Athletic Development for Ages 8-13

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Athletic Development for Ages 8-13

How can you safely increase speed, agility, and strength with young athletes?

Should young athletes train?  It's a question we get all the time.  The answer is.. absolutely!

And we don't just say that because it's what we do.  

If you look at the science, you can get the most improvements in athletic ability working on performance training during "Peak Height Velocity".  This is the time that your son or daughter is growing at their most rapid rate.  It's a short window that has a large impact on their long term athletic development.

The main thing is that it's done right!  

  • Not in a basement with an old weight set.
  • Not at a big chain gym with a pack of other kids
  • And certainly not applying the same training as we do with high school athletes

Athletes between the ages of 8-13 need:

  • Coordination and Balance
  • Proper Running Technique
  • Mobility and Body Control
  • Stability and Strength
  • Proper Nutrition and Rest

Our Athletic Development Program focuses on all these attributes to build a better athlete and we do it in a way that is fun.  The training will look and feel like games and challenges so the athletes will want to get to the gym.  It's not only our job to train our young athletes but to make sure they have fun in the process.  This builds a lifetime of health and activity.

Please reach out if you have questions on this program: coachfrankdolan@gmail.com 

If you are interested in signing up your young athlete or know someone who could benefit from this program... click on the button below to receive schedule, pricing, and sign-up information.

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What's Really in Your Food

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What's Really in Your Food

For most people, reading the ingredient label on their foods is a lot like reading a foreign language. Sure some of those ingredients you can’t even begin to pronounce are harmless (like 3-Dehydroretinol or axerophtholum, both are just fancy ways of saying vitamin A), but some of those sketchy sounding ingredients have been linked to a multitude of health problems—including tumors, hormonal issues, and cardiovascular disease.

Here’s a short a list of some of these additives big food companies use as fillers to boost their bottom line:

 

Potassium Bromate: Found mainly in breads, this is a powerful oxidizing agent that chemically ages flour much faster than open air. Interestingly, potassium bromate is illegal in China, the European Union, Canada, Brazil and elsewhere because it has been shown to cause cancer in rats and mice. It is even listed as a known carcinogen by the state of California. However, the United States, or more specifically the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, still allows potassium bromate to be used in foods.

Alternative:

Your best bet for avoiding potassium bromate is opting for sprouted grain breads that are preservative free, such as Ezekiel bread or sour dough.

 

Propylparaben: Found in many bath and body products, as well as some foods. It has been shown that propylparaben has deleterious effects on the endocrine system, disrupting the body’s natural hormonal balance. One reason is that it acts as a weak, synthetic estrogen, which can cause a decreased sperm count in men. Another ill effect from endocrine disruptors is the onset of early puberty in both boys and girls. Over the past several decades, endocrinologists have noticed girls as young as eight years old begin to exhibit breast development and pubic hair growth, and young boys having breast development.

Alternative:

Look for paraben free foods and bath products, such as these.

 

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA): Found in… well, seemingly found in everything most health enthusiast work to avoid: potato chips, lard, butter, cereal, instant mashed potatoes, preserved meat, beer, baked goods, dry beverage and dessert mixes, chewing gum, and other foods. The list goes on but you get the point. What is it? Well, it’s a food preservative. It’s another one of those chemicals which California, and the National Institute of Health, has deemed carcinogenic for humans, mainly because it has been found to cause tumors. The European Union also classifies it as an endocrine disruptor. Interestingly, vitamin E can do all the preserving of BHA (minus the cancer), but is not as stable as BHA under high temperatures. That is not to say it cannot be done, it would just be a bit more difficult and costly.

Alternative:

Stick to all-natural snacks like ones you can find at Naturebox.

 

Diacetyl: A chemical used for butter flavoring, like in that of popcorn, and also found in yogurt, cheese, and maple flavoring. The negative effects of this chemical are pretty significant, including the association with bronchiolitis obliterans (a lung disease causing shortness of breath and a dry cough), which is typically an irreversible respiratory illness.

Alternative:

Like the other chemicals listed above, opt for a natural, organic, or raw version of whatever it is your eating that contains diacetyl.

 

Some other chemicals to avoid:

  •             Aluminum
  •             Nitrates/nitrites*
  •             Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  •             Propyl Gallate
  •             Phosphate Food Additives

*New research is finding certain levels of nitrates/nitrites may actually be beneficial for some people due to their blood thinning effects.

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Master the Kettlebell Swing

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Master the Kettlebell Swing

swingsetup.png

The Set Up

Setting up for a kettlebell swing should resemble the set up for a deadlift. Feet should be positioned about shoulder width apart, spine should be neutral, and shoulders should be externally rotated for proper posture. 

While maintaining a neutral spine drive your hips back to engage the hamstrings. Bend over at your hips while maintaining a flat back and keeping the shoulders engaged. 

Just like in a squat, your shins should remain vertical as you reach end-range. When grabbing the kettlebell it is important to set the shoulders in the right position by creating torque through external rotation. The best way to do this is to imagine the handle of the kettlebell is a bundle of pencils you are trying to snap in half. To maintain good position as you rise up, continue to drive your knees outward and raise your hips.

