5 Essential Self Care Tips for Better Muscle and Joint Health

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Think about how you are sitting or standing right now – and the posture you are in. Is this a posture you are frequently in? What muscles are activating in this posture? Over time the muscles that work more than others can exert pulling forces across our joints, causing imbalances we’re not aware of – and that show up when we’re training as well if we’re not aware of them.

Learn more about caring for your muscles and joints in today’s episode, and how common movements create patterns so you can bring your awareness to your own daily postures and stay safe and strong while you’re training.

In this episode I’m exploring…

Why stretching and mobility works benefits you around your workout sessions – especially in menopause
⭐ The difference between mobility and flexibility and why they’re both so important
⭐ How our estrogen levels impact or muscle health
⭐ Review of our daily posture and alignment, and how that impacts our movement patterns
⭐ Bringing our postural awareness to our exercise routine
⭐ Specific tips for supporting the rotator cuff, a commonly imbalanced joint
⭐ Overview of the pelvis, and how it can get out of alignment
⭐ Types of therapy that addresses different body tissues and conditions
⭐ Follow up tips to take the best care of yourself

Links to follow up from this episode:

  • Free Foundations of Functional Fitness video series which covers:
      • Posterior chain activation
      • Intro to the rotator cuff
      • Pushing and pulling foundations
      • Squat, lunge and deadlift foundations and form
      • Barefoot training tutorial
      • Mobility and yoga foundationsFree Foundations of Functional Fitness video series which covers:
  • Betty Rocker training programs, balanced and optimized for women in different life stages
  • Rock Your Life home workout studio and women’s fitness program for women in their cycling years, in perimenopause and post-menopause

Episode Transcript

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The Betty Rocker (00:16):

What’s up, rockstar Coach Betty Rocker here. Thanks so much for joining me. It’s great to get to spend some time with you today. I was just thinking about, you know, how often we just jump into a workout and then when we’re done we race on to the next thing on our list. <laugh>, in this super busy world with endless to-do lists, it’s really easy to forget that the vessel that carries us through all of it really does need some tending. Sometimes the only time we spend in our bodies is the time we spend exercising, but really taking the time to care for our bodies actually sets us up to have better results from our workouts, to live longer and to experience a lot less injuries and setbacks, and also to come back stronger after we’ve maybe had an injury or a setback. So, you know, developing more proactive self-care practices may not sound like the fast track to fitness, but I assure you it is an essential component, especially once we hit perimenopause and key hormones, particularly estrogen start to decline.

(01:18)
We just don’t bounce back as quickly from our workouts at that point. We wanna, you know, really start paying attention to not over training as we were talking about in another recent podcast. And we also wanna start just paying more attention to the health of our joints as we’re making less collagen and elastin than we used to. Any stage in life is a good time to be proactive with keeping your muscle tissue healthy, but it is really essential for women in peri and post menopause. You may need a little more of a warmup even before your workouts than you used to. And if you’re training at a higher volume as in resistance training with heavier weights or doing a lot of high intensity interval training, you definitely wanna be warming up going into your workout as this will really help stimulate that synovial fluid that lubricates your joints and warms up the surrounding tissue so that you can just move better.

(02:10)
And sometimes, you know, you can use the beginning of a workout to warm up by easing into it at a low intensity. That’s a really great and easy way to have a warmup. But if you have the time, you know, try getting on a foam roller and spending a few minutes warming up the fascial connective tissue and preparing for your training or do some dynamic warmup moves that stimulate the muscles you’re preparing to train and, and just mobilize your joints a little bit. So if you’re resistance training, for instance, it’s always advisable to do a lighter set when you’re just starting out. And if you’re not sure what to do for a warmup, take a cue from the workout itself and simply perform some of the moves of the workout with your own body weight and, and stretch and bend and move around dynamically or at a lower intensity than plan to train at.

(03:00)
I definitely don’t suggest a lot of static stretching before a workout. You wanna save that for after your workout when your muscles are already warm. And speaking of post-workout, that is a great time to do that. Cool down stretch, your muscles are warm from your workout so you can hold your stretches longer and just breathe into them more. And this is a really healthy way to transition from an intense workout session and bring your heart rate down. And it also supports your joint health and your mobility. And mobility just means the range of motion a joint can go through. Flexibility is the amount we can stretch our muscles since muscle connects to tendons that cross joints, mobility and flexibility are really intimately connected and we want to address them both in our self-care. Our estrogen levels impact the stretch capacity of our ligaments and tendons and our ability to strengthen our muscle tissue.

