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:
- Performing exercises correctly.
- Treating imbalances with proper flexibility, mobility and strength training.
- 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.