Per the World Health Organisation , approximately 70% of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives. That’s a lot of bad backs! But here’s the million-dollar question: Is it really your lower back causing you pain or is there something else at play?
Surprisingly, many cases of lower back pain can be made worse simply through feeling more stressed/run-down than usual. You can reduce your pain levels by doing things that help you unwind!
Okay, so we’re off to a good start, but what else could be causing your lower back pain? How about your posture?
CHECK YOUR POSTURE
An easy way to check your lower back posture is by having a look at how the waistline of your pants sits on your waist. Is it flat? Or does it tilt forwards? If your waistline tilts forwards, you may have what’s known as a “baboon posture”, which refers to the forwards tilting of your pelvis, which can lead to the natural curve (lordosis) of your lower back becoming exaggerated and putting pressure on the structures in your lower back.
Here’s what you should look out for:
• Waistband of pants tilts downwards.
• Stomach and rear stick out.
• Muscle tightness in hip flexors (front of thighs) and erector spinae (lower back muscles).
• Muscle weakness in the hamstrings (back of thigh) and abdominal region.
What can you do about it?
1) Build postural awareness – Feel like your belly/bum is sticking out? Tuck them in by lightly contracting your core (think about the feeling of holding a wee in, trust me it works!) and glutes! These cues should help to keep your waistline nice and horizontal.
2)Stretching – in particular your hip flexors and erector spinae (see right). This will loosen up the muscles that are pulling your pelvis into a forwards tilting position.
3) Exercises – strengthening your abdominals, glutes and hamstrings will all help to pull your pelvis back into a neutral position, especially if you do this alongside the stretches. Have a go at the glute bridge (which gives you a 3-in-1 as it strengthens all 3 of the target muscles at the same time) below!
This blog is both easy for me to write and difficult at the same time. Easy, due to the fact I am speaking about a topic area I am very familiar with. Difficult however, for the same reason. This is arguably the most important blog I will write in this series, the one that means the most to me and the one I am hoping people take the most from.
In the coming days, weeks and possibly even months we are going to face changes, we are going to face uncertainty and we are going to face challenges. Whatever we face I want everyone to remember and embody the most important word you can utter during this time…Positivity!
Be positive in everything you do, take victories wherever you can and please do not let what is happening in the world get you down.
It is very easy when working from home and home schooling the kids to fall into the trap of not even getting out of your pyjamas daily. Although this can be “fun” at first, it can soon spiral into a negative behaviour pattern, especially for the young and the elderly who thrive on routine and structure. Getting up every day, showering and getting into clean clothes exerts an element of control that psychologists say is incredibly important to positive mental health.
You are in control of this day, you make the decisions of how it is going to play out and getting up and ready will put you in a positive mind set from the off.
At the same time, try not to be too rigid, acknowledge the fact you are working from home and you may have to entertain one, two, or a few little ones who don’t really understand why mummy or daddy can’t play with them all the time! Take regular breaks, go out into the garden, take a few deep breaths through your nose, kick a ball, dance, sing, have fun. Then when you are back in a good mind set, have another crack at those timesheets.
Aside from LinkedIn (which I use for professional reasons) I do not use social media, which is a decision I made after a period of severe depression and honestly I do not miss it. I do however understand that people use it & overindulge use at times. In my experience this only heightens anxiety as the world can be a negative place and unfortunately negativity spreads quicker than positivity at times. Not only that, it is very easy to fall into a “social media hole”! You know what I mean…one minute you are checking the news, the next you are watching a video of a goat in a tree and you have no idea where the time has gone.
Well that lost time is time that you could and probably should have spent being productive and now you are chasing your tail feeling stressed and anxious as a result.
Try restricting your social media “checks” to a few times a day or even go a whole day without looking at your phone. I understand some jobs require social media engagement and is unavoidable at times but being “present” at home, with your family, is crucial to a positive mind set. That new Tik Tok video can wait!
Recognise Your Own Needs
Personally, I like being on my own. I am an introvert by nature and I feel quite comfortable in my own company (maybe that’s why I enjoy blogging!). Now however, I find myself suddenly at home with my partner and my four-year-old in a three-bedroom house- there’s not that many places I can be on my own. My partner is the same.
