Learn how some simple exercises can reduce or prevent lower back pain in Mike O’Hara’s article “Daily Lower Back Pain Meditation”. Jeff Tirrell explains the importance of working with a qualified trainer in a small group. Do you know the five fitness numbers everyone should know?
Five Fitness Numbers You Need to Know
Scale bodyweight, bench press maximum, some “girl name” and a time are all fitness numbers your hear in the gym. If you are interested in optimal performance and health, I have the fitness numbers we all need to know. Focusing on these numbers will keep you active and independent for a lifetime.
1) WAIST CIRCUMFERENCE
The location of bodyfat is far more important than the amount of bodyfat. Visceral fat, the kind stored in and around the belly, is the hormonal driver of metabolic syndrome; the precursor to diabetes, elevated blood lipids, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. To optimize health, you need to monitor the diameter of your waistline. The number you want to know is your waist to height ratio. You want your waist to be less than half your height. If your waist size is greater than one half your height, then reducing your waist diameter should be the primary goal of your fitness program.
2) SLEEP TIME
Sleep is the ultimate exercise recovery activity. One or two nights of sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce gym performance by 25% – 40%. We need seven to eight hours of restful sleep, each and every night. The most important benefits of exercise are neural and hormonal. Sleep reboots our neural software and replenishes the hormonal system. Medications, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, and obesity all can interfere with sleep patterns. Fixing these health issues and developing better sleep habits produces magical progress in the gym. Read the book, Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson.
3) FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT SCREEN SCORE
The Functional Movement Screen (FMS), developed by Physical Therapist Gray Cook and Athletic Trainer Lee Burton, is a seven-step dynamic movement based test that has become a standard of practice in physical therapy and sports performance centers. The FMS helps prevent injuries before they occur by identifying risk factors. Movement indicates how a body works and lets us know how the brain is controlling the body and how the joints and muscles communicate. Just like a good medical work up, the FMS permits the trainer / therapist to make the proper decision about the clients’ most urgent needs and avoid gym activities that are detrimental.
4) GRIP STRENGTH
Recent research has demonstrated that knowing your grip strength is as important as knowing your blood pressure. The PURE research of 140 thousand individuals revealed that a drop in grip strength is a strong predictor of mortality from all causes. We will all face health battles and the stronger body wins while a weaker body loses.
5) NUMBER OF TRAINING SESSIONS PER YEAR
Exercise is ineffective absent consistency. Even a haphazard program of exercise is beneficial if you perform it on a consistent basis. The experts say a good goal is 150 training sessions per year. That is three times a week for 50 of the 52 weeks in a year. Link together several years of the consistency habit and amazing changes happen. Most people overestimate the value of a month’s worth of exercise and greatly underestimate the value of a year’s worth of exercise.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Mike O’Hara gives tips for aging gracefully and staying fit in his article, The Five Don’ts of Sustainable Fitness. Learn the importance of increasing mobility and stability in order to get stronger, and discover how a simple test that measures how well you get up from the floor can tell a lot about whether or not your fitness program is working.
To combat the effects of aging, consistent exercise is key. Mike O’Hara discusses the benefits of fitness and gives tips on starting and continuing a program of exercise for life in his article, The Three Do’s of Sustainable Fitness. Jeff Tirrell of Fenton Fitness gives nutrition tips for athletes and Mike’s exercise for better posture and more efficient movement is the bird dog.
Happy Brain Exercises
Daily Neurodevelopmental Brain Boosters
Exercise improves brain neurochemistry, neural connections, and even the number of brain neurons. I have two suggestions on the best exercise activities to improve brain health. They both have roots in human neurodevelopment and can be employed by nearly everyone. Build better brain health with a walk and a crawl.
Morning walks work magic. Many top leaders talk about how much better they think and analyze when they start the day with exercise. If you are the decision maker for your family or company, please take a morning walk.
Cadence Counts. If you are moving at 60 steps a minute, you are not walking, you are strolling. A compilation of many studies has found that 100 steps per minute as the sweet spot for walkers under the age of sixty. The data for older walkers has yet to be fully evaluated, but it appears the cadence should not slow much below 100.
Tune in. Ditch the earbuds. Tame the dopamine damage of “connectivity” and leave the phone at home. Be alone with your thoughts for the duration of your walk. Gandhi, St. Augustine, Thomas Jefferson tell us that difficult problems are resolved with contemplative walks.
Get off the pavement. The human species evolved walking through undeveloped environments. Take your walk to a quitter and more tranquil setting. More trees, less noise, and serene surroundings provide a calmer event. I personally believe that uneven and inclined pathways do a better job at stimulating neurodevelopmental pathways.
Get comfortable with a long walk. Thirty minutes a day is great, but once a week go for a sixty-minute walk. Stretch out the distance you can travel. Load up a backpack with water and try a two hour ruck walk. There is no greater brain regenerating activity than a long October nature walk in Michigan.
“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”
It does not matter if you are an Ashtanga Yoga devotee, hard style kettlebell lifter, Crossfit firebreather, PureBarre, or Pilates disciple, there is one exercise that everyone in the fitness world has performed. For many months we all diligently worked on becoming better at this exercise and it rewarded us with crucial neural connections. The bad news is that most of us have stopped using this exercise. The good news is that we can still use the crawl pattern and reboot the brain connections that allowed us to stand and walk.
More of your brain is devoted to movement than any other activity. Despite what you have read, muscles never work in isolation. Our muscles are arranged in an interconnected, spiral, and diagonal fashion. The “core muscles” are neurologically wired to connect your left hip with the right shoulder and the right hip with the left shoulder. They are designed to stabilize your middle so you can transfer force from the hips to the shoulders. Crawling is all about that critical, spiral-diagonal connection.
Try adding two crawl training sessions a week to your fitness program. Crawls are one of those exercises that produce the “What the heck?” effect. Other activities of daily living suddenly become easier. Joints move better, posture improves, and long standing soreness resolves. Just ask any baby.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Embrace The Hate
Being Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
“I hate this one.”
“This exercise never gets easier.”
“I do this but I hate this.”
“You like to see me struggle”
These are all common statements from fitness clients and physical therapy patients. They have complaints about certain exercise activities that are difficult, unsteady, aggravating, and just plain annoying. The activities that provoke these responses usually involve getting up and down off the ground, single leg biased training, carrying a weight, and / or pushing a sled.
These comments are usually followed by—
“..but I know they are helping.”
“I don’t have that pain anymore.”
“My legs are so much stronger.”
“I hiked in the mountains with my grandchildren.”
To make progress in rehab and fitness, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. If your fitness regimen involves scented candles, soothing music, and nothing that makes you uneasy, then I doubt it has much value. Training challenges that restore movement skills, improve strength, and add muscle mass will create some discomfort. Developing the mindset that embraces the challenge makes all the difference.
Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
Discover the difference between muscle soreness following exercise activity and pain you should be concerned about in “Do I Have A Problem?”. Jeff Tirrell gives advice for women on optimizing performance and Mike O’Hara discusses training priorities for those over forty.
Movement You Should Master
Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer. Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body. An exercise that I have found to be very helpful in restoring the capacity to get up and down off the floor is the Step Up.
The ability to go up and down steps will almost always be needed. Losing this ability is a sure sign that one’s quality of life and independence are quickly fading. Step Ups can be done in a variety of different directions and loaded a number of ways making them easily progressed or regressed based on goals and fitness level. Step Ups improve balance and strength in the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Depending how you load, they can also challenge the core and shoulders. The average step in the United States is 7 inches tall. Strive to work up to a 14 inch box so that no flight of stairs will ever intimidate you.
Here Coach Katie demonstrates two different versions we like to use and the benefits of each along with some progressions. Watch the video and give it a try: https://youtu.be/iGXtKyGlKMg.
1) Anterior Step up (Progression: Anterior Step Up with Racked Kettlebell hold)
2) Lateral Step Up (Progression: Lateral Step Up with one side loaded)
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1
Movement You Should Master
Modern medicine is keeping us alive longer, so now we need to put some effort into staying lively longer. Mastering specific movements will improve our quality of life and help us stay independent and injury-free. I have come up with several exercises you can use to make yourself stronger, more durable, and develop a healthier, more functional body. An exercise that I have found to be efficient and effective is a Weighted Carry.
Very few things are more functional than a carry. You’d be hard pressed to get through daily life without having to carry something at least a few times per week. While basic, a carry is an efficient and effective full body exercise. Depending on the carry you choose, the load is virtually limitless. Performed for time or distance, carries will always improve gait and core stability. Depending on which version you use, they can also be an effective tool for improving shoulder mobility/stability, grip strength, balance, and overall awesomeness. Watch the video and give it try: https://youtu.be/PaP4-IlVAOA
Coach Chad demonstrates my top four carry picks:
1) Farmers Walk (gait, core stability, grip strength, upper back, legs)
2) Suitcase Carry (gait, core anti-lateral flexion, grip, upper back, balance)
3) Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder stability, balance)
4) Double Waiters Carry (gait, core stability, shoulder mobility, shoulder stability, balance)
-Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, Pn1
Better Tests With More Movement
I attended an overcrowded grade school. From 1st through 8th grade, we had 40 or more children in a classroom. One Felician sister kept order by keeping everyone seated and stationary. During my grade school education, I was stuck in a chair and every day it felt like time had stood still. When a school day came to an end, the children were so movement deprived they would literally sprint out the doors. I believe this illustrates the psychological impact of depriving children of movement during the day.
I know we have to be concerned with standardized test scores, and that taking time for physical activity takes away from reading, math, and science. A long litany of research is revealing that children score better on tests when they are able to move around more. More movement creates a healthier brain and better test scores. More of the brain is devoted to movement than language, and if we wish to fully develop intellectual capacity, we need to include movement. This appears to be even more important for boys.
Everyone involved in improving education needs to read Spark, by Dr John Ratey. In this book, he discusses how brain function is enhanced by the habit of exercise. Over the last nine years, more research has documented the positive effects of exercise on brain health. A teacher friend sent me this *article from the New York Times. If you have grandchildren or children you need to read this.
Micheal S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS
* Why Kids Shouldn’t Sit Still in Class, Donna De La Cruz, New York Times, March 21, 2017. Read the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/21/well/family/why-kids-shouldnt-sit-still-in-class.html?_r=0