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Health to Gift Yourself This Season – Wrists and Hands!

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Gifts for your wrists and hands

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like running, skiing, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

Wrists and Hands

Did you know a handshake is a better predictor of premature death than traditional blood-pressure testing? According to a study published in the Lancet, a weak handshake can signal an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Further implications of grip strength include protection from old-age disability, better overall strength in other muscle groups, and prediction of mortality, disability, disease complications, and increased length of hospital stay. In order to produce adequate grip strength, you must present good wrist, forearm, hand, and finger health!

Each of the wrists and hands is a complex structure. The wrist joint is comprised of the two forearm bones, 8 carpal (wrist) bones, and the proximal ends of 5 metacarpal (hand) bones. The articulations between these many bones allow for range of motion in 3 planes (flexion/extension, pronation/supination, and lateral flexion/extension), and the joint is stabilized by an intricate system of ligaments. Optimal wrist function allows for load bearing and load suspension as well as full range of motion with control.

One hand contains 5 metacarpal (hand) bones and 14 phalanges (finger bones). These create very fragile joints that are controlled by intrinsic muscles (with the muscle belly in the hand) or extrinsic muscles (with the muscle belly in the forearm with tendons extending into the hand). 3 nerves control the innervation of these hand and wrist muscles. The hand sits at the terminus of the arm – it’s so important that the sole function of the shoulder and arm complex is to control the position of the hand!

The dexterity humans possess in their hands and fingers allows us to complete complex tasks such as pinching between thumbs and fingers, gripping, and isolating single finger movements. This intricate motor control sets us apart from other animals.

Beyond the internal anatomical structures, it’s also important to consider the superficial features of the hands including skin and nails. The skin that covers the back of the hand (dorsal) is very different from the skin that covers the palm. Dorsal skin is thinner and more pliable, attached to the hand loosely through blood vessels. The palmar skin is much thicker and is tightly connected to the underlying fascia to increase stability and gripping ability. The nails located at the end of each finger are intimately connected to the most distal (farthest) phalanges (finger bones). They offer protection for these bones as well as contribute to finger dexterity.

Humans are extremely dependent on hand and wrist function. If you’ve ever lost the ability to fully use one (or both) for a short time, you notice very quickly how many actions are affected! Things as simple as brushing your teeth, stirring a pot on the stove, or getting up from the ground all become more difficult. Take the time to work on your wrist and hand strength and mobility and you will reap the benefits.

 

Visual Inspection:  How do they look?

  • Are your hands flat and relaxed when on the floor or wall or do some of the fingers bend?
  • Are your nails or the skin on your hands cracked and dry?
  • Do your joints in your fingers look swollen or enlarged?
  • Is there any discoloration to indicate poor circulation or skin dysfunction?

 

Movement Inspection: How do they move?

  • Can you make a tight fist with all your fingers and thumb?
  • Can you touch and pinch your thumb to each of your fingers?
  • Can you rotate your wrist in all directions and spread your fingers?
  • Can you isolate single finger movements? ie. peace sign or ‘Spock’ sign

 

Sensory Inspection: How do they feel?

  • Any numbness in fingers or thumb?
  • Do your fingers feel cold? hot?
  • Can you feel smooth, gliding movements with finger flexion and extension?
  • Any cracking or popping?

Gifts for Your Wrists and Hands!

#1 Roll with ball

Place a small ball (smooth or spiky) on a table and roll throughout your entire palm. Explore the different digits and areas of your palm. Try rolling the back of the forearm too, on the table or against a wall.

 

#2 Wrist flexion and extension stretch

Use your opposite hand to stretch your wrist into flexion (towards the palm) and extension (towards the back of the hand). Hold for at least 30 seconds.

 

#3 Wrist lateral and medial flexion stretch

Use your opposite hand to explore lateral movements, bending the wrist towards the thumb and then the pinky.

 

#4 Finger stretches

Isolate your fingers from the wrist and explore the range of motion. Stretch all the fingers together in flexion and extension, then isolate each finger.

 

#5 Elastic band stretch

Place an elastic band around your thumb and all your fingers. Gently pull the band apart to work your hand extensors. This reverses the ‘gripping’ flexion motion.

 

#6 Grip work

As noted above, grip strength is a strong predictor of overall health. Work on your grip strength by holding a kettlebell or other object at your side, tightly squeezing a ball, or hanging from a bar. Grip is a highly neural-demanding function, and is affected by fatigue and dehydration. Consider testing grip strength and its implications. A grip dynamometer can be used to provide an objective analysis. Some athletes test daily.

 

#7 Hand and nail care

Massage your fingers and hands together every day with lotion. Keep your nails trimmed and healthy. Take care of any cuts, dry spots, warts or eczema.

#8 Gentle loading into wrists progressing to full weight bearing in plank and/or push up

A healthy wrist joint should allow you to load it with your body weight. Start in an incline position with your hands against the wall or a counter. Progress towards the ground until you can hold an all fours position, and eventually a plank or pushup.

#9 Arm bars

Arm bars are one of the best gifts you can give your wrists and shoulders! An arm bar isometrically loads the shoulder and wrist joints, requiring strength and stability of all the smaller muscles. The kettlebell should rest gently on the back of your wrist, and your wrist position should be straight. Slight movements of the arm are natural but the load should be comfortable to control.

  • Roll to your back and press the kettlebell up over your chest with a straight wrist.
  • Extend the opposite arm and leg onto the ground.
  • Roll away from the arm with the kettlebell, allowing it to rotate until it sits directly above your shoulder. A bent knee can support you on the ground.
  • Pack the shoulder away from your ear and let the load sink into your shoulder socket.
  • Hold for 6-8 breaths then reverse and repeat on the other side.

 

#10 Farmer’s Carry

The farmer’s carry relies on grip strength and core stability. Hold equal kettlebells or weights in each hand. Stand tall and go for a slow, controlled walk. Weight should help set your shoulders in a neutral position at your sides and wrists should be straight. Only walk as far as you can control with strong neutral posture and confident grip.

 

#11 Desk ergonomics

Desk, chair, and keyboard height contribute to wrist function. Make sure your neck and shoulders can remain relaxed (the desk surface is not too high) and that you can provide adequate support for the heels of your hands. Your hands should not rest in too much extension.

 

 

Give your wrists and hands some of these gifts this season. You may just live a little longer!
 

Written by: Briana Kelly and Sheila Hamilton December 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

References:

Put some grip in your shake!

Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_3dagentur’>3dagentur / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Dynamic Aging – Katy Bowman Copyright 2017 p. 146,

Easy Strength – Dan John and Pavel copyright 2011 P. 228, 229

https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1899456-overview#a1

 

Health to Gift Yourself this Season for Your Neck!

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12 gifts to give your neck!

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like running, skiing, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

All About Necks

The neck can tell us a lot about our body and lifestyle. Injuries, car accidents, stress, poor posture and breathing, poor movement quality, and time spent sitting can all contribute to a tight neck.  A strong and mobile neck is often reflective of good life balance of movement and health.

The main function of the neck is to support the skull and the organ the skull protects: the brain. The brain and spinal cord make up the Central Nervous System, the mission control center of our body. Our spinal cord travels through the neck and houses all the sensory pathways to and from the rest of the body and the brain. Abnormal head position (even slightly askew) due to neck imbalances or history of injury can affect how your visual and proprioceptive sensory receptors perceive the world and how your brain responds as a result.

The part of the vertebral column that forms the neck is called the cervical spine. There are 7 small cervical vertebrae and they are made to accommodate movement in all directions, but are very fragile. The neck also forms a pathway that accommodates other body systems. The carotid artery carries oxygenated blood to the head and brain, the trachea allows air to flow to and from our lungs, and the esophagus forms an entry to the digestive system. All these structures require protection from a well-functioning neck.

The head is heavy! The average human adult’s head weighs about 1/7th of their total weight, but the force required to keep it upright increases significantly the farther forward the head is postured (i.e., flexing down to look at your phone) [1]. Therefore, musculature of the neck is strong; the major muscles run mostly vertically from the clavicle or scapula (collar and shoulder bones) to the skull and jaw, while smaller stabilizers also exist that originate from each vertebra. The taller our neck and head posture, the more efficiently and effectively these muscles will perform their desired functions.

Good thing there are lots of things we can do to optimize the function of our neck…

Visual Inspection:  How does it look?

  • Does your head sit in a neutral position? Is it set forward, tilted, or rotated to one side?
  • Are the shoulders pulled up towards the neck and ears?
  • Are the neck veins distended and bulging?
  • When you breathe in do your shoulders hike towards your ears?

