Avoiding Back Pain During the Christmas Holiday Season!


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10 Question Exam (sent via email)

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How many times have your Personal Training clients missed a session over the Christmas Holiday Season? Do you know the reason?

Maybe some of your clients will admit to you that their back is killing them from hanging Christmas Decorations over a weekend, but many would never tell their Personal Trainers that their back hurts due to doing something as low intensity as putting-up decorations. But ask yourself, is hanging Christmas Decorations as mundane as it seems?

While few decorations may weigh as much as an ounce, let us do what any IFPA Certified Personal Trainer has been educated to do. When you Develop a Program Design for a Personal Training client we always begin with a Needs Analysis. During your Needs Analysis you should determine how the clients’ muscles and joints are used; the Range of Motion (ROM) needed for their activities as well as the Energy System(s) they will use; how long and how intense the activities will be; the imposed demands of the activity; which systems, muscles, and joints may experience overload and the amount of time the client will be spending performing the activity.

While some of your clients may put up a modest Christmas Tree, some outside lights and a wreath on their door, and then you may have other clients who make Clark Griswold look like Ebenezer Scrooge!

Even through Christmas Trimmings are lightweight, think of the activity as you would any exercise activity. Analyze it carefully and encourage your Personal Training Clients as you would do for any activity. Beyond the Needs Analysis, you should treat your clients’ Christmas Decorating activities as you would any other Workout!

You will have a more successful and lucrative Christmas Holiday if you take your responsibilities as a Personal Trainer seriously and explain to your client(s) that they should follow the same Personal Training Protocol you follow in the gym. Explain the 3 parts of a Workout:

  1. Warm-Up: Low Intensity Cardio and gentle, short duration stretching of all muscle groups
  2. Work-Out: In This Case: Christmas Decorating and Instruct your client(s) to limit the duration of any activity to one hour or less. They can divide the activities: lifting boxes from the attic and carrying them down the ladder; bending over and lifting decorations out of the boxes, prepping the decorations for display; bending – stretching – hanging -placing decorations, etc.

While most of these activities would be classified as low intensity, the initial lifting/carrying of boxes may not be. While your clients may have been lifting weights to build muscular hypertrophy, increasing both size and strength, lifting and carrying boxes puts a significantly different stress on their bodies than Bench Pressing a loaded Barbell.

Equally unique to the body, except for the joyful Christmas Season, is the bending, reaching, and stretching of hanging decorations that puts stress on the body only seen once a year.

Once any single activity exceeds about 45 minutes, the stress in the body grows substantially.

As difficult as it may be, your client will do a far better job of preventing back pain and injuries if they plan on 45 minutes per day of activity, rather than working straight through an entire weekend.

  1. Cool-Down: Low Intensity Cardio and Gentle Stretching

Performing a whole body stretching program would be ideal, but at the very least, stretch the neck, shoulders, chest, back, hips, and hamstrings.

To increase recovery so they can be relatively prepared for their merit session they can take a hot bath in Epsom salts, take an anti-inflammatory and follow the other healthy lifestyle changes you, as an effective Personal Trainer, should have already taught them:

  1. Healthy, Anti-Inflammatory diet is high in complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes). Avoid processed foods, simple carbs (sugar: cake, candy, pie, white breads, rice, etc). Limited Healthy proteins: Drug free, hormone free, grass fed, free grassing eggs, milk, meat, poultry, fish. Healthy Fats: Plant based fats, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, cold water fish, etc.
  2. Stay hydrated: Water: drink enough to keep your urine clear to mostly clear.
  3. Sufficient Sleep: 7-8 hours per night or more if training hard or under stress.
  4. Limit Alcohol Consumption: Women: 1 drink a day, men: 2 drinks a day.
  5. Stress Management: Any holiday can be stressful, but Christmas is probably the most stressful of all. While Personal Trainers operate from a completely different Scope of Practice than Psychologist, you still need to make an effort to limit your clients’ stress. Ask your clients what was the most stressful part of last year’s Christmas and what is their plan to avoid that stress this Christmas? They will enjoy their Christmas far more if they follow your guidance.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to You!

Dr. Jim Bell


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