My daughter however, is completely extroverted, loves to sing and dance and demands attention constantly (like most small children I suppose). Communication in this situation is key before anxieties and stress occur as this can quickly turn to depression and negative feelings. Talk to your loved ones and tell them how you are feeling and what you need to feel good in yourself. If you are a natural extrovert and crave the attention of others then regular phone and video calls, with other family members, group chats and Facebook groups (just mind the amount of time you spend in them) could be a good solution for you.
At the end of the day, these are unprecedented times, but we are all in this together and to reiterate what I said at the start of this blog, stay positive! We will get through this and we will come back stronger but you must look after yourself. Look after your mental health, talk to someone. I will put my personal email address at the bottom of this blog for anyone feeling alone, please reach out, I can signpost you to help or answer any questions you may have.
Below are some great websites for people feeling anxious or wish for more information.
Look after one another, be kind and remember, even though you are isolated, you are not alone!
If you’ve ever seen the film Rocky then its famous “Eye Of The Tiger” theme tune will no doubt be whizzing around your head at its mere mention!
And whats-more, if you can sing it out loud, you’ll most likely find your feet and body will move along too. That’s because music is one of our biggest weapons when it comes to energising our bodies and motivating us to get moving!
With that in mind, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to talk about how you can use music to motivate you and your family to get moving more, give your bodies an energy boost before you’ve even started, and keep going!
And the beat goes on…
Besides entertaining you during your workout, the most obvious advantage of music is that it provides you with a regular tempo to match with your stride or pace. It’s no surprise that runners have a favourite playlist, or that aerobics and spinning instructors tend to play a variety of upbeat tunes throughout classes. It’s human nature- we just can’t help but fall into step with the rhythm of the music, so choosing songs with a fast tempo will not only help you keep momentum, but it will encourage you to keep going when your body begins to slow.
Of course, it isn’t just runners and cyclists who can benefit from the beat, walkers can use music to increase momentum or maintain a good pace too – particularly when battling a hill!
Thinking about the song’s length is also a good way of using the music to your advantage. If you are trying to increase your stamina, instead of aiming to run towards a physical target, try to keep running until the end of the song, or set a challenge to run for the length of three songs. The advantage of this is that you’re unlikely to know the exact length of each song, so you could unwittingly be running further and further each time!
Another tip for choosing the perfect playlist is to schedule your most motivational songs towards the end of your workout – giving you that extra energy boost just when you need it! But, don’t end on a high tempo beat you might struggle to keep pace with.
Watch us wreck the mic, psyche
There’s a reason why boxers choose a specific song to play as they head to the ring, or why athletes wear headphones before a big competition – it helps them to prepare psychologically.
As with the Rocky music, songs which you find uplifting will help you prepare mentally before taking on a challenge- and that goes for any form of exercise!
Are you struggling to motivate yourself to walk to the shop instead of drive? Can’t tear the kids away from their screens to get outside? Try blasting some empowering music – you may find you will all have more energy to burn.
Playing a song that you all enjoy will lift everyone’s spirits – it may only last three minutes, but it’s three valuable minutes you can spend together as a family.
There is an argument that having your favourite song on during an activity or workout will delay fatigue as it distracts you from any discomfort. This is especially useful for those who limit themselves by their own self-doubt. If you haven’t exercised in a while and dread the idea of going for jog or bike ride, choose a song that you love and give it a go! You may find your performance is much better than expected- and if it’s not, just try again tomorrow – keep going until you can manage the distance of your first song!
Ooh I wanna dance with somebody
Of course, the most natural way to exercise to music is to dance. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be an organised sport or specific workout activity – anything that gets your heart pounding and warms you up counts.
Dancing is a great way to exercise with the whole family, and even better – you can do it anywhere! So dance around the kitchen before dinner, put on your favourite song at breakfast or dance around a campfire – whatever works for you and yours.
If the kids need a little more encouragement give them the choice of music. Don’t worry if they choose music that’s hard to dance to or a little slow, instead challenge yourselves to hop up and down until the end of the song, or keep a balloon in the air until the music stops.