The Swing

Deallift the kettlebell off the ground and return to a standing position. In order to reset your body into a neutral and braced position extend your hips by squeezing your butt. Continue to pull your shoulders back by trying to “break” the kettlebell, and create tension through the lower body by screwing your feet into the ground, just as you would for a squat or deadlift. 

Initiate the Kettlebell swing by simultaneously sitting your butt back, driving your knees outward, and hinging forward through the hips.  

To power through the rest of the swing drive your hips forward into your forearms. While keeping your arms tight to your body, explosively extend the hips. Do this properly by keeping your weight evenly disbursed over the center of your feet while extending the knees, hips, and fully squeezing your glutes all at the same time.

At the top of each swing you should experience a moment of weightlessness. At this point it is important to reset the hips and spine into a neutral position by squeezing your glutes and driving your shoulders back.

Common Faults

Shoulder Fault

Shoulder Fault

Shoulder Faults

Poor posture and failure to set up the swing properly will commonly lead to the shoulders defaulting to an internally rotated position.

Mobility correctives:

  •  Soft tissue work on the anterior and posterior shoulder, specifically around the border of the scapular and underneath the clavicle.
  • Manipulate your grip by grabbing the outside of the kettlebell handle. This gives you some leeway if you perform this fault, but remember this is not normal. You must address mobility issues so you can avoid scaling movements. 

Head Faults

Head Fault 1

Head Fault 1

This is a common fault that typically occurs for one of two reasons: 

An athlete sets up for the swing correctly but attempts to fight the downward momentum of the swing by throwing his head back to avoid falling forward.

 

Head Fault 2

Head Fault 2

Coaches will often use a cue such as “head up” when having someone perform the swing. The coach may either be unsure of how the movement should be done correctly or may be using this cue in an attempt to correct someone’s downward head fault. Either way this miscommunication will often lead to one of these head faults.

The key for fixing either of these scenarios is to have the athlete keep his head neutral and watch the ground about five or six feet in front of him. This allows the eyes to stay on a fixed area while the head continues to move with the rest of the body and maintain a neutral spine. 

Hip Faults

The hip fault tends to occur in people who have a weak lower back, are either unable to or fail to generate tension throughout their body, or are fatigued towards the end of a set. As you can see, this fault looks as if I’m trying to chase the kettlebell underneath my body with my torso. This fault can be avoided by properly setting up for each set of swings, taking advantage of that moment of weightlessness at the top of each swing (mentioned earlier) to reset the hips, and remembering to start and finish each and every movement with good position. 

Hip Fault

Hip Fault

 

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Master the Squat

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Master the Squat

The Squat

When beginning any functional training program, one should take the time to properly learn some of the fundamental full-body movements that are commonly used in exercise.  

The Set Up

The Set Up

While the stance for a squat can vary depending on your fitness goals, the stance that works for most people who are either trying to improve health or athletic performance is positioning the feet just outside of the shoulders. Your feet should be straight or slightly pointed out, however excessive external rotation of the hips in the starting stance will typically leads to an improper squat and can potentially be a clue illuminating a limiting factor hindering your squat performance. To create tension through the hips and trunk prior to lowering, squeeze your glutes tight and brace your trunk as if you are about to be punched in the gut. By “screwing” your feet into the ground, just as you would with your hands in a push up, you can maintain tension throughout the hips and trunk during the decent into the bottom squat. This helps to encourage a neutral spine through the full range of motion. 

Lowering Phase

Lowering Phase

As you lower into a squat the most important thing to do is keep your shins as vertical as possible. You’ll notice similarities between the push up and the squat. Just as it is crucial to have the forearms completely vertical during a push up, it is equally important to do the same with your shins during a squat in order to load the hips, hamstrings, and quads rather than the much smaller and weaker knees. From the top, start by centering your weight over the front of your ankles and begin to reach your butt back, initiating the movement with your hips. At this point, with shins still vertical, drive your knees outward.

Bottom Position

Bottom Position

  As you reach full range of motion your hips will sink slightly below your knees. To maintain posture and stability continue to “screw” your feet into the ground and drive your knees outward. Holding this tension throughout the body is key for generating higher rates of force during the stand or push phase of the squat. 

Push Phase

Push Phase

Continuing to use your feet and knees has tension drivers, rise out of the squat by simultaneously extending your hips and knees. The positions of lowering into and pushing out of a squat should look the same: neutral spine, feet straight, shins vertical, and knees out.  Once back at the top of the squat, reset your neutral position by squeezing your glutes tightly, so to prepare for the next movement.

Common faults

There are many faults that can be seen in a squat, such as the very common “duck feet” fault meaning your feet are pointing out greatly. Being able to see these faults makes body weight squats good not only as an exercise, but also as a tool for finding underlying factors that may be hindering performance.  

