TREATING YOUR BACK PAIN WITH MOVEMENT

TREATING YOUR BACK PAIN WITH MOVEMENT

Out of all the injuries someone will go through in their life, there is none more prevalent and debilitating than that of a low back or spinal injury. Not only does the injury drain you of your power, strength, and mobility, it can also impact your mental wellbeing, and can be very tricky to fix.  

Many diagnoses come from observing MRI scans, and if something appears “off” on the scan, it is assumed that this specific area of the body must be the source of pain. This presumption could be incorrect for many reasons. First and foremost is that disc bulges are extremely common and very often show up on MRI scans. Researchers estimate that at least one third of healthy, pain free 20-year-olds have some sort of bulging disk in their spine. Not to mention the number increases by 10% for every decade of life. This means that about half of all 40-year-olds likely have a disc bulge yet experience no back pain whatsoever.  

In 2006 a group of researchers collected 200 MRI scans of individuals without any history of back pain. Those who developed severe pain during the study had new MRI’s taken and these results were compared to the original MRI’s. Shockingly, around 84 percent of these individuals who developed pain had absolutely no change in their spine from the original scan. In fact, some people even had improved markers compared to their original MRI. This study proves that abnormality in the MRI does not always correlate to that area being the root cause of pain. This is because it’s very hard to distinguish whether this is a day-old injury or one, they’ve had for 20 years.  

The MRI is also a very incomplete picture of how the spine functions. Most people with back pain experience pain doing different motions. For example, one of my clients with a bulging disk had absolutely no pain when he was standing or walking. However, whenever he bent over to pick something up, he felt it almost immediately. Other clients experience pain in extension, others in rotation, others with a combination of the two. Each of these individuals require drastically different treatment plans, but the only way we would be able to see that is by having them perform these movements. This is one of the very rare cases where a picture is not worth a thousand words. It’s simply a picture, and one we really shouldn’t be placing that much emphasis on. This is not to say to completely throw away the advice of your doctor. In fact, I would argue your doctor should be the first stop along the way to help with the diagnostic portion of your treatment plan. Even if a herniated or bulging disc is not the root cause of the problem, it is still a good idea to get a breakdown of what you’re dealing with. Disc issues can transfer to facet joints in the spine and eventually lead to things like plate fractures or spondolythesis. Always make sure to keep your doctor in the loop throughout your recovery process. If you have not seen any progressions in terms of movement and pain management, or if you are experiencing incontinence (loss of feeling or numbness) in your low body or pelvic floor, it may be time to discuss surgery options with your physician.  

TREATING YOUR BACK WITH MOVEMENT

So, if we want to fix our backs through movement, what can we do about it? In Physical therapy and movement-based therapies such as the ones we perform at LYMBR, we take our clients through something called a Movement Screen. Obviously, all back injuries are different, but most of them fall under the following categories. 

  1. Flexion intolerance (bending over to pick up a box)  
  2. Extension intolerance (arching your back)  
  3. Rotation with extension intolerance (Think golf swing)  
  4. Load intolerance (Think barbell squat)  

Our therapists are trained to help with any of the movement maladies mentioned above. However, there are 3 things you can do that can help no matter what you’re going through. 

1. First and foremost, take a look at your hips. Research has shown that rigid hips are a huge risk factor in the development of low back pain. Stiffness in the hip complex can lead to the spine moving out of neutral alignment during sport or day to day movement. Things like getting in and out of your car can become extremely painful as your tight hips result in the lower spine sustaining uneven forces as it moves into low positions. Another huge portion of the hip complex are the glutes. Many people do not have full access to their glutes due to pain in the hip complex. When we experience pain, the brain shuts down the neural drive to that particular part of the body in order to protect it. Mobility and activation exercises such as assisted hip airplanes, and glute bridges are beautiful corrective movements to help reintegrate the glutes into your biomechanics and assist in fixing back pain.  

2. Once these mobility restrictions have been addressed, you can start to build in better core exercises. I emphasize better because you’re not going to be doing a thousand crunches. In fact, the only three exercises you should be worrying about are referred to as “The McGill big 3”. These exercises were developed by famous Physical Therapist and spinal reconstruction wizard Stuart McGill. These exercises are phenomenal for spinal mechanic coordination, and are amazing for those with back pain as they are performed without placing excess stress onto areas of the back that are aggravated due to injury. Start with the Cat-cow stretch and perform this for 1-2 minutes before jumping into the following three exercises.  (All exercises are demonstrated below.)

  • McGill curl-up: do 3 sets of 5, 3, and 1 holding each rep for 8-10 seconds. 
  • Side plank on the knees: do 3 sets of 3 holding for 10 seconds each rep. 
  • Bird dog: Do 3 sets of 3-5 reps holding each position on each side for 10 seconds. Make sure to keep your back nice and straight and only extend from the hip and shoulder.  

3. Lastly, and this is very important, stop thinking of back pain as a low back problem. Your spine is one cohesive structure, and without all parts working together, you will never be entirely pain free.  Just as the hips can create pain in the low back, restrictions at your thoracic (mid-spine) can be just as problematic. Stretches such as a “prayer stretch” or the Feldenkrais shoulder and neck integrator can be extremely helpful in loosening up the mid back.  

MRI’s can be extremely helpful in understanding the diagnostic breakdown of your body. However, targeting one specific area of pain based on the results of an MRI is what I would call rearranging deck chairs on the titanic. It’s a nice gesture, but this is doing very little to contribute to the solution to the current problem. Addressing the root cause of spinal dysfunction is the best way to remedy pain and promote a healthy, fully functioning body. If you are experiencing back pain, we encourage you to come into our studio for an assessment and stretch with one of our stretch therapists. Our therapists can assist in eliminating any movement and mobility restrictions and get you on the path to recovery. Below you’ll find links to all the exercises listed above, as well as an option to book a session on our website.  

EXERCISES

CAT COW: As you breathe in, arch your back and look up to the ceiling. As you breathe out round your back and drop your chin to your chest. Repeat for 5-10 breaths, do one or two times.  

ASSISTED HIP AIRPLANE: Keep the leg up throughout the exercise. Open your pelvis up and hold for 2 seconds. Repeat going the opposite direction. Repeat this for 5-10 times on each leg. Do it twice.  

MCGILL CURL UP: Bend one leg up, and place that same side hand underneath your low back. In this exercise imagine your head is on a scale. All you have to do is get that scale to read zero. Very slightly lift your head and hold for 10 seconds. Do this for 5 reps, 3 sets.  

SIDE PLANK: Hold for 10 seconds, 5 times. Repeat twice on both sides.  

BIRD DOG: Hold the top position for at least 3 seconds. Do 8 reps on both sides while pulling your belly button towards your spine. Repeat 1-2 times.  

PRAYER STRETCH: You can use a stationary bench or foam roller for this exercise. I prefer a stool or roller chair. Keep your weight back and extend your arms forward. Make sure to keep your weight back as you drop into the stretch or you will fall forward. Repeat for ten reps holding the bottom of the stretch for 2 seconds.  

FELDENKRAIS SHOULDER AND NECK INTEGRATOR: Grab your forhead and rotate backwards, repeat this 10 times on both sides. Breathe in as you turn back. Breathe out as you turn forward.  

Movement is medicine! These exercises and stretches are great to do even when you’re back is feeling really good – be proactive with your health and keep moving.

Written by Conner Fritchley, LYMBR Master Trainer, Darien Stretch Therapist.

Resistance Training As We Age

Resistance Training As We Age

It seems like all too often we hear on the news about older individuals taking nasty falls causing severe damage and trauma. Falls among the elderly population is the leading cause of injury and fatality in the US. In fact, according to the CDC, one in four individuals aged 65 and older report at least one fall per year. 

Loss of Muscle Mass  

There are a variety of factors that contribute to the increased likelihood of elderly falls such as medication side effects, impaired vision, or chronic diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s. However, one of the main reasons is increased frailty due to loss of muscle mass. The progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, known as sarcopenia, is strongly correlated with falls as an older adult. Sarcopenia is often due to the slowed regeneration of muscle fibers and the loss of motor neurons with age. 

What is Resistance Training?     

Although the elderly population is at risk for falls due to muscle atrophy, it can be prevented and maintained. Resistance training is a form of exercise that increases muscular strength and endurance. Resistance training causes muscles to contract, creating an increased number of cross-bridges within the muscle fibers. This ultimately leads to muscle cell enlargement, or hypertrophy.  

Benefits for the Older Population 

There are many benefits of resistance training for the aging population. Increasing muscle mass improves the stability of joints and balance, which is key for carrying out activities of daily life such as carrying groceries, walking up the stairs, and standing up from a chair. Increased muscle mass by resistance training can also improve flexibility and joint range of motion. Increased range of motion is important because it allows the muscles to stretch to their full potential. 

This makes simple tasks such as reaching for a glass on the top shelf much easier for older individuals, allowing them to be more independent. Resistance training can also improve the psychological well-being of older adults by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.  

Clearly resistance training is just as important for the elderly population as aerobic training, so how frequently should older adults engage in resistance training? According to the American College of Sports Medicine, lower to moderate intensity resistance training of 65% – 75% of maximum exercise capacity is recommended for adults 65 and older to increase muscle mass. On two to four days per week, three sets of 10 -15 repetitions with lower weight is ideal for older adults to build strength. Resistance training sessions of about 30 minutes per session has been shown to deliver the best results for older adults to increase muscle mass.  

Resistance training is critical for older adults to improve their functional abilities to prevent serious injuries and potentially fatal falls. Don’t know where to start? Ask your stretch therapist for advice. We are all certified personal trainers who have either worked as, or worked with strength coaches, yoga teachers, Pilates teachers, powerlifting instructors, boxing/kickboxing instructors, and bodybuilding coaches. We love the health industry, and are more than happy to help, or at the very least point you in the right direction.  

Written by Megan Davenport. Megan is a Stretch Therapist in our Newton, MA studio. Click here to book a session with her.

Sources: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4269139/
https://www.germanjournalsportsmedicine.com/archive/archive-2017/issue-7-8/sarcopenia-causes-and-treatments/
https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2019/08000/resistance_training_for_older_adults__position.1.aspx
https://blogs.umass.edu/bodyshop/files/2009/07/resistancetrainingandtheOlderAdult.pdf
The Selflessness and Grace of Motherhood

The Selflessness and Grace of Motherhood


Written by a guy, informed by amazing LYMBR moms.

Whether you are new to motherhood or a veteran, a boy mom, girl mom, or dog mom, this day is entirely for you! 

Motherhood is a full-time job with a varying range of occupations. In one single day you may be a chauffeur, a coach, a nurse, a referee, a therapist, a chef, a maid, a teacher, not to mention you’re on call 24/7. As fulfilling and meaningful as this is, a routine of that caliber can be rigorous no matter who you are or how organized you try to be.

