Have you gotten clear on your ONE fitness goal for January 2020?
Does it include having more energy and less inflammation in your body?
Is 2020 the year you become a joyful & well-rested Wellness Warrior?
If so, we’ve put together a few NEW YEARS deals on our online bodywork camps to help you get started without burning yourself out.
They’ll help you take the first step to having more energy, ease & flow each day… by giving your body the gift of stretching and massage to release your tight & tender spots with less than 10 minutes of daily self-care (or what we call "stretch-care").
Both camps begin on January 6th.
At this time of year when there’s a ton of pressure to speed things up and change everything about your workouts and diet, we want to show you the benefits of slowing things down.
Let’s set you up for success by breaking the habit of going too hard, too fast. It’s THE recipe for inflammation, injury and burnout.
Instead let's calm your body with daily fascial stretch-care and bodywork tools so it has time to work its magic...to heal itself and get stronger.
Your body gets stronger at rest.
You can train smarter by resting harder whether it's to support your workouts or your wellness.
Our bodywork camps show you how easy it is to do this.
They lay the ground work for you to stay active, agile, & pain-free at any age.
It’s like when the flight attendant says to “put on your oxygen mask first.” Our camps are the "oxygen" for a strong, well-rested body & mind.
Our online bodywork camps are on special until December 31st. Choose the one that is the best fit for your body's needs right now.
GETTING STARTED WITH YOUR STRETCH-CARE:
If you’re a newbie to fascial stretch-care, our online MINI Bodywork Camp™ (How to Foam Roll & Massage for More Freedom & Flow) will help you get started with a simple daily foam roller routine. You'll learn how to use our favorite flexibility hack, foam roller massage, to calm your body for better mobility & stretch results- it’s 50% off for a limited time. Learn more.
GOING PRO WITH YOUR STRETCH-CARE:
If you’re ready to take a deeper dive into improving your mobility for better posture & faster recovery from workouts, you’ll want to check out the special we’ve got on HIP Camp™ (Stretch Care & Recovery Tools for the Mindful Athlete). It includes an AWESOME bonus holiday offer: The Pelvic Floor 5 Day Strength Challenge.
HIP Camp™ is our 4 week online base training program that will help you build a strong core with a well-rested body & mind. We'll walk you through our simple system to find & treat ALL your spots- the tight, tender, weak (& tired) spots to make lasting changes in your mobility & performance. You can get $150 off when you pay in full or we have a new payment plan option available with this special offer. Learn more.
It’s time to renew & refresh yourself in 2020.
Let’s do this!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. All holiday deals and bonus offers expire Tuesday, December 31st at 5pm CST.
The Pelvic Floor 5 Day Strength Challenge is a BONUS offer when you purchase HIP Camp™ by December 31st. It includes a pop-up Facebook Group for coaching & support beginning February 3rd. We’ll have daily challenges + office hours for questions, prizes, and cover strength, cardio, & clean eating exercises to improve the health of your pelvic floor & more. It’s the perfect compliment to HIP Camp™ trainings. Learn more about camp here.
Did you figure out your Peak Time to workout yet? If so, did you shift anything around in your schedule and see changes in your energy or performance?
Hope so. I've got another fitness hack to help you plan your workouts.
You can use your monthly cycle to help guide you with exercise.
Cycle check in (for females):
Where are you in your monthly cycle?
Your body needs different activity and has different energy levels based on the changes in hormones you go through each monthly cycle.
Paying attention to and respecting these needs throughout the month will help your body have more energy and perform better with less effort.
In general, you want to be gentle and take it easy while you are bleeding and start to ramp up exercise during the middle of your cycle. You want to ramp down as you approach the end of your cycle.
Beginning of your cycle (Days 1-5): focus on Rest/Reflect/Relax activities (i.e. naps, meditate, gentle stretching/walking).
Middle of your cycle (Days 6-20): you can train harder and increase the intensity (i.e. strength, cardio, interval training).
End of your cycle (Days 21-28): start to taper down training (i.e. yoga, pilates).
To dig deeper into this, check out the:
Not bleeding regularly or at all? You can use the lunar cycle to guide you. Kate's book talks about this in detail but basically:
If you are male, you can do this too. You actually go through all these hormone cycles in a 24 hour period. Every. Single. Day. You've got a few options:
Cycle syncing + working out at your Peak Time will help you get better results with less effort!
If you test it out, you'll see what I mean. Give it a go and let me know your results in the comments below.
P.S. Want to feel, move, & perform better in 3 minutes or less? Download the free MINI MOVES Daily Planner & Cheat Sheet for simple self-care exercises that’ll help your body feel more energy, ease and flow each day.
