Back & Core Strengthening Exercises

If you deal with chronic or acute back pain, it can be debilitating.  One minute you are in your normal fitness routine and the next minute you are hunched over or leaning to one side just so you can walk comfortably.  Back pain is very common and it can also be very severe.  Even minor “pulls”, “spasms” or “injuries” can be debilitating and when things are severe (like bulging and herniated disks, it’s even worse!)

Not only can the pain be difficult to manage, but it can also leave a person feeling confused as to what exercises they can do or fearful of doing any at all!  If you have regularly occurring  back pain, you should consult your physician or physical therapist about the nature of the injury before taking action.  They will probably give you some back strengthening exercises and stretching to prevent recurrence and improve overall core strength.  Regularly performing these exercises is an important practice for staying mobile, preventing injury and managing back pain.

Today I found a fantastic YouTube video that demonstrates some excellent back & core strengthening exercises, practicing some of these every day or even every other day will fit perfectly into any strength training workout.  The video is done by a personal trainer and offers a good explanation of about ten exercises. It’s about 8 minutes long and the exercises are demonstrated in quick succession. If you are serious about performing some of these exercises, you may want to take a quick set of notes or watch it a few times in a row.

Toward the end of the video, he demonstrates some exercises and suggests they should be excluded from your back routine for 4-6 weeks. I am not really sure of his reason for avoiding these exercises, but if you decide to follow his recommendations exactly, let me know about your results.

Including two or even three different exercises everyday or every other day along with two or three stretches is something I highly recommend, especially if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You are over 21 years old.
  • You have had back pain at any time during your life.
  • You regularly participate in sports that require jumping, cutting, running, or sprinting.
  • You have a job that requires a lot of sitting.
  • You perform heavy lifting on a regular basis.

So that basically includes 95% of the people living in the United States! I’m serious, take notes on a few of these exercises and do them! You’ll thank me…If you already do your exercises and still have chronic back pain, you should definitely consult with a medical professional before doing any type of strenuous exercise.

I often work with clients who experience back pain.  I can say that it has really helped them to have the guidance and knowledge of a professional when performing exercises.  If you want to learn how to strengthen your core, manage chronic conditions, and prevent injuries contact me at and we can set up an appointment!

Injury Management – By Cliff Douglas

Jes asked me to say a few words about dealing with injury.  She asked the right person.  (I am so proud –sort of.)

I’ll start with my so-called “credentials.”  Over the years I’ve hurt so many parts of my body – running, jumping, twisting, and crashing into an assortment of people and things that didn’t move out of the way fast enough – that I haven’t bothered to keep a list.  It would be too long.  Not enough paper.

(Thats Cliff…Doesn’t He Look Cool???)

My first meaningful sports injuries came in 11th grade, when I separated a shoulder playing basketball and not long after, just before the state track & field finals, hurt my lower back while triple jumping.  The shoulder more-or-less got better on its own (although it was never the same after that), and we treated my back with deep heat, ultrasound and acupuncture.  This was a long time ago, so my recollection is that we didn’t do some important things to manage the back injury, such as physical therapy, that would be typical now.  I competed and managed to do alright – a kid isn’t going to miss his chance at alleged high school glory unless he’s in a body cast – but that injury launched me on a lifetime of managing injury.

Jump ahead, ahem, a few years.  Since I started working out with Jes in 2008 (yeah!), I’ve had elbow tendinitis, foot pain (thanks, Mom, for the bunion), a strained quad muscle, a shoulder impingement, and most seriously, a condition called osteitis pubis, or OP.  OP is fairly common among runners, soccer players and other athletes, and involves inflammation of the joint at the front of the pelvis between the two ends of the pubic bone.  It often causes acute and chronic groin pain, and unlike many injuries, heals only with rest.  I’ve had it twice.

In the case of EVERY one of the above injuries, I’ve continued working out with Jes and on my own – carefully, but consistently and with intensity.  Jes has done an incredible job of understanding the nature of each injury, checking my status before each workout, and designing each individual session in consultation with me to ensure the best possible workout while protecting the injury and allowing it to continue to heal.

Other than the people I’ve specifically told about my injuries, nobody has known along the way that I’ve been dealing with them.  Why? Because I haven’t stopped working out, staying in shape and maintaining my weight and muscle tone.  I’ve had to change up a lot of things along the way – not running for a few months, for example – but never had to (or, of course, would) become a couch potato.  My body hasn’t changed.  Neither, I hope, has the look of pleasure I have on my face every time I’m at the gym and fantasizing that I’m cooler and buffer than I really am.

