Have an Injury? Should You Be Exercising?

I’ve known a lot of people through the years that have physical challenges. Maybe you need or have had a joint replacement, or you have a “bad back”, or arthritis, or…. the list goes on. Too often people let these conditions keep them from doing things that they would like to be doing. Too often they think that they should be avoiding using the effected area and, in fact, many doctors will say the same thing, “Don’t do ________.” It’s actually something that constantly frustrates personal trainers. The doctor says , “Don’t squat.” Untitled design (28)Well, squatting includes standing up from a chair (or the toilet). Are you supposed to avoid that? There are a million ways to do any exercise. Modifications in effort and range of motion can be made to fit your individual needs. Doing something is almost always better than doing nothing. When you do nothing the muscles surrounding the joint or area get weaker and less flexible. This means that you will be able to do less. You also burn fewer calories and, unless you adapt the amount of calories that you are eating, you will end up gaining weight. It’s potentially a spiral of disability.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are times that you need to just rest and heal, but it’s not as often as you may think. It’s also not usually a total body thing, even if you had a shoulder replacement (I have), you can leave your shoulder alone to heal while working the rest of your body out (I did).

If you’re dealing with a chronic condition that is not going to just go away, or if it’s an injury that you can work around, you should be finding ways to strengthen, gain mobility, and become more fit. Don’t just give in to inactivity. Go to a physical therapist, and, when cleared by them, see a certified personal trainer with experience working with individuals in your situation and get started on a health and fitness program as soon as you can.

Will You Ever Change?

Change is hard. Change can be risky. Trying to change means you risk failing. It’s easier to stay on the same path. You know that path, and there’s a certain amount of safety on it. But, is that direction the one that will take you where you want to be?

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To change where we are, we need to change what we are doing. Before you make changes, however, you need to clearly define where it is that you want to be, what you want to accomplish. This vision quest, or clearly defined vision of the future you, dictates what needs to be done to get you there. This could be a task like completing a hike or a competition, or it could be getting off/staying off medications.

Next, you need to believe two things.

  • First, you need to believe the change is possible. Obviously, if you think that it’s impossible you won’t work for it. This is like saying you want to levitate (I think that would be very cool, btw). How hard are you going to work toward that?
  • The second belief is that the change is worth the amount of work it takes to achieve it. Here again is the question, if it’s not worth all of the work required to achieve it, how hard will you work?

Now, if you’ve attempted to reach this goal before, and failed, identify the obstacles that you encountered last time and pre-think solutions for them, because they are likely to show up again.

Lastly, you need to have a plan and it starts with what initial step is required. That may be researching your options for a place to work out, or a shopping list for healthy foods to buy and have at your home or office, but determine that first step and take it.

Change can happen for all of us. What’s holding you back?

Why Don’t Men Ask For Directions?

I know that the idea of men not asking for directions is a stereotypical, but, there is an underlying issue that makes this true for many. That is ego. Many men don’t like admitting that they don’t know something, don’t know how to do something, need help with something, are wrong about something, and/or are not as good with something as they thought they were. Somewhere along the line we were socialized into believing  these scenarios are somehow a threat to our egos.

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Don’t get me wrong. Having a healthy ego (or good self-esteem) is great! But, when that ego is easily damaged, walls are put up that usually create more problems.

When it comes to working out and taking care of our health (you knew I’d get around to this, didn’t you?), the ego can take a beating from a lot of things, like not knowing how to use a piece of gym equipment, not looking like other gym members, not using as much weight as the guy (or woman) next to you, or not getting the results you think you should be getting. There are a lot of reasons why this may be the case and none of them should damage your ego.

  • Not knowing how to use a piece of gym equipment: You are new to the gym and they have some equipment that you don’t know how to use. Ask a trainer for help.
  • Not looking like other gym members: You are not the average member. Many clubs vary in demographics, younger/older, more women/more men, more hard-core/more laid back, etc. Either look for a club more in line with you or just keep on going and not worry about it.
  • Not using as much weight as the guy (or woman) next to you: They’ve probably been at it longer. Maybe you got injured or have been away from the weights for a while, and you should be going lighter with a more gentle approach. Maybe you just haven’t been training appropriately or eating properly to support strength gains. Talk to a trainer and/or a registered dietician.
  • Not getting the results you think you should be getting: Definitely talk to a personal trainer and/or a registered dietician. Something is going on that you don’t understand. Find someone who does.

The ego thing is a little like failing at some task or venture that you take on. Many see failure as, well, failure. The insightful ones, however, see it as a chance to learn, to grow. Don’t let your fear of a damaged ego stop you from progressing. If you are not where you want to be, ask for help… ask for directions.

A New Option: Online Training

One of the newer entries into the fitness realm, is online training. In a nutshell, this is working with a personal trainer remotely using various online tools/apps, which allows for some very unique benefits.

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Mark Nutting, being video recorded while demonstrating a bench push up for an online client.

The benefits of working with a personal trainer online include:

  • Working out when you want (It’s your schedule. Fit the workouts in when you choose)
  • Working out where you want (your home, office, or at the beach)
  • Being able to work with high quality trainers no matter where you live.
  • No special equipment required. Most online trainers will work with whatever equipment you have access to, or, just using bodyweight
  • Able to work out in the privacy of your own space (No need to feel intimidated at the gym)
  • You have someone to keep you accountable
  • You have someone in your corner cheering you on without judgement
  • The cost is less than using a personal trainer in a face-to-face session

Of course, there are challenges as well:

  • If you are not using video tools (such as Skype), where your trainer can watch your every movement, you won’t be getting the same kind of attention as you would in-person training.
  • You need to make sure your trainer is reputable. You can’t simply watch work them with others as you could at a health club. Check out their credentials.
  • You have to be pretty self-motivated and get your “homework” done. The best program in the world won’t help if you don’t do the work.
  • Make sure there is a refund policy.

So, as you think about getting started in a fitness program, or if you’re moving away the accessibility of in-person trainers, or if you just want the convenience, an online personal training may be for you. It’s one more way to get healthier and more fit.

Note: Because online training is another great way to help others change their lives for the better, Men’s Fitness After 50 is now offering an online training program. For details, click here: Men’s Fitness After 50 online training program

When in Doubt, Get it Diagnosed.

When you are working out (or even just making your way through life), you’ll have tweaks here, aches there, and the typical reaction is to ignore it and hope it goes away. There’s nothing wrong with that as long is it’s not debilitating. Often, a little Ice, Compression, Elevation, and Rest (ICER) will take care of the little stuff. But, what if that discomfort lingers or starts to worsen? This is when you need to have it checked out by a medical professional. Don’t wait too long to do this, either.

diagnosis

While you may not like going to the doctor, going will get you the answers that you need to move forward. Here are four common outcomes from getting it diagnosed:

  1. It’s nothing serious and you can get back to working out or your life activities using discomfort as your guide as to how much is too much.
  2. It could be something that you can work around by using modified positions or ranges of motion.
  3. You could find out that challenging it is doing further damage and that you should avoid using it at all until it is healed.
  4. Resting won’t help and surgery is necessary.

Now, you may not like the sound of #3 or #4, but, if you could do more damage, you need to listen and fix it before you can return to activity.

On the flip side, there’s also a peace of mind if you find out that you aren’t doing more damage and you can continue with activity.

In example, I have arthritis in my thumbs. Exercising the joint is uncomfortable. Should I stop? Well, when I wasn’t sure what was going on, I didn’t know the answer to that. If it was carpal tunnel syndrome, continuing activity would likely make it worse. With the diagnosis of carpal-metacarpal arthritis, I knew that exercising within my discomfort (okay, pain) tolerance, would be my best chance of avoiding surgery. Getting the diagnosis allowed me to make an informed decision about how to move forward.

Aches and pains are a part of life (and getting older), but, if something is either very painful or lingers, get it diagnosed! One way or the other, you will be better off knowing what is really going on.

Fitness Resolutions, Are You Ready to Fail?

