For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, what’s the deal with exercise-induced asthma? Is there anything we can do to lessen its impact and incidence? Second, is CBD oil helpful for diabetics? And finally, do bodyweight exercises always require warm-ups? What about workouts in general—do you need to warm-up before every single session?
Let’s find out:
The first question comes from Caue Cavallaro:
since you are the go-to person when it’s about health, for me, do you have any material related to exercise induced asthma? I had it every now and then but since I started training for triathlon it’s happening more often. Thank you!
This is a classic response. When I was doing triathlon (and training others in the sport), exercise-induced asthma was incredibly common. These were some of the fittest people on the planet, and yet they were wheezing and coughing like they were completely out of shape.
The common denominator was inflammation and oxidative stress. Back then, most of us didn’t know anything about either—and we were loading our bodies with tons of both. Anything you can do to reduce excess inflammation and oxidative stress in a healthy, sustainable manner will help.
First and foremost, how are you training? I’d really consider getting your hands on Primal Endurance or reading this post. The quick and dirty version is that to train the aerobic pathway, you have to go easier and slower than you think. Take 180 and subtract your age. That’s your target heart rate. Stay under it to remain aerobic. You’ll go so slow and so easy that it won’t even feel like you’re training. This will increase how fast you can go while remaining in the aerobic fat-burning zone, and it will limit your tendency to overtrain. Overtraining is the primary reason for exercise-induced asthma because when you overtrain, you’re heaping excessive inflammation and oxidative stress on your system. And you’re doing it every single time you train.
This “easier” style of endurance training is totally applicable to triathlon. Spend a good month or so (longer for most, but you’re probably reasonably fit and ahead of the game) focusing on that for the bulk of your training, building that aerobic base. Pepper in some more intense stuff, some “race pace” running/swimming/biking, some strength training and sprints.
How are you eating? Too many seed oils high in omega-6 fats and too many refined carbohydrates (to support the overtraining, of course) will tilt the balance toward inflammation and oxidative stress. Switch over to more saturated and monounsaturated fat sources, like butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. Be sure to eat fatty fish or take fish oil to balance out your omega-3:omega-6 ratio. Eat fewer carbs, and even consider going keto to enhance your fat-adaptation. The low carb approach goes hand in hand with training easier in the aerobic zone, as it demands less carbohydrate.
You’ll want to support your glutathione production with whey protein, raw dairy, and NAC supplements. Glutathione is the body’s premier in-house antioxidant. We most famously use it to detoxify harmful substances like alcohol and reduce oxidative stress, but glutathione also combines with nitric oxide to become a potent bronchodilator called nitrosoglutathione. Bronchodilators open up the airways and facilitate air flow. Having inadequate glutathione can impair your production of nitrosoglutathione and make your asthma worse—or trigger it.
Choline can help. Studies have shown that getting some extra choline reduces the airway inflammation and oxidative stress in people with asthma. You can take a choline supplement or eat a few egg yolks each day.
Regarding CBD/hemp oil, Carmen asked:
Is there oil for diabetics??
They’ve actually looked at CBD for diabetics. In animal studies, it reduces the incidence of diabetes and shows promise against diabetic complications like high glucose-induced endothelial dysfunction.
But the only human study was a bit of a dud. It compared CBD alone, CBD with THC, and THC alone in people with type 2 diabetes. Only the THC alone improved blood sugar, pancreatic beta cell function, and lipid numbers. CBD was ineffective, if harmless.
When you say, as soon as you wake up, do a quick superset of pushups – doesn’t it require a warm-up session beforehand? Can you really do them right away, as soon as you get out of bed? Is a warm-up not always essential?
I mean, you don’t have to do them right away. I can definitely see an argument for brushing the teeth and having some coffee first. For waking up a bit to get the most out of your workout. But if you work out on a regular basis and have a good base level of strength—which our commenter seems to have—you should be able to do basic bodyweight exercises without much of a warm-up.
If pushups are a major effort for a particular person, then a warm-up is a good idea.
As for the essentiality of warm-ups in general? Warm-ups become necessary when we stop moving for most of the day and do a big workout a few times a week. Warm-ups are necessary when we sit for 10 hours a day, using terrible posture the entire time. Warm-ups are important if you’re going really hard, really intense, and really heavy (think a big CrossFit WOD, a set of heavy deadlifts, or something similar). Warm-ups aren’t as essential if you make your entire lifestyle a movement session.
Thanks for reading, everyone. If you have any comments, input, or questions, leave it down below!
Mehta AK, Singh BP, Arora N, Gaur SN. Choline attenuates immune inflammation and suppresses oxidative stress in patients with asthma. Immunobiology. 2010;215(7):527-34.
Weiss L, Zeira M, Reich S, et al. Cannabidiol arrests onset of autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice. Neuropharmacology. 2008;54(1):244-9.
Rajesh M, Mukhopadhyay P, Bátkai S, et al. Cannabidiol attenuates high glucose-induced endothelial cell inflammatory response and barrier disruption. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2007;293(1):H610-9.
Jadoon KA, Ratcliffe SH, Barrett DA, et al. Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Group Pilot Study. Diabetes Care. 2016;39(10):1777-86.
The post Dear Mark: Exercise-Induced Asthma, CBD for Diabetes, Warm-ups In the Morning appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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I’m a believer in working hard AND playing hard. When we get stuck in patterns of overwork and overstress, we lose the important connection with our creative, intuitive, playful selves. Our work suffers and so does our happiness (which means everything else, like our relationships, will, too). Stuart Brown, one of the world’s leading experts on play, calls play a “profound biologic process.” What we all know (or used to know until modern living helped us forget) is that play is an essential component of our physical development and general well-being. From a personal standpoint, the older I get the more I recognize play as the linchpin for my own sense of vitality. As a result, I prioritize play—even above exercise. Fortunately, however, I’ve grown into a new relationship with fitness as a result of play. I gave up the slog of grueling training regimens decades ago now, but to this day I’m still living more deeply into a play-based fitness vision. Let me show you a bit of what that looks like for me….
You all have heard me talk about Ultimate—probably as long as Mark’s Daily Apple has been around. The fact is, it’s as thrilling for me today as it was twelve years ago. Nothing else quite combines the diversity of essential movement and the heart of play like Ultimate does. In a single hour, I’m getting regular sprinting, lateral movement, agility training, recovery phases, and mind-body coordination to skillfully throw, catch and move on the field. I love the intense challenge and fast pace of the game.
Ultimate plays very similarly to rugby or football. The field has two end zones, and a team scores by catching a pass in the defensive team’s end zone. The defending team performs a “pull” (think “kickoff” in football) to start the match (and after every subsequent point scored). The offense moves the disc by passing to teammates in any direction. Once a player catches the disc, he must come to a stop as quickly as possible. From this position, he can only move his non-pivot foot. A player has ten seconds to throw the disc after catching it.
The disc changes hands either by turnover or after a score. A turnover occurs when a pass is not completed, intercepted, dropped, blocked, held for longer than the allotted ten seconds, or thrown out of bounds. The defending team assumes control of the disc immediately following a turnover, from wherever the disc lands on the field. There is no stoppage of play (unless a foul, injury or bad weather occurs).
From a physical standpoint, you’re out there running, leaping, twisting, grabbing, throwing, and bumping into other players. You use practically every muscle in the body (if you’re not, you’re doing it wrong) and, rather than long protracted runs, you engage in short bursts of speed and activity punctuated by walking and brief jogging (almost like you’re on the hunt). Not only does it take keen, quick thinking, remarkable agility and throwing accuracy, and raw athleticism, but it also promotes good teamwork and sportsmanship. In fact, Ultimate has an official “Spirit of the Game” (SOTG), a sort of mission statement that stresses sportsmanship and honor. Highly competitive play is condoned, but not at the cost of general camaraderie. Everyone is out there to have a good time and get some great exercise.
Check it out.
Want more ideas for active play? Here you go.
- 15 Concrete Ways To Play
- Crawling, Balancing, Rolling: The Importance of Practicing Natural Movements
- 10 Ideas To Make Workouts More Fun
- The 10 Rules of Successful Exercise
- Workout Suggestion: Planned Spontaneity
And for more on the importance of play for a Primal Blueprint lifestyle, check out these resources.
- The Definitive Guide To Play
- The Lost Art of Play: Reclaiming a Primal Tradition
- The Importance of Play, Long Walks and Outdoor Workouts—Or Why the Optional Stuff Isn’t Actually Optional
Now you tell me: what’s your favorite way to play? How do you merge the Primal goals of mobility and fitness with everyday enjoyment? Thanks for stopping in today.
