No Pain, No Gain- An Outdated Fitness Concept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.

Hydration is Key to Performance!

Summer is here as are summer sports! This past weekend I participated in the Ragnar Northwest Passage Race, where I was reminded of the importance of proper hydration when exercising as well as in daily life. IMG_20170716_213251_01

All too often, we forget to stay hydrated, leave the water bottle at home, and find ourselves with a dry mouth or muscle cramps, etc later. This is extremely evident when looking at runners, cyclists, and triathletes who compete in long duration activities. Even slight dehydration can immensely impact performance and recovery.

Exercise performance is impaired when an individual is dehydrated by as little as 2% of body weight. Losses in excess of 5% of body weight can decrease the capacity for work by about 30% (Armstrong et al. 1985; Craig and Cummings 1966; Maughan 1991; Sawka and Pandolf 1990).

As indicated by the above quote, it is possible to determine your level of hydration vs dehydration using your bathroom scale. A best practice is to weigh yourself naked before your workout, then again after. When you compare the numbers, you can see if you were adequately hydrating during your exercise. A discrepancy indicates that you need to increase your fluid intake during the course of your workout.

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Remember, that drinking only when thirsty is not an accurate way to assess hydration. You are already dehydrated when you are thirsty! Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the course of every day is beneficial to overall health and it is best not to be dehydrated when beginning your exercise!

It may also be of benefit to discuss your hydration levels and training practices with your coach, medical doctor, chiropractor, PT, etc and assess your specific needs including electrolyte intake.

While dehydration impacts overall health, many times we first see this as a drop in performance.

According to Human Kinetics, dehydration impacts performance for the following reasons: reduction in blood volume, decreased skin blood flow, decreased sweat rate, decreased heat dissipation, increased core temperature, and increased rate of muscle glycogen use.

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Please speak with your health care provider regarding your individual needs as an athlete, whether you run 5K’s or 100 mile races. Each person’s body has unique needs and this blog is intended for informational purposes only. If you would like to speak with Seed of Life Chiropractic and Wellness, LLC about your health, please make an appointment!

 

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!

 

3 Summer Fitness Trends to Try This Summer

Summer weather is here! It is warm enough to spend time out of doors and move from our winter fitness routines to summer fun. Read on to learn about 3 outdoor fitness trends that provide more than physical health benefits.

Paddle Boarding

You’ve probably seen them out in the Sound or on Lake Washington. Paddle boarding season is here! This fun fitness trend provides a full-body workout. However, its benefits don’t stop there.

paddle-board-1122355_1920.jpgPaddle boarding is a great way to improve balance. If you have a history of ankle or knee injury, balance work can help to prevent future injuries by improving proprioception (the way your body finds its limbs in space). It is important to check with your health care provider before beginning balance work following injury. For more benefits of Paddle Boarding, check out this article.

Outdoor Yoga

Yoga is a fantastic way to balance the spine and support the core. It helps to normalize and optimize breathing. Many people are turning to yoga to improve mental and physical health.

A great twist on your conventional  yoga class is Outdoor Yoga. According to Yoga Journal, benefits of outdoor yoga sessions include:

  1. Replentishing Depleted Energyyoga-2176668_1920
  2. Heightened Awareness
  3. Boosted Confidence
  4. Enhanced Meditative Benefits

Whether you join an organized class or choose to do some sun salutations on the beach at Discovery Park, you can reap the benefits of an outdoor yoga session.

Cycling Club

bicycle-1869432_1920The time has come! Ditch the spin bike and hit the trails and bike paths. Seattle has so many trails and you are sure to see groups of people on the weekends. Join in. Build your cycling skills and learn to repair your own bike. (Pssst! You can make new friends while you are at it!) Working out with a group helps you to commit to your fitness. They act like accountability partners.

Get Outside and Enjoy the Summer!

It is important to spend time in the summer sun, getting fresh air, exploring nature, and making Vitamin D. Always be sure to consult with a healthcare provider prior to starting a new fitness regime. Looking for a Seattle Chiropractor? Check out the rest of our website to learn more about Seed of Life Chiropractic and Wellness, LLC and Dr. Samelak- our Chiropractic Physician.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

… One Bite at a Time!

This blog was inspired by my Motivation Monday post on Facebook.

I have been thinking a lot about achieving goals in fitness, life, work, etc… and they really all have a common theme. Many times the goals that I achieve are those that I have approached logically, with mindfulness, and in a task oriented fashion. Without this, these goals would seem like elephants, huge and immovable.

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When it comes to health, most people have huge, vague goals that are kind of amorphous. These seem to be extremely difficult to attain because they are ill-defined. Many people start with the generic, “This year, I am going to get healthier.”

What a fantastic statement! By using this as a springboard, we can delve deeper, make a plan, and actually achieve “healthier”. However, if this single statement is the goal, how will we mindmap-2123973_1920know if it has been attained?

Let’s break it down.

What is “healthier”?

  • Is it a goal weight?
  • Is it a fitness goal like a marathon or a Strongfirst certification?
  • Is it fewer illnesses through the year?
  • Is it less back pain?
  • Is it being able to play with your grandchildren?
  • The list goes on!!!

Since a marathon in 2017 is my goal, I will use that as my example in this scenario.

Define the goal: A marathon is a 26.2 mile race. marathon-1649905_1920

What will it take to achieve the goal?

  • Commitment to a training schedule
  • Several smaller races
  • Having a support group
  • Self-Care to ensure that you maintain health while training
  • etc.

Action Steps:

  • I have made monthly goals for miles run weekly and/or cumulatively
  • I have started running with a running group that meets several times a week
  • I have a training partner in my husband who also wants to run a marathon with meTraining Photo
  • I have signed up for a 12K in 2 weeks (7.4 miles)
  • I have plans for a half-marathon in late May
  • I am taking care of myself physically
    • Sleeping 7-8 hours each night
    • Limiting sugar and alcohol in my diet
    • Ensuring that I am eating enough protein and vegetables that are responsibly sourced
    • Getting adjusted by another Chiropractor (see my other blog on this topic)
    • Participating in “prehab” exercises to help prevent injury during training
    • Drinking plenty of water on a daily basis!

Since high school, I have wanted to run a marathon… but I always thought it was too big, too much, an elephant you could say.

Moving to Seattle and deciding to take a logical approach to goal setting and improving my health has made what seemed like a pipe dream, a reality. Along with the encouragement of my husband and new friends, this long time goal is becoming a reality.

What goals have you been avoiding because they are too big or scary? Maybe you can approach them using this type of break-down.

If your goals are health-related, consult your Chiropractor and/or Primary Physician to ensure that you are taking care of your body in the process. I am always happy to help others achieve their health goals. Please feel free to contact me using the form below if you would like to schedule a consult!

Why you should STOP ignoring your feet!

wanna-see-my-footFeet are important.

They are the foundation that we stand upon.

Your feet contain 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Not to mention nerves and blood vessels!

And yet we abuse them by wearing impractical shoes, restraining them, sitting too much, etc.

Problems with our feet involve more than just foot pain, they can impact the low back and even headaches.

Gait patterns (how we walk) are driven by the foot.

The gait cycle is broken down below, but, in essence the way that we walk is influenced by how we transfer weight from one foot to the other. It is important for us to see that the heel hits the ground first and then the bones of the foot lock together, rolling the toes down and bearing weight.

  • The gait cycle starts with a Heel Strike. The heel of the reference foot is the first place to touch the ground.
  • When the foot is flat, weight can be transferred to the referenced leg. In this part of the gait cycle, think about weight bearing, shock absorption, and moving forward.
  • Mid Stance occurs when the body is balanced and in alignment on the reference foot.
  • Just as the heel of the reference foot leaves the ground, the body is in terminal stance.
  • Toe off occurs when the great toe of the reference foot leaves the ground and begins to swing. This is the beginning of the swing phase of the gait cycle.
  • The swing phase is that part of the gait cycle during which the reference foot is not in contact with the ground and swings in the air. It constitutes about 40% of gait cycle. (wikipedia)

Feet have arches that act as springs to support our movement.

It is important to have your arches analyzed and evaluated- no matter their shape to ensure that your feet support your body. Think about it, have you ever been told you had flat feet or high arches? Take at look at the photos below and compare to your footprints in sand.

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Often, high arch feet are very rigid and benefit from self-mobilization. Follow the steps below to mobilize your feet. By stimulating motion in a rigid foot, you can reduce foot pain and improve your biomechanics.

  • Grasp your forefoot in both hands and perform a shearing motion between each of the toes
  • Gently tug on each of your toes
  • Using your whole palm, grasp the heel of your foot and firmly move it back and forth

Flat feet, on the other hand, generally need to be retrained to have more muscular coordination. For this, the “Short Foot” exercises tend to be very helpful.

  • Try placing a kitchen towel on the floor and using your toes to pull it toward you

OR

  • Use your toes to pick up marbles off the floor

feet-619399_1920Either way your feet should be moveable and strong. Think of watching a toddler walk barefoot. You can see their toes grasp the ground, almost like they have suction cups on their tiny toes.

In this photo, see how the toddler is pulling up on their toes? This is especially noticeable when they are first learning to walk and balance.

Perhaps, one of the  most important things to realize is how our shoes influence our feet.

Shoes are orthotics. They support our feet or force them into submission- like in high heels. High heels can do a lot of damage to our bodies- no matter how nicely they make our behinds look in skinny jeans.

feet-1840937_1920Knees: increased pressure by 26% through the knee (knees are also affected posturally as described below)

Calves: tightens/shortens the calf muscles

Achilles (Calf tendon): Shortens and risks tearing when barefoot

“Pump Bump” or Haglund’s Deformity:     bony enlargement on the back of the heel from rubbing/irritation

Posture: whole body mechanics are different with the sacrum rocked forward, increased strain through the knee, increased pressure in the lumbar spine, anterior head carriage, etc.

Ball of foot: pushes weight forward into an area that isn’t designed for it, creating metatarsalgia (the higher the heel, the more pressure through the forefoot)

Hammertoes/Hallux Valgus: from “squishing” the foot into the toebox

What does it all mean?

It is important to go barefoot sometimes! Especially in grass or sand where your muscles in the feet are forced to work.

If you are a runner or walker, get your shoes professionally fitted to be sure that they are correct for your gait and foot type.

For that matter, have your gait assessed to be sure that you are running properly and prevent future injury.

Have your Chiropractor assess your feet to ensure that they move properly and to help you decide if exercises, mobilizations, or orthotics are right for you.