Do you wake up feeling well-rested and pain-free on most days?
Did you know that’s even possible?
Lots of clients tell us they’ve always been tight, are living with aches and pains, and assume they always will be.
Because that’s what happens when you get older, right?
You’re not destined to a life of stiff or sore muscles, slowing down, and eventually falling and breaking your hip.
Stiff joints, sore muscles, and fatigue are all signs of over-training (or over-doing) and not giving your body enough rest or recovery time between your workouts and activities.
Your body needs time to work its magic…to heal and repair itself.
Stiff, sore muscles are also signs you need to work on your mobility or flexibility.
The truth is…
You can win the battle against gravity, sitting, adhesions from old injuries, and the impact exercise has on your body’s flexibility as you age.
It’s possible even if you’ve never touched your toes.
It’s about technique and knowing what to target.
Once you know the fundamentals, you can see how easy they are to sprinkle into your day.
The pill-free way…
So, how can you stop struggling with stiff, sore muscles and fatigue?
You can stretch.
You know that thing you skip when you're trying to squeeze in a quick workout.
But, here's the deal.
Healthy tissue isn’t stiff. It’s elastic. Bungee cord like versus rope like.
Is that how you feel when you move right now?
If not, it’s OK because it’s never too late to improve your flexibility.
The first step…
Stretching is the first step to bringing the spring back into your tissue (after having good hydration and sleep habits).
And it doesn't take a lot of time when you know what to target and what to do before and after you stretch.
Just like we’ve evolved from flip phones to smart phones, we’ve made advances in stretching that’ll make a lasting impact on your flexibility and posture.
If you feel pain with stretching, you’ve gone too far…
There’s nothing more annoying than seeing an athlete on the sidelines getting his hamstring cranked on by a trainer. There is such a thing as over-stretching.
Bottom line: if you have pain with stretching, your body will tighten up more. The body’s response to pain is to protect, tighten up, guard.
And since you’re the best judge of what’s painful or not, you’re the one who should be the stretch “super star” of your body.
You can help your body stay active, agile, & pain-free at any age when you know # 1 thing to target with your stretching and how to stop over-stretching.
We’ll show you how in our FREE training, MINI MOVES: How to have more energy, ease, and flow in your workouts (& life).
In this free mini training series, you’ll learn:
READY TO BE ACTIVE & AGILE AT ANY AGE?
The technique we’ll share with you can benefit everyone. We’ve used it on clients with chronic neck or back pain to professional athletes.
Our pros always seem to achieve their personal best after a treatment (i.e. no hitter, new race time).
Are we promising you’ll become as flexible as a prima ballerina if you stretch daily? No, anatomy and genetics does play a role.
But it’s never too late to improve your flexibility…
if you’re willing to spend 10 minutes a day on simple self-care stretches and moves.
Let's get you stretching with (lasting) benefits!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. Sign up before 6/10/19 to get the free Mini Moves training – it's in 3 short parts (just like your stretch self-care can be) to help you feel better, move better, and ultimately live better.
Whenever you set a new fitness goal, its completely normal to get off track while it’s becoming a habit. You’ll most likely go too hard, too fast and burn yourself out. It’s human nature.
The research tells us this will happen to ALL of us. 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned in the first two weeks of January!
What’s more important is how fast you bounce back. How resilient you are. Not that you got off track.
You can build your resilience muscle. It just takes practice picking yourself up. In order to do that you have to become mindful of when you get off track. The faster you realize it, the faster you can start up again.
You’ve also got to learn to let go of the guilt of eating that cookie or not going to the gym. Before you go beating yourself up, focus on the fact you caught yourself or noticed that sneaky habit of procrastination and commit to starting over.
It’s OK if you over complicate it, overwhelm yourself, or get distracted by the new shiny object. We want it all NOW. New things excite us. They turn on our brain’s happy hormones. How many books have you started that you haven’t finished?
Whether it’s the holidays, a vacation, or a busy schedule that throws you off track, having the mindset of expecting to get distracted will make it much easier to get focused again on your goal.
Besides working on your mindset around goals, you can try these tips to help you stay and get back on track with them. Take 5-10 minute to reflect on the following when setting a new goal:
Download your Mindful Athlete Goal Setting Worksheet to help you avoid burning yourself out with your new fitness goal.
Keep in mind that fitness goals are really the steps that make up a larger lifestyle journey. It's about deep breaths and baby steps. It’s about progress not perfection. You're training for a marathon not a sprint. Building your resilience muscle will help you stay on course.
You’ve got this!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. Avoid burnout & overwhelm with the Mindful Athlete Goal Setting Worksheet - it's free! Download here.
What would you say is the most important training day? Do you think it’s the day you push it to your max?
