The Power of a Corset

In the early centuries, a corset was typically worn as a supportive undergarment that improved posture, supported the spine, and shaped the body into what was then called “ideal proportions.” While corsets used to come in many shapes, sizes, and colors – in today’s world the most important “corset” goes by a single name – the Transverse Abdominis (TrA). 

The TrA is the deepest of the abdominal muscles and acts a girdle around the spine. The TrA responds most to perturbational movement and is the only abdominal muscle that remains activated with resisted extension in the spine (resisted extension often comes with exercises such as lifting a box incorrectly, deadlifts, and a quick jerking motion backwards). The TrA is the first stabilizer that kicks in with any arm/leg movements, and as a result helps limit your risk for injuries. It also aids in stabilizing each bone in your spine; so without this muscle, your spine would just be dancing around, pinching on nerves, and collapsing (almost). 

The take home here is… the TrA is very important! You need this muscle to assist in stabilizing the spine and when it doesn’t do its job… you end up with back pain. The TrA is difficult to control. It doesn’t work like the 6-pack abs you’re used to. Try activating your TrA to reduce your risk of low back pain, improve your core and back stabilization, and reduce your risk for injury.

Transversus Abdominis- photo credit- physiopedia.com

Written by Dr. Emilee Strange, staff PT

How to Make Exercising Fun!

We all know that regular physical activity is an important part of staying healthy, but committing to a regular exercise routine isn’t always easy to do- in fact, sometimes it can seem quite daunting. But it doesn’t have to be! You are more likely to stick to an exercise routine if you enjoy what you are doing and if it is easily accessible/attainable. Check out and explore your options and find something that works for you so exercise becomes part of your everyday life! Below are some ideas on how to make exercise more enjoyable:

  • Make a game out of it
    • Deck of Cards – in this game you turn a 52 card deck into a workout. Take out the Jokers and come up with one exercise for each suit and then shuffle the deck and place it face down. Pick up one card at a time and perform the exercise for that suit for the amount of repetitions designated by the number on the card (*all face cards equal 10 repetitions)
      • Variations can include making the 4 exercises all lower body focused, upper body focused, core focused, etc.  
      • Progressions can involve timing yourself and trying to “beat the clock” the next time you perform that set of exercises. Or you can choose more complex exercises to perform. 
    • Exercise Roulette – for this game, you write down various exercises on individual pieces of paper, fold them in half and toss them in a box/hat/bowl/etc. Once you decide how many exercises to do, you choose that many from the box and to create your workout. Then, you choose how many sets and the duration. A sample workout could be to pick 5 exercises and perform each for 50 seconds with a 10 second rest between each and then repeat that circuit 3 times. 
      • Variations can be similar to those listed in the Deck of Cards explanation.
      • Progressions can involve increasing your “on” time, decreasing your “off” time, or just choosing more exercises to complete.
  • Find a class 
    • In Person – Gyms, fitness centers, and sporting goods stores everywhere provide a wide variety of classes for people of all ages and fitness levels. If you belong to a gym, explore the classes they offer and see if one is a good fit for you. If you don’t belong to a gym, do your research to see what is available in your area (and keep an eye out for programs that may offer a free first lesson or a certain amount of classes at a discount). 
    • Virtual – Since the pandemic, virtual workout classes have been on the rise. You can find practically any kind of exercise/workout class online now and some fitness centers/gyms even have virtual access to lessons. Take some time and browse the web for what might interest you, and be sure to look at all different channels/accounts to see what instructor(s) work best for you. 
  • Meet with a friend/group
    • If you don’t feel comfortable going to a group class for whatever reasons, try meeting up with a friend or two to exercise. This will help pass the time and keep you accountable.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan

Why Should I Strengthen my Core?

Your core muscles are important for strength, balance, and overall function. Having a strong core helps to decrease the likelihood of developing back pain due to muscle compensation. There are many core exercises that can be performed in a variety of positions. You can even contract your core while performing any exercise of your choice to make the exercise into a core strengthening exercises.

Here is a core strengthening exercise you can perform anywhere to strengthen your core muscles.

  1. Assume a push-up position but bend your arms at your elbows so your weight rests on your forearms.
  2. Tighten your abs, clench your glutes and keep your body straight from head to heels.
  3. Start by holding the exercise for 10 seconds and build from there.

Make sure you are breathing while performing this exercise.

Tracking Your Heart Rate With Exercise

During exercise you can track how hard you are working by your heart rate. Find your maximum heart rate by using the equation 220- your age.

For moderate intensity exercise, aim for a heart rate of 64%-76% of your maximum heart rate.

For high intensity exercise, aim for a heart rate of 77%-93% of your maximum heart rate.

If you perform the same cardiovascular exercise at the same intensity and time frame, as you track your heart rate you will notice it will not get as high overtime. This is because your cardiovascular fitness is improving. You want to progress your exercise every approximate week to continue to challenge yourself and improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Dr. Taylor checking her heart rate during exercise

Is Muscle Soreness Normal After Exercise?

The answer is YES! Muscle soreness after exercise is called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This happens when you exercise a muscle that has not been used stressfully in awhile. The soreness results from tearing and or stress on the muscle fibers and as the body repairs these small tears your muscles become stronger. After exercise, you will normally feel muscle soreness anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after the activity. The intensity of the muscle soreness you experience will depend on how intense your workout was and if that muscle group has experienced a workout before of this variety/intensity.

If your symptoms of muscle soreness linger longer than 72 hours and either get worse or stay the same, then you want to consult with a medical professional. The reason for this is your exercise possibly caused a muscle strain, ligamentous sprain, or injury.

How To Make Consistent Exercise Goals That Stick

With the new year upon us, everyone is setting out to start on those New Year’s Resolutions. Every year, exercise and practicing healthier habits are always in the top few resolutions and so we at Harbor PT want to give you some tips on how to make those resolutions into habits and help you create a healthier and happier life!

1. Set realistic goals – while the goal of going to the gym 7 days a week sounds great, it is best to be honest with yourself  and set goals based on your daily schedule and current fitness/health level. Setting too lofty of a goal can sometimes become overwhelming and lead to discouragement or can lead to injury.

2. Join a class- finding a form of exercise that works for you is important and joining a class can make exercise fun, hold you accountable, and teach you safe exercise habits all while being in a group of people with similar interests and goals.

3. Have a fitness buddy- setting fitness/health goals with a friend can make working toward your goals less intimidating and more enjoyable and make you more accountable. You don’t necessarily have to make the same exact goals, but even working toward similar goals as a team can help make the process more effective and enjoyable.

4. Start small- you can set a big goal for yourself, but as stated above, it is important to be realistic and to be honest while setting your goals. If you want to set that big goal, try breaking down that goal into smaller milestones; this will help keep you motivated while making progress.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help- starting something new is exciting but it can also be a little intimidating. But there are always people around to help you reach your goals. Whether that be a friend to help motivate you, a dietician to help you make smart choices in changing your nutrition, a personal trainer to help ensure safe exercise, or a physical therapist to help address a current/chronic injury so that you can continue exercising safely, there is always help available, so use it to your advantage.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Electrolyte Essentials

While we all know that it is important to drink enough water (sweating or not), what some people don’t know is that sometimes water isn’t enough to keep us hydrated as we sweat during exercise.

When we sweat, we aren’t just losing water, we are also losing what are called electrolytes. Electrolytes are essential minerals to the body that help maintain the body’s internal functioning (keeping a proper pH balance and ensuring proper nervous system functioning), keep our muscles performing properly, and ensure adequate hydration.

Sports drinks are commonly used to help replenish electrolytes after a big sweat session, but before you go grab a Gatorade or Powerade, make sure you look at the nutrition label. Make sure the sports drink, or other electrolyte solution, isn’t high in sugar. The increased sugar levels may make the drink taste better, but it won’t be as helpful hydrating you.

Not a sports drink fan? No problem, there are other alternatives to gaining back those lost minerals. Fruits and veggies that are high in calcium, potassium and magnesium are good go to’s. And while sodium (salt) is also something we need to replenish after a workout, don’t reach for the bag of chips, but rather have a handful of nuts or a small bowl of pretzels.

Written by Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Let’s Run

A lot of people ask, “does my running form matter?”. The answer is YES. And while there is not one “right” way to run, there are certain elements of your form that you should be aware of to help you get the most out of your run. Making these small adjustments to your form may also help you begin to see an increase in your breathing ability, endurance and speed during your runs.

  1. Head – keep your head and neck in a neutral position to decrease the strain on your neck.
  2. Shoulders and Arms -keep your shoulders relaxed, keep your arms slightly bent at the elbow, don’t let your hands come up above your chest, avoid crossing your arms in front of you (this will help with your breathing?and avoid cramps!).
  3. Trunk- while you run you should keep a slight forward trunk lean to help propel your body forward, forward lean does NOT equal hunching, hunching over should always be?avoided to help optimize breathing.
  4. Knees- be sure to drive your knees up and forward to help propel you forward and also help avoid tripping.
  5. Feet and Ankles- try to land on your midfoot/forefoot when running rather than your heels (this will help keep you moving forward and avoid increase force/stress going up your leg).

If you or someone you know is interested in a running assessment please do not hesitate to contact us and one of our PTs would be happy to help you!

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Rules of Stretching

As you exercise and play sports, do you take time to stretch? As most people are short on time, the first thing to get cut from a workout is the stretching component. As physical therapists, we recommend that you don’t cut the stretching out as this can lead to an injury. Check out the stretching rules below to learn what you should focus on when you stretch:

  1. Perform a dynamic stretch (no holds) prior to your workout that mimics the sport or exercise you are about to participate in.
  2. Perform a dynamic stretch for a minimum of 5 minutes prior to your workout.
  3. After your work out, perform static stretches (hold stretches).
  4. Perform static stretches in all the major muscles groups you just used during your workout.
  5. Hold static stretches for 15-60 seconds for 2 repetitions each.

In summary, you can complete dynamic and static stretching for your workout in approximately 10 minutes. That 10 minutes is crucial to not skip as this could save you from an injury that could last weeks or months.

Written by Dr. Amanda Macht- owner of Harbor Physical Therapy

3 Easy Stretches for Heel Pain

If you suffer from heel pain, it may be caused by a condition called plantar fasciitis. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that runs along the sole of the foot from your heel to your toes. Repeated stress to the foot can cause inflammation to that band and cause sharp pain in your heel. This pain may feel worse first thing in the morning or when you are on your feet for long periods of time.

One part of treatment for plantar fasciitis includes stretching the tissue and muscles in the foot and calf to decrease tension around the heel. When performing these stretches, try to hold them for 30 seconds each, repeat 3 times, and perform them 2-3 times a day.

Seated Stretch- while sitting with your foot crossed over your other leg, pull your foot and toes back towards you.

Runner’s Stretch- while standing in front of a wall, place the foot that hurts back behind you and push your heel towards the ground.

Stair Stretch- while standing on the edge of a step, drop your heels down until a stretch is felt in the calves.

If you would like to learn more about how to get rid of your heel pain, contact Harbor Physical Therapy