The post My Favorite Way To Play: Ultimate Frisbee Workout (with Video) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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Jessica Gouthro from Paleohacks is joining us today to offer tips for strengthening glutes and hamstrings without traditional gym equipment. Enjoy, everyone.
Strong glutes and hamstrings are more than just nice-looking legs and a booty.
The glutes and hamstrings are the strongest muscles in our skeletal muscular system. When we strengthen these muscles, we can prevent strain and injury while also enjoying a greater ability to squat deeper, lunge pain-free, push heavy objects, run faster and jump higher.
To best train those glutes and hamstrings, you’ll want to emphasize both leg curling (knee bending) and hip extension (or straightening) actions for balanced training. One of the best exercises that do this is the glute ham raise, or GHR.
Very few exercises can isolate the hamstrings and glutes without top-loading excess weight on the spine or testing your grip strength with a loaded barbell. Although you may think this exercise looks easy in comparison to a Barbell Romanian Deadlift or Hip Thrust, it is just as challenging (if not even more so) when performed correctly.
What Is a Glute Ham Raise?
A glute ham raise is an eccentric, or muscle lengthening, exercise that involves a fixed location of the feet, ankles, and hips and a hinge only at the knee joint. By securing the foot position and starting with a bent knee, we enable the hamstring to lengthen eccentrically against gravity using only our own body weight.
Rising back up to the starting position is done by a combination of hamstring contraction and assistance from the upper body pushing against the floor.
Typically, this exercise utilizes specialized equipment called a GHR machine (pictured) that can hold your feet and ankles in place and cushions your knees with a curved, shaped knee pad.
Since you may not have access to one of these in your home or gym, we have a great alternative you can do with a partner. All you need is a friend and a rolled-up towel to cushion your knees!
Partner Assisted Glute Ham Raise | 6 reps
Kneel down on a rolled-up towel. Tuck your toes under and straighten your hips. Lift your hands up in front of your shoulders and tighten your core.
Have your partner press down firmly on your ankles to secure your position. Keeping your hips and glutes tight, inhale as you slowly lean forward, hinging only at the knees.
Once you can no longer control the descent, use your hands to catch yourself and lower the rest of the way down. Push into the floor with your hands, and on an exhale, contract your glutes and hamstrings to rise back up to the starting position.
Complete six reps while your partner holds your ankles steady.
Note: This is an advanced exercise. If you find this exercise too challenging and cannot complete six good reps, you can try this next partner-assisted resistance band hamstring curl exercise as an alternative.
Partner-Assisted Kneeling Band Hamstring Curl | 8 reps per leg
Kneel down on a rolled-up towel, tuck your toes under, and get into an all-fours position. Extend one leg straight out behind you.
Have your partner loop a resistance band around your heel, just above your shoe. As your partner holds her end of the resistance band tight, bend your knee to curl your heel towards your butt.
Exhale and hold momentarily at 90 degrees, then slowly straighten to return to the starting position. Continue to bend and straighten your knee while maintaining that lifted leg position. Complete eight reps, then switch sides.
Note: You will feel this in your glutes on both sides as well as in your hamstring.
In case you don’t have a partner available, here are the five best glute and hamstring exercises you can do anywhere, by yourself. You’ll need a yoga mat, a towel, and an exercise band.
To get the most out of your efforts, I recommend performing all of these exercises at least two to three times per week.
Fire Hydrant | 10 per side
Kneel down in an all-fours position with your feet flexed (toes pointing to the floor). Lift one knee up and out to the side to hip height. Exhale at the top as you flex your glute muscles, then lower back down with control. Maintain a steady torso and upper body as you focus on contracting your glutes.
Complete 10 reps on one side, then switch to the other leg.
Note: Work slowly to ensure quality muscle contractions. Pause each time you hit the top and strongly contract your glutes. You’ll feel this on both sides, even though you’re working one side at a time.
Towel Slide Hamstring Curl | 8 reps
Sit at the bottom edge of your mat with the full length of your legs on a smooth surface floor, like hardwood or tile.
Lie down flat on your back and press your palms into the floor by your hips.
Place your heels on a towel and keep your feet flexed. (If you are working on carpet, use a piece of paper or two paper or plastic plates instead of a towel.)
Engage your glutes and lift your hips off the ground. On an exhale, bend your knees to slide the towel towards your butt. Stop when your knees reach a 90-degree bend. Inhale, and reverse by sliding back out to a straight body.
Complete eight reps, keeping your hips elevated the entire time.
Single Leg Toe Touch | 6 reps per side
Stand tall with your core tight and shoulders rolled back and down. Balance on one foot as you float the other just off the ground.
Inhale to hinge at the hips to tilt forward until your torso and top leg are parallel to the ground. Keep a slight bend in your standing leg and reach your fingertips towards your toes. Exhale to lift back up to standing, contracting your muscles.
Complete six reps per side.
Note: Keep your gaze on the ground to help with balance. If balance is still a challenge, you may hold onto a wall or chair with one hand while you do these reps.
Single Leg Balance Hamstring Curl | 6 reps per side
Balance on one leg with your torso and lifted leg parallel to the ground. Keep a small bend in your standing leg, and grab onto your quad for stability. On an exhale, curl your top leg towards your butt, while maintaining your hip and torso position.
Inhale to straighten your leg, reaching it out long behind you.
Continue six reps on one side, then complete six reps on the other side.
Single Leg Resistance Band Ham Curl | 6 reps per side
Slide one end of your loop resistance band underneath your left heel, pressing down with your heel to secure its position.
Lift your right leg. Loop your right heel through the other end of the band, positioning it on the back of your shoe. Place both hands on your left knee and hinge at your hips with your spine straight.
Exhale to bend your right knee to 90 degrees, then inhale as you lower back down with control, maintaining a small amount of tension on the band so it does not come loose. Your range of motion should be about eight to 10 inches.
Complete six reps, then switch sides.
Note: Hold onto a wall or a chair for balance if you need to.
How To Incorporate This Weekly Workout
Here’s a sample workout you can incorporate into your weekly routine.
Warm up with three minutes of light walking or jogging. Follow with three rounds of the circuit of seven exercises, resting for 10-30 seconds between exercises depending on your fitness level.
Note: Beginners can do just one round and work up to three rounds after a few weeks.
- Partner-Assisted Glute Ham Raise [OR] Partner Assisted Kneeling Band | 6 reps
- Hamstring Curl | 8 reps per leg
- Fire Hydrant | 10 per side
- Towel Slide Hamstring Curl | 8 reps
- Single Leg Toe Touch | 6 reps per side
- Single Leg Balance Hamstring Curl | 6 reps per side
- Single Leg Resistance Band Ham Curl | 6 reps per side
Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro for these tips and to Brad Gouthro for demonstrating them. Be sure to check out Jessica’s other workout lineups on MDA:“Arm Workout Without Weights,” “13 Ways To Move More At Work” and “10 Moves To Help Ease Joint Pain.”
Questions or comments about exercises or glute and hamstring strength? Share them below, and thanks for stopping by.
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Jessica Gouthro from Paleohacks is joining us today to offer tips for bodyweight-focused arm workouts. Enjoy, everyone.
Do you ever have those days when you want a good arm workout, but you don’t have any workout equipment?
Curls, presses, tricep kickbacks, and rows are all great for your arms if you’re at the gym with plenty of dumbbells, barbells and cable machines. But what about those days that you just can’t make it to the gym—or simply don’t want to?
Luckily, I’m here to prove to you that a good bodyweight workout is just as good as what you can get at the gym. The best part is, you don’t need anything other than yourself and just 15 minutes at a time to sculpt and tone your arms into incredible shape.
The top three muscle groups we want to focus on when working on our arms are:
- Triceps: Our largest muscle group of the arm, located on the back of the upper arm. Its function is to extend the elbow joint (straighten your arm).
- Biceps: The muscle in the front of our upper arm that flexes the elbow joint to bring the forearm towards the upper arm (bend your arm).
- Shoulders: The muscle primarily targeted in shoulder development is the deltoid. This muscle is responsible for both raising and lowering of the arm as well as overhead pressing movements.
This bodyweight workout focuses on these three muscle groups, helping you form a balanced strengthening approach.
The result of this workout is going to be sleek, defined, strong-looking arms, but even better, you will be gaining real, functional strength at the same time.
Here’s how to do this 15-minute arm workout:
- Spend 1 minute on each of the five exercises, repeating the circuit three times without breaks between rounds.
