Category Archives: Movement

By the way, real athletes don’t wear flip flops

Hey there! So last week we talked about shin splints and how to best take care of them. One very important piece of the puzzle also has to do with the shoes that you wear. But, I am not going to talk about the shoe that you are wearing while working out, but rather the shoe that you wear before and after, especially in the summer time. Wearing this shoe for many hours during the day, day after day, could have a big impact in a fairly short time frame. What am I talking about? I am talking about the flip flop.

Wait, what? The flip flop is not good for you? Isn’t it almost like a “barefoot” shoe with zero drop, isn’t that good? In terms of the flip-flop being a minimalist shoe with zero drop, I agree, that would be great for your feet. However, because there isn’t any attachment around your heel, you have to clench your toes every time you walk so that the flip flop doesn’t fall off. Because you are clenching your toes, the under side of your foot, the plantar fascia, becomes very tense and rigid. This rigidity deactivates the smooth “suspension system” in your feet that you were born with. This rigidity also translates into the rest of your legs and especially your shins, as these muscles is what helps your toes to clench down.

Sadly most of us have completely lost the flexibility and natural shock absorbing capacity of our feet over the years, due to wearing very hard, constricting shoes, high heels etc, and add to that the lack of walking barefoot on uneven ground. So, to compensate for that we keep looking for shoes with more and more cushioning thinking that it will solve the problem, when really we need to take care of our feet from the ground up, not bolstering them up like the Bubble Boy in Seinfeld!

Your feet contains 28 bones that all work together, but they also work like individual pistons constantly adapting to the ground that we walk on. It is a beautiful piece of machinery that we have tied down and constricted for so long that it now moves more like a 2 piece joint, rather than a 28 piston shock absorber. The best way to help yourself is to limit restricting or over cushioning shoes and starting to walk barefoot as much as possible.

But what about my flip flops? A couple of years ago I came across the information that wearing flip-flops any extended time is bad for your feet. As I had some problems with my shins and under my feet at the time I was intrigued, but also very sad as I loved wearing flip-flops. After having spent many years living the beach life in California, Australia and Indonesia, I had gotten used to wearing flip flops whenever possible. The one thing that probably saved me back then was being barefoot a lot and playing beach volleyball, like all of the time, which helped to even things out.

Anyway, I decided to try get rid of the traditional flip-flops, and switched to a “flip-flop sandal” by Havaianas that actually goes around the back of your heel. The effect was not instant, but I did notice a difference after about a week, and especially after using them on a city trip I noticed a huge relief compared to before, my feet just weren’t as stiff. Currently my feet and I are happy with this arrangement and have not turned back since.

I also have to say a few words on sandals like Birkenstocks. As they also do not have a heel strap, you have to clench your toes here as well, even though it might not be as obvious as with the flip-flop. And the arch support that so many people like about them, is actually what makes them so bad. Why? Because it makes our feet very lazy and we loose strength and agility. Think about it, it is for our feet as if we were walking around with crutches all the time. Yes, there is a time and a place, if you have injured yourself, where you might want to use crutches for as short time as possible. If you continue using them too long, you are going to build a dependency on the crutches and after a while you will feel uncomfortable moving without them. That is not a good habit to cultivate.

Maybe your running is not the culprit of why you are having some lower leg and foot issues. If suddenly you are wearing flip flops a lot of the time just because it’s summer, that could be what is causing or certainly adding to the problem. If you decide to start walking more barefoot and removing your flip flops, remember that with any change your body will need some time to adapt, so be gentle, think about the long run, and give yourself some time to get used to the changes. It may seem like small things, but at the end of the day it is all the little things that adds up and puts you in the situation where you are right now, so why not make small changes that will add to making the best possible version of you?

Ciao!  😉

 


Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with Havaianas

http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/risks-of-wearing-flip-flops

Don’t let these tiny muscles stop you.

We just had the ING night marathon here in Luxembourg and this weekend the Stockholm marathon is taking place. What do these two things have in common other than being great marathons? A lot of people will have pain along the front of the lower leg after the race. This is often a case of too much too soon, together with a non optimal running technique, and of course the more tired you get the worse your technique will be.