To remain fit and healthy, adults should be active for around 30 minutes a day – kids for an hour – so coming up with a family friendly playlist of around eight songs is an easy way to fit in activity without much planning! With all the music technology available to us today – we can listen to music anywhere, anytime. So, next time you’re lacking motivation, pump up the volume and absorb the music – you may just need to find the right beat!
OK, so there is no getting away from it now, gyms & leisure centres are shut, and there’s no doubt activity levels will waiver as a result.
If you currently exercise regularly,such as taking part in several spin classes a week or joining a BLT class here or there then this advice may be of use to you. The same goes for the people sat at home thinking ‘I need to lose weight’, but now have no access to a gym. Well fear not, I am going to let you into a little secret…. It doesn’t really matter!
Gym closures are not the worst thing for your waistline & neither is working from home or even the dreaded “lockdown” word that we’ve all been hearing recently. What is the worst thing for your waistline? Excess or surplus calories! If you have never calorie counted before or really have no idea how many calories your body needs to maintain its current form then do not worry, I have got your back!
Below is a simple calorie calculator and a more in-depth calorie calculator that will enable you to see exactly how many calories (I know, I have said that word a lot) your body needs. If weight loss is your goal simply remove some from your maintenance total, if you are happy with your current form do not remove any and if you wish to add some size then add some. It is that simple, in theory.
The reason I say in theory is that there is going to be a lot of enticements whilst at home. especially if you have been shopping recently and are one of these people that could open a small Italian restaurant with the amount of pasta you have bought! If this sounds like you, then you may be tempted to indulge just a tad. Especially when the cupboards are right there, and you could whip up a cheeky lunch time spag bol with lashings of cheese and garlic bread at the same time as you are finishing your invoices.
The same goes for snacks, chocolate, crisps, brews, they are all right there. It is my hope that once you are aware of your maintenance calorie number and how to track it then the temptation voice will be out reasoned by the self-control voice. You can still have the spag bol by the way, but you will simply be aware of how many calories you “have left” for the day after eating it. Lets face it, that boring sandwich or low calorie meal deal you used to eat at your desk every day is probably now unavailable and since the fridge is there you could end up eating many more calories than you ever have done, without even realising it!
Tracking these calories has been made extremely simple by the advancements in technology! My advice is to use a counting app such as My Fitness Pal (available on android and IOS) as an added Brucey bonus, this app will calculate your calories for you based on your goal! If you would like to do it the “old fashioned way” then the NHS has a handy calorie checker along with some great advice.
Failing that, I am positive there are more apps available that do the same job, however the common variable to all of this is will power! Remember, this will pass. This period of isolation, uncertainty, fear and possible inactivity will leave us, please do not undo all your hard work becoming active and healthy by allowing this to beat you. Look after yourselves and when we come out of the other side of this, we will all be healthy and ready to smash the gym again! The same goes for the people who are yet to make the choice of becoming active and looking after your nutrition, use this period to get ahead of things and go back to work looking and feeling amazing.
Stay positive people, be kind to one another and look after your health 😊
Adam Heywood, MSc, BA (hons)
Strength and Conditioning Coach
ACH Performance Coaching
We all know the most basic way our bodies operate is by turning what we eat into energy. The more we put in, the more we need to do to burn it off. Going about our day to day lives and eating healthy meals is usually enough for us all to keep a balance between input and output. But what happens when your daily routine changes and your usual activity levels reduce? Now more than ever, it’s vital to move with the times & keep you & your loved ones fit & active!
Whether it’s stopping going to the gym due to an injury, switching to working from home or changing habits which mean you spend more time in the house – all these factors will affect your output and throw your overall balance off.
Our bodies will always need food. Not only do we need it to move and stay active, but we need it to produce energy to breathe, think, heal and repair. With this in mind, the best way to maintain a healthy input/output balance is to find other ways to keep your activity levels up.
But if you can’t go to the gym, or you’re not walking to and from school every day, what else can you do?
