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M.E.D. Exercise (Part 2)

Thanks for joining us this week for our blog series on getting and staying healthy in a reasonable and sustainable fashion.

There is no one exercise that is best for everyone. What is an enjoyable exercise to one person may turn out to be a suffer-fest to another! You may hate running and I might find hours of yard work (yes, that does count as exercise) mind-numbing, but that is okay! Last week, we talked about how exercise must involve work in order to effect a change in our bodies, but doesn’t necessarily have to involve struggle. We also saw that, if you find something you enjoy doing, even the “work” portion of exercise can be enjoyable!

While there is no single exercise that fits all, there are two basic movement patterns that are consistent in almost all types of exercise:

  1. Alternating Cross Crawl
  2. Core Transfer

When these two fundamental patterns are strong and established, it not only protects one from injury in exercise, but in daily life as well.

Alternating Cross Crawl… aka, Walking!

The cross crawl movement pattern is one of the earliest purposeful motions we make as humans. Babies crawl! This activity of using the opposite arm and leg is essential in developing coordination, the transfer of strength from the larger pelvic muscles of the lower body to the upper, and for getting us places. We start out crawling as infants and, within a few short months, we are walking.

If you think about it, we also judge aging in part by the decline in the ability to walk and hold a strong walking posture. Walking has been related to a myriad of health benefits from back health to brain health. Walking is also one of the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to stimulate the heart and cardiovascular health. It really is fundamental to human experience and health!

Recently, I have been reading several books by Stuart McGill, PhD. He is one of the most well-respected and published researchers on conservative treatment (non surgical) of the spine. He is a big advocate of walking for back health. When searching for a synopsis on his approach to walking, I came across this great summary article at Fitness 4 Back Pain. In it, the author detailed several key points about how to walk:

  1. Stand tall with your chest out
  2. Walk briskly (not a stroll) with good arm swing
  3. Walk often

Finally, if you are limited by pain or fatigue:

         4. Stop Before You Have To

Inevitably, when I am giving exercise as part of a treatment plan, people always want to know how fast, long, and often they should walk. The reality is, if you aren’t doing it at all, even 12 minutes is going to do you some good.  Start where you are and add a minute or two each time you go out. After you get to about 30 minutes, start to increase your speed. Once you get one session a day for 30 minutes at a good clip, try adding a second session for 15 minutes, or expand your 30 minutes session to 45. Alternatively, you could find a hill to walk up and down! Walking is infinitely variable and can be done just about anywhere. Try to get in at least one session a day.

Planking for a Solid Base (Core Transfer)

The single best exercise I have seen for stabilizing the core of our bodies is called a plank. Planking is actually not just a board on a walkway, but I thought you would like this picture better than the ones that are going to follow of me doing an exercise called the plank!

Seriously though, there is some corollary to the picture above and planks. Imagine walking across the field pictured above in the wet spring time without the boardwalk – you would be slipping and sliding, back and forth, and a lot of your energy would be going in directions other than to propel you forward. Now, imagine yourself walking the same (wet) field, only this time you are on the boardwalk. With a firm foundation, more of your energy goes into propelling you forward in the direction you want to go. When you have a solid mid-section (back, butt, tummy, and hips), that is exactly what happens – you can more efficiently and effectively transfer the propulsion of your hips through your core to move your body forward!

Planking is done in two positions:


Front Plank

On the floor, brace yourself on your elbows and your knees. Don’t allow your butt to fall below the height of your shoulders and keep your head neutral (not raised up or drooping).

Hold this position for a slow count of six, then relax onto your tummy for six seconds, before pushing back into the up position again.

To start, repeat this six times (six up for six seconds, six down for six seconds).

You can help activate your core by first squeezing your fists, then your butt cheeks together, while holding the up position.


Side Plank

Lay on your side with your knees bent, in-line with your shoulders, hips slightly behind both. Slowly press your hips up toward the ceiling, until they are level with your knees and shoulders. Hold for the count of six before slowly lowering back down to the floor for the count of six. Repeat six times.

Roll over and repeat on the other side for a set of six.

Like the front plank, you can help activate your core by squeezing your fists, then butt cheeks together.

    
Standing Front & Side Plank

The nice thing about the planks is you can do these standing if it is to hard to get down on the floor. This is also a useful posture if you have shoulder problems. The counts are the same.

The further you are away from the wall, the more load on the core. When doing a side plank, place one foot in front of the other (heel to toe). Don’t forget the fists and butt cheeks!

Setting the Bar

You might be reading this blog post and thinking, “Doc, that is too easy,” or you might be thinking, “Man I can’t do that!” Either way, my question to you is: “Are you currently doing any exercise?” If you aren’t, and you think it is too easy, go ahead and start, it shouldn’t be a problem.

If you would like to take the planking exercises up a level, check out this video on McGill’s Big 3. If you aren’t currently exercising and think they may be too hard, I encourage you to give it a try anyway. If you are able to make it work on some level, you can begin to build from there. If you are having pain with the exercises, give me a call and we should be able to determine over the phone if it is just a conditioning issue or if you need to seek care. 

Truth be told, the main reason most of us don’t engage exercise is we just don’t want to take the time. If you decide you want to get going, try working with walking and planking daily or every other day for the next six weeks. I think you will be pleasantly surprised about how just moving through your day gets easier. Let me know how it is working out for you!

Yours In Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

 

By Dr. Doug Williams
March 18, 2019

We are getting close to wrapping up the series we started at the first of the year on practical ways to get and stay healthy.

Last week, we identified two high-profile targets when it comes to diet: sugar and grain/wheat. This week, we are going to start Part One of Two on the Minimum Effective Dose of Exercise.

You will recall that Minimum Effective Dose, or M.E.D., is the least amount of something needed to affect a change. That doesn’t mean that you never “amp it up,” but, often times, when we try to do too much too soon, we either get hurt or discouraged because the outcome is not meeting our expectations! If you want to really affect a permanent change, your best bet is to start with small steps and gradually increase!

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What Exactly Is Exercise?

Before we get into my recommendations for the M.E.D. on exercise (next week), I think it is important to explore what exercise actually is! The phrase “I’ll know it when I see it” is attributed to supreme court Justice Potter Stewart, in reference to a case he was reviewing. It has been used ever since to articulate that while we might not know exactly how to describe something, if we actually saw it in front of us, we would know it!

This may not always be true of exercise. For many, if you asked them to paint a picture of what exercise is, they would describe someone struggling: to lift weights, run a mile, do a push-up. But does exercise always involve struggle?

YES AND NO.


Physiologically, by definition, exercise must involve “work.” It has to cost your body something. After you pay the price, your system grows a little bit; it gets stronger, leaner, more flexible, etc. 

“Struggle” has the connotation of anguish with it. Sometimes, exercise does involve this, as in a 50-meter dash athlete giving 100% capacity in a race. But, this is probably more of a competition than exercise.  Struggle usually leaves the body completely spent, requiring days or even weeks of recovery, and carries with it, a higher risk of injury.

In effect, all competition involves struggle and work, but not all exercise involves struggle. In fact, even for very competitive athletes, they usually plan their training year around a lot of exercise sessions at a level below struggle and only participate several times a year in competitions that involve struggle. 

So, the first thing to think about, when considering the M.E.D. for exercise, is to keep most, if not all of it, at the level of work vs. struggle, at least for the first several months.

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Beyond Physiology

Dr. Sue graduated from chiropractic college in 1989. She had spent the better part of seven years busting her tail (she graduated magna cum laude, by the way!) to become one of the sharpest chiropractors I know.  I wanted to get her something special for a graduation present. You know what she wanted? A golden retriever puppy! She had never had a dog growing up and really wanted one.

We moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, shortly after she graduated and we bought a golden retriever puppy and named her K.C. (for Kansas City, where we had gone to chiropractic college).

Besides Dr. Sue, K.C. loved two things more than just about anything else: water and something in her mouth. Just west of where we lived was Horse Tooth Reservoir. We used to take K.C. to the reservoir and throw her toy out into the water as far as we could. We’d watch her swim out to get it, swim back, and drop it at our feet, then go back and stand at the water’s edge and wait to do it again. Over and over and over.  Literally, I would throw the ball until she could hardly swim back to shore, but, as soon as she made it, she would drop the ball and go back to the edge ready for more!

WAS THIS WORK? YES.

WAS THIS STRUGGLE? YES.

WAS THIS EXERCISE? YES.


Did the dog think so? No way! She just did what she loved and enjoyed every minute of it.

My point is, if you find something that you like doing, and it just happens to involve work and occasionally some struggle, you are way more likely to keep doing it over and over and over. Keep that in mind as you contemplate what type of exercise you might want to begin to engage. Next time, we are going to review two baseline practices (exercises) that form the foundation of most movement in life and support almost all the sports I can think of.

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana