Pain, Suffering and the Mindset of Relief


I’m a big proponent of the importance of mindset across the board; in success, in training, in habit formation and in, a piece that gets missed, pain relief.

Why is mindset important? How does attitude help?

The notion is that the mind and body are not separate entities.

Can you remember a time when you felt great happiness or enjoyment in your life?.. those feelings of euphoria and pleasantness lifting you up… Almost making you feel lighter on your feet, easier to be around perhaps even more motivated to not just survive, but thrive. Those feelings associated with the emotional and psychological state trigger very real physiological responses in the nervous, endocrine and immune system. Those responses aid our physiological performance and recovery.

It's the age old discussion, is it love or is it chemical/hormonal? Perhaps it’s both. Our understanding and ability to comprehend love changes our physiology and the changes in our physiology allow us to experience what love feels like.

Not again, this is another “think positive” posts, isn’t it..? No, it’s not.

I’m not trying to make the case that you need to think positively all the time, as if it were a realistic expectation of everyone. I’m also not saying that “thinking positive” isn’t useful, I think we just need to clearly define what that is and what it usefulness is in a given scenario.

One example, I wouldn’t tell someone grieving over a loss to simply, “think positive.” Sometimes time is a fine healer of things like that.


Life is undulating and so is our attitude about it. That contrast is necessary. I’m simply making the case that, when we falter, we should have something to tether us back to resilience and practicality.

The attitude and mindset we have in a given scenario is critically important to our success and quality of life. It's ubiquitous and the importance of it doesn't leave when we enter the realm of relief from pain, even though it's seldom appreciated.

A helpful point for some people is that while felt pain and suffering may be concurrent, they don't have to be. They aren't married absolutely.

To borrow from Cassell (2011), “people will tolerate even very severe pain if they know what it is (its significance), and if they know that it will end” (p. 10). Consider birthing mothers, or getting a tattoo these are both examples of painful process’ that we undergo willingly in order to see someone or something come to life.

So what's to be done? How do we begin to build a mindset of relief and/or recovery?

There's several things that you could potentially do but ideally we can find an element in which suffering is contributing to the distress you are feeling while experiencing pain. Some useful reflection could include asking questions like, is the pain I'm feeling challenging; “Who I am as a person?”, “My financial security or/and plans for the future,” “My ability to function/perform tasks/be active and move,” “my ability to be social”... etc

Paraphrasing my friend, Dr. Bronnie Lennox Thompson, when someone begins to feel that things they once enjoyed or the anticipated route they had planned to go is compromised, that someone may undergo greater levels of distress until that sense of self and/or purpose is revitalized.

Borrowing from Cassell again, an appropriate assessment of suffering might include questions like, “Am I suffering?”, “I know I have pain, but are there things that are even worse than just the pain?”, “Am I frightened by all this?” ,“What is the worst thing about all this?” (Cassell, 1999, p. 532)

These questions can be powerful for not only instigating a search for realistic answers but in considering that, as Dr. Bronnie Lennox Thompson puts it, at least part of the loneliness (and frustration) of suffering occurs because the individual experiencing it may not be able to articulate what it is about the situation that provokes suffering and could be addressed to alleviate it.

To me, it seems that, for those who have yet to reach this point, having answers or knowledge as to what's going on provides us one level greater in empowering us even if we don't necessarily have the immediate solutions. It gives us something to work with in our ability to seek out resolution.

Take care and look out for the next installment,

Taylor Sun, CNS

Cassell, E. J. (1999). Diagnosing Suffering: A Perspective. Annals of Internal Medicine, 131(7), 531-534. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-131-7-199910050-00009

Cassell, E. J. (2011). Suffering, whole person care, and the goals of medicine. In T. A. E. Hutchinson (Ed.), Whole person care: A new paradigm for the 21st century (pp. 9-22). New York, NY: Springer. Retrieved from doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-9440-0

Hamstring Tightness

If you're experiencing hamstring tension, or a range of motion problem, give this a chance...


- You may not need to stretch at all, your time may be better spent specifically strengthening the hamstrings. Ideally with the eccentric, or slow controlled lowering, phase of a weighted exercise.

- Changes and improvements in muscle length, flexibility and strength can occur within 2 weeks.

- Deconditioning can happen within 28 days.

- Strengthening exercises are fairly simple and can be done in your own home with furniture movers or even a chair

- The benefits of strengthening hamstrings extend beyond improving flexibility and strength but also have a preventative benefit of lowering the risk of hamstring injuries and tears.


A common question we get from our clients is what can be done about their hamstring tightness. Here's a few that we hear pretty commonly; to improve mobility, flexibility, reduce pain, improve performance, and the sensation of having tight hamstrings.

For most people who feel that their hamstrings are tight or have a decreased range of motion due to Hamstring tension, we recommend that they don't stretch. Rather, we highly recommend that they strengthen with specific, weighted exercise.

There's two main components to this.

1. The more 'neurological' side of it -- The body may not feel safe in exploring that range of motion because it perceives not having the strength or stability to control the joint past a certain range. So we build the bodies confidence back up by introducing strengthening techniques.

2. The more 'structural' side of it -- The actual characteristics of the muscle itself. Exercising with weights is much better at building muscle and when we build muscle, the muscle builds by not only by getting bigger, but by extending out as well.

Beyond improving strength and flexibility, there is a preventative benefit for strengthening the hamstrings as well... Decreased strength of the hamstrings has been associated with having a higher risk of hamstring injury, specifically when sprinting, and eccentrically strengthening the hamstrings has been cleared as a realistic way to prevent future injury and/or rehabilitate from a previous hamstring injury. 

The evidence indicates that with the right strength training program, we can physically and substantially change the length within 2 weeks. 

For the research minded, here's some research to support my perspective;

Architectural Changes of the Biceps Femoris After Concentric or Eccentric Training Link

The effects of eccentric training on lower limb flexibility: a systematic review

"A review of resistance exercise and posture realignment."

Some exercises that I recommend that people can do in their own home are heel slides with sliders or furniture movers as shown in image above or by just pulling the back of their heels into the seat of a chair as shown below.


Once trainees have a baseline strength, we move onto more advanced exercises such as nordic hamstring curls or the glute ham raise (the very first image shown in this article)


If this is something you are interested in learning more about, let us know and we can prepare a video for social media or if you feel more comfortable with private instruction, schedule a session and mention this post and we can teach you how to do the exercises on your own time and in your home.

Take care and thanks for reading,

Taylor Sun, CNS

Lifting For Strength


Gym Rat #1- “Yo bro, how did you get so jacked”

Gym Rat #2- “I lift heavy… do like 15 reps for each set... bro.”

Lifting For Strength

In a perfect world, the resident meathead at your local X-Sport wouldn’t double as your trove of workout knowledge. With a McDonalds on every corner and the Cubs having not won a World Series since 1908 , this world is far from perfect and so, the biggest guy at X-Sport is often your source for everything lifting.  First off, I’m not here to discredit the big guys. Visit T-Nation and you’ll find enormous guys with enormous knowledge.  The truth is, there is more to lifting than pushing around heavy weight, especially when you have specific goals in mind.  Speeding through 10-12 reps isn’t the same as 10-12 reps using a slow tempo.  However, most program design you find will list numbers that make little-to-no sense for the desired outcome.  So before we go on, there are key definitions we need to go over so this blog doesn’t turn into an endless rambling full of fitness jargon.

Tempo- Simply put, the time it takes you to complete one repetition. Looking at a squat- if it takes you 2 seconds to lower the weight (eccentric phase), you pause 1 second in the lowered state, and you raise the weight for 2 seconds (concentric phase), your tempo is 5 seconds (2+2+1=5)

Time Under Tension (TUT)- The amount of time it takes to move the prescribed weight for the given amount of reps in a set (if 1 complete rep takes 5 seconds and you do 5 reps, TUT will be 25 seconds)

Reps- The number of repetitions you do in a set.

Sets- A group of repetitions for an exercise.

Rest- The time taken between an exercise or exercises.

To illustrate my point, let’s imagine a power lifter. He’s probably big, round, and bald, reminiscent of a bowling ball.  It is common for these athletes to bench 500+ pounds and squat nearly 1000 pounds.  When you watch these guys lift, they rarely go over 3-5 reps and the tempo is usually explosive.  After all, if you are trying to squat 3 times your bodyweight, the weight needs to be moved quickly or it'll crush you.  The rest in between their sets can range anywhere from 5-10 minutes.  This allows for the energy systems in their body to “replenish” and allows for another set at maximal effort.  Sets can range anywhere from 5-12 as they share an inverse relationship with reps (as reps go up, sets go down and vice versa). The time under tension generally ranges from 1-20 seconds (although this can be greater when discussing Functional Strength, but that will be discussed at another time).  Below, you will find the general exercise prescription for relative strength.

