"The Hometown Pilates Blog" click HERE Thank you!
Thank you so much for your interest in healthy movement. If you would like to continue reading the current posts from this blog, please head over to my Pilates studio website's blog:
"The Hometown Pilates Blog" click HERE Thank you!
How to Shovel Snow Without Hurting Your Back
This month I thought I would share some tips on how to shovel snow properly. Shoveling can be viewed as a good workout for your core if you remember to use it! It can also be bad news for your spine if you forget to use your core!
The days of slippery ice and snow are just around the corner! With this in mind, I thought I would write about balance. Many people ask me: “How can I get my balance to be better?” Here are three keys, along with some tips on how to improve your balance.
Your neck is a delicate structure and an important one. Your neck channels blood to your brain to oxygenate it, and supplies the nerves connected from your brain into the whole body. Besides helping us breathe, look around and rotate to the extremes, it also has to hold up a 12-15 pound head! Proper alignment of the neck ensures that the blood and nerves flowing through this region are unobstructed for optimal brain function. Another bonus is a pain free neck!
Ideally, our heads should be “balancing” on top of a vertical spine in order to best fight gravity. Imagine a stack of blocks with a heavy weight at the top, perfectly balanced. Now imagine that heavy weight shifting forward a bit. This is essentially what happens with our head when we bring the head forward. This is called “Forward Head Posture”. People tend to do this while looking at screens and while driving. The “Forward Head Posture” creates a pinch or crease between the top of the neck and base of the skull, this causes repetitive strain on the muscles in the back of the neck. Over time, muscles there will permanently ( or close to permanent) shorten and stiffen to “help carry the load” of the head being forward. The muscles doing this are similar to guy wires re-inforcing the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” (that is your head at the top of your spine). Unfortunately the discs (cushions) between your neck bones also get pinched and torqued in this position; and your neck bones are not getting the benefit of having weight stacked on them, which can lead to bone loss. Hopefully you can understand why we want to avoid this scenario!
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are two practices to keep your neck functioning optionally; you should do these every day as often as you think about it:
1) The Head Hang While having good posture, relax and drop your head forward to stretch the back of your neck. The closer your chin gets to your chest the better.
Doing the “Head Hang” will stretch the area where your head and neck bones meet, relieving the area of stiffness and repetitive shortening.
2) Head Ramping Shift your head directly backwards without lifting your chin. It will feel like you are giving yourself a “double chin”. Ideally your ears will be lined over your shoulders and gaze is at the horizon. Remind yourself: “Chin Down”
Repeatedly pulling your head back corrects the common tendency to bring the face forward. It will keep the back of your neck crease-free and promote good blood flow!
Have you ever had tight, achy fingers or hands after a long day of hard work? This can happen after doing construction work and holding hand tools all day, moving heavy boxes, squeezing a pencil to write, or even using your fingers to click a mouse and type on a keyboard every day. Most people use their hands every day, yet don’t consider their risk for developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome until they already have pain or symptoms.
What is it?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is considered an inflammatory disorder caused by repetitive stress, physical injury, or a medical condition. People can experience re-occurring pain or dull ache in the wrist and forearm, weakness in the hand, and tingling or numb fingers. This injury is considered chronic and can take months or years to develop. Over time, the Carpal Canal/Tunnel starts to narrow and restrict the nerve there due to inflammation and friction. This causes the strange nerve type symptoms and pain that goes with the Syndrome.
Muscle tension and joint misalignment can cause inflammation. So it makes sense to do all we can to prevent this inflammation from happening in the first place. By doing simple stretches throughout your day, you can decrease the tension in your hands that can lead to inflammation. Many people have no pain in their hands or fingers and do not realize how tight they are. Without being aware of this inflexibility and tension, inflammation can sneak in. In most cases, the tension is built up over years and years and the symptoms don’t appear until middle age. But prevention is worth a pound of cure! Here are some tips and stretches to do while you are at your desk to keep your hands young and pain free!