 

Movement Inspection: How does it move?

  • Can you touch chin to chest, or chin to collarbone? Can you get your forehead parallel to the roof?
  • Can you freely look left and right to look behind you?
  • Can you laterally tilt your head – ear to shoulder 30′?
  • Any cracks or pops?

Sensory Inspection: How does it feel?

  • Do you have pain at rest or with movement?
  • Do you have tingling or numbness in your arms or shoulders?
  • Does it feel achy in the morning or at the end of the day?

12 Gifts for Your Neck

# 1 Give it a Break! Advice from Dr. Olson….

“As many patients take winter holidays to relax and get some warmth and sunshine, they could also give their necks a holiday too. Take a break and limit your cellphone to taking pictures and essential calls only. Stop texting and checking emails every 5 minutes! Same advice for your computer. Take a break from technology and give your neck a holiday. It gets really tired and stressed from looking down all day long. Pretend it’s the 70s when people could only get in touch with you by mail or a land line. If you weren’t home – you missed the call – and the sun still rose the next day. ”

# 2 Ball to traps and shoulder rotator (supraspinatus), or roller stick to shoulders

Stand against a wall with a ball at your tense muscle region

  • TRAPS: Back of the shoulder blade.
  • SUPRASPINATUS: Top of the shoulder, slightly behind the bony protrusions. Option 1 – angle body into the doorway, Option 2 – lean into ball on wall.

 

 

 

# 3 Controlled articular rotations of the neck

Standing tall, allow your head to rotate within a comfortable range of motion, 3 full circles in each direction. Do not work through pain.

 

 

 

 

# 4 Neck checks seated or standing with a dowel

Seated: Place hands on a bench to stay tall and keep shoulders from elevating. Explore range of motion: flex/extend, rotate, tilt side/side.

Standing: Hold dowel behind body, palms forward to keep shoulders from elevating. Maintain rib-hip connection. Explore movement in all directions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

# 5 Isometric retractions with a band or headrest in a car.

Place hands or band on back of head. Apply light resistance and gently draw head back, creating a double chin. Stay tall and hold for several breaths.

# 6 Start thinking of your neck as an important piece of your movement health.

I think of the neck as a mini spine that moves similarly to the spine itself. Flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation are all components of the cervical spine and the spine below it. Don’t ignore movement impairments and hope they will just go away!

Seek out professionals such a physiotherapist and chiropractors to improve your neck mobility. Don’t wait or only go for acute pain! Consider regular visits to address your issues, get better range, and enjoy the benefits of such!

 

 

 # 7 Deep flexion with soft ball at wall

Place soft ball between forehead and wall. Gently press into ball and tuck chin to throat. Release and repeat as tolerated. This movement helps strengthen the deep neck flexors, muscles which will help prevent head forward posture.

# 8 Mindful postural assessment – All Fours Neutral Back with dowel

Perfect posture is critical for good neck health. A good safe way to assess is to use a dowel on your back while on your hands and knees. The dowel should touch the back of your head, between your shoulder blades, and your tailbone. The shoulders should not be shrugged and there should be a small curve in the low back. Breathe deeply and become comfortable in this position – the dowel trick also translates to standing, kneeling, or hinging posture.

 

 # 9 Four Way Scapular Movement

From standing or in all fours position with a neutral back, draw the shoulder blades together and spread them apart without shrugging or bending the elbows, or involving your spine. When the scapulae are locked and tight, the mobility of the neck is also restricted. You might find this hard to do at first but with practice you can achieve some good gliding of your shoulder blades in all directions.

 

 

 

# 10 McGill Curl Up

Lie on back with one knee bent and hands behind head. Find rib-hip connection and allow back of head and heel to lift 1 inch. Keep your tongue on roof of mouth to activate deep neck flexors. Hold for 1-3 breaths, repeating several times per side.

 

 

# 11 Look at Your Sleeping Position

Physical therapist Dr. Quinn Henock reminds us in his article “Sleeping Positions: A discussion of Pros and Cons,” that you’re a bad sleeping position is better than no sleep at all. That said it “It takes weeks for soft tissue to become adaptively shortened to a position,” so the months and years of improper positioning and pillows can take their toll. Ensure you have your neck in as close to a neutral position as you can while falling asleep or repositioning yourself through the night.

 

 

#12 Try this position for relaxing, meditating, and breathing.

 

 

 

Give your neck some of these gifts this season. I know they are going to love them!
Next week: Gifts for your back.

Written by: Sheila Hamilton January 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

Health to Gift Yourself this Season for Your Hips!

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12 Gifts for your hips!

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Many individuals want to do more than they are physically capable of doing with safe, confident movement. Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like running, skiing, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

Hips

During my discussion last week with Jon McComb about knees I hinted about the hips playing a key role in movement. We can joke about the hips, gluts, tush, and rear but it’s no joke if you don’t have one that works! It’s also important to take a look at the front of the hip as often tightness or weakness in this area can contribute to movement issues.

Adequate hip strength and mobility are crucial for positive hip health! Each hip is a ball and socket joint, meaning it is capable of movement in 360 degrees. However, this freedom of mobility leaves lots of room for error including muscular imbalances, mobility issues, and age-related degeneration. The good news – quality foundational movement can correct and prevent most of these issues, as well as reduce the impact and pain associated with existing problems.

Anatomy bit: The term ‘hip’ refers to a large anatomical region encompassing the pelvis, sacrum, and femur bones as well as muscles groups like the glutes and piriformis (butt), psoas (hip flexor), and adductors (groin). Functions of the hip contribute to walking and running, squatting, hinging, and maintaining alignment of the low back, knees, and lower extremities.

Visual Inspection:  How do they look?

  • Are you hips level as in up and down, or is one rotated forward or back?
  • Do you have a defined butt muscle or a flat butt?

Movement Inspection: How do they move?

  • Can you hinge, and squat using your hips and not your back?
  • Can you walk, run, and do all the activities you would like to enjoy?

Sensory Inspection: How do they feel?

  • Do you have pain at rest and/or with movement?
  • Do you have tingling or pain that radiates down your leg or up into your back?
  • Do your hips feel strong and do they stabilize you? (Think balance.)

12 Gifts for Your Hips

#1 Foam Roller or Ball to Glutes, Quads and Hip Flexors

For myofascial release and tissue maintenance, use a small ball at the wall for glute release or a foam roller for glutes, quads, and hip flexors.

#2 Controlled Articular Rotations of the Hip Joint

From standing, or from all fours on the ground, carefully move your leg in circles through the hip joint. The movement should be comfortable – explore your hip range of motion but do not move though pain. Popping or clicking is okay as long as it is not accompanied by discomfort!

We need to attack hip mobility from all angles…

#3 90/90 Stretch

The beauty of this stretch is that it allows for both internal and external rotation at the hip joint. Keep a tall, neutral back and lead forward with your belly button.

#4 Frog and Adductor rocks

The frog allows us to mobilize hip flexion and groin flexibility with a neutral back, ultimately patterning the squat. In the all fours position, spread knees wider than hips.  Keeping back set in neutral, hinge hips back towards butt.

Similar to the frog, take one leg wide.  If less mobile, keep the foot/leg behind the hip.

#5 Pigeon

The pigeon stretches the hip in external rotation, targeting the glutes and piriformis. Cross one leg across your body with a bent knee. Maintain a neutral back and sit back into the hip.

#6 Cross Body Hip

Hook a strap around your foot. Lying on your back adjust the tension in the strap so you have full extension of your knee. (No bend in it.) Gently move foot across body until a gentle hip stretch is felt. Hold 1-5 minutes to get tissue change!

#7 Half Kneeling Stretch

This stretch targets the hip flexors, the muscles that cross the hip joint anteriorly (front). These are the muscles that can get extremely tight and weak when sitting in a desk, driving, or Netflix-ing!

  • Place on knee on the ground, adding a pad under the knee if necessary
  • Tuck the hip under on the ‘down knee’ side, as if you’re bringing your belt buckle towards your belly button.
  • Hold for 60 seconds, or add small pulses forward and back
  • Do not allow the front of your core to open up

#8 Half Kneeling Inline Balance

Balance is a great way to integrate the different segments of your lower body and core. It also challenges your brain! Adjust your Half Kneeling Hip Flexor stretch until your feet are in-line, and hold for up to 60 seconds. If you require more of a challenge, close your eyes.

 

Now let’s build some strength…

#9 Glute Bridges

Bridges are a great exercise to strengthen and build your butt!

  • Lie on your back with knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Set your rib-hip connection by connecting chin, ribs and hips to the floor. (Only a small low back curve.)
  • Push your heels into the floor and engage (squeeze) your glute muscles and lift your hips off the floor creating a straight line from shoulders to hips to knees.
  • Hold for 2 seconds and lower your back down to the floor while keeping your core muscles engaged. The torso should move as a solid unit.

Too easy? Look to progressing gluts with hip dominant exercises like deadlifts, and kettlebell swings.

#10 Clamshells

Clamshells are small movements that do wonders for your hips. Place a light band around your legs, just above your knees. Lie on your side with your belly button pointing slightly to floor. Stack your knees and feet and then rotate knee to roof from the hip. Do not let the hip or back roll back as you lift the knee. Perform these until you feel warmth and work in your glute. Match the number on your other side.

#11 Band Walks

Place a band above your knees. Keeping feet hip with apart and as straight as possible step to the left and right, then forward and back. Ensure you keep a neutral back and feel the work coming form the hips! If you feel this in your knees then your set up needs adjusting.

#12 Cross Crawl March

Standing tall bring your opposite knee and hand together for a cross tap. Slowly control this motion left and right keeping good posture and balance. Repeat 10 each side depending on ability and pace.

 

Give your hips some of these gifts this season. I know they are going to love them!
Next week: Gifts for your shoulders.

Written by: Sheila Hamilton December 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

References

Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_3dagentur’>3dagentur / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

 

Health to Gift Yourself This Season for Your Knees

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12 Gifts to Give to Your Knees

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Many individuals want to do more than they are physically capable of doing with safe, confident movement. A few weeks ago Brianna Kelly, Strength Coach at t’s time! Fitness Results addressed how to start the season “fit to ski.” If you are a skier and missed this segment I suggest you take a read. I especially liked the warm-up she created that you can do with your boots on and poles in hand!

Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like skiing, running, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

In his e-book Fitness coach, writer, and pod-caster Scott Iradella reminds us that if we “move better, and then move stronger, everything else will follow. Iradella states that many people skip the foundations to chase the aesthetic goals. I add in here “sports” goals as well. Whether your sport is for pleasure and recreational purposes, or competitive in nature it’s the love of the sport that drives the activity, not necessarily the quality of the movement!

In her book “Move Your DNA, Restore Your Natural Health Through Natural Movement,” one of my favorite authors Katy Bowman writes that movement is not as optimal as we have led ourselves to believe if you are indeed thinking that fitness and sports will get you there. Bowman writes extensively on letting go of the notion that movement is exercise. To move your health forward she encourages us to rearrange the relationship between movement and exercise and incorporate movement skills 24/7, and then add exercise (and sport) once the foundation is set.

With Scott Iradella’s permission this graphic gives a nice visual for you to think about. He writes, “No matter what your goals are (look better, feel better, or perform better) – we must work to improve our strength.” Building Strength on a poor foundation is asking for trouble so today we will start by looking at the feet as the foundation of movement when upright.

Anatomy bit: The knee is a complex hinge joint and one of the most stressed joints in the body. It is vital for weight bearing and movement, and vulnerable to injury. It consists of bones, meniscus, ligaments, and tendons.

“I feel it in my knee(s),” I hear this too often. ~Sheila

Imbalances, Lack of strength, Overuse, Injury, Age.  Pick one, pick all? Lots can go wrong here.

In my experience, the knee is often where people feel discomfort and pain, and hear snaps and clicks. If you have suffered a knee injury (of which there are many) you might be surprised to learn that it could have been prevented if you had better quality foundational movement with more strength built on top. (See above diagram)

If you’re looking to blame the knees because of poor movement and exercise quality you have to look at much more than the knee itself. Improving the knee pain is one thing but correcting the underlying problem that got you there in the first place will involve assessing the mobility, strength, and mechanics of everything above and below the knees. This may be a matter of trial and error, working with movements to improve the quality and re-train a healthier pattern.

With a lack of high-quality foundational movement, we set ourselves up for injury, especially of we add overuse to this with a lot of running for example. (Or any sport.) In her book, Alignment Matters, author Katy Bowman reports on the results of MRI’s of 236 adults ages 45 – 55. It showed that those in the high activity group (Large quantities of movement, high impact or repetitive motion) had knee damage three times more severe than the couch potatoes! Excessive mileage and impact forces from overuse are contributing to the increasing levels of osteoarthritis, knee surgeries, and knee replacements. Do not read this as an excuse to stay on the Lazy – Boy, but as one of the many reasons why training smart is so important.

As we age we often have a change in gait parameters such as stride time and length, swing time and stride width. Typically with age we lose strength unless we take it upon ourselves to resistance train. And on top of that sometimes we resistance train without proper knowledge of our own bodies nuances, and proper exercise technique.

It’s the imbalances, incorrect and non-symmetrical wearing patterns occurring for various reasons that lead to injury. The research has shown us that the muscles acting on the knee are strongly correlated with gait performance. Increasing your strength of movements around the knee such as knee flexion and extension, hip flexion and extension, and core strength will improve gait characteristics and therefore improve the loads on the knee.

I love the simplicity of the article by Erica Suter, a soccer and strength coach from Baltimore, “5 Reasons You Have Bad Knees,” because despite the frankness it holds a lot of truths in my opinion! Her #1 reason you have bad knees is: Your butt isn’t big enough. That said, one of the gifts you can give yourself is a bigger butt then right?

So perhaps the visual inspection should include your butt (professional term glutes!) but I’m saving that for next week’s blog!

Knee Inspections

Visual Inspection:  How do they look?

Do they turn in or out, do they look the same left to right?

Movement Inspection: How do they move?

  • Can you move up and down from the floor?
  • Can you flex your knee (heel to butt) and extend your knee so your leg is straight?
  • Can you kneel without pain?
  • Can you move your kneecaps or do they feel stuck?

Sensory Inspection: How do they feel? What do you hear?

  • Do you have pain, clicking, grinding, in one or both knees?
  • Do your knees ever get swollen?

12 Gifts for Your Knees

Wherever your knees are at today you can start giving them some love with these gifts. Undo some of the damage they have received over the years from poor posture, strength, sports, injuries, and neglect!

#1 Stop thinking about it being just your knees….

…and start thinking about it being about your overall fitness. Look above and below the sight of pain for your problem.

An imbalance or movement impingement with your hips, ankles or feet may affect your knees! If you want to continue to run and ski or return to an activity you enjoy look to improve your overall fitness by working on your foundation.

#2 Release the muscles around the knee and stretch your quads.

#3 Practice full knee extension from a lying position.

Get rid of the bend in the back of the knee, even if this means not getting your leg up so far.

#4 Feel your kneecaps and help them move.

Move them in a circle and around in a clock pattern – both directions.

#5 Start your glute strengthening program with this gold standard exercise.

Bridges are a great exercise to strengthen and build your butt!

  • Lie on your back with knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Set your rib-hip connection by connecting chin, ribs and hips to the floor. (Only a small low back curve.)
  • Push your heels into the floor and engage (squeeze) your glute muscles and lift your hips off the floor creating a straight line from shoulders to hips to knees.
  • Hold for 2 seconds and lower your back down to the floor while keeping your core muscles engaged. The torso should move as a solid unit.

Too easy? Look to progressing gluts with hip dominant exercises like deadlifts, and kettlebell swings.

#6 Do some single leg and balance work

#7 Correct knee hyperextension.

Soften those knees!

#8 Walk forward, backward and left and right.

Use a band to increase the resistance if appropriate for your fitness level.

#9 Don’t go looking for pain but go looking for help.

If squats bother you then don’t squat.  If kneeling hurts then don’t kneel.

But don’t use this as an excuse not to exercise! Seek out professionals to guide you through the needed steps that you need to improve.

#10 Consider giving your knees a break.

Use alternative methods of getting movement like biking, swimming, and upper body training until your knees improve.

Med ball slams, ropes, kettlebell swings. Telling a runner not to run is not an easy thing to do!

#11 Ensure your bodyweight is in check.

Excess weight is not helping a lot of things but if you have knee pain and are more than 20 pounds overweight then I would bet than losing weight will reduce your pain.

#12 Hold yourself accountable to a program so you have a roadmap to your success.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you really want this knee problem to go away then you must have a plan! Quality movements with safe appropriate loads and progressions are what you want your training plan to consist of. Listening to your body and modifying your program appropriately are key to improvements here.

Give your knees some of these gifts this season and see where they can take you next year!
Next week: Gifts for your hips.

Written by: Sheila Hamilton December 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

References:

5 Reasons You Have Bad Knees

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/299204.php

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/310547.php?sr

Bad knees? What Did They do?

Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through natural Movement Katy Bowman copyright 2017 P. 112

Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_3dagentur’>3dagentur / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Health to Gift Yourself this Season for Your Feet

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12 Gifts to Give to Your Feet

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Many individuals want to do more than they are physically capable of doing with safe, confident movement. Last week Brianna Kelly, Strength Coach at t’s time! Fitness Results addressed how to start the season “fit to ski.” If you are a skier and missed this segment I suggest you take a read. I especially liked the warm-up she created that you can do with your boots on and poles in hand!

Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like running, skiing, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

In his e-book Fitness coach, writer, and pod-caster Scott Iradella reminds us that if we “move better, and then move stronger, everything else will follow. Iradella states that many people skip the foundations to chase the aesthetic goals. I add in here “sports” goals as well. Whether your sport is for pleasure and recreational purposes, or competitive in nature it’s the love of the sport that drives the activity, not necessarily the quality of the movement!

In her book “Move Your DNA, Restore Your Natural Health Through Natural Movement,” one of my favorite authors Katy Bowman writes that movement is not as optimal as we have led ourselves to believe if you are indeed thinking that fitness and sports will get you there. Bowman writes extensively on letting go of the notion that movement is exercise. To move your health forward she encourages us to rearrange the relationship between movement and exercise and incorporate movement skills 24/7, and then add exercise once the foundation is set.

With Scott Iradella’s permission this graphic gives a nice visual for you to think about. He writes, “No matter what your goals are (look better, feel better, or perform better) – we must work to improve our strength.” Building Strength on a poor foundation is asking for trouble so today we will start by looking at the feet as the foundation of movement when upright.

Feet First!

As I believe the feet are the foundation of your whole body and posture today I will start with a look at some of the reasons why giving to your feet is so important. The feet contain 25% of the bones in our whole body and we derive the greatest amount of sensory input from our feet.

Many people don’t pay enough attention to their feet (especially men), and there are many reasons why you should! Core stabilization starts with the feet, and the maintenance of posture relies on the proprioceptive input from the sole of the foot, the sacroiliac joint, and the cervical spine. It’s no wonder that when things go wrong in the foot the pain is debilitating!

Anatomy Bit: Each foot has 28 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 tendons.

What kind of shoes have you wrapped those feet in over the years? Is it time to break them out and see what happens?

To put your best foot forward you must be continually trying to improve their condition whether you really want to or not. Inspecting your feet to see how they look, feel and move will give you some ideas on how you can improve them.

Visual Inspection: How do they look?

First: Address any foot disease (althete’s foot), calluses, corns, blisters, and warts. Do not put this off any longer if you se something that needs attention.

Take a look at your feet when standing barefoot in front of a mirror. Stand on one leg and watch what happens.

  • Have your feet changed over the years?
  • Do they turn in, out, or are they straight?
  • Do you have an arch?

Anatomy Bit: Collapsed Arch or “neutral”? There are actually three arches in the foot and their presence or absence has a lot to do with your whole-body movement history. The medial longitudinal arch, lateral longitudinal arch, and the transverse arch are all part of your foot health.

Anatomy Bit: Pronation: This is excessive rolling in of the foot through its gait pattern. Some pronation is normal but an excessive amount can lead to flattening of the foot and loss of arches.

Anatomy Bit: Supination: This is the opposite of pronation and is the rolling outward of the foot through its gait pattern. Like pronation, some is normal but excessive supination can lead to unstable ankles and a tendency for rolling outward and spraining them.

Look at the wear and tear on your feet (and your shoes) and think about the connection with that to your overall movement. Do you continually get thick skin beside your big toe for example? Does that foot turn out by chance? Perhaps there is a connection!

How’s the color of your feet? Is there any swelling? If your circulation is impaired your pedal pulses will not be strong, the color will be grey, nails thickened, and there could be swelling after prolonged standing.

Movement Inspection: How do they move?

  • Do you have ankle dorsiflexion (35-40′ toe towards shin) and plantar flexion (point toes away)? How much have you worn heels over the years?
  • Can you rotate your ankles, invert (turn in) and evert (turn out) them?
  • Can you move your great toe independent of the others? Can you control your great toes and move the others one by one?
  • Do you have mobility in your great toe?
  • Do both feet move the same?

Sensory Inspection: How do they Feel?

  • Do you experience any cramping, pain or numbness or tingling in your feet?
  • Do you have Acute and/or Chronic conditions such as foot pain, numbness, tingling, plantar fasciitis, neuromas, stress fractures, or bunions?
  • What are the condition of your nails? Do you have good circulation of blood and warmth to your feet?

Plantar Fasciitis: The Plantar Fascia is a big piece of connective tissue that runs along the bottom of your foot from the ball to the heel. Inflammation and stiffness in this area can cause a lot of pain. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a garbage term because it encompasses such a large area and really doesn’t identify the cause of the inflammation.

Bunions: These bony prominences are a nuisance. There is so much about bunions I could do a whole show on them. There are things you can do to prevent them from getting worse. Many don’t agree that they are inherited. Start with the gifts outlined below for your feet.

12 Gifts for Your Feet: Start Putting Your Best Foot Forward!

Wherever your feet are today you can start giving them some love with these gifts. Undoing some of the damage they have received over the years from shoes, sports, injuries, and neglect! If our feet are locked up from a movement perspective and we can’t feel the ground we walk on, then the sensory input our brain uses to control balance and posture is affected.

#1 Massage your feet before putting your socks on

Massage your feet with lotion every day before putting your socks on. Work your toes apart by spreading them and moving them around.

 

 

 

 #2 Roll your feet with a small ball

For those that suffer foot cramps, rolling the sole of your foot with a small ball to release trigger points can do wonders to decrease their incidence and intensity.

 

 

 

 

 

#3 Roll your calves with a small ball, stick, or foam roller

#4 Flex and extend your toes with support for balance

 

#5 Toe Movements: Spread your toes and lift your toes

 

#6 Stretch your calf with knee straight but not locked.

A rolled towel also works well for this!

 

 

 

#7 Stretch your calf with knee bent

 

#8 Stretch both calves together

Hinge your hips back without rounding your back. Weight shift from side to side a little to change the feel.

 

 

 

#9 Work on creating an arch and balancing on one foot.

Use support for safety of needed.

 

 

 

#10 Move your ankles side to side with your feet apart 10 times each side.

#11 Take a Look at Your Footwear

Too much or too little support? Are they too old?  Do they have too much of a heel, could this be why your calves are so tight?

 

#12 Walking Foot Drills: Shoes On or Off preferably if safe for you.

Walk on the insides and outsides of your feet, on your toes, on your heels, pointing toes in as far as you can and out as far as you can.

I suggest you invest in health care professionals that are like-minded in their thinking to work with your needs and goals. Treating yourself to a professional pedicure would be a good way to start paying your feet the attention they deserve!

Seniors and diabetics should get their foot and toenail care done by a podiatrist to decrease the risks associated with cuts they may impose upon themselves. There are many easy exercises that you can do at home to improve your toe and ankle mobility.  Seek out a certified personal trainer to get things moving better in no time!

Give your feet some of these gifts this season. I know they are going to love them!
Next week: Gifts for your knees.

Written by: Sheila Hamilton November 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

References

Move Your DNA:  Restore Your Health Through natural Movement Katy Bowman copyright 2017 P. 22, 47,  78

Iradella Scott Peak Performance Blueprint e-book: High Qualilty Movment Graphic used with permission.

Scott Iardella
MPT, CSCS, CISSN, FMS, USAW, CACWC, CWPC
StrongFirst Team Leader
RdellaTraining.com

@RdellaTraining on Instagram

RdellaTraining®
Bridging The Gaps In
Strength, Performance
& Injury Prevention

Author of The Edge of Strength

The “Top Rated” Fitness Podcast in iTunes
Named 8 Best Fitness Podcasts by Men’s Journal
The Rdella Training Podcast
The Scientific Strength Podcast

Becoming a Supple Leopard: Dr. Kelly Starrett Copyright 2015 P. 80-82, 447-431

Pronation and Supination?

Roger, Page and Takeshima Balance Training for the Older Athlete Int J of Sports Physical Therapy. 2013 August; 8(4): 517-530).

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Feet are the foundation of your whole body. Take care of them to improve your core!

Putting Your Best Foot Forward – In Different Ways

tstimefitnessresults.com/2017/07/05/what-you-can-do-with-tools-assisted-self-manual-therapy-explained/

Swish Swish, Let’s Hit The Slopes!

