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Eight Habits for Long Term Fitness Success–#3 Work on Mobility/Stability

There are thousands of different workout programs and methods to use to become more fit.  These range from at home workout videos, to aerobic or yoga classes, to bootcamps and group functional training workouts.  Methods, benefits, and risks/drawbacks could be debated until our last breath and often are among fitness professionals.  One thing I’ve come to learn in my twenty years in this industry is that dogmatic approaches rarely pan out, and you are better off steering clear of anything or anyone who claims any one method of training is optimal and a cure all for everyone under every circumstance.  However, I do believe that there are some universal habits that will vastly improve someone’s fitness.  For the sake of this article, I will stick with habits which only involve movement, with an understanding that nutrition, rest, recovery, stress management, and body weight all impact fitness as well.

To know what habits will best improve long term fitness, we must first define the term.  There are three definitions of fitness. The first (and newest, brought on by the growth of the fitness industry) is “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” This definition misses the mark as it uses the root of the word in it, and doesn’t really tell us anything.  The second definition is “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”  This definition is a little bit better.  We can see here that the fitness required to be an NFL offensive lineman and the fitness required to run the Ironman in Hawaii is much different.  This still doesn’t get to what most of us think of when we describe someone as being fit.  The third definition, and the one I find to be most relevant to the general population, is “an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.”  Put differently, your ability to reproduce and pass your genes onto the next generation.  At first glance, this may seem like a poor definition.  If we go back 100-500 years to a time where modern technology and medicine couldn’t “fix” everything, this definition is ideal.  If someone is over or underweight, they struggle with fertility.  If someone has major health complications, injuries, etc. they would have a hard time attracting a mate, defending themselves/home, or feeding themselves.  Certain lifestyle choices will absolutely reduce fertility rates (smoking, drinking, stress) therefore decreasing one’s fitness.  Operating with the biological definition of fitness, I find that the following eight habits will set you up for a lifetime of greatness.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Work on Mobility/Stability

Make sure you can move each joint through its maximal pain free range of motion.  On top of being able to move through that range, we also want to be able to control or “own” that range of motion.  This can be done by using full range of motion in your strength exercises, as well as incorporating some full body warm ups that address each.  At Fenton Fitness, we try to hit 2-3 hip stretches, 1-2 thoracic spine/shoulder stretches, and 2-3 activation/stability drills at the beginning of each workout.  If an individual has no restrictions, a good bang for the buck warm up can be seen in this video. This type of work can be done daily, but I would suggest a minimum of 3 days per week to maintain your movement quality.

 View the video here

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?

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Eight Habits for Long Term Fitness Success–#2 Get Stronger

There are thousands of different workout programs and methods to use to become more fit.  These range from at home workout videos, to aerobic or yoga classes, to bootcamps and group functional training workouts.  Methods, benefits, and risks/drawbacks could be debated until our last breath and often are among fitness professionals.  One thing I’ve come to learn in my twenty years in this industry is that dogmatic approaches rarely pan out, and you are better off steering clear of anything or anyone who claims any one method of training is optimal and a cure all for everyone under every circumstance.  However, I do believe that there are some universal habits that will vastly improve someone’s fitness.  For the sake of this article, I will stick with habits which only involve movement, with an understanding that nutrition, rest, recovery, stress management, and body weight all impact fitness as well.

To know what habits will best improve long term fitness, we must first define the term.  There are three definitions of fitness. The first (and newest, brought on by the growth of the fitness industry) is “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” This definition misses the mark as it uses the root of the word in it, and doesn’t really tell us anything.  The second definition is “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”  This definition is a little bit better.  We can see here that the fitness required to be an NFL offensive lineman and the fitness required to run the Ironman in Hawaii is much different.  This still doesn’t get to what most of us think of when we describe someone as being fit.  The third definition, and the one I find to be most relevant to the general population, is “an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.”  Put differently, your ability to reproduce and pass your genes onto the next generation.  At first glance, this may seem like a poor definition.  If we go back 100-500 years to a time where modern technology and medicine couldn’t “fix” everything, this definition is ideal.  If someone is over or underweight, they struggle with fertility.  If someone has major health complications, injuries, etc. they would have a hard time attracting a mate, defending themselves/home, or feeding themselves.  Certain lifestyle choices will absolutely reduce fertility rates (smoking, drinking, stress) therefore decreasing one’s fitness.  Operating with the biological definition of fitness, I find that the following eight habits will set you up for a lifetime of greatness.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Get Strong(er)

