The Tripod, Your Shoes And Knee Pain

Since I started learning and exploring movement through natural movement, I was also coached, as well as reading and studying, I have noticed many changes in the way I use my body today. In a good way that is.

I have also realized what contributed to 15 years of knee pain, which lead to grade 3 meniscus damage. While not everyone is the same, and not every injury is the same, everyone can benefit from The Tripod.

This repeated pressure on knees and ankles, whether you walk or run or just stand, is what, in time may lead to pain and injuries. Among other reasons.

That pressure, in many cases, comes from an incorrect body weight distribution. And unless you had an accident, injury or other such problems, this is what probably causes your knee pain. Although you should check with your doctor to get diagnosed.

 

In another article I wrote about Knee Pain And Body Weight Distribution. In this one I will talk about shoes and how they affect body weight distribution.

In that article we also mentioned that you have two tripods. Each is formed on your big toe, little toe and heel. That forms the base of support for your whole body.
And like your camera’s tripod, if one of the legs is not properly planted into the ground, the tripod is uneven and pressure is not evenly distributed. That tripod is unstable and weak.

Many times, knee pain comes after we consistently practice the habit of distributing our body weight more on the front of our feet.

But it is not your fault. Look at your shoes. They naturally lift your heel and automatically sends more weight on the front of the foot. Even if it’s just a little, that little adds up over the year.

It may not seem much but over 20, 30, 40 years it can change a lot. It can change your posture and the way you move your body.

 

The solution?

Firstly, although I believe we should walk barefoot sometimes, that we should allow our feet to develop and strengthen the muscles, this does NOT mean you need to go barefoot all the time, everywhere. However, when the weather is nice you can go barefoot in the garden, in a forest, in the house, anywhere where you feel you can.

Going barefoot, besides strengthening your foot muscles, will also help you become more aware of and correct body weight distribution. Feeling your toes and heel on the ground enables you to make changes.

“Allow your feet to take their natural shape and your skin to breathe.”

 

Second, barefoot or not, be aware of how you distribute your weight (from left to right and from back to front) every time you step, go up the stairs, when you stand, and run. At some point while you walk or run, you will go through a position where your foot is on the ground and you can feel The Tripod. Consider that a “check-point” and ensure your big toe, little toe and heel are on the ground, rooted into the ground for just a second or fraction of a second before coming off the ground again.

For example when you run with a forefoot strike, after the ball of the foot touches the ground the heel comes down as well, and that’s The Tripod right there.

 

Try it now. If you don’t try it now, you will never try it and forget about it.

 

Please note I am not a doctor or a therapist. It is important to consult your doctor if you have an injury or experience any pain. 

Press-Ups – Most Common Press-Up Mistakes

I will be using the same video I used in the first post on press-ups: Press-Ups – Why It’s Difficult To Do A Full Press-up, to list some of the most common mistakes we do when learning and practicing press-ups.

 

There are 3 main reasons why we make press-up mistakes:

  1. We don’t know how to do it – no one taught us
  2. We want to do a lot of them – a lot for some people can be 10; we try to do a lot of them regardless of HOW we do them
  3. We get tired and we lose technique without realizing – having no one next to us to correct leads to even more mistakes

 

Practicing and repeating press-ups with incorrect technique can lead to:

  1. Muscle strain – particularly the neck, lower back and shoulder blades
  2. Lower back pain
  3. Shoulder pain
  4. Elbow injuries
  5. Muscle imbalances

When you lose technique, further repetitions are useless and you are wasting time and energy.

 

Common press-up mistakes (you will also see them and explained in the video below):

  1. Head hanging – straining neck muscles. You should focus your attention on a point just in front of your hands. Not just your eyes but the whole head.
  2. Sinking into the shoulders – for beginners in particular, this is sinking into the shoulders to give the impression the body is lowering. Shoulders must be stabilized and the press-up is done by bending the elbows to lower the body.
  3. Elbows to the side – places unwanted stress on the joint and can lead to overuse injury. Although this makes it more difficult learn how to do press-ups with elbows going back, brushing the sides of the body.
  4. Hips sinking below the chest – lower back pain and the abdominal muscles are not working. Hips should follow the chest. When the chest stops the hips stop as well. Hips never go lower than the chest. We do that because, again, we have the impression we go lower in the press-up.
  5. Hips too high – core is not working. This is a pressup variation, forming an “A” shape. But for classic press-ups the hips have to follow the chest. However, if you are unsure it is better to have your hips higher than lower. Hips higher – core not working, while Hips lower – over arching back and lower back pain. Better the first, if you are unsure.

