Jen Rulon

Back exercises have played a role in my life since I remember. This is a repost from January 2018, but people always ask me, and I still do these exercises today!

Back Story Time:

It wasn’t terrific. It was December 29, 2017, after Ironman Hawaii was “high,” and I was 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. I did some lower back stretching and napped for almost 3 hours (it was an early flight). I got up. FOOOOKKK. My back is jacked. Something isn’t right.

As I have shared this story on my social media, I have three bulging discs 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 discs, went to Stratton Sport & Spine 3x a week, and have maintained my back exercises since this started.

Today, I wanted to chat with you about lower back pain, the muscles involved, why things happen the way they do, and some exercises 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. However, our muscle’s function isn’t limited to carrying, moving, sprinting, pushing, or lifting. Muscles are responsible for many other vital bodily purposes, like aiding in pumping blood, immune function, and burning our body’s fats. The human body has three kinds of muscles: smooth, cardiac, and skeletal.

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 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 comprises the large muscular images we typically see in fit-looking people. These muscles contain various muscle fibers, including 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 bodies. It occurs when one set of our body’s muscles is 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 length and size can derail your work, which involves mainly 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 joint mobility and makes some of your muscles stiff. The most common cause of back pain is our muscles, such as muscle imbalance, muscle strain, and other damage to our body’s soft tissues. The body’s soft tissues play a crucial role in lower back pain. For example, a large group of working muscles supports the spine. It helps hold the body in an upright position and allows the trunk of our body to move, bend, or twist in many directions.

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

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

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

Obliques: The oblique muscles are attached on both sides of the spine, which help rotate our spine and maintain proper posture.

Our Back and Lower Back

Our backs have a fundamental design fault and are not made to stand up to the extra strains and stress humans place when walking. Our bones in our back need to be fixed together in ways that keep them stable yet allow them to be flexible enough to stop us from moving around ramrod straight. The vertebrates are separated with discs composed of connective tissues surrounding their squashy center. When a person stands upright, gravity continually compresses 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 in the low back and does 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 IS ME!)
  4. The pain is less when a person rests but worsens when doing certain activities.

How to Correct Muscle Imbalance

First and foremost, healthcare professionals must take care of muscle imbalances, especially chronic ones. When I realized I couldn’t flip-turn in the pool, I knew I had to go to a doctor immediately. 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 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 every week now and not on 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 unilaterally so 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 back pain before, the tendency is you probably will. It is known that eight of ten people aged 45 will suffer from either malignant or benign back at some point in their lives. WAHHHH!

Fortunately, there are warning signs that can help you treat, cure, and even prevent this from happening. Knowing these signs can help you in treating or possibly preventing yourself from having back pain. Prevention is critical, especially regarding muscle imbalances and back pains. One sure way to correct and possibly prevent future injury is always to seek professional help. They have programs that provide overall strength to the back and eliminate potential back pain problem areas. I hope that the tips mentioned above will help you. If you have anything to add or information, 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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