Loosening the Hamstrings using a softball

Welcome, I am Brian Hagan with HealthySteps.  This video is on self care for the Hamstrings Muscles. Tight Hamstrings (the muscles of the back of the leg) can have a major impact on the health of your hip and back. Also tight Hamstring Muscles are at risk of tearing, which can be painful and debilitating.   I hope this is helpful and please feel free to give us feedback. 


This video is about working the Hamstrings Muscles in order to get rid of the scar tissue and adhesion that have accumulated over the years. Scar tissue and adhesions cause you pain soreness, stiffness, lose of flexibility, loss of range of motion and increases the risk of injury to the muscle. Before performing this or any activity I always recommend discussing this with your doctor. Always start slow and easy into the activity.

So how do we do that. Well we are going to use a softball to help break up those hamstrings. The reason for this is that the foam roller can not get deep enough to do the job. We need something harder and more focused. The softball is perfect for this. A quick note here a lacrosse ball works just as well.

The starting position for this techniques is to sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend the non-working leg until the knee is completely bent. The working leg stays straight and on the floor. You are going to want to put a moderate stretch into your Hamstrings. (you feel a gentle stretch but no pain) Try to sit upright ( upper body at 90 degrees to your lower body) as much as you can without straining the hamstrings or your back. Some people this is a good gentle stretch in the hamstrings. For others this is to much, and that is okay. Lower your upper body until the tightness reduces but you still have a gentle stretch in the hamstrings. For some people it means your upper body is at 45 degrees. What every works safely for you.

Place the softball right below the sit bone. The sit bone is the actual part of the skeleton that you sit on when you are sitting. To find it place you hand on your Gluteus Maximus (Your Butt) and apply a little bit of pressure and slide your hand down toward your leg. You should feel a bony bump. That is your sit bone. You are going to place the softball below that bone. Because this bone is where all three hamstring attach.

This is your starting point. Your objective is to roll the softball slowly down the Hamstrings until you reach approximately 1/2 inch from the back of the knee. Now you have three Hamstrings. One on the outside of the leg and two on the inner part of the leg. To work the outer one simple rotate your foot so that it is facing outward. To work the inner two, simple rotate the foot inward. Slowly work your way down the hamstring stopping to work those area that seem especially tight. Work your way down the hamstring muscle to approximately 1/2 inch above the back of the knee. Then roll back up the hamstring to the sit bone. Again you want to work all three hamstring muscles. It takes roughly a minute or two to work one leg. Once you are done, remove the softball and bend the leg you just worked. Now we want to loosen the tendons of the hamstrings. Slide your hand down your leg to just above the back of the knee. You should feel fairly tight bands on both side of the knees. These are the tendons of the hamstrings. Take your fingers and gentle push up into them. Now bend and straighten your leg. This helps the tendon release helping the entire muscle to relax. Finish with a nice gentle hamstring stretch, by straightening your legs, straighten your upper body and lean your upper body toward your feet. Be gentle and breath into the stretch. Always remember to do both side.

Feet Health

Welcome, I am Brian Hagan with HealthySteps.  This video is on self care for the feet. Your feet are the very foundation of your body, and can have a positive or negative affect on your over all health.  Please feel free to give us feedback.  Also check out the information on our Facebook Group below. Designed to get you healthy, well, and active way before you retire.

We have started Facebook Group called Healthy Pre-Retirees . Its focus is to help people move toward a healthier and more active lifestyle “before they” retire, through educate, support and dialog.  If you want to take control of your health and wellness and be able to truly enjoy an active lifestyle before you retire then come join us so that we can work together to achieve that goal. 

If you would like our FREE video explaining in a simple way why your getting so tight, stiff, and sore as you age,  fill out the form on the left.  Included in the video is a easy technique to start loosening tight muscles of the back.  This technique has help many of my clients start getting more flexibility in their backs.

What To Look For When Buying a Foam Roller

Welcome! My name  is Brian Hagan with HealthySteps. Our vision to provide you with the support, education, and techniques to help your steps on your unique health journey


Today I want to share with you about what is a foam roller and why is it an important tool for self care.

A foam roller is a 6 inch cylinder made of different densities. It is a great tool to help you reduce muscle stiffness soreness, pain. It helps increase our range of motion, and reduces the risk of muscle injury

The foam roller is used by rolling it over the muscles of your body. This compresses the muscle helping to break up adhesion and scar tissue that have formed over time in the muscle.

Why is this important? A large part of this stiffness, soreness, pain and loss of range of motion is do in part to the scar tissue and adhesion you collected in the muscles over time. These scar tissues and adhesions limit the movement and strength of the muscle. Breaking this stuff up and getting it out of the muscle goes a long way to helping you move better with less stiffness and increase your range of motion. When you have better function in the muscle you gain more strength and power, and reduce your risk of muscle injury.

Okay so what is it your looking for when you’re looking to buy a foam roller.

Here are the most important things for you to keep in mind when shopping for a foam roller.

You need to keep in mind the purpose of the foam roller. (Its purpose is to breaking up adhesions and scar tissue in the muscle) Basically, if there is no discomfort when using your foam roller then it isn’t working.
You need to be honest with yourself and accept how much discomfort you are willing to tolerate to get the results that I want. You don’t want to be the one who buys the most dense foam roller then never uses it because it hurts to much.
Are you willing to buy a less dense foam roller in the beginning knowing you will have to up grade to a more dense foam roller in then future.

Okay now it’s time to look at the types of foam rollers that are out there. Foam rollers come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. So much so it can be confusing and frustrating when trying to figure out what to buy. I am a big fan of keeping things simple. I am not going to go into the more extreme foam rollers. These are the ones with ridges, and trigger point knobs on them. I am not saying they don’t work. Its just that you don’t need to go to that extreme to get the job done. So I am just going to stay with the smooth foam rollers. Smooth foam rollers come in a variety of colors. I going to recommend two colors Blue (medium density) and Black (high density).

The Blue (medium dense) foam roller is a great start especially for those who want to work into their muscle slowly with just a moderate amount of tenderness or discomfort. For those who are new to this and want to start slow and gradually go deeper, this is a great starting tool.

The Black foam roller is more dense. This is really where you need to get to if you want to get the most flexibility and function back in your muscles. This is the foam roller you need if you want to work out at a higher level or do higher activity levels like triathletes, or marathons. It is important for me to say again that if you are not ready for level of intensity then you will not use it and then its just a waste of money.

You just have to be honest with yourself. So I hope this is helpful. Feel free to contact me at HealthySteps

Basic Foam Rolling

Welcome! My name is Brian Hagan with HealthySteps. Our vision is to provide you with the support, education, and techniques to help your steps on your unique health journey.


I going to talk about the basic use of a foam roller. Whats important here is consistency. The more you use this every day the more benefit you are going to get. If you use it once every month you’re not going to get the benefit. You should spend about 5-10 minutes foam rolling the lower body every day. Some people do more and that’s fine. Keep in mind consistency is better. Doing 8 hours of foam rolling once a month is going to get you whole lot of pain and no benefit. Also the more you use it in the beginning the less in time you will need to use it. If you can foam roll twice a day in the first two weeks for 10 minutes then you will be able to drop it down to maybe once a day or once every other day. Depending on how your body responds.

Before we get started we need to talk about the purpose of using a foam roller. To many time I see people using a foam roller as if it was a trip to the spa. Theyʼre relaxed. They got their gin and tonic, their fitness magazine
and they are just gentle rolling along. That is not effective foam rolling.  The purpose of the foam roller is to get the scar tissue, adhesion and junk out of the muscle and to elongate and flush the muscle. If you want better
flexibility and less stiffness and tightness. Then you need to use it for that purpose, believe me the pay off will be well worth every minute. Also keep in mind the more you do in the first 2 week of foam rolling the
less pain full it will be in the future and the less you will need to do.

Just rolling the muscle
This is the most common and basic technique. You are just placing both calves on the foam roller and rolling the calf muscle up and down the foam roller. Basic you can leave your body on the floor and simple move back and forth. To get more weight onto the calf muscle simple lift your body up. If you have shoulder issues or tight shoulders then you may want to hold off on this part.
We can do the same thing with the Quads. Basically, I am going to turn over and lay on the foam roller. In the video I am supporting myself with my arms. If tis is to much use your forearms. If that is to much you can simple lie down on your chest. Simple roll back and forth. This is the basic technique for the Quads.
Quick note here. Make sure you roll the entire muscle.

I show you the calves and the quads, but this technique works for all the big muscles of the lower body (calves, quads, hams, groins, ITband, abductors,and Perneals ) Basically just rolling the foam roller over the muscle.

Now once that technique no longer feels like its getting deep enough or its not as tinder you will need to move into a more advance technique. This next technique is using the same position of the muscle on the foam roller, but now we will add movement. We want to make the muscle work while we are rolling over it. Any time you have muscle movement and
compression of the muscle you’re getting deeper into that muscle.

As I work the calf watch my feet. I am moving my foot back and forth with is making my calf muscle contract and elongate. For other muscle just think about how the muscle works and incorporate that movement into the rolling
There are certain muscle groups that you canʼt roll and move at the same
time. The Groin and Hamstrings muscle are a good example. There are
more advance tech to get deeper into those muscle, which we will cover later. Play around with other muscle of the lower body.
These two techniques are a great start. You should spend about 5-10 minutes foam rolling the lower body . It may be bit tinder but if you work it every day you will quickly see and feel a difference. Each person is different so result will vary, but results will come.

For more advance techniques keep your eyes open for Foam Rolling
Advance Techniques.

Basic Foam Rolling (start to finish) Lower Body

This video demonstrates the basic technique for the lower body from start to finish.

Welcome! I’m Brian Hagan with HealthySteps.  Our vision is to give you the education, techniques, and support to help your steps on your unique health journey.

Today I am just going to go through the muscle of the lower body that the foam roller works well with. And cover the very basic technique. I know I talked about it in the other video. I’m just going to give you an idea what a basic foam rolling session would look like. We are going to start with the calf muscles. I am basically going to put my calves up on the foam roller. You need to lift your body up. Now if you can’t lift your body up just push your body back and forth. I’m just sliding my rear-end across the floor. If you can lift yourself up and get more weight on the muscle that great. Again you are just rolling back and forth. Now after a couple of day and this gets easier and lass tender you will want to add the movement into the technique. Here is an example of moving the feet will rolling the calf.

The next area is the ITBand. This is a bit more complicated. Again the basic movement is simply moving across the foam roller. Most people just roll on it and thats okay. You can put your forearm down to support you or if you want to get up a little higher then come up on your hand. Simply roll back and forth. Now when I add movement I need to get the top leg out of the way. Also when I incorporate movement I am not going to roll completely across the ITBand. I roll a little area and the bend and straighten the leg.
Once the ITBand is worked move the foam roller down onto the outside area of the lower leg. This is called the Perneal muscles. These are important muscles to work. I can lean on my forearms and roll back and forth. I can also raise up on my hands and work the muscle with more weight on it. Remember to roll from the ankle to the just below the knee. To add the movement for this area just scooping the foot up and down. Or moving it inward and outward. That will really work this area.

Now lets focus on the quads or the front of the upper leg. Basically, you are just going to lay on the foam roller and roll back and forth. This is very basic rolling back and forth. Remember work all the way up to the hip and the to just above the knee. To add movement you want to just bend and straighten the knee.

To work the groin muscles. Place the foam roller parallel to your body. Bring your leg up to your side to a 90 degree angle to your body and place it on top of the foam roller. You may see people with their leg back straight behind them, which is an okay position. It is better if you can get the knee to 90 degrees, because it puts a good stretch to the muscles and you can get deeper. Also make sure your hip is horizontal or parallel to the floor. This may be difficult for some people to do so do the best you can without straining your hip. The movement will be from right to left so that the foam roller rolls into the groin and then out toward the knee. To increase the depth straighten and bend the knee.

Last group of muscles we are going to work are the muscles of the shin. These are typically not foam rolled I think because few people know they are here. They are very important and can cause some problems if overly tight. Start by kneeling and placing the foam roller perpendicular to the leg you are working. Place the working leg on the foam roller and lean slightly to the outside edge of the leg. Now just roll forward. If you need support place a sturdy chair next to you to hold on to. To add motion move your foot up and down. you should feel those shin muscles move.

Okay that was the basic techniques for working the muscle of the lower body. Especially the calves, quads, ITBand, groins, Perneals, and the muscles of the shin. We did not cover the hamstrings or the glute muscles, because the foam roller does not do a good job with those muscles. We will have another video using another tool that really does a great job loosening up the hamstrings and the glutes.