- Beginner (30:30): Follow 30 seconds of work with 30 seconds of rest. (If you need even more rest, you can take it. Good form is always more important than sticking to time!)
- Advanced (45:15): Follow 45 seconds of work with 15 seconds of rest (Just enough time for a few deep breaths and setting yourself up for the next exercise.)
This triceps move also shapes your chest, shoulders and core for a full-body functional exercise.
In a push-up position, bring your hands to touching, forming a diamond shape with fingers and thumbs.
Tighten your core, and ensure that your body is in a straight line from shoulders to feet.
Bend your elbows to lower your chest towards your hands.
Stop when you are about four inches away from the floor, then press your palms down into the ground to rise back up to the top.
Keep your elbows close to your body as you lower and lift to put the focus on the arms and shoulders.
This exercise is surprisingly challenging when done with focus and intention.
Get into a low squat, with your knees bent and back straight.
Lift your arms up behind you like you’re reaching for the back wall. Spread your fingers and flex your arms all the way straight.
On an inhale, bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, making sure to keep your arms up high. Focus on flexing your bicep muscles.
Exhale to extend your arms straight again, flexing your triceps.
With each rep, focus on contracting your muscles.
Single Leg Pike Push-Ups
This just might be the hardest shoulder press you’ve ever tried.
Start in downward-facing dog position, on your hands and toes with your hips in the air. Make sure your hands are at least shoulder-width apart.
Lift one leg up high in the air, pointing your toes towards the ceiling.
Inhale to bend your elbows, lowering your forehead towards the ground between your hands.
Exhale to press your palms down into the ground to lift back up to straight arms.
Lower your leg back down and immediately lift your right leg.
Continue to do the same push-up move, alternating lifts of each leg for the allotted work time interval.
NOTE: Single Leg Pike Push-Up is a challenging move that requires upper body strength and balance. If you cannot do it with good form or do not feel comfortable doing it, do push-ups (or modified push-ups on your knees) instead.
Put feet about shoulder width apart with toes touching the ground. Put hands alongside chest and spread your fingers. Begin to push up, keeping elbows close to the body.
Take some of the work off the wrists by making your fingers “grip” the floor as you push up.
A modification of the traditional push-up that lessens the weight on the upper body. Follow the same routine as the traditional push-up, but use your knees as the point of your lower body touching the floor (instead of the toes).
Extend upward just as you do in a traditional push-up.
This move tones your shoulders and arms while also strengthening your lower back.
Lie belly down on the ground with arms and legs extended long.
Take a big breath in, then on the exhale, lift your arms and legs off the ground like Superman.
Inhale to lower back to the starting point.
Repeat this lifting and lowering, following the pace of your breath.
Downdog Ankle Tap Twists
This shoulder and tricep blaster is also a great spine-lengthening stretch.
Start in a downdog position with hands and feet shoulder-width apart.
Exhale, and reach your right hand towards the outside of your left ankle to tap it.
Inhale to come back to downdog, then alternate and do the same on the other side.
Continue alternating left and right, one move per breath.
Congratulations! In just 15 minutes, and with no equipment, you have worked your arms in the best way possible.
You may feel sore tomorrow, so give those arms a rest and allow at least 24-48 hours recovery before tackling this workout again.
For best results, I recommend incorporating this workout into your routine two to three times per week, spaced apart to allow for recovery.
Questions or comments about bodyweight exercises or arm strength? Share them below, and thanks for stopping by.
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Thanks for giving Jessica Gouthro from Paleohacks such a warm reception last week. I’m glad you found her “13 Ways To Move More At Work” useful. She’s joining us again today to offer tips for those who are looking to ease joint pain. Enjoy!
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: one of the best ways to ease joint pain is to exercise!
Whether you’re feeling aches and pains in your elbows or your lower back and hips, the key to managing and preventing joint and muscle pain is to exercise in the right way. If you have existing pain or joint discomfort, then you need to keep your workouts low-impact, but that doesn’t have to mean easy or ineffective.
You can keep reduce impact and lower your risk of injury by performing exercises that place less stress on the joints.
Some of the most popular low-impact workout options include:
- Elliptical cardio
- Incline walking
- Controlled light-resistance weight training
- Stretching and yoga
Aside from keeping your workouts low-impact, you can also start doing simple exercises to ease discomfort in specific parts of your body, like these 13 stretches for lower back pain or these 13 feel-good hip openers.
Try all 10 of the following exercises to relieve different forms of joint pain. You’ll need a chair, a small hand towel, a light dumbbell, and a resistance band for some of these moves. Remember your favorites and include them in your workouts anytime you feel discomfort in your joints.
1) “Wring the Towel” Wrist Stretch | 10 reps
Roll up a small towel and grab the ends with both hands.
Hold your arms out in front of you with palms facing down.
Slowly and with control, pretend you are wringing water out of the towel. Tilt one wrist up and the other wrist down at the same time, then alternate sides.
Continue wringing the towel in both directions for 10 full reps.
2) Dumbbell Wrist Curl | 10 reps per side
Sit on a chair or bench. Hold a light dumbbell in one hand and rest your elbow on your knee.
Keeping your arm still, exhale to flex your forearm and bend your wrist towards you to curl the dumbbell up.
Inhale to relax your wrist back to the starting position. .
Repeat for 10 slow and controlled reps, focusing on full range of motion with your wrist. Then switch sides.
3) Elbow Compression with Small Towel | 3 reps per side
Hold your arm out long. Roll up a small towel and place it right over your elbow.
Make a fist and curl your arm towards you, bending your elbow all the way closed on the towel. Aim to reach your knuckles to your shoulder.
Use your other hand to gently press inward on the back of your wrist to increase the compression. Breathe deeply as you hold for five seconds, then switch sides.
Complete three reps per side.
4) Narrow Grip Wall Press Tricep Extension | 10 reps
Place your palms flat on the wall at your chest height.
Step back a few feet so your body is at a slight angle. Ensure that your palms are flush against the wall.
Bend your elbows to lower your body towards the wall, keeping your elbows pointing straight down.
Stop when your elbows are about 3 inches from the wall and press back to straighten arms, flexing your elbows all the way.
Continue for 10 reps.
Tip: For a greater challenge, you can try this exercise with palms on a bench.
5) Hip and Low Back Compression Stretch | 3 reps per side
Lay flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground.
Lift one knee towards your chest, using your hands to pull it in towards you. Actively work to ground your hips.
Take five deep breaths, then switch and do the same on the other side.
Continue alternating sides to complete three reps per side.
6) Pelvic Tilt | 10 reps
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Hinge at the hips and place your palms on your knees.
Lift your sitting bones and tilt your pelvis forward to create an arch in your lower back and stretch your hamstrings. Keep your neck in neutral and shoulders relaxed. Hold for a few breaths.
Next, round your lower spine and tuck your pelvis under to form a round shape. Hold for a few breaths.
Alternate between tilting forward and back for 10 reps, holding each pose as long as you like to relieve the pain and pressure in your low back and hips.
7) Single Leg Toe Touch | 10 reps per side
Stand on one foot and look down towards the ground to get balanced.
Hinge at the hips as you raise your back leg behind you, reaching your fingers toward the toes of the standing leg. Get as parallel to the ground as you can.
Slowly rise back up with control.
Repeat 10 reps on one side, then switch to the other side.
8) Glute Kicks | 10 reps
Kneel down on all fours and flex your right foot. Keep your left foot relaxed.
Lift your right leg up to form a straight line from your right knee to shoulders, with your right foot facing the ceiling.
Hold at the top for three seconds while engaging your glutes, then relax your knee back to the ground.
Repeat on the same side for 10 reps, then switch to the other side.
9) Resistance Band Knee Extension with a Chair | 10 reps per side
Loop a resistance band around one leg of a chair, and place the other end of the band behind one of your knees.
Grab the seat of the chair with your hands. Then step back until you feel a good amount of tension on the band.
Your banded leg should be directly below your hips.
Straighten your leg fully, resisting the tension on the band.
Then relax the knee. Keep your foot flat on the ground the entire time.
Repeat for 10 reps, then switch legs.
10) Isometric Quad Flex | 6 reps per side
Sit on the ground and place a rolled up bath towel under your right knee.
Place your hands on the ground behind you for support and sit up tall.
Flex your right leg to lift your heel off the ground. You should feel all the muscles surrounding your knee fire up.
Hold this flex for five full seconds, then relax.
Repeat six times on this side, then switch to the left leg.
