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Why You’re Still In Pain – Beyond Stretching And Exercise

We’ve all experienced the feeling of being tired, groggy and stiff with niggling achy pains. Maybe you’re feeling like this way more than you’d like, maybe you’re feeling like it right now! You’ve probably been doing some stretching, exercises, yoga or even seen a chiro or physio. Have you found all the ‘stretching, rubbing or cracking’ helps but only for a time? You’re doing the exercise stuff, yet the pain and stiffness continues to linger … What gives? We know you’re feeling confused and the idea of giving up on this health stuff is creeping in, but before you do we want you to know there’s hope…

More often than not the problem is less to do with structural balance or any tissue damage and more to do with how you lived yesterday or the last few (or many) yesterdays!

How your body feels is more often a reflection of the state of your nervous system, its current sensitivity setting and the amount of stress it’s dealing with, aka your allostatic load:

Allostatic load“the wear and tear on the body” which accumulates as an individual is exposed to repeated or chronic stress. It represents the physiological consequences of chronic exposure to fluctuating or heightened neural or neuroendocrine response that results from repeated or chronic stress.

Beyond the obvious stress contributors of ‘life’ (being mega busy, work and relationships), there’s also:

  • What you have and haven’t been eating and drinking (nutritional stress)
  • Over or under moving and exercising (physical stress)
  • Late nights, poor sleep and early starts (circadian stress)
  • Under the surface stuff (emotions even if not readily perceived by us further add to our AL).

If you’re allostatic load (stress) is too high then your nervous system responds the only way it knows how, by making us feel achy, stiff, tired, groggy and even in pain. Maybe it’s not fair but that’s just the way the body works. It’s hard to get your head around at first, but our headspace, emotional well-being, nutritional habits, how much sleep we get and how well we breathe are literally connected to how our body feels.

Stretching and movement is a big piece of the puzzle; it’s interactive, gets mind and body connected and a great way to bring some structural balance and energy flow to your body; all of which leads to a happier, lively, freely moving, painless you; so definitely keep it up! But let’s not kid ourselves, if you’re dehydrated, drinking copious amounts of tea or coffee to pick up your energy, eating ok-ish and getting 6 or less hours sleep, doing your stretches or mobility sequences alone are going to do little more than give you transient relief.

What we’re saying is you’ll rarely solve your pain with only any one piece of a puzzle!

The body’s fascia and nervous system are highly responsive and can change very quickly. This is why you can loosen up, move freely without niggles, feel more energy and calmer pretty instantly. But if you’re continuing to live with a high allostatic load then this improved state will be temporary.

The solution – create positive long term habits harmonious with living in our sweet spot more often.

So here’s a trio of our key day to day habits (beyond movement) to feel better and live free from pain:

Breathe with your Belly

Most people take around 20,000 breaths a day. From working with many individuals we’ve found over 90% over breathe, mildly hyperventilating using shallow chest breaths. This creates excessive tension in the neck and shoulders (potential cause of stiff necks and headaches) and smooth muscles of the digestive system (causes less flow and more bloating / gas).

Taking some time to focus on consciously breathing using your diaphragm to fill your belly and expand your rib cage with each breath is a great way to reduce tension, slow our heart rate and calm the nervous system. Breathe through your nose for even more calm. Practicing means you’ll cut the number of breaths in half to 10,000 and the bulk of these will be calming to our system.

Try our favourite breathing practice: 5 second inhale, 5 second exhale, 5 second pause building up to 20 belly breaths

Bonus – do this laying along a foam roller, this helps decompress the spine and open the rib cage even more.

Sleep with the Sun – Sleep 7.5+ hours most nights

For many shut eye is low on the priority list and given up at nearly every turn for more entertainment and work hours. So let’s put the power of sleep on your radar; studies show a single sleep deprived night can make you as insulin resistant as a person with type 2 diabetes, linked with aging faster, decreased libido, and storing excess body fat (decreases calories burned by 5-20% each night). In other words lack of sleep equals tubby, tired and feeling old. Further studies by the WHO showed men and women with reduced or poor sleep quality were more likely to have a heart attack and guys up to 4 times more likely to have a stroke.

What we typically see is a lot of chronically sleep deprived individuals just about getting the bare minimum to get through their day (5-6 hours interrupted being the norm). One off late nights are nothing to worry about or maybe a couple of weeks during a new challenge now and then (a new addition to the family or a big work project) is perfectly healthy. But once bare minimum becomes habit and stretches over weeks, months or even years, you start you realise the devastating or restorative power that sleep can have.

We recommend 7.5 or 9 hours actual shut eye instead of the typical 8 because it syncs with REM cycles and helps waking up feeling refreshed. It usually means going to bed a bit earlier but in a world where films and shows are available on demand and it turns out we’re actually way more productive after a decent night’s sleep, there’s few good reasons left to not hit the sack a bit sooner most nights.

Bonus – Add a house plant to your bedroom to enhance air quality and induce calm, pick something that suits you and not too much maintenance, the perennial snake plant is a great choice for an O2 boost.

Hydrate with H2O – drink 3% of your bw (kgs) in H2O (l) daily

Oh wonderful water, how forgotten you are! Even mild dehydration reduces both physical and cognitive performance (as little as 2% dehydration = 20+% decrease in performance). Longer term there’s links with kidney problems, skin conditions and constipation.

Again from working with tonnes of people, we’ve found most are at the very least mildly dehydrated plus gulping down several coffees and teas (by the way these dehydrate you so if you drink these little extras you need to up your h2o quota) and suffering all that comes with it.

Our simple way to good hydration that most people find both practical and highly effective is to buy a water bottle (1.2ltr kleankanteen is our favourite) and start the day by filling it up and drinking a glass of water. That glass plus chugging the contents of the bottle throughout the day and you’re most of the way there, told you it was simple! Remember herbal teas, soups and broths all count towards your total but fruit juices and soft drinks are out.

Bonus – Add a pinch of unrefined sea salt to add a plethora of beneficial minerals in your diet, improve water absorption and reduce excessive number 1s.

Keep it simple. It’s amazing how differently you can feel by finding practical ways to change a few basic and quite frankly pretty obvious seemingly small but incredibly powerful habits.

Live healthy,
aps

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