Ten Things To Do When You Feel Like Crap:
1. Have a really hot, long shower. Cry if you need to. Sit on the ground. Feel sorry for yourself. Let the steam soak into your skin. Let the hot water wash your face clean. But the moment you turn off that water, you are done feeling sorry for yourself. Make a decision to move on from that sadness.
2. Clean. I know, cleaning is boring and annoying - but how about that feeling you get when you are finished? The clean small of the vacuum? That feeling of accomplishment? Who knows, you might even find money along the way. Totally worth it. It’s like starting with a clean slate.
3. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to for a while. If your first choice doesn’t pick up, choose someone else. Ask them all about how their lives are going and tell them about yours. Not only will it take your mind off whatever crappy thing you have been plagued by, but you will laugh with them! Laughing triggers endorphins and endorphins make you happy!
4. Go for a run or a walk. This get’s your endorphins and dopamine going crazy. You will get more energy and more happiness just because the chemicals in your body are running around!
5. Stop and take it all in. Walking in the night? Stop and look at the stars. Breathe in the cold air. Feel alive.
6. Stop whining. Ever heard the saying “love life and life will love you back”? Or, the idea of the power of attraction? It’s true! If you sit around saying “why me, waaaaa waaaa” then bad things will happen to you. You’re already defeated. If you start saying, “I will be happy, I will accomplish my ambitions, I will find love, I do look amazing, I am a great friend” etc., then not only will you start to believe them but you will be amazed at what amazing things start to happen.
7. Drink tea. This always works. Not a tea fan? Try hot water with a slice of lemon and some agave syrup.
8. Make a conscious decision to stop holding certain grudges. We all have people we have held grudges on in the past. Let them go. If you feel like you owe this person an apology, don’t be too proud. Send them a sincere facebook apology. Sincerity is in the intent, so even if it’s a 2 sentence apology - as long as you mean it it’s worth it.
9. Cook some really nice, warm food. Stimulate your taste buds with anything as simple as two minute noodles or as lavish as a three course garlic bread, pasta bake, chocolate mousse triple combo.
10. Write down a list of goals to achieve for the week. As simple as “buy insect repellent” or as large as “jog for 25 minutes non stop” and tick them off when they’re done. You will feel very accomplished and that alone will pump up your mood!
Good morning! I’ve learned that being well means healing your past. You can’t erase it but you can face it and develop a gentle, accepting relationship with it. This makes room for the future to unfold brand new.
It’s Meet Your Muscle Monday!
I’d like to introduce the Pectoralis Minor. This muscle starts from the coracoid process and splits into three attachments to connect to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ribs. The coracoid process is a thumb-like part of the shoulder blade on your back that reaches under your collarbone and provides an attachment for muscles on your front.
Most of us know the popular Pectoralis Major, oft admired in mirrors in gyms and bathrooms around the world. The large, fan-like Pec Major is the main ‘pusher’ of the chest, responsible for bringing your arm from outstretched beside you to outstretched in front of you (horizontally adducting the humerus). It’s little brother beneath it, the Pec Minor, is always recruited to help in these jobs, as well as the jobs of the shoulder muscles, but being attached to the shoulder blade and not the upper arm gives it it’s own special function, and it’s own special problems. It’s main jobs are to stabilize the ‘floating’ bone of the shoulder blade, attached to nothing but the muscles it provides a base for. When we flex, thus shorten the pec minor, it pulls and rotates the shoulder blade down. Imagine your shoulder blades as wings and the action of the pec minor as spreading those wings by pulling their corners in.
Aside from being an accessory muscle in breathing (because of it’s attachment at the ribs), the pec minor is responsible for relatively small jobs in movement and stabilization. Despite its small role and stature, this little muscle can cause big problems. It’s unique position attaching ribs in the front to the scapula in the back means that it covers the passage of the brachial plexus (an important bundle of nerves leaving the neck and supplying the arm with sensation and movement) as well as the major axillary (armpit) artery and vein. What this means is that when it becomes chronically shortened or tight from posture or overuse, it compresses these nerves, arteries and veins and creates pain and loss of movement/sensation in seemingly unrelated structures.
Trigger points (tight bundles of muscle fibers) developed in the pec minor will often create pain, tingling or numbness starting in the shoulder and radiating all the way down the side of the arm into the pinky, ring and middle finger. Massage therapy clients describing these symptoms rarely suspect nerve compression and are always somewhat surprised that treating the feelings in their hand and arm starts with deep tissue work up in their chest.
Why is this relevant to the athlete? The chest is a trophy muscle that often gets overworked without proper recovery. This is because we can readily see it and monitor its growth and development. It’s exercises are usually the first we learn and develop comfort with when pursuing a fitness lifestyle. When this muscle is over trained and chronically in a shortened position, one can create an unbalanced physique with the forward-rounded shoulders so often seen in gyms around the bench press area. Appearance aside, the compression of the axillary artery and vein pinches off the supply of nourishment of oxygenated blood to the muscles of the arms and hands. The compression of the nerves of the brachial plexus reduces the transmission of sensory and motor signals too. This means the arms and hands are less able to recognize what’s happening to them and where they are in space as well as being less able to respond quickly and accurately to what the brain is telling them to do. Having responsive and well nourished arms and hands should be of interest to any athlete trying control and take their body to higher levels of performance.