Knee Cave

This pattern is a great indication for lack of stability through the body. Often this occurs not due to strength problems, but failing to create appropriate tension in the hips by “screwing” your feet into the ground. When you create torque through your feet you can drive your knees outward easily and lower into a squat with more comfort. 

Spinal Flexion

Spinal Flexion

This fault often occurs when a squat is initiated through the spine rather than the hamstrings and hips. By rounding and lowering the spine it becomes unstable and vulnerable to injury. This fault can be due to many reasons including hip mobility, trunk stability, or motor control troubles.  

Knee Forward Fault

Knee Forward Fault

As you reach the bottom of a squat the knees should naturally shift forward, but only slightly so the knees are still positioned over the mid foot. The knee forward position frequently happens when you try to initiate this movement with reaching your knees forward rather than reaching your hips backward. Copious amounts of squats performed like this can lead to significant knee pain and tendinopathy due the knees, and not the weight bearing hips, taking the brunt of the force produced in a squat.  

Correcting the squat:

Mobility: being able to identify a fault you make during the squat can help better pinpoint the limiting factor needed to be addressed. In general, focusing on mobilizing the ankles, knees, and hips are all good places to start. Using a foam roller to target areas like the calves, quads, adductors and hamstrings can help break up any adhesions or “sticky” tissues that may be affecting your mobility. Also tackling the mechanics of the joints themselves by using a multitude of strategies. This article from Precision Nutrition does a great job explaining the benefits attributed to working on joint specific mobility. 

Stability: Deficient stability in a squat is often due to motor control problems rather than lack of strength. By providing active feedback to the body when performing a squat you can clean up some the common faults seen. For instance, take any of the faults above—knee forward, knee cave, or spinal flexion—and apply a feedback technique using resistance bands as seen here; the squat is usually corrected or significantly improved.   

Regressions: This is a short list of some exercises that can be used to either teach proper squat mechanics from scratch or to help reprogram faulty mechanics. 

1.     Walking is just as complex a movement as a squat, requiring the ankles, knees, and hips to work in synchronicity. By paying attention to how you walk (ie: feet pointed out vs. feet straight) you can immediately begin assessing your weak link(s).  

2.     Stepping up onto a bench or other elevated surface demands all of the same mechanics as a squat, only does so in a unilateral form. This allows you to see not only if a fault is occurring, but also if there is an imbalance from one side of the body to the other. By using step-ups to practice: keeping your foot straight, driving your knees out, maintaining the center of you weight over your stepping foot, and keep a stable torso, you can develop proper movement patterns needed to squat correctly.

3.     Heal elevation is a way to perform a squat while encouraging proper mechanics, even if your movement patterns are slightly under par. Addressing movement should always come first, but by simply placing the heals of your feet onto an elevated surfaces you will find it much easier to properly move through the full range of motion of squat while promoting good posture and mechanics.  

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Start Mastering This Key Exercise You May Be Doing Wrong

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Start Mastering This Key Exercise You May Be Doing Wrong

When beginning any functional training program, one should take the time to properly learn some of the fundamental full-body movements that are commonly used in exercise. 

Push up

The Set Up

The Set Up

Starting from your knees, get into a plank position with your hands about shoulder width apart with fingers pointed straight ahead. Feet should be positioned together in order to maximize glute activation, which contributes to a stable and neutral trunk, while performing the movement. To create further tension throughout the arms, shoulders, and trunk, actively “screw” your hands into the floor as if your hands are on a sheet of paper and you are attempting to tear it in half. You’ll know if you’ve done this by looking at the pits of your elbows; they should be facing forward, just like your fingers.

Lowering Position

Lowering Position

To lower properly into a push up it is crucial to keep your weight centered over your hands. This is achieved by keeping your forearms vertical, which protects the elbows and shoulders and maximized the force produced by each repetition. 

Bottom Position

Bottom Position

If lowered properly, the bottom of a push up should consist of vertical forearms and a flat back. Keep your glutes squeezed as tight as possible through the duration of the repetition to maintain this position. 

Push Phase

Push Phase

Just as with the lowering and bottom position, there should be no change in the position of the shoulders or spine during the push phase. Remember to give a full exhale on the way up while maintaining tension throughout the trunk with glutes squeezed and hands “screwed in” until you finish in the top position. 

Common Faults:

Elbows Out:

This is the most common fault coaches will see when clients perform improper push-ups. This position is often adopted due to a lack of full range of motion through the shoulder joints. The elbow out position is a default pattern the body will use in order to perform a push up, but when continually down like for copious amounts of repetitions there is a significant risk of injury to the shoulder joints and capsules as well as to the elbows. This is because in this position the elbows take over as the prime movers through the movement rather than the shoulders. 

 

Trunk Instability:

Another common fault is the inability to maintain tension throughout the trunk during the movement of a push up. This, just as the elbow out fault, can be due to lack of shoulder mobility but more do usually do weakness of the trunk and hips.