Nope. It’s the opposite- your recovery day.
Do you even have one?
You stretch after running. That counts right?
No, but close. You need a day of rest from your normal training activities each week.
This day will look different for everyone since work (job/school) and training activities (exercise/workouts) vary between people.
Does the icing or massage you do to get rid of and decrease your muscle soreness count?
It's a good start, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Having a day off from training each week is necessary to perform your best, learn new skills and to build strength or stamina.
Planning your training around your recovery day is ideal.
It’s normal for this to stir up some anxiety. Here’s the good news.
This doesn’t mean you have to lie around on the sofa unless you feel that’s what your body needs that day.
You can stay active on your recovery day by doing something different than your normal workouts or training. For example, the runner who does yoga on her rest day.
Finding a healthy balance between training and rest is important for both optimal brain function and to build muscle strength.
Your body needs to be in a relaxed state to self-repair. Workouts cause muscle damage. Whenever you’re training or learning a new skill/information, your brain and body need rest to grow.
An athlete who doesn’t make recovery part of their fitness plan is at high risk for burn out and even depression.
It’s no different than the workaholic that never takes a vacation. Stress is stress. It can be emotional, mental or physical in nature. Work is stress whether it’s for your job or training for your sport.
Your body needs a regular time out each week. Rest will re-build energy and re-balance your mind and body.
Rest can be done in short spurts throughout the day, post workout and by taking a recovery day off from training for your sport.
BENEFITS OF RECOVERY TECHNIQUES
RECOVERY TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES
Download and test out this free 3 minute Active Recovery Yoga Routine for Runners.
Here’s the tricky part to recovery:
There isn't a MIRACLE recovery technique for everyone or every sport.
Everybody is different. It’s not just what you are putting your body through physically during training. It’s also what is going on emotionally and mentally during training and in the rest of your life.
It’s also impacted by what you believe is helping you. What we believe is true for us. That applies to everything not just whether you believe that ice pack is helping your muscle soreness go away faster.
WHICH TECHNIQUES ARE BEST?
It depends. Some research shows that active recovery or ice baths boost performance for some athletes.
It’s usually a combo of techniques and is dependent on many factors: hormones, age, gender, stress level, your sport, your beliefs, etc. What works at age 25 may not work at 40.
If you’re female, your hormones change daily but on a monthly cycle. Every day is slightly different.
If you’re male, your hormones go through a daily cycle. Every day is more or less the same.
WHEN SHOULD YOU DO THEM?
It depends. Recovery can be done throughout the day, post workout and by taking a day off from training.
You have to know your body, your sport, your work load, and emotional stress level to decide what’s most beneficial for you.
It depends. :) You need to test different techniques by listening to your body before, during and after you train.-ultimately evaluating your overall performance.
It’s ideal to test new techniques between seasons or before competitions to see how your body responds.
WHERE DO I START?
It's complicated so...
In order to learn how to balance fitness and fatigue, you have to test, train, then tune in to your body to see how it responds.
Your body knows best!
Here are a few examples of how you can easily add rest and recovery to your training plan:
Want more help getting started?
Our next blog post will go through the 3 steps to help you make a recovery plan that increases your strength and energy while decreasing stress and risk for injury.
In the meantime, you can download and test out this 3 minute Active Recovery Yoga Routine for Runners.
It's just in time for Spring Training Season!
Your body knows best. What you believe matters. We grow when at rest. Not by pushing harder.
OVER TO YOU:
What's your favorite recovery tool? If you haven't tried any, which one are you going to test out this week? Tell us in the comments.
Team Core Power
You’ve done your research and found your Pilates studio and instructor. You're ready to take your first class but aren't sure which one to start with. Here are some things to consider before you sign up.
MAT OR EQUIPMENT CLASS?
Pilates exercises are performed on the mat and on equipment. The classical (“traditional”) exercises are divided into beginner, intermediate and advanced exercises.
There are traditionally 34 Pilates mat exercises but many ways to modify them for your fitness needs and body type.
There are also 100’s of variations for each piece of Pilates equipment (Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, Barrel or Spine Corrector as well as additional tools/props).
Keep in mind as you join classes that not every piece of equipment is appropriate for everyone all of the time.
Investing in an experienced instructor will not only help you build a strong foundation but teach you how to modify the exercises and guide you to the right equipment for your current fitness level.
When I started Pilates, I was rehabbing from a back injury so I spent a lot of time on the Barrel and Cadillac. As I healed, I added more exercises on the Reformer which requires more stability.
Ideally you'll learn both the mat and equipment exercises. Once you know the mat work, it can supplement your equipment workouts.
In order to prevent injury, you should always be encouraged to master beginner exercises before moving onto intermediate or advanced levels no matter your fitness level. Every exercise builds on itself.
Aim for 2-3 workouts a week when starting out.
You’re going to hear some common cues when you are taking a Pilates class. Let’s decode some of them.
Pilates Common Cues to Master
Stop and regroup if you lose your form during your workout. Watch that you’re moving symmetrically. Keep your hips and shoulders even. Make sure you’re not:
I know. It’s a lot to think about. That’s why Pilates is mind body exercise.
You have to be mindful while you do the movements otherwise you're just going through the motions and won’t see or feel changes in your body. The more you practice, the easier it is to focus on your form.
I recommend you learn to do a head to toe mental checklist while performing each exercise. I actually start at the feet and work my way up to the head during each movement to check that I’m in the correct position. Download this VIDEO to get the sequence I use.
Pilates is about quality not quantity. Low reps with good form and a variety of movements will make up a good workout session.
When you can coordinate your breath with the movement, you’ve most likely mastered that particular exercise. It’s the more challenging aspect of Pilates but also the most healing. The breath work is calming for your nervous system and gets your circulation going which helps keep your tissue healthy and release toxins.
In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body- Joseph Pilates
Pilates is an excellent form of exercise to build a strong foundation and a more balanced body but what you do outside the studio can have a bigger impact on your overall posture and performance.
Want to truly transform your body and take Pilates concepts and cues into your day, gym workouts, or running?
Download this free video on the HEAD TO TOE POSTURE CHECKLIST that I made to help you reset your posture (and identify some of your tight spots) throughout your daily activities.
P.S. Don't forget to share the HEAD TO TOE POSTURE CHECKLIST video download with your exercise buddies.
I’ll admit it. I’m a Pilates snob. I’m picky about my instructors, the equipment I use, and the studio I go to.
It all traces back to how I started my Pilates journey in the bottom of an old Houston Firehouse at a time when you couldn’t use the word Pilates.
It wasn’t fancy but everyone in the studio was focused and dedicated to their workouts on these archaic looking machines. It was just before the trademark dispute settled in 2000.
Studios all over the country were teaching Pilates but couldn’t call it that from 1992-2000 because of a lawsuit over the name.
Once “Pilates” was freed up, it exploded. It was everywhere.
You know what that means. Overtime, the exercises start to get watered down or adapted. The Pilates Method wasn’t immune to this phenomenon.
With the craze of group fitness classes, it’s easy to miss out on the full benefits of Pilates if you didn’t learn it through private lessons in a fully equipped studio with an experienced instructor.
Done right, you’ll walk out of your Pilates session a different person than going in. You’ll feel taller, calmer, centered... EMPOWERED.
Pilates is an art form like martial arts or dance so knowing the history and purpose behind the exercises will help you experience the full benefits of it.
Just like dance, the more you practice Pilates, the more you perfect it.
The first step is learning the movement pattern for each exercise then you progress to focusing on your form from head to toe while executing each exercise.
The goal is to eventually become your own coach. You can’t do that without having a good instructor to help you learn how each exercise should feel on your body.
"Pilates is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace & skill that will unmistakably be reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work" - Joseph Pilates
Pilates is defined as a movement system that uses spring-driven machines as well as a series of floor exercises to increase strength, flexibility, stamina and concentration. Joseph H. Pilates was the German inventor of the Pilates exercise method that he originally called “Contrology.”
Joseph Pilates was a sickly child and he believed exercise could heal and keep us healthy. He created his exercise method by combining the mental focus and breath of Yoga with physicality of gymnastics and other sports as growing up he was a diver, skier, boxer and gymnast.
He perfected his method and designed his equipment working with injured German soldiers and eventually the NYC ballet. His wife Clara continued his training method at their NYC studio after he died in 1967.
“Be in control of your body and not at its mercy”- Joseph Pilates
BENEFITS OF PILATES
We all have muscle imbalances from being right or left handed, swinging a tennis racket, carrying a baby on one hip, or holding the phone to one ear that effect our posture, strength, flexibility and make us prone to injury as we age.
Pilate’s exercises are full body movements designed to improve posture, build a strong core, and improve balance and coordination without stressing our joints.
The more balanced your body, the more efficient your movement can be.
Pilates is not only a fun way to exercise but it can change your body overtime and can be adapted for injuries or sports training.
It will improve your performance for fitness, sports or life.
How is this possible? Most people think of Pilates as just a good core workout but it’s more complicated than that.
Pilates is mindful movement and each exercise involves 6 key principles: breath, concentration, control, centering, precision and flow.
1. Breath- you never want to hold your breath during Pilate’s exercises. Keep it flowing. Typically you inhale to prepare and exhale during the movement.
2. Concentration- As you master the exercises, you’ll become better at performing a mental checklist head to toe for your form noting what is correct and incorrect and fixing it as you move. A Pilates instructor’s cueing is critical when you’re first learning to help you become more aware of the feel for the correct positions and movements.
3. Control- you’re learning how to control your body with your mind which trains you for life or sports and decreases your risk for injury.
4. Centering- in Pilates, all movements flow from a strong center. Basically, you turn on your core first and then move arms and legs with each exercise.
This is probably the easiest principle for people to grasp but takes a lot of mental power to do it properly during the entire exercise or workout.
You’ll hear the cue “scoop your belly” (or something similar) in your Pilates class but do you really know what you are supposed to feel or do?
Let’s break this down since it’s so important.
Your core involves a complex series of muscles from arm pits to hips and helps keep the spine aligned during movement.
In Pilates, you’re targeting the stabilizer muscles of your core- Pelvic Floor, Transverse Abdominus, hip rotators, and low back (Multifidus).
The Transverse Abdominus muscles, your deepest abdominals, run across your lower abdomen from hip to hip and coordinates closely with your pelvic floor muscles.
During each Pilates exercise, you want to turn on your core by focusing first on contracting your pelvic floor muscles or doing the Kegel exercise. It’s an up, back and in motion.
The Kegel should help the rest of your core muscles fire properly. If I’ve lost you, refer to my blog post on how to do a Kegel. It’s key to building a strong foundation with Pilates exercises.
5. Precision- you’re focusing on perfecting each movement by being precise in your focus and form.
6. Flow- you concentrate on moving with ease and grace during each individual exercise as well as connecting each exercise together like a dance to improve balance and coordination. You avoid jerky motions, holding a position or stopping between exercises. Just like your breath should keep flowing so should your movement.
In order to master these 6 Pilates Principles and transform your body, you’ll need to find a good Pilates studio. I’ll share my tips for that in my next blog post.
Subscribe so you don’t miss out on my “Finding your Pilates Studio Checklist” then go practice your Kegel!
Never underestimate the power of the human spirit. It’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout the years of working in brain injury rehab.
My motto while working on the brain injury unit at TIRR Hospital in Houston Medical Center was “you never know” what someone’s full recovery will look like. I always tried not to focus on the damage but instead on the strengths the patient had at the time I was meeting them and how to build on that.
The brain is able to rewire due to neuroplasticity with the right stimulation, rest, challenge and attitude.
When you go through something traumatic like a brain injury, it’s the things we take for granted that become important goals: walking, talking, eating, or spending time with your loved ones. In order to stay motivated to achieve those goals, it’s your attitude that plays a huge role in staying the course.
Working with and helping people is a two way street. I always learn a lesson or two (or three) from those I have the privilege to guide through their recovery as a Physical Therapist.
From Steve Lawton, I learned the power of positivity in the healing process. I was thrilled to hear in January that Steve was sharing his story of recovery from a ski accident through his new book, “Head First- a crash course in positivity”.
You CAN build your capacity to be positive just like you can build strength in a muscle.
Steve’s new book is a great way to learn how to strengthen your positivity muscle. His book launch at Book People happened to be the week prior to my dad’s colon cancer surgery.
Hearing Steve share his story reminded me to take one day at a time and focus on what I can control. My thoughts and attitude were really all I could control.
I’ve been through two cancer journeys with my mom and brother that showed me the difference between catching it early versus catching it late. Deep down I felt that we had found my dad’s cancer early but it’s so easy to get worked up about the what if’s when your waiting for a diagnosis. I didn’t want dad to spend the next several years battling this disease into his late 70’s.
I needed to trust the physician and nurses to do their best and that we could handle whatever they found during the surgery. I also chose to focus on all the things that had led up to us finding this tumor and the timing of it.
There is never a good time to go through a cancer diagnosis/treatment but if it had been a year ago, my dad wouldn’t have been a surgical candidate. And we wouldn’t have found it if he hadn’t been on blood thinners to decrease his risk for another stroke.
Ironically, I heard Steve speak again two weeks after my dad’s colon surgery. We’d gotten excellent news. We’d found the cancer early and no further treatment was needed.
That was a huge relief but due to my dad’s age he was recovering slowly from the anesthesia which meant a week in the hospital plus 10 days in inpatient rehab.
My goal after his surgery was to get him out of the hospital environment as fast as possible. The longer you’re in the medical system, the more medications you can end up on and the higher your risk for infection. It’s also stressful and disruptive to not only the patient but the family to be in that world.
It just wasn’t safe to bring dad home yet. He needed more time to heal.