3. Finger Stretches With your palm up, take each individual finger (but not the thumb) and pull it back away from your palm. Now flip your palm down towards the floor and repeat with each finger to stretch the back of the hand and wrist. Take 1-2 mins to do both hands, 1-3x a day.
4. Thumb Stretch If you only have time for one stretch, do this one. The thumb is at highest risk for arthritis, so it’s even more important to stretch this finger. Make your hand into the hitchhiker position. Wrap your other hand around your thumb and pull back on the base of your thumb to give it a stretch. Don’t let your wrist move. Try pulling your thumb into different angles for whatever feels best. Hold 1 minute each hand, 3x a day or more.
Most people *love* Burpees- just kidding. Everyone I know hates them. Burpees are a great way to get the blood flowing and get people sweating since they use major muscle groups to perform them. And I'm exaggerating when I say to ditch them- they ARE good in the right context and IF you can mechanically do them properly. But Burpees are not for everyone and take more strength and mobility to do them properly/safely than people realize. Burpees are good for raising the heart rate, and "general" strength, but are they good for DEEP core work?
Ever wonder why people always feel so relaxed and rejuvenated at the beach? Well it may be more than just emotional or psychological wellness....it may be due to something people call "Earthing"*or "grounding". This is where the bare soil or sand of the earth connects with the bare skin of the body and causes a person to be grounded electrically. This is especially easy to do while at the beach. Unless you walk barefoot in grass or soil (or garden with hands in the dirt), most people only take off their shoes at the beach. And we all know that water is a conductor and so it comes naturally to assume that when we are submerged in a lake or the ocean, that we are grounded and are the same as the earths charge. When we have shoes on that are not natural conductors or when we stand on surfaces that are not electrically conductive to the earths charge, we are not grounded.
We live on a planet with a magnetic field and the surface of the earth is flowing with free electrons. You can picture it like a big battery- that gets charged up by solar radiation, lightning storms around the world, and the molten hot core in the center of the earth. Animals and creatures may somehow detect this electrical frequency/magnetic field and they can use this sense to help migrate or navigate. Humans are made of mostly salt water which is a good conductor and so we are affected by charges in the earth too.
The Earthing theory* is that once a person makes a conductive connection with the earth, that the free electrons not only instantly ground them, but the longer the connection, the more electrons accumulate in the body and it "recharges" you- so to speak....like a recharging battery! This gives us a whole new meaning to "recharging at the beach"!
We all hear that anti-oxidants are good...but what does that mean? Why are they good? So what is oxidation anyway? Heres an excerpt from Wiki on oxidation:
...and WIki on free radicals....
Part of the Earthing theory is also that the free electrons from the Earth are used in the body to prevent free radical damage. The negatively charged electron is attracted to a positively charged ion in the body to create an ionic pair. The electron would be satisfying the free radical. This would then neutralize the damage done in the body.
So even though there are types of oxidative damage that we don't want happening in our bodies, there is also good oxidation too- that comes in the form of breathing in oxygen. Let us not forget that we need oxygen to live! There are many good biochemical things that happen in our bodies when our cells are oxygenated. In fact many chemical pairs in the body are just waiting to be oxidized by an oxygen atom- which sometimes they have to wait too long! Cells need to metabolize and repair and they need oxygen to do it! Hydrogen needs oxygen to become water. These are good oxidation in the body. Toxins and pollutants mostly have positive charges- those are the oxidative bad guys that we need negative ions for. Besides the earth giving us electrons, there are also negatively charged/electron donor minerals that the body can use, yet many people seem to be deficient in: Magnesium, iron and zinc are a few. The body can use these elements to satisfy free radicals or positively charged particles.
....BACK TO LAYMAN'S TERMS....
Now you know how scientifically, getting grounded in nature can heal, calm and recharge our bodies!
So get your bare feet in the ground or swim in the ocean to re-charge your body and breathe some fresh air to oxygenate your cells!
* "Earthing" a book by Ober, Sinatra, and Zucker.
Lindsay Pelletier is a Certified Personal Trainer and Pilates Instructor with a passion for natural wellness.