Structural Balance

This concept was popularized in the 1980s by Charles Poliquin. It basically states that in order for our bodies to perform optimally, and with less injury and pain…we should be pursuing a type of harmony within the size, strength, and weight distribution of our body. 

To help illustrate this, let’s look at some examples of how we can be OUT of balance:

The most common and pertinent application for me and what I’m seeing in my work…is bodies that are top-heavy. This means a body is loaded with weight above the belt, without sufficient building of connective tissues and strength below the belt. This is just asking for foot, knee, and hip pain and problems. This is where building from the ground up is crucial. 

Another example would be an athlete who has a very strong posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, glutes, etc.), but is very weak in front (anterior chain) with their tibialis, quads, and hips. This could pose problems for deceleration, approaching a jump, etc. or lead to shin splints and knee pain. We’re basically creating a body here that can’t absorb all of the force created by its own self. 

If we build up a ton of muscle tissue, but don’t develop the tendons and ligaments along the way, we are asking for joint issues, tears, pain, etc. 

It’s been very popular to train what’s called Triple Extension. ‘Triple’ is connected to extending the foot, knees, and hips. Think of being in a squat position and then jumping up into the air. Most athletes tend to train these movements separately. We could use a calf raise, a leg extension machine for the knee, and a squat or good morning for the hips. BUT, what about Triple ‘Flexion’? We rarely hear of athletes focusing on this…or at least focusing on it as much as on Triple extension. Triple flexion would be tibialis raise for the shin area, a nordic curl for the back of the knee and hamstring, and a reverse squat where we pull our knees up to our chest. What if we hooked our feet up to a cable and weight stack, and actually measured how much we could lift by pulling those knees to chest? It’s not to say ‘don’t squat’. It’s simply to say let’s also give incredible focus to reverse squatting. Athletes find when they do this, their legs feel so much lighter, instead of that heavy footed feel. Triple extension AND triple flexion leads to structural balance. 

If we can push really well with chest and triceps, but can’t pull for crap with back and biceps, we aren’t structurally balanced. 

If a softball pitcher or baseball player throws hundreds of times with one arm every week, but can’t effectively and safely slow that arm down with external rotation strength, they aren’t structurally balanced. On top of that, one side of their body is developing differently than the other, which can certainly lead to pain or injury. 

Lastly, I’ll consider another issue with knees because that is my weakness. If we develop the outer quad muscles (vastus lateralis), but don’t address the inner VMO (vastus medialis) muscle, we are manufacturing and asking for knee issues. The VMO is rarely trained, but is most correlated with a stable and more pain-free knee.  Therefore, leaving it out leaves us out of structural balance. 

Well, how do we get structurally balanced then, one might ask?  We seek out the weak links by trying a few exercises. It doesn’t take long at all! Then, we use our bodyweight, and our main lifts to calculate some ‘Standards’ for all of the other lifts. This lets us know where we stand, and what we should be at least pursuing. Without this information, a young athlete may just think more, more, more is the answer, but then blow out his knee or shoulder because of a clear weakness our imbalance in a noticeable area. 

Now…we MUST say that even the most structurally balanced human could go out, play their sport, or do the activities within their day, and STILL get injured. This isn’t perfection that we’re striving for. Life is hard. Sports are dynamic. There are many unpredictables along the way. But a wise investment, putting money in the bank to make ourselves much more resilient, goes a long way in preventing a good amount of pain and suffering. 

If you’re thinking you may be structurally ‘imbalanced’ in some way…if you’re in pain…if it hurts to play your sport…I’d love to have a conversation with you to see if I can provide value and get you on the right track. 

work/life balance

‘…life is about balance.  The good and the bad.  The highs and the lows.  The pina and the colada.’ – Ellen DeGeneres

 

I haven’t worked since December 1st.  It’s about time to get back at it!  Honestly, I’ve done a couple of things to earn money since then, but for the most part…I’ve been doing other things…things that don’t make me money…things that simply make me feel happy, content…fulfilled.  And while the term ‘work/life balance’ has become overused and perhaps stigmatized, I still pay heavy attention to it, and feel that you should too!

