3 Simple Mobility Drills You Can Do Anywhere

3 Simple Mobility Drills You Can Do Anywhere

I promise I’ll get to those 3 really simple mobility drills you can do anywhere, but first I need to get something off my chest.

I don’t know what you need.

There I said it.

Even if I did know yesterday, there’s a good chance that you may need something different today.

Why?

Because you’re physiology is always changing.

The amount of sleep you get, how much food you eat (and quality of the nutrients), whether you’re activity from day-to-day, as well as you’re stress levels can all impact what you need on a daily basis.

So, with that…I don’t know what you need.  I can however guess, that it would be good to change what you’re doing right now if you don’t feel optimal.  You don’t have to change forever.  Just for a little bit and then go back to attacking what you need to.

If you’re experiencing pain, just remember: Pain is an action signal to CHANGE something.

Just so we’re clear, that action signal we call pain can be described in man ways:

Tightness, Aching, Burning, Stabbing, Shooting, Cramping, Throbbing, Numb, Sore, Tender, Sharp, Annoying, Agonizing, Debilitating and many more!

Obviously some are more extreme descriptions than others, but you get the idea.

Because your experience is individual to you, it’s important that you have some options to make yourself feel better.  Now remember, we aren’t prescribing you anything specific, merely giving you options to try on.

Option #1 – Change Your Context

If you are experiencing stiffness or pain while seated, then stand to see if your experience changes.  Quite often, when working with clients, we take them from a standing position to a floor position because it’s less threatening to the nervous system, from there we can provide a safer environment to work within

Now, I’m not saying you have to go lie on the floor, but you could!  Just change how you’re doing it.  Try changing from seated to standing or standing to seated.  This will also change the postural position  you’re in, which can have a really positive benefit to physical state.

Option #2 – Check Your Emotions

You generally don’t hear much complaining from folks that are really happy do you?  Yeah, that doesn’t happen too much.  Emotions can play a really big role to how you feel, what your posture looks like and whether you actually experience a pain event.

If you are experiencing anger, stress, sadness, etc.  Try taking a break from whatever you’re doing to change your emotions.  Take a few minutes to walk, breathe, meditate or talk to someone.

Upon completing, you may still not be at 100%, but if you can make some improvements, that’s trending in the right direction.

Option #3 – Move Your Joints

Ah, we are finally here!  3 Simple Mobility Drills You Can Do Anywhere.  We talk about mobility A LOT.  The reason being is because:

1️⃣ Brains need fuel and activation to survive.  One of the best ways to activate your brain is to move your joints through there full ranges of motion as often as possible.

2️⃣ When you move your joints, you stimulate mechanoreceptors – these receptors send signals to the brain that there are changes in your environment, movement, pressure and tension.  Joints contain the most amount of mechanoreceptors.

3️⃣ Joints do not have any active blood flow.  What that means is they rely on movement to keep them lubricated and moving freely.  The more sedentary you are, the less you move your joints.  The less you move your joints, the less range of motion they have access to.  A good example of this is aging populations.  The need for assistance tools like walkers and canes causes gate to shorten, creating smaller and smaller ranges until the person is unable to move the joints in ranges to perform any basic walking function at all.

Now that you understand why it’s so important to move your joints, let’s move them.  Below you’ll find 3 mobility exercises we like that move a lot of joints at the same time.  Some key concepts to utilize when performing these drills:

  • Lengthen your body.  Unless it’s an actual slumping exercise, avoid looking down or hunching over when practicing.  This will provide better signaling and performance.
  • Breathe.  It sounds trivial, but we always have to remind clients to breathe while performing mobility.  For some reason we like to hold our breath when doing something new.
  • Never move into pain.  Just don’t do it.  Shorten your range and SLOW DOWN!

Mobility Drill #1 – Standing Cat/Cow

Why we love them:  It takes your entire spine through a full range of motion, stimulating a lot of joints (mechanoreception).  It also just feels really good!

Make sure to perform them slow, controlled and relaxed and sync up your breathing.

EXHALE as you round your back.

INHALE as you open your chest.

Common Errors

You won’t be perfect the first few times you perform these but here are some tips to ensure you are improving your technique.

  1. Try to make your spine find it’s entire range of motion, from your head to your tailbone.
  2. Start small and gradually make the movement larger.
  3. Don’t rush.  Move slow and breathe.

Mobility Drill #2 – Shoulder Unleashes

Why we love them: The shoulders, upper back and neck tend to be high on the complaint list.  This exercise gives a lot of love to a lot of joints all at once.  It’s great for kicking that slumped posture position too.  You can perform these seated or standing (but of course we love them more if you stand).

