In the quest to get clients better and, for a lack of a better term, bigger results, I tend to go outside of the normal aspects of the strength and conditioning realm and look at things from more of a complimentary health perspective. As a result of this, I’ve had conversations with clients and asked for them to work on things that probably made me seem somewhat strange. That being said, when they decide to give it a try, it tends to work, and then my strangeness seems more lapplicable than some creepy goofball. I’ve always believed that everyone is someone else’s weirdo, so I’m more than happy to be a lot of people’s weirdo if it means they’re getting better day by day.
1. Stop crossing your legs (women)
Crossing the legs puts a large shear force into the SI joint, forces the pelvis to posteriorly tilt, and has also been linked to a higher incidence of varicose veins in the leg that is typically underneath. Instead of crossing your legs at the knee, opt for crossing the ankles and tucking them under and to the side. It’s as effective, and actually considered more lady-like amongst polite society.
2. Stop Stretching
If someone can put both palms to the floor without a knee bend or their spine flexing a bit, they don’t need to stretch anymore. Unless they’re trying out for Cirque du Soliel. Then they should keep going until they can do the same thing, backwards.
3. Belly button piercings contribute to low back pain.
I wrote an article on this a long time ago HERE, detailing how it works and why metal objects in your navel aren’t your low back’s best friend.
4. Drink a lot more water to help your back pain reduce
Intervertebral discs are highly susceptible to dehydration, and can reduce their height when dehydrated. The nucleus is about 70-80% water, and if dehydrated, that disc can compress further, therefore causing more pressure or irritation to surrounding nerves, muscles, fascia, and other tissues that may already be under strain. Those tissues are also susceptible to dehydration effects, so drink some water. Typically 3-4 litres a day if inactive, depending on body size, and more if active. Even more if it’s hot and way more if it’s hot and humid.
5. What color is your pee?
This comes back to hydration. If it’s dark yellow, you’re dehydrated. If it’s light yellow, you’re good. If it’s muddy and brown, you have some serious protein breakdown going on, possibly rhabdomyelosis. If it’s cloudy and smells kind of sweet, you may be diabetic.
6. You need to go to bed earlier to lose weight
Circadian rhythms are different for everyone, but getting to bed at 1 or 2 pm every night and not waking up until 10am is never going to help anyone. Hormonal concentrations tend to have reciprocating spikes and valleys throughout the day, allowing you to have more energy depending on the time of day, and also help you have more productive workouts, more recovering sleeps, and better buttressing of stressors that may cause inflammation and lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss.
Go to bed between 9 and 11pm every night, get 7-8 hours of sleep, and wake up ready to tackle the day. Sure it may not be that “sexy,” but neither is staying up late just to watch the end of Jimmy Fallon, no matter how boss the Roots may be.
7. Your tongue is causing your neck pain.
This was only one person, and they had gone through extensive dental work with braces and everything, and as a result the pressure inside her mouth caused her to build up tension through all the muscles of the lower jaw, and also her tongue. I got her to do some tongue exercises like pressing it into the roof of her mouth, pushing it down, and also raising her ears, and from those homework exercises after our first consult her neck pain went away and she could turn her head without restrictions. Again I’ve only had one person like that, but if you or someone you know has had extensive dental work and orthodontics, it’s something to look at. I wrote a piece on it HERE.
8. Your breathing is messed up
Yep, that’s right, something as simple as breathing can be an issue, especially for someone with chronic neck tightness, shoulder pain, low back pain, hip flexibility issues, and a whole bunch of other things. A great book to check out on the subject is Anatomy of Breathing by Blandine Calais-Germain.
9. Do Way Less Cardio
Even competitive distance distance athletes shouldn’t clock high weekly mileages or frequencies until the 3 or 4 months leading into their first races of the season. Most of the time they should be maxing out at 3-4 times a week, with shorter distances of a higher intensity to build speed.
10. Pullups make your bench press better
By building a solid foundation of scapular strength through heavy pulling movements, you can have the right base of support for a stronger bench press. I had one client who had stalled on his bench for 6 months at 245. We did nothing but heavy pulling movements for his upper body for 2 months, retested his bench, and it went up to 285. I would love to say that it was because he had the rest, but in hindsight, he only ever trained his chest or pressing movements in general only once a week. He just never properly trained his back.
