Point your finger tips down toward the ground. You can do one stretch with your palm facing away and one with your palm facing toward you. Take the other hand and press down on the fingertips, pushing them back toward your body As you press down, you should straighten your arm more so you feel a stretch down your forearm and up into your bicep.
3. Thoracic Extension on a Roller – Lie on your back with the roller at the bottom of your upper back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Drop your butt down to the ground and then lean back over the roller, trying to drop your head to the ground behind you. Move the roller up higher on your upper back and then drop your butt to the ground and extend back over again. Work all the way up and down your upper back. Extend back over the roller and breathe deeply while keeping your butt on the ground.
4. Scorpions – Lie on your belly with your arms out straight at shoulder height. Your legs should be out straight behind you. The swing one leg up and kick it behind you. As you kick it back over your body, bend the knee and reach your toe over and behind you back a bit toward your head.. Kick your leg back over your body, trying to touch your toe back behind you. Tap it down then bring that leg back down and then reach the other leg over your back. Alternate reaches, bringing your toe back over your body and toward your head.
5. Star Stretch – Lie on your back with a foam roller or ball to your right side. Bend your left knee to about 90 degrees and pull it across your body so that your left knee is resting on the ball/roller. Place your right hand on top of your knee to hold your knee onto the ball or roller. Reach your left hand across your body and touch the floor on the right side with your palm. Then open that arm back up to the left side, trying to touch the back of the hand down to the ground. Relax the arm open, trying to drop the shoulder to the ground. Try to open up the chest as much as possible without letting the knee move from the roller or ball. Hold for a second or two and then bring the hand back across and repeat. Complete all reps on that side before switching.
6. Standing Lat Stretch – Place the side your hand on a wall, bookshelf or desk and then straighten your arm and bend over and walk away. You want to push your butt back and lengthen from your hand all the way down your side. Even rotate a bit so you are looking under the arm on the desk or wall and then away from the arm. Feel a nice stretch down your arm and into the side of your back. Hold and repeat on the other side. Child’s pose can be another great way to stretch your lats and your upper back as well as your lower back.
7. Kneeling Bridge – Start by kneeling on both legs with your feet flexed and toes tucked under. Sit back and place your hands on your heels. Then arch up off your heels, driving your hips forward and chest out, keeping your hands on your heels. Relax your head back and arch as much as you can, getting a nice stretch down your chest, core, hips and quads. Hold for 1-2 seconds and relax back down. Repeat. If you are less flexible, do this stretch with a couch, chair or table behind you. Kneel down and place your hands back behind you on the couch or table. Press your chest out and arch as much as possible away from the piece behind you while leaning your head back. Then relax back down and repeat.
8. Kneeling Hip Circles – Come to your hands and knees on the ground. Place your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Lift one leg out to the side, keeping your knee bent to about 90 degrees. Lift your foot back and then bring your knee up around and forward. Then drop the knee down and around back to the starting point. Make big circles with your hip, going clockwise and then counterclockwise. Keep your arms straight as you circle.
9. Crescent Pose to Hamstring Stretch – Start in a high plank position. Step one foot up between your hands with that front knee bent and your back leg straight behind you. Your front heel should be down while your back heel will be up. Lift your hands up off the ground and reach them back and overhead as you stay in a low lunge. Feel a nice stretch down the hip and quad of the back leg. Then bring the hands back down to the ground and hike your hips up to straighten your front leg. Lean your chest over and feel a stretch down the hamstring of the front leg. Sink back into the lunge and reach up and back overhead again to stretch the hip and quad before repeating the hamstring stretch. Complete all reps on one side before moving back into the plank and switching to the other side.
10. Bear Squat – Kneel on the ground with your hands on the ground in front of you. The closer you place your hands to your knees, the harder the stretch will be. Press your butt up into the air, driving your heels into the ground. Feel a nice stretch down your calves and hamstrings as you try to get your legs as straight as possible. Hold for 1-2 seconds and then drop back down to your knees before repeating.
Have nagging aches and pains from sitting all day? Want help to get rid of them? Comment below and I’ll get back to you with suggestions!