This second time I heard Steve speak, I was struggling with balancing all the demands from my dad’s medical needs, the delay home and trying to get myself out of survival mode.
Steve’s message was perfectly timed as he shared with us how he shifted from survival to recovery mode during his amazing journey back to life. He emphasized the importance of making the shift from “why me” to “what now” to get out of overwhelm and victim mode after a traumatic event.
To make the shift, you can begin by looking at what went right, finding the gratitude for those things and refocusing on your next goal.
Even though I was very grateful for the good news from the surgeon and all the things that caused us to find my dad’s cancer early, the delay in getting my dad home was making it difficult to calm myself and my life back down.
I recognized I needed to take advantage and get myself back on track with my daily routines to be ready for the next phase in dad’s recovery.
I didn’t have total control of my time yet but I could focus on the small moments I did have available to do breathing exercises, make healthier food choices, do some type of exercise, spend time with my dogs and get outside as much as possible. I also made an acupuncture appointment to help reset my nervous system.
All of these choices added up to help me get out of feeling overwhelmed and refueled me just in time to help my dad transition home.
Another way to build your positivity muscle and ability to reset your attitude throughout the day is to have a daily practice from 10 minutes to an hour where you focus on things that calm, center and refocus you.
You have to find what works for you but doing some form of meditation, journaling, and/or exercise is usually a good place to start. Steve’s book has some practical tips on how to begin a morning routine as well.
I had been doing this kind of a practice most mornings prior to my dad’s surgery so I was able to tap back into the routines to help me get out of survival mode much faster than if I hadn't developed one.
Steve’s story of recovery is powerful- fighting for his life after hitting a tree head first while skiing at Breckenridge, CO in 2014 to writing and launching a book about it in 2017!
I encourage you to check out his book that covers 8 steps to increase your positivity, watch his Ted Talk and/or take the Positivity Quiz on his website: stevehlawton.com to learn more about building your positivity muscle. It’s been a great resource for me.
Remember -Anything is Possible!
Besides being hard to pronounce, do you really know what a Kegel is? It’s a strengthening exercise for your pelvic floor (PF) muscles which run from the basin between your pubic bone and tailbone.
If you think of the pelvis like a bowl, the muscles would cover the inside of the bowl (with some holes in the bottom depending on your gender). During a Kegel, you contract and relax those muscles. Even men can do them.
A lot of women believe it’s normal to leak as you get older when laughing, jumping, coughing, or running. That’s actually a sign of a weak pelvic floor.
And doing a 1000 crunches isn’t going to strengthen them!
Most likely your physician has told you to remember to do your Kegel’s at your annual visit. It’s common to have NO clue what you're supposed to feel. I've found that most of my clients are doing the Kegel wrong because they are pushing out during the exercise.
What does the PF do?
These important muscles form the base of your "core” and help with sphincter control, supporting the pelvic organs and are involved in sexual sensation.
What’s the big deal?
When they’re weak, you can have incontinence (leaking of urine or bowel), organ prolapse (bladder, uterus or rectum) and diminished sexual response. Again they form the base of a strong core.
Your core is your center from lower ribs to below your bottom. All movement begins here in the stabilizer muscles- Pelvic Floor, Transverse Abdominus, hip rotators, low back (Multifidus). The Transverse Abdominus (TA) muscles, your deepest abdominals that are so hard to workout, run across your lower abdomen from hip to hip and coordinates closely with your PF. When strengthening your core, you want to focus on PF first by doing the Kegel exercise.
Still not convinced it’s worth the effort?
Well how about if you knew it would help you have better sex (i.e. stronger orgasms) or to help flatten your belly? Besides those benefits, a strong core has been shown to decrease risk for injury in athletes.
Before I share how to do a proper Kegel and turn on your core, you need to know that:
Also ladies- you’ll notice that it’s easier to do them during the middle of your cycle and more difficult at the beginning of it due to hormone changes. Just keep at it!
How do you find your PF?
This exercise will help you feel the contraction of the PF muscles so you know when they are working:
What’s the proper way to strengthen your PF?
Most likely you were not breathing while you did the movement above. It would be embarrassing to pass out from a Kegel. So now we have to learn how to breathe while you do the contraction of the PF:
You can practice this exercise anytime- while driving, doing chores, lifting children, standing in line. You can do it while lifting weights or running. The more complicated the activity you are doing, the more challenging it will be to hold the Kegel and breathe. The more you do a few reps throughout the day, the stronger the PF and TA will become to help flatten your belly and increase your pelvic support as well as strengthen sensations during sex (i.e. stronger orgasms).
7 bonus resources for having or maintaining a healthy PF:
4. Unlock your hip muscles prior to doing Core exercises. Target the Psoas (hip flexors) and glut muscles with trigger point massage tools and stretching for example Pigeon Pose.
5. Want to challenge your core (and your injury free)? Find a Pilates or Pure Barre studio near you to strengthen your body at least 2 times a week.
6. Check out the Squatty Potty™- a toilet stool that puts your body in the best posture for pooping which will take pressure off your PF especially if you struggle with constipation.
7. Lastly, most women could use more pleasure and fun in their life. Right? Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts is a great resource for helping you get back in touch with your feminine (pleasure) side.
Have you ever wondered why a professional athlete can return so fast from an injury to a high level of competition while the average person with the same injury can barely get back to walking in that amount of rehab time?
You might just chalk it up to the “pro” being a finely tuned machine. They are, of course, but a ligament is a ligament whether you are “pro” or not.
Look at the comeback story of UFC Fighter Dominick Cruz. He had 3 ACL repairs (two on one knee and one on the other knee) and a groin tear injury in the last 4 years. He only fought 61 seconds (won by a knockout) in 4 years and this past January came back to win his UFC Bantamweight Championship Belt!
Just one of those injuries could have ended an athletic career. He is an extreme example but wow it’s impressive and shows you what is possible with the right mindset and training. You would have never known he had been through all those obstacles based on his performance in January.
How can an athlete do something like Dominick did but the average person only reach about 80-90% of their pre-surgery functional level after just one knee surgery?
I think it’s due to a GAP between how far traditional rehab can take you and getting back to 100%.
Have you or someone you’ve known given up on activities like running, jumping or sports because of an injury? Are you one of the people that still doesn’t trust the leg they had surgery on even though it’s been several years or more? Or do you have pain on the other leg now?
These are all examples of someone that didn’t fully rehab the injury. It is very common. I see it all the time.
I watched this with my brother’s leg injury his senior year in high school. He had a compound fracture of his lower leg during a freak accident in his Varsity football game that led to not one but two ACL knee repairs after his bones healed. He did the normal rehab course after two knee surgeries with an excellent surgeon and therapist and at 20 years old, he told me he couldn’t run without pain.
He was young, healthy, athletic and did everything he was told to do to rehab his injuries. It made no sense to me that he couldn’t run.
Unfortunately, that GAP between rehab and return to real life activities is typically dictated by your health insurance because they decide the amount of therapy you get after a surgery/injury. Everyone’s benefits are different which impacts the amount of rehab you receive.
Your insurance company doesn’t care if you were a runner prior to your injury. In their mind, if you are walking without crutches and have had 20 PT sessions then you are good to go!
Here’s the deal. If you want to have the best outcome after injury, you need to take control of your recovery and fill in that GAP with good daily self-care and some help from other resources.
In regards to the “pro”, sure it’s their job to return back to 100% but you can do it too. A “pro” does have the edge – their career is at stake, they have an incredible work ethic, they came into the injury in amazing shape, and they usually have a cutting edge rehab team behind them.
But here is the secret… if they don’t do the work, then it won’t happen. If they don’t listen to their physician and health practitioners and push too hard, too fast, it won’t work. Most of the time, they have to be proactive about their recovery and seek out help from practitioners outside of their coaches and team.
So let’s talk about how you can GO PRO by taking control of any injury you’ve experienced whether recent or one from the past (I’m referring a lot to knee or ACL rehab but this applies to all injuries).
Three MISTAKES to AVOID when you decide to GO PRO with your Recovery:
1. DON’T GIVE UP when traditional therapy ends if you are not where you want to be in terms of function, your goals or pain issues.
Let’ go back to my brother’s rehab. What did we do? I started him on a daily exercise program to build strength, power and agility using Pilates rehab and sports rehab/conditioning concepts.
We did flexibility therapy and addressed all of his scars, adhesions, inflammation, and range of motion issues.
What was the result? He got back to running and has even done some half marathons and a tri-athalon. He just needed more time and to progress his rehab beyond what insurance would pay for to train toward his goal of running.
2. DON’T IGNORE PAIN. I still have trouble with this one even after years of working with clients that have injuries and chronic pain and dealing with my own injuries.
Last summer I had neck pain that I ignored and waited too long to get help so it took much longer to heal. I also re-injured it while I was going through rehab because I returned to my normal activities and workouts too fast.
It’s best to address the pain as soon as it starts nagging at you and give it the time it needs to heal fully. I’ll share some ways to do that in the next section.
3. DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF TO ONE OPINION. If you are considering surgery, you have a right to get as many opinions as you need to feel comfortable with your decision (I recommend minimum 2-3 sometimes 4 when making important decisions about your health).
