Many of us work at a desk, or sit at meetings during work, but research published within the past 10 years clearly points to the association between prolonged sitting and increased health risks including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention, it just makes us feel bad. When we sit for a long time, our joints stiffen and our metabolism tanks. The good news is that by breaking up long periods of sitting with activity, we can reduce these unhealthy effects. Try the 1-minute Desk Reset after an hour of sitting, and if you have more than a minute, get out and take a short walk or climb some stairs for even better results! Walking expends 150% more energy than sitting, and climbing stairs over 200% more! The more you move during the day, the better for your physical and mental health!
Obviously, this is just an example of one short simple sequence you can do right at your desk. Feel free to be creative, and make up your own desk reset! The main thing is to move, but here are some guidelines to help you create your custom Desk Reset:
Incorporate a few different movements, both upper body and lower body.
Choose movements that open/stretch the hips, shoulders, and chest.
Incorporate simple body weight exercises.
Incorporate stretching or your favorite yoga poses.
For the past six years, our end-of-year tradition at MUS Wellness has been to collect success stories from our awesome MUS employees, and share some of the highlights. We’ve just begun reading your stories, which are always inspiring and a great reminder of why we do what we do here at MUS Wellness.
I thought I’d get our Wellness success story season kicked off with a tale of thanks as we go into the Thanksgiving holiday. This one is from me, and it turns out to be a very different success story than any I would’ve envisioned at the beginning of the year.
On August 24th, I was riding bikes with a group of guys from MSU. We do a regular lunchtime road ride on Mondays and Fridays throughout the summer, and it’s always a highlight of my week. It was a beautiful, sunny Friday, and I remember feeling really good—the weekend was coming up, I was feeling fit, and I was excited about the transition to fall. Everything was great. Until it wasn’t.
I was going down a modest hill at around 20 mph, and I had a routine left-hand turn to negotiate. As I leaned my bike into the turn I felt and heard an awful skidding sound as the tire suddenly lost grip, and I was down in an instant. I landed hard on the back of my left shoulder. If I were in a cartoon, there would’ve been a big, colorful flash…
…and then I was aware of my head skidding along the pavement. Luckily for me there was a very effective Giro helmet between my skull and the ground. I had broken one of my cycling rules: “Always wear your helmet, but try not to use it.” Well, I used it, and I sure am glad I was wearing it. I sustained no head or neck injury whatsoever.
My left clavicle, however, was not so lucky. It was in pieces. As I lay on the pavement staring up at the beautiful big Montana sky, I didn’t know I had broken my clavicle, but I did have the sense that my shoulder was injured pretty badly. I knew my head was okay because I asked if my bike was alright. Turns out it mostly was, but later I would learn that I had a small puncture in my front tube, which caused my front tire to gradually lose air until it failed. Normally, you notice things like this during a ride without something so dramatic happening. It was just an unlucky thing. But I was fortunate to be riding with a group, and also fortunate that I didn’t take out any of them in my fall. They took care of me on the scene, called for help, and got me to the Emergency Room quickly.
I elected to have surgery to put the pieces of my clavicle back together, and I’m glad I did. My surgeon, who did a marvelous job, said most of the time these surgeries take 30 to 40 minutes. Mine took him 90. Yikes. Here’s the before and after:
For many of you who know me, you may know that I am goal oriented, and I write out my yearly athletic goals and post them at home and in my office. When I had this accident, I realized immediately that most of my goals for the second half of 2018 were going to be put on hold. But almost immediately, as in, while sitting in the bed in ER, I was formulating a new goal—be fully recovered and fully functional by ski season. I quickly added a second goal after that first weekend at home and realizing how annoyed my very physically active 6-year-old was with my new condition, and that goal was to be able to play with my kids normally again as quickly as possible. I had suddenly become a considerably less-fun, fragile, one-armed dad, and that was motivation enough.
One of my 6-year-old’s favorite things, especially this time of year, is tossing the football with me. I did the best I could one-handed, but a couple of weeks post-surgery I got in trouble with my wife after Dax zipped a football over my head that I reflexively reached for with both hands and let out a yelp. My wife advised us to stick to soccer.
