If you’re feeling a growing sense of stagnation with your exercise routine as well as lockdown this may help…the exercise side of things anyway. It generally takes 6 – 8 weeks of training in a specific modality to see the results of your labour so if you’ve been focussing on your fitness in your allocated exercise time from the start of lockdown it’s the right time to give your programme a shake up.
Regularly mixing up your exercise plan is crucial to achieving results. Periodisation is a method to plan phases of your training to optimise different aspects of your ‘fitness’ thereby maximising your gains whilst also reducing the risk of injury or overtraining….and getting bored!
4-6 week periodisation phases to typically cycle through include a stability phase focusing on consolidating your core connection, peripheral joint stability and proprioceptive awareness. Followed by a strength phase, prioritising load over stability to increase muscle strength and finally, if appropriate, a power phase.
Here’s some examples of how you might progress exercises from a stability phase (12-20 reps 1-3 sets) into a strength phase (8-12 reps 2-4 sets):
- Single leg alternate dumbbell shoulder press –> Standing barbell push press
- Scaption on a single leg –> Standing kettlebell overhead press
- TRX fly on one leg –> Bodyweight press ups (or decline to increase load)
- Single leg squat –> Kettlebell goblet squat
- Single leg Romanian deadlift –> Romanian deadlift
- TRX hanging bodyweight lunge –> Dumbbell lunges
For more info on tailored exercise training programs drop me a line via the contact page.
Or, even more boringly titled ‘Appropriate Exercise’…..
I had wanted to get going sooner and magically ‘win the internet’ with incredible Pilates and Corrective Exercise routines to wow the masses but it quickly become apparent that not only was social media at saturation point with offerings but homeschooling had won in the battle between professional development and parenting…..any ground made was largely due to Joe Wicks google searches misdirecting to movewithjo.com….
With so much on offer and many turning to running to get the most from their allocated Exercise Time it got me thinking about the choices that were being promoted. I read Facebook comments about overloaded abdominals from You Tube workouts, I listened to my friend tell me about her neck pain attempting The 100 whilst doing a virtual Pilates class her work had set up and I witnessed a lot of extremely unsustainable running styles in the park.
As a corrective exercise specialist I wanted to highlight the importance of self preservation in these exacting times and offer up an Appropriate Exercise Checklist!
Appropriate Exercise Checklist.
- Is your body pain free after undertaking new exercise? (symmetrical delayed onset muscle soreness aside) Check your technique, if you’re not sure give it a miss.
- Is your body pain free on a normal day to day basis – Are you incorporating maintenance exercises to help vulnerable areas? e.g pelvic floor, neck or back tension.
- Try to think about ways to counter the positions you hold yourself in during the day – like sitting, screen-time to prevent muscle tension and imbalance.
- (Similarly to 3) Try to think about supplementing your body with extra movements and positions that you are not getting through your daily life? Reaching, rotating, hanging, squatting, pushing and pulling through a variety of ranges of movement…?
- Is the exercise you are doing the right impact for you if you’ve had pelvic floor or joint issues? If you feel you have to run, consider shorter hill sessions to help reduce the impact but still get cardiovascular reward.
- Take rest days, vary your exercises and do sufficient stretching.
Take care and stay home!
Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash
If you travel a lot for work it can be hard to prioritise your own movement let alone specific exercise. This post is an aid to those trapped in their hotel rooms (!) and in need of some body maintenance to cancel out all the sitting, screen watching, suit and work shoe wearing (that also ‘cast’ your body into unhelpful postures).
- Chest stretch: Arm at 90 degrees (i.e. bent at the elbow) with your forearm against a wall or door frame the stretch the chest open, away from the wall. One arm at a time then switch.
- Door frame: Reach up to a door frame and try to extend your arms whilst breathing deeply lengthening on the exhalations. Try to create space from your ears to your shoulders.
- Back extensions: Lying prone, chin slightly tucked – on an exhale raise your chest of the floor a tiny bit whilst lengthening your arms/fingertips towards your feet. Also try to draw your shoulders back as if opening your chest.
- Childs pose: Sit back on your heels stretch your arms forward onto the floor.
- Hamstring stretch: lying supine stretch one leg up – use a belt or tie around the foot to get leverage (keep the other knee bent and try not to press/flatten your lower back) Switch legs.
- Sit ups: support the head if necessary, deep exhale as you come up.
- Plank: On your elbows – keep breathing, back of the neck long don’t drop your chin.
- Childs pose: same as before but with the palms up.
Note: Written descriptions of exercises and movements can be lost in translation! So if these do not translate easily for you do get in touch via the contact form. Readers who have had been having sessions will recognise the cues!
Photo by Sergio Pedemonte on Unsplash
It’s easy to do exercise for exercise’s sake particularly at this time of year when the internet is awash with new year’s resolutions & calls to reinvent yourself through exercise! What we really need to access through our, let’s call it, ‘planned movement’ is an intended physiological response – meaning not just ticking something off the ‘to do list’ but creating a more nourishing exercise programme that provides ourselves with the missing movements that our modern lifestyles do not afford us.
Here are three 10 minute exercise ideas (50 seconds per exercise with 10 seconds rest) to try, you could do them as is or cycle through just some of the exercises for a different focus.
10 minute Full Bodyweight Workout (for strength)
Squats (with band pull apart to add in some shoulder blade work)
Wood chops (alternate sides)
Side lunges (or jumping jacks…)
Band pull ups (with band under foot to work shoulders/core)
Push ups with push back (regular push up half or full with a shell stretch back between reps)
Hovers on all 4’s (or plank)
Hip lift with chair (supine with legs elevated, push hips up)
Leg extensions (supine with alternate leg extension for abdominal load)
10 minute Correctives (for transitioning to better alignment)
Supine half dome thoracic stretch
Supine half dome thoracic stretch, in slightly different place on the spine
Rhomboid push up
Shell stretch (try palms up & down)
Side neck stretch with median nerve floss left
Side neck stretch with median nerve floss right
Calf stretch over half dome left
Calf stretch over half dome right
Long arm reach
Rotator cuff band pull with slow return
10 minute Evening Stretch (for counteracting the effects of too much sitting)
Chest stretch against wall left
Chest stretch against wall right
Hip rock left
Hip rock right
Adductors knee bent left
Adductors knee bent right
Supine over half dome
If you have attended classes or currently train with me most of these will be familiar – if not, videos to follow……. or drop me a line!
As sitting is now described as the new smoking I guess if you can fit some stretches into your workday it’ll just be the equivalent of vaping….maybe?! Anyway, whether you’re standing or sitting for long periods intermittent stretching and movement will help curb muscle tightness & pain as well as go some way into preventing the adaptive shortening of muscles.
Try to do them throughout the day instead of all in one go for get the most benefit – setting an alarm to move every hour will help to remind you.
1st row: Triceps, arm down back into lat stretch as you bend to the side (second picture).
2nd row: Hip flexor stretch on chair. Anchor the knee and drive the pelvis forward to open the front of the hip.
3rd row: Neck stretch, ear to shoulder into levator scapula stretch as you turn your head hold & try to place nose to shoulder too.
4th row: Hamstring stretch making sure you keep the hips parallel and tail bone sticking out.
5th row, left: Rhomboid push up in vertical or chest opener. From the position pictured bring your elbows in together.
5th row, right: Piriformis / glute stretch – lean on the knee to increase the stretch. Untuck your tailbone.
One for the mummies! If it feels like you never get time to have a ‘proper’ workout & your best attempts to ‘get back in shape’ are always foiled by the unrelenting demands of being a mum, try optimising your daily ‘mummy movement’ by focusing on your alignment. We need to get it out of our heads that in order to exercise we must be head to toe in lycra & down the gym!
Biomechanist Katy Bowman in her new book ‘Move Your DNA’ likens how we should view exercise as being a vitamin supplement – we need to think of exercise just like that – a supplement to our total daily movement. Just like a vitamin you wouldn’t rely on that to keep you healthy, you’d also try to maintain a nutrient rich diet as well. An isolated ‘workout’ is not the be all & end all – in fact a workout means nothing if you’re a couch potato the rest of the time. Research shows that it’s much better to move (or load) our bodies multiple times per day than do it all in one go.