So maybe you have just recently been taking part in a race, or you have just upped the speed or kilometers in your training lately because the weather has been great (and who has time for a calculated steady increase then?), and now you have been feeling some pain along the front of your lower legs aka shins. The common misconception is that there is always an inflammation present when there is pain there, which is commonly called shin splints. So, most likely you will start downing the Ibuprofen to get rid of the alleged inflammation.

Before you do any of that, please do yourself a huge favor and check the muscles along the shin before jumping to any conclusions, especially m.tibialis anterior. If the muscles along the shins are tight they can cause a lot of pain there, and they can also refer pain to underneath the foot. More often than not, “shin splints” is simply a case of very, very tight muscles. It is very easy to mobilize these muscles yourself with a lacrosse ball. Check out the videos below for easy instructions on how to mobilize the muscles along the inside and outside of the shins. In the second video I do not agree about what she says about not using a lacrosse ball (she says it is too hard) as I think that it is very easy to adjust the pressure yourself. But of course, if you have different types of balls do try them out and see what works best for you.

video for mobilizing the inside of the shins

 

Sometimes the reason why these muscles are so tight could be because you are new to the sport, have new shoes, have added kilometers or intensity, or simply had a city trip where you were just walking a lot more than usual. If that is the case then doing this mobility exercise everyday for a minimum of a week, plus adding the couch stretch should more or less take care of the problem, depending of course on how severe the pain was from the beginning. If your shins are tight most likely your calves are tight also, so you might as well give them some love too. Dive into your mobility work and you will back into your running routine very quickly.

But, let’s say you went down Ibuprofen alley instead, and didn’t do any mobility work. Most likely you also stopped running which will take some of the pressure off. The Ibuprofen will make you feel as if the pain is going away, and after 10 days or so on anti-inflammatory medicine (in case you went to see the doctor) you are now cleared to go running again. Maybe the first day will be fine, but within a very short time, usually just a few runs, the pain will be back again, and you wonder why, why, WHY?

It is because you haven’t taken care of the tight muscles, which is the reason for your pain in the first place, and anti-inflammatory medication will not help you with that. You need to put some length back into these muscles so they can relax and be flexible again. I hear these kind of scenarios all the time in my practice when people are complaining about lower leg and foot pain, and people are often surprised to find out just how tight their muscles are along the shins. The second surprise is when they find out how easy it is to take care of this problem yourself with mobility work.

However, if this is a frequent area of pain for you, you should think about the long run (no pun intended) which means that you would want to look at improving your running technique. If you are putting your foot down in front of your pelvis when you run, as a typical heel striker would, you will put a tremendous amount of pressure along the shins, and further along the leg. This is really not ideal, as you also loose a lot of power this way. Think about it, did you ever go snow sledding as a kid? Well, if you did you will know that putting your feet out in front of you into the snow will slow you down. So when you are running it would be a lot more preferable to have the foot land underneath your pelvis with the forefoot instead. From this position if you just lean forward a little you have created a rolling forward motion. Find out more about this here. This technique takes a lot less energy and is also a lot easier for your body to absorb, being a spring like motion, and it also makes you faster. Win-win! In real life it (should) look something like this

Most people completely neglect their shins unless it becomes really painful. If you are a runner start thinking pre-hab instead of re-hab by moving this mobility exercise into your regular routine. That way you will instantly feel how you are doing, and can adjust right away, rather than waiting for the pain to be your motivator. Before I finish today’s writing I should also mention that there is one type of shoe, typically used in the summer time, that will wreck havoc on these muscles too, whether you are a runner or not, but more on that next week.

Be wiser and get ahead! Think pre-hab instead of re-hab 😉

Deskjockeys and athletes- take advantage of the couch!

Summer is here in Europe and I am seeing a lot more people out and about and doing sports. Awesome! This is also the time where a lot of people will decide that it is a good idea to start or restart running and cycling. With the ING night marathon in Luxembourg hitting the streets next weekend, (yes I will be there to cheer you brave guys on!), I get asked this question a lot – what stretches should I be doing?

Well, as you probably know by now, I am a real fan of mobility work because it targets the area right where you need it, and it’s very time efficient. So my first answer will be, do mobility work first. However there is one “stretch” that I find you should not do without. It is called the couch stretch, simply because it was invented on a couch, but no couch is required. This is not a static stretch though so it is important that you pay attention to the different segments and actively participate.