Correct these press-up mistakes and you will train and strengthen your whole upper body. The more correct you do them, even just a few at a time, the more effective they are.

And here is the video I promised, jump at minute 2:48 for press-ups mistakes:

Press-Ups – Why It’s Difficult To Do A Full Press-up

Doing a full press-up is very, very achievable but not as easy some think. You just try it a few times and expect to go from not being able to bend your elbows to a correct full press-up

There are many muscles involved in doing a correct full press-up. Because there are so many muscles involved, for a beginner, until those muscles strengthen, it takes a while. That is why it is important to have patience and practice, if you want to do a full press-up in the end.

Why-It's-Difficult-To-Do-A-Full-Press-up
Image source: http://www.md-health.com/What-Muscles-Do-Push-Ups-Work.html

 

These are roughly the main muscles press ups work. There are also the oblique muscles (side of the abdomen), lower and upper back muscles. The whole mid section of your body need to work to keep you in the right position.

So you see, it cannot happen over night. Work and consistency needs to be put into it. So I have put together a video with how I managed my full press-ups and how I helped my clients who really wanted to do this. Hope it’s good enough to help you as well.

Tools And Methods For Tracking Your Progress

To make any progress you must know where you are, where you want to be, how you are going to get there and how you will measure or track the progress.

Some things will work for you, while others will not. How will you find out what works? And how will you find out if you are heading in the right direction? Through some form of measurements. And the more you know the better.

Try to see these numbers as guidelines towards your end goal. Try not to attach emotions to them, no matter what they show, they are there to help you.

 

These are a few examples on how to measure your weight loss progress, body fat percentage, maybe you want progress in term of circumference, muscle mass, etc. I will give you methods you can use home by yourself, and they are not expensive. So let’s get to it:

 

Measuring tape  

When you want to reduce waist circumference. Done in the morning and no clothes to ensure reliability of measurements – measurements must be taken under similar conditions to be able to compare them.

 

Scales

If you simply want to see different numbers. Scales can misleading though. If you drink a liter of water you will be heavier, yet there is not more fat there.If you replace fat with muscle the number on the scale will not change and can even go up.

It is a nonetheless a way to monitor your weight loss progress and for maintenance, and must be used in the morning naked to ensure consistent measurement conditions.

Some scales show the fat % as well as bone density and water %. Depending on which scale it is, it can do more or less.

 

Skinfold calipers

One of the best ways, and most accurate ways to measure body fat percentage, without . It is done skinfold and it looks like this:

skinfoldcalipers

If you ever buy one you should find all the instructions of how to use it and where on the body.

 

Heart rate monitor

Some use heart rate to monitor the intensity of their training. I personally have never used this type of monitoring but it’s nonetheless a good way to set your goals.

 

Hand held body fat analyzer

You enter your details such as height, weight, age etc, you hold it front of you with your arms straight and wait until it measures. If you google the name you will find them.

These are probably more precise than scales but not more precise than skinfold calipers. Measures fat percentage, muscle mass, heart rate (at rest or after exercise), BMI (body mass index). Depending on the model it can do more or less.

 

Other ways of monitoring progress in terms of training goals: Distance
Time
Speed
Reps
Sets
Weight
Or a combination of them.

 

For flexibility you can use a ruler or measuring tape to see where you stop (i.e. where you stop when you reach your toes, do the box split or any other stretches that can be measured).

 

In terms of weight loss I’d use the skinfold calipers. This is a brief explanation of how these tools work, but enough to give you an idea of how to measure your own progress. Of course you can always contact me to discuss in more detail, and what it best for you specific goals.

12 Ways To Bring Movement In Your Daily Routine

Today I was a guest on Ridge-Radio Tandridge (once the recording is up I will post it around for you to listen). Among the many topics we talked about was how to bring movement, exercise in your lifestyle.

This is especially effective for busy mums who wear multiple hats: mother, spouse, entrepreneur or busy corporate and many other roles. But no only, it’s for busy fathers as well.

