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Putting Your Core to Work

Continuing to build on the lessons of the previous videos, let's starting to get into some practical uses for "staying aware of your muscles and your core". As I've mentioned, a stable core and good posture are vital for keeping your back strong and your movements healthy and this 3 1/2 minute video explains how to find and activate the key core muscle, the Transverse Abdominal, and how to put it to work to help achieve your best posture.

This lesson is the foundation of moving smarter and living stronger....and will be the launching point for the next several lessons in the series.

As always, if you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to let me know down below or via email or FB.

Until next time...

Keep your Muscles in MInd

One of the things I've noticed through the years of observing body mechanics is the tendency that so many people have to let their body move through life without taking any kind of control over those movements. This idea shows itself in various ways - the classic postural slump or slouch. the sluggish gate of a walker or runner or when extra strength is needed (and not obtained) for a physical activity. No matter what you're doing, however, it's very important to stay aware of your muscles. In other words, be an active participant in your body's movements and postures not just a spectator. 

In the 3 1/2 minute video below I explore this concept a little further (on the stability ball again :) and remind you that It's not only what your body is doing at any given moment that's important, it's what you are doing with your body that makes so much difference to your strength and wellness.

And it's not too late to pick up a copy of The Low-Back Repair Manual for valentine's really shows how much you care about your loved one's back  :)

As always, if you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to let me know via email or FB


Getting out of Your Physical Comfort Zone

We've all learned that getting out of your emotional, social or professional comfort zone is vital for personal growth. Talking to someone even though you're shy, asking for a raise when you think you deserve one or just standing up for yourself can all be uncomfortable. But what about getting out of your physical comfort zone? 
Just like achieving personal growth, we also need to work on physical growth; strength, balance, diet or just an improved sense of personal wellness. And none of that can happen without getting out of your physical comfort zone.

Down below you'll see a three and a half minute video exploring this idea further. I hope you find it useful.

And don't forget to pick up a copy of The Low-Back Repair Manual for your loved one...the cover has valentines colors on it :)

As always, if you have any questions or comments don't hesitate to let me know via email or FB.


Running in the Heat and Humidity

"You will get conditioned to the heat...just give yourself time and bring water"

I’ve gotten several questions lately, and for good reason, about how long it takes to get conditioned to running in the heat.  Although I’d love to just say “oh, a couple weeks” it isn’t quite as simple as that.

As with many things, there are several factors that come into play when getting acclimated to a hot summer of running.  One of the biggest is simply how well you handle heat.  Obviously, if you tend to overheat quickly or just plain don’t enjoy the heat that much then it’ll be a long and uncomfortable road (pun intended).  The opposite would apply if sun and sweat were already your friends.  Details like humidity level, time of day and strength of will also come in to play in various combinations.

Humidity can be an obstacle that’s tough to overcome primarily because high humidity prevents your body’s natural cooling system from working.  If the atmosphere is already thick with moisture then sweat on your body has nowhere to go, won’t evaporate and, therefore, doesn’t cool you.  Your core temperature stays high and the runs can be very tough.  Your body can get conditioned to this but it can sometimes take a whole summer to do so.

Obviously, getting out as early in the day as possible is the best choice and, even though morning heat can get oppressive, if you’ve run consistently during June and July you’ll be ready for August, no problem.  Late in the day is a good second choice but the afternoon’s heat can linger unexpectedly deep into the evening so be prepared.

An important point to mention is that the mind also plays a role in the effort to get heat conditioned.  Not just because it can overheat in high temps (that’s the brain, actually) but because thoughts about the weather, effort, and resulting “pain” can sabotage our run and send us to the comfort of air conditioning long before our bodies would have demanded the same.

It should go without saying that keeping yourself hydrated, fueled with good carbs and fired up with enough electrolytes like sodiumpotassium and magnesium is extremely important in the hotter months.  So, as you run your way through summer, remember that the effort will get easier.  It may take a couple of weeks or couple of months but if you stick with it you can continue to enjoy MOVING SMARTER and RUNNING STRONGER.

Cleaning our Plates Might not Prevent Waste

"Eating extra food just to 'clean our plates' might not help anyone"

One of the big stumbling blocks for parents regarding food consumption is the belief that they must “clean” their kids’ plates, i.e. if the kids don’t finish the meal then mom or dad will. And the number one reason I hear for this is “to not waste food”. Not only have parents ended up over consuming but they’ve also been guilty of demanding their kids do the same for this dubious yet well-meaning cause.

I’m not suggesting that food waste is a dubious debate. In fact, The Natural Resources Defense Council reports that 40% of the food in the US goes uneaten each year. What I am suggesting, however, is that eating when you’re not hungry or when the food choice is a known problem for you is not the answer to this issue. If we are over-feeding or poorly feeding our kids and ourselves then that food might still be wasted in our bodies where, if we don’t burn it through everyday activities, it can be stored as unwanted fat, wreak havoc with our body’s chemistry and make us feel even worse about the choice.

We believe, however, that because resources have been spent on the product then it’s incumbent upon us to follow through and consume it even though we’re no longer hungry or the food in question will do us short or long-term harm.  But this is false logic. The idea that we should “clean our children’s plates” (or have them clean their own) just because good resources have been spent is like throwing good money after bad. We cannot recover this expenditure of resources no matter what we do with the food once it’s in our hands (the law of conservation of energy not withstanding).

