Archive for October, 2010

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

I belong to a gym, but with work and graduate school, adding an additional 30 minutes of travel time to my already packed schedule is tough for workouts. And I tend to work out more at home in the winter. We have already have yoga equipment, Wii Fit and some dumbbells that I already use, as well as a wall lined with mirrors to assess form for yoga and resistance training in my small Chicago apartment. Now, as the fall weather signals the start of colder temperatures, shorter days (at least less sun) and soon-to-be snow-covered streets, I decided it was time to do a scouting trip for my readers to see where would be the best place for an inexpensive free weight set in Chicago.

Our first stop was at a higher end home gym equipment store in a strip mall on Elston Avenue. The store showcased the Powerblock dumbbells and we wanted to see how these worked from an “expert” perspective. The lone salesman was more than happy to tell us all about the dumbbells and even demonstrated their use for us. I found them extremely cumbersome and uncomfortable. He told me that I would “get used to using them.” (I can tell you know, I would never use them. And if I did use them I’d probably injure my wrist because of the cumbersome construction.) He also told us another great benefit of the Powerblock dumbbells: they sell well on Craigslist.  He discouraged us from using free weight dumbbells because they were so much more expensive (at least in his store) and took up a lot of space. Despite the salesman’s high pressure sales tactics (“I can’t see any reason why you WOULDN’T buy these today?!”) and high prices, we were able to get out of his store without buying an expensive set of dumbbells that we would never use and would need to sell on Craiglist!

Our next stop was Play it Again Sports, on Ashland near Irving Park Road. I haven’t been to this location before and it was overwhelming!  From the outside it doesn’t look like a very big store, but inside it was a jam-packed sporting goods emporium!  Hundreds of bicycles, a skateboarding section, hockey skates, sleds, baseball equipment, free weights, some used weight benches, and much much more. The sales people were mercifully low maintenance. Aside from asking us if we needed help, they pretty much left us alone. But the selection of free weight equipment was sparse and unorganized and we didn’t see anything we really wanted. I will be back for other sporting equipment though now that I see how well stocked this store is!

Lastly we went to our normal one-stop-sports store: Sports Authority. I know Sports Authority is not a high-end store. It doesn’t have ALL the latest and greatest equipment. But what it does have is EXACTLY WHAT WE NEEDED at HALF the price of the high-end store. Our salesman, Rolando Batchelor, was helpful without being obnoxious. He showed us the different equipment they had and explained how each type of  free weight set was different. Sports Authority had a surprisingly good range of free weight equipment. And most of it was on sale! We got an adjustable, 7-position weight bench (that collapses for storage) for about $74 (versus a similar bench for $229 at the high-end store). We selected a plate rack to store our free weight plates in our apartment (approx $50). And we bought a 100-pound free weight set with bar bell and two dumbbells which Rolando helped us get out to the car ($90 on sale from about $120)). As a child my father used to use a plated set of weights and I prefer the plates set to other types of dumbbells because then not only can I use the set, but my man can use them (he does lift a bit more than I can!) and I can also use them for clients on occasion. And surprisingly (maybe not so surprisingly) the entire weight set from Sports Authority, including plate stand, weight bench AND 100 pound dumbbells set, was less expensive than the weight bench at the high-end store.

If you have room and money to buy an expensive weight set or Body-Solid Home Gym, hats off to you! But for people living in Chicago with limited funds, small living quarters and a need for an efficient, easy to store and use set of free weights, my money is with Sports Authority.

And to be clear. I am not being paid by Sports Authority, nor do I get any special deals for this post. I simply like the store, and encourage people to go where they can get the best deals and value for your hard-earned dollars!

P.S. Sports Authority has great deals on clothing too!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Read Full Post »

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to spend a day with board members and other LMT’s (Licensed Massage Therapists) from the Illinois Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association. Since we’ve had so many legislative issues effecting Chicago and Illinois massage therapists, I wanted to do my part and put my two cents in on their annual Strategic Planning session. I want to share my observations with my loyal readers and any fellow massage therapists that read my blog.

What So Great About the AMTA?

