Stretching: It’s Necessary, Not Optional

Are you too cool to stretch? I used to be– or I thought I was. And then I strained a few muscles, had some back issues while surfing, and had sore legs and tight hips from running. Now I can’t seem to stretch enough. Oh, and I am 30. That hurts to type.

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Why Should You Stretch?

Stretching can balance the length and tension of muscles around a joint, decreasing the likelihood of overactive muscles and joint stress. However, it is important to identify the muscles that are actually overactive (no guessing). Once you do that, then you can develop a plan for lengthening them and strengthening their counterparts. Click here to see how to find overactive muscles.

If you do not balance the muscles around your joints, you will develop faulty movement patterns over time. Essentially, you will succumb to the following series of events:

Muscle Imbalances–> Poor Posture–> Improper Movements–> Injury

(Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008)

When & How to Stretch

  1. Use a posture assessment to determine which muscles to target
  2. Do SMFR (Self Myofascial Release, AKA Foam Rolling) first!
  3. Corrective, Active, or Functional stretching
    • A trainer is especially beneficial at this stage

You should stretch before and after each work out. However, one caveat is necessary. There is some scientific research suggesting that acute static stretching before a performance can slightly decrease power and/or strength (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). Conversely, long-term (chronic) stretching has been associated with increased strength and power.

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So start implementing stretching now to increase your long-term power, strength, range of motion and neuromuscular efficiency, and to decrease joint stress.


References

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

The 30 Second Stretch: Yes, It’s Backed by Science

I’ve heard it all my life. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds or so, but I never asked why. According to our anatomy and physiology, it matters!

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Mechanoreceptors (Sensory receptors)

What tells us that a muscle is stretching too much or that it needs to stretch more? Our bodies have muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs that provide that particular service.

Muscle spindles are the major sensory organ of a muscle. They are microscopic fibers that run parallel to a muscle fiber. The main function of a muscle spindle is to alert the brain, via the central nervous system, that a muscle is lengthening too far or too fast (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). When excess lengthening occurs the muscle spindles contract, resulting in micro muscle spasms or a tight feeling.

Golgi tendon organs are located between a muscle and a tendon, also referred to as the musculotendinous junction. Their job is to to relax a muscle when it is placed under excess tension (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008) For example, if you try to lift a weight that is too heavy, then the GTOs will send a message to the muscles involved to stop the action. The relaxation prevents a muscle from tearing.

Hacking the Body With the 30 Second Stretch

You can hack your body’s system by holding a static stretch for a prolonged period of time. Doing so starts a process called autogenic inhibition. In short, autogenic inhibition is an override of the muscle spindles by the golgi tendon organs, allowing the muscles to relax and lengthen (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). The 30 second rule is based on this process. Generally speaking, most static stretches should be held long enough for the golgi tendon organs to override the muscle spindles– approximately 30 seconds.


References

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

My Car was Destroyed, so I Ran

Exercise has always been a mainstay in my life. I became a PE teacher so that I could share my love of exercise with others. Right now I am going through my NASM certification to supplement that teacher pay with more exercise-related work.

Sometimes we forget the value that our hobbies and passions can and do provide us. I was reminded of it this past weekend when I woke up to find my car was missing.

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I am currently living with my girlfriend, and we are in the process of moving to start our new lives in Summerville/Charleston, SC. We live in Charlotte, and street parking is a must in some places. My car was parallel parked right outside of our apartment, but I couldn’t find it…

My first thought was that somebody stole the car. There was glass on the ground and some plastic. Who did this?

As I walked up and down the street looking for my car, checking and rehashing my previous day’s memory of my parking location, a neighbor leaned over her balcony to tell me that my vehicle was involved in an accident. She met me on the road and showed me what happened.

My car is on the top

I was instantly surprised, frustrated, mad, and then entirely annoyed. Why wasn’t I notified? What’s going to happen? I can’t afford this right now… How do I get to work? Was the perpetrator driving a stolen car (the person fled the scene)? Does the car have insurance? F*@%!

The following 24 hours included lots of phone calls, confusion, stress, and more stress. I had to investigate to find out what happened to my car, and I couldn’t get in touch with the officer on duty because he was 3rd shift.

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Eventually all the frustration boiled over and I began to channel my anger in a negative way. The stress was overwhelming, and I had so much energy that I needed to release.

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So I ran… I ran fast and hard. I went to the gym. I worked my butt off and focused my frustration. And the frustration started to ease. The myopic, anger-filled lens I was looking through began to clear.

I did it when my teacher died in middle school– I ran.

I did it when I didn’t believe in myself in college– I ran.

I did it after self-sabotaging behavior– I ran.

I did it when I got my first real job– I ran.

I did it when I didn’t think I could do it– I ran.

I did it through the failures and the successes, the highs and lows, the amazing and dull times– I ran and I will continue to run.

Can you relate?

Your Dynamic Posture is BAD! Your Lifts & Body Are Suffering

Do your knees move in while performing a squat? Your dynamic posture is structurally and functionally compromised if they do, and it might look something like this.

