It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. My last blog post was super technical and it was about myofascial release. I know that not many of you know what that is, and since pain has been a topic that has come up a lot with my clients and myself, I decided to dedicate another post to the issue. Hopefully after reading this post you will look back on my last post What is Self-Myofascial Release? What is Trigger Point Therapy? And how can it help me? and find ways to relieve your body of pain. It is the daily aches and pains that you feel, that general stiffness that is preventing you from being able to perform properly at the gym, and therefore it is hindering your progress.
I have found that we generally normalize the pain that we experience on a regular basis as part of “getting older.” Sore necks, backs, sore knees when squating or doing lunges, all seem to be attributed to age and are just left to get worse. Sometimes people treat these issues with the occasional massage therapy, and physiotherapy, but they never follow through with the recommended stretches and exercises. Basically, the problem never goes away, and if anything it gets worse. For some reason, I think that people have this idea that somehow the problem will just go away. However, the problem never really “goes away,” instead people have found ways of babying the injury. They avoid certain sports, exercises, and movements. Generally people avoid pain at all costs, so they will avoid anything that may cause them further pain, even if it will benefit them in the long run. Even when someone has injured themselves, they may avoid treating the injury all together to avoid the pain of rehabilitation. Generally the treatment for these kinds of issues is painful, tedious, and not so fun. On the flip side, if you choose to ignore your injuries and your current pain, then it will most likely become worse. So much so that you can no longer ignore it. So, why wait for that? Because if you think the rehab would be painful now? Just wait until the problem has escalated!
In addition, you will never get the body you want by avoiding compound exercises that may cause you pain like the squat. Plus you will forever have a body with major imbalances, pain, and weakness if you don’t treat the issues that are causing you pain and immobility. Ladies, you won’t get a squat booty, if you’re not able to properly activate your glutes. Most people when they squat they only feel their quads, or their knees hurt, and that’s because a lot of them cannot get into a proper squat position. Why is that? Because their body won’t allow them to. They don’t have the mobility. You may think that you’re squatting, because you’re getting low. Your brain is telling your body to squat and your body is doing the best it can with what it has, and if you don’t have the range of motion in your joints because you’re too tight, then your body will find the path of least resistance to get you down in a “squat.” The best way to know if you’re squatting properly is to have someone film your squat and/or have someone take a photo of you at the bottom of the squat position, then compare it to a video/photo of a proper squat movement pattern. That is the only way you can see for yourself whether or not you’re doing it right. I have a video and a blog piece about squatting, take a look and compare yours. Squat Tutorial Video! I also have a blog piece called I can’t Squat Because…. Check it out if you think you have trouble with this exercise! The reason why I brought up the squat is because it is a very complex and important basic exercise that many people perform incorrectly for various reasons, and one major reason is because of lack of mobility. There are other exercises that can be drastically improved once you have improved your range of motion. In fact, the greater your range of motion the better you are able to activate your muscles. This is why addressing your aches, pains, and muscle tightness is so important to not only getting the results you want but to help prevent you from causing further damage. If you don’t address these issues, you will only get so far in the gym before you have to either give up and just let your health suffer, or you can face the music and deal with your pain.
Generally speaking, I am quite flexible and I have the full range of motion of all my joints. I do get tight hips from time to time, but other than that I am naturally flexible and have maintained my flexibility up until now. It is because I have maintained my flexibility, I have been able to avoid any major injury. **KNOCK ON WOOD** I have never seriously injured myself or broken a bone. I’ve had minor strains, and pulled muscles, and a cyst on my ankle, but that’s about it. It is a fact that some people are more prone to injury, but most of the time injury happens because of repetitive movement, lack of flexibility/range of motion, or malpractice. What do I mean by malpractice? I mean either doing something really dangerous and not so smart, or improper form. Improper form is usually caused by immobility, meaning your muscles are too tight and they will not allow your joints to move freely. This means that no matter how hard you try and correct your form, you will not be ale to do it right until your body has loosened up. The only way to fix it is by addressing the issue that is restricting your movement. On the other hand, improper form can also be caused by ignorance, you were never taught how to properly execute the exercise. That can easily be fixed by asking for help. However, if that is not the case and your body simply won’t allow you to execute the movement correctly, then you must relax those muscles using various methods before you can re-learn the movement pattern and perform the exercise correctly. It is only then, that you will truly reap the benefits of your workouts.
