Every January and February we see a spike in people needing treatment for back pain which occurred on holidays. Holidays are a danger time for backs, when people either develop a new issue or exacerbate an existing one. Most ‘holiday back pain’ issues stem from either sleeping in different beds or over-exercising.
The most common reason New Year’s resolutions fail is that people choose an exercise they don’t like.
Choosing something that you enjoy doing is absolutely critical to your chances of staying with the new exercise regime and getting the most out of it. If you enjoy the exercise, then everything flows from there.
A big fitness mistake we often see when people are injured is they believe there is only ‘one’ issue at play.
If you’re feeling pain in one main area, then it’s understandable to see an injury as just that – for example, a rotator cuff issue, hamstring strain, back spasm, disc bulge/prolapse, calf strain and so on.
We estimate that around 90% of injuries Elite Akademy treats relate to one key issue that many of us either forget, become used to, or overlook – incorrect posture.
For many, posture is a hidden health and fitness issue because people are often unaware they have posture problems in the first place.
Elite Akademy is in the running to take out one of Australia’s top industry awards. We have been shortlisted in the Health and Wellbeing Business of the Year category at the Optus My Business Awards 2016, hosted by My Business, Australia’s longest-running publication tailored to the small business community.
Our shortlisting recognises the entire Elite Akademy team’s passion for providing customers with the best possible physiotherapy care, and a preparedness to innovate and approach problems differently.
There have been reports more doctors are prescribing exercise instead of medication to encourage weight loss. Here’s a summary from Seven News.
We also found an inspiring article from Boston, USA, where an exercise program involving affordable gym memberships is underway in an area where the life expectancy has been much lower than average.
The one big issue for achieving personal health and fitness goals is the one most commonly overlooked: having the right mindset.
It’s important that your mindset is working for you, not against you. Elite athletes know this well, but it applies to all of us.
Through working with and observing elite athletes over many years, I have found there are six key areas that improve mindset, leading to greater physical health and well-being:
1. Welcome obstacles & challenges
Do you see obstacles as an opportunity to increase your fortitude, or an excuse to give up?
All health and fitness regimes will encounter roadblocks. An injury or an illness may stop you for a time. The test is having the fortitude to ease back into your regime when you start feeling better.
Some challenges may require a change of routine – whether you are able to be flexible in these cases comes down to mindset again.
It’s worth remembering that every time you successfully overcome an obstacle, your mindset improves.
2. Embrace effort
A poor mindset may see you falling into the trap of thinking “there is no point to all this” or “it won’t make a difference” or “this is too hard” or “what did I get myself into?” It’s amazing how these negative thoughts can appear when the body requires an effort.
The key to maintaining effort is to keep chipping away. If your task seems overwhelming, b
reak it down into smaller, more achievable lots. Take one step at a time. Remind yourself of how good you will feel later if you make an effort now.
3. Use positive affirmations
Positive thinking has huge potential to improve mindset, but it’s easy to slip into a cycle of negative thinking unintentionally.
Many elite athletes have had great success using positive affirmations – these are sayings that prop you up and pep you up. For example, an athlete may say: “Each and every day I am a better athlete”.
Telling yourself a positive affirmation in the early morning, and again late in the evening, can be re
markably effective in getting you to think and feel positive – with tangible benefits for physical wellbeing. It could be something as simple as “I am better today than I was yesterday”.
4. Welcome criticism
In your journey toward a healthier and fitter lifestyle, you may come in for criticism – hopefully this is constructive and from someone you respect, such as a physio, personal trainer or exercise partner.
A negative mindset will see you brush it aside, dismiss it, and in some cases totally de-rail your program. A healthy mindset enables you to learn from it, take it on board and improve – you won’t see it as a personal attack and your ego won’t be bruised as a result.
5. Enjoy others’ success
We can either celebrate or feel threatened by others’ success. A healthy mindset will always appreciate and admire our peers’ achievements, and understand that it is no reflection on us. In fact, we can use it for inspiration.
6. Consider meditation
Meditation is a huge topic, and impossible to cover in a few sentences. But for mindset the right meditations can be hugely influential.
The only requirement is an open mind. But as everybody is different, some meditations will be more effective than others. People may be surprised how many elite athletes use meditation to achieve bigger and better things.
The pathway to a healthy body and healthy mind requires less time than many people think – in fact it’s possible to create healthy habits in just three minutes a day.
People often equate healthy changes with a massive time commitment, but it’s not always the case.
Healthy physical routines and a strong mindset start with small, manageable timeframes. Research has shown that even taking a small amount of time to work on your mindset or exercise has a powerful effect. We know that certain practices like deep breathing have tangible benefits for well-being, even in small doses.
Likewise, research shows that working out for as little as three minutes at high intensity can have greater impact than longer forms of moderate exercise:
• The Norwegian University of Science and Technology conducted a landmark study, demonstrating the benefits of short, high intensity training.
• The ABC’s Catalyst program covered the topic last year, showing surprising results from short exercise routines.
The biggest barrier to good health is getting started – once you get over that hump, you can achieve anything.
Once you are up and going, there are other little things you can do to keep momentum, in the form of affirmations. Athletes are big on positive affirmations. They are usually simple phrases, such as “each and every day I am a better athlete”, which take no time at all to say.
Repeating these affirmations early in the morning and late at night is powerful, as that is when the mind is most receptive to these messages. It’s such a simple practice but athletes use them because they know the power it has on their mindset.
Change can be easier than you think. Once you get going progress happens quickly, even committing just a couple of minutes a day.