11. Your hip flexors aren’t actually tight, it’s a warning sign that your core is weak
You can stretch them all you want, they’ll just keep getting tight again, and until you address the reason why they’re getting tight, namely as a compensation mechanism to keep your spine from resembling a losing game of Jenga, they’ll just keep on locking up. Working on spinal stability, core strength, and reactive mobility through your glutes will help “stretch” those pesky little buggers out
12. Your diet only needs about 20-30% of calories from carbs.
This applies for pretty much everyone who has a sedentary job and is looking to lose weight. Sure, back in the day when more of the population had a job that entailed a certain amount of physical activity, or when working in mines, fields, factories, and construction were considered the norm, people needed to have more starches in their diets. Now that’s not really the case, yet more food sources are being consumed that are very high in carbs. They’re still necessary, just in much smaller amounts. They also tend to create a lower pH in the body and increase inflammation, which can reduce the effectiveness of a training program. This goes for endurance athletes, bodybuilders, weight loss clients, those looking to lift heavy things, and those recovering from medical disorders or injuries.
13. Your knees aren’t the problem
If you have knee pain that resulted from anything other than direct trauma to the knee, the problem is somewhere other than the knee itself. As a result, we’re going to do almost zero work involving the knee joint, and we’re going to try to fix the neighbors that are causing all the ruckus in the first place. We’ll train the hips and feet to do their job, we’ll go back in time and work on some developmental stuff so you can re-learn how to squat all over again, and we’ll beat the holy hell out of the soft tissue around the area with all sorts of foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and some custom implements of my own.
14. You want to take a fat burner? Don’t. Why? Because it will kill you.
People with thyroid conditions and on synthetic thyroid medications will commonly gain weight as the side effect, which is kind of ironic as rapid weight gain was one of the reasons they would seek out medical treatment in the first place. They may opt to take a fat burner to help the process out, but most fat burners are made with either direct or derivatives of ephedrine, caffeine and aspirin, each of which conflict with the effects of the synthetic hormone.
15. Tell me if your poop changes
Admittedly, this isn’t an easy conversation to have on either side, but if I’m working with someone who has gone through chemo, radiation, pelvic floor surgery, or any type of medical procedure where the nerves affecting the colon could be affected, or where the body is under so much systemic stress, their poop will be different. Typically the workout doesn’t cause any problems, but if they notice a change in consistency, trouble producing a movement, or pain when producing a movement, and they haven’t changed their diet, we may have to switch something int heir workouts around to make sure we don’t, you know, rip their intestines or something.
16. If your morning heart rate is over 85, you can’t go in to work
Some clients come in recovering from adrenal exhaustion, and are commonly on short term disability and a leave from work. As a result, if their resting heart rate in the morning is still elevated, they are still recovering and therefore not able to return to work. I’ve actually worked with insurance providers and helped them use this as a metric to determine when someone is ready to return to light active duties in reduced hours.
17. You don’t have any issues with your sore shoulder
One client was stressed to the max, and concurrently had a sore shoulder that he was looking to rehab. After being to a physio who gave him basic stabilizing exercises, a chiro who gave him very mild treatments, he came to me for the workout program. After assessing him, I told him there was nothing that I could see from his medical records or from our assessments that would lead me to believe anything was wrong with his shoulder. I asked him about stress levels at work, at which point he almost immediately shrugged his shoulders and started getting tense and stiff and projecting his neck forward. We worked on stress management techniques for 2 weeks before beginning any exercise program, and his shoulder pain reduced from an 8/10 to a 2/10, with only mild flare-ups when he got stressed at work.
18. Eating healthy is killing you
Without a doubt, organic foods are better. The meats taste better, the produce has more flavour and nutrients, and they tend to have less crap mixed into them to give them longer shelf lives and shorter health benefits.
But you have to wash the produce before you eat it.
19. How much wheat/dairy/processed-meat do you eat in a day?
These are the most common food types to have some form of sensitivity to, and if they cut them out they may notice a huge difference in energy, mood, weight loss, productivity, and all sorts of things. It’s easy enough to cut out dairy and switch to things like almond milk or coconut milk, and the calories and fiber from wheat can be replaced with beans, lentils, chick peas, and any number of vegetables. Processed meat can be replaced with, well, real meat. In many situations, these small substitutions tend to make a big difference in health and performance, without costing a ton or impacting their quality of life. Even just cutting back on them can make a huge difference.
20. Let’s go to the park
In Edmonton, you only really get about 6 weeks of summer, and then it’s roughly 6-8 months of winter, meaning time to hit the park is at a premium. By doing outdoor workouts, we get natural vitamin D, a light source that has been shown to improve mood & energy compared to traditional incandescent or flourescent bulbs, fresh air (some buildings have what’s known as “sick building syndrome,” where the air quality is so poor it makes everyone sick), and a good break from the typical gym crowds during busy times. It’s going to be almost 40 degrees celsius today with humidity, which will probably be a record, meaning I will be getting a lot of clients outdoors.