Monthly Archives: March 2015

The Importance of Stretching

We all know stretching is important and can feel the ill effects of not stretching in our daily lives.  So why is it that this is the most neglected component of physical fitness?   Maybe because we can’t see flexibility?  Or maybe because we are so focused on losing body fat?   Whatever the reason, we need to bring flexible to the fore front.  Without the ability to move your muscles through a full range of motion, you are more susceptible to injuries,  and balance and coordination are impaired.  If you’re looking to build muscle, you’re muscles will only grow as large as your fascia will allow (sheath of connective tissue covering your muscles).  If your fascia is tight it will hinder muscle growth. One way you can squeeze some stretching into your day, is take a few minutes to stretch while sitting at your desk.  As trainers we see more often than not, clients whose anterior deltoids and pectorals are shortened as well as their hip flexors.  This is due to extended periods of time sitting and leaning forward. Stretching by Bob Anderson is one of my favorite books on stretching.  Below is a quick routine for stretching at your desk.   I highly recommend you add this book to your library! stretchingbanderson Title Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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The Incredible Hip

hip_anatomy_posteriorview

Our body’s frame is made up of hundreds of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  As you know, our muscles contract and lengthen as they move our bones, all of which would not be possible without joints!  There are a few different types of joints, and they each perform a different action.  The simplest is a hinge joint, which only moves in one direction. Your knees, fingers, toes, and elbows are hinge joints.   The saddle joint, as in the thumb, ankle, and wrist, are examples of gliding joints.   The spinal column is made up of synovial joints.  The most versatile joint is the ball and socket, found in the shoulder and hip.

The hip is the most flexible of all the joints (except for maybe the shoulder) and can perform in multiple planes of motion.   Unlike your knees, ankles, fingers, or elbows, the hip joint can flex, extend, abduct, adduct, as well as internally and externally rotate.   The hip also supports our body weight and the force of our largest and most powerful muscles of the hips and thighs.  If you start to lose the strength and/or flexibility of this joint, you will soon begin to experience problems not just in your hip but also your low back and knees.  The hip is meant to be a mobile joint while the knee and lower back are meant to be stable.

The most common cause for decreased strength and range of motion through the hip is too  much sitting.   We were not meant to spend our days sitting.  A sedentary lifestyle will lead to muscle atrophy, shortening of your ligaments and tendons, and a decline in balance.  In response to the immobility of the hip joint, the low back and knees will begin to be stressed.  This typically causes people to move even more infrequently, which leads to low back and knee problems.  Low back and knee pain are the two most common complaints we hear with new clients.  Your trainer can help you improve your strength, balance, and proper function of this very important joint.   In the mean time, here are some tips to help keep your body functioning properly:

  1. Move!  If you have a desk job, get up each hour to stretch your legs.
  2. Take the stairs.  The Gluteus Maximus is the strongest, largest muscle in your body.   You need to keep this muscle strong in order to support your lumbar spine and stabilize your knees.
  3. Stretch the muscles of the hip in all directions.   Don’t just stretch the hamstrings and glutes.   The muscles responsible for adduction and abduction as well as internal & external rotation need to be stretched too.
  4. Incorporate functional exercises into your workout.   Functional exercises work the smaller stabilizing and balancing muscles.
  5. The following exercises will strengthen the muscles of the hip:  Squats, dead lifts, kettlebell swings, lunges, side steps, box jumps, and bridges.
Keep your abdominals pull in and knees positioned over toes as you lower body.  You will naturally lean forward, but keep your chest lifted.

Keep your abdominals pull in and knees positioned over toes as you lower body. You will naturally lean forward, but keep your chest lifted.

Improve Your Mood With Good Nutrition & Exercise

image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Depression is difficult for anyone to deal with and your doctor can prescribe medicines or herbs to help in your battle against this debilitating condition.   Studies have shown that exercise and certain nutrients can help with the effectiveness of these medications.   Below are a few helpful tips to start you on your way to happier, more energetic days!

First be sure to eat at least 3 balanced meals and a couple of snacks throughout the day.  This will help to maintain your energy levels and keep your blood sugar from dipping too low.

Low calorie diets can reek havoc on your mood!   Dropping below 1,000 calories per day will reduce your intake of tryptophan, an amino acid needed to produce serotonin.  Lower serotonin increases depression.

Omega 3’s can also help to reduce depression.   You’ll find this in cold water fish (Salmon), soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed, and eggs fortified with omega 3.

Cut back on caffeine.  This will interfere with sleep and can increase anxiety

Eat GOOD carbohydrates.   We’re not talking about white bread, and sugary snacks here!  Get a good serving or two of brown rice, whole grain bread or cereals, fruits and lots of veggies.  This will increase your serotonin levels; strive for 130g per day.

Exercise Daily!!   Any exercise at all.  It doesn’t have to be lifting weights, or a 45-minute cardio session.   Going for a walk, gardening, a bike ride, any movement at all helps to alleviate stress.   A cardio workout that gets you into your target zone (use your heart rate monitor!) will release endorphins; a peptide occurring in the brain tissue that acts like an opiate and increases the pain threshold.

Eating right and exercise can help in dealing with depression but you do need to see your doctor and get support from family and friends as well as a professional.