Correcting the push up

Mobility:

Since most faults that occur in an incorrect push up are due to lack of mobility, this is a perfect place to start. The two movements to work on expressing full range of motion in are internal rotation and extension of the shoulder joints.  Using a lacrosse ball or baseball you can do some soft tissue rolling to help free up adhesions that may be limiting shoulder mobility.

Wrist mobility can also hinder the performance of a push up and can be addressed in the top of the push up position. From a plank position turn your hands out and around so your fingers are now pointed back at you. If you cannot hold this position wrist mobility may be your limiting factor. You can use a hard ball for your wrists as well, pushing the ball into your forearm while moving the wrist in small circles.

Stability:

Lack of stability either in the shoulders, trunk, or throughout the body is another central cause of the inability to perform a correct push up. Some exercises to practice generating stability in a push up position are:

  1. Get into a plank, setting up as you would for a push up with a flat back and fingers pointed forward. From here practice actively “screwing” your hands into the ground
  2. From the same plank position, hold for thirty second intervals while actively squeezing your glutes tightly.

There are several options that can be used for scaling the push up for someone who is trying to learn proper mechanics and/or still developing the necessary strength needed for performing a proper push up. Here are three that are very reliable in making sure that even though this is a scaled push up, it still encourages proper mechanics.

1.     Place your hands on an elevated surface such as a chair or bench. This makes the movement easier, mainly by lowering the strength demand to perform the push up.

2.     Looping a resistance band around your elbows. Again, this lowers the demand for the push up, making the movement easier to perform. This method has the added benefit of the band actively cueing you to keep your elbows from bowing out and helps to shoot you back up to the top of the push up.

3.     Eccentric push-ups allow you to practice the lowering phase of the push up while not having to yet worry about the push phase. Using a slow tempo to lower into the bottom of a push up creates significant time under tension in the muscles required for executing the movement. This is a great way to develop the strength needed for correct push-ups. 

Some coaches will have clients who have difficulty performing a correct push up do the movement from his or her knees. While this will undoubtedly create a lower demand of strength to complete the movement, it is nearly impossible to squeeze your glutes in this position. This becomes disadvantageous for maintaining tensions through the shoulders and trunk and encourages poor mechanics.  Out on a field in a group training format would be the only time this regression would be appropriate.

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Exercises to Help You Recover

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Exercises to Help You Recover

You learned from the last post that the quality of your rest will optimize the result you get from your training.  As promised, here are some forms of exercise that can help you recover. 

Walking

Walking is the simplest for of active recovery, mainly because it requires nothing more than your body (and the optional pair of shoes). Walking, just like other forms of movement, contributes to the burning of calories, helping to keep the body metabolically active. This means that not only are you getting the desired effects of an active recovery session, but you are also helping to promote fat burning, and a leaner body mass. Taking this a step further, hiking is an excellent way to increase the intensity of a walk, not too much to the point of tough excursion, but enough to get your rate up and increase blood flow more so than a walk in the park. Another added benefit of an outdoor activity like this is getting under the sun for adequate amounts of time, allowing for the absorption of the absorption of one of the most important nutrients we need: vitamin D.

Biking

Going for a bike ride has the same benefits of walking or hiking, just with relatively lower levels of impact on joint. This is something to keep in mind if your hard training sessions call for copious amounts amount heavy joint bearing weight lifting and/or high impact movements such as plyometrics.

Swimming

Swimming, like biking and walking, gets you outside and moving; but swimming has an added benefit for recovery that the latter two modalities do not offer. Swimming allows you to take advantage of the hydrostatic properties of water. Fluid becoming trapped inside tissues is the main cause of inflammation after training. Because the pressure exerted on the body when submerged in water (hydrostatic pressure), fluid is pulled from deep tissues and forced outward towards the skin. Several studies have shown swimming to be one the most optimal ways for optimal recovery from both an anatomical and physiological perspective.   

Foam Rolling

An intense foam rolling session is a fantastic way to perform active recovery as well as maintain the integrity of your soft tissue. Must people who are consistently training, whether for sport or health, will have some “problem areas” throughout his or her body. Digging deep into tissues and trigger points is the only way to rid your muscles of those knots and digging into a foam roller is usually a bit more practical than a weekly deep tissue massage. Foam rolling also increases heart rate and metabolic activity, benefits you don’t reap as much from a massage.

Yoga/stretching   

Although these two are not always inclusive, I like to group them together when speaking in terms of recovery because the end goal is ultimately the same: restore the body and prepare for another training session. By performing a moderately intense stretch or yoga routine as active recovery you are also performing an easy to follow injury prevention workout. By contracting and relaxing muscles, as you do in yoga or in an active stretching routine, you encourage all the things we are looking for in an active recovery workout. Increasing the intensity is fairly simple for both stretching and yoga; simply choose harder poses or positions, increase time spent in each movement, or even adjust the temperature (hot yoga).

Summary

To quickly review, strategically scheduling active recovery workouts throughout your training plan is critical for maintaining your body’s integrity and avoiding things like fatigue, over-use injuries, and decreased performance. By using any of the methods presented above you will help ensure appropriate repair to both your body’s anatomy and physiology, and readiness for upcoming training sessions and/or competition. 

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How Exercise Can Help You Recover

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How Exercise Can Help You Recover

Recovery—Exercise

Recovery is a topic I discuss frequently because it is the thing that allows every person to bounce back after hard training sessions, feel well rested, and ensure consistency with any exercise program. The last time I discussed recovery I talked specifically about nutrition and how to keep up with hydration, nutrient intake, and the implementation of anti-inflammatory and sulfur rich foods. This post on recovery will take a look at some modalities for exercise and movement for optimizing recovery.

How does exercise help you recovery?

The concept of using exercise to aid recovery is commonly known as active recovery, and the goal of active recovery is fairly simple: get things moving. During “recovery days” you are looking to partake in activity that will aid in your body’s repair not only of muscles, but also hormones, nervous system function, and more. The key for performing active recovery is to make sure the activity is low in intensity, but still challenges the body enough to create an increase of blood flow (which, among other things, helps to spread nutrients and enzymes responsible for remodeling, repairing, and rebuilding tissues). This increase of blood flow via active recovery also helps to:

  •             Remove metabolic waste from tissues
  •             Increase oxygen uptake by muscle
  •             Stimulation of parasympathetic nervous system (“Rest and digest”)
  •             Regulate hormone imbalances brought on by high levels of stress
  •             Maintain immune function

By planning specific days during the weeks of your training program to implement active recovery strategies you can avoid things like fatigue, soreness, or even the potential of overtraining. Here is some active recovery strategies you can begin to implement immediately to your training program, and all revolve around one thing: movement.

*It is ideal to spend the same amount of time in an active recovery session as you would during a regular training session (~30-60 minutes).

Next week I will discuss specific forms of exercise to help you recover.... 

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Move and Relax for Better Health

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Move and Relax for Better Health

Move

The relatively new phrase going around the fitness world is something along the lines of “sitting is the new smoking”. As crazy as it may sound, this is a fair comparison. A simple search reveals dozens of studies eluting to the deleterious effects brought on by too much time spent sitting down; one study even demonstrated the link between excessive time sitting and a significant rise in all causes mortality.

This infographic is a bit more aggressive in illustrating the drawbacks of too much time spent in the chair or on the couch.

When I say move, I do not necessarily mean exercise. Of course, exercising multiple times a week using whatever modality you prefer is great for bettering and maintaining your health. Movement however, is even easier to build as a habit because you don’t need a gym, equipment, or to dedicate a full hour of your time towards something. Instead, the only thing you need is, well, your body. After all, movement is to simply allow your body to do what it is designed for.

Try these habits:

If you work at a desk, and don’t want to go to the extreme of creating your own stand-up workstation, you can simply take a break every 30-60 minutes to walk around, do some squats, or take a trip up and down a flight of stairs. The most common response to this suggestion is that constant breaks will hinder the amount of work you get down. Quite the contrary, studies have shown frequent breaks and physical movement increase productivity as well as creativity when working on projects.

Relax

On the quest for a healthier lifestyle, stress is so commonly the number one factor in holding people back. How often have you heard that a healthy mind makes for a healthy body? Although it may sound a bit woo-woo, the mind-body connection has been demonstrated by science to be a very real thing and the health implications brought on by chronic stress in particular are staggering.  

Yet again we return to mindfulness. So often do we wait to see how we feel until we are especially happy, sad, fatigued, or angry. By taking some time each day to be mindful of how you feel is a great way to help pinpoint what it is you may need to work on in order to better manage your stress and reach your health/fitness goals.

Try these tips:

Deep breathing before bed is great way to ensure for a better night sleep. Mark Divine presents in his book Unbeatable Mind a terrific deep breathing exercise called “box breathing”. The protocol is simple 

Meditating for just 10 minutes a day has been proven to significantly reduce stress. By using an app such as Headspace you can easily slip into a guided meditation session.

Take away

All the health/fitness information readily available at your figure tips can easily lead you towards decision fatigue,  “majoring in minors”, or becoming too overwhelmed to make the necessary advances to a healthy life style. Remember patience is crucial in successfully making changes, so keeping a big picture mindset will go a long way to help keep you focused during a marathon transition. To major in a minor simply means t put too much emphasis on little details (ie: should I be eating broccoli or spinach?) instead or concentrating on fundamentals (ie: am I eating vegetables?).  Pareto’s law, or the 80/20 rule, is something just about all health/fitness coaches should be reminding clients. It’s not what you eat/do twenty percent of the time that kills you, but what you eat/do eighty percent of the time. Keeping this in mind will help you to not get down on yourself when you occasionally miss a workout or stray from your meal plan from time to time. Life is short, so make your pursuit for a healthy lifestyle enjoyable by focusing on easy to adopt habits. 

