Wednesday, December 22, 2010

EPOC- Extra Calories Burned After Exercise

For many people burning calories is the main reason for exercising.  Besides the calories burned during the workout itself, you may have heard that the metabolism stays elevated afterwards, continuing to burn more calories than it would have otherwise.

Important to note though is that how the exercise is done and the type of exercise matter quite a lot.  Any exercise will have some effect, but instensity is the key to getting a high EPOC(excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, a measure of calories burned.)

A 30 minute cardio session at 60% of a typical VO2 max(volume of oxygen, a measure of intensity) has a modest "afterburn" of about 16 calories, but at 70% VO2 max an extra 34 calories are burned after the exercise.  The extra intensity more than doubles the calories burned afterward.  However with HIIT(high intensity interval training, aka HIT for short) in approximately the same amount of time the extra calories burned is 73, more than double again.

The max EPOC is from weight lifting though.  That means weights near your capacity, and lifts like squats that engage the entire body(same as functional strength training.)  Twenty bicep curls won't do it, it's got to be as many muscles as possible engaged at once, and loads heavy enough you can't possibly do more than 10 in a row.  Here the equivalent post-workout calories burned can exceed 700!  The duration of the raised metabolism lasts much longer as well.  More moderate weight training will still be superior to traditional cardio, but lift heavy if EPOC is your goal.

Here I'll point to my source for these numbers- Scott Stevenson, who wrote this excellent article on the topic: Discover the Afterburn

The summary:  Steady cardio exercise burns calories while you do it and only a little after, HIT is much better, and hardcore weight training burns the most post-exercise calories.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Weightlifting After Breast Cancer Treatment Reduces Lymphedema

Good news for breast cancer survivors.  This is part of the trend over the past few decades of using exercise for treatment and recovery from illness and injury.  The generic advice of rest and inactivity is being overturned.  Note too that weight lifting is the specific exercise studied.  Of course this should be with your doctor's approval.

Weightlifting Slashes Lymphedema Risk After Breast Cancer Treatment, Study Suggests
ScienceDaily (Dec. 8, 2010) — Weightlifting may play a key role in the prevention of the painful limb-swelling condition lymphedema following breast cancer treatment, according to new research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Combined with the team's previous findings that the exercise limits a worsening of symptoms among women who already have lymphedema, the new data cements the reversal of long-running advice that breast cancer survivors should avoid lifting anything heavier than five pounds after they finish treatment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kids Benefit from Strength Training

An NYT article on kids and weight training:
The Benefits of Weight Training for Children
...a major new review just published in Pediatrics, together with a growing body of other scientific reports, suggest that, in fact, weight training can be not only safe for young people, it can also be beneficial, even essential.
Other research has shown that exercise helps children with cognitive development and preventing obesity.  Usually weight lifting isn't considered appropriate, but this study shows that idea to be false.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Tennis Ball Roller

An excellent way to apply some self massage to the low back is with a tennis ball roller.  Here's how to make one from two tennis balls, a sock, and a wire tie wrap:


This is great for easing tension in the muscles running along the spine. The spinal processes(the bony bits you can feel) go into the notch between the two balls and keep the roller aligned.  To use it, lean against a wall in a partial squat with the roller between the wall and your back.  Now squat deeper and stand taller to roll over the muscles.  This is especially effective for the low back(lumbar) muscles, which need the pressure without moving the vertebrae underneath.  It will also feel good on the upper(thoracic) spinal muscles, but they don't benefit as much and don't really need relaxing.  In general for most people, the lumbar area needs muscles relaxed but joints steady, the thoracic area needs the joints loosened but muscles strengthened.

Also see Managing Low Back Pain with Exercise if you have more than just tightness.

To address mobility limits in the upper spine, try this.  Lie on the floor on top of the roller, starting at the mid-back.  Please note that this requires good core strength to do safely.  Keep the roller still as you raise one shoulder diagonally up and over toward the opposite hip, with a slight abdominal crunch, about 5 times.  Bend toward the other side, then roll the ball an inch or two closer to your head and repeat.  The point here is to get the spine moving, just a bit, where the tennis balls are pressing.

Worth mentioning is the more familiar "foam rolling" for self massage, using a long cylindrical piece of foam.

My opinion is that, yes, it can be helpful.  It just isn't quite as essential as some folks say, and not always for the reasons assumed.  There may be some benefit from the pressure, but I think the real benefit is from mobilization.  You put your body in unusual positions and move around in a strange ways, and that means bending joints and using muscles in ways that they don't usually get.  The pressure of the roller is just a plus.  If you think it helps, go for it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fixing One Problem & Cure for Colds

A common thing I encounter is people seeking to improve just one thing with their body.  In my massage practice, someone will ask me to work on the one spot they feel pain.  With personal training, someone will have one set of muscles they want stronger/bigger/less flabby, or one type of fitness such as cardiovascular, or even one type of exercise or equipment they think is best.  It could be the one goal of weight loss or it's the one place they want to have less fat.

The truth is all these things are important- and they are all needed together to create optimum health and fitness.  There may be priorities, but ultimately a balanced and long term approach will not only be the best overall, but do the most for the individual goals as well.   Massage and other soft-tissue work needs to address not just the spot the hurts, but the areas that may be causing the pain.  Exercise should work all the muscles, and, critically, train all the muscles to work together.  A healthy diet will not only help maintain moderate weight, but help build strength, plus reduce the risk of many diseases(just about all actually.)

Here's an exercise example:  A guy want to build up his chest muscles.  However working the chest without also strengthening the back can cause the shoulders and head to pull forward, diminishing the apparent chest size.  He looks contracted instead of expanded, and may develop more serious problems than appearance, such as back pain, less shoulder range of motion, and decreased lung capacity.

Training for and participating in only one sport can cause problems too, especially for young athletes:
Young Tennis Players Who Play Only One Sport Are More Prone To Injuries
ScienceDaily (Nov. 10, 2009)
Researchers who analyzed 3,366 matches in United States Tennis Association junior competition found that players who specialized in only tennis were more likely to withdraw from tournaments for medical reasons, typically injuries.
Cross training with a general fitness program or having more than one sport can lead to more success by reducing injuries, and can develop a more rounded athlete.

Why else is general fitness important?  How about fewer and less severe colds:
Physical Fitness Curbs Frequency and Severity of Colds, Study Finds
ScienceDaily (Nov. 1, 2010)
People who are physically fit and active have fewer and milder colds, indicates research published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Working on just one bit of fitness is a great first step, now consider the advantages of a balanced, holistic approach.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Organic Exercise, a Gray Cook Perspective

The importance of exercising the entire body at once, in natural ways, over isolating body parts with machines and artificial movements, is a major focus of my personal training.  The term functional fitness incorporates this concept.

