Thursday, January 31, 2013

Scapular Movement and Why You Should Care!

 One of the most common postural and mechanical problems is a lack of scapular (shoulder blade) movement which typically takes the form of forward rolled shoulders and winged shoulder blades (bottom of the shoulder blade sitting off your rib cage) and can cause a whole host of common complaints. These complaints can include, but are not limited to, neck and upper back pain, headaches, and shoulder injuries.

A properly functioning scapular girdle (the muscles that stabilize and move the shoulder blade) should be able to elevate, depress, protract (forward), and retract (shoulder blades squeezing together) the scapula. Most people can elevate their shoulders; it is the other movements that we struggle with. We see a lot of trapezius dominance (the muscles that shrug your shoulders). Most people move the shoulders forward using their traps. This is wrong and may cause problems.

One major concern for people who have forward rolled shoulders is what is known as “impingement syndrome”. Impingement syndrome occurs when the head of the humerus (top of the upper arm bone) comes too close to the acromion (the lateral off-shoot of the shoulder blade) causing a pinching of the underlying tendons, which can create the most common rotator cuff injury. Because this space is narrowed, it is a constant negative feedback cycle in that the irritated tendon swells and thickens which, in turn, deceases the space, which then causes more pinching, and more swelling.

Below is a series of exercises designed to restore proper scapular mobility and relieve the aforementioned complaints!
 T / A Holds on a Stability Ball
With your chest on the ball and your thumbs pointed at the ceiling slowly move from a T position to an A position with your arms.
Make sure you are squeezing your shoulder blades together and that your chin is tucked to your chest.
Repeat this 12 times per position holding each position for 2 seconds.

Wall Push-Up Plus
Standing facing a wall with your arms extended and your hands against the wall. Slowly push 'through' the wall causing your upper back to arch horizontally.
Make sure that you are not feeling this in your neck or your traps (top of your shoulders).
Hold this pressure on the wall for 1 second and then repeat 12 times.

Wall Angels
While leaning against the wall with your upper back, heels 6 inches away from the wall, slowly slide your hands up while keeping your wrists and elbows in contact with the wall at all times.
Push the stretch in your shoulders until it is at a 3-4 out of 10 intensity level and repeat 12 times.

Scapular Retractions
Using an exercise band that is attached to the top of a door or the roof slowly draw your shoulder blades down and together. Your arms should remain totally straight throughout this exercise.

It is important to note that, if you have a serious shoulder injury, a physician, physiotherapist, or chiropractor should evaluate your condition before you begin any exercise program. Also of note is that this exercise list is only the first stage of many and is not by any means an all-inclusive list. It is, however, a great place to start and will work very well for most people.

~ Yoshia

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Physical literacy is a life skill.

We had the opportunity to attend an informative conference last week in Kananaskis called Shaping the Future. The crux of the message centered around the escalating rate of childhood obesity and measures that need to be taken to scale physical literacy. Physical literacy can be simplified in definition as a child’s comprehension of basic / fundamental movement patterns. Much like understanding  addition & subtraction are imperative for future life applications, understand fundamental movement patterns are no different. 

As an example, if a child doesn’t understand how to run / throw / jump or catch properly, there are an average of 15 sports [per movement skill] they are not likely to participate in later on in their lives.

The decline of physical literacy is on the rise, there are numerous stats to support this but perhaps the most rapid drop is in the ages of 12-18 (particularly in adolescent females). It is not likely a coincidence that mental health issues are increasing at the same time as physical literacy rates are decreasing, again particularly for this age group. This would present itself through examples such as;

  • 12-16 years old, at the lake with friends wake surfing, swimming etc, one kid doesn’t want to go out on the boat or partake. “Don’t like it”, which may in fact be masking the fact they lack confidence  because they don’t possess the acquired skill to swim.
  • 12-16 years old dropping out of sports. “I’m not good enough to make the team”, which may in fact be masking the fact they lack confidence because they don’t possess the acquired skill sets needed to run, jump, throw.
During the discussion, researchers shared reasons for this decline.

