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Your Sports Health Questions, Answered: “I have low-back discomfort. What can I do?”



Life Time has partnered with the Sports Health experts at NYU Langone to provide insights on the common health issues that have the potential to prevent us from moving freely and functioning our best.

Meet the Experts

  • Salvador Portugal, DO, MBA, NYU Langone Health (left)
  • Danny King, Master Trainer, Life Time (right)

Q: I’ve been sitting a lot over the past year and have started noticing some lower-back discomfort and even pain. What can I do to keep it from getting worse — and to prevent more serious issues from developing?

A: “In my practice lower-back issues have been on the rise — a result of increased sedentariness for many people over the past year,” explains Dr. Salvador Portugal, Medical Director of Sports Medicine Rehabilitation, NYU Langone.

“While acute injuries and age-related musculoskeletal complaints are common, I’ve seen a rise in low-back problems in a broader segment of the population since the onset of COVID, particularly in patients who’ve been working from home,” Dr. Portugal says. “They’re putting their spines in positions they shouldn’t be in for long periods of time. Those who’ve defaulted to working from their couch or bed are especially at risk.”

Poor ergonomics combined with extended periods in the same position compromise not just the lower back, but also the muscles and joints around it. “People often think the back is
weak when they experience pain or discomfort, but it’s actually more likely that the back and hip flexors are overused, and the core and glutes are underused,” notes Life Time Master Trainer Danny King. “When this happens, there tends to be an anterior tilt of the hips, which can cause discomfort in the lower back.”

Dr. Portugal and King agree that improved office ergonomics and movement are key to both preventing and addressing lower-back issues. “The general recommendation is to stand more often, with the computer screen at eye level so you’re not hunched over and with arms at a 90-degree angle,” says Dr. Portugal.

It’s also important to keep your shoulders stacked over your hips, whether you’re sitting or standing — this encourages a more neutral position of the lower back. When you’re seated, place your feet flat on floor and adjust your seat so your knees are bent at a right angle.

King stresses changing positions every 20 minutes or so: “It doesn’t take much for our muscles to start to get stuck.”

5 At-Home Moves to Try

The good news is that there are some basic exercises most of us can do to start correcting the lower-back issues we might be dealing with. (NOTE: Those with acute or chronic pain should consult with a healthcare provider.)

1. Bird Dog

From all fours, engage your core and extend your right arm and left leg; do not let the low back arch. Hold for 2 to 3 breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.

2. Dead Bug

Lying on the ground with arms and legs reaching up, draw lower back to the floor to engage core; extend opposite arm and leg toward the floor — go only as far as you can while keeping your lower back in contact with the ground.

3. Plank

From hands or forearms, find the plank position, drawing belly button toward your back. Hold for 2 to 3 breaths.

4. Bridge

Lying on your back with feet planted near the glutes, slowly lift hips toward the ceiling, one vertebra at a time, keeping glutes activated. Hold, then reverse movement.

5. Low Lunge

With the right leg forward at 90 degrees and the left knee on the ground, gently press forward, engaging the left glute so you feel a stretch in the left hip flexor. Hold for 2 to 3 breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.

At NYU Langone, their Sports Health experts have the multi-specialty expertise to provide coordinated, comprehensive care for all types of athletes. As an official healthcare partner, Life Time members receive exclusive concierge access to their world-class orthopedic specialists and performance experts, who can help you meet your fitness goals. To schedule an in-person appointment or video visit with a Sports Health expert, visit

The post Your Sports Health Questions, Answered: “I have low-back discomfort. What can I do?” appeared first on Experience Life.

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Morning Exercise May Stoke Your Brain All Day Long



The best time to work out is whenever you can. But a recent report suggests that morning exercise in particular can offer your brain an all-day boost.

Moderate-intensity exercise improves cognitive performance throughout the day compared with prolonged sitting, according to the 2019 study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Researchers at Australia’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute followed 65 overweight or obese men and women ages 55 to 80 who were typically sedentary. A control group continued their usual eight hours of daily uninterrupted sitting, while another group sat for an hour, walked at moderate intensity for 30 minutes on a treadmill, and sat for the remaining six hours of their day.

The walking group showed improved cognitive performance on tests measuring skills, such as executive functions and decision-making, compared with those who just sat.

A third group sat for an hour, walked at moderate intensity for 30 minutes, then walked slowly for three minutes every half-hour during the rest of the day. They displayed improved short-term mem­ory in addition to other cognitive benefits.

Key to exercise’s benefits on cognitive function and memory is brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF), a protein that aids the operation and growth of information-transmitting neurons in the brain. BDNF was elevated for eight hours during both exercise conditions relative to prolonged sitting, the researchers state.

(For more on exercise’s brain benefits, see “Made to Move” on page 59 of the July/August 2021 issue of Experience Life.)

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Exercise at Home

Train Like an NBA Player — With Tips from the Atlanta Hawks’ Kent Bazemore



The NBA season is 82 games long, spread over eight months. Add a month of preseason, plus another month for the postseason (and half the league makes the playoffs), and you’ve got 10 grueling months for a body to endure. That doesn’t factor in the travel schedule, or the reality that, in the 21st century, players are literally million-dollar assets, risking their careers with every jump shot, hard foul and awkward landing.

It’s why we love to watch, and it’s why the players are some of the fittest, most inspiring athletes out there. We asked Kent Bazemore — who, over the past six seasons worked his way from an undrafted rookie to a key member of the Atlanta Hawks’ starting lineup — and former Los Angeles Lakers trainer Tim DiFrancesco how they do it. Here’s what they told us, in the form of six tips on how to train like an NBA player:


We mean this in two ways. First, you’re probably not built like an NBA player — that is to say, you’re probably not extra-tall with especially long limbs. That affects how you work out. As DiFrancesco points out, he’ll teach a player to do side planks with their legs bent, just to avoid putting excessive impact on their long-levered bodies. (For you, even if you’re not 6-foot-9, this can be a way to go easier on your body when recovering from an injury.)


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Second, your lifestyle, while busy with work, family and relationships, it probably differs from that of the average NBA player. Consider that aforementioned travel schedule. “When you shut off the TV at 10:30 p.m. when the game is over, the players are hitting the showers and then getting on the plane to get to the next city,” DeFrancesco says. “So it’s another three-hour minimum before a player will even think about going to bed.” (And, as Bazemore points out, flying is dehydrating.) The next day, a player will likely be up by 8 a.m. for a shootaround or practice.

Rest when — and where — you can. “I’ll fall asleep on planes, on buses, it doesn’t matter to me,” Bazemore says, adding he’s a nap enthusiast on game day. “I love sleep. It’s very vital for me. When I get tired, I get grumpy. And I hate getting grumpy.”


One other thing: Remember NBA players aren’t all alike — just like we’re not all alike. DiFrancesco creates custom programs for each player he trains, and Bazemore prefers to keep his body in shape with Pilates, rather than the yoga some of his teammates prefer. So, by all means, train like an NBA player, but remember that your training may vary.


Simply put, every NBA player has the same goal: winning the NBA championship. So as soon as last season’s NBA Finals ended in June 2017, each player began training with an eye on the next Finals in June 2018. For Bazemore, that means devoting the offseason to building strength. “Deadlifts. Kettlebell goblet squats. More total body,” as he puts it. And then during the season, they’re careful not to push too hard, lest they use up valuable energy needed for the game itself. As Bazemore puts it, “I wouldn’t go and do 3 sets of 8 bench presses and 12 squats two days before a game if I feel like my legs are dead.”

For you, maybe the goal is running a half-marathon. Or winning the championship in your rec league. Or just beating your buddies in a round of golf. Whatever it is, make a plan to get your body into shape and maintain that shape once you’re there — including, yes, giving yourself permission to rest when your body demands it.


As you’d probably expect, each NBA team has state-of-the-art technology at its disposal. But sometimes, analog works best. On the Hawks, Bazemore fills out a survey every day where he rates his soreness and fatigue on a scale of 1–5. After practices, he rates how hard the practice was on a scale of 1–10. All of this is designed to adjudicate his overall wellness on a day-to-day basis. (DiFrancesco did something similar during his Lakers days.) These check-ins guide a player as he endures a game, a season and a career — and so he knows taking it easy during an early season workout helps ensure he’s fresh for the playoffs.

For you, such check-ins (in tandem with using a fitness tracking app like ours) can keep you on the right path and help you connect actions and consequences. (Bad workout? Maybe you didn’t eat or sleep well the night before.)

These check-ins can also reveal when you’re pushing yourself too hard. Bazemore advises, “Learn when to rest. Learn when enough is enough. We’re all competitors at the end of the day, we all want a little bit more, to squeeze a little bit more out. But you gotta learn when enough is enough, and get your mind ready to get back after it. You don’t want to burn yourself out.”

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So what does an NBA player do to get and stay in shape? We’ll turn it over to Mr. Bazemore: “Over the summer is where you put in a ton of leg work and have the longer weight-room sessions — an hour and a half, two hours sometimes. Building the foundation. Cardio. Maybe two workouts a day. Three workouts a day. Not really touching a basketball as much. Maybe some spot shooting, some ballhandling.

<blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-version=”7″ style=” background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:658px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% – 2px); width:calc(100% – 2px);”><div style=”padding:8px;”> <div style=” background:#F8F8F8; line-height:0; margin-top:40px; padding:50.0% 0; text-align:center; width:100%;”> <div style=” background:url(data:image/png;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAACwAAAAsCAMAAAApWqozAAAABGdBTUEAALGPC/xhBQAAAAFzUkdCAK7OHOkAAAAMUExURczMzPf399fX1+bm5mzY9AMAAADiSURBVDjLvZXbEsMgCES5/P8/t9FuRVCRmU73JWlzosgSIIZURCjo/ad+EQJJB4Hv8BFt+IDpQoCx1wjOSBFhh2XssxEIYn3ulI/6MNReE07UIWJEv8UEOWDS88LY97kqyTliJKKtuYBbruAyVh5wOHiXmpi5we58Ek028czwyuQdLKPG1Bkb4NnM+VeAnfHqn1k4+GPT6uGQcvu2h2OVuIf/gWUFyy8OWEpdyZSa3aVCqpVoVvzZZ2VTnn2wU8qzVjDDetO90GSy9mVLqtgYSy231MxrY6I2gGqjrTY0L8fxCxfCBbhWrsYYAAAAAElFTkSuQmCC); display:block; height:44px; margin:0 auto -44px; position:relative; top:-22px; width:44px;”></div></div><p style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;”><a href=”” style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none;” target=”_blank”>A post shared by Kent Bazemore (@24baze)</a> on <time style=” font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;” datetime=”2017-07-14T15:18:58+00:00″>Jul 14, 2017 at 8:18am PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async defer src=”//”></script>

A post shared by Kent Bazemore (@24baze) on Jul 14, 2017 at 8:18am PDT

“Then the season rolls around. You’re always about working on what works for you. For me, that’s mobility. I go to SculptHouse here in Atlanta, which is Pilates.”

For those of us who can’t afford the time or energy to work out this intensely, DiFrancesco puts it in a relatable context. “When you break the body down into its core building blocks — bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles — what you’re talking about is preparing those building blocks for an incredible pace and intensity of schedule. For a basketball player, what you need to think about is starting from the feet up.” In other words, lifting weights might help you grow big muscles, but if the underlying structure isn’t strong, you’re not going to be able to endure a long season — whether you’re in the NBA or training for a marathon.

For an NBA player, this approach means working on the mobility of the lower legs and doing anything that keeps the hips strong and mobile as well as keeping the core strong. Bazemore mentions his love of planks and side planks, which can impact the entire body. Both men mention goblet squats, which are basically a deep squat executed while holding a kettlebell. Both mention deadlifts (with DiFrancesco pointing out that quality of execution is more important than lifting a lot of weight). DiFrancesco also mentioned landmine exercises, which combine weightlifting with mobility and, for a long-levered NBA player, means reducing the impact of deep squats during weightlifting. (Lowering your body when you have long legs is harder than it is for the rest of us.)


“I’m a very active person,” says Bazemore, referring to his off-court life. “I love doing things. Golf. Basketball. Walking the puppies. There was a time I was on my feet too much, and I was just so tired [all the time]. I try to shut down my night at 8:30 p.m. now, get in bed, try to get a good night’s sleep.” He knows it’s not easy, but emphasizes finding something to focus on. “It sucks sometimes, but I find things to do. I read. I let go with an old childhood toy of mine: Legos.”

“I love sleep. It’s very vital for me. When I get tired, I get grumpy. And I hate getting grumpy.”

Bazemore has another trick up his sleeve: Tom Brady’s line of Athlete Recovery Sleepwear for Under Armour. “I got it all, so I’ve definitely bought into Tom Brady’s movement. To be as good as he is, to play at his level, any athlete that does it that well, you gotta take note.” Thanks for noticing, Kent.


Here’s an understatement: Professional basketball players play a lot of basketball. To stay fit, many turn to another form of physical activity, including other sports. For Bazemore, hitting the links leaves him feeling energized — physically and mentally. “Golf challenges my perspective. It keeps me sharp, it’s not as impactful on the body [as basketball]. Nothing like hitting a good golf shot — it raises every aspect of your life. You come home to your wife with a big smile on your face.”

