I used to be one of them: a trainer and group fitness instructor who bragged about how sore I could make my clients. Then I had an epiphany: What if I could make people stronger without hurting them? It was all about delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) back then – back before I had kids, before I had knee surgery, before I was diagnosed with a compressed disc, before I realized how much I was hurting - It was about deliberately and systematically creating micro-tears in muscle tissue for the sake of stimulating hypertrophy (bigger muscle). The more sore you were, the stronger you would be, right? No pain, no gain!
… but what if your soreness is a developing injury, and you ignore it? This showed up on FIVE fitness pages I follow in one morning on facebook.
If you don’t believe that trainers don’t want to HURT you, here are a few quotes I’ve recently pulled off various personal trainer fan pages that I keep tabs on.
- “[jane doe] had a special one on one POD with me today She is going to hurt tomorrow. Good work everyone!”
- “Sometimes you do have to hurt people to help them, not injure or train them incorrectly, but pain and hard work are transforming both physically and mentally.” (I’m so glad he clarified not to injure them, just put them in pain!)
- A client repeating what her trainer said… “He thought that warming up well and foam rolling after were the best ways to manage muscle soreness, but that if you work hard, you’ll be sore, so deal.”
Hurting is good work? Just “deal” with soreness? What if pain transforms me in the WRONG direction? I now see three HUGE problems with the pain-method of training: First, it assumes the client has a life they can afford to hobble through in pain. Second, it assumes the client wants BIGGER muscles as well as stronger muscles. Third, it assumes the client is already strong enough to withstand micro-tears in their muscles. Of course, we do our due diligence as trainers and clubs with basic Personal Activity Readiness Questionnaires (PAR-Q’s) but – let’s be honest – that’s just to protect our hind-ends from law suits. Once we don’t see any glaring health issues, we plunk the new client into our “tried and true” routines with perhaps a few minor modifications.
Two things: First, this woman is completely intimidating and unrealistic. Second, this is terrible advice! If you feel pain, you need to STOP!!! Oh, and this move is NOT diastasis-safe!
What about moms? Those women who just carried 20+ pounds of baby, placenta and amniotic fluid under their abs for ten months (a.k.a. those who rely on personal trainers and instructors to have the most accurate and up to date info on core training because they need the most help) will be HARMED more than HELPED by traditional ab exercises. But if they tell a proud, self-assured trainer or group fitness instructor that they need something different, they will get a blank look (true story), a defensive retort about who knows more (true story) or – worse! – a request for the participant to find literature to back herself up (true story) … Shouldn’t the professional go do their own research? For once? Because of the injuries I suffered while trying to “keep up” with the latest and greatest in the fitness industry, I am now passionate about working with a segment of the population who has been injured by fitness trainers and instructors who are undereducated and have run a little too far with the pain principle. There is a myth out there that if we keep people in proper alignment, they won’t get hurt. I have focused on maintaining perfect alignment in everything – wait, don’t crunches take us out of alignment? – I do for years, but that didn’t keep me from pushing too hard and getting injured! And I shudder to think of where the people are who I trained so severely 10 years ago!
When we teach people that “pain is just weakness leaving the body,” we teach them to ignore possible injury. When we teach people to “push through the pain,” we could be pushing them toward an injury. There is totally a place to “feel the burn.” However, with so many Americans already being injured with things we can’t see on the surface like diastasis, slight meniscus weakness or tearing, scar tissue from surgery, and poor nutrition when they come to us for help, shouldn’t our focus be on healing and recovery? Too many programs and trainers fail to follow the principle of progression and allow people to start small, to listen to their body’s limits, to stay safe…. and people are getting hurt! I have come up with a whole site full of workouts that WILL NOT hurt people. They are safe. They are effective. They are fun. They are relaxing. They let the client progress in baby steps, gain confidence without hurting themselves more. Try three of my SAFE workouts today?
Vitamin D is vitally important not only for bones but also for muscle contraction, nerve conduction, regulate cell growth and is vitally connected to Magnesium absorption. Our stomach and muscles need Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps bones, but we also know we relax when we are in the sun. The Vitamin D helps our stress, healing blood flow, muscles and so much more. Going out in the morning, even for 15 minutes, is important for your body receive some sun. Early in the day is vital for the circadian rhythm day switch, and supports your hormones to reset when later in the day our system recognises the light change. Remember though if you put sunscreen on, you are also blocking your skins ability to transform Vitamin D.
Walk in nature, notice the grass, plants, flowers, sky, sun, and feel the breeze. Being in nature relaxes our nervous system.
You may have heard by now, even if you are not Celiac, about the bad side of grains, and the way they are grown are not like the way original grains were farmed. Grains can be disruptive for gut health and exacerbate bloating, weight gain, insulin and blood sugar level imbalances, as well as food sensitivities. Experiment removing all grains, and all foods with grains, for 14 or 28 days and see how your body responds. You will lose weight! You can then bring it back on day 15 or 29 and see what happens. If you like the results of restricting grains, you can keep going till your body tells you otherwise. Eat carbs from sweet potatoes and other vegetables, rather than through grains. Two great books: Wheat Belly Blog and Grain Brain.
Rest and Recharge
Find time in the day to rest and recharge. We need our rhythms. In Chinese medicine all the organs recharge at different times of the day. Western science and biology recognises there are better times in the day to exercise, and when we need to be asleep by, etc. Throughout the day and night, our body is cycling through many rhythms. We have lost contact and respect for our many rhythms. Learn to attune to, and make room for, your natural rhythms. This will assist your metabolism, food choices, your capacity to digest and eliminate, muscle stress balance, quality of life and mood.
Are you willing to be permissive, and flexibly responsive to adjust what your body rhythms need on a day to daily basis? Can you make room for your ebb and flow, rather than stretch yourself in more ways then is helpful? What can you say no to, so your system can have some breathing space. Then your body can relax and blood can flow, muscles relax and can sit in their natural position, rather than a stress response of tenseness and tightness. This causes cortisol and other hormones to disrupt your system, and will have you out of skin, on the edge and out of alignment.
Eat Good Fats
Eat good fats at every meal. If you need to lose weight in addressing your stomach health, eating good fat will help you lose weight. Eating good fat is also what satiates the mind and body. Sugar does not give you satiation, you just want more fat satiates. Most people are under nourished with good fats. Every cell needs healthy fat, which is what is around each cell.
Cholesterol is the healthy fat around each cell, unless you eat trans fats and seeds oils, then the fat becomes the unhealthy fat. One of my favourite ways to get healthy fats is a spoonful of Coconut Butter (from the coconut flesh not the oil), which is delicious! I use Coconut Oil for cooking too. Coconut is so good for the blood and so many other body functions, which nourishes the muscles and skin. Avocado, grassfed butter and olives are some other great fats to eat. Though nuts are nutritious and a good fat, be careful of how many nuts you eat, as they can irritate your gut. If they are roasted in seed oils, you are eating toxic Omega 6 fats, which you are probably over loaded in, and out of balance with Omega 3. Remember peanuts are not nuts, but legumes, so they are not a healthy fat and again can irritate the gut.
Sugar is not an essential food. Meat and some vegetables actually give you enough glucose, but also with the addition of plenty of nutrients. Ask yourself, are you seeking stimulation and excitement by the buzz or comfort of sugar? Where, or what, are you avoiding by eating sugar or junk food? As sugar and junk food clog us, creating inflammation and dulling our mind and feelings. They lull us away from what we might be wanting to avoid, or feel challenged or unresourced by. Find some sugar free treats to help you adjust, but feed your soul with sweet stuff in a variety of ways. Get professional support with areas you are avoiding or that are stressing you.
Are your quadricep muscles tight? If so they may be pulling the lower abdomen down and contributing to a protruding stomach. Tight muscles are weak muscles. See a skilled practitioner such as a Restorative Exercise Specialist, Acupuncturist, Shiatsu therapist, Myotherapist or Fascia practitioner. You can also learn ways to release the tension in your quad muscles with a foam roller or trigger point therapy.
Mind Body Exercise
When our muscles and energy flows, the instinctual, positive, permissive, assertive, compassionate beliefs and behaviours that go with that kind of upright and strong posture and stance are integrated are accessible. I teach and support people in many different ways to dissolve the unconscious limiting beliefs, and sponsor the behaviours and attitudes that the old limiting behaviours and beliefs inhibited. I teach simple mind body exercises, that people can do themselves, on how to switch off the stress response in their body brain connections as well as teaching ways of dissolving the limiting thoughts, feelings and behaviours. So you can move from being overwhelmed or stuck, and tense to purpose, relax and trust.
Vitamin C is needed for collagen, from which all organs, bones and tissues are built. Other elements within Vitamin C are vital for healing, such asCarnitine, which transports fats into mitochondria for energy production. Norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) hormones and neurotransmitters control alertness, arousal and motivation, as well as Enzymes which are involved in all the creation of peptide hormones, tyrosine metabolism and bile acid. Vitamin C is important for healthy insulin, and when under stress we need more Vitamin C. Vitamin C is vital for healing and particularly to healing muscle loss or difficulty, gaining muscle, joints and more. So can you see how making sure you have good quality Vitamin C is important for your stomach and skin.
So much about health and weight loss is about hormone balance. From the food you eat, to the level of stress you live with, which will override any good eating or working out effects as stress hormones hijack the healing hormones, despite how well you think you ‘manage’ it. It is possible to resolve your stress response, even if the external circumstance are still there. The chemicals in your environment, cleaning products, beauty products, shampoo etc, also affect your hormones. An endocrine, hormone disrupter is found in all Soy products, as opposed to fermented soy products. If you want to balance your hormones or lose weight, eliminate soy from your food. Soy is in so many foods!
Lack of Sleep creates Belly Fat. It also disrupts hormones, bowel movements and leaves you vulnerable to snacking on quick energy food to give you bursts of energy, in order to prop you through the day and make up from your lack of sleep. Start to wind down so lights are out by 10.30 pm, and get at least 8 hours sleep. Lack of sleep activates more cortisol, which is stored in your belly, rather than the melatonin, which needs to be rising in the evening while cortisol is lowering. Lack of sleep increases ghrelin hormone levels, which stimulates appetite and decreases leptin levels, which are there to suppress your appetite. So you have a greater appetite, less satiation and a greater intake. Lack of sleep changes your insulin levels, and therefore your glucose levels are altered. This returns to normal pretty quickly when you get consistent good sleep. If you wake up at regular times during the night it can be useful to look at the Chinese Medicine clock of the body cycles and see which organs are vulnerable and use the acupressure work mentioned in the previous article to incorporate supporting these weak organs.
Have a completely dark room so you can’t see your hand in front of you. Take out any mobiles or laptops, and change alarm clocks to battery or keep the alarm outside the room, as any bit of light interferes with melatonin levels during the night. Block out the curtains in your bedroom. Keep the room just for sleeping. Keep the room slightly cooler. Create a peaceful evening ritual in the hour before sleep to help you wind down and switch off the brain and cortisol levels. Keep away from your computer! Contact me if you have sleep difficulties for further tips.
Dry Body Brushing
Your skin is your largest organ. Dry Body Brushing before your shower will support your detox process, lymph glands and help your skin, cellulite, stretch marks heal. Dry body brushing increases blood circulation, which helps muscle tone, blood circulation, helps release fatty deposits under the skin, rejuvenates cells, improves the immune system, improves elimination as well as skin texture. Remember to Dry Body Brush with a natural bristle brush with a long handle (you will need this to reach your back). Brush in gentle circular motions, moving from the outside of your body to the inside of your body. Start from your feet, and move up to your heart. Then begin from your hands and arms, and again move towards your heart. Now your back, and then your abdomen, moving clockwise on the abdomen to follow the movement of the colon. Then move to your chest and neck, and don’t brush on your face, as this is usually a more sensitive area and it’s better to use your facial exfoliator here. Brush your body in total for 3-5 minutes, gently but enough to feel some stimulation or tingles. Your skin will be flushed and stimulated. Your shower will wash off the dead skin cells, and then you must moisturise. Do not brush on broken or sensitive skin, and be particularly gentle on cellulite areas.
Listen to Your Gut
The gut holds the second brain and your healthy instinct. Listen to it! It is a message from the unconscious and does not have the complications of the conscious brain, which can get confused with ‘rules’, ‘right’, ‘wrong’ ‘shoulds’ or ‘pleasing others’.
Walk Barefoot and wear authentic minimalist shoes as much as possible. The more you do this, the more you will see results. This will support your alignment and do wonders for your Diastasis Recti as well as your whole health. Walking Barefoot can help make it easier to re-align your spine and pelvis. Here is a great little clip to guide you to realign to a neutral spine and neutral pelvis and therefore have a healthy posture; from Carrie.
Splinting & Binding by Celeste Goodson
Core Nutrition by Dave Barnas
Chiropractic Care & Your Core by Shannon Anhorn
Bridge with Core Breath by Kim Vopni
Supine Thigh Press for Rectus Activation by Kim Vopni
Physical Therapy & Diastasis Recti by Kelly Dean
The Floor of Your Core by Kim Vopni, Pelvienne Wellness
C-section Recovery by Lorraine Scapens
Psychotherapy Health Coach Approach by Anita Bentata
Fitness Considerations & The Core by Beth Learn