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Start the season fit to ski!

With the local mountains open early and a promise of a cold winter, most of us are ready to dust off our skis and boards. But what about the most important tool for a safe and effective run on the slopes: our bodies?

This past Monday I headed up to Whistler for my first ski day of the season. The conditions were fantastic – blue sky, 30-plus cm of new powder, and very few people on the mountain. As a Kinesiologist/Strength Coach and someone who spends much of my free time training, I consider myself quite fit. However, a few runs in, my legs were burning! It was hard work carving through that powder. I could only imagine if I hadn’t been training hard all year…

Detraining

Both skiing and snowboarding place incredible physical strain on the body, so it’s important to make sure your body is prepared. Throughout the ‘non-skiing’ months of the year, our muscles experience a detraining effect. Detraining is the loss of adaptation to a specific exercise [1]. By the time the season hits, our brain and muscles know what they should be doing, but from a physiological standpoint, they don’t work as effectively.

The effects of detraining can be avoided. Through proper offseason training, fitness maintenance, and an on-mountain warm up, you can prepare yourself for a successful ski or snowboard season, lower your risk of injury, and prevent muscle soreness during and after your time on the slopes.

An Unpredictable Environment

Snowy mountains present an unpredictable environment with variable conditions. Bumpy runs, poor lighting, or unseen ice can create hazards. To be a strong skier or snowboarder, your body must be able to react quickly to these changing stimuli. Qualities such as strength, mobility, balance, and overall confidence in your movements are crucial. These can be addressed through offseason training.

Not only is the natural physical environment unpredictable, but these types of snow sports also attract an unpredictable and diverse crowd of people. At any given day on the mountain, it’s normal to see people of all ages, fitness levels, and skiing or riding experience exploring the slopes. Families, children, adults, and seniors all share the mountain. Whether your goal is performance, recreation, or a social outlet, it’s important to maintain an adequate level of fitness and work capacity to remain safe in these variable conditions.

Injuries

When your body cannot respond to the changing conditions adequately, injuries occur. Skiers tend to sustain more lower body injuries, 30-40% accounted for by the knees, while snowboarders are more vulnerable to upper limb injuries, with most being to the wrist, hand and thumb [2]. Many of these injuries are preventable with proper preparation, as they usually occur due to falls or loss of control. Building muscular strength and endurance, learning how to fall correctly, and warming up the body can all reduce your risk of injury on the mountain.

Injuries are most commonly suffered on the first day of the season, on the first run of the morning, or on the last run of the day. Factors that contribute to this are lack of muscle preparedness and general fatigue.

The most common snow-sport injuries [3]:

  • Knee sprains and tears: Ski and snowboard boots are designed to keep the ankle joint practically immobile. This means mobility has to come from somewhere, namely the knees and the hips. The knee becomes vulnerable to injury with changes in speed and direction, depending on the body’s position. Sprains to the ACL and MCL are most common. An MCL tear can happen when your skis are in the snowplow position (ski tips pointing each other) and you take a fall. These injuries are more common amongst beginner skiers. An ACL tear can happen when landing jumps, skiing moguls or during twisting falls.  * To decrease your risk of knee injury, strengthen the glutes, quads and hamstrings before the ski season and end your ski day before your legs are too fatigued. See the next section for more details.
  • Head and spinal injuries
  • Shoulder dislocations or fractures
  • Wrist, hand, and thumb injuries
  • Lower extremity fracture

Off-Season Training

The best type of injury prevention is proactive training. The type of off-season work you do is crucial to your success as a recreational or competitive skier or snowboarder. Though many people remain active running, cycling, or doing basic strength work during the ‘non-skiing’ months, these might not be the most effective forms of exercise to prepare your body for the mountain.

The ultimate goal of off-season training is to reduce your risk of injury. This includes the need to increase joint mobility and muscular strength, prepare your body to generate and absorb force, and increase your body’s capacity for work and resistance to fatigue.

Below I will describe the critical elements that must be included in a good off-season training program for alpine skiing. There is ample crossover with snowboarding and nordic skiing, but that will not be the focus.

This type of training is beneficial throughout the entire year, but you can gain benefits even if you start in the few weeks leading up to your first ski day!

Mobility:

Joint and muscle stiffness lead to reduced force generation and increased risk of injury. Like the immobility that’s created by a tight ski boot at the ankle, a rigid knee, hip, thoracic spine, or neck means the movement required for the sport must come from somewhere less desirable in the functional chain. We want all the joints to be working like a well-oiled machine.

  • For thoracic mobility: Reach and Roll
  • For hip, groin, and adductor mobility: Frog Stretch
  • For glute mobility: Pigeon Stretch

 

Strength:

The large muscle groups that must be strong for skiing are the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. A common mistake people make is focusing solely on the quads, namely through squats and stairs. We must balance our anterior (front) and posterior (back) chains by targeting the glutes and hamstrings as well. The glutes are especially important for knee injury prevention.

  • For glutes (and hamstrings): bridges, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, miniband work
  • For quads: squats (single leg or double leg), lunges

 

Balance:

Skiing is a single-leg sport and requires careful control through unstable conditions. We can train balance in a stable, static state on two legs and progress to single leg variations or unstable surfaces.

  • Double leg (eyes open or closed): tandem stance (static), athletic stance on half roller or balance board (unstable)
  • Single leg (eyes open or closed): on solid ground (static) or foam/balance board (unstable)

 

Plyometrics and Power

Plyometric training allows a muscle to reach (or absorb) maximal force in the shortest amount of time (ie. hopping, jumping, bounding). This type of power and force control are key for reacting to changing terrain. Most are quad, glute and hamstring dominant exercises. Plyometric training is difficult and exists on a spectrum of progressions:

  • Beginner (ex. double leg jump squat)
  • Intermediate (ex. diagonal skater jumps)
  • Advanced (ex. single leg lateral hurdle jumps) [4]

For a more personalized program and to accommodate your specific needs and imbalances, check in with your fitness professional. Try to supplement your standard strength or cardio workout with these ski-specific exercises, especially those that target the glutes to protect your knees!

Warm-up

The warm-up is your final chance to prepare your body for your big day of skiing. Take a few moments at the car, or just off the gondola, to get your muscles warm and your heart rate up to reduce the risk of injury. Too often we hear of people injuring themselves on the first run of the day, due to an absent or inefficient warm up, or on the last run of the day due to muscular fatigue! Most of the time we drive to the mountain, spending the hour or more leading up to skiing in a seated position. A simple 3-5 minute routine to get you moving and your muscles activated will improve your skiing for that day and your muscle recovery for the following days.

We’ve outlined an easy warm-up that can even be done in those rigid ski boots:

Cross crawling (marching opposite taps): tap hand to knee 10-15 times

 

Hip rotations (standing, use poles for balance): draw big circles with hips, 5x per side per direction

 

Half Kneeling stretch: 30-60sec per side

Thoracic rotation (poles across shoulders in athletic stance): 5x per direction, standing or half kneeling

 

Bodyweight squats or lunges: 5-10 times per side

 

Single Leg RDL (Romanian Deadlift): 5-10 times per side

 

Do what’s manageable, and teach your kids while they’re young! We want to form good habits in those around us to prevent injury and improve longevity in the sport.

Here at it’s time! Fitness Results we’ve put on a ‘Ski Fit’ group class to cover the basics of off-season training, Tuesday evenings at 6:00pm. This class is for those of all levels looking to prime their bodies for an injury-free ski season. Give us a call for more information!

Written by Briana Kelly with input from Jessica Pastro. 

Briana and Jessica are Kinesiologists and Strength Coaches at it’s time! Fitness Results in North Vancouver.  

Click here to listen to Briana discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

References

[1] Baechle, T. & Earle, R. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (3rd Ed.), 2008.

[2] https://www.verywell.com/acl-injuries-and-skiing-3119427

[3] http://www.sportsmed.org/aossmimis/stop/downloads/SkiingAndSnowboarding.pdf

[4] https://www.nsca.com/uploadedFiles/NSCA/Resources/PDF/Education/Articles/Assoc_Publications_PDFs/personal%20training%20for%20the%20recreational%20downhill%20skier.pdf

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Get in The Zones!

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Using Heart Rate to get the most out of your training!

The heart itself is a wondrous muscle, the strongest in the body in fact. It has its own automatic signaling system to control the frequency of contractions. It contracts on average 100,000 times per day, moving 7500L of blood through more than 96,000km of blood vessels. Our hearts allow us to not just survive but thrive! They help us climb mountains, do triathlons or even just go for a stroll. Cardiovascular fitness is an essential part of overall health and should be treated with the utmost importance. Heart disease is the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada (Government of Canadian). Avoiding risk factors for this disease as well as understanding indicators of a proficient cardiovascular system is imperative for a healthy lifestyle.

