Categories
Exercise

Brace Yourself!

Checking for proper neutral spine

Before starting to exercise, any exercise whether it be walking, running, weight training, HIIT training, it is important to initiate a bracing sequence. A bracing sequence in simple terms is setting up proper body mechanics and engaging your core.

When we “brace” ourselves we are getting into a neutral spine position, we are activating our core to put less strain on our back and joints, and we are able to use more torque or force effectively to enhance performance.

When should we be using a braced stance?

It really should be something you practice all the time to be honest. It is a good habit to get into even for standing in one place for long periods of time. As you practice it you are actually simultaneously strengthening your core as well. 

This is the bracing sequence that I use step by step:

1)Stand with feet shoulder width apart and pretend you are splitting the ground below you with your feet, screwing them into the ground. Toes should ever so slightly be pointing out to the side. This is going to prevent your knees from falling inwards which is very hard on the joint especially if you are walking around this way.

2)Roll your shoulders back and tuck them down away from your ears with your chin slightly tucked in.

3)Take a big breathe in and draw your abdomen in and up. Picture a string pulling your belly into your spine then squeeze your abdominals. Don’t suck in but squeeze instead. Exhale but continue to squeeze. 

You are now braced.

A good way to check for neutral spine is to place one thumb on your sternum and one thumb just under your belly button. If your hands are parallel to each other up and down you are in neutral spine.

Neutral Spine – Hands are parallel
Hands are not parallel as back is arched
Hands not parallel as back is flexed (hunched over)

If you are performing an exercise you will first inhale and start bracing when you extend or before you lift, then exhale and squeeze as you flex or lift/push/pull or whatever exercise you are performing. Exhaling will also give you more force behind the move.

If you are running or doing cardio. Practice the braced position before you head out. As you are running try to remember to activate those abdominal muscles periodically during the run. Even when walking try to periodically think of engaging your core. Every little bit will help you to become stronger and give you more support.

For a more thorough read on proper body mechanics and techniques a good book suggestion is “Becoming a supple leopard” by Kelly Starrett.

Now start building that strong core!

Frecklefit

Categories
Exercise

Foam Rolling and Myofascial Release

Rolling Glutes

Ever suffer from tight muscles, dull achy pains in places of overuse, or just general stiffness in the morning? You are not alone! This is common for the majority of people regardless of our age. We are never generally taught to roll and stretch and if we are it’s only because we have learned it through a physical activity. Truth is not everyone is physically active but everyone should have information on how to treat their bodies.

The way you can loosen up tight muscles and get back to feeling young and spry is through foam rolling. I will bring this therapeutic exercise into perspective for you. This can be aimed at anyone. Whether you lift weights, run marathons, swim, do cross fit, do group fitness classes, or even just walk! Foam rolling is something you need to be doing. Read below to find out why.

Rolling upper back hitting – rhomboids and latissimus dorsi

Tissue adhesions what are they and why are they bad?

Commonly called trigger points, adhesions are a result of collagen binding between layers of muscle fascia. In an ideal muscle the attaching fibers slide past each other with ease as you move. When adhesions build up these fibers get sticky causing friction in the movement of your muscle fibers when they slide past each other. The fibers lose elasticity and form tight bands of tissue that can cause pain and tightness.

What causes tissue adhesions?

Long periods of inactivity. Sedentary type jobs. Overuse from repetitive motions (common with runners). Muscle injury, disease, inflammation, or trauma. 

Rolling Lateral Quad or Vastus laterallis

What exactly is foam rolling?

Foam rolling is a form of myofascial release that you can do on your own body. It works by massaging or releasing muscle and fascial tightness. The roller applies pressure, helping to break up ‘knots’ or ‘tissue adhesions’ that can form in your muscles and tissue. You can also use a tennis ball against a wall.

Ball against a wall with pressure
Sides of the lower back avoiding spine

What is Myofascia?

