GETTING STUCK

We all have different associations of what being physically stuck somewhere means, like being stuck in an airport when your flight has been cancelled or stuck in traffic during rush hour. But I think we also all know, and have at least once experienced, the feeling of being stuck mentally or emotionally as well.

I experience being stuck emotionally and mentally quite often. Writing this very article started with me having a writer’s block. Over the years I learned that if I hit a mental or emotional block, I need to look deeper to understand where this block came from so that I can dismantle it and move it out of the way. I realize by talking with other people, that I’m not alone in this experience. The truth is we all feel stagnant and stuck once in a while. And I do believe that in difficult and unprecedented times like we are in right now as a global community, some of us might experience feeling stuck even more so.

So why do we get stuck in the first place?

I think although the feeling of being stuck is a shared and a commonly understood human experience, the reason behind one person finding themselves stuck is as varied as human experience itself. The cause could be extrinsic or intrinsic in nature. I don’t think the answer to this question can or should be generalized. Instead, everyone has to reflect and answer for themselves, what causes them to get stuck.

I would like to give you some insight into my own reflection process where I dissect one behaviour/ thinking pattern that seems to get me stuck at times. I share this with you in the hopes that it inspires you to dig deep when answering this question for yourself.

Over the years of growing up, I developed the mindset of needing to get things right and perfect. I believed that if I get it right, I will be fine. If I’m perfect, I will not only be in control, but also exempt of any harm, suffering and pain in life. So for years I held myself to the highest standards including everyone around me. I’m not sure when I first adapted this narrative. Was it taught by others or did I learn and decide on this construct on my own? When did I learn to fear pain, suffering and harm? Looking back at it, accepting, adapting and living the above stated narratives as truths caused me a lot of pain and resentment. Perfectionism was a way of life. A few years ago this way of thinking along with other negative narratives greatly affected my ability to love myself and appreciate and love others.

As I grew older and wiser I learned to dismantle some of those narratives. And I realized that some of those narratives are quite deeply connected to my emotional body. The second narrative mentioned above has a especially a strong pull on my fear, which keeps it alive to this day.

Specific situations seem to trigger fear and other negative response mechanisms more so than others. I can’t help but notice that sometimes this emotional response has been triggered by the boundaries set up by my very own mind. I started to see how the narratives such as perfection make up the the very fabric of my mental boundaries. This realization did not trigger fear but curiosity. And as I started to learn more about the way I get stuck and triggered, the more I learned about myself. I also noticed that my curiosity is getting stronger. My desire to learn and grow is getting stronger than my fear. I’m naturally pulled towards this positive connection to truth.

And although getting stuck and triggered still causes me a lot of pain and stress, I become less and less concerned about the potential pain and fear that might result from being stuck and triggered because at the end even this experience is an opportunity for me to learn and grow. This shift in mindset allowed me not only to grow but also heal wounds and traumas from the past. Along the way I also learned more about acceptance, love and forgiveness, as well as gratitude. I try my best to see every block as an opportunity and chance to grow. But as I said, I sometimes still struggle with negative thinking patterns, still get triggered and still get stuck.

Stuck-what now?

We all experience situations that don’t go according to plan, because life isn’t linear and to a certain point is unpredictable. Getting stuck is part of the learning process. To struggle and even fail is part of the learning process. Just think about the countless times you had to fall and get back up in order to be able to walk on your own. You might not remember your own persistent struggle with this, but you might have observed this with your children or nieces and nephews or other small children in your social network. For me, adapting a perfectionist mindset with no room for failure set me up with a mindset that couldn’t recognize roadblocks and potential failure as another opportunity to listen and learn. My mind recognized blocks and failure as a threat, something to be feared of, which left me paralyzed for many years, unable to deal with them appropriately. I still struggle going through this process of getting stuck, learning, accepting and letting go. When my thoughts are very negative I can get lost in it all, without realizing that I’ve just got stuck yet on another mental or emotional block. And even to this day, after being stuck many times, I still get surprised when I yet again get confronted with another block ahead of me. I get annoyed, frustrated and sometimes hopeless. It sometimes takes me days or weeks until I stop to identify with the suffering that has been created by getting stuck.