Avoid speeding through this movement.  Take your time, exploring all the range in your shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands.

Common Errors

You won’t be perfect the first few times you perform these but here are some tips to ensure you are improving your technique.

Perform the exercise in steps:

  1. Arms down and palms up, fingers spread.
  2. Curl your fingers to a fist.
  3. Curl your wrist to flex wrist.
  4. Flex elbows, trying to touch hands to shoulders.
  5. Lift elbows up past ears
  6. Squeeze shoulder blades, extending elbows back.
  7. Unleash arms.
  8. Uncurl wrists.
  9. Wave fingers to extended position.
  10. Revers and repeat.

Mobility Drill #3 – Hip Circles

Why we love them: Hip circles are money for anyone with a “tight” low back.  It generally provides relief in the hips and low back.  Because of it’s neurological connection, it is also extremely beneficial for your shoulders.  Upon completing, you should feel like walking / general movement is easier to perform.

Avoid speeding through this movement.  Feel free to play around with stance width and foot position.  Start with a small range of motion, gradually increase as you feel yourself relaxing and loosening up.

Common Errors

You won’t be perfect the first few times you perform these but here are some tips to ensure you are improving your technique.

Perform the exercise in steps:

  1. Lengthen up tall through the crown of your head
  2. Set your pelvis to neutral.  Most people tend to have this anterior pelvic tilt, try to avoid that.
  3. Avoid looking down at the floor, keep your eyes forward.


There are plenty of ways to change your state, it just requires a little effort on your part.  These are not all inclusive, but can start to give you some full body relief consistently.  We offer hundreds of videos in our exercise library for our DOTD Members.  They include all areas of the body.

The point is to explore your body a little.  You’ll a large return in energy, performance and productivity from moving your body.  Just pay attention the signals your body is giving you.

If you can’t perform any mobility, then try changing the context of your position or any emotions that are included, you’ll be surprised what you find.

If you need help, just reach out.

Digging Deeper w/ Missy and Ryan

Digging Deeper w/ Missy and Ryan

We had the pleasure of sitting down with TrainMe Media Studios to dive in a little deeper on our background, what Death of the Desk is and why we do it.

The road to this point is always evolving and changing but the mission behind what we do has stayed the same.  Take a watch, we hope you enjoy.  If you need anything, please reach out.

We’d love to help!

Missy & Ryan

6 Ways To Alleviate Lower Back Pain

6 Ways To Alleviate Lower Back Pain

Oh no, another article about lower back pain (LBP).  I know you’ve probably read them all and heard them all.  Well, I’m definitely not going to sit here and tell you I have the magic pill for LBP because I don’t.  What I will share though, are some strategies that have worked well for many people and give you some options to try.

The thing with back pain is that nobody really knows why people experience it.  Many doctors have declared they have the answer – misalignment to surgical protocols, to everything under the sun has been attempted, yet low back pain is still the second most common cause of disability in US adults.

It accounts for an estimated 149 million lost work days and between 100-200 BILLION dollars annually in lost wages and productivity.

Yes, that is a capital “B” – billion dollars we are leaving on the table because of low back pain.  I’d say it’s a big problem that is only getting worse – even with all the advance in technology.

Why? Because the pain people are experiencing is individual, for individual reasons and if you know anything about pain – it manifests differently in different people for different reasons:

 

  • Some people are in pain because of the amount of stress they experience.
  • Some people hurt because they’ve had an injury that wasn’t rehabilitated correctly.
  • Some people just hate their job and that’s why they experience pain.
  • Some people are overweight and experience joint inflammation.
  • Some people just need to move better and more often.
The goal of this article is not to tell you what will fix your pain, but to give you options to try to help you figure out what combination of protocols work best for you.  We are going to cover many of those reasons above and give some strategies to implement. Ready?

Strategy #1 – Reduce Stress

Stress is never going to fully leave – it’s part of everyone’s lives and is actually good in the right doses.  It’s the tipping point you want to avoid where you feel like you’re overwhelmed, disorganized and lacking enough time in the day to perform.

One of the best ways to prepare yourself for each days is through routine.  I talk about it in the How to Feel Amazing at Work article. Stress comes from every angle – work, money, relationships, lack of recovery, family, nutrition, bills, etc, it’s important to build consistent habits that keep the evils powers of chronic stress at bay.

What You Can Do About It

Take stock in what makes you feel good or happy and fulfilled.  We call this “self care”, simple activities that allow you to recover in mind, body and spirit.  Some simple stress reducing activities can include:

  • Journaling
  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Sport or Hobby
  • Exercise
  • Vacations

This list isn’t extensive but hopefully gives you some ideas to inspire you to take action and practice self-care more often.  Remember, pain is like a bucket of water filling up – when you experience pain, it’s because your bucket is overflowing.  Self care allows to remove the water before it overflows.

Strategy #2 – Just Breathe

Piggy-backing off of stress relief, a great way to reduce stress is with proper breathing mechanics.  I know it seems kind of trivial to talk about breathing but unfortunately, most people breathe all day long in a state of high-stress.

What does this mean?

Well quite simply, you are probably breathing mostly through your mouth and into your chest.  This type of breathing is great if you are about to fight or need to run away from a bear, but breathing this way over the course of days, weeks and years yields pain, problems and even more stress.

Instead, start your day off with some focused breath work.  Practice 10-20 breathes inhaling through the nose into your bell and exhaling through your mouth or if you are feeling tense, take a 5 breathe break.

That’s right, just stop what you’re doing and practice 5 deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth with a slow exhale.

Another great practice If you want to breathe better is to just close your mouth more throughout the day.  Naturally you’ll begin to breathe deeper and slower causing a relaxed feeling.

What You Can Do About It

Here’s a great drill to practice better breathing.  It’s called boxed breathing, have a watch!

Strategy #3 – Move Your Body

This is one of the strategies that we talk about most often because well, it has been shown to be one of the most important activities you can do for chronic back pain, and the only real investment you’re making is time.

You have a couple minutes here and there to move a little bit don’t you? It’s counterintuitive to want to move when you have back pain.  In fact it’s common to avoid any type of physical activity in order to rest and heal, but that’s exactly the opposite of what we recommend.

Physical inactivity can easily delay your recuperation process even longer. What’s important to understand with movement is that you don’t need to do an extreme amount to see benefits.

This is partly why we film and recommend our daily 2-minute drills.  Adding in just 2-minutes of targeted movement/ mobility drills every 30-50 minutes, can have massive benefits to long-term pain and general health.

If you want to add more exercise, by all means.  Studies have shown that exercise like strength, cardiovascular and mobility training yield great results compared to those who are inactive.

I’m not going to give you a whole exercise program but if you want that, we have a program for that. What I’d like to provide though, is a few joint mobility exercises that have worked well for people with back pain and discomfort.

What You Can Do About It

The first 2-minute drill below targets your pelvis and your neck.  The pelvis is the area below your back pain.  If your pelvis isn’t functioning properly, your back can easily bare the brunt of the work. The neck mobility is interesting because neurologically, your cervical spine (neck) and sacrum are connected, so mobilizing both sends good signaling up the spine.

This next exercise we call “Scrape the Barrel” and mobilizes the hips and spine.  It’s so simple, yet works really well for a lot of people.  We’ve seen go from a very high pain level to minimal discomfort just from doing this exercise:
Finally, this is my favorite exercise of all time.  We call it the “Rag Doll”, you’ll understand when you see it.  It feels like a little slice of heaven and directly mobilizes the spine.  Be sure to move slow and don’t forget to breathe!

Strategy #4 – Rest and Reset Your Eyeballs

What do the eyes have to do with this?  Well…a lot.

See, your vision is at the top of the hiearchy of how your brain assesses threat.  If your eyes don’t work very well, then threat goes-up.

If you remember from the Threat Bucket video above, pain can manifest from virtually anything going on in your life – including your inability to see very efficiently.  If you spend your time in front of a screen all day, then chances are, your eyes are not getting any better.

Speaking of screen-time, research shows that Americans spend almost 11 hours per day with their eyes fixated to a screen.  That’s an insane amount of time to be looking at something other than real-life.

What You Can Do About It

Rest and reset your eyes.  Work the muscles the way they were designed to with these exercises.

Without further ado, here are some exercises to rest and reset your eyeballs:

Strategy #5 – Lose Weight

When a talking about pain, we HAVE to consider everything and that includes weight loss for pain and performance.  Excess weight can put a lot stress and load on the joints and tissues of the body.  The reason that this is so important to understand is because of two laws:

Wolff’s Law – states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed.[1] If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading.

 

Davis’s Law – soft tissue models along imposed demands. It is the corollary to Wolff’s law, which applies to osseous tissue. It is a physiological principle stating that soft tissue heal according to the manner in which they are mechanically stressed.[1]

What this means is that when your bones and tissues remodel, they are remodeling to manage stress and load.  This is not indicative to pain and performance but more so to function and survive.  Joint and tissue remodeling can cause a multitude of reasons you experience pain:

  • Pinched nerves
  • Compensations
  • Weakness
  • Postural Deformities
  • Restrictions
  • Capabilities

and much more.

Strategy #6 – Eat Better Food

This goes hand-in-hand with weight loss but is not the only reason.  Food is a chemical reaction in your body and a good indicator that your body doesn’t chive with food is inflammation.

When your body and tissues react with food it’s not suppose to have, you’ll get a reaction.  That reaction is essentially your tissues swelling. Achey joints, stiffness and pain are all reactions from inflammation.

If you change your intake of food into higher quality nutrients, then inflammation goes down.  Because it’s so individualized we recommend getting food sensitivity testing performed so that you have a clear picture of what foods are and aren’t ideal for you and your body.

In general, foods that are high in nutrients are where you want to source your meals from, which we talk about in our Drive2Thrive program.

In closing, we have to look at the body as a whole and not just the part that hurts.  These options are just that – options.  Try some on and see how they feel.  Explore, try, learn and repeat.

Remember, pain is just a signal that you need to change something.  Chances are you just haven’t been changing the right thing in the right amount.

These options work very well for a many people, if you need help, please feel free to reach out to us.  Our online membership has a wealth of resources to help you on your journey.

Eyes, Breathing and Posture – What are you, blind?

Eyes, Breathing and Posture – What are you, blind?

I had the privilege of working with some folks a few weeks back, helping them individually assess their work environments while providing some strategies they can use daily to feel their best.  I worked with about 15 different people but there was a common theme in their pain-points.  They all experienced deficits in their eyes, posture and breathing. These similarities that I noted during these 30 minute assessments also hold true for most people that spend a large chunk of their time seated and staring at computer screens. A staggering amount of people who are required to be in front of a screen experience some form of:

  • Neck pain, tension or soreness
  • Low back pain (LBP), or tightness
  • Eye strain or eye fatigue
  • Low energy or feeling tired

These signs can easily be attributed to the habits being strengthened daily.  We can’t make improvements until we can bring some awareness to these daily practices. It’s an education thing, you don’t know what you don’t know.  If you don’t know what the problem is, how can you ever make changes? You can’t. Let’s take a look at some of those habits and how we can begin changing them.

What are you, blind?

The eyes are massively important to our ability to function in life.  Unfortunately, we don’t function as well as we could or should.  This can easily be linked to vision (and vestibular) issues. Your eyes are your first line of defense for assessing threatening situations, allowing you to perform daily tasks and overall helps the brain process the most amount of sensory information per second. They are also intimately connected to your vestibular system (balance) so if your brain is processing poor information from your eyes then your balance will be affected as well and vice-versa. The reason I bring this up is because your eyes are meant to see up, down, left, right and everything in between.  They also converge, diverge and track objects.  Because these are all skills that need to be practiced, a lot of times office-working and screen-time watching people, lose their ability to perform these skills.

Habit #1

Always looking down and at a screen.

Why this habit needs to be broken:

Essentially what happens is repetitive strain on the eyes leads to irritation, pain, headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, fatigue and more.  The other reason you experience these outcomes is because the eyes just can’t perform simple tasks of assessing threat in the world and send bad signals to your brain. The brain interprets this as threat and then gives you the experience of “pain”.  It’s basically your brains way of telling you to stop whatever it is you’re doing because it feels threatened.  That pain can be manifested anywhere.

How to break the habit:

  • Limit screen-time by setting reminders:
    • Set and alarm or appointment every 50 minutes to get up and do something else for 2-5 minutes.
    • You can also use another person or the need to refill water as a cue to rest those eyes.
  • Pay attention to your spidey-senses  when you begin feeling fatgued or irritated, just stop what you’re doing and reset.  A great exercise is to cup the eyes with your hands while they are closed.  Wait until it’s completely black (1-2 minutes) then open your eys and remove your hands.  It’s a great little visual reset.
  • Work vision skills and acuity by performing eye exercises.  Check out these 2-minute drills we give to desk athletes:

Fighting Gravity

This is a losing battle 100% of the time.  I’m talking about posture here, and not just your standing posture.  Posture is more-so about how you are presenting yourself sitting, standing, walking and performing. Gravity is always working on this planet.  You don’t have enough willpower to fight it for 8-10 hours straight, so you need to fight smarter. What I really mean is that you need to be more educated.  Posture is not just static, it’s more dynamic than you think. Yes, you need to understand what it means to lengthen your spine standing still, but then you need to be able to move with better posture as well. What do you do when I say “fix your posture”?  Most of you will stick your chest out and lift your chin.  While this may seem like it’s better, really what you’re doing is changing the way you are compressing your spine.