If you are a cyclist, runner or doing anything similar to that position, this should be on your daily to do list. If you are sitting all day at school or work this should also be on your to do list. If you are running and sitting all day I say you need to do this everyday.

Why is it so good? It gets into the whole front line (see deep and superficial lines from Anatomy Trains) of your legs, with the very important hip-flexors and rectus femoris (middle of your quads). If you can raise your arm up you will also get deeper into the hip-flexors, your abs and even lats (m.latissimus dorsi).

It is very important that you tighten the butt on the side where your leg is up on the wall, otherwise you will loose integrity of the spine, and that will keep you from working in the area that you are after. By tightening the butt and keeping your back straight, you will move your butt and back as one unit towards the wall, rather than bending just your back towards the wall.

Start in an easy position, tighten your butt and then move slowly towards the wall. After a little while release the butt muscles and move forward into a more relaxing position and then go at it again.

Remember, this position is not some high level acrobatics, even though it may feel like that for many of you. This should be easy – if you have good range of motion. If you are having trouble with this stretch it is a clear sign that you need to work on it. The very best option would be to do a few minutes of mobility work with the lacrosse ball or foam roller on your quads and hip-flexors first (and even lats), and then get into the couch stretch.

If this seems impossible for you right now, start by just sitting back on your heels for a few minutes. If even that is too uncomfortable, (contact me or someone in your area for an appointment because you need some more help), put a pillow, stack of books or a yoga block under your butt, so that you will challenge your position but not be in total agony.

Remember, if the couch stretch doesn’t count as acrobatics, sitting back on your heels comfortably counts as super easy. If it’s not, it is extremely important that you get to work on it before you do your knees and hips further or irreversible damage.

The good thing is that it often does not take as long as one thinks to improve your range of motion, so start working on it today and make a small note on where you are. Then check back in a weeks time after doing the couch stretch every day, and I am sure that you will have improved. Just try it!

One final video with a bit more description. Wishing you all a great weekend! 🙂

My best mobile friends

If you have followed my blog you know that I am a huge  believer in prevention and taking care of yourself. And just because you are traveling it doesn’t mean that you should stop doing that. One of my favorite methods for doing this is using mobility exercises. There are lots of different ways to get the job done and tools to help you. Depending on how long you will be traveling for and how much space you have in your suitcase, you will most likely have to choose between different tools to bring.

The following two tools are the most minimalistic tools that I bring along where I feel I get all the help I need. They easily fit into your luggage and can also be thrown into your hand luggage or backpack if need be.

No 1 is the lacrosse ball. If you have never seen one before it’s the size of a tennis ball but made completely out of rubber. Therefore it is a lot more versatile than the tennis ball as it does not cave in with added pressure. Basically put the ball on a part of your body that you feel needs extra attention, like your calves after a lot of walking. Slowly let the ball sink into the muscle and then move back and forth across a small area for a minute or two. In my previous post I wrote about how to use lacrosse ball in flight, you can read about that here.

No 2 is the Gemini. I absolutely love this tool and use this every day to mobilize all the way along the spine. The shape of the Gemini is specifically made for this and it works great. I have tried a lot of different mobility tools and so far I have not come across anything that has been more effective in working along the spine than this. You can also use it for larger muscle groups like the quads or lats if you wanted to.

Usually I will bring a yoga mat with me as well as it gets me good traction and helps me avoid some dodgy hotel room floors, but it is not necessary if you are short on space, and you could always use a towel if need be. If I still had some extra space left in my suitcase I would add a foam roller to the mix as I find it to be more effective going over larger muscle groups as well. But with the lacrosse ball and Gemini you really have everything you need, and as they are so easy to bring with you no matter where you are going you will always find them with me while traveling.

Enjoy your traveling and keep up your mobility work 😉

 

 

Staying mobile above the clouds

As I am writing this I am midair somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on my way to Hanoi in Vietnam. It is my second longer flight in just a few days and how to prevent getting stiff from all that sitting and speed up recovery is on my mind.
So what can you do to help yourself? My all time favorite is to use the lacrosse ball for the hamstrings and part of the glutes (butt). With all that sitting, blood circulation is compromised, especially in the legs. This creates a lot of stiffness which  besides making you move like an old grandma also can have longer lasting effects on your hips and knees. This is due to muscles becoming tight and therefore restricting full extension of the hip and knee, for example being able to straighten the leg completely. If you don’t get this taken care of immediately then pretty soon you can end up with low back pain due to the altered way of moving.

How to avoid all of this stuff? Whenever you can – get up and move a bit extra. It is often said to walk around the cabin as much as you can, but I tend to find this very challenging. Instead I try to add in some squats (and lateral lunges if space permits) every time I get up and go to the bathroom. As a minimum I do 10 squats before and 10 squats after.

When you get back into your seat use the lacrosse ball. You might be able to use a tennis ball but I don’t recommend it as I find it too soft against the seat.
Put the lacrosse ball under one of your hamstrings and then do small, slow movements across the ball with your leg. You can also move your lower leg from side to side and back and forth. There really is no right and wrong here so just try a few different angles and see what works for you. Then after a minute or two move the ball to another area and go through the same procedure. Once you have worked your way through one hamstring move the ball to the next.

I like to do this while watching a movie, and during a 10-12 hour flight I tend to do this at least 4 times. It is a huge help and as you only do small movements with the leg you are not jeopardizing to disturb your fellow passenger, which is a plus.

Of course you can do this on shorter flights too, or actually during any prolonged sitting. I have used this technique during long lectures for instance. Keeping the blood circulation as good as possible in your legs is also very important in preventing blood clots forming. You can read more about that here. I also find that compression socks are a great help. Make sure that you get some good ones that fit you correctly so that they are tight enough but not so tight that they are completely constricting you. You don’t want to feel as if an anaconda is eating its way up your leg! By measuring the width of your calf you should be able to find the right size for you.

The Using the lacrosse ball technique on my hamstrings have really saved me on many long flights so if there is just one thing you should try for your next flight, then try that.

Wishing you happy travel adventures 😉

 

Here is a motivational video for some more mobility on your next flight.


Air travel health tips from Harvard
http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/air-travel-health-tips

 

The streamlined warm-up that’s right on target!

And it can also can be done anywhere.

It is spring time, the weather is nice and the hours of daylight are longer. A lot of people find this time very motivating and suddenly I see a lot more people outside jogging and running. This is really great! However, within a few weeks I usually see a lot more people in my practice coming to see me for help due to running problems.

Pain associated with running can come from a lot of different reasons, such as tight hipflexors from too much sitting. Poor running technique putting too much pressure on the knees and ankles could also be a reason. Too much too soon, just increasing the kilometers in too short of a time, and not letting the body adapt is also a common mistake.

But, one of the main problems that I see, and I get this confirmed when talking to clients, is that there is no warm up and cool down. The reasons being as what I’m told: there just isn’t time for that, I don’t really need it, I warm up while I run…

“Flexibility is crucial to my fitness. Incorporating a good warm-up and cool-down into every session decreases my chances of injury.” -Samantha Stosur, pro-tennis player

Do yourselves a HUGE favor and take the time and get warmed up before running or taking part in any kind of exercise. This is just a few minutes spent prepping your body for what’s about to come and getting to areas that you might not get to while running, like your hips. This is not “extra” time, this is something that should be included in your exercise time frame every time. You might have been able to get away with it in the past, but it is just a matter of time before it catches up to you, so why not stay ahead of the game and create  a good work-out routine that includes a warm-up.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
-Benjamin Franklin

A good warm-up prepares the body for what’s coming. Your nerves get stimulated which means that your reactions will be quicker, and the dynamic movements increase the blood flow getting the body ready for action. Movement and warming up in different planes than just running keeps your body more flexible and less injury prone.

Below is a very streamlined warm up from The Run Experience, but it’s right on target and actually gets something done. I really like this combination and use it pretty much daily no matter what type of workout I’m doing. Do this dynamically before your workout, inside or out, and you can even slow it down a little and use as a cool down. Going one step further you should add something for your upper body as well but as we are keeping it very minimalistic, for now start with this.

After a couple of minutes of running I also like to add some lateral jumps into my routine. So if I was running forward I would turn to one side and jump sideways roughly 10 times in the same direction as I was already going in, then turn to my other side and do the same thing. This is a great way to get some more hip movement into the early part of your running routine, and increase body readiness.

A warm up should always be a part of your training. No excuses! 😉

 


Warm up and cool down info  https://youtu.be/zMReVEkdEnI

http://www.nsmi.org.uk/articles/injury-prevention/warming-up.html

 

 

Pillow talk – what’s your angle?

Imagine that you are standing up and looking straight ahead. Now turn your head 90 degrees as if you were to look over your shoulder. From there, tilt your head backwards. Here is a question for you, if you were to hold that position for about 7 hours, do you think that it would impact how your neck feels? I am confident that your answer is yes! Well, what if I were to tell you that when you are sleeping on your stomach this is the very position that your neck is in, which isn’t exactly great, so let’s see if we can improve on that.

In the previous post we learned about the best position for standing up. What is really interesting about that, is that to work on our posture standing up, we started with an exercise laying down. Huh, so does that mean that I can improve on my standing position while sleeping? I believe you can – which is pretty exciting news, I think. The key thing in the exercise was to keep the spine neutral. When we lay down we actually do this automatically, until we introduce the pillow.

“I realized that my ever-present pillow was, in fact, preventing the very motion of my neck I was practicing during my “stretch time.” -Katy Bowman [1]

When using a pillow, it puts our spine at an angle, like in the example above, or for the people sleeping on their backs, it moves their head much closer to their chest, which looks almost identical to the poor posture that many of us will be in while texting on the phone for instance. Using a pillow  just reinforces that same bad posture.

So why do we use a pillow?
It feels good because it allows us to stay within our limited range of motion. Take away the pillow and it is immediately obvious where our restrictions lie after a little while. We have gotten so lazy and stiff in our bodies that we are unable to conform to any surface unless it has thick, soft cushioning. And just because so many people are stiff in their necks we think that it is common to have this problem and we blame the poor pillow. Remember, common does not equal normal.

Animals and young children sleep in all sorts of weird positions, yet you never hear or see them complain about neck pain. Why? Because they are still very flexible in their bodies and can easily conform to different situations. Over time though as we get more and more rigid in our bodies we loose this fine suppleness, and that is when the problems starts to add up.

“Just as constant shoe-wearing and flat, unvarying terrain have left you with poor foot mobility and strength, always sleeping on something flat and squishy has altered the mobility and sensitivity of your parts. The joint-alterations required for ground-sleeping are natural and they’re currently under used. Your muscles are simply out of (sleep) shape.” -Katy Bowman [2]

About a year and a half ago I came across the book Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman where she talks about this. Your pillow is an orthotic is also a great article on the subject. Her solution was to get rid of the pillow, which really intrigued me, and so I decided to test her thesis. As per her recommendation I gradually reduced the height of my pillow, until I felt comfortable daring to give it up completely. The first days without a pillow felt weird, I mean I had been building up this habit my entire lifetime, but the cool thing was that my neck felt so much better. My range of motion improved with time, and that simply from sleeping. Genius!

All in all, it probably took me anout 3 months to get completely comfortable without a pillow. Sleeping on my side without a pillow took even a little longer to get used too, but these days I do not even think about it anymore. The best part? No more complaining about the bad pillows while staying in hotels. Whoop, whoop!

“Adaptation, people. Your body is the result of what you have done. Want a different body? Do something different.” - Katy Bowman [3]

When did we become so rigid and stiff in our bodies that we decided to blame the super soft pillow for being at the root cause of our neck problems? Stop for a moment and THINK about that.
Clients are often asking me which type of pillow I think is the best and they are often willing to spend a lot of money on one too. My advice would be this, invest that time and money in you instead. Work towards becoming more flexible and supple in your body, and start by (gradually) getting rid of your pillow.

What’s my angle?
Improving my neck and spine health while sleeping  😉
What’s yours?

 

 


Resources

[1] Katy Bowman Move Your DNA, release your Pillow p.155

[2] [3] https://nutritiousmovement.com/your-pillow-is-an-orthotic/

 

Is your phone crushing your neural highways?

Lets talk about the importance of spinal integrity because it can literally make or break you. If you imagine the brain as a big ball, and then connect a long tube to it, which would represent the spine and the spinal chord inside the tube, it is very important to keep the tube in a fairly straight line coming from the ball. Why is that?

If you pinch the tube, you will compromise the information flowing inside it, and over a longer period of time that pinching on the tube can cause irritation and inflammation. This is not something that you want happening close to your brain or anywhere along your spinal chord.

It would be like your nerve highway from the brain has been crushed into a tiny gravel road, but you are trying to get the same amount of traffic through anyway. There will be complications, accidents and traffic jams, and why would you choose that?

Nervous tissue (nerves) cannot stretch. It can only glide in the neural tubes, so we do not have as much playroom there like with muscle tissue. This is important to know because a relative small movement, which may not seem as much, like dropping your head down and staring at your phone, puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the nervous tissue.

Also when the tube is being pinched like that, a lot of signals never reach their destination, and in our  body this causes instability. That instability is not good, and the body tries to compensate with other muscle groups. These muscle groups are not supposed to do extra work in that area and so they will not be as sufficient or strong in the task, meaning that you will loose power. That instability will also increase your risk of injury, which is especially important in sports.

If you are doing a squat with a heavy load on your back, and you are pinching your spinal tube , usually by raising your head up high in the middle of the movement, you are compromising your spinal integrity, leaving performance on the table as you loose power and are setting yourself up for some potential serious injury right then or further down the road.

Do you think you are safe because you are not lifting any heavy weights? Well, the exact same neck position is seen on almost every desk-jockey in the office, and most likely you are one of them, so this is equally important for you too!

“Walk into any office building and you will likely see the majority of the workers sitting at their desks with their backs rounded forward, their shoulders caved in, and their heads hanging in front of their bodies…all of them looking as though they are suffering from advanced stages of osteoporosis, depression, and old age.” -Dr. Kelly Starrett [1]

Here is some more information from Dr. Kelly Starrett on Spinal Integrity

 

Last week we also talked about how sitting in a hunched over position like when you are staring at your phone actually will make you feel more sad. Now you can add future neck injury and loss of spinal integrity to that. In Sweden there is even a word for it, it’s called “paddnacke”[2] and can be translated to “Ipad neck” which has caused a lot of worrying in recent years as this issue is seen in younger and younger kids.

So, how should we stand properly without loosing integrity of our spine? In the book Deskbound [3] we are being taught how to stand up by first lying down, which is a really great exercise.

  1. That’s right, you want to lie down on the floor, face up, with the palms of your hands facing the ceiling, which aligns your spine and head in a neutral position.
  2. Now you want to tighten your glutes (butt muscles), which automatically rotates your pelvis (hips) into a neutral position.
  3. Thanks to gravity, your rib cage, shoulders and head will be well aligned as well.
  4. If you are unable to lie in this position or your shoulders and/or hands are not touching the floor, it is a strong indicator that you have very poor range of motion and your movement patterns have been compromised. If this is the case you need to start working on that immediately! Mobility 1-on-1 can help you with this.
Roger Frampton gives us a great TEDx talk about the spine and shows us easy adaptable advice on how to stand in the below video. I strongly suggest you watch the whole video, but if you are very short on time jump to the 11:00 mark for the “how to stand” advice.

 

What about standing and using your phone? This short video shows you what to do.

 

In this clip Dr. Kelly shows us a bit more about how to deal with the phone and computer in “Slow Death by Texting”.

Compromising your spinal integrity is very easily done in today’s sitting world with desk-jockeys, smartphones, and even having lost the knowledge of how to stand properly, and it comes at a very dire cost. Learn to see the signs right away and retrain your posture to take care of your spine so that the nerves can do their job without interference, keeping you strong and injury free.

Don’t smash your nerves onto gravel road, keep those highways open and running. 🙂

 


Resources

[1] Deskbound by Dr. Kelly Starrett, page 40

[2] Vi surfar oss till paddnacke

http://www.minnatunberger.se/ref/6c34f0c08e0b37190ed140e1d9c434db.pdf

[3] Deskbound by Dr. Kelly Starrett, page 64,65

 

Wonder Woman will land you your next job!

Can standing properly really make you happier? Can sitting in a lousy position make you feel more sad and depressed? And how can Wonder Woman really help you land your next job?

First off, think of someone who is really, really sad. In what kind of posture are they? There might be some small variables, but I am confident that the picture that you have in your mind looks something like the following. They are hunched over and are making themselves small, and the head is bent down. We all know this posture because we have all been feeling sad at one time or another.

Now I would like you to think of someone who is happy and feeling great. What do they look like? I am sure that they will stand tall with an open chest, maybe even have their arms raised above their head in a winning position. We all know this feeling too, and how good it feels.

