CARs, joint health, and why you should care.

OK, so maybe you have seen me now doing daily CARs on FaceBook Live and Instagram every morning. But you aren’t sure what they are or even if you really want to do it let alone watch and listen… Fair enough… So for the skeptics I’m putting a little bit in writing. First question: “What the heck are CARs and why should I care?”

CARs – Controlled Articular Rotations. Basically the biggest circle you can make with each of your joints. We move cervical spine, thoracic spine, and flex/extend full spine. Then we rotate scapula, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles and toes. But we aren’t just swinging around in a circle…..

Force. Using force by implementing full body isometrics, you can push yourself to find the outer limit of your joint space capacity. We are all born with big, healthy joint space, but lack of use related to a modern sedentary lifestyle, a lifetime of injuries, overuse, or improper mechanics all make that joint space smaller through atrophy over time. It’s not age that makes us less mobile… it’s lack of use. But there is hope…

Joints are tissue. Just like muscle and bone, which are also considered tissues, that we all know we have to stress (through weight lifting or weight bearing) in order to maintain or build strength. Likewise, your joints also need “stress” for the same reason. When you don’t put stress on your joints (and I’m NOT talking bench press stress here), then the brain tells the tissue that its not necessary and atrophy occurs. Don’t use it. Lose it. (see a theme here?)

Second Question: “Why can’t I just use weightlifting, cardio or yoga and pilates to improve joint health?”

While all those are important to address your mental and physical wellbeing, none of them address joint health. Really they are all skeletal or cardiac muscle-related. Both of which can be maintained in a healthy state with high blood flow from those activities. But your joints don’t get much blood flow. They are difficult to maintain, difficult to improve and yet without them, you can’t actually do any of those other things that bring quality to your life be it tennis, walking the dog, throwing a ball with the kids or weightlifting, cardio, yoga or pilates.

Injuries that drive you to your Orthopedic Surgeon though are almost always joint function related. Torn rotator, hip impingement, ACL tear, golfer’s elbow, etc. Most often these occur from too much of your favorite activities and not enough of the baseline work that CARs (and FRC/Kinstretch) provide. Knowing that these injuries take significant amounts of time to heal if at all, surgery is often recommended. And your Orthopedic Surgeon knows that that’s a slippery slope. You stop doing the activities you love, you get depressed sometimes the pain doesn’t quite go away, so you do less. More pain. Less activity. And maybe even more depression. It’s well documented and known pattern…..

So that should put two thoughts in your head…. One, how do I stop the injury in the first place, and two, if I have to have surgery how do I prevent recurrence or migrating issues (both of which are VERY common!).

Start with CARs. Build a baseline. Hold on to that baseline by working your joints for 20 minutes every day. Then look at your injuries, past surgeries, lifestyle and make plan to rebuild, protect and even make yourself better. I’m not here trying to sell a program that you have to do with me for life… I want to teach you CARs so you can self-assess your body every day. You should be in charge and you should know what’s working and know what’s not. I’m here to give you homework should you be released from physical therapy but not feel “right” about getting back to those activities. But bottom line is, I know what it’s like to be told I should stop the activities, and I know how depressing that made me feel. So don’t give up hope… and maybe give those morning CARs on Facebook or Instagram a try.


Your body is not ready…

So yesterday I played tennis for the first time in two months and the little blister on my toe got me thinking this morning. This is not a judgement post as to whether you decided to play or not play during this weird time, but it is about a word of warning to those of you that have not played tennis in a while. Your body is not ready….

Maybe you kept doing your workouts at home, maybe you took up running, maybe you did zoom workouts through your gym, but ask yourself how tennis-specific were those workouts? Tennis is a unique sport and as many a tennis physio will tell you it’s quite difficult to prepare for the rigors of tennis without just using hours on the court to build up some of that endurance. And I’m not talking hours of cardio-type endurance (although that’s important too if your only workouts lately have been walks with the kids), but I’m talking repetitive movements like pushing off your outside leg and hip or whipping your racquet around with your arm and torso. For the amateur tennis player, these are not things we work on off-court.

What’s my point? Before you go rushing out there to play as the courts start to open up again, keep two things in mind. Don’t go out there and try to make up for two months of lost court time by playing every day for four hours a day…. um, yes, we tennis players are all a little crazy like that, me included! (Although as a personal trainer, I’m an anomoly as I kinda dig on those physio exercises that prevent injuries.) Ease back in and give your body time to reacclimate.

Second, start doing some preventative measures now. Think shoulders, hips, elbows and ankles. If you are a tennis player, you probably have an orthopedic surgeon on speed dial or a physical therapist at the very least. Think back to the exercises you were given to keep your weaker or injured parts healthy and get back to doing those asap. It will save you from being sidelined off the courts with an injury after two months off for a pandemic. There are lots of resources out there if you don’t know what to do either. Just do something. Or you might need more than just a band-aide for your toe.

Take care, and play safe.


Learn, Do, Teach

I have a theory I live by. Surely not original, but its one I’ve adopted over the years. For everything I want to get better at, I try to do one thing to learn, one action to practice and one effort to teach or reiterate what I’ve learned to help solidify it in my brain or body. During this downtime, I’m working at expanding my FRC practice into Kinstretch by learning and doing first. I was introduced to FRC or Functional Range Conditioning last fall when I started learning from some Physical Therapists about how to fill the gap between acute injury requiring a PT and rebuilding and maintenance that can be taught by an educated Personal Trainer. FRC is does just that by expanding your range of motion at the same time as building the strength to support that new range.

How does that apply to real life? Our bodies are strongest in our mid-range. So think about when you are lifting a heavy box. You wouldn’t lift it with your arms straight, nor would you lift it with your biceps completely flexed to your shoulder… you are going to lift from mid-range with your elbow at 90 degrees because our muscles can do the most work, safely from mid range. So we like to train at these mid-ranges because they are comfortable and they feel good.

Now… you are out playing tennis and a fast volley comes at you at an odd angle, it happens in an awkward position and suddenly you have a bicep tendon strain. This is real life, not a controlled gym. And real life doesn’t wait for you to put your arms, or your knees or your hips in just that perfect 90 degree angle whether it be to punch a fast volley coming at your belly button or lunge for a ball sailing wide and away. So you need to train for the unexpected!

FRC is just that kind of training. Injury prevention and rehabilitation through increased mobility and functional range. This is what I offer my personal training clients, but I would like to offer this to groups because as most of us know, exercise is more fun with friends and community. Enter Kinstretch, FRC’s group fitness cousin.

I am scheduled to go to California the first week of May to get my Kinstrech certification done but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen now. So instead I’m working hard to learn even more. Full circle back to take one, do one, teach one. Right now I’m taking and doing oodles of Kinstretch and FRC classes from far more experienced teachers that have been practicing and teaching for years, and also reading, practicing and learning everything I can. That’s my “take” and “do.” You can start to learn some snippets of my teachings through my YouTube videos here through my website. I’d love your feedback and if you are interested in participating in my practice classes before I get certified please drop me a note. Thanks!


Injury prevention

February 14, 2020: For us die-hard tennis players it all comes together next week – Spring League Tennis! Don’t stop reading though if that is not your sport… this is for everyone and every sport. Theoretically, tennis players (or runners, or boot campers, or insert your sport here) should have been using the downtime from cold weather to focus on stability and mobility training. Building protective strength in your scaps and knees combined with increasing your articular range of motion (ah… that means joint movement) in your shoulders and hips, maybe the ankles too. This combination is square one for injury prevention. Without this base, forget using your kinetic chain to belt out your favorite topspin forehand or kick serve. If you can’t move your hips and shoulders correctly, then when you go to swing the racquet (golf club, baseball bat, etc), you will take that force straight to your back, knees, shoulder and elbow (medial for golf, lateral for tennis), and bam, just like that you are out for a few weeks of rest or maybe the rest of the season….

Stability and Mobility are key to closing the gap between when your PT says you are good to go and when you actually are not afraid to hurt yourself again. Unfortunately its a gap that is not filled with too many trained professionals. You might get tired of the bands and mini exercises or they no longer feel like they are doing anything, so you stop. What’s the number one injury you are likely to get after returning from a previous injury? That’s right, the same injury again! Yes, there is proof that you are far more likely to be re-injured right back in those old spots. So instead of just hoping that getting back out there is going to fix all your problems, make a change and start working on stability and mobility through a progression of isometrics and joint openers, move that into some challenging concentric moves and, only when you are ready, some controlled eccentrics. Some people might cringe at that word eccentrics – yes, that’s essentially plyometrics, but I’m not recommending deadlifts and box jumps (unless that’s your sport!), I’m talking controlled eccentric moves, and there are plenty of them if you know what you are doing. Ultimately you need to practice eccentric movements, because the bike and yoga that your Ortho recommended (right after she said, I really think you should never run, play tennis, swing a golf club, lift weights, etc again – which you ignored), is not going to protect you from the eccentric moves that are ultimately what injure us all. On the tennis court, or just walking the dog. That’s a fact that can’t be changed. But you can be smart and prepare for those moves ahead of time with the right training. Take care!


Movement Matters

December 28, 2019: Mitochondria. That’s where I’ve decided to start. It says a lot about me. I love science. Always have. I love learning about exercise, nutrition, longevity, and disease prevention or delay. The first half of my life I devoured books. Anything I could get my hands on, but mostly fiction. But for the last 10 years I’ve somehow gravitated toward all things health. And movement. I’ve spent hours reading everything from NYT articles on health and wellness to deeply scientific medical journal articles, studied for hours, watched videos and went to seminars for my ACE personal trainer and EXOS Performance Specialist certifications and more recently devoured hours of podcasts and blogs by some of the most respected doctors, coaches, and longevity experts in their fields.

In fact, I just finished listening to a podcast about mitochondria and why for longevity and healthy aging we need to take care of ours. Healthy mitochondria helps us burn fat, better our current mental state and possibly ward off diseases associated with aging (think cancer, Alzheimers, heart disease, etc.). How do we do that? Move. Every time you move, you must contract your muscles, a process done by mitochondria…. and as part of that process they burn fat and release happy endorphins, and both in turn done day-after-day and year-after-year are what keep you healthy longer. Because let’s be honest. You won’t be doing CrossFit at 90, but you might want to be playing with your grandkids and walking the hills with the dog. Living independently. Enjoying time with family and friends. And unfortunately, you can’t wait until you are 90 to start this process. This is every day. Consistency is key. Overexercising is not only not necessary, it’s not recommended. There’s SO much more to this than I can put here… but that’s why I started a blog. I have so much to share and maybe nobody will listen, but I’m going to try. Because I care. I care about movement and how it impacts the brain, the body and the heart. Movement matters, and I want to share that with others.

Want more detail about mitochondria? (And I mean A LOT!) Check out for his Monday, December 23rd, 2019 podcast on Mitochondria. I could listen to him for hours. I have actually!