This is great news for mums – whilst others are frenetically trying to replicate the daily movement they should be getting but can’t, due to sedentary jobs, mums get the opportunity at an action packed day…well….everyday!! No 5 x 30 mins per week for us, as government guidelines recommend!
So how can you optimise your daily activity? Focus on your alignment when you are standing, sitting, bending & moving etc. Maintain good posture, exhale on exertion (e.g when you are moving away from gravity – like when you lift the baby up) & work your pelvic floor muscles in conjunction with movements like lifting the baby or standing up from a squat. Another useful tip is to wear clothes that you can actually move in for example by wearing stretchy jeans & flat shoes you’ll be more inclined to deepen your range of movement, untuck your tail bone & not mind working up a bit of a sweat.
5 ways to max out your daily activity:
- Squat the laundry! If you hang your washing out on a rack, squat down to get each piece of clothing – make sure you have good technique and exhale on exertion.
- Lift the baby – a few extra cuddles instead of buggy time can create some great opportunity to work your body – remember to keep a neutral spine, costal breathing & recruit those pelvic floor muscles!
- Walk during nap time – I know, I know “sleep when the baby sleeps” & all that but sometimes a good walk can be just as replenishing particularly if your baby is at a stage where they are sleeping longer at night.
- Squat to play with your child – squatting to play with your baby not only reinforces some good habits for them but also creates the perfect opportunity to stretch your calves. If you can’t get your heels to the floor place a rolled up towel or similar under your heels. Try to straighten your feet & untuck your tail bone.
- Work your back whilst bathing/cot – These 2 are classic ways to a sore back if you don’t focus on your alignment but if you do then it’s a great opportunity to strengthen your back & stretch out your hamstrings. If you have tight hamstrings & can’t untuck your pelvis then bend your knees until you can. Try to keep your back straight & shoulders away from your ears. Change position to rest when you need to.
References: Katy Bowman ‘Move Your DNA’
If you have tight shoulders & are looking for relaxing ways to ‘unstick’ them here’s a few ideas that we use in the classes that also work really well particularly as transitions from one exercise to another. If you imagine where your arms are hanging most of the day & the range with which you mostly use them in you can see that these 3 variations on a shell stretch really take them into much more of an unused plane thereby freeing up all the stuck tissue around pectoralis & latissimus dorsi.
The picture above shows how you should anchor the stretch. Arms are pushing away into the mat & sit bones are pulling down, so you’re flexing the lumbar/lower spine by engaging the abdominals & pulling the ribs up (in the direction of the second smaller arrow). By drawing the ribcage up you will tension the stretch better through the shoulders instead of over extending into the thoracic spine – have a go with the ribs up & then down on your thighs & you’ll feel the difference.
If you want to optimise the stretches try to work with the breath by directing it into the ribs & underlying diagram in a 3 dimensional way (think like an accordian). You’ll be able to feel the skin stretch around the rib cage & so try to emphasise that expansion as you inhale & breathe out the tension from the stretch as you exhale.
- In the first variation the arms are straight out in front, trying to keep the hands in line with the wrists, elbows & shoulder. Head is relaxed, toes are tucked under for an extra, bonus plantar fascia stretch! There are many variations on the specifics of this pose for example Yoga’s Child Pose comes with a different emphasis but here as we are trying to specifically release the fascia around the shoulders I’ve selected these teaching points.
- In the second picture the arms are externally rotated with the palms up & correspondingly the forearms are also rotating outward – you will feel how this tensions the stretch differently & you’ll probably find it more of a challenge. See how far round (or not!) you can get your thumbs/backs of the hands flat to the floor! Head relaxed & breathing wiiiiide! Keep thinking about the same anchor points, this is not a flop-on-your-thighs-&-go-to-sleep kind of stretch, you want to be actively working on the position both with the breath & with the anchor points. As the intensity of the stretch dissipates you can try to reach a little further.
- Lastly we’re working more laterally into the sides of the back by bringing one arm all the way across & anchoring onto the the other side. This time we breathe into that side – feel the skin stretch & try to expand it with each inhalation.
For more information or to attend one of my sessions get in touch & fill out my contact form!