Almost 8 years ago I gave birth at home to a very healthy 10lb 4oz baby boy who got his shoulders stuck on the way out. Needless to say his broad shoulders and barrel chest wreaked some havoc in my pelvis during his big entrance into this world and I have dealt with chronic low back pain ever since. He was totally worth it of course. Wouldn’t trade him for the world, but it HAS made my fitness journey a little tricky at times.
I cannot tell you how often good intentioned people tell me “Oh, you should do more yoga. Yoga is great for back pain.” Now, I’m in no way knocking yoga and I know it has been a life saver for many back pain sufferers. I would love to do yoga but my jacked up back will not let me do about 80% of the moves required. Well, I take that back, I can DO them…but then I pay the price for the next 2 weeks. Totally not worth it. Forward fold with a halfway lift is out. Pigeon is bad news, Happy baby hurts. Cobra is a no no…you get the idea. I also can’t do stiff leg deadlifts, burpees, mountain climbers or any bent over lifts. My back prefers to stay at upright, non-extreme angles and if I stubbornly fight against it I am always sorry. Always.
Does that mean I just don’t exercise? Do I give up and say “Well, I guess I can’t be fit?” Is yoga my only option? Is there nothing else besides burpees and stiff leg deadlifts out there in the fitness world? Of course not! If it was then there would be zero world class athletes with disabilities and missing limbs right? There are ALWAYS options…if you want it badly enough. That’s the million dollar statement. If you want it badly enough you’ll find a way.
So let’s look at things I CAN do in place of what I CAN’T do. Maybe it will give you some alternative ideas for moves you find troublesome as well.
CAN’T do yoga
Body weight exercises – plank variations, squat variations, lunge variations, calf raises, bird dog, down dog, dead bug, etc (anything that does not cause an extreme weight bearing bend in the low back)
CAN'T do Stiff Leg Dead Lifts
Conventional Dead Lifts
Romanian Single Leg Dead Lifts
CAN'T do Burpees
Jump Squats, can add walk out to plank
CAN'T do Mountain Climbers
Standing Knee Raises
CAN'T do Bent Over Rows and Bent Over Raises
Utilize an incline bench to take the weight off the low back
A personal trainer is a great resource of alternative moves for injuries and training limitations as well.
There are also a few moves I’m just not strong enough in the right places to do yet such as push-ups and pull-ups. Do I just skip over those too? Nope. Options, options, options, there are always options.
Push-up options can be against a wall or an incline surface, knees instead of toes and negatives. Negatives are when you start at the top position and lower yourself to the bottom position. Then you get back to the starting position however you need to, rolling over and sitting up to start at the top again is totally acceptable. Something is always better than nothing.
Pull-up options are weighted lat pull downs, inverted rows,
using a pull-up machine or bands for weighted assistance and negatives. Again, negatives would be getting yourself up above the bar by using a stool and then using your strength to lower yourself to the bottom hanging position and then using the stool to get to the top again.
For both these moves I prefer to do negatives as I feel they are the closest in muscle use to the full Monty. But we have to start where we are so choose the option that you can succeed at today and then progress as you get stronger.
What about sickness? We’re entering the season of sniffles, coughs and contagion so should we exercise when we are sick? Of course you should always use your discretion. You know you own body better than anyone else and the last thing you want to do is generously share your germs with your entire gym, but here are a couple loose guidelines to go by. Above the neck is generally considered safe (for you) to continue your normal exercise routine. Below the neck means it’s time to stay home and rest your rumpus. And if you have any kind of a fever or diarrhea, please. stay. home.
I just finished up week six of the challenge so I’m halfway there! Weeks 1-6 were a 4 day per week lifting schedule. Weeks 7-9 we will be a five day split. I always get a little bit nervous before it changes up but I’m excited to see what my body does with the switch. Here’s what my booTAY has done with the program so far! The hubs is a fan. ;-)
Stephanie Neher is a Tennessee belle living in Minne-SOH-ta with her very own Paul Bunyan. She homeschools their 2 little blue oxen and keeps her figure red-flannel-ready through Zumba, lifting heavy pieces of iron and anything else physical that strikes her fitness fancy.