Saturday, September 7, 2013

Injury Prevention: Shoulders   
Strengthening the shoulders properly can be tricky. What most people do not realize is that you really need to have proper spinal alignment while trying to isolate the shoulder muscles. One great way to do it is to include a half foam roller as pictured below. Keeping your sacrum, middle back (between your shoulder blades), while your head remains in contact with the foam roller helps you maintain proper alignment.  
1. Half Foam Roll Front Raises: Standing against a wall with the foam roller behind you, keep your arms to the side and raise with your thumbs up to shoulder height. Do 3 sets of 8-15 reps.
latraise frontraise     
2. Half Foam Lateral Raise: Standing with your feet shoulder width apart and with your arms down to your side, raise your arms with palms down out to the side up to shoulder height. Do 3 sets of 8-15 reps.   
latraise lat   
3. Scapular Retractions: Using the lat pulldown bar, keeping the arms straight, retract and depress the shoulder blades creating a down and in motion. Keep your arms straight on this one. It's a very small movement! Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
retract retract2    
4. Dumbbell Reverse Fly: Starting on an incline bench, arms will hang down and then squeeze the shoulder blades together so you're in a T position. Do 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions 
uback3 uback6  
Thoughts From My First Triathlon
  chi tri
Laughing as I saw someone riding a Divvy bike in the race

Most of you know I competed in my first sprint triathlon in August. Up until then, one of my biggest fears was swimming in open water. I never really learned how to swim as a kid because I was always playing tennis during the summers. So committing to a triathlon was a great way to overcome my fear while giving myself a deadline. 

What was my biggest faux pas? Me thinking"No problem, I run almost everyday." That's what I said before the race. Mark my words...I will never do another triathlon again without practicing the bike to run transition! Why? Because my legs felt like Jello after biking 17 mph for 12 miles. What I thought would be the easiest part of the race quickly became my biggest hurdle. 

So am I happy I did it? Of course! My nerves on race day started out a little rocky, followed by a minor bike wipeout on the way there. I thought things can only get better and they did! Next year I'm doing the international distance if anyone wants to join me :) 

A huge thanks to everyone that supported me, the clients (Coleen and John) that woke up at the crack of dawn to come see me, and my friend Dave who calmed me down before the swim! 
Overuse Injuries: Global vs Local

With all of the half marathons, marathons, and triathlons over the summer, overuse injuries are a common obstacle for many athletes. The most frequent injuries are lower back pain, knee pain and Achilles tendonitis. For many injured athletes, the question is where is the problem in the body? Does the real muscle weakness exist locally where the pain is?

The answer is typically no, which is part of the reason so many athletes have a longer rehabilitation. Chasing the pain does not necessarily mean you will get to the root of the problem. Our bodies are so efficient that over time we develop compensatory patterns to achieve full function and range of motion.  Athletes tend to be the best at compensation because they operate at higher performance levels than the average person. 

Here are some considerations for common injuries:

IT Band Syndrome: Typically results in knee pain. The feeling of a "tight" IT band may be a weakness in the TFL (hip flexor) or gluteus maximus. Abdominal weakness causing a shift in the pelvis can could also be a contributing factor.

Achilles Tendonitis: Pain is usually local at the back of the heel. Potential causes could be weak hip extensors creating a feeling of tight hip flexors or even weak abdominals with tightness in the hamstrings.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Maintaining A Fitness Routine While Traveling by Mike Manning

Traveling for recreation or on a business trip means leaving some of your daily routines behind. Fortunately, working out is not one of them. By learning the secrets to healthy travel, you can prevent on-the-go exercise from becoming a hassle.

When it comes to fitness amenities, not all hotels are created equal. Doing some research before you book a room will ensure that you end up at a hotel that can support your active lifestyle. If you are currently on a weightlifting routine, keep an eye out for an on-site gym with enough machines and free weights to get the job done. If cardio is your main focus, look for locations that offer yoga, pilates, and other fitness classes. Specialized fitness classes are especially easy to find if you stay at a resort or health spa. On my last trip to Maui I used a website called Gogobot in order to do my research. Here I was able to get an exhaustive list of Maui hotels that I could go through in order to see which ones had 24-hour gyms for me to get my early morning workouts in.

If you are traveling by air, you may actually be able to take advantage of fitness facilities provided by the airport. More and more airports are starting to offer convenient spaces to relax and exercise. San Francisco International Airport is at the forefront of this trend. One of the airport's terminals is now equipped with a zen room complete with free yoga mats. The room is dimly lit to maintain a relaxing atmosphere, and guests are required to remove their shoes and turn off their cell phones.

Smartphone technology is making it easier than ever to stay on top of fitness goals while traveling. From strength training to yoga, every type of routine can be streamlined using downloadable apps. Runners should check out RunKeeper, a tool that tracks the time and pace of your run. The app's GPS functions are especially useful when visiting unfamiliar locations. Those who want to work out in the comfort of their hotel rooms can use apps such as Pocket PT to assist with bodyweight exercises.

When traveling for business purposes, tight schedules present an additional challenge to those attempting to stay fit. Scheduling a workout can certainly be difficult when rushing from meeting to meeting. Regardless of any difficulties, health should be a top priority during business travel. Stretching is a great way to relieve tension and make long business meetings more comfortable. Standing up and stretching also increases blood flow, helping you to stay alert and energetic. Working out before and during the trip will prepare your body for physical effects of traveling such as stress and fatigue.

Health and fitness are always important, even when you're away from home. By keeping this information in mind, you should be able to benefit from an exercise regimen no matter where you travel. Whether you are working or enjoying a relaxing vacation, staying active can easily be one of the most rewarding parts of the experience.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Revamping Old Classics
I know we've all seen the guys in the gym (yes, in my opinion is the guys...sorry!) who can't get enough of the bench press or squat machine. Even worse they wear the old school leather belts walking around the gym claiming it still gives them "great lumbar support" when lifting those gigantic weights followed by the dreaded loud grunt! We love to mock them, but some of those classic exercises are beneficial and they just need some modification. Remember with these exercises that it's not how much weight we lift, but how we perform the exercise controlling the range of motion. 
Here are some classic exercises with a modern twist: 
1. Pushups With Side Plank: Such a challenging move for the core! Doing regular pushups with an alternating side plank in between repetitions. Try to keep the hips elevated with core tight and quads contracted. Do 8-15 reps.
pushup side plank   
2. Airplane Bent Over Row: Begin in an airplane position, maintaining thoracic extension with one arm pull the shoulder blades in toward the spine for a row. Do 3 sets of 12 reps on each side with opposite leg down.  
row row2  
3. Dumbbell Chest Fly on Bosu: With weights above your head, keeping arms slightly bent, alternate one arm down at a time keeping hips up and stabilizing abdominals as you lower the weights. Do 20 repetitions.  
fly1 fly2   
4. Dumbbell Cleans: Starting in a squat position with dumbbells to your side, squat down and then power with a hop up lifting the dumbbells to your shoulder. Do 10-15 repetitions 
  cleans                                    clean2
If The Shoe Fits

Let's talk heel to toe drop...what, haven't heard of it? I have to admit I haven't really been taking it into consideration when choosing new running shoes. I've been running in the same Brooks Ravennas for the past 4 years. They've kept my feet comfy for long and short runs. However, it was interesting to find out that they had a 10mm heel to toe drop.  The latest trend in running shoes is to minimize heel to toe drop.  A few years ago, most running shoes had a 8-10mm drop, now they are trying to get that number down to about 4mm. I know the difference doesn't seem that much, but you can actually feel it. The reason that it's important is that the lower the differential, the easier it is to land on your midfoot and forefoot while running. 

A few weeks ago, I went into Running Away Multisport to get more information and try on some shoes with a lower heel toe drop. I thought that maybe the lower heel toe drop might be better for my feet and was willing to give it a try. Here are 2 different versions of shoes with a 4mm drop: 

Hoka Bondi Speed
They're beautiful, aren't they? Ok, not the best looking shoes on the road but this is an interesting shoe. Only one store in Chicago sells them and they are quickly becoming all the rage with marathoners. What people love about them is that they have a minimal heel toe drop and the cushioning is still there making those long runs comfortable. These are one of the only shoes on the market that you don't have to sacrifice cushion for a minimalist shoe. Price $170.

Saucony Mirage 3
These were my choice for a minimal drop shoe. With a little less cushion, the Sauconys are better for shorter for runs. Super light shoes for the road weighing in at 7.5 ounces. However, if you're used to a cushion shoethe Mirage may not be enough for you. Price $110.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Exercise: An Additional Cancer Treatment by Melanie Bowen

I am pleased to have a guest blogger for this post! 

Melanie Bowen is currently a Master's student with a passion that stems from her grandmother's cancer diagnosis. She often highlights the great benefits of alternative nutritional, emotional, and physical treatments on those diagnosed with cancer or other serious illness.  In her spare time, you can find Melanie trying new vegan recipes, on her yoga mat, or spending time with her family.

Exercise is essential to living a healthy life. It strengthens the heart and muscles of the body, as well as improves circulation to the limbs and internal organs. In general, exercise simply makes people feel better about themselves. Despite these universal benefits, certain people have been discouraged from having an exercise regimen. Cancer patients are among those people. After years of forbidding patients from exercising, doctors now urge cancer patients to exercise because of the long list of benefits which research has indicated actually help.

Strengthens the muscles
One of the unfortunate side effects of cancer is extreme fatigue. Many cancer patients have their hearts and muscles weakened even further when they go through treatment. Any movement that further exerts these muscles may seem more harmful than beneficial. However, the exact opposite appears to be the case. Light to moderate-intensity exercise will strengthen a cancer patient's muscles and give him or her more energy throughout the day.

Improves Circulation
Another symptom commonly experienced by cancer patients is poor circulation. The problem may initially start in the heart or lungs, but it has the ability to disrupt every major function in the body. Thirty minutes of exercise each day will bring in more oxygen and the increased heart rate will allow the body to distribute that oxygen where it is needed. Improving circulation with exercise will allow the organ systems to function more efficiently which will in turn help treatments be as successful as possible.

Improves Quality of Life
People with mesothelioma and other forms of cancer tend to get depressed when they have to rely on others for help with basic tasks. However, exercise has the ability to create exactly what they need: more lean muscle mass. This new muscle mass will give them added strength when beginning treatment, which often reduces muscle mass. It will also give them confidence and a sense of pride in their independence.

Cancer is something that doctors take very seriously. Their ban on exercise was only set in place for them to monitor a patient's progress. However, moderate levels of exercise will not get in the way of that. If anything, exercise will give cancer patients the strength and courage to continue fighting.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Apps To Keep You Accountable

We are already half way through January and many of us have set fitness or nutrition goals for 2013. Hopefully it's going well for everyone so far, but just in case, there are some apps that might help keep you in check. Most of them are free on iTunes, so why not use them? 

My Fitness Pal. Enter in your exercise and create a food diary with this app. It has a complete list of foods while counting calories for you. Chart your progress every month and see your results. Added bonus: forums on various health and nutrition topics. 

Fooducate. Feeling clueless when you're at the grocery store? This app has given health grades to a very extensive list of foods. All you do is scan the product and voila! Your nutrition grade will appear with a full description of what's good or bad about the product. 

Everest. Want to climb it? This goal setting app will help you get there. Whether it's getting in shape or learning a new language, Everest will keep you focused on setting the smaller goals to achieve the big ones!

Run Keeper. This app has over 14 million users, so there must be something to it, right? Track any physical activity with your GPS, chart your stats and reach your goals. If that's not enough, try training programs that have voice coaching! 
Combo Moves for the Efficient Workout
When some of my clients hear the two words "combo move" come out of my mouth, they cringe. But then I remind them that it's the best way to get the most out of your workout. Why take the time to do 2 separate exercises when they can be done together? Combine these 5 moves for a full body workout. All you will need is a mat and dumbbells!
1. Plank Single Arm Row: Starting in a normal plank position with one dumbbell, you will alternate sides with a row. This is a challenging core exercise, so I recommend that you begin with a lower weight until you feel like you have full control. Do 3 sets of 14 reps.
2. Cross Back Lunge Shoulder Press: Using one weight, step back into the lunge, balance as you return to standing extending the arm above your head. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps each side. 
xbacksp xbacksp2
3. Single Leg Squat Front Raise: Begin on one leg with dumbbells in both hands by your side, squat down and then return to standing position raising your arms to shoulder height. Do 3 sets of 12 reps on each side. 
squatfraise squatfraise1  
4. Dumbbell Triceps with Lower Ab Tilt: Bend and extend your elbows while tucking your pelvis towards with a small movement. Be sure to keep your elbows in and even with your shoulders. Do 3 sets of 15 reps. 
triab triab2  
5. Lateral Lunge Bicep Curl: Step out to the side with one leg straight, dumbbells will stay to the side, return to starting position with a bicep curl on your way up. Add a balance in for a more advanced move. Do 3 sets of 12 reps on each side.   
lungebi lungebi1