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I happened across this meme in my news feed, and as someone who sees the sun rising as I'm working out in the morning, I had to laugh. But, at the same time, it got me thinking, ya know - it's kinda true. I previously spoke of how to get, and stay, motivated to get your body moving, and I'm gonna piggyback onto that with, what I think, is the best time of day to break a sweat. And, why, do I, as a massage therapist, keep talking about exercise? Because, keeping your muscles moving is an important ingredient to optimal muscle health. Exercise, stretching, massage, nutrition, etc.. It's a whole recipe.

So, I've tried different times of day to get my workout in, and first thing in the morning is by far my F-A-V-O-R-I-T-E. Yes, it's that dramatic. Despite the fact that I love literally everything about working out, if I have all day to think about it, I can come up with a million reasons to put it off and knock out a few other things on my to-do list instead. For whatever reason, until I am actually exercising, I do not feel like exercising. From what I gather, a lot of other people feel that way, too. That's where the whole "willpower" thing comes in, no?

This is one of the reasons an early AM workout works so well. It eliminates *some* of the need for the willpower (or maybe just redirects it to the whole getting to bed early bit). I roll out of bed, put on my workout clothes (unless I'm already wearing them, because sometimes I do that, too!), grab my gym bag and drive over there. I get everything ready the night before so I have to do as little thinking as possible when I get up, and I'm barely conscious throughout the process. It's a lot like when I went skydiving. As we climbed higher and higher in altitude in that little plane, and I knew the only way I was exiting was to jump, I kept my mind as blank as possible so as to not think about what I was about to do, so I wouldn't find myself holding onto the plane doorway like a cat in a bathtub. No thinking until I'm already there! Once I've stepped into the gym, it's like jumping off the plane. No turning back now. Just gotta go along for the ride, and have a hell of a lot of fun in the process. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong!

I know not everyone's magical hour is going to be first thing in the morning, but find that sweet spot that makes it as effortless as possible, and you will keep it up!

Got questions or need advice? You've got me all to yourself for a whole hour (or however long you book) every time you come in for a massage. ;)

From the studio of
Neelou Saleh
Licensed Massage Therapist
Licensed Massage Therapist Instructor
Kingwood, TX
www.spiritoflotus.com
 
 
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For years I struggled finding a way to stay consistently active. I tried different activities at different times - softball, basketball, yoga, running, dancing, home workouts, gym workouts, martial arts, etc.. I would stick with it for awhile, then sooner or later would lose motivation, interest, ability to maintain the schedule,
insert stock excuse to not keep working out here...and would take six months or a year to find something else to try. Once I got into my thirties, the lack of consistent activity started to catch up with me, and I soon found myself with debilitating back pain.

Muscles were made to move. The amount of time that many of us spend not moving in today's society - sitting at a desk, sitting in the car, sitting in front of the TV - does a huge disservice to the health of our muscles, and most people end up paying dearly for that, sooner or later. Massage is a wonderful way to help take care of ourselves, but regardless of whether or not you get massages, if you are not getting up and moving, you are missing out on the number one most beneficial way to keep your muscles in the healthiest condition possible.

Everyone has a different level of comfort and ability, but most people can find a way to get moving that will work for them. There are a number of excuses we can easily fall back on to not exercise - the most common being "I just don't have the time." I am here to tell you, as a mother of two kiddos running a household and a business on my own, if I can find the time, so can you. I promise. I did eventually find the workout method and routine that I was able to stick with in the form of Crossfit. At 6 o'clock in the morning. And I have NEVER been a morning person. Sometimes it takes a significant lifestyle change, and you just do it.

It's been three years now, and I'm still at it. Sometimes there are disruptions. I had to take a few months off last year due to health issues, but as soon as I was physically able, I was back in the gym (even able to participate in our in-box competition, as seen in the photo above).
Earlier this year, my kids' school schedule was making it difficult to get to a Crossfit class, so I went running a few times a week to stay active and dropped into classes when I could. This past summer I didn't work out much due to traveling (but I was hiking on my travels), but now I'm back on my normal schedule. Sometimes life temporarily pauses my workout routine, but I squeeze in what I can and I jump right back in the moment the disruption passes, so that working out becomes the norm and not working out is only a minor blip. That is something I previously was never able to do, and I realized the reasons for the prolonged inactivity were lack of true interest in my latest chosen activity, trying to do something that wasn't practical for my life, and just not making workout out a big enough priority. Having finally overcome all the many obstacles that can make it difficult to stay active with regularity, here are my tips to get up and get moving, and sticking with it!

1. Keep an open mind
I always thought I should be the kind of person that loves yoga. It fits with my interests and personality, so I tried making yoga my main thing, again and again. But, I could never stick with it for more than a few months at a time. It turns out that, though I enjoy yoga, it's not really my "thing". I discovered by starting Crossfit classes that weightlifting is my thing. Weightlifting is something I always thought seemed kinda boring, but oddly enough, it turned out to be what I love and look forward to getting myself to the gym for. I enjoy the other types of exercises we do in Crossfit for the sake of a well-rounded workout, but the weightlifting aspect is by far my true love. I also thought I preferred working out solo, but low and behold, I love the social aspect of Crossfit, and it's another reason I find it easier to drag myself to the box before the sun is up. So, I didn't know what I liked nearly as much as I thought I did, and I never would have known without trying something that seemed an unlikely match for me. If you haven't found your perfect match - keep looking! It might be what you least expect. People are not very good at predicting what they will and won't like without trying it. When you truly enjoy an activity, it doesn't feel like you are having to "force" yourself to exercise just to begrudgingly be healthy.

2. Make it a priority
This is the most important piece of advice. If your physical activity is low on the priority list, anything and everything else that comes up in life will get in the way of it. You put it off one day for this, another day for that, and before you know it, you haven't exercised in six months, and your strength and stamina you worked so hard for has ridden off into the sunset, on the back of your motivation. Like I said, I had to change my entire routine to make working out work for me. Making sure I get to bed early enough to get up early enough to get that workout in means structure and meticulous time management, two things I always rebelled against, as well as early to bed and early to rise, which goes against my very nature. But, workouts



 
 
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Today I want to talk about something important. I see this far too often, though it is very preventable. Sports injuries. In particular, sports injuries that occur because of overly tight muscles that are continually neglected, until it is too late.

I can only assume that many people do this simply because they don't realize the impending danger, so let's change that and look at why this happens.

Why is a tight muscle so susceptible to injury during sports activities or a workout? Look at it this way: if a muscle is tight, it is basically stuck in a contracted state, even when you aren't using it. Whether it is 20% contracted or 40% contracted, even when you are not actively engaging the muscle, that muscle is holding onto a pattern that it has gotten locked into, and you are not getting the full use of it.

For one, a muscle like this is weaker than usual. If your muscle is already 20% contracted at all times, you are only getting to use 80% of its strength. A tight muscle is also a starving muscle. It is not getting the



 
 
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Aaahh, stretching. There are many reasons we think we need to stretch (unfortunately most of them are wrong, but I'll address that in future posts), and there are a few very therapeutic uses for stretching. One thing stretching is definitely good for is feeling good, but it also helps to loosen up tight muscles and keep them from giving you trouble.

Unfortunately, some of the muscles that could seriously benefit from stretching just can't be stretched. The reason being simply the way we are built doesn't allow for us to contort ourselves in such a way that will apply tensile pressure to some key muscles.

A quick breakdown of some of these muscles and why it would be awesome if we could actually stretch them:

Supraspinatus and Subscapularis (2 of the 4 rotator cuff muscles) - These muscles that are part of the rotator cuff group are often the cause of pain in the shoulder, but unfortunately they can't be stretched effectively. The supraspinatus lifts the arm to the side, so moving your arm in the other direction far enough to stretch is impossible, since your torso is kinda in the way. The subscapularis is attached to the underside of the scapula, sandwiched between the shoulder blade and ribs. No matter how you try to twist your shoulder, the trigger points in the portion of the muscle attached to your scapula will not stretch out. Bummer.

Quadriceps - This one is probably surprising, since we often see athletes pulling their foot back against their backsides to stretch the quads. However, though it feels like you are stretching them, it is only one of those muscles - the rectus femoris - that is stretching. The other three (vastus lateralis, vastus medius, and vastus intermedius) are not being pulled enough to stretch them. Mostly these three muscles don't cause issues, but sometimes the vastus lateralis can be a bit of a troublemaker.

Pec Minor - Or, more properly, pectoralis minor. This muscle can be a major player in serious problems such as thoracic outlet syndrome, and is often the main culprit in pain between the shoulder blades. When 


 
 
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It's best to save the massage for after your workout. Your muscles need about 24 hours after receiving a massage to recover before doing any vigorous exercise, such as running or weight training. If you push your muscles to work too soon, it can actually increase soreness and decrease the effectiveness of the soft tissue work done during your massage therapy session.

You can certainly partake in light exercises, such as walking or gentle swimming, within the 24 hour post massage period. Be sure to stay hydrated, and spend some time stretching and soaking in a hot Epsom salt bath after your massage to get the maximum benefit from it. You want your body to have time to recover and adjust to the new subtle movement patterns before your get back to your normal workout routine. If you are going to be participating in an athletic competition, you want to get a massage about 48-72 hours beforehand.

A massage after a workout, however, is very beneficial. According to a study published in the "Journal of Athletic Training", massage received about three hours after a strenuous strength training workout actually reduced the occurrence of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) by about 30%.


From the studio of
Neelou Saleh
Licensed Massage Therapist
Kingwood, TX
www.spiritoflotus.com