Here's an article with an excellent analogy to food from the most influential person in functional movement today, Gray Cook:

Organic Exercise?
Is there such a thing as organic exercise? The word organic is often associated with concepts like natural, whole, unrefined and authentic. The term that was once only applied to our food is now being applied to our other lifestyle choices as well.
Some other good quotes:
Our dissection and analysis of the body has produced isolated exercises that assume movement patterns will spontaneously reset themselves.
...
Our movement learning system rarely benefits from isolated exercises or focus on single body parts. Just like highly processed fortified food, the isolated exercises seem more scientifically complex, and therefore in the public eye, are assumed to be better.
...
The takeaway—Eat a balanced variety of clean whole foods and exercise in a balanced variety of clean whole movement patterns.
Most people have become aware of these facts about our food.  The next step is realizing the same concepts apply to how we exercise.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Vitamin D and Orthopedic Surgery

Yet again, vitamin D is linked to health, especially bone and muscle healing:
Vitamin D Deficiency Rampant in Patients Undergoing Orthopedic Surgery, Damaging Patient Recovery
ScienceDaily (Oct. 6, 2010) — Almost 50 percent of patients undergoing orthopedic surgery have vitamin D deficiency that should be corrected before surgery to improve patient outcomes, according to a study by researchers at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City. Vitamin D is essential for bone healing and muscle function and is critical for a patient's recovery.
The amazing vitamin D has been mentioned several times here, especially the post Vitamin D, Sunlight, and Health.  It isn't just in the extreme case of surgery that it helps your muscles, bones, and many other important bits.

Have I mentioned that I offer personal training in parks?  Outdoors and in the sun...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Exercise and Vitamin Supplements

Exercise creates free radicals, charged molecules that can damage our cells, and anti-oxidant vitamins neutralize free radicals. Therefore we should take vitamins after exercise, right? Well, maybe not:

October 6, 2010, 12:01 am
Phys Ed: Free the Free Radicals
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
‘‘The evidence suggests that antioxidants are not needed’’ by most athletes, even those training strenuously, said Li Li Ji, a professor of exercise physiology and nutritional science at the University of Wisconsin and one of the authors of the rat study. ‘‘The body adapts,’’ he said, a process that can, it seems, be altered by antioxidant supplements.

Another lesson: ‘‘Eat well,’’ he said. Although this is not yet proved, it seems likely, he continued, that antioxidants from foods, like blueberries, green tea and carrots, may work in tandem with the body’s natural antioxidant defenses better than those from supplements.

My suggestion is to eat a piece of fruit after a workout to get anti-oxidants in their natural state together with other phyto(plant) nutrients. The immediate calorie intake can also help replenish your glycogen, your muscles' preferred form of stored energy, and that helps enable protein synthesis- otherwise known as building muscle.

I'll note that there is a lot of debate on post-exercise nutrition, which is another good reason to stick to simple, natural foods and not be too analytical about your body. Science changes, nature does not.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Inflamation Helps Wounds Heal

Inflammation is usually considered bad, and to be reduced at all times. New research shows that it can actually help a wound to heal faster:

Surprise: Scientists Discover That Inflammation Helps to Heal Wounds
ScienceDaily (Oct. 5, 2010) — A new research study published in The FASEB Journal may change how sports injuries involving muscle tissue are treated, as well as how much patient monitoring is necessary when potent anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for a long time. That's because the study shows for the first time that inflammation actually helps to heal damaged muscle tissue, turning conventional wisdom on its head that inflammation must be largely controlled to encourage healing.
The right balance needs to be found, but this suggests another instance where allowing the body's natural systems to function is better than impeding them.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Research on Massage Benefits

A study was just published measuring stress and immune system hormones before and after a massage session, with very good results.  From the New York Times:
Regimens: Massage Benefits Are More Than Skin Deep
"Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.

Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol. "
By RONI CARYN RABIN
Published: September 20, 2010


The abstract is here:
A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals
Mark Hyman Rapaport, Pamela Schettler, Catherine Bresee. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. -Not available-, ahead of print. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0634.

It's well established that the presence of stress hormones causes or exacerbates many health problems, and that the presence of oxytocin is associated with improved health and happiness.  This study doesn't prove that massage will make you healthier and happier, but we're making progress.

The Times article uses unusual wording for massage; typically Swedish implies light pressure and deep tissue implies stronger pressure.   Neither term is exactly defined or used the same between different professionals or with the public though.  In an actual massage the techniques are usually blended together, and I ask people what their treatment goal is rather than what type of massage they want.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Testing My New Climbing Rope

In the park playing around:
Rope climbing is an awesome upper body workout, with extra grip emphasis those of us who are also massage therapists appreciate.

I made the rope from an old 11mm rock climbing rope, with three long pieces folded in the center to form a bight at the top.  I spent a long time trying to twist the strands, then figured out it would work just fine to braid them.  Come train in the park and we'll put the "fun" in functional!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tennis Shoulder, and Exercise Without Electricity

A good fitness article from the NYT:
Phys Ed: How to Fix a Bad Tennis Shoulder
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
"...the authors... concluded that years of “intensive tennis practice may be a predisposing factor for the development of mild degenerative articular changes in the dominant shoulder.”"
The injury, the reason it can occur, and how to prevent it are discussed.  The readers' comments are quite informative as well.

Tennis is an example of an activity with great health benefits, and also some limitations.  First, it's a fun, social way to get exercise and keep moving.  I like that you are on your feet, coordinating footwork and the racket, and reacting quickly to the other player.  Moving in all directions, especially side-to-side is a big plus.

The downside is that one arm gets used far more than the other, making similar movements constantly.  Particularly bad as discussed in the article is that the primary arm movement involves pullling the anterior shoulder forward- exactly the position that is the most common postural deviation in our society.  A person sits at a desk with the arms reaching forward, then plays a sport that involves more reaching forward.
"It may behoove anyone who plays competitive tennis to consider adopting the rotator-cuff strengthening routines long common in the pro ranks."
This is where Functional Strength Training comes in.  One aspect of functional training is to emphasize full range of motion exercise, and exercises that balance overuse from sports or life activities.  A sport like tennis, together with a complementary strength training program, is an ideal fitness solution.


A couple of days ago I was exercising at the gym when the power went out.  It was funny to see all the cardio machines instantly stop, but my dumbbells weren't affected at all.  Low tech exercise wins again!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Exercise and Upper Spine Alignment

Update December 2013: I have a long blog post just on this topic: Improving a Rounded Upper Back

Recently I observed someone at the gym I've advised before on improving his head-forward, rounded upper back posture(thoracic hyper-kyphosis).  My exercise advice was briefly to exercise the upper back and do much less exercise for the front of the torso but to stretch there instead.

What I saw was a commendable emphasis on working the posterior shoulders, but unfortunately always done with the spine rounded forward.  The loads were actually pulling the spine more forward as the arms pulled back, for instance doing a row.  And if I had to choose, for most people I'd say that improving the spinal curvature is more important than improving the shoulder position.

Generally exercise should be done "spine neutral," meaning the spine keeps its slight natural curves but isn't allowed to bend more.  Indeed, the spine musculature's primary role is in preventing movement(which should be in the hips, shoulders, and limbs), although the thoracic spine does contribute to rotation(transverse plane), and maintaining mobility is good for all the joints.  A rigid spine isn't the goal.

As you work out, first try to keep the spine neutral, then if you tend to round forward, extend the upper spine backwards.  This includes the head, which should pull straight back and not jut forward or tilt upward.

Taking It to the Park
These are rows on a suspension device.  Note the good alignment of shoulders and upper back.  This shows how an exercise that focuses on one movement also works the rest of the body to provide stability.
Medicine ball slams are great for shoulders and core, dynamic stretching, and fun.  The start has the shoulders fully retracted and flexed, opening up the chest.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On Sports Injuries, and Foods for Sun

This article discusses serious amateur athletes with injuries considered career ending, from the New York Times:
When Repeat Injuries Can’t Dim an Athlete’s Passion
By GINA KOLATA
Published: August 16, 2010

I have to admire the dedication shown by these people.  I also have to comment that constantly straining the body in a single way often does lead to injury.  One of the major benefits of functional training is to help athletes avoid injury by building strength and stability outside the typical demands of their sport.

SPF on Your Plate: Researcher Connects the Mediterranean Diet With Skin Cancer Prevention
ScienceDaily (Aug. 17, 2010)
This study shows that a antioxidant rich diet helps protect the skin from excessive sun.  Sunlight enables our skin to make vitamin D, which is essential for health, and of course a nutritious diet has many other benefits.  These things all go together...

Sunday at the California Street Farmers Market in Palo Alto my jalapeño supplier was selling by the basket, so instead of 2 or 3 I got at least a dozen.  Then because she's nice, she tossed in a handful of cayenne peppers for me(something which will never happen at a supermarket).  Then that evening, I friend I trade sprouts to gave me more jalapeños. ¡Ay, caramba!  It's a hot and spicy week here!  If I were trying to lose weight, this would help.  Plus, jalapeños are a good source of antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin A...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Core Stability- Rotation

Leave the Twist to Chubby Checker
The core is a critical link in rotational movement, and perhaps more often, resisting rotational movement.  Previously I defined the core and discussed its role in bending.  As a quick refresher, the core refers to the area between the ribs and pelvis, including the lumbar spine, and its primary role is to provide a stable connection to transmit force between the upper and lower halves of the body.

The less obvious role of the core is to twist and resist twisting the spine, technically called transverse plane movement or rotation.  Resisting rotation is more important than creating it- this is called anti-rotation, and is a form of stability.  Anti-rotation stability is critical for functional strength and athletic performance, and for avoiding injury to the low spine.  The internal and external obliques are the primary muscles involved, but as always it's a team effort.

Twisting the spine means that the hips, ribcage, and head point in different directions.  The head isn't part of the core of course, so it's the change in orientation between the ribcage and pelvis we're talking about and trying to build strength to resist.  Being able to twist is good, but heavy exertion while twisted is definitely bad, and trying to twist the low spine as a stretch is also not advised, although maintaining existing range of motion is appropriate.

Anti-Rotation Examples
As always, I advocate compound, full body exercises, and discourage using machines.  The one machine that is OK though is the adjustable cable column, usually seen as a cable crossover machine or the fancy Free Motion machine.  These machines will serve well to learn about anti-rotation.

Stand facing a cable column with the pulley at shoulder height.  Grasp the handle and pull it toward you.  Physics tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  As you pull the handle, it pulls you, and the pull is a combination of rotating your spine toward the pulley and bending it forward.  Do the exercise, called a row, with the hips and chest facing straight toward the machine the whole time, and those anti-rotation muscles will get used nicely.  Do both sides, then face away from the machine and push.  Again, use the core muscles to keep the torso in line.

The progression from this to really work at anti-rotation is to stand in the middle of two cable columns and push one while pulling the other.  This will really, really, work those anti-rotation muscles, without including the bending muscles, plus give you some nice shoulder exercise.

These show how to keep the torso stable motionless while working the upper extremities, but more fun is to move the whole body while keeping the core in a strong, stable alignment.


It's All in the Hips
Here's the absolutely critical part:  We do need to twist, but not the lower spine.  Twisting should come from the hips.  Too much sitting down and general lack of movement causes tight hips.  Since the hips are tight when you do try to twist, extra stress is put on the spine.  This means that equally important to strengthening the core in order to protect the spine from this stress is gaining hip mobility and movement patterns to avoid the stress in the first place.

When the body needs to turn to the side, the pelvis and ribcage should both turn, and at the same time the legs should be turning in the hip sockets.  This gets a bit difficult to explain in writing, so I'm going to include a couple of videos from great coaches that further explain this idea.  These are my first embedded videos, so let me know if they don't look right.  The first is Rotary / AntiRotation Core Training from Nick Tumminello, a huge name in the training world with a blog well worth following:



Second is from TCU coach Zach Dechant from his blog post Rotational Movement Series, which gives details on an example exercise and other excellent rotational training information:






I'll discuss this more in the future and give more exercise examples that integrate anti-rotation with other movement.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

First, Move, Then Improve

After spending a long time at a gym, you become familiar with how some of the other regulars work out.  You may notice that most do the same exercises every time.  If you are a bodyworker, trainer or coach you may notice even more.  You may notice not only that the routine is the same, but may have other shortcomings such as over emphasizing some movements and ignoring others, never improving and worst, doing things which may be harmful.

So, what to do?  Well, mostly nothing.  It isn't my, or your, responsibility to correct someone.  And face it- no matter how well intentioned and non-judgmental the advice is it probably won't be welcome.  Still, if I know the person at least a little and they somehow seem like they might be receptive, I look for ways and times to make a suggestion that won't sound like criticism.  I think, at least hope, that people in this business want to help others, and never offering advice would be overly chary of our knowledge.  Of course as a professional trainer in our place of employment, offering advice may actually be part of the job.

What I try to keep in mind is that for most people at the gym the comparison shouldn't be between a poor workout and a good one, but between working out and not working out at all.  Being inactive is far worse than repeating an ineffective routine every gym visit, and far be it from me to discourage someone from trying.

The first thing the body must do is move.

Then, if there's interest in going beyond maintaining the status quo, and spending the same amount of time getting stronger, leaner, and moving better, I'm available to help.

In the meantime, I'll try to stand back, shut up, and (mostly) mind my own business.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reaching a Fitness Goal

A personal goal, with an asterisk, met
One year ago I started doing dumbbell snatches.  Like most new things, progress was rapid at first then slower and slower.  In May I set a specific weight I would lift by July, and last week I did it with one day to spare- from the floor, a clean lift, and a steady pause overhead before setting the weight down.  The asterisk is because I did it with one hand and not the other.

The snatch is shown here, and I'll mention that it is notable for its complexity, requiring coordination between different parts of the body doing more than one thing each. Almost every body part is involved, and power and stability are critical. Naturally I use a dumbbell because it's harder, meaning you get fitter, than a barbell.

The weight was 70 lbs., which happens to be the heaviest dumbbell at my gym.


