The gardener must squat, kneel, lean and bend over or nothing gets tended. Here are some self care exercises to tune up your knees in preparation for your days in the dirt.
Humans weren’t designed to sit for long periods of time without moving, this was previously addressed in this blog. The desk jockey syndrome of over sitting is well documented; sitting has been labeled the new smoking. Being seated turns off the anti-gravity muscles of the posterior kinetic chain—or muscles that hold a person upright. What does this have to do with the walking gait? “Booty lock”- the compression of vital gluteal muscles which are essential for efficient and correct biomechanical walking. With a glute that has basically “fallen asleep on the job” the front muscles of the body – quads, hip flexors, ankles- must bear the brunt of the work and these muscles quickly become overloaded without the assistance from the glutes, hamstrings, and back muscles. Moreover, the iliopsoas—an important muscular chord that connects the trunk and pelvis - is typically so tight that there is no hip extension necessary to achieve an optimum walking stride. Throw in a little forward lean of the neck and rounded shoulders and the result is an alignment crisis. Unfortunately, this sequence of compensations has happened to most people at some point in their lives.
How should you walk?
Instead of lifting and shuffling with the flexor muscles in the front of your body, push and swing with the muscles behind as well. Transition from the posterior swing, to anterior swing, then anterior stance, finishing with posterior stance and then repeat for the duration of your walk. Be advised that without hip and trunk flexibility and stability you will not be able to take advantage of muscular levers that allow the full range of motion and muscular activation.
Gotta Have That Swing
Stand up tall and bend your knees. Place on leg behind the other. Activate or squeeze your glutes and upper hamstring and swing your back leg forward. Repeat this pattern – remembering to cue the muscles from behind and avoid overworking the muscles in front.
Self Care Series
What Does It Do?
- Flushes metabolic waste from training and stress.
- Releases adhesions, breaks down scar tissue, mitigates damage from microfiber tears, and unwinds tight fascia.
- Hydrates the soft tissue by stimulating and draining and the lymphatic system.
- Reverses ischemia—lack of blood flow-to the soft tissue and surrounding areas.
What Is It Good For?
Recovery from workouts and injuries, injury prevention, pain relief, and relaxation.
How To Do It?
There’s no substitute for human hands for sensitivity of touch. Use your fingers, reinforced hands, and thumbs.
Where to Begin?
It goes without saying there are access issues. When it comes to self massage we are limited to what we can reach - unless you are double jointed or traveling with Cirque du Solei - here are three easy places to begin.
Illiopsoas & Hip Flexors
Place your hand on your stomach just above your hip. Keep your fingers together facing your palms toward you. Use a muscle salve or massage lotion so you don’t irritate the skin. Breathe deeply and easily through your nose and mouth. As you exhale allow press into your muscles. Begin to notice any areas that feel tight, tense, or not smooth. Allow your hands to go deeper. Slowly move downward toward your pelvis. Take your time. If any area is tight allow your hand to stay on the contracted area. Avoid applying too hard a pressure. Allow your body to set the pace.
The quadriceps muscles can become overactive and tight. In general most of our movements in life and repetitive stress are forward or “flexion” dominant. The front muscles of our bodies become tight and overworked. Begin at the inside of your inner thighs where they connect to your pelvis. Use your hands to slowly move toward the inside of your knee. Feel any knots or tight areas and just hang with them. Resist the temptation to press too hard. Intense pressure can cause more trauma to the soft tissue. Move to the front of your thigh, then the outside of your thigh. This will assist in aligning your knee and hip muscles.
Deep and outer calves become so tight they feel as if they are welded together . Begin with your thumb or fingers on top of each other. Start at the top of your lower leg bone located just below the inside of your knee. Use a pressure that allows you to feel the tension. There may be buzzing or tingling sensations; this will subside. Move down your lower leg toward your ankle. Begin to move toward the outside of your lower leg to access the area all around your calves. Don’t forget to move along the bone on the outside of your lower leg to unlock the entire calf.
Fingers, thumbs, muscle salve or massage lotion. Foam rollers and balls must be soft. Avoid using your full pressure on injured or damaged muscle fibers and fascia. Soft tissue in trauma responds best to light pressure.
Are we sitting ourselves to death?
Obesity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. All these conditions are now linked to sitting on our duffs. “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death” says Dr. James Levine., director of the Mayo Clinic and inventor the treadmill desk. The National Cancer Institute studied four million individuals and over 68 thousand cancer patients. The cancer study found long term sitting increased your risk for colon, endometrial, and potentially lung cancer. Risk factors became worse after every two hour increase in sitting.
From a musculoskeletal perspective slouching over in a chair is equivalent to over 200 kg of pressure on the disks of your lumbar spine. Besides a rigorous standing regime, standing desks, and cushy ergonomically designed chairs—what to do? Here’s a couple of tricks:
• Sit Correctly—place your buttocks all the way to back of your chair; this makes it easier to sit up straight and avoid slouching.
• Active Flexibility—take breaks to perform range of motion exercises during long hours in the saddle.
• Get Strong—strength exercises - especially in the gluteals, hamstring and lower back muscles - will give you the stamina to maintain the static position of sitting.