Habit #2

Slouching while standing, seated or moving.

Why you need to break the habit:

Slouching causes a lot of spinal compression that eventually can lead to numbness and tingling in the hands and legs, neck and shoulder pain, headaches, back pain and a list of other ailments.  None of these feel good or cause you to be happy. What I’m trying to say is that slouching every once in a while is fine, just as long as you are being intentional about how you’re presenting yourself in life.

How you can break the habit:

  • Set daily reminders to move your body.
  • Change positions often, every 20-30 minutes.
  • Adjust your work station so it’s set-up to keep you from slouching.
  • Practice a lengthened position statically, then dynamically – see below:

Instead, try creating space between your vertebrae and lengthen up through the crown of your head.  Here are some great cues for setup: -“Feet under your hips, toes forward” -“Slightly tuck the tailbone or pelvis until it feels neutral” -“Grow taller through the crown of your head” -“You may need to sightly tuck the chin and lengthen the back of your neck” -Every time you exhale, allow your spine to grow longer while everything else relaxes Practice this first standing, then try to replicate during the seated position (from the torso up).  Once you’ve built an awareness to how this “feels”, then you can begin practicing it as you move through the world, walking, working and performing.

Stop Holding Your Breath

If you just realized you were holding your breath while reading this then you’re not alone. As a society, our breathing is terrible. We live in a predominant state of stress, which forces us into high-stress breathing patterns.

Habit #3

Mouth breathing – you may notice that you breathe through your mouth and into your chest mostly.

Why you need to break the habit:

I mentioned it a little above but mainly breathing is the most autonomous thing you do (don’t have to think about it – automatic).  When you are performing mouth breathing (high-stress breathing pattern) reps all day long, you are teaching and engraining stress into your body. You may know this as the fight or flight response. This will quickly lead to chronic stress and chronic pain.

How to break the habit:

  • Close your mouth and breathe through your nose more often
  • Meditate
  • Taking breathing classes – just google “breathing classes” and a whole host of them online
  • Read deeper into breathing – a great book to pick-up is a book called “The Oxygen Advantage”
  • Check out the video below:

In short, the 3 ares desk athletes want to begin looking at is:

#1 The Eyes

#2 Spinal Position

#3 Breathing

The order can be interchanged but the importance remains the same.  Becoming more aware of the positions your are putting yourself in, or not putting yourself in have detrimental effects to your overall health and performance. Build the awareness, make the necessary changes and reap the benefits of a happier, healthier life.

Movement is Life: Strength Matters Podcast Recap

Movement is Life: Strength Matters Podcast Recap

We had the pleasure of joining Josh Kennedy on the Strength Matters podcast the other day.  It was a lot of fun diving into the nuances of training the desk athlete and all the little things people who live a sedentary lifestyle can benefit from.  We shared with Josh how we got started in the industry, including how Death of the Desk evolved over the last 2 years, as well as some of our biggest challenges we face in this industry.

Missy and I were really excited to speak with Josh and Strength Matters because they are a company that shares a lot of similarities in our mission and a company that’s all about training the everyday athlete (that’s you).  If you get a chance, make sure to pick up a copy of their digital magazine and listen to a few of their podcasts.  Always pure gold information.

We talked about:

  • How much better of a bartender Ryan is than Tom Cruise – yep, he sure was a bartender way back when.
  • Death of the Desk’s mission – of course it’s about moving the sedentary world but it’s so much more than that!
  • How we got started – by chance?  Maybe, maybe not!
  • Breathing – It’s kind of important.
  • This thing called Mechanorception – Feels sooo good if you know how to use it.
  • Best positions to work other than sitting – Do you know the best position to work?
  • Some of our biggest challenges – there are always going to be challenges, but we enjoy it.

What I really love about our talk with Josh was geeking out about all things health.  He’s easy to talk to because he’s spent time in the trenches coaching, not to mention he’s an actor and fight choreographer.  Tons of great information in this podcast interview.  Make sure to subscribe to the Strength Matters Podcast to get access to the full episode.

Enjoy the recap!

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