I’m an Adult

Hitting the snooze button multiple times each morning?

Feeling as if you’re never getting enough sleep?

This ones for you.

As kids, we were always told to go to bed at a certain time.  Usually so we’d get enough sleep before school the next day.  But now that we’re adults, we no longer give ourselves that same strict bedtime.  I mean when was the last time you told yourself that you were going to go to bed at say 10pm every night.  And stuck with it for more than a day or two.  We’re adults, we do what we want.  We get wrapped up in a TV show, a book, or if you’re cool, the NHL Stanley Cup.

Life happens.  However, much like we plan our meals, nutrition, and training, we can plan our sleep schedule ahead of time by setting ourselves up with a bedtime routine.  I dunno, maybe you start yourself off by reading Goodnight Moon to yourself.  No judging.

By reading this, the hope is that you will look at sleep as something vital to a healthy lifestyle.  No longer will you see it as undervalued and overlooked aspect to health and fitness.  Sleep, exercise, and nutrition are all part of a healthy lifestyle.  We tend to focus on exercise and nutrition and hope that will push us towards our goals.  For the most part that would be a successful plan.  However that is not always the case.

How Much?

How much sleep does the typical adult get each night?  Six maybe seven hours if we’re lucky.  But lacking in this area has effects on everything from brain chemistry, to muscle regeneration, to hormonal balance.  And that’s a no good situation.  Just a short list of what’s to come should you continue on your path of poor sleep:

  1. Changes in eating habits
  2. Inflammation
  3. Obesity
  4. Cortisol levels
  5. Decrease in Testosterone, Increase in Estrogen
  6. Loss of lean mass
  7. Heart Attack, Stroke

Hardly a list of ailments we want to develop.  We all believe that we are immune to this, that we can just grind away and hustle hard all hours of the night.  We all think we can get by on just a few hours, thinking coffee or Red Bull are the answer.  However the more you miss sleep, the more this “sleep debt” accumulates and makes it harder and harder to pay back.  The more nights you get less sleep, the greater the likelihood of those negative effects taking place.

There is hope.

The first thing you should do is to go sleep, duh.  It is possible that you can catch up by stringing together a few nights of great, quality sleep.  The more consistent you are with the amount of hours you sleep and the time in which you go to bed, the better.

Second, make sleep a priority.  A priority in that it takes precedent over many of the things we get sidetracked by, like finishing a project, or the show on tv, or scrolling through Facebook.  Set up a pattern, set up a plan for bed and you’ll find yourself more rested than before.

  1. Keep a relatively consistent bedtime and wake-time.
  2. Darkness- Keep your room dark. This tells your body it’s time for sleep.
  3. Set a comfortable temperature
  4. Exercise
  5. Eliminate computer/phone use when you’re approaching that set bedtime.
  6. Avoid drinking anything leading up to bedtime

 


Eat & Train vs Diet & Exercise

Train

Athletes eat and train.  They don’t diet and exercise.  You may have seen that meme somewhere floating about the internet or right here. It is true.  Athletes have a goal in mind and a training plan in which to get there, some as long as 4 years long if you think about Olympic athletes. And they often don’t think about dieting (however they too can fall prey to marketing bs)

What can you take away from this process?  Start thinking about your nutrition as a way to fuel your body for performance and maximizing your training sessions.  We forget that nutrition is all about fueling our bodies so that we can perform in our workouts.  Instead we hyper focus on how many calories “x” workout or exercise burns.  We don’t take the time to enjoy the process and strive for performance goals.

Take for example, Michael Phelps, aside from his regular intense training he was taking in a reportedly 10,000 calories per day.  Now while we wouldn’t be able to sustain that type of nutrition plan, there are many things we can take away from how athletes set up their nutrition that can apply to us.

It all starts with a certain mindset

 

Performance Oriented

An athletes body much like yours is a machine, thus athletes eat in order to fuel that machine.  You can do the same thing.  Performance is tops on their list, as it should be for you too.

