Tag Archives: posture

8 Bad Health Habits I’ve Had to Shake

No one’s perfect and health professionals are no different – I’m certainly not perfect! Far from it. But through the years I’ve awakened to my bad health habits and have refined them through trial and error. In the spirit of keeping things real, here are the habits I’ve had to shake. Maybe they’ll make you feel less guilty for having a few of your own. 

 

 

To Do Lists

Alas, I’m ashamed to admit that my obsession with daily “To Do Lists” wasn’t given a firm kick in the pants until I became a mom. I’m not saying it’s bad to have daily goals and lists but what I would do is obsess over every last detail, staying up way too late to ensure every single little thing was checked off my list. I would run errands even though I was dizzy with fatigue. I would wake up in the middle of the night running through the things I needed to get done the next day. I’m telling ya: CRAY CRAY. Yet I’m astonished at how common this behavior is. 

When my son was born, I was due for a startling realization: I can’t do it all. There were lots of tears. I slowly relinquished control and loosened my grip on life’s minute details. As a result, I can now complete a mere fraction of my lofty “To Do” lists without freaking out. I can officially handle living “imperfectly.” I put my sanity over my task lists. (It feels good.) 

 

Overeating

I never thought that I overate until it hit me like a brick wall one day. I was fresh out of college and working to earn a commission-based living at the height of the recession. I was sitting in a side chair in my dining room stuffing my face with handfuls from a bag of Chex Mix even though I wasn’t hungry. I realized in that moment that I was emotionally eating and that it wasn’t all that different from overeating at dinnertime and finding it soothing.

I was able to “get away” with eating a lot while growing up (probably thanks to having a teenager’s metabolism and playing lots of sports). Even as a kid I didn’t feel like dinner was over until I was overstuffed. I ignorantly equated that overstuffed feeling to being full, even though it was overeating. Fast-forward to my 20s, when I got stressed about the responsibilities of the real world, and I craved to have that familiar feeling of fullness from my childhood. As though it made me feel more centered in life’s whirlwind. But I was wrong. I soon discovered that when I stopped overeating and started eating more intuitively that I had loads more energy and far less inflammation in my body.

 

 

Veggies, What Veggies?

I always ate veggies growing up (thanks mom!) but in college it was all too easy to forget about them. And then life as a recent graduate was a lot of buying veggies with the intention of cooking them before ultimately tossing them in the trash after they spoiled. It took me a solid few years to slowly integrate veggies into every lunch and dinner, but I soon found that it was worth the effort (and pretty darn yummy). Filling up my plate most lunches and dinners with a solid heap of veggies keeps me full for longer, doesn’t over-stuff me, and packs in nutrients that energize me and keep my immune system trucking along. I strongly encourage everyone out there to get creative with veggies and find options they can stay motivated to eat and enjoy on a regular basis.

 

No Time to Snooze

I’ve always valued sleep. Even my former college roommates can attest to this. And so can my husband. I’m pretty grumpy and blah without it. Even armed with this knowledge, I tried to convince myself that I could get by on 7 hours of sleep a night; 7-9 hours is the healthy range so I should be good on 7, right? One would think…but my body disagreed.

I spent a few years getting between 6-7.5 hours of sleep most nights and it just about killed me. I’ve never had a more bleary-eyed, exhausted, mentally unstable period of my life. When I finally respected my body’s screams for more rest, everything fell into order. I felt WAY better and acted like a human again. I’m officially an 8-hour girl. And 9 feels like a slice of heaven.

 

 

‘Twas a Nail Biter 

After my Junior year in college I traveled to Sedona, AZ for the summer to work as a fitness instructor and personal trainer at Mii Amo Spa. (Sedona is known for its positive energy and healing qualities.) When I ended the summer there, I noticed with surprise that I hadn’t bitten my nails all summer, something I had done my entire life! It made me realize that I would bite my nails out of nervous anxiety over nothing in particular, and that the habit never made me feel better – only served to kind of reinforce the stress. So, I don’t bite them anymore. Yay! Small victories are everything. 

