“Embrace the Suck”

It happens daily.  I give my client an exercise or movement and they immediately respond with “There is NO WAY I can do that.”.  To which I say “Of Course!”.  I’m a trainer, who gets paid to challenge people and push them beyond their expectations.  Of course I am going to give my clients things they are bad at, that is the only way to grow.

Embracing the “suck” is my way of saying to get your ego out of the way and focus on developing and expanding your movement and mind in new ways.  Our bodies are designed to adapt, they enjoy new challenges and demands.  It is important that we feed the need or we risk the chance of getting bored, unmotivated, weak, and maybe even depressed.

Once, I was at a yoga class with a slightly eccentric teacher (looking at you Full Throttle Yoga), and someone asked the question “What’s the big deal with handstands these days?”.  The response was so honest.  The instructor replied “There isn’t anything special about them.  If you’re an a$$hole, you’ll still just be an a$$hole in a handstand.  The reason we are doing them is to challenge you to do something new.  After you accomplish a handstand, you may go out in your life and accomplish something else.”  Just the act of going upside down can lead a person to gain confidence in themselves and their abilities.

The idea is simple, practice what you suck at more and spend less time practicing what you are good at.  Our fear of failure lurks in every part of our lives, including our workouts.  It is important to start identifying your fears, asking yourself why you don’t like to do this or that and start to slowly put yourself in uncomfortable (but safe) situations.

Reaching outside of your comfort zone and moving in different ways not only expands your physical skill set, you can literally strengthen your brain.  Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change throughout your life.  Exercise has been shown to increase the grey matter in your brain (actual neurons) and it triggers a reaction that stimulates neuroplasticity.  When you try something new, something you are not quite sure how to do, your brain looks at is as a riddle.  Your brain immediately starts to try to solve the problem, working out the different routes to success.  So the long and the short of it is that you get the brain benefits of not just exercise, but also of problem solving.  So stop thinking about pumping up your biceps, and starting thinking about pumping up your brain.

I know, I bet you are starting to cringe at the very thought of being embarrassed or bad at something, but hear me out.  Moving out of your comfort zone and challenging your mind and body is not only stimulating and fun, it is a sign of maturity and can allow you to grow way beyond your own expectations. I am by no means saying you must go out and do a handstand.  It can be something as small as saying “yes” when you would normally say “no”.  So, pick something attainable, just on the other side of your comfort wall, and bit-by-bit, impression-after-impression, make yourself stronger in every meaning of the word.

Runner and Walker Recovery – Hip Pain

At my studio, Koa Fit, we work with not only runners and walkers with hip pain, but also cyclists, dancers, golfers, tennis players and a lot more.  As said before in my previous posts about foot pain and knee pain, “hip pain” is a broad term.  Most importantly, your hip pain could actually be back pain in disguise.  It is important to know if your hip pain is a symptom of overuse/misuse or if it is nerve pain.  A physical therapist can run you through some tests to help you identify where your pain is coming from.

For the purpose of this post, I am going to be addressing the hip pain in the upper hamstring that is usually associated with activity.  It normally comes about during or after strenuous activity and feels like a a deep ache or muscle strain located where your leg meets your bum in the back.  Any pain that feels “sharp” or “burn-y” is most likely nerve pain and you will need more evaluation before getting appropriate exercises.

To help relieve and prevent the onset of hip pain, try the exercises below.  Even with the absence of hip pain, these exercises are good to perform to keep the hips moving smoothly and to avoid over-tightness.

Runner and Walker Recovery – Knee Pain

Let’s move on to the 2nd biggest complaint among runners and walkers, knee pain (if you have the 1st, foot pain, please see my last post).  I know “knee pain” is such a broad term, but let’s start big picture and then move into the details.

Pain in the knee, if not caused by trauma (getting side-tackled for example), comes from a dysfunction of your biomechanics, or movements.  The movement I am talking about most is your gait, whether walking or running.  When you have a breakdown in the mechanics of your gait, that deficiency gets highlighted over thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of repetitions with each training session.

It is important to have a professional assess your walking and running patterns to identify any inefficiencies you may have in your stride.  But for now, we are going to focus on one of the more common points of pain, patellofemoral pain.  This is the pain commonly felt just below the kneecap and is usually a signal of over-used quadriceps and an under-utilized posterior kinetic chain (arch, calves, hamstrings, and glutes).

Try the exercises below to help prevent the onset of patellofemoral pain and keep your knees happy!