First off, I recently rejoined the AMTA after quitting the organization about 6 years ago. I’ve been a member of the Association for Bodywork and Massage Professionals for the past 6 years or so instead. However, after seeing how proactive AMTA-IL has been, I decided to reactive my AMTA membership. Now, I belong to both organizations! Why, because both organizations do different things well. And two things I’ve seen AMTA-IL do really well this past year is to get out the word to massage therapists about pending legislation and to use the AMTA local volunteer network to access legislators on a few key issues. Unfortunately, AMTA and massage therapists efforts were not enough to stop two pieces of legislation from being passed–legislation that is damaging to massage therapists, and in my book, to the public as well.  But as the old saying goes, it ain’t over til it’s over. Or in this case, it’s not over until AMTA-IL  massage therapists, and the public in general, decide to stop fighting against legislation that is not in the public’s best interests nor in the best interests of the massage therapy profession. I just don’t see that fight ending any time soon. Legislation can be overturned or changed. New laws and ordinances can be written. It just takes effort. A lot of effort!

The Interesting People I Met at the Strategic Planning Meeting of the AMTA-IL Chapter

That all said, the Strategic Planning session was about 10 times more fun than I anticipated. There were about 25 people in a meeting room at a local Schaumberg hotel. The Chapter provided breakfast, lunch, treats (Fresh made cookies from the hotel kitchen as well as fruit, my favorite snack!) and beverages to keep us fortified and hydrated.

• I met “celebrity” massage therapist and winner of the  National Sports Massage Achiever Award, Nester Battaung. You would recognize Nester if you say him because his face is plastered all over Athletico ads in the area. Nester is fun, energetic and a former collegiate gymnast.

• I also spoke at length with  Becky Schwoebel, Senior Vice President of the chapter and a massage therapist in the eastern part of the state near St. Louis. If it hadn’t been for the meeting, I would never have met Becky since she practices and lives 5 hours away.

• One of the treats of the day was to hear stories about the history of massage therapy from Pat Malone, a man with a book inside his head, waiting to come out. (Write your stories into a history of the profession, Pat!)

• I also met Heather Rabbit in the flesh. In addition to being a Licensed Massage Therapist, Heather runs Infant Massage Classes at Swedish Covenent Hospital and she promised to share her infant massage video with me for this  blog. (Coming soon!)

• I also got to spend time with Mike Hovi, President of the IL Chapter and a real stud! (One of the bonding exercises we did was to draw a symbol that represented how we see ourselves. Mike drew a stud because he holds up/supports the chapter and, like a stud in the wall, he can’t do it alone.)

• Lastly, I met Robin Doerr,  an LMT from Elmhurst that runs her own massage business and has rooms for rent for other LMTs in the area. Robin and I have read each others comments on Facebook (and realized we were both WMTI grads!) but this was our first chance to meet in person and swap ideas about business and management.  She has since agreed to meet my Facebook challenge and plans to present at the upcoming  Spring Conference of the AMTA-IL.

What We Did at the Strategic Planning Meeting

We spent a great deal of time coming up with ideas to help promote Illinois massage therapists, and to educate the public, the medical community and our legislators about the massage profession. There are still many legislators (as evidenced by our recent City Council passing restrictive zoning ordinances) that don’t know the difference between massage “parlor” illicit activities and legitimate massage therapy.  There are also large segments of the population that don’t have access to or experience with licensed massage therapists, only with people pretending to be massage therapists but really offering illicit activities. We also talked about how massage therapists as a group need to be better educated about massage research, how to use it and how to conduct or design new research studies for massage therapy as well as about how to run their own businesses, market their practices and be successful.

The Future of Massage Therapy in Illinois

Some people may see this as a dark time for the massage profession because we’d had so many setbacks legislatively, in the media (The View, The Al Gore story, etc.) and with the struggling economy. I see it as a time of great opportunity for the massage profession to use these obstacles as a spring-board for a stronger, better educated, better organized, proactive approach to making massage an important part of mainstream health care, a practical low-cost stress management intervention for workplaces, and a partner with other health care providers. And the AMTA-IL Chapter is one big cog in this wheel of progress.

As only the recently converted can be, I hope I don’t come across as a zealot for the AMTA-IL chapter. I simply have high hopes for the over 3300 massage therapists in Illinois that rely on the guidance of the Illinois chapter. As one of  the over 3300, I am doing my part to help my fellow massage therapists, my clients and the public in general to live in a future world where massage is more respected, where massage therapists are better educated and proactive regarding legislative issues that effect our profession.  Mike Hovi will be publishing the results of the Strategic Planning committee to members soon and he will also be putting out a call to action to Illinois AMTA members with all the gory details.