(03:51)
So as those levels start to decline, along with the declining levels of collagen that help support the cartilage and bone tissue, we wanna be thinking about our regular practices that support our muscle and joint health. That’s why adding things like mobility drills or yoga sessions on rest days is really great too because you know, improving your flexibility helps your muscle tissue stay supple and responsive to resistance training and keeps your joints healthy too. If you’re following one of my Rock Your Life Challenge programs, not only do you have custom tracks for every program based on which stage of life you are in, you have dedicated practices for self-care, like yoga and mobility built right into your training programs. Plus you also have access to the entire class library that includes tons of stretching videos, mobility drill classes, and yoga practices. So you can always just add that in as a bonus.

(04:44)
I also wanna mention that you know, staying hydrated is really important for your muscle and joint health as well. So keep drinking water throughout the day and drink more when you’re exercising. And I’m sure you know the importance of regular movement throughout the day, but it’s worth mentioning that we wanna be mindful of our posture in our day-to-day life. Since you’re here with me right now, let’s take a moment and just kind of check in with ourselves, tune into the posture you’re sitting in or standing in as you are listening to me. Maybe you’re walking or driving or doing something else, but you can definitely just tune into your posture and notice how are you holding your head and neck and what posture are your shoulders in? How are your hips right now? Since our eyes are in front of our heads, most of the things we do in our day-to-day life happen in front of us.

(05:32)
So we have this sort of forward motion tendency from driving to shoveling the snow and raking the leaves to gardening, using our computer, eating, sitting on the couch, drinking tea. We’re always in these forward facing positions with our arms in front of ourselves. So if you sit at a desk or a computer for work, you wanna think about the posture you’re in there. And if you frequently are looking down at your phone, you wanna really think about the posture that your head and neck and your shoulders get into because the muscles that are working while you do all of those things in front of you are your chest muscles and the other muscles in the front of your body that make those forward actions. And that’s just fine. They’re meant to do all of those actions. But what happens when we’re in those postures for long periods of time and we don’t use the muscles on the opposite side of our body as much, is we start to get a bit stronger in the muscles that work all the time and a bit weaker in the muscles that don’t do very much work.

(06:32)
And we also start to take on these sort of habitual postures of those positions in our activities outside of our work or outside of the times we’re habitually in them. And we start to create these patterns in our bodies and the muscles that are a little more used start to pull more on the bones that they attach to. So we’ll, we’ll keep talking about the shoulders as an example. That shoulder joint or your rotator cuff is a very shallow ball and socket joint. So you can picture the head of the humerus as the ball head and it sits in this very shallow dish of your shoulder and, and we have this nice wide range of motion that’s available at that joint as a result, right, that that joint can move very freely in a nice big circle. And the stability of this joint relies on the muscles that come and surround that joint from all of these different angles.

(07:23)
And some of the muscles that attach to your shoulder come from your chest, some come from your back and some come from underneath your arm in your armpit area. And it’s the relative strength of these muscles to each other that impacts the stability of this joint. So back to our example, if we’re always using the front body muscles because we see in front of us and rarely using the back body muscles, the shoulder joint slowly becomes imbalanced because we’re inadvertently strengthening those front body muscles constantly and the things we do without using the back muscles as much. And that’s where that relative strength starts to become unstable. You can probably picture an elderly person, someone who walks with their head tilted forward and their shoulders rounded forward. And this is an example of what can happen to us over time when we’re in postures of forward motion. So chronically with very little to no action in the opposing direction. So you know, what’s the solution? Well, first we can just tune in when we’re sitting for long periods of time and simply reset our posture by bringing those shoulders back and down opening our chest. Maybe you wanna take a nice deep breath in right now with me,

(08:37)
Take another nice deep breath in. And on this next breath notice as you breathe, how that buoys your chest opens you up, naturally brings your shoulders back and down. Do that again.

(08:52)
And the next breath that you do with me as you breathe out, just hold your body in that position that you felt as you breathed in and you expanded your chest. So go ahead and do one more nice deep breath. And then just as you exhale, notice the position of alignment that your body can come into as you breathe, as you take that nice deep breath. And remember that breathing more fully and deeply is really helpful for our body and, and our brain and our thinking capacity. So we really wanna be careful of not being in that chronic rounded head forward, chronic rounded, shoulder forward collapsed chest, which impacts our breath and our ability to get enough oxygen and, and we can get up and we can stretch our chest open more, which helps relieve and relax those hardworking muscles. And, and you might not feel like they’re working super hard because of course you’re, you’re just at your desk or you’re looking at your phone or all of the things that you’re doing with your hands in front of you, they aren’t specifically exercise, but these repetitive motions over time do call on those muscles more than the other muscles that surround the shoulder joint.

(09:59)
So going beyond that, we wanna just start more mindfully training and strengthening those back body muscles in our exercise routines. And being mindful we’re not over training our front body muscles in those same exercise routines because what I see happen sometimes are things like pushup challenges or plank challenges, and suddenly we pile on top of our daily posture of forward motion and exercise that also targets those same muscles for like the next 30 days contributing to further imbalance. Or, you know, say we start a new workout program, even a balanced one, but because we’re not thinking of how we’re using our bodies daily outside of the gym or outside of our workouts, we end up developing more strength in the front side of our body and the backside never catches up. We might have an imbalance from playing a sport when we were younger or an old injury that never quite got better.

(10:51)
Sometimes people will even feel pain in their shoulder when they’re working out and ignore it, thinking that that’s the good pain you’re supposed to get from exercise. But actually we’re just targeting the same muscles that have continued to be overworked from our daily activities and even our job and the back body muscles can’t keep up and they remain unable to structurally balance out the shoulder joint. So we end up with an even more compromised joint and that misalignment starts in the shoulder and then it starts to translate down into the elbow or even the wrist because when we do those pushups for instance, and our shoulder isn’t in the right position, say it’s forward, we’re also now weight bearing down through the elbow joint and into the wrist joint in a compromised position. This is not inevitable of course, and it’s not happening to every single person.

(11:35)
I just share this specific example with the shoulder joint because rotator cuff injuries are so common. And I think it really helps to hear how things can develop because it’s not just the shoulder joint where this series of events can play out. I’m just using it as an example. I mean, think about legs and your hips and pelvis and the motions that you use day to day. Maybe you’ve even had a past injury and have scar tissue buildup that restricts your movement patterns or a car accident that impacted your range of motion. The bottom line is that what we wanna do is bear weight on a aligned joints, whether we’re just walking around bearing our own body weight or we’re loading ourselves up with dumbbells or barbells because our muscle and skeletal systems are interconnected as the muscles connect to our bones. So if muscle develops in an imbalanced way across a joint and not only pulls that joint in the direction of the stronger side, it can also create these compensating movement patterns throughout other parts of your body as well as pain.

(12:37)
And this is why we just really wanna tune in and be more aware of our daily posture and alignment as well as the alignment we’re in with our workouts and our regular proactive self-care practices like stretching and our mobility drills and all of these helpful tips that we were talking about. Now in case the shoulder happens to be a joint that you personally wanna bring more stability to, you could tune into moves that I teach a lot like cactus arms. That’s where you either lie on your back or stand against a wall with your arms back in a cactus position or goalpost position, and then you slowly raise them up and down while your elbows, wrists, and shoulders are touching that surface. And you notice how this opens and stretches your chest while also activating your back muscles. You can also start adding in more rows of all types, like wide grip rows, high pull rows, narrow grip rows, single arm rows and moves like reverse flies, superwoman lifts, swimmers, all of those moves that target and strengthen your back muscles.

(13:40)
And you’ll see these in all of my different workout programs. There are basic moves that I really love to do frequently where you stand just with your arms out at your sides at shoulder height and you point your thumbs behind you and pulse them back. This is gonna engage the muscles between your shoulder blades as well and open and stretch your chest. You can also do that same position holding a stretchy band to give yourself a little more resistance to pull against and even further engage those back muscles. So all of those types of exercises can really help you to activate the opposing muscles in your shoulder joint that act in the opposite direction of that forward movement. And that can really help you start to bring balance into the shoulder, uh, and the rotator cuff. You can also tone down the intensity of chest exercises in your training program if you’re working towards balancing out that back body strength.

(14:34)
If this is something that you think affects you, you can just more mindfully stretch your chest muscles, especially if you sit for long periods. Like if you’re working with your arms in front of you at a computer and you know, just start to really be more mindful of, of the, of how intensely you’re, you’re doing chest exercises in combination with back strengthening exercises in your overall workout plan. You might wanna tone it down on the chest stuff and maybe tone it up with the the back stuff that can be really helpful. So this this, if this applies to you, I just wanted to share this since we were talking about rotator cuff and, and that’s something that’s really common for a lot of people. Remember, if you are sitting and working for long periods of time, you really want to tune into your shoulder alignment, bring your shoulders back and down, do that breathing activity that we just did together a few minutes ago.

(15:26)
Reset your head and bring it upright if you’re sort of rounding or dropping it forward. Look at your position of your computer if you’re looking at a computer a lot and make sure that it’s at eye level and you’re not having to look down. You wanna get up and stretch and move around a little bit more. And you know, your head and neck are a big part of this conversation, that habitual forward head posture can be a huge problem for people that causes headaches and neck pain. So really work on your body awareness and your workouts of keeping your head and neck aligned with your spine and bring that into your daily life as well. All of the muscles in our bodies that act on joints have an agonist and antagonist or muscles with opposing actions like flexion and extension. This helps create stability around your joints, your biceps and your triceps are one example that’s easy to picture.

(16:14)
Your quads and hamstrings are another one. And both of those examples cross two joints so the biceps and triceps attach across your shoulder and elbow joint, for instance. So imbalances in the shoulder joint can impact the way you’re using those muscles, which is one of the reasons I say instability in the shoulder can translate down into your elbow and even your wrist. Your quads and hamstrings cross both the hip and the knee joint. So if you sit a lot, your hamstring is in a shortened position and your quads are in a lengthened position. And over time that shortened hamstring can pull your pelvis out of alignment, causing back pain and restriction of your range of motion. So you might consider the position your feet are in throughout the day. How is the footwear you have on and how is that impacting your foot and ankle alignment and how is that translating up through your knee and into your pelvis?

(17:03)
If you’ve come to any of my classes, you probably have seen me training barefoot. And one of the reasons I do this is because I just find it easier to balance and bring strength into my feet and ankles when they’re moving freely throughout my workouts. Without the interference of like a typical sneaker, I sometimes will wear a barefoot shoe, which also allows my toes to separate because that’s another part of foot stability and ankle stability. And when your toes are able to separate, say you’re jumping, it’s the muscles in between your toes that were made to actually absorb shock from weight bearing moves. Now of course, the body wasn’t really made to jump on really hard non-GI surfaces like concrete or asphalt and a sneaker can really help provide some of that shock absorption that we need if we’re on those types of surfaces a lot.

(17:50)
But you know, if you aren’t jumping on a hard surface, you might not need that same amount of absorption. And if you can begin to strengthen your feet and you do try, decide to do some barefoot training, I I just really suggest easing into it. And don’t, don’t just start all, all at once because your feet will need a little time to develop the strength. And you’ll also wanna tune into your foot alignment, just like we’re talking about with any of these other joints. And we just wanna make sure that we may have some, some patterns in our feet and underdeveloped muscles that make it harder to be stable as we’re starting out. So that’s just an area to experiment with and take slow. But the bottom line is your feet and their alignment, whether you’re barefoot or in a shoe, is going to influence the way that your knee joint lines up and the way that your pelvis lines up.

(18:36)
The pelvis may seem like a fixed sort of tilted bowl, but actually it’s separate bones that are connected by really strong ligaments and it can move and shift. For instance, if you’ve had kids, there’s a specific hormone release to relax the muscles and joints and ligaments during pregnancy and help your body stretch and accommodate the birth. However, after you’ve had kids, the pelvis may not have simply gone right back to its original position and it can be slightly rotated or a bit off kilter. Something similar can happen to the pelvic bones if you’ve been in a car accident or had an injury. And unless you’ve received care to realign those structures, it may end up staying that way or kind of coming back to haunt you. That’s actually my situation. I still go to physical therapy to help me overcome some of the patterns that happen in my pelvis from old car accidents and motorcycle crashes I had in my teens and twenties.

(19:28)
And speaking of physical therapy, that’s just one of the ways that you may wanna consider addressing underlying concerns that you may have. Getting some hands on care can be such a game changer. Both, you know the things you learn about your movement patterns and the way it helps you get more aligned. The tricky thing about getting hands on care can be that every state and country too has different types of training and requirements for different kinds of practitioners and on what types of therapeutic practices they can use in your care. So the type of practitioner who can help you the most can vary depending on your needs and where you live. And of course your health insurance if it covers it or if you know you’re looking for coverage. Many practitioners go really do go above and beyond getting continuing education and have more than one tool in their toolkit or they’re working with complimentary practitioners out of their office.

(20:16)
For instance, a chiropractor is, is going to adjust your bones, but if your muscles attach to your bones and they are patterned a certain way or you are chronically overtrained in one direction, those muscles will continue to pull the bones out of alignment and exert their pulling pressure. If you’re only seeing a chiropractor who only works on your bone alignment, you’ll probably need to keep seeing them. You know, some chiropractors offer complimentary treatments to address soft tissue concerns or have that type of care available right in their office. And you may also see a massage therapist for relaxing purposes or for them to work on your muscle tissue. There are many different types of specialties within the massage field as well. If you’re looking for specific structural work that addresses muscular imbalances, I, I recommend looking for medical massage, myofascial release trigger point or sports massage and soft tissue manipulation that specifically addresses your condition.

(21:11)
Physical therapy also does have a lot of specialties within it, that’s why I bring it up a lot. You might think of it primarily as rehab for an injury and that’s certainly one of the ways it can serve you and that’s how a lot of people get introduced to it. But you can also seek it out as a proactive hands-on approach to supporting you as an active woman to check on your movement patterns, address any imbalances that you’re dealing with, which could come from having a dominant side and overusing those muscles or daily movement patterns like we talked about before. Or, you know, checking in on old injury patterns that you’ve corrected but can kind of come back to haunt you later in life if you aren’t diligent in keeping up with your balance and training or just as the, the body ages and we have less, you know, reserves to, to handle the pressures and forces in our bodies.

(21:57)
Often a a physical therapist is somewhat interdisciplinary in their approach and they can test your movement patterns and prescribe corrective exercises to help you reset your patterns and do hands-on work to release stuck bones and muscle tissue and address imbalances around your joints. Other types of protect practitioners can also do a lot of these things. So it just really depends on the practitioner. I see my PT every couple of months and I am often reviewing my movement patterns and things that I do regularly for training, like squats and deadlifts just to ensure that any of my old patterns, especially my pelvis aren’t pulling me out of alignment or putting me in a compromised position. I’m often checking in with my shoulder alignment as well because I, my right side is my dominant side, so I tend to have a little bit more of a rotation on that side.

(22:45)
That’s why I’m often teaching you mobility drills and how to open up and test your rotator cuff and, and open up your shoulder joint. These are really important things to practice regularly yourself and be proactive about so that if you do go see somebody, I mean, any great practitioner is going to give you homework and ask you to do things on your own. Any great doctor is gonna be asking you about the lifestyle choices that you’re making around their care because that’s only going to make what they give you more effective. So get the most bang for your buck if you are spending the money and going to see anyone to take the steps to be proactive in your own self-care as much as you can so that you can really get that, that benefit out of, out of the work that you’re, that you’re doing in the time you’re spending.

(23:31)
It’s just a good idea to have someone like that if you’re coming back from an injury to make sure that you get stronger safely and you aren’t going too fast or compromising that healing tissue. And really, if you choose to work with any type of hands-on professional, remember that it should feel supportive and that you can change practitioners if it’s not a good fit, you’re in control. While you may not need to see anybody at all, I do want you to be aware of your body and the regular posture and movement patterns you are in. So after you finish listening to this show today, be sure you keep bringing your awareness to how you move and the alignment of your body and your workouts. If you’re training with me and my coaches in one of my programs or you’re in Rock Your Life, we’ll continue to offer you really specific form cues and help you stay present in your body through all of the workouts that we do together.

(24:18)
But remember to use those tips outside of your workouts as well in your daily life as you’re sitting and bending and standing and carrying things. Use good form and just stay proactive with your self-care stretch and do your yoga days and your mobility days and stay hydrated. I highly recommend using my Foundations of Functional Fitness Workshop series. It’s free it, it’s a series of videos you can follow over 14 days where each day we break down for you different key movements like deadlifts, squats, pushing, pulling, barefoot training, yoga foundation’s, core and back activation, and so much more. It’s a great way to really immerse yourself in the form you wanna be tuning into when you train so that you can stay safe and healthy over time at every age. You can find that over@thebettyrocker.com slash ff or just go to my website and scroll down towards the bottom of the page.

(25:09)
You’ll see the spot to sign up right there, and you’ll get it sent to you daily as an email with a video you can follow. And of course, if you’re in Rock your Life, this entire course is built right in along with all the other bonus courses and materials so you can reference at any time. And hey, thanks so much for spending this time with me today. Rockstar. I hope this gave you some good insights and reasons to be more proactive with your self-care and I, I really look forward to connecting with you again very soon. So until next time, I’m Betty Rocker and you are so awesome blossom and amazing. Bye for now. 

This episode brought to you by Rock Your Life!

Rock Your Life is my online workout studio that you can attend from anywhere you are, and access workout challenge programs, healthy recipes, and get coaching and support in our private women’s fitness community for all 4 Pillars of Health. We provide support and strategies for women in training with their cycle, training in perimenopause and training in menopause.

All of our workouts and training programs include a strong focus on form and alignment to keep you healthy and balanced. You’ll find workout classes to take a la carte of all types, including strength training, HIIT, kickboxing, yoga, barre, mobility and more!

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