Long-Slow Distance Cardio

First off, it has been a little bit since my last check-in.  I have been busy with licensure testing, changing a few details professionally, and jumping right into some continuing education.  All those things, plus I have been coaching a high school lacrosse team in the area.

I was kicking back, sipping on a nice cup of coffee the other morning, reading over some “professional development” type material, when I came across a post along the lines of “why do long slow distance aerobic work?”  That  post of course got some great professional feedback, but it got me thinking too.

Most of what I was reading in terms of feedback was along the lines of: why indeed?  Now, I like bang for the buck type exercise regimens.  I feel as though we do a really good job of accomplishing both anaerobic and aerobic work in a relatively short period of time on a daily basis at our facility.  By using simple concepts like HIIT in our lifts we are able to develop strength and power via resistance training at appropriate, demanding percentages; and, also tax the aerobic system at the same time.  We also incorporate a conditioning portion after the lift that works usually on some type of lactic or alactic interval (think Certified Conditioning Coach)  in the preseason phases.

But where can we fit in the long-slow distance type conditioning???

This is where I reflect back to my magical weekend at IFAST, listening to Joel himself hurl information grenades at all of us innocent Performance Coaches.  In a very organized manner, he managed to explain to us how to use each concept that he has written about in books like “Ultimate MMA Conditioning”.  Long story short, one cannot sustain all out lactic intervals 7 days a week for very long.  This makes sense, right?!

With all the concepts in strength and conditioning regarding the importance of the nervous system, this should be a no-brainer.  Simply put, sometimes it is just better to let your foot off the gas pedal, slow down, and let your body (and nervous system) relax.  Let’s find that parasympathetic state for once in our training year.

Now that both sides of the continuum are screaming at me, let me elaborate.  First off, no, I do not think that you should be performing long-slow distance aerobic conditioning all year round–unless your sport is running a marathon or the Tour de France in which case you still shouldn’t do it on consecutive days.  Will you see strength and therefore power decrements as a result? Maybe.  Will you be introducing a new variable into your training regimen? Absolutely!  Cooling the jets for a few weeks will not have an absurd impact on strength/power/muscle fiber type.  But, it may afford you the potential to get even better because you let the body experience a new stimulus.

Personally, I don’t like long distance cardio.  I get bored with it, unless I am chasing a ball or object.  Cycling is more doable, but still, the struggle is real.  However, when no one is watching, I will jump on the Assault Bike for about 45-60 minutes and get in a good cardio sesh.

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Cueing Through the Ground With Push-ups and Planks

When working with clients, there is a tendency on planks and push-ups to just hang out on the shoulders. This is fairly incomplete and doesn’t allow us to take full advantage of the exercise. With the management of overhead athletes as well as general population clients, we all need proper coordination through our upper extremities.

At first, the thinking is everyone knows how to plank, right? Eh, not so much as it turns out. The big-ticket items are making sure that we have a neutral spine, or have manipulated the position to target what we are after. Then we want the entire body under tension; things like the six pack, quads, butt, etc. We have made sure that the eyes are lined up with our fist to protect our shoulders in the basic plank. But, we can’t stop there! Are our shoulders under tension? How can we better the time under tension?

 

A huge muscle that goes unnoticed by most people and doesn’t get the care it necessarily needs is the serratus anterior. Big Latin words. This muscle starts on the ribs just under the armpit and kind of looks like the serrated edge of a knife. Hence the name. The muscle then courses under the shoulder blade to the inside border closest to the middle of your back. It is responsible for holding the shoulder blade down flush to your ribcage as well as giving it the proper mobility it needs to reach your arm overhead. Without this muscle firing properly, we would (and some of us have) experience shoulder impingement, rotator cuff tendonitis, rotator cuff tears, biceps tendonitis, bursitis, and any other form of itis you can think of in the shoulder region.

 

Traditionally in physical therapy, we throw a patient down on a treatment table, tell them to reach for the ceiling with one straight arm, and repeat this exercise x10 multiple times throughout the day. This is called a serratus punch and is a fairly non-functional exercise. It is designed to just get the serratus working again. What if it isn’t causing trouble yet? How can we make it functional?

Here is the simple answer! Especially in the warm up when we are performing planks and push ups to get ready for the rest of the lift we can cue everyone to push their arms through the floor. Getting that little extra reach will get that muscle working really well and with repeated bouts of this, we have taken control of most of our shoulder problems.

New Year; Back to Basics

We have made it to a new year.  First and foremost, Happy New Year! Let 2017 be the year for everyone.

In this first week, we have already heard all the questions regarding fine-tuning fitness and nutrition (will beet juice be the best option for me to reach my improved endurance–undisclosed baseball pitcher).  This is where I have to inevitably redirect the conversation to the basics.

  • How much water are you consuming daily?
  • How many hours of sleep are you getting?
  • What time are you going to bed at night?
  • How many vegetables do you consume in a day?
  • Why are you still pitching from a mound in November and December?

The misunderstanding is that the athlete’s must think they are rhetorical.  Most times by the second question, the jaw will drop and there is silence.

Sleep is probably the best recovery tool we have in our arsenal and the best part is that it’s free!  Take advantage of this.  Life happens sometimes, we understand, but make it happen.  Get your best attempt at 8 hours daily.  Research has shown that getting less than 6 but more than 9-10 will make you more obese than your counterparts that get 7-8 hours.

Get to sleep before midnight.  Those hours of sleep that you get before midnight are twice as beneficial as those after midnight.  Why?? That is still unclear.  We could speculate that maybe it has to deal with your primitive sleep-wake cycles and how pineal/melatonin intervention plays a role.

Drink water plain and simple.  Even if you “need” some sort of flavor just drink the water. Studies have shown that drinking 100-120 fluid ounces of water daily is beneficial to clearing metabolic waste products and improved metabolism.  Other studies have shown a more complicated method which is essentially your body weight in ounces cut in half (i.e. 200 pound individual converts to 200 fluid ounces cut in half would equal 100 fluid ounces of water daily).

Eat your veggies.  They are packed with micronutrients that will help in the recovery process.  If you want to get better suck it up and eat them.  The more colorful the better.

Stop year-round throwing programs please.  Give your arm a break and allow us as Sports Performance coaches to bring integrity back to that shoulder and elbow.  This is preventative in the sense that tendonitis, tears, synovitus, bursitis, and surgery are at an alarming high in youth sports.  There are probably a number of reasons why, but sometimes we just need to demonstrate common sense.  If I work in a meat packing factory and do the same task over and over what do you think the outcome will be?  Funny thing is they wrote an entire manual about it back in the 1980’s.  I know that pitching isn’t the same as cutting meat repetitively, but the principle is the same.

We could definitely get pretty in depth about different modalities, but this a simple list that we can start with.  Get some consistency here before we start fine-tuning.

Cons to All-Year Sport Specialization

It’s been a while since I last posted!  This summer has been crazy. We moved our facility to Gametime Sports and Fitness in Lowell, merged with SLS Fitness, increased the amount of space that we had available and as a result increased the amount of athletes we were able to work with.  It was a super fun transition and definitely a learning experience.

With all of these new changes, we were exposed to a number of new challenges with our athletes.  It seems like not so common sense that kids shouldn’t be playing the same sport all year round especially at the younger ranks.  Early sport specialization has been an uphill battle in the world of physical therapy and strength and conditioning, but the only thing we can do is urge kids not to do it.  Often times when I present to parents for our in-house workshops I say something along the lines of, “…I strongly encourage kids to play a different sport once baseball is done kind of like a strongly encourage you to wear a parachute when jumping out of an airplane.”  That will get a few chuckles, but the kid is in pitching the next day anyway.

What could possibly go wrong?

Good question.  Maybe we are being too conservative?  Maybe your kid is a freak athlete like the character “Spike” in the movie “Little Giants”?  Unlikely.  It isn’t just anecdotal, conservative babble either.

Lacrosse is a prime example.  In this area it has begun to take shape and kids are running around town with their “twigs” trying to be the next big star.  Awesome!  I love all that lacrosse has to offer in terms of it isn’t hockey and it gets kids outdoors.  The problem resides in how the kids will hit the ground running and play all year round.  They have their school teams in the spring, their club teams in the summer, fall ball in the fall, and indoor in the winter.  Here is a movement screen I did recently with one of my high school lacrosse players who has committed to play for a good, Division I college.

