In these times of uncertainty, we focus so heavily on what is happening around us that we sometimes forget to take a moment and focus on ourselves. With the added stress caused by the events of 2020, chances are many of us are experiencing added physical and mental stress that we should not overlook.
Contrary to popular belief, small acute bouts of stress are not only important but necessary for both growth and survival. Stress is caused by external forces that strain our bodies, effecting all 5 of our natural senses. Because of this stress, we can react to potentially dangerous circumstances and prevent serious injury.
How do we process stress?
Stress is processed by the Limbic System, the part of our brain that controls our Sympathetic Nervous System (fight or flight) and our Parasympathetic Nervous System (rest and digest). In situations perceived to be dangerous, our fight or flight response kicks in and causes a physiological change in our bodies to anticipate the danger. Examples of this are increased heart rate, increased perspiration, and blood being removed from “non-essential functions” to fuel the muscles for action. This Sympathetic reaction is what allows us to react as best as possible during dangerous situations, or in more relatable sense, helps us function better during exercise. Once the external factors causing our body to react this way are removed, we are finally able to relax and enter a “rest and digest” mode where the body can bring all the excess blood from the muscles back to our organs for various functions such as digestion.
Stress begins to become an issue when the balance of “fight or flight” and “rest and digest” weighs heavily in one direction over the other. When we stay in a prolonged state of stress, our mind and body begin to fatigue. Depending on the stress stimulant (fear, frustration, poor body image, etc.) these normally short-lived feelings become more embodied into our lives and we slowly become what we feel and think. Anxiety, depression, digestion difficulties and hypertension are just some of the various side effects caused by chronic stress. These negative side effects begin to spiral out of control if they are not properly checked and can significantly degrade out quality of life.
Knowing that this excess of stress is unhealthy and, in some cases unavoidable, it’s important to fight back against stress and restore balance in our body and mind.
Here are 6 techniques you can use to bring yourself out of “fight or flight” and back to “rest and digest”:
Focus on Breathing: We are ALWAYS breathing, so why would focusing on it help us relax? When we are in a stressed state, our breathing becomes shallow and ineffective, leading to an even further cascade of sympathetic reactions to occur. By taking a moment to reflect inward and take deep intentional breaths, you are allowing for more oxygen to fuel your body. On top of that, you also allow yourself a moment to block out unwanted external stimulus and hyper focus on something your body craves. Give yourself a moment to take 10 deep breaths (10 second inhale: 10 second exhale) and see how you feel!
Exercise: Wait a minute, I thought exercise was stress on the body, wouldn’t that cause even more stress to be caked onto our body? The answer is yes, but sometimes you can use this additional stress to your advantage. Through exercise, you are making it a point to bring this stress onto yourself for the intention of bettering yourself, you are taking control of the stress and channeling it into something that you know will benefit you as opposed to laying there in a constant state of worry. The physiological benefits that come into play post-exercise start to kick in and will naturally aid you towards that “rest and digest” response.
Stretching:We all saw this one coming! Like exercise, stretching allows for the body to be put through planned out intentional stress that is aimed at releasing tension in our bodies. By releasing this tension, we allow for fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to saturate our muscles and remove all the unwanted waste festering in our bodies. Stretching acts like a tune-up for the body which is important for long term functionality.
Eat well and drink water:When it all comes down to it, we are all essentially giant bags of salt water, it is crucial to constantly replenish our water to maintain strong physiological function, keep blood flowing and improve our overall vitality. Throwing nutritious and delicious food into the mix will not only get you through the day but give you the energy needed to dominate the day.
Keep an Affirmation Journal:This is a great practice not only to relieve yourself of stress, but to reinforce your volitions and strengthen your mental fortitude. Write down things that you want to be or be perceived as (even if you don’t currently believe it). Write down things you want to accomplish and strive for. Keep these ideas of greatness and success at the top of your mind and, over time, they will become a shield protecting you from all the negativity that seeks to bring you down.
Give someone a hug: By human nature, we need human contact to help us relax. During these trying times, there have been plenty of people who have been socially isolated for months. Human contact helps release a hormone known as oxytocin, which among other reactions in the body, helps people feel comforted and relaxed. If possible and safe, be sure to give a hug to a friend to let them know they are appreciated.
These are just a few coping mechanics that can help you navigate through the craziness that is all around us. As we get closer to the holiday season, keep these tips in mind and be sure to stay diligent in your pursuit for mind body mastery.
Written by Rick Charron. Rick is a Stretch Therapist and Head of the LYMBR Training Academy.
You may feel that life did not bless you with the best knees. Whether you feel discomfort during a run, playing golf, or just moving about day to day – there is chance that a muscle a little higher up is the culprit.
The Gluteus Maximus and commonly known as your glute, is the biggest muscle in our body. This muscle helps to cushion us when we fall, externally rotate our legs, and propel us as we walk. This muscle can also be the cause of your knee pain. The Gluteus Maximus (one of three glute muscles) attaches to the top of your hip bone, right on the side. The muscle doesn’t stop there, it becomes a tendon and continues down to the outside of the knee. If this muscle does not have adequate flexibility, it affects the entire chain down the leg to your knee. So if you favor one leg, jut your hip out when you stand, or habitually crosses your legs, you could develop a knee issue. We also see problems with athletes such as runners and with people that spend long hours sitting at their desks.
Working on the Glute Max and surrounding muscles releases muscular tension that can be influencing the hips and knees. Releasing this tension can give you the best chance to run a little farther or move more comfortably through your day.
There aren’t too many racquet sport athletes that don’t know about tennis elbow (particularly if you are reading this), but let’s take this opportunity to learn exactly what it is. Tennis elbow is simply an overuse injury that occurs when too many repetitive movements of the elbow and wrist are performed. Tennis players are not the only people that are susceptible to this injury, however it is most common in racquet sport athletes due to the strain that it puts on the lateral aspect of the elbow. The medical term for tennis elbow is lateral epicondylitis. When tennis elbow occurs, the inflammation causing pain is localized to the tendon on the outside of the elbow (the lateral epicondyle). Tendons are responsible for attaching muscle to bone and are susceptible to overuse injuries, one of the most common forms of inflammation found in tennis players is of the lateral epicondylitis in the elbow, otherwise known as tennis elbow. There are many ways to treat tennis elbow if you wind up with it, yet it is important to be proactive and take the proper steps to help prevent this from happening.
If you are a racquet sport athlete, we can modify our sessions in order to keep you at your best based on what your individual goals are. If tennis elbow is something that you are conscious about preventing, let us know and we can add our wrist and forearm stretching protocols into our sessions. Below are some stretches that you can do on your own before and after you play. It is important to target as many aspects of the lower arm as possible. Since the muscles and tendons are all very close together, just doing one stretch will not give the desired result. The fingers play a big part in a tennis swing as they are the body part that actually grips the racquet. Since we grip the racquet so hard, they are constantly in a flexed position, therefore adding these simple finger extension movements will greatly aid your tennis game.
Wrist extensors pronated (left image) – While standing, extend one arm out in front of you at a 90-degree angle with your palm pointing down and your elbow crease angled toward your body. With your fingers out straight, gently point them down to the floor along with your wrist and use your opposite hand to assist. Make sure the pressure of your assisting hand is closer to your wrist than your fingers as it will be less sensitive and target the forearm muscles more specifically. Move through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. Note: This stretch will target the belly of the forearm extensor muscles.
Wrist extensors supinated (right image) – While standing, extend one arm out in front of you at a 90-degree angle with your palm pointing up and your elbow crease angled straight up. With your fingers out straight, gently point them up to the ceiling with your wrist and use your opposite hand to assist. Make sure the pressure of your assisting hand is closer to your wrist than your fingers as it will be less sensitive and target the forearm muscles more specifically. Move through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. Note: This stretch will target the distal forearm extensor muscles.
Wrist flexors pronated (left image) – While standing, extend one arm out in front of you at a 90-degree angle with your palm pointing down and your elbow crease angled toward your body. With your fingers out straight, gently point them up to the ceiling along with your wrist and use your opposite hand to assist. Make sure the pressure of your assisting hand is closer to your wrist than your fingers as it will be less sensitive and target the forearm muscles more specifically. Move through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. Note: This stretch will target the belly of the wrist flexor muscles.
Wrist flexors supinated (image right) – While standing, extend one arm out in front of you at a 90-degree angle with your palm pointing up and your elbow crease angled straight up. With your fingers out straight, gently point them down to the floor with your wrist and use your opposite hand to assist. Make sure the pressure of your assisting hand is closer to your wrist than your fingers as it will be less sensitive and target the forearm muscles more specifically. Move through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side. Note: This stretch will target the distal wrist flexor muscles.
Wrist pronators – Starting with your arm bent at 90 degrees by your side and wrist in a fully pronated position (palm down), turn your wrist away from you so that your palm is pointing directly up. Use your other hand to assist. Do not move your shoulder to help get further, isolating the forearm movement is critical to the effectiveness of the stretch. Move through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side.
Wrist supinators – Starting with your arm bent at 90 degrees by your side and wrist in a fully supinated position (palm up), turn your wrist toward you so that the back of your hand is pointing directly up. Use your other hand to assist. Do not move your shoulder to help get further, isolating the forearm movement is critical to the effectiveness of the stretch. Move through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side.
Finger flexors – this stretch is simple, but a few tips and tricks go a long way. Rest your hand on your thigh with your arm bent at 90 degrees. Gently starting with your index finger lift it up and use your other hand to assist very softly. The muscle fibers in the fingers are very sensitive so you do not need to feel this stretch to much in order to get results. Move through the stretch for 2-3 seconds and relax. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on each finger. Perform 1-3 sets on each hand.
BEING PROACTIVE IS KEY
These stretches on your own will not be as effective without the help of a LYMBR therapist. But the more you do these on your own, the more progress we will be able to make in the studio. It is important to be proactive about the health of your body, particularly as a tennis player, since overuse injuries are so common. Always take control of your body and do everything you can to prevent injuries before they occur, rather than reacting to injuries that have already happened.
In our last post, we talked about the importance of getting your mind ready for the imminent return to tennis. That, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. Once you start your tennis journey again, if you don’t take care of your body correctly, it can lead to nagging soft tissue or potential overuse injuries. Tennis is a sport that puts a lot of stress on your muscles and joints, particularly if you are playing on hard courts. When you take time off and you are not performing the very specific movements that tennis possesses, it is highly likely that your muscles, and even joints will be sore once you return. During this time, you are very susceptible to having certain areas of your body flare and become sore. This increases your chance of injury because you will tend to overcompensate for the affected areas.
After my first year of college tennis, my body and mind needed a break. I didn’t touch a tennis racquet or do any tennis movements for a month, and when I came back, I was as motivated as ever. My mind was ready to play hard and play for long hours, but my body was not. The first day back, I played for three hours, ran sprints and did a strength workout. After a week of doing this every day, my hips and lower back were on fire, and by the second week of playing, I was unable to serve due the pain in my back.
Tennis movements are very specific, and while tennis is one of the most fun and healthy sports to play, the proper precautions need to be taken. The hard surface of a tennis court puts a severe strain on our joints, with the hips taking the brunt of that strain. Our hips are the body’s foundation. Our lower body function is non-existent without fully working hips. Our hips support our spine (which holds our rib cage protecting the heart) and keep our body upright. The hips are one of the most important parts of our body, and as it pertains to tennis, it takes time for our hips to adjust to the rigors of a tennis court. Take it easy and progressively increase your tennis load over time is to protect your hips.
The lower back is another area that is put under tremendous strain when playing tennis. The serve is the most important shot in tennis, by a wide margin. When we serve, our lumbar spine is put through extreme extension, and if not prepared for it, doing too much can be very detrimental. It also ties in with our hips during the serve. If you are right-handed, you will jump and land on your left leg requiring balance and very localized strength. Tennis unfortunately is a sport that is very one side dominant. This fact is tested most during the serve as it puts acute stress on your opposite side hip and lower back. It is something to be mindful of when you do return.
When it comes to returning to the court, do not overdo the serving early, take your time and wait until your body has adjusted to the pounding of the harsh tennis court surface. Keep your eye out for my next post coming up as I will outline exactly what stretches you should be doing for specific injuries, warm up and cool down, injury prevention and much more.
Written by Koby Jansen of LYMBR Darien. Koby is a former D1 college tennis player at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Former #1 in the state of Queensland and #7 in Australia for his age group.
Written by Koby Jansen of LYMBR Darien. Koby is a former D1 college tennis player at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Former #1 in the state of Queensland and #7 in Australia for his age group.
During these unprecedented times, we were all forced to limit our contact with others. For us tennis players, chances are that meant taking a break from being on the court (since it’s difficult to play tennis with yourself!). After taking an extended break from tennis, it is important to get your mind right before stepping back onto the court. Your body will likely be ready for the challenge as, hopefully, one of the silver linings from the break, was any ailments or injuries were given time to heal. However, it will take time before tennis comes naturally again, no matter how many years you have been playing.
My experience with extended breaks came with many challenges. On four different occasions, I suffered injuries that forced me off the court for more than six months. The main lesson I learned was managing personal expectations. This is one of the biggest hurdles to get over after an extended break. When playing Division I college tennis, we only had one day per week where a tennis racquet was not touched, so it was easy to get into a great rhythm. Even the smallest break like an additional day off can break that rhythm. When I had shoulder surgery in college and couldn’t touch a tennis racquet for six months, you could say that my rhythm was broken. When I was able to come back, I really tried to focus on the enjoyment of tennis at first, rather than the quality of my play. As competitive as I am, it was hard not to focus on trying to win every single point I played. This mindset really aided me in the long run.
Another great lesson from having multiple extended breaks was to keep the first few sessions short and sweet, keeping the mood light. Don’t concern yourself with how many matches you can play, or the level you play compared to before the break. Take is slow and have fun being back out there. Find the joy that made you want to play in the first place. If you play for hours on end the first day or week back, you risk injuring your body as it takes time for your joints and muscles to readjust to the rigors of a tennis court. If you come off the court feeling banged up, it can detract you from getting back out there.
The first time you go back onto the court, make sure to understand within yourself that it is a process. Give yourself long-term goals, take it one session at a time and take the first week or so to get the connection with your mind and your body to become one. Your body will hopefully feel refreshed, and your mind will be itching to get back out there but take it slow.
First day back? Go and hit a few balls, get that feeling again of having the racquet in your hand. Slowly remind your body what it feels like to move laterally again, and most importantly, have fun.
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It’s that time of year when we set new fitness and wellness goals for the new year. We put a lot of emotion and energy in setting these goals and picture ourselves succeeding. When you are confident in how your body moves and feels, you’ll have the best chance at not only meeting your goals, but exceeding them.
Starting or increasing a fitness routine with an ill-prepared body means a greater likelihood of injury and a greater likelihood that the injury will derail you. You deserve the best change to be successful.
Here are a few ways adding stretch protocols into your daily life will allow your body to feel restored and at its best to make sure your goals stick.
REDUCES LIKELIHOOD OF INJURY Areas that often have more stress placed upon them when starting a new fitness routine include the low back, knees, and hips. If your starting point is a mostly sedentary lifestyle, sitting and lack of movement for an extended period of time stiffens and shortens the muscles. When a new fitness regimen is initiated, the involved areas will be going through greater ranges of motion they may not be used to, leaving them more prone to injury.
Our active method of stretching allows the muscles to be properly warmed up and lengthened before starting an activity. Blood flow and oxygen to the muscles is increased, providing protection to the joints. Muscle imbalances are lessened when stretching as well, allowing the body to have better mobility and alignment to properly grasp the technique of the activity. Active stretching combined with a light warm-up prior to exercise will minimize the risk of getting injured when starting a new routine.
IMPROVES POSTURE AND ALIGNMENT Stretching helps to correct any muscle imbalances in your posture. Soon after starting a new fitness routine, you may notice a shift in your posture. You may find your posture improving, as you are strengthening muscle groups to help you stand taller and straighter. On the contrary, new fitness routines may also negatively impact posture. If you are beginning a new routine with less than ideal posture, chances are you will have improper form in your workouts and increase the likelihood of pain and soreness. For example, if you start with shoulders that are rounded and elevated, your range of motion and body positioning will be unnatural and compromised. Stretching the upper body will help lower the shoulders and lengthen the spine reducing compensations and allowing you to perform your activity properly. Stretching aims to restore the muscles to their optimal length and position.
Similar to posture, new fitness routines will affect the body’s alignment. A properly aligned body will have the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles all in line. Keeping all of these joints linear will place less stress on the spine to help better your posture.
IMPROVES RANGE OF MOTION If you are a regularly active person, you will find that incorporating stretching routines into your daily life will enhance your workouts. The increase in range of motion associated with stretching will allow you to perform your best. For example, stretching the hip flexors and quads will allow more range of motion to help squat deeper and put more power into spinning. Stretching the upper body, like the pecs and shoulders, will allow greater mobility to be put into those boxing workouts. The lengthening and lightness felt throughout the body from implementing these stretch routines will aim to increase performance.
REDUCES SORENESS AND PROMOTES RECOVERY Any soreness post-workout is not problematic: it is your body letting you know it is adapting to the new stresses placed upon it. Excess soreness, however, can leave you feeling tight, fatigued, and unmotivated to keep up with your routine.
Stretching after a workout, whether it be directly after or the following day, will alleviate sore muscles. Even a few minutes of stretching will increase blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to those tender areas. This will not only reduce soreness after a workout; it will properly prepare you for your next one.
Whether you are a fitness novice or looking for new ways to maximize those workout gains, prepare your body now. Get a head start now and make 2019 the year you crush your fitness goals. Incorporating stretching into your daily life before you begin your new fitness routine will leave your body feeling ready to take on any workout you set your mind to. Keeping stretching in your routine will keep you on track way past the time most people drop their new year routine. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and restored body in the new year.
Written by Ariel Scheintraub. Ariel is a Stretch Therapist in our Tribeca studio.
Overuse injuries are exactly what they sound like; repetitive action that degrades motor function over time causing muscles, bones, joints and tendons to become overused and injured. Any fitness nut, athlete, spin addict, weekend warrior, or marathon junkie can attest to the perils of overuse injuries. It makes your favorite activities a painstaking hellscape that seems unavoidable, due to one’s inability or reluctance to stop. However, your body needs rest and recovery relative to the intensity of the activity. If you ignore this, you are stifling an important internal process of your body.
Everybody has a built-in operation called the internal remodeling process. It has to do with the breakdown of tissue through activity and the subsequent rebuilding of that tissue through rest and recovery. If that balance is not maintained then your bones, tendons, joints, and muscles start to break down. We see this issue a lot with adults, but we’re beginning to see it at alarmingly high rate in youth athletes between the ages of 10-18. (Scroll to the end of this post to read two client stories.)
So why is this happening?
Sport specialization has become more popular in the past 20 years, and we’re seeing more kids becoming single sport athletes to hone their skills in one sport. The thought process behind this is that with more emphasis on sport specific competition this athlete could one day perform at a collegiate, Olympic, or professional level. Sport specialization, however, is entirely misguided in thinking a child, or anyone for that matter, can do the same thing, at the same intensity, for the same amount of time almost every day for a year. You are creating a system where only the resilient survive, and even they don’t move like they’re supposed to. Not even the best athletes in the world train at that intensity, for that amount of time, with the same activity. They do cross training (athletic training in sports other than the athlete’s usual sport.) like yoga, running, swimming, biking, in order to take pressure off of their bones, muscles, joints, and tendons that have been overused during their season. They also have a minimum 3-5 month off season to recuperate, get their strength back, and give their bodies a chance to recover. So why are we training our kids opposite to the professionals they’re aspiring to be?
With the goal of performing at higher levels of play, there is a precedent on skill development and strengthening with considerably less regard to rest and recovery. Skill and strength work are extremely important for honing motor development and creating muscle adaptation within the athlete. Having said that, the period where actual strength is formed is during recovery when muscle tissue is being rebuilt. Yet the focus is on developing skills that are utterly useless without a functional body, and the amount of micro-trauma we’re creating makes functionality impossible. As we continue to overuse our muscles, they become weak and unable to fire correctly which results in injury. Even if the overused areas don’t injure you right away, the lack of function from these areas will cause compensatory movement, which will then create injury. The old adage “Kids are young, they bounce back” is only true for so long. Rubber bands can be stretched and stretched while still keeping a level of elasticity. Until it snaps. Then it doesn’t matter how much tape or stapling you do to put it back together, it will never be the same as it was before.
There are many ways to prevent overuse injuries, the best way is to make sure competition readiness never takes priority over proper rest and recovery. This means limiting weekly and annual participation, as well as limiting sport specific movements such as pitching, kicking, or running. Getting a trainer and a seasoned coach to monitor the athlete through adolescent growth to limit negative adaptations like diminished bone mineral density, improper growth patterns, and weakness of growth cartilage is also a good idea. A good trainer can help the athlete avoid over training and overuse injuries through periodized training programs (progressive training that has loading and de-loading phases to limit over stressing the body prior to competition). Good coaching will also stress proper training techniques such as proper duration, intensity and frequency of sessions. Again, this comes from seasoned coach that can assist with the progression of training and technique rather than arbitrary skill development.
3 Ways LYMBR aids in overuse recovery and injury prevention:
Active Stretching: We perform active stretching in order to return function, create balance, and increase active range of motion to your muscles and joints. LYMBR stretch therapists can stretch damaged connective tissues, draw out inflammation, lactic acid, fill muscles with oxygenated blood, and return active range of motion to your joint, which will limit compensation and speed up recovery.
At-home modalities: LYMBR therapists can also recommend some recovery modalities that you can do at home to further your efforts such as stretches to help maintain the work done in the studio, and the use of heat and ice.
Corrective exercises: As all LYMBR staff are certified personal trainers, we can also recommend some corrective exercises to strengthen weak or under-utilized muscles, as well as speak to proper technique when it comes to exercise. Our new Strengthening Protocols can also aid in recovery as many have a corrective nature to them.
One client is a 13-year-old female who participated in lacrosse and swimming. This particular athlete did both activities 5 days a week with a scarce amount of time being spent on rest and recovery. Her mother told us that her swimming coach was noticing limitations in her shoulder mobility, she was unable to touch her toes, and experienced violent ankle pain during and after lacrosse to the point where they were planning on going in for surgery. We did three assessments to see where we needed to focus our attention. I noticed from her postural assessment that her shoulders were rounded forward and her hands were positioned in front of her body rather than the side. Her pelvic assessment showed a very tilted pelvis that made it so one leg was longer than the other. Her walking assessment showed an inability to plantar flex the foot, making her hamstrings do all the work in creating forward momentum. After 30 minutes of stretching her feet, ankles, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, lower and mid back, she was able to extend her shoulders in almost perfect range of motion. She had no foot or ankle pain and was able to touch her palms to the floor. Her and her mother were ecstatic, and from then on, she saw me twice a week, every week, for an hour each session. She was able to continue both sports and was able to perform them both with maximal effort and minimal pain. She never went to surgery for her feet, and to this day does not experience any ankle or foot pain. She progressed and learned so much in her time here that she only comes in on a maintenance basis. Once or twice every two months with periodic checks. This athlete is a perfect example of why recovery and rest are so important. She went from almost having to quit both sports and undergo invasive surgery, to being able to participate and excel in her two favorite activities.
Another athlete is a 16-year-old football player who was experiencing pain and cramping in his calves during and after practice regardless of how much water he drank. This was limiting his ability to sprint and be explosive which was impacting his lifting and performance in practice and games. During his walking assessment I noticed that he was very flat footed and was unable to flex his ankle. We began working on his ankle, foot, and toe mobility as well as targeting his hamstrings and glutes. As he continued coming once a week for an hour and progressed through more difficult at home stretches, he was able to go through practices and games with no calf cramping or pain. He was able to add 50 pounds to his squat, shaved half a second off his 40-yard dash, and starts on his JV team. He now only comes twice a month for maintenance purposes and continues to use the stretches I’ve given him at home. This athlete put the same amount of effort into his recovery as he did his practice, and for that reason was able to perform at an optimal level. By eliminating pain and cramping in his calf, he was able to detach from the distractions of his physical body and focus on becoming better at the sport he loves.
If you have any questions about youth athletics in regard to movement, performance, relaxation, or recovery, please do not hesitate to seek us out. We want to make sure that every athlete can enjoy their sport, injury-free, with their most functional body.
Written by, Conner Fritchley. Conner is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien studio.
As the days get colder, you may start to notice discomfort and stiffness in your body. This is a natural and very common occurrence this time of year. When our bodies start to get cold, the first thing we do is hike up our shoulders, round our back and bury our chin. Even while sleeping, we curl into a ball in hopes that we will get that satisfying warmth. And chances are, you are not moving as much as you do in warmer weather.
In colder weather, our nervous system activates changes within our bodies to help regulate body temperature. Vasoconstriction occurs, where muscles tighten to constrict blood vessels throughout the body. Less heat reaches the surface of our bodies and in turn our core temperature can remain steady for our vital organs (Homeostasis).
Our bodies adapt to the positions that they are put in and the conditions they are exposed to. Over time, our muscles will shorten and become stiff.
Having a rounded back and shoulders, along with a protruded chin places a lot of stress on the upper back and shoulders. Stretching the muscles in the neck, upper back and shoulders which all support the cervical and thoracic portion of the spine, provide a lot of relief. Muscles like the trapezius, levator scapula, sternocleidomastoid, and rhomboids. These muscles are also very important for maintaining proper posture. After having these muscles stretched, people often feel taller and more open, and feel relief from pain and stiffness.
Temperature plays an important role in the way your muscles contract. It’s a lot more difficult for muscles to contract in cold weather as opposed to warmer conditions. The temperature affects how easily oxygen is released from hemoglobin to the muscle. In colder weather, the rate that oxygen is released is slower. Which means there is less oxygen available for the muscle, causing the muscle contraction to be difficult. This is where stiffness is felt. Oxygen intake is very important, as it is what fuels the muscle.
By regularly stretching with good form, you are promoting efficient blood circulation. The circulating blood provides oxygenated rich blood and nutrients to the muscle. This fresh blood is what is needed for the muscle to have proper function, strength, and flexibility.
Another way to increase your oxygen intake is to get more exercise. Be sure to warm up with active stretches and movements first. Injuries like muscle strains happen more often while exercising with cold muscles. Active stretching helps blood circulation to the muscles and warms them up.
Let’s continue to stay active and avoid poor movement patterns in the upcoming winter months. This can be achieved by warming up before exercise and properly stretching. Stay warm and BeLYMBR!
Written by, Michael Eaton. Michael is a Stretch Therapist and Asst Manager in our Darien, CT studio.
We all know how stress affects the mind, but it also affects the muscles in our body. The most common areas we tend to hold stress are in the neck, shoulders, hips, hands and feet. Planning one of your stretch sessions around these areas can help calm your mind and calm your body.
NECK When we experience stressful situations whether in a moment or over time, we tend to feel tension in the neck. Your shoulders hike up, causing tightness in the muscles along the back and side of your neck. Stress puts the neck muscles in a constant state of slight contraction, which can lead to unwanted tension. This tension leads to restricted range of motion, that feeling of having a knot in your neck, and sometimes tension or migraine headaches.
Stretching your neck will provide some relief. Not only is the experience of getting stretched relaxing, but the result is a lengthening of the muscles, allowing them to return to their natural, more relaxed state. Your neck will have greater range of motion, making your head feel lighter and your face more relaxed.
SHOULDERS / UPPER BODY We tend to hold a lot of stress in our shoulders causing them to round or hunch forward. This postural change reduces our mobility and puts added strain on our head, neck and upper back. Rounded shoulders also affect our ability to take full and complete breaths as the space in which our rib cage wants to move is restricted.
Stretching the muscles in your shoulders helps to open up and reduce the built-up tension in the upper body. As the shoulders relax and find their proper state, you experience a more open and relaxed posture. Your rib cage has more room to expand and the strain is taken off your head and neck.
HIPS If you study or practice yoga, you are familiar with the concept that we store a lot of stress and emotions in our hips. We’ve seen clients have an emotional reaction when we make significant improvements to their hip mobility during a session. The stress and restriction in your hips inhibit your comfort and your range of motion. Every movement we make begins with the hips, if they are not properly balanced and mobile, the effects resonate through your body – most commonly in the low back.
When you experience a proper series of stretches to open your hips, the effects can be felt on your entire lower body – you’ll feel lighter and move with more freedom. Some clients report a sense of calm, relaxation and release.
HANDS When we are feeling stressed, the muscles in our hands begin to clench, sometimes we don’t even notice it happening. Even when you are not holding something, they will stay in that tense position. This tension causes constriction to the tendons of the hands from the palm up through the tips of the fingers. This can have a negative impact on the forearm and the elbow. A common example would be similar to carpal tunnel syndrome – as the muscles in the hands and wrists begin to constrict, the nerves become inflamed from all of the pressure.
Stretching the hands will give you a feeling of letting go, literally. The hands will begin to relax releasing the tension from your fingertips up through your forearm.
FEET It is not commonly known that we hold a lot of stress in our feet. The result is restrictions in how the mechanics of our feet perform, especially in the arches, where we carry all of our weight. When the mechanics are not working properly, you put pressure on certain areas of the foot which are not designed to carry the load of your body on their own. The resulting tension and pain can resonate from the feet up the through your calf and behind your knee.
Having your feet and toes stretched may seem like an odd concept but the results are incredible. You’ll feel your toes open and your foot relax. Keeping your feet happy is a major factor in keeping your whole body happy. We ask a lot of our feet and they are so often overlooked.
Keep stress and its affect on your body at bay by taking time out of every day to focus on you. Put your phone down, try some deep breathing, go for a walk, and of course, focus on stretching.
As our Hamptons studio at the SoulCycle BARN gets busier with riders, we’re helping more and more clients get more out of every class, and participate in more rides.
Spinning has become a dominant force in the fitness industry. As its popularity increases, so does the necessity for understanding spinning’s impact on the body. These classes provide a great way to sweat, burn calories, and have fun while doing it. Yet as more time is spent on the bike, more pressure is put on the muscles tasked to complete the pedaling action. The muscles most affected by the repetitive motion, also happen to be some of the largest in the human body; your quads, glutes, and upper back musculature.
The quads are broken up into four muscles, hence the name “quad”. The quad muscles assist with the extension of the knee and are used for activities like walking, running, and other physical activities like spinning. With the high intensity demands of spinning classes, extra strain can be placed on the quad and the various points at which they insert or attach. This increases the possibility of strain and injury in the knee, hip, and low back. As the quads become tight they are unable to extend the knee fully, placing greater strain on the knee, hip, and low back to complete the motion. Tight quads will also pull your pelvis down, creating a pelvic tilt. This will throw your low back out of alignment and produce low back pain. A great way to avoid these injuries is by getting stretched. LYMBR therapists can reset a pelvic tilt in less than 3 minutes, and our quad stretches restore mobility and function to the quadriceps. By creating greater function, we allow the muscles to better assist with the extension of the knee, thus removing stress on the knee, the pelvis and therefore the low back.
The glutes are made up of three muscles: The glute maximus, the glute medius, and the glute minimus. Each muscle serves an important purpose in spinning, primarily dealing with extension at the hip, or the downward “push” of your stride. The glute max is one of the primary movers in spinning and creates the “push” off the pedal. The glute medius serves as a pelvic stabilizer during dynamic movements. As the spinner lifts one foot up and drives the other down, glute medius holds the pelvis in a neutral position. This lessens the chance of a low back or pelvic injury. Glute medius can be especially tight for females due to women having anatomically wider pelvis. The glute minimus helps shift your body weight to keep you balanced while pedaling. To ensure the glutes are performing all of these tasks, it’s important to stretch and take your glutes through their full range of motion. Keeping the glutes loose will keep the pelvis stable while you ride, assist with balance, and will ensure that you are not compensating with other muscles to complete the hip extension.
UPPER BACK AND SHOULDERS
Although they’re certainly not as common, upper back and shoulder injuries can also occur from spinning classes. The upper back, specifically your traps, lats, and rear delts (shoulders), are responsible for holding your body upright as well as stabilizing the shoulder through dynamic movement. When people spin, they often get into the habit of hunching over the handlebars and tensing up their shoulders. What this does is lengthen these muscles to the point where they are no longer able to function. Since these muscles do so much to facilitate posture, as their function begins to waver, so will your posture. Your chest will begin to tighten as well as your core, your pelvis will tilt, and your shoulders will lose stability. By stretching out your chest, core, shoulders, and neck we can restore proper length to shortened muscles and therefore take pressure off your back and rear shoulders. This will help reaffirm correct posture and make your experience on the bike much more comfortable.
Spinning is a fantastic form of exercise. You can burn calories, exercise your heart, increase endurance, lower body fat, all while being a part of a larger community of people trying to improve themselves. Like any activity, however, it’s best to start slow, and always listen to your body. We all have activities we love to do. If spinning is yours, then why not make sure your body is in its most mobile, functional state so you can make the most of every class.
Written by Conner Fritchley, Stretch Therapist in our Darien studio.