Stretching For Baseball – It’s A Whole Body Approach

Stretching For Baseball – It’s A Whole Body Approach

There isn’t a single muscle that isn’t tested when it comes to the sports of baseball and softball. Every aspect of these games is both mentally and physically demanding. The mental aspect demands that players have a wealth of knowledge and strategy about the game i.e. pitch selection, hitting for contact or power, knowing when to steal, etc. However, if your body is not flexible, mobile, stable, and strong, then a high baseball or softball IQ will only get you so far. At LYMBR, we hope to assist fellow baseball and softball players in their recovery and performance by mobilizing muscles, joints, and tissue involved in the three movements of the sports: swinging, throwing, and running. 

THE SWING

When you swing a bat you use a multitude of muscles to complete the swing. These include but are not limited to your deltoids, infraspinatus, wrist pronators/supinators, psoas, hip rotators, lats, pecs, etc. However, the function of any and all successful swings begin in the same place: the hips. Bat speed, point of contact, and how far that contact will go is determined by the rotational force of your lower body. It doesn’t matter how strong your upper body is, you will never be able to hit it as far as someone with better lower body rotation. The muscles listed above are consequently lengthened and shortened to complete the motion of the swing. If even one of those muscles is tight from overuse, stress, injury, or over-sitting then your ability to produce optimal swings mechanics is negatively impacted. The likelihood of this is fairly high since you’re doing this multiple times a day, every day, for years on end, and muscles will adapt to the length and motion you’ve made it comfortable with. It’s repetitive action, and it’s one of the most common muscular adaptations we see at LYMBR. By stretching out the back, shoulders, hips, wrists, and forearms we relax your connective tissues and lengthen your muscles back to its original length. This creates muscle balance. Swinging a bat at a tiny ball moving between 60-100 mph is hard enough without a tight, imbalanced body. 

PITCHING AND THROWING

At its most base, you’re just playing catch with your teammate. However, pitching and throwing at its heart is primal, ruthless, and steeped in strategy. You must understand pitch variance, changing your delivery times, hitting your cut-off man from the outfield, or whether or not to risk the far throw to home. What sets great arms apart from good arms is the overall comprehension of the throw itself. This is another motion dictated by the force production of your lower body. We are using similar muscles that we used in the swing such as the hip flexors, hip rotators, rotator cuff musculature, deltoids, lats, and wrist pronators, pectoral muscles, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and the muscles responsible for flexion in your back. If these muscles are tight or deconditioned, then they have a higher chance of misfiring creating a much higher probability of injury. By loosening these muscles, we improve the range of motion of the joint and associated muscles. This allows the joint to move in it’s normal range, rather than a limited range created by repetitive movement or overuse. This will reduce tissue trauma, inflammation/ lactic acid build up, or spasm. By increasing the range of the joint, we allow for proper motion which will reduce injury prevalence. When it comes to pitching, whether it be baseball or softball, sustainability is the name of the game. 

RUNNING

Running is undervalued in softball and baseball. Often for a good reason. This sport is highly technical and extremely strategic. If you are a power hitter with a cannon for an arm and a very high baseball IQ, then running and speed is not a prerequisite for greatness. However, a decent majority of baseball and softball players are not power hitters with cannon arms, and use speed as a way to get on base, make tough plays in the gap, and allow for more ground to be covered in the infield. Most of the athletes we see at LYMBR are not solely athletes. They’re students, they’re kids, they’re hunched over A LOT, and very rarely do we find they have proper posture. Improper posture will lead to a pelvic tilt either anterior or posterior. When our pelvis is not aligned with the rest of the body, force production from the legs will be drastically cut. By realigning the pelvis, we put our legs in proper position for power and force. This could be the difference between a stolen base and an out, a double play and an error, or a diving catch and a face plant. Baseball is not an endurance sport so to speak.

The games can be grueling and tiresome, but the movements are usually Quick and explosive, followed by periods of rest. These quick movements can become problematic if the muscles responsible are tight or unconditioned. It will increase your chance of injury, and your central nervous systems response to the play will be slower. By stretching out the muscles responsible for running like the psoas, IT band, calf, glute, hamstring, and ankle muscles we can improve flexibility which will increase blood flow, energy levels, and provide more oxygenated blood and nutrients to your body. Stretching also primes the central nervous system for movement, so the quickness at which you respond during activity will subsequently increase. 

The winter months were long with the lingering cold, the biting wind, and the decreased access to outdoor activities, especially with the pandemic. But spring is here, which means that sports like softball and baseball are in full swing. A sport that combines physical activities such as swinging, throwing, and running. Activities that, without optimal flexibility, mobility, stability, and strength could cause a season ending, or career ending injury. If you’re ready to start your season now, if you’re ready to create the most efficient version of yourself, if you’re ready to reduce injury and increase performance, then please join us at one of our LYMBR studios. 

A Note from an injured ball player: Listen to your body, if something doesn’t feel right, please get yourself checked. Take one game, or one season off, rather than dealing with an injury for the rest of your life. It takes 4-6 minutes to stretch your shoulder, and rotator cuff muscles to prevent injury and inflammation. Inversely, it could take up to 4-6 months,often longer, for a full rotator cuff recovery. Do the math, take the time, talk to experts, and take care of yourself. There is nothing more demoralizing than hurting yourself on the field, and never being able to come back from it.

Written by Conner Fritchley. Conner is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien studio, a LYMBR Academy Instructor, and he played High School Baseball.

The Best Stretches To Warm Up For Golf

The Best Stretches To Warm Up For Golf

“Warming up” is by far the most overlooked part of physical exercise and movement, particularly when it comes to the game of golf. This tends to happen for a multitude of reasons, but for the most part I think it’s the general excitement to get out onto the course as quickly as possible. Immediately hitting the driving range or getting right onto the course is extremely tempting, but I encourage you to give yourself enough time to properly warm up. I guarantee that you will feel better, and play better throughout your round.

Warming up lubricates your joints, warms your muscles and connective tissues, activates your nervous system, and helps sharpen your senses resulting in an increase in performance and athletic potential. This is especially important for the golf athlete as most golfers, and people in general, do not have the level of flexibility needed for proper swing mechanics. There’s plenty of factors that go into “why” flexibility falls short, but for most it’s increased periods of sitting, orthopedic injuries, or everyday aches and pains that can tighten people back up in a matter of hours. The best way to combat this is by performing something called “pre-event stretching” and undergoing a warm up. It is important to note that specific stretching techniques should be applied to pre-event stretching and warmups to reduce the likelihood of injury or decrease in performance. Static stretching, or holding stretches, is not recommended before a day on the course. This is because holding stretches can actually sedate the muscles, compromise muscle stabilizer functions, and lengthen muscle spindle cells without the brain being able to effectively monitor that change. You’ve probably had a feeling like this in your swing, you go to swing, and as you move through the motion something just doesn’t feel right and it impacts your ability to hit the ball properly. This is the brain responding to the change in length, and then altering the muscle length to match the pattern it’s used to. All in all: not good. 

BE DYNAMIC

Dynamic warmups and muscle energy exercises like the ones we use in LYMBR have been found to be the most effective at warming up the body, engaging muscles that will optimize swing mechanics, increase performance, and will reduce the likelihood of injury. This means that you will stretch into your target muscles without holding the stretch, and move in and out of the stretch until you loosen up. The repetitive nature and the minimal holding time is more effective as the brain can actively monitor the change in muscle length. This prevents the negative impacts of static stretching for pre-event such as joint destabilization and coordination deficits. In fact the body may actively tighten itself up during static stretching exercises as a way to protect the joint, especially if the joint is already sore.

Dynamic stretching does not put the body into a “threatened” state as the body responds better to being actively moved, and tends to allow the joints to move more freely. Typically, the golf athlete will respond better to this stimulus than trying to stretch across tight joints, especially in golfers over the age of 40. This is because aging creates degenerative tendencies in joints which decreases mobility unless there is focused flexibility practice to maintain or increase joint ROM (range of motion). This style of stretching and warmup not only lasts longer in most cases, but is also more effective for the body to learn how to move through an increased range of motion. 

4 STRETCHES TO GET WARMED UP

To make the most of these stretches, figure out where your biggest area of concern is for you and your swing (i.e. hips, shoulders, spine, pelvis, etc.) and pick the exercises that will help loosen these areas up. To assess which exercises make the greatest amount of difference, take out a club and swing it a few times before you stretch and mobilize. This will give you a solid starting point to reference as you move through your warm up and pre-event stretch. Indicators of improved range of motion from the exercises are as follows:

  1. Increased range of motion in spine, pelvis, and shoulders
  2. Reduced effort in swing, enhanced fluidity of motion
  3. Possible heightening of sense such as hearing, sight, and movement awareness. 

#1: SEATED BACK ROTATION WITH THUMBS UP

Take a seat in a chair with your legs shoulder width apart. Lift up your right arm with your thumb up. Turn your body with your arm and keep your eyes on your thumb. Return to the starting position and repeat for 5 repetitions. Repeat on the left side for 5 repetitions. Take a rest before repeating another set. Keeping the thumb up is great for hand eye coordination, it helps loosen up the shoulders, mid back, neck, and hip rotators. 

#2: SIDE LYING BACK ROTATION 

Laying down on your side, place your bottom hand on your knee to prevent the leg from coming up. Rotate backwards gently and hold for 2 seconds. Return to starting position before repeating the stretch for another 4 reps. Turn onto the other side and repeat on that side for 5 reps. Rest before repeating the exercise for another set. This is a great way to mobilize the upper back, neck, and shoulders. 

#3: HORIZONTAL GLUTE

Laying on your back, bring your leg up to a 90 degree angle. Use your opposite arm to bring your leg across your body. Try and keep your low back on the table. Bring the leg back to starting position and repeat for 5 total reps. Repeat on the other side for 5 reps, and rest before doing another set. This will help with your hip drive through your swing. 

#4: HIP FLEXORS

Grab a pillow and kneel down onto the pillow in a lunge position. Squeeze your glute, and drive your front knee forward until you feel a stretch on the front of your hip. Hold for 2 seconds, return to starting position and repeat for 5 total repetitions. Switch legs, and repeat on the other side for 5 repetitions. Rest before repeating another set. This will help with your hip drive through your swing and will prevent any compensations in the hips and lower back. 

WARM UP TO WIN

Add these 4 stretches as part of your pre-round routine. The few minutes you invest in a proper warm up will make the hours on the course more enjoyable and successful.

Written by Conner Fritchley, LYMBR Stretch Therapist and Academy Instructor.

Stretching For Skiing And Snowboarding

Stretching For Skiing And Snowboarding

During the winter season, there is a transition in the air that seems to affect everyone differently. Some tend to become more sedentary and stay inside where it is cozy and warm. Others rush outdoors and travel to the mountains for skiing and snowboarding. Researchers have observed decreased levels of physical activity and total daily energy expenditure during the winter months (Niebauer, 2016). It is important to consider activities like skiing and snowboarding as new alternatives to other forms of exercise. These snow sports have the potential to increase or at least maintain fitness levels during the winter. Professionals in the field also praise skiing for its positive influence on wellbeing and quality of life.

SNOW SPORTS AND THE HUMAN BODY

According to a recent article in Time (2018), skiing and snowboarding can be a ridiculously good workout. The combination of high altitude and low temperature challenges the heart, lungs, and muscles to work hard on each run down the mountain. A professor of sports medicine and cardiology expressed how the sport can have positive effects on your leg muscles, as well as the heart and blood circulation. Additionally, researchers observed improved insulin resistance, body composition, and glucose metabolism, whereas a drop in blood pressure, blood lipids, and heart rate. Each of these physiological benefits will improve your quality of life and long-term health. All of which are observed in individuals who ski or snowboard on a regular basis.

Individuals participating in these sports should consider following an exercise program before hitting the mountain, as the energy requirements of the sport is similar to high intensity interval training (HIIT).  Depending on factors like the individual’s skill level, exertion, and terrain of the slope, the body is working at a high level for roughly 15-20 minutes. Once the run is finished, skiers and snowboarders enjoy a rest period while on the lift back up the mountain. Skiing and snowboarding are challenging sports, especially to those who are untrained. The exercise program, designed by a fitness professional, may include aspects of cardiorespiratory, strength, plyometric, and flexibility training. 

The muscular system serves as the core of each movement while on the mountain. Functioning to counteract the effects of gravity and other external forces to maintain body alignment and to realign body segments while performing movements. The detailed movements in skiing and snowboarding utilize all muscle actions, resulting either in smooth motion for experts or sloppy motion for beginners. Depending on body awareness and skill level, the individual may move with more efficient muscle contractions.

THE IMPORTANCE OF FLEXIBILITY TRAINING

Injury prevention for skiing and snowboarding is highly valuable for both short-term and long-term success. Maintaining optimal conditioning and flexibility of the muscles in the trunk, hips, and ankles through regular stretching is recommended. According to Vagners (1995), lower body flexibility is extremely important for efficient skiing, and may be necessary to perform more advanced movements in modern ski technique. An important note is that flexibility is specific to each joint – whereby significant differences in flexibility may be observed in left and right extremities, unless stretches are carefully balanced according to the individual’s needs. Each individual varies in abilities and will need a personalized stretching routine to address their own needs. Be mindful of tracking progress from the starting point – this is important to highlight which areas are improving and keeps you motivated to continue practice.

Focusing on skiing and snowboarding, we begin to identify the importance of stretching for these sports. Stretching may reduce the risk for injury, which should be of top priority for all ages. Mainly in the lower body, the muscles are performing countless contractions, and muscle soreness will surely follow. In order to manage the discomfort, skiers and snowboarders should perform stretching routines to maintain prime conditions of the muscles. Specific environmental factors such as cold temperatures limit performance of the muscles due to reduced blood and oxygen supply. Stretching counteracts this by enhancing your body’s ability to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the muscles. Similarly, stretching helps to clear out metabolic waste like lactic acid build up. LYMBR stretching fuels the body by improving blood flow, oxygen and nutrition delivery to the working muscles. By moving these muscles beyond resting length, LYMBR stretching can keep the body ready to perform at a high level.

Skiing and snowboarding challenges the body to work through different ranges of motion. The muscles of the upper and lower body could benefit from stretching, as many of the movements will be replicated on the mountain. From the fundamentals to the advanced tricks, the body requires a high degree of flexibility when performed. Being able to flex, extend, and rotate different areas of the body are essential to these sports. For example, when snowboarders attempt a ‘180’ or ‘360’ the ability to move the back and hips is key. Stretching can help improve and maintain the range of motion required for these movements. Working with a professional at LYMBR can be useful to identify which areas need the most attention.

HOW TO STRETCH

If stretching before activity, the tempo of stretching should be matched to that of the activity to serve as a warmup. Whereas, stretching after activity should be of a slower nature to allow for a cool down. Breathing will be important throughout every stretch – inhale at the start of stretch and exhale all the way through the most intense part of the stretch. Allow the breath to help move the body through a full range of motion. Do not rush through the more difficult stretches. Give the body time to process so that the nervous system can develop confidence and understanding of the movement. Stretching should be dynamic – make sure to move through an active range before assisting. By following these principles, it ensures that every movement is both safe and efficient. Every stretch performed is an assessment of the body’s range of motion – be gradual by starting shallow and progressing to a deeper stretch. 

With our present knowledge on the topic, it can be concluded that stretching should be recommended for skiers and snowboarders of all ages and skill levels. Whether self-stretching or assisted stretching, there are clear benefits to this practice. Stretching plays a big role in the fitness and wellness routines of the winter months. Taking the time to stretch will keep the body going strong for the next run down the mountain. If done properly, a stretching routine can go hand in hand with a skiing or snowboarding hobby.

Written by Cesar Garcia, LYMBR Stretch Therapist and Academy Instructor.

References:
Heid (2018) – Time: Health – Exercise & Fitness Article Why skiing is a ridiculously good workout.
Niebauer (2016) – A comparison between alpine skiing, cross country skiing, and indoor cycling on cardiorespiratory and metabolic response
Vagners (1995) – A ski instructor’s guide to the physics and biomechanics of skiing.

The 3 Best Stretches for Healthy Shoulders in Racquet Sports.

The 3 Best Stretches for Healthy Shoulders in Racquet Sports.

Anyone who plays a racquet sport knows the importance of having healthy shoulders. Any type of muscle soreness or injury can make serving and hitting ground strokes very painful, taking the joy out of playing. There are four muscles that make up the rotator cuff, the infraspinatus, subscapularis, supraspinatus and teres minor, each of which have a different function, yet they work in conjunction to allow the arm to move in a 360-degree plane. Due to poor posture, an increase in sitting, and a lack of general emphasis on mobility, these muscles are unable to effectively move and stabilize the shoulder.   

Being a tennis, paddle, or squash player with lots of power does not necessarily come from strength. In fact, it has a lot to do with flexibility and how well you use all parts of your body in unison, something we refer to as the kinetic chain.  

Novak Djokovic is the best example of power through flexibility. When you look at him, he is slender and isn’t somebody you would classify as “strong” in the traditional sense. However, one of the things that makes him such a force on the tennis court is his flexibility. His body’s elasticity allows him to create so much racquet-head speed that it doesn’t benefit him to be bulky. He transfers a lot of his power by using his legs, hips, core and shoulder together. He utilizes every part of his body to create his power, and if one part of that kinetic chain is off due to either injury or lack of range of motion, a lot of his skill, coordination and strength would be lost.  

When we think about serving in racquet sports, a lot of the generated power comes from the range of motion in our shoulder, rather than just strength. One way to demonstrate this point is a simple exercise to try while reading this.   

Take your arm and bring it up to a 90-degree angle like in the starting position picture above, while keeping your elbow in the same position, bring it up to the 45-degree angle in the second photo and snap it back to the starting position with maximal force. Now try doing the same thing but this time, bring your arm back as far as possible to your maximum external rotation and snap back to the starting position from here. Which of these two created the most force? Maximum rotation of course. This is one of the keys to serving with power. Now if you look at my maximum rotation (which is not great by the way at only 95 degrees or so), if I could get my arm back another 20-30 degrees, wouldn’t I be able to create more force? Absolutely.   

Our shoulder creates torque when we serve and the more range of motion we have, the greater our angular momentum. Now I’m not trying to turn this into a physics lecture, however the key principle behind serving power is in the simple demonstration above. When in the LYMBR studio, we put a large emphasis with all of our racquet sport players on the importance of rotator cuff flexibility. The combination of stretching and our strengthening protocol will help you get your serve as strong as ever.  

Below are a series of rotator cuff stretches that you can do at home, as a warm up or cool down. Since these rotator cuff muscles all work together to allow the shoulder to move in a 360-degree plane. It is important to find a routine that helps you, it will not be the same for everyone. Try one set of each stretch, take a rest and go through the series again, be aware of your body and how each stretch changes how you feel. Always stay engaged mentally while you are stretching. This creates more mind to muscle connection, will ensure you are moving safely, and will give you the greatest chance of doing the exercise correctly. All of these factors will help take your racquet game to the next game.  

SUBSCAPULARIS  

Subscapularis – This muscle is largely responsible for the internal rotation of the shoulder, therefore to stretch the muscle, we must do the opposite. In order to stretch the muscle on your own, grab a long object (a broomstick, wooden dowel, or rake handle works). Standing straight, bring your arm out to the side and bend it to 90 degrees with the object on the back side of your arm.  From here, you want to bring your arm forward 5 degrees, drop the arm down by 5 degrees, and extend the arm out by 5 degrees. These tiny movements will isolate the subscapularis muscle and put the shoulder into a healthier position for stretching. Turn your palm so it’s facing forward, and grab the object behind you. With your opposite hand, pull the object forward to externally rotate the shoulder. Move through the stretch for about 3-5 repetitions and make sure not to hold the stretch. Do anywhere from 1-3 sets on each arm depending on how much time you have.  

 INFRASPINATUS  

Infraspinatus – This muscle will externally rotate the shoulder, therefore to lengthen the muscle we have to put the shoulder into internal rotation. Stretching this muscle does not require an object as we can use the ground as an anchor. Lying on your side, bring the arm that is closest to the ground out to 90 degrees. We want to position our shoulder similarly to how we did in the last stretch. Bring the arm forward by 5 degrees and extend the arm out 5 degrees. You also want to make sure that your shoulder is in line with your head, if it comes out to the side or is to far behind you then you’ll lose the precision of the stretch. Gently rotate your arm down to the ground whilst keeping your elbow still. Use your top hand to gently assist the arm further. Don’t use a lot of pressure on your wrist as you can hurt the joint or irritate the shoulder. Move through the stretch for 2-3 seconds without holding the stretch. Do 3-5 reps on one side and repeat on the other side. Perform 1-3 sets on each side or as many as you can with the time you have.  

TERES MINOR  

Teres minor – Whilst standing or sitting upright, put your hand behind your head, and reach for your opposite side shoulder blade. Take your opposite hand and grab the outside of your elbow, gently pulling your elbow and hand behind the head. This is an advanced stretch and in order to get the isolation, keeping your shoulder blade in the same place throughout the movement is the key. For most people, this will just feel like a triceps stretch, and that is okay. Put an emphasis on not leaning to one side as that will definitely cause you to lose the isolation of the stretch. Perform 3-5 reps with 2-3 seconds per rep without holding the stretch, repeat on the other side and perform 1-3 sets on each arm.  

This is a general routine that works for most people in keeping their shoulders healthy for racquet sports. However, the shoulder joint consists of about 8 muscles that attach to the shoulder blade, upper arm, and collar bone not to mention the various other muscles responsible for stabilizing and mobilizing the shoulder. If you are experiencing shoulder discomfort, or have trouble performing these exercises, we suggest getting in front of a LYMBR practitioner to ensure you are performing them correctly, furthermore to ensure the pain is not being caused by another muscle along the chain.  

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. 

Improving Digestion Through Optimal Nutrition

Improving Digestion Through Optimal Nutrition

We already know that what we eat affects everything from our weight to our ability to fight viruses, and our digestion. However, if you spend some time exercising during the day, but spend the rest of it in front of the television, chances are your digestion may slow down with you. Adding in short walks, playing with your kids, and stretching throughout your day can help keep things moving! Keep in mind, getting enough quality sleep can also help with digestion and help mitigate constipation.  

If you are feeling constipated, bloated, or are experiencing other digestive issues, it is important to make changes to your eating plan gradually. Try keeping a list (or a mental list!) of the changes that help you feel better and what makes you feel worse. Spreading out your meals throughout the day and leaving about 3-4 hours between meals will allow for optimal digestion. A low fat diet is often better tolerated and you may feel better if you avoid fried/greasy foods and foods prepared with added fat.  

BE MINDFUL OF SUGAR ALCOHOLS

Sugar alcohols are found in many sugar free products. Look out for certain alcohols like maltitol, xylitol, erythritol, and sorbitol which can increase bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Sweeteners like Sweet-N-Low, Splenda, Equal, Truvia, and most stevia products contain maltodextrin which can cause bloating in some people. Moderation is key.  

Anywhere between 25-38 g of fiber daily for adequate digestion and promotion of bowel movements. Incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes as a way to meet the requirements the body needs.  Micronutrients (i.e. vitamin C) are as important as macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates)! High fiber foods feed the healthy bacteria in your gut therefore reducing inflammation and chronic disease. Fiber also increases short chain fatty acids which has been shown to improve immune and intestine function.  

PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS

Keeping the gut healthy has many benefits, one of which is keeping the digestive system functioning as it should. The gut can be supported by prebiotic and probiotic foods and supplements. Incorporating prebiotic and probiotic food sources will help support gut function and improve overall health. Prebiotic foods include artichokes, bananas, beans, and oats. Probiotic foods are live bacteria found in fermented foods including sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and water kefir. If you have a diet high in animal products try reducing your portion size or swapping a red meat burger for a veggie burger every once in a while. Red meat, high fat dairy products, and fried foods have been linked to a reduction in the growth of healthy bacteria.  

At the end of the day, listen to your body and remove your unique intolerances and inflammatory foods. We can truly live a healthier quality of life through physical activity and nutrition.  

Written by Jenny Candela, LYMBR Stretch Therapist, ATC and studying to be a Registered Dietician.  

Tomova A, Bukovsky I, Rembert E, et al. The effects of vegeterian and vegan diets on gut microbitia. Front Nutr. Published online April 17, 2019.  

3 Ways To Make Sure Your Resolutions Become a New Lifestyle

3 Ways To Make Sure Your Resolutions Become a New Lifestyle

This is a new year like no other. Chances are you are looking a little harder at your New Year’s Resolutions for 2021. With the time you had for self-reflection in 2020, what have you decided are the big changes you are going to make beginning January?

While some resolutions may have nothing to do with fitness or wellness, chances are at least one does. As you may already know, fitness and wellness goals are typically the first to be abandoned shortly after they’ve begun. We are dedicated to helping you stay on track with your goals with three practices to ensure consistency and positive results. 

Practice stretching daily, even if it’s for 5-10 minutes. 

Your body is an amazing feat of bioengineering that has an amazing memory. Movement and posture habits become hard to break. As you do something repeatedly, like walking with outwardly turned feet or slouching when you sit, your body recognizes these habits as your accepted pattern of movement. Once this happens, it takes ten times as many repetitions to correct it and re-teach your nervous system. This is where stretching becomes so important. The idea that stretching is for rehabilitation is only partly true. While, yes, it is extremely important to maintain flexibility and mobility in your muscles and joints when rehabbing an injury, it is exponentially more important to recondition your body so that injury is far less likely to happen. This is done with heavy focus on form and repetition, as repeating the correct motion will increase the body’s ability to perform that skill subconsciously (“Repetition is the mother of all skills provided there is skill in the repetition”-Paul Chek). Balanced, subconscious movement is the goal. If your body and nervous system are in sync, then your chance of injury decreases tremendously as each muscle and joint is in line performing its correct action. 

Try to incorporate strength training, if that’s not for you, just move your body! 

The best way to ensure that your body’s flexibility and mobility is maintained is by using your muscles in their full range of motion through exercise and movement. This will bolster your body awareness and strengthen your joints and muscles in their correct range of motion. Flexibility and mobility are extremely important but so is stability and strength as it helps facilitate proper posture as well as your body’s proper subconscious response to stimulus. Taking a more holistic approach to reconditioning your body will be more beneficial for you in the long run as you will be more flexible and mobile with stronger joints and muscles to support that pliability. It’s important to remember that strength training is not for everyone, so do your best to get out there and move. Keep in mind that introducing weights into your exercise regiment, even one day a week, will dramatically improve joint, muscle and bone strength. 

Find a professional to help create a plan of action. 

Starting this process can be confusing and discouraging, especially for those who are just embarking on their fitness and recovery journey. Getting in front of quality personal trainers and therapists to help provide you with a plan of action is a great way to ensure you do the following: 

  1. Performing exercises correctly.
  2. Treating imbalances with proper flexibility, mobility and strength training. 
  3. Avoiding unnecessary or harmful exercises or activities. 

Fitness is hard enough without having to unravel the physiological properties of the human body. It’s important to remember that you are not alone , and you don’t have to do this by yourself. There are millions of people starting on day 1 just like you and even the strongest and most flexible person in your gym started right where you are now. The strong and flexible stay that way through practice, consistency and more likely than not, reaching out for help when they need it. This is why we got into this business in the first place: We want to help people get better. Making your resolutions a new lifestyle starts here, and we’re ready when you are.

Written by Conner Fritchley. Conner is a Stretch Therapist and LYMBR Academy Instructor.

6 Ways to Stay Physically and Mentally Flexible

6 Ways to Stay Physically and Mentally Flexible

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 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. 

For Good Knee Health, Look a Little Higher

For Good Knee Health, Look a Little Higher

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.

5 Stretches To Help Prevent Tennis Elbow

5 Stretches To Help Prevent Tennis Elbow

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 

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 

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

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 

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 

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. 

Returning To Tennis And How It Impacts Your Hips And Back.

Returning To Tennis And How It Impacts Your Hips And Back.

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.