Jen Rulon

Repost from January 2018, but people ask me all the time:

It was awful. It was December 29, 2017, coming back from vacation in FL. We got in early, and being a dork, I did a twist and lift with my 45 lb luggage in the back of the SUV to head home. We go home. And something felt off. I stretched. Did some lower back stretching and ended up taking a nap for almost 3 hours (it was early flight). I got up. FOOOOKKK. My back is jacked. Something isn’t right.

Long story short, as I have shared this story a lot on my social media, I have three bulging discs and dealing with degenerative disc disease. WTF? I am 46 years old (UGH, I have aged to 48 yo), had an EPIC 2017, and now I can’t freaking walk or flip turn in the pool because I pissed off the disc.

Well, you know me. Instead of bitching and complaining about it. I did something about it. I learned everything I could about bulging disc, went to Stratton Sport & Spine, 3x’s a week, and have maintained my back exercises since this all started.

Today, I wanted to chat with you all about lower back pain, the muscles involved, why things happen the way they do, and some exercises that I have done with Stratton Sport and Spine!

Muscle and Muscle Imbalance

Your muscle is essential for your overall health and fitness. Muscles are our body’s largest organ. Our muscle’s function doesn’t only limit to just carrying, moving, sprinting, pushing, or lifting. Muscles are responsible for many other vital purposes in our body, like aiding in pumping blood, immune function, and burning of our body’s fats. Mostly, there are three kinds of muscles in a human body, smooth muscles, cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle.

Smooth Muscle

The smooth muscle is the muscle found in the wall of our arteries. It is responsible for the control of blood flow and helps in regulating the food movement during digestion.

Cardiac Muscle

The cardiac muscle is the muscle found in the heart. It helps the heart have its intrinsic mechanism, which allows it to beat independently.

Skeletal Muscle

The skeletal muscle is made up of the large muscular images we typically see on fit looking people. These muscles are comprised of a different variety of muscle fibers, which includes aerobic and anaerobic muscles. Our skeletal muscles significantly influence our diet, hormones, exercise, and therapies.

Muscle imbalance is one of the leading causes of so much pain and discomfort in our body. It occurs when one set of our body’s muscles are of unequal size or strength compared to its opposing group of muscles. For instance, the pectoral muscle has unbalanced force compared to its opposing lats muscles. These inequalities of the length and size can derail your work, which involves mostly your back. When one or two muscles are weak while the other muscle is overactive, the tendency is that it pulls your body to have a bad posture. The result is an excessively arched lower back or rounded shoulders. This limits your body’s mobility at your joints and makes some of your muscles to become stiff. By far, the most common cause of back pain involves our muscles, such as muscle imbalance, muscle strain, and other damages to our body’s soft tissues. The body’s soft tissues play a crucial role in lower back pain. A large group of muscles that works together supports the spine. It helps in holding the body in an upright position and allows the trunk of our body to move, bend, or twist in many directions.

There are three types of back muscles that help the spine to function. These are extensors, the flexors, and the obliques:

The extensors– The extensor muscle is attached to the spinal back and enables the person to stand and lift objects. These are also the muscles responsible for a large pair of muscles in the lower back called the erector spinae.

The flexors– The flexor muscles are the muscles attached to the front of our body’s spine. It enables the flexing, bending, arching, and lifting of our lower back.

The Obliques– the oblique muscles are the muscles attached on both sides of the spin, which helps in rotating our spine and maintaining proper posture.

Our Back

Our backs have a fundamental design fault, and they are not made to stand up on the extra strains and stress placed by humans when walking. Our bones in our back need to be fixed together in ways that keep them stable yet allows them to be flexible enough in stopping us move around ramrod straight. The vertebrates are separated with discs made up of connective tissues surrounding its squashy center. When a person stands upright, gravity is continually compressing the spinal bones and the discs. Anything can go wrong in this complicated structure of our backbones.

Symptoms of Back Pain from Sprain or Strain:

  1. The pain includes muscle spasms and feels tender when touched.
  2. The pain is usually located on the low back and not necessarily radiate down through the legs.
  3. The pain starts when a person is lifting while twisting, lifting something heavy, or when someone suddenly moves or falls. (THAT BE ME!)
  4. The pain is less when a person is at rest but becomes worse when doing certain activities.

How to Correct Muscle Imbalance

First and foremost, muscle imbalance must be taken care of by health care professionals, especially those who are chronic ones. When I realized that I couldn’t flip turn in the pool, I knew I had to go to a doctor right away. I went to the Sports Medicine Associates of San Antonio and Dr. Saenz. I got some anti-inflammatory drugs and got in for an MRI right away. As things started loosening up, I did my rehab at Stratton Sport & Spine. I gradually started increasing my exercise, going from a Granny Bike at LifeTime, to my bike, to swimming, to light lifting to last but not least running.

I wanted to share with you my top THREE exercises that have saved my ass, I mean my back, since my injury (I need to do my videos but here are a few that I liked).

1.Pigeon Pose


 2. One-Leg Glute Bridges

3. Single-Leg RDL with KB (Please follow Jordan Syatt on Instagram.)


One of the biggest life lessons on my back issue is that I need to maintain this on a weekly basis now and not as an “as needed” basis.

Here are some “Rulon Rules” that can help you when you get into that gym during the off-season BUT during the on-season:

  1. Make sure to perform only the exercises in a unilateral manner so that your strong side doesn’t take over.
  2. Work out on both sides with the same weight.
  3. Perform using the strength of your weak side. Work out with all your muscle groups…DUH!

If you have never suffered from any type of back pain before, the tendency is you probably will. It is known that among 10 people aged 45 years old, eight of them will suffer from either malignant or benign back at some point in their lives. WAHHHH!

Fortunately, there are warning signs which can help you in treating, curing, and even preventing this to happen. Knowing these signs can actually help you in treating or possibly preventing yourself from having back pain. Prevention is critical, especially when it comes to muscle imbalances and back pains. One sure way to correct and possibly prevent future injury is to always seek professional help. They have programs that provide overall strength to the back as well as eliminate potential back pain problem areas. I hope that the above-mentioned tips will help you. If you have anything to add, or possibly tips to give, make sure to write it down in the comment box below.

AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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