Protect Your Shoulders with Stretching and Massage



Joint injuries may be chronic, the kind that develop over time due to wear and tear, bad posture or repetitive movements. Or, they may be acute, which happens quickly, oftentimes resulting from a fall, a blow to the shoulder or lifting too much weight at one time.


Strengthening the muscles that support your joints and keeping them limber with stretching will help stabilize your joints and decrease your risk for injuries. Begin any new exercise program slowly or your joints may feel worse afterwards. And, if you have an injury or chronic pain, talk to your orthopedist first prior to starting a new exercise program.


Tightness around the shoulder combined with weakness in the muscles that support the shoulder can lead to overcompensation, pain and trigger points (tender areas where the muscle has been overworked). Stretching, massaging and strengthening can help to increase range of motion and decrease pain.




Front Crossover Pulls
Keep your right arm straight and gently pull it across your body with your left arm until you feel a gentle stretch in your shoulder. Hold this for 10 seconds and then repeat with the other arm. Try two to three sets for each arm.


Cat Camel
Lay down with your knees, feet and hands touching an exercise mat or on carpet. Your wrists should be directly underneath your shoulders and butt directly over your knees. While gently exhaling arch like a cat so your spine is pushing upwards toward the ceiling and your head is tucked down toward your chest. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds and then move your body in the opposite direction with your belly sinking towards the floor and head reaching up and back. Pull your shoulder blades in towards your spine. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds before beginning the upward phase.


Refer to Cat Camel Picture at:


Reach and Roll
Lay on your right side with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and arms extended out from your body and on top of one another. Now move your right hand along your left arm and across your body as you reach out and open your ribcage completely.


Thread the Needle
Start on all fours by kneeling with your butt over your knees and hands out in front of you with shoulders directly above your hands. Exhale and rotate the left side of your trunk from the waist upwards (without arching back), sliding your left hand along the floor with palm up and arm straight until your left hand is to the right of your right hand. Your shoulders should not lift toward the ears while rotating.


Overhead stretch
Sit down on the floor on top of your heels and lean forward while keeping your butt close to your heals and your face close to the ground. Now reach out in front of you and you should feel a stretch in your shoulders.


You can also turn this move into a strengthening exercise by pointing your thumbs up and reaching up with your right arm while your thumb points toward the ceiling. Hold this for one to two seconds and then bring your right arm down and reach up with your left arm. Alternate each arm for 2 sets of 10 on each side. If you are just starting, you may want to do just 1 set per side.


Sleeper stretch
Lie on your right side with your head propped up on a pillow with your right elbow flexed at 90° so your fingers are straight up reaching toward the ceiling. Now place your left hand on top of your right hand and gently push your right forearm down. You should feel this stretch in the back of your shoulder. Hold it for 5 – 10 seconds and repeat 2-3 times on each side.


Posterior Stretch
Hold a towel behind your back with your left elbow bent slightly and your left hand in the air and right hand behind your back. Now gently walk your right fingers up your back while gently pulling the towel up with your left hand. You should feel this stretch in your right shoulder. Repeat 2-3 times on each side.


Front & Back Stretch
Bend your left arm at the elbow and reach over your right shoulder with your left hand. Place right hand on your left elbow gently push it back.

To start the back stretch, lift your left arm up in the air, bend your elbow and reach your left hand down the right side of your back. Place your right hand on your left elbow and gently push it down. Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, repeat with the other arm and do 2 to 3 sets per arm.



Use a Lacrosse or Tennis Ball 


Infraspinatus and Teres Minor
Anyone who sits for hours, has rounded shoulders, or poor posture can benefit from massaging the muscles that support the shoulder. While standing with your back to a wall, place the ball between your body and the wall on the area just outside of the shoulder blade and roll around on the ball to massage your muscles. This can also be done while laying down on the ground though the addition of body weight on top of the ball means the massage will be much harder and potentially too hard for some people.


