What I learned in PT school {Part II}

by Kim on September 24, 2013

Look what came in the mail yesterday…


My Fit Moms 4 Life materials!

I’m SO excited, even though I have a few months to wait before I’ll be kicking off my 6-week challenge.

It’s actually really nice to have everything so far in advance—this will give me a chance to try the workouts and get familiar with the materials before I start recruiting again. It’s kind of hard to sell people on a workout you’ve never actually done yourself, you know?

The main roadblock for the people who have expressed interest in the program so far is the money. It’s $99, which isn’t pocket change, I completely understand. But now that I’m seeing all the stuff they’ll get for that—along with the actual program, the meetings, and the community support—I think the price is more than fair.


This is the full spread I received as a leader, including the workout DVD, program DVD (with nutrition/goal-setting lessons, personal weight loss stories, etc.), a core workout DVD (bonus I guess?), Dustin’s Fit Moms for Life book, the leader and participant guides (since I’ll also be participating in the program myself), and some FM4L Livestrong-style bracelets.

Even the T-shirt is cute! (I guess I wasn’t expecting much.)



Oh, plus a fridge magnet listing the healthiest foods in the grocery store, which I just realized was already on the fridge when I took these pictures.

Here’s the spread that participants receive (everything but the leader DVD and guide):


I’m really impressed with what a nice job they did on all of this. I flipped through the participant guide and book yesterday, and the information is spot on. The mental exercises, specifically, are things I think everyone on the planet could benefit from, regardless of their fitness goals.

I’m honestly almost offended that people don’t see the value in this. Yes, $99, I get it…but a lot of people could scrounge around their houses for a few things to sell on eBay and come up with that, right? Or skip a few dinners out over the next few months?

I’m a firm believer that if you really want to make something happen, you’ll find a way. Which makes me think there must be a reason that the women I’ve talked to just don’t want this badly enough.

Sorry: I’m kind of venting here, but also leading up to asking for your help…

What do you think that reason is?? Do you think they’re not valuing themselves enough or thinking they don’t deserve this change? Do they doubt the program will actually make a change? Or are they just eager for an excuse to latch onto, to get them out of doing the work?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Anyway! Enough of that for now. What I really wanted to bring you today is another installment of the What I Learned in PT School series! (You can find Part I of the series here.)

What I Learned in PT School

The part I’m loving the most about this learning process is that the book takes facts I already technically knew—like, that you should stretch before and after working out—and explains the biological why behind it.

Not only does this added context help me remember things better but, well, I’m much much MUCH more likely to actually stretch in my own workouts if I understand why I’m doing it. (Wait, who skips stretching? Me? NEVER.)

So here are few things I found interesting in my PT studies lately…

  • Shallow breathing patterns caused by stress and anxiety can have a huge impact on your body’s response to exercise. I used to struggle with this like crazy at my last job—my anxiety levels would be through the roof (even though I thought I had everything under control, and even appreciated the feeling for the way it “motivated” me). It was to the point where I felt like I couldn’t breathe sometimes, in a panicky way. This was because my breathing had become super shallow, happening almost entirely in my upper-chest—aka bad news!

Here are just a few of the potential impacts of this shallow “stress breathing”:

–It relies on the secondary respiratory muscles more than the diaphragm, causing overuse of those muscles and making the breathing pattern more and more habitual. In other words, poor breathing breeds more poor breathing. (Don’t you love that about life?)

–It interferes with posture, and too much activity and tension in the respiratory muscles can lead to headaches, lightheadedness, and dizziness.

–It can lead to altered carbon dioxide and oxygen blood content, which triggers more feelings of anxiety and further exacerbates the problem.

–It can lead to an inadequate oxygen supply in the body and unhealthy retention of metabolic waste, which will leave you with stiff, fatigued muscles for no apparent reason.

–Other problems: poor sleep patterns, poor circulation, and decreased functional capacity (aka crappy workouts).

So if you find yourself getting caught in a shallow breathing pattern, as I so so have before, you know it’s time to step back. Take a day off. Sleep more. Get some yoga in. Treat yo self. Whatever it takes.

medium_5123967968photo credit: lululemon athletica via photopin cc

  • When yoga teachers talk about “lengthening” muscles, they’re not talking about making them longer, but returning them to their natural length.

When you work out, you’re contracting (tightening/”shortening”) your muscles. If you don’t stretch them back out to their proper length afterwards, you can end up with all kinds of bad stuff like knots ad muscle imbalances. (Everyday muscle use can result in the same thing, especially if you’re tense/stressed.)

The story of what’s going on biologically here is pretty interesting… (NERD ALERT)

When your body senses that a muscle is getting stretched, your muscle spindles kick in immediately to tighten it up in order to prevent it from stretching too far.

Then, there’s something in the body called the Golgi tendon organ, which overrides the muscle spindles and reminds muscles to relax when they start to approach a point of max stress (like a muscle therapist?), all in the name of preventing injury. But it takes the GT awhile to kick in—about 30 seconds.

So you know how you go into a deep stretch, and it feels tight at first, like your body’s really resisting it, but then you breathe into it a bit and your muscles start to relax? That’s the GT kicking in.

According to NASM, it’s important to wait out those 30 seconds in a stretch, to give your GT a chance to kick in and ensure that you’re fully lengthening that muscle back out as far as it can go.

  • Bad posture leads to more bad posture thanks to something called remodeling.

Bone is constantly renewed through a process called remodeling, during which old bone tissue is broken down and new bone tissue is laid down in its place.

Remodeling tends to follow the lines of stress placed on the bone—understandably, your body’s going to send reinforcements to wherever you need them the most. Unfortunately, this also means that any incorrect exercise techniques or poor posture/alignment will lead to remodeling processes that just reinforce all those same poor habits.

So if you find that it’s more comfortable for you to do an exercise with poor form, it’s probably because your body has adjusted itself to embrace the new way—not because your body is “different.”

  • Poor form or improper movement doesn’t just come from weak muscles being underactive—there are also usually some muscles that are being overactive to make up for it.

This makes perfect sense, but it’s easy to forget it.

When my lower back used to hurt like crazy during weighted squats in BodyPump class back in the day, I just assumed my core was weak. (Isn’t that always the problem?? Ugh.) What I didn’t think about was that I was making some other muscles work harder than they were supposed to to make up for my weak core. If I kept doing that long enough, without fixing the core problem and giving the other muscles a break, I’d create a real muscle imbalance that could actually affect my movement long term. (!!!)

medium_3438345135photo credit: lululemon athletica via photopin cc

Detecting and correcting muscle imbalances is a huuuge part of the NASM PT program. There are tables upon tables showing examples of movements that suggest a muscle imbalance, lists of the muscles that could be underactive and overactive in that scenario, and ways to fix the problem.

For example, if your knees move inward during a single-leg squat, it could be because your hip muscles are working too hard and your glutes aren’t pitching in as much as they should be.

Because life is such a joyful, easy thing, muscle imbalances can be caused by so much more than just bad form. They can also come from:

  • postural stress (hello, desk jobs!)
  • emotional duress
  • repetitive movement
  • cumulative trauma
  • lack of core strength
  • lack of neuromuscular efficiency

Oh, boy!! Right?

So your takeaway for the day is: go stretch. A lot. For at least 30 seconds per stretch.

OR DIE. Just kidding.

Happy Tuesday! :)


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate September 25, 2013 at 11:16 am

I love your PT updates- keep them coming! I am hoping to sign up for my PT cert soon, just need to kick my butt into gear and just do it already!
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Kim September 25, 2013 at 2:07 pm

Nice little winter activity maybe?? You’ll breeze through it. :) Glad you like the updates–I’m always worried that they’re too nerdy and scientific, but I find those details so interesting, I can’t help including them.


Lisa @ Lisa Living Well September 24, 2013 at 4:56 pm

Since I am almost done with the NASM textbook, your post was a great reminder for me on some things I had learned about months ago but forgot. After I am done with this last chapter, I am going into full on study mode. I am not too happy with how I am doing on my practice tests on a NASM app I purchased. My test is November 11th, so I take it right before you do in Madison too. Eek!
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Kim September 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Good luck!! You’ve got PLENTY of time, especially if you’re on the last chapter already, so I wouldn’t worry at all. :) You’ll have to let me know how it goes and what tips you have!!

What NASM app do you use?? I saw an awesome one for the iphone, but haven’t found one for my android yet.


Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy September 24, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I would say that people don’t want to spend the money, because they already spend money on other forms of fitness (gym membership, maybe?), but I’m guessing it’s geared more towards people who don’t have a big background in fitness, so that wouldn’t be an issue? I wouldn’t want to spend that much just because I already have a gym membership and a decent workout DVD collection at home, but I’m also not looking for a new fitness routine or eating plan. It seems like it’s a good deal for someone looking to try something new!

Also, I really need to make time to stretch…especially after I run. I often skimp on stretching, and I know it’s terrible for me!
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Kim September 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Yeah, I think it’s more for people looking for something new–especially people who want to make big, transformational changes in their lives. I just saw a very similar program through our local gym that’s only 4 weeks and $150, so that made me feel a little better. I swear this will be worth it people! :)

Yeah, I’m definitely guilty of skimping on stretching too, although NASM has helped pound the importance into my head. I think even if you do one good stretch session a week, you should be ok. It’s just not good to leave things tight indefinitely, ya know?


Rachel B @ Busy Mama Fitness September 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I want in on this Fit Moms 4 Life! About to start ‘doing my homework’ on that. :) I wish I could tell you why people choke on price tags with workouts/weight loss/healthy living things. As a Beachbody coach, I run into that all the time. My theory is that there are so many ‘quick fixes’ and gimmicks out there, we’ve all become jaded and reticent to spend more money.

I love that you’re writing about breathing and lengthening… this is something I have been learning and realizing more and more as I go through A.R.T. Our muscles know how to contract themselves but not lengthen and most of us under stretch or under breathe – and lose a lot of core stability!!!
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Kim September 25, 2013 at 1:56 pm

YES, so pumped to hear that you’re interested in FM4L! Let me know if you have any trouble finding info. It’s seriously such a cool program, I guess I expected everyone to be clamoring to get on board. And I’m a HORRIBLE salesperson, which doesn’t help. But assuming I can get over that hurdle and actually convince some people to give it a shot, I’m 100% positive it’ll be successful and that no one will regret it.


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