To return a tight Pectoralis Minor to it’s healthy length and open up the space for these important vessels and structures to pass through, I always recommend deep tissue massage. The pec minor is highly responsive to this treatment. At home, you can stretch the pec minor with the very popular ‘doorway stretch’, that is, standing in a doorway with your elbows out in a T position (like you were flexing your biceps) and leaning into the stretch with the edges of the door pushing your elbows back. This is a good stretch for the Pec Major too, so try moving slightly into a Y position to target the pec minor directly. Hold the stretch for at least 90 seconds. Inhale and feel the musculature tighten up. Then exhale and let the breath take all tension with it. Let each exhale gently ease you deeper into the stretch. The key to stretching is consistency and duration. Don’t rush it. Do more than 90 seconds if you wish, but never less. Try to do it every day until you feel the range of motion has increased.
I hope you have enjoyed getting to know the Pectoralis Minor and creating a greater understanding and awareness of what is going on inside your body. Next muscle, next Monday!
It’s Meet Your Muscle Monday (I swear I wrote this yesterday but was too busy living to post)
I’d like to introduce every massage therapist’s friend and foe, the Levator Scapulae. Friend because it will always bring us business with clients coming in gripping the painful spot where their upper back meets their neck, and foe because the habits that create it’s painful problems are so persistent that lasting relief can be hard to acheive. The levator scapula’s main job is to lift up the shoulder blade and help in bending your neck sideways. When it comes to the first job, it’s a bit of a workaholic and tends to get trigger points that can create headaches and neck pain from it’s long hours.
First, you need to picture your spine. It’s like a stack of children’s building blocks (vertebrae) with squashed marshmallows (intervertebral discs) between them. The many muscles of the neck not only serve to move the upper portion of this stack, but also act as ‘guy wires’ stabilizing the tower holding up your big head. No offense, but it’s a ten pound sphere balancing on the end of a hockey stick. Or as Mike Myers said in “So I Married An Axe Murderer”, “Look at the thing, it’s like an orange on a toothpick.” Needless to say, the toothpick needs some help.
Enter the hardworking and highly-prone-to-problems Levator Scapulae. Most neck muscles move from the vertebrae to stable attachments like the collarbone, ribs or back down to other vertebrae. The Levator, however, starts from either side of the top four vertebrae below the skull and attaches to it’s insertion at the top of the middle corner of the triangular shoulder blade. Midway through the path, the four attachments form one muscle, flip around and fix to the scapula (imagine it like a calligraphy stroke). The scapula (shoulder blade) is a highly movable, ‘floating’ bone held in place only by the muscles it provides a base for. This mobility makes the levator muscle the most vulnerable neck muscle to getting much too contracted or much too stretched, making for maligned vertebrae, compressed discs and the burny aching pain so many seek relief from.
How does it get overstretched or too contracted? Here are a few common problems:
Pillow Problems - we spend 1/3 of our 24 hours with our neck in a fixed, unconscious position. Pillowing that keeps the head outside of the neutral position for that time will cement the neck into problematic positions. If you’re a back sleeper, give your head a cushion for it’s placement but make sure your eyes are pointing up, not out. If you’re a side sleeper, the pillow should fill the exact amount of space that your shoulder and arm create between it and the bed. Remember: neutral position.
Anterior Head Carriage - holding our head in front of our body makes the 10lbs of weight that much more of a burden on the neck muscles and forces them to contract against the stretch. Not only do they tire and become overstretched, but they develop headache causing trigger points from the overworking. I tell my clients to imagine a helium balloon attached to the top of their head, lifting off of the ground (their shoulders). Keep your chin in, walk with your chest in front of your face and let your shoulders drop back and down.
Elevated Arms - everywhere we go we have our arms on armrests, floating up to use keyboards (I just had to check myself!), resting on tables or desks, holding steering wheels, etc. Adjust your position so your shoulders can hang back and down, be it in the car or in the office, so your levator isn’t sitting all day in a shortened position it will later have a hard time coming out of. Back when phones were bigger, holding them between the shoulder and the ear was a problem leading to pain but not so much anymore. Either way, avoid that too and use a headset or bluetooth.
Stress ‘Turtling’ - Proponents of the mind/body connection (including yours truly) suggest that the levator will elevate our shoulders to help us draw our head into our body, subconsciously protecting ourselves from the stressors in our environment. Check your shoulders when you’re experiencing negative emotions and remind yourself repeatedly to let them ‘melt’ or ‘sink’ back to their neutral position. This may take some practice. It did for me!
As always, I recommend massage as the best way to work out the chronic problems caused by our levator scapulae, but it is the habits we have in using it that will recreate them everytime. Trigger points at it’s origin and insertion will cause pain around the entire shoulder complex as well as headaches far away in the front of your head for some. Be more mindful of this muscle and give it a break! It will thank you with pain relief and relaxation.
Hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know the infamous Levator Scapulae and creating a greater understanding and awareness of what’s going on inside your body. Next muscle, next Monday!
Blogilates Protein Pancakes
Blueberry Banana Protein Pancake! (topped with strawberries)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 tbs ground flax seed
1 ripened banana – mashed up!
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 tbs organic vanilla soymilk
Mix it all up! Fry with a tiny bit of EVOO. Then top with pretty strawberries!
Total protein content? Over 27g! 250-300 cals depending on how much fruit you use. I made 4 pancakes, will eat 2 now and save 2 for later. Yumm!
Fit woman of the day
Fit man of the day
Good Morning! Remember, don’t drive a jalopy when you’ve got a ferrari in the garage waiting.