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Drinking and Eating Habits for Best Results

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Drinking and Eating Habits for Best Results

Drink

This is one of the easiest habits to start with because it involves only one thing: drinking water. The catch is, this can easily become overcomplicated when seeing so much information on what water to drink; between so many different water filters, mineral water, structured water, recommendations on how much water you should have... it’s no wonder people become overwhelmed. When trying to truly optimize health and performance the nitty-gritty details on which type of water you should drink can prove beneficial, but when it comes to building a habit and trying to better your health, simply remembering to drink water consistently through the day is a step in the right direction, a step easily taken when you are mindful to your body’s physical signal: thirst.

Try this habit: First thing in the morning after waking up, and alongside every meal you eat during the day, drink a tall glass of water.

Eat

Paleo diet or vegan diet? Vegetarian diet or warrior diet? Fortunately more and more people are beginning to understand the cliché “there is no one diet for everyone.” There are however, some commonalities between just about every diet (except, I guess, fruitarian), that by following, eating healthy becomes a lot easier. For instance, most diet cults agree:

  • Plenty of vegetables should be eaten
  • Protein should be consumed (although the source raises some controversy)
  • Healthy fats are good
  • Fast food and junk food should be avoided

Serving size/portion control is another potentially complex problem that can be turned simple. By following this chart from Precision Nutrition you can easily eyeball how much of what foods should be on your plate.

 

Now we have a basic idea of what to eat and how much to eat, but lets go a step further and revisit mindfulness from the previous post. Just like your body sends you a signal for thirst when you should be drinking more water, your body has plenty of cues for letting you know when to start and stop eating.

Try these habits:

For eating meals: eat slowly, attempting to take 15-20 minutes to eat your meal. This will allow you to be more aware of how you feel during meals and stop eating when you are around 80% full, rather than over stuffed.

For in between meals: Again, being mindful of your body allows you to know when you should eat. Use these easy to guidelines to figure out when your next meal should be:

Immediately after eating
You’re probably still a little hungry. It will take roughly 15-20 minutes to get a sense of satisfaction from a meal. If you’re a fast eater, wait it out before you go for more

One hour after finishing
You should still feel satisfied with no desire to eat another meal.

Two hours after finishing
You may start to feel a little hungry, like you could eat something, but the feeling isn’t overwhelming.

Three to four hours after finishing
You should feel like its time for the next meal. Your hunger should be around a 7 or 8 out of 10 (where 10 is the hungriest you’ve ever been), but may be more or less depending on when you exercised and what your daily physical activity level is.

Not really hungry yet? You likely had too much food at your previous meal.

Four or more hours after finishing
You’re quite hungry, like nothing is getting between you and the kitchen. You’re at 8 or 9 out of 10. This is when the “I’m so hungry I could eat anything” feeling appears.
(Obviously, if you let your hunger get this far you may make poor choices.

 

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Healthy Living through Healthy Habits - Mindfulness

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Healthy Living through Healthy Habits - Mindfulness

When it comes to health, there are some things that just cannot be controlled (age, gender, hereditary diseases, environmental pollution). Fortunately, there is a long list of things that every person can work on towards healthier living. The fact is, there are so many things you can work on to achieve a healthier life style that when most people try an all in approach—say diving head first into a new diet, exercise regimen, and stress management plan—they end up overwhelmed by the seemingly limitless amount of information related to healthy living, and inevitability sink straight to the bottom of the wellness abyss.

There is no doubt that with a burning desire for change, strict commitment, and proper coaching, one can achieve rapid success in minimal time towards his or her health/fitness goals. For the common person however, there is a better, painless, and relatively simple approach that can be adopted. This approach is the building of habits. Habits, in the simplest sense, are ways of behaving; things a person does in a regular and repeated way. When you build a foundation of solid healthy habits, living a healthy lifestyle becomes less like remembering a long to-do list, and more like tying your shoes; little thinking or worrying involved, just doing. Before getting into some easy-to-build habits, there is one prerequisite needed for habits to truly become embedded as behavior:

Patience. Patience is the key for habitual success. Why is patience so important? In 2009 the European Journal of Social Psychology released a study, researched at University College London, illustrating it takes, on average 66 days to build a habit. Using this information is advantageous when creating a realistic timeline for achieving the healthy life-style you desire. Over the next few posts we will recommend habits you can start to work on.  Today we will start with "Mindfulness".

Mindfulness

Taking a moment to be aware of your body is a great habit to start with, especially since this will without doubt trickle down into just about every other habit associated with healthy living. Constantly asking yourself how you feel when doing things like:

·      Going to sleep

·      Waking up

·      Eating

·      Drinking

·      Exercising

·      Working

·      Interacting with people

Allowing yourself to focus on how you feel, both physically and mentally, is going to help you pinpoint what you should be focusing on as habit to build or habit to break.

 

Try this habit: It’s hard to point out a single most distracting thing in our technology driven world, but no doubt cell phones are among the top culprits. When eating, exercising, getting ready for sleep, simply try leaving the cell phone out of reach and be mindful of the task at hand. 