I had a client who was a retired, avid golfer and was told by 3 orthopedic surgeons that he needed a 4 level fusion of his spine due to narrowing (spinal stenosis) and he would have to give up golf! For my client, that would be completely disabling to never play again. Luckily, he had a friend in Houston that gave him the name of a neurosurgeon to get another opinion.
As it turned out, the neurosurgeon told my client that he could do the surgery without fusing him and that he could play golf as long as the client promised to stay away from golf for at least 6 months after surgery. He also had to agree to begin Pilates Rehab after his outpatient physical therapy ended.
How could this surgeon’s procedure provide such a different outcome than the other surgeons? His explanation was that he does 1000’s of these procedures a year with a team who has been with him for years and he is able to take his time and goes in from a different angle/approach.
Who do you think my client went with? Of course, the neurosurgeon! He did wonderful. I saw him for his Pilates Rehab and he did return to golf 6-7 months after his surgery. As a bonus for following his post-op recommendations, he learned a lot of new tools to take care of his body so he could continue to play golf as he aged.
What’s the take away? Do your research and get several opinions when making important decisions like this one. Also follow the recovery recommendations of the practitioner you have decided to work with. Seek out someone near a Medical Center or has experience working in one whenever possible. The cutting edge techniques and complex injuries and illnesses professionals are exposed to in those environments is on another level.
Now that you know what mistakes to avoid, here are 4 things you can do to GO PRO with your Recovery:
1. GET A TEAM. Build a group of practitioners that you can go to when you start something new and feel new aches, pains, and imbalances or when pain or issues flare up. Your “team” should also help you stay out of the GAP so you can return to 100% after an injury or surgery. Here are some resources to consider:
Physical Therapy: PT’s are licensed health care professionals who can help you reduce pain and improve or restore mobility - in many cases without expensive surgery and often reducing the need for long-term use of prescription medications and their side effects.
Fascial Stretch Therapy: a form of flexibility training, also called FST that is our favorite tool for improving performance and preventing injury. Nothing gets into the nooks and crannies like FST to unlock range of motion.
We provide this type offlexibility training or you can go to www.stretchtowin.com to find a provider for your area. All types of health care practitioners have trained in this technique, for fitness or rehab, to improve flexibility, decrease pain and prevent injury in a gentle, painless way. FYI- for the first time in history, both Super Bowl 50 teams had practitioners providing FST to the players.
Acupuncture: one form of traditional Chinese medicine where the practitioner inserts needles into specific points on the body to alleviate pain and to treat various physical, mental, and emotional conditions. Studies suggest it can help relieve chronic low back pain, dental pain, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. It has also been used to treat addiction, anxiety, depression, digestive complaints, and neurological problems.
Chiropractic care: is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system, especially the spine, under the belief that these disorders affect general health via the nervous system. Look for a chiropractor that has done advanced training and possibly provides ART (active release technique), acupuncture or FST.
PM&R (Physical Medicine and Rehab Physician) or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) Pain Management Specialist. They typically understand your rehab/therapy options and have various injections that they can offer for pain relief while avoiding the narcotics route.
2. GET OUT OF PAIN. Don’t try to push through pain. It is not an effective strategy. I already shared about avoiding the mistake of ignoring pain.
There are all kinds of pain management strategies available that don’t involve popping pills. If you don’t have any, then seek out help from your “team”.
3. GET RID OF INFLAMMATION. There are a lot of DIY strategies you can implement to help with inflammation and swelling. It’s important to address because it will interfere with muscle function and proper movement when present.
A few strategies to decrease inflammation are proper hydration and rest, ice packs, modifying and slowing your daily activities, anti-inflammatory diet, anti-oxidants, trigger point self-massage, kinesiotape, compression garments, Epsom salt baths and moving more. Ask your “team” for more ideas and guidance.
4. GET BALANCED. Improve and balance your strength, flexibility, and coordination on both sides of your body through methods provided by Pilates Rehab, Yoga Therapy or Sports Rehab/Conditioning programs.
Find someone that has a rehab background and possibly works with athletes especially if you want to return to a high level of performance as they will likely have more tools to offer you.
FINAL GO PRO TIPS:
My #1 DIY pain management strategy is trigger point self-massage. I recommend the Trigger Point
Performance brand. A Starter Kit is a good place to begin or the Knee kit for runners.
You have to take control of your recovery. If you are not where you want to be, then it’s up to you to do something about it. It’s never too late. ANYTHING is POSSIBLE.
Now, I’m curious. Do you have any GO PRO tips for staying out of the gap after an injury? If you do, please share in the comments below. I would love to hear them.
Avoid the GAP! Go Pro!
Mollie Miller, PT