Click HERE to learn more about DYNAMIC POSTURE

Anterior Compensations

If your knees are moving inward or your feet are rotating out while you are squatting, then your muscles are imbalanced in a few areas. An imbalance occurs around a joint, where some muscles are overactive while others are weak.

The Overactive Fix

The Feet

When the feet rotate outwards, then the soleus and lateral gastrocnemius are often overactive– also known as the calf muscle. Another problem could come from a tight hamstring (short head biceps femoris).

Fix those issues with the following stretches and foam rolls.

The Knees Moving Inward

The Adductor Complex makes up the inner thigh. Often it is tight and can pull the knees inward. Fix the problem by foam rolling the muscles to loosen them.

The Biceps Femoris (one of the hamstring muscles) is probably overactive as well. Loosen it by lying on the back and performing a stretch like this:

Strengthen the Weak Muscles

The outward rotation of the feet requires the calves and the hamstrings to be strengthened; furthermore, the gracilis, sartorius, and popliteus need strengthening.

Try the single leg balance reach to strengthen weak areas

The gluteus maximus/ medius (yes, your butt muscles) and vastus medialis oblique need to be strengthened if the knees are moving inward.

Try a tube walk side to side to strengthen your weak glutes and vastus medialis obliques.

  1. Assume an athletic position (slight bend in the knees)
  2. Make sure the tubing or band has some resistance but not too much
  3. Step to the right 10; do the same to the left
  4. Keep feet straight and take small lateral steps

Posture & Health– Why it Matters & What to Look For

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If you are not constantly aware of your posture, the implications, and how to manage it, then you may find yourself with a variety of musculoskeletal problems. However, I will provide you with a simple way to check for and correct postural imbalances over the next few blogs.

First, what are the implications of bad posture?

Misaligned postural integrity can cause imbalances in muscle groups, leading to lessened joint mobility and injury. Typical complaints include low-back pain, ankle sprains, and tendonitis (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). If these sorts of nagging problems are a motif in your life, then you should take this simple test. 

Check Your Static Posture

One’s static (standing still) postural presentation is an indicator of the consistent positions that the body is held in. You may know your postural tendencies because they are likely linked to your line of work and hobbies, but many people are unaware. Use mirrors, a camera, or have a friend check your posture from different points of view: front (anterior), side (lateral), and back (posterior).

It is important to check the kinetic chain (Feet, Knees, Hips, Shoulders, & Head) from each perspective .

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  1. Front (anterior):
    • Feet & ankles: Parallel and straight; no excessive rotations in or out
    • Knees: in line with the toes; no excessive rotations in or out
    • Hips: parallel to floor (no elevation on either side)
    • Shoulders: level with no excessive rounding
    • Head: neutral with no tilt
  2. Side (lateral)
    • Feet & ankles: leg and foot perpendicular to each other at a 90 degree angle
    • Knees: in neutral position; not hyperextending
    • Hips: neutral; no forward or backward leaning
    • Shoulders: normal curve with no excessive rounding
    • Head: neutral; no excessive jutting forward
  3. Back (Posterior)
    • Feet & ankles: leg and foot perpendicular to each other at a 90 degree angle
    • Knees: in neutral position; not hyperextending
    • Hips: neutral; no forward or backward leaning
    • Shoulders: normal curve with no excessive rounding
    • Head: neutral; no excessive jutting forward

To keep it simple, there are three main structural problems that underlie most issues, so take notes:

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  1. Pronation Distortion Syndrome (Knock knees):
    • feet pronate and are flat (rotate internally)
    • knees rotate internally
  2. Lower crossed syndrome:
    • anterior pelvic tilt (excessively arched lower back)
  3. Upper crossed syndrome:
    • forward head
    • rounded shoulders

If you find problematic areas after running these quick checks, then you may be on to something. You may start to realize that these small imbalances and quirks are the basis of some of the nagging problems you have had. I will provide you with some simple stretches and exercises to alleviate these problems soon.

If everything has checked out thus far, then you have completed level one of your postural assessment!

In the next blog I will take you through level 2, a dynamic postural check that will uncover most  weaknesses or imbalances in your kinetic chain– the overhead squat.

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References
Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

 

Jiu Jitsu: What to Expect

 

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First: What is it?

Jiu Jitsu is a combat sport that ends when one contestant submits another through grappling. It requires strength, quickness, technique, endurance, and strategy,  necessitating one to be able to think ahead of one’s movements.

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It’s like trying to untie yourself from multiple moving knots that you have never seen– while trying to tie your own–after you have pushed yourself to your physical limits.

I’ve often heard Joe Rogan comment on it saying, “It’s high level problem solving with dire physical consequences.” I think that is a reasonable description, but I can see how the “dire physical consequences” bit would push some people away from it.

Don’t let that discourage you.

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What to expect

I took– unwittingly– an uncommon approach to my first lesson, so my experience is probably an atypical one. I went to an open mat session instead of going to curriculum and learning the basics. Here are some thoughts I can pass on to somebody thinking about giving it a try.