A Great Opportunity for AMTA-Illinois Massage Therapists

If you are a LMT and a member of the AMTA-IL, don’t be intimidated (or bored) by the idea of working with the chapter. They need all of us to do even a small part. Sometimes they need someone to send emails or make phone calls or help out with mailings or other tasks. If you are an instructor with something valuable to share with other massage therapists, the chapter is looking for presenters for the upcoming AMTA-IL state conference in Itasca in April. If you are Facebook savvy and want to help out with the chapter Facebook pages (due to the mysteries of how Facebook works,  they have two Facebook pages for the IL Chapter!), they need help there as well. Link here and here.

How AMTA-IL Members Can Benefit Massage Clients

If you are a client of a Licensed Massage Therapist who is an AMTA member ask them what is going on with the Illinois chapter of AMTA. (Don’t know if they are? Ask them!) Your AMTA-IL massage therapist may be able to work with you to help provide outreach efforts in your community for charity events, community fairs or even give short talks about massage therapy to your group or church.

My Contribution to AMTA-IL State Conference in April

My friends, clients, and family know I am a very busy person. I run a business, have my own clients, and also started graduate school in Clinical Professional Psychology this fall. (You may have noticed my blog postings slowing down, Now you know why!) But I felt this Strategic Planning session was too important to miss.  I don’t have much time left in my jam-packed schedule to help out the AMTA-IL chapter, but I am fitting in what I can when I can. This spring I committed to presenting a Continuing Education session for my fellow massage therapists on Marketing their practices. If every busy, and especially not busy, of the over 3300 AMTA-IL massage therapists did just one thing, one task, one project, or attended one meeting, think of all the good that could come for the profession, for the lot of Illinois massage therapists and for the public.

I can hardly wait to see how this year unfolds. And see what my fellow AMTA-IL massage therapists and the chapter board members produce in the coming year. I will keep you posted as I find out!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Read Full Post »

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

While I was looking up hiking info, I stumbled upon  Chicago Wilderness Magazine. Although it appears to have stopped publication, there are many great articles and links about Chicago’s wilderness.   Link here.

Info from their website:

The Chicago Wilderness Corporate Council

The Corporate Council brings the resources, skills, capabilities, and influence of its members to foster widespread awareness of the region’s biodiversity and to develop broad-based support for its protection, restoration, and stewardship. Learn more

What is Chicago Wilderness?

The Chicago Wilderness Region

Embedded in one of North America’s largest metropolitan regions and stretching from southeastern Wisconsin, through northeastern Illinois, into northwestern Indiana and southwestern Michigan is a network of natural areas that includes nearly 370,000 acres of protected lands and waters. These natural areas are Chicago’s wilderness, and they are home to a wide diversity of life. Thousands of native plant and animal species live here among the more than nine million people who also call the region home.

The Chicago Wilderness Alliance

Chicago Wilderness is a regional alliance that connects people and nature. We are more than 250 organizations that work together to restore local nature and improve the quality of life for all who live here, by protecting the lands and waters on which we all depend. Our four key initiatives—to restore the health of local nature, green infrastructure, combat climate change, and leave no child inside—reflect our commitment to using science and emerging knowledge, as well as a collaborative approach to conservation, to benefit all the region’s residents.

The members of Chicago Wilderness include local, state and federal agencies, large conservation organizations, cultural and education institutions, volunteer groups, municipalities, corporations, and faith-based groups. chicagowilderness.org.

The Back Issues page lists all the archives issues with a list of the article topics. Link here. Some of the back issues are listed/shown below.

Summer 2009

Summer 2009
Reclaiming the Outdoors — Freewheelin’ in Deer Grove — Burnham’s Vision 100 Years Later — A Passion for Saving Paradise — Saving the Flint Creek Watershed

Spring 2009

Spring 2009
Discovering the Calumet — Calumet’s Wilderness Heritage — Tales of Restoration — Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Bluegills — The Calumet Region

Winter 2009

Winter 2009
Our Climate Challenge — Rare, Endangered, and Saved on Flickr — The Heart of Barkness — The Secret Garden

Fall 2008

Fall 2008
A New Day for Old Predators — Middlefork BioBlitz Revealed — The North Shore Ravines — Surveying the Survey — The parable of a weed-fighter — Haunted fungi.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Read Full Post »

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

The answer: Change your life!  What do I mean by that? Change the way you relate to food and exercise.


Healthy people exercising

Today I was reading this article on Yahoo Health about women that lose a significant amount of fat and transformed into healthier leaner people. And they kept the fat off over a period of years. If you read through their stories you will find a common theme: They switched from eating processed foods to “clean” foods like salads, brown rice, fish, vegetables. And they added regular exercise to their daily routines. They didn’t become professional bodybuilders, they did not subsist on a peanut and a celery stalk a day. They just eat healthier food in smaller more frequent portions. And they added activity to their daily lives One woman follows the simple guidelines of the ACSM: She added 30-60 min of cardio or strength training each day. Another woman said she makes sure she works out even on busy days at least 15 minutes.


If you read fitness magazines, blogs or know anything about fat loss and physical fitness, this story won’t be a big surprise to you. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that there are no quick fixes for fitness. But is losing fat, getting in shape and then STAYING in shape so easy? For most people, it’s not. It takes a few key qualities:

1. Perseverance-We don’t skip brushing our teeth every day to catch up on weekends and brush for 2 hours. Why would working out for 2 hours once a week be better than working out for 20-30 minutes 5 days a week? It isn’t. Our bodies work best in increments. We eat several times during the day, we sleep each night. We wash up each day (hopefully). Our 2010 lifestyles may make it tough to fit in movement when most people work in offices or in jobs that involved sitting for hours on end.  Adding in movement a little bit each day is easier than trying to pack in a mega workout once in a while. It takes perseverance (to persist in a state, enterprise, or undertaking in spite of counterinfluences, opposition, or discouragement). Taking stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away from the store, walking when you can versus driving. Working out while spending time with your family and children also makes it easier to incorporate daily activity into your routine.  What’s important is that you add some exercise activity each day or at least 5 days a week. Don’t have time to go to a gym? It’s easy to make a home gym or workout to videos, Wii Fit or other cardio program. Whether you run swim, hike, bike or do yoga, it’s important is that you keep it up on a regular basis.

2. Discipline as in Self discipline-Fast food, junk food and high calorie, high fat food are all around us. It’s tough to get out of bed and go for a run or come home from a long day and fit in that 30 minutes of cardio or strength training. Making it a regular nonnegotiable part of your routine can help. And when you feel the urge to overeat or skip your daily workout, it takes a bit of self-discipline to pass up those french fries or push yourself to work out even when you’d rather sleep! But the rewards are feeling better, being healthier, having a clearer mind, being less stressed out and of course, being fit!

3. Prioritization-like that word? I did NOT make it up. It means making the most of your time and resources. And in this case, I say it means making sure that fitness and healthy eating are a priority. I use this analogy. If your child (if you don’t have a child, think about your niece, nephew or another child you care about) needed to eat, rest or get some exercise, would you let other priorities get in the way of taking care of the child?  (Hopefully not!) Yet adults often neglect our own needs for health and fitness because “we are too tired, too busy or too unmotivated.” Yet if we have to walk the dog or feed a child healthy food, somehow we find the inner strength, time and resources. So it’s not a matter of not having time or energy to take care of ourselves. It’s really about priorities. Learn to make your own health and wellness a priority. It benefits you and it also provides a good role model for children in your life!

4.  Focus (directed attention, concentration)-Focusing on how we look is rarely motivating. For some, working out to get the body they want or fit into a particular outfit may help motivate them to work out and eat right. It doesn’t work for me and many of my clients though. For me, I have to focus on how I feel. I feel better when I work out and eat right. How I look may change for the better but it’s not my  main focus. My focus is in feeling good, having more energy. sleeping well, not having stomach aches or feeling sluggish. No matter what your prime motivator/s is/are, use them to give you strength when you need a push to work out or eat right!

5. Fun-Wellness needs to be fun to be sustainable.  If you hate running, how motivated will you be to get up and run in the morning? But if tennis is fun for you, you will be more likely to play tennis than run. Wii Fit tries to make exercise fun for adults and children by integrating games in with the movement exercises. healthy food doesn’t have to be drab and boring. take a cooking class that specializes in healthy eating: Indian food, Middle Eastern Food , Chinese Stir Fry and even some Italian dishes can be low-fat and healthy.  Learn to add healthy spice to your food and “healthy” becomes fun and tasty! Make learning new fitness routines fun by trying them out with family and friends.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Read Full Post »

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer


Adina Rosenberg's Infant Massage class


Recently I’ve had a number of my female clients deliver happy healthy adorable babies! As a big promoter of  a healthy lifestyle and wellness services like massage therapy, I want to share some information about infant massage for new moms and dads and other infant childcare providers.

Research shows children and infants that are massaged regularly show sleep better, are less anxious and show less signs of stress as indicated by heart rate and stress hormone levels. Infant massage supports the healthy development of  your baby’s body and  builds a foundation of trust and healthy communication between you and your child.

