Ever find yourself lacking the motivation or drive to exercise sometimes? Finding a like-minded sweat buddy is the best way to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and reach your true potential. Try this fun (and challenging!) buddy workout plan!
You won't be able to tell that just barely a year ago, Brandon can barely do most of the exercises that he's doing today. Here’s his story of transformation.
You are likely to be sitting at your desk right now while reading this. If that’s the case, then you may very well be aware, or have personally experienced some of the negative effects associated with sitting for long periods in the day. Due to the nature of our work, sitting may a necessary evil – the “desk-bound problem” has been labeled by the media as the “new smoking”. A bit dramatic maybe, but a point certainly worth taking note. If you are at your desk for 8 to 10 hours a day, you are likely to have experienced the following discomfort:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Lower back pain or discomfort
- Wrist and elbow pain
- Weight gain
And bear in mind, that this may be compounded by another 2 to 3 hours of sitting when you get home in the evening!
We may not be able to change our jobs, or drastically overhaul our lifestyles, but we can certainly be smarter about it and try to at least limit the above issues with some simple changes. Aside from getting in 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times weekly, a good start point is to make sure that you sit correctly at your desk (link to clinic article), with your screen, mouse, and keyboard set in the correct positions.
You should also get up from your chair to do some light stretching exercises every hour or so. Here are some helpful stretches you can do at your desk to keep body aches and stiffness at bay:
1. Hip and Spine Opener
One of the main causes of lower back pain is a lack of hip mobility, pelvic position, and T-Spine mobility. A great way to improve these areas is the modified couch stretch with overhead reach. Now granted that you may need a little more space to perform this stretch, or get a few weird stares from your co-workers, but who cares!
- Place one foot on the chair and a knee on the floor (use a towel or pad for your knee if doing this on a hard floor).
- Maintain a neutral spine position, squeeze your butt and move your hip forward as this will release the hip flexor and rectus femurs.
- Take a deep breath and reach overhead. Be mindful not to arch your lower back as you do this, and hold the stretch for 90 to 120 seconds. Switch your legs and repeat.
Perform this 2 to 3 times throughout the day. Observing and being mindful of your breathing as you perform this stretch also helps to moderate your stress levels.
2. Upper Trapezius Stretch
Our upper traps carry a lot of stress. Tension and tightness in that area is often the cause of headaches and shoulder pains. There are many reasons for this such as head position, stress, weak lower traps and breathing (Yes if we breath only using our chest, we are literally performing thousands of upper trap raises every single day!)
- In a seated position, tilt your head to 45 degrees and gently pull your head forward and chin down until you feel the stretch.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds on each side.
3. Banded Pull-Aparts
A lot of the pain and discomfort we feel in our body comes from muscular imbalance or poor postures throughout the day. This causes certain muscles to weaken from inactivity, and create tension in other muscles. As mentioned above, our upper traps is an area of high tension (it doesn’t mean they are strong, they are just under constant tension), so we need to work on the opposite muscles to strengthen and balance out the tension (this is known as reciprocal inhibition).
Banded pull-aparts are a great way of strengthening the mid/lower traps. It depresses the shoulder blades and help to strengthen the rhomboid muscles that retract the shoulder blades, which improves your posture and shoulder position.
- Position your hands with your palms facing up, which naturally turn your shoulder back and down.
- Stretch the band with both hands and imagine you are pulling it through your chest, maintaining the tension on the band throughout the stretch.
- Aim for 20 to 30 repetitions and you should feel the burning sensation (be mindful not to let the upper traps come into play) and repeat this for 2 to 3 sets.
4. Banded Dislocations
This a great exercise to improve shoulder mobility and take you away from the typical hunched-over-the-keyboard seated position. However, if you have a pre-existing shoulder pain or injury, you should be careful with this exercise.
- Bring your arms up and move the band overhead, and bring it down behind your shoulders with a slight below bend. Bring the band back to the front of your body. The stretch band allows you to increase or decrease the mobility needed at the shoulders.
- Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions of 2 to 3 sets.
5. Banded Behind Neck Press
This stretch starts in the finishing position of the band dislocations. It is a great way to reclaim shoulder position and also engage mid lower traps.
- Extend your arms and press the band overhead, and squeeze your shoulder blades as you bring the band back down.
- Aim for 15 to 20 repetitions of 2 to 3 sets.
Now you have 5 simple exercises that you can perform daily to relieve muscle tensions. But if you are seated for 10 to 12 hours a day, this is merely scratching the surface. Incorporating these stretches into your daily routine is a great place to start in terms of improving your posture, and reducing muscle pain and discomfort. The next step to develop a strong and healthy body is to work on building muscle strength and mobility – come speak to us at UFIT and we can help you with that!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leigh Withers is a Personal Training Manager at UFIT. Since making a career change from financial accounting 11 years ago, Leigh has lived his passion for the fitness industry in the UK, Middle East, Asia and Europe. He’s worked with some of UK’s leading fitness educators, such as Discovery Learning, Fitness Wales, Train Fitness, along with Cardiff Met University.
During his time in the Middle East, Leigh was part of a ground-breaking project to deliver industry-accredited training qualifications to leading gyms in the UAE. He played a key role with the Bahrain Military Defence Hospital to provide training and education to their physiotherapists who were leading the country's first Centre of Excellence Obesity Project. He also worked with Bapco and the country’s leading dietician to front Bahrain’s ‘Biggest Loser’ campaign, and presented to hundreds of employees.
Leigh has spent time training with some of the leading figures in the industry, and has recently completed his Certified Physical Preparation Specialist Certification (CPPS) with Joe De Franco and Jim Smith at the Onnit Academy in Austin, Texas.
You train intensively at home. When on holiday, do you still feel the need to stick to your regular workout program for fear of losing your hard-earned fitness?
To paraphrase a brilliant American strength coach Marty Gallacher – if you are working out 5 to 6 days a week and eating well when at home, then a holiday should be exactly that, a HOLIDAY. With the appropriate rest, recovery, stress reduction, and a ‘few’ additional calories, a well deserved break from your daily routine will have a profound impact on your energy levels and result in improved energy and focus when you return to training after your break.
More often than not, your body would benefit more from a period of rest and recovery, not another weekend of intensive training. This is based on observations from my own experience of training my clients, who often train intensively week after week without a break. For these individuals I would advise 2 to 3 days of recovery without any strenuous physical workouts when you are on a holiday.
Obviously moderation is the key. Giving yourself a treat versus going on a massive binge and ruin weeks of hard work are two different things. For most of us, we can still benefit from some light training and stay active as much as we can while on a holiday. Here are some tips on how to keep in shape on the road.
1. Pack the essentials for basic home/outdoor training
Unless you know where you are going, never assume there will be good training facilities or good weather conditions to get some quality training done. Pack your luggage with these basic indoor/outdoor equipment that’s designed for easy traveling:
- Skipping Rope Lightweight, and requires only a small space for a great cardio workout. Also can be used for shoulder mobility and stretching. Absolutely essential.
- Resistance Band Lightweight, space-saving and can add resistance to your bodyweight workouts such as squats and overhead press, working the muscles on your back and lower body.
- TRX I think the TRX is massively underrated as a ‘travel-training’ tool. It’s lightweight and compact which makes it great for packing, easy to set up, and offers a huge variety of full body exercise options anywhere on the road.
- Massage Ball A great tool before the start of every training session, the ball is great for myofascial release, loosing the knots on your feet, calves, glutes and rotator cuffs.
- Foam Roller Another great tool for myofascial release of the larger muscle groups. Although I would consider this to be essential in sessions at the gym, its size usually does not make it practical for travelling. (Although, there are some travel versions now available which are smaller and easier to pack).
2. Explore your local surroundings on foot
Have a look what natural locations you have around you for training. If you are heading to a holiday destination which is close to mountains, hills or beaches, these locations offer great variations to your training and are also free. With the basic training kit mentioned above, and access to an awesome natural view, it is the best place to train, and is completely free!
*Trainer Tip: I am always reminding clients and friends about a training option available to almost everyone whether you are travelling or at home - STAIRS. Every hotel or apartment block has them ranging from 4 to 44 floors! In my experience, 10 floors is a decent challenge before you start to really feel it in your legs. Doing laps on the stairs is a great option to end every session. You can start with 2 flights of stairs, and progress by adding 1 or 2 floors every round. Return to the first floor in the lift, or run down the stairs for some serious legs DOMS (delayed onset muscle fatigue) the next day!
3. Look for local food options that are not too different from what you eat at home
Search online, ask your local friends, or walk around and explore to find restaurants that serve food that are similar to what you would normally eat at home. It is always advisable not to stray ‘too far’ from your normal eating habits while away. Of course, holiday time is the best time to relax about eating and do as you feel. No need to stress out about nutritional choices and decisions, eat what you fancy. But there are good and bad choices to be had at every meal and drink, and there needs to be an element of self-control to avoid unnecessary excesses. Whether you’re training or not training while on holiday, eat real, whole, natural foods is a good rule of thumb, and generally avoid the things you would normally avoid, without being over restrictive.
4. Search for a local fitness outfit that offers drop-in sessions or short term offers
If training alone and outdoors doesn’t suit you, the next option is to find local training operators that can cater to your training goals. In many holiday destinations, you should be able to find local yoga studios, fitness gyms, CrossFit boxes, or outdoor bootcamp sessions. Aside from getting a good workout in with new trainers and training buddies, it is also a great way to make new friends and get expert local tips!
About the author
Nathan Williams is a Personal Trainer at UFIT Orchard. Originally from Wales, Nathan spent the last 12 years as a fitness coach in Cyprus, New York, Dubai, Bahrain, and Singapore, working with elite athletes and regular folks to transform their lives through fitness. Nathan specialises in Strength, Bodyweight and Kettlebell training. Having worked exclusively with older clients and golfers in the Middle East prior to coming to Asia, he has a keen interest in corrective strategies and mobility work for everyday workers, ex-athletes and anyone looking to continue their physical training whilst staying pain-free for the rest of their lives. Nathan is one of UFIT's most experienced personal training and bootcamp coach.