We are meant to move and when we don’t use our muscles they de-condition. At the beginning it’s not visible, everything happens “under the hood”, but de-conditioning happens very fast.

We have evolved to use our bodies, like all other creatures on earth, and when we don’t use it enough it hurts, it’s stiff and weak.

Thus without further ado, here are some ideas:

 

1. Brushing your teeth

Small squats, small lunges or standing on one leg to work those stability muscles (make sure if you lose your balance you don’t fall on something and injure yourself.

 

2. Are you in a hurry?

Don’t take the car, walk faster, speed walk.

 

3. Cooking

Stretch out, squats, lunges or, why not, a few crunches.

 

4. Kids

Play with your kids, even if you feel tired. You will feel better after you move around a little, even if only for 5 minutes.

 

5. Your drink

Don’t ask your kids to bring you a glass of water or your spouse to make you a coffee. Get up and prepare it yourself.

 

6. Lifting

You don’t have you lift heavy stuff, but even light ones pick them up yourself. If you have any injuries make sure this will not make it worse.

Also, every time you need to pick up something do so by squatting, split squatting or lunging.

 

7. Ironing

Now this is a tricky one. Squatting, high to begin with, while ironing.

 

8. Bus or train stop

You can walk from one side of the platform to the other, you can stand up and sit on the bench (it will look weird but that’s ok), balance exercises, stretching, lunges. (I do all these!)

 

9. Groceries

Besides walking to and from the grocery shop, use the bags with groceries as weights. Like this:

  • use your core muscles to keep your body balance, not leaning one side or the other, forwards or backwards
  • lateral lifts, with straight arms (if you can’t you don’t need to lift all the way up in line with the shoulder)
  • bicep curls
  • forward lifts
  • torso twists (arms alongside the body and twist from the waist)
  • shoulder shrugs
  • you can also walk in small lunges if you are brave

 

10. Sitting

Do 5 squats before you sit or lie down, every time.

 

11. Chair

You can sometimes stand at your desk, or use a stability ball which will activate some of the core muscles.

 

12. Uphill

Choose the more difficult path. When you walk uphill keep your body straight and aligned, don’t lean or bent forwards.

 

See what you can do from these suggestions.

Come up with some ideas and leave a comment and I will write a part 2 to this article quoting your idea. If I haven’t replied within a couple of days I might not have seen it, so contact me to let me know please (through social media or message me on the website).

What Can You Learn From Athletes

I’m not sure why I thought about writing this article. People look up at athletes, they admire them for their talent, abilities, and their fitness and physique. This perfection we see seems very far and difficult to reach as us. Yet….the truth is….they are no different than you.

They have 2 legs and 2 arms just like you. A brain, skeleton and muscles just like you. Yet, what makes them so talented that they can achieve what other can only dream of? And what can you learn from them to achieve your own aspirations?

Talent counts for very little, maybe 20%. The rest is sweat, tears and sometimes blood.

Do you think athletes “feel like training” all the time? Top athletes train for hours every day. They have dietary restrictions, have to sleep a certain amount of hours every night. They have specific goals and training plans and more. Above all this:

 

1. They are committed

They commit to master one thing and one thing only. They may train in other sports but THE ONE is the one they master throughout their career.

Jumping from one sport to another within a few years will not get you anywhere.

You might think 12 months of consistent training is enough. Nope, that’s just the beginning of your journey.

 

2. They are consistent

For year and years, not 5 or 6, but 10 or 20. They seldom miss a training session. There are athletes who have families and jobs, but they don’t come with excuses not to do their training.

 

3. They keep going no matter what

When they fall they get up. When they fail they try again. If one thing doesn’t work they try another, and another until they find the one that does work.

How many times did you give up because you haven’t seen results in 3 months, or massive results within 12 months? Many athletes train for years and years before they enter some competitions.

They also train for years to compete a few minutes and…..they lose. Someone has to be on the first place and it’s not always you. Still, they keep training.

 

4. They have coaches

When the tough get tough who has their back? Their coach. Don’t think coaches are reserved only for athletes. If they, who know so much about their sports, have a coach, so should you.

 

5. They sacrifice

Sounds tough but that is the truth. There are a lot of sacrifices, but the rewards are worth the sacrifice.

 

Next time you see someone on a podium, don’t forget they started from zero and worked their way up. Also remember talent can only get someone so far, hard work over long periods of time will get you where you want to be.

Questions? As always you can contact me any time.

How Your Environment Influences Your Habits

The environment we live in determines whether our habits are healthy or not. It also influences your day to day choices and ultimately your lifestyle and your health.

 

Past environment

Millions of years ago the environment looked like this: open land, wild animals, forests, savannas, in terms of food berries, fruit, potatoes at some point and game, we had to hunt and walk for km to find food and then bring it back and cook it.

So the only options were walking a lot, sleeping, eating what there was to eat and reproducing. That was pretty much it, besides kids playing outside.

 

Present environment

Today’s environment look like this: buildings, cars, hardly any open space, store at the corner of the street, food in abundance, already cooked sometimes and online deliveries, TV, laptop, phones and tablets.

In the past we had to walk, run, squat, crawl, lift and carry. Now we can avoid most physical effort.

We have also evolved to crave sugars, fats and salt. We need them. While in the past the only options were fruit, nuts, game and water, now we have an abundance of uncecessary amount of calories from some of the worst sources. But while in the past we would use these calories and more, now we mainly receive them and keep them.

So the environment “encourages” us to consume these foods and drinks, it allows us. On the other hand we have created a very sedentary environment. We don’t use the calories we consume.

 

Cluttered desk

That kind environment at some point makes you tired, and stressed. When you are tired you tend to crave high energy foods, carbohydrates, which as we have designed the environment, are in abundance and from many wrong sources.

This is a simple example but it applies to all kinds of environments: your house, your fridge, office, tube stations, recreational parks, touristic places, streets and more.So we talked about food mainly because this is something we all struggle with these days. And the environment we live in has a massive impact on your eating habits.

 

What to do

There are things you cannot control (such a pollution on the street) and things you can control (such as your home). Let’s focus on what we can control and do, that will make a big difference in several other environments in your life.

 

Home environment

Probably the number one place to begin is your house. Here are a few examples of how to think about your environment and your habits

 

Having a TV: you will watch movies but also news and advertisments – news are filled with all the bad that’s going on in the world, very seldom the beautiful and happy, ads of any kind flood your mind which influence the way you think about the world, certain products and everything really, at a subconscious level. Your thoughts and habits are controlled by your subconscious. Solution: get netflix or just don’t have a TV, many people don’t have TVs, and I am one of them. I like to be in control of what I feed my mind with, as much as I can.

Storing certain types of foods: I don’t have cakes , ice cream and chocolate in the house, if I want I have to go buy, eat and that’s it. Same for sodas although I have’t had a soda in years, and same with breakfast cereal.

Nature: I am moving in an apartment now and that means I can have plants, so i will have a jungle corner because that makes me feel good and calm. What do you have in your house that makes you feel good?

I have my Karate medals and trophies, and race numbers where I can see them, so are my most powerful quotes.

 

Just these few elements have the power to keep me consistent and influence my habits the way I want them to be.

Home is important and it will expand to the office and all other areas. But not in a few months, let nature takes it course, your mind and body with adapt gradually in their own time. Using force to change something is not always the answer.

 

There are many examples and ways to make things come by themselves by simply designing the environment the right way. It’s very personalized, so if you’d like some guidance and ideas do contact me here.

 

People with kids

People with kids who say they need sweets for kids. A healthy environment is particularly important for kids. Habits are developed from an early age, after teenage it’s very difficult to change them. And why should we expect kids to change their habits later when we can set correct habits from the beginning.

I don’t have kids but my parents raised me and my cousin and I talk about these things with my mother very often to better understand and be able to advise my clients.

 

The environemnt and physical pain

Not all, but many of the aches and pain (acute or chronic) – lower back pain for example – come from weak muscles.

Comfy chairs, soft beds, supported muscles grow weaker. As the muscles grow weaker they need support. Getting more support will not help strengthen the muscles.

Don’t get me wrong, I like comfort myself, but sometimes a comfy chair can be replaced with one we need to use our core muscles to keep upright.

Maybe we should design buildings with stairs only for the first 2-3 floors. That is a way to design an environment and encourage people to take the stairs more often. Of course for the disabled the building will be adapted.

