Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring Prep 101: The 3 Key Steps to Ease Into the Outdoors

This time of year always brings a new energy as we make a transition from Winter to Spring. The cleaning and yard work activities of the Spring, including bending, lifting, squatting, kneeling, and more, involve a lot of muscles that may not be quite ready to roll after the long winter with less activity. Follow these 3 Key Steps to prepare your body for Spring, ensure well-balanced muscles, and optimize your healthy immune system:

1. Alignment CheckBefore you head outdoors to work in the yard, you want to be sure your skeletal alignment is efficient and optimal so you can prevent stresses, strains or injuries. Your muscles will work the most efficiently from a symmetrical and well-aligned skeleton, as our bones are the stable base from which our muscles anchor and create movement when they contract.  To perform your own "alignment check" when you are standing, be sure your feet are pointed forward (not out like a duck), and that your knee caps are aligned in the front of your leg (not rotated out or in), and pelvis is neutral (not tucked or tipped). Be sure your ribs are aligned over your pelvis and that your lower ribs are not "thrusted" forward. Shoulders should line up over the ribcage, on the same line as the hips, if drawing a line from head to toe from the side of your body. Finally, your head should line up over the torso with your ears on the same line as shoulders and hips. Easy enough? If you can achieve this alignment, chances are your mechanics will be more ideal too. If you are having trouble achieving any of the above positions, let me know. 

2. Breathe Easy: The Diaphragm muscle is our largest breathing muscle, located underneath our lungs. For efficient breathing mechanics, this guy should be leading the way or else the "assistants" in our upper chest, shoulders and neck get overworked, leading to more stress and tension. Lie on your back with knees bent. Take a deep breath in through your nose and notice where your breath goes. If you're using the diaphragm correctly, the air should come into your torso and push your abdominal contents up and out, as if there is a balloon in your belly. Your shoulders and upper chest should only move minimally at the end of the full breath. Exhale and release the air as your belly flattens.  If you can easily breathe in this manner, your lungs and diaphragm will be more efficient for all of your daily activities, inside and out of your house. If you are prone to seasonal allergies, this efficient breathing technique can be especially helpful in allowing the tiny hairs in the nose to trap allergens and prevent them from getting into your system. I have really enjoyed diffusing my doTERRA "Breathe" Essential Oil in my home and office, as it really helps to open up my airways and cleanse my breaths. I even apply it to my chest before bed, like Vick's Vapo-rub (except without all the nasty petroleum-based chemicals and carcinogenic properties of Vicks). Breathing easy sets the tone for a healthy immune system, a deep and sound sleep, and even more efficient daily activities the next day!

3. Movement Scan: Another great way to prepare your body for the movements necessary for Spring cleaning and yard work is to perform a whole body range of motion scan to see if you notice any asymmetries, which can be a sign of sleepy, or inhibited, muscles or a problem waiting to happen!  To perform your own self-assessment, notice the sensations on both sides of your body when you: Rotate your head both ways, bend side to side, forward and back. Roll your shoulder blades up, back, down and around. How do those feel? Any popping or clicking noises?? Bend your elbows, then straighten. Bring your arms straight up over head all the way as high as you can. Do both arms reach as high? Now, bring your chin to your chest, lean forward and try to reach your hands down the front of your legs all the way to the floor. How far did you get? Any discomfort along the way? Now roll yourself back upright one vertebrae at a time. You may need something to support yourself and balance for these next few movement scans. Bring one knee to your chest, then the other. How do those compare? With one knee bent, rotate your thigh bone internally and externally to see how far in and out your lower leg goes as you rotate the hip. Bend one knee all the way and straighten it. Flex your toes toward your shin and point all the way down. Roll your foot and ankle in circles, clockwise, then counter clockwise. Any stiffness or popping noted here? Now, squat down to the ground and stand back up. How did that feel for you? These are all great ways to assess and warm up your body for all sorts of activities, especially this time of the year. If any of these activities feel difficult or limited, it is a great idea to get it checked out before it becomes a greater issue or prevents you from doing the things you love to do! 

I'd love to help you be sure your body is prepped and ready to go for Spring. 

For the rest of March and through April 2016, I am offering a 
FREE Breath, Alignment, and Movement Screen 
to help you work though these 3 Key Steps.

To take advantage of this valuable offer, call/text (414-405-3956) or email ( me today and let's schedule your free session! 

Move Well, my friends!