I know I’m in great company.  We’ve all had aches and pains and, sometimes, full-fledged sports-related injuries.  The best advice I can give is, don’t sit down.  Remain positive.  Why shouldn’t you?  Even if you have to sacrifice doing something that you love for a period of time, you can still stay in shape and feel good (and feel good about yourself), and then, when you’re better, come back and kick butt again.  Taking this simple advice pays huge dividends.  In many cases (there are exceptions, but not many), there is no reason why you can’t keep safely working out and pushing yourself, even if you have to work around, or strategically through, an injury.

Go ahead and curse your damn hamstring, lower-back, foot or elbow/knee/shoulder.  I’ve been known to do that.  But remember that, even while you’re dealing with the challenge – and maybe getting help from health care practitioners, such as a good physical therapist (thanks, Probility!) – you can stay (or get) strong and maintain a high level of cardiovascular fitness.

When all is said and done, I deal with my injuries but don’t obsess about them.  That’s critical.  You are you, the injury is not you.  Keep doing your best and having fun – with expert support and guidance from Jes – and move ahead!  Can’t run?  Bike.  Can’t bike either?  Get on that elliptical or step machine.  Those don’t work either?  Get in the pool.  Hit all of the weights and other routines permitted by your injury.  (I guarantee that Jes will find plenty for you to do.)  There are always challenging and effective things that you can enjoy to stay fit and feel good, both physically and emotionally, while overcoming an injury.

This is Jes talking here:

First, Thank You Cliff!!!!!

Next: Take it from Cliff, when you have a good trainer, they will help you manage your injuries without exacerbating them, often they will assist you in the healing process and direct you to the appropriate professional help you may need. This is key for those who intend to remain active throughout their entire lives…If you are struggling with recurring injury, send an email to so we can set up an appointment and put together a plan that will help you manage it and hopefully even improve the condition so you can stay active!

A Simple Way to Alleviate Lower Back & Neck Pain

When I answer questions about fitness or even when I am working with clients, it amazes me how often the exercises cause lower back pain. The truth is a good fitness plan, one that includes flexibility, core exercises, strength training and lower back exercises should help alleviate back pain (or get rid of it permanently)!

People just assume that lower back pain is a natural and normal part of exercise and daily life…NOT TRUE! If you perform exercises correctly and develop a balanced program that incorporates the important aspects of fitness (functionality, mobility, core strength, muscular balance, flexibility, etc) you should have no back pain during exercise at all!

Remember, an important component to any core strength training program is having a balanced program. Your plan for a stronger core must include back strengthening exercises, reduce lower back pain, and generally alleviate back shoulder, and neck pain. Here is a brief video (done by my fitness hero CJ) that demonstrates some simple techniques to alleviate back, shoulder, and neck pain. Let me know what you think!

Overweight Americans: Who’s to Blame?

Overweight Americans: Who’s to Blame?

Obesity may not be a ‘disease’, but it is definitely an epidemic with significant implications for the health of our country.  Being obese also has numerous health effects such as heart disease diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems and more.  According to combined information from the CDC and Surgeon General, obesity-related conditions cost up to 147 billion dollars annually and cause an estimated 300,000 premature deaths in the US.

Who is to blame when we are obese or even 20-30 pounds overweight?  Is it our traditions, our society, the fast-paced culture we live in…or is it something far more personal than that?  And whose responsibility is it to fix the problem?  Certainly, there is a difference between being obese and overweight, but 20 pounds overweight is more than one step down the road to being obese.

These questions have more than one answer.  Events ranging from a successful lawsuit against McDonalds corporation in which they took responsibility for an employees weight gain all the way to government officials offering opinion on how to resolve obesity in America indicates the issue deserves not only attention, but a method for solution.

My opinion about what factors influence and cause obesity
With more than 30 percent of Americans qualifying as ‘obese’, it’s becoming a social norm in the same sense that smoking was 30 years ago.  When many people around you are overweight, it’s easy to justify staying that way and skirting around the both the cause and the implications.  My opinion, being overweight is a social issue with psychological implications, just as smoking is often related to anxiety and addictive behavior and bulimia/anorexia has far more to do with underlying psychological issues than with physical actual physical appearance.  Being overweight is the result of social norms combined with the psychological state of the individual

I think the most appropriate solution for reducing the percent of obese in America is a dual approach.  Individuals need to take personal responsibility for their habits and the underlying issues that cause them to make unhealthy choices.

Simple methods you can use to get started on weight loss
In the end, regardless of social pressures, commerce, or government intervention, being overweight is a choice just like being a smoker is a choice.  If you are having trouble losing weight or leading a healthy lifestyle I feel your solution starts by asking yourself the right question: why?.  Why am I doing this right now.  How can I do better?  Is what I’m doing leading me to a good end point?   Start by finding out what is driving you to overeat or avoid exercise

Once you understand that, get started on a physician approved exercise program that will allow you to improve your cardiovascular health.  From there, you can design a fitness and nutrition program to help you lose weight and regulate your blood pressure, improve your cardiovascular system, and hopefully prevent type 2 diabetes.  Seek out the assistance of government tools such as the CDC and search out professionals in your area to support you along the way.    Above all, never give up on yourself or your health and fitness goals!  You can do it!

The Reality of The Biggest Loser

Do you guys watch The Biggest Loser? In case you didn’t know, it’s a reality show that brings 12 people to a weight loss ranch and puts them on a weight loss program. The contestants compete against one another to see who can lose the most weight.

I’ve watched a few episodes here and there and a few times I’ve even followed the show for an entire season. I admit it…I do watch some reality TV, like Extreme Makeover Home Edition, The Biggest Loser, and The Amazing Race. Most of the other ones aren’t really my style, although I did unfortunately get sucked into watching The Bachelor last season…(it won’t happen again). Anyway, I think the biggest loser is a good show. It’s good to see people whose are obese be empowered to do something about it. And I think putting the show on television helps people all over the country to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve their own weight loss goals.

That being said, let’s talk about the reality of the Biggest Loser. Most of the contestants, on average, weigh between 250-450 lbs., & not unlike the 60% of Americans who struggle with obesity, they have a lot of weight to lose. That similarity between the contestants weights and that of most Americans is about the only “reality” of The Biggest Loser. The contestants on The Biggest Loser are away from their families, their jobs, and all their home responsibilities while they are at the ranch. Unless I missed the episode where they clean the toilets, the only thing they do while on the show is workout, eat portion sized meals, learn about nutrition, and get some type of psychological coaching during their “off time”.

Let’s be honest about it, most of the people struggling with obesity in this country have jobs, homes, and a family that they must take care of. They don’t have time to work out for 4 hours a day like many of the contestants on the show do prior to the “weigh in”. They don’t have access to the best nutrition experts in the country, they don’t have a personal trainer living at their house & forcing them to get out of bed and get to the gym. The contestants on The Biggest Loser are isolated from everything in the world while they focus solely on weight loss. They are in their own little world, it’s not “reality” at all.

The reality is that if you aren’t on the show and you want to lose weight, you have to find a way to transform your entire lifestyle from unhealthy to healthy and manage all the other aspects of life at the same time. That is the real challenge that most people in America–and all over the globe–are facing.

It’s a big challenge, but I think The Biggest Loser is actually a part of helping people face that challenge. People can relate to the contestants and their struggles with obesity and it inspires them to achieve similar things. That’s why I like it. I love seeing people achieve their weight loss goals and inspiring others to do the same. If you have the time, check out this audition video for the biggest loser. It’s cute…you’ll laugh and you’ll be touched by this woman’s reason for wanting to be a member of the biggest loser cast.

Managing Injuries and Chronic Pain While Staying Active

It’s not uncommon for people to lose focus due to painful knees or because they can’t seem to find the right back pain solution.  Its as if injuries and chronic pain cast a paralyzing spell on us that causes us to become more and more afraid that there is no viable solution.  We become depressed and stop playing our favorite sports because we don’t know what to do, or we’ve received a partial (or just plain inadequate) diagnosis that tells us our days of sports and fun are over.

How discouraging is that?  Especially for those of us who are athletic and have a true love for active living!

Things like migraines, arthritis, back pain, knee injuries, & fibromyalgia are some of the common maladies that prevent people from staying active and maintaining their health plan. When an injury or illness presents itself, you are challenged in two ways. First you must address the condition itself and on top of that you have to manage the frustration of being immobilized and diverted from your health plan.

The most important thing to remember when you are dealing with an injury or chronic pain is to first seek the medical attention you need to manage your condition. If you’ve already seen a medical professional regarding your condition and you’ve received diagnosis, then hopefully you have the information you need to heal.

In addition to traditional medicine or physical therapy, there are a variety of alternative therapies available to you. Therapeutic massage in Shenzhen, Chiropractors, vitamins and natural herbs have become increasingly popular because they encourage the body to heal on it’s own and they are non-invasive. If you are working through and injury, the right personal trainer may be the very thing you need. A well trained personal trainer will understand how far you can push yourself without making our injury worse. In addition, you’ll learn specific stretches and exercises that will promote balanced muscular development.

Many people are of the attitude that they can work through the injury on their own (I know I am). In one sense it’s an asset to be this way, because mental attitude, belief, and faith are such an important part of healing and overcoming challenges. But this attitude can also be a drawback though because it often leads to stupid choices that make your injury worse (that’s me!).

Dealing with back pain, an injury or illness requires a delicate balance of determination and wisdom. We need determination to overcome the problem and wisdom to know how to address it properly. So often in our stupid pride we keep ourselves from simple solutions that professionals can easily provide. Instead of suffering through the pain or accepting chronic pain as a way of life, make the choice to learn about your condition and the possible solutions that are available to you. Do your best everyday and never give up on yourself!