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See anything wrong?

While playing club over the summer, he had a tear in his Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL).  The first thing I thought when I heard this was, great it isn’t your ACL.  Nonetheless, the PCL is a necessary component to knee integrity and checking movement of the tibia (shin bone) on the femur (thigh bone).  His first big request like all other kids is to be able to accelerate better.

Plan of attack:  We finished the FMS and did some other non-ballistic testing to see where he was at.  Next we programmed foundational exercises so that his movement quality was up before we started giving him the big strength and power exercises.  It is truly amazing how quickly the strength and power numbers go up once you develop a good foundation!  As a side note, and I can’t express how crucial this is, I couldn’t have performed a movement screen or any other tests on this athlete without the okay from his physician.  Even as a DPT, it is paramount that I follow the wishes of the M.D. so that I stay within the scope of my practice.

To this point we have just begun working on sprint technique and form, but have remained semi-conservative with our strength-speed/power work.  Do no harm is the mantra, and in this case, don’t hurt that athlete more than what they are presenting to you with.  It may not be sexy or sleek to perform planks, KB deadlifts from a raised platform, or corrective exercises.  But, if it gets them safely to their goal without causing further damage, that is what we will do.

 

In-Service Presentation

Recently, I had the pleasure of reciting an in-service presentation to a host of physical therapists, physical therapy assistants, and physical therapy aids as well as occupational therapists.  It was a great experience and well received which is why I’m sharing it here.  Take a couple of minutes to check it out and leave any feedback that could help in the future.

Thanks!!

PNS presentation

One Size Does Not Fit All

This is a guest blog post from Kaylie who is finishing her undergraduate work at Cornell as well as a collegiate athlete as a gymnast.  Kaylie is a phenomenal co-worker, a super intelligent up-and-comer, and a great team player.  Enjoy!

“If this diet worked for her, shouldn’t it work for me?“ “Why am I performing poorly eating the same diet as John who is full of energy?”

 

As a competitive gymnast and nutritional sciences student, I am always attending nutrition lectures and team nutrition meetings. Often times, I come out of the nutrition session more confused and frustrated than when I entered the room. One nutritionist will say “eat this, not that” and the next one will turn around and tell you the complete opposite. One of the most frustrating aspects of nutrition, in my opinion, is that there is no magic bullet “right and wrong” diet that works for everyone equally. Food and nutrition articles are becoming an increasing trend in the media and people are often left misinformed and overwhelmed with all of the contradicting information.

 

I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Julie Burns—current sports nutritionist for the Chicago Blackhawks and founder of SportFuel, Inc, an integrative wellness and consulting firm and Eat Like the Pros ®, a customized local and sustainable organic meal delivery service. Ms. Burns takes a holistic approach to nutrition and considers a client’s sleep, daily life stressors, and gut microbiome composition in her personalized nutrition plans. Her lecture was different from typical sports nutrition sessions. She was up front and honest in saying that there is no “one-size fits all” diet. Despite all of the nutrition researchers and professors in the audience, she confidently explained how sometimes a diet should not work for an athlete according to the hard science, but for some reason they perform and feel their best on it and that is fine with her. Her recommendations were refreshingly realistic and open for personal customization. I felt I could actually use her guidelines to improve my performance and overall health without feeling like I am cooking and eating all the time, which has often been my experience with other nutritionists.

Here are a few takeaways from her lecture that I found to be both helpful and easy to follow as a collegiate athlete. Whether you are a serious athlete, an active adult, or someone looking to revamp your diet and exercise before bathing suit season, I hope you find these tips as helpful, user-friendly, and customizable as I do.

 

  1. Aim for 3 colors in each meal and fill half the plate with non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, salad greens, squash and tomatoes.

