Reducing or Preventing Back Problems

Since injuring my back a few months ago I have learned about relieving or eliminating back pain, or strengthening the back. So I pass on some tips.

My problem started this past January mainly from one day running 7×50 meter sprints about 95% speed indoor on a hard rubber track, and then aggravating it by snow shoveling in January, February and early March, even with the assistance of a kind neighbor.

Back problems are very common and affect nearly everyone in a lifetime. It is the most frequent problem for chiropractors and physiotherapists, and a very common reason for visiting the family doctor. A weak back does not take a proper share of a load and consequently other parts of the body are overworked and hence injured, as in my case my right hip.

There are dozens of back exercises to choose from, but many will cause further problems. I found there are good back exercises and bad to relieve or eliminate back pain or strengthen the back. After a lot of research and experiment on myself and advice by physiotherapists, I have arrived at the recommended exercises below.

Good and safe back exercises are:

1. Hamstring stretch with a towel or placing a straight leg on a small bench.

2. My physiotherapists and many others recommend lying on the back and raising both bent knees gently to the chest or raising a single leg gently to the chest. Hold for 5 seconds, and repeat 5 times, once or twice per day. If you have a back problem do the double leg exercise before exercise.

3. Another popular exercise is the “lumber rotation stretch”—lie on back with both knees bent 90 degrees and arms outstretched to either side, and lower knees to the ground as far as you can gently, held for 5 seconds, return to neutral. Repeat 5 times on either side, 2 times of day. Keep shoulders in contact with the floor throughout.

4. Cat and camel stretch: On hands and knees move gently into the humped back cat position with head down, hold for 10 seconds. Move gently into the hollowed back position with head up, hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 3 to 5 times.

5. Seated in chair and hands behind head, rotate to the right above the waist, keeping the core square. Hold for 10 seconds. Rotate to left. Do 3 to 5 times twice per day. A good exercise while at the computer.

6. Pelvic tilt. I have been practicing this every morning for decades. It also strengthens the abdominals and also awakens the intestines on arising in the morning. If you are not familiar: lie on your back, breathe in raising your stomach, hold for 5 seconds, then lower your stomach so your back contacts the bed, hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 30 times.

7. Lateral leg raise—while lying on your side with hand under head and elbow for support, raise the outer straight leg about 18 inches, hold for 2 or 3 seconds, repeat 10 times. This reduces strain on the back and also works the abductors which supports the pelvis. I also like this since I have a sore muscle in this abductor hip region.

8. Some bad but popular exercises for the back, particularly for a weak back are listed as below. A bad exercise will speak to you through your back at exercise time or a day or two later. I do not go into detail with these exercises since they are to be avoided.

Bad for back exercises are:

The Superman, the Plank all kinds, the Sphinx, the Bird Dog, Sit Ups, Straight Leg Lifts, Crunches or Curls, and Alternate Toe Touches while bent over (an oldy).

A weak back can lead to overuse of other muscles such as muscles in the hip area. But a strong core can help prevent back problems. Or a weak core results in the back muscles working harder, taking on an excessive share. Crunches, straight leg lifts, the planks for instance can cause a sore back. But the following are safe core exercises to strengthen the core without aggravating the back:

1. “Floor March”: Lie on back with 90 degree bent knees and feet 3 inches from buttocks. Raise one leg bent at 90 degrees, with quad vertical and shins parallel to the ground. Hold for 10 seconds. Lower slowly. Repeat 3 times each leg.

2. “Double Leg Abdominal Press”: Similar to above. Lie on back with 90 degree bent knees and feet 6 inches from buttocks. Raise quads to vertical and shins parallel to the ground. Activate the abdominals by pushing with knees and pulling with hands on the quads. Hold for 10 seconds, repeat 3 times.

Other exercises but not as effective are pushups and also standing on one foot for 10 seconds, next to a wall or table in case of imbalance. I do about 36 pushups most nights before bed but still need further core strengthening.

I also like the wall sit exercise as it is easy on the back and works gluteus and leg muscles, but not the core. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat about 3 to 5 times between rests of about 30 to 60 seconds. I often do 35 squats with the big Swiss ball between a wall and my back. It is also easy on the back.

Keep the following in mind while doing these exercises:

Stop immediately if there is discomfort.

Take note the next day or 2nd day after if there are sore muscles which indicates too much or inappropriate exercise.

A heated pad before exercise or warm shower on the back area exercised is useful before the back exercise.
Start gradual and work up to more intense over a period of time.

The above will help with back problems, or those who might want to prevent back problems in the future. Besides it is something useful to do at this home isolation time.