It is the thin layers that wrap first around every muscle fiber or cell. Then it wraps around bundles of muscle fibers. Then it wraps around the entire muscle body. The layers of fascia then attach to tendons and bones to help you move and mobilize. On its own myofascia is solid and non pliable which can limit your range of motion and cause tightness if not “released” or massaged regularly. 

Rolling just beside IT band

What is Myofascial release? 

It is the application of low-intensity forces to soft tissues over a long period of time to help relax a contracted muscle. Myofascial release via foam rolling can stretch and loosen your muscles. By applying this small force over muscles and connective tissue over time, blood is squeezed out and replaced by fresh blood. This is important because blood carries vital nutrients such as oxygen and glycogen. Myofascial release also helps separate sticky muscle fibers to re-establish the integrity of your tissue. Causing a smoother easier motion for your joints.

Rolling Latissimus Dorsi

Benefits:

1.Prevents injury as looser muscles move past each other with less friction. This makes movements smoother with less chance of pulling or tugging on tight muscles.

2.Helps recovery by again bringing blood flow and nutrients back to your muscles after being under tension. This also removes lactic acid reducing muscle soreness.

3.Helps break up scar tissue releasing trigger points and easing potential pain or discomfort.

4.Improves mobility and flexibility along with regular stretching can help lengthen your muscles.

5.Reduces tightness and increase joint range of motion.

6.Reduce pain and muscle soreness.

7.Helps you to manage stress and sleep better. Stress-related tight spots can lead to discomfort, which can impact on your sleep. Releasing or rolling after workouts can also cause a sense of relaxation in the body post workout which is good for your mental health as well.

8.Produce faster results as muscles and connective tissue are more healthy and less sore ultimately letting you train longer or more frequently while remaining injury free.

Rolling Hamstrings
Rolling Calves

Important to Note: 

You can also use a tennis ball against a wall which essentially does the same thing. Always stick to rolling your muscles rather than ligaments like your IT band or joints like your knees or elbows. You should skip your lower back for foam rolling but can use a tennis ball on the sides of your lower back avoiding the spine. For foam rolling stick to your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, traps, and lats. You can lightly roll the meat of your shoulders, but should avoid the actual joint. Same with your arms and elbows.

Rolling the lower traps against wall

Now get rollin!!

Frecklefit

Categories
Exercise

How to Overcome an Injury Mentally and Physically

Injuries… they happen to the best of us. Whether your involved in sports, your a runner, you lift heavy weights, crossfit, or you just do a whole lot of walking. Even at work injuries can happen, and they suck. I blogged my last injury and felt inspired to help navigate people through what to do when it happens to you.

It took me all day moping around, lying in the dark, wearing the same things I slept in and realizing my underwear was inside out to realize, I can be a big ole baby…

So I injured myself this morning. It was so stupid!!! My momentum has been phenomenal lately and this just put a halt to all my great healthy habits. I really do hate being down and out and sitting around all day.

The reason my injury was stupid? My knee slightly twisted the wrong way. That’s it… I don’t know if it’s worse or better that the same dang thing happened to me last month too. Now I have some experience with the issue but at the same time. From turning the wrong way? I’ve literally been squatting more than my body weight, and jumping, and lunging and I get injured from a little twist? That’s honestly the most frustrating part. But the good news is, it’s not horrible and not too painful it’s just there causing me to compensate when I walk and I know I have to rest it…

Not happy about it but I’m being smart and resting

A month ago rather than resting I continued my shift at work which in all fairness I had no choice. But I did have the choice to take a day off from the gym and I did have a choice to not walk my dogs but I did it anyway. It took me over a week and a half to heal this minor injury in which should have taken four days MAX. So this time around I’m listening to my own professional advice.

“Why you ain’t taking me for my walk mom?”

I’m taking this injury as a sign. The only way to get through this mentally is to bring some meaning to it. When an injury occurs often it’s a sign from our bodies that maybe we’re taking on too much? Maybe we need new shoes? Or maybe there are areas in our body that are weak and need to be worked on or strengthened.

The fact that this happened to me twice now in one month is a sure tell sign that I need to work on this area. I need to scale back my workouts, lighten things up and start doing a better warm up. Rather than focusing on strength my body is telling me I need to focus on the connective tissue around my muscle as well.

