How much do you sit? and – Why it’s killing you.

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Ha! How’s that for a typical, scare-you-into-reading-more headline? We sure see a lot of those nowadays don’t we? The truth is: if sitting too much doesn’t directly put you in an early grave, then it will only crush your quality of life with the musculo-skeletal dysfunction that it breeds. This is an Ohh-sooo complex and interesting topic which will be covered in further detail through future posts.

A few BIG reasons why sitting is a drain on your soul:

Your butt. Is not. Designed. FOR SITTING ON!

Instead, its home to some of the largest, most powerful muscles in your body! Designed to Lift – JUMP – run – stand – cycle – ski – skate – SPRINT – step – stand – and LOOK BEAUTIFUL! When these muscles get sat on, they become inhibited*, starved of fresh blood, and stuffed up with all the bad stuff (lymph and deoxygenated blood)

Your PELVIS  is your core.

Forget all that nonsense about 6-pack abs, -ripped this-   -flat that-  ..forget it.  If  you can’t exercise proper stability and control position through your pelvis and spine*, then you might as well be trying building a pyramid upside-down! The position of this structure, has a direct influence on the structures above, and below it, as well as the ability of those structures to create efficient and powerful movement!
Movement is required for HEALTH.
If sitting for long periods involves no functional movement, and it actually deteriorates your ability to move once you finally stand up, then well, you get it.. The saddest part about this is that we REALLY WANT TO MOVE! Many of us obligatory desk-jockeys are also athletes, adventurers, explorers, and all-kind of weekend warriors! We know it’s good for us to move. We know that. But sometimes that weekend 5k leaves you wondering “What the -bleep- is wrong with my knee?” -or- “-bleep- my shoulders are tight..” after your leisurely surf session. Could it be that this has something to do with the way you spend 40 -80 hours per work week sitting in a horrible position?
Ok.. Enough ranting and preaching the horrors of 90-degrees-of-hip-flexion-and-crushing-your-prime-movers. You guys get it. You’re smart. That’s why you are reading this. You understand this is a problem.. The good news is that there IS a sloution, and in my particular case, it happened to be a ridiculuosly easy (and cheap) one:
Here’s the deal:
   My “desk” (if you can even call it that) consisted of a portable table with the folding legs, like one you’d see loaded with crap at a garage sale. The thing was way too high, and my chair was way too low. Also, the table had no slope at all, which makes NO sense to me. (in my perfect world, every desk would slope at least a couple of degrees toward the poor soul trapped at it’s mercy) So my first step was to cut a few inches off the front legs of the Table-desk to achieve the desired slope. This helped with the height, but when standing it put my wrists in an over-extended position.
..but there was a problem…
                                                            I was still sitting down!!!
The pioneering of stand-sit-stand technology continued to morph and evolve until one day I said:  “Hey I think I’m gonna grab that empty paper box, flip it upside-down, and stand at this -bleep-n desk.”  EUREKA!!
Now I’m able to alternate standing and sitting positions when I’m stuck doing desk work! Ideally with just socks, bare feet, or flat, minimalist style shoes. The benefits or this include, but are not limited to:
  • Better strength and function from my glutes and hamstrings
  • More awareness of my body overall
  • Increased calorie consumption (for fat loss or weight loss goals)
  • Better foot and lower leg mechanics (with proper standing position)
  • Increased range of motion in hip flexors (Super-crucial for any load bearing activity, especially running, double-especially running marathons)
  • Better neck and head position (less discomfort, jaw-clenching, headaches)
  • Better breathing mechanics (more diaphragm, less chest-breathing)
  • Better shoulder position (scapulae lower and more retracted)
  • Less LOW BACK PAIN! (increased proprioception* and better activation of lumbar spine stabilizers, as well as less tightness in the ilipsoas* pulling on your L-spine)
  • Better pelvic-floor function and decreased pressure on sex organs, erectile tissue in men, and less urinary or end-digestive issues.
  • Decreased level of perceived stress.

Of course, there is more to this concept than I can possibly go over in one blog post. The specifics of proper postural alignment will dictate the sustainability of this new work position, and those same specifics are best taught individually by a coach such as myself, after proper assessment and evaluation. That being said, here are some general guidlines to help you stand up-RIGHT!

  • Big toes touch together, heels 1-3″ apart
  • Weight distributed evenly across forefoots and heels – both front-to-back and side-side.
  • Knees not locked, knee-caps point straight ahead
  • Squeeze glutes only enough to keep hips forward-neutral. Don’t rotate your thigh-bones externally too much.
  • Belly-button draws in slightly toward spine, but no need to make it a flex-fest.
  • Shoulder-blades pull back and down (likely will require some stretching of shoulders, chest and neck if this will remain sustainable.)
  • Chin pulls in toward the neck, head retracts slightly
  • Tongue rests on the roof of your mouth, and jaw remains relaxed with 2-3mm of space between top teeth, and bottom teeth.
  • Head remains fairly level, or tilted forward slightly.

So, that is a lot to take in! It’s also a lot more challenging than it sounds. This will take some serious practice, but it’s well-worth it. Work on one thing at a time, and use this technique as a self-assessment to see what areas of your body are struggling against gravity.

Take control of your posture, and throw your chair out the window!

Thanks, and let me know how it works!

PS. since making this video, i’ve modified my standing box-desk so it actually slopes away from me a few degrees, which puts my wrists in a wonderfully-neutral and healthy position.
And I’ve adopted a similar setup for my home office (which consists of another modified box on a crappy piece of furniture with no chair) and I’m loving it!   :]

Sample Corrective exercise protocol for shoulder Impairment

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The shoulder. It’s a marvelous wonder of evolutionary engineering. With the astonishing range of motion available at the shoulder, also comes the necessity of serious load bearing and force management characteristics. Given the complexity of the shoulder structure, and the high demands of athletics and daily life, it’s not too difficult to see how things can get out-of whack.

Now I won’t bore you with the whole anatomy of the shoulder, or all of the staggering statistics about shoulder dysfunction in the U.S. , but I will say this: There is only ONE bone that  connects your arm to your body, and there are at least 17 muscles, and half a dozen critical ligaments that contribute directly to the function (or dysfunction) of the shoulder joint, as well as keeping your arm from falling off. This is an important concept, because the muscles dictate the position of the bones (both immediately and progressively over long periods of time) and the position of the bones has everything to do with the functional capacity of a given joint, or through the entire human movement system. Read that last sentence again or write it down it’s an extremely important concept.. Position is everything!! The ability to produce force, reduce/absorb force, and stabilize the joints  efficiently depends on proper alignment and relative position of all structures involved.

Now, about the shoulder. It’s not just the 30 minutes or three hours you spend exercising everyday that affects the shoulder joint. all 24 hours of every day, the effects of gravity, modern life, emotional state, and nutritional status all effect the resting position (and therefore the working position) of the scapula, humerus, and clavicle. I’d like to use myself as a case study:

Name: Nick P.  Age: 27  Occuption: Personal Trainer and Bike Shop Manager  Job requirements: Various physical activities, lots of standing and walking, but a significant amount of desk/computer work.   Activities: Surfing – Mountain biking – Road Cycling – running (from most  >  least)  Incidence of pain: Front of shoulder (anterior glenohumeral joint) and base of skull mostly on right side (Atlanto-Occipital joint) Other Symptoms: Occasional headaches, tightness around jaw. Postural Deviation: Slight forward translation of the head, slightly rounded and elevated shoulders.

Now. If you are still with me, I hope that any of this sounds familiar! The postural distortion described above is OVERWHELMINGLY common. Sitting. At the desk. In the car. At the table. On the couch. these things take a huge toll!  Combine all this with some fun and strenuous activities that instigate even more scapular elevation, protraction, (surfing/cycling esp.) and you are on the fast track to some sub-optimal positioning of the shoulder complex.

Techniques for correction of my shoulder challenges in order of application:

  1. Self Myo-Fascial Release (for shortened, overactive tissues) uses manual pressure, or pressure applied by various implements (foam roller, lacrosse ball etc.) to isolate, and basically crush overactive muscle and bound-up fascia tissue until it releases some slack. Video- 0:05 – 0:55
  2. Static stretching (for shortened, overactive tissues) is probably the most well-known form of flexibility training, and is commonly misdirected at muscles that are already overly lengthened. This technique uses continuous external tension applied to a muscle, or group of muscles for a period of 0:30 – 1:00 to induce a relaxation response, and add to the slack from step 1. Video 0:55 – 1:05 and 1:18 – 1:20.
  3. Muscle Activation (for inhibited, shy and underactive tissues) via isolated strengthening and positional isometrics. This is essentially a way to take all of those lazy, underactive muscles and give them a chance to turn on and not be totally overwhelmed by their opposing muscle group.
  4. Integration (training movement patterns in the newly acquired range of motion) Uses total-body, or multi joint movement with ideal form, and a slow, controlled tempo to introduce your brain to this long-lost range of motion. This is the key part which assimilates the nervous system pathways that control movement in this “new” range of motion and body position.

