Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

RunningSThe anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is important for the proper movement of the knee. Injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can be a debilitating injury to the knee. Injuries range from a small tear to completely torn and happen mainly during sports like basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, and skiing. These sports have a lot of hard and awkward landings or abrupt shift in directions which can lead to tears. In addition to the physical and psychological impact it has to your body, it also takes financial toll. However, a new study show that how teams warm up before practices and games can lower the risk of an injured knee.

Because of the growing number of these injuries, researchers have been developing programs to reduce the number. These programs are known as neuromuscular training and use a series of exercises to teach athletes how to land, change directions, plant their legs etc. These programs have been found to reduce the number of ACL tears by 50% or more.

Despite these findings, few leagues and schools across the country have adopted neuromuscular training. Not completely sure why, Dr. Eric Stewart decided to figure out what the monetary savings might be in ACL injury prevention. He and his colleagues gathered clinical trials related to neuromuscular training and used them to create a model of what would happen in a hypothetical sports league of athletes ages 14 to 22. He compared the monetary impact if they did and did not practice neuromuscular training.

First they found the average cost for surgery and rehabilitation on an ACL tear was $15,000. The incidence for those not practicing neuromuscular training was 3% which equated to about $500 per player.

They then calculated the incidence of injury dropped to 1.5% with neuromuscular training. Because many programs for this training are on-line for free the cost of training was negligible. Based on calculations they found the cost of starting a neuromuscular training program was about $1.25 per player. . . .much cheaper than visiting an orthopedic surgeon.

To give you an idea, most programs consist of 15 – 20 minutes of exercise to include marching, jumping, squatting and side-to-side shuffling. The purpose is to wake up the brain and nervous system. An example of this training is Prevent Injury, Enhance Performance (PEP) program and the FIFA 11 program. Both are free and no training is needed to teach athletes. Easy to follow videos of workouts can be found on-line for free. Below are links to their respective sites:




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rollITWhen you want some of the benefits of a sports massage but don’t have the money you may want to try foam rolling.  For various reasons including disuse, not stretching, and injuries, the fascia and underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together.  This adhesion of the fascia to the muscle restricts muscle movement.  It can also cause pain, soreness and reduced flexibility.  Foam rolling stretches muscles and tendons and breaks down the soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue.

To foam roll all you need is a cylindrical foam roller which you use your own body weight to perform a sort of self massage.  There are several website with instructions and videos on various foam rolling exercises.  An example of one of these sites is at the link below:


If you are still not sure if this is for you, here are some benefits you may experience when foam rolling:

  • Help prevent injuries:  One of the most important reasons for a regular foam-rolling routine is to prevent exercise-related injuries. Foam rolling every day ensures you are massaging away fascia buildup in your muscles, in order to help prevent those areas from becoming injury trigger points.
  • Help distress:  Foam rolling helps releases tension that is built up in the connective tissue which also keeps you less stressed.  Even sitting all day at the office puts stress on your body.  An all-over body routine can help you distress after a long day at work.
  • Helps with flexibility:  Breaking down the soft tissue adhesions and scar tissue while stretching the muscles will build up your flexibility.  This will also help in any fitness routine.  It can also help combat tightness from sitting as well as lower back pain.
  • Improves blood circulation:  Foam rolling improves blood circulation in the skin, fascia, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.  With improved circulation comes more efficient exchange of nutrients and wastes at cellular level.

The use of foam rollers has increased over the past ten years and will likely continue to grow.  It is a low-cost investment for a potentially great return towards your overall health.

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menI recently read a post by Cynthia Sass in the Huffington Post Healthy Living section on 5 mistakes people make with food and exercise that I thought I would summarize and share.  I have seen these same issues with people who I know.  Fix these missteps and the author feels you can better reap the rewards of all of your hard work.