Get a piece of paper out and write down something you want to achieve, something that is a performance goal.  The idea behind this is to get away from the generalized goals of losing weight or building muscle, or getting stronger.  Those are great and all, but it’s pretty subjective as to when those may end, or how you would go about measuring that you accomplished those.  Pick something tangible, like doing a strict pull-up?  Maybe your goal is to do a pull-up for the first time.  That gives you something to strive for that has an end, or maybe it’s to deadlift a certain weight.  Again, you have something to train for.

The more you think about attaining that performance goal, and fueling yourself to get there, the less your focus actually is on food and making yourself crazy over what you’re eating.

Relationship with Food

Do you have a positive relationship with food?  Or a negative one?  As a client said to me, “food should be fun.”  She is absolutely right.  Food should be fun and you should be able to enjoy your food.  If you can’t, then whats the point.  Being healthy and eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring or bland.  Ask yourself:

“Do I have a positive relationship with food?”

A positive relationship starts with not demonizing certain nutrients or certain foods.  That also includes not skipping meals, or thinking that all food is evil.  There are no good or bad foods, just ones that bring us closer or further away from our goals.  We’re quick to demonize this food or that nutrient, with the idea that somehow ONE thing has to be our downfall.  For example, how many of us define carbs as evil? That just thinking about them will make us fat.  When the truth is, your body actually thrives on carbs, and athletes look at carbs as an energy source, as fuel (noticing a trend).  Our bodies crave carbs because they are what our muscles and brain rely on to work.

What comes next is a gross over analyzation of everything that goes in our body.  While you should be aware or mindful about what you put in your body, avoid making it so complicated that you worry about every little thing that goes in.

Quick Fix

Avoid looking for the quick fixes.  This is due to the fact that, in order to get to where they want to be in their sport, there likely aren’t any LEGAL quick fixes.  They know that their training and the subsequent nutrition associated with it is a long term process and no shortcuts exist that will get them there.   When results don’t happen instantaneously, they don’t give up.  There is a bigger picture.  We often get so wrapped up in what we want the end result to be and when we expect it to happen by, that we lose sight of the bigger picture, or we forget how far we’ve actually come.

Look at it this way, training for the Olympics is about a minimum of a 4 year process, in most cases these athletes have been training and fueling that training process their entire lives.  Athletes don’t give up halfway through because they haven’t achieved what they wanted to.  They keep pushing, staying consistent with their training and nutrition.  Athletes embrace the journey.  So should you.

In addition to everything that athletes do that is associated with nutrition, their approach to training is quite different than how we see it.  Where one would see needing to get beat down and be exhausted after each and every workout, or put in two a days, or longer workouts, athletes solely look at training as a way to get better, as a way to get stronger.  It’s about being a better athlete.

Eat food to fuel performance, food is awesome so don’t skip meals, be mindful, quit looking for shortcuts, and above all else enjoy the journey.


Technique Tuesday: Ab Rollout

Technique Tuesday: The Ab Rollout

The Ab Rollout is one of those exercises that you’ve likely seen on late night infomercials when you’re up waaay past your bed time.  For 3 easy payments of $19.99, you too can have the abs of your dreams by using this fitness wheel.  The fitness wheel will give you all the ab gainz you could possibly want.

If you’ve read previous articles on core training or the plank, you’ll remember that the role of the core is to resist movement.  You want to maintain spinal stability in a neutral position while moving.  That is one of the great things about the plank.  It’s an isometric anti extension exercise.  The Ab Rollout is at its base level, a plank, but with movement, which will make it significantly more challenging.

In order to perfect the Ab Rollout, there are a few steps that you’ll need to take to get there.

  • Perfect the Plank
  • Avoid Common Mistakes
  • Earn Your Next Progression

Perfect the Plank

The first step in doing an Ab Wheel Rollout is hammering down the technique of your plank.  If you are unable to maintain a plank with a neutral spine, then you must master this technique before graduating to something more challenging.  .

Common Mistakes

There are a few breakdowns of the rollout that we want to avoid in order to get the most out of the exercise.

  • Leading with the Arms
    • Performing the movement by leading with the arms will put the rest of the body in a less than optimal position.  This could be due to strength issue.  A great cue to remember is to think about initiating the exercise from the hips, while keeping the glutes contracted.  Then letting the arms and upper body following.
  • Low Back Arching/Caving
    • This is a result of not enough bracing, or just plain not being strong enough to perform the exercise.  You have two choices.  Brace harder through your abs and glutes, or pick an option that you can perform.  We want to avoid putting the back into a compromised position.
  • Hips Shifting Back
    • This is more of an issue on the return to start.  Rather than pull the wheel back while keeping a neutral spine, there’s a tendency to just shift the hips back up.  This disengages your core and leads to 1/2 an exercise, which could be another sign of some core weakness.

Earn Your Next Progression

Much like you wouldn’t jump from a stationary lifestyle to squatting 200 pounds on your first day of training ( I haven’t seen a couch to 200lb squat program yet) you wouldn’t try a rollout before conquering the basics.  This means we don’t advance until we’re ready.

  1. Physio Ball- In the kneeling position, place the stability ball in front of you. Reaching your arms out at a 45 degree angle, place your hands flat against the ball. Once you have braced your core you can begin extending. Be sure to contract everything, if you keep constant tension through your body it will make the movement as well as maintaining your form through the exercise much easier. Once you have extended as far as you can while keeping that modified plank position, you can start retracting your body to the start position under control.
  2. Glide Disc Negatives- from the same kneeling position, place each of your hands on the glide disks. With a tight, contracted core and glutes, extend your body to that modified plank position. While maintaining that good form, continue moving your hips toward the ground as your arms extend further overhead, until you are completely parallel to the floor. The key is control. Once your form begins to suffer or you have reached the end point of the extension, collapse to the ground, sliding your hands to your sides and push-up off the floor and return to the start position.
  1. Ab Wheel Rollouts- This is it! All your regressions and practice have lead to this exercise. Begin in the same manner, kneeling on the floor grasp either side of the Ab Wheel and begin in that kneeling plank position and once again think about bringing yourself into a plank while the hips and arms extend out to the floor.  Once you have extended out parallel to the floor or as far as you can while maintaining control and proper form, you will engage your lats while keeping your glutes contracted and return to the kneeling plank position.


No Pain, No Gain

No Pain, No Gain.  That used to be the mantra of many.  It actually still may be.  The thought process worked like this: If you were in pain, you surely had to be making progress and gains.  Right?  As long as there was progress and results, a little pain was worth it.  Who cares that you can barely walk or lift your arm above your head without pain.  You look great!  Speaking of which, Pain & Gain with Mark Wahlberg and The Rock was an awesome movie.  You should finish reading this, then go check it out.

Seriously though, pain is a bad thing.  It’s a signal telling your body to stop, that something is wrong.  Think of it like an emergency brake.  Working through it isn’t in your long term interests or even short term for that matter.   It would be like driving your car around with the emergency brake on.  We’ve all done that before.  We forget to take the emergency brake off, however our body doesn’t forget.  It’ll just keep reproducing that pain signal till 1 of 2 things happen.  Either an injury happens, or you just compensates for the movement to reduce the pain, which causes dysfunction and then we are right back to injury again.

 

How do we stay out of the pain cycle?

First, we need to recognize whether we’re actually feeling pain, or if we’re just in a little bit of discomfort.  There’s a big difference.  You can make it through discomfort.  It’s harder to work through pain and it can be detrimental to your overall well-being.

Second, we need to adjust our exercise selection so that we eliminate the chance of this happening again.

SMR/Foam Rolling– A great way to make sure you eliminate major pain is by taking care of the minor aches and pains through foam rolling and other SMR techniques like lacrosse ball or PKnott work.  What this does is increase blood flow and relieve tension in the muscles along with increasing range of motion and oxygen to the area.  SMR and foam rolling are like flossing and brush your teeth.  They are maintenance work for your muscles, keeping them healthy and functional.

Massage– If SMR and foam rolling are the flossing and brushing of teeth for your muscles, then massage is like going to the dentist.  A great massage therapist can help get to spots that tools cannot, and can provide much needed relief (thankfully we have on staff at AMP).  An LMT can be great for treating specific areas and get you back to working order.

Mobility- Mobility is much different from just stretching in that you are maintaining stability while increasing mobility.  Because without stability, we’d all just collapse into a pile of mush.  Muscley mush.

Other Recovery Strategies– Rest.  Sleep.  Nutrition.  Taking days off from training so your muscles have the ability to repair.  Speaking of repair, sleep is when your body makes all its repairs and resets you for the next day.  If your body isn’t regrouping due to lack of sleep, it will surely break down at some point.   Maybe not today or tomorrow, but somewhere down the line your body will meet its breaking point.  So get your sleep.

Nutrition is equally important as if you’re not fueling your body, it won’t optimally recover.

You can additionally treat with ice as it will temporarily provide relief for pain.  However, without breaking down your movements and seeing how or why your body is in pain, you will stay in the same cycle of pain.

Stretching

I’m only including this because I know the question is going to be asked.  “Can I stretch?”  The answer is “It depends.”

Sometimes when we feel pain, we have the urge to stretch.  Stretching “feels good” and it’s probably what you’ve always done. Stretching found its way into the fitness industry years ago when no one was stretching. It became a cure all for those who weren’t doing any other form of recovery. However now we know better and learned much more about the body. Something is better than nothing right? No, in many scenarios, stretching is going to be counterproductive.  It can bring more instability to an area that doesn’t need it.  Most times, a tight muscle is the only thing holding you together, preventing something more serious.  If you keep tugging on that link, that tight muscle through stretching, eventually a link down the chain is going to snap.  So stretching is going to be a “sometimes” strategy for pain.  It should only be used when necessary.

Takeaway

Pain is your bodies’ emergency brake.  It’s telling you to stop whatever it is your doing.  There is a distinct difference between pain and discomfort.  Some exercises are not going to be comfortable or hard.  That’s a good thing.  Those will teach you to grow, to excel, to be better.  Pain, either acute or chronic, is a cry for help.  Employ these strategies to break through that pain cycle.

Now seriously, go watch that movie.


Technique Tuesday: Side Plank

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This week on Technique Tuesday, we give the Side Plank a few tweaks and cues that’ll give you the maximum benefits.  The side plank is often an overlooked ab exercise as we tend to think only of the front of our stomach as “abs.”  But, the side plank holds tremendous benefits for your stomach and for the health of your lower back.

The Basics

  • Pick a side to start on, with the feet together and your elbow below your shoulder.
  • Brace your core and raise your hips until your body is in a straight line from head to feet.
  • Maintain the position without letting your hips drop or rotate.

 

Technical Breakdown

Hip Alignment

The first part of the side plank to look at is where the hips are in relation to the rest of the body. Not only do you want a straight line from the feet to the shoulders looking from the front, but also from the side.  The issue that arises with side planks is that people will leave their butts hanging out, like their in a twerking music video.  We want to avoid that.

The simple fix is to squeeze the hell out of the glutes, much like the top of a deadlift or even just a regular front plank.  This will ensure that the hips get pushed through and in alignment with the rest of the body.

If you take a look at the above video, another great way to get proper alignment is to put your back against a wall, with the heels, butt, elbow and shoulders against the wall. You have no choice but to stay in a solid side plank.

Elbow Position

The next issue is kind of a two parter related to the elbow and shoulder positioning.  When setting up for the side plank, the tendency is to just put the elbow wherever without a second thought to WHERE is should go.  This results in the elbow being too far away from the shoulder, as you can see in the video, or in some cases too close.  The simple fix for this is making sure that you’re positioned right underneath the shoulder.  This will maintain a more shoulder friendly position.

Additionally, you want to press into the floor with your arm as this will get the muscles that surround the shoulder to contract, keeping stability in the joint.  I can’t tell you how many times I see people sinking into their shoulder, and relying solely on the joint to support them.  Use those muscles!