When we examine heart rate and how it pertains to exercise, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the science behind it. The goal of this blog is to simplify heart rate training to make it accessible to everyone, from recreational runners to elite cyclists. Ultimately, we use heart rate as a way to measure intensity of the work and also to gauge your recovery. It is also important to understand that while the science behind heart training is accurate, often it can overgeneralized. Remember to take the information available with a pinch of salt, knowing that no two hearts are the same!

What is exercise intensity?

Exercise intensity is defined as how hard you are working. There are two ways to measure exercise intensity, subjectively and objectively.

A subjective measurement is when a person will describe how they feel. For example, a rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Generally your trainer may ask “how hard are you working on a scale of 1-10?”. This relies on your ability to gauge your own effort but can get skewed by different perceptions of difficulty.

An objective measurement takes away bias and is not subject to personal interpretation, making it more reliable. Your heart rate is an objective measurement, making it one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working during exercise.

Intensity is important component of fitness because how hard you are working can bring about different training effects.

What are heart rate zones?

Your heart rate is how many times your heart beats per minute. Every person has a resting heart rate, the lowest rate your heart beats measured at rest, and a maximum heart rate, the highest rate your heart beats during exercise. Somewhere in between these values are your heart rate training zones.

Resting heart rate (RHR) has importance to your fitness level, indicating the health and strength of the heart. The lower the RHR the better, leading to lower risk of heart attack, higher energy levels, metabolic efficiency, and athletic endurance. This lower resting rate occurs when an increased amount of blood is pumped per contraction of the heart. It is a measurement that is taken at rest, usually first thing in the morning with an average of 60-80 beats per minute. If the heart is not as strong it won’t pump as much blood out to the body, causing the heart having to contract more often, increasing the heart rate. Every 10 bpm increase in resting heart rate increases the risk of ischemic heart disease, stroke, and sudden cardiac death. This measurement is important because it allows us to track how heart rate changes in response to exercise, using RHR as the baseline.

On the other hand, maximum heart rate is the fastest the heart will contract during exercise. The standard formula for finding your max heart rate is 220 – (your age), although this has been shown to not be as accurate as we once thought. This equation tends to overestimate maximum heart rates in younger individuals, and underestimate it in 40+ year old individuals. Another formula that is used is 208 – (0.7 x age). It ends up being a better predictor of max heart rate throughout the lifespan, but both of these calculations are based on averages of data. More current formulas that are more applicable to fitness world are heart rate reserve (Training heart rate = HR reserve x %intensity + HR resting). Heart rate reserve is the difference between your heart rate max and resting heart rate. The differences between the HRmax calculation and HRreserve calculation are the differences in the final number. HRmax produces smaller values than HRreserve, making it a more conservative measurement. Which equation is best for you? HRmax is better for older, deconditioned adults, while HRR is more accurate for younger individuals.

Everyone’s max heart rate is different. It is ultimately untrainable and is determined by age, genetics, stress levels etc. It is not an indicator of performance! The maximum number of beats per minute does not determine your fitness level, but your ability to sustain work, at max or close to max for a given period of time. Your maximum heart rate will reduce with age, although this does not necessarily coincide with a reduction in fitness. Your overall fitness is determined by diet and exercise.

Training does not alway have to be at or close to maximum heart rate. In fact, it is recommended that it is done sparingly to avoid overtraining. There are advantages to training in all zones. Lower zones work on building aerobic fitness and overall work capacity. They are also important for recovery. Higher zones, are generally trained in repeated intervals (HIIT) and develop anaerobic fitness.

Your heart rate during exercise is a reaction to work being done. The heart will pump oxygenated blood to the muscles so that they can perform the task at hand. It can be altered on a daily basis as a result of stress, environment, caffeine, lack of sleep, illness, etc. Heart rate is also affected by the type of activity that you are doing. Activities like running, jumping, hiking will place more stress on the body because of the amount of muscles involved and the need to overcome gravity and will thus, increase heart rate more than biking or swimming.

We generally contribute cardiovascular training with increases in heart rate but strength training can also increase heart rate as a result of blood being pumped to large muscle groups to move heavy load.

Exercise Testing

Measuring and calculating resting and maximum heart rate can give us information on overall health and fitness, it can also be used as a baseline to track progress. Just like weighing yourself to see if your nutrition habits are effective, conducting a submaximal heart rate test can show if your exercise regime is effective in improving your heart function. An exercise test is also a useful tool to educate participants about their current health status, create exercise programs, identify potential health risks,

Ways to measure exercise intensity without a heart rate monitor:

  • Talk test
  • Rate of perceived exertion (1-10)
  • Manually testing heart rate (count bpm in 15sec x 4)

Heart rate zones:

How can we use zones to improve your fitness?  The answer is simple, each heart rate zone will have different effect on the body. When it comes to training, variety is the spice of life! We want to be equally proficient in all zones. Think of gears in a car, we want our vehicle to have a variety of useable gears that we can call upon depending on the speed we need. Even marathon runners, regularly practice interval training at higher intensities.

To create a desired training effect, we use the biofeedback from the heart rate train within the zone specific the goal. For example, if you wanted to do a long distance run, staying within a low-moderate heart rate can help keep a sustainable pace. The intensity of the effort, and hence the HR zone correlates to different energy systems; the Aerobic and Anaerobic systems. The lower zones work on an aerobic level, meaning that oxygen is present and the body utilizes fats and carbohydrates as fuel. This system provides energy for long, low intensity, steady state exercise e.g. running 10km. When we start to increase the intensity to above 80% of HRmax (roughly), we transcend into the anaerobic systems which are designed for high intensity activity a over short duration e.g. sprinting 100m. This is a very basic breakdown of the energy systems, however, it operates more on a continuum, never just using one system but rather a sliding scale.

If you have had heart disease or may be at risk, it is a good idea to ask your doctor what are appropriate heart rate zones for you to train in.

 

1.  50-60% of HR Max VERY LIGHT

  • Example: walking, resting. Should feel comfortable and easy
  • Benefits: Improves overall health and fitness

2.  60-70% of HR Max      LIGHT

  • Example: Brisk walk, light jog
  • Benefits:
    • Sustainable for long periods
    • Recovery day training
    • This zone improves general endurance & aerobic capacity
    • Body will become better at burning fat as a fuel source
    • Increases in capillary density

3.  70-80% of HR Max MODERATE

  • Example: Running, hiking uphill, resistance training
  • Benefits:
    • Improves aerobic capacity and aerobic power
    • Improves efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles
    • Lactic acid starts to build up

4.  80-90% of HR Max HARD

  • Example: HIIT, hill training, tempo runs.
  • Benefits:
    • Increases maximum performance capacity
    • Anaerobic Zone
    • Burn more calories
    • Better able to train at higher intensities for longer periods
    • Your body will become better at using carbohydrates for energy

5.  90-100% of HR Max       MAXIMUM

  • Example: All out Sprints, 100m dash, max effort exercise
  • Short period of work, long rest
  • Benefits:
    • Trains fast twitch muscle fibres (Develop speed)
    • Develop max performance and speed (athletes)

Indicators of good cardiovascular function:

Individuals who do not meet the recommended activity levels are susceptible to heart disease. But the good news is that changes in lifestyle can me made to reverse these ill-effects.

If you have concerns about starting a training regime, we suggest working with a fitness professional to guide you on your health journey.  Regular checkups with your GP are important to track your heart health as you age.

Recovery heart rate is the amount of time it takes for the heart to return to normal levels following activity. A healthy/fit heart will recover at a faster rate, compared to an unhealthy heart.  A heart rate drop of less than 12bpm in the first minute is considered abnormal. A good recovery heart rate 1 minute following exercise would be approximately 20bpm.

Indicators of good heart health:

  1. Low resting Heart rate
  2. Blood pressure
  3. Recovery
  4. Ability to perform same exercise with less effort (maker for improvement)

Reasons why we use heart rate monitoring

  • Keeps you on track for your goals
  • Pacing
  • Recovery
  • Avoid overtraining
  • Tracking your progress over time
  • Good heart health

 

Written by Andrea Brennan and Jessica Pastro.

Andrea and Jessica are Kinesiologists and Strength Coaches at it’s time! Fitness Results in North Vancouver.

Click here to listen to Andrea and Jessica discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

Nervous to Move?

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Check in and reset your nervous system!

