Headaches, push-ups and tennis elbow: The shoulder blade connection

THIS week, across all my classes, there’s a bit of a theme. Clue: They are behind you and you need them to move your arms. Anatomically speaking I’m referring to your scapulae, without the latin they are your shoulder blades.

Any arm or shoulder movement is dependent on your shoulder blades. From golf to gardening, running, or even drinking a cup of tea. Conditions like headaches, tennis elbow, rotator cuff injuries and even arthritis can all originate in dysfunctional shoulder blades. And the basic problem? They don’t move. This is why many Pilates exercises incorporate arm movements and why, during classes we spend a lot of time mobilising the upper body and taking care to position arms, elbows, shoulders and necks in a specific way.

Now to be honest, this is way too big a topic to unravel in one blog post and I don’t intend to. Instead, I’d like to offer you some food for thought to take into your classes and every day activities.

Even now, as you read this, how are you sitting or standing? Think about your little shoulder blades. Where are they right now? And where have they been for most of the day? If you spend a lot of time at your desk, they’ll have been fairly slack as your shoulders slope forwards and your wrists/fingers take the strain. If you sit up straight now and think about letting them drop away from your ears, how does that feel?

Inactivity and rigidity are enemies of your musculo-skeletal system so here are a few ideas for getting your shoulder blades moving:

THE IMAGINARY HAND SQUEEZE:

Stand up and imagine someone has placed their hand between your shoulder blades. Now try to squeeze the hand (you could of course find a willing volunteer).

 

My son, demonstrating THE DIVER

My son, demonstrating THE DIVER

THE DIVER:

From standing, place both hands above your head as if you were about to dive into water. Now raise your shoulders to your ears, without changing your hand/arm position and then lower your shoulders to create space under your ears. This exercise stimulates the natural winging in and out of your shoulder blades.

THE PUSH-UP PREP:

From your hands and knees (you can progress to toes) prepare for a push up. Now check your elbow joint position. Are they pointing out to the sides or back, towards your knees? If they are facing the sides, your shoulders aren’t in the right position and you’ll always struggle to do a push-up (plus you’ll get really sore wrists). Instead try drawing your shoulder blades away from your ears, squeeze them together just a little and ensure your elbow joint creases are facing forwards. Notice what happens now when you bend your elbows.

THE KNEELING TWIST:

From your hands and knees, thread one arm through your torso as if you were threading a needle, bending the other elbow to enable your shoulder blade to almost touch the floor, then go the other way, opening up your arm completely to the side.

 

5 Good Health Habits

It’s that time of year when media bombards us with health crazes, detoxes, diets and food fads (and fallacies).

So rather than confuse you further, I’m here to simplify life with some easy to adopt, good health habits which should perk up any sluggish system:

1. Start each day with a Morning Zing. Either fresh lemon or lime juice in hot water or half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in a glass of water. Both will help start your body in an alkaline way, which is great for health, fat burning and just making you feel good.

2. Take a 20-minute brisk walk every day, ideally before midday to catch as much daylight as possible. This will rev up your metabolism and (especially if you’ve been stuck at your desk or at home) give your eyes and brain a break. Walking is low impact but will get your joints moving.

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3. Have protein and two portions of vegetables with every meal. This is a tough one but both your body and your mind will benefit from this good health habit. Your brain needs protein, especially in the winter months, in order to synthesise happy hormones. Vegetables help to alkalise your body and are packed full of vitamins and protein will keep you full between meals.

4. Avoid snacks between meals. There was a time when health sciences taught grazing for health but in the past few years this has been turned on its head. If you are keen to drop some Christmas lard, shape up for an event or just regulate your hormones, going cold turkey between meals is best. This will automatically cut out ‘extra’ calories from your diet and you’ll have to meal plan to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients in your main meals.

5. Drink at least two litres of water every day. Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard it before but hydration is key for optimum health. You might be omming your way through yoga or clocking up the marathon miles but without enough water on board you’ll be under performing.

And finally (the bonus ball) … get your zzzzzz’s. At least seven hours beauty sleep a night. No TV’s or technology at least 30 minutes before bed and in as dark a room as possible.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Sugar Detox: Starts this Sunday, 5th January

Happy New Year to you all. I hope you had a great Christmas, with a chance to relax, unwind and spend quality time with friends and family.

Seasonal excesses can leave many of us feeling a little bloated and lethargic. Not just because of too much turkey and Christmas pudding. Did you know that for the majority of us, a month of eating differently and a change in routine can alter the nutrient balance in our bodies. That, coupled with winter’s lack of daylight and less exercise, is a recipe for sluggish systems and often low moods.

So the Fit School team have created a Sugar Detox plan. It’s a 10 day, online plan and it starts this coming Sunday, 5th January (Sunday will be a bit of a preparation day so you can hit the ground running on Monday, 6th). It costs £15 for Fit School members and £20 for non members.

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Over the course of the 10 days, the plan will help wean your body and mind from the sugar hit over the last couple of weeks. For some, the increase in sugar started as early as December! So here’s why we have created a Sugar Detox.

The three main nutrient groups in our diet are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

We consume these nutrients in varying ratios. Here are some common sources:

Carbohydrates

  • Fruit;
  • Vegetables;
  • Cereals;
  • Grains;
  • Milk;
  • Alcohol (see note below *); and
  • Anything containing sugar.

 Carbohydrates can be further broken down into the following:

  • Starch;
  • Sugar; and
  • Fibre.

*Alcohol is a separate group all to itself. You get all the calorific effects of a carbohydrate (the side effects of simple sugars) and none of the benefits (despite some blood thinning properties – although you can get these from other sources).

Here is a breakdown of how one Fit School member’s diet changed over the festive period.

Pre-Christmas Average December December with drinks/sugar
Carbs 45% 63% 62%
Protein 30% 12% 8%
Fats 20% 25% 30%

So the big change is increased carbs in the form of sugars, less protein (except Christmas day) and more saturated fats (from processed foods).

The calories in the three examples were roughly the same but to explain why counting calories isn’t always beneficial, below you can see the calories just from food.

  • Pre Christmas – 2000
  • Average December – 1750
  • + drinks and sugar – 1400

Even though the calories were roughly the same, up to 600 calories were now being consumed in the form of refined sugars or alcohol which you can’t readily use. In our experience, this kind of nutrient change tends to result in little actual weight gain you might grow a muffin top and feel generally flabby. If the ratios change as they have above and you consume more calories, you will put on weight as well.

We generally exercise less in the winter, since we are less motivated. So unless you adjust what you eat, you will put on weight. Christmas then compounds the issue. You’re feeling lethargic and your clothes are tighter by January.

So this detox is to get your body back to a point where you are looking and feeling great. It will require some will power and also some support. That is why doing it in a group will help you keep going. Our golden rule with trying to create a new habit is you must not take something out of your lifestyle without putting something back in. No doubt you derived some pleasure from eating or drinking the things that you did over the festive period. So it is essential that you replace the pleasurable part of these activities with healthier alternatives. For example, drinking nothing but water for a few days is probably okay, but by day three, you’ll find that every fizzy drink you walk past will be talking to you!

We will provide:

  • Low sugar recipes;
  • Protein rich meals;
  • Healthy carb recipes; and
  • Exercise guidance.

These will all be posted daily in our Facebook group. If you have any questions, we will also do our best to answer them so you understand what we are trying to do.

Want to sign up? All you need to do is email us at fitschoolessex@gmail.com and pay £15 (for members) and £20 for non-members before Sunday via our PayPal account: fitschoolessex@gmail.com.

See you there!

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com