Fast-forward to today, and I’m feeling very thankful to say that my impromptu recovery goals are largely being achieved. For that I give credit to an amazing job by my orthopedic surgeon and staff, a lot of care from my wife and family while I was pretty helpless, and diligent rehabbing throughout the fall. Now I’m feeling strong and ready for Bridger’s opening day this Friday! And this morning, before he went to school, Dax had some extra time and we spend it pitching the football around, and I thought about how nice it was to not be limited, and what a gift movement is, even for such a simple thing as tossing and catching a ball in your living room.
As we go into the Thanksgiving holiday, I’m sure you have many things to count as blessings. If you can name health and freedom of movement as part of your list, please do so! They are one of the most common things we take for granted until we lose them, and they are truly wonderful gifts.
For those of you running 5k’s on Turkey Day, hitting the slopes on opening weekend, heading to your favorite trail, hunting, or just walking around the block with a family member, be mindful of how wonderful it is that we get to do it!
This one is for all of you participating in our current “Get to the Core” challenge as part of the MUS Wellness Incentive Program. If you’ve been cranking out those planks and increasing your core strength over the past few weeks, our latest Montana Moves video gives you some ideas about how to kick it up to the next level of fitness and fun. Happy Friday! Enjoy!
Like many of my fellow Montanans, I was beginning to feel like I was living somewhere more like Seattle or Portland, after weeks upon weeks of rain and gloom. To make matters worse, it seemed the cycles of rainy stationary fronts would always arrive right around the beginning of the weekend and then park it.
So finally, on a mid-June weekend, when my phone’s weather app called for clearing skies on a Sunday afternoon, I bolted toward the Bridgers for some alpine hiking. I ended up going to one of my favorite trails, Middle Cottonwood, and on up to the summit of Saddle Peak. I did a bit of mixed hiking and trail running on the way up, and after a delicious PB&J on the summit, decided that I would run down.
It was a fun, lovely run through wildflower meadows and riparian forest, but I knew with a couple of miles to go my legs were going to be smoked. A couple of days afterward, I was barely getting down stairs, and my quads remained angry with me for a couple of days after that as well.
I exercise regularly, I consider myself to be in pretty good shape right now, especially aerobically, but the truth is that my legs were not accustomed to nearly five miles of descending trail.
The result? The dreaded Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. Most of us have experienced DOMS at one time or another. It usually occurs after a particularly heavy bout of exercise that we are not accustomed to. That’s the key—even highly trained athletes are not immune if they do something intense and out of the realm of their usual routine. Typically, the delay in delayed-onset-muscle-soreness is 24-48 hours after the exercise bout that causes the damage.
Another detail associated with DOMS, and why my case was particularly rough, is eccentric muscle contractions. Eccentric contractions happen when your muscles lengthen under load—think of putting down a heavy load, or in my case, hitting the brakes a bit each step while running down a mountain. Eccentric muscle contractions are a natural element of muscle function and movement, but an excess amount of them can easily lead to a painful case of DOMS.
Traditional thought blamed microscopic tears in the muscle fibers for the pain and soreness associated with DOMS, but lately, science is not so sure. In fact, the latest research is inconclusive about the mechanism that causes DOMS pain. Worse, there isn’t much solid evidence that any recovery modalities actually speed up the process. In other words, once the muscle soreness has set-in, there’s not much to do except hurry up and wait.
Sorry I don’t have better news, but a little knowledge can help you better cope with DOMS, or perhaps prevent it in the first place. So, to wrap up, here are a few key takeaways:
Although science hasn’t agreed on what happens on the cellular level that causes the DOMS response, we do know that DOMS is incurred after intense exercise that an individual isn’t used to, and eccentric muscle contractions tend to lead to DOMS faster. So, if you’re doing something you haven’t done in a while (or ever), take it easy. Or, in my case, if it’s your first alpine hike of the season, perhaps walking down would been wiser.
Know that in most instances, the peak of pain occurs around 24-48 hours after the bout of exercise. This too shall pass.
Here’s that good news we were looking for—if you repeat similar exercise after your muscles have healed, you should not be as sore the next time, or the next, and so on. Therefore, don’t let a bout of DOMS deter you from consistently exercising, or convince you to give up an new exercise program you have just started!
Some studies have suggested a link between Vitamin D and/or sleep deficiencies and occurrence/severity of DOMS. [Cristin, feel free to drop some Vitamin D knowledge and enlighten us.]