 

  1. Aim for 6 handfuls of veggies per day.

 

Some ways to accomplish this:

  1. Location is everything! Place vegetables in convenient locations; replace the candy bowl with a bowl of veggies.
  2. Add greens to smoothies; if it is not convenient to buy fresh greens often, you can buy powdered greens at grocery stores such as Whole Foods or Wegmans.
  3. Add spinach, tomato, and cucumbers to sandwiches or wraps.
  4. Bulk up breakfast with veggies and eggs; simply sauté some veggies and make an omelet, or even easier, an egg scramble.
  5. End dinner with greens tossed in vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
  6. Spiralize squash and zucchini for a pasta alternative; again, to save time and energy, Wegmans sells pre-spiraled veggies in their produce department.
  7. Eat a combination of raw and cooked vegetables; lightly cooking or steaming vegetables can unlock extra nutrients and increase the amount of nutrients the body can absorb.
  8. If you don’t like vegetables or tend to have intestinal troubles, try fresh pressed juice—you can add fruits such as apples to drown out some of the vegetable flavor and the smaller amount of fiber in the juice is gentler on the intestines than raw vegetables.

 

  1. Include healthy fats to maximize absorption of vitamins and minerals. Some foods with healthy fats include:
    1. Wild cold water fish such as salmon
    2. Avocado
    3. Chia seeds or ground flax
    4. Sprouted nuts and seeds
    5. Raw pumpkin seeds
    6. Good olive oils: unrefined, cold pressed, dark bottle, refrigerated
    7. If you do not eat cold water fish, include a clean essential fatty acid supplement

 

  1. Eat clean protein.
    1. Sprouted nuts and seeds
    2. Full fat, organic cultured dairy; full fat leads to better glucose control, but only if organic because toxins are stored in fat
    3. Cold water wild fish
    4. 100% grass fed foods
    5. Pasture raised eggs, turkey, and chicken

 

  1. Select whole food carbohydrates instead of heavily processed and refined carbohydrates.
    1. Winter squash (acorn, butternut), white potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, spaghetti squash, beets, and berries

 

  1. Eat fermentable fibers.

 

Fermentable fibers are beneficial for improving gut health. They stimulate the production of good bacteria in the colon and inhibit inflammation by improving the protective layer in the lower gut.

 

Fermentable fiber foods include garlic, onions, artichoke, asparagus, beets, celery, kale, spinach, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, apples, avocado, berries, pears, and mangos, among others.

 

Lastly, a few general reminders:

 

  1. Drink water!! Without proper hydration, your body cannot perform at its highest level!
  2. Calories are the #1 priority for athletes before the composition of the diet; you need to be eating enough to have energy for your sport!
  3. Avoid food shaming; focus on what you can eat rather than what you can’t

 

For more information on Julie Burns visit:

http://www.sportfuel.com & http://www.eatlikethepros.com

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Sports nutritionists get Stanley Cup rings, too! It’s heavier than you think!

Recovery Strategies

In many conversations with clients/athletes it has become clear that once they’re done with the training session, they are done thinking about training in general.  They may be motivated to eat something “healthy” to stay consistent with the day, but that really is the extent of it.  As a performance coach, it would be reckless and lazy if recovery weren’t addressed with the population I am working with.  As such, here are some of the tools that I use generally.

Breathing

For most of my adult client groups, I will use different breathing strategies towards the beginning of the workout.  This will allow them to leave the workday at work and not bring it into the gym.  For the general population you can start to program different tempos for breathing, but that may be a little overkill for someone who doesn’t know how to engage their respiratory diaphragm in the first place.  Belly breathing is quite simply done by lying down on your back, placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, then trying to fill only the hand on your belly without letting the hand on your chest rise.  This is a little bit of isolation type movement, but it is pretty effective at getting people out of their overly sympathetic tone from work or life.  If someone is having trouble doing this, their is a pretty cool trick that I learned in PT school that is called the “sniff” test.  Simply ask the individual to sniff as if they were sniffing like a dog.  You will get raised eyebrows and questions, but once they get what it does it becomes rhetoric.  You can progress the belly breathing series by rolling over and doing “crocodile” breathing or play around with tempos to get different reactions.

Breathing can and should also be done at the end of a training session.  Recovery happens in a parasympathetic state.  All this means is that if you’re stressed, high-strung, ready to go postal, you will not recover very well.  If after a training session we sprinkle in some breathing techniques, it should help to facilitate that relaxed, parasympathetic tone.

Nutrition

This is such a basic tool that everyone can use, and yet, most don’t or at least don’t do it well.  There are a number of supplements on the shelf that come with a varying amount of integrity attached to each brand.  These are just as the name implies: supplements.  This means if you’re not getting enough in your diet then use it.  You can usually find out what the recommended daily intake (RDI) is for each micro/macro nutrient by simply going on the internet machine and searching.

That being said, depending on who you are you can time your nutrition appropriately with the right content to get the result you want.  For recovery purposes, usually getting in some protein after a workout is a pretty simple start. If you dive into different resources, they will tell you that you need a certain amount of grams of protein per kilogram of body mass every certain amount of hours, but let’s get real.  Just eat some protein or take some sort of protein supplement to aid the recovery process along.  You can also add in any other micronutrient source that you may require (vitamins, minerals, creatine, etc.).  It also can’t be stressed enough, eat veggies!  If you refuse to eat veggies then you refuse to reach your goals.  Kind of a blunt truth, but it is the truth.  When asked I usually recommend the more colorful types of vegetables.

Based on some of the above reading, we know that the real recovery happens when in that relaxed state.  So nutritionally, how can you influence relaxation?  Simple.  There are a number of different things that can be done to aid the recovery process.  My favorite is to have some sort of chamomile based tea at the end of the day.  This helps to relax the system and also has been shown to bring individuals to a deeper sleep which is the ultimate relaxation.  Melatonin also helps to achieve that deeper sleep in individuals, and can be purchased at virtually any health store.

Water may be one of the most paramount nutritional ideas to recovery out there.  When you’re dehydrated you run the risk of increased inflammation, decreased blood volume (carries all those important nutrients), increased cramping, decreased affect (mood), decreased nerve conduction velocity, decreased short term memory, etc.  These are all pretty important for the athlete or the professional adult.

Sleep

This is probably the number 1 recovery tool and the easiest/cheapest.  There are so many mechanisms at work when you sleep.  As mentioned previously, this is the ultimate relaxation tool, again, where we recover.  Hormonally, we see a surge in anabolic hormones (the ones that make you recover).  Interestingly too, there are some mechanisms at play that weren’t all that known previously.  The fluid that encases the spinal cord and brain, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), normally is produced and recycled at a constant rate, however, when you’re sleeping the process actually speeds up helping to clear the system of toxic metabolites.  What does this mean?  Well the nervous system (brain and spinal cord being mega players) is what sends messages to the muscles to move.  When those metabolites build up they create a toxic environment for the system and can create a whole host of issues.  The resulting inflammation has been correlated with many chronic diseases which ironically are also usually stress related too.  The magic number of sleep hours appears to be about 8.  That means eight hours of sleep, not 8 hours lying in bed, so watching the television while in bed doesn’t count.  Also, there is some new research coming out saying that obesity is associated with greater than 10 hours of sleep per night.  I don’t even understand how you can have that amount of time to sleep and am completely envious of whomever has that kind of time.

Environment

There are also some pretty cool tricks that you can do to influence your environment to aid in the recovery process.  Different scents and oils can be used to get a better night sleep or even just relax.  Lavender oil appears to have the ability to do this and if you don’t want to invest in essential oils you can simply buy the airwick with lavender oil.

Also, as mentioned above, watching T.V. in bed doesn’t count as sleep.  How can we eliminate this potential distraction?  Remove the television from the bedroom if possible.  Seems like a simple answer, but when you confront people on this it is amazing how much resistance you run in to.  Television, tablets, computers, and especially smart phones display via blue light.  Blue light stimulates the wake cycle in the old noggin and has negative consequences for sleep quality.  If it is a must to use these things before going to bed, invest in some cool orange safety glasses at your local hardware store.  This is a neato trick that I learned at a conference a year ago from a pretty smart individual.

Take a nice warm shower roughly 10 minutes before bed.  This has also had a very positive influence on achieving deeper sleep in individuals.  If you are one of the sick and twisted individuals who enjoy cold showers, disregard this information.

Some recent research also correlates cleanliness with getting better sleep.  Having a clean environment, specifically your bedroom, you have less to think about.  Because you have less to think about, you fall asleep quicker which enables you to get a longer, deeper sleep.

Wrap up

These are just a few options that you can use or pass along, but they’re extremely cheap and efficient.  Most people just need to fulfill one or a few of these steps to see almost immediate results.  Feel free to comment anything else that is simple and works well.