Tip: For a challenge, increase the number of reps or increase each hold to eight seconds.
Revisit these helpful exercises anytime you feel joint pain or discomfort. As always, be smart about working through an injury. If your body is telling you to rest, do it. When the time is right, apply these gentle exercises to help you get stronger and feel better.
Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro for these tips and to Brad Gouthro for demonstrating them. Questions or comments about exercises or treatment for joint pain? Share them below, and thanks for stopping by.
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Good morning, folks. After a awesome week (and weekend) taking over the Whole30® Recipes Instagram (you can still check out all the great videos, tips and recipes I shared here), my team and I are taking a breather. Look for a success story later in the week. In the meantime, we have some practical ideas for your Monday morning. We’re shaking things up with a movement guide you can put into action at work today. Thanks to Jessica Gouthro of PaleoHacks for these awesome suggestions, and let us know which you’ll be adding to your routine.
Working at your desk all day doesn’t have to mean poor posture and an achy body. Whether you sit or stand at work, remaining sedentary for hours takes its toll on the body. After just a few hours, your body will begin to stiffen, your lower back will ache, and you’ll grow sluggish.
But you can free yourself from common aches and pains associated with desk work in just a few minutes with these easy stretches to release the lower back and hips. You don’t have to do all 13 of these stretches at once. Instead, use this list as a guide and choose two or three stretches you think your body needs. Perhaps you’re looking for a nice stretch through your shoulders, or maybe you could really benefit from moves that help open up your hips. Every little bit of movement adds up when you’re sitting for long periods of time, and doing just one of these stretches every day will help you look and feel better, and avoid pain.
Try each of these 13 functional workspace stretches to relieve aches and pains and instantly improve your posture.
1) Standing Overhead Reach | 5 Breaths, 3x
Stand up from your chair with your feet about hip-width apart and toes pointed forward.
Clasp your fingers together and turn your palms facing up toward the ceiling.
Reach your clasped hands overhead, and press your palms upward while keeping your shoulders and core engaged.
Hold for five deep breaths and enjoy the stretch. Release. Repeat three times.
2) Butterfly Elbows | 4 Reps
Sit tall in your chair and place your fingertips gently behind your ears. Do not interlock fingers or apply any pressure to your neck.
Lift your chest and ribs up as you stretch your elbows back to feel a lengthening across your chest. Breathe in deep to fill your lungs. On the exhale, round your back, drop your chin and bring your elbows to meet in front of you. Gently press your elbows forward to feel a stretch across your upper back and shoulder blades.
Inhale to return to the starting position. Continue alternating one movement per breath until you have completed four reps.
3) Chair Chest Opener | 5 Breaths, 2x
Scoot towards the front of your chair, and sit on the very edge. Reach your hands back with thumbs pointing down and grasp onto the sides of your chair.
Lift your chest and roll your shoulders back and down. Elongate your neck by imagining you can press into the ceiling with the top of your head.
Lean deeper into the stretch to feel the opening across your chest.
Take five deep breaths, then rest. Repeat a second time.
4) Standing Chair Lat Stretch | 5 Breaths, 2x
Stand facing your chair, about three feet away.
Keep a slight bend in your knees, then hinge at your hips and reach your arms long to grasp onto the back of the chair. Make sure your arms are straight.
Lengthen your shoulders and flatten your lower back, forming a straight line from hands to hips. Align your head in between your arms and take five deep breaths.
Release, then repeat a second set.
5) Standing Chair Lat Twist | 3 Reps Per Side
In the same position as the stretch above, reach your right hand down to your left foot to create a twist in your upper body.
Hold for two breaths, then return to the starting position with both hands on the chair and switch to twist in the other direction. Maintain a flat lower back and slightly bent knees the whole time.
Repeat three times per side.
6) Mirrored Chair Pose | 3 Reps
Stand facing your chair with your feet together.
Hinge at the hips to squat down, aiming to mimic the height of the chair with the top of your thighs.
Keep your spine straight. Reach your arms up overhead with palms facing each other.
Hold for five full breaths, then release.
Repeat three times.
7) Seated Figure 4 Hip Stretch | 3 Breaths, 2x Per Side
Sit on your chair with both feet flat on the ground.
Lift your right leg and place your ankle across your left knee. Keep your right foot flexed.
Sit up nice and tall, then lean slightly forward as you gently press down on your right knee—just enough to feel a stretch in the hips.
Hold for three breaths, then release and switch sides.
Repeat two times per side.
8) Seated Spinal Twist | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side
Sit on your chair with both feet flat on the ground.
Reach your left hand to your right knee and your right hand to the back edge of the chair.
Press gently with both hands as you look over your shoulder and rotate your torso. Lean slightly forward to allow more space for the twist.
Take two deep breaths, then switch to the other side.
Repeat three times per side.
9) Bound Neck Stretch | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side
Sit up tall in your chair and reach your right arm straight down by your side.
Reach your left hand behind your back to clasp your right wrist, then tilt your neck to the right.
To increase the stretch, gently press your arm away from your torso.
Hold for two deep breaths, then release and switch to do the other side.
Repeat three times per side.
10) Alternating Fingers Wrist Stretch | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side
Sit up tall in your chair. Reach your right arm straight out in front of you with fingers pointing down towards the ground.
Use your left hand to gently pull on the back of your right hand to stretch the top of your wrist. Hold for two breaths.
Flip your right hand up so that your palm is facing out, and pull back with your left hand to stretch the bottom of your wrist. Hold for two breaths.
Alternate between stretching the top and bottom of your right wrist three times, then switch to the other side.
11) Hamstring Stretch | 3 Breaths, 2x Per Side
Stand up and face your chair. Step back about two feet.
Raise your right foot and place the heel on the middle of the chair with your foot flexed.
Place your hands on your hips and hinge forward, until you feel a stretch through your hamstring. Keep a slight bend in both knees to maintain muscular engagement.
Take three deep breaths, then switch to the left leg.
Repeat two times per side.
12) Chair Pigeon Pose | 3 Breaths, 2x Per Side
Stand facing your chair.
Place your right shin across the front of the chair, with your knee on the chair and foot off the edge. Keep your foot flexed.
Grasp onto the edges of the chair with both hands and step your other leg back to straighten out the knee and hip. You can control the depth of this hip stretch by bending or straightening your elbows.
Take three deep breaths, then switch to the other leg.
Repeat two times per side.
13) Single Leg Toe Pull | 2 Breaths, 3x Per Side
Stand facing your chair. Hinge forward at the hips and place your hands on the chair.
Grab your right toes with your right hand. Keep your left hand on the chair and a microbend in your left leg.
Pull slightly upward on your right toes until you feel a stretch in your calf and hamstring. Make sure to keep your hips square and your lower back as flat as possible.
Hold for two breaths, then switch sides.
Complete three sets per side.
Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro of Paleohacks. Questions or other ideas for staying relaxed and limber at work? Shoot me a line in the comments below. Have a great week, everyone.
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The scientific literature is awash in correlations between a person’s health status and various biomarkers, personal characteristics, and measurements. As we hoard more and more data and develop increasingly sophisticated autonomous tools to analyze it, we’ll stumble across new connections between seemingly disparate variables. Some will be spurious, where the correlations are real but the variables don’t affect each other. Others will be useful, where the correlations indicate real causality, or at least a real relationship.
One of my favorite health markers—one that is both modifiable and a good barometer for the conditions it appears to predict—is grip strength.
The Benefits of Grip Strength
In middle-aged and elderly people, grip strength consistently predicts mortality risk from all causes, doing an even better job than blood pressure. In older disabled women, grip strength predicts all-cause mortality, even when controlling for disease status, inflammatory load, depression, nutritional status, and inactivity.
Poor grip strength is also an independent risk factor for type 2 diabetes across all ethnicities, and it can predict the presence of osteoarthritis in the knee. Among Korean adults, those with lower grip strength have a greater risk of clinical depression.
Even when hand grip strength fails to predict a disease, it still predicts the quality of life in people with the disease. The relative rate of grip strength reduction in healthy people is a good marker for the progression of general aging. Faster decline, faster aging. Slower (or no) decline, slower aging. Stronger people—as indicated by their grip strength—are simply better at navigating the physical world and maintaining independence on into old age.
Health and longevity aside, there are other real benefits to a stronger grip.
