Category Archives: yoga

Inhale-Exhale

Breathing is something we all do without really thinking about it, unless it’s not going well. We become very aware of our breathing when it is a struggle regardless of the thing that is making it a struggle. The athletes who, I believe, are the most aware of their breath is swimmers.

A swimmer has to have a rhythm for their breathing. All other athletes we can just go and not think about it too much until we’re huffing and puffing and even then, we merely recognize it and adjust a bit or push through. Not swimmers. A swimmer has to coordinate every movement to make sure they are able to breath when needed.

Being aware of your breathing has benefits to many aspects of your life not just running (which is what we really care about, if we’re being honest). It can reduce stress, improve physical health, and increase self-confidence.

Deep breathing releases endorphins and those make us feel good and are a natural pain killer. It promotes better blood flow and increased energy through the extra oxygen. The increase in oxygen gives your body the tools to rebuild injured muscles and build muscle.

Breathing properly can reduce anxiety. When you’re feeling anxious about something take a few deep breaths and see what happens to how you feel. Deep breathing has a relaxing effect on our body and our mind, which helps relieve you of anger, sadness, and other uneasy emotions. It reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and helps with better sleep.

Deep breathing helps with posture. An upright posture has positive effects on many aspects of your physical health. Your internal organs function better when they are not all squished as you hunch over at a desk or table. Your spine stays healthy preventing lower and upper back pain. It massages your organs such as the heart, stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas.

Deep breathing strengthens your immune system. Oxygen attaches to hemoglobin in your red blood cells allowing your body to metabolize nutrients and vitamins. It also removes toxins from your blood like carbon dioxide.

Deep breathing makes sure oxygen gets to all the important parts of your brain. You’re able to think more clearly and more creatively. Nerves run throughout your body sending messages from your brain to every body system and muscle. Oxygen is one of the nutrients the brain, spinal cord and nerves need to make communication quick and effective.

How do you do this deep breathing?

Ideally you would spend a few minutes each day and complete the following for two sets of ten. Sit with your back straight and tall or lay on your back. Exhale all the air from your lungs. When you think you can’t get anymore out, try a bit more. Pause for one second and then begin to fill your lungs slowly until you can’t take any more in.

Another option is to send a few minutes throughout the day being aware of your breath and make sure you’re sitting straight and breathing into your belly and not your chest. Make the breaths deep.

What’s that sound?

Wondering why your knees, ankles, wrists or fingers snap, crackle, and pop? The jury is out on the definitive reason why this occurs and is unlikely to come in with a verdict any time soon. One reason is the ligaments are stretching over a bone and slipping back in place. Second is the compression of nitrogen bubbles in the spaces of the joins and then the refilling of the joint with synovial fluid, which lubricates your joints. A third reason they could be popping is due to friction between the muscle/tendons and the bone. Tight muscles/tendons make this more likely to happen. A fourth reason is called joint fixation. This is when the bones of a joint become stuck together due to suction and when the seal is broken you hear a pop. You can tell the difference between friction and fixation by the reoccurrence rate of the popping. Fixation takes time to set up, so it won’t repeat with every bend of the joint. Friction on the other hand will repeat each time you bend the joint.
Everyone has popping joints at one point in their life or another. In most cases, there is enough slack in our tendons and muscles that no harm is done. Although the sound of it can be irritating or concerning, there is nothing to worry about injury wise. You’re not causing damage and it doesn’t mean that there’s an injury. You should be concerned about a pop is if it causes pain or swelling because it can indicate a tearing or rupture of a tendon or even a fracture of a bone. You will likely know if it could be something like this because there will be an event that causes it. If there is swelling and pain try rest, ice, compress and elevate. If that doesn’t help after three or four days or if the pain is serious(painful to use for normal daily activities) and there is significant bruising, see your doctor.
If the popping is driving you crazy, there are some things you can do to try to reduce or banish the popping. First, try some stretching of the tendons and muscles around the area where the popping is occurring. Stretching should be done when the muscles are warm and not to the point of pain only tightness. Be gentle with yourself. Hold a stretch for 20-30 second and repeat the stretch 2-3 times. Try some yoga. Yoga not only stretches those muscles and tendons, but can be quiet effective at building balance and strength.
Staying active will also reduce the popping and snapping. You don’t need to sit around because you’re all creaky and poppy (I think snappy is a better way to describe it-just more positive). Continuing to stay active actually increases the lubrication of your joints. So you can tell all those nay sayers who ask “Isn’t running bad for your knees?” No it’s not. As a matter of fact, it’s good for them. You can direct them to this article or just tell them to take five minutes and google it on their smart phone.
Cracking your joints or a ongoing unintentional popping of your joints won’t cause your joints to get bigger and it doesn’t cause arthritis.

Aerobic vs. Sport Specific Fitness

I’m fit right? Many people who are physically fit believe they can cross over into another sport and their fitness should translate. This may be true to some extend, but if the sports are different enough, things do not translate.
There are multiple aspect of fitness that make you a strong runner (or strong any other type of athlete. Aerobic fitness is the stimulation and strengthening of the heart and lungs, which improves the bodies ability to transform oxygen you breath in to energy your muscles can use. Having enough oxygen throughout your body is critical to participating in endurance events, okay and life.
Aerobic fitness is important but it’s not enough if you want to be a strong athlete in a particular sport. Strength in the muscles specific to the sport does not always crossover and complete crossover is pretty much impossible. You can compare muscle development between athletes of different sports to see proof, unless they make special effort to achieve more balanced strength. Runners have more balanced development throughout the legs. Sometimes the calves and quads can be more developed. Cyclists typically have larger quads, specifically the one on the outside. Swimmers have larger shoulders and arms. Those who play team sports requiring a lot of lateral movement are going to have stronger supporting muscles in the legs and core.
Running uses every muscle in your body as to most other sports. The difference is in the role each plays and the level of reliance on that particular muscle group. The major muscles of the legs are the most used in running. There are smaller, support, muscles in the legs used as well. At times these support muscles are recruited to pull more of the load than normal when the big boys become fatigued or injured. Even within the running community there are going to be differences in leg development because of the training each runner does.
Muscles and tendons remember. Neuro-pathways or muscle memory develops with experience. Your body becomes more efficient in form. When you repeat a motion over and over again, it becomes ingrained and you don’t have to put much, if any, thought into it. The less you have to think about each movement the faster you will become. The reduced attention required allows you to focus on one aspect of your body and make tweaks here and there to improve your form reducing injury and energy consumption. For runners, leg turn over, cadence, and stride length are all improved by building neuro-pathways. In contrast, soccer and American football players have unmatched agility (foot movement) because they work on it day in and day out.
The range of motion required by your muscles is different for different sports and on the other side the muscles and tendons which tend to tighten up are different depending on your sport. Flexibility in the hamstrings and hip flexors is important for running because they control the movement of your leg swing. Flexibility in those muscles is not as important for swimming or rowing.
Bottom line here is don’t get frustrated when you really struggle when cross training or picking up another sport. Fitness encompasses many aspects and unless you make an effort to maintain balance across these you’re not going to be at the same level in each sport. Individual strengths also separate athletes in the same sports.

Ways for Those with Disabilities to Live Fun, Active Lives and Why It’s So Important

Guest Post by Travis White

Many with disabilities fear exercise because they feel they can’t do it, or that it will make their disability worse, or that every physical activity open to them is boring or limited. In reality, those with disabilities can help battle the symptoms and complications of their disability and improve their overall mental and physical wellness by staying active. On top of that, it doesn’t have to be boring. There are plenty of fun, exciting ways to fill your daily exercise quota. Here are some tips.

Get involved in adaptive sports

You don’t have to get your exercise by sitting on a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill for hours. There are dozens upon dozens of adaptive sports (sports modified, through rules and equipment, to accommodate those with disabilities) that you can participate in – no matter if your disability is moderate, severe, physical, mental, or visual.

Wheelchair sports are becoming increasingly popular – so much so that there’s a good chance that there is at least one recreational league available in your city (maybe more!). Basketball, handball, polo, tennis, and volleyball are all sports that have been adapted to suit those in wheelchairs.

For a more extreme sporting experience, skiing, surfing, and rock climbing have all been made highly accessible to those with disabilities through modern equipment and other technology.

Look for exercise in non-traditional places

There are tons of ways to stay active that you may not think of as exercise. Swimming is a great way to have fun and get exercise as a disabled person. Water’s natural buoyancy allows for those with certain types of disabilities to perform motions that they can’t perform on land. Being in the water really opens up a whole world of exercise for those living with a disability.

“Swimming strengthens muscles that enhance the postural stability necessary for locomotor and object-control skills. Water supports the body, enabling a person to possibly walk for the first time, thus increasing strength for ambulation on land. Adapted aquatics also enhances breath control and cardiorespiratory fitness,” says HumanKinetics.com.

Getting out in nature and going for a walk, taking a hike, and even gardening are all ways to have fun while working out. Power chairs, service dogs, and trail companions are all options if you suffer from extremely limited mobility.

Why staying active is good for your whole body (and mind)

The benefits of regular exercise cannot be overstated. Not only does it help prevent a myriad of health problems and obesity, but it can help manage chronic pain – something that oftentimes goes hand-in-hand with disability. The most important benefit of staying active, however, may take place in your head.

“There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people. And people who were active and stopped tend to be more depressed than those who maintain or initiate an exercise program,” James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University, tells the American Psychological Association.

Exercise may even be a top line defense strategy against the effects of PTSD in veterans with disabilities. Not only does the physical act of exercise release brain-boosting chemicals, but exercise serves as an alternative coping mechanism to less-healthy habits like drinking, which can lead to addiction and worsen the mental problems associated with physical disabilities.

Lack of exercise may not just be a symptom of physical disability, but it can be a major exacerbating factor. By staying active, you’ll not only feel better physically but you’ll be better equipped to cope with the mental aspects of dealing with your disability.

Photo Credit: Pixabay.com

Running for Weight Loss?

Many people start running because they want to manage their weight. Losing weight can be very difficult for a multitude of reasons. It’s hard to be hungry and say no to things you love to eat. It’s also difficult to force yourself to go to the gym or exercise when your energy is lagging because you’re eating less.

Exercise, such as running, is only one piece of the equation of losing weight. Losing weight may seem simple, eat less than you burn each day. But…it’s not. People are horrible at estimating calories going in and calories going out. Keep your plan reasonable for your lifestyle, simple to implement and bring your awareness along.

People start and stop weight loss plans all the time. Part of the problem is they are not seeing results or they get stressed and give up. Implementing a diet or exercise is a step forward and doing both is even better. But it all comes down to practicality.  The research out there shows that the most effective diet is the one you can stick to regardless of its approach (low carb/high fat, paleo, gluten free, whatever).

It’s the same with exercise. Do what works for you. If you can only fit in three twenty minute sessions a week, do that. Don’t succumb to the pressure of five to seven days a week for an hour if it doesn’t fit your life. You can always work up to it, if you want.

You don’t need to starve yourself to lose weight. You need to be aware of what you are eating and make healthy choices. Eating aware means not only knowing the quality of what you are eating, but when you are eating, and how much you are eating. Many of us put food in our mouths unconsciously; we pass by the candy bowl on the secretary’s desk; we grab a quick snack and a big gulp when we put gas in our cars. Eating more slowly allows your body to recognize when it is full. Using smaller plates or leaving space on larger ones will help prevent over eating. Remember you don’t have to clear the food off your plate. And if you have children, you don’t need to finish their food.

Foods low in sugar and high in protein and fiber will make you feel full longer. Eat as much unprocessed fruits and veggies as you can get your hands on. If you are having a sugar craving, eat berries or mangos. Consuming less processed sugars will also reduce your cravings for them. Eat a breakfast with high protein, which will reduce snacking before lunch. It will also reduce calorie intake throughout the day.

Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day. Your body can send hunger signals when it is actually thirsty. Reduce your intake of drinks filled with sugar. We consume 400 calories a day on average through our choices of drinks. It’s very easy to drink up to 800 or more calories a day with our soda and sweet coffee drink consumption.

So what are the keys to weight loss: reasonable for your lifestyle, simple to implement, and awareness.

Changing Your Metabolism

boost-matabolism

Your metabolism is your body’s ability to breakdown the food you eat and turn it into the energy you burn. A faster metabolism is going to get energy to your working muscles faster, but that means you need to eat more to sustain the same level of output. A slower metabolism requires less replenishment and provides a more steady stream of energy although at a lower level.

There are things you can do to speed it up and slow it down. Some of that has to do with what you are eating, but a good portion of it is also preset depending in your age, gender, and genetics.

To speed it up: Eat a healthy breakfast, and not something tiny like a protein shake, make it count. Second, caffeine. Yep we caffeine drinkers know this is true. That regularly timed poop? thank the coffee. Third, water— make sure you are getting enough water. I’m not talking about liquid in general bus specifically water. First water doesn’t have calories and second if you drink it cold it burns a few. Fourth, make sure you are getting protein at each meal. Protein helps build muscle and muscle more calories even at rest. Fifth, drink green tea. Green tea has a plant compound called ECGC which boosts fat burning. Sixth, when you succumb to temptation and eat a high fat treat or meal, follow it up with something that has a bunch of calcium. Calcium helps your body metabolize fat. It needs to be from an actual food source though not a supplement. Seventh, get spicy with your food. Capsaicin the compound that makes chili’s hot, also turns up your body’s fat burning furnace. And finally, go organic– the pesticides we use on our food, slows the metabolism down.

Slow it down: Space your meals out— the more frequently you eat, the faster your metabolism runs. Exercise at a lower intensity. Second sleep less it makes you less likely to exert extra energy. Dehydration and skipping breakfast. Not eating enough is a sure fire way to slow your metabolism because your body begins to hold onto everything it can.

Dangers of Yoga?

yoga-dangers

As many of you know, I recently took up Bikram Yoga. I have absolutely loved the practice and plan to continue even after the HURT 100 in January. One of the things I do when I begin any new training regimen is research.

I’ve been researching yoga including the spiritual side of it, the different types of it, and it’s long and taboo and controversial history. I am certainly not an expert or even close to knowledgeable person when it comes to the different types of yoga. I know there are a bunch including, but not limited to Hatha, Iyengar, Vinyasa (flow yoga), Bikram, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Tantra, power yoga, and others.

The different schools of yoga use the same asanas (postures) for the most part. The duration they hold them, what they call them, and the alignment can be a little different. The other difference is the ethical values and how secular they are.  I’m not going to get into the spiritual side of things or the taboo issues either, but I feel obligated to get into the possible dangers of yoga. The reason I feel obligated to do this is because, I’ve encouraged others to get into the practice and the dangers are not obvious and are really kinda hidden by the yoga community for the most part.

There are approximately 300,000 people in the US who practice yoga, probably more. Yoga started to Explode in the 60’s and 70’s and it took the medical community a while to catch up and start looking at the benefits and the dangers. Currently, Yoga is self-regulated, which means yoga teachers are not required to undergo any type of official training or certification. Some disciplines do require their teachers to complete 4-8 weeks of training.

The biggest concern with some postures is your neck. Many yoga postures require practitioners to bend their neck further than it would normally do. Yes, you say, but that’s what yoga does makes you more flexible. I know, but there are some joints that do this better and carry less risk of injury. Because of the intricate weaving of nerves, arteries, and veins going through your neck/spinal column the potential for injury increases and the damage can be severe.

The postures that place you most at risk are the shoulder stand, head stand, plow, knee to ear pose, half wheel, and cobra. Some of these postures can be modified, so they are safer to practitioners, but if you haven’t had instruction on how to make them safe, you could be setting yourself up for life long injuries. The most serious risk in these postures is a stroke. Yep, you can cut off the blood supply to your brain long enough to cause a stroke. You can cause serious injury anywhere along your spinal column such as herniated disks.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice and I still love yoga and will continue to practice, but the information I’ve learned will definitely change how I practice and which postures I use. Injury risks come with all sports and recreational hobbies, it’s about knowing what you’re up against and being able to take action to prevent it.

What’s the take away?

  1. Do your own research
  2. Research and ask your teacher questions
  3. Listen to your body; yoga shouldn’t hurt, it stretches but doesn’t hurt. Make sure you know the difference.
  4. Know your limits, which can change from day to day
  5. Go slow and don’t show off.