Sunday, September 2, 2012

A deliberate trade

Many injuries can be traced back to a single incident that brought it on. Many others are cumulative and are difficult to lay the blame on any one thing or moment. In either case injury is typically a result of, or results in physical weakness. With that in mind, we need to make certain our rehabilitative measures are well thought out and deliberate. Since I have not the space or time to address the specifics of each conceivable injury, what follows is a principle, applicable to every injury.

Always make certain that during your recovery you are moderating your activity to suit your weaknesses, avoid compensating to accommodate task completion. In short, we are so task oriented that we want to perform what has to be done almost at all costs. Instead, we should be concentrating on our method of completion more than just getting it done. For example, if your foot hurts don't limp--that would be compensation; instead, shorten your stride so you are working within the limits of the injury--that would be moderation. Of course you still have to challenge the injury to promote improvement, but it puts you in charge of the stimulus. Otherwise you are at the mercy of your task which frequently demands more stimulus than can be adapted to and prolongs the injury, and in many cases worsens it.

So moderate, don't compensate. Make the deliberate trade.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Exercise: An alternate view

I would like to talk briefly about a view of exercise that is likely foreign to most readers.  The vast majority of us think of exercise as activities or sports that are used to raise our heart rate, train our muscles or in general require a measure of exertion.  Even though one could make arguments to support those views of exercise, I would like to propose an alternate view.

I have heard many times when encouraging people to take up exercise, "I get plenty of exercise at work!  I don't need extra on top of that!"  So here is where I would like to divert your attention to an alternate definition of exercise.

Any action where the task being performed defines the movements you make, the intensity they are made with, the repetitions necessary and the total duration of the action is work not exercise.  Take a moment and think about that.  What that means is that even some of our favorite pass-times qualify as work.  You may love gardening, but that is work.  You may enjoy an afternoon on the golf course, but that is work.  You may be athletically involved in a variety of sports, but each is work not exercise.  They each have specific movements that are required to perform the task, movements that allow very little room for modification.

So what then is exercise?  Exercise is the opposite of work.  That is to say, exercise is any action you perform on purpose where you control all of the factors that the task controlled in work.  In other words, you decide the movements you make, the intensity they are made with, the repetitions necessary and the total duration of the session.  In short, work is where the task defines the activity, exercise is where you define the activity.

This becomes profoundly useful to us as work tends to reveal our weaknesses, we can now use exercise to change those weaknesses into strengths!  "I do enough exercise at work!", is no longer a valid excuse for opting out of exercise.  In fact, when we exercise properly and regularly we actually increase our capacity to work!  Isn't that a concept to think about.

How nice would it be to finish a day at work and instead of collapsing on the couch in sheer exhaustion, say to your family or friends, "So what do you guys want to do now!"  Sounds like a foreign concept doesn't it!  But it is entirely possible.  If we can migrate our thinking away from exercise being a chore, toward exercise being a tool--a tool to obtain and maintain healthy bodies, then we will be much more likely to enjoy both our literal work and our play to the fullest extent possible.

So don't give up your job, and don't give up your favorite pass-times, just fine tune them with the right stuff!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The simplicity of a Walk.

The many benefits of walking are widely discussed. What I will attempt is to describe a simple correction in how you walk. The lengthy needs of detailing proper gait is more than I care to address for this post, maybe I'll tackle that another time. For this post I would like to introduce a change that is so simple and effective in it's proposed value, we would be silly not to incorporate it.

All you need to do is point your thumbs forward! That's it! A common mistake when walking is to walk with our heads down and our shoulders rounded forward. This has the effect of limiting oxygen flow to our brain and biasing lower brain functions over higher more cerebral functions. It also interrupts the kinetic chain of events integral for proper spinal support and efficient gait control. By not allowing the backs of our hands to face forward and instead consciously turning our thumbs forward, it will naturally rotate our humerous, pull our shoulders back, raise our head to level and in large measure correct the negatives just spoken of. How simple is that? Is it the answer to all your problems? No. But it is a simple measure of the right stuff to contribute to your overall approach to health and happiness.

Go ahead, give it try! I dare you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shoveling the white stuff!

As I was driving home for lunch I was noticing a number of people out shoveling again.  So I thought maybe I might offer a few thoughts on the dreaded process.

First of all dress for the conditions.  Proper footwear can help prevent falling on slippery driveways and not getting cold is important to proper muscular function.

Second, don't be afraid to warm up first.  Few of us have a problem understanding the need for warm-ups when performing athletically, but frown on the concept preceding work.  Even if you simply start on an area that is smaller and easier to begin with.  It's worth warming up.

Third, don't try to move too much at a time.  When snow falls deep you may have to be satisfied with taking a little longer and save yourself some pain and stiffness.

Fourth, keep the shovel in front of your body as much as possible.  Avoid twisting motions as you throw the snow as this movement tends to compromise your low back.  Direct the shovel with an acute angle toward the seams or cracks in the cement as this will limit the number of sudden stops!  Don't be afraid to use your back, just ensure it's in the correct position to be used.  In other words, bend at your hips and knees, not somewhere in your spine. 

One final thought.  If you can manage it, switch sides every now and again.  That is, shovel right handed and then left handed.  It will promote anatomical symmetry.  It may feel awkward at first, but it's worth your effort.  Not only will it save repeated strain on the same side, but it will also increase brain activity as you learn to work with your non-dominant side.

It's the right stuff!  Have fun! 

The Right Stuff

I am hopeful this will be an ongoing effort to inspire change, bolster good habits and provide helpful suggestions.  It certainly is not because I think myself better suited to do so than others, but instead because I have some very simple approaches to life, approaches I feel really work.  I know how the body works and advocate straight forward concepts for its maintenance.  A life of 40 years is many years by some accounts and merely a youngster by others, it is nonetheless enough to have garnered some learning as well as experience.

I intend as far as I am capable to keep my posts relatively short, as I myself dislike lengthy discourses.  My time is as precious to me as yours is to you.  So. . .

The way I have decided to begin my posting is with a brief summary of my philosophy and approaches to overall heath and well-being.  I am most certainly a believer in interconnectedness.  What I mean by that is each of us is made up of our physical, mental/emotional and spiritual selves, and the connections between those categories of self are inextricable.  One undoubtedly depends on the other, no one of them is above the other and each is benefited by the optimal functioning of the others.

With this in mind, my opening post is going rest solely on the following:

There is no such thing as the one magic solution that will finally align all the components of your life and miraculously allow you to enjoy each element of your life.  The fact is, each of us is responsible for finding all the constituents for healthy living ourselves.  We do this by learning about sound principles of health and wellness, principles built on the simplicity of life, our bodies and our inners selves.  In short we are leading a great search for "The Right Stuff".  The difficulties we come across in finding the quality we seek is typically from the over complication of concepts that are truly simple.

So, the first element of the right stuff is going to be: Come to rest on the fact that health and wellness in all its aspects is going to be achieved by the consistent lifelong application of sound habits, ultimately culminating in your behalf.  That is going to require us to act in faith.  You are going to have to believe that to be true.  None of us have the option to live a life poorly and then try again a second time to see if living better makes a difference.  You'll just have to take my word for it if you don't believe that already.

So there you have it!  That is what we are going to try and nail down.  The simple truths of how to be human and how to consistently if not persistently put those truths into practice.  My promise is simple, practice good solid habits and your life will respond.  Now to be true to my word in striving to keep it short, I'm done.  Let's see just how great life can be!