I began with 25 lbs.  That amount I could put over my head any way I wanted, but I spent a month with it practicing the proper form.  And even as I slowly started adding weight, I found improvements in technique I could make.  A year later, and I still need to improve my form and timing.  I reached my my goal, with asterisk, not because I have any inherent physical talent or experience in sports(I was a nerd) but because I put in the work to gain a skill I didn't have.

As a Personal Trainer, my job is to give you guidance and encouragement to help you develop the skill and strength to meet your fitness goals.   Whether short term and arbitrary like lifting the heaviest dumbbell in the gym, or long term like improved health and athleticism, personal training can help you.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

New Blog Home- Welcome!

This is both a "so long!" to my old blog address and a "welcome!" to my new blog address and new blog name.  As my business has evolved to include personal training, I thought it appropriate to make the name change.

The new name is Steven Rice Fitness at the address http://stevenricefitness.com/


The existing content has been moved, and all new content will be on Steven Rice Fitness.  I'll be writing about the same topics, including massage, but I think massage is part of fitness more than fitness is part of massage.

Cheers,
Steven

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Now a Personal Trainer

It's official- I'm now a Certified Personal Trainer!  The last few months have been busy with studying, but I have very happily passed my certification exam.  I suspect that no one reading this blog will be surprised by this.

My certification is from the National Academy of Sports Medicine(NASM).  I choose NASM because they have one of the best reputations, and they seem to be the best complement to my sports massage work.  The individual practitioner is always more important than the certification, but it certainly helps to have a good one.

Of course this is just another step in the never ending journey of learning about how to help people with their health goals.  Personal training is a natural extension of my current bodywork.  It will give me a way to better understand and advise my massage clients, make it possible for someone to receive both massage and training from me, or be a training only client.  The body is the same after all, and there's a lot of synergy possible by having both perspectives and approaches available.

It hasn't surprised me to see how much the most cutting edge exercise thinking has in common with bodywork.  More and more the top fitness experts are training for balance, symmetry, and mobility in addition to strength, speed, and endurance.  The idea of isolating one part of the body, either to treat or to train, is well discredited. (All part of functional fitness, already a favorite topic on this blog.)

Over the last week I've been giving practice sessions to experienced trainers.  The workouts have been going quite well, and I've been getting very positive feedback.  The main challenge I've had is finding the equipment or floor space I intend to use unavailable.  In my own workouts I adapt pretty easily, but I'm trying to make each session I give perfect, and the alternate exercises aren't necessarily as good as the one I want to offer.  In general, it's all the things other than choosing, demonstrating, and guiding the exercises that are challenging me.

A fascinating thing is observing the differences in everyone's abilities.  My practice clients have all been trainers, except for one yoga teacher.  They are in good physical condition and very knowledgeable about workout programming.  Yet for each person some exercise that would seem easy has been very difficult, either in strength or balance(or both, because the stabilizing muscles are weak compared to the prime movers.)  Incidentally, the yoga teacher was the best at doing all the exercises with good form except for a jumping movement- not much jumping in yoga!

This observation convinces me even more of the value of working with a trainer.  It is too hard to watch yourself, or sense your alignment proprioceptively, while doing an exercise(not that you shouldn't try.)  Even more, picking exercises to continuously challenge yourself needs an outside perspective.  Habits and opinions may be so well ingrained that a person is completely oblivious that their exercise routine is lacking.  I include myself here, and I'm sure that any of the pros I've trained would find things I don't do well.

Finally I'll mention that as a business, I'm not quite certain how I will represent myself yet, particularly in all things Web.  Positive Massage Therapy is very well established, but I want to have an identity that reflects both aspects of my professional practice.  More to come...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Runners' Knee Pain and Seeking Exercise Variety

News supporting exercise variety:  Hip Exercises Found Effective at Reducing, Eliminating Common Knee Pain in Runners, Study Suggests
ScienceDaily (June 7, 2010) — A twice weekly hip strengthening regimen performed for six weeks proved surprisingly effective at reducing -- and in some cases eliminating -- knee pain referred to as patellofemoral pain (PFP) in female runners.
Beyond the direct evidence of hip-strengthening for treatment of PFP in runners in this study, to me there are wider implications for training.  The body needs to be used and exercised with a wide variety of challenges for optimum fitness and injury avoidance.  This variety should include a number of ways.

First, no single exercise is so good that it's all you need.  Second, movement should occur in multiple directions, not just the predominant front-to-back(sagittal plane) motion.   Third, for a particular exercise use a variety of implements(dumbbells, medicine balls, etc.) or for running, a variety in environment, such as trail running. Finally, do exercises involving the entire body, not just one part.  Your body will adapt to the tasks you give it, either with increased strength and mobility, or loosing muscle mass and flexibility where it isn't used.  Don't let this happen.

These concepts are part of Functional Fitness, one of my numerous posts about it is Functional Fitness and Vitamin D in NYT.  For a simple home hip exercise see my post Just Standing- Back Health and Weight Loss

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sprouts and Sports

My best food discovery lately is growing my own sprouts.  The process is simple, takes only a few days for results, and the product is both great tasting and great for you.  Plus a sprouted seed is about as fresh as it gets.

The very complete and informative Sprout People states that alfalfa sprouts are 35% protein and a source of vitamins A, B, C, E, K plus calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc.  From nutritiondata.com it looks more like 50% protein.  Pretty good for a green plant in any case, and they're low fat.  The seeds of many different plants are available for sprouting with similar healthful qualities.  My favorite is the "spicy mix" mix of alfalfa, clover, radish, fenugreek, which has a delicious blend of sharp and mild flavors.

I use a half-gallon canning jars from Palo Alto Hardware for growing.  On top of the jar goes a metal screen and a plastic ring to hold it in place.  I got my first seeds from Common Ground in Palo Alto, then the rest of the seeds and the other supplies from Sprout People.

The growing procedure is simple.  In brief, put some seeds into the jar, put on the screen lid, and add water to soak.  Then for a few days rinse and drain- the screen lid makes this is very easy. Sprout People sells sprouters that make it even easier, although I like the glass jar so I can watch the seeds grow.

From a small amount of seeds a huge amount of fresh sprouts emerge ready for sandwiches and salads.  Once they're grown I put them in the refrigerator and just grab a ready-to-eat handful to use.

The photos are at 24 hours, 5 days, and 6 days.  Two spoonfuls grew that much sprouts.




Summer sports season is here, so a few words about sports massage.  I recommend that massage be between events or workouts to help with recovery and to prepare for the next time.  Massage immediately after heavy exercise can help with muscles that are tightening, but should be fairly light to not add any extra stress to the muscle tissue.  Note that "flushing lactic acid" is a myth.  A body that's tight and unbalanced doesn't perform well, and that's where skilled massage can make the most difference.


From the New York Times, Diet and Exercise to the Extremes is an article about an elite vegan marathon runner.  I'll bet he eats a lot of sprouts!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bike to Work 2010

Thursday it is again Bike to Work Day here in Silicon Valley, a time to celebrate and promote bicycle commuting and all things bike!