This is covered in greater depth in a book I have co-authored with LA-based life coach, Helene Finizio – Natural Healing – Quiet and Calm.
The book has a selection of meditation and exercise guides, recipes to nourish body and soul, tips for goal setting and success, and a 21-day roadmap for positive change. Natural Healing – Quiet & Calm helps people to make the choice to improve the quality of their health and life.
Natural Healing – Quiet & Calm is available on Amazon
At Elite Akademy, somewhere around 80-90% of injuries we treat relate to incorrect posture. Every day I see people with bad backs and related injuries caused by poor posture. Sitting posture has become the most important, reflecting our more sedentary lifestyles.
While good posture’s physical benefits have long been understood – such as encouraging stronger backs and better breathing capacity, what if posture can also aid our mental health? Medical studies suggest a strong link that few people are aware of.
A San Francisco University study found that adopting a more upright, healthy body posture can improve mood and energy levels. The study also found that a slouched or poor body posture can lead to “feelings of depression or decreased energy”.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, a professor and researcher at Harvard Business School – takes it one step further. Her research shows that just adopting high power or low power poses for a period of two minutes has a measured hormonal effect.
Ms Cuddy’s research found that high power poses – good, strong posture – leads to higher testosterone, which is linked with higher confidence levels. High power poses also lower the “stress hormone”, cortisol
The opposite is also true: adopting low power posture leads to lower testosterone levels and higher cortisol. Ms Cuddy claims that only two minutes is enough to make you feel more assertive and confident.
There is no doubt that correcting poor posture is difficult, but it is possible. Consider the following five steps for improving posture:
1. Repetition: It takes approximately 3000 reps of straightening your spine (standing/sitting tall) for this to become automated by the brain. This is what we classify as motor learning. When motor learning occurs then a task becomes automated. For example, golfers try to automate their movements through practice; being a technical sport it takes about 10,000 reps (swings) to automate a golf swing. Standing tall and straightening your spine is not technical. Thus it only requires 3000 reps.
Using 3000 reps as a rule, it means if people do 200 reps per day they will achieve good posture in as little as 15 days.
So how do we achieve 200 reps per day?
2. Cues to remind you to “grow tall”: It’s easy to forget posture, so establish some cues:
Imagine a piece of string pulling you up from your head. We naturally elongate. You are NOT standing to attention. You are simply standing tall with your shoulders relaxed back not pulled back. Tie this cue into some of your daily rituals. For example, every time you check your phone, grow tall before you open the app. Studies have found people check their phone 60-80 times per day. So that means that in a little as 38-50 days people could change their posture. “Growing tall” while checking your inbox can account for another 30-50 reps per day.
3. Team up: Like with exercise, great results can be achieved by having allies on board. You may have a partner, family member, child, friend or colleague who also wants to work on their posture. Together, you can support and remind each other to stand or sit tall: every time you remind someone you remember too.
4. Use your regular walks: If there is a walk people do regularly (walking to the bus stop, train station, car park, coffee shop) then calculate the number of minutes taken to get there. People take approximately 100 steps every minute they walk. If you are conscious of “being tall” during a five minute walk, this would account for 500 reps meaning you can achieve good walking posture in as little as six days. On your walk you may use your reflection in shopfronts and mirrors as more cues.
5. Wearable devices as another cue: Wearable tech such as fitness trackers can become a reminder system. If it turns on/off randomly with movement then it becomes a cue. Using this method alone can help you achieve good posture in about 100 days.
– Kusal Goonewardena, Elite Athlete Sports Physiotherapist & Founder
Think you are in-tune with your body? Think again. The reality is that most people are their own worst enemies regarding physical well-being.
Every week I see people who start out with good intentions and unnecessarily hurt themselves by falling for common mistakes.
Does this sound like you?
Going too hard too soon: We live in a ‘go hard or go home’ culture. But our bodies prefer it if we build fitness and strength gradually.
Comparing yourself to others: Too many people will start a fitness-related class, which is great, and then worry that they aren’t as fit/ripped/athletic as the person next to them. They may eventually quit the class, a huge shame. It’s important to measure yourself against yourself and not those around you.
Getting advice and treatment from friends: People’s willingness to follow advice from friends who aren’t qualified is bewildering. But every week people hurt themselves following bogus tips like how to ‘crack your back’. Everyone is different – what works for your friend may not work for you. And nobody should ‘crack’ their back or neck, unless they are fond of spinal/stress fractures or plan on increased risk of stroke.
Trying to emulate TV & magazines: Celebrity culture is everywhere, but has no place in our physical health regime. Unfortunately people become deluded into chasing an impossible dream. It’s pointless trying to emulate celebs – best focus on being the best version of yourself, not someone else.
Not listening to advice: Think you can cut corners and get away with it? Take an easy example: we’re told our whole lives that heavy objects must be lifted from the knees, but this doesn’t apply to you, right? Why not take a chance on your back?
Self-diagnosing injuries: Shooting pain in the lower back? It must be sciatica. Can’t walk? You’ve popped a disc. If only actual diagnosis was so simple – but that doesn’t stop legions of people performing their own diagnosis, or even better, using the Internet or an equally unqualified friend to find the source of their pain. The truth is, getting to the cause of underlying pain can be difficult and elusive for trained professionals – so what do you know that they don’t?
Finally, remember that making one or more of these mistakes is not a failure – merely a bump on the road to better physical well-being. Being aware of these basic mistakes and being honest with yourself will keep you on track.
– Kusal Goonewardena, Elite Athlete Sports Physiotherapist & Founder