Calf Raise Challenge
How about a fun workout challenge??
How strong are your calves? Not, how large and/or tight and “ripped” do they look, but how *strong* are they *really*?
Calf raises. How far forward is your body translating when you raise up onto your toes? Check yourself against a wall (have something to hold onto!) or up to the kitchen counter.
Calf raises are a great way to strengthen not just your calves, but also your feet and ankles. There are so many ways to make them more challenging. Usually, people sway forward quite a bit and use the anterior (front) chain rather than the posterior (back) chain to create the movement. Cheater cheater pumpkin eater 🎃
Using the wall takes that cheat away and all you’re left with is foot/ankle, glute, and core strength. A.K.A. being faced with the truth of your back side.
The first time I tried these I couldn’t raise up a millimeter without holding on. Seriously. It was a gradual progression (mostly due to inconsistency) but the last couple weeks I have worked in a set at the wall each day and now it’s getting much smoother and I no longer have to hold onto anything.
Also, my calves were very unhappy initially. Clearly, I had never used them correctly before. When stationary, you should move basically straight up and down. When walking, calves work in concert with everything else to move you forward. Two different tasks with different demands. Work the isolated strength then move into dynamics and see how much better things feel.
Breathing: Rib Mobility
Yes, it’s simple. Yes, it’s the foundation of basically every function of the human body. Yes, it’s harder than it looks. And, yes, it’s almost always overlooked because of its simplicity; we are already born “knowing” how to do it. Right?
You’d think. But life circumstances often conspire to affect our breathing patterns in myriad ways. Not the least of which is pregnancy and the hormone bomb-drop of the early (i.e. first 12 months) postpartum period.
The good news is we have a *lot* of control over how we breathe. And learning to recognize patterns and their triggers is very valuable information. Manipulating your breathing can prevent/stop/reroute just about any circumstance imaginable. Seriously.
Today, play around with directing your breathing to different areas. Think of, or physically place your hand on, a spot and send it there. It starts out that simple. Can’t do it? Keep creating the intention and keep practicing. You just need to wake up a forgotten skill. Most likely. Barring extenuating circumstances, of course.
Here, I’m playing around with one-sided lateral rib expansion. Fun little party trick! 🤓
I know, I know, there is some lingering upper ab gripping. I am, *we* are, a constant work in progress, should you choose to seek the path of self-improvement. It’s a fun one!
Walking. Seems so innocuous, no? Notice how you walk throughout your day. Feet, arm swing, spine, hips/pelvis, breathing. The whole nine yards.
Here I first demonstrate the gait I see frequently, in women AND men. Lumbar (lower) spine rotates, thoracic (mid-upper back) spine stays still, arms going bananas in an attempt to create forward propulsion.
What we would like to see is some lovely cross body rotation (second demo), with shoulder rotating towards opposite hip as you step forward. A nice, relaxed, fluid motion. Of course, this can take some work to achieve, not the least of which is midback mobility (see my post on this from last August/September). But, in the meantime just notice what you feel and see. This is just a fun little test to see where you are at right now.
One of the things I see most often in women experiencing prolapse and diastasis recti is this lack of cross body rotation and general stiffness. And walking is the quickest way to spy this deficit. Complaints of low back pain are also often accompanied by the stiff upper body and overly-mobile lumbar spine.
The last part is a fun drill to do throughout the day to encourage more rotation. Exaggerate the rotation, and wiggle! Shake those sillies out!
Quick Tip: Sinus Acupressure
It is allergy season folks! And for many of us, that means sinus congestion. I would normally see an awesome acupuncturist for some sinus focused acupuncture but since covid 19 we can’t do such things.
Enter: acupressure self-treatment! I would always get a needle placed between my eyebrows and could feel my sinuses draining, like they were melting. So I looked up acupressure points and found a cool trick to closely mimic my experience of sinus drainage. Try it and see how you do! I do it a few times/day when I feel that telltale pressure. And each time, poof. Pressure gone!
Place tongue in the roof of mouth and press up. Close mouth and breathe deep and slow. Place thumb or finger in space between eyebrows and press somewhat firmly. Hold for 20-30 seconds.
How we breathe directly effects our pelvic floor so I do what I can to make sure my breathing is working *for* me not *against* me.
Way better than allergy meds, but not quite a replacement for a great acupuncturist, of course. Desperate times call for getting creative!
Habit Stack: Crawling
Habit stacking with crawling because...why not?! I have been doing a lot more crawling lately to mix it up, work on serratus strength, core stability, and to keep my brain guessing by introducing novel stimuli every so often. Plus, it’s fun! Double plus, you’re already down on the floor with the kids, so get after it!
My pelvis used to rotate and rock side to side no matter what I tried, but once I stopped my reductionist approach to...everything...and started looking at the whole picture things started falling into place. Enter: the sippy cup. I can keep it standing and as close to motionless as I’ve ever gotten. Hooray!
It’s been good for my brain and body to get creative during this quarantine madness. Play, have fun, mix it up.
Habit Stack: Laundry Squats
Squeeze in your workout Wednesday ! I lovelovelove to stack my habits and my exercise throughout the day. It’s laundry day (wait, with two toddlers isn’t every day laundry day?!) so how about squeezing in some extra squats and hip hinge work?
Quick Tip: Aligned Handwashing!
Since we are all upping the hand-washing big time these days due to #coronavirus how about a little #alignment #tutorial since you’re spending way more time (at least 20 seconds of lather 12,147 times per day) scrubbing the nasties off your hands 😝
A few tips to consider: avoid leaning on the counter and thrusting hips forward, stand tall from the crown of your head, keep knees unlocked and soft, try aligning sternum over pubic bone, avoid hunching upper back to reach the water and instead reach through with serratus muscle (bringing shoulder blades forward), shake your #groovethang and maybe even practice getting some good 360 breaths in here, too.
Easy Strength: Serratus Anterior
I constantly battle my shoulder joints, have for a very long time. And I’ve been able to cheat and steal my way through mobility and strength deficits. I run, who needs strong arms?! 🤦♀️ But no more.
This year is the year of a strong upper body 💪. So I have enlisted myself in shoulder boot camp and am tackling those winging shoulder blades currently. Our shoulder blades aren’t supposed to look like bat wings in flight, what?!
Here it is, my new “favorite” serratus anterior exercise. I am a big fan of convenience when it comes to fitness because, well, compliance goes way up when it’s convenient. So I brought my gear downstairs while I immerse myself in a bit of shoulder boot camp.
”Oh lookey here, conveniently placed foam roller!” Each time I walked by it I would do 10 reps, set it down and be on my merry way. So that is how you make it work and get it done. Convenience.
This is sped up 2x, so take it slow. Set up like you are doing an awesome plank but on the wall...on a foam roller with a theraband . I like the foam roller at my wrists so I have enough to roll up, use arms to push yourself away to engage serratus anterior and glide shoulder blades along ribcage (no bat wings here!!). Next, engage core by zipping up your abs from pubic bone to belly button, knitting down your ribs with your abs (no #glutesofglory sticking up here!!). Speaking of, engage those glutes to help stabilize pelvis, and go slightly up on toes.
No you are ready. Keep elbows just wider than shoulders and make sure resistance is just enough to get those pec muscles to quiet down. Roll up and reach hands towards the wall (not straight up). If your band hits your face then you aren’t reaching towards the wall. You might need to readjust every few reps as the roller shifts.
When the movement was too hard for me early on I just did an isometric hold in the starting position. I still catch my pelvis wanting to rotate forwards (hence my adjustment on the second rep). So it’s a work in progress. But my serratus are finally waking up! Consistency is key, and for me to be consistent I also need it to be convenient **************************
I didn’t make this one up. The credit goes to what I learned from Dr. Sarah Ellis Duvall and the Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist certification I got last year. To say it has been life-changing is an understatement. So much amazing information, your brain will explode. But in a good way 😎 Click HERE to learn more as registration for the next class starts soon and you can save $150!
Where Do You Breathe?
Is your chest doing all the work? Belly? Can you see the muscles in front of your neck popping out with each breath? Are your sides moving with each breath? Do you feel your back expand at all?
How about the quality of your breathing? Is it fast, slow, or relaxed? Loud? Quiet? Audible to the person next to you? Are you breathing through your nose or your mouth? Mouth open or closed?
Fun challenge: how quiet can you make it and still breathe comfortably? Hint: you’ll have to slow it down quite a bit!
Just notice. Be curious. Note how you’re feeling right now and how that correlates to your breathing pattern. Trying manipulating it and slowing it down with a few very slow and deep breaths (in/out through the nose). Then speed it up and breathe in/out through your mouth and see how you feel. Your heart rate will likely change. Which feels better?
Breathing is the simplest and yet most essential task of daily life. Automatic yet we can manipulate it, re-train it for better or worse. It effects every single essential task of the body. There are optimal and sub-optimal ways of breathing. Everyone is different and everyone has their best way of breathing.
The pelvic floor (PF) responds to every single breath you take. Cool, huh? So if you’re stressed, your PF is going to be stressed. If you’re relaxed, your PF should be able to relax. Unfortunately, we are often way too stressed and it creates some pretty gnarly patterns down the line. So stop every now and then and take three nice and slow diaphragm lubricating breaths, let chest rise slightly, belly/back/sides expand like a balloon would, shoulders and neck relaxed. Close your eyes if you can/need to. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Exhale longer than your inhale. See if you can feel your PF descend down gently with your inhale, and if you have high kinesthetic awareness, try to feel your PF recoiling back up on the exhale. That is what happens but so many of us have lost that connection to our bodies. The more you practice noticing the better you’ll get at it.
Next stop on the #glutesofglory train...hip extension!
I tend to spend too much time on the floor with my workouts so this is my attempt at getting up off the floor gradually and working towards standing postures for strength. Here’s to facing fears and getting strong.
Bridges are tough for a lot of people because it is so easy to do them wrong, and for me it is a trick and a half to keep my back out of it.
Enter: ottoman hip extensions! This video is sped up 4x so take it SLOW, feel the good burn, and really feel your glutes contracting and working here. I am gently activating lower abs and fully relaxing my back and letting the ottoman serve as my solid base. Bent knee takes hamstrings mostly out of the equation so you can focus on glute max.
Feel the burn and make sure to breathe throughout this one.
Yes, those are skinny jeans, and yes, that is a kid fort in the background :)
Runner, lifter of children, PTA, CPT, PCES, pelvic health zealot