Cut the convenience
Modern technology has been developed to make our lives as easy as possible. This is brilliant for when we are time poor, running around after a family, or trying to fit mundane jobs around our busy working lives, daily commutes and other engagements. But what if you’ve got a bit of extra time on your hands? It can actually make a big difference to stop using these conveniences and use up some energy instead.
I’m not just talking about star jumps in the front room here (though do them if you like!) Even small things like cooking a meal from scratch, rather than buying in ready-made items, use up more energy… particularly if you make additional changes like ditching the electronic whisk and doing it by hand.
Chores don’t have to be a bore
Turning jobs you have to do around the house anyway into exercise regimes rather than tiresome tasks is another solution. A vigorous bout of hoovering, a dance while dusting… or even a bit of extra stretching while doing the DIY. Putting all your effort into these activities is bound to get your heart beating faster, work your muscles and make you feel warmer – all doing you good.
Find a longer route
If you really are struggling to find ways to be active, try actually putting obstacles in your way to force you and your family to move more. Take the scenic route when walking to the shops, or even go to two separate shops for milk and bread. Or at home, keep the remote control on the telly, so you have to get up to turn over the channel. Keep your kettle in the upstairs bathroom, so you have to climb the stairs every time you want a cuppa.
It might sound silly but each step you take and every time you lift yourself up out of a chair will be doing you good. To our modern brains behaving in this way doesn’t seem to make much sense, but if you find yourself with the time – why not? Your body will thank you for it in the long-run.
Keep up the good work
If you and your family are used to playing sports and being active, then find ways at home to replicate that energy! There are plenty of things you can do in the garden as a family such as playing football, badminton, building assault courses and dens. And if the weather forces you inside, you can dance together, play tennis with a balloon, or even set up an assault course – just be careful to remove any fragile objects before you start!
The great thing about kids is that they have endless energy, so if you can encourage them to try something new and they enjoy it, they can stick at it for hours…forcing you to as well sometimes!
Turn your home into a gym
If you are a regular gym-goer then there are plenty of things you can do in your home until you can get back to the gym.
This can be anything from putting bags of flour in a bag-for-life to use as kettlebells, to lifting cans of water instead of dumbbells. Lots of exercises use body weight so you can easily set up a ‘gym’ in your kitchen or living room and set up a routine as you would in the gym. Push ups, star jumps, running on the spot and lunges are all good options.
If you have a usual routine why not introduce it to your family and get them all involved? Or, if you need some guidance, go online and search for videos that will give you step by step instructions.
The great thing about this is that it’s something the whole family can enjoy together. You can do 30 minutes every morning before you start your day, or pick an hour slot three times a week, just like you would if you were attending classes.
Whatever you do, don’t stop
Being active isn’t just good for your body, it’s also good for your mind and soul, so it’s important to keep it up at all times, no matter your age, ability or personal situation. So, whether you are starting from scratch, or just trying to maintain activity levels when your circumstances change, there are plenty of ways to ensure your output and input remains fairly equal – and you can still enjoy the odd treat guilt free!
Are your shoulders stiff and sore during your upper body training activities?Are you struggling to develop & maintain strength and size in your chest or back? Does your lower back hurt after squats, deadlifts, or even during everyday household tasks?
If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then the solution lies in one location – your upper back!
The upper back (or the Thoracic Spine, to give it it’s nerdy term) is stiff and weak in many people, causing your neck and shoulders to slump forwards to compensate. This can also have a knock-on effect on your lower back, which will either curve too much or too little to try and reduce the strain that your hunched upper back is placing on it.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?
One tell-tale sign of a stiff upper back is the all too common“hunchback”posture.
Try asking a friend or relative to take a picture of you from the side when you’re not looking- how many of the following posture problems you can see in yourself?
• Rounded, slouched upper back.
• Slumped, forward set shoulders.
• Chest sinks in, sometimes hidden by slumped shoulders.
• Chin pokes forwards.
This list of posture problems, along with potential tightness and weaknesses in the muscles (pictured above) can all be attributed to a stiff upper back, which can lead to a compromised performance in all of your daily activities.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
Don’t worry, it’s relatively easy to fix, through following the advice below!
