Over time, chronic hunching or slouching can lead to a ton of problems over and above tight muscles and a rounded back.
Chronic poor posture – which many of us are dealing with thanks to desk jobs and driving – can lead to structural changes in your spine, which cause abnormal wear and tear on the joint surfaces, which can lead to arthritis or degenerative disc disease.
If that slippery slope of despair isn’t enough to scare you, poor posture can also cause blood vessel constriction, digestive issues, headaches, and even depression.
Reversing poor posture starts with awareness, and correcting alignment when you notice slouching or hunching. Do this by pulling the shoulders down and back, followed by pulling the head back so it is in-line with the shoulders. We call this the chin tuck and it is the first of three easy, no-equipment exercises to improve your posture.
3 EASY EXERCISES FOR BETTER POSTURE:
1. Chin tuck. Sitting or standing, elongate your spine by imagining you are lifting the top of your skull to the sky. Tuck your chin back without tilting the head, until your head is in line with your shoulders. Tip: this exercise can be especially useful in the car while driving, use the headrest as a guide for optimal positioning.
2. The 'I-T-W'. Lying on your stomach, bring your arms straight out to an overhead position (or an “I” position) and lift them off the floor. From there float the arms straight out to the side (or a “T” position), followed by shifting the elbows back creating a “W” position with the arms. Return to the original “I” position and repeat. Tip: do this with palms facing the floor or with thumbs pointing up to the ceiling, make sure you are lifting the arms with the upper back and NOT the lower back.
3. Wall Slides. Stand tall with your upper back, glutes, and head contacting the wall. Bring your arms up on the wall starting in a “W” position. Slowly lift the arms up to an “I” position overhead, trying to keep elbows and wrists contacting the wall. Return to starting position and repeat. Tip: If this is too challenging, bring arms out to a “Y” position instead of an “I”.
The goal of any postural exercise is to strengthen your back while lengthening your chest. Therefore, to get the most bang for your buck, do these exercises in combination with stretches for the chest.
Looking for a personalized exercise program? Contact us today for a free assessment, anywhere in Toronto!
Most people think of exercise as a physical pursuit. But to do it correctly you need to get your mind involved as well.
Mind Muscle Connection (as we call it; MMC for short) is a critical – but often over-looked – ingredient for success, and one we focus on a lot with our clients. Here’s a primer on what it is, why it’s important, and how you can use it to improve your fitness.
WHAT IS IT?
In simplest terms, it’s a conscious and intentional connection between the mind and the body. When it comes to exercise, using MMC means tuning in to the exercise you’re doing and consciously engaging a targeted muscle during an exercise (as opposed to moving intuitively without thinking).
Studies have shown that using MMC can increase the amount of muscle fibers a person recruits, resulting in a better quality of muscle contraction and therefore larger increases in strength.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Our bodies like short cuts – we are programmed to make things easier for ourselves. When we perform exercise that involve multiple muscle groups, our bodies default to the dominant (strongest) muscle(s) to get the job done – but often that’s not what we want.
Let’s take the glute bridge (below) for example. It aims to target the glute (aka bum) muscles. In this movement, you would lie flat with your feet on the floor and knees bent, and lift your hips in the air. The hamstring, glute, low back, and core muscles are all involved here – but if you don’t consciously focus on engaging the glutes, the hamstrings will take over because they're more dominant.
In the long run, this can lead to muscle imbalances – which can lead to injury – which is why understanding how to use MMC to engage your less-dominant muscles is critical for long-term success.
HOW DO WE USE IT?
The first step to MMC is knowing which muscle a particular exercise is designed to target. As trainers, we remind our clients of which muscle group they are supposed to be feeling – tapping on the actual muscles before and during the exercise, keeping them focused with cues.
For an individual without a trainer on hand, here are three tips for establishing MMC:
Mind muscle connection is like any other skill – it can be developed and improved over time. If you want to learn more about how you can do this, contact us at email@example.com for a free assessment and consultation.
Mike Dewis is a busy professional - who, in his early 40s is in the best shape of his life - and actually enjoying his workouts for a change! Here's his story:
Why did you get started with Nielsen Fitness?
Last year, I was at a point in my life where I realized I was in my 40’s and unhappy with my appearance – I wanted to tone up and feel better about myself. Since I’m not getting any younger, I figured it was time to start doing something about it, so I enlisted NF to help me reach my goals.
Why do you think you’ve been selected as client of the month?
Since January, I’ve been working really hard with my trainer – I had a trip in March that I really wanted to trim down for. I’ve been consistent and it’s really paid off in terms of results. I think that’s why my trainer ultimately chose me.
What does the future hold for you?
I think more of the same – staying on this upward trajectory of healthy living. Staying fit and accountable to the workouts and going into old age in a much better place (mentally and physically) than my younger self.
How much fat have you lost?
According to my last re-assessment, I’ve lost about 12lbs of fat so far, and gained 18 pounds of muscle since starting with Nielsen Fitness 16 months ago.
What advice would you give someone who was in your shoes?
You just have to start – you may find working out boring or tedious, but that’s only if you aren’t doing it right and if you don’t have someone there to push you along.
Having a Nielsen Fitness trainer has helped light that fire for me and kept it interesting and fun. I no longer dread workouts and that’s the biggest compliment I could ever pay them.
Other than your amazing results, what things do you value from your Nielsen Fitness experience?
I just enjoy the workouts. It’s odd for me to say but on Friday night, I find myself looking forward to my early morning workout on Saturday. I love the comradery with my trainer, and the exercises themselves – they’re challenging in all the right ways, making the results very rewarding.
If you’re interested in tackling your fitness goals once and for all – like Mike! – we’d love to help. Reach out today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.
We specialize in workouts with limited space and equipment. Without a doubt, the number one question our trainers get asked is… “what equipment should I buy?”
The fact of the matter is, you DON’T need an expensive treadmill, elliptical, or Bowflex machine to have a great workout. In fact, some of the most effective exercises use nothing more than your body weight.
That said, there are a handful of small items that we love to use for additional variety – they can progress or regress any exercise, AND they won’t break the bank.
Here are five of our team’s favourites – all of which cost less than $100 dollars and are relatively easy to tuck away when not in use.
While a successful home gym doesn’t need to cost a fortune, all the home equipment in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t use it! If you’re in Toronto and need some help with motivation – or exercise ideas – sign up today for a free consultation. Our trainers will hold you accountable, teach you proper form, and give you the variety you need to keep on progressing.
If you like to read up on the latest health trends, you’ve likely read articles praising the virtues of desk stretching and thought “I could NEVER do that at my desk!”
We get it. But we also know that if you sit for most of your work day, you’re likely experiencing pain in your lower back, tightness in your chest, and maybe even some numbness (all signs your body NEEDS to move around!). In addition to discomfort, research has shown that poor posture, repetitive motion, and staying in the same position for extended periods of time can worsen - and even cause - musckuloskeletal disorders.
The good news? There ARE stretches you can do at your desk – even if your boss is 10 feet away - that will help. They are discreet, easy, and will reduce the discomfort and long-term effects of desk sitting.
Here are three of our favourites:
1. Reach around the back of your chair and clasp your hands together, then lift your chest up while pulling your shoulder blades together. Great for: opening the chest and preventing rounded posture.
2. Lace your fingers together and reach your arms overhead as high as you can (palms facing up), then tilt your upper body from side to side. Great for: lengthening the spine and giving your sides a stretch.
3. Sitting up straight and tall, place your hands behind your head and pull your elbows back to open your chest, then twist slowly to your left – then slowly to your right. Great for: restoring the rotation of your spine.
You can do these stretches as often as every 30 minutes, or whenever you feel stiff.
Need more office exercise and stretch tips? Contact us today for a free assessment. We work in many offices across the GTA and would love to come to yours!
Hiring a personal trainer is a big decision for most people. Since all personal trainers are not created equal and there’s no regulating body for this industry, it’s important to make sure you do your due diligence when interviewing – and selecting – the right personal trainer for you.
To help you do that, here are three questions to ask before you commit:
Question #1: What are their certifications?
It’s possible to become a personal trainer in as little as a weekend. Which is scary! (I can’t tell you how many certified trainers I’ve interviewed that don’t know basic anatomy or injury-prevention principles.) So it’s important that your trainer have more than a basic certification – look for someone with a college diploma or university degree in a health-related subject, and the more additional/specialized training the better. Also, CPR certification is a must.
Question #2: What’s the plan?
A plan, with mini goals plotted out along the way, is critical for long-term success. Which is why we track, measure, and goal-set on the regular over here. So ask your trainer how all that works. Will you start with a goal setting session? How often will you be re-assessed? What does success look like?
Question #3 (for you, not them!): Do you like this person?
This one’s a question for you, as opposed to them. And it’s a simple – but oh, so important – one: Do you like the person sitting in front of you? Are they respectful? Do you feel understood? Are they friendly? If all goes well, you’ll spend a fair bit of time with this person, so you want to choose a person you’ll look forward to seeing, who makes you feel comfortable.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, these are three of our main criteria when we hire our trainers at Nielsen Fitness. If they aren’t fully certified, don’t pass our (difficult) practical exam with flying colours, can't demonstrate strategic, big picture thinking in addition to their exercise and anatomy know-how, and aren’t someone we’d want to welcome into our own homes at 5:30am, they don’t make the cut.
This criteria has served us well over the course of more than a decade in business – and we're confident it will for you too. If you'd rather to take the guess-work out if it, contact us today to schedule your free first workout, anywhere in Toronto.
Suzanna is a busy lawyer who has seen great success personal training at home with Nielsen Fitness – because it works for her busy lifestyle. She’s soon to be married and in better shape than she has been in a long time.
Here’s her story:
Much like life, exercise is about the journey – not the destination. Those who see it as a lifelong commitment (as opposed to a short-lived endeavor to meet a specific goal) tend to enjoy the process more, and get the most out of it.
Our client Stacey Morrow (a lawyer) and her husband Chris Yu (a pastor) are prime examples. They’ve been semi-private personal training clients of ours for years. They consistently show up ready to work with a great attitude and have seen fantastic results because of it. Here’s their story, in Stacey’s words:
At Nielsen Fitness, we work with a lot of busy professionals who, despite being short on time, understand the importance of fitness, and want to make it a part of their lives.
Our November client of the month, Martin Gangadeen, is one of these clients. He’s been training with us for five years, and is a pro at setting mini goals for himself to stay motivated and on-track. Here’s his story:
One of the most difficult ‘seasons’ of life during which to exercise is when you’re a busy parent with young children (a fact I understand well because I’m in this stage myself!). But it’s also a really important time to exercise.
We wrote a bit about why here, in case you’re interested in knowing more. But for today, I’m thrilled to introduce you to our October client of the month, Monica Lalomia Gibbs. Monica’s a busy mom of three who works out in the morning before her family rises. She’s a trainer’s dream thanks to her awesome attitude and drive to reach fantastic new heights. Here’s her story:
Poul Nielsen is the owner and operator of Nielsen Fitness, Toronto's leading team of in-home personal trainers. He has 18 years' experience in the fitness industry and has taught courses in Fitness and Lifestyle Management at George Brown College.
In addition to exercise (obviously), he loves spending time with his family, playing the guitar, strong coffee - and dark chocolate!