As long as we have the lift next to us, we are seldom going to take the stairs, and I am not talking about you and me but about everyone else.

 

Gradual changes

It is important to understand that no matter how much we try to change in a short period of time. Nature needs time to adapt. Your muscles, skeletal system even your digestive system, and your mind have to take their time.

Gradual changes are the answer to any changes you want to make, as well as patience and consistency.

Remember to contact me if you want guidance.

Why Dieting Almost Never Works

I have so many thoughts to share on the topic. Too many to write them all down. It’s something that angers me, the exploitation of natural, human behaviors. Craving sugary, salty and fatty foods are not always a conscious choice. We have evolved to crave these things. Maybe because millions of years ago food was scarce and we needed calories and to store fat.

Nowadays we do not. We have an abundance of food. We throw away fruits and vegetables grown by farmers because they don’t have the “perfect” shape to be places on the place of hour: the supermarket shelf. Fortunately this is slowly changing. It is slow but it’s progress nonetheless.

However, the thousands of ads we see daily encourage us to give into our cravings for sugary, fatty and salty foods, instead of the opposite.

Alongside this we have the dieting industry. Around the world dieting is a multi billion dollar industry. Britain’s diet industry is worth £2 billion. And that includes books, dvds, gym membership, supplements, special foods and so on.

 

 

Why do you think this industry is worth so much? It surely didn’t start here. It built up.

But the question is how is it possible to grow so much if you get results with the clients who come to you?

Surely after a person reaches the weight they wish, they will not continue the dieting, right?

So how come this industry keeps growing? Why do we still have obese adults and teenagers when we have so many solutions out there? Solutions that people around the world spend money one, in some cases a lot of money.

They don’t change their products. They are still lose weight through this diet and that diet (I don’t want to point any fingers).

The answer is simple. They don’t actually work.

If they don’t work, or work for a limited period of time (because people need to see some results at least), the same person will come over and over again to spend money in the industry. And that’s how they grow. You cannot cure obesity when you risk losing millions.

 

What’s missing?

As I said before we have evolved to crave and store fat. It is very difficult to bypass these unconscious urges. It is possible.

The dieting industry may change some of your behaviors but they never change your environment.

What you see, what you smell, where you go and what you do. The people you spend time with, your personal environment, office and so on.

Changing your environment supports your behavioral changes.

Without the 2 you cannot have lasting results. And please don’t be fooled by the hundreds of before and after pictures which show flat abs and six packs in a few weeks, without exercise or giving up processed, unhealthy foods. Look closely and be skeptical. It’s a multi billion dollar industry which is looking to grow more.

 

In conclusion, if dieting really worked they would all run out of business.

 

Focus on health first, be patient, address habits but also the environment and be skeptical when you see ads, celebrities and amazing pictures. Filter all this information and think before you act.

Lastly, “diet” is no something related to restrictions on eating. You have a diet and I have a diet, we all have diets. A diet can be healthy or unhealthy. But the industry has abused the term and turned it into something scary.

Something’s Wrong With Your Shoes

I keep picking on running shoes, and, when possible, my clients and I walk and train barefoot. We take off our running shoes and go barefoot for some really good reasons. These are just a few of them:

 

Sensory Perception

There is a network of nerves on the bottom of your feet which sent information to the brain about the ground underneath your feet: . This triggers reflexes that help you avoid injuries when you sense something sharp or uneven. The thick soles of your running shoes limit sensory perception, and limit the key reflexes your body is intelligently equipped with to avoid injury, whether skeletal or muscular.

 

Flat Foot

Flat foot essentially means the arch of the foot doesn’t develop properly or it collapses. This can lead to other injuries.

There are people who are genetically predisposed to getting flat feet, but in many, many cases the problem is caused my weak foot muscles. These muscles help create and maintain the shape of the arch. Like any other arch you see in construction, they support your weight as it bounces up and down.

Your running shoes have arch support and cushioning so your muscles work less. Like any other muscles, if the muscles in the arch of your foot are not trained they weaken.

So I ask you this: if weak muscles in the arch leads to flat feet, are shoes that make those muscles work less the best choice?

Stiff soles are there to make the foot muscles work less as well. The less the muscles work, the weaker they become.