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Maximize Recovery With These Nutrition Tips

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Maximize Recovery With These Nutrition Tips

Recovery is a crucial part of any successful fitness-training program; whether your goal is to increase speed, build muscle, get stronger, or burn fat, recovery should not be overlooked. In terms of training recovery refers to the application of techniques used to maximize your body’s ability to repair itself. There are a vast number of variables that can be accounted for when taking steps towards better recovery, but these can all be delegated to a few key elements. This article focuses on one of those elements in particular—nutrition—and the subcomponents pertaining to nutrition that I find most easily attainable.

 

1.    Hydration

 

Both maintaining daily fluid intake as well as restoring the lost fluids and electrolytes from activity is crucial not only for recovery, but for overall health, performance, energy level, and metabolism. The simple ways to monitor your hydration is by tracking your water intake and monitoring the color of your urine. When refueling with liquids, water should be choice number one, as opposed to heavily sugared sports drinks. Electrolyte replenishment is equally important, as it not only helps rehydrate the body after a bout of hard activity, but also aids in avoiding muscle cramps. Contrary to believe, muscle cramps are rarely due a deficiency in potassium and more likely attributed to decreased amounts of sodium. Certain supplements designed specifically for rehydration can be useful both during and after activity for better recovery. Also, using a natural Himalayan sea salt in things like your drinking water or for seasoning foods, as well as eating foods high in essential minerals, in conjunction with adequate water intake will help to support hydration for proper recovery.

 

2.    Carbs & protein

 

It is important to eat good quality sources of these macronutrients in order to help heal your body, rather than poison it. Carbohydrate intake helps to replenish the loss of stored sugars (glycogen stores) in the liver and muscles, and initiate muscle glycogen synthesis (the formation of glycogen, which is the body’s stored form of glucose) after a bout of hard exercise. Good quality carbohydrates consist of things like yams, sweet potatoes, wild rice, and whole oats. You can think of carbohydrate intake after exercise as refueling the body, and protein intake after exercise as rebuilding the body. Consumption of protein is important to assist with muscle repair. Even if your exercise does not necessarily consist of strength training, and perhaps a long distance run, muscles still break down and need the essential building blocks of the body, amino acids, to help repair the degradation brought on by exercise.  Good sources of protein include free-range eggs, grass-fed beef, wild salmon, and some organic whey/plant based protein powders.

Depending upon your fitness goals, as well as the intensity and duration of your activity, the ratio for the amount of carbs to protein you should consume after exercise will vary. A solution to this is finding a qualified nutritionist to provide you with accurate recommendations.

 

3.    Sulfur rich foods

 

Now we’re starting to get a little more detailed in our recovery. Sulfur is vital for proper functioning of our cardiovascular system, our muscles, and our nervous system, in addition to several other processes. While you can get high amounts of sulfur from consuming good quality proteins such as the ones listed in the previous section, over doing it with the protein may be cause for some digestive stress. To get a better bang for your buck, you should instead load up on sulfur-rich vegetables. This way you’ll not only get the sulfur needed to better recover, but also get a ton of important micronutrients that are important for a healthy body. Vegetables that qualify as sulfur-rich include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, onions, and garlic.

 

4.    Anti-inflammatory foods

 

Rather than taking Advil, Motrin, Aleve, or any other NSAID’s that have long been proven to induce various negative effects on your organs like your liver, kidneys, and GI tract, you can treat your body with naturally occurring anti-inflammatory foods. Similar to taking in sulfur through vegetables, eating anti-inflammatory foods has a synergistic effect due to the immense amount of micronutrients also found in these foods. An article published by Harvard Medical School is a great guide illustrating foods that cause inflammation and foods fighting it. Some other anti-inflammatory foods not discussed in the Harvard article include:

 

Omega 3 Fatty Acids have been widely studied and proven to have a tremendous ability to guard against inflammation. Quality sources of omega 3, other than a good fish oil supplement, are grass-feed butter, avocados, cold-water fish, and organ meats.

 

Ginger, which containing antioxidants found to inhibit the formation of specific inflammatory compounds.

 

Turmeric, also known as curcumin, as been studied plenty. Research has shown this spice to be almost as effective as pharmaceuticals as an anti-inflammatory, minus all the harmful side effects.

 

Your take away here should not be to overwhelm yourself with all of the different modalities for recover, but rather keep it simple.

 

·      Drink fluids

·      Eat good quality carbohydrates and proteins

·      Load up on vegetables

·      Ask for help if you feel you need it

 

Understand that by taking action to do just a few things can have a beneficial and noticeable impact on your recovery and performance.

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Warm-up properly to avoid injury and get the most out of your training sessions

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Warm-up properly to avoid injury and get the most out of your training sessions

Everyone exercises for various reasons. Maybe your trying to bulk up, shed some unwanted weight, train for a specific sport or event, or just live a healthy lifestyle. Regardless of your goal, there is one thing that cannot be denied and that is the importance of a warm-up. Of course, it can get a bit confusing trying to figure out the best way to prepare yourself, both mentally and physically, for an upcoming training session. So, in this article you’ll learn all about why you should indeed perform a warm-up prior to exercise and the best way to warm-up, and some things you should avoid during a warm-up.

Why should you warm-up prior to exercises and training sessions?

When you warm up correctly prior to exercise several things happen that lead to a lower risk of injury as well as an increase in benefits from the training session ahead such as:

Better blood flow. Due to the closure of blood vessels while relaxed, various muscles only receive 15-20% blood flow. As we move our blood vessels begin to dilate, or become wider, allowing the heart to not work as hard to achieve better blood flow to muscles and other tissues throughout the body, leading to less risk of high blood pressure during exercise. After about 10-15 minutes of quality movement, blood flow begins to increase up to 70-75%, blood vessels begin to open, and the temperature of the skeletal muscle rises, which brings us to the second reason for warming up:

Increased body temperature.  Contrary to belief, our muscles are not always fixed at 98.6 °F. Muscle temperature changes based on blood flow to the tissue. Think of your muscles prior to warming-up like a cold rubber band: if you try to stretch one rapidly, there is a good chance it will snap. The same is true for cold muscles. The increase in blood flow, brought on by vasodilatation, and temperature allows better muscle elasticity and makes achieving end ranges of motion easier. Oxygen also becomes more readily available for use by muscle tissue during this process, allowing for more efficient muscle contractions with less risk of strains and pulls.

Hormonal changes. During your warm-up the production of hormones in your body responsible for regulating energy, such as epinephrine, growth hormone, and testosterone (yes, even in ladies) is increased. This allows for energy sources such as carbohydrate and fatty acids to be more readily available for the body to burn during your training sessions.

Mental Focus. Your warm-up allows you time to clear your mind of all the distractions of life that may impede you from focusing on the task at hand: a quality training session. This may sound a bit more philosophical rather than physiological at first but take a moment to think about how complex some of the movements are that you perform in a typical training session. Many of these movements require exceptional amounts of agility, balance, and coordination, and can easily be compromised when appropriate focus is not provided.

How NOT to warm up

Just as it is important to know why a warm-up is important and how to warm-up properly, it is equally important to know what not to do for warm-up.

After understanding why you should warm-up it is easy to see that a major mistake and something to be avoided, is skipping over the warm-up all together and jumping right into a training session.

Static stretching. If you watch a high school soccer team warm-up for a game, chances are you’ll see some static stretching going on. This routine may involve holding the old butterfly stretch or basic hamstrings stretch for 20-30 seconds. Static stretching like this, or even a more physically demanding form such as yoga, is a great tool for stress management, encouraging relaxation, lowering blood pressure, and helping to improve mobility and flexibility. Stretching sessions and yoga are tools highly recommended for athletes on recovery days, as well as a cooling down the body after a hard training session. Shutting down muscles prior to exercises however, is not the way to warm-up. Many studies have shown that static stretching not only fails to reduce risk of injury, but also limits physical performance in any explosive activities such as running, jumping, and lifting by hampering the amount of force muscles are able to produce during activity.

Strategies for a proper warm-up

Using the rubber band analogy, muscles are always more pliable and durable at higher temperatures. Therefore, in order to make the following warm-up strategies even better, 5-10 minutes of light cardio, such as jogging or biking, prior to warming up will help your body better move through desired ranges of motion.

Joint mechanics. Most movement dysfunctions, such as the inability to reach full range of motion, is not due to tightness of muscles like commonly thought; but due to the inner workings of joints themselves (hips, shoulders, knees, elbows, ankles, wrists, spine). By dealing directly with joints and the capsules they are surrounded by we are better able to free up movement and create stability by keeping the joint from overstretching. To do this, you will often see us having athletes use resistance bands to do one of two things:

1.     Pull joint surfaces apart, resetting the joint into a good position 

2.     Encourage movement through the joint capsule, restoring proper movement of the joint inside the capsule.

Self-myofascial release. Better known as foam rolling, this helps to increase blood flow and temperature to the area being addressed. Foam rolling also helps to restore function to the sliding surfaces between the skin, underlying tissues, and bone. This allows us to free up potential adhesions that may hinder functional movement patterns.

Corrective exercises. The first two categories can also fall under corrective exercises. These are individual low exertion exercises assigned to a person in order to enhance the quality of a specific movement pattern. By using the Functional Movement Screen, we are able to identify such dysfunctional patterns such as asymmetries and imbalances throughout the body and assign the appropriate corrective exercises. These are best preformed after addressing joint mechanics and sliding surfaces, in order to move fully through each corrective exercise.

Dynamic stretching. A contrast to the static stretching, dynamic stretching uses momentum to actively move through positions of end range of motion. Several studies have shown the benefits to performing a dynamic warm-up prior to exercise, such as improving injury resistance, strength and power output, and reaction time.

Picking the right dynamic exercises for a warm up can be tricky so here are 10 tried and true exercises you can use before training sessions and competition:

Handwalks

Toe touch and squat

Leg swings

Walking lunges

Drop squats

Lateral lunges

Bear crawls

Lizard walks

Hip wheel and reach

Skips

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