So to my future self and everyone who is stuck right now, I have this advice:

If you’re stuck, take a step back, acknowledge and accept that you’re stuck and take this as an opportunity to learn. An opportunity to peel back another layer or barrier and use this opportunity to let go of constructs such as perfectionism that are no longer serving you.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. I will post another blog article shortly in the coming days addressing the maintenance work I do, which help me stay mentally, emotionally and physically flexible enough to not get hung up on every small block I encounter, and help me keep my positive perspective and mindset alive.

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Running warm up and cool down:

Why is it important to properly warm up and cool down for running?

A smart warm up prepares your body for the performance ahead by giving your muscles time to recruit and coordinate. It also gives your joints a chance to properly lubricate, tendons and ligaments to loosen up and your heart rate to increase gently and gradually. The goal of performing a cool down is to return the body to its resting state, flush out waste products and maintain healthy muscle function. If you fail to do a proper cool down, your body will have a much harder time to recover and might not be ready for the next run you have planed! Especially if you deal with muscle tightness, you should not skip the cool down. I created a warm up and cool down routine for you to try the next time you go for a run. Let me know how it goes!

For your convenience I’ve attached videos for each exercise listed below.

If any of the following exercises cause you any pain or major discomfort please stop them and talk to a health/fitness professional. If you need any help or have any questions, I’m also here to help!


Dynamic warm up: 5 min
Perform 1-2 rounds of the following exercises before running:
-Snake attack (16 repetitions)
-Walking hamstring stretch (Hold stretch position 2-3 sec, repeat stretch 8 times each side)
-Jumping Jacks (20 repetitions)
-Walking Lunge (5 sec at the time, repeat stretch 8 times on each side)
-Forward Jacks (20 Repetitions)
-Side Lunge (Hold position 2-3 sec at the time, repeat stretch 8 times on each side)
-High Knees (30 repetitions)
-Butt Kicks (30 repetitions)
– Alternating Calf Stretches (5 sec at the time, repeat stretch 5 times on each side)

Snake Attack
Walking Hamstring Stretch
Jumping Jacks
Walking Lunges
Forward Jacks
Side Lunge
High Knees and Butt Kicks
Alternating Calf Stretches

Cool down: 10-15min

  1. Reduce your pace gradually. Jog easy or walk the last couple of meters to your home. Incorporate at least 5 minutes of walking at the end of your run. Like this you are giving your muscles and cardiovascular system a chance to adapt to the slower pace in a more gentle way and help the muscles get rid of metabolic waste products.
  2. Stretch and release for optimal muscle health and function. Make sure you don’t overstretch! If it starts to hurt you went to far! You should feel a mild stretch. Another good option is to roll out tight muscles such as your quadriceps muscles.
    Make sure you stretch the following muscles:
    -Hip Flexor,
    -IT Band
    -Adductors
    -Quads
    -Hamstring
    -Gluts
    -Calves
Hip Flexor Stretch, make sure you do both sides, hold stretch as long as needed
IT Band Stretch, make sure you do both sides, hold stretch as long as needed
Groin Stretch (Frog Stretch), make sure you do both sides, hold stretch as long as needed
Quad Stretch, make sure you do both sides, hold stretch as long as needed
Hamstring Stretch, make sure you do both sides, hold stretch as long as needed
Glut Stretch, make sure you do both sides, hold stretch as long as needed
Calf Stretch, make sure you do both sides, hold stretch as long as needed

Let me know in the comments below what you think of this warm up and cool down routine!

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Strength Training Program for Runners (No equipment needed)


Strength training is an essential supplement to a regular running routine. It strengthens muscles and joints, which can improve your running performance and decrease the risk of injury. If you want to perform at your full potential, you need to target and address areas of fitness you may normally wouldn’t pay attention to, like flexibility, balance, mobility, and strength. Below you find an example of how a strength training routine for runners could look like.

For your convenience I’ve attached descriptive videos for each exercise listed below.

If any of the following exercises cause you any pain or major discomfort please stop them and talk to a health/fitness professional. If you need any help or have any questions, I’m also here to help!

Warm up 2-3 sets 12 repetitions each
-Downward Dog to Torsion Control
-Windmill
-Sun salutations with Side Twist

3-4 rounds of 15 repetitions
-Squat with Oblique Crunch (15 repetitions each side)
-Parachute
-Side Lunge to Curtsy Lunge (15 repetitions each side)
-Calf Raises (15 repetitions each side)

Rest 45 sec once all rounds are completed.

3-4 rounds of 15 repetitions
-L-Fly
-Glut March (15 repetitions each side)
-Plank Step Out (Can be modified: elbows on couch instead)
-Runners Jump (Start with 8 repetitions per side for jump and increase to 15 repetitions as tolerated, if jumping is not tolerated you can do this exercise instead: Reversed Lunge with High Knee

Finish with a stretch of the following muscles:
Glut, Quad, Calf stretch

Downward Dog to Torsion Control
Windmill Hip Mobility Drill
Sun Salutations
Squat with Oblique Crunch
Parachute
Side Lunge to Curtsey Lunge
Calf Raises
L- Fly
Glut March
Plank Step Out
Runners Jump
Reverse Lunge with Knee High (alternative to Runners Jump)
Glut Stretch, do both sides, stretch as long as needed
do both sides, stretch as long as neededQuad Stretch,
Calf Stretch, do both sides, stretch as long as needed

Let me know if you have any questions or comments below. Would love to hear your feedback.

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Addressing Runners

If you picked up running recently, restarting after a long winter break or have been running all your life- this article is for you.

I love running, all though my teenage self would disagree. I only really started to enjoy running regularly last year in January. I started to love the challenge and the ability to be connected to my breath, body and nature while listening to my favourite party tunes.
When I started running last January, I didn’t give it much thought. I was inexperienced, but I was eager to run everyday. So I did! After two weeks of running every day, my knees started to hurt and then my hips. First it just bothered me when running, so I reduced the frequency and duration of my runs. My knees recovered but my hips started to get worse. It started to affect me in my squats and lunges and sometimes it would last beyond activities at the gym and show up during specific motions throughout my daily activities. I went to two Chiropractors in a span of a half a year. Both of them really helped me understand what had happened. They also helped me manage symptoms such as stiffness and pain and helped me optimize muscle tension.

In the last two years I learned a lot about my body and what I need to do to keep it healthy. I also learned more about what I need to do if I want to keep running. I took a break from running during the winter as I focused on other forms of endurance training, but with the weather getting nicer, the running season has officially started for me again. I noticed that with the gym facilities still closed, more people are thinking of, and have been picking up, running, even those who never thought of running before. And before you make the same mistakes as I did last year, let me share with you the lessons I have learned so far:



Lesson 1: You need good foot wear!
Before you pick up regular running, buy proper footwear. It is essential- I had to learn that the hard way! Poorly fitted and worn down shoes will not support your foot arches properly. And if you are poorly supported and misaligned at the level of your feet, the misalignment will not end there. If your feet are affected, higher structures above such as your knees, hip and spine can be affected too. Running has a high impact on your joints as it is, with structural imbalances already starting at your feet though the potential wear and tear forces could be made worse. You might experience pain or discomfort due to acute irritation at the beginning, but if left unaddressed, it can lead to abnormal wear and tear and even permanent damage. Which is why it is important to have proper running shoes from the very beginning. Asics is a brand I personally can recommend but it is definitely a pricey brand. Check out this link to find the brand that works for you. https://www.runnersworld.com/running-shoes/
And for you viced runners out there: When did you buy your last pair of running shoes? According to Runners World you should change your pairs after running between 300 and 500 miles.
In retrospect it is no surprise that I started to have major issues when starting to run more frequently. I realized that my arches were collapsed, especially on the left side but the damage was already done and the misalignment already took its toll. I had no choice but to optimize every aspect of my running practice.

Lesson 2: You need to properly warm up and cool down.
As a trainer I already knew that it was important to properly warm and cool down your body before any given performance. But I have to admit I never made an effort to structure my warm up properly and adequately. It looked more like the cool down. The cool down it self is these days also more specific. A smart warm up prepares your body for the performance ahead by giving your muscles time to recruit and coordinate. It also gives your joints a chance to properly lubricate, tendons and ligaments to loosen up and your heart rate to increase gently and gradually. Studies such as this study from 2015¹, suggest that dynamic stretches can increase your running performance. The cool down is also important. The goal of performing a cool down is to return the body to its resting state, flush out waste products and maintain healthy muscle function. If you fail to do a proper cool down, your body will have a much harder time to recover and might not be ready for the next run you have planed! Especially if you deal with muscle tightness, you should not skip the cool down. To give you an example of how it could look like, I created a warm up and cool down routine. Try it out the next time you go for a run. Let me know how it goes!

Aside from the immediate cool down routine, make sure you stay hydrated. I’m thinking of writing an other article about what else you can do to speed up recovery in general. Let me know if that would interest you.


Lesson 3: Strengthen the muscles that support the structures which are being impacted the most by running.
Strength training is an essential supplement to a regular running routine. It strengthens muscles and joints, which can improve your running performance and decrease the injury risk. If you want to perform at your full potential, you need to target and address areas of fitness you may normally not pay attention to, like flexibility, balance, mobility, and strength.

Lesson 4: Start slow, build up tolerance.
Doing too much too soon is a classic rookie mistake that can lead to injury and burnout. No one in their right mind would agree to running a marathon without the chance of practising running beforehand. But when you are new to running and enthusiastic as I was it’s really easy to over do it. But the truth is our bodies need time to adapt and adjust in order to endure the stress that frequent running creates. So what is a sensible pace to start with? Here are some recommendations in regards to frequency, duration and intensity when freshly starting or restarting after a long break. I got my information from Runners World.
They suggest to start with 2-3 days a week. Start with 20- 30 minutes and embrace the Run/Walk method at the beginning. With that target in mind, focus on a few minutes of running, followed by a period of walking. Here is what they suggest:

10-Week Run-Walk Plan
Start and finish each workout with five minutes of walking. Then, alternate the following run/walk ratios for 30 minutes.

  • Week 1: 2 minutes running/4 minutes walking
  • Week 2: 3 minutes running/3 minutes walking
  • Week 3: 4 minutes running/2 minutes walking
  • Week 4: 5 minutes running/3 minutes walking
  • Week 5: 7 minutes running/3 minutes walking
  • Week 6: 8 minutes running/2 minutes walking
  • Week 7: 9 minutes running/1 minute walking
  • Week 8: 13 minutes running/2 minutes walking
  • Week 9: 14 minutes running/1 minute walking
  • Week 10: Run for 30 minutes!

When you feel comfortable running 20 to 30 minutes at an easy pace, you can increase the challenge. Your next step is to either extend your total workout time or the number of runs each week. But just choose one option at a time. You could for example aim for 30 minutes instead of 20. Or run four times a week instead of three. A very important rule of thumb according to the website runners world is to increase your total weekly time or distance by no more than 10 percent from week to week. For example: If this week you ran 90 minutes total, you’ll run 99 next week. Or if you ran 10 miles total this week, you’ll run 11 total next week. It’s easy to overdo it on the days you feel good, when just starting out or when you’re running with a faster friend. Remind yourself to slow down and listen to your body.


Lesson 5: Listen to your body.
Challenging and pushing your body and mind to its limits feels amazing, but not at the cost of your body breaking down in agony. There is a difference between your body aching and crying out in agony vs. your mind being lazy and protesting any strenuous performance task. Personally I didn’t pay much attention to any pain at first because it always has been my mind that I needed to fight in this matter. As a teenager I absolutely hated running and in my early twenties I merely tolerated the thought of it as I imagined and convinced myself to go running every blue moon. If you want to make frequent running a habit, you need to listen to your bodies cues and differentiate whether your mind is resisting and protesting the running or if your body is signalling you that it is over strained.

What has your experience been so far with running? Do you have any tips or lessons that you’ve learned along the way? Let me know in comments.

Thanks for tuning in.

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References:

¹ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25932984

2https://www.runnersworld.com/training/a20845020/how-to-get-started-as-a-runner/

Addressing Posture

It’s no secret that regular physical activity is quintessential for your overall health and well-being. But we move our bodies less and less as movement is less and less needed in our society to live our lives. Self isolation taught us that almost everything can be done from the comfort of our homes. And even though you can order food, work from home and connect with friends through social media, the lack of movement is detrimental to our overall health, well-being and will impact your productivity as well. To make sure our bodies and minds stay healthy and fit, we need to move on a daily basis. The more you move the better. And luckily we have so many options available these days. You can do weights, go for a run, hire a personal trainer or participate in a group class to name the most common options out there. Pick something that suits you best and keeps you challenged! The more varied your movement the better! Even during Covid- 19 there are tons of options available. I also noticed many social media accounts that upload fabulous home exercise ideas that you can follow and do at home.

With that being said, as a personal trainer, I’m hyper aware of the potential training and muscle imbalances that might occur down the road when the general population moves in a certain way for a certain amount of time for to long. Let me explain 2 things I’m observing at the moment:

1. Currently as I mentioned above, the majority of us is moving less than usual since we stay inside most of the day. On top of that some of us spend the whole day in front of a computer or on the couch.

2. When I scroll through my Instagram, I see a lot of awesome challenging exercises, but I can’t help but notice that most of these exercises are focused on working out the muscles of the front of your body. There are just not as many exercises you can do with just your body weight to address the posterior chain effectively, especially for the upper body.

So this increased prolonged seated posture, combined with overemphasizing the muscles in the front of your body, exacerbate your posture issues such as neck pain. The muscles such as your chest muscles that are already tight and shortened through prolonged slouched seating positions, get even tighter from performing chest exercises such as the push up and your already weakened and over-lengthened muscles of your mid back get even weaker and are more and more unable to support your head and neck efficiently throughout the day.

So what can you do to help with your posture and neck pain?

As I mentioned above regular movement of the body is quintessential to ensure your body stays healthy. To give you an idea how a more balanced work out could look like, I designed the following two work outs for you. Check them out for free and let me know what you think:

On that note most good gyms, including the gym I work at, will address more than just the front of your body in their virtual classes and include exercises that address your whole body including your posterior chain/ posture muscles. I will post the link to our class schedule below for those who are interested.

If you don’t feel motivated or confident in your own movement, contact me, I am happy to help!

What else can you do? Aside from movement, a proper setup is also important. Like running with proper running shoes is important for your musculoskeletal health so is a thoughtful setup for your work desk. Making your work desk more ergonomic will help to improve your posture problems. The more ergonomic your desk, the better for your overall posture and well-being. If you’d like to learn more, check out these Instagram posts from Dr. Ryan Albert where he addresses the proper monitor height and proper seating position.

He also kindly shared these helpful illustrations with me:

If you need help or advice in setting up your work desk more ergonomically or if your neck/ posture problems don’t get better or get worse, reach out to him. He is available for virtual appointments.

You can contact him through email: drryanalbert@gmail.com

Or visit his website: drryanalbert@gmail.com

So that’s all I wanted to share with you today. Let me know if you have any questions! In the next post I’d like to address all you runners out there, so if you want to stay tuned subscribe to my blog and you will be notified once the post is uploaded!

Take care and stay healthy!

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