I love riding to work, for shopping, and for fun.  It provides good cardio-vascular benefit and just being outside is very healthful.  Then there's the whole 'green' thing- no oil consumed and no pollution created.  As a final benefit, a bike rider doesn't have to worry about paying for parking, or here in Palo Alto, exceeding the free two hour time limit in one space.

Bicycling does have limitations as a fitness method though.  For a commuter or casual rider these probably won't matter, but consider them if you ride extensively.

First is that bent-over posture most bikes put you into exacerbates the harmful position of sitting at a desk or in a car.  I wrote about that last year in Happy Bike to Work Day  Next, cycling works a limited number of large muscles in a single constrained pattern.  The synergists, or muscles that assist and stabilize the large prime mover muscles, don't get engaged, and neither does the rest of the body.

Finally there is the lack of weight-bearing stimulation(except for your butt.)  It is natural and essential for the body to support its own weight and be able to pick up and move other things against gravity.  Not only do the muscles and coordination needed for this get neglected on a bicycle, but the bones will not be strengthened the way they would if you were exercising while on your feet.  In the extreme, professional cyclists actually show decreased bone density from their sport.

These problems are even worse for stationary bikes.

I'm all for bicycling for commuting, pleasure, and exercise.  Just make sure that the exercise benefits of cycling are combined with the benefits of other weight-bearing and full-body challenging work.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mothers Day and Massage

Happy Mothers Day everyone!

I'm a bit behind keeping up with blogging, so this will be brief, but I want to bring up two great things about massage today.

First is that massage is a wonderful and much appreciated gift.  Nothing says "relaxation" more than a massage.  On the practical side for late gift-givers, on my main business website Positive Massage Therapy a gift certificate can be purchased with Paypal, and I can even email the certificate as a PDF file for speedy response.  I can also print it on nice paper at Kinkos, but that takes a couple of days.  I'll put a custom message on it as well.

Second is that massage is even more appreciated and beneficial for a Mom-to-be.  Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on a woman's body with which a massage can help.  There are a lot of health benefits too, but I don't quite have time to list and explain.  For today, what matters is that women love it!

While my main professional focus is sports and orthopedic work, it's nice to do some relaxation work, and helping an expectant mother with a prenatal massage is always a privilege.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chair Massage at Palo Alto's Vivre Fitness This Week

Tomorrow and Friday(5/5 & 7) mornings I'll be doing complimentary chair massage at Vivre Fitness and Wellness in downtown Palo Alto for club members.  Vivre is celebrating its anniversary this week with this and other perks.

If you're not a member, this is a great time to join a very friendly gym.  In any case, stop by and say hello.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just Standing- Back Health and Weight Loss

More articles on why standing is better than sitting, plus an exercise that will help:

Stand Up While You Read This!
Your chair is your enemy.

It doesn’t matter if you go running every morning, or you’re a regular at the gym. If you spend most of the rest of the day sitting — in your car, your office chair, on your sofa at home — you are putting yourself at increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a variety of cancers and an early death. In other words, irrespective of whether you exercise vigorously, sitting for long periods is bad for you.
The always interesting and thorough New York Times writer Olivia Judson gives this lively overview on the topic of not sitting.

Can’t Stand to Sit Too Long? There’s a Desk for That
Although standing up all day seemed better for his back than sitting down, the real pleasure was in being able to change positions over the course of the day. A moveable desk lets him do that; whenever his body threatens to stiffen into a single aching pose, he switches to another.
The chair is the chair, what can be done?  You can compensate, by occasionally sitting on a stability ball, or, purchasing an adjustable height desk.  My favorite part is the mention that it is the ability to change the method of using the desk, not just finding a single perfect position and holding it, that provides the benefit.  That's why sitting on a stability ball is good- they make you move around a bit.

Weighing the Evidence on Exercise
"In a completed but unpublished study conducted in his energy-metabolism lab, Braun and his colleagues had a group of volunteers spend an entire day sitting. If they needed to visit the bathroom or any other location, they spun over in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, in a second session, the same volunteers stood all day, “not doing anything in particular,” Braun says, “just standing.” The difference in energy expenditure was remarkable, representing “hundreds of calories,” Braun says, but with no increase among the upright in their blood levels of ghrelin or other appetite hormones. Standing, for both men and women, burned multiple calories but did not ignite hunger. One thing is going to become clear in the coming years, Braun says: if you want to lose weight, you don’t necessarily have to go for a long run. “Just get rid of your chair.” "
This article is primarily about how exercise helps, or doesn't, with controlling body weight.  The gist is that exercise isn't so good for losing weight, but is great for keeping it off.  At the end was the paragraph I quote above, offering yet more evidence for my Don't Sit Down campaign.

A Simple Standing Exercise
Sometimes the exercises I describe are advanced and require gym equipment.  The one leg step down is an easier one that can be done at home and that works those standing muscles, including the ones needed for lateral(side to side) stability and movement.  Plus, it improves balance.

Stand on the bottom step of a stairway, facing sideways, with one foot on the step and the other hanging above the floor.  Hold the rail at first, but work on balancing without using your hands.  Lower the unsupported foot to the floor, lightly tap, and raise it.  Try to get the hips tilting up and down to work the abductors.  Keep your weight back and torso upright.  Do up to 20 repetitions, then turn around and do the other side

This exercise works the muscles needed for leg and hip extension- glutes and quads primarily, but the unusual part is the emphasis on leg abduction.  The abductors are the muscles on the side of the hip connecting the pelvis to the leg.  Stand with your arms akimbo* and your hands are on them.  Even people who know what the abductors are often think of them only in terms of moving the leg sideways, and they do.  Their primary role however is to stabilize and control the lateral angle between the leg and the pelvis(frontal plane) while the leg is pressing on the ground.  Stand on your right leg, and the right abductors prevent or allow the hips to tilt sideways.

As you get stronger, try 3 taps on the floor- to the front, out to the side, and then to the back.  Imagine that straight down is the center of a clock dial and tap at 12, 9, and 6.  Also really work at elevating the side of the hip when you raise your foot. For fun, kick the leg out to the side as it is raised, and bouncing up on the front of the standing foot.  If you can still do more than 20 reps, bravo!  you're ready to buy some iron(weights) or start going to the gym.

 *A chance to use the word "akimbo" is not to be wasted!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Play Soccer, Have a Cherry-Beet Sports Drink, and then a Massage

Cherries for Recovery
Here are a few recent articles on interesting fitness topics:


Marathon Runners Should Pick Cherries for Speedy Recovery

Cherry Juice May Prevent Muscle Damage Pain

Tart cherry juice is a well known folk remedy for arthritis and other aches and pains, and it's good to see science supporting and exploring its use.

Beetroot Juice Boosts Stamina, New Study Shows

Will this be the new acai?  Will it be banned from the Olympics?  How do beet juice and cherry juice taste together?

Soccer Reduces Risk of Falls and Bone Fractures, Study Finds
An extensive research project has studied the effects of soccer on muscle strength, postural balance, bone mineral density and reflex response to a sudden push in the back among adult women and men. Five scientific articles are now being published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports showing that regular participation in soccer increases both bone mass and bone density, causes a significant improvement in standing postural balance and improves muscle strength. Together, these effects reduce the risk of falls and bone fractures.
Soccer is a great example of exercising the entire body in a wide variety of movements. It doesn't just require moving quickly, but changing speed and direction quickly, shifting weight, coordinating moving the body and reacting to external stimuli (the ball and other players).  This is very much like the ideas of functional fitness, including exercising while standing, and doing exercises involving the entire body.  Plus, it's fun and social, which is very motivational.

Note this one bit in comparison to running:
Interestingly the short- and long-term training effects on bone mineral density were greater for the soccer players than for a similar group of runners and an inactive control group.
While running is great in many ways, it does lack variety.  Do some cross-training if you run, especially weight training.  Through the rainy season here in Palo Alto I've been using a treadmill on days too soggy for bicycling(I loathe riding in rain) and have fun tossing around a medicine ball and pulling resistance bands as I move.

Shopping for Happiness? Get a Massage, Forget the Flat-Screen TV
This isn't strictly about massage, but it does support the value of the experience beyond the direct health benefit.

Image by Sujit Kumar

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bodywork and Statins

From the excellent blog Happy Healthy Long Life I have learned that the common statin Crestor has been approved for use in healthy people for prevention.  Statins are a class of drug used for treatment of high cholesterol.  This new ruling may substantially raise the number of people who take this already very common type of medication.

Where this matters in the realm of bodywork and fitness is that possible side-effects of statins include muscle aches and pains, muscle injury, and peripheral neuropathy.  If you have, or your client  presents, non-specific muscular complaints then statin use should be considered a possible cause.  Inform your doctor, and get approval for massage or exercise. Your doctor should be informed immediately especially if there is severe pain, swelling, or dark urine.  In the extreme, a life-threatening condition known as rhabdomyolysis may exist and emergency care is needed immediately.

With minor symptoms, massage and exercise seem to be safe if not done too strongly.  In severe cases, either may exacerbate a dangerous condition and should be avoided.  In all circumstances, the information offered here is neither expert nor complete- it is just to increase your awareness.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pain, Habits, and Our Favorite Exercises

Which would you prefer- to stand or walk in a way that hurts or doesn't hurt?  How about doing an exercise where you're clumsy or weak, or one you can do really well?  Finally, would you rather do a tedious chore while you think about something else, or one that requires constant mental focus?

For most of us the answers are avoid pain, do what we do best, and ignore tedium.  When it comes to improving our bodies though, more work and deliberate action are needed.

Injury and Pain
Avoiding pain is called antalgia.  Specifically this means adopting a gait(walk) or posture(how we stand or sit) that reduces or eliminates a particular pain.  For example, if the bottom of a foot hurts we take very short steps with that leg and put as little weight on it as possible.

The pain is an important signal from our body that something is wrong, and may mean that you should consult with a doctor(and remember, massage therapists and personal trainers usually aren't MDs.)  When there is trauma to the body, such as closing a garage door on your foot or dropping a kettlebell on your knee, as this therapist has done, it is important to let the injury heal and to consider medical attention.

While the injury is healing, antalgia will discourage you from stressing the damaged tissue.  It is hardly necessary to mention how powerful the reflex to avoid pain can be.  Here's the problem:  Avoiding pain can be so reflexive and constant that an entire new method of moving(ie antalgic gait) or standing(ie antalgic posture) becomes habitual and unconscious.  The body's urge to avoid pain can be so strong that even after the injury has healed the new dysfunctional habit remains.  Most insidiously, the new habit can actually feel "normal."

To the Gym
If you're really good at the bench press, you haven't been paying attention to this blog!  (Sorry, that was humor.)  OK, so if you're really good at the bench press, but lousy at deadlifts, that indicates that the deadlift and other posterior chain exercises are where you should focus.  Instead of continuing to develop what is already strong, for fitness and health everyone should be focusing on where they're weak.  Even for sports where particular actions are dominant, balanced strength is important. Sure, we have more fun doing our favorite exercises, but it's the difficult ones that bring improvement.  Do both!

Next, when we lift a weight, do we use exactly the same amount of force with both hands or legs?  Not likely, although doing so is an important goal.  Either the load is lifted a bit off center if it is a bilateral exercise, or one side lifts less or with worse form if it is a unilateral exercise.  Perhaps the handle on one side of the chest press machine is pushed harder, or your body tilts more while doing dumbbell curls with one hand than the other.  This is where I mention the importance of awareness when exercising, and scold again not to use most machines because they conceal imbalances(some machines don't though, and rehabbing an injury is where they may be valuable.)

Exercises that are done often, maybe for years, become grooved into our neuromuscular system so they feel natural, and we enjoy the feeling of competence from performing an act we think we do well.  And if we can pick up 50 pounds our usual way, but only 40 pounds in similar but "abnormal" feeling way, there is a strong tendency prefer the way where more weight gets lifted

Back to antalgia for a moment.  When there is an injury, what do you suppose happens to the muscles that would normally act on the injured site?  They do less work to avoid causing it to hurt, and for a muscle, doing less work means getting weaker.  To paraphrase, "The weak get weaker and the strong get stronger."  Some movements and exercises get easier, some get harder.

Two Plus Two Equals Three
Putting these tendencies together, we get "compensation."  An injury leads to pain, which leads to faulty movement, which leads to weakness, which leads to compensating with another part of the body.  Sometimes by favoring a different limb, sometimes by using synergists(muscles which would normally assist the movement) instead of agonists(the stronger primary muscle for the movement.)

The sequence works the other direction too- An area of weakness, a reliance on synergists, or loading a joint in a dysfunctional way can lead to further injury, and the cycle continues.

What to Do
First, to repeat myself, consider consulting with a doctor.  Next, rehabilitating injuries is the realm of physical therapists, so treatment from a PT may be needed depending on the severity of the problem and your commitment to overcoming it.

If there isn't an acute problem or very apparent dysfunction with your body, working with a personal trainer, yoga instructor, or other movement and posture specialist will be helpful in finding and correcting these problems.  A massage therapist or other bodyworker skilled in orthopedics can be very valuable in finding and loosening tight areas, and promoting proper healing after the acute stage of injury.

Finally, exercise and move fully aware of your body.  Look, with the eyes and with internal senses, for asymmetry in movement and strength.  Think about your workout and notice if you are doing the same old exercises or challenging yourself with new ones.  Make sure that you work your body equally front and back, pulling and pushing, left side and right side.  (Note that to overcome existing imbalances, more work in one area may be needed.)  Choose exercises that reveal and require good form, skip those that conceal bad form, and don't cheat.

The result will be more and functional strength, better mobility, and less chance of further injury.  Best of all, a better appreciation and enjoyment of using our bodies.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Anatomy Trains Myofascial Approach and Functional Fitness

A great book for bodyworkers I just finished reading is Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers.  Myers, who originally studied under pioneer bodyworker Ida Rolf of Rolfing fame, explains how the body is comprised of an interconnected system of myofascia.  Myofascia means the combination of muscle(myo) and connective tissue(fascia).  The exciting theme is to consider and treat the body in terms of myofascial lines which include various individual muscles and cross various joints.  It turns out that under the skin, there isn't such a distinct and separate collection of components as traditional anatomy teaches.

For example, the rhombodieus connects from the upper spine to the medial border of the scapula(that's the edge of the shoulder blade nearest the spine).  On another page of the anatomy book would be listed the serratus anterior, a muscle connecting to the same part of the scapula, wrapping underneath it and attaching to the ribs on the side of the body.  Examining the two at once, a single structure is seen- a muscle which starts at the upper spine and sweeps down to the lateral ribcage, with the edge of the scapula attached across the middle.  The two are antagonists, pulling in opposition, but the tissues are physically interconnected and functionally working together to position the scapula.

Where this gets really interesting is comparing the concept of continuous "trains" of muscles and fascia to the concepts of Functional Fitness.

Functional Fitness, or Functional Strength, is the idea of training the body in ways that are usable outside the gym in sports and everyday life.  One of the main precepts of Functional Fitness is to exercise the entire body in multiple directions simultaneously.  This is contrary to many common exercises and especially exercise machines.  Many exercises are designed to isolate individual muscles and to specifically not use the rest of the body.  This is fine for a competitive bodybuilder concerned only with appearance, but not very useful and potentially harmful for everyone else.

Anatomy Trains and similar myofascial techniques teach us not to isolate muscles in bodywork, just as Functional Fitness teaches us not to isolate muscles in our workouts.  It's how we're built.



I have some bananas ripening for banana walnut cookies I'll make soon.  Clients coming to my Los Altos office Friday and for a few days after will get one with their massage.  To put cookies into perspective, read this article from The New York Times: In Obesity Epidemic, What’s One Cookie?  Apparently considering one food item in isolation is less important than looking at the entire diet.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Variety, Napping, and Fitness

Previously discussed have been the benefits of exercise on mental abilities, so for contrast here's a study showing the benefit of napping on the brain.  The exercise research is much more thorough, so if there's time for only one I suggest exercise- just be sure to get adequate sleep at night.

Behavior: Napping Can Prime the Brain for Learning

The New York Times, February 22, 2010

I think the napping study supports the idea that the body and mind need variety for optimal functioning.  Just as it is important to get up from your chair and move occasionally, even if you sit with excellent posture, breaking up a day of working the brain with an afternoon nap intuitively makes sense.

Exercise simillarly needs variety.  This can be expressed as doing different routines instead of the same exercises every workout, and as doing exercises that use your body in a variety of ways simultaneously.  Consider variations on the pushup.  Alternate workouts of putting your hands on different unstable surfaces such as a bosu one day and a suspension device(such as TRX) the next gym day, and hands on the floor and feet on something wobbly still other times.  Of course my readers know that all machines except for the cable-pulley type should be skipped, and one reason is that they completely eliminate variety in how you move.

It seems safe to speculate that variety in exercising will challenge and boost the brain, just as it benefits the body.  Exercise with awareness, changing and improving your workouts, and build brains and brawn at once.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Massage protocol and dressed up dishes

Here's a bit of massage protocol advice:  Please don't get undressed or on the table before meeting with your therapist.  In my office this has never been a problem, but it can happen in more "high volume" environments.

Therapists want to meet you before they start in order to ask some health questions and the reason for your massage.  Some of us want to observe things like posture and gait to get an idea about your condition.  Most of all, we want to make a personal connection before beginning treatment.  And to be frank, it is a bit insulting for a client to assume they are getting some generic massage and generic massage therapist so there's no need to actually talk with them before they start.

If the establishment tells you to get on the table without meeting your therapist, take your business elsewhere.

There are also some logistical snafus that can be avoided.  Several times I've seen or heard about people lying undressed on the table waiting for an absent therapist.  In a gym spa where I once worked there a was a woman who considerately took a shower before her massage, and then stood around wrapped in a towel cold and wet while her therapist finished another treatment.  It is possible there is a reason why you cannot receive a massage.  A receptionist should prevent these sorts of problems but don't always, and many massage businesses are too small to have a front desk person.

Wait for your therapist and chat for a moment, and you'll have a much better massage.


On my balcony the peas have finally begun to produce pods.  The plants grew quickly and blossomed but have taken their time making vegetables for me.  I was about to start eating the leaves and stalks, which I've had from the farmers market and know to be good(tastes like snow peas, surprise).

My two calendula plants are looking good and are giving me large if not abundant blossoms.  They are welcome guests at my winter dinner table.

New nasturtium seeds have been planted, and I've kept the best looking plants from last year to see if they will continue to thrive.  Some plants are from seeds I've bought, others are seeds shared from a neighbor.  Nasturtium blossoms are quite tasty, and if I get an exceptional crop I'll pickle the buds.

Chefs and junk food manufactures know the value of making food visually interesting.  For someone such as myself who eats a lot of grains, legumes, and other plain foods, tossing some edible flowers on top is a great way to liven up a meal.  From what I've researched flowers don't have any significant nutritional value, but nutrients aren't the only reason to eat.  For someone with limited growing space they are an efficient garden option compared to vegetables.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More Science Supports Barefoot Running

The latest study on running barefoot or with minimal footwear is a compelling argument against wearing standard running shoes:
Barefoot Running: How Humans Ran Comfortably and Safely Before the Invention of Shoes
"People who don't wear shoes when they run have an astonishingly different strike," says Daniel E. Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University and co-author of a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature. "By landing on the middle or front of the foot, barefoot runners have almost no impact collision, much less than most shod runners generate when they heel-strike. Most people today think barefoot running is dangerous and hurts, but actually you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the skin of the foot. Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes."  Harvard University. "Barefoot Running: How Humans Ran Comfortably and Safely Before the Invention of Shoes." ScienceDaily 1 February 2010."

My skepticism about barefoot running has been based on the fact that although shoes aren't natural, neither is pavement, and one might be needed to compensate for the other.  This study completely refutes that objection.

The authors have an extremely informative and readable website on the topic, with lots of details and suggestions.  I haven't run for many years because it was too hard on my body.  Maybe it is time to start- at least I won't need to buy shoes.

Being a massage therapist, I'll add one more perspective to the mix- If you start barefoot running, please take extra time to clean and care for your feet before you get a massage or any other service where someone may be handling them.  The reason is obvious.  On the plus side, it also occurs to me that with the feet getting aired out instead of being stuffed into shoes, plus getting a good exfoliation from the sidewalk, feet which might otherwise smell will actually improve in the hygiene department.

Monday, February 1, 2010

More Exercise is Better

Excelsior!

The San Francisco Chronicle today has the article More exercise better in long run, study finds.

"A scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Williams has put together the world's largest study on runners, and the evidence found over 20 years of research points to an important conclusion: When it comes to exercise, more is almost always better."
Public Health messages are designed to maximize the benefit for the largest number of people, and primarily those at low end of the health curve.  They are presented as minimums and simple rules, and try to not be so challenging that people will ignore them and do nothing.  Thus we have house cleaning considered exercise.
"But Williams' findings haven't exactly caught on with the mainstream public health gurus.

It's not that they disagree with Williams' findings. But doctors and public health officials worry that with half the country not meeting the current guidelines, even talking about running 50 miles a week will intimidate folks who aren't doing anything."
OK, if you're completely sedentary, set a goal of taking a 30 minute walk 3 times a week.  And then make it a brisk walk, then do it for 45 minutes, then add a cardio class at the gym...  Rather than trying to meet the minimum amount of exercise, keep pushing yourself.  What Williams shows that there isn't an amount of "enough" exercise, but that there is constant improvement in health available.  And everyone, even if you already exercise regularly and at a high level, can benefit from the same approach.

The other point brought up is that running is studied because it is easily quantifiable and a large number of people do it.
"He decided to focus on runners because they're an easy group to follow - they usually know exactly how much exercise they get, in terms of miles run, and they can gauge their fitness based on race times."
Weight lifting, kickboxing, power yoga, and many other forms of exercise will serve, but make sure the intensity level is high enough to provide a workout.  (Or do them in addition to deliberate cardio exercise.  More is better!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Opinions from Other Professionals, and More Reason to Not Sit

Frequently my clients are receiving, or have received, advice and treatment from other health and fitness professionals about an issue also presented to me.  The other professional could be anyone from a pilates instructor to an orthopedic surgeon.  This is great- we all have different perspectives and the client gets a broad range of advice.

It is always a pleasure to hear "That's just what my doctor/chiropractor/physical therapist/personal trainer/yoga teacher said!"  Despite the differences in our education and roles, we often say the same thing.  It's nice to know that we're all in sync, and hopefully this motivates the client to follow our advice.  By no coincidence the proper form for lifting a barbell, holding common yoga poses, or sitting in a chair is quite similar.  After all, you are using the same body.

A yoga teacher may tell a student to "open your heart" in a pose, and a strength coach may say "make your chest big" while doing a lift.  Both are describing good posture.  Both are also making a suggestion about an emotional outlook, although different ones(but complementary, yin and yang.)  A physical therapist or I might say to keep the shoulders in line with the torso, not in front because that could over stretch the muscles of the upper back and impinge nerves in the shoulder.  The client ends up getting the same alignment recommendation in very different contexts.

Occasionally my opinion differs from another expert's.  The difference may be because of what the client has told us, goals we are given, or it could be an actual disagreement.  In those cases I try to show some humility and make sure that the client understands that what I say is just my opinion, albeit an opinion based on my training and experience in bodywork.  I explain my reasoning, and I always make sure to explain that my opinion is not medical advice.   Further, if there is ever a conflict between what I say and what a doctor or other more highly trained professional says, then the other's counsel takes precedence.

Still, when a client told me that he had been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis by a podiatrist and asked for my advice, after I gave him a long explanation and treatment plan for the the condition I had to smile a bit when he exclaimed "I should have come to you first!"  Even when I know less, because I may have more time to speak with the client I can end up looking smart.

Whether there is agreement, disagreement, or, most often, different areas of focus, we're all working toward improving your health.




The essential distillation of my fitness advice is Don't Sit Down.  This simple rule both guides selection of useful exercises, and reminds to get up and stretch frequently at work, keeping you functionally fit and flexible.  From the New York Times, the article Too Much Sitting Shortens Lives, Study Suggests gives another reason.

Think about being at the gym, and consider this quote from the article: “For many people, on a daily basis, they simply shift from one chair to another — from the chair in the car to the chair in the office to the chair in front of the television”  Don't add "the chair on the exercise machine" to the list.  Instead stand, jump, hang, or roll around to work out.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Famed Strongman and Vegetarian is gone

A famed strongman died yesterday after being hit by a van.

At a Mighty 104, Gone While Still Going Strong
"Joe Rollino once lifted 475 pounds. He used neither his arms nor his legs but, reportedly, his teeth. With just one finger he raised up 635 pounds; with his back he moved 3,200. He bit down on quarters to bend them with his thumb."
The New York Times, by MANNY FERNANDEZ and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

Joe was also a professional boxer.  A more complete profile of this amazing man from his 103rd birthday.

Joe was a vegetarian his entire life.  So much for any suggestion that eating meat is needed to be either strong or tough.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

News on Shoes, Sun, and Fitness

Here are some recent articles on topics of interest at Positive Massage.  There's a common theme:  Less artificial and more natural is more healthful for us.


Vitamin D deficiency increasingly common 
Erin Allday, San Francisco Chronicle, January 9, 2010
"Today, research suggests that vitamin D does much more than help build strong bones, and the findings come at a time when a high number of people are no longer getting enough of the nutrient, doctors say." "Aside from its well-known reputation for building and maintaining strong bones, vitamin D could be tied to cancer prevention and cardiovascular health... 'It helps boost your ability to fight infection, and it also reduces some destructive inflammation in your body, including inflammation with periodontal disease...'"

I'm fascinated by vitamin D because it seems to show such a strong confirmation that being outdoors is good for us.  The article mentions both supplements and sunshine, but of course I prefer the more natural sunlight method.  The subject is more extensively blogged in my post Vitamin D, Sunlight, and Health and is mentioned in a few other places in this blog.

The Vita Myth  Do supplements really do any good?
By Emily Anthes, Slate

"During the past few years, study after study has raised doubts about what, if any, good vitamins actually do a body. They could even pose some real medical risks."

Popping pills doesn't seem to be a good way to get healthy.  This article does mentions vitamin D as something which some(postmenopausal women) may need to supplement.  I guess that means I can stick with sunshine.


Running Shoes May Cause Damage to Knees, Hips and Ankles, New Study Suggests
Elsevier Health Sciences (2010, January 6). Running shoes may cause damage to knees, hips and ankles, new study suggests. ScienceDaily

It seems that in the quest to protect the feet, more stress is being put on the rest of the leg.  Although support, bracing, padding, etc may be needed to recover from trauma, long term they can cause weakening and dependency, and possibly increase the chance of future injury, and, as the study shows, just move a problem somewhere else.

Going barefoot or using footwear that closely emulates being barefoot is a hot topic in fitness right now.  To be fair though, there's nothing natural about a concrete sidewalk, so I think there's a lot more to learn about when shoes and what kind are appropriate.

I've heard the same thing(but not seen any research) about shoes for weightlifting.  I do regret springing for a fancy pair of sneaks last year.


Long-Term Physical Activity Has an Anti-Aging Effect  
American Heart Association (2009, December 2). Long-term physical activity has an anti-aging effect at the cellular level. ScienceDaily

Stay fit, live longer!  Bodies are made to move!