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It’s Almost Over!

Two weeks ago, my cast was cut off (by the way, did you know cast saws work by vibration? Since the fiberglass doesn’t vibrate and your skin does, the saw can tell the difference between the two).  Anyway, I was fitted with this super fashionable walking boot and have been slowly building back my strength.

 

Initially, my first few steps were excruciating -it felt like stepping on sharp rocks and it seemed like my balance was totally shot. But I was surprised how quickly it came back.  All the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that were totally immobile for 7 weeks in the cast were all springing to life, along with every nerve ending that hadn’t felt any movement or touch. My left calf muscles had atrophied significantly and my foot and toe are STILL swollen.

I’ve been in this boot day and night apart from showers and a few steps here and there, plus a couple times a day I simply bend my big toe back and forth several reps.

Starting tomorrow I can start incorporating regular shoes into my day, wearing them at home at first, then slowly wearing them more and more as pain allows.

It’s felt REALLY nice to be able to do some simple exercises again – TRX squats, then bodyweight squats, single leg deadlifts (bodyweight, of course), and I even managed some swings by putting a 5 lb plate under my right foot to even out the height difference of the boot. I’ve also been using the rower to help stretch my calves and bottom of my foot (I do it barefoot, very slowly) and I know that simply walking in shoes will prove very challenging.

I’m proud of my commitment to continuing with physical activity despite my limitations – I honestly believe it’s helped my recover faster and deal with the emotional roller coaster much better. And in addition, I’m proud of myself for very rarely over-doing it. I think I’ve been very mindful of how my body has been feeling and that awareness has given space for acceptance.

Onward!

10 Things I Learned From Severing My Big Toe Tendon

When I dropped a knife on my foot in early July, I immediately knew it was bad.

I knew it would take a long time to heal, but when I got the news from the podiatrist that it severed my big toe tendon (extensor hallucis longus) and required surgery, I did what any normal person would do: I cried. Like a baby.

Being immobile is close to my worst nightmare – I rely on my body, like most people, to complete the most basic of tasks, but I also use it for my job and to do the most enjoyable activities to me: Walking and hiking with my dog, exercising, and exploring new places.

I learned pretty quickly some huge lessons about all those hidden truths that I took for granted:

1. The Americans with Disabilities Act is so, so important. I am fortunate enough to have a temporary disability, but I am incredibly grateful for the handicap parking spaces, ramps, and automatic doors that have made my life so much easier. Yes, people take advantage of the system. Yes, as a business owner it can be a headache to make modifications. But the good that has come with these laws has far outweighed the bad.

2. As my friend Heather pointed out, asking people to help me is giving them the gift of feeling helpful. It took me many days to really “get” it, but witnessing first hand all the people – strangers, friends and family – jump in with a smile made me actually believe that people like helping out. I still feel very uncomfortable every time I realize I can’t do something, but it’s getting less scary to ask.

3. I am facing (daily) the body-shame demons of my past. Fear of weight gain, wanting to diet, wanting to control what, how much, and when I eat feels so tempting when everything feels out of control. It took me a long time to decide to post the photo for this blog. My inner critic was screaming at me for having stomach rolls, rather than pointing out how much fun I had that day at Lake Tahoe, using my nephew’s floatie for my cast. The difference now versus the past? I’m not acting on it. I’m noticing those thoughts, letting them come and go, and continuing to infuse self-compassion and self-care into my everyday life.

4. Practicing what I preach has been a fun challenge. I’ve trained many clients through serious injuries and impairments, changing up their normal workout program with creative modifications so they can continue to work out. Now that I’m on the receiving end, it’s really gratifying to feel how I was 100% right – continuing to workout, even in a much lower than normal capacity is hugely beneficial physically, mentally, and emotionally during an injury. With the right attitude and mindset, it’s totally possible to strike the right balance between the extremes of no movement and pushing yourself too hard.