Why Therapeutic Massage

When people ask me how can massage help me or does massage really improve sport performance. I tell them to imagine wearing the tightest clothes they could possible put on and go to work, run around the block, play a sport or work around the house. how do you think your body would feel at the end of the day? That’s what your muscles feel like. What the chances that you would end up tearing your breeches or shirt during the day? Watch this video to get a better idea of why your muscle are like tight clothes.


Back Pain and Massage

Whether it’s a pulled muscle from yoga class or an afternoon basketball game, or a long-term pain caused by injury, most of usNeuroMuscular Picture copy will come to know the beast that is called back pain. In fact, when it comes to low-back pain specifically, researchers say that 70-85 percent of the population will experience it at some point in their lives.

Experts say the cause of back pain can be the result of several factors. High on the list is stress. When our body is stressed, we literally begin to pull inward: the shoulders roll forward and move up to the ears, the neck disappears, and the back tightens in the new posture. “It’s an armoring effect,” says Angie Parris-Raney, a Denver-based massage therapist who specializes in deep-tissue massage and sports therapy. “That protective mode, with the muscles in flex, can even result in visceral problems,” she says, where the pain also affects internal organs.

In addition to stress, poor posture, bad ergonomics, lack of exercise, arthritis, osteoporosis, a sedentary lifestyle, overexertion, pregnancy, fibromyalgia, excess weight, and more can contribute to pain.

Those who suffer with back pain know there are no easy answers for chasing the pain away. Physical therapy has proven effective for some sufferers, as has chiropractic and acupuncture, but massage therapy is also making a name for itself when it comes to providing relief. In fact, research has shown that massage can be a great friend to the back-pain sufferer.

“Massage therapists have long treated low-back pain safely and effectively,” says Les Sweeney, president of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. “They have done so less expensively and less invasively than is possible with other treatments.”

In fact, a study by the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle found that massage was more effective at treating low-back pain than medication. Patients who received massage once a week for 10 weeks were more likely to report that their back pain had improved, and improvements were still present six months after the study. Other research from the University of Miami School of Medicine and the Touch Research Institute showed that massage can decrease stress and long-term pain, improve sleep and range of motion, and help lower the incidence of depression and anxiety that often accompanies back pain.

Whitney Lowe, owner of Oregon’s Orthopedic Massage Education and Research Institute, says the benefits of massage for back pain depend on the primary cause of the pain. “If it is predominantly muscular pain, then massage has a great deal to offer in reducing pain associated with chronic muscle tightness, spasms, myofascial trigger points, or those types of problems. If it’s something caused by a joint alignment problem or compression on a nerve, for example, then the role of massage might be somewhat different, such as helping to address the biomechanical dysfunctions, but not really being able to get pressure off the nerve itself.”

When it comes to back pain, there are a lot of options out there. Ultimately, massage, and its myriad benefits, might be a viable answer. For back pain sufferers, Parris-Raney says massage can work wonders. “Massage can help relax the body, relax the psyche, and improve a client’s range of motion and circulation to the affected tissues,” she says. Not only can massage help directly with the pain, but it can also make life a little easier, too. “Massage lets you tap into the parasympathetic system,” she says, “and tap into all the good hormones that help you sleep better and help you handle stressors along the way.” All of that helps in building a healthier back and a happier you.

Benefits of MassageFrom stress relief to skin rejuvenation, the benefits of massage are extensive. When it comes to managing back pain, however, there are some specific benefits touch therapy can offer:

–Improved circulation. With increased circulation comes faster recovery time for sore, overworked muscle tissues.
–Increased release of endorphins. The prevalence of these natural painkillers is boosted every time you have a massage. This can only help in managing pain.
–Improved movement. Range of motion and flexibility both get a boost with massage.
–Increased relaxation. When you relax, your muscles relax, thereby calming the pain.

Article by Karrie Osborn

Computer Stretches

We found a hidden treasure on u-tube!  This is a wonderful 3 minute guided stretching session.  This is fantastic for those of us who spend too much time on the computer.j0289530

One reason we like it so much – there is no talking, just simple drawings to follow along with relaxing music.

My plan – later this afternoon I have some quality time scheduled with the computer.  I’m going to set my alarm on my phone to go off every 1.5.  When that alarm goes off, I’m going to click on the link and follow that video.

Try adding a stretch break or two into your day, and let us know how you feel.

Computer Stretches