This is merely an introduction to a concept that is instrumental in my practice. it is by NO means intended to be specifically instructional, and should be used with a reasonable amount of caution. The process is dependent on controlled, but considerable discomfort, and if you choose to dabble then that’s all on you. If it hurts too bad, back off. If your head explodes, it’s not my fault. But the benefits of this process are both immediate, and cumulative, just like how your posture became so turtle-ish in the first place!

I’m sure that this overly-simplified explanation will leave most of you with more questions than answers, but it is merely an introduction to my approach. I hope it gets your wheels turning, and keeps you coming back!

Ps. the white things I’m holding overhead at the end of the video are 20lb sand bags I made out of an banner with my friend’s sewing machine and some duct tape. :]

Don’t be afraid to experiment!

When I was young (and stupid) I would (and did) eat anything that I wanted. and it just so happens that most of those things I wanted were exactly the things that people were always telling me not to. Perhaps in rebellion, or perhaps I was thronged in a then-unknown pre-diabetic sugar addiction. Our reasons for eating poorly are too diverse to fully classify, and the excuses are world-class. Our ideas of nutrition are sometimes well-intended, but rarely do they paint a full picture, or give respect to long periods of time over which real transformations are made.  This is truly an area of your life in which little improvements, over long periods of time amount to major earnings as you experiment with a variety of foods in varying combinations and begin to figure out what your body needs!

Here’s a little something that started my day off right:Image

  1. Organic Ranier Fuji Apple – 1
  2. Organic Banana – 1
  3. Organic Blackberries – 10-15
  4. Organic chia seeds – 2tsp
  5. Organic Broccoli
  6. Organic Kale
  7. Ginger root
  8. Pressed Organic Coconut oil – 2 Fl Oz
  9. Organic non-flavored Coconut milk
  10. ice cubes – 1-3
  11. A sprinkle of sea salt, or a little blob of raw unfiltered local honey for extra tastiness

Throw everything in the blender!  I usually add the coconut oil last so it doesn’t stick to the sides of the blender. Blend until you can’t blend no more! This is a sure way to extract all of the good stuff, without having to chew up all the Kale!  You’ll end up with this:

Image

HA! I know. It looks not-so-great. But fear not! If you get the ratio of fruit : Vegg just right then it actually tastes pretty good! The apple and banana adds flavor, sweetness, and lots of fluid with relatively few calories, good vitamin C, and some quick carbs to get your brain going in the morning! The raw Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, with tons of vitamin A,K, and C. Kale is also a strong source of Lutein and Zeaxanthin, which are special photoprotectant  antioxidants serving to protect my retinas from high frequncy blue spectrum light while I’m out surfing. Pretty cool right?! Kale also has an anti-inflammatory effect, folate to build DNA, and a slew of essential amino acids. The raw broccoli is high in just about every essential vitamin and mineral (except B and D) and amino acids. Chia seeds are a great source of fiber, amino acids, Omega 3 fatty acids.

The real magic here is the Pressed, unrefined Coconut Oil. Although it does not pack the micronutrient punch like the rest of the ingredients, the saturated fat in Coconut oil can moderate the rate of carbohydrate metabolism, while simultaneously signaling the brain that it just got a substantial meal.

Like I said, I’m no expert… But I can sure tell when I feel great!

Feel full, stay focused longer, enjoy better health, Give it a try!

-Np

Who am I? What am I doing here?

This is a question I’ve been obsessed with for as long as I can remember.. And the answer Well, lets just say: I’m working on it.

I’m not a writer. I’m not an expert on anything, except changing flat bicycle tires.  I can only attempt to share my perspective, and my ideas may come across incomplete, and possibly incomprehensible. I don’t wish to impress you, or anyone else. Infact, I’ll freely admit where I’ve struggled with school, work, addictive tendencies, and the standard social interactions. I only wish to share the things that I have found to be true, and what has worked for me to stay healthy and happy in a world of challenging circumstances. With a little bit of luck, a lot  of help, and a whole lot of quiet contemplation, I believe to have found what may be the path to perfect health, not only for us as individuals, but ultimately for our families, communities, and most importantly our mother: Planet Earth.

I’d be honored to have your ear, and a piece of your open mind, as I attempt to navigate the uncertain and tumultuous sea of life. I’ll share my experience, as I continue to learn and be inspired by those who bravely do the same.

Imagepicture: Above the Na Pali Coast on the Island of Kauai, HI. A wonderful, but grueling 90+ miles by mountain Bike with ~10,000+ feet of climbing. Fully self-supported, over the course of four days, with two good friends. Experiences like this are what make me come alive!