Skip to main content

Month: March 2023

The Importance of Disconnecting

This is a time of year I very much look forward to reaching. Next week my son is on Spring Break and for the past few years we spend the week in Baja Mexico with his friends and mine. We fly down to a small airport with just one runway, climb in to a friend’s van at a nearby storage yard, and drive across the peninsula until we reach the Pacific. 

We stay outside of a poor, sleepy, fishing village where the waves are long and pristine. There is no cell service, no Internet, and no cable television. We are surrounded by ocean on one side and a Mexican desert on the other. Pure heaven. For one week life becomes very simple: surf, eat, sleep, repeat! 

It is almost like stepping into a time machine and going back before the days of technology. A truly invigorating experience. The ex-pats that have settled there since the seventies are friendly enough and the villagers are very hospitable. We get to sharpen our Spanish speaking skills but more importantly we get to slow down. 

I do not realize how fast paced my daily life is when I am deep in it. However, when I return from these adventures it hits me hard how much I have fallen into the speed required to pursue the American dream. Fortunately the slower, relaxed pace of Baja stays with me for a bit. In truth, it would probably be beneficial to head down south every 4-5 months so I do not fall back into the hectic pace. 

When was the last time you went without the internet, a smart phone, or cable TV and just slowed down? 

Simple Machines

It’s funny, I learned all about simple machines in 9th grade physics class. There are six machines: the lever, pulley, inclined plane, screw, wedge, and wheel and axle. When they are combined together they become known as compound machines. I never thought that I would be using these machines when it came to personal training or helping those with chronic pain. I was wrong. The joints of the body are classified as levers. The muscles and tendons wrap around joints and acts as pulleys to provide mechanical advantage when lifting our body or other heavy objects. We even use incline planes to stretch calf muscles. For the past ten years I have been using small foam wedges under the feet of clients to improve their bodies ability to move with more efficiency and connectivity. This is performed in the training and rehab environments. Such a simple device and yet so powerful. 

There are three primary purposes when it comes to these foam wedges. The first is simply to fill in space under the foot that should not be present. The foot is similar to a tripod. We have three primary points of contact at the base of the foot: the ball of the foot by the big toe (first metatarsal head), the ball of the foot by the little toe (the fifth metatarsal head), and the center of the heel (calcaneus). Provided we maintain proper contact at these three points then that will help create a stable platform and encourage an ideal chain reaction up through the entire body.

The second purpose is to encourage bone and joint motion. The wedge is an inclined plane or ramp. When the wedge is placed under an area of the foot, it can stimulate motion down the ramp; in essence speeding up movement in a certain direction. If the wedge were to be spun around in the opposite direction it would encourage that area to slow down. Therefore the wedge can alter the rate of speed and direction of joint motion which is sometimes needed to disrupt patterns of compensation.

The third purpose is to provide the brain and central nervous system with proprioceptive feedback. Proprioception is the body’s ability to know where it is in space and where it is going. Often times injuries, surgeries, shifts in posture and a host of other events can affect our bodies proprioceptive feedback to the brain. When this occurs the brain must begin to change how we move and support ourselves. This can also lead to compromised ways of moving which may lead to chronic pain issues.

There are other purposes of using the wedges. Yet, that is not something to explain at this time. It gets a bit more complicated and involves the relationships different areas of the body have with one another. I will just state that placing a wedge under the someone’s foot has proven to unlock a stiff neck, a frozen shoulder, remove back pain, and a host of other experiences. Suffice to say, simple machines are powerful tools and are items to have in your toolbox.

Are You A Swinger?

I love my Indian clubs. If you do not know what they are, and you have any shoulder or neck trouble, you really should get to know then. The clubs have been around for over 5,000 years. Originally used as weapons, now they are used for improving and maintaining healthy shoulders, elbows, wrists, and necks. 

Most movements practiced with the clubs are circular. The centrifugal force that is created by swinging helps to create space in joints for movement that is more clean and free. The weight of clubs vary. I recommend beginning with 1 or 1 ½ pound clubs. There are a variety of movements and can be an integral part of your workout routine. 

When I was training to paddle the 28.5 miles across Monterey Bay on my prone paddle board it was the club routine that kept my shoulders happy and healthy.

I have created several short instructional videos for the beginner on my YouTube channel, Rocky Snyder, CSCS. Check out the entire playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdE4aIideNz0w-q4H8Zp6lFhzEXtFmk9I

I also recorded an hour long Indian Club workshop I gave a couple of years ago. Check it out HERE 

The benefits of play and boredom

I was recently asked to help my daughter with a school project. She needed to interview someone about their childhood and organized sports. So that is what I’m writing about today. I grew up on the playground, on the Boston & Maine rail line, and not a bit in organized sports. The only organizing of sports were what my friends and I decided to play after school. I was more or less a decathlete when it came to sports and activities. I was good at whatever we decided to do but rarely ever the best. I just liked to play. Being a single sport athlete was something unheard of in my childhood. We played pick up games; pure and simple. In the fall it was football or frisbee or basketball. In the winter it was pond hockey or street hockey when it wasn’t cold enough for the pond to freeze. In the spring as the snow was melting and the mud was building we walked and balanced on the railroad tracks and threw rocks at empty bottles under the bridge rather than in a pitching cage. 

We shoveled snowy driveways in the winter and raked countless bags of leaves in the fall. We were active kids and never experienced injuries that required orthopedic surgeons. Tommy John was a young pitcher, not a surgical procedure. 

Today is a much different story for our youth. Too many kids are encouraged by coaches and families to participate in one sport throughout the entire year. There a few things worse you could offer your kids. Their bodies and developing brains need novelty, not highly repetitive actions. If you want to ensure burnout at an early age then keep taking your kids to soccer practice year round. Instead, be sure to allow them to simply play in an unorganized fashion. Let them be bored. Do not overload their schedule. Kids need to be kids, not young Tommy Johns. That is my rant for the day. Now go forth and do something novel.