1. Posture awareness – Try correcting the list of posture problems noted above by using the following cues: lift your chest up, pull your shoulders and chin back and keep your neck long. You’ll feel like you’re standing taller straight away!
2. Stretching/exercises – Luckily if you experience these postural issues, something as easy as stretching your upper back and and strengthening muscles weakened by poor posture, the issues can be fixed rather quickly. Have a go at some of the exercises below and you’ll see speedy results!
One of the sporting calendars biggest events, The Six Nations, is taking place throughout February & March. For those wondering, it’s an international Rugby Union competition featuring England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales!
Whether you are already engrossed in the tournament or you’ve not paid much attention to it, there is no doubt that the Six Nations provides the perfect excuse to put rugby union in the spotlight as a great activity for improving health and fitness!
With that in mind, here are some of the major reasons why we should be taking inspiration from big tackles and think seriously about scrums in terms of our own physical and mental wellbeing.
When the going gets tough…
Rugby is one of the most well know contact sports around- but it is easy to forget when watching a thrilling game that every time a player is in a scrum or takes/makes a tackle, they are in fact strengthening their bodies.
The pushing and pulling against body weight is strengthening muscles and bones, ultimately making them stronger and fitter.
Of course, not everyone fancies getting muddy on a cold, wet field, or wants to risk injury in a scrum, but taking inspiration from these rugby players and introducing strength training to your week will do you the world of good.
The science behind scrumming (and running!)
Rugby is one of the few competitive sports that combines the athleticism of running and sprinting with extreme physical contact!
Strengthening actions and exercises concentrate on your muscles, making them work harder than usual and increasing your strength, size, power and endurance. This, of course, makes you physically stronger and more robust, and is great for lowing your blood pressure.
Again, while you might not fancy running round a rugby pitch – this magic combination of cardiovascular & strength work is good to remember. Incorporating both types of activity into your exercise regime will be really beneficial!
Can kids kick it…yes, they can!
Strengthening activities are particularly important for children as it will help build strong bones, regulate blood sugar and maintain a healthy weight from a young age.
The Government recommends children’s activities should include strengthening exercises for around three hours a week.
While a kiddies rugby group (and there are many options available these days) is a perfect way to help your child meet these targets, there are plenty of other things children can do to improve their strength.
Swimming, yoga and martial arts are all fun activities to increase muscle strength. Fun games to try at home can include wheelbarrow races, dancing, or doing cartwheels and handstands! Alternatively, you can take the activity a little further afield and try climbing trees and hiking and scrambling up hills.
These are all fun activities that you can do as a family and don’t feel like strengthening exercises!
Forever young, forever strong!
As we age our bones naturally weaken, causing problems for our joints including hips and knees. By doing strength exercises that mimic body weight movements of rugby players, you will start to build stronger bones to help prevent avoidable weakening and conditions such as osteoporosis.
Strengthening exercises also help to improve balance,which means you are less likely to suffer a fall as you naturally become more fragile!
Of the recommended 30 minutesactivity per day for adults, at least two sessions should be based around strengthening exercises. Again, these can be achieved through lifting weights at the gym or going to specific classes. Good results can still be achieved through activities at home, such as squats, calf raises & heavy gardening (weather permitting!)
For an activity to be muscle strengthening it needs to work your muscles to the point that you may need a short rest before continuing. As with the children, yoga classes, martial arts and walking will also do the trick.
Contrary to popular belief, strengthening exercises won’t bulk you up. In fact, the muscle fibres developed through strength training can help improve whole-body metabolism and make you leaner.
It’s actually very difficult to achieve the physically bigger muscles we see at body building competitions or on many gym floors. In order to bulk up you need to combine very specific workouts with dramatically increased calorie intake and supplements regime.
Saying that, you may well find you put on weight as you increase your strengthening exercises, but it is important to remember this is muscle weight and not body mass.
If you or your kids like the sound of rugby, there are plenty of grass roots clubs you can go along to for taster sessions.
It is important to remember there are lots of different types of rugby – with Union and League being the most popular – so make sure you choose one that is right for you or your child.
But if tackles, scrums and muddy pitches really aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways we can take inspiration from players in this year’s tournament.
At lifeLEISURE, we believe in championing each & every member of our community & the team at Hazel Grove are no different! Jess & co have showcased our core W.A.T.C.H principles immensely, through their support of women & girls suffering from period poverty.
Period Poverty: The Problem!
The stigma surrounding periods exists & can make everyday life difficult to deal with- now imagine having to choose between ordinary everyday tasks such as eating & buying sanitary products on a regular basis! It’s inconceivable that we would ever have to choose between eating to survive & using the toilet-so why should girls have to make the same choices around using essential sanitary products?
Across The UK we’ve started to see improvements of late, with the newly refurbished toilets at Manchester Piccadilly no longer being pay per use,whilst Scotland now provides free sanitary items to anyone under the age of eighteen at schools & libraries,providing vital support to those in need. Females can’t & don’t choose to have periods, so it is illogical to expect them to pay for them!
Aside from the general public- how do those less fortunate than ourselves deal with their monthly period- without access to provisions & left choiceless in whether they feel clean & ready to face the challenges associated with their menstrual cycle?
Incredibly, 10% of females don’t have the means to afford sanitary items, and 49% of 14-21 year old girls have actually missed a day of education as a direct result of their menstrual cycle, which is not helped by the UK currently imposing a 5% tax on all sanitary items. These statistics are substantially higher in third world countries, with many girls in Sub-Saharan Africa missing as much as 20% of their school YEAR due to a lack of provisions & access to clean water.
What are we doing to help?
It’s very simple! At Life Leisure, We are asking for you to donate sanitary items that can be distributed to local charities across the borough, including food banks and The Wellspring . The response from donors has been overwhelming, with bags full of sanitary items already received!
DONATE DONATE DONATE!
If you can spare them…
We’re also in dire need of reusable sanitary items! These are more expensive- but they can last up to five years when treated correctly,saving period sufferers vast sums of money in the long term, enabling us to provide greater assistance to people in need.
Another option is the menstrual cup, costing roughly £15, but lasting up to 3 years, compared to packet of tampons which only last a month. However, reusable & single use materials are both greatly appreciated as donations.
Our immediate goal is progress from Stockport, into the wider Manchester area by expanding out current project. We already have donation boxes across the majority of our centres* & the next step is to work with local businesses by placing donation boxes in public areas throughout Greater Manchester. This will allow us to collect more sanitary items to donate to the many communities across Manchester.
We’d love to take this as far as we can & spread the message that girls & women across The UK (not just those girls lucky enough to live in Scotland!) should receive the sanitary care items that they need as a basic human right! Girls shouldn’t have to pay for their periods!
We appreciate every single donation,kind word & helping hand that we’ve received! Please help us to stop the stigma & end period poverty in Greater Manchester & beyond.
Thank you for your continued support.
Paul, Jess and Georgia @ Life Leisure Hazel Grove
*Donations are accepted at all participating Life Leisure centres, depending on individual centres.
Look at your side profile in the mirror- does your chin seem to poke forwards, maybe even to the point where it sticks out more than your chest does? If so, you may have common muscle tightness in the neck and chest, caused by the “Levator Scapulae” (neck) and “Pectoralis Minor” (chest).
AM I AT RISK?
Chin-poke posture affects people who are frequently putting their necks in vulnerable positions, such as:
• Desk workers, such as admin staff, students, etc.
• Manual labourers.
• Gym-goers doing upper-body (especially shoulders!) exercises with poor technique, or lower-body exercises with the neck in awkward positions (such as barbell squats).
• Frequent phone users, leading to a condition called “text neck” which leads to chin-poke posture.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
(1) Pay attention to your posture – Busy schedules during the day make it all to easy to forget about taking care of yourself. A good habit to get into is teaching yourself the “double-chin” technique (below), a quick and easy way of strengthening the deeper neck muscles and correcting your posture!
2) Stretching – Completed a task at work? Good job! Now treat yourself by getting up and having a stretch! Stretching the “Levator scapula” and the “Pectoralis minor” will really help you to rid your neck and shoulders of all that desk-work tightness, and you’ll have more energy for your next task!