So, where do you go to learn how to safely massage your infant in the Chicago area? I found a few infant massage instructors and class offerings for you and am posting them below.

Adina Rosenberg, Breathe Bodyworks


Adina Rosenberg


As seen on “Fox Thing in the Morning”, Adina teaches  easy massage and yoga techniques to benefit your baby and you. The benefits of infant massage and yoga stretches include early brain development, stimulation, relaxation of muscles, gas relief, and enhanced sleep quality for baby and parent. The massage giver benefits from increased awareness of their baby’s needs and strengthens your bonds with baby. A 10 minute massage, two or three times a week, will make for a more confident caregiver-infant relationship and a very happy baby. It’s easy, fun and rewarding. All care givers are welcome – Mothers, Fathers, Expecting Parents, Grandparents, Sitters, etc. Please bring your baby or a doll to practice techniques.

Infant Massage Workshop
Sunday, December 12, 2010, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m.<

Soulistic Studio & Spa
805 Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago Il 60642

The cost of this workshop is $35/family. Space is limited an pre-registration is required.

To Register go to Soulistic.com.

Infant Massage Course at Galter Life Center

5157 N Francisco Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60625

Infant massage has numerous benefits, including relaxing and soothing your baby, deepening your communication and bonding and helping your baby sleep. Learn the proper techniques for massaging newborns to 1-year-olds from Heather Rabbitt, LMT, certified infant massage instructor.The class fee is $60 per infant, with a discount for babies delivered at Swedish Covenant Hospital (enter schdelivery as your discount code at checkout).

For more information about this course, please call (773) 878-8200, Ext. 7340 or go to this link here.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Infant Massage Classes — Two-part series is for parents of infants from 3 weeks to crawling and is one of the most pleasant ways to “get in touch” with your infant. Infant massage helps regulate digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems, while influencing motor and memory development. It helps baby sleep better, too! Small group sessions, or private sessions at the hospital, are taught by a Certified Infant Massage Instructor. ONLY MOTHER NEEDS TO BE REGISTERED. Two-Part Group session: $80 Private Session: $100
Register for the next class on November 3 by clicking here.

Infant Massage Class in Oak Park with Mary Cay Cavanagh, NCBTMB, LMT, CPMT, CEIM


Mary Cay Cavanagh


Medical Arts Building | 715 Lake Street | Suite 200 | Oak Park, IL 60301

  • Classes held in Oak Park location
  • Babies may be any age under one year (pre-crawling is ideal!)
  • Expectant parents may attend and bring a doll on which to practice the strokes – this is a great way to prepare for your baby’s homecoming
  • Classes are valuable for all caregivers, i.e., moms, dads, nannies, grandparents, older siblings or anyone who enriches your baby’s life with his/her presence. Especially great for new dads as it gives them a physical bond (like mom already has) with their new baby
  • Wonderful opportunity to meet others with new babies in their lives and to share experiences
  • Each session focusing on massage techniques for different parts of the body so you can work with your baby and discover his/her favorites techniques. We also discuss various aspects of infant massage i.e., history, benefits, infant brain development.
  • Price is $150.00 per family for the 2 week series

Please email or phone Mary at 630.452.1527 if you are interested in a class or if you would like information about future classes with Mary.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Read Full Post »

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

People seek massages for a variety of reasons: Stress relief, reducing muscle tension, improving recovery from injury, to enhance athletic performance, and to just pain feel good (versus feel bad or being in pain and tension). If you’ve noticed lately, a new study that links social anxiety to increased inflammatory response has been all over the Internet. So what does this have to do with massage therapy? Plenty.

First off, massage therapy is one of the main complimentary health care approaches for stress relief. Research has shown that massage therapy lowers blood pressure, elevates levels of serotonin and dopamine and reduces levels of cortisol. This new study, conducted by George Slavich, a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, and Shelley Taylor, a UCLA professor of psychology,  found that people who have a greater neural sensitivity to social rejection (social anxiety) also have greater increases in inflammatory activity in response to social stress.

A temporary increases in inflammatory response may have been useful for our ancestors when they were confronting a physical threat which may have been triggered by a social threat from a neighboring tribe or another tribe member jockeying for position. Inflammation may be triggered by anticipation of a physical injury.  Proteins that regulate the immune system called, inflammatory cytokines  are released in response to impending (or actual) physical assault because they accelerate wound-healing and reduce the risk of infection. However, chronic inflammation can increase the risk of asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and depression, according to the UCLA study.