Are you someone who makes New Year’s resolutions? How did your resolutions work out last year? The year before? Did you know that between 73-80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. That’s a pretty astounding failure rate. We all believe we can change (which is good, because we can) and the new year tempts us with a fresh start, but when it comes down to it, we just can’t seem to make our goals a reality. Here’s a little bit of why you might be failing and some guidance on attaining those resolutions.

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  • Your resolutions aren’t specific. “I’m going to lose weight.” should be, “I’m going to lose 10lbs.” “I’m going to eat healthier.” needs to be, “I’m going to eat 5 serving of fruits and vegetables every day.” If you don’t make the goal specific, you won’t know what precisely to do to attain it.
  • Your resolutions aren’t timed appropriately. One of two things typically happens time-wise with your goals. Either you don’t set a time limit or you set an unrealistic one. If you don’t set a time limit (given that most of us are procrastinators) it’s just not going to happen. The other time issue is that you set your time limit too short. The time you set has to be realistic. No, losing 30lbs in two weeks is not going to happen. You’re not going to achieve that beach body in four weeks. You aren’t going to run that marathon in two months if you haven’t started training yet. Not only will not reaching the goal make you feel badly about yourself, but you may very well get injured in the process.
  • You’re out of the gate too fast. This goes along with not allowing yourself a realistic time to reach your goals. You push too hard, too fast, crash and burn mentally and/or physically. Allow yourself time to start slowly and plan a gradual increase in intensity or volume as your body and/or mind are ready.
  • You grasp at anything promising a shortcut. “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” – Beverly Sills. Success is never instant no matter what the ads say. Change takes time and sustainable change takes more time. If it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true. (I have more platitudes, but I’ll spare you.) Stay away from the hype of quick solutions and commit to the journey.

If you want to achieve your New Year’s resolutions, don’t fall into the traps that make so many others fail. Get specific, time it right, avoid going out at an unsustainable rate, and stay away from gimmicks.

Good luck and happy new year.

Sudden Death May Not Be So Sudden

I was going to follow my last post with some exercises for getting up off the floor, but something happened. Last night my wife and I were at a holiday party, saw a lot of friends, had some great conversations and ate great food. One of the people I was talking with, a man maybe 55 years old, went home and died a few hours after we last spoke. The cause is unknown to me as of yet, but it was probably a cardiovascular event. Hearing this news this morning was shocking. He seemed fine last night. Unfortunately, this is not a story that is all that uncommon.

GoneToo Soon

No matter how people may appear, they can have underlying health issues that threaten their lives. (i.e. High blood pressure is not called “the silent killer” for nothing.) Can we even prevent these sudden deaths? The answer is ultimately, “no”. However, we can take precautions to give us the best chance possible of living a long, healthy, and active life.

  • See your doctor regularly (as regularly as he or she recommends).
  • If you are not exercising, get on it. Start slowly and gradually increase your intensity. See a certified personal trainer if you need assistance.
  • Eat healthfully. Stay away from fad diets and seek to change your eating for the long-term. See a registered dietician (RD) for assistance and beware “nutritionists” who, in some states, need no qualifications to call themselves that.
  • Find ways to lower your stress. There are lots of ways to reduce stress, from meditation to simple unplugged time with the family.
  • Quit smoking. You know it. Smoking is a huge health risk.

As stated earlier, some things can’t be predicted or prevented, but we should all be stepping up and taking charge of what we can. I know that I’m going work for every extra bit of time that I can. How about you?

Get Off the Floor! Your Life May Depend On It.

Say, for whatever reason, you find yourself on the floor, maybe you’re working, maybe you tripped and fell, maybe you are playing with your kids (or grandkids). How difficult is it to get back up to a standing position? The level of difficulty of sitting up from the floor and standing has actually been shown in research to be a good predictor of all-cause mortality. This doesn’t mean that you’re going to die from a fall (although you are more likely to take a fall), but it means that you’re probably lacking in mobility, strength, and balance, which probably also means that you don’t move enough, which means you’re unlikely to get any cardiovascular conditioning, which makes you more susceptible to disease, aannd that means that you are more likely to die prematurely.Untitled design (17)Remember that movement plays into our health in so many ways. When moving is challenging for us, we tend to move less, and then it gets even more challenging, and then we move even less, and then…. You see the spiral.

