As part of my health and wellness journey, also know as “the keep Brad sane plan,” I check in with physiotherapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists and ask them to perform their magic on me. Since moving to our new location, I have become a patient, and dare I say friend, of Dr. Shenaigh Newman (on Twitter @drshenaigh) a chiropractor who practices at ChiroCare Centre in Edmonton.
I tease Dr. Newman about being my witch doctor but I have really appreciated her help with a handful of injuries I have had. I like how she’s patient focused, doesn’t take herself too seriously, and she laughs at my jokes. Recently, I had the crazy idea that I would interview her about being healthy and then share her answers with all of you so that we can both become internet famous.
These are the first five of ten questions.
BD: If you knew you were going to reach millions of readers through my blog, what’s the most important thing you would want them to know?
SN: Motion is lotion! Movement is so important for the body. We were made to move. I don’t care how you do it, just get out and move. Walk, run, swim, crawl; at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you do, just move. Our body was never made to stay in one position for long but for some reason that’s exactly what we force the body to do. Whether it’s sitting, standing, lying down- we should never stay in one position for long. I recommend my patients to try and change positions or move around every fifteen minutes; setting an alarm on their phone always helps!
BD: If I could do only one exercise what should it be?
SN: The forearm plank. It is such a simple exercise but it works basically your entire body from head to toe. Primarily, this exercise works the erector spinae muscles in your back and the rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis in your front, all of which are a large majority of your core musculature that is important to strengthen in order to prevent lower back pain. Secondarily, this exercise also recruits stabilizing muscles to help hold your body in that position. Some examples of stabilization muscles that are activated in the plank are the trapezius, rhomboids, the rotator cuff muscles, deltoids, pectoralis muscles, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and quadriceps. When doing this exercise, it is important to ensure that your entire back is flat and that your elbows are in line with your shoulders. Initially, I give my patients the goal of holding the exercise for thirty seconds.Once they can hold this with no problem I will introduce a few more advanced moves to keep it interesting.
BD: I use weights, run, swim, and bike, and sometimes do yoga. What are the three things I must do to ensure I can still walk when I am older?
SN: It is actually quite smart to do such a variety of exercises because each and every one of them works a different part of your body to form a well-rounded complete workout routine. Some important things to remember to ensure that you will be able to continue this lifestyle for years to come are as follows:
1) It is important to continue to listen to your body throughout your workouts and make sure that you are adequately resting. If your body tells you to stop then listen to it. There’s nothing wrong with taking a few days off to rest because it’s better than having to take weeks or months off due to injury.
2) Ensure that you are properly fueling your body with all the nutrients you need including drinking enough water throughout the day and during your workouts.
3) Warming up and cooling down before and after your workouts are just as important to do as the workout itself. You are more prone to injury when your muscles aren’t warm. It is more important to spend an extra five minutes to prevent an injury down the line.
BD: What are three popular exercises people consistently do wrong and end up hurting themselves?
SN: I’m a huge fan of doing exercises either with free weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight only. You’ll notice I didn’t mention weight machines most commonly found at the gym. Although these machines are good for beginners, they usually only exercise a specific muscle while letting all other muscles take a back seat. I’ll admit when I first started working out at the gym and didn’t know better I just rotated from machine to machine because that’s what I thought was best. But now that I know better I find much better results and less injury using free weights and body weight for most of my exercises. I also find that with a machine, the muscle is only worked in one way and is not necessarily worked in a way that is functional or in the way that we need the muscle to work in our day-to-day life.
Seated Knee Extension/Flexion: This is a popular exercise used to work our quadriceps/hamstrings however when the weight is high and the knees are in full extension it places stress on the knee joint. The knee joint isn’t designed for this type of shearing stress at higher weights and you can end up injuring the knee. You can work out the quadriceps just as well with basic squats and lunges, add some weight or some plyometric jumps and you should be good to go.
Inner and Outer Thigh Machine: Here’s another popular machine used at the gym that just needs to go! This machine works the adductors (inner thigh muscles) and the abductors (outer thigh muscles) in two separate ways. My biggest issue with this machine is the fact that it does not strengthen the muscle in a functional way… I mean how often are you doing this action in your day-to-day life? It is very important to strengthen these muscles as they are important stabilizing muscles for our hips but there are much better ways to strengthen them. You can do standing or lying adduction and abduction exercises with resistance bands or just the weight of your leg or do lateral lunges or skater squats for a more difficult workout.
BD: If you could wave a magic wand and make fitness trainers and exercise promoters stop teaching people to do three popular exercises, which three would they be and why?
SN: Hovering Leg Lifts: This exercise requires you to lie down on your back and lift your legs straight off the floor to hover a few inches off of the ground. The primary goal of this exercise is to work the abs, which it does, but at the cost of placing a huge amount of stress on the lower back which can cause injury. There are many other ways to work your abdominal muscles without loading the low back that should be used instead.
Superman: This one is a classic, I’ve seen it in so many pilates and yoga classes and it is so frustrating! I had a professor one time call this the “spine crusher” because at the base anatomic level, that’s exactly what it is doing. If you think about it, by raising the legs and the arms all of the weight is getting concentrated to your lower back and overtime it can lead to lower back pain. Although it is fun to pretend you are a superhero there are many other alternatives to avoid hurting your back.
Upright rows: This exercise requires you to lift a barbell with your hands close together and bring your hands up under your chin. I find many of my patients get shoulder pain while doing these because the exercise bangs the humerus against the acromion compressing the AC joint. Depending on how much space is in the shoulder, it can compress nerves and damage the cartilage in the AC joint. Instead of this exercise, try bent-over rows by bending forward 90 degrees at the hip and holding the weight down with hands a little more than shoulder width apart. Then lift the weight straight up towards your chest so your elbows and shoulders form a straight line. This puts less load on the AC joint which helps prevent injury and degeneration in the shoulder joint.
Check my next post for her answers to my last five questions.
*Check this out: I found Dr. Newman because she started handling the Twitter account for the clinic which happens to be walking distance from our home. I recall she liked something I wrote so I figured she must be a quality person. Anyway, I made an appointment and started going to see her a couple times a month. A few weeks ago, I was being poked, prodded, and twisted by her and we were chatting about life stuff. Long story short, it turns out her good friend’s parents, her second mom, is my wife’s best friend from Yellowknife! How random is that?!?