Tag Archives: physical therapy

Back-Strengthening Exercises for Home or the Gym

2 Mar

I mentioned a long time ago that I would post my physical therapy exercises for strengthening my back, so that you all could benefit from the big chunk of change I dropped to learn them. Last week, I had my last appointment. Not because I was no longer benefiting from my visits, but because my money tree was dead.

It took me this long to post the exercises because I was planning to post pictures of yours truly illustrating what to do. But then I realized that my pictures would be crap and that I might as well just post the exercises already. So without further ado…

Equipment You’ll Need:

Swiss Ball

Resistance tube or Cable pulley machine

Resistance Bands (You can tie the ends of a Pilates band together too, but the round resistance bands work better.)

Optional: Medicine Ball



Swiss Ball Squats

2 x 15 reps

With the ball behind your back, feet shoulder width apart, sit back as if you are trying to sit in a chair too far away. Make sure your knees don’t go past your toes.

Swiss Ball Abdominal Rollouts

2 x 15 reps

Kneel in front of the ball and place your forearms on the ball, your elbows bent at a little more than 90 degrees. Pull your belly button in towards your spine and roll forward, placing your weight on your forearms, back straight, and elbows underneath your shoulders doing a plank on the ball. You should feel your abs engage to stabilize you. To make it more challenging, roll out and lift one arm off the ball.

Swiss Ball Alternating Leg Lifts

2 x 20 reps           

Sit on the Swiss ball and roll out so that your upper back is resting on the ball, your hips are lifted, feet on the floor shoulder width apart, and your body is in a straight line, with your hands resting comfortably. Carefully, lift one leg, hold for 5 seconds, lower. Then lift the other leg, hold, lower. Repeat.

Swiss Ball Bridging

2 x 20 reps                                                             

Lie face down on the Swiss Ball, with your hands and feet resting on the ground. Pulling your belly button into your spine, raise your right arm and left leg together, hold for 5 seconds, lower. Then lift left arm and right leg, hold, lower. Repeat.

Lunges with Torso Rotation

2 x 10 reps

Step forward and lunge, keeping your knees at 90 degrees.  Rotate your torso to both sides and return to standing. Hold a Swiss or medicine ball in your hands as you twist to make these more challenging.

Straight Arm Pull Downs / Cable Pull Across

2 x 25 reps

Note: For these exercises, use either a resistance tube anchored above your head or a cable pulley machine on the top notch, with weight set low (7-10 lbs).

Pull Down: Stand up straight and pull your belly button in, facing the tube or machine. Grasp cables in both hands and keeping your arms straight (but not locked), pull down to your side, as if you were going to graze your thigh. Keeping your arms straight, release back to starting position. Repeat.

Pull Across: Take cable in your left hand, with the left side of your body facing the tube or machine. With a slight bend in your elbow, pull down and across your body to your opposite hip (as if you were dancing 70s disco-style).  Keeping the slight bend in the elbow, release back to starting position. Repeat, then do the same with the right arm, turning your body so that the right side faces the tube or pulley.

Monster Walk (this one is killer for the hips and glutes!)

2 x 30 reps

Place a resistance band around your ankles and start with your feet together. You will be moving laterally so make sure you have enough space. Step your left foot out, keeping your toes pointed forward, then step your right foot in, bringing your feet together. Step to the left again, bring right foot in again. Do 15 reps, then step right foot out, bring left foot in, for 15 reps. Repeat to the left and to the right again.

The next part is best explained with a picture:

After 15 reps (8 to right, 7 to left), do it in the reverse direction. So instead of stepping the left foot forward, you step it backward. Do 15 reps (8 on left, 7 on right) and repeat forward and backward again.


To keep my no-photo streak going, I made these No-Bake Granola Balls and this Chickpea and Kale Soup recently and they were both delicious. Kale was another green vegetable that I had written off as disgusting, but I was wrong! I honestly do not know what horrible recipes I used the first time I tried kale and brussel sprouts to make me hate them so much. Or maybe my tastebuds are just maturing as I get older? Whatever the reason, I like the result!

Have a great weekend!

Have you made any good recipes lately?

Five Randos

18 Jan

1. I had my third physical therapy appointment this morning. Holy crap it was painful! I told him that the top of my shoulders were still tight and he went to town on them. Seriously, nothing that I voluntarily endured has ever come close.

2. I found the running gear version of Sasquatch – the elusive winter jacket or vest with more reflective detail than just a logo on the chest. It does not exist for a price I’m willing to pay. Seriously, almost every jacket or vest that did have plenty of reflective details was a lightweight jacket. Which just boggles my mind because when does a runner need reflective gear the most? In the winter when’s it cold.

So I abandoned that and looked for other options, such as reflective snap armbands:

How cool are those?

But I did fall in love with this UnderArmour jacket:

It is so cute. It has reflective details on the front, back and sleeves and it says it’s for cold temperatures. But do I trust UnderArmour? I should make up my mind soon because right now, it’s on sale for $84.95, down from $85.00. What a deal! {insert sarcasm}

I’m also looking at this Brooks Nightlife Silver Bullet Jacket. A little more spendy at $108.95 but I would save $13 by no longer needing snap armbands.

This looks like a great jacket and no doubt, would serve me well. I could even go look at it in the store since it’s not a closeout (like the UA jacket). My hesitation is that it’s fluorescent yellow. Yes, I realize that is the point of the Nightlife version but I can’t help thinking that I wouldn’t want to wear the jacket anywhere in public. I mean, admit it. You’ve seen those serious runners walking around in their bright yellow gear and even though you’re a runner yourself and totally understand why they’re wearing it, you still find it a bit weird. It’s just soooooo yellow. (I apologize if you’re one of those runners… who knows? I might join you!)

On the other hand, I might just get the pink version of the jacket. It still has all the same reflective details and warmth factor and it’s $8 cheaper. Travis won’t let me run at night anyway so I only need reflective-ness for about 10 minutes when my run is ending a bit late. That just might be the ticket.

3. I got the green light to post pictures of my adorable nephew!

In the hospital

Sleeping at home

With my mom, now Grandma Sheri

Isn’t he the cutest little thing ever? Can’t wait to meet him in person!

4. Meb Keflezighi runs in Skechers. Several months ago, I was reading an issue of Competitor magazine that I got for free from a race. I noticed an ad for Skechers running shoes featuring Meb. My initial reaction was one of skepticism – after hearing about Skechers was being sued for false advertising with their Shape-ups shoes, the whole company seemed like a sham, targeting the same demographic of people interested in weight loss supplements and detox diets. I was actually so intrigued by the ad that I looked up pictures of Meb running in the NYC Marathon so that I could see what shoes he was wearing. I thought it looked like he was wearing Nikes but apparently I was wrong –  he actually does wear Skechers for running.

The article I linked to above talks about how Skechers wants to break into the performance running market and is using their sponsorship of Meb to help it along. Considering that he PR’ed in and won the last two marathons he ran (including the Olympic Marathon trials), I’m not as skeptical about the shoes as I once was. But… I’m not sure that I’ll be jumping on the Skechers bandwagon anytime soon.

5. I have some friends who are doing a juice cleanse.


They’re following the Reboot Standard Program, which has you eat only whole fruits and veggies for 15 days (click on the link for specifics). The benefits are supposedly (from their website, with my comments):

  • Boost the number of fruit/vegetable servings you can ingest in a day.  Well, duh! It’d be kind of hard not to, when that’s all you’re eating.
  • Break the cycle of unhealthy eating.  Watch me binge on celery.
  • Retrain your brain to crave fruits and vegetables.  If I can’t kick chocolate in 15 days, I couldn’t do this either.
  • Manage your weight.  I always manage to weigh something.
  • Promote a lifestyle that will lower risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, macular degeneration, cognitive decline and mental illness including depression. General healthy living does this too.
  • Promote longevity. Everyone dies.
  • Decrease aches and pains in joints and muscles.  I wear Skechers for this.
  • Improve your immunity.  Ok, you got me here.
  • Promote increased energy levels. and increased bitchiness levels.
  • Promote healthy skin, nails and hair.  Only if I stop tanning, biting and dyeing.
  • Gain greater access to digestive enzymes locked away in whole produce through juicing.  Like in kale? Ew.
You can probably tell that I’m not a huge fan of “reboot diets” (which IMO is just a fancy word for detox). Running the risk of being called a hypocrite (since I eliminated sweets from my diet for a month…), I don’t think it’s ever necessary to eliminate entire food groups from your diet, barring an actual food allergy, in the name of “health” or “cleansing.”
Personally, I would go insane if I couldn’t eat cereal. I eat cereal every day. Unless we’re out of milk. And then I cry myself to sleep.
I’d love to hear your thoughts –
Which running jacket would you choose above?
Would you ever wear Skechers for running?
What do you think about reboot/cleansing/detox programs?


Five Randos

13 Jan

1. I had my second physical therapy appointment this morning. I was dreading it because I thought I was going to be get poked with needles (I even had a blog post title of “Pins and Needles” thought up). But luckily, since I told the therapist that my lower back felt fine still, he said he would leave it alone. Woohoo!

But I still had plenty of unpleasantness to deal with. I told him that my upper back between my shoulder blades was still sore/tight so he cracked that area again, along with my neck, and then proceeded to massage/poke/pull my shoulder and upper back tendons as I turned my head to one side, then the other. That hurt. A lot. Not like the sharp pain of a needle but a deep muscle-y pain – like how your tight IT band feels when you massage when it with a foam roller. My shoulders are sore now, which he said might happen.

He also showed me some exercises I could do to strengthen my lower back and hips. I’ll demonstrate and post them soon, since they’re beneficial for all runners/athletes.

What I’ll demonstrate now is how to lower your keyboard:

With a keyboard tray! It took me until this morning to realize I could push the tray in (I just had it installed yesterday). Before, it was sticking out from the desk by about 8 inches. At that rate, I was going to need glasses from squinting.

Anyway, lowering my keyboard will prevent me from shrugging my shoulders so much – your upper arms should be perpendicular to the floor when sitting at your desk.

2. Lots of TV time this weekend. Tomorrow is the Olympic Marathon Trials coverage (2-4 pm MST – we’re the same as central) and the Broncos game. Go Tebow! I might have to go buy a Broncos shirt tonight…

Sunday, I will be watching My Fair Wedding because fellow blogger Danica’s wedding will be on. It’ll be cool to finally see everything she hasn’t been able to show on her blog.

But I’ll balance that TV time out with two runs – my long run of 7 miles on Saturday and my tempo run of 4 miles on Sunday (moved from yesterday because I ate too much for dinner and would have puked if I tried to run…one of those days).

3. I seem to be a running anomaly. I’ve input several times into the McMillan Running Calculator: my half marathon PR back in 2007, my most recent 5K time, and my most-likely-never-to-be-duplicated 5 mile run in the Denver RnR Half Mary Relay. Those times are all over the board and produce quite the varied results.

With the 3 different times, my predicted marathon finish time could be (respectively):




I’ll take the last one, thankyouverymuch.

Also according to the calculator, my long runs should be run at a pace around 12:45 to 13:15 per mile. Lately, I’ve been comfortably running, without challenge, an easy pace of 11:15/mile for my long runs. But apparently, that should be the pace for my tempo intervals, which I’ve been running at a 9:55 or 10:00 pace (those paces aren’t even on the chart).

So I’ve concluded that while the running calculators may give me a ballpark of +/- 30 minutes for my marathon time, I should just use my long runs as a judge for my goals (and obviously the runs that are closer to the marathon distance, not the 8 miler I just did last Saturday). I’m also planning on doing Yasso 800s for my speedwork during Weeks 10-16 of my marathon training plan. It’d be cool if it really works to predict your marathon time (click the link to read more details).

4. I’ve been waiting for Friday all week long. Regardless, when I woke up this morning, I was surprised that it was already Friday. Which means I have to clean my house because we’re having people over for the game tomorrow.

5a. My favorite lunch as of late has been big salads, thanks to my friends leafy romaine lettuce and Caesar croutons. If it weren’t for those two, I wouldn’t be eating salads. They have changed my life. (For some reason, I get sick of spinach every now and again and won’t eat it to save my life…unless it’s in a smoothie.)

Yeah, I scrimped a little too much on the lettuce for that salad… but I also eat the lettuce first and this was halfway through the salad.

5b. We got new dinnerware for Christmas from my parents. The dishes we got for our wedding were really cute ones from Target but since I am a dish-breaker by trade, we only had 4 big plates left and all of our bowls (minus 2) had giant chips out of them. We are really enjoying our new dishes. Thanks Mom and Dad!

They are the Platzgraff Java pattern.

It’s even prettier in person. They’re still on sale at Shopko if you need new dishes!

What’s your favorite thing for lunch? Do the running calculators predict your speeds correctly?

Back in Physical Therapy

11 Jan

After almost a year and a half hiatus, I’m back in physical therapy. Before, I was going for my IT band. Now, I’m going for my back.

This is one of those things that make me starkly aware that:

1. I’m getting older

2. I’m not invincible

3. My body will break if I treat it like crap

So sad. My mom often reminded me to stand up straight when I was younger. I brushed her off, saying that standing up straight made me look weird. That’s also what Quasimodo said, and look where it got him.

Since my ambitions are not to be a hunchback, I went to see a physical therapist at Rocky Mountain Spine & Sport (same chain I went to before, different location).

It’s snowing again in Denver!

The therapist was really nice and relaxed. I explained my symptoms. He checked the alignment/balance of my hips, spine, shoulders and legs and then said that my back most likely hurts because of sitting all day at work. Apparently, pain in the neck and lower back is pretty common in desk jockeys like me. In addition, I have a muscle imbalance in my lower back – one side is tighter than the other, which pulls on my spine.

So he proposed realigning my back this morning to alleviate the current pain. Then he’ll do Trigger Point Dry Needling next time I come in (which will be this Friday) to help release the tight muscles. I’m not going to lie – I’m a little freaked out by the idea of pain and needles. But I figure I’m too young to have chronic back pain and I’ve noticed it worsening over the past couple of months so I should probably just bite the $70-a-visit bullet.

He cracked my back and neck this morning and it was loud. It’s amazing the sound bones make. My neck and lower back feel a ton better but my whole back still doesn’t feel 100%. Is it supposed to? I’ve never had my back professionally cracked before so I don’t know!

When I got to work, I made some adjustments to my workstation to be more in line with this:

Instead of this:

Oh, slouching down in my chair with my legs propped up on my CPU isn’t considered good posture?

But seriously, I have done every single one of these.

I put a couple of paper organizer trays underneath my monitor to raise it up, moved it about 8 inches closer to my chair, raised my seat a couple of inches, and have been trying to remember to sit with my legs uncrossed. This has proven to be the hardest change. I sit with my legs crossed almost always, and when they’re not crossed, they’re either propped up, cross-legged, or I’m sitting on one of them. Sitting with both feet flat on the floor feels like standing in front of people with your arms at your side, doing nothing – awkward. It’s feels unnatural.

But alas, every source on the interwebs confirms that indeed, this is the correct posture for sitting at a desk. (Quasimodos excused.)

Do you have good posture? What’s your favorite way to sit?