5. Humor is the best way through it. Martin and I are constantly making knife jokes, and he likes to call me “Wheelie” and “Speedy” as I zip around on my knee scooter. Laughter helps put all this into perspective.

6. Comfort is king. Similar to asking for help, it’s really hard for me to justify spending time and money on comfort. I usually just power through it. This time, I decided to purchase padding for my knee scooter, pads for my crutches, and a handy plastic cover for the cast while I’m taking a bath. Now that I’m forced to take a bath rather than shower, I’ve even started using all the bath bombs and salts I’ve collected over the years, waiting for a “special occasion.” This seems pretty special, right?

7. Whoever invented the knee scooter is a genius. That thing has been such an important part of being able to get around!

8. My boyfriend, Martin, is so amazing. I mean, I knew this before, but when you go through a tough time, it really does test your relationship. He’s helped me every step of the way and HASN’T COMPLAINED ONCE. We had 2 vacations planned and instead of cancelling them, he took the reigns and figured out how to make it work. He is level headed, calm, compassionate, helpful, funny, and tireless. He shows me what a man and a partner should be.

9. It’s exhausting to do the most basic things – going to the bathroom, bathing, getting dressed, making coffee – I’m way more tired now than when I used to train several clients, do a workout, and walk Ruzka for a couple hours. I sort of conceptually understood this, but experiencing it has given me a whole new level of empathy for people with both short and long-term disabilities. This is draining and any technology, tools, and resources we can provide them to make the daily tasks of life easier so they can focus on thriving is beneficial to our whole society.

10. Conversations with strangers are interesting – I get at least one person a day approaching me about their own horrible injury story and giving me words of encouragement. Sometimes, yes, it’s annoying and I don’t want to talk because I hate having to think about it all day. But most of the time, I appreciate the human connection that comes out of pain. Silver lining, right?

Thanks for reading – what have you learned from your previous injuries?

Overhead Pressing – Why is it so HARD???

My nephew is a master of the overhead press – here’s how you can do it, too!

Overhead pressing is a challenge for a lot of people because:

  • It requires good shoulder mobility: Our typical modern lives tend to create a stiff shoulder joint because we don’t require a lot of range of motion there.
  • It works somewhat smaller (and therefore, weaker) muscle groups in the upper body, so it just doesn’t feel as good as some lower body movements (like squats).
  • It’s scary! – You can’t see where the weight is going! And I commonly hear from clients about the fear of dropping the weight on their heads.

And all these reasons are exactly why I LOVE coaching this movement – Overhead pressing empowers people to feel flexible and strong!

It’s important to build mobility in your shoulders first, before attempting to press heavy weights overhead. This ensures you’re using your larger, stronger primary muscles, rather than overworking smaller, stabilizer muscles (like your rotator cuff).

MOBILITY

Wall Angels

    • Do a mini squat against a wall and engage your core muscles so that your lower back isn’t pulling too far away from the wall.
    • Raise straight arms up overhead, palms face out
    • As arms slide down, bent your elbows slightly and attempt to keep the back of your arms against the wall the whole way
    • For a more intense version, try this on the floor while lying lengthwise on a foam roller

Doorframe Chest Stretch

  • Use a narrow doorframe to stretch both shoulders and step through, or use a pole or corner of a wall to stretch one side at time.

Child’s Pose – Hands on Bench or Chair

  • Kneel a little more than arm’s length away from a bench or chair, knees slightly apart
  • Let hands rest on bench just wider than shoulder width and sit butt down and back into heels, letting chest and head hang through arms
  • Hold and try again with different hand position (wider, narrower, etc)

Shoulder Circles (use broom/mop/rake handle, long towel, or resistance band)

  • Start with hands extra wide – just narrow enough to let bar pass overhead
  • Keep elbows straight so the stretch happens through the shoulder joint
  • If this was easy, bring hands narrower a few inches a try again
  • If you are extra tight, use a stretchy resistance band and work your way up to using a bar or non-stretchy towel

Bent Elbow Lat and Tricep stretch

  • Stand tall grabbing elbow behind head
  • Lean away from stretching arm continuing to hold elbow
  • You should feel this in the back of your upper arm (triceps) and under your armpit down your torso (lats)
  • Repeat on the other side

STRENGTHENING

Before picking up weight, master these bodyweight movements. Once they feel easy, use them as a warm up before overhead pressing.