Tempo: Explosive (a.k.a. fast)

Time Under Tension (TUT): 1-20 seconds

Reps: 1-5

Sets: 5-12

Rest: 5-10 minutes

There you have it.  If someone tells you to do 15 reps with heavy weight, disregard it.  If you’re doing 15 reps, you are on the opposite end of the spectrum for strength training.


-Ryan "Ren" Reynolds BS CSCS CHEK Exercise Coach

If you would like to know more feel free to call GrandeFit at 847-561-6113 or email me

Breathe Right or Suffer Part 1

Breathe Right or Suffer

          Breathing is something that people take for granted, but should be the first thing that we address when exercising (I mean we only breathe ~24,000 times a day, how important could it be?). If a person's breathing is not properly assessed and performed there is no doubt in my mind that their health and performance will suffer.

          Everyone assumes that the way THEY breathe is the way everybody breathes. Guess what? It's not. I'm actually surprised when people walk into my studio with a somewhat decent breathing pattern. Sooooo... what is a good breathing pattern? 

Muscles of Respiration

       A proper breathing pattern is one in which someone can properly use their diaphragm. The first 2/3 of the breath should come from the diaphragm and the last 1/3 should come from the accessory respiratory muscles (muscles of the thorax and neck shown above). A simple test to see if your breathing pattern is correct is to lie down and put one hand on your chest and one on your belly, then take a deep breath. If you pass there try the test sitting and then try it standing, each position will be increasingly more difficult.


If the hand on your belly moves more, then you are on your way to having a good Diaphragmatic Breathing Pattern. If the hand on your chest moves more, then you have what is called an Inverted Breathing Pattern.  If you pass it lying down but fail sitting then practice while sitting.

So What?

For those of you with the inverted pattern, you are probably thinking, "So what? Why should I give a S!@# if my breathing pattern is inverted?" Well here is why:


This figure is a great example how forward head posture can be degenerative to the body. For approximately every inch the head goes forward it adds (approximately) the weight of the cranium to the forces affecting the spine. 

This figure is a great example how forward head posture can be degenerative to the body. For approximately every inch the head goes forward it adds (approximately) the weight of the cranium to the forces affecting the spine. 

     In many cases, when a person relies on their accessory respiratory muscles to breathe, those muscles become tighter, pulling the head forward. As many people have stated before, "Where the head goes the body follows." When the head moves forward, the pelvis, for a couple of reasons, tends to move as well. One of those reasons is explained below:

     Another issue with using the accessory respiratory muscles to breathe is that it causes the rib cage to rise and move away from the pelvis. This can cause the the pelvis to tilt forward (anterior pelvic tilt aka pelvic flexion). When this happens people tend to walk around looking like Donald Duck which can cause all kinds of issues. We will get more into that in another blog. 

Remember that posture is the position from which movement starts and stops and if you start a movement from a poor position your movement WILL NOT be optimal. 



     Before you think about doing Vo2 testing, lung capacity testing, or strapping an altitude mask to your face and looking like a ghetto Storm Trooper, please work on breathing diaphragmatically. If you aren't reaching your full lung volume naturally why would you test it or use tools to improve it? All that is going to happen is that you are going to make a dysfunction worse! 

     Accessory respiratory muscles tend to produce more lactic acid, which the body has to work hard to buffer during exercise. By using the diaphragm, you will not only increase oxygen uptake but you can decrease the metabolic stress on the body, thus improving performance! 

Core Strength

    When training, think of the core like a soup can;  it's a non-compressible cylinder with muscles making up each side of that can. The bottom of the can (pelvic floor), the sides of the can (transverse abdominis), the seam on the can (multifidus), and the top the can (the DIAPHRAGM). These muscles play key roles in the blanket term used in the fitness industry as "Core Stability" (side note: I hate that term because 95% of people that use it have know idea what the hell it entails). When all of these muscles fire appropriately they cause the core to become stronger in an instant! So if you are not using your diaphragm properly, you are potentially missing out on some added strength. 


I hope you enjoyed my first blogpost! There is a lot more on breathing but I figured I'd cut it short for now. Stay tuned for more! 


-Ross Grande BS CSCS CHEK I NST in training


If you would like to know more feel free to call GrandeFit at 847-561-6113 or email me