Back to getting up off the floor. This requires flexibility, stability, strength, and balance. If you are already challenged getting up from, and down to the floor, stay tuned. Next week I’ll show you an exercise progression that can help make the process easier. If it’s not so challenging, keep on doing it. It’s when we stop doing activities that they become harder for us.

Ditching Your Frenemies

Anyone that is trying to change their lives for the better, whether changing their career or trying to get healthier, will probably have experienced the “frenemy”. According to the Urban Dictionary, a frenemy is The type of “friend” whose words or actions bring you down. (whether you realize it as intentional or not.” Maybe it takes the form of putting down your choice, “Why would you try that? That’s out of your reach.” Or, maybe they simply try to get you to not follow through with it. “Oh, you can have another piece of pie… what’s it going to hurt?”

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So, the question is… are they really your friend? If they are, why would they make reaching your goal more difficult?

Obviously, there are those people that just play at being your friend and really don’t have your best intentions at heart. They may keep you around to make themselves feel superior (think DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend). They could also be using you to get something that they need or want. These are the people that you should have ditched long ago, but may have hoped, in spite of things that they may say to you, that they really do like you (and you don’t have many friends).

Then there are those individuals that really do like you, want to be your friend, and yet still sabotage your efforts to change. They may even be completely unaware they are doing it.  This may be that they feel badly that you are finding the motivation to better yourself and they aren’t. To feel better about their lack of initiative, they try to keep you with them. “Stay and have another drink with me.” “Don’t make me eat by myself.” “Come see a movie with me instead of going off to the gym.”

There’s only one real way to deal with frenemies. Sit them down and have a conversation about the choices that you are trying to make and why it’s so important to you. Ask them to support you in this and respect the decisions that you make. (i.e. When you say that you are going to work out, they should cheer you on, not try to have you skip it.) If they change and start supporting you, great! They are being a friend. If they continue their belittling behavior or are still trying to undermine your efforts, ditch them! Change is difficult enough and life is too short without continuing to keep company with people that don’t want the best for you.

Exercises You Shouldn’t Do After 50

Lately, I’ve seen a number of articles that claim that there are exercises that you should not do after 40, 50, or 60. (i.e. This article on cheatsheet) I want to jump on that bandwagon (and kick everyone off)! There are NO exercises that are off-limits because of your age!

Untitled design (6)What is important to note is that with each passing year that you do nothing physical, you lose more ground on what you are capable of doing. Yet, even with the decreased abilities of a sedentary life, there are still no exercises that you should not do because of your age. What you do have to do is change how you start to do that exercise.

Options are a wonderful thing! There are a billion variations of exercises that can be done and you need to simply select the option that is closest to your current physical condition. Say you want to do back squats with weights (which I think is a great exercise), but you haven’t done them in decades, if ever. You can start with bodyweight squats. Do a number that is comfortable on day 1 and see how you feel the next day. If all’s well, move on to the next progression. Maybe that is more repetitions. Maybe it’s doing them deeper. Maybe you work on perfecting the form. Bit by bit, as you perform them better, you can add weight. What if you can’t hold on to a bar behind your head because of limited shoulder mobility? While you work on regaining that mobility, you could hold dumbbells at your sides, or in front of your body under your chin (a la goblet squats). As you regain the mobility in your shoulders, you could eventually start to put a bar on your back across the back of your shoulders (not on your neck). Et voila! You’re doing back squats with weight. To be clear, I’m not saying do back squats. I’m saying that you could safely get to a point where you could do them if you wanted to. Nothing is off-limits because of your age. You can build to being able to do almost anything if you so desire. It’s all about choosing the right progression to get you there safely and effectively.

Now, I know that you may not be aware of all of those possibilities and progressions to get you from point A to point Z (your end game). This is where getting together with a certified personal trainer might be your best bet. Look for one in your area or shoot me a message if you would like my help.

 

Good luck.