Recovery

5 daily stretches to stay pain-free

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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:

  • Headaches
  • 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!

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Instructions:

  1. 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).
  2. Maintain a neutral spine position, squeeze your butt and move your hip forward as this will release the hip flexor and rectus femurs.
  3. 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!) 

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Instructions:

  1. In a seated position, tilt your head to 45 degrees and gently pull your head forward and chin down until you feel the stretch.
  2. 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.

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Instructions:

  1. Position your hands with your palms facing up, which naturally turn your shoulder back and down.
  2. Stretch the band with both hands and imagine you are pulling it through your chest, maintaining the tension on the band throughout the stretch. 
  3. 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.

Instructions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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Instructions:

  1. Extend your arms and press the band overhead, and squeeze your shoulder blades as you bring the band back down.
  2. 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.

Is iron deficiency the cause of your fatigue?

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Iron is the essential element for energy production and optimal athletic performance. Did you know that almost half of women in Singapore could be iron-deficient but are unware of it? UFIT’s Head of Nutrition Wendy Riddell was recently surprised to find out she was one of them in an Iron Panel Test.


“Nutrition isn’t just about weight loss or weight gain. It’s not about macro counting or calorie counting. It’s not about how you look or how cut you are. It’s about your health, it’s about your strength, it’s about your quality of life, and it’s about your self esteem. You get these things right, and everything else will follow.

The wealth of knowledge on nutrition out there can be very confusing. Everyone has a different opinion, the world wide web is often full of deceptive information. At UFIT Nutrition we pride ourselves on continuous learning from the best in the industry. So when I got the opportunity to speak to the experts at The Iron Suites to learn more about iron’s impact on personal fitness, I jumped on it immediately.

Iron is essential for carrying oxygen through the blood cells to every parts of our bodies. It is a vital component of our metabolism and is crucial for energy production. Iron deficiency often results in fatigue, which is often mistaken as a consequence of a busy life. I’m a health professional, so of course I’m fully aware of the importance of having sufficient iron in my diet, along with magnesium and zinc etc. I eat well. I work out. I also have 4 children, 2 dogs, and a full-time job, so being tired is part of the deal.

While looking around the clinic, I was offered the opportunity to have an iron panel test done. I thought, why not? I’m perfectly healthy. So I was a bit shocked when I got the call to tell me that my iron levels were pretty low, and I should come in and see the doctor. It turns out that I’m tired because I’m iron deficient. Oh the irony!

Source: The Iron Suites

Source: The Iron Suites

And it appears that I’m far from the only one who is unaware that this could be an issue. A recent study done on a group of athletic women aged between 25 to 45 years – all of whom were eating well and training to run a race, showed that a third of them were tested iron- deficient. Iron deficiency is an especially common problem in women (due to regular periods) and young athletes. If you work out regularly, you may be depleting your iron stores and stand at a risk of being iron-deficient. One of the main reasons that people who exercise regularly need more iron is that they lose it faster through perspiration. You can experience anything from fatigue, irritability, and even lose interest in exercising altogether. This can have a huge impact on your training programme.

Iron is an essential nutrient which the body doesn’t produce by itself, it must be obtained from your diet. If not enough iron is consumed, or if your body has trouble absorbing it, iron deficiency can occur, which impairs your body's ability to transport and utilise oxygen. Considering that dietary iron recommendations for people who work out regularly are 1.3 to 1.7 times higher than usual, if your diet does not provide you with sufficient iron, your performance will take a direct hit.

In another yet unpublished study about the impact of iron deficiency on athletic performance, a visiting professor from the UK shared with us that one of his patients, a key contender in the London Marathon had initially dropped out of the event due to fatigue. The professor treated her with an iron infusion, and not only did she feel well enough to participate in the marathon (due to a new burst of energy), she even improved her personal best timing by a staggering 13%!

The doctor at The Iron Suites gave me a couple of options. Eat 1 kg of meat every day for 18 months? Tempting, but expensive. Another option is to take oral supplements, but they are not well absorbed by the body,  and may present side effects such as constipation and bloating. It will also take 6 months to a year to get my levels to what they should be. So I decided I would have an iron infusion, which is the quickest and most effective remedy.

The iron panel test and iron infusion treatment is done in the cosy clinic of The Iron Suites.

The iron panel test and iron infusion treatment is done in the cosy clinic of The Iron Suites.

This was a super simple procedure that took all of 10 minutes, and I was on my way back to work right after. I did not notice much difference immediately, but within a week my energy levels went through the roof! I found my workout timings improved (to the extent that my CrossFit coach filmed me to prove that I wasn’t cheating), and I was able to lift heavier weights. But more importantly, I wasn’t as tired at the end of the day and was able to spend more time with my children.

One month after my infusion, my endurance and run times have improved along with my strength. My iron levels were measured again, and I’m now in the normal range. For female athletes out there who feel that you are not performing to your best ability, I highly recommend you do an iron panel test to check if your fatigue is due to an iron deficiency.”

Iron Suites Promotion

The Iron Suites is offering a free iron panel test (worth $52) to the first 400 sign-ups from the UFIT community!

Step 1: Click HERE.

Step 2: Select your preferred date and time

Step 3: Key in your contact details, and enter promo code <UFIT-Fe> under "Purpose of Visit"

A representative from The Iron Suites will be in contact to confirm your visit. You can also call in at +65 6702 1929 during office hours to make an appointment.


About the author:

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Wendy Riddell is a degree-qualified nutritionist with 18 years of experience. She runs the highly popular UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge, which successfully helped thousands of people lose weight and develop healthy eating habits. 

Wendy is also a fully qualified personal trainer and bootcamps coach, with experience in running fitness programs in Australia and Singapore. A regular CrossFitter, she has competed in multiple obstacle races, half-marathons and cycling races in Singapore and in the UK. Wendy is a great believer that anyone can achieve anything with the right support. “I can, and I will.” is one of Wendy’s favourite phrases. She has four young children and understand first hand the challenges of balancing a healthy lifestyle with the demands of daily life.

 

Supercharging the hip

Fighting sports have become huge in Singapore over the last few years with the rise of the one championship, KBX fight promotions, and specialist boxing gyms opening up.

Whether it's martial arts, Bootcamping, CrossFitting or PT you do - and anyone who works out frequently - puts their muscles and joints through intense loads. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad thing at all and with enough time to adapt, your bodies will benefit significantly from the increased demand. However as with any contact sport, there is no shortage of injuries.

In this article I'll outline a few good ways to avoid any hip injuries from martial arts - or any other rigorous training. I’ll also give you tips and show some simple exercises that can reinforce your hip and the surrounding structures so you are less likely to be injured and need physiotherapy.

After all, prevention is better than cure!

Hip injuries

Ouch, I’ve had a few, usually by throwing a flashy kick too high without warming up or pushing it too far whilst stretching with a partner and pulling my hamstrings. Muscular strains are very common and the majority will clear up in 2-6 weeks if you do the right things.

Please note it's important if you have any ongoing or recurring hip issues that you get them assessed by a physiotherapist ASAP, there are many different structures that could be at fault.

How to avoid them

Load up gradually – in other words don’t jump from sofa to sparring in one day, if your body is not conditioned to the stress you are about to put it through you’ll increase the risk of injury. This goes for returning vets as well as beginners.

Make sure you are warm – OK this might be a given but you’d be surprised how many guys think doing a quick jog up and down the room is enough. Get your blood pumping, get those neurons firing and do some dynamic stretches before you start.

Increase your hip mobility – This is important in all sports but extra important if you like flashy kicks, or intend to roll with someone who is going to try and pull your legs to the opposite sides of the room.

Supercharge your leg muscles – Try out the exercises below to supercharge your hip.

Here are my favourite exercises to build up hip mobility and muscle robustness – Also great to use as part of your warm up;

1.     Long stride with a twist

  • Start in a long lunge position, with your back leg completely straight.
  • Put both palms on the floor in line with your front foot.
  • Twist towards your front leg, lifting your nearest arm up to point towards the ceiling – your body should end up facing your front leg.
  • Hold for 10 seconds
  • Repeat 10 times each side.
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2.     Bridge with hip and knee drive

Beginners:

  • Start by laying on your back, with your knees bent and both feet flat on the floor
  • Brace your core
  • Squeeze from your glute and drive your hip up towards the ceiling

Advanced:

  • Start by lying on your back, with one knee bent foot flat on the floor.
  • Grab one leg and pull your knee in as close to your chest as possible.
  • Push up into a bridge with the leg still on the floor and hold for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat 15 times each leg.
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3.  Deep squat with counter balance

Beginners:

  • As below but without a weight.

Advanced:

  • Grab a kettle bell or a weight – doesn’t need to be too heavy you are using it as a counter weight so you can sit back into the squat.
  • Sit back into a squat and push your elbows against the inside of your knees to push them out.
  • Hold it and gradually sink lower into the squat as your muscles relax.
  • Repeat 5 times.
 
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4.     Cossack goblet squats

You can do this one of two ways depending on your current flexibility.

Beginners:

  • Start in a standing position,
  • Lunge down to the side keeping both feet facing forwards and holding the weight in front of you.
  • Repeat on the other side.
  • Sink lower into the position each time.

Advanced:

  • Start in squat position
  • Keeping as low as possible push over to one side
  • Then push across to the other
  • Repeat 5 times each side
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5.     Internal rotation with lateral pull

Beginners:

  • Start on all fours
  • Attach band around hip close to groin and make sure it is taught
  • Push your bottom down and backwards.

Advanced:

  • Attach a resistance band around your upper thigh as close to the groin as possible, and make sure it is taught
  • Internally rotate your leg as shown in the picture
  • Starting in an upright position, push your back leg back and your body forward as is doing the pigeon stretch
  • Repeat 5 times each leg.
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6.     Nordic Hamstring curl

  • This exercise is for advanced only, please make sure you have sufficient strength in your hamstrings before attempting this.
  • The main focus of this exercise is on the lowering phase known as the eccentric phase.
  • Get yourself into a neutral pelvic position and brace your core muscles as if someone is about to hit you in the stomach.
  • Keep your body as straight as possible and lower yourself down as low and as slowly as you are able
  • If you need assistance getting back up its ok you push with your arms up the start position then repeat
  • Repeat 3 sets of 4 repetitions.
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That’s my top six to supercharge the hip, I hope you enjoyed it and good luck trying them out. If you are interested in learning more handy tricks and exercises to help you stay injury free follow my instagram @thefightingphysio I am also available for consultations, treatment and advice at the UFIT Clinic one-north.

Improve results with Nathan's rest and recovery tips

Modern day societies are exercising more, yet obesity levels are on the rise. The reason why people aren't achieving results is their lifestyles aren't as balanced and their bodies are surviving not thriving.

Training all week and partying, working or being busy is the classic pattern of the modern day human, the “weekend warrior” who gives 110% in the gym class, bar and at home. Aggressive modern fitness trends are targeting the “work hard, play harder” mantra when in reality that should be “work hard, recover and be happier”.

Sleep, hydration, nutrition and stress are all huge factors that make or break a health and fitness regime and every fitness enthusiast needs to understand where they sit on the balancing scales. Nathan Williams, Manager and Personal Trainer at UFIT Orchard tells us how recovery work can be the best thing for our fitness.

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Why rest and recover between training sessions?

The “no pain, no gain” slogan has been sold to the fitness masses for the last decade or two and its legacy is wearing as thin as its followers' tendons and cartilages!

Recent trends of training multiple times a day which were designed for full time athletes has been adopted by mainstream fitness enthusiasts as a go-to method to get “Fitter, Leaner, Stronger” when the real results will leave the majority of normal athletes “Fitter, Fatter and Exhausted”.

Muscles need rest to grow, and the central nervous system needs recovery to reset in order for the human body to function optimally.

How much rest do we need?

Everyone is different and I recommend trial and error with training frequencies and intensities.

Burning the fitness candle at both ends can lead lead to long term, chronic depletion of hormones like testosterone (think of this as jet fuel for the body) and raise levels of the stress hormone (cortisol) which can act like a brake on your fat loss goals and overall training progress.

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How does rest and recovery enhance our training?

There are several easy methods to use and it really depends on what you need more, than what you like: 

  • if you do a lot of strength training you'll benefit from 1-2 hours of yoga or stretching a week
  • if you run as a main form of exercise you may find massage and stretching will help better
  • if you have fat-loss goals you'll need active recovery (or blood flow) sessions to keep the body moving and recover ‘actively’.

The majority of people now do not sleep well at all and this huge part of the training puzzle is not being looked at with the attention it demands. "Every minute of quality sleep enhances the quality your waking day”. If your sleep is poor then there is a big chance your daily performance will match - allowing your body and mind to burn out quickly.

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am i overtraining and what should I do?

When all things are balanced (training, travel, sleep, rest, recovery, hydration and nutrition) it's actually pretty hard to “overtrain”.

The reality of modern day fitness trends and lifestyles is that the areas are far from balanced so the gateway to overtraining/overliving is way bigger than it should be.

Poor sleep into a morning run may make someone 'feel’ good when the endorphins kick in (endorphins are actually a mechanism to number the body into stopping activity - not give us a buzz to keep going) but this has only put a person deeper in the training hole.

When poor nutrition and under-eating are combined with multiple training sessions a day, the body will react to protect itself. There may be short term progress but the long term damage on metabolism and hormonal imbalance can take months/years to detect and the same time to fix.

Some warning signs are:

  • Mood swings
  • Chronic tiredness on waking
  • Falling asleep in the daytime
  • Unusual sugar cravings
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Zero morning erections per week (MALES).

how do I fit in rest and recovery when i prefer to train?

If you feel like your current weekly routine is not getting you closer to your goals (fat loss, muscle gain, improved energy/mood) then I would suggest:

  • Recovery sessions (yoga, stretching, swimming, massage) need to become part of the training cycle
  • Time can be saved within sessions by slightly reducing the time you work and increasing recovery slightly.
  • Implementing a de-load week every six weeks can be massively beneficial to the overall annual training load.
  • A typical de-load week could be to reduce volume and/or intensity by up to 50% or even switch for the whole week to more outdoor fun activities to keep things fresh - the options are endless, with the fundamental goal of the week being a weekly reduction of stress to allow longer training cycles to not lose intensity.
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How can I rest when i'm race training? 

It's always better to have someone with race training expertise design a training program with recovery pre-planned in. The same rules would apply with recovery and rest for racing as they would with a normal training program - the program will only be as good as the recovery between sessions.

That would be for each individual and their coach to work out based on all the factors discussed above (nutrition, sleep, work schedules, travel, etc). 

HOW TO REST AND RECOVER WITH UFIT

 

About the author

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Read Nathan's article on Sleeping Well right here.

Nathan Williams specialises in strength training, Kettlebells and corrective strategies and mobility work for everyday workers, ex-athletes and sports people looking to continue their physical training whilst staying pain-free for the rest of their lives.

He graduated from UWIC, Cardiff with a 2:1 in Sport development and management. Nathan's worked with elite RFU female rugby players and notably coached Danielle Waterman before she went on to be women’s Rugby World Cup top try scorer (2006) and has gone on to win over 60 international caps and become an Olympian with Team GB in 2016.

Nathan focuses on helping his clients become fitter, stronger and healthier by eliminating pain and weakness in the body through improving strength and quality of fundamental human movements. A system he successfully learned and adapted from an internship at world renowned high performance center ‘Cressey Performance’, Boston, MA, United States.