George Slavich, UCLA


Study author George Slavich said that how people react and interpret social situations has an important effect on how people trigger the inflammatory response. For example, some people may view being the enter of attention (such as giving a speech or attending a party), as a welcome challenge. Others may see the same event as extremely uncomfortable or even threatening.

“This is further evidence of how closely our mind and body are connected,” Slavich said according to a UCLA press release about the study. “We have known for a long time that social stress can ‘get under the skin’ to increase risk for disease, but it’s been unclear exactly how these effects occur. To our knowledge, this study is the first to identify the neurocognitive pathways that might be involved in inflammatory responses to acute social stress.”

Potentially anxiety producing situations like job interviews, public speaking, large parties, even award ceremonies can lead some people to feel extreme anxiety.

How can massage therapy help? One way would be to hire your own personal massage therapist to travel around with you and give you a chair massage any time you feel social anxiety. Bob Hope did it. That it, he had his own personal massage therapist for years that gave him a massage every day. I’m not sure that daily massage was to improve Bob’s social anxiety, because I don’t know if he had any! But he did get daily massage for many years. And Bob lived to be 100 years old.

For most of us a daily professional massage not really practical. But how about scheduling a massage the day before or a few hours before or after your big event. The massage may help relax you and flood your body with feel good chemicals. It’s difficult to feel tense and stressed while feeling relaxed at the same time!

Other strategies for coping with social anxiety include working with a cognitive behavioral therapist to help you better manage your thoughts that make your responses to social situations less stressful.

“Although the issue is complex, one solution is to not treat negative thoughts as facts,” Slavich said. “If you think you’re being socially rejected, ask yourself, what’s the evidence? If there is no evidence, then revise your belief. If you were right, then make sure you’re not catastrophizing or making the worst out of the situation.”

The study appears in the current online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Read Full Post »

Deep and superficial layers of posterior leg m...
Image via Wikipedia

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Most people think of their calf muscles as those two bulging muscles below the back of their knees called the gastrocnemius muscle. These muscles have two “heads” like the biceps and are visible in most people. However, underneath this muscle is a very important muscle, the soleus muscle. It is a smaller, flatter muscle that attaches deep to the upper portion of your tibia and fibula bones as well as to the membrane that attaches the too bones together.

The soleus attaches at the bottom to your leg to the heel bone via the Achilles tendon (along with the gastrocnemius and plantaris muscles.) Because the soleus attaches to your hell, it is a primary plantar flexor of the ankle. this means the soleus is the muscle most responsible for letting you push down firmly with the front of your foot. this is useful for walking, running, cycling, jumping, dancing, basketball, climbing and any activity where you need to push off on the front of your foot. Soleus also helps you standing up!

The gastrocnemius muscle attaches  to the lower portion of the femur (upper leg bone) just above the back of the crease of the knee. About midway down the back of the lower leg, this muscle attaches to the Achilles tendon (which attaches to your heel bone). Because the muscle fibers in the gastrocnemius are longitudinal fibers orienting on a vertical (sagital in anatomic terms) plane, they allow you to left he entire weight of our body! You need this power to be able to jump, climb and walk down stairs and hills. The gastrocs also help stabilize the ankle and knee joints and help control balance in your feet. although most people think of their calves as primarily the gastrocnemius muscles, surprisingly, this muscle doesn’t do much to help you move forward. Its more of a power muscle for spurts of movement like jumping and climbing (versus walking or jogging).

People often experience “Charley horses” or cramps in their gastrocnemeus muscles. But cramps or pain in soleus muscles can lead to pain in your heel, calf and back of your ankle as well.  And since soleus is used in to help maintain a standing position and for walking and running, overly tight soleus muscles can also contribute to low back pain in some people.

How to Stretch Soleus Muscles

1. Stand with your legs  in a mild lunge position (one leg in front of the other), feet about 2 feet apart.

2. Bend your front foot upward (dorsiflex your foot) while bending your back leg. Keep front leg straight.

3. Hold for 10-15 seconds then repeat with the other leg.

You should feel a good stretch in your soleus, but not much in your gastrocs.

How to Stretch Gastronemius Muscles

1. Stand facing about 3-4 feet from a flat wall.

2. Lean your body into the wall so that your palms are touching the wall and holding you up.

3. Now step backwards with one foot, bending your forward knee and keeping the back foot as flat tot the ground as possible.

4. “Lather, rinse, repeat” with the other leg.

You should feel a strong stretch in both your gastrocnemeus and your soleus, but more so in your gastrocs.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: