Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Better Movement equates to better running

Become a Better Runner, Become a Better Mover – Part 1

- Justin Levine

I see too many runners just start running. They eliminate some very important aspects. No soft tissue work, no pre-run warm-up, no drilling, they just begin to run. This strategy can run you right into a physical therapy clinic. You must take the time to create a recovery and regeneration program and implement it into your overall running program so you can truly maximize your performance. Remember if you are hurt you can not train, and if you can not train you can not get better. So take the time to devise your recovery program to reduce injury and enhance your running.

I just conducted a running clinic and we discussed the importance of soft tissue work, pre-run warm-up strategies, running drills for better economy and functional strength training to enhance your strength and power. If you missed this educational clinic, don’t worry because I am going to give you some of the concepts we talked about.

First we went over foam rolling techniques. Foam rolling is a great way to “self massage” your muscles. You can reduce and better yet eliminate knots that are bundled up in the muscles from running, daily moving and activity. When you improve the tissue quality of the muscle you improve blood flow and flexibility. You will move better. A foam roll is a very important tool for runners and other endurance athletes as it can tremendously assist in injury prevention. When you roll you want to find tender areas in your muscles. Go slow and methodical and when you hit a tender spot, stop and pulse over that area for 20 seconds, then continue to other parts of the muscle. Here are the muscles runners need to concentrate on to reduce some common injuries seen in the sport:

IT Band: the IT band is located on the lateral (outside) of the leg. It attaches to the hipbone and runs all the way down to the outside of the knee. When our IT band is tight we can create pain on the outside of the knee, also known as IT band syndrome.

Quadriceps: We all know where the “quads” are. But what most people do not know is that there are three different parts to the quads. The vastus medialis is located medially (inside of the quad), the vastus lateralis is located on the outside and the rectus femoris is located in the middle. Make sure to hit all three spots as you can build up knots throughout the entire muscle. Many runners with patella (knee cap) pain or medial (inside) knee pain can tremendously reduce the pain with consistent soft tissue and foam rolling.

Glutes and Hip Rotators: If you have ever experienced low back pain this is the area you need to concentrate on when you roll. When your hips and glutes are tight, your low back takes the compensation and movement, thus causing pain. By rolling and stretching this area you can assist is taking the stress off the low back and get your hips and glutes working correctly.

Thoracic Spine: Another area, if not functioning correctly can cause lower back and even neck and shoulder pain. Our thoracic spine is the 12 vertebrae located in the middle of the back. We need active mobility in this region. Sitting, driving, bad posture and bad movement causes the “t-spine” to become locked and dysfunctional. When this happens we start moving at the lumbar spine (lower back) and cervical spine (neck) causing issues up and down the chain. Many injuries and pain symptoms can resonate from poor function at the t-spine. So we need to focus on rolling this area many times during the week to increase function so we become better movers.

Calves/Peroneals/Soleus/Feet: We run on our feet so it is crucial to work the areas of the lower leg. If we begin to have tightness at the gastrocnemius (main calf muscle) then we could experience tightness down the chain into our fascia on the bottom of our feet. When the muscles of the foot become inflamed we get plantar fasciitis, a very common symptom amongst runners and endurance athletes. But it is something we can stray away from with the correct recovery and regeneration program. Make sure to roll your calves, peroneals (outside of your lower leg), soleus (underneath your calf) and the bottom of your feet. You can use a rolling stick for these areas or you can use a canned food, baseball or tennis ball.

Next we talked about pre-run warm-up strategies. Again, too many runners forget this important aspect and just start running with out dynamically warming up. This warm-up will prepare the body and nervous system for the workout ahead. If you have a sit down job this portion is mandatory as it will put your body into good function before you begin your run. Always take 5-10 minutes to perform a dynamic warm-up. Even if that means you reduce your overall run time by 5-10 minutes. You will become a better and more efficient runner and you will reduce your chances of injury.

Lunge/Arms straight up: This is a great movement as it can lengthen our hip flexors, activate our glutes and open up our shoulders and thoracic spine. Step out into a lunge position. Place the knee on the ground and raise your arms straight up next to your ears. Push through the back glute to feel the stretch in your hip flexor. Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 3-8 times on each side, then switch legs.

Deep Squat to Hamstring: This movement can be used to assess your overall functional movement. So it is important to work and perfect this move. Make sure to keep your chest up, back flat and maintain good core control. Keep your heels on the floor, your feet need to be outside the hips and facing straight ahead and keep your elbows inside of your knees during the squat. As you go into the hamstring stretch, push your butt out and back and keep a flat back until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Perform 3-5 full repetitions.

Side Lunging: Running is a sagittal plane (straight forward) movement. We need to increase mobility in all three planes of motion to truly maximize our functional movement. So side lunging will increase hip range of motion in a frontal plane (side to side). Make sure to keep your feet straight and locked into the ground. Sit you butt back into the move as you shift to the left or right. Make sure your bent knee does not slide past your toes. Force your butt and hips to drive backwards and to the direction you are going. You will feel this stretch in your adductors as well.

Push-up Yoga: This is a total body move as it can assist with hamstring and calf flexibility, ankle and thoracic spine mobility and shoulder stability. Start in a push-up position. Maintain good posture and keep your abdominals tight. Take 4 small hand steps back towards your feet. Raise your butt into the air and place your heels into the ground. Keep your legs locked out. Hold for 3-6 seconds and then walk back to starting position. Repeat for 3-5 full repetitions.