Although there really haven’t been any scientifically validated studies that link certain recovery methods to relieving DOMS, that shouldn’t necessarily deter you from utilizing some of your favorites. After all, the brain is a powerful thing, and we’re all different and respond differently to certain recovery modalities. That being said, if you’re going through DOMS, or any muscular soreness or stiffness for that matter, things like stretching, massage, foam rolling, compression, elevation, a warm bath, and staying hydrated never hurt.
For our latest MUS Wellness online resource, we’ve added a new Exercise Library. You can access the library by clicking the link above or by navigating there via the drop-down on the Events & Media tab located at the top-right of these pages. Currently, the library contains 40 exercises grouped into the following categories:
Lower Body Bilateral (Both legs)
Lower Body Unilateral (Single leg)
Upper Body Push
Upper Body Pull
This resource is intended to be a reference-type tool to:
Help you select some basic exercises to incorporate into a resistance training routine.
Learn/reinforce correct technique for these exercises.
If you’re comfortable, build your own workout by selecting one to two exercises from each category, which would give you a full-body workout utilizing your major muscle groups and joint actions.
This is the first draft of this library, so we’d love to hear any feedback you have so that we can constantly update and improve it.
This library is not comprehensive. There are literally hundreds of movements and exercises you can do at the gym or at home. This library includes some basics and some of our favorites. Please select exercises to match your current fitness ability and health status. Consult a personal trainer for more help, or to customize a personalized fitness program.
For further resistance training resources from MUS Wellness/Montana Moves, check out the following webinar:
…or browse our Montana Moves video library to find more detailed descriptions on certain exercises and movements.
In case you missed our recent webinar on foot & ankle health, here’s a few highlights, plus a short video featuring some exercises and stretches to keep your ankles and feet healthy and happy.
Top Ten Things we learned about our amazing feet.
About a quarter of the bones in your body are located in your feet (26 bones per foot).
Ligaments and tendons are very strong connective tissues. Ligaments connect bones to bones. Tendons connect bones to muscles.
The longitudinal and transverse arches provide strength and support so our feet can support the load of our bodies in addition to whatever we carry with us.
The average person will take between 3 and 4 million steps per year.
Force plate studies show that the foot absorbs at least 3 times body weight per step at slow running speeds.
An elite triple jumper may produce forces of 14 to 16 times body weight during his or her jump!
Sixty percent (60%) of our MUS population who responded to a pre-webinar survey (n=191) reported currently dealing with foot/ankle pain, injury or dysfunction.
Plantar fasciitis was the most common foot/ankle ailment reported by our population.
RICE, or rest/ice/compression/elevation can be a primary therapy for most ailments of the foot and ankle.
For chronic conditions that are not improving, health professionals such as a podiatrist (PDM), orthopedic physician, physical therapist, or licensed massage therapist can help diagnose and treat the condition, so that you can “get back on your feet again”, so to speak.
If your feet are healthy, keeping your ankles mobile and feet strong with some simple stretching and strengthening exercises can be a great form of prevention. You can learn some of these exercises in the following video. Enjoy!
If you want to watch the entire MUS Wellness foot/ankle webinar, just click here.
One of our annual Montana Moves challenges asks you to create your goals for the year. These goals could be personal, professional, or wellness related. (If you haven’t done so yet, this challenge runs until March 4th.) Every January, I must admit I get the most excited to write down my athletic goals for the year. Writing down my big goals gives me a framework, strategy, and plan for the year. For me, I know that in the absence of concrete goals, my exercise is less focused, less consistent, and less effective. As I went through my yearly practice of goal setting and planning this year, I was thinking about the process, and I wanted to share some of that process, because I believe it can be a tool for bridging the gap between having a goal and making it a reality. This is a process that coaches use to build programs for athletes, teams, or clients, but I think many of the concepts translate to goal-setting and planning regardless of the type of goal. In other words, this process can be used to set personal, professional, or financial goals as well as physical.
Step 1: Begin with the End in mind
This is where your initial goal-setting will come in. I won’t spend much time talking about goal setting here—if you need a refresher, check out this post. The main thing is to begin with the end in mind. What’s at the end of the journey? What are you trying to accomplish? Is it a big event? Is it something on your bucket list? Is it a personal best? Is it just to look smokin’ hot before your June vacation to some place warm? Be specific, write it out, and put these events on your calendar.
Once I have dates on my calendar, I like to figure out how much time I have to prepare for each event. I even have an app on my phone called “Days Until”. It’s a free, simple app that let’s me know exactly how many days I have until certain events. I even know how many days until my hundredth birthday (20,589 days, so there’s plenty of shopping days left for you to get me something nice). I also like to count how many weeks until these events, because a week is a nice, neat unit of training measurement that many coaches use, and is often referred to as a microcycle.
