Articles

5 reasons to NOT sit down!!!

February 22nd, 2019 by Phil Brown

 

Unfortunately, most of us spend a large portion of our time on planet earth plonked on our backsides. This is undoubtedly due to the sedentary nature of modern work and the rise of the computer, but we learn a bum-based lifestyle from a terribly early age when we start school. We carry out most activities there from a chair, apart from break time and PE classes. Add to that the hours and hours of video gaming, social media-ing or TV watching that a huge percentage of the young engage in and you have a whole generation of spines suited ideally to office work…………

Depressing? It’s enough to make you want to sit down, but here are 5 reasons NOT to!

 

1. YOUR SPINE WILL THANK YOU

When we sit, we are not standing. Yes, obvious, but the weight of our upper body has to be supported somewhere and that becomes hard on the spine as the lower back takes the weight of the torso and the upper back takes that of the arms, as they tap away on that keyboard to meet a tight deadline. Meanwhile, the cervical spine – neck to most of us – strains to hold the head in a balanced position.

When we stand, we are designed so that the load of our own bodies is held in a wonderful tension that spreads from our feet up to top of our heads. Granted, many of us stand and move like we were stored in a small drawer wet and left to dry there, but standing and moving is still better than sitting. In most computer based jobs, the lower back becomes the workhorse in a seated position that looks like the Hunchback of Notre Dame playing Fortnite just after having his cataracts removed.
There are ways to sit better for sure, but nothing beats taking a break from bell ringing, er, I mean computer work/the classroom/the Playstation every 20 minutes or so…….

 

2. YOU WILL BREATHE BETTER!!

Many, many of us have shallower breathing patterns due to the stress of our busy lives already. When we sit, the already hampered movement of our breathing muscle – the diaphragm – becomes even more so. The other muscles that help with breathing get shorter and tighter as our upper backs and shoulders tense up in long periods of sitting at work, or driving for example.

On rising to our feet, it’s like a weird transformation as we curl out of our almost foetal positions to become the majestic Atheneans we were always meant to be………hmmmmm well maybe  that’s over egging it, but the diaphragm gets a lot more room to move and the shoulders have a better opportunity of finding a balanced position on the ribcage rather than slumping off like a walrus slipping into the sea and constricting the chest. The constriction in the thorax/chest area from sitting clearly affects our breathing patterns and shallow, tight breathing has an adverse effect on our emotional, mental and physical health overall.

 

3.  YOU WILL MOVE BETTER!!

Sitting for long periods puts the muscles behind the thighs and the muscles that flex the hip in very short positions. Put a muscle into a short position for even 30 minutes and it tends to stay short and need a bit of coaxing back by gentle stretching (think how often, when you get up from your chair, you instinctively streeeeeetch…….). Think about the effect of sitting for hours at school or at work. It is what one can call “profoundly deleterious” on the body. It is why children, at the age of 10 and upwards, can resemble very old people in their movement and posture. This is not a very good thing. At all.

Getting up and moving around regularly at work and avoiding sitting as much as possible outside of work means you will move better – this is what your body is designed to do of course. When relaxing, I like to say RECLINE rather than sit….

 

4. YOUR BUM WILL LOOK GOOD IN THAT…..

Sitting switches OFF the gluteus maximus muscles. These are the muscles that give shape to your rear end. Muscles switch off when they are not being used. If they are not being used, well, they tend towards looking like used tea bags over time…..
Even worse, if you sit all the time then it is really really difficult to wake up those sleeping beauties again, which leads to a stooped posture at the hip, a lack of power and stability at the biggest joints in the body and the potential onset of  hip problems in the future.
But if I just tell you you will look better in those jeans, that should be enough to get you out of that chair…….shouldn’t it?

 

5. YOU CAN INCREASE THE LIFE OF YOUR FURNITURE!!

Ok so this last one isn’t really a reason NOT to sit, but if the first 4 REASONS aren’t having an effect, then I don’t know what will………….get up, get out, move around, use it or lose it, save yourself while you still can, play hooky from school……ok, ok, DON’T play hooky from school, but maybe spend your break times up on your feet, join the gym club, take up jiu jitsu rather than Call of Duty…….you get the picture……..

The CrossFit prescription for eating.

February 22nd, 2019 by Phil Brown

Someone asked me about nutrition the other day. I was at my local big chain health club, saying hi to people and using the free weights section to practice some stuff (we have yet to install our new floor at The CrossFit Place. He got me thinking about how many people at my gym – paying clients, giving their money over monthly to the man – are simply not seeing any visible change in their body composition. The man who asked me advice was clearly somewhat overweight, yet he is a regular in the gym, putting time and effort into his training and simply not achieving the goal he wants. Yes, there are questions to be asked about the quality of  training in many people’s programs. Intensity, variety and frequency play a contributory role in affecting our body composition. However, putting ALL of that aside for now, let’s look at it very very simply: what you are eating is the most influential factor affecting your body composition. Look at what you are eating, change what you are eating, see change..

At CrossFit, we have a very simple prescription that can be used as a basis for good eating. If followed, change will occur. These guidelines have no reek of what many would term a “diet” (in fact, a we are all on a “diet” – the word simply describing what we eat). They simply offer a guide for those who don’t want to make things difficult  or complicated for themselves. For those who want to take things further, they provide a simple jump off point.

Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.

There you go. Boom. Try it. See the difference over a couple of months.

Eat meat
Get your protein from the best quality meat you can: lamb, beef, pork, chicken. It’s all good.

Vegetables
Leafy greens. Yum. Get your quality carbohydrates here, rather than from starchy foods like pasta, rice, sketty, spuds. Definitely avoid refined sources such as white bread, cakes, biscuits etc.

Nuts and seeds
Get yummy fats and oils from these babies. Good for snacks instead of chocolate or “low fat” crud that comes in a tub of some kind with lots of labelling (that’s another article)

Some fruit
One thing our government seem to have forgotten in their 5 – a – Day recommendation: fruit is sugar, albeit with added natural vitamins and nutrients……however, go easy. Think SOME. 1 or 2 pieces a day. An apple here or there…..berries rock.

Little starch
See above. Our bodies simply won’t use the amount of starch found in a “supermarket-based” diet – avoid starchy, dense carbohydrates. Think green, think lean.

No sugar
Our. Bodies. Don’t. Need. All. The. Sugar. We. Feed. Them.

Try it and see. Think 40/30/30 as a ratio for protein/carbohydrate/fat and give it a couple of months. For amounts, you could simply look at a standard dinner plate and fill  just under 3/4 with veggies, a 1/4 with meat and add a bit of fat for good measure.

Interestingly, I feel it is worth adding that before I discovered CrossFit, I was eating pretty near to the prescription. It works. What CrossFit suggest is nothing new. Many others before have proven that eating this way leads to good health.

More study:

Check out this interview with CrossFit founder Greg Glassman.

 

A window of opportunity

February 14th, 2019 by Phil Brown

Treating people at Muscle and Movement Health Anglesey involves two things: The first is soft tissue therapy to release tight muscles and stretch connective tissue. This treatment brings new freedom to clients as they find movements that were restricted by pain restored. The effect can be immediate and the feeling of relief wonderful.

The second thing is movement retraining. Everyone who comes for treatment will be given their own exercises to do. These are usually two or three movements or stretches that are given to help “reprogramme” your body into more efficient movement patterns. Without establishing these longer term changes, the older, non – optimal movement patterns will simply reassert themselves. It is these movement patterns that, in many cases, have led to the ultimate expression of pain and limited movement.

Old habits…..

In this way, soft tissue therapy is the window of opportunity for a client. Treatment opens up movement again, where it was restricted. Once that movement is regained however, the body needs to be taught to use that freedom in new ways. Old habits die hard and formal retraining is required to lay down new “pathways” of movement that the body will eventually keep to in a more intuitive way. These new patterns, if movement retraining is successful, become new habits.

Willpower is not enough

It is not enough to tell someone to “sit up straight” or to keep their shoulders back or their chin higher. Postural habits that have become established over years cannot be overridden by willpower alone, just as lifting a barbell from the floor in perfect form cannot be done without consistent practice.

Imbalances in posture and movement involve inhibitions in the neuromuscular system – the system made up of the relationship between the brain and the muscles of the body. A common example is tightness and pain in the upper shoulder muscles. Very often, this is due to the mid and lower muscles of the upper back and shoulder girdle being inhibited. Simply put, it is as if they have forgotten how to work effectively. The result is that the muscles in the upper shoulders and neck end up doing the extra work to compensate.

Sleeping Beauties….

Inhibitions like this establish themselves all the time and can only be re-established by a kind of  ”rote learning” achieved through repetitive movements and muscle contractions that will “wake up” the “sleeping” muscles and bring them back to life.

Use it or lose it

Once these muscles become more responsive again, training must be maintained, otherwise regression occurs: the muscles will return to being lazy. Here, the old saying really is true….if you don’t use it….

Onward and upward

The second stage of movement retraining is actually the ground for a long term, life changing choice for many people. The choice is whether to make progress from here by building on a more balanced foundation of movement. Once range of movement and postural balance has begun to be restored, regular and appropriately scaled exercise can gradually increase and improve these elements as well as increasing strength, cardiovascular fitness, agility, co-ordination, balance and muscular reaction time. These qualities make re-injury and pain less likely, make physical work easier and improving performance in sport.  There are also far reaching, beneficial effects on the heart, lungs and blood pressure.

Duracell Bunnies

The one single basic reason for many, many of the injuries and pain syndromes I work with at Muscle and Movement Health is this: a lack of regular physical exertion that stresses the body enough for it to adapt by becoming more durable and maintaining that durability.  As we get older, if we do not have some form of regular physical activity to encourage upright posture, balance, co-ordination and strength, we will become bent, ungainly and weak.  As we do, risks of falls become greater and our confidence begins to drop.  Aging is unavoidable, but maintaining the fitness of our muscles and our movements can help see us into old age with far more vitality.

An end of pain but only the beginning of the cure

When a client comes for their last treatment at the studio, it is more and more common for us to spend at least as much time on exercises and movement as it is on the treatment couch. My aim with all my clients is to see them walking out of the door, upright and balanced and ready for making exercise part of their lives.

If you want to discuss how Muscle and Movement Health can help you improve your fitness and vitality, for life and sport, visit us at the website and read more about what we do, or call to chat with Phil Brown on 01248422260.

 

Training for a marathon Part 2: Running through the pain DOES NOT WORK

February 1st, 2019 by Phil Brown

In Part 1 of this series, aimed at the would-be marathon entrant or novice runner, I described the experience I believe many people have in their initial attempts at training. They run, literally, into pain. Aches and niggles soon become a part of the training experience and this obviously decreases pleasure and motivation, but more importantly, are signs that training attempts are having a seriously detrimental effect on your body!

In Part 1, I suggested, fairly strongly, that the strategy at this point should be to STOP training and take stock of what is happening.

Pain in the body is a clear sign that something is not how it should be. But what then? Well, you could give up and not fulfil your dream of completing a marathon. Find something else to do that isn’t so hard on your body. There are plenty of activities that will get you crazy fit and don’t make you feel like your joints are full of steel marbles.

OR


You could learn from what is happening and how to put it right. Because there is a right way to go about this running thing and by right I mean without the gradually worsening pain.


So, let’s look at how you got to the pain zone in the first place. Well that’s pretty simple. Running is really really hard on the body. Running long distance even harder! But, you protest, what about Bob and Mags down the road? They are fit as butcher’s dogs and go running all the time! You never see them with a face like a bulldog sniffing piss off a thistle because their achilles feels like a goblin is strumming it with his teeth! How can running be so hard on the bod??

The simple answer is that Bob and Mags are stronger and fitter than you. They have put their time in and built up a fitness for purpose that allows them to put the miles in smoothly and efficiently. Make no mistake – we have two legs on a body that is able to run miles and miles very well indeed…….it’s just that most of us stopped doing anything like that around the age of 10……..and we adapted to a certain type of lifestyle that is mainly sedentary. Basically, from school onwards we have spend about a billion hours sitting on our bums and getting short and tight in all the muscles that we were given for running about with.

It’s right here that – once you’ve stopped training because of the pain – you need to start. This is where reality can be allowed to step in and inform.

You’re in pain because you are in no shape to be running lots. YET.

 

You’re in pain because the repetitive impact of pounding the pavement has made your muscles tight and sore and your connective tissue feels bruised by the constant battering.

You’re in pain because your muscles are not yet ready to take the volume of impact you have been subjecting them to and your ligaments are having a hard time keeping your ankles and knees together because they are still in shock from the first time you unpacked your brand new trainers and then went out and smashed them again and again and again into the ground.

You’re in pain because your normal range of movement means that after about ten minutes of jogging you resemble a rusty farm gate out for a jaunt.

You’re in pain because you didn’t realise you need to get your body READY TO RUN and you cannot do that by running!  Sounds weird eh? Well if I said that you can’t get your body ready for eating glass by eating glass……….never mind, let’s just look at how these aches and pains built up in the first place:

Repetitive impact is traumatic on the body. Muscles can dissipate the shock of the impact of foot strike through the skeleton, but they need time to adapt and become efficient at this. If you are just starting out, you are UNFIT FOR PURPOSE and this will become clear pretty quickly in the form of calf and ankle pain, sore thigh muscles and cruel and unusual pains in your knees.

A lack of flexibility in the average body used to a relatively if not extremely sedentary lifestyle, means that the range of movement that allows for graceful and relaxed running is not there. Flexibility – or mobility really – is also a profound buffer zone against injury as there is less chance of muscles becoming tight and thus stressed and overused by the movements involved in running.

Basically, in order to not become disabled by the very training you are trying to get fit by doing, you need to IMPROVE TWO THINGS:

Mobility and strength.

Mobility to improve fluidity and range in your movement, strength to cope with the impact of running by improving muscle tone and function.

 

Longer term, running involves the development of FOUR THINGS:

 

Mobility

Strength

Cardiovascular capacity

Technique

In my own opinion,  that list of four things is a loose priority that can change as training progresses.

And progress is the aim with training. The ONLY aim.

There are endless ways to go about a training programme that addresses these FOUR THINGS and it really depends where you are at the time you start training. However, I am here addressing that poor unfortunate, who started out with the best will in the world and then, within a few weeks or even less, found that they were no longer able to do what they called “running” and that the activity they were now doing felt more like trying to get down the street as gracefully as possible while in a full body cast…..

In Part 3, we shall look at how to progress from the discouraging  stage of inhibiting aches and pains (basically starting again properly) brought on by initial attempts at running training, by addressing these FOUR THINGS with an effective training approach for the novice or beginner.

 

 

3 Top Tips for lower back pain!!

January 21st, 2019 by Phil Brown

 

Got a gripe in your lower back that just won’t go away? Feel like you’re carrying a gremlin in your lumbar spine? Here are our TOP 3 TIPS for getting rid of lower back pain!

Before anything else though, it is always worth checking things with your GP. Low back pain can be tiring and even worrying when you don’t know what’s causing it. Having a chat with your doc and getting a once over can ease tension simply by putting your mind at rest, which can help alleviate lower back pain where stress or worry is a factor.
Your GP will also be able to help if they think there is a specific cause of the pain and prescribe a course of action to suit.

So without further ado, check out out my 3 top tips for reducing lower back pain!!

Top Tip #1

Sit less!!

Sitting is the elephant in the room when it comes to lower back pain. The more sitting in your day the more prone you will be to lower back pain. Most of us sit in a position that lacks tension in the muscles that support the back and so the lower back gets a constant pounding even when we aren’t even moving around!

If you sit at work, try to take a break and move around every 20 minutes. It’s a habit worth forming. Setting an alarm to remind you is a great idea to build the habit.

A standing desk is also a great idea, but remember to alternate with periods of sitting so your body gets used to standing for longer.

Top Tip #2

Strengthen your leg and core muscles!!

Reactivating weak leg and core muscles (your core muscles are the muscles that stabilise and support your lower back, pelvis and torso) by doing exercise is a MUST. These muscles, when not used regularly or efficiently, tend to go to sleep and never wake up again unless we wake them up!!!
Try an exercise class or some one to one coaching with a trainer or coach who knows their stuff!! Exercise does not need to be a full on siege, but simply enough to stimulate those muscles into doing their job supporting your tired and achey lower back again!!

Top Tip #3

Relaaaaaaax!!

Stress and anxiety are MAJOR contributants to lower back pain.
Identifying the stress factors in your life and then learning ways to consciously relax the tensions in your body can be life changing. There are plenty of ways to start learning to relax, from breathing techniques to taking walks in the open air……………learn to chill out and relax and this will also have a globally beneficial effect on your central nervous system and improve your physical and mental health.

Bottom line is, by making simple changes and developing new habits, your lower back pain can be minimised significantly if not removed all together!

If you are suffering from chronic lower back pain, please give my clinic a call and I’d be happy to see you for consultation and deep tissue massage, as well as prescribing effective exercises to help you get free from the tiring pattern of pain.

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