To be continued….

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Be More Efficient with these Daily Strategies

10 Strategies for a more Efficient Day

1. Eat breakfast: This might be the most important tactic to creating a more productive day. First thing when you wake up your body is in a fasting state and needs fuel. Take the time to make yourself a nutrient dense breakfast that will wake up your metabolism, spark your energy levels and give you the fuel in your tank to be a more productive businessperson.

2. Drink more water: When your body is dehydrated you lack energy, slow performance, and force the body to work at low levels. It is a must to start drinking water the minute you wake up. You should be drinking ½ your weight in ounces of water every single day.

3. Write your “to do” list. Immediately when you arrive to work on Monday morning, make a list of everything that needs to be accomplished for the upcoming week. Highlight the most urgent activities and start with those. This “to do” list becomes your road map to efficient, successful and productive days.

4. Plan your meals: On Sunday night schedule at least 4 of your dinners for the upcoming week. Know the foods you will cook on which days so you are prepared. If you have dinner plans one evening, write that into your schedule. “Failing to plan, plan to fail”, quotes John Wooden. When you don’t have a plan, it will be difficult for you to manage time and organize your day.

5. Construct your “perfect” day. Start with the time you wake up in the morning, then your shower, read the newspaper, eat breakfast, go to work, check emails, make calls, eat a snack, finish a report, go to lunch, back to work, meeting with boss, respond to emails, finish writing an article, eat a snack, clean up desk, head home, go to the gym, eat dinner, and family time. Write up your “perfect” day and try your best to follow the schedule. If you get off path, don’t worry get on to the next day.

6. Wake up early: Just by waking up 15 minutes earlier each day that will add 91 hours a year of extra time. Spend that time doing something productive like reading a book or educational article or getting in a quick workout. This tactic can get your day off to an unbelievable start.

7. Get adequate sleep: We need 6-8 hours of sleep every night for proper brain function, healthy living, and more energy. Once it is time to go to bed, turn the television off, shut the lights and close your eyes. Watching TV stimulates brain thoughts and could disrupt your sleeping habits. Spend the last 20 minutes before bed reading a book, meditating or listening to soft music.

8. Eat every 2-3 hours: Pack healthy snacks to take with you so you to stay energized throughout the day. Eating low glycemic foods more frequently maintains metabolic function, stabilizes blood sugar, increases energy levels and keeps you from over eating.

9. Workout: Working out consistently will relieve stress, stimulate endorphin release and improve brain and body function. Aim for 60 minutes of activity 4-6 days a week. Implement intervals (running, biking or bodyweight circuits) 2 days a week and metabolic resistance training 2-3 days a week.

10. Positive and fun environment: Surround yourself with motivating, positive and successful people who like to work hard but also like to have fun. When you are around people who are hard working, goal oriented and determined individuals you are more likely to build and maintain these traits into your lifestyle. And smile and enjoy life! Life is too short to be taken too serious so enjoy the people you are around and be inspired to live life at high levels.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thoracic Spine Function

Thoracic Spine Function

The 12 vertebrae located in the middle of the back is known has the thoracic spine (t-spine). As your t-spine sits in the middle of your lumbar (5 vertebrae of the lower back) and cervical (7 vertebrae of the neck) spine, lack of proper function can lead to low back trauma, shoulder dysfunction, breathing dysfunction, neck pain and even headaches. The t-spine area needs functional movement. Flexion, extension, and rotation should come from this joint. Because of lack of activity, sitting, poor posture and inefficient movement qualities, the t-spine becomes locked and immobile causing the joints up or below to take the unwanted movement, thus causing irritation and pain. The lumbar spine should have very limited movement. In fact, the lumbar spine should only have 13 degrees of rotation. The cervical spine should remain stable and stay away from excessive movement. When the t-spine is dysfunctional and not doing its job, the movement shifts to the lumbar or cervical spine.

During rotational sports like baseball, golf and tennis, if there is t-spine dysfunction, there will be major compensation going on leading to shearing force on your low spine and ultimately cause injury. In our exercise routine we must implement movements that promote healthy spine hygiene, thoracic spine function, lumbar spine stability, rotator cuff strengthening and hip mobility to keep our lower, mid and upper spine healthy and functional.

Exercises that promote t-spine mobility:

1. T-spine rotations: simply get on all 4’s, keep your trunk strong, place one hand behind the head, rotate inward and touch the elbow to opposite elbow and then rotate outward, giving a big exhale as you move. Repeat 10 repetitions on each side.

2. Wall slides: stand with your back on the wall, slightly bend your knees, place your arms on the wall, making a W, slowly move your arms up as high as they can go, then move them down feeling your shoulder blades move down and together. Perform 10 repetitions.

3. T-spine extension: hold a pvc pipe with your hands, place your elbows on a bench, drive your chest down to the ground, giving a big exhale as you reach the full movement. Perform 10 repetitions.

4. Seated t-spine rotations: sit tall on a box or bench, grasp both your hands behind your head keeping your elbows back, keeping your posture, rotate one direction and exhale and then rotate other direction and exhale. Perform 20 turns.

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