Blog Archives

Prevention: How to Recognize Signs of Muscle Deterioration

mother and daughterMy mom recently shared something with me that I think many of us can learn from. She was nice enough to let me share her story with you in hopes it could help others – and I’m sure it will.

“Over the past couple of years, I had noticed that my legs seemed weak, and the range that my legs could bend, and still be strong, was diminishing.  For example, getting out of a low car, standing up from the bath tub, and even getting up off the potty was becoming a challenge.  I couldn’t even squat from a standing position!  This was a girl that played softball for years and could once do a split to catch a ball and keep my foot on first base!!!

I realized that I was using my arms to help me push my body up (which I’ve been working out so I had the strength to do it) and not relying on my legs.  I was working legs out too….but not from a complete squat.  It dawned on me that I was ‘giving in’ to old age weakness – and I needed to do something about it.  

Tom and Julianne

The first thing I did was ‘confess’ to Tom (my husband and training partner) that I felt I was losing strength.  I knew this would hold me accountable in doing something about it.  The second thing I did was decrease my weight on my legs workout so I could go much deeper, even if I only pressed the bar or rack, and not weights. After implementing this in the gym, and after only 1 week, I noticed a HUGE difference!   I began making myself use my legs more (getting out of the car, tub, etc), and after only doing this for about a month, I feel like I am 80% better!” 

bathroom handlebar

Strong and Weak
My mom was not weak. She was piling plates on the leg press, but she wasn’t working in a full range of motion. As a result, she was only using the strongest part of her legs, and avoiding movement where she was weakest, like a deep squat. Her strong muscles were getting stronger, but her weak muscles were getting weaker. Finally, it started affecting her daily living. Many people would just give in to the weakness and start catering their life around that weakness, like installing a handicap bar. But my mom was NOT going to go there! Instead, she decided to fix the problem, not mask it.

Cause and Effect
When we squat, or leg press, people may only go to where their knees are at a 90 degree angel. Of course, when we squat down to pick up something, or get up off the ground, we aren’t always starting at a perfect 90 degree angle – but are often starting off well below 90 degrees. Unless you are purposefully strengthening those muscles, they will get weaker as you age.

In my mom’s case, I believe she started avoiding a deeper squats and deep lunges after injuring her knee a few years ago. Instead of reducing weight and increasing range of motion to rehabilitate the knee, she continued lifting the same weight, but just decreased range of motion. However, the best plan of action is to focus on strengthening your body for full range of motion. It really doesn’t matter if you can squat 500lbs if you can’t get up off the toilet. Our quality of life greatly depends on how we move daily, not how we move in a controlled area in the gym.

Daily Living Activities – Then & Now

BABY-SQUAT squatting

When we were young, we would sit in a squatted position for long periods of time  (and look at the great form on this baby! Nice posture kid!). However, as we age, we tend to play on the floor less, and don’t utilize those muscles as much. And, weight gain can make squatting even more challenging. So, as a result, we shift from bending with our legs less, to bending with our back more. If the gentleman in the above photo was younger, he’d likely squat down to pick something up. But, instead, he chose to bend with his back. It’s this type of repetitive behavior that trains the body to work around weaknesses.

bending down

Luckily, my mom is a fighter and recognized the warning signs. I’m sure, at first, it didn’t compute why she would be so weak, when she seemed so strong at the gym. But, after we talked through it, it all made perfect sense.

This is why functional training is so important. We need to perform exercises that closely mirror our normal daily activities, and we need to be sure to move safely in a full range of motion as long as our body will allow it. Although my mom does have some knee issues, she was able to successfully improve her range of motion by simply reducing her weight significantly.

Morale of the story. Mom says,Don’t give in to weakness. It isn’t ok to compensate on the muscle maintenance that we need to have to live a quality life. Listen to your body—it WILL tell you what you need.”