We may also feel that consuming the food will prevent a future negative impact.  For example, if we throw it out then we add to the waste filling our dumps and contribute to the cost associated with that. We might experience some guilt for “wasting” food when there are “starving children” somewhere.  But what about the guilt we feel over a poor food choice? And I can tell you with pretty good certainty that what you do with food that’s already on your plate has no impact on starving children (unless you donate it to them immediately).

What will help starving children, as well as our own health, is to limit food waste before it gets to our homes and plates. If we’re going to experience the guilt of consumption, along with the unwanted conversion of the food energy into fat, then we must accept that the best way to avoid this issue is to control the purchases and the portions. Don’t try to limit food waste after the meal, to the detriment of our waistlines, limit it before the how we shop for and serve the food.

For those, inevitable, times when food is left on the plate, not eaten by the hungry teenager in the house, composting or feeding it to the cold animals in winter are wonderful alternatives to “wasting” it on our waistlines. But giving yourselves and your children smaller portions remains the best choice. Less food per serving isn’t going to prevent anyone from healthy growth but it will help prevent our unhealthy growth. And, since the majority of people reading this have the resources to serve a reasonable second serving when appropriate, we should do our best to control our food purchase and portion so we can control our waste and our waistlines. 

The Value of a Runner's Rest

"It takes more than just miles of running to prepare for the big also requires rest"

As fall racing season gets under way I wanted to take time to remind the runners out there about the importance of tapering and the value of NOT over training.  Even though tapering is part of virtually every well-designed training program it’s sometimes not fully understood and often skipped entirely for fear of not getting in enough miles.

Joe Friel, endurance coach and author of several books including The Triathletes Training Bible, makes it clear that “the most common continuing to train at high workload in the mistaken belief that fitness is improved only by hard work”.  The fact is that we can only improve by recovering from the stresses of so much running.  And the recovery (aka rest) that can make the biggest difference is the taper that’s scheduled a week or two before an matter what the distance.

Most of us are aware that when we exercise we break down certain systems in our bodies that then need to rebuild themselves. The rebuilding, or recovery, that takes place in the days after is what makes our muscles stronger and our hearts healthier.  Lift weights; rest for a few days; lift weights again; rest and we build strength.  Get our heart rates revved up; return to resting rate; repeat and our hearts get healthier (this is the principle of interval training).  In both examples it’s the rest that enables improvement and benefit.

The same is true for a summer of run training (or bike or tri training).  If you’ve been on a well-designed plan then rest periods were built into the summer.  You didn’t do two long runs in a row (I hope) or even two consecutive days of intervals.  Periods of hard effort are always followed by periods of easier effort.

The other, possibly more valuable, point to be made here is to not over train. If you’ve been sick or injured and missed some days of your training you might feel compelled to keep pushing until the day of the event.  Do not make this mistake.  It is far better to under train than to over train.  One reason is what I’ve explained above about the need for recovery periods.  But the other simple reason is that if you over train then you wear yourself out and leave nothing “in the tank”.  You, literally, have no physical reserves to pull from if you need them.  If you err on the side of under training, however, then you have a healthier body to work with and retain the ability to push yourself (provided you can get your mind out of the way and let your body do what it’s capable of) beyond your previous limits to have the best day possible.

So no matter what distance you’ve prepared for, or how many days of training you may have missed, don’t fall victim to the “most common error” of thinking only more hard work can get you across the finish line.  Keep active during your taper by maintaining the frequency but reducing overall volume.  Remember, success comes from knowing when to pull back and let your body and mind recover from the stresses of a wonderful summer of running.

Taking care of that nagging Tech neck

I’m sure there’s plenty of people out there, besides me, noticing how much time we’re all spending looking down at our phones or tablets while emailing, texting and game playing? All this technical activity is proving destructive to our posture...and I’m not even talking about the eight or more hours per day many of us spend at a computer.   Keep reading and watch this 2 ½ minute video for some quick tips on how to overcome this new-age phenomenon known as “tech neck”.

It’s been often discussed that sitting at a computer for consistently long hours can cause our shoulders to roll forward, shortening/tightening our chest muscles and lengthening/weakening our upper back muscles.  Our modern day technical needs force us into a very hunched over posture and now the added burden of working on our phones is exacerbating the issue. 

When we hold our devices low in front of us, somewhere between waist and chest, we complicate this postural issue by extending our necks further, and for longer periods of time, than they’re designed for.  We force our necks to hold their weight against gravity (much like our backs as I discussed here, which brings us to the inevitable pain, strain and overall discomfort of “tech neck”.

As shown in the video, a good way to temporarily relieve this pain is to stretch.  To do this, simply isolate the spot of discomfort on your neck and elongate that muscle very slowly and gently.  You can place a hand on your head but do not apply pressure or force.  Just let the weight of your head and hand do the work.  Hold the stretch until you feel the release of tension (usually 20-30 seconds) and then slowly raise your head to an upright position keeping your cervical spine elongated.  Throughout this move please make sure your spine is straight, tall and supported through your core (i.e. good posture).

Speaking of good posture, another great way to minimize “tech neck” is to hold the device up and in front of your face.  You may feel a bit of fatigue in the arm muscles but as long as your posture is good, with neck level and shoulders down & back, that’s ok.  This technique has the added benefit of keeping your eyes forward, which may result in fewer pedestrian near misses.

So keep on sending those messages, even while walking if you must.  And as long as you’re holding your body and phone in the right position you’ll be one step closer to MOVING SMARTER and LIVING STRONGER.