Last week in the blog ‘Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?’, I discussed how to challenge your brain by learning new things. Whether these are simple or complex movements, the brain adapts to new stimuli and environments at any age, allowing you to master new motor skills and processes.

There are many cognitive and physical benefits associated with learning NEW movements. However, what if we take a step back and look at OLD movements, including the most basic functions of human movement?

If you’ve ever watched a child develop throughout its first few years, you’ll know that he or she passes several distinct milestones:

  1. Diaphragmatic (and nasal) breathing
  2. Control of the head
  3. Rolling over
  4. Rocking on hands and knees
  5. Crawling and eventually walking

From an early age we are programmed to move and to overcome obstacles. Our bodies and our knowledge of the world are developed through movement and exploration.

Original Strength

This past weekend, my fellow it’s time! kinesiologist Andrea Brennan and I traveled to Seattle to attend an ‘Original Strength’ (OS) workshop. OS is an organization that builds upon these developmental milestones in an effort to help adults ‘Press RESET to “[restore] the body through movement” [1].

OS supports there are three guiding principles to ‘Pressing RESET’:

  • Breathe through the diaphragm
  • Engage the vestibular system (our inner ear/brain balance and awareness of space)
  • Cross your midline with movement

When we reflect on our daily lives, it becomes evident most of our natural movements are designed to help us constantly RESET. Crawling, walking, and running, for example, require we continue to breathe, keep our head up and balanced, and move opposing limbs in tandem.

Furthermore, OS postulates there are no ‘bad’ movements, as how a person moves is simply a reflection of where their nervous system is today. The goal is to simply move a person from ‘good’ to ‘better’ by ‘Pressing RESET’.

How do we ‘Press RESET’?

‘RESETTING’ is about reminding our bodies and brains how to move and work, not teaching them. We do this by tapping into the developmental stages listed above. Through practice of these OLD movements, we can remind our nervous systems how we moved when we first learned to control our body, how integral the ‘happiness’ of our nervous system is to movement, and how it feels to be at YOUR body’s best.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

On average, humans take 23,000 breaths per day; 8.3 million breaths per year! Until 6 months old, we are entirely diaphragmatic nasal breathers, but as we age we often shift our breathing work to the accessory muscles (ie. chest, shoulders, neck). Without natural diaphragmatic breathing, the body loses core and spinal stability through a cascade of muscular effects, and in turn activates more sympathetic nerve activity (including the release of more cortisol, the stress hormone).

RESET: Get down to the ground or a hard bed. Lie on your back or front. Slow down and start to relax. Take deep breaths in/out through your nose, focusing on filling your low back, sides, and stomach with pressure. Do not let your chest or shoulders elevate. If any areas of your body are uncomfortable, try a different position (ie. hug your knees, plant your feet, arms up or down, etc.). Shorter positions will be easier on the spine.

Head Control

Your vestibular system is the first to develop in the womb, and it is connected to every system in the body. It is located in the head (inner ear) and protected by the skull, and is responsible for balance, spatial awareness, and posture. Posture is a reflex – it’s not a position we hold through cognitive effort. Every muscle in the body is connected to the vestibular system, so in order to own our body’s movements, we must own movement of our head and neck.

Think of a baby – it’s head comprises 33% of its total weight, and 25% of its total size. If they can learn to control their heads, we sure can!

RESET: Vision precedes head movement. Lie on your back or front. Look first, and let your head follow. Play with up/down and rotational movements. Try different body positions and explore your neck range of motion.

Rolling

Rolling is the beginning of the human gait (walking) cycle, and is the first of our RESETS to cross the midline of the body. Not only does it mobilize the spine, provide rotational stability, and engage the vestibular system (balance), but it also stimulates our proprioception, the input we get from things touching our skin. Our skin is our largest sensory organ (contains 640,000 sensory receptors) and is intimately connected to the brain, so this tactile stimulation improves neural connections, positive hormonal activity, and mental and emotional health.

RESET: Vision precedes head movement, and head movement precedes spinal movement. Look and reach where you want to go, and let your body follow. Try rolling forwards/backwards or side/side while hugging your knees. Try rolling from a loose, straight position on the ground. Try rolling without the use of your arms or legs. If you begin to hold tension in your neck or face, the movement is too much!

 

Rocking

As adults, our spines contain three natural curves. As babies, these curves do not form until we start to rock. Rocking occurs in the all fours, or quadruped, position where our weight is supported on our hands and knees, and integrates all our joints (toes, feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, wrists, spine). Moving forward/back or side/side engages the vestibular system and teaches our brains how to coordinate hip and shoulder movements, preparing them for natural gait (walking or crawling). Rocking is also soothing and reflexive – ever seen a mother rock a baby, a child rock when they’re overstimulated, or even an adult sway and pace when they’re angry?

RESET: Find a position on your hands and knees, creating a base about shoulder width apart. Keep your head up and gently sit back into your hips, reversing the movement before your spine starts to round. Experiment with leg, foot and toe positions – knees wider than hips, toes tucked or flat, heels rotated in or out. Motions can be small. They will get bigger. Listen to your body.

*Note: rocking can be done standing to accommodate mobility issues – place your hands on a counter and try rocking there.

Crawling (and Cross Crawling for life on 2 feet)

Crawling lays the foundation for posture, rhythmic coordination, and contralateral movement (crossing the midline of the body). It integrates every reset to this point, and is therefore the ‘Ultimate RESET’. Our brains and neural networks are ‘plastic’ – they are malleable and free to change. Crawling ties neural pathways together to optimize efficiency through the whole nervous system. Walking is based on the pattern crawling creates. Crawling may be hard, but the pattern is deep within you. Try practicing moving opposing limbs before adding full body locomotion.

RESET: Start on hands and knees. Keep your head up. Moving opposite limbs, step forward in sequence to start your crawl. Try crawling forward, backwards, laterally, or around an axis. Try crawling with your toes flat or tucked. Try with your knees off the ground. Vary your speed. Play!

*Cross Crawl is done sitting or standing. Lift one leg and touch your knee with the opposite hand. Try cross crawling for a full minute! Progress to a walking march. March in different directions. Add a skip! Try a run! All these movements integrate the principles of the basic baby crawl.

Notes to remember with the RESETS:

  • DO NOT move into pain! These are meant to be gentle and peaceful. If you cannot maintain your diaphragmatic breathing, the position is too hard!
  • Keep your tongue on the roof of your mouth, its ‘home’ during development.
  • Time is relative – do what feels good for your body. If you’re having a stressful day, your nervous system may like an entire 5min of breathing!
  • Scale the movements to you.

 

Where do these RESETS fit into your life?

There is no hard rule as to how to use these developmental resets. Do what feels right! Try doing your favourites in bed in the morning, or when you get up. Do them to warm up, recover, or cool down at the gym. Do them if you have an injury (but don’t push into pain). Do them at night to unwind!

You will likely find specific RESETS, or even specific variations of each RESET, resonate with your body. Try testing them out! For example, try to touch your toes, or perform a bodyweight squat before resetting. Try one reset at a time, testing your initial movement between each one. Do some illicit more positive changes? Do you get closer to your toes? These are the ones to work into your daily routine.

As with any learning, relearning, or rehabilitative process, consistency is key! Spend some time on your body and brain to restore your confidence, mobility, and strength.

There is no ‘bad’ movement, so start wherever your body is today and Press RESET!

Written by Briana Kelly

Briana is a Kinesiologist and Strength Coach at it’s time! Fitness Results in North Vancouver.

Click here to listen to Briana discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

References

  1. https://originalstrength.net/
  2. Original Strength Manual, version 3.0 (Nov 4, 2017)

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Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

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Challenge your brain by learning something new!

Trying something new can be intimidating. However, challenges are good for the brain! The brain grows and adapts when it is faced with new stimuli, and we can challenge it by exposing our minds and bodies to new environments, movements, and routines.

A large part of my role as a Kinesiologist and Strength Coach involves client education on body awareness and how to perform new physical movements. Individuals are diverse – different learning styles become evident, and some clients routinely pick up new moves faster than others. Sometimes I see a ‘light bulb’ illuminate in their heads, other times just frustration or determination in their eyes. If they’re just not getting it, often we just have a laugh and we move on to something else for that day.

I respect that these clients are committed to growing physically and mentally. They’ve stepped out of their comfort zones to engage in things they haven’t done before. These are clients of all ages and abilities.

It is never too late to try something new!

In the literature, declines in motor, cognitive, social, psychological, and physical function occur in those over the age of 65, and sometimes even earlier. But studies also show these declines are not inevitable [1].

The initial reward for my clients is often emotional success. However, whether they know it or not, they are also beginning to create structural adaptations in their brains that mitigate these age-related cognitive and physical declines…

Neural Plasticity

These structural adaptations that occur are a result of neural plasticity, the ability of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) to physically alter the neurons in response to exercise, learning, or training. Through this series of changes, we facilitate neuroprotection, a process that shields the deterioration of neurons responsible for cognitive-motor performance. There are age-related ‘critical periods’ of neural plasticity in the developmental process (younger brains have a greater potential for better skill learning); however, research shows neural plasticity does remain present throughout life [1]. Healthy brains are always receptive to new skills and information, demonstrating the ability to code new neural maps, networks, and pathways. Neurons that fire together wire together.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Neurons require repetitions of the activity or exercise to create an adaptation. In the case of physical activity, this means practice! Key point: to create perfect pathways of movement, the repetitions that are practiced must be perfect! Incorrect repetitions create inefficient or flawed movements patterns. So, practice is where the art of coaching and learning happens…

  • A coach must take the client’s learning style into account. If they are a visual learner, don’t describe what needs to happen. Show them!
  • Scale the steps of an exercise or movement. Break it down. Some people may only grasp the first step of the Turkish Get Up in an hour, where others might master the concept of whole thing.
  • Provide appropriate feedback. Teach the big picture first, and provide general cues. Allow the client to fine-tune the movement through practice. Only once the motor pattern is integrated should you provide specific detail-oriented cues. [2]
  • Don’t compare clients to each other. Everyone learns at their own pace, in different ways – there is no master timeline for learning.

Why do I feel like I’ll just never get there?

Be patient! Learning takes time, and everyone works at a different pace.

There are certain lifestyle factors that work in your favour when learning new physical movements. Your exposure to movement as a child and throughout your young adult years contributes to your kinesthetic awareness and level of physical literacy. Those who participated in a variety of physical activities as a kid likely have greater movement competency when learning new physical skills. A genetic predisposition for good coordination may also play a role.

There is also the potential for critical challenges to present that are out of your control, including your actual age and the complexity of the movement skill. Though we can mitigate some of the cognitive-motor declines mentioned above, they may still play a role in slowing the learning process. Mastering more complex skills also require more neural pathways to be integrated, so these may present delays in learning.

So What?

It can be uncomfortable to try new things. Success doesn’t always come immediately, and in the case of physical activity, it can be extremely frustrating, demotivating, and sometimes even dangerous.

So, why bother? The neural adaptations that occur as a result of trying and learning new movements lead to age-related cognitive benefits. Learning itself combined with the general physical and mental benefits of exercise mean it’s even more valuable.

It’s up to you and a good coach to set smart goals en route to new skills and movements, and to scale the process to produce success. Good luck!

 

Written by Briana Kelly

Briana Kelly is a Kinesiologist and Strength Coach at it’s time! Fitness Results.

Click here to listen to Briana discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

References

 

  1.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3947993/
  2.   https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/how-we-learn

 

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The Common Curve

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Scoliosis affects 3 out every 100 people

A scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. It may appear as a simple side-to-side curve in the frontal plane, however, the scoliosis curve involves more rotation and extension than one would think.

This condition can be from birth (congenital) or present later in life. Scoliosis later in life can develop without reason (idiopathic) or as a result of injury. If this condition is left untreated, it can create long-term problems and have adverse effects on other structures in the body e.g. offsetting the hips. In serious presentations, if left untreated it can create medical complications by putting pressure on the heart, lungs and/or spinal cord.

Anatomy of the Spine 

The spine comprises 33 individual bones, stacked one on top of the other. It is divided into the cervical, thoracic, lumbar spine and sacrum. The anatomy and function of each section is varied. The different parts of the spine form a gentle “S” shaped curve. The outward curvature in the upper back is known as a kyphosis and the inward curve in the neck and lower back is known as a lordosis. The “S” curve is considered the neutral spine as it allows the discs to lie flat which minimizes compressive forces experienced in activities of daily living. When exercising, it is crucial that the neutral spine is maintained. Common problems arise with an exaggeration or loss of the S-curve.

The spinal column is supported by muscles, ligaments and tendons. Its takes a synchronized effort of muscular control to hold the body in its vertical position.  This upright posture is controlled automatically by the CNS (central nervous system). With all the various muscular attachments, it’s not surprising that muscles have a direct influence on the orientation of the spine. For example, tight chest muscles pull the shoulders forward into a rounded position, increasing the curvature in the upper back. Tight or weak muscles on one side can lead to loading on one side and create a scoliosis.

Structural and Functional Scoliosis

Scoliosis can be structural or functional. With a structural scoliosis, there are changes to the shape of the bone. Functional scoliosis is an adaptation to an imbalance somewhere else in the body. Most people who suffer from scoliosis have both structural and functional components.

Congenital Scoliosis is commonly seen in neuromuscular conditions such as spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. Individuals can be born with structural deformities leading to the formation of a scoliosis curve.

Teens can develop scoliosis as a result of delayed growth plate on one side of the vertebra. This leads to a wedge-shaped vertebra causing the spinal column to gradually lean to one side.

In adults, degenerative changes as a result of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and injury can lead to abnormal curving of the spine.

Both structural and functional scoliosis should be addressed by health care practitioners. With a functional scoliosis, the underlying issue must be identified and treated. For example, leg length discrepancy modified with a heel lift.

Treatment

Treatment of scoliosis should involve more than just the spine; it should be a whole-body approach utilizing an integrated multidisciplinary care system, e.g.  physiotherapist, chiropractor, movement coach.

Western medicine is shying away from surgery for scoliosis unless completely necessary. Techniques such as bracing have been utilized. Both have been found to cause muscle atrophy and reduce bone density and should be utilized when conservative treatment is not an option.

The Schroth Method

The gold standard of conservative treatment for scoliosis is the Schroth Method. This was developed by German physiotherapist Katherine Schroth in the 1940’s. This treatment uses corrective exercises and breathing patterns to elongate and de-rotate the scoliosis. Treatment is specific to the individual and the nature of the curvature. It works to stimulate the nervous system to activate the weakened muscles and improve posture.

Exercising with Scoliosis

Conservative treatments such as physiotherapy, chiropractic care along with corrective exercise have been shown to have positive outcomes.  Healthcare practitioners who specialize in the treatment of scoliosis encourage their patients to maintain strength, mobility and stability. The supporting musculature must be strengthened or the spine will gradually collapse over the years. Starting an exercise regime to help build support around your spine can benefit a person even later in life. Personal trainers/kinesiologists will help an individual to choose the right exercise based upon their needs.

Corrective exercise essentially works to restore function and retain stability. While exercise alone cannot change the spinal curvature, it can slow the progress, improve posture and stability and reduce pain, all vital for a happy, healthy life.

Training should be as much for the brain as it is for the body. People with scoliosis have been shown to have abnormal movement patterns and poor positional awareness. Abnormal movement patterns precede bad movement habits which can lead to poor posture. For example, phone/computer work encourages a head forward posture, leading to increased thoracic kyphosis and ultimately ending in pain, tension.  With all exercise, posture is essential. Strength training in good posture translates into activities of daily living.

Posture left long enough will change structure!!

Core training

The “core” is not just the abs, consider the entire spinal column as the core (including the neck).  It should strong in all planes and be stable yet mobile when necessary.  When strain is placed on the limbs, e.g. pressing a heavy object overhead, the core should be the first to engage before the arm to act as a solid foundation for the movement.  The ability to transfer energy from the trunk to the limbs is a vital part of functional core training and requires the scapular thoracic joint and hip joints to be fully functional. Core exercises for a person with a scoliosis, or any back injury for that matter, should emphasize stabilization of the neutral spine.  Once the individual has an understanding of what their optimal posture should be, exercises such as bird-dogs, planks, and side planks are the gold standard.  Exercises to avoid would include, crunches, sit-ups, lateral flexion drills or heavy weights.

What someone with a scoliosis should do

  • Address postural issues
  • Break bad habits
  • Spinal mobility
  • Core stability
  • Functional strength

 

Written by Andrea Brennan and Niamh McGowan.

Andrea Brennan is a Kinesiologist and Strength Coach at it’s time! Fitness Results.  Niamh McGowan is Physiotherapist and Certified Pilates Instructor at Trimetrics.

Click here to listen to Andrea and Niamh discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

References

 

http://scoliosistreatmentalternatives.com/corrective-movement-therapies-for-scoliosis/

https://scoliosisjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1748-7161-6-17

Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_lifeking’>lifeking / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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