The couch can make you fit.

No matter how badly or poorly you have run, jogged, or staggered  20 meters plus,  there will always be a fitness motivator screaming “good job, you lapped the guy on the couch”

Its sort of true, but  at the same time they lapped everyone doing a static exercise: they lapped the  person doing pull ups, deadlifts, the olympic lifts, bicep curls and hundreds of other stationary exercises: they lapped the guy doing burpees and tuck jumps, they  lapped everyone on a concept 2 rower or an assault bike.

During fits of depression, or good old fashioned laziness, it super easy to crawl onto a couch and crash out. This means that deciding to get up, change, walk out the door and start jogging can be a super barrier.

I remember lying on the couch staring at the floor being unable to roll off and do one push up.

To build new habits and behaviours, they really need to be modelled on existing habits and behaviours. It’s very difficult to abandon bad behaviours, so its best to use them if you can.

If it’s a racing certainty that you will throw yourself onto the couch in the next few hours, connecting the couch with exercise could be the most effective exercise improvement you can make. This is crucial if you find yourself locked down.

As a quick example I’ll  use  the curl up abdominal exercise. Its fairly easy to change from a couch slump

slumping on the couch

into something fairly near a therapeutic curl up!

do the therapeutic curl up on the couch

Over the next few months, I’ll be showing you how you can get fit on your couch. moving from a slump into an effective exercise.

Obviously this is a great stand alone (lie alone) exercise.  You don’t have to get on the couch to do it!

To keep up to date with fitness, physical therapy and mindfulness tips join my mailing list here:

Advertisements

Plantar Fasciitis: cures and curses

A big welcome to your Plantar Fascia. An unknown part of your foot, that, so it seems, you don’t have to worry about.

It will do whatever the hell it does for years, then one morning, in some unlucky people,  it creates almost crippling heel pain.

First thing in the morning, upon getting out of bed,  you’ll be in so much pain that even hopping across your bedroom floor is something you’ll dread. Even contemplating  allowing your heel to touch the floor makes many want to throw up in their own mouths.

It’s not all bad. Just give it 5 or 10 minutes of hobbling around and you can begin to limp with a bit of dignity.  Welcome to the party you now have plantar fasciitis. It often self cures, in anything from 6 weeks to TWO YEARS.

There are  two positive sides to the condition:

1) You’ll meet lots of people online searching for a cure. So it’s like an agony based Tinder.

2) you’ll meet lots of dodgy therapists trying to part you from your money for quack cures. If you spot them, it’s fun to watch. If you cannot see a quack coming, its a bit expensive.

So some back ground, according to the BMJ plantar Fasciitis copy has the reputation of being “a trivial  condition”. Clinically “benign and self limiting”. So, if you are limping around your bedroom, screaming with pain,  wondering how you can get to the loo, don’t worry, its “benign and self limiting”.

Pull yourself together. Its not cancer

So who gets it?

  1. Middle aged and older people
  2. Those who walk a lot
  3. Those with increased body weight
  4. Athletes
  5. Those with a reduced range of ankle dorsiflexion

According to the BMJ, the treatment options are

  1. Bio-mechanical treatments (orthotics, footwear modifications, taping)
  2. Stretching techniques including night splints
  3. “extracorporeal shock wave therapy
  4. cortisone
  5. surgery

So, for the stretches check out

Heel To Heal: New Stretch Relieves Pain From Plantar Fasciitis

“sit with one leg crossed over the other, and stretch the arch of the foot by taking one hand and pulling the toes back toward the shin for a count of 10. The exercise must be repeated 10 times, and performed at least three times a day, including before taking the first step in the morning and before standing after a prolonged period of sitting”. Thanks to Benedict DiGiovanni and Nawoczenski,

IMG_3693

Most foot issues (not only plantar fasciitis, but the nasty achilles tendonitis)  benefit from a better range of ankle flexion and  pliable calf muscles. This daily stretch is also a must.IMG_3689

You’ll notice Im using a yoga block. It’s not ideal but gets you a start ( you could just use a step or a book, or a brick). If you have wealth beyond avarice, or £40, check out the
Navaris Wooden Slant Board – Calf Stretch Adjustable Incline Board Portable Anti-Slip for Pain Relief from Plantar Fasciitis Tendinitis and More

Most modern stretch commentators suggests you need to do this daily for 2 minutes.

Ice helps reduces pain, so freeze a bottle of water and roll  your foot on the iced bottle. One of my clients uses a cold bottle of beer!