 

Sit Up Straight

Mom – this one’s for you! Remember how you always told me to sit up straight as girl? “Don’t slouch!” was the exact wording, I believe. Well, you were right. Sitting and standing with better posture helps my whole body feel better. And I’ve noticed that slouching doesn’t just happen during the daytime – it happens at night, too! I notice that I feel better when I sleep straight instead of tucked into a ball. Give it a try!

 

 

Color Me Cardio

Once upon a time I was the cardio exercise queen. It was my mojo. I did cardio all the time. And I loved it. But to be honest, only doing cardio was kiiiinda a bad habit. It might not sound like it initially but constant endurance exercise can deplete your muscle mass and make certain parts of your body weaker. When I first became a personal trainer I had to adjust my mentality. I couldn’t only do cardio and coach other people to lift weights, could I? I had to start cross-training and weight training more regularly and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy at first. I can still remember the day when foam rolling felt difficult because I lacked upper body strength. I can still remember feeling like planks must be the devil’s favorite form of torture. And I can still remember the time when doing anything other than cardio felt forced. But that all slowly changed in an epic way. I’m pretty darn strong now and I love doing a huge variety of exercises. So, it’s okay if getting started with cross-training or weights feels like a chore. You may feel differently one day. Stick to it.

 

Sunday Fun Day 

This phrase is so common that it’s even a little sticker for Instagram stories! There’s something to be said about taking one day a week to truly relax – and I mean no chores, no work emails, no obligations, and for me, no exercise. I used to push myself hard all seven days a week and wondered why I never felt rejuvenated. Isn’t that just so ridiculous? I’ve really come to embrace the concept of “the sabbath” being a day of rest and encourage you to do the same, even if you’re not religious. We aren’t meant to go-go-go, ever pressing life’s accelerator down harder. What’s the point? Why are you doing it? Ask yourself these questions and the consequences of them. And then ask yourself the consequences of NOT resting. If you value your health, you’ll find that the consequences of not resting far outweigh anything else. We’ve all got one body to get through this life in. Let’s learn to honor it.

 

Life’s not about perfection. It’s about progress.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

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12 Quick Fixes for Back Pain

I know how miserable back pain can be. But, I also know from years of personal experience managing injury, inflammation, misalignment and aching for myself and others that spinal health is largely about the little things that add up. Simple exercises, ways we approach our day, and healthy habits can make a big difference. Whether you have back issues on a regular basis or just some discomfort during less active winter months full of movie watching and holiday travels, these quick fixes for pain can work for you! A happy back = A happy body.

untitled-design-3Foam Roll

Foam rolling is the equivalent of taking a giant-sized rolling pin to your body and working it out like a ball of cookie dough. Rolling out the kinks in myofascial tissue will help you feel better than gobbling up a handful of those warm cookies. I’m totally serious, people! 

You see, our muscles are all surrounded by fascia which is strong, thin, connective tissue that responds best to pressure in order to release tension and knots (whereas muscles respond best to stretching). If part of our fascia is too tight because of one of two extremes; improper recovery from hard exercise or not exercising enough, then the muscles underneath will not be able to move as effectively as they should. Dehydration can also cause this tissue to become rigid and stick too tightly to underlying muscles. You might not immediately feel the negative repercussions, but over time tight fascial tissue can result in your hips getting out of alignment, IT-band syndrome, low back pain, and more.

The key is to use a foam roller much like a rolling bin when baking. Start with long rolls, using your body against gravity on the foam roller, and then find the areas that need a little more attention. It might hurt a lot at first if you’re really tight (just being honest), but that will subside the more you do it. Plus, the tighter you feel, the more your body is telling you that it NEEDS this! Onward you roll! 

Apply Hot or Cold

Using heat or cold-pack treatments is a classic and super easy way to deal with nagging discomfort. The key is to know when to use each temperature. There is some debate about this in the medical community at large, depending on what culture and philosophy your doctor comes from, so take my advice with a grain of salt if you want.

I generally advise clients to use heat for aches that are chronic and cold for acute injuries. For example, if you have an aching low back that gets worse over the course of a few weeks but you can’t pinpoint the exact cause of the pain, then I suggest using a heat pack on it overnight or while you’re lying down for a period of time. If you have a sudden onset of pain like waking up in the morning with a piercing pain radiating from your neck to your temples or a shooting pain in your shoulder after lifting something, then I suggest you use ice. In both scenarios, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you’re concerned and the pain seems to linger or worsen.

Turn to the “McKenzie Method”

If you have low back pain that is chronic or acute (especially if you have sciatic pain), then finding a good physical therapist who can evaluate you via the McKenzie Method for low back pain is a great idea. The initial evaluation and first visits may not feel quick per say, but you will gain all sorts of fast, easy-to-perform-at-home exercises that will save you time and discomfort down the line.

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Stretch Hip Flexors and Hamstrings

Stretching these two muscle groups is one simple and effective way to rid yourself of tightness in your back. These muscles pull on the hips and spine and can thrown things out of whack when they are too tight. Both the hamstrings and hip flexors can get tight from sitting for long periods of time or exercising without enough follow-up stretching. Effective stretching can be done in less than five minutes. Hold each hamstring in a stretch for a full minute or slightly longer for maximal benefit (less than a solid minute of stretching may not help). Do the same thing for each hip flexor and you’re on your way to feeling sweet relief.

Correct Sitting, Lying and Standing Posture

The entire spine gets misshaped when we sit, lie and stand hunched over with our shoulders. The human spine’s curvature has specifically adapted to work with gravity, so when we take it out of its optimal position, it can no longer properly do its job. Also, when we are constantly tucked into a ball while sleeping or leaning forward at our desks, our musclces begin to develop a memory for being stretched out in the back and tight in the front. This will lead to all sorts of discomfort and issues down the line, plus it depletes from a tall, attractive posture (and by tall I mean upright – not necessarily sky-high height).

Correcting posture can actually feel uncomfortable, just like getting started with foam rolling. But, the more uncomfortable we are when standing with our shoulders back and heads held high, the more of a red flag our bodies are waving in front of us. Our bodies are screaming at us to get things back in order. It may be uncomfortable but it’s way easier than dealing with the fallout of bad posture over time. All it takes is reminding yourself to do it. Not too complicated, right?

Sleep with a Pillow Between Legs or Arms

Sleeping with a pillow between your legs or hugging it like a giant teddy bear in your arms can help “stack” your joints so they maintain better neutral alignment over the night. When you think about it, we are in bed for a long time every day. If we get 7-9 hours of sleep every night and are tucked into a ball, have one leg thrown over the other, or all our body weight on one shoulder the whole time, we are bound to eventually feel a little “off.” Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs can help alleviate some types of hip and low back pain. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your arms can help some types of thoracic and shoulder pain. Plus, it just feels snuggly. 🙂 

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Perform Chest Openers

Chest opening stretches or “heart-opening poses” in yoga are wonderful ways to make sure that the muscles of the chest stay stretched out and the ones in our backs stay tight enough. A lot of back pain comes from poor posture and all the movements we do like reaching forward which create tight muscles in the front of our bodies and loose ones in the back. Tight muscles are not the same as strong ones and loose muscles are not the same as flexible ones. So, it’s important to balance out our forward-reaching activities with a simple opening of the chest for 30-60 seconds a few times a day. A great time to do this is when you need to take a deep breath to think at work or when you are in the middle of chores at home. It can be as simple as standing in a door jam, holding onto the frame, and moving the rest of your body forward a couple steps. This can make for a nice deep release in the chest.

Exercise Large Back Muscles

Large back muscles can be targeted through lat pull downs, rows, pull-ups, reverse flies and rotator cuff exercises. Just spending a couple minutes on these muscles every gym visit can add up to a lot. That is, if you aren’t already working them out. It’s best to perform these exercises once your back is in alignment so make sure you’re using other techniques if you’re experiencing a lot of discomfort or pain.

Exercise Long Back Muscles

The long muscles in our backs can be targeted through all sorts of spinal extensions, typically best done lying face down on a mat and lifting our limbs, or from a standing position using exercise bands or cables. Again, a little can go a long way. It’s tough to remember that exercises like these are just as important as the ones that produce a mega sweat session, but they are. Just as important. If you’re feeling at a loss for how to get started on these, attend a beginner’s Pilates class and make notes of the exercises they do for the back. Try to repeat them at home or hit up the class again!

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Adjust Lifting and Carrying Form

Everything we do, from carrying little ones and groceries to lifting our luggage and briefcases, impacts our spinal health. When we repeat the same motions again and again on just one side of the body we risk throwing ourselves off in terms of both alignment and strength. Try to remember to switch baby from that favorite hip to the lesser-used one. Try to walk to work with your purse on the opposite shoulder sometimes. Simple things like that. It’s what makes or breaks us.

Use Lateral Movement

Lateral hip movement (and rotation, by the way) helps to stabilize the hips and take pressure off of the back. We do a lot of forward movement but not a lot of side-to-side, and it’s just as essential for our health. One of the best ways to tackle this type of movement is via clam shells and other lateral hip lifts which target the outside of your booty (aka the glut medius and glut minimus). All you have to do is put yourself in a side-lying position and lift the top leg up and down in various ways to elicit a burn in the outer compartment of your rear end. When you feel the burn, keep going! It’s good for you.

Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation sucks. It just makes everything miserable, including our backs. So, try to help your joints by eating a balanced diet with all the good stuff; leafy greens, berries, other fruits/veggies, whole grains, healthy fish, lean proteins, beans, nuts, you get the idea. People who are trying to heal from illness or injury will especially benefit in the healing process by eating as healthy as possible.

Also, drink plenty of water to keep joints lubricated and get a balance of exercise and adequate rest. The healthy basics really do a lot reduce inflammation.


Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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Core Support: KeepMeTight

I will be the first to admit that I don’t approve of quick fixes for fitness and diet. They never work. There is no magic one-size-fits-all solution out there on the market. Trust me, if there were, I would share it with you ASAP! But there isn’t…and likely never will be. So, you can imagine my skepticism when I was introduced to the Founder of KeepMeTight, Shameeka Hunt. But, after getting to know Shameeka, I see that there are scenarios under which giving people temporary aids for health and fitness may be appropriate. Shameeka’s story (below) and another woman’s story (who lost 70 lbs!) encouraged me to take on a new perspective.

Roni Noone recently wrote an article for MyFitnessPal’s blog, Hello Healthy. It was called The Truth About Before and After Photos. Roni explained that she worked hard to lose 70 lbs and was shocked when her before and after photos were stolen online and posted to a diet website with a false statement that she had used the company’s products and had lost all 70 lbs in 30 days!!! Can anyone tell me what the heck this company was thinking?

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Roni was outraged (rightfully so). But, it wasn’t just the fact that her pictures were stolen that she was upset. She was frustrated that her weight loss process, which had taken her roughly a year, was being painted in an unrealistic light. In the article, Roni persuades women to steer clear of quick fixes, emphasizing the most foundational element that aids in weight loss: “Honestly, the hardest part for me was accepting and loving myself regardless of how much fat my body was carrying. Once I realized that, the eating less and moving more thing didn’t seem as hard as it once did.”

Shameeka Hunt shares this philosophy. She wants to help women feel their best so that they can move with confidence throughout their weight loss and toning journey. Shameeka’s before and after photos aren’t boasting extreme weight loss in 30 days, they’re showing you the difference in tone you can gain right away so that you can live life more confidently while you tackle your goals. Kudos to this woman for changing my stubborn perspective on compression apparel! 

Read on for my interview with Shameeka!

 

1) What made you decide to start KeepMeTight?

KeepMeTight originated from a personal need I had after giving birth to my 2 children (both via C-section) within a 3-year period. Even under a strict exercise and nutrition regimen, I found it extremely difficult to lose the baby bump. This was a problem for me given my desire and need to get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes, business suits and other form-fitting exercise attire. Like many women, I’m very conscious of my appearance and take pride in how I look in public. I needed something to provide me with support and comfort while I recovered from the abdominal incisions, and so I could stay active in my personal and professional pursuits.

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2) In your own words, why is core support so important?

I always like to use an analogy of our core being like a tree trunk – it is the base of support and connects to all parts of the tree (roots, branches and leaves). Likewise our core is in the center of our body. It provides the same stability, balance and connections [to the parts of the body above and below it] as a tree does. The main muscles of the core are contained in the belly and back. These muscles work together with the hips, shoulders and neck to maintain spinal alignment. If something in our core is misaligned, weak or not working properly, another part of our body will be affected.

So, it’s easy to see that by strengthening our core we can alleviate unwanted strain on the body, like acute injuries or long-term damage.

 

3) Who do you recommend this product for?

I recommend the KMT Band for two kinds of people: 1) anyone who wants the aesthetic appeal it provides; a flattened stomach, and 2) anyone who wants or needs additional back and posture support. There is no better feeling or self-image booster than knowing that you look fabulous in your clothing and can easily transition between daily activities with the KMT Band. There is also nothing that beats solid core support since we need it to feel healthy and strong!

 

4) How does the product feel when it is worn during exercise?

The KMT Band is made of cotton, allowing it to feel comfortable and breathable. Cotton is a material that helps wick away sweat too! The KMT Band covers the whole abdominal area so it acts as a tool to assist in flattening your stomach and engaging your core muscles. The KMT Band also provides back support, serving as a physical aid that reminds you to maintain proper form and posture.

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5) What is your philosophy on health and wellness? Is that integral to your company in any way?

My personal philosophy on health and wellness is simple – it’s a lifestyle. A state of good health and well-being takes conscious effort and becomes a habit, not something that is temporary, seasonal, or just because you need to get into “that dress.” This philosophy is integrated into KeepMeTight in that the products that are and will be developed serve a purpose; they support a person’s current and desired health and wellness goals (to include exercise and nutritional regimens). I do not believe in anything taking the place of what our bodies were intended to do, but there is also nothing wrong with having the proper “tools” to help you reach your goals.  And that is what KeepMeTight and the KMT Band do – provide that psychological and physical support that should be used as a tool to get you a step further in your health and wellness journey.

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6) As a busy businesswoman, mom and fitness fan, are there any strategies that you use to stay healthy day by day?

Given the busyness of life, I have found that I need to think and do creative things that become a part of my schedule versus routines that are a hindrance or place a big time commitment on me (since I really don’t have a lot of time). One of my routines is taking long distance walks while pushing my kids in a double stroller. This allows me to exercise over various terrains while building my physical endurance, working against the resistance of my own body weight and that of my children. It also helps me unwind and mentally decompress while listening to music. Plus, I get to meet my neighbors!

I’m also big on exercises for cardio workouts and yoga routines that I can access through my TV or mobile device. Again, since I have children, I can get a good workout in with my children at home that doesn’t require additional travel time. One huge benefit I find in exercising with my children present is that they typically join in the exercise, which reinforces the importance of family time and staying active for everyone. Quick tip: Women with infants or toddlers can use their babies as resistance while exercising or “playing” (at least the little ones will think it’s playing)!

When it comes to food and nutrition, I’m a rather particular eater. So, I have found that blending fruits and vegetables into a smoothie or juice (with stalks and rinds included) allows me to get all my nutrients in a liquid form. It also allows me to be creative with colors and tastes, so it’s fun and good for me. What is even better is that the fruits and vegetables are typically picked or purchased from a local farm, which adds a sense of pride for me since I know how my fruit and vegetables are grown and can support local farmers.

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As you can see, Shameeka’s lifestyle and product are in tune with overall wellness and finding solutions that help women work towards the bodies they want. As mentioned, it all starts with feeling good and confident, and you don’t have to wait until you’re at your goal weight to feel that way!

Thank you, Shameeka, for sharing your story and exciting business with us!

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

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References:

http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/the-truth-about-before-and-after-photos/?user_id=98146046627053&alt_source=mfp&alt_medium=email&alt_campaign=weekly20150629&utm_source=mfp&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=weekly20150629&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRokva%2FPZKXonjHpfsX66%2B0tUK6%2FlMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4DScpnI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFSrTFMblm0LgLXhM%3D

https://www.keepmetight.com/