Reach, Roll, and Lift

  • Forward fold and rest elbows at knees (if your knees hurt in this position, perform this sitting in a chair, leaning forward onto a table)
  • Reach right arm forward, straightening elbow all the way
  • Roll palm up
  • Lift ENTIRE arm up (not just the forearm) using the upper back/shoulder
  • Slide elbow back to knee and repeat on the left

Superman Overhead Press

  • Keep legs straight and lift off ground using glutes
  • Lift chest off ground using low back
  • Touch thumbs to shoulders then press overhead
  • Keep neck/chin neutral

Superman Overhead Press with PVC Pipe

  • Use a broom, wooden dowel, or PVC pipe
  • Same set up as the superman press, keep bar behind head

Dumbbell Overhead Press

  • Create a solid foundation by standing tall, engaging your core, quads (thighs) and glutes (butt)
  • Start dumbbells in neutral position (palms facing each other) at shoulders
  • Press in a straight line overhead, so that at the top position, elbows are straight (but NOT hyperextended) and biceps are in line with your ears
  • Keep pulling your rib cage down towards your hips to engage your core and protect your low back

Barbell Overhead Press

  • Once you feel confident with dumbbells of equivalent weight to a barbell (check barbell weight, as they can vary) try the barbell
  • At the bottom position, keep elbows slightly out in front of the bar to create leverage for pressing
  • Pull your head out of the way by creating a double chin as bar is passing in front of face, then go back to regular position after.

9 Basic Foam Rolling Moves

Not sure how to use the foam roller? Here are 9 ways to add it to your warm up, cool down, or mobility routine.

Spend about 30 seconds on each area, each side so if you do all 9 moves, it should take you about 10 minutes.

Curious about what foam rolling is and what it does? Check out this article.

Calves

  • Keep foot relaxed
  • Rock leg side to side while slowly working from the ankle to the knee
  • (optional) add pressure by stacking other leg on top

Hamstrings (back of thighs)

  • Keep leg relaxed
  • Rock leg side to side while moving from knee to bottom
  • (optional) add pressure by stacking other leg

Quads (front of thighs)

  • Keep leg relaxed and limit pressure by using your other knee and elbows for support
  • Starting from knee, roll up and down 3 inches, then rock side to side 3 times, then bend your knee 1-3 times. Perform the rolling, rocking, bending in several spots while working up to your hips

IT band (side of thighs)

  • Starting at your hips, work down to knee by rolling down 3 inches, up 1 inch; down 3 inches, up 1 inch, etc.
  • Keep knee slightly bent
  • Keep weight slightly forward onto side and front of thigh

Adductors (inner thighs)

  • Roller parallel to your body
  • Start at inner knee, work in to groin by rolling in 3 inches, out 1 inch; in 3 inches, out 1 inch, etc.

Glutes (bottom)

  • Prop up right ankle on left knee, lean into right glutes

Upper back

  • Roll with hands behind head
  • Hug yourself while rolling to get between shoulder blades (skip this if you have neck pain)

Lats (sides of torso)

  • Lay at a slight angle with roller under armpit
  • Roll up and down
  • Rock side to side

Angels

  • Lying lengthwise on roller, keeping low back neutral
  • Reach arms up and over, drag elbows down to sides
  • Repeat slowly 10 times

What was the tightest area for you?

Super simple fitness advice

I recently heard this interview with personal finance expert, Harold Pollack, about how he wrote all his financial advice on a single index card.

Brilliant! I thought. We all tend to get caught up in the details when it comes to topics like personal finance, but most of it can be simplified into actionable steps for anyone to understand and do.

And of course, I immediately saw the similarities between personal finance and fitness:

  • Both can seem out of reach because some elements are out of your control (your genetics, the stock market, unforeseen circumstances)
  • Lots of misinformation, “magic bullets” and snake oil salesmen, making it really tough to trust any source.
  • Both topics have been vastly over complicated for the average person’s needs and most people don’t know where to begin.

What if I could try and get all my fitness advice onto an index card?

Here it is – did I miss anything? (written out below)

NOT active? Move your body in a way you enjoy 1x/week. Ready for more? Add another day or another activity.

Already active? Build and maintain enough strength, flexibility, and cardio to move well (as YOU define it).

STRENGTH:

  • Squat, hip hinge, push, pull, using equipment you like;
  • Front/back, side/side, diagonal directions
  • Bilateral and unilateral (single arm/leg) variations.

CARDIO:

  • Speed/power (short sprint burst, then rest long enough to recover and repeat);
  • Tempo (semi-intense burst, then low intensity or rest); and
  • Endurance (low intensity over long time without rest).

MOBILITY:

  • Pain-free acceptable range of motion for ankles, knees, hips, back, shoulders, neck
  • Stretching, foam rolling, corrective exercises to address issues

***Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do, not punishment for what you ate!***

This list can serve as a great starting point for your own research, or a conversation with fitness professional who can give you more detailed, prescriptive actions personalized to your needs.

Smart moves with dumbbells

Keep it simple!

Dumbbells are an excellent way to add resistance: They are found in most gyms and are usually more available than machines. Find a small area and you’re ready for a full body strength session!

Goblet Squat – Strengthen your legs, hips, glutes, and core

  • Dumbbell against chest
  • Elbows to the insides of your knees
  • Drive knees apart
  • Weight in heels

Reverse Fly – Stabilize your shoulders and prevent rotator cuff injuries

  • Body in deadlift position OR supported on an incline bench
  • Relax neck and upper trap muscles
  • Squeeze shoulder blades together, keeping slight bend in elbows

Deadlift – Build lower back and glute strength

  • Reach hips backwards
  • Keep chest tall, shoulders packed down away from ears
  • Low back remains flat, not rounded

Lunge row – Engage mid and upper back muscles, arms, and core

  • Long lunge stance, back foot turned out
  • Left elbow on left knee
  • Right elbow reaching up and back (then repeat on other side)

What’s your go-to dumbbell move?

Lunch Break Strength Session

Don’t have time to work out AND shower during your lunch break?

This workout is designed to maximize your strength building and minimize cardiovascular conditioning (more muscle action, less heavy breathing).

To do this, KEEP YOUR REPETITIONS LOW (8 reps or less) and INCREASE THE DIFFICULTY (by adding weight or trying movements at a greater intensity level).

Bulgarian Split Squat (5-8 each leg)

  • Use support for balance the first several times you try this
  • Keep the front knee BEHIND the toe
  • Keep torso vertical
  • Add depth, before adding resistance (dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance band)

Pushups (5-8 reps)

  • Do FEWER reps than you might normally do, but use a table/bench/chair that is LOWER than your normal height.
  • If you don’t have a taller tabletop to use, try knee pushups, but touch your chest to the ground
  • If you can already do several regular pushups, try negatives: Go super slowly on the way down, then quick and powerfully on the way up.

Glute Bridge with HOLD (5-10 each leg)

  • HOLD at the top for at least 5 seconds and SQUEEZE as hard as you can (note that the animation above does not show the hold)

Rows (6-8 reps)

  • Use a heavier band or weight than you normally do, but reduce the reps
  • SQUEEZE the shoulder blades together, keeping shoulders down
  • If you don’t have access to a band or weights, try the superwoman or I,Y, and Ts

Hope you enjoy your lunch break workout!

 

Energize: Quick pick me up workout

It may seem counter intuitive to exercise when you’re feeling tired, but movement may be just what you need to increase your energy level.

(Not sure if you just need rest? Check out this post on intuitive exercise).

Do a few rounds of the following moves to get your blood flowing and brain re-set for the rest of the day!

10 Squats

(bodyweight, or add a resistance band, kettlebell, dumbbell or barbell)

INHALE on the way down

EXHALE on the way back up

10 Jumping Jacks

I’s, Y’s and T’s (5 each)

  • Thumbs up to the sky
  • INHALE as you bring arms down;
  • EXHALE as you squeeze arms up overhead, over shoulders, and out to sides

10 Mountain Climbers (10 on each leg)

  • Keep shoulders over hands; prevent hips from popping up and down
  • Try doing them on elevated surface before progressing to the floor
  • Change speed to your desire

Enjoy your workout pick-me-up!

Do you have FOGA Syndrome? (Fear of Getting Active)

FOGA Syndrome, Fear of Getting Active, is characterized by a paralyzing sense of doom of further injury or pain with any type of movement or activity.

OK, this is just something I made up – a bit of exaggeration on a real topic inspired by this post I just read.

I see it all the time – people who hold themselves back because they are “prone to injury,” “imbalanced;” have “tight shoulders,” “glutes won’t fire.” They define themselves by the list of dysfunctions found by their doctors, physical therapists, and trainers are all saying the same thing.

The health professionals say you need to be treated, corrected, reprogrammed, repaired, reconditioned. What many professionals leave out during these consultations are all the things a person still can do, despite their condition.

So what people really hear is, “I need to drop everything and focus on fixing this one thing.” They shift to all or nothing / black and white thinking: “My PT told me I should take a break from running, so I’m not going to do anything.”

I’m NOT saying that there is no such thing as injury, pain, or imbalances in our bodies that can vastly limit our movement. But if you choose to focus only on the areas of limitation, your identity starts to get wrapped up in the “I am broken” mindset. And the “I am broken” mindset only begets more pain and injury via lack of physical activity.

What I wish I could tell everyone who has been told some variation of “you need to be fixed” is:

“Keep working on the source of your injury/pain/dysfunction, but don’t let that stop you from finding other ways to move your body.”

Otherwise, that dysfunction becomes a part of your identity, or your “invisible script” that will play over and over in your head every time you attempt to get out there and move your body.

 

Please do not be paralyzed by fear that you are damaged, fragile, or unable to continue with activity. If you’re unsure how to find something that works for you, start slowly and gently and find a professional who can balance the line between keeping your safe and encouraging you to progress in whatever ways are important to you.

And most of all, keep moving in a way that feels enjoyable to you!

More Core

Ready to try some core strengthening exercises that aren’t the plank?

(And if you DO want plank ideas, check out this post).

Quadraped

Cues:

  • Hands under shoulders, knees under hips
  • “Pack” shoulder blades down into back
  • Brace core and pull knees 1 inch above the ground

Once you can hold the quadraped for 30 seconds, try these challenging variations:

Quadraped opposite hand and foot lifts

Quadraped bird dog

V-Sit / Boat pose

On a bench or chair:

On the ground (progressed version):

Cues:

  • Sit up tall, low back extended
  • Lift feet off the ground

Once you can maintain a V-sit on the ground for 30 seconds, try extending your legs:

Deadbug

Cues:

  • Brace core and reach opposite arm and heel to ground
  • Do not let low back move up and down – keep it in it’s original, neutral position

After you’ve mastered the bent knee deadbug, straighten your legs and try again.

Leg raises with overhead press

Cues:

  • Legs up in “tabletop” position (hips and knees both at 90 degrees)
  • Push overhead against wall and feel your core engage
  • One at a time, tap heel to ground
  • Like the dead bug, do not let your low back move

For some more challenging variations, move both legs at the same time, then extend your legs straight.

Which exercise made you feel your core the most?