Discover the Major Benefits of Healthy Genes

Recently I was happy to discover a major but simple way to help live a longer happier life. It is obvious to most that this is possible with a good diet, daily exercise and a positive attitude. The good diet requires a healthy microbiome, i.e., intestines with a majority of good microbes compared to bad microbes. The microbiome adjusts the immune system every day, and monitors the development of the brain, and nervous system. I have written two Facebook articles on this subject and the advantages to body mind and spirit. Now, I have concluded by reading Reference 1 (Super Genes, By Deepak Chopra and Rudalph Tanzi) similar life advantages can be achieved by encouraging the development of healthy genes in our bodies. Reference 1 is backed up by many reputable scientists, health directors, etc. that agree we can influence our destinies by influencing our genes.

Some background on genes is helpful: Our body cells contain DNA which regulate our bodies. The DNA contains the chromosomes which contain the millions of genes. The genes are situated in our skin, mouth and intestines, but nearly entirely in the intestines. The genes react and send messages to the body, mind and spirit depending on happenings to the body and mind such as worry, stress, disease, the environment, chemical pollutants, diet and also general experiences in the short term and long term, and our choices and behaviors. What we think can also have a big effect on the genes. . For example, negative thoughts will result in shortening of telomeres at the ends of chromosomes. Any strong or unusual experience can alter your genes. By having control over our genes we have control over changes to our body, mind and spirit. Genes react quickly from changes in diet, disease, stress and other factors mentioned above. Twins are born with the same genes but the twins change differently depending on their different experiences which translates into gene reaction and activity.

We have control over many of the above mentioned happenings and experiences. The result is the genes react and send changes to the body mind and spirit. Every cell is communicating with other cells via genetic messages. Every cell via your genes is listening to what you think experience and do. Your lifestyle leads to a helpful or harmful body, mind, spirit activity. A healthy lifestyle produces super genes. But an unhealthy lifestyle produces harmful genes. In short, how we live controls our genetic activity within.

Since the majority of genes are in the intestines it also makes good sense to have healthy intestines, i.e., with a large % of healthy microbes. The genes and microbiome work together promoting each other. When either is disrupted, many disorders are possible , e.g., excess inflammation, lowered immune system, and minor and major disease.

Ref 1 states our lifestyle and activities cause the genes to turn on or off and to “switch”. My interpretation of switching… is it is essentially a gene mechanism sending a favourable or unfavourable signal to the body, mind or spirit and causing their action. Also, the millions of gene switches also make possible the development of new cells in our body.

Particular genes are known to be associated with a particular disorder or disease such as some cancers, heart disease, and brain problems etc. Some families have a propensity for a particular disease but there is only “roughly 5%”” guarantee of onset.

When you have an experience in your daily routine where you suspect genes are awakened… think of the many likely benefits or detriments in your body, mind or spirit.

The great photo: thanks to Alex Rotas at the Budapest indoor WMA 2014 where I had a world record in the 400m and 8oom.

Achieving the Benefits From Excess Good Microbes in the Gut

My anti-aging book, 100 Years Young the Natural Way, published in 2005, had a big chapter on Probiotics and Intestinal Flora. Now in 2021 on this same life-saving subject the microbiome diet is now the hottest health topic—and getting more and more attention as research uncovers more and more major health benefits of good microbes in the intestines. So you see I foresaw this major health problem much earlier. The microbiome is the diverse microbes in your gut and intestines. Some say the microbiome is the ”newly discovered organ”, actually weighting only about 2 to 6 pounds. It is essential to have the good microbe outnumber the bad. Research studies on the microbiome is increasing rapidly every year.

Some of the many major advantages of a wide variety of good microbes from probiotics and prebiotics (foods explained below) in the gut based on hundreds of scientific studies are:

– Greater energy, and mood
– Healthier immune system and intestines
– Reduces inflammation
– Reduction in risk of diabetes, heart disease and many cancers
– Improves metabolism and digestion
– Promotes healthy elimination. (Also your daily elimination is a good indication of a healthy microbiome. That is all I can say on this delicate subject.)
– Improved brain function benefitting: learning, memory, and nervous system. These beneficial effects of a healthy microbiome on the brain have been known now for many decades. Extensive research studies in this area are ongoing worldwide and increasing with promising effects of a healthy microbiome on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
– Longevity increases significantly and the effect is comparable to frequent exercise.

Earl Fee at Sacramento

Also, a chronic bad imbalance in the gut microbiome can cause weight gain, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It’s called Dysbiosis.

What is a healthy daily microbiome diet (probiotic and prebiotic foods):

– A diet high in fiber is essential from a total of 5 to 6 servings of vegetables daily— and secondly from 2 or 3 servings of fruit. This is 7 or 8 vegetables, a variety of colours, daily for me, my strong recommendation. The fruits that are also anti-inflammatory are berries, cherries and grapes.
– Beans and fermented foods like Sauerkraut, and Kefir, and Greek yogurt with low sugar (my favourite desert)
– All varieties of green vegetables.
– Salmon
– Red wine and dark chocolate
– Green tea

Note: prebiotic and probiotic supplements are not as effective as whole foods in view of importance of fibre in the diet (at least 40 grams required per day).

Food producing bad bacteria:

– Saturated and trans fats (processed foods), vegetable oils, any low fiber foods, excess sugar, corn, red meat and dairy foods, soy, and tap water.
– Potatoes (sweet potatoes OK) should be limited. Also they are not a healthy combination with protein at a meal so I usually consume only in small quantities.

I view of the facts above it behooves us all to adapt a healthy microbiome diet or excess good microbes in the intestines. As time goes by you will be hearing more and more about the importance of the microbiome diet. Don’t delay. Also, in addition to the good diet a daily exercise routine is essential (at least 150 minutes per week is recommended by the health experts).

Mental Toughness and Athletic Attitude

Have a strong belief in your capabilities.

Have an unwavering desire to excel and do your personal best or better.

Remind yourself of your past successes and the injuries and difficulties overcome.

Success may be simply training yourself to be immune to boredom. Success will follow.

Have an attitude of persistence. It is more powerful than talent or genius.

But striving for perfection for most is usually foolhardy, often leading to injury for an athlete and involving a disproportionate amount of effort.

Be mentally tough. How to do this? With tough consistent training within your limits, racing tough competitors, and enjoying the journey along the way.

Every hardy experience develops the latent force within you.

Prove to yourself in your training that you can do anything you set out to do.

Do everything over the years of persistent dedication to put yourself in the position to be a champion.

Prepare, prepare, prepare with passion; and the extra miles and exhaustive efforts will guarantee surprising results.

Then when you toe the line you will know you are ready in body, mind and spirit.

And winning gracefully and celebrating your achievements humbly, will boost your enthusiasm and provide motivation for future endeavours.

Have a detailed plan. Planning well in advance. Your passion will carry you to success.

Notes: There is a 35 page chapter on Mental Training with 31 references in my 450 page book all in color, The Complete Guide To Running. Well over 4500 copies sold since 2005, and second edition 2007. Still available. Order from Amazon and other booksellers.

My Mediterranean, Low Inflammation, Heart Healthy Diet

To prevent diseases it is essential to have good eating habits. The following is my recommended pyramid diet – with most desirable foods at bottom and least desirable at top – based on taking the best aspects from a wide variety of diets, but mainly the Mediterranean diet, the anti-inflammation diet, and the low glycemic diet (low sugar rush). Twenty five highly qualified researchers, doctors and dieticians ranked the Mediterranean diet best overall diet for 2018. The anti-inflammation diet is also important since low grade inflammation is at the root of most diseases and particularly related to arthritis, diabetes, allergies, heart disease and even cancer. They all start with low grade inflammation. The best foods to prevent low grade inflammation are: fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines), green leafy vegetables, fruit, fermented foods, onions and garlic, whole grains, fermented foods, herbs and spices. It is also important to avoid high glycemic foods that cause high sugar rush like starchy foods, and sweet foods.

The following chart is worth a thousand words. The numbers below refer to the daily or weekly servings recommended.

Fast Food: NO
Processed Food: NO
Starch with Protein at a meal: NO
White Products: Bread, Rice, Flour: NO
Butter, Bacon, Red Meat 1 serving: WEEKLY or NO
Potatoes, White Pasta: MINIMAL or NO
Sweets, Sugar, Chocolate. Fruit Juice: MINIMAL
Dried figs, dates, apricots, Greek yogurt PREFERRED SWEETS Wine: MINIMAL
Low fat Dairy Products: 2-3 DAILY
Skinless Poultry: 1 to 2 WEEKLY
Eggs: 2 WEEKLY for Men and 4 WEEKLY for women
Oils: Olive oil mainly, Canola or Grapeseed: 1-2 tablespoons DAILY
Supplements: Multi Vitamin, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Q10 coenzyme, etc.: DAILY
Water: Distilled: 8 glasses DAILY
Fats: Extra virgin oil, walnuts, avocados, seeds, ground flaxseed: 6 DAILY
Whole Grains: 5 DAILY
Omega 3 Foods: Salmon Fish or Sardines: 3-4 WEEKLY or Fish Oil: DAILY
Beans and Lentils: 1-2 DAILY and Nuts and Seeds 2 tablespoons: DAILY
Fruit: 3-4 DAILY
Vegetables: 4-5 or more DAILY
Leafy Dark Green Vegetables: Kale, Spinach, Collards, Lettuce, etc.: 2 DAILY

We can all make improvements in our diet. What is missing in your diet or needs to be reduced?

The photo below is my 800m at age 70 in 1999 at Gateshead GB Worlds, 0.5 seconds slower than my world record a few months before.