We should be training for something. We shouldn't just be working out to burn calories. Your workouts should have a purpose. Why are you doing that exercise? Why are you doing that many reps? If the answer doesn’t help you reach your goal you may need to reevaluate your training.
Are your workouts helping you reach your goals?
The quality of your workout should not be determined by how sore you are. The quality of your workout should be determined by how you feel. Contrary to popular opinion, soreness is not related to effectiveness. In fact, sometimes soreness can slow progress. Slight soreness in muscles for 1-2 days can be normal but is typically only caused after doing something new and novel. Pain should never be felt in the joints. Wouldn't it be nice to achieve your goals without grimacing every time you sit down?
Do you measure the effectiveness of your workout based on your level of soreness?
It’s easy to feel helpless after experiencing pain or injury. It’s hard to feel like an athlete once you’re no longer on the team. We get that. We’ve been through it. And we see others go through it daily. Life changes, our bodies change, and our goals change. It’s now more about what you can do to feel better. It’s about continuing to do the things you love like playing with your kids, or going on a hike. We’re here to remind you that you’re not broken.
You’re still an athlete. You’re just playing a different sport now. Train for it.
Many people have developed a fear of exercise. Sometimes this comes from past coaches who punished us with exercise. Sometimes it comes from an overwhelming amount of confusing information. Sometimes it’s because we were taught more was better. Sometimes it’s because we were made to believe that one size fits all. Advise that encourages us to try the workout of the day (even if our body wasn’t ready yet). Sometimes we just need to take our time and listen to our bodies. Sometimes all we need is a helping hand. Someone to treat you like the individual that you are.
We don’t have to fear exercise. Exercise is way too valuable for our physical, mental, and long-term health.
Take the challenge to feel comfortable in your body again.
Foam rolling has been under some scrutiny lately due to the fact that what we once thought it did is no longer popular belief. Its been called the poor man's massage, and with this name came the assumption that it was on par with soft tissue work from a massage professional. Although it has been mentioned that foam rolling will never be as valuable as actual hands-on attention, the differences have never really been clearly explained. Due to this fact, some people are now questioning the value of foam rolling altogether. However, just because it doesn’t do what we once thought it did doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.
It used to be believed that foam rolling created a change within the tissue. A change much like the effects of a deep tissue massage. Following this line of logic, the pressure applied by the roller would produce a chemical reaction that would in-turn create a change within the tissue (breakup adhesions, knots, realign fiber direction, etc). However, many practitioners have explained that the pressure is not great enough, and the absence of a shearing force between layers of tissue prevents foam rolling from having the same effect. If you have ever had a relaxing massage, and a deep tissue massage, you already understand the difference between the two. A deep tissue massage leaves you sore like you worked out the day before. A relaxing massage makes you feel refreshed and renewed. Foam rolling is like a relaxing massage, while deep tissue work will have you feeling the effects the next day. These are both valuable in their own way, just commonly misunderstood.
So, if foam rolling doesn’t create change within the tissue why do we see positive results? Foam rolling moves bound fluid out and new fluid in (increasing blood flow and aiding in lymphatic drainage). With this process comes a renewal of tissue, removal of waste, and delivery of nourishment. All very positive results. However, the most important aspect of foam rolling involves its effect on the nervous system. On a very basic level, the human body alternates between a stressed state (sympathetic) and a relaxed state (parasympathetic). It is this very shifting that keeps us alive and well. The problem is, is that most of us find ourselves stuck in a stressed state with a certain inability to relax. With daily stress, inactivity, and instability, we find ourselves stuck in this state. If we are permanently in a stressed state, recovery suffers, sleep suffers, we compensate with poor movement patterns, and tissues begin to breakdown. This is why it’s so important to find ways to tell our body that it is in fact okay to relax.
One effective strategy to help the body shift back to a relaxed state happens to be foam rolling. Foam rolling uses pressure to basically trick the brain into letting go of artificial tension. When you look at the recent popularity of the Postural Restoration Institute, where this concept is discussed, it makes a lot of sense. Most of us are just neurologically tight and in a bad position. We may not have any mobility or muscle length problems present in the first place. When the nervous system feels threatened it guards us from injury by creating superficial stability (what most would feel as tightness). PRI's method uses breathing to get the body to let go of this guarding. Foam rolling uses pressure to tell the body to let go. Once the nervous system relaxes we gain range of motion and we feel a decrease in tension. With increases in range of motion we get closer to our ideal length tension relationships. These normalized relationships take pressure off of secondary tissues and allow primary tissues to perform at an optimal level. All without stretching one thing.
At the end of the day, if we can get the nervous system to let go of its death grip and give us increases in ROM without even having to stretch, we’re going to program it. Foam rolling is only a small piece of the puzzle and creating change depends on several components within an integrated system. Strategies such as foam rolling, breathing, and static stretching only temporarily create change. What they really do is create a window of opportunity to create lasting change. The real question is what you do with that window.
Still not sold? Lebron is...
Through all my research I have not found an article that has done a better job than "Training the Energy Systems" by the late Dr. Fritz Hagerman. Dr. Hagerman was the exercise physiologist for the U.S. National team for about 30 years. I cannot begin to express my gratitude for his contributions to the sport of rowing. I've attached the document below since it has been rather difficult to find online. If you would like a copy sent to you in an email feel free to contact me.
I profiled a few key points that stood out to me, and that help to define my program, but please take the time to read the article for yourself. There is a treasure trove of information in these 8 pages. It took me about a year of research to learn all of this on my own. You will be saving yourself a lot of time by diving into this piece of work.
1) Use the 10% rule
"Overload the physiological systems, but don't concentrate this overload; follow the 10% rule when starting a training program, meaning an increase of no more than 10% per week in training frequency, duration, and intensity. As training progresses, then the weekly increase can be reduced to as low as 5%"(Hagerman 1).
2) Don't forget about recovery
"Rest and recovery are vital ingredients in the best training recipe; a failure to plan for these can produce disastrous results, including peaking at the wrong time, overtraining, or chronic fatigue. Remember, undertraining is usually never a problem for the motivated rower. If you are unusually tired, injured, or sick, then taking a day or two off should not be considered a serious training set-back"(Hagerman 1).
3) Plan ahead
"It is well known that the timing of increasing or decreasing intensity determines whether an athlete "peaks" at the desired time or not. In addition, if intensity is increased at too high a rate it can lead to overtraining, injury, and fatigue" (Hagerman 2).
4) Emphasize quality over quantity
"Do not interpret the value of aerobic training in only quantitative terms. Every workout, even of a low intensity, must always stress quality" (Hagerman 6).
5) Avoid 30+ minute pieces
"We have convincing data, including muscle biopsy histochemical and biochemical indicators, which support that rowing continuously at a low steady state intensity for 60 minutes or longer for any caliber of rower, is not more effective in maintaining aerobic capacity than 30 minutes of rowing at the same work intensity. Furthermore, performing 2 intermittent 30 minute exercise bouts of relatively high aerobic work intensity...is a much stronger aerobic training stimulus than lower intensity continuous rowing. Intermittent high intensity work not only proved significantly more effective than either 30 or 60 minutes of rowing in the improvement of aerobic capacity, but it was also more neuromuscularly task specific" (Hagerman 7).
No matter how much time you spend training, exercising, or being active, there are always more hours left in the day. Although the amount of time that we dedicate to exercise is very important, we may want to look deeper into how we are spending our remaining hours. Lets take a closer look at an average person that exercises 3 times a week.
Total hours of exercise in a week: 3
Total hours in a week: 168
Total hours not spent exercising in a week: 165
In this example we are spending less than 2% of our time exercising. Yes, I know, a lot of these hours are spent sleeping but I would argue that most of us don't spend enough time there either (as I write this at 1:00am in the morning).
To keep it simple, we are spending 165 hours a week in either a good position, or a bad position. Overtime, the way we hold ourselves throughout the day has a greater impact on our minds and bodies than the 3 hours spent on exercise. Poor posture results in altered body mechanics, decreased blood flow, increased stress levels, increased feelings of depression, and decreased energy levels. Poor posture affects how others feel about us, and more importantly, it affects how we feel about ourselves. All of this results from just walking or sitting in a slouched position!
In a study where scientists studied participants in "high-power" postures vs. "low-power" postures the "high-power" participants experienced a 20% increase in testosterone (power hormone) and a 25% decrease in cortisol (stress hormone). The "low-power" participants on the other hand experienced a 10% loss in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol. Oh, and by the way, these chemical changes took effect after only 2 minutes. What does all this mean? Holding ourselves in a good position makes us happier, more confident, less stressed, and less likely to experience negative health effects including stress related health issues and injuries.
The bottom line: be aware of your posture and body position in day-to-day life and you will notice dramatic changes in how you feel, move, and ultimately perform. The body is powerful...use it to your advantage!
If you are interested you can learn more from the links below:
Nutrition bars, energy bars, cereal bars, meals to go, snack bars… The names vary and the list could keep going on but when you’re staring at a wall of labels, how are you supposed to choose? Which bars are the best snacks as far as taste? If it isn’t palatable, and dare I say enjoyable, will you even eat it or will it eventually just fall to the bottom of the snack bin? What about nutrition? What ingredients need to stand out as little red flags so you can make a quicker decision in the sea of pre-packaged convenient sustenance?
I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to openly admit that I excitedly peruse each and every isle of my local Sprouts Farmer’s Market just to check out all the products. I love going to the grocery store and sometimes I’m really in the mood to read food labels purely out of curiosity. Occasionally, I even buy stuff. I am fully aware that this is not normal behavior. I thought I’d put my weird little hobby to good use when one of my clients asked me what nutrition bars I most highly recommended. She, like my other clients and young athletes, sometimes has trouble deciphering the labels, decoding the ingredient list and navigating the endless options. Here are some tips, tidbits and my personal picks; I hope it helps.
Michael Pollan, author of the popular nutrition book Food Rules, said it best when he advised to “Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.” This rule applies when looking for healthy, nutrient dense food bars.
What to look for:
What to avoid:
Keep in mind that when looking for a nutrition bar in lieu of a snack or meal, a high caloric count with good fats, sugars, minerals and vitamins is essential to properly fuel your body. Whenever possible however, eat real, fresh food over nutrition bars.
If the bar you seek is for post workout fuel, look at the protein source (remember, avoid protein isolates), protein percentage, and carbohydrate percentage. It is optimal to consume something with a 3:1 ratio for carbohydrates : protein.
Bars to Try
Bars to Avoid
Pub Med: US National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7884536
Dr. Andrew Weil
Dr. Chris Mohr and Dr. Kara Mohr
Interested in improving your squat? Here is a great article written by one of the smartest guys I know, Kevin Carr from Movement as Medicine.
Read the whole article here:
View the exercises below: