In my day job as a PT and strength and conditioning coach, one of the most common questions I answer is: “what do you use for x?”, “x” meaning what shoes, clothes, apps, supplements, recipe resources, training equipment, mobility tools, home products, and the like.
So it occurred to me that it would be of some use for our readers and followers to have a central resource that gives you some easy-to-find items that will help you look, feel, and perform your best.
What follows is a summary of the things I actually use on a daily or weekly basis to help my clients and myself live our best lives.
A quick caveat before we begin: where you see Amazon links, know that we are proud supporters of the non-profit organization Stand Up Kids. If you purchase any item through our Amazon link, Amazon smile will make a small donation to Stand-Up Kids on your behalf.
If you’ve followed us for any length of time, you know we never miss an opportunity to look at how your feet are functioning in relation to the rest of your body. And whether you’re dealing with specific foot problems, or problems upstream at the knee, hip, or lower back, waking up your feet is critical to improving your overall movement health.
One of my favorite morning routines is to slide on these Silicone Toe Spreaders and either practice specific foot and lower body exercises or simply move around my house as I’m getting ready for the day with them on for at least 15 minutes.
When it comes to shoes, as we’ve written about in our Ready to Run series, flatter is better. For daily wear and classic style, my Vans BMX Old Skool shoes are comfortable, durable, and don’t leave my feet feeling like cement blocks at the end of a long day in the gym working with clients.
This part of the list could be its own blog post, as just about everything we’ve put in the Garage Gym of Dreams has a specific place and purpose. I’ll just list a few high and low-cost components that will give you the most band for your buck.
On the training side, I cannot say enough good things about the Air Assault Bike. Originally designed as a therapy tool as it can be pedaled with 3 limbs, this bike can be used for both rehab and training purposes to do everything from a quick and effective warm-up to long and slow aerobic base building to short and intense interval training. Anecdotally, the fittest clients I’ve worked with over the last ten years all have some version of this bike in their homes or at their gyms. I’ve observed this phenomenon enough times that I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.
If mobility and flexibility are more your concern, two old low-cost standbys are worth adding to your home gym. Buy 3 of these lacrosse balls, tape 2 together (I show you how in this video), and what you’ll have is a portable solution for home and travel that will melt away any of those nasty knots that accumulate in your muscles with extended periods of sitting or working. Need to work on a larger area like your upper back? A medium to soft density 36” foam roll will do the job.
NUTRITION & SUPPLEMENTS
Optimizing your rehab or performance doesn’t happen without optimum nutrition practices. While we leave the specific recommendations to our nutrition friends in the Kansas City metro, there are few great (and free) resources available for everyone.
One of our favorite nutrition resources is the infographics provided by the folks at Precision Nutrition. A company with decades of experience working with the general public and high-end professional athletes, Precision Nutrition is big on making small changes that accumulate over time to help you reach your health and fitness goals. Their Nutrition for Injury Recovery infographic is a wealth of information on the food and supplements that optimize healing in your body. If you’re trying to get a handle on how to reach your health and fitness goals, take five minutes to read The Cost of Getting Lean. You’ll get some real insight into what it takes to look and perform to varying levels.
For my morning routine, hydration and supplementation are foundational principles. On the hydration front, we’ve been fortunate enough to partner with the good folks at LMNT, produces of LMNT Recharge. This zero-sugar electrolyte supplement supplies your brain and your muscles with the optimal amounts of sodium, magnesium, and potassium to help you operate at the highest level. If you’re a low-carb, keto, vegan, vegetarian, or paleo follower, most likely you’re deficient in these minerals. As an aside, if you’re interested in giving these a try, you can message us directly and get 20% off your first order of LMNT.
From a supplement perspective, the products from Thorne are a step above the competition. Thorne’s products are rigorously tested and consistently outperform the competition when it comes to efficacy tests in laboratory settings. Meaning, you actually get what you pay for. You can see what I take and what I recommend through this link.
If there’s one thing that all of us could use more of, it’s sleep. Whether it’s rehab or recovery from training, your body doesn’t start healing until you start sleeping. My sleep hygiene recommendations are numerous: sleep in a pitch-black room, sleep in a cold room, limit blue light exposure an hour before bedtime, and use a down-regulation routine.
Limiting light exposure before bed tells your brain and your body it’s time to cool down and start resting. Over the years I’ve used two different styles of blue-light blocking glasses to limit the light coming from screens and around our house. These yellow lens glasses were my go-to for years. Recently, I’ve been using a higher-powered set of glasses from Theraspecs. These glasses block out 25 times more blue light than clear blue light-blocking lenses. If you want to grab a pair of these, use the promo code “RESTORE” at checkout to get $10 off of your order.
If you really want to upgrade your sleep environment, I’d highly recommend checking out the Ooler from Chili Sleep. For those of you (like me) who tend to sleep hot, having a unit that controls the temperature of my mattress has made a noticeable difference in the amount of Deep sleep and REM sleep that I get each night. And with dual-zone control, Dr. J can keep her side of the bed nice and toasty while I hibernate with my side of the bed set to 60 degrees.
Whether you’re at home or at a cubicle, if you’re in the professional space it’s a good bet you sit a decent amount throughout the day. We’ve spoken at length on the potential performance-decreasing effects of sedentary lifestyles.
The wonderful thing about work now is that it’s easier than ever to convert your workstation to a combo sitting and standing workstation with something simple and effective. The Oristand is a portable but durable and collapsable desktop topper made of high-end cardboard. For just $25, you can add a piece of office furniture that allows you to stand and burn 25-35% more calories in a year's time.
In the case that you do want to sit, chair selection does matter. Instead of thinking about a throne that supports your head, low back, and the rest of your body, think about a chair that encourages a more active upright posture and that allows you to vary your position while you’re sitting. The pick for our home office is the Starling Stool by UPLIFT Desk. The Starling pivots, bends, rocks, and raises up and down, creating a load of positions limited only by your imagination.
WRAPPING IT UP
So there you have it. Whether you’re looking to improve your body, your sports performance, your sleep, your nutrition, or your home gym set-up, any of the gear on this list will help you get one step closer to looking, feeling, and performing your best.
And If you need more help, don’t hesitate to give us a shout via the “Inquire Now” button at the top of this page.
BLOG: Your Health Matters, by Dr. Tim Cummings
YOUTUBE: Better Cycling Set Up
YOUTUBE: Foam Rolling for the T-Spine