King James, Tom Brady, and your dental warm-up

Eric Strouse, DMD, looks to LeBron James and Tom Brady to see what they can teach us about taking a prevention-based approach to the physical toll that dentistry can take on our bodies. In this article, he shares some exercises and stretches you can incorporate into your routine, plus some tips for staying hydrated.

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Eric Strouse, DMD

When you hear the names LeBron James and Tom Brady, you think of sports. Sure, they are tremendous athletes at the peaks of their professions, but what could they possibly have to do with dentistry? Bear with me. Through our careers, mentors are instrumental in teaching us clinical skills, business, and employee management. Why not look outside the industry at some of the best in the world for some pearls that we can use to better our practices and our lives? These two athletes have climbed to and stayed at the top of their respective sports, and they appear to be getting better with age. While the stresses may be different, there is no denying that dentistry takes a physical toll over the years, and this can potentially limit our success. Let’s take a couple of habits and best practices from these two superstars and implement them into our practices and our lives.

Morning warm-up

Watch athletes of any sport before they do their activity, and they will undoubtedly have some type of stretching or warm-up routine. This is a time to prepare the body and mind, as well as bond with your teammates. James and Brady are two good examples. As the leaders of their teams, they will be the ones leading the huddle and setting the tone. They both prioritize prevention over reaction and treatment; this is a philosophy likely responsible for their longevity. A quote that James has lived by since high school is, “Play hard, have fun, and stretch.”1

Arm circles and arm swings

Figure 1: For arm circles, stand with your feet shoulders-width apart. Circle your arms forward for 10 repetitions, then backward for 10 repetitions. Try circles of varying sizes. For arm swings, from the same position, swing your arms up and back for 10 repetitions.

As dentists, we are the leaders of our teams and assume the same role—preparing our teams and ourselves for the day ahead. The number-one tool a dental professional has is his or her body, but we often neglect our bodies until a problem arises. Try this warm-up routine, which takes no longer than two to four minutes, as a fun and beneficial addition to your morning meeting (figures 1–5). Start the day off active!

Hamstring stretch

Figure 2: Begin with your arms at your sides, and lift your arms out to the sides and overhead (left). Fold forward (as if you were doing a swan dive) and reach your hands toward the floor, feeling a stretch in your hamstrings (right). Return slowly to the starting position. Repeat five times.

Hydration

Hydration is a simple habit, yes—and perhaps Brady’s alleged 37 glasses a day2 is a little excessive. You may not need a personal trainer reminding you to hydrate like James’s reminds him,1 but an improvement in this area can provide multiple benefits. Dehydration is a common problem, more common than most realize. The benefits of proper hydration include aiding brain function and mental acuity, lubricating joints, improving mood, and boosting energy, all of which can help us to practice in an optimal state.

Quad stretch

Figure 3: From a standing position, lift your right foot up toward your glute and grab the ankle with your right hand, keeping your knee toward the center. Hold for one to two seconds. Repeat on the opposite leg. Try five repetitions for each leg.

Increasing water intake is a boring tip that we all know, but many of us neglect it. I hope that my mentioning it here will be the impetus for improved hydration for you and your team. Half of your bodyweight in ounces is a good place to start. Try getting some nice branded water bottles with your practice logo that your team can bring to the office and carry around town. Not only will you be hydrating, but you will be marketing too!

Hip flexor stretch

Figure 4: Begin in a standing position. With your hands at your hips, step forward with your left leg into a bent-knee position. The right leg should be relatively straight with your heel flat or slightly lifted. Push your right hip forward and down, keeping your back straight. You should feel a stretch in your right hip. For a deeper stretch, push your hips further forward with your hands. Hold this for 10 to 20 seconds, and repeat on the other side.

It is often little things that make a big difference, and having a prevention-based mindset is a prime example. By looking outside of dentistry, we can borrow tactics and routines from some of the best in the world to ensure our careers are long, healthy, and profitable. And remember to work hard, have fun, and stretch.

Hip circles

Figure 5: With your hands at your hips, stand tall with your feet shoulders-width apart. Begin shifting your hips in a circular motion: to the left, forward, to the right, backward, and then to the left again to complete the circle. Try five to 10 circles and repeat the exercise in the opposite direction. You may remember this one from gym class. This exercise is great for every movement of your hips, strengthening the core, improving flexibility, and relieving stress.

References

1. LeBron James and Mike Mancias [transcript]. The Tim Ferriss Show. Tim.blog. https://tim.blog/2018/11/30/the-tim-ferriss-show-transcripts-lebron-james-and-mike-mancias. November 30, 2018.

2. Brady T. The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster; 2017.

Eric Strouse, DMD, is an orthodontic resident at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. He completed a general practice residency at Sacred Heart Hospital and is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. He was a varsity track-and-field athlete at Muhlenberg College, and he is a lifetime fitness enthusiast. He can be reached at estrouse47@gmail.com or (203) 278-2218.

Disclaimer: As always, consult with your physician before beginning any new exercise regimen.

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