Monday Motivation: No Legs, No Problem

I’ve heard every excuse in the book:

“I have bad knees.” 
“My feet hurt”
“I have weak muscles”
“I suffer from sciatica”
“I have a bad case of Plantar Fasciitis”
“I have arthritis”
” I am too old”
“My body hurts”

Most people think any one of those things are a pretty good excuse to get out of “P.E. Class”, but what if you had ALL those problems? Gail Griesemer does. Born with Spina Bifida, Gail has damaged nerves and muscles that prevent her from walking, much less exercising – or so you would think.

If you come to Max Fitness on a regular basis, you’ve probably seen her rolling her wheel chair down the side walk and back, doing laps for her trainer, Jack Harris. She works out on weights to strengthen her upper body and, despite bad hips, ankles that are surgically fused together, and no feeling in her feet, she even does walking exercises to strengthen her legs. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she also takes yoga. Yep, she attends yoga classes regularly to keep her body flexible and her mind stress-free.

Gail refuses to roll over and let her body tell her what she can and cannot do. There is no one to motivate her. No one to pick her up and take her to the gym. There is no one making her do this. Gail decided she HAS to do this to be as physically fit as she possibly can. If she wants the best life possible, she knows this is what she has to do – and it’s likely, she’s not much different from you.

Whether you battle fat or bad joints, you have your own set of issues. We all do – AND, there is no one that will make you do this. YOU have to do it. YOU have to decide you are worth it. YOU have to keep showing up day after day – not because you FEEL like it, but because it’s what you MUST do to have the BEST LIFE you can have. No one can do it for you. Maybe you’ve been making excuses for a long time to help release yourself, and let yourself off the hook. Well, I’m putting you back on the hook. I’m not letting you believe that it’s too late, you’re too fat or too out of shape. I’m not going to let you say you don’t have time or can’t afford it. All your excuses are lame in comparison to people like Gail.

If you’ve been a victim of a self-inflicted pity party, STOP! Quit feeling sorry for yourself, and get off your butt and get to the gym! Remember Gail, and remember if she can do it, you can too.

Look for her story in the YourNews section of the Press Journal this week for more inspiration and motivation. Thank you Gail for letting me share your story and for inspiring everyone around you. We are so thankful for members like you who make a difference! Join Gail at Max Fitness Club to start your fitness journey today!

3 Ways to Stop Knee Pain

Do your knees ache? Do they hurt when you run? Do your knees get in the way of a good leg routine? Before you go off running for the operating room, your knee pain could be something a lot more simple than you think.

One popular reasons people (especially runners and fitness newbies) struggle with knee pain is because our leg muscles are out of balance. As tight muscles play tug-a-war with your knee cap knee cap, and your apposing weak muscles are losing. This cause the knee cap to float out of place – resulting in poor knee tracking and a lot of discomfort.

Steve explains how to correct the problem with a couple of simple exercises:

More Exercises

1 Stretches: 
Quadricep Stretch
IT Band Stretch
IT Band Foam Roller

2. Exercises:
Leg Extension on a Machine

Leg Extension with Bands
Leg Extension with Leg Weights

3. Ice & Rest:
Rest is crucial to allow for healing
Ice is essential to reduce inflammation (15 minutes at a time, as often as you can)

More Injury Prevention Blogs

More on Knee Pain:
Simple Fix for Knee Pain
Fast Fix for a Pain in Your Butt
Kick Heel Pain
HEROES: Fitness After Pain & Injury
Train Hurt or Go Home! (or should you?)
5 Simple Pain Prevention Tips

HEROES: Fitness After Pain & Injury

Pain or injury may not be an option, but recovery is. 

I was talking with a member of our gym who was having some health issues last week. She was extremely discouraged about what she believed to be the inability to workout due to her latest ailment. I could see despair in her eyes. In this particular case, the only exercise she knew to do was the bicycle. This was extremely difficult for her to accept after many years of exercising and taking aerobics classes. She was basically ready to give up.

So many people allow an injury to set them back for life. Instead of slowing down, or changing up their exercise plan to work around their issue, they just quit. Quitting isn’t an option.

The thought of my member’s discouragement rocked me. I wondered how many other people have had the same thoughts and problems but didn’t ask for help. It is easy to use an injury or health problem as a good excuse to quit exercising. In my experience, most people really honestly believe they have no other choice but to give up.