Strength is probably one of the greatest indicators of longevity and quality of life that we have.  How strong is strong enough will get you different responses depending on what strength coach you talk to and what population we are talking about.  However, one thing is for certain.  You can almost always get stronger at something, and there is virtually no drawback to being stronger.  Most people will be best served by having 5-6 movements that they focus on getting really strong at, and keeping those in their training plan for 6-12 weeks at a time.  I typically recommend picking one movement from each movement category (Squat, Lunge, Hinge, Push, Pull, and Carry/Crawl) and getting as strong as possible on that given movement.  Pick movements that you feel comfortable with, are pain free, and of which you have maximal range of motion.  Stick with 2-6 repetitions, 3-5 sets, 2 times per week for best results.

Eight Habits for Long Term Fitness Success–#1 Move Daily

There are thousands of different workout programs and methods to use to become more fit.  These range from at home workout videos, to aerobic or yoga classes, to bootcamps and group functional training workouts.  Methods, benefits, and risks/drawbacks could be debated until our last breath and often are among fitness professionals.  One thing I’ve come to learn in my twenty years in this industry is that dogmatic approaches rarely pan out, and you are better off steering clear of anything or anyone who claims any one method of training is optimal and a cure all for everyone under every circumstance.  However, I do believe that there are some universal habits that will vastly improve someone’s fitness.  For the sake of this article, I will stick with habits which only involve movement, with an understanding that nutrition, rest, recovery, stress management, and body weight all impact fitness as well.

To know what habits will best improve long term fitness, we must first define the term.  There are three definitions of fitness. The first (and newest, brought on by the growth of the fitness industry) is “the condition of being physically fit and healthy.” This definition misses the mark as it uses the root of the word in it, and doesn’t really tell us anything.  The second definition is “the quality of being suitable to fulfill a particular role or task.”  This definition is a little bit better.  We can see here that the fitness required to be an NFL offensive lineman and the fitness required to run the Ironman in Hawaii is much different.  This still doesn’t get to what most of us think of when we describe someone as being fit.  The third definition, and the one I find to be most relevant to the general population, is “an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce in a particular environment.”  Put differently, your ability to reproduce and pass your genes onto the next generation.  At first glance, this may seem like a poor definition.  If we go back 100-500 years to a time where modern technology and medicine couldn’t “fix” everything, this definition is ideal.  If someone is over or underweight, they struggle with fertility.  If someone has major health complications, injuries, etc. they would have a hard time attracting a mate, defending themselves/home, or feeding themselves.  Certain lifestyle choices will absolutely reduce fertility rates (smoking, drinking, stress) therefore decreasing one’s fitness.  Operating with the biological definition of fitness, I find that the following eight habits will set you up for a lifetime of greatness.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Move Daily

This is so simple, yet like many things in life, the simplicity of this basic habit causes it to get overlooked or ignored.  This is by far the most common habit among fit individuals.  Don’t over think it or complicate it–just move.  It doesn’t have to be strenuous or difficult.  When looking at the small number of individuals who are successful with long term weight loss, researchers have seen that doing 4-5+ hours/week of planned exercise/activity is a staple.  This comes out to 30-60 minutes per day.  Walk, ride a bike, kayak, paddle board, roll, carry, crawl, do a movement flow (as seen in the video) or whatever.  Just get off your butt and move around at least 30 minutes each day.  It doesn’t have to be all in one shot, but make it happen, and make it intentional.  Daily movement helps manage stress, regulate hunger, and has big cognitive benefits as well.  The only stipulation I would make is to avoid activities with high risk of injury.  After all, if you get substantially injured it makes daily movement a bit more difficult.

See video of some simple movement patterns: here

Real Core Training Part One

Anti-Flexion

Like everything in the fitness world, core training has evolved.  When I bought my first bodybuilding magazine in the late 90s, the word “core” wasn’t even used.  Instead, you would find ab workouts, oblique workouts, and sometime, low back workouts.  Like pretty much everything in the 90s, muscles were trained in isolation with little concern for how the musculoskeletal system was designed to function as a unit.  We have come a long way in our understanding of physiology, biomechanics, and injury prevention/reduction.

The core used to be trained and often still is through movement: flexion (anterior), lateral flexion, extension, and rotation.  Sit ups, crunches, side bends, and Russian twists aim to strengthen the muscles concentrically and eccentrically.  These build mass and thickness to the core musculature.  The second way we train the core is to recognize it as a stabilizer of the low back and hips.  This involves training this musculature to resist movement.  When it comes to increasing strength, power, speed, and reducing injury, this training is more important than dynamically training the core.  This style of training is referred to as “anti-core training” because we are resisting flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation.  The other benefit of anti-core training is that it involves isometric contractions which are much less likely to create muscle hypertrophy, which individuals typically don’t want in their waist.  I typically recommend that 70-90% of your core training consist of anti-core work depending on your health/injury history and goals.

The key to good core training is understanding what you are trying to accomplish, as well as how to progress or regress the movement.  Here are the some of our favorites that we use at Fenton Fitness for each of the four anti-core categories.

Jeff Tirrell, CSCS, CSFC, Pn1

Anti-Flexion

Kettlebell/Dumbbell (KB/DB) Throat Holds

Grab a KB/DB and hold it in the goblet position directly under your chin.  Stand tall and maintain a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position.  Don’t allow the weight to rest on your chest.  Hold this position for up to 60 seconds.

KB/DB Throat Carry

Once you’ve mastered Throat Holds, you are ready to walk.  Position yourself in the same set up, but now you are going to walk while maintaining the same upper body posture and a normal gait.  Start with 20 yards and work your way up to 100.

Hyperextension Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Set yourself up on the hyperextension bench with the thigh pad below your hips and above your knees.  Assume a neutral lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine position. Hold this position for up to 45 seconds before adding weight.

Glute Ham Bench ISO Lumbar Extensions

Position yourself in the same setup as with the hyperextension bench but use the glute ham developer bench. Work up to 30 second holds before adding weight.

For video demonstration of these exercises, click here

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.

Walking 101

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.”

-Thomas Jefferson

All Crawl

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

100 Steps Per Minute

Step Cadence and Fitness

Exercise researchers have been studying gait cadence for years.  A cadence of 80 steps a minute is a stroll.  100 steps a minute is considered a brisk walk.  At 130-140 steps a minute, you move into jog or slow run.  Recent high tech evaluations of gait cadence has been able to predict the onset of dementia in older people.  For many people, walking is their primary form of exercise.  Gretchen Reynolds has written an excellent *article on the walking cadence that produces optimal health benefits.

A compilation of many studies has found that 100 steps per minute is the sweet spot for walkers under the age of sixty.  The data for older walkers has yet to be fully evaluated, but it appears a slightly slower cadence is a good goal.

I like evaluations of performance.  Evaluations tell you if you are getting better or getting worse.  The human body is in a constant state of adaptation and never stays the same.  Keep track of your cadence by counting your steps for twenty seconds and then multiplying by four.  Use that information to track your fitness level.  Ideally it should get easier to walk, at faster pace over a greater period of time.

15 x 4 = 60 Pokey Joe.

20 x 4 = 80 Still too slow.

25 x 4 = 100 Good job.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

*Walk Briskly for Your Health.  About 100 Steps a Minute, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, June 27, 2018

View: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/27/well/walk-health-exercise-steps.html

The Cumulative Effect of Activity

Many people are put off from starting an exercise routine because they are overwhelmed by the time commitment they feel is necessary.  Fitness magazines, exercise experts, and everything on youtube preaches–

–30 minutes of cardio three times a week

–45 minutes of strength training twice a week

–150 minutes of exercise per week

Most of this well-intentioned advice is wrong.  Nearly everyone can derive significant benefit from short bouts of fitness activity that are performed on a consistent basis.  Walk for five minutes twice a day.  A simple routine of two strengthening exercises will take no more than five minutes.  Climb the stairs in your home three times once a day.  Practice getting up and down of the floor.  Stay consistent with a routine of short exercise bouts and you will be healthier and stay independent for a lifetime.

More research has demonstrated the beneficial effect of short exercise sessions interspersed throughout the day.  Read the March 28, 2018, New York Times article by Gretchen Reynolds, Those 2-Minute Walk Breaks?  They Add Up.  View the article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/28/well/move/walking-exercise-minutes-death-longevity.html

Mike O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

In the April 2018 issue, Mike O’Hara discusses the benefits of the farmer’s walk exercise. Jeff Tirrell tells you how to reduce injury to your ligaments and tendons, and tips are given for getting back out into the garden.

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PDFFind out if you scalenes are causing problems in Mike’s article, Scalene Salvation.  Read the inspirational stories of some Fenton Fitness members who conquered osteoporosis.

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