For most of us, it’s simply expected that work at a job will take up the most amount of time in our lives…more than most of the other things we do.  I came to realize that it’s highly beneficial to enjoy the work I’m doing, considering all of the time it takes up.  I also figured out that self-employment can lead me to a place where I can work when I want to, and work how much I want to.

My previous career was teaching English, in which I worked a 190 per year schedule.  I enjoyed the vacation weeks, and the summers off, but it always felt that the job was pulling, looming over me, causing me to still think and stress about it even when I wasn’t there.  I had nightmares about lesson plans (this was early on in my career), and I felt this incredible guilt if I was ever too sick to work a day.  I could never shut it off.  This wasn’t the only reason I quit.  There were many more, and you can read about some of it here.

Before leaving though, I had started a landscaping business called East Concord Grass Roots.  It began as a way to make some more money in the summers after my daughter was born.  But I began to enjoy the freedom and autonomy associated with running my own thing.  I could choose the days I wanted to work.  I could say, ‘no thank you’ to jobs I didn’t want to do.  I could work an extra long day when it fit.

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What I eventually created though, was a schedule in which I was able to stay home with my daughter on Mondays and Wednesdays.  I managed to get my work done on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  3 days per week!  Once in a while, I’ll work a weekend day, but it’s not that often.  So from about April 1 to December 1 (which is 34 weeks), at 3 days per week on average…that’s 102 days per year.  I’m really surprised with that!  I just did the math for the first time right now…and can’t believe it!

Within those (let’s call it) 100 days per year, I’ve been able to make more money than when I was teaching.  That was also a huge surprise to me, as I realized it soon after starting the business.  Now, I certainly don’t make a lot of money, and live quite modestly.  I have a small, old house.  I drive an old car with 220,000 miles on it.  But this is all part of the balance…the decisions…the work and the life.  Taking both into heavy consideration, I’ve found a sweet spot for myself.

Early on in parenthood, I made the decision that I’d put in as much effort (quality and quantity time) as possible…especially in the younger, foundational years.  I’m so happy and proud that I’ve been able to do that.  And as I’ve aged, I’ve come to understand that I love to spend a lot time at home…reading, writing, cooking, creating, working on the house, etc.  These last two winters have really proven to give me plenty of that.  This previous winter was the first that I gave up snow plowing, as it was generally a source of stress and anxiety for me.  I did have to make sacrifices to live more frugally through those months.  But it was a deliberate decision, related to work/life balance, that I made in order to stay happier.  I was able to read and write more than I ever have during that time, and now I truly feel ready to attack another Spring season.

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Work and leisure and family are all so particular depending on who I talk to.  I’m not naive, thinking that anyone reading this should quit their job and start their own business.  I will say though, that I don’t believe that most people give this idea the attention it deserves.  I will also say that I see most people highly stressed by their job, and wonder if they consider the long term and far reaching effects of that…on their own body, life span…and on their children.  I will ask if you’ve given thought to this question:  Can you make enough money in 100 days per year as opposed to 260 days that most people work?  Can you be happier doing so?

Many of us follow the routine, structure, and norms of the current society…and then find ourselves in situations where we ask how we got there.  Maybe we find that we don’t enjoy being there.  We want something else.  I’m just writing this to let you know that if that’s you wondering…there are ways to figure it out.  It’s worth your exploration.  The variables of time and money will certainly run the gamut, depending on your family and the field you work in.  But it’s easy to see, this at-bat that we have in life…this one chance that we get…isn’t about chasing a paycheck or ‘burning the wick at both ends’ because that’s what we’re ‘supposed’ to do.  It’s about trying to achieve a rich and fulfilling period of time based on what it is that you want.

So what is that?

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