  • Eating Too Little Fat – It seems like people these days are super fearful of fat.  Despite recommendations to include good fats in diet, people stay clear of any fat, often reaching for fat-free options.  Cutting back on fat too much can lead to fatigue, hunger, irritability, depression, weak immune system, and can increase risk of injury.  It is more of the most important nutrients in your diet.  Even if you are trying to reduce body fat, including good fats in your diet is essential to your health.  Look to add things like almond butter, avocado, or olive oil to get the fats you need.
  • Using A Sports Drink When You Really Don’t Need One – As a rule of thumb, if you are exercising less than 90 minutes in a climate controlled gym, water is all you need.  Sports drinks are for folks that work out for more than 90 minutes in hot or humid conditions.  They are meant to keep you going when you can’t stop to eat.  Sports drinks contain a lot of sugar so unless you are really pushing it, stick to water.
  • Not Eating After A Workout Because You’re Afraid To “Eat Back” What You’ve Burned – You may not want to over eat after a workout but you do need some nutrition to heal the body from wear and tear that you put on your body.  Again, you don’t want to overdo eating after a workout but eat with a goal in mind of delivering nutrients to your body to aid in recovery.
  • Only Eating Protein Post Workout – Protein is only one of the key nutrients for recovery.  You also need your share of healthy fat, whole grains and produce.  These help do things such as replenish nutrients, supply antioxidants, help muscles heal, replete glycogen, and optimize circulation.
  • Doubling Up On Recovery Meals – The author recommends eating something like a natural bar or shake 30 minutes before the end of a tough training or game to start the recovery process.  This has shown to maximize healing.  However, she recommends this for your pro athlete clients.  For the average person this can be overkill if it is followed by a full recovery meal.  As a tip she recommends that if you are going to eat within an hour after leaving the gym, skip the snack and wait for the meal.

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thStretching doesn’t take a lot of time and the benefits are pretty substantial.  Not stretching can lead to slower recovery and potential injuries.  The benefits are even greater.

  • Greater Strength – Stretching improves circulation to the muscles.  This helps provide greater nutrients to muscles and helps them recover faster between workouts.  With increased blood flow there is less soreness and muscle fatigue which allows for more frequent and high intensity workouts where the increased strength comes in.
  • More Flexibility – As you get older your muscles shorten and tighten.  This decreases the range of motion and you are at a greater chance for injury.  Stretching is the best way to improve flexibility.
  • Good for Circulation – As stated above, stretching improves circulation to muscles.  Increased blood circulation helps in promoting cell growth and organ function.  This also impacts the heart rate as it will be lower since it doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Reduced Stress – The muscles loosed and built up stress is released when you stretch.  Additionally, it releases and endorphin that causes a feeling of calmness and wellbeing.  If you are having a tough time sleeping, try stretching the muscles in the neck and shoulders before you call it a night.
  • Increase Range of Motion – Stretching increases the range of motion of joints.  This helps with balance and performance.  With a greater range of motion you have more complete workouts with better form and comprehensive muscle recruitment.
  • Enhanced Coordination – Stretching increases range of motion which leads to better coordination and balance. This will help keep you mobile and less prone to injury from falls, especially as you get older
  • Better Posture – Stretching helps maintain proper posture through more flexible muscles and joints. Good posture can minimize discomfort and keep aches and pains at a minimum.

For some simple stretching guidelines:

  •  Stretch a minimum of 3 times a week, completing   at least 5 different stretches
  •  Hold stretch for 10 – 30 seconds each
  •  Hold stretch to the point of mild discomfort
  •  Repeat each stretch 3 – 4 times

Stretch on!

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thCAP370U2Everyone always told me that it was best for me to cool down after a workout.  I am not really sure why.  I think I remember something about muscle soreness or flexibility.  I didn’t listen well and skipped the cool down almost every time.  Now it looks like I may have not missed out on much.

The Journal of Human Kinetics conducted a study of 36 active adults that participated in a strenuous one-time program of forward lunges with barbels in hand.  This type of exercise is guaranteed to make most people very sore whether they are in shape or not.  In the comparison, one group warmed up before exercising by riding a stationary bike for 20 minutes.  In another group did not warm up but cooled down for 20 minutes after by the same method of cycling.  The third and final group just did the lunges without warming up or cooling down.

The next day all volunteered did a pain threshold test.  The ones that warmed up before exercising had the highest pain threshold and were relatively pain-free.  Those that cooled down had the opposite results.  They had low pain threshold and the much more pain.  This is equivalent to the control group that did not warm up or cool down.

There were two other studies published in The Journal of Human Kinetics and The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research where professional soccer players underwent a series of physical test to include vertical leap, sprinting speed, agility and leg flexibility.  After the assessment they participated in a regular soccer practice.  When all of this was complete some just stopped exercising and others did a cool down.  When questioned about how sore they were the next day there was no difference between those that did nothing after exercise and those that cooled down.  Both groups experienced soreness.

There are other studies like this that have had the same results so is there a really good reason to cool down after a workout?  Andrea Fradkin, an associate professor of exercise science at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania thinks there is a good reason to cool down.  She says, “A cool-down has been shown to prevent venous pooling after exercise.” When exercising the blood vessels in your legs expand and when you stop abruptly the blood pools in your lower body, which can lead to dizziness or even fainting. Walking for a few minutes or cooling down after can prevent this from happening.  Also, some feel that a cool down after a hard session can just feel good.

Since there is not research showing any negative effects when cooling down if probably won’t hurt you.  If cooling down isn’t for you then don’t feel the need to have to do it.

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Would you like to be part of an organization that is flexible, adaptive, and firing at peak performance a majority of the time?  Find out how to achieve and maintain this peak performance by directing energy in the right direction through physical, social and mental fitness.

Maintaining Physical, Social and Mental Fitness for Peak Performance 

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skiI usually post my articles on Wednesday of each week but I missed this past Wednesday.  I decided to take the day off and spend it skiing and posting an article completely slipped my mind.  I felt a little bad about missing my posting but now this is an opportunity to write a little bit about the benefits of skiing and how to be prepared when you hit the slopes.

Some don’t understand why skiers would spend the money on gear, tickets, and transportation to spend 6 – 7 hours pushing your physical limits in (sometimes) freezing temperatures.  Sure there are fitness benefits but there is more to it.  Here are a few to include the fitness benefits:

  • Fitness Benefits – Skiing is a weight-bearing exercise which strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis.  Skiing successfully requires balance, coordination, agility, and spatial awareness.  It also provides some cardiovascular fitness.  A person weighing 160 pounds burns 365 calories an hour downhill skiing.
  •  Motivation to Stay in Shape – Skiing itself has health benefits but it also can motivate you to stay in shape.  When ski season is approaching, I spend more time focused on my balance and leg strength so I can enjoy the experience and prevent injuries.  Because skiing is so physically taxing there may be a desire to train harder for ski season but low-impact aerobic training is the way to go.  Try shorter, less intense runs, elliptical workouts and yoga or Pilates.
  • Overcoming the Winter Blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder is depression caused by the longer hours of darkness and cold temperatures.  To combat these winter blues, skiing provides some sunshine, physical activity and social interaction.
  • Social Benefits – Skiing is one of those physical activities that almost anyone can do despite age, size, and fitness level.  It’s also an activity that the entire family can enjoy.  Skiing always offers the opportunities to meet new people on the lift, on the slopes, or in the lodge.

If you are now motivated to hit the slopes, here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Prepare yourself physically by jogging, using the elliptical trainer or doing some leg strength training exercises.  This will help you avoid muscle strain and injury.
  • Don’t overdo it.  Most injuries happen at the end of the day when people are fatigued and going for that last run of the day.  Listen to your body and when you are tired it’s ok to call it a day.
  • Drink enough fluids even though it’s cold and you don’t feel thirsty.  You can become easily dehydrated in the cold dry weather in no time.  The same goes for fuel.  Eat enough food to keep you energized throughout the day even if you are not hungry.
  • Wear appropriate gear for comfort, warmth and protection.  Helmets and sunscreen area must.
  • If you are a first time skier, spend the money and take a lesson.  It’s better to learn to ski the right way than through trial and error.

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