Speaking of, Bazemore has another way of unwinding. It’s his famous Baze Gaze — in which Bazemore videobombs his teammates’ postgame interviews by sneaking up on them and staring into the camera. Is it the end result of vigorous training? Yes and no. “It’s all about timing and the element of surprise,” Bazemore says. “It’s definitely instinctive. You gotta feel your way.” In other words, it’s about that moment where preparation meets opportunity. Which, in a way, is what training is all about.


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Exercise Programs

Training Hacks: Why Necessity Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals



In the midst of winter, it can be a struggle to put on your running shoes and venture out into a dark, cold, and rainy Tuesday night to run 10km . . . especially if you’re just home from work, hungry, tired, and the family are vying for your time.

As a result, it’s no wonder that over the winter, motivation levels drop and bellies bulge. And just because you’re rostered to play Santa Claus for two hours at your kid’s school, doesn’t mean you should get into character!

Because You Have To

There are many techniques you can use to motivate yourself to train, but in this post, I would like to concentrate on just one of those techniques (possibly the most motivating of all): the it’s-because-I-have-to perspective. Before I dive into the details, we first need a brief look at some history:

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” – Unknown

I’m sure that you have heard this saying before. It’s very famous and in essence simply means that we will only create or do what we need to when it’s absolutely necessary. In short, we humans are terrible long-term planners and leave everything until the last minute. Like when we were young and asked to tidy our rooms . . . or waiting until December 24th to do the Christmas shopping.

Using Procrastination to Your Advantage

Normally, procrastination is an annoying trait. There are lots of goals we want to achieve but often never get around to them. So here is how you can use a little hack to make sure you get the results and achievements you want.

It’s a simple, 1-step process: Just sign up for an event.

Sounds too simple, right? Go out and speak to some people, and ask what they want to achieve. You’ll hear things like, “I want to run a marathon” or “I want to complete a 10km race.” The list is endless! When asked why they aren’t doing it, they’ll say something like, “I don’t have time to train” or “I’m preparing for it and will enter when I’m ready.”

These excuses would dissolve in an instant if they actually had a marathon or 10km race planned. They would no longer have a choice. It would be a set-in-stone commitment that they had paid for, told a load of people about, and would have to complete.

What Happens When You Commit

Once you have signed up for an event, you will tell yourself that you have to do it. No more messing around, waiting until you are ready. You’ll have to be ready or be prepared to fail. And the fear of embarrassment or failure is a good motivator!

That’s where the saying comes in: When it is absolutely necessary for you to do something, you will find a way to achieve it.

It really is that simple. You might even find that you enjoy the process. After all, the event should be something you wanted to do anyway but were just putting off.

5 Actionable Tips to Make Commitment a Success #1 – Know Your Limits

We’d all love the ability to complete the Tour de France, but most of us would never be able to. I don’t see this limitation as negative, just realistic. Pick an event that will push you but not kill you.

It’s different for every person, so have a look at where you are now and what you think you could do in the next six months. Run the idea past some people who have done what you want to do and then take it from there.

#2 – Within Touching Distance

Ideally, you want an event that is far enough in the future that you have plenty of time to train for it, but not too far away. Something one year away seems like forever! Three-six months away, depending on your experience level, should be about right.

#3 – A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved

Get someone else involved in your event — ideally a friend you can train with who is on a similar level. You can go through the ups and downs together, support one another, and motivate each other for the training and event.

#4 – Surround Yourself

If you enter something like a running event, go join a club. Not only will you feel more motivated to run because everyone else is, but you’ll also learn a lot about what type of running you should be improving the most.

You are the product of the five people you spend the most time with, so spend more time with runners, and you will become one.

#5 – Build Up Gradually

This tip is especially important. If you have booked something like an Ironman, you must try out some other long races beforehand. Having Ironman as your first triathlon ever is not ideal preparation.

Maybe pick a distance or an event that is similar to your main goal, but not as long or as hard.

For example, if you were looking to complete a 10km race and had never run before, you would start by running around the block a few times, then build up to 10 mins, then 2 km, etc. After a little time, you could look to enter a 5km Park Run (free, by the way) and build it up that way.

What to Do Next

I think you know what to do! You’re online, so the online application for an event is close by. 😉

Robert Jackson
, of Minimal FiT, is a personal trainer in Canary Wharf, London, UK. Having spent many years training himself, competing in events such as Ironman 70.3 Majorca, Ironman UK, white collar boxing bouts, and 10km races, he has a passion for helping others achieve their goals. He developed a system called The 7 Secrets to Sustainable Body Transformations, which you can find out more about here.

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