If only the general public knew there are ways to work around health issues – and even improve them. Many times there are specific exercises which can help someone recover, or at least better cope, with their condition – ultimately improving the quality of their life. If this wasn’t the case, physical therapist wouldn’t exist.

Know Limits = No Limits
In this member’s situation, there were still plenty of exercises she could have done. Often times, even someone bound to a wheelchair can still do some type of exercise, working around their limitations. We have a member who comes in regularly, in her wheelchair, to train with one of our trainers. He has her doing laps down our sidewalk, and numerous other exercises, to keep her heart and lungs strong and her active body as fit as possible.

Unfortunately, when our body begins to break down, we mentally break down. We quit believing in our own ability to perform – or even survive. We allow our own doubts and lack of knowledge to dictate what we think we can and cannot do. When we experience pain, we are afraid to try anything in fear of making things worse. Ironically, the reality is there is even more risk in giving up and staying sedentary.

I am here to tell you fitness believes in you. I believe in you. Let me encourage you. Even if your body gives up on you, never, never, never give up on your body.

6 Stretches to Relieve Common Aches & Pains

1. Quadriceps Stretch – Helps relieve knee pain
2. Hamstring Stretch – Helps improve posture while sitting and low back pain
3. Buttocks Stretch – Helps relieve sciatica and leg pain
4. Calves Stretch – Helps relieve pain from plantar fasciitis (heel pain)
5. Chest Stretch High – Helps reduce back and shoulder pain due to forward posture
6. Side Neck Stretch – Helps improve neck pain and tightness

They Never Gave Up – When there’s a will, there’s a way

Most of us will find our ailments are small compared to these success stories:

Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham (has spina bifida and has been in a wheelchair since he was 8 years old)

Jillanna “Mel” Curry, 49, who has won both gold and silver medals in United States Tennis Association Wheelchair Tennis Championships (lost her leg after discovering blood clots

Nadya Vessey had a mermaid tail crafted for her so she could swim after having both her legs amputated.

Bob Siudak lost leg to cancer.

Catherine “Cat” Hammes, 45yr old woman lost her leg in a motorycycle accident

Amy Purdy had less than a 2 percent chance of being diagnosed with Bacterial Meningitis. After losing both legs, getting a kidney transplant, and battling other life-threatening health issues, Amy pledged to move on and attain goals even people with 2 legs struggle to achieve.

Now what’s your excuse?

FREE WORKSHOP
Reserve your spot in our Free Pain Prevention Educational and Interactive Workshop: Tuesday, February 28th at 11:00am with Steve Pfiester at Max Fitness Club, 970 14th Lane, Vero Beach, Florida 32960. Call 772-778-7867 to make your free reservation and walk away with more hope and knowledge.

Subscribe to my blog for more health, fitness and pain prevention tips.

A Simple Fix for Knee Pain

There’s nothing like a little knee pain to make you feel old and out of shape. Ironically, it is normally when you are trying to get in shape that you discover these little annoyances.

When I started jogging a few years ago, it was a shock to my system. I quickly discovered my body much preferred a brisk walk over running. I had never felt that out of shape before. Although I was lifting weights and occasionally doing the stepper or elliptical, my body wasn’t used to jogging and it let me know it quick! My hip ached, my knees throbbed, and my muscles were incredibly sore.

Even though most of my body adapted to the new routine eventually, my knees took a little longer to improve. Believe it or not, it was a simple fix – all I needed to do was stretch.

I am sure this may sound odd to some people. I mean, what in the world could stretching a muscle do for a joint? Well, plenty! You see, my leg muscles were really tight, especially my quadriceps (thigh muscles). Since these tight muscles attach to the patella (the knee cap), tight muscles were most likely the cause of my discomfort.

If you gently stretch the leg muscles, you relieve the tension on the kneecap, allowing for proper knee tracking. The only drawback is you have to be patient and consistent with your stretching routine. You can’t expect your muscles to loosen up after just a few stretches. With increased activity comes increase tightness, so it’s something you have to do often.

I had to stretch several times a day. I would even stop and stretch in the middle of my run to help get me through my routine. Eventually, my knee pain completely went away. My two miles of limping turned into a four and half mile pain-free jog thanks to a few simple stretches.

While there are many reasons for knee pain, tight leg muscles are often the culprit, especially if you just started noticing it after increasing activity. Unfortunately, many people quit an exercise program due these new aches and pains, thinking their body just can’t handle it. My knee pain could have easily, and literally, stopped me in my tracks. Instead, I didn’t give up and I’ve been running pain free for 9 years.

When it comes to knee pain, the solution maybe easier than you think.

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(photo from http://www.mediahelp.org)

Get Fit Now: Why Procrastination Stinks

“We all have garbage to deal with. You can chose to handle it now or later – the choice is yours.”

Desperate paparazzi catches poor Jessica Biel in her robe taking out the trash. Wow. Are we really shocked that stars have garbage too? We seem just as surprised when they have other life problems as well. Ironically, garbage and our physical, as well as mental, problems have a lot in common.

My dad once gave me some great advice about life, and not handling the “garbage” we carry. He said, “It’s like trash. You can just let it pile up and packing stuff on top of it, but eventually it’s gonna start to stink and you’ll have to deal with it.”

Life is truly like that – especially with our health. We can ignore the trash in our lives – our weight, health, weakness, tight muscles, poor diet and inactivity. No matter how we cover it up with nice clothes, fancy cars, money, pretty make-up and a fake smile, eventually you won’t be able to hide it, and life will start to really stink.

It is so easy to procrastinate. It’s so easy to push it back and let something else take priority. But, our bodies talk, and believe me, it will start screaming at you eventually. We can fool ourselves into thinking our back pain will go away, our weight will come off, and “we’ll kick this”, but what exactly are you really doing about it today? Are you just covering up the stench or are you really dealing with it? So often we do things to mask the problem, or to help us live with the problem, but we aren’t handling the problem.

4 Steps to Dealing with the Garbage Affecting Our Health:

1. What stinks? As you read this, what things come to mind that you know you need to get a grip on? Make a list. Is it your weight? Is it pain? Is it confidence? Is it your overall health? Is it a lack of discipline to maintain a consistent fitness regimen? You can’t fix it until you know what needs to be fixed.

2. How do you handle it? Some trash isn’t stinky, but it sill has to be taken out. On the other hand, some trash stinks so bad, you need to get it as far away from your house as possible. How bad is the “garbage” you have to deal with? Can you deal with it yourself or do you need a hazmat team to contain the situation? Some things can be handled on your own, but other issues require a pro. Beware of trying to handle heavy stuff alone.

3. How long will you commit to maintaining it? We all know that taking the garbage out once is not enough. We get NEW garbage that will have to be delt with too. It’s really unrealistic to think this will be a simple fix and not require maintenance. As you work on one problem, don’t be surprised if another problem pops up. Just add it to the list and work on it too, knowing in the end result will be a clean bill of health.

4. What are things that need to be tossed out? A lot of us have extra garbage we deal with because we are not letting go of crap that clutters our lives. Not only will you need to work on stuff that stinks, but sometimes things need to go that are either getting in the way, are useless, or are hindering you. The first step is to “clean house” of food, people, bad habits, excuses, etc. that will interfere with your plan. Just like cleaning house, it’s constant. Success will require a continual cleaning and straightening of priorities.

Don’t Procrastinate:

Don’t wait for the perfect conditions, the perfect situation, more money, more time, less pain, more energy, more motivation, friends, kids to grow up, workload to get lighter, or anything else to start working on your health.

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.”
Ecclesiastes 11:4

Note on Pain: Many aches and pains are due to weak and tight muscles. Unfortunately, many people avoid exercise in fear of making it worse. Pain rarely goes away on its own, and often gets much worse. Even many skeletal issues are due to muscles pulling you out of whack. As you strengthen weak muscles and loosen tight muscles, your skeletal system won’t have all these tweaked muscles yanking on them. There are SO many pains that would go away just from stretching alone, but the combination of strengthening and stretching literally can be a miracle worker.

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