  1. lack of physical literacy amongst the teachers who are hired to educate physical literacy – can’t teach what you don’t know.  
  2. removing of physical education as a mandatory class / program in schools – let’s cut PE or make it elective
  3. the emergence & reliance on technology as placation for healthy interaction & socialization – DS, internet, i-pad/pod/touch/screen/am tuned out
  4. the emergence of early specialization vs. generalization across sports – my sons only focus is hockey and we play from August through July and wonder why at 15 he’s burned out and now doesn’t know what to do in other sports.
Having experience with all 4 parameters above, we can attest to their validity. 

As an example, last year we were invited to coach what was touted as a high level spring hockey program. We were hired to oversee the dryland training of 40 9-11 year olds and had a great plan in place that was shelved day #1 because over 95% of the players lacked the BASIC literacy around running, jumping, bounding, etc. 95%. Now, we can assure you if we would have asked the parents if they thought their sons had a good physical literacy that 95% would say yes. So while the investment is being made in specialty camps, composite sticks, extra power skating etc, 95% of the players don’t know how to stand up straight, run correctly or what the buzz word core really means. 

Similarly, we experience the same in baseball where, at the majors all star level in little league, there are some players who cannot properly run or throw a baseball. Left uncorrected these players risk suffering stability and mobility issues later on in their lives.  

The biggest problems across the examples above are:

  • ramifications are not seen in the immediate term. They are long term. ‘I don’t’ know why I have this injury’ - 5 years after repetitive incorrect movement patterns have taken their toll.
  • few people know where to go & what to do to rectify the issue because they are not paying attention. eg: I thought that was the PE teachers job, meanwhile, the PE teacher is rolling out a basket of balls for the ever popular dodge ball game.
  • as we’re seeing, by the time we get to the formidable teen years – it’s becoming increasingly too late.

  • understand what physical literacy means – two great resources PHE Canada & Canada Sport for Life
  • determine where your child / children are going to learn & practice fundamental movement patterns eg: approach the schools and ask this question. Ask to see the PE curriculum.
  • in the event they are not qualified, interested or educated on teaching these skills, find someone who can OR find somewhere they do.
While some may not consider physical literacy a top priority, we do. The reason we do is because we see the direct results of happy, confident, healthy individuals once they have returned to activity – through the re-mastery (in many cases) of proper movement patterns related to accomplishing physical activity goals. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Security Behind Risk Taking

Any transformation in life direction begins with a choice to risk failure, and inevitably, the topic of “risk-taking” comes up. The counter-balance to risk-taking is “security”. One might hear, if not in these exact words, “I don’t like to take risks, because I value security and stability.”

Unfortunately, words have a nasty tendency to hide layers of meaning underneath them and thus imprison us in our assumptions of what they mean.

Security is a word associated with safety and comfort and freedom from danger. Whereas risk-taking is associated with the opposite: ‘un-safety’, discomfort, and danger. Association with danger however doesn’t tell us anything about the purpose of risk. What is it really?

To begin with, a risk is the anything that involves the possibility of danger whether physically, emotionally, financially, or even morally. From the moment we are born, there is a risk of getting sick, getting hurt, getting killed, or making mistakes. Thus we are all risk-takers because life is inherently dangerous. Being “risk-free” is always an illusion. Therefore, the question whether of whether one likes or dislikes taking risk is less important than the question of whether we have the capability to make judgments about those dangers.

Risk-taking is what kids do when they are climbing a tree or balancing themselves on a wall without a safety net. They do it because they are testing the limits of their judgment and skills. And by testing their limits, they not only strengthen their skills, but also learn how to handle new challenges. In this way, good risk-taking is something that builds up the judgment and resilience muscles. On the other hand, gambling on slot machines builds up very little capability and judgment and thus it could be said to be a “bad” risk.

Life becomes risky when we do not build up our ability to deal with danger. Yet to build up our ability to deal with danger requires us to expose ourselves to progressively greater levels of danger. If you want to become a better firefighter, you have to learn how to make decisions in dangerous circumstances. If you want to be successful in relationships, you must open yourself up to being vulnerable. If you want to learn how to survive in tough economic times, then you must be willing to become entrepreneurial.

In the end, life is always changing and moving, so what is the insecurity of not taking risks? The insecurity is that if you have not fed yourself on a steady diet of “danger”, when the real danger arrives, you will be ill equipped...and that is why there is actually security behind the fear of taking risks!

Don’t lead a risky life. Take risks that stretch you physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, professionally and morally so that you can train and prepare yourself for life!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Lance in all of us.

I received a text last night from someone asking for my take on Lance Armstrong being in my business?
My first thought was can we not turn this page? Second thought was what does our business have to to with Lance? Third thought was why don’t they have people’s names come up in texts so you know exactly who’s texting (seems to be so many numbers). 

However, because I had some time to kill waiting for for my kid to finish soccer practice and someone deemed my opinion worthy, I replied with the following;

Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor, legend, icon, son of a single parent, father to 4, boyfriend, ex husband, womanizing,  white, American, overachiever, athlete, role model, spokesperson, Olympian, team mate, captain, charismatic leader, businessman, above average hypocrite, me-centric, ego centric, ass who’s now a scorned product of a society who loves feed off the great story and then revel in the downfall, skinny, dork, really fast cyclist who cheated to reach a level of infamy we all dream of – but could only get to if we cheated.

So basically in many ways, he’s like you and me.

....on steroids.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Inconsistencies at Being Consistent

It’s amazing how many times you can have two different experiences at the same place or with the same person? Unfortunately that is the reality…because it actually takes a lot of work to be consistent. And that makes the difference between good & great business (and leadership).
As an example, I recently had a delicious meal at a restaurant at Vancouver airport. So good that, on my next trip I went there again. Ordered the same thing. It was good but not nearly as remarkable as the first time. Same place. Same order. Different outcome.
That got me thinking about inconsistency and, more to the point, the inconsistencies at being consistent. And how that relates to leadership.
Real leaders are consistent leaders. What you get from them today will be consistent with what you get next week. Integrity is about being true to your principles but is also about being consistent.  Consistency builds trust; in your brand & in yourself.
Without a doubt, we all have good days and bad days. But, by and large, effective leaders are those who bring consistency to their vision, priorities and decisions. They aren’t Mother Teresa on Monday and Hannibal Lector by Tuesday.
Inconsistent leaders are a nightmare. You never know where they stand. Worse, they tend to flip-flop on decisions.  Which makes it difficult to follow & trust.
A few hints on being a more consistent leader:
  • Consistency requires a relentless focus on your leadership approach.  Encourage feedback and seek out best practices. Consistent leaders are conscious of their behaviour and reflective with that.
  • Understand where your leadership approach comes from.  Are you a servant leader or an ego-based leader?  Is it about you – or about your team?  Hint: it’s not about you.
  • Practice, practice, practice.  Consistent leadership needs discipline.  Flip-flopping to make a tough decision more popular will make you feel better in the moment but it can destroy trust and staff commitment. Always think about your leadership and how consistency makes a difference in being

Consistent inconsistency with restaurant food is one thing because you can always eat somewhere else - and that is why few restaurants (or businesses in general) can scale to multiple locations because of the complexity of the product & lack of systems that are directly related to an inconsistent experience. However, consistently inconsistent leadership is much more problematic and can have far reaching negative effects across an organization.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How to get to a single leg squat!

There are a lot of “cool” exercises out there and it is fun to be able to do cool things in the gym, but in order to do cool stuff we have to have done all of the preceding stages of less cool stuff in order to perform more advanced movements correctly. One such exercise is a single leg squat. This is a very advanced movement that requires a lot of balance and leg strength to perform properly. In previous posts we have seen a progression of exercise, starting with basic and moving up to more complex. Below there is a breakdown of how to get you from a basic squat to a single leg squat. This series of movements may take months to master so if you would like to replicate what is being show here take the time to do it right!

The first and most basic movement is a squat. It is very important that we can get to a full 90 degree depth with our knees tracking over our first and second toe while not going in front of them. There is a blue foam roller in these images to show that the knee is not passing the toe. This can be an effective tool to help you make sure you are doing these exercise correctly.

The second movement is a split squat. Again making sure that our knee is tracking over our first and second toe and not going in front of them. Also of importance here is not allowing your body weight to collapse forward. You should be able to stand upright during this whole movement.

The third is an elevated rear foot split squat. All of the aforementioned tracking advice still applies, but now we are adding a balance component while increasing the load to the front leg.

Number four is a bench assisted single leg squat. In this stage it is very important that your knee tracking stays perfect. A lot of people may need to regress to stage three and add weight to the elevated rear foot squat before they can perform stage four correctly.

Stage five. Now things are getting exciting. A stability ball assisted single leg squat adds a yet another component of balance to this series. All of the above tracking rules apply to this squat as well.

Stage six. You have finally made it to a single leg squat. This is a very difficult movement and you will likely have to modify your depth until you have the strength to get really low. In the image I am at about a 70 degree angle because when I go to 90 degrees my knee wants to collapse inward. It is way more important to get your tracking correct than it is to get low. Do the depth you can do perfectly then slowly increase it as you get stronger.

It is important to note that this progression series is designed to be done over a 6-month period. In order to perform a “cool” exercise you need to first go through a series of less exciting stuff. Take your time and get it right before proceeding to the next stage. 

Happy squatting!

~ Yoshia

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ground Down or Polished Up?

A few years ago a friend was telling me about stopping at a junkyard to get a part for his car (Today they are called recycling centers, back then junkyard was still an acceptable term!). As he was making small talk with the owner, he asked him where he got his inventory, assuming most came in as a result of automobile accidents. "I get a few of my cars from wrecks," the man said. "But most of them end up here because they are just worn out."

That story made me realize the same is true with people. When I think about the leaders I know, good leaders who are no longer leading, I realize that a few of them had been in wrecks of some kind. But the vast majority had just worn down. Life seems to grow increasingly difficult, and none of us escape the daily grind. However, I've noticed that people tend to respond differently to identical pressures. That has led me to this conclusion:

Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds you down or polishes you up depends upon what you are made of. There are several skills that, if cultivated, will allow you to face the same stressors you face today and be better for the experience.

1. The Ability To See The Big Picture.
If you can't see what you are doing now as part of a long-range goal, you'll wear out. Imagine how long an athlete would be able to endure the pain of practice if they couldn't see the game in their mind's eye. Imagine how long a farmer would endure the hot sun of summer toil if he could not envision the harvest of fall.

2. The Ability To Defuse Worry.
I'm convinced that it's not the work of life, but the worry of life that robs so many of their strength and breaks down their resolve. The only sure-fire remedy for worry is confidence.
Worry consists of creating mental pictures of what you do not want to happen. Confidence is creating mental pictures of what you want to happen.

Any golfer who has ever stood on one side of a water hazard thinking, don't hit it in the water, don't hit it in the water, can describe the result of the former. You'll be going wading very shortly! Good golfers have learned the knack of shaking off the last shot, good or bad, and approaching the next one with confidence. The same goes for leaders.

3. The Willingness To Quit Seeking Security.
A ship that never leaves the harbor is safe, but that's not what ships are for. Too often we are devastated by failure that could have almost been predicted. The willingness to make mistakes, lots of them, is one of the prices we must pay for the advancement of a worthy cause.

4. The Ability To Gauge When Enough's Enough.
No one expects their car to run forever without stopping to fill the fuel tank, but when it comes to our physical body, we foolishly refuse to stop when its time to rest, refuel, and recreate. I believe that too much of the wearing down I see is self-inflicted.

5. The Wisdom To Choose Your Associates.
Most of us have far more choices than we think when it comes to the company we keep. Even when we must work with negative people, we can choose to avoid being reduced to their level. Life is hard enough without having to go through it with negative, critical, or lazy people.
Ground down or polished up? The choice is really yours to determine.

Referenced from Maxwell, John C  via Dr. Dan Reiland

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Mop & Bucket Attitude

It's been interesting to tune into recent discussions about what makes people successful in their chosen profession.
Proponents on one side stridently proclaim that education is the key. On the other hand, high-profile school dropouts who have become successful entrepreneurs or political leaders adamantly declare that leaving school was the best thing they ever did.
But this argument is moot. Why? Because ever day we see examples demonstrating that personal attitude plays a much stronger role in career success than education and experience.
Dave Thomas, the original founder of Wendy's hamburger chain, said it the best. When asked what made him so successful; he replied, "my MBA." But he didn't mean a graduate degree in business education, he meant "a mop- and-bucket attitude." In other words, no work task was too insignificant for him to tackle; he simply jumped in and got the job done.
Attitude is a person's perception and personal response to life and work events happening around them. Negatively focused employees see life and work as a glass half-empty. Always seeing the bad side of situations, they complain, whine and blame. There's no energy, just resistance to work tasks, to change and even to the success of others.
Frankly, they're not very nice to be around and their poor attitude drives down employee morale and productivity. Well, businesses can't afford a negative attitude and neither can your career.
Positive employees on the other hand, see the glass as half-full. They see opportunity and want to work toward filling the glass.
There's an aura of energy around them, they're pleasant, cheerful and happy. Typically, they are good team players. In fact, they are models of the "mop-and-bucket attitude."
But let's get more specific. What attitudinal behaviour should employers look for?
Here's a top 10 list…
  1. Sense of Modesty. Modesty, rather than an "I've got more education than you!" attitude is critical to developing and maintaining positive work relationships. An individual whose ego is so self-inflated with intellectual arrogance because of educational qualifications will quickly run into trouble. Eventually team members will reject and avoid them and productivity will suffer.
  2. Sense of Equality. Everyone in an organization contributes through their assigned roles. While some may not be at a professional level, they still deserve to be treated with respect. There's nothing that’s worse than an exaggerated sense of personal importance accompanied by a condescending attitude toward others.
  3. Personal Independence. Every new employee needs orientation, but once completed, career success comes to the individual who can work within broad job guidelines and who has the attitude of "I'd like to try it myself." Demanding constant supervision and sometimes just pure attention is too much of a strain on day-to-day management.
  4. Life is an Oyster. People who look at life as an opportunity to grow are willing to take on challenging responsibilities. They will roll up their sleeves until the task is done. Individuals with a "world owes me a living" attitude have a demanding, selfish work approach that drains energy away from everyone around them.
  5. Patience. Our "microwave" society has taught us to demand that our personal desires be met sooner than later. So an individual who accepts that career maturity takes time and who doesn't demand an over-inflated starting salary or an inappropriate increase after only three months on the job is a pleasure to have in an organization.
  6. Long-term thinking. An individual who can see past immediate rewards is typically someone who recognizes the benefits of broad-based experience. This person will be more flexible, will try out new things and will "hang in there" for the long haul.
  7. Group thinking. As much as it’s important looking after your own career first, but when this attitude becomes "What's in it for me?" it turns into an unhealthy self-centeredness that will negatively impact the overall organization.
  8. Can-do attitude. Conscientiousness and drive will take an employee a long way to success. Enthusiasm and someone who takes a task and runs with it and/or someone whose motto is "I can!” is what people should strive for.
  9. Sharing Attitude. How many times have you encountered a secretive, protective person who at the same time attempts to drain every detail from you? These aren't team players. They are insecure, selfish, and competitive people who are not trustworthy. Eliminate them from your organization and replace them with sharing individuals.
  10. Sincerity. Sincerity and integrity are critical to both career and corporate success. You can spot insincerity a mile away. These individuals smile and use all the right words, but skirt around your questions and provide vague answers. They ask your opinion then blatantly ignore it; they have an excuse for everything and then trash you behind your back. Who needs it?
Most people with poor attitudes are not self-aware and believe everyone else is at fault. But, negative employee attitudes will drive down company morale and productivity so it's important to quickly eliminate these types of individuals from your team – whether you are the leader / employer or you are a teammate trying to achieve collective success.
Identify the positive work attitudes needed amongst your team and embrace their contributions. And for those that are looking to not only work but excel in the workforce, ensure you bring your ‘mop & bucket’ attitude and you will position yourself to be successful!