 

Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is that sharp pain you may have felt in the sole of your feet after a run or when you wake up in the morning.

The plantar fascia is a tendonlike sheet of tissue at the base of your foot. It works with he muscles in your arch. That sharp pain comes from inflammation of the plantar fascia.

If the arch muscles are weak then the plantar fascia has to work more, to compensate for those weak muscles. More stress on the plantar fascia eventually leads to inflammation.

Thus weak foot muscles contribute to plantar fasciitis as well. Padded shoes, created to help the foot work less, contribute to weak foot muscles. Weak foot muscles then need support, we give them support, they stay weak or get worse, and on, and on we go. A vicious circle.

One way I alleviate plantar fasciitis pain is by using a golf ball. Walking can also help the recovery process.

 

Uneven terrain

Among the things I love most in the outdoors is the uneven terrain. The flat, shiny gym or home floor does little to develop foot muscles. It does help but not as much as when you walk, run , crawl and balance on uneven terrain.

Uneven doesn’t mean holes in the ground. Your foot muscles will react to the slightest drop, even if it’s 1mm.

That is one of the many reasons why I choose the outdoors for myself and also for my clients.

 

Should you throw away your shoes?

There is no doubt that shoes protect us in many situations, such as when we step on a sharp object. They also protect us during the winter. There is nothing wrong in wearing shoes.

However, there is the downside of wearing shoes which has been the topic of this article. Thus, the solution is to balance it out. Wear shoes, wear minimalist shoes and go barefoot as well, indoors but more importantly outdoors where you have uneven terrain.

 

Now, I am not a podiatrist, but I do know this: strong and flexible feet are healthy feet. Strong, flexible and healthy fit make good foundations for a strong, flexible and healthy body. 

A great book to read is The Story Of The Human Body by Daniel Lieberman.

 

If you do need advice, or maybe have questions about minimalist shoes contact me.

What Is The Correct Body Alignment

Alignment there, alignment here, I talk a lot about body alignment. And for good reason.

I was looking at my 8 year old nieces when I took them ice skating. It was their first time on the ice and they were simply naturals. They kept their balance so well, and naturally knew how to move their feet. I don’t know why I was there. Adults, on the other hand, had problems keeping their feet under their bodies. They learn but it takes longer, and their are very unbalanced.

Looking at them I see the correct body alignment. Natural for the kids, un-natural for the adults. We are born with all sorts of abilities, however, when we start sitting more than moving, and stop moving muscles, joints, body awareness goes into “hibernation”. Through Natural Human Movement we wake up those muscles and help the body remember it’s natural abilities, moving the body the way it was designed to move.

 

Why is correct body alignment important

 

Firstly, many of the pains, even chronic pains, are a result of habitual movements over a longer period of time, as well as other factors. Now, we don’t talk about health conditions or fractures, for example. Rather lower back pain, knee pain, ankle pain, shoulder pain.

Constant tension and body misuse, over a period of time, can lead to chronic pain

Second, running, walking, or moving in any way with an incorrect alignment can increase risks of injuries, and perpetuate older injuries.

Third, incorrect body alignment can strain certain muscles, and weaken others.

Fourth, strained muscles will affect your posture and your skeletal system, it can literally deform your skeleton; it may not be visible but it happens, think scoliosis, one of the most obvious situations of incorrect body alignment.

 

How to align your body correctly 

In an article I can only give you the basics of correct body alignment. However, if you apply these elements to everything you do it will make a huge different in time.

Whether you are running, squatting, standing or walking remember the following points:

  1. Feet – roughly hip width apart, toes facing forward
  2. The Tripod – each of your feet form a tripod with the big toe + little toe + heel; focus on keeping this tripod on the ground at all times
  3. Soft knees – not necessarily bent, but soft; it’s very subtle
  4. Bucket of water – imagine your hips like a bucket of water; align your hips so you don’t spill water forwards or backwards
  5. Core – if your hip, the bucket of water, is aligned then your core (you will feel it in the abdominal muscles) will be slightly contracted
  6. Shoulders and years are aligned
  7. Straight line from your ears to your shoulders to your hips to (approximately) the front of the ankles 

 

These are the basics in a standing position. If you have any questions on body alignment or want to try one of The Merisoiu Technique sessions contact me.