Massage balls. If you can stand the discomfort, start rolling the base of your foot on one of those massage balls! Start gently.

Get a night splint, and wear it at night IF YOU CAN. This drove me mad so I clawed it off within a minute

IMG_3692

Lots of people can sleep with it , so as its about £11-£20 well worth experimenting with.
Night Splint Dorsal Soft Light for treatment of Plantar Fasciitis – (Black inner, 9 – up), Large

INSOLES: In my humble opinion,  buying and wearing flatter shoes often causes Plantar fasciitis . This is often combined with the whole “go barefoot” rebellion.  It’s based on the “well, its more natural, innit” concept and totally, totally fails to take into account the fact that you have worn heeled, and supported shoes for the last 20-30 years!

Buy these Superfeet insoles.

IMG_3688

Superfeet  are worth every penny!!   These really helped me. Ive put a link that will make me £££££’s in commission if you use it. Superfeet Green Insoles, E (UK 8-9.5/ Mens 9.5-11/ Womens 10.5-12).

I hope this helps, but really, try everything, ice, massage balls, stretching and my favourite, Superfeet.

If you have had this condition, why not take my survey that explores the issue of flexibility and Plantar Fasciitis .

This survey aims to evaluate your  ankle flexibility by an easy wall test. so start off by testing your ankle flexibility. Get the measurement in cm

then

click here to take it

If you need help or training, do drop me an email Andrew@andrewstemler.com

Build your chest.

Maybe the strongmen of old didn’t have access to weights. I say that as, many of the old fashioned “get fit at home” manuals and pamphlets,  put push ups and push up variations at the core of their regimes. Maybe  they assumed that their home based clients  did’t have  a “bench”.

Not a totally insane assumption.

So, push ups or “dips” as Charles Atlas called them,  belong in any home regime. I think they are often overlooked.

Charles Atlas does his “dip”between two chairs in order to get a bigger range of motion. according to his pamphlet its great for “Chest, Shoulders and Back. Excellent for preventing Lung and Chest troubles. Do the dipping exercise   at least 100 times every day. Aim to do it 200 times daily if you are keen on getting a very big and powerful chest development. Do this by dipping 25 or more times, rest and relax a few moments and do them again. Rest and do them again.” Charles Atlas  said he did 200 daily.

However, it isn’t as simple as  just doing any type of push up. Notice from this video that you are aiming for a planche push up. Your shoulders go forward and your hands end up as near the hips as possible

 

Of course, this is achievable if you already have push ups. If you don’t work your progressions like mad

 

The Starzynski Squat

In the time before the lockdown, I used to coach Olympic weightlifting at Crossfit London on a Saturday morning.

I mean, I was in the same room, at the same time as other people

Seems weird now.

Now that everyone has moved online, it’s easy to forget that that building explosiveness into fitness regimes, without weights can be tricky.  The Olympic lifting drills  are especially difficult to think up as , ideally, you want to the end up in a squat.

There are only so many jumping squats you can do!

This is a fun , useful drill. Enjoy

 

Stretch your glutes

There are loads of fantastic stretches for your glutes ( your bottom muscles) . These are seen as the biggest, strongest muscle the body has, and is the one that really powers most human movement.

It’s crucial to  build a supple muscle . Today, I’m just getting you used to this”easy” lie on your back stretch. Simply cross one leg over the over  in a figure of 4 shape and pull the “4” towards you (see above). You’ll feel a great stretch.

If that doesn’t work for you, isolate the core of this moves by grabbing your leg and ankle  so you can  see what you have to do to get the stretch to work. Focus on pulling the knee up towards your chest, with a pull across your body (see below).

IMG_3582

Subscribe to our stretching newsletter!

That cool shoulder stretch

Having great flexible shoulders can make your day to day life much easier and  improve your posture,  as well as your gymnastics!

Basically, can you make you hands meet behind your back? If so,  you are well on the way to some really useful shoulders, if not, this is your first port of call. Develop your  shoulders individually, both the reaching down and the stretching up parts.

Work on these sub-stretches, with some other drills we will show you, and your shoulders, too, will become lovely.

Subscribe to our stretching newsletter!

Seated hamstring stretch

This is quite a classic stretch. I remember doing this back in the 1990’s.

Sit down,  stick one leg out straight with the sole of the other foot  facing the inside of your straight leg.

Bend forward from your hips, not your back.  Hold for 10-60 seconds, or  3,4,5, sets of 10 seconds.

Some calming rhythmic breathing is always handy. Some talk about adding meditation. I must I admit I stretch while watching TV!

As a test, it’s worth noting that whilst your hamstring ( the back of your leg) will feel tight and engaged, if you poke the top of your (straight )leg, it  (the quadriceps) will feel relaxed.

Obviously, do both sides.

There will be more hamstring stretches as we develop into the full splits.

Subscribe to our stretching newsletter!

 

Flexibility, trigger points and fuzz

No modern discussion of flexibility, trigger points or pain is complete without talking about fascia.

I was introduced to fascia by Julian Baker of the Bowen technique during some guided dissection sessions back in 2012 ( which means I have dissected corpses as part of my studies).

Its the “sort of fatty stuff directly under your skin
See here

Years ago this “stuff was simply cut away by laboratory assistants so you could see the actual muscles.

It’s only now that people see this as a new communication highway for our endocrine, circulatory, or nervous systems.

Today much “tightness” is attributed to dysfunction in the fascia. Although this is far from proven it’s useful working hypothesis that makes us focus on trigger points. They are “a hyper irritable locus with a taut band of skeletal muscle, located in the muscular tissue and/or its associated fascia.”

Sometimes called knots, trigger points can be quite painful, will cause stiffness and weakness of the affected muscle, and restrict the muscle’s full range of motion.

Fascia can also stick to muscles in what Gill calls “fuzz” ( if you cannot pick the skin off your muscle, its arguably adhered and interrupting muscle function, reducing range of motion

When poking around your body, you can often find what needs attention if
1. You press on the skin, and its super painful with pressure
2. you cannot pick the skin away from the muscle. This should glide, not stick
3. You feel special tension in an area when you stretch

This is sorted by,  being bothered enough to do something about it. Practically that means a mix, but consistent mix , of gentle (and not so gentle) massage, skin rolling and pressure applied by your fingers, objects, cupping, or better still someone else.

This stuff goes under the heading of Myofascial Release.

It’s uncomfortable which is why few people use it or do it. Sort of like flexibility. You have to get used to that weird discomfort.

The problem is that medically, no one wants to be a muscle doctor. So it’s the orphan organ.

If you have enough flexibility to squat, why do you need more. Crucially, if you cannot squat well because of flexibility who cares. Most lift the weight anyway, and if they screw their back who cares!

Stretching is uncomfortable, boring, the evidence is very conflicted and many charlatans insist that flexibility is a “star gate” to spiritual well being and enlightenment. This obviously puts any right mind individual off stretching.

 

Subscribe to our stretching newsletter!

 

Cupping and flexibility

The bigger your flexibility tool kit, the better your flexibility training will go. So, it was fun to come across “Effect of Cupping Therapy on Range of Motion, Pain Threshold, and Muscle Activity of the Hamstring Muscle Compared to Passive Stretching”  It’s a fascinating read.

Kim et al, set out to review the effects of cupping on flexibility. The conclusion was  that cupping therapy has a positive effect on flexibility equal to  passive stretching. Allegedly more convenient and easier to work on patients than passive stretching. Therefore, cupping therapy should be considered as another option to treat range of motion issues.

 

They tested this protocol: Cupping therapy was applied to the hamstring muscle for 5 minutes in the cupping therapy group. The passive stretching group was treated with a passive stretching for 10 seconds and repeated 9 times

 

This is the same result that Lacross, 2014 found.  Cupping therapy may induce a change in flexibility (equal to passive stretching). Maybe cupping  actually  gets into the tissues! This  depth of effect , allegedly, increases  the neurophysiological activity at the level of nociceptors, the spinal cord, and other nerves, and ultimately leads to significant relaxation (Musial et al., 2013).  Cupping has also been found to affect the body up to four inches into the tissues (Hanan and Eman, 2013).

 

So, yes to cupping. Its fairly cheap, quite safe and a good DIY thing if you make sure you are suitable for this  treatment. Bound to be good for facebook and instagram photos. Get a cheapie set for £35

Subscribe to our stretching newsletter!

 

References

Lacross ZT. Treatment Outcomes of Myofascial Decompression on Hamstring Pathology. 2014.

Musial F, Spohn D, Rolke R. Naturopathic reflex therapies for the treatment of chronic back and neck pain-Part 1: neurobiological foundations. Forsch Komplementmed. 2013;20(3):219-24.

Hanan S, Eman S. Cupping therapy (Al-Hijama): It’s impact on persistent non-specific lower back pain and client disability. Life Sci J. 2013;10:631-42.