I’m not saying that you can’t workout at all if you are highly inflexible, that’s not true. You can modify many exercises to help you in the mean time. However, you will never be able to exercise to your fullest potential if you don’t take the time to stretch, and rehab your pain away. You must put yourself through the pain of foam rolling, massage therapy, cupping, athletic therapy, accupuncture, physiotherapy, stretching, and/or yoga to get your body working at it’s best. This pain is only temporary, especially if you do the exercises and stretches that these professionals who treat your pain give you! Sure, doing therapy will help in the short term, and it is definitely an important part of anyone’s fitness journey, but all of it will be in vain if you don’t work hard to maintain it! Just like your six pack of abs, it can easily disappear if you don’t take the time to stretch on a regular basis. Just because the pain has gone away, does not mean it will never come back! This is why it is so important to incorporate stretching and rehabilitation into your regular exercise routine. Flexibility and mobility for most people is earned, and it diminishes as you age. The only way to maintain your range of motion is to constantly stretch and foam roll before and after your workouts. Massage helps as well, but not everyone has the ability to get a massage regularly. That being said, you must properly warm up your body, and make sure that you get the blood flowing to the muscles that you will be using in your workout, and that you have primed the major joints that will be used in your workout as well. After your workout, it is important to stretch, even the next day if you’re sore from your previous workout. Doing nothing and laying on the couch won’t make it better. It may actually keep you sore for longer!
Stretching, foam rolling, and massage therapy all hurt so good. The pain is real, but at the same time it feels good because your body is releasing tension, and harmful toxins. Rehabilitation can be a lot of work, and it can be very exhausting as well. This may be a reason why a lot of people avoid it, but the pay off is so high! I’ve watched a lot of my clients and even some of my friend’s movement patterns, and I wonder, how do they live?! It just looks so awkward, and uncomfortable! I can tell that they’re in a lot of pain, even if they don’t want to admit it. If anything, they may have become numb to the pain! It’s sadly become their norm. Back pain, tight shoulders and neck pain are so very common. So many of us work at desks, and don’t sit properly. This is mostly because you’re sitting too long, and if you’re sitting for extended periods of time your posture is bound to fail. Therefore, back and neck pain are almost guaranteed. No amount of pills like Advil is ever going to make the problem go away. In fact, medication like that only treats the symptoms of back pain, but not the source pain itself. Like I’ve mentioned before, the only way to treat this sort of pain is through therapy, regular exercise, and proper nutrition. Of course making your desk more functional and taking regular breaks so that you’re not sitting for too long at a time are all important as well. However, in general nutrition, exercise, and proper rest are the trifecta of good health! Proper rest/relaxation (this includes stretching, massage, meditation etc), regular exercise (cardiovascular and weight training), and proper nutrition are the very basics to optimal health and a body that you can be proud to call home. Nobody wants to live in a body that is full of pain and discomfort. It is this sort of pain and discomfort that prevents you from doing things, not just exercise, but all kinds of things, especially as you get older! And that’s the saddest part of it all! You may not think that you’re causing yourself too much harm by not exercising regularly, or stretching regularly, or avoiding your aches and pains altogether. It is not until something serious happens to us, or when we start to loose the ability to do the simple things in life, that we begin to realize how much we have failed ourselves. Please don’t let that be a sad realization that you come to. Of course age is something we cannot prevent, but you can age gracefully, and with less pain. Age does not have to be as painful as it seems! Do yourself a favor and take care of your body, give yourself the gift of free range of motion. It’s not easy, but it is so worth it to be able to move in any way you please without worrying about pain! Most of us were born with the ability to move as we please, without ever thinking about it. We as small children had full range of motion. Over time a lot of us have lost this ability, because we have stopped moving, and we have stopped practicing our flexibility. But all is not lost! You can regain strength, range of motion, and flexibility! It’s tough, but it is so empowering to be able to do whatever you want with your body.