So when you’re down and out decide what your body is telling you. Now that you’re stuck resting this is also a great time to start doing some research on what you can do to prevent an injury like this from occurring again. Or write about it too. We underestimate the power of reading and writing and this is a great time to get back into it.

So use your injuries as insight and motivation. A chance to do some learning and to practice some gratitude for being able to do as much as you have before the injury. You will then get back at it AFTER recovering properly, bigger and better than ever.

Now let’s focus on recovery.

Here are a few KEY things that need to be done post injury:

  1. Rest! As frustrating as it may be it is so important to get off that injury right away so you minimize the damage done. If you injure an area in your upper body slap a sling on or make one out of a dish cloth, whatever you need to do to NOT use that injured area.
  2. Ice and pop an Advil or ibuprofen ASAP. This will eliminate or decrease the inflammation that’s often causing the initial pain. With less inflammation you will have less pain.
  3. Elevate the area getting your blood circulating. This will get all the little components that heal tissue to that injured area quicker so they can do their job in healing
  4. Get your protein in. If you follow me often you know a lot of my suggestions or nutritional advice is aimed around sufficient protein intake. Protein broken down are little building blocks to your tissues which is also means it aids in tissue repair. So eating enough protein will help again your little tissue healers to that injured area chipping away at recovering that area quicker.
  5. Stay hydrated. Water intake is always just a must do. Hydrating all the functions in your body just helps everything work more sufficiently.
  6. Compress area if weight bearing is a necessity. I know for me I got to go to work tonight regardless so I will have to do some walking on the area. Compression such as a tensor or a brace will just give my knee some support while it’s recouping. Kinesiology tape is also an option, I like it more further in the recovery process. You don’t need to take a fancy course (although you can) to learn how to do this because well we have youtube now. Make sure to find a video with a certified physiotherapist or professional for correct information.
  7. Once 24 hours has rolled around start applying some heat. If the ice is more soothing you can alternate ice and heat. For heat you can use a heating pad if you have it or just a hot wash cloth will do (be careful not to burn yourself too!).
  8. Keep yourself distracted and stay positive. The more negative thoughts you have about your injury the longer it’s going to take to heal because that’s just how energy works. So think healing thoughts and take it as a sign that your body needs to rest. Your body will thank you for slowing down and do its job and you’ll be back to yourself in no time!

  • *If you are in SEVERE pain and cannot weight bear or mobilize the injured area seek medical attention right away. This may mean a tear or break might have occurred. If you can still weight bear or move the area and the pain does not subside in 24 hours then I would still suggest getting it checked out.*
Moist heat

Once the injury seems to get better again take it easy when getting back into physical activity. This is a great time to utilize kinesiology tape for some extra support to that area. It is also a great idea to see a physio or athletic therapist for an assessment and suggestions on what you can work on to prevent this from happening in the future!

And most importantly don’t give up on your health. Stay resilient and consistent!

Frecklefit

*If you live in the Winnipeg area I highly recommend Anthony Morrison at Integrated Therapies for post injury assessments. He works out of two locations 333 Henderson Hwy or 55 Waterford greens locations.*

Categories
Exercise Life Hacks

How to Utilize Vacation for your Fitness Goals

In order to progress, fitness and conditioning, wise our bodies need progressive overload. Progressive overload is “the consistent adaptation of our fitness regime to increase intensity and /or difficulty in order to avoid plateaus”.

If your routines or regimes are always the same you will get the same results and potentially even move backwards in your conditioning related to metabolic adaptation. Our bodies are very smart and they will adapt. Our muscles have memory and learn and grow easily at first; therefore we need to constantly keep them guessing. Mixing things up is necessary in both exercise and nutrition. 

When it comes to nutrition we don’t use the word progressive overload but rather metabolic adaptation. So if you consistently eat the same caloric amounts you will continue to maintain what you have. If your regularly eating too much your body will gain weight. If your constantly eating too little your metabolism will eventually adapt and slow down to hold on to those calories for “survival”. There is a very fine balance especially if you want to make positive changes to your body.

It can be quite frustrating to feel as though you work hard everyday and follow your diet everyday and not see results. What we have learned through research and science based studies is that we need to mix things up and trick our bodies and metabolism so they do not become complacent. Our very DNA wants to maintain and stay the same and every individual has a weight and physique that their body is comfortable with. The body will adapt to maintain this comfort zone.

So when it comes to vacationing we can use this whole process to our advantage. The key is to work hard before AND after your much needed time off. At the end of the day consistency and resilience are the name of the game. 

Once you have a vacation or set days off it is important to start planning your exercise regime around those dates. 1) First off you must either set a goal or have an idea as to what is important to you. Do you have goals to lose weight? Goals to build muscle? Or even goals to maintain your physique? If none of these goals are sounding great to you and you want to just enjoy and splurge on your vacation, that’s okay too. Just make sure your going to do what’s consistent with what you say and what makes you happiest.

Next you must look at your timeline. How long is it until vacation? 

My general rule of thumb is to do a 5-6 week exercise regime before mixing it up to something different based on goals. 2) So plan your programs accordingly or seek out a personal trainer and notify them of your vacation so they can plan according to this. 

For nutrition based on your goals you want to work with your metabolism. 3) If your goals are weight loss OR maintenance make sure your eating at a calorie deficit prior to vacation. 

Plan to work really hard especially two weeks out from vacation. Get to the gym and work at high intensity. Keep your nutrition on point. Continue to remind yourself that you will enjoy vacation just that much more when you feel you earned it. 

When the big day has come your vacation is going to act as your diet break. Keep in mind how long you are vacationing for. You don’t want to completely fall off the wagon or reverse all your hard work because that can be super taxing on your mental health. Your vacation can be used to “mix things up” just as I explained before. We can give our bodies and muscles a break from the heavy training. We can give our metabolisms a little boost by consuming more calories than normal. 

I suggest to still be conscious of how your diet is going to make you feel. You want to feel guilt and shame free but you want to treat yourself as well because you earned it. Consider what treats are going to be worth it and what’s going to make you feel your best. I wouldn’t suggest completely bingeing and splurging on anything and everything because again we want to keep our mental health in good shape as well. Because I do flexible dieting on vacation I non strictly track my calories and protein just to give myself an idea of how much I’m eating and staying consistent with my protein intake.

If your vacationing longer than one week it might be a good idea to have a separate plan to introduce exercise back in after the first week or continue to do some form of exercise here and there just for your mental well being. There’s a lot of great bodyweight workouts or workouts using minimal equipment out there. Even planning to do a little cardio here and there can prevent a depressed state upon return to real life.

When returning from vacation it’s important to get back into a regular exercise regime with hopefully some new motivation. It’s not easy and it takes resilience on your part but remind yourself you are worth being taken care of. You deserve to feel your best and exercise is the BEST medicine. Get back into a good diet and give your body what it needs to meet your goals. And most importantly keep crushing it!

Frecklefit

Categories
Exercise

Why Exercise?

Contrary to popular believe looking good isn’t the only reason to exercise… There are many reasons to exercise and I’m going to lay them out here for you. As a registered nurse I see tons of people with multiple health issues that could have been prevented or fixed by the magic of movement. I’m hoping there will be enough reasons here to convince you or even remind you why you exercise in the first place.

Exercising is really choosing to be selfless by taking care of yourself so you can, in return help others. Just like on a plane with low oxygen we put our mask on first then proceed to help others. Exercise is showing you are dedicated to your health and the well being of yourself. Exercise shows discipline and hard work. Exercise creates self worth and self confidence by breaking barriers and achieving things you never knew you could. It’s truly the best self care out there.

Cardio

Strengthens the heart, cardiovascular, and respiratory system. By reducing our resting heart rate we cause less wear and tear on the cardiovascular system. This is important for our future health as the aging process tends to wreak havoc on our heart and vessels if not treated properly. Exercise normalizes resting blood pressure lessening the stress on the arterial and venous walls and improves heart efficiency allowing you to perform everyday activities with greater ease. This in turn increases your quality of life giving you more spark and energy from day to day.

Cardio can decrease body fat which reduces the risk of major life threatening diseases one being diabetes. Decreased body fat increases cellular sensitivity to insulin which helps regulate blood sugars which lowers the risk for type two diabetes. Majority of the time type two diabetes is self induced by not exercising or eating properly. Cardio can help burn body fat off reducing this risk or even reversing the chronic disease in it’s early stages.

Cardio can increase HDL cholesterol and decrease LDL cholesterol which reduces the risk of plaque formation in the blood vessels and hardening of the arteries which could lead to stroke or heart attack. HDL is the good cholesterol in our bodies which aid in cleaning and riding our vessels of plaque formation. LDL is the opposite which in high amounts can cause serious risk to our health.

Resistance Training

Resistance training promotes joint stability and increased strength in connective tissue which decreases your chances for injury. Injuries can really weigh you down and put a damper on life. They can restrict you from doing the little things you want to do in a day. Restrict your ability to excel at work. Or even cause you a lot of pain and discomfort. The most common locations for injury are our joints. Resistance training can really help decrease the risk for injury to these areas and is especially important if performing high impact cardio such as running. It’s important to incorporate both forms of exercise for this reason.

Resistance training increases muscular strength which allows you to perform everyday life activities with greater ease. Playing with the kids at the park, hauling groceries in from the store, doing lawn or yard work. All these things and more are tasks we do everyday. With increased muscular strength we can perform activities like these easier increasing quality of life.

Resistance training strengthens bones which helps reduce injury and risk for osteoporosis as you get older. Bone health is often something overlooked or not talked about often. It creeps up on you as you age and before you know it you have an issue you never knew was being slowly created through poor habits. It’s just as important to think about our bones as it is to think muscles and cardiovascular health. Luckily by strengthening muscles through resistance training we are simultaneously improving strength in our bones as well.

Resistance training increases muscle mass and decreases body fat creating a leaner physique which causes the body to burn more calories at rest to sustain the increased muscle. One of the biggest markers of optimal health is the amount of body fat we carry. Increased body fat puts us at more risk for chronic disease and poor health. By working on decreasing body fat you will be increasing your quality and quantity of life.

Resistance training helps to increase resting metabolism which helps with weight management. Cardio helps shed fat while resistance training helps build lean tissue. The more lean tissue you have the higher your metabolism is which aids in keeping fat off our bodies.

Resistance training improves core strength and back muscles which improves posture and stability and reduces the likelihood of back pain. Again this is on the lines of injury prevention which helps increase our quality of life. So many people suffer from back pain. By having a strong core it gives your body a strong support system especially for your back. This will help with daily grind duties such as cleaning, bending over to pick things up, hauling groceries, work type tasks depending on your job etc. With a strong back you can go longer, harder, and be more diligent with your life!

Resistance training improves balance, coordination, and agility which makes all movements in daily life easier and safer. Again prevents injuries from occurring.

Overall Exercise and Movement

Improves body image and self esteem boosting mental health and self image. The effects of exercise and movement on mental health is incredible. Our mental health is the most important thing we need to be constantly taking care of and putting time into. It really allows us to help others more and give more when we take care of ourselves first.

Reduces depression and anxiety improving outlook on life making all activities more enjoyable. Exercise really helps with achieving a healthy mindset. The endorphins that flow while exercising create positive energy in the brain. Exercise can be the best medicine when feeling down or depressed. Yes it may not solve everything but it’ll help even in the slightest.

Assists in stress management and gives people a positive way to deal with stress improving overall quality of life. Stress can really wreak havoc on our bodies and mind with increased cortisol levels and negative energy. Exercise is a great way to deal with stress without turning to substance.

Summary

Everyone should be exercising. I know its cliche but exercise is the BEST medicine. I speak a lot here about quality of life and that’s really all it comes down to. Wanting the best quality out of your life that you can because you only have one life to live.