Interval Training for Labor Prep- with Maura Shirey from Bodies for Birth

This week we are honored to have a guest blogger, Maura Shirey, from Bodies for Birth.

Bodies for Birth

Bodies for Birth is first and foremost a fitness company, but it’s so much more than that. It’s your village and your source for connection and resources in the community.  It’s Maura’s firm belief that women deserve to be supported holistically throughout pregnancy and postpartum.

I have enjoyed working with Maura, professionally for the past year. She is passionate and knowledgeable in her work and takes amazing care of our shared clients. Maura is sharing with us this week about the benefits of interval training for labor.

Interval Training for Labor Preparation

While there is so much we can’t control in labor and delivery, we can control how we prepare our minds and bodies.

With that said, this specific preparation looks so different for each one of us. For some of us, that’s attending classes, for others, it’s reading books, having conversations or asking questions. Despite the variable means of preparation, there’s tremendous comfort from knowing deep down that you have done whatever you consider to be your necessary work.

At Bodies for Birth we use a combination of modalities, but rely heavily upon interval training: bursts of higher intensity work followed by efficient, intentional recovery before beginning to work again.

This is in an effort to mimic the work of contractions–a time of sustained effort followed by efficient recovery…repeat, repeat, repeat and in labor…repeat again and again.

The mental and physical preparation allows for the opportunity to recognize the body’s innate ability to work exactly as it was designed and to recover with ease, noticing heart rate and respirations slow with the use of diaphragmatic breathing.

These repeated experiences can provide comfort, peace and resolve as you welcome labor and the uncertainty of it all.

workout-1931107_1920While we don’t pretend that we have any control over a labor or delivery experience or outcome, our goal is to constantly be adding tools to your toolbox. Each squat, each interval and guided visualization, each time you practice your breathing you are adding these tools.

And you won’t know which tools you will call upon during labor until the time comes, but the more tools you have, the better your coping will be. The greater confidence you will have that you are and have all that you need to meet the challenge.

Interval training is a vital component of this training and an essential in the labor preparation toolbox.

While the effortful work is important to train the cardiorespiratory system, to gain stamina and confidence in your body’s ability to perform the work, the magic happens during the recovery between the effortful work.

This is the interlude where the true preparation occurs, an opportunity to practice becoming efficient at recovery so that you can approach the next round of effortful work; ie: a contraction with renewed focus, energy and calm.

In class, we can often be heard saying, “and then, you turn it off. Just like a light switch. The work ends and you recover. Not ruminating on what’s passed or anticipating what’s coming next. Use your diaphragmatic breath to simply settle into this present moment of recovery. Right here. Right now.”

And what do we hear from clients and providers?

That Bodies for Birth clients really know how to recover in labor, that they have mental and physical resilience, a certain confidence in their abilities that translates into enhanced coping in labor.

Ideally, this endures right on into postpartum and motherhood.

Group Class (Photo Credit_ Benjamin Benschneider_The Seattle Times)
(Photo Credit: Benjamin Benschneider/The Seattle Times)

So, what does interval training look like?

  • It can take the form of strength training or a low-impact aerobic style intervals.
  •  A strength training interval might include: body weight squats, stationary lunges or chest presses with a resistance band.
  • Aerobic-style intervals might include: marching in place with arms moving up and down overhead, repeated stepping up and down from a low step or moving side to side with swinging arms.
  •  If this all feels like too much coordination or aerobics just isn’t your thing, intervals can be incorporated into a walk, into lap swimming or work on the elliptical or other piece of cardio equipment. Swimming works particularly well as each lap can feel like an interval, followed by rest at the end. Hills also lends themselves easily to this sort of natural interval work.
  • Generally we advise beginning with an equal work to rest ratio; for example, begin with 30 seconds of effortful work followed by 30 seconds of recovery. Repeat up to three times.
  • The effortful work initially should be around a level “5” on a scale of 1-10 (10 being your max…which we never approach in pregnancy).
  • If this level of effort begins to feel easy, you may increase the ratio of work i.e.: 45 seconds of work to 30 seconds of recovery, perhaps approaching a level 6-7 on the exertion scale.
  • As you progress, notice the time it takes you to recover, notice your level of exertion throughout, not exceeding a level 6-7. In other words, you should be able to talk throughout the work.
  • Add short bouts of interval training into your routine and focus on the recovery between the work, always returning to your diaphragmatic breath.
  • With practice, notice how efficiently your body begins to recover and take great comfort in all of the preparation and your body’s ability to work exactly as designed.

Remember, intervals are completely versatile and modifiable, so listen to your body with the goal of exercise leaving you feeling energized and never exhausted in pregnancy! Your body is already working quite hard to support the work of pregnancy, so let exercise further fuel that effort, rather than deplete your reserves.

It’s a privilege to do the work we do at Bodies for Birth and such an absolute honor to know that it is making an impact.

No matter where you are in your journey, we will meet you exactly where you are, support you to the best of our abilities and help you to develop strength in mind and body while honoring your unique goals.

Bodies for Birth is much more than physical fitness; it is holistic wellness, and motherhood preparation at its finest, helping you to build strength, confidence and community.

Group classes are now open for all from preconception through postpartum! Visit MindBody to register and please reach out with questions!
Let’s build your village together!
About the Author:
Maura Shirey, RN, CPFE specializes in prenatal and postpartum fitness as the creator and owner of Bodies for Birth. Using current research and evidence-based practices, Maura helps individuals strengthen both mind and body as they prepare for and recover from one of life’s greatest feats! Maura’s wellness background includes work as a Registered Nurse, a Certified Personal Trainer & Chef, as well as a Health Coach & Screener for corporate wellness companies. Maura’s personal experiences, foundational nursing knowledge and passion for fitness and wellness provide the building blocks for Bodies for Birth.

As a woman and mother, Maura seeks to share her personal experiences with the Bodies for Birth community, to break down competitive barriers and to celebrate as clients surprise themselves with the inner strength they already possess. She is dedicated to ongoing education, pursuing best practices and individualizing fitness for each and every person. She is committed to providing a healthy and bold example to her son, Will (who had his own set of dumbbells and began practicing diaphragmatic breathing at 2 years old) and to creating a vibrant and sustainable future for her family doing work that brings her immense joy.

 

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Travel Smart- Chiropractic Travel Tips for Flying

Flying can be a pain. Literally. You haul yourself through lines at security, toting your carry on luggage. You wait for your flight in uncomfortable seating or on the floor. The planes are cramped with uncomfortable seats and not enough leg room. The air is dry and blows into your face. You finally reach your destination and are so thankful to be done flying that you haul your carry on luggage down the aisle of the plane and breathe a sigh of relief.

It can be better with some planning.

  1. Carry On Luggage
    • Your carry on suitcase is a strategic decision.
      • It is important to choose a lightweight suitcase, preferably with multi-directional wheels. This allows you to push it down the narrow aisle of the airplane and more easily lift it into the overhead bin.
      • Lifting your case into the overhead compartments can be a challenge. By keeping the case light, and talking with your chiropractor about proper lifting technique, you can spare yourself some discomfort in maneuvering your luggage.
    • Your personal item can make or break your trip.
      • A tote bag or large purse seems like a good idea for a personal item. They hold a lot and can be quite fashionable.
      • I prefer and recommend a backpack for your personal item. You can pack your empty purse inside or in your main luggage. Remember to place your belongings in the backpack with the heaviest closest to your body (ie: laptop). Lighter items can be placed farther from the body.
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        A backpack is an excellent choice for a personal item when flying.

        Most backpacks have many compartments which allow you to stay organized and evenly distribute weight. I prefer packs made by backpacking companies like Osprey or Deuter because they are lightweight with many compartments.

  2. Dress the Part
    • Between security checkpoints and the prolonged sitting involved in plane travel, clothing can be an important part of trip planning.
    • Ladies, your hairstyle matters!
      • I have longer hair and have to be sure that my hair is either down or in a top knot. If my hair is in a ponytail or on the back of my head, it forces anterior head positioning.
      • Anterior head positioning causes increased tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders as well as promoting further poor posture
    • Wear comfortable shoes
      • Shoes should be easily removable for security, but should also be comfortable and practical.
      • High Heel ShoesHeels should be avoided because of the extreme angulation that they place the ankles in- not to mention the positioning of the pelvis while walking.  ***Stay tuned for a future blog that discusses the problems with high heels and their health impact***
    • Choose pants that allow for full hip range of motion. Tight pants, especially jeans can cause nerve and blood vessel impingement with prolonged sitting.
    • Consider compression socks for longer flights. These socks help improve circulation and can help with leg aching with prolonged inactivity.
  3. Remember Posture
    • We mentioned posture when choosing your hairstyle on a travel day… But it goes so much further. Good posture will help prevent low back pain and upper back pain from traveling.
    • Sit fully back in your seat and make sure that you are sitting on your “sit bones” not your tailbone.
    • Place both feet flat on the floor.
    • Adjust your headrest for optimum support.
    • Focus on alignment.
      • Think of your rib cage and your pelvis like 2 bowls.
      • Start by making sure that the bowl of  your pelvis is balanced and upright.
      • Now, line up your rib cage over it.
      • Make sure that your low back is not rounded or crunched forward.
  4. Hydrate
    • The dry environment in an airplane can dry out your mucous membranes- hydrating can keep them healthy and protect you from getting a cold while on an airplane.
      • When your nose dries out, it doesn’t protect you as well from viruses and bacteria.
  5. Sun Salutations!Forward Fold
    • Following your flight, it is time to move. I love how gentle yoga is to help me work the kinks out of my body after a day of travel. Sun salutations will help you to lengthen your spine and loosen tight muscles.

I hope that some of these tools will help you to feel better and be better prepared when you next travel. Please remember that this blog is intended for educational purposes. It is good to speak to your Chiropractor or Primary Care Physician to ensure that these tips are right for you.

MRI Study Demonstrates Lumbar Disc Herniation Heals!

backpain-1944329_1920.pngMany times in practice, a patient presents with symptoms of lumbar (low back) disc injury. They have pain into the leg, often have difficulty standing upright, and have accompanying low back pain.

This generally occurs when a disc bulge or herniation places pressure on the spinal nerves or the spinal cord. As shown in the image below, where the purple shape is pressing on the green nerve.

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Chiropractic care is a great conservative way to manage the pain and, often, it will centralize and resolve in a matter of weeks. A home exercise program is then prescribed to help prevent re-occurrence and strengthen key muscles. When symptoms do not improve with a trial of care, a referral is made to an Orthopedist for further evaluation and MRI. Sometimes surgery is warranted.

Previous studies suggested that, while it was possible to remove symptoms, disc injuries do not fully resolve- think of them like a sleeping dragon. This article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is a case study that describes resolution of the patient’s disc injury, documented on MRI. This is incredibly promising and supports conservative management of  lumbar disc injuries with chiropractic care and physical therapy before a surgical option is considered.

***This blog post is intended solely for informational purposes. It is always essential to consult with your own health care provider when making decisions about low back pain or leg pain. ***

 

Air Quality and Exercise

With this summer’s forest fires in full swing, Seattle has been covered in a haze of smoke for the past week. Air quality has been poor and traffic is congested. Athletes are attempting to continue to stay in shape while battling the smokey haze.

Below, I will discuss some ideas to help stay safe while continuing to exercise. However, IF YOU HAVE ANY LUNG OR CARDIOVASCULAR CONDITIONS, please speak with your Primary Care Physician before exercising to ensure that you are not putting yourself in danger.

Assess Air Quality Prior to Exercise

Check out AirNow.Gov to learn about the current recommendations regarding air quality. For example, today’s rating in Seattle is “Unsafe for Sensitive Groups”. This means that those with any lung or cardiovascular issues should remain inside as should children and older adults who are more sensitive to particulate in the air.

Make sure that you understand what your own personal status is:

Do you have asthma or another respiratory condition?

Are you sensitive to smoke?

Have you been short of breath or have your sinuses been draining?

If you answered “yes ” to any of these, please consult your PCP prior to engaging in exercise.

By looking at the map, you may want to choose to drive to an area that has a better air rating before engaging in outdoor exercise.

Exercise Intelligently

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Once you have determined that you are “OK” to exercise and have found an adequate location, listen to your body.

  • Take frequent breaks
  • Exercise at a lower intensity to take a load off your respiratory system
  • Consider using a sinus rinse to help keep your nasal passages clear
  • If you feel prematurely out of breath or as though you are working harder than normal… Make it a Gym Day and exercise in a controlled environment. (You may also consider being evaluated by your PCP)

Hopefully the winds will pick up off the Pacific and the smoke will clear- but until then stay safe and keep your personal health in mind when spending time outside. Taking a day off training is better than compromising your health.

***The information contained in the blog above is not intended as healthcare advice and is provided for general information purposes***

 

No Pain, No Gain- An Outdated Fitness Concept

No Pain, No Gain

I remember being in high school sports and repeatedly hearing people laugh and say, “No pain, no gain” as we pushed ourselves to make gains in the weight room or in the pool. We worked out to exhaustion, more focused on completing the workout or the set in the weight room than on form or perfection. Coaches said things like, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” We got strong, sure. We gained speed. We thought we were so cool as we showed off our bruises and iced down our shoulders.

The reality, though, is that we were injuring ourselves. We were building poorly coordinated neural pathways. We were altering our biomechanics and causing overuse injuries.

 

Now that I am years out of that scenario, I often work with athletes, like myself, who are driven to excel and want to improve in their sport. One of the biggest discussions we have is surrounding this concept of “No pain. No gain.”

A workout should build you up, not break you down.

It is important to work out in a way that pushes your capacity, but does not allow for the break down of your mechanics. For example, when I assign rehab exercises in my practice, we always discuss:

  • The goals of the exercise
  • What you should feel when you perform the exercise
  • What are the “fails” of the exercise (ie: what things let you know that you have completed as many exercises as your body can handle)

It all comes down to the neural edge. This is the limit to which the brain can control the exercise and where we can actively create new pathways. Here is where we can safely make gains in our training.

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Beyond rehab, think of it like this… If you are on a run and you have decided that you will run 6 miles today. However, at 4 miles you notice that your left foot is hurting in the arch with some knee pain as well. Do you decide to continue running? -OR-  Do you listen to your body and stop your run at 4 miles? Should you continue to run, you are risking causing damage in your body that may keep you from running later in the week or season. It is important to evaluate (or to be evaluated by a professional) why the pain is present? Are your supporting or stabilizing muscles doing their jobs? Are you wearing appropriate shoes for your feet and the surface you are running on? Do you have proper nutrition?

Running through pain or working out through pain can be extremely detrimental to training, overall. It can result in overuse injuries and in neural patterning that lends itself to future injuries. Instead, it is imperative to train intelligently. Work smart. Get evaluated to be sure that you are making safe gains and discuss your training with a coach and functional movement specialist.

Let’s forget No Pain, No Gain

Let’s shift our focus in training. Let’s teach our athletes, young and old, to listen to their bodies and find their edge.  Let’s lead by example and learn to work out smart- and hard.

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***This blog is intended to provide educational content and is not for diagnostic purposes nor to provide health care advice. Please speak with your health care professional prior to changing your workout routine.***

Same Weight, Different Body- It’s time to ditch the scale and take a broader view of health!

As a Chiropractor, my health is an important part of my practice. I try to “live my brand” and do not recommend things to my clients that I would not be willing to do for myself. That being said, I am incredibly human. I have health challenges. I do not always remember to take my supplements. Sometimes, I eat dessert- in fact, I am writing this in a Starbucks where I am treating myself to a Frappuccino. Recently, thanks to Facebook and my wardrobe, I have come to the realization that my health has drastically changed over the past 1.5-2 years (for the better).

About 2 years ago, I became aware that I was not taking care of myself the way I should be. I have food allergies and sensitivities, and while I had cut quite a bit of them out of my diet, I was desperately clinging on to dairy and rice. At a Standard Process seminar, I made the decision to take my health into my own hands and address how my food sensitivities have impacted me.

2 years ago, I was battling depression, my weight, acne, sleep, and the list could go on. I was also working out regularly, had just finished my first triathlon, working on my spiritual well being, sleeping at least 7.5 hours per night, and getting adjusted regularly. Most people looked at me and called me healthy- but I was far from it.

I was faking it and hoping to make it. When each week ended, I spent the weekends in my pajamas sleeping too much and always tired. I would find myself crying over the smallest things. I was always feeling behind and having panic attacks regularly.

It was time for a change.harmony-1229886_1920

The past 2 years have been a quite a journey. I started by cleaning up my diet further- finally giving up my beloved dairy and rice. Within weeks, I was sleeping more deeply. Within months, my skin was clearer. Soon, my clothes fit better. Slowly, I was climbing out of the hole I had dug myself into during grad school and my first years in practice.

I started to really love who I am again. I started to feel like the fun and upbeat person I pretended to be for years. I scaled my workouts back to yoga, swimming, and weight training to allow my body time to heal and balance without as much repetitive stress. I budgeted time for relaxation and recreational reading.

Then, just over a year ago, my husband and I took a month and a half off to visit Europe and move out to Seattle from our first real home together in the Detroit area. The total reset that this allowed for my emotions was unreal and I truly felt in control of my emotions for the first time since puberty.

All told, this was almost a year long process.

The best part was that even moving across the country, finding a place to live, starting a new practice from scratch, dancing this dream awake, didn’t shake my cool. In the year that we have been in Seattle, I continue to be healthier, I can hike and run again, even completing my first half marathon this past June.

Looking at pictures of myself now, the change in my health really hits home. I look happy. I feel healthy. I am significantly more fit. What’s funny, though, is that pesky scale. You know the one. The bathroom scale. Over these past 2 years, it has not budged more than 5-10 pounds in either direction. In fact, during my most unhealthy years it was both at its highest and lowest weight. As I have worked to recapture my wellness and love my body, I have settled somewhere in between- even though my dress size is smaller.

Here’s the thing. And it is a big thing. Something that took me a long time to learn and something that I continue to learn each day. Health is not any one thing. Some of the people who look the healthiest are not well on the inside. Like me, they battle depression or anxiety.

Health is not merely the absence of disease or pain. Health is the constant pursuit of joy in your body and in your soul. It is ever changing. It is not measured on the scale, nor is it truly quantifiable. “Healthy” me is going to be different from “healthy” you. You can be stick thin or curvy and be healthy or unhealthy. It is important to work with health care providers that are focused on wellness and to build your tribe around you that can support your transformation. Find someone to assess you and listen to you. Health is a discussion.

My story of the past 2 years is in no way unique. But. I hope you were inspired in some way to assess your own health.

Start the conversation.

Take those first steps toward your best self.

What in the heck is Pandiculation?

This weekend, while cruising Facebook, I stumbled across a blog discussing pandiculation versus stretching. They posit that pandiculation is more effective than stretching at changing muscle length and improving flexibility. Completely fascinated, I have started learning more…

Pandiculation Defined:

Dictionary.com defines Pandiculation as a noun. “The act of stretching oneself.” It then goes on to explain that it is most commonly associated with yawning.

Interesting, but I am pretty sure that we all recognize that a yawn is a much different kind of stretch than we achieve from a toe-touch. (Are you yawning yet? Because I am.) The real question is: Why do we feel looser in our jaw, neck, and even shoulders from a yawn, when a voluntary stretch is not as effective?

Perhaps Dictionary.com’s definition is a little incomplete.

EssentialSomatics.com defines Pandiculation as:

A conscious, voluntary contraction of a muscle, followed by a slow, deliberate lengthening of that muscle and a complete relaxation

They further explain that the conscious, voluntary component of pandiculation helps to reset the way our brain perceives the length of our muscles. For the neurology, read this.

Pandiculation versus Stretch

Essentially, pandiculation changes our brain’s understanding of muscle length, acting as a sort of soft reset.

It is important to contrast this with an understanding of our basic stretch. When we stretch a muscle, as in our hamstrings with a toe touch, a reflex tells the spinal cord that is happening in the muscle. This triggers a return signal to the muscle to contract or shorten. This defeats the intention of the toe touch and can actually reduce muscle power afterward. (See the first link in this post for more details)

This seems to indicate that if we truly want to lengthen a muscle, we must control that movement and engage the brain.

Why does it matter/How to apply this

I started reading about this during my down-time at a trail marathon and 50K where I was providing post race soft tissue work for athletes. While assessing the runners, I began to notice trends in their imbalances as well as how hamstrings and glute muscles responded to even a gentle evaluation of length/tension. They tend to cramp or contract in protest! This is a perfect setting to understand that basic stretch reflex. Many of these runners would benefit from an understanding of applied Pandiculation. (Which may be my new favorite word)

One of the best human examples of pandiculation mentioned earlier was yawning. Yawning is a controlled contraction of the muscles in the lower jaw and neck followed by a gradual release.

Now, think about your cat or dog at home. Have you ever seen your feline friend get up from sleeping without that luxurious stretch that they hold and then gently release? I am pretty sure that my cats are expert pandiculaters.

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As humans, most of this is not instinctual for us as it is with our pets. However, yoga is one form of exercise that applies pandiculation to its movements. I know that I sometimes walk into a yoga class unable to touch my toes in forward bend, but after a few flows, I am so much looser and stay that way for days. A great yoga practice literally resets your brain’s perception of muscle length.

Take Home

It is hugely important to make sure that you are training your body with intention and the help of professionals! It is possible to avoid injury, increase power and endurance, and improve overall performance by learning more about your own body’s balance and imbalances. Please work with your health care provider to ensure that your workouts and your body are balanced and appropriate for you. If you are in the greater Seattle area and would like a consultation regarding your fitness, please feel free to contact us at (206)565-9691 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Samelak.

And just for fun… try saying Pandiculation three times, quickly!