Runner and Walker Recovery – Foot Pain

One of the main complaints I hear from my runners and walkers is about pain their feet.  Whether it be the heel, arch, or ball of the foot, it seems every pedestrian ends up with foot pain at one point or another.

There are many factors that can cause inflammation on the bottom of the foot.  It is best to get an assessment by a movement specialist to determine your precise cause.  However, there are a few general movements you can start doing to help you keep the pain at bay or even prevent it from starting in the first place.  Check out the video below and follow along to help increase your foot’s flexibility and strength.

Fix Your Forward Head Posture

Did you know it has been estimated that up to 90% of us have forward head posture?  Want to know if you do?  Stand up right now, turn your camera on, hold your arm straight out to the side and snap a pic of your profile, including your shoulder.  Take a look.  Are you ears forward of your shoulders?  Congratulations!  You have forward head posture.

Let’s take a quick look at what causes forward head posture (from now on we will call this FHP to save me some time sitting at the computer).  There are the obvious culprits – prolong sitting, computer use, texting, and trauma such as whiplash from a car accident.  But there are also things we don’t think about – the sports we play, the heavy backpack we carry, our jobs, the way we breath.

{Side Note}  Let’s talk about this last one for a hot second.  The stress of our daily lives has left most people with shallow, stressed, labored breathing.  We no longer take relaxed breaths.  Instead, most of us have a habit (without even noticing it) of holding our breath or breathing faster than we need.  This alone can not only affect things like your heart, your oxygen intake, and your mood, but it can also start to tighten down the muscles at the front of the neck, pulling your head forward.  For more on how to help your breathing, check out my past blog post, Breathe Deep.

Symptoms of FHP don’t just include looking like a sad puppy, there are also REAL issues that can occur.  Because of the strain FHP puts on the cervical spine, every system is affected.  This includes the musculoskeletal systems (headaches anyone?), the nervous system (maybe you are a tingling hands kind of person?), and the vascular system (raise your hand if you have sleep apnea!).  The longer your head hangs out there, the more vulnerable you are to muscle spams, bulging and herniated discs, and even TMJ.

So, let’s get to work.  Perform these 8 moves a couple times a week.  Use them as a warm-up to your other activities or do them right before bed.

6 Exercises for Stronger Feet

We all know our feet are important.  They are our foundation and help keep everything above them safe.  But weak feet can lead to aches, pains, and injury.  So, here are 6 exercises you can do using a rolled up yoga mat (I use a 1/2 roller in the videos).  That’s it!  That is all you need to help strengthen your feet and simultaneously improve your balance, strengthen your hips, and take stress off your spine.

Opt Outside! Treadmill vs Outdoor Running

The great debate – treadmill walking and running versus outside.  Well, you can tell by the title, I have my own clear winner.  But, if you are still reading past the headline, I bet you want to know more…you want to know the WHY.

In a nutshell, when you run or walk outside, the muscles of the leg have to propel you forward.  When you run or walk on a treadmill, the muscles of your leg have to catch you as you fall forward.  So even though it looks like the same exercise, they are actually two different exercises using different muscles.

When you are on a treadmill, the floor is moving under your feet.  With each stride your body is hitting this moving surface and getting pushed into a forward motion.  Your opposite leg then has to get out in front of you and hit the treadmill before you fall forward.  So with each stride you are literally just catching yourself from falling instead of running forward.

Outside, the ground is stable, so your foot has to push against that stable surface and push you forward.  For one, this takes a lot more strength and muscle activation to do than running on a treadmill so you will actually burn more calories and get a better workout.  Secondly, and my favorite part, is that it is safer on your body.  By pushing yourself forward, you are using your body the way it was designed to be used, as well as using all the muscles of the back of the leg to help counteract the effects from all your sitting time.  Total win.

When we go around catching ourselves from falling instead of propelling ourselves forward, we put a lot of stress on our hip, knee, and ankle joints.  Not to mention the load we put on our feet.  This extra load leads to some of the most common aches and pains among runners – plantar fasciitis, hamstring tendinopathy, and runner’s knee just to mention a few.  Where as running (correctly, more on that below) outside can actually help strengthen some of the most commonly weak postural muscles in the body.

So you are now convinced to take your run outside.  Fantastic!  Just a quick word…It is also possible to do the “fall and catch” outside as well.  This usually occurs because the mobility in our hips and ankles restricts our body’s ability to move our legs in the appropriate way.  So make sure you spend time opening up your hips (try these hip openers) and your calves.  In fact, you can start right now with the exercise below!