  1. Go to a reputable gym, one that has an atmosphere focused on learning and growth
  2. You’re going to be nervous– deal with it. 
  3.  You need a mouth guard (obvious but easy to forget)
  4. The gi is a very tough fabric, and you will sweat a lot in it. Moreover, it is a tool that you can use and that can be used against you.
  5. Unless you are a  wrestler already, you will be exhausted fairly quickly, regardless of the shape you are in
  6. Your mind will be overwhelmed for the entire session
  7. You will be humbled within minutes
  8. There will be a lot of “aha moments”
  9. You will feel better about yourself when you leave, even if you get your butt whooped the entire time

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If you are looking for a different kind of workout, or you are looking for something to challenge you mentally and physically, I would say that you should definitely give it a try.

It’s not easy, but that which is worthwhile rarely is.

 

Have you done Jiu Jitsu before? If so, what do you enjoy about it? What would you recommend to a beginner?

 

 

 

Time Restricted Eating: Does it work?

Although traditional reduced-calorie diets are a very science-based way to lose weight, intermittent fasting is a good alternative that studies suggest is just as beneficial for losing weight” –Sai Das, PhD

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Time-restricted eating is eating within a specified time-frame each day. Sometimes people refer to it as fasting, and it is popular in many health and wellness circles and some religions.

  It does not require one to change the foods he or she eats; it simply requires the food to be consumed  within a shorter time frame.

Although, research seems to suggest that placing that window earlier in the day is more beneficial because our blood sugar control and metabolism are generally better in the morning.  Regardless, time-restricted eating means fasting for a large part of the day and allowing oneself a minimized period of feeding.

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There is a trending consensus that time restricted eating causes fat loss. The fat-loss theory in time-restricted eating is analogous to  lending money to somebody and then collecting interest on it every day.

You sacrifice for a period of time (no food to go into a fasted state), you get it all back (your window of time that you can eat), plus you benefit more because of the delay/sacrifice (your increased fat-burning).

In theory and analogy it is a wonderful idea. But what does the research say?

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Moro et al. (2016) found that males with a background in resistance training –and that fasted for 16 hours a day–decreased their fat levels and maintained their muscle mass while maintaining the same caloric intake; those that had a background in training and maintained a regular eating schedule did not reduce their fat levels. Similarly, a pilot study on women found a significant decrease in fat for women who were involved in resistance training and followed a time-restricted diet (Smith, LeSarge, & Lemon, 2017). Although those in the women’s resistance training group maintained muscle mass while decreasing fat, the other groups did not have the same benefits; they experienced an overall weight loss, which included muscle.

A scientist from the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) – Sai Das, PhD—has commented on intermittent fasting, stating “Although traditional reduced-calorie diets are a very science-based way to lose weight, intermittent fasting is a good alternative that studies suggest is just as beneficial for losing weight” (The Buzz on Intermittent Fasting, 2017). She goes on to note that there have not been many scientific studies comparing the different intermittent regimens, so there is not a clear  amount of fasting that one should follow; moreover, Das reminds readers to avoid overcompensating during feeding times.

Much more experimental, long-term studies have been done on animals, resulting in better research and substantiated conclusions.

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In a popular Youtube video—linked below in the references–  Dr. Rhonda Patrick discusses the immense benefits of fasting on mice, referencing work by Dr. Satchidananda Panda. Moreover, Dr. Patrick gives her own anecdotes, stating she has experienced an increase in cardiovascular benefits. Other suggested  benefits of intermittent fasting may include: cognitive enhancement and an overall increase in health biomarkers.

To me, the evidence suggests that time-restricted eating can be beneficial– especially for those that are already on a workout plan.

Whether the weight loss and/or fat burning caused during time restricted eating is as effective for those living a sedentary lifestyle, it is difficult to say; people could unintentionally cut calories during the fasting time– that and food choices are factors that must be controlled for in larger future human studies. Moreover, although food choices were not mentioned, it is still important to eat as healthy as possible. One should not expect great results while eating horrible foods daily. 

If you are looking for an alternative to cutting a bunch of calories, time-restricted eating seems to be a safe and more practical way to attempt to reach your goal.

Although I have provided some research on the subject, please do your own and draw your own conclusions. I will be giving the fasting a try, limiting myself to food for 10 hours a day to start.

 

Subscribe to see my updates and to join in on the discussion!

 


References

Moro, T., Tinsley, G., Bianco, A., Marcolin, G., Pacelli, Q. F., Battaglia, G., & … Paoli, A. (2016). Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. Journal Of Translational Medicine, 141-10. doi:10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0

Smith, S. T., LeSarge, J. C., & Lemon, P. R. (2017). Time-Restricted Eating in Women – A Pilot Study. Western Undergraduate Research Journal: Health & Natural Sciences, 8(1), 1-6. doi:10.5206/wurjhns.2017-18.3

The Buzz on Intermittent Fasting: Studies suggest intermittent fasting regimens can help with weight loss. But, long-term adherence and health benefits are uncertain. (2017). Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 4.

Youtube interview– Joe Rogan & Rhonda Patrick:

Youtube interview– Rhonda Patrick & Satchin Panda