You command more respect. I don’t care how bad it sounds, because I agree. Historically, a person’s personal worth and legitimacy was judged by the quality of their handshake. Right or wrong, that’s how we’re wired. If you think you feel differently, let me know how you feel the next time you shake hands and the other person has a limp, moist hand. Who are you more likely to respect? To hire? To deem more capable? To befriend? To approach romantically? I’m not saying it’s right. I’m saying it’s simply how it is. We can’t avoid our guttural reaction to a strong—or weak—handshake. To me, that suggests we have a built-in sensitivity to grip for a very good reason.
So, how does one build grip?
10 Exercises To Build Grip Strength
Most people will get a strong-enough grip as long as they’re lifting heavy things on a consistent-enough basis.
Deadlifts are proven grip builders. Wide grip deadlifts are also good and stress your grip across slightly different angles.
2. Pullups and 3. Chinups
Both require a good grip on the bar.
Any exercise where your grip supports either your weight or an external weight (like a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell) is going to improve your grip strength. But there are other, more targeted movements you can try to really turn your hand into a vise. Such as:
4. Bar Hangs
This is pretty simple. Just hang from a bar (or branch, or traffic light fixture) with both hands. It’s probably the purest expression of grip strength. As it happens, it’s also a great stretch for your lats, chest, shoulders, and thoracic spine.
Aim to hit one minute. Progress to one-hand hangs if two-handers get too easy. You can use a lower bar and keep one foot on the ground for support as you transition toward a full one-handed hang.
5. Sledgehammer Work
Grab the heaviest sledgehammer you can handle and use it in a variety of ways.
If you had to pick just one sledgehammer movement to target your grip, do the bottoms up. Hold the hammer hanging down pointing toward the ground in your hand, swing it up and catch it with the head of the hammer pointing upward, and hold it there. Handle parallel to your torso, wrist straight, don’t let it fall. The lower you grip the handle, the harder your forearms (and grip) will have to work.
6. Fingertip Pushups
Most people who try fingertip pushups do them one way. They do them with straight fingers, with the palm dipping toward the ground. Like this. Those are great, but there’s another technique as well: the claw. For the claw, make a claw with your hand, like this, as if you’re trying to grab the ground. In fact, do try to grab the ground. This keeps your fingers more active, builds more strength and resilience, and prevents you from resting on your connective tissue.
These are hard for most people. They’re quite hard on the connective tissue, which often goes underutilized in the hands and forearms. Don’t just leap into full fingertip pushups—unless you know you’re able. Start on your knees, gradually pushing your knees further back to add resistance. Once they’re all the way back and you’re comfortable, then progress to full pushups.
7. Active Hands Pushups
These are similar to claw pushups, only with the palm down on the floor. Flat palm, active “claw” fingers. They are easier than fingertip pushups.
8. Farmer’s Walks
The average person these days is not carrying water pails and hay bales and feed bags back and forth across uneven ground like they did when over 30% of the population lived on farms, but the average person can quickly graduate past average by doing farmer’s walks a couple times each week. What is a farmer’s walk?
Grab two heavy weights, stand up, and walk around. They can be dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or trap bars. You can walk up hill, down hill, or around in circles. You can throw in some shrugs, or bookend your walks with deadlifts or swings. The point is to use your grip to carry something heavy in both hands.
9. Pinch Grips
Grasp and hold weight plates between your thumb and each finger.
10. Hammer Curls
Next time you do some curls, throw in a few sets of hammer curls. These are identical to normal bicep curls, except you hold the weights in a hammer grip, with palms facing toward each other—like how you hold and swing a hammer. Make sure to keep those wrists as straight as possible.
The thing about grip is it’s hard to work your grip without getting stronger, healthier, and faster all over. Deadlifting builds grip strength, and it also builds back, hip, glute, and torso strength. Fingertip pushups make your hands and forearms strong, but they also work your chest, triceps, abs, and shoulders. That’s why I suspect grip strength is such a good barometer for overall health, wellness, and longevity. Almost every meaningful piece of physical activity requires that you use your hands to manipulate significant amounts of weight and undergo significant amounts of stress.
For that reason, the best way to train your grip is with normal movements. Heavy deadlifts and farmer’s walks are probably more effective than spending half an hour pinch gripping with every possible thumb/finger permutation, because they offer more full-body benefits. But if you have a few extra minutes throughout your workout, throw in some of the dedicated grip training.
Your grip can handle it. The grip muscles in the hands and forearm are mostly slow-twitch fiber dominant, meaning they’re designed to go for long periods of exertion. They’re also gross movers, meaning you use them all the time for all sorts of tasks, and have been doing so for decades. To make them adapt, you need to stress the heck out of them with high weight. Train grip with high reps, heavy weights, and long durations. This is why deadlifts and farmer’s walks are so good for your grip—they force you to maintain that grip on a heavy bar or dumbbell for the entire duration of the set with little to no rest.
Oh, and pick up some Fat Gripz. These attach to dumbbells and barbells and increase the diameter of the bar, giving you less leverage when grabbing and forcing you to adapt to the new grip conditions by getting stronger.
Now, will all this grip training actually protect you from aging, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and early all-cause mortality? Maybe, maybe not.
But it—and the muscle and fitness you gain doing all these exercises—certainly doesn’t hurt.
How’s your grip? How’s your handshake? How long can you hang from a bar without letting go?
Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care, be well, and go pick up and hold some heavy stuff.
Sasaki H, Kasagi F, Yamada M, Fujita S. Grip strength predicts cause-specific mortality in middle-aged and elderly persons. Am J Med. 2007;120(4):337-42.
Leong DP, Teo KK, Rangarajan S, et al. Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study. Lancet. 2015;386(9990):266-73.
Rantanen T, Volpato S, Ferrucci L, Heikkinen E, Fried LP, Guralnik JM. Handgrip strength and cause-specific and total mortality in older disabled women: exploring the mechanism. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003;51(5):636-41.
Van der kooi AL, Snijder MB, Peters RJ, Van valkengoed IG. The Association of Handgrip Strength and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Six Ethnic Groups: An Analysis of the HELIUS Study. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(9):e0137739.
Wen L, Shin MH, Kang JH, et al. Association between grip strength and hand and knee radiographic osteoarthritis in Korean adults: Data from the Dong-gu study. PLoS ONE. 2017;12(11):e0185343.
Lee MR, Jung SM, Bang H, Kim HS, Kim YB. The association between muscular strength and depression in Korean adults: a cross-sectional analysis of the sixth Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES VI) 2014. BMC Public Health. 2018;18(1):1123.
Lee SH, Kim SJ, Han Y, Ryu YJ, Lee JH, Chang JH. Hand grip strength and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Korea: an analysis in KNHANES VI. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2017;12:2313-2321.
Iconaru EI, Ciucurel MM, Georgescu L, Ciucurel C. Hand grip strength as a physical biomarker of aging from the perspective of a Fibonacci mathematical modeling. BMC Geriatr. 2018;18(1):296.
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One of the first things people do when they start working out is focus on their abs—crunches, sit-ups, leg lifts, bicycles, and the like. I mean, who doesn’t want a six-pack? Entire fitness schools have sprung up around the idea of targeting your abs with direct work. Take Pilates. In its purest iterations, it’s considered a “total body” philosophy, but the way most classes seem to go you end up spending all your time doing a bunch of complicated crunches and other targeted ab work (and grimacing every time you cough for the next week).
Let me make a radical proposal here. All this ab work isn’t necessary.
Don’t get me wrong. The “abs” are extremely important. Not only do they round out the physique and look great, but abdominal strength also provides stability, supports good posture, and improves movement. Strong abdominals allow and enhance the full expression of a person’s athleticism. Running, jumping, lifting, throwing (balls, spears, or punches), and basically any movement all require—and are improved by—strong abs (i.e. a strong “core”).
When you think about training the abs, consider what the abdominals’ purpose is: to provide a stable foundation for the rest of your body as it moves. They can move, but it’s not their primary function. As such, the way most people train abs is completely superfluous and ignores that essential function—maintaining stability and resisting movement. When you think about it that way, crunches and sit-ups don’t make a whole lot of sense.
What Kinds of Ab Work Make Sense?
- Deadlifts make sense because your hips are designed to hinge to allow you to pick up objects.
- Squats make sense because your knees are meant to flex and extend under load.
- Pull-ups make sense because your lats and biceps are designed to pull your body’s weight upward.
But crunches? Abs are best at holding steady and supporting all the other tissues and limbs as they move through space. Using your abs to move heavy weight a few inches is just weird. It “works,” but is it ideal? No.
If you insist on direct ab work, focus on movements where the abs don’t actually move all that much.
- Instead of crunches (abs moving), do bicycle crunches (abs stationary, legs moving).
- Instead of sit-ups (abs moving), do hanging leg raises (abs stationary, legs moving).
In both cases, you’ll be blasting the hell out of your abdominals, but you won’t be flexing and extending your spine.
Okay, with all that out of the way…
What Do I Do For Ab Work?
I don’t do much direct ab work. You won’t find me doing crunches or bicycles. Instead, I’m using my abs all the time.
- When I’m doing pushups, I’m tightening my abs. A strong, stable, cohesive abdominal complex makes my pushups better and stronger. Do a pushup without tight abs, and your hips will dip toward the ground. You’ll be sloppy and weak.
- When I’m doing deadlifts, I’m tightening my abs. My abs are resisting the pull of the heavy bar. They’re preventing my spine from rounding and hurting itself.
- When I’m doing pull-ups, I’m using my abs to maintain a cohesive frame. Try it. Instead of kicking your legs or flopping them around to propel yourself upward, keep them straight and tight. Tighten your abs. Think of your entire body, from top to bottom, as a single piece. Pull that piece up past the bar. Feeling it in the core, are you?
- When I’m standup paddling, I’m using my obliques, my “outer abs.” They support the paddling motion. They’re my base of support. Go paddle for an hour as a beginner, then see how your sides feel the next day.
- When I’m doing band pull-aparts (a great shoulder pre/rehab movement, by the way), I’m tightening my abs.
Heck, when I’m driving my car or carrying my groceries or walking the dogs, I’m tightening my abs.
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing. The abs figure prominently.
There’s probably one exercise I do specifically for my abs, and that’s the plank. But again, the planks work the abs by resisting movement, by keeping your body straight and solid against the pull of gravity. They aren’t moving.
I made a short video on how I work my abdominals without a specific abs routine. Take a look.
Finally, the single most important thing you can do for your abs in terms of looks, of course, is to become a better fat-burner. Hidden underneath even the most sedentary, flabby exterior is a rippling six pack. Simply possessing basic human anatomy means you have visible abdominals somewhere under there. Get lean enough and you’ll see them.
Thanks for stopping in today. Questions, thoughts? I’d love to hear them.
The post Why an “Ab Routine” Isn’t Necessary (and What I Do Instead) appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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I’m 65, and though I’ve been able to stave off the worst of what normally passes for the “aging process”—as can almost anyone by paying attention to how you eat, sleep, train, move, and live—the fact remains that I’m not training like I used to.
It’s not so much that I’m “losing” a step, although it happens to the best of us. It’s that I’ve totally transcended the need or desire to train hard for the sake of training hard. There are no more competitions. My ego is content on the training front. I’m not wrapped up in pounds lifted or miles run.
I get regular questions about what I do for workouts and how they’ve changed over time. Today I thought I’d answer this.
Miami has a fantastic gym culture with impressive facilities to support it. I almost have to go the gym. It’s something I still enjoy. I just make it count.
I’ve managed to compress my time in the gym with “super-sets” for each exercise.
These aren’t always super-sets where you’re bouncing between the squat rack and the bench press every other set. The kind of super-set I’m talking about is a rest-pause super-set. I try to hit between 12-20 total reps—that’s my goal—in three mini-sets with minimal rest. The super-set is broken up into three subsets with very short rest periods.
An example: Deadlift, 9 reps. Rest 30 seconds. Deadlift, 6 reps. Rest 30 seconds. Deadlift, 4 reps. You’re done. That’s a total of 19 reps. Once I hit 20, I’m adding weight.
Why I like this method:
- Over fast. I get in, get a great workout, and get out.
- No meandering and wasting time between sets. There are hard rules (30-second rests) that I must follow.
- Hard to go heavy enough to hurt yourself. If you’re doing 15-20 reps with little rest, by necessity the weight you use needs to be manageable.
- But heavy and intense enough to produce benefits. I know, I know, feeling sore the next day isn’t a good barometer of how effective the workout was. That’s what they say, but everyone secretly loves and craves the feeling of DOMS. Really makes you feel like you did something worthwhile.
I’ve fallen in love with the trap bar.
At this point in the game, I don’t need to hit PRs on the straight bar deadlift. Trap bars just feel safer, more natural, more versatile. Some great possibilities (many of which I throw in) include:
- Trap Bar Deadlift With Squat Bias—Deadlifts with more knee flexion, almost a half squat.
- Trap Bar Romanian Deadlift—Knees soft but mostly straight, almost a straight leg deadlift with or without touching the floor in between reps.
- Trap Bar Power Shrug—Deadlift at a pretty good clip, explode upward and shrug the bar. Almost like you’re jumping without leaving the ground.
- Trap Bar Squat—Squat down, grasp bar, stand up, repeat. Stack some weights and stand on them for added range of motion/squat depth.
- Trap Bar Split Squat—Stand inside the hexagon, place foot on elevated surface (1.5 ft, about) behind you, perform a split squat, wake up sore.
- Trap Bar Row—Stand inside the hexagon, bend over at the waist, row that bar up toward your belly.
The average person can get 90-95% of the benefits using a trap bar instead of a straight bar. Maybe higher, even.
I lift for a different purpose now.
As for the weights I use, now that my PR days are behind me, I lift to avoid injury now more than anything. That means knowing what “heavy” really is and backing down a hair. I’ll do one or two upper body days, and one leg day each week. That’s it. Two, maximum three strength sessions.
I base my workouts around standup paddling and Ultimate Frisbee games.
Both of these are stressful enough (in a good way) that I want to be rested for (and from) those activities before I engage in a lifting session. Just to be clear, I play Ultimate all-out for up to two hours, so it’s become my sprint day.
The Miami Ultimate Frisbee scene is very high-level. I’ve fallen in with a regular pickup squad, and the level of competition rivals Malibu’s. So, that aspect of my activity hasn’t changed. I’m still getting my one day of Ultimate a week.
If I’m feeling up to it, Miami beaches are fantastic for sprints. You don’t go as fast because the sand is so powdery, but it makes you work even harder.
Miami has also really changed how I spend time with my favorite activity, standup paddling.
In Malibu, it was a bit wilder. I’d head out past the breakers and paddle in any direction. It was huge, free, open, and infinite.
In Miami, you have the ocean side which is great and much calmer than Malibu, but you also have these inland waterways, like huge canals running through Miami. I’ve been spending a ton of time exploring them, checking out the beautiful homes and boats and even the occasional manatee popping up. And because it’s so calm, I can really go hard without worrying about waves. While paddling is fun, I go pretty hard for at least an hour and up to 90 minutes, so it’s a serious aerobic day for me.
I walk more.
I can walk so much more in Miami. In Malibu, I had to drive somewhere to walk, whether it was a trail head for a hike, down to the beach for a stroll, or to Venice or Santa Monica to just wander. In Miami, Carrie and I can walk out the door and go the market, the water, the book store, the cafe, or just wander. It’s integrated into our day, not something we have to schedule. People don’t really think of Miami as a ‘walking city,” and it’s certainly no New York or San Francisco, but it beats the pants off Southern California.
Trap bar, rest-pause sets, and environment aside, what I train hasn’t changed all that much. I’m still lifting heavy things, running really fast, moving frequently at a slow pace, and doing activities I love. But somehow I’m doing a better job of seamlessly integrating them into my daily existence. I’ve minimized the amount of time I spend lifting without compromising my results. I’m using my compressed training to fuel the activities I love doing, giving me more time that’s also higher quality.
A lot of this could be the simple result of moving somewhere new after living in the same city for twenty years, sort of a honeymoon phase. We’ll see. My workouts here are even more a part of my general lifestyle. They’re, for the most part, parts of my life rather than interruptions to it, which is the ancestral model at its modern best maybe. That’s how I choose to see it.
Thanks for stopping by today, folks. I’d love to read your feedback and questions and hear what new routines you’re trying out. Take care.
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As many of you know, Brad is my longtime writing partner, host of the Primal Endurance podcast and host of the weekly keto show on the Primal Blueprint podcast. Our relationship goes back 30 years to when I was Brad’s coach during his career on the professional triathlon circuit. The start of Brad’s chronic plantar fasciitis ordeal dates back nearly that long, until he was completely cured in a matter of weeks back in 2011. Hence, the subject of today’s post! If you are a sufferer, pay close attention because we dove deep into this topic and are giving you the tools to never suffer again.
Indeed, as Brad will detail shortly, miracle cures are possible, even for extreme sufferers. About three years ago, Brad was over at my place on a Monday and noticed me spending a lot of time rubbing and stretching my chronically tight Achilles tendon; it had taken its weekly beating the previous day at Ultimate Frisbee. I tried the prolonged stretches he details in the article and experienced immediate relief. (Around the same time, I also started to experiment with the early supplemental collagen products on the market, which also helped my foot issues and other joint aches and pains clear up.).
Enjoy today’s article, and let us know your thoughts on this treatment protocol.
Plantar fasciitis—it’s painful to even pronounce, and if you contract this condition you’re in for a long, frustrating, painful ordeal. It’s characterized by a burning sensation around the rim and/or bottom of your heel, and assorted peripheral pains such as a sore or burning arch, sensitive nerve endings along your arch, inflamed bursa sacs in your heel bone that make the heel sensitive to touch and applied weight, a bumpy, lumpy sensation on the bottom of your heel that are often called bone spurs, and general stiffness, tightness, and pain in the foot, arch, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles.
Symptoms are typically worse first thing in the morning or after prolonged periods of sitting or standing. If you have a mild case, you can get some range of motion and blood flow going upon awakening and the pain will typically subside and not compromise your exercise. In advanced stages, you will have a hard time getting mobility going and even walking will be painful. When you do get sufficiently warmed up and into a workout, the burning pain will often continue during and after exercise. The condition can worsen over time until you are sidelined by the lack of mobility and subsequent chronic pain.
Explaining Plantar Fasciitis: Anatomy and Causes Behind It
The plantar fascia is a super-strong ligament that runs the length of the bottom of your foot. On one end, the plantar fascia attaches to the metatarsal bones of each of your toes. It then fans out wide, like a sheet covering the length of the bottom of your foot. It subsequently tapers to attach into your calcaneus (heel bone). The plantar fascia acts as a prominent shock absorber when you walk, run, or jump. Consequently, it gets put under a lot of stress and can easily become inflamed when the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your lower extremities are dysfunctional or overstressed.
Plantar fasciitis is extremely common among not only runners and competitive athletes but also folks who work on their feet all day like nurses, laborers and even standup desk user. Then there are people who have strong sedentary patterns (commute, desk job, insufficient exercise); people with arthritis, obesity, poor muscle tone, flexibility, mobility or generally poor physical fitness; and people who wear crappy modern shoes with stiff construction, encased toe compartments, and elevated heels. Does that pretty much cover the entire population of the developed world?
Indeed, no one is immune to the risk of plantar fasciitis, because the condition often comes about when there is any sort of weakness, overuse, inflammation, or dysfunction in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the lower extremities. For example, if your calf muscles or Achilles tendons become stiff and inflamed from doing chronic cardio or consuming an inflammation-boosting high-carb, allergenic-loaded, SAD diet, these dysfunctions may manifest most painfully as plantar fasciitis.
I don’t know many serious runners who haven’t had this condition at one point or another in their lives. I had the condition for the better part of 15 years—ranging from a mild lingering annoyance that vanished with some quick morning exercises that increased blood flow and mobility, to so debilitating that I couldn’t walk in the morning. Indeed, for several years in the midst of my professional triathlon career, I had to exit bed onto one leg, hop out the door into the backyard, then drop my right leg into my backyard spa. Only after a few minutes of working through ankle and calf range of motion with hot jets blasting could I apply pressure to the foot and walk normally. Then, I’d lace up my shoes and head out for a run of five, ten, or even twenty miles!
That’s a strange juxtaposition from cripple to endurance machine in a few minutes, but it generates an important reflection: plantar fasciitis almost never gets better with rest alone. On the contrary, it quite often gets worse when an injured athlete stops running or a nurse takes a leave from the ER floor for a desk position. For example, during one off season of my professional career, I decided (in consultation with my coach Mark Sisson) to take a six-week break from running in order to focus on swimming and cycling and allow the painful plantar fasciitis injury to heal once and for all. Upon my return to light jogging, you can guess what happened: the injury was more painful than ever!
Interventions That Address the Symptoms, Not the Cause
Before we get to the prescribed treatment protocol, let’s look at what interventions are commonly suggested but generally don’t work well at actually treating the condition. (See how many look familiar.) As you might expect, athletes and active folks have tried all sorts of treatment modalities and remedies, most of them landing somewhere on the spectrum from ineffective but harmless to outright disastrous.
Well intentioned as it may be, rest is usually ineffective with plantar fasciitis. Getting off your feet or out of your exercise groove results in atrophy of both the large muscles and small stabilizer muscles in your legs as well as reduced range of motion, increased stiffness, shortened muscle, and—often—more pain when you try to return to your normal activities.
Orthotics, Arch Supports, Arch Taping
These approaches work like a Band-Aid works to stop the bleeding. If you have plantar fasciitis and have to perform for your country in the Olympics, a professional taping job is a great idea to keep the pain at bay and allow you to qualify out of your heat for the quarter-final. Alas, these support measures fail to address the cause, however.
Furthermore, they can very often compromise healing if you insist on using them long-term instead of making a sincere commitment to addressing and healing the underlying causes. Specifically, using artificial aids and supports will cause weakening and atrophy of the lower extremities over time. You make things easy for your feet, so they can wither away inside a cushy protective cocoon instead of be challenged to grow stronger every moment that you ambulate.
That said, remember that staying active is essential to ultimate healing of plantar fasciitis, and so using support measures to help you stay active by any means necessary can be warranted over the short term.
Ice, Heat, Electrical Stimulation, Ultrasound
These and other feel-good techniques are generally focused on relieving painful symptoms—symptoms that are bound to return again and again over time until you address the cause. As previously stated, complementary therapies are fine to the extent that they help keep you active. Ice massage can also be helpful in the aftermath of performing some aggressive healing exercises, as we will discuss shortly.
This can be highly effective to undo some of the damage caused by chronic injury and facilitate healing. In particular, Active Release Technique (ART) and deep tissue techniques go a long way toward increasing the mobility and fluidity of muscles and connective tissue.
The caveat here is that deep massage and ART treatments set you up for success, but you have to do the healing work described shortly to make the effects stick. Otherwise, you will undo damage with the bodywork, then create the damage all over again by exercising on dysfunctional legs.
Can you say “rupture”? Not rapture, but rupture. Yes, ouch! Generally, cortisone injections provide immediate and amazing relief from pain symptoms, often at extreme risk to your long-term health. When you override your body’s natural inflammatory processes and pain signaling with a powerful drug, you gain instant relief, but increase injury risk because you no longer are governed by natural tightness and pain that is attempting to protect you from the damage of performing with a dysfunctional appendage. Furthermore, anti-inflammatory treatments (including chronic use of seemingly innocent NSAIDS before workouts) weaken your natural ability to regulate inflammation over time.
There are a tiny fraction of injury cases where a cortisone injection may provide enough relief to facilitate an aggressive rehabilitation process that results in healing, but I urge extreme caution here. I say “extreme” because you may face enthusiastic health care professionals who will pretty much beg you to accept an injection. I know someone whose decades long nursing career ended in large part due to a cortisone injection that preceded a rupture, multiple surgeries, and ultimately a downward spiral that ended in permanent disability status.
The Plantar Fasciitis Cure: An Extended Stretching Regimen For Fast Healing
When you address the causes of plantar fasciitis, you’ll experience relief from the painful symptoms surprisingly quickly. To correct the cause, you must lengthen your calf muscles, increase mobility throughout the lower extremities, and start a methodical progression to a more minimalist/barefoot lifestyle. Commit to the following protocol every single day for just a couple weeks and it’s quite likely that even a severe and debilitating long-term condition will clear up to the extent that you will be pain-free and fully functional in a matter of weeks.
Lengthen Your Calf Muscles
“Do the wall stretches several times a day. Hold each stretch for two minutes. You’ll be healed in a few weeks.” This brief quip was all I needed to cure 15 years of consistent pain and suffering from plantar fasciitis. The message was delivered to me in 2011 by a podiatrist in a booth at the race expo of the Sacramento, CA, Urban Cow Half-Marathon and 5k—where I am the announcer annually. I have tried in vain to figure out who the guy was, but I’ll extend my deepest gratitude to the mystery healer right here and now.
Here is what happened on that fateful day: I typically walk the grounds and meet the exhibitors, so I can give them a little plug over the P.A. I remember from that day a booth with signs about healing foot pain and exam tables set up for interested runners. An enthusiastic podiatrist greeted me at the booth and started talking about how he could easily and quickly cure conditions like plantar fasciitis.
I challenged his assertion, informing him that I’d had the condition for 15 years and had tried everything: morning Jacuzzi hopping, a heel lift in my right foot, removing the heel lift, returning the heel lift, expensive rigid orthotics custom molded from my footprint, expensive soft “dynamic” orthotics made of silicone gel, obsessive icing and stretching, wearing giant pillow cushion shoes from Nike, switching over to Vibram Five Fingers and other minimalist options, switching back to pillow shoes—basically everything short of the dreaded cortisone injection.
I eventually agreed to try the prolonged stretches, obviously with huge reservations but a sincere commitment. In a few weeks, my symptoms were completely gone for the first time in 15 years. I’d call it a miracle, but it was so incredibly simple I’m not sure you can call it a miracle.
Extended Wall Stretch
Hopefully, you’re familiar with the wall stretch that is the runner’s bread and butter? You extend one leg behind you, lean into the wall at a 45-degree angle, and push against it like you are trying to push it over. With your rear leg straightened and heel grounded, the stretch focuses on the soleus, the narrow muscle running along either side of your leg and merging at the bottom into your Achilles tendon. When you bend your rear leg and lift your heel off the ground, you redirect the emphasis to the gastrocnemius, the ball-shaped muscle that gives you that sexy rock-hard definition on the upper part of your leg.
Holding each of the aforementioned four stretches (left leg straight, left leg bent, right leg straight, right leg bent) for two minutes is the secret to healing. In case you’ve never timed your stretches, holding a single position for two minutes will likely seem like an eternity. I’d speculate that the most devoted stretching enthusiasts might never hold a single stretch for than 10-20 seconds. Even the most deliberate of yoga classes won’t hold you in a single position for that long. As I mentioned, I had devotedly stretched my lower legs and feet in assorted ways for years in the tug-of-war against my condition, but never held any single stretch for so long.
Why Two Minutes?
When you hold a stretch for two minutes, you are sending a powerful message to your musculoskeletal and central nervous systems to lengthen the relevant muscle fibers. Witness ballerina dancers stretching for hours every day in order to maintain optimal muscle function for their demanding efforts—constantly reinforcing the message to brain and tissue that they need to by hyper-flexible.
This process of lengthening a muscle is complex but important to understand. If you listen to or read the Nutritious Movement commentary from noted biomechanist and author Katy Bowman, you may be familiar with the term proprioceptors. These are the nerve endings that help your muscles communicate with your central nervous system. When your proprioceptors detect a muscle fiber being stretched, something called the stretch reflex is triggered. This reflex causes a stretched muscle to contract—an excellent safeguard against injury during assorted day-to-day activities, including fitness activities and sports.
After a workout in which muscles have repeatedly contracted or absorbed impact, holding a few stretches for twenty seconds will send a nice little message to the fibers to relax and loosen up a bit as you transition from a state of exertion to relaxation. Then the stretch reflex kicks in, you experience a little discomfort, and end the stretch. When you go big time, work through the possibly uncomfortable stretch reflex sensation, and hold the muscle in a stretched position, you start to make some real progress. Here the proprioceptors in the stretched muscle, known as the muscle spindles, become habituated to the new length of the muscle such that the stretch reflex is muted. Instead, when specific thresholds of stretching frequency, intensity and duration are exceeded, a lengthening reaction occurs in the muscle. Here the muscles relax and allow you to deepen into the stretch. If you have ever been to a yoga class and noticed you can take stretches much deeper after you are warmed up and habituated with repeated stretches, you may know what this lengthening reaction feels like.
When your muscles relax due to the lengthening reaction, another key player on your healing team jumps into action: the golgi tendon organ. This is located in the tendon near the end of a muscle. It sends a message to your central nervous system, essentially: “Hey, this dude is sick of suffering with plantar fasciitis for 17 years. He wants some longer calf muscles for Christmas, so please comply.” Enjoy this much more detailed and scientific discussion of the science of muscle stretching.
Tips For Adopting the Healing Protocol
If you want to heal quickly, strive to quickly work up to doing the wall stretch protocol several times a day (shoot for five times or more). As described previously, this will take all of eight minutes per session: two stretches on two legs for two minutes each. An aggressive stretching regimen will, in a matter of days, greatly relieve the stress on your arch and heel caused in large part by shortened muscles that don’t absorb impact optimally.
Because of the high degree of difficulty with two-minute stretches, you can expect some next day soreness. Take care to stretch only the point of mild discomfort instead of actual pain. This may mean you have to back off a bit during your wall push to survive until the two-minute bell. You will also likely discover that you will be able to hold a much deeper stretch in the evening than in the morning, and more easily reach the two-minute bell. Alas, doing these stretches first thing in the morning when your muscles are the shortest is critical to your progress. So is doing them as many times per day as you are willing. Remember, we are trying to work beyond the stretch reflex and achieve a lengthening reaction.
You may even consider getting the legendary Strassburg sock to assist your healing process. This device, a sock with a strap attached, places your ankle in a flexed position all night, putting the plantar fascia under tension so that it does not contract and cause the painful morning stiffness. Instead, you wake up with an elongated plantar fascia much like the afternoon version that feels much better to walk on than the morning version. Again, the sock is best used in conjunction with an aggressive healing protocol.
Please keep in mind this prolonged stretching protocol is designed for injury prevention/healing, and is not advisable right before a workout. You may have heard prominent accounts of how static stretching can temporarily weaken a muscle for up to 30 minutes, and this is a valid concept. After all, you are about to demand intense contractions from your muscles for the workout, so aggressive pre-workout stretching is not the best way to prime them for action. Instead, do a simple warmup—increasing body temperature and respiration to the extent that you break a little sweat.
Watch this video where I describe the power of the wall stretch to heal plantar fasciitis and direct you to do the stretches correctly.
Mobilizing Lower Extremities
Concurrent with your commitment to prolonged calf stretches is a commitment to achieve increased mobility and flexibility in the foot and leg, via a series of special movements and treatment modalities with colorful nicknames. If you’re in the Crossfit scene or otherwise a fan of Dr. Kelly Starrett, aka “K-Starr,” you might be familiar with some of the unique and colorful terminology—terms like bashing, tacking and mobilizing—that have become his custom lexicon and spread like wildfire into the fitness community. K-Starr is a former elite level whitewater kayak athlete, proprietor of San Francisco CrossFit, creator of the popular MobilityWOD.com website, and author of Becoming a Supple Leopard—perhaps the most comprehensive volume on mobility, flexibility, functionality, healing and prevention for athletic folks ever in the history of the world. Visit MobilityWOD.com to get a free 10-day dose of Kelly and his highly engaging, informal, and humorous style with which he conveys his unique and effective approach.
K-Starr is a big fan of using toys like massage balls, golf balls, lacrosse balls, foam rollers, voodoo straps (try this Voodoo Floss treatment for plantar fasciitis) and even elbows in an aggressive and focused manner to increase blood flow, improve range of motion, and facilitate healing in muscles and connective tissue. Once your mobility improves, you then have a fighting chance at exhibiting correct functional movement during exercise and daily life (e.g., running with a balanced center of gravity over your feet and an efficient dorsiflexion of the foot on each stride), such that you won’t be doomed to a lifetime of repeating injuries, both acute and overuse.
Regarding plantar fasciitis, Starrett recommends attacking the cause by working to increase mobility, flexibility, and functionality throughout the lower extremities. You can check out his full suggested regimen on YouTube.
Complete the prolonged stretching plus mobility work protocol several times a day until the pain and stiffness are nearly when you awaken in the morning. Then you can shift into maintenance mode where you might do the stretches once or twice a day instead of five to seven times a day. And you might do your bashing, tacking and mobilizing only in the aftermath of tough workouts when you experience next-day stiffness.
Your main objective is to prevent the shortening and lost mobility that laid the foundation for plantar fasciitis in the first place.
Look for Brad’s follow-up post on preventing plantar fasciitis from setting in (or re-occurring) later in just a couple weeks. In the meantime, give your focus to the treatment, and let these stretches do their magic. Thanks again to my friend, Brad Kearns, for stopping in and sharing his experience today.
Again, you can follow Brad on his new podcast, Get Over Yourself, where he gets to unleash his lively personality and cover broader topics including health, fitness, peak performance, personal growth, relationships, happiness, and longevity, always with humor and a little spice.
Thanks, everybody. Be sure to share your thoughts and questions on plantar fasciitis below. Have a great end to your week.
Phil Maffetone and Dr. Frykman, barefoot running podcast
Dr. Kelly Starrett Plantar Fasciitis
Plantar Fasciitis, Fix Your Feet
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