Chest Muscles
Our chest muscles (pec major and minor) can become very tight when we sit for hours and rounded shoulders. This can lead it to pain in the shoulder that can sometimes radiate down the arm, and decreased range of motion.

Human musculature, computer artwork.                         A human model showing the pectoralis minor muscle.

PEC MAJOR                                       PEC MINOR

Stand close to a wall and place a tennis ball on your pec major or pec minor and against the wall (this can also be done while lying on the floor). Move around slowly so the ball hits the entire area including right next to your armpit and just above that area. If this area is tight you should feel it release as you massage.



Anatomical model showing the trapezius muscles.
Tight trapezius muscles contribute to shoulder pain, neck pain and headaches. You can massage your traps by rolling on a lacrosse or tennis ball on the wall or lying on your back with the ball beneath you and rolling around on the floor. If you have tender areas (trigger points) on the part of your traps to the side of your neck, you can release these by standing in front of an open doorway, bending at your hips so your upper torso and head are in line and at a 45% angle. Place the ball on top of your shoulders near your neck and roll around on the ball with small motions.


Levator Scapulae
Your levator scapulae holds rotates your head and tilts it from side to side. Poor posture and holding a phone between your cheek and your shoulder can lead to tightness and pain. When this muscle is tight you may find it difficult to touch your chin to your chest, fully rotate your head from side to side (you should be able to turn your head 90 degrees to the left and right) or bend your neck so your head tilts about 45 degrees over each shoulder. In addition to impairing range of motion, tightness can lead to headaches.

Marie Levator Scapulae

Stretch the levator scapulae by sitting on a chair with feet spread widely apart and flat on the ground. Place your left hand behind your head and grasp the chair with your right hand. Rotate your head 45 degrees to the left and gently pull your head toward your left knee. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, relax for 10 seconds and then perform the same motion while actively resisting the movement by pushing your head back into your hand (this should help you get a deeper stretch the next time). Relax and perform this sequence 2-3 times per side.


You can massage this muscle by standing with your back to a wall and placing the lacrosse or tennis ball at the top of your shoulder underneath your neck. Roll the ball around in small movements. When you hit trigger points, you may feel pain radiating into your neck and shoulders.


For shoulder strengthening exercises, click here 


PHOTO CREDIT (musculature images) : CORBIS IMAGES


Things I Never Thought I Would do Again, If Ever – The Rear View Mirror



The musician Meat Loaf has a line in one of his songs, “Objects in the rear view mirror often appear closer than they are.”


Well, I live both with intention and intensely; thus leaving a lot in the rear view mirror to be just that….clearly in the rear view, never to be revisited.  Then life changed as I decided to pursue professionally the sport of Skeleton and aim for the Olympics.


Our prior topics embraced topics whereby choices as older athletes are made that impact others close to us;  we also make choices that impact us.  Let’s face it.  Doing any sport at a professional level does require a financial & time commitment.  Nobody can walk in blindly not knowing that.


That said, what I was not ready for, and blind I was indeed, was the other choices I would make and continue to make, that I thought were very much in my rear view mirror of life.


At a certain age there are  things in life we simply no longer need to do, want to do or would never consider doing based on who we are and our own personal DNA.  YET as an athlete pursuing an elite status, all of these rules kinda need to go out the window.  Here is a brief list of some of those things.


THINGS I NO LONGER NEED or WANT TO DO but have done and will continue to:


·  Living in an athlete dorm that smells like lip-gloss, bubblegum, testosterone (males and females have plenty of testosterone in elite sports), AXE for men and sweaty compression gear.


·  Sleeping three feet away with three twin beds in one room and sharing a bathroom with these two other athletes who I compete against at night.


·  The dorm environment is not the party it once was.  I was never a dorm person or a party person but 20 years old in a coed dorm is one thing; it definitely is not a party if you are older. Instinct is Run as far as I can… But nope, not an option.  Made a choice, this comes with it.  The noise and the smell alone hit me hard and fast.  Within a minute I made the decision to put all of who I thought I was and liked regarding privacy, hygiene and personal space on hold for some indefinite period of time. This is not easy to do for someone who has never liked sharing a bathroom since I was 5 years old.


·  What to do in a coed dorm?  Thank Goodness for technology and texting… we all sit on our bed most always in silence except for the occasional outburst of laughter from a personal joke in a text. We are all texting anyone – anyone that is NOT in that room!   There are some public spaces to get away but everyone there is doing the same thing.  There is down time between cafeteria feedings and workouts in the gym or at the track.




·  Once I had a really cool roommate.  She is an outstanding athlete 25 yrs. younger than me but we never thought about it.  In fact this athlete I call a friend, although a competitor.  We shared a room at an Olympic Training center.   Cafeteria opens at 5:00AM, I was usually in there early, working and coffee time.  Consequently I would see what the breakfast forage was early.  If there was bacon I would text her.  Athletes in explosive sports often love bacon… even if someone denies it—we all grab as much as we can when the chef makes bacon.  (NOT turkey bacon.)  We who love bacon and slide in the cold will hoard it.  When bacon is served I have seen groggy athletes from other sports run into the cafeteria barely out of bed with Ziplocs and fill them up with bacon.  Having texted my roommate one word, “bacon”, she texts back “turkey?”  I text “no, pig”.   Into the cafeteria would come my roommate, half asleep, grab a water glass, go get the bacon and go back to bed.


SO here it is:  Something I never thought I would do…. Fill a plastic 20oz red water glass with bacon as stuffed as we could… this water glass of cold, congealed greased bacon would sit on our nightstands until foraged- whacked!  Licking the grease off of cold bacon at 10PM after sliding actually tastes really good!


I never thought I would actually contemplate let alone like having a red water glass of congealed bacon next to the bed. Yup, never thought I would do that.  Never thought I would admit it and never thought I would put it in print!


·  I never have been a “girly girl”whatever that means, but let’s just stipulate to the fact that most woman at any age, let alone 50, do not have a makeup drawer that looks like mine.  One day in Nov 2014 when I was getting ready for a meeting, it dawned on me as I was looking for an eye shadow color, that my makeup color pots were surrounded by superglue to fix a shoe, a zip tie for my sled crate, a track spike wrench for my shoes and a bungee cord.  My makeup basket looks like a “where’s Waldo”.


·  Athletes in sports often have certain similar traits from physicality being similar to personality disorders for lack of a better way to frame it.  I am only speaking for myself but I have heard plenty of skeleton athletes and coaches in the sport of skeleton admit to being OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).  I had no idea when I started this and yet it suits me just fine as I have my glorious share of OCD tendencies.  It is not a weakness, it seemingly makes us who we are and somehow a lot of us who slide head first at 90MPH have some OCD – go figure.


I mention the OCD purely for context because often with OCD can come order, precision and a bit of a bent for extremes and hygiene cleanliness.


I never thought I would be chuckling with another human so like me in a kitchen, not using other people’s silverware, having food allergies and eating the exact same things and being built exactly alike.  It is kinda fun!


Some things that I have done and I never thought I would do.  No, it is not that I “thought” I would never do it; these things are so afoul to my DNA that it is safe to say I would NEVER do this.


And then came skeleton… and I have.  If I don’t gross my self out telling you, I will just laugh!


·  We wear bite guards and we all tuck them somewhere after a run- in the front of our speedo, up a sleeve, hanging 50% out of our mouth, etc.  It is pure habit, helmet off, bite guard out and tuck it.  For me it is the top of my speedo.


  • Now I have to use the ladies room – got to take off the speedo to do that and bite guard falls on the floor of the athlete start house bathroom, which has likely not been cleaned in months.  Well, I am sliding next and I simply have said, oh well, picked it up, rinsed it and put it back in my mouth, immediately blocking the experience from my brain.  Unfortunately this happened again this week… gross!


·  I never thought I would have chocolate stuck in my hair in the morning, skittle indentions in my thighs in the morning or found popcorn under my pillow… disgusting!  Eating in bed but I was still hungry and so tired.


Quote of the week:  “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”   -Joseph Campbell


Perhaps it is as simple as once I chose this path I had to be willing subconsciously and otherwise, to do what Joseph Campbell says.


I encourage all readers of this blog to think about that quote.  If you think you want to try something but think for any reason you should not… think again… it might just be the life you were supposed to have.


Yours in Ice



Guest post by Anna Prata, an Olympic hopeful Competitive Skeleton Athlete. Otherwise known mainly by her last name of Prata, she is 100% committed and passionate about living every moment of her life and leaving it on the field every day. In her non-athlete time, Prata is a highly successful executive in the niche of corporate turnaround. Both her corporate life and her sports life have similarities of stealth, intensity, and speed in creating value and less time down the ice; while wearing Kevlar to protect from the dangers of companies in distress and from potentially hitting a wall of ice at 90 MPR. Ms. Prata is not a nutritionist, a physical therapist or in any way should her opinions be considered medical, physical or psychological advice.



Active Ways to Improve Joint Health

trampoline flex


Osteoarthritis is one of the more common ailments that many of us will experience – over 27 million adults (at least 25 years old) suffer from it in the United States. For instance, one in ten people will witness osteoarthritis of the hip which can result in morning stiffness, joint pain, and an impaired life. Are there any natural ways to reduce your risk or at least prevent some discomfort? Should you just stay as immobile as possible?


Jumping Exercises


One way to help prevent osteoarthritis and even osteoporosis is to perform jumping exercises that impact the joints. This was found to be especially true in postmenopausal women with the risk of osteoarthritis. Research has found that high-impact jump training improved the cartilage quality and caused the bones to reinforce themselves.


While it seems counter-intuitive the scientific release stated, “…despite mild knee osteoarthritis, a person is allowed and even encouraged to progressively implement high-impact loading exercises to maintain and improve her health and functional ability.”


Tübingen exercise approach – ThüKo approach


Research has shown that the Tübingen exercise approach, a 12-week exercise therapy that breaks down to a 60-90 minute group fitness workout once a week and a 30-40 minute at-home workout twice a week, can help reduce hip pain. The program involves social interaction, strength training, and therapeutic approaches to get results. The exercises they performed were geared towards improving mobility, coordination, and muscle strength. The research group found that the participants had less pain and more mobility in their joints!


The social aspects of the group classes can help keep you motivated and actually keep you on track. This combined with the effectiveness of weight training – both in the class and at-home – can help improve mobility and decrease pain!


6000 Steps


Knee osteoarthritis has been found to be one of the main causes of older adult immobility. For instance, climbing stairs sometimes becomes almost impossible. If you are at risk of knee osteoarthritis or already have it, research has found that one way to increase your mobility is by walking at least 6000 steps a day!


The study found that more walking basically equated to a better functioning joint. One of the study authors, Dr. Daniel White said, “Walking is an inexpensive activity and despite the common popular goal of walking 10,000 steps per day, our study finds only 6,000 steps are necessary to realize benefits. We encourage those with or at risk of knee OA [osteoarthritis] to walk at least 3,000 or more steps each day, and ultimately progress to 6,000 steps daily to minimize the risk of developing difficulty with mobility.”


As with all exercise programs – especially if you have a preexisting condition – make sure to consult your physician before beginning, no matter how simple it may seem.




It may seem that the best way to decrease your pain from this debilitating disease is to stay immobile. This might be as far from the truth as possible. Recent research indicates that in many cases, getting mobile and performing weight-bearing exercises may be exactly what you need to reduce pain, improve mobility, and reduce your risk of osteoarthritis!


If you want more exercises and nutrition that can be helpful in reaching your health goals be sure to visit Always Active Athletics: Your #1 Source For At-Home Fitness and Nutrition!