Steps 2 and 3: What’s the Big Picture? How does today’s workout fit into that?
Once I know how many weeks I have to train, I start thinking about the big picture. What are the general concepts I’ll need to work on over large chunks of time in order to reach my goal? One thing that I’ve done the past couple of years that’s worked for me is to divide my year out by the month–once again, a nifty, pre-made training unit. For me, I often use a month as a macrocycle. Anything from 4 to 8 weeks is common for a macrocycle. It’s long enough to see a training effect before changing the emphasis of a program. This consistent varying of a training program allows for specific results, and is the best way to avoid the dreaded “training plateau”.
A couple of years ago, I made a marcrocycle spreadsheet that keeps me dialed into my training goals, and focused on upcoming events. Here’s what it looks like: 2018 Macrocycle (Neal) If you like it, feel free to copy it, modify it, and use it for yourself.
Let’s break down a few month-macrocycles from this spreadsheet as examples. Right now, my training focus is to build my aerobic base through cardiovascular training and cardio-strength training. My next event on the calendar that I’d like to be ready for is Run to the Pub, on St. Patrick’s Day here in Bozeman. So my microcycle (week) is structured to includ two running days, 2-3 resistance training days, plus cross-training days with things like skiing and swimming. Next month, I’ll bump the running up a little. In the meantime, each cardiovascular training session is designed to build up an aerobic base (nothing fancy, just building up volume) and each trip to the gym should focus on driving my work capacity (the ability to do high quality work while warding off fatigue). In this case, what I’m doing for resistance training is a complement to what I’m doing with my cardio exercise.
If you’re wondering, “Ok, Neal, you’re training for a road race, but you’re only running twice a week? Shouldn’t you be running more?” Perhaps. But alas, I’m not 23 anymore. I know my body, and these days I have to build the road miles slowly. Also, I like to ski, and XC skiing is great cardio. And finally, I’m not trying to hit my peak fitness until this summer, so I build up slowly to that, which helps me stay healthy. Showing up to a starting line healthy is always my first goal when designing a training program. If you’re injured, you can’t train, and you can’t race–at least not well anyway–and the quickest way to get injured is to do too much too soon.
There are two events highlighted on my calendar this year. Those are the events I want to peak for and perform my best: the Bozeman Triathlon in June and the Montana Cup XC race in late October. My training goals and focus are designed to get me to those events fit and healthy. If I feel like doing something different, or I’m having a low motivation day, a quick look at my macrocycle calendar helps me re-focus. It’s on the wall behind my desk, along with my written out goals.
Now let’s look at October and compare it to February. October is a peak month. My aerobic base will have hopefully been built. So I’ll be free to do more intervals, tempo runs, and speedwork in preparation for the Montana Cup XC race. To me, this is the fun stuff, but it has to be earned. I can’t start with it. My microcycles (weeks) in October call for four runs per week, plus a bike and endurance lift for cross training. That leaves a rest/recreation day for other fun. Perhaps some fall hikes.
After the Montana Cup, my racing is done for the year, and I switch gears to off-season strength, hitting the gym three times a week and lifting pretty heavy stuff (for me). This change is good for my body and my mind.
Start with your SMART goal, write it down, and get it on the calendar. Begin with the end in mind. Then, if it’s helpful, write out some training focuses–perhaps chunking them into macrocycles. Finally, write down your plan for the week (microcycle), making sure it fits into the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. On low motivation days, look at your goals. Ask yourself why you are going to exercise today.
Finally, always be able to answer these two questions:
“What is my goal for today’s workout?” (Now)
“What am I working toward?” (Big picture-future)
P.S. For more on training goals and how to manipulate exercise variables to reach goals faster, check out today’s webinar Sets, Reps, and Such.
I had my spring training plan all laid out. After an off-season of strength training and skiing, I had begun to slowly add some running mileage back to the routine. The Run to the Pub was 9 weeks away. Plenty of time…
Then a friend asked me to be on her team for King & Queen of the Ridge, an annual Bridger Bowl event in which you see how many “Ridge Laps” you can do in a meager five hours. A ridge lap involves a nearly 500 foot vertical bootpack from the top of the Bridger ski lift up to the top of the ridgeline, and then you ski back down. Sounds fun right?
This is one of those events that I’ve heard of, and in the back of my mind thought, “Hmm, I wonder how I’d do in that? Maybe I’ll try that out someday.” It reminds me of a time in my younger life when I thought I’d really like to skydive. And then I got an opportunity to go skydiving, and it got real, and I thought—do I really want to skydive? Maybe I’ll just save that for later. (I’ve yet to go skydiving.)
Last year, the same friend asked me to be on her team, but I had a race the same day as the event. A fine and good excuse. This year, I had no excuses, and I agreed to join her team before I could think the better of it. This left me two-and-a-half weeks to prepare. No problem right? [Insert “freaking out” emoji]
So I’ve hurriedly modified my training for the past couple of weeks, and I’ve done some very specific training to prepare for the event. The most specific training I could do is to actually hike the ridge and ski down, which, luckily, I’ve been able to do a few times. But since I’m not to the point in my life where I can go ski everyday, I also have to supplement with other types of exercise.
The first sport-specific workout I did in preparation for this event, was hauling sandbags up and down a stairwell in the MSU Fitness Center. I did 10-minute intervals of stairs, while practicing different carries: front, suitcase, on the shoulder, under the arms, and overhead. Then I would do a one-minute ski drill followed by a three minute rest. I structured the workout to mimic the event itself: a long hike under load, a short ski run, and short break in between.
Then this weekend, in my garage, I did loaded step-ups on a box, except this time I wore my ski boots. Who needs ankle weights when you can just slap on a clunky pair of ski boots? Again, the theme is to mimic my movement and feel as closely as possible to the real thing.
The reality is, I’m not going to gain that much physical or cardiovascular fitness in two weeks. However, two weeks is enough time to have an effect on my neuromuscular system, the connection between brain and body—how the body moves and how the nervous system recruits and fires muscles. This in turn can lend a little mental edge and the confidence of knowing I have had a bit of focused practice for the event. If the training is challenging and specific, the actual event seems much easier mentally.
All of this has to do with what exercise scientists refer to as the Law of Specificity, Specificity Principle, or SAID Principle (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands). This principle states that the body will make specific physical adaptations depending on the type of stress, or demand, placed upon it from physical activity. In other words, you get what you train for. This holds true for general adaptations like greater strength or cardiovascular fitness, and very specific adaptations like the ability to hit a golf ball, serve a tennis ball, or ski moguls.
What makes this concept important for us? Well, let’s start with the assumption that most of us aren’t professional athletes, and don’t have professional coaches figuring everything out for us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have goals. There are still reasons why we exercise (or there should be). Let’s also assume that we don’t have all the time in the world to exercise. Between work, social and family life, and the rest of life’s responsibilities, most of us have a limited window of time to exercise, so those precious minutes need to count.
While it’s perfectly fine to squeeze in a short bout of exercise just to get us moving and make us feel good if that’s all there’s time for, if you have a specific goal such as losing 15 pounds, running a half marathon, or improving your pickleball game, you should spend the majority of your allotted exercise time doing things that will lead to the specific results you desire.
If you need more help, there are always personal trainers and coaches who are excellent at creating programs to fit your specific needs. You can also tune in to next month’s Montana Moves webinar, Sets, Reps, and Such, which will get into the SAID principle as it relates to resistance training.
But in general, if you want to be a better swimmer, spend most of your exercise time in the pool, and when you’re not in the pool, condition and strengthen the muscle groups and movement patterns that help you swim. If you want to lose weight, choose more intense exercise that burns a ton of calories, and promotes lean muscle development. If you want to be a better downhill skier, strengthen and condition your lower body, core, and do sport specific drills. Then hit the ski hill as much as you can! Or if you want to do King and Queen of the Ridge, hike the ridge, and when you can’t hike the ridge, carry sandbags up stairs, or do step-ups in ski boots. And if possible, do it longer than 2 weeks.
Be specific. You’ll discover specific, and hopefully favorable, results.
We’ll see what kind of results I get this weekend. Honestly, I just want to challenge myself and have fun. Whatever I do will be a personal best.
You can check in on twitter @montanamoves or at the bottom of this page to see how it goes!
Here is our holiday gift for all our followers and Montana University System people! We hope you enjoyed our educational videos this year as much as we enjoyed making them. Now you get to have a laugh at our expense.
Thanks for following, and thanks for letting us be ourselves! We can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring!