Sharing an exercise & talking about my fitness journey
As you may have noticed, I’ve been sharing some more photos of my workouts (100% due to Mark), and I’m kind of digging it (and hoping you are, too!) I haven’t shared much on my workouts and fitness stuff in awhile and it feels long overdue.
So, for those new to the blog here’s a quick little fitness background, since I’m sure you’ve heard enough on the nutrition side :)
After college, in addition to my full-time gig in marketing, I went through the Iowa Board of Education Coaching authorization program and I began coaching high school track and field and did that for about two years. Shortly after, I decided to get my personal training certification so that I could work more one-on-one with clients. Since then, I’ve trained group fitness classes, one-on-one personal training and in-home training – ranging from high intensity interval training, running programming and weight loss programs.Such a rewarding experience.
But today I want to talk more about what I’m doing currently – yay!
I’ve been doing functional fitness/high intensity interval training & CrossFit for the last 3 years and like most, I don’t think I could ever not do it. Sure, I’ve had moments (and periods of time) where I’ve hated it, stepped away from it and sworn off CrossFit, but recently, I’ve found a great place both mentally and physically. I’m able to fluctuate a little less severely. That “sweet spot” took me years to find. It took me years of listening to my body and listening to my coaches. Recently, I had to step back a little and reevaluate some movements and weights because of a sticky shoulder situation that just didn’t seem to get better.
See, it wasn’t getting better because I wasn’t taking the time to rest, or stretch or seek care.
It’s weirdly difficult for me to listen to my body. Perhaps it’s because growing up as a young athlete we were kind of told to forget that signal, and to just push through it. I’m happy to say, that I’ve been really trying to listen to my body and give it the rest and care it needs. And guess what? I’m feeling so much better.
And that’s what I want to share with you today.
It’s very rare that if you’ve done CrossFit you haven’t had or heard of someone with some shoulder pain. It can kind of come with the territory.
About a year ago, I ended a high volume pull-up workout and my shoulder felt completely shot. Days later, it hurt to pull up my pants or put on my bra. If I stood or sat for an extended period of time, my shoulder would seize up and I couldn’t physically move it past a 90-degree angle. I figured it would “work itself out” and continued to work through the pain. First mistake. Obviously the pain and issues got worse and I finally ran down to our sports & rehabilitation department to get it checked out. A little too late… they were sure I had Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) which is characterized by squeezing of the blood vessels and nerves in the arm due to an accident or build-up of scar tissue. Great. Cue: lots of rehab, LOTS of painful ART (Active Release Technique).
It got better, but took about 10 months of this therapy. But as it got better, I shrugged off the care. And of course, this summer I started feeling some of that same “dead arm” pain. I sprinted over to rehab that same day. Honestly, that (mixed with some therapies) made all the difference. I dropped my ego, and sought help early.
This time around, I wanted to know all the facts. Why was it happening? What was causing it? Where are my weak spots? What do I need to work on? ….My poor intern. He should’ve been paid for tutoring me through this.
And I did learn a lot.
First and foremost – my upper back is super weak. I have horrible scapular activation (meaning, I can barely “switch them on” without feedback), my pecs are super tight. Combining to create a pretty weak and unstable upper body. And because of it, I’ve been activating different muscle groups during lifts … different meaning the wrong muscle groups … like my shoulder, causing serious strain and overuse. So that’s why I’ve been seeking some outside help. To assist me with “turning on” the right muscles and strengthening them.
At this point, you may be thinking, how in the heck do I 1. Activate that area? and 2. Know if I too have weak scapular stability?
Here’s a simple activation technique that I learned from my Doc. I have Mark doing this, because in all honesty, I suck at it. Really suck. Like, you can’t even tell a difference suck (…. I’m working on it.)
Here is Mark NOT activating his scapula, rhomboids or lats. He is, however, in plank position, so low-back, glutes, traps and shoulders, maybe a little bicep/delt are stabilizing him in this position. Note the concave (marked by the dotted line).
What to look for in this position (upper body):
- Chin is slightly tucked under, top of head is pulling forward (imagine a tiny cord attached to top of your head that is pulling it away from your shoulders)
- Elbows directly under shoulders, stabilizing upper body.
- Scapulae, rhomboids and lats are relaxed.
Now, to activate:
Imagine pulling your scapula down and away from your spine, while pushing out the area between your shoulder blades (the center section highlighted in yellow). The concave you had during relaxation, is now raised to form an even plane.
Note: you’re not arching your back in this movement nor are you lifting your head to create the even plane (something I do on occasion).
Looks easy, right? No. For me, it’s stupid hard. But good hard, because it shows a huge weakness. A weakness that I need to work on.
Try it out
If you want to try it, have someone watch you. Try and hold this position for 4 sets of 20 seconds, relaxing in between. Because this is so difficult for me to do, I start in a kneeling, hips forward positioned plank. I can activate much better in this varied position and will eventually work up to a full plank once I get stronger.
Go forth and activate, my friends!