As a man, I have zero expertise to be writing about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Instead, I like to think that my life has been shaped by the forces of powerful women. My mother, for example, worked extremely hard raising me after my parents’ divorce, working jobs she hated in order to give me a good life. My grandmother fought the oppressive corporate patriarchy in the 60’s and 70’s, and eventually ran HR for huge companies in New York City, helping to prevent that oppression for the next generation of women.  Finally, my stepmother, who could have easily given zero regard to my wellbeing but chose to step up and be a second mother to me; she never missed a game and was there for all the big moments. While I certainly do not and will never have firsthand experience of being a mother, I definitely have experience being raised by stellar role models in motherhood. 

I am also fortunate to work with strong mothers in my LYMBR Community. I spoke to two women Christine and Lisa, both of whom I look up to. Christine is expecting her first child any day now, and Lisa has two awesome kids in their 20’s. I wanted to understand the different mindsets and approaches taken by new mothers and experienced moms. Two moms at different stages of motherhood, with very similar insights into both motherhood and life itself. Here’s what they had to say. 

Christine

1. What are some of the things, physical and mental, that have helped with your pregnancy?

Physically, staying active at least a few times a week throughout pregnancy even if that’s just walking the dog has been so beneficial for me. I went to the chiropractor every week in my first and second trimester which made a huge difference, especially now in the 3rd trimester, because my back pain has gotten better instead of worse. I started a stretch routine in the first trimester and after my LYMBR session (with Conner!). I added [stretching and strengthening] 3x a week, specific to my body. I think that combined w the chiro really helped keep me active and feeling great. Mentally- I actually committed to doing 4 “wellness” activities a month for my mental health. So, they could be anything I wanted and different each month but just something self-care related. So, I’ve gone to sound baths, group meditations, yoga classes and prenatal massages. It’s been a nice reminder to slow down and take care of myself. Almost like a reset.


2. What is the best advice you can give to expecting mothers? 

I wish someone had told me the great side of pregnancy. I’m very fortunate to have had an easy pregnancy, but I spent a good amount of time worried about all of the “what’s to come” from the horror stories I had heard. There’s a lot of “oh just wait until…. The heartburn, the swelling, the nausea, etc. A lot of those things I didn’t experience, and I wish I hadn’t feared what the next week would bring each week. Another piece of advice a good friend gave me in the beginning was find one or two resources/people to get your information from and tune out the rest. This was so helpful!


3. Who was your biggest role model in motherhood?

My mom of course!


4. What is your favorite resource for parenting or motherhood? 

Karrie Locher on Instagram. @karrielocher has so much free and really great info.


Also, Expectingandempowered.com has a pregnancy workout plan that was great, especially in the beginning as I figured out what modifications were best while working out. The founders of the site, Krystle Howald (PT, DPT) and Amy Kiefer (NSCA-CPT) are extremely knowledgeable.


5. What is something that makes you really excited about being a mom? 

Aww so many things!! I just can’t wait to meet her and kiss those baby feet!

Lisa

1. What makes your parenting style different? Who was your motherhood role model? 

While I am clearly my children’s parent, I feel like we also have amazing friendships. I respect who they are individually and try my best to honor that. My mom was incredible as she was a great listener, a calming presence and very approachable. My mom was completely selfless – I wish she had taken more time for herself. She deserved it!

2. Have you imparted some of these lessons to your own children? Have they taken to your teachings? 

I think my kids see me as approachable and easy to talk to. They have definitely seen me take time for myself, which I hope they carry forward when they become parents. Moms are considered heroes for their selflessness, but I think I’m a better mom for not giving away ALL of me. I think they respect the goals I’ve set and conquered. I’ve run marathons, have a great crowd of women that I golf, workout, and hike with, and I have my own business. 

3. What are the biggest motherhood myths and mistakes? What are the biggest wastes of time?   

As I mentioned above, the biggest myth is that moms have to be all things to everyone in their family – we are only human! We need to be happy and satisfied in our own skin to be the best for our children. Balance is key. Being a parent is insanely rewarding and the greatest gift of my life. I feel like I’ve done a pretty decent job because I stayed active and healthy throughout their childhood. Exercise and wellness are both great stress relievers, and parenting comes with mountains of joy and a few hills of stress. 

4. What are your favorite instructional resources on the subject? 

By far I lean on my friends who are mothers the most. We share our troubles and our successes – there is no better group to lean on than those closest to you who know what you are experiencing as a mom. It’s good to have friends who support you and are also honest – sometimes even us moms need a kick in the pants to make some changes that will benefit our parenting. I have been the friend who has encouraged a few mom friends to get out more and take care of themselves. 

5. If you had to train me to be a mother in 12 weeks, with 1 million dollars on the line to get me ready, what would your training program be?   

Wow that’s a tough one. I would say speak to your children in a respectful manner, don’t talk down to them, they’re smarter than you think. Let them make mistakes early so they know what that feels like. While it’s tempting to always let them win at a sport or playing a game, they need to experience the emotions and resolve that come from winning and losing. Set expectations EARLY and stick to them. We went to restaurants throughout the toughest years to bring kids out to dine; birth to 4 yrs. We were sticklers on table manners, staying at the table, appropriate voice levels, etc. It may sound like we were no fun – but we were! (I refused to have kids that flung themselves on the ground and threw tantrums, and they never did.) Another tip is to be honest with them about your own life experiences. A big goal of mine was to create a relationship where my kids could come to me with their problems, especially in those early to mid-teen years. If they see you as a saint who never made mistakes or did anything wrong, you’re the LAST person they’ll come to. 

6. What are your key principles for beginning motherhood? Middle? Future? 

You have to adapt as your child develops their own personality over the years. And it’s important to not have a “one size fits all” parenting style. Every child is different and deserves to be seen as such. Throughout all 3 stages, it’s key to keep an eye on yourself so you can maintain the stamina and joy of motherhood. Stay active doing whatever you enjoy and take time for selfless self-care. Beginning – love everything they do and celebrate all the little achievements that come in those early years. They are tough for sure, but each stage gets better and better, and goes by so fast. Soak in every moment and don’t take it for granted. Middle – get to know your child and nourish their interests. Avoid pushing them towards things that other kids like, you like, or wish you had done. That’s not fair and only sets them up for potential failure. Do, however, encourage them to try things outside their comfort zone. Even as adults, we don’t know until we try, the same goes for kids. It’s good to communicate when you are doing that as a parent so they can see that even you, their hero, tries things that may intimidate us, or we may not be good at. Future – People are always evolving, your kids will too. Be open to watching them grow and don’t label them as one type of person. Who they are at 15 is different from 18, 25, 30, etc. We’re all always growing, grow with them and embrace who they are throughout all of life’s milestones.  

If I learned anything from my conversations with Christine and Lisa it was that there is an inherent selflessness and grace to taking on this job, and no one deserves a day of appreciation and R&R more than the nearly 2 billion moms worldwide. Furthermore, these are great points to not just motherhood, but life itself: Trying to do it all is futile, be selfish with your self-care, and appreciate the little things.

If you’re a mother who needs a day, if you’re a child who wants to show their appreciation, or you’re a significant other who wants to say “thank you,” come in to LYMBR, and give the gift that keeps on giving. 

Written by Conner Fritchley, LYMBR Master Trainer, Darien Stretch Therapist, Son and Soon-to-be son-in-law.

Race Training: Long Runs, Short Runs, Recovery

Race Training: Long Runs, Short Runs, Recovery

There is no better feeling than completing a marathon. All your time and commitment has finally paid off. I had this feeling back in 2019 when I completed my first ever marathon. The emotions I felt were something I will never forget. Ever since that day, I have been chasing that feeling of exhausting accomplishment. Over the next year, I have registered for 2 more marathons. One marathon is on April 30th of 2022. I have since been in marathon training. Wanting to improve my time, I have been studying the benefits of long distance runs versus short distance runs while undergoing my training process.

LONG RUNS

Long distance runs are important for many reasons. You want to improve your endurance and increase your muscle power. During long distance runs, your body recruits fast twitch muscle fibers to help with slow twitch tasks. You want more muscle fibers to get you through the part of the marathon, which is called the “wall”. This is when a runner’s glycogen within the muscles is depleted. So, training your body to get past this point is essential, which is one of the main reasons for completing long distance runs in training. Some of the other physiological and mental benefits of long runs include training the body to use fat as fuel before the carbs are depleted and it improves your mental toughness and builds confidence. The mental benefits are equally as valuable as the physical benefits. Understanding that you can go 18,19, 20 miles is extremely important for physical and mental resiliency, especially when “the wall” is upon you.

SHORT RUNS

Short distance runs are just as important when training for a marathon. Short distance runs are essential for improving your VO2 Max, which is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during vigorous exercise. Improving this is essential, as it will increase you heart rate overall during the race, making it easier to breathe and increase the amount of energy you have during the race. Other benefits include increasing the response time of the neuromuscular system which increases your time overall.

DON’T SKIP RECOVERY

Recovery is also an extremely important part of marathon training. We spoke in an earlier blog on recovery tips about doing things that you like, versus doing things that like you. Doing things you like would be eating a big greasy sandwich and having a beer after a long run. Doing things that like you are stretching, foam rolling, getting enough sleep and ice baths. LYMBR is happy to be a part of that recovery process for many clients who train during racing season. Limiting injury and increasing mobility, agility, and even overall race time is what we are here to help with. Finding a happy mix between the training and recovery will not only improve your performance and make your runs more enjoyable, but it will also limit injury and help ensure you do not fall victim to over-training from lack of recovery time. 

Check out our Runner’s Package to help you stay committed to your recovery and get the most out of your long and short runs. Enjoy your training!

Written by Christian Vellozzi, LYMBR Darien Stretch Therapist. 
CLICK HERE TO BOOK A SESSION WITH CHRISTIAN.
Recovery Tips For Runners

Recovery Tips For Runners

Things are starting to get exciting if you’re a marathoner, iron man competitor, ultra-racer, spartan racer, or distance runner of any kind. This is the time of year where mileage starts to go up and consequently the creaky knees, ankles, feet, and low backs of many running competitors will start to rear their perennial ugly mugs. As any competitive athlete understands, especially runners, is that in order for optimal results on race day, recovery needs to be equally optimal. Whether that recovery comes in the form of ice baths, topical creams, CBD, — other anti-inflammatory products —- mobility and stretching work, saunas or the other myriad of ways to maintain athleticism, prioritizing recovery is the most important thing for performance.  

As counter intuitive as it sounds, we actually do not grow during our workouts but in periods of rest and recovery. Muscle tissue, connective tissue, our cardiovascular, nervous, and digestive systems among many other things, actually gets put through the ringer through bouts of intense exercise or extended durations of exercise. We’ve covered this before but it’s worth repeating: relaxation is the main mechanism for recovery in the human body. During periods of rest and relaxation is actually where the body can adapt to the stressors and stimuli placed upon it. Your energy stores get replaced, your muscles and systems heal, your body adapts, and you are ready to hit the road or the weight room yet again.  

There are many forms and modalities of recovery, as listed above, so much so that there’s an entire subsection of the fitness industry being built around it (LYMBR being well within the confines of that description). Now, for someone new to distance running or competitive racing, it’s very difficult to figure out what the greatest mode of recovery is going to be. Like exercise itself, it’s good to play around with different things and see what you like, and see what likes you. What I mean by that is this: There are going to be things that you enjoy doing that may give great psychological benefit, but very little physiological benefit. Having a beer or a big greasy sandwich after a long run, for example. While these may make you feel incredible immediately, there will be little to zero long term or short term physiological benefit from doing so. Yes, replenishing glycogen stores post heavy cardio is not a bad thing, and research has pointed to heavy carbohydrate sources such as beer and bread in order to do that. There are reasons I would not choose those as glycogen replenishment vehicles over others, but that is for another article, and I am by no means vilifying beer and sandwiches. Furthermore I am not discounting the psychological benefits of unwinding after a tough week of workouts with a Sam Adams and an Italian combo, to that I am no stranger. However, there will be modes of recovery that you will have little interest in doing when you start. These are modalities with high physiological benefits, these include mobility work, ice baths, foam rolling, decreased screen time, and dietary changes. These, at least initially, are going to be somewhat psychologically taxing and are going to be wholly unappealing when you start. These are, unfortunately, the things that are most necessary for long term recovery, sustainability, physiological maintenance and improvement. As I mentioned above, these are the things that like you, possibly even love you. Although these activities are often uncomfortable and usually the last thing you want to do after a long day, consistency transforms these often grueling habits into ones we cannot imagine living without. It just takes time and concerted effort.  

I have found through years of training and fixing marathoners, iron man competitors, and ultra-runners that the happiest and most impressive athletes are those that exist astutely in between those two modes of recovery and “relaxation” (I put relaxation in quotations because deep foam rolling and ice baths are in no way relaxing or soothing nor will they ever be. You just become desensitized to self-inflicted masochism over time). They train very hard. Their physiological “like you” activities are dialed in as well as their diet, sleep, and stress management. They don’t shy away from foods or beverages like beer or sandwiches but consume in moderation, usually letting completely loose from the diet for one day a week, commonly known as a cheat meal, “Faturday”, diet break, or whatever nomenclature you wish to assign. In essence, they train very hard, but they recover with the same if not greater fortitude and aplomb. I encourage you to follow in the footsteps of these individuals. Training is very hard, as it should be, but it should also be extremely fun and rewarding. Unless you’re a David Goggins style figure who enjoys and subscribes to the military ideology of “embrace the suck”, you need to let your foot off the gas and enjoy the times between the struggle. There is nothing wrong with going balls to the wall and approaching training, diet, and recovery with a very rigid and militaristic approach. However, most individuals that do that experience high levels of burnout that usually come in the form of injury, illness, or loss of interest altogether. Adherence is the most important factor when it comes to diet and exercise. Oftentimes I’ll be asked by friends or family “what’s the best diet” or more commonly “what’s the best form of exercise for me?”. While I have my prejudices about certain kinds of exercise/diets, and believe almost all people should do some form of weightlifting, my answer is almost always “the one you’re going to stick to and enjoy.” Life’s too short to eat kale and back squat if you hate both of those things.  

I hope this helps outline the importance of recovery and to further highlight the direct correlation between an optimal recovery routine and optimizing performance. This is especially true for competitive runners and athletes breaking through a higher respiratory threshold. For those who want to start prioritizing their recovery but don’t have access to things like foam rollers, ice baths, saunas, or what have you, I will leave you with these little cheats to assist you in starting your recovery journey.  

  1. Sleep is your best friend: It doesn’t matter if you have the best diet, training, and recovery tools at your disposal. If your sleep is suboptimal, performance will follow. Sleep does a lot, all of which I will cover in a later blog, but for now just understand that quality and quantity of sleep are just as important as diet and exercise in regards to sports performance.  
  1. Diet is your other best friend: You’ve probably heard the saying “You can’t outrun a terrible diet.” As much as I hate very general platitudes, this one is 100% true. Some people cite Usain Bolt eating chicken McNuggets and french fries after his races and wonder if diet is really as important as we think. First of all, most of us should not be comparing ourselves to Usain Bolt. Second of all, yes, diet is extremely. In the most distilled and simplistic explanation, food is fuel and fuel is what makes you go. Furthermore, there’s probably a reason we saw him eating that stuff after his races and not before. Remember the beer and sandwich example.  
  1. Cold showers, the lazy/ economical ice baths: If you don’t have access to an ice bath, or you’re like me and live in an apartment without a colossal freezer chest then turning your water temperature down for the last few minutes during your shower is a great way to start introducing cold therapy as a means of recovery. Again, without going into too much detail, Ice baths are fantastic for metabolic waste removal and generally make people feel much better once they’re out. 
  1. Active, repetition based stretching is just as good if not better than foam rolling at releasing and improving tissue function: This is not to discount foam rolling as a means of recovery. However, those without foam rollers can still active repetition based stretching to assist with release, waste removal, blood flow, tissue restoration, and unlike foam rolling has innumerable central and autonomic nervous system benefits.  

Written by Conner Fritchley, LYMBR Academy Trainer and Darien Therapist.
CLICK HERE TO BOOK A SESSION WITH CONNER.

Use Resistance Bands for Flexibility, Mobility and Strength

Use Resistance Bands for Flexibility, Mobility and Strength

Incorporating resistance bands into your exercise routine is a great way to improve longevity and joint health in your fitness journey. You might be thinking, “how can a piece of rubber make that much of an impact on my well-being?” Resistance bands are an extremely helpful and convenient tool that can help you with flexibility, mobility, and strength. 

FLEXIBILITY & MOBILITY

People often use the words flexibility and mobility interchangeably, but they are not the same. What is flexibility? Flexibility is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to be lengthened passively. What is mobility? Mobility is the ability of the joint to be controlled through a range of motion. Let’s look at some examples. When you grab one of your fingers and pull it backward, that demonstrates its flexibility. When you move that finger backward without assistance, that demonstrates your finger’s mobility.  

Some benefits that resistance bands have on stretching are that they allow for a deeper stretch, they allow you to get into positions that are harder to do on your own, and they allow you to decide your own tension. Resistance bands permit you to target areas that are just not possible with bodyweight stretching. LYMBR On Demand has some great stretches that you can use with a resistance band or a stretching strap that will increase your flexibility and mobility.

STRENGTH

Though you may have an idea of what strength is, do you actually know the definition of strength? Strength is the ability to exert force. Yes, resistance bands can improve your strength! Since resistance bands come with various levels of resistance, you can choose which challenges you appropriately. As you progress, you can work on making improvements with heavier bands. When you have reached the ability to work with the heaviest band available, you can stack them to achieve extra resistance.  

Moreover, resistance bands allow for the same amount of muscle activation as weightlifting but a lower chance of injury. The bands for less force on the joints, which means the muscles can be stimulated more. This is great for the injured or older population as well as those who experience joint pain.    

An added benefit is that stabilization is required with many exercises when using resistance bands. Therefore, your ability to stabilize your body will increase. Core activation for balance is very important in many of the exercises. The capacity to control your core through the full range of motion of a movement permits more muscle strength and stimulation.  

CONVENIENCE

Resistance bands are very inexpensive compared to buying multiple sets of weights and different workout equipment. They take up little space and are lightweight (especially mini loop bands) which make them great for travel! Sometimes it can be hard to find a gym while travelling. You can stuff them in your suitcase or backpack and you’ll have everything you need for a full-body workout. 

Resistance bands can improve your mobility and flexibility by allowing you to reach a greater range of motion and achieve a deeper stretch. They can increase your strength in a much safer way than weightlifting due to less force on the joints. So, what are you waiting for? Go get some resistance bands!

Written by Cory Sanon, Stretch Therapist at LYMBR Newton.

Sources:
ssphysio.com.au/mobility-vs-flexibility
setforset.com/blogs/news/6-resistance-band-stretching-and-mobility-exercises
prosourcefit.com/blogs/news/9-reasons-to-use-resistance-bands-for-working-out
Photo Credit: Getty Images/GQ Magazine

Why Women Should Lift Weights

Why Women Should Lift Weights

It is very common for women to hesitate when approached with the idea of lifting weights. Suddenly, images of Arnold Schwarzenegger-size muscles start popping into their mind. Most women don’t want bulging biceps or mountainous traps. That doesn’t mean they should skip the weight room altogether.

Weightlifting isn’t going to take away femininity; rather it offers a multitude of mental and physical benefits that women should take full advantage of. Major benefits include getting stronger, sculpting lean muscles, improving athletic performance, preventing injuries, enhancing your mood, decreasing stress and reducing the risk of major health issues.  

The most obvious reason to lift weights is to increase strength and muscle. Having muscle mass is valuable to every human body, especially women. Strong muscles makes life easier. Being strong and functional allows women to make their daily tasks and activities less fatiguing. When the body is correctly conditioned through weight lifting; it learns proper movement patterns and how to carry a load, thereby reducing the risk of injury. 

INCREASED MUSCLE MASS BURNS MORE CALORIES

Focusing on increasing the body’s muscle mass is when body re-composition truly happens and the transformation follows. This can be explained by muscle building; the more you lift, the more muscle you build. Muscle requires more energy, also known as calories, for your body than fat does. So, by lifting weights and adding muscle mass, the body will burn more calories at rest. But, it’s not just about how fast the metabolism is and burning more calories.

Cardio is known for burning more calories than weight lifting and there is absolutely a time and place for aerobic exercise. When doing cardio in order to burn calories, it is so easy to look at food as numbers and fall into restrictive methods of eating and overexercising. Weight lifting helps to open the door to a healthy relationship with food. It allows women to look at food as fuel to grow and maintain their muscles and get the most out of their weight lifting session.  

MENTAL BENEFITS

Weightlifting offers gains that aren’t just physical. There is a mental component to weightlifting that is simply unmatched. Watching oneself get physically stronger often results in getting mentally stronger. The endorphins released during weight lifting can help to lift one’s mood as well. Participating in athletic activity and body movement increases serotonin levels, which is a neurotransmitter associated with happiness.  

While lifting weights is beneficial for the everyday woman, it is also beneficial for female athletes. Female athletes should partake in a structured strength program at an early age, even earlier than male athletes. The reason being that females tend to physically develop and hit their growth spurt earlier in life. While their bones grow, their muscles are lagging. This, in combination with anatomical structure, makes female athletes more susceptible to injury; especially ACL tears. There is no reason that female athletes should not train with the same intensity as male athletes to increase their sport specific strength, sprint speed, agility, and joint stability.  

USE IT OR LOSE IT

The female body is constantly changing through various stages of life. From puberty, to child bearing, through regular aging cycles, the female body evolves much more than the male body does. As the female body ages, muscle mass decreases 3-5% every decade after the age of 30. Muscles have a use it or lose it mentality. Research shows that between the ages of 40 and 70, women lose an average of 22 percent of their total muscle. So, it is better to have built a solid base when dealing with the aging process. Fast twitch muscle fibers specifically deteriorate with age. The fast twitch fibers assist in speed and power movements. Slow twitch muscle fibers help to maintain endurance. It may not seem like a big deal if fast twitch fibers deteriorate. But these fibers are used in simple tasks such as getting up from a chair, getting in and out of the car, or stopping the body from falling. Having increased muscle mass helps to assist your body in the aging process and maximize quality of life and independence. 

HEALTHY BONES

Lifting weights isn’t just about muscle. It can also be your best defense against osteoporosis by increasing and protecting your bone density! Osteoporosis is a disease that decreases bone strength and mass which raises the risk of fracture. While everyone’s bones become weaker with age, a key risk factor in developing osteoporosis is simply being female. This disease affects over 10 million Americans, 80 percent of which are women. By lifting weights, you are engaging muscles that then pull tendons, which in turn pull on bones. This domino effect leads to stronger bones!  

NEED ADVICE?

All of our Stretch Therapists are certified in personal training and all have varied experiences with the latest fitness studios, workout trends and various sports. If you have a question about which workout routine is best for you, consult a few of the therapists at your local studio. We have relationships with a lot fitness brands so we may even be able to make an introduction for you!

Written by Natalie Veneri. Natalie is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien, CT studio and is a former college athlete.

Stretching and Weight Training: A Client Story

Stretching and Weight Training: A Client Story

Strength Training continues to grow in popularity, now more than ever. Considering the many benefits – an increase in muscle size and strength, the ability to help maintain a lower body fat percentage, stress management, and, of course, the aesthetics we see in the mirror – strength training has been regarded as one of the most effective ways to stay in shape.

The few minutes you may (or may not) spend stretching after a workout are not substantial enough to give you the benefits you need to keep you progressing at the gym, and keep your risk of injury to a minimum. One to two hours per week of proper, purposeful stretching will help keep you right on schedule at your gym or fitness studio. Stretching on your own, or with the assistance of a LYMBR stretch therapist, will help keep your body performing and recovering to the best of its ability.

An avid weight-lifter, who focuses primarily on upper body exercises, came into LYMBR and expressed concern with lower back pain. A postural assessment was performed and it was identified that his shoulders were rounding forward. This posture imbalance caused the front-side of his upper body to become overactive, and the back-side of his upper body to become underactive.

Over time, the client’s training regimen caused his body to become conditioned to a misaligned posture. Strength training shortens the muscles and creates microtears on the tissue during a workout. These microtears are caused by the tension placed on the muscle from using weights. Through this process, the length of the muscles is shortened, and over time, the more these fibers remain shortened, the more prone you become to injury and compromised posture. 

The physiology of the body tends to seek equilibrium, or homeostasis. The body will always seek a balance in which the body creates a stable internal environment. But in our client’s case, this new stable environment came at a cost. The rounding of his shoulders created an imbalance within the mid-line of his body, which led to certain muscles to over-compensate through this poor posture. And thanks to gravity, the weight-bearing lumbar spine had to support more weight due to the slight protruding head that comes with rounded shoulders, resulting in lower back pain.

Stretching the muscles in the front-side of his upper body helped him regain better posture by lengthening the appropriate muscles. As the muscles lengthened, the rounding in his shoulders decreased. As his body found its new, more efficient equilibrium and his posture improved, the pain resolved as the pressure was taken off his lower back area (primarily the quadratus lumborum and latissimus dorsi muscles).

We are often asked, “what is the best set of stretches for strength training?” The answer – there is no specific stretch regimen. It all depends on each person’s body blueprint, and what they need according to their overall assessment. Whether you’re a beginner, moderate or frequent gym member, the stretch protocol followed is based on the needs of the client. 

Our sessions helped him to better understand how his body works and how to be conscious of when his body is in need of a stretch. With LYMBR as a part of his wellness routine, the client’s workouts are more effective, his movements are more efficient, his training can progress, and he will reduce the risk of further pain or injury.

Not local to one of our studios? Subscribe to LYMBR on Demand and get the first month free. 

6 Stretches For Cyclists

6 Stretches For Cyclists

Over the last year and a half, stationary bike demand has skyrocketed, with an increase in sales of nearly 200%. When so many gyms closed for quarantine, many people hopped on bikes made by companies like Peloton, Soulcycle, and NordicTrack to stay active on their own schedule and from the comfort of their own home. Cycling, whether indoor or out, is not only a great form of low impact cardio, it also provides a strength workout for the lower body, with larger muscle groups like the quads, hamstrings, and calves driving your ride. Cycling is a great choice for staying fit, but when done without proper stretching it comes at a price: tightness in the muscles in the lower body as well as the shoulders, two areas which can increase risk of more long term discomfort or injury. 

In today’s remote-work environment, there is less built-in opportunity for movement (goodbye mid-day runs to grab coffee!) so people are sitting more than ever. While we are seated, our hip flexors stay in a flexed position, tightening the muscles around our hips. We then get on our stationary bike or road bike, and hold the exact same position for most of the workout, further reducing hip flexor mobilit. This encourages the body to compensate by using other more mobile joints in the body such as the vertebrae of the lumbar spine (low back). You don’t want low back pain to keep you off your bike! 

To counteract this, it is important to pay special attention to the hip flexor complex in your warm up and cool down stretching routine in order to decrease your risk of lower back pain. Though it may seem like cycling is purely a lower body activity, the cycling posture, coupled with an increase in time spent seated during the day, can give your shoulders serious issues. Think of your posture as you sit reading this: while in seated position, whether it be on a bike or at a desk, our shoulders tend to roll forward, putting strain on the thoracic spine (mid back) and shortening key muscles in the chest, including the pec major and biceps. 

Just like any new activity you add to your fitness regime, you want to ensure your body is prepared to perform it safely and effectively. You can do this by warming up with some mobility exercises, and finishing up your ride with a stretch to assist in recovery. By mobilizing pre-workout you increase athletic potential by getting your body ready to move, and activate the nervous system, while post-workout stretching helps release any built up lactic acid or metabolic waste. Below you will find a few simple stretches that can be used pre or post ride! 

Kneeling Hip Flexor/Quad:  

You’re going to want a pillow for this stretch. Get into a kneeling position, and place the pillow underneath the kneeling knee. Squeeze your glutes, and drive your front leg forward. Hold for 2 seconds before returning to the starting position and repeat 3-5 times. You can do this for anywhere from 1-5 sets. anywhere from 1-5 sets.

Thread The Needle – Rhomboids and Mid Traps:  

Get onto all fours and then stretch your arms in front of you like you’re going into child’s pose. With one arm, reach underneath the opposite arm and turn your head. Hold for 2 seconds before returning to starting position and repeat 3-5 times on each arm. Repeat for up to 5 sets. 

Calf: 

Wrap a stretching strap, towel, belt, or tie around one of your feet. Keep your leg straight and point your toes toward your knee, use the stretching strap to assist you into a deeper range of motion. Hold for 2 seconds before returning to the starting position and repeat 3-5 times. You can do this for anywhere from 1-5 sets. 

Thoracic Spine Extension:  

Lay down on a small foam roller or thin pillow and extend your mid back. Perform a small crunch and then re-extend over the foam roller or pillow in order to mobilize your thoracic spine. Repeat this for up to 1 minute and for up to 3 sets.  

Hamstring: 

Wrap a stretching strap, towel, belt, or tie around one of your feet. Bring your leg up completely straight and then use your strap to assist you into a deeper range of motion. Try to keep the opposite leg straight on the ground, if this is uncomfortable for any reason, bend the opposite leg with your foot on the ground. Hold for 2 seconds before returning to the starting position and repeat 3-5 times. You can do this for  anywhere from 1-5 sets. 

Cat/Cow – Entire Spinal Column:  

Get onto all fours with your hands and knees on the ground. To begin, take a deep breath, push your hands into the floor and round your back towards the ceiling while bringing your chin to your chest. Hold for 1-2 seconds before pushing your stomach towards the floor, and raising your head up towards the ceiling. Repeat this for up to 1-2 minutes. Make sure to go slow and don’t hold these positions for more than 1-2 seconds.  

If you commit to doing these stretches every time you ride, you will get so much more enjoyment out of your sport, and feel better during and after. You cycle for 30 minutes, an hour or longer – adding a few more minutes to take care of your body isn’t that much to ask!  

Written by Shannon Ward, Stretch Therapist in our Newton, MA studio.  

Strength and Flexibility, The Perfect Combination

Strength and Flexibility, The Perfect Combination

There is a common myth that when muscles are flexible around a joint, you will get injured and that tight muscles perform better. A tight muscle does not make a strong muscle. You may be very strong through a specific range however true strength means maintaining that strength and position through the full range of motion of each muscle and joint.

In order for muscles to perform at their best and protect a joint, they must not only be strong, they must be mobile. It doesn’t matter how strong your muscles are around a joint, if they do not possess the requisite amount of mobility needed to maintain and progress through position, you put yourself at a very high risk of imbalance and injury.

A strong muscle has the ability to lengthen and shorten while acclimating to the forces placed on it. When muscles and tissues are tight, they are unable to maintain tension and stability through their full range. This leads to improper engagement of muscles, which further leads to compensation and imbalance. Compensatory movement is a breeding ground for injury, and the only way to fix it is by first addressing mobility restrictions. In all sports and activities, proper form is imperative for maximum results and to prevent injury. Proper form can only be achieved if all the muscles that are involved in the movement are healthy, mobile, and able to meet the demands being placed on them.

A tennis player came to see us complaining of recurring elbow bursitis. After evaluation, we found that her bursitis was a result of tight muscles surrounding her elbow joint. This tightness caused a friction force to be applied to the bursa, inflaming it. We stretched the muscles that surround her shoulder and elbow in order to increase blood flow and decrease pressure in the joint. After two sessions with our stretch therapist, the client reported that her pain was 100% relieved. Now that her elbow joint is more mobile, and the muscles are able to fire properly, she is able to play multiple sets without the added stress on her bursa.

Continued sessions with us have helped her to decrease tension forces in her elbow, increase mobility, enhance her posture and improve her tennis form and performance. She is now able to play longer and stronger without pain. Regular stretching sessions have taken her game to another level.

Whether it’s tennis, hiking or your favorite fitness studio workout, chances are you have imbalances and mobility issues. We always recommend focusing on building strength, but it’s equally as important to build on your flexibility and mobility to keep you healthy and able to get the most out of what keeps you moving.