A blog about nothing.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

DEAD BUTT SYNDROME

The gluteal muscles (glutes, buttocks) are a group of three muscles (maximus, medius, minimus) that play an integral role not just in propelling you forward but in keeping your pelvis stable, none more so than the gluteus medius.

When the gluteus medius is weakened - whether through prolonged sitting, or through repetitive motion (e.g. running) in the absence of strengthening exercises - what often results is a condition known as dead butt syndrome. Dead-butt syndrome is inflammation of the gluteus medius muscle due to irritation. A weak muscle is unable to properly perform its function, which in this case is to keep the hip level. The result is pelvic instability, identifiable with the hallmark "sagged" gait, called the Trendelenburg sign in the medical community.


Dead butt syndrome and resulting pelvic tilt can cause a cascade of inflammation and irritation of adjacent muscles, which can lead to other injuries such as iliotibial band strain, plantar fasciitis, lower back pain and shin splints, as well as postural problems, head and neck pain, even discomfort in the seated position. Which is ironic, because prolonged sitting is often part of the problem.

What is the remedy? If you're a runner, cross-training, especially time on the bike, can help to strengthen the butt muscles and maintain postural stability. Hiking or climbing hills also works well. If you're not an endurance athlete and have no wish to become one but feel your glutes could use some strengthening, resistance exercises are great.

Body-weight squats
Stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, toes pointed slightly out. Sink into your calves until your thighs are about level with the floor, then return to the standing position, tightening the glutes throughout. Do three sets of ten repetitions. Stronger individuals may wish to hold dumbbells or use resistance bands to increase tension.

The bridge
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the ground, about 12 inches from your buttocks. Thrust the hips into the air, flexing your glutes. Hold for a count of three, and do three sets of ten repetitions.

Lunges
Begin from a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart. Step your right foot about 2 feet in front of you. Bend your right knee, making sure to keep your knee directly over your foot. Sink into the lunge until your left knee touches the floor, then return to standing position. Work up to three sets of ten repetitions.

For runners and non-runners alike, taking the stairs instead of the elevator is an easy way to improve cardiovascular fitness as well as strengthen the glutes.

Friday, October 18, 2013

ACTIVE RECOVERY

For the athlete, recovery from training sessions is essential. I remember being told during my days as a bodybuilder that the muscles grow when you sleep, and training too much (overtraining) can inhibit growth and slow or stall fitness gains. In my twenties I transitioned to endurance sports, and the same concept holds true. For the endurance athlete - and if you like to run, swim, bike, or even walk, that means you - rest is important to the extent that you allow your muscles to recover from a particular exercise. But rest doesn't have to mean inactivity.

Enter active recovery.

Let's say you're a triathlete. You run. You bike. You swim. You do it again. You do it a lot. So much that you begin to notice the signs of overtraining. You have difficulty sleeping. You dread your next workout session. Your resting heart rate goes up. You experience changes in appetite. You become irritable. Your sex drive diminishes. Or you have an upcoming race and begin a taper, reducing training volume and intensity to ensure your muscles are prepared to give their utmost during competition.

Whether you are tapering or suffering from overtraining, your body needs rest. When athletes hear the word they think of spending the day in bed or on the couch, sleeping in, lifting nothing heavier than a slice of pizza or pint of ice cream, or in other ways foregoing the usual workout in favor of inactivity.

But a body at rest stays at rest, and often it is hard to overcome inertia and get active again. Inactivity leads to reduced blood flow, and blood flow is essential to deliver nutrients to tissues and eliminate wastes. Not to mention that spending the hour you'd normally spend running simply lying in bed does little to relieve muscle soreness. What your really need is active recovery.

Active recovery is a form of rest in which you take time away from your workout routine while still maintaining activity. This can mean going for a walk instead of a run, for example.

Endurance athletes may derive particular benefit on off days from resistance training, with or without weights. Push-ups, pull-ups, dips, bodyweight squats, and dumbbell exercises strengthen muscles, tighten the core, and maintain blood flow to the tissues that need them, while you break the monotony of running/riding/cycling all those miles.

A second option is self-massage. Athletes often do not give this form of therapy its due. You go on a 2-hour bike ride, come home and would rather eat a big postworkout meal before you'd lie against the foam roller. But using tools such as a foam roller, the Stick, even a tennis or lacrosse ball against the wall, can deliver oxygen-rich blood to muscles and work out trigger points that keep muscles tight and put stress on joints.

On your next "rest" day, spend a half hour doing 10-15 sets of resistance exercises. Take Cindys, for instance. All you need is a pull-up bar for this trio of bodyweight exercises. Start with 5 pull-ups, drop down and do 10 push-ups, and finish with 15 bodyweight squats. Do as many of these triplets as you can in 10 or 20 minutes.

Follow this routine with 15 minutes of self-massage with the above-mentioned tools. The Stick works best on the lower leg, the foam roller really hits the quads and ITB, and the lacrosse ball against the wall is our favorite for the butt and back muscles.

We guarantee that following this "rest" day, your body will feel more rejuvenated than it ever could merely by spending the day beneath the covers, not that bed-time isn't useful, especially when it's with someone warm and cuddly, but that's active recovery of another sort, and the subject of another post.

HFLC?


LFHC stands for "high fat, low carbohydrate." This is a diet some follow, including proponents of the Paleolithic approach to eating. Recommendations that we were meant to derive energy from fat and not carbohydrates, but NOT omega-6 fats (found in nuts and oils) leaves a paltry few foods to choose from, mainly animal products. Considering the bacterial contamination and pesticide residue found in animal foods, loading up on beef, fish and chicken is not a good idea.
 
Also, fat is a stored energy source but it is also the place where toxins are stored, like the garage of the body, and by eating the fat of animals you are  getting all their stored toxins along with that stored energy. Anyone who says that carbohydrates are not a preferred energy source and this is why the body burns them preferentially (which seems very counterintuitive to me) is implying that we should not eat fruits and many vegetables, which are predominately carbohydrates and also some of the most nutritious foods, or that we should not be eating as the primates do, who have the same digestive systems and following instincts gravitate to fruits and vegetables over meat. Moreover, numerous studies suggest an association b/w high fat diet and cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's. (see below)
 
Also, fat in itself is very low in most vitamins and minerals. Fat-laden foods are some of the most non-nutritious foods out there. No whole foods exist that are pure fat. Animal foods (fish, chx, etc) provide a large amount of fat, but also a great deal of protein, more protein than your body needs to replenish muscle and enzymes, so the rest is either burned for fuel/excreted. Is protein therefore also a preferred energy source (over carbs)? Because that is what a meat eater is getting when eating high-fat animal foods. You cannot eat a lot of fat without getting a lot of protein unless you drink oil or consume lbs of butter (both pure fat, and neither a whole food). Therefore, in endorsing a high fat diet you must be prepared to endorse a high protein diet, and the research linking high protein intake with kidney disease and osteoporosis, not to mention cancer, is pretty solid. 
 
Or does a HFLC advocate mean that one should be deriving calories from pure fat found in coconut oil and other processed foods? Is pure fat what should be substituted for the carbs found in fruit and vegetables? This too seems pretty nonsensical.
 
Fat is oxidized in the body, which causes free radicals to form. Too much fat therefore contributes to aging. When it is cooked it can become carcinogenic. Fat has over twice the amount of calories found in carbohydrates, and is therefore much easier to eat to excess. Consider that 2 tbsp. of peanut butter has more calories than 2 whole bananas. Fat is also much easily stored when eaten to excess, since it is ready-made, and because fat sends signals to the stomach to slow emptying, it is not absorbed as fast and therefore not as readily available for energy as simple sugars are.
 
If you want to reduce consumption of sugar, eliminate grains, but emphasize sweet fruits which are almost without exception low glycemic foods. To decrease sugar even further, replace some sweet fruit with good fats such as olives, avocados and maybe some coconut butter. All are fruits themselves and nutritious while also having high fiber, a rarity as far as traditional fat sources are concerned.
 

Monday, October 14, 2013

HYDRATION DURING EXERCISE

Considering the sweat rate for the average athlete - 1 liter per hour of exertion, equivalent to two pounds of body weight - it is crucial to replace fluids both during and after exercise. Losing just one or two percent of body weight (around 2 or 3 lbs) can negatively impact performance, or at least increase perceived exertion, the amount of energy it takes to move at a given pace.

However, since most fluid lost contains salt (sweat), drinking plain water does not replace electrolytes and can even make you hyponatremic. Hyponatremia, or low blood sodium, can make you feel dizzy, disoriented, nauseated, and lethargic, and in extreme cases can be deadly.

Most endurance athletes these days do no drink plain water during exercise. A mixture of sugar, water, and salt is best. Consider adding 1/2 tsp of salt for every 16 ounces of fluid, in addition to 2-4 tbsp of sugar (equivalent to 120-240 calories). The juice of a fresh-squeezed lemon can really improve the taste. This is a homemade Gatorade without the artificial colors and other junk. You'll find that your body will naturally drink more of a mixture containing energy and electrolytes than it would drinking plain water alone.