So the questions is then, if when I feel sad I curl up into a little ball, and when I feel great I stand really tall, is the opposite also true? Meaning, if I curl up into a little ball, will that make me feel more sad, and if I stand really tall will that make me feel happier?

Amy Cuddy, a social psychology professor from Princeton [1] did a study on exactly this topic and this is what she found.

Your posture enforces chemical balance or imbalance of the hormones cortisol and testosterone in the body. Cortisol is known as our stress-hormone and too much of it makes us really nervous and stress-reactive. Testosterone is the dominance hormone which makes us more confident, and yes women have it too. The ideal combination is high testosterone and low cortisol, because that makes a strong, calm, confident leader that makes decisions without being stress-reactive.

Your body language will really change who you are and how other people view you. The two poses that were used in the research study [3] was the low power-pose and the high power-pose. Sitting in a slouched, small (sad) position for just 2 minutes made an increase in cortisol, and a decrease in testosterone. Standing in a high power-pose aka the Wonder Woman pose for just 2 minutes made the levels of testosterone increase and the cortisol levels decrease.

When our levels of cortisol is lower in combination of higher levels of testosterone we come across as calm, confident, comfortable and authentic, which makes us more hire-able.

“Expanding your body language—through posture, movement, and speech—makes you feel more confident and powerful, less anxious and self-absorbed, and generally more positive.” ― Amy Cuddy, [2]

Ok, sounds good to me, so how do I do this? Simple, use a high power-pose like the Wonder Woman for 2 minutes before an important meeting or exam and try to add times during the day when you are power-posing without thinking about it, like when you are using a stand up desk. If you do have to sit, sit as tall as possible with an open chest and don’t slouch.

Think about it, if only 2 minutes of power-posing was enough to measure a hormonal change in your body, what do you think happens when you sit in a slouched (sad) position for hours and hours on end? I think that it is really worth thinking about as our daily habits have a huge effect over a long period of time. I don’t know about you but I am definitely power-posing before my next meeting! Put the odds in your favor before your next big thing and watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk below, and why not try a power-pose at the same time?

Wonder Woman will help you get that job! 😉

 

 


Resources

[1] More on Amy Cuddy  http://www.amycuddy.com

[2] Amy Cuddy, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

[3] The Benefit of Power Posing Before a High-Stakes Social Evaluation https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/9547823/13-027.pdf?sequence=1

I ran 33 marathons last year by changing one thing – care to join me?

 “And wouldn’t you like to have the answer to these questions too while we are at it?”
How can I have less back pain?
What can I do to be smarter at work?
What can I do to get more oxygen into my lungs?
What can I do to burn more calories during a day outside of sport?
What can I do to help my digestive organs?
What can I do to help my blood circulation?
What does Ludacris, James Brown, Blue, Elton John, and Bob Marley have to do with this?

What if I told you that all of these questions have the same answer, including making me run 33 marathons? And that it all can be summarized right here by Ludacris in the first 10 seconds of his video:

Yes, that’s right, Ludacris knows what’s up. James Brown was right too when he told us to “get up offa that thing”. According to the book Deskbound there are a lot of reasons why sitting is bad for us, but the top two reasons are

“1. Sitting is an orthopedic disaster and can cause a myriad of body dysfunctions.
2. Sitting means that you are not moving, and being sedentary can have significant negative long-term health impacts.”

The perfect orthopedic storm (click for diagram)
We need to sit less and stand more, and the office is an excellent place to practice this. And if we do sit, we need to sit on the floor like a yogi, or on our knees, or in other positions where we are challenging our mobility, not locked into a hip-glued-stuck at 90 degrees because of excessive sitting. Our homes are an excellent place to practice this “new” way of sitting.

“A standing desk sounds great, but my office won’t supply one, so there is nothing I can do” is the most common comment that I get when this subject arises. Well I happen to disagree with this. First, I do have to say that I think that ALL work places should have the option of a standing desk. It is an investment in their employees health, one that will pay itself back during the long run for sure.

However, lets say that you work in one of these places that will not help you with a full on electric adjustable desk. Get creative and think outside the box! Don’t just give up, it is your health that we are talking about. Give this article to your HR department to give them feedback on what you and your department finds really important, and ask for their help. These days there are also a lot of really easy add-ons to a normal desk that makes it into a standing desk, that are not very expensive. Maybe your office can invest in that? Maybe you can go half-half? Check this out for inexpensive ideas or just google “stand up desk ideas”.

You should also think about the desk or work space you use at home, especially if you have kids. Help them to stay mobile as much as possible, and why not get them a standing desk? The Stand Up Kids Foundation is such a great project, and you should check it out even if you don’t have kids as there is so much useful information there. Listen to the podcast Pursuing Health with Julie Foucher episode #17 where she, Juliet and Kelly Starrett talks about standing vs sitting, and their latest project.

-Ok, so I also would like to have the ability to run 33 marathons in a year, how can I do that?
You automatically burn more calories standing than sitting. If you were to simply stand during normal office hours over the course of a year, you will burn approximately 100 000 extra calories. For a roughly average person running a marathon they would burn about 3300 calories. So, by the simple act of standing while working you have now burnt as many calories as if you had run 33 marathons in a year. Pretty nifty if you ask me!

-How can I have less back pain?

“Workers who used sit-stand desks were 78% more likely to report a pain-free day than those who used regular workstations, according to a Stanford University back pain study. “(A)

-What can I do to help the internal functions of my body?
-What can I do to get more oxygen into my lungs?
-What can I do to help my digestive organs?

Excessive sitting impacts our body’s metabolic system: “Today, our bodies are breaking down from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression and the cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease.”(B) ~ James Levine, MD, PhD

By standing you will improve the amount of oxygen that gets into your body, by not squashing your lungs while sitting, this also improves the blood circulation as it doesn’t get “cut off” from the pressure around your waist and hips. Less pressure around the stomach area and good blood supply also helps our digestive organs function properly.

-What can I do to be smarter?

Our brains work better with well oxygenated blood which it will get from standing, moving and standing up also activates different areas in the brain that makes us “smarter”. (C) The area responsible for movement is for example close to our memory area in the brain. That means that when our movement center gets activated our memory center gets activated too by close proximity. This is why kids will jump up and down while talking for instance as it is then easier for them to find their words. Also, think about it, when you get a very important phone call, will you stand up and pace around or will you sit down? I am 100% sure that you will be standing up.

Is standing at work the total solution for all your health problems? Of course not, that would be too easy unfortunately. It is however a great and super easy way to minimize the damage you are doing to yourself and stopping the process of your hips being completely glued stuck from a sitting position.

Remember to start gradually and wearing flat shoes or preferably none. Maybe you want to start with standing up first thing when you get into the office, and right after lunch for as long as you find comfortable. If you cannot see yourself standing all the time, try to think of it as interrupted sitting. Change does take time, so keep working on it, and try to avoid long stretches of sitting as much as you can. Ladies, if you are wearing heels, you need to take them off while standing, because they throw your hips into an awkward position no matter how fancy they are due to the angle of the heel. Maybe you can have a pair of flat shoes under your desk and just change for your meetings if need be?

Bob Marley tells us to “get up, stand up”, and Elton John says “I’m still standing”. But, amazingly enough Blue summarizes it perfectly with “All rise, all rise – I rest my case”.

 

I am already on “marathon #5 for this year, where are you?  😉

 


Resources

  1. A. http://www.juststand.org/tabid/636/language/en-US/default.aspx
  2. B. http://www.juststand.org/tabid/816/language/en-US/default.aspx
  3. C. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3546096/Standing-class-makes-children-SMARTER-Pupil-s-brain-boost-spend-lessons-feet.html
  4. Benefits of a Standing Desk https://authoritynutrition.com/7-benefits-of-a-standing-desk/

Books

  • Get Ready to Run by Kelly Starrett
  • Deskbound by Kelly Starrett
  • Don’t just sit there by Katy Bowman
  • Move your DNA by Katy Bowman

P.S. Here is an inspirational Stand Up playlist

  • Get up – Ciara ft. Chamillionaire
  • Stand up – Ludacris ft. Shawnna
  • Get up, stand up – Bob Marley
  • The real slim shady (please stand up) – Eminem
  • Get up, stand up – Phunky Phantom
  • I’m still standing – Elton John
  • Still standing – Monica ft.Ludacris
  • Get up offa that thing – James Brown
  • Get up – 50 cent
  • Sax – Fleur East (ok, ok she doesn’t talk about standing up, but this song should be enough motivation for you to get out of your chair and stand up, especially on a Friday! “C’mon give it to me”)