Month: May 2014

Do you have all of the pieces of the fitness puzzle?

There are many sports that involve lifting heavy things. Powerlifting, strongman competitions, the highland games, and the shot-put are all sports involving heavy weights and objects. The sport of Weightlifting is the only sport done with a barbell that is performed at the Olympics. Olympic weightlifting (or oly for short) involves two events, the clean and jerk and the snatch. Both events requires the athlete to lift a barbell from the ground to their shoulders and then overhead (clean and jerk), or directly overhead from the ground (snatch). The lifter needs to move the barbell and themselves at very high velocities to execute the task successfully. This is different than most heavy lifting sports as they use relatively low velocities when compared to weightlifting. You might ask, “Joey, I don’t plan on being an Olympic athlete, why would I want to do Olympic weightlifting?”. A proficient weightlifter has explosive speed, highly coordinated motor patterns, strength, and an exceptionally strong core. These are all qualities of a balanced fitness program.

These characteristics are some of the key components of becoming more athletic. Regardless if you are trying to improve your squash game, or be able bring the groceries inside the house in a single trip, barbell lifting – weightlifting specifically – will benefit you greatly. The core strength that weightlifting develops is unrivaled. The word “functional” strength is thrown around the fitness world all the time. Weightlifting truly develops functional strength and power. Functional core strength is developed with the large amount of overhead activity and movements with high weights away from the body’s center of gravity. While functional hip strength is developed with the quick powerful hip extensions performed throughout each lift.

When determining the training program of an athlete it is important to look at the requirements of the sport. Most sports require speed, strength, power, and agility. These are all components of oly lifting. For example, when was the last time you saw a sprinter leisurely stride out of the blocks during a 100m dash, or when can you recall you have seen a fighter slowly lift his leg to kick an opponent. We must train explosive to become explosive. This is not to say that a proper strength phase of training is not necessary. I am saying that these are all pieces of the puzzle that need to be properly assembled. The incorporation of hypertrophy, strength, and explosive training methods will create a more complete and effective athlete.

Lastly I want to touch on that slow moving sprinter or lame kicking fighter. In the off chance that you do see this happening, it is probably due to an injury. It is common for many athletes to have hamstring and knee injuries. Olympic lifting places a heavy demand on the hamstrings and develops their size, strength, and power. This is important for two reasons. The first reason is that a having stronger, more highly trained group of knee flexors (hamstrings) will resist fatigue more greatly than a non-trained group of knee extensors. This resistance to fatigue will reduce the risk of tearing during movement. The second involves the knee and ACL. The hamstring plays a substantial role in stabilizing the knee and preventing the tibia from sliding from beneath the femur often resulting in an ACL tear. Thus, a more highly trained hamstring can help prevent injuries to the knee. In regards to your shoulders, the overhead lifting develops stability in the shoulder and also helps prevent injuries.
If you have any questions regarding barbells, powerlifting, or general fitness, please contact personal fitness trainer Joey Cole at Jcole@sacng.com.

 

Pilates Exercise of the Month: SWIMMING

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Benefit: Swimming stretches and strengthens the muscles along your spine.
Starting Position: Lie on your stomach, arms extend overhead, palms down. Squeeze the backs of legs together, slightly turn feet outward (Pilates stance, laterally rotated).
1. Inhale, pull navel up into your spine, lift your head; then your right arm and left leg off the mat.
2. Switch arms and legs by lifting your left arm and right leg. Without shifting your body weight; flutter the arms and legs in a swimming motion.
3. Inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts. Feel that you are stretching in opposition, fingers and toes reaching for opposite ends of the room.
4. Complete 3-5 sets of 5 inhalations/exhalations each. To end and stretch your lower back, sit back on your heels in child’s pose.
Head to Toe Checklist
1. Work the arms directly in front of you and in line with your shoulders.
2. The legs should flutter close to each other and in line with your torso.
3. Swim briskly; avoid rocking from side to side.
4. Keep arms and legs as straight as possible without letting them touch the mat.
Visualization:
Move rapidly and keep your head up as though you were actually in water.

Meditation

Meditation, let your eyes close, take a breath and just let go. This is easier said than done. Meditation is a lost art, something that we might think about but never get around to doing. When people think of meditation perhaps an image of the Shaolin Monks sitting cross leg comes to mind. You may think “that could never be me; I’m too busy for that”. Let’s put our busy schedule aside for a moment and talk about why everyone should make time for it.

We all (well most of us anyway) bathe regularly; we clean our bodies just about daily. Just as our body needs to be cleansed so does our mind. Think of meditation as a bath for the mind. Our head gets muddled with stress, friends, family and our own inner voice. Letting that perpetually build can take a toll on your sanity. The holidays are 100% busy and stressful. If there was ever a time to start a meditation practice this is it.

So what is meditation? Meditation is different for everyone. Being a yoga instructor, I have dedicated many hours to meditation and have made it a part of my life. From a yoga perspective, the practice of yoga and the movement you do in class is all preparation to unite the body and mind, and create a calm receptive state for meditation. However, traditional yoga meditation is not the only meditation! There are many, many schools and thoughts on meditation such as vipassana, visualization, kundalini and much more. Just like exercise, everyone likes something different.

To give meditation a try, just sit. Literally, start by sitting; find a way that is comfortable for you to sit. Cross your legs, sit on your shins or even find a comfortable couch or chair. Then begin to close your eyes, be an observer of your thoughts and the way your body feels. Once you are within yourself, try to let go. Let go of thoughts, stress, your to-do list and just be present. People new to meditation may not be able to go more than 5 seconds before the next thought slips back into their mind. If this happens to you, find a focus within your body, such as your inhalation and exhalation. Some people find it easier to focus by listening to the sounds of the environment or the sounds of their own body. It’s normal to feel impatient or agitated by sitting but don’t be discouraged. Practice makes perfect. Incorporate 5-10 minutes a day and work your way up from there. As you begin to practice more often you will slowly see a shift in your attitude and mind. With time, you may begin to notice feelings of mental calmness, less anxiety, more compassion and creativity throughout your daily activities. Allow the process to transform your mind. I encourage you to find a practice and style that is right for you!

Namaste
Sylvia

Why Shop Trader Joes?

For years clients have asked me if I get paid from Trader Joe’s to recommend their stores and products. The sad truth is I can’t even purchase their stock – it’s a privately held company! All I can do is shop there myself and recommend that my time-starved clients that want to eat healthier do the same.

A recent client of mine in our first nutrition session told me she hated to grocery shop – it was too overwhelming. She suffered fatigue and didn’t have the energy to cook much. Six weeks later, she and her husband reported looking forward to their weekly shopping trip to Trader Joe’s. She was now passionate and excited about how fun it was to shop and how the healthier convenient options kept her coming back. And she’s cooking a bit more with independent recipe websites that use TJ short-cut ingredients (she likes www.cooktjs.com). So, just in case you’re not yet a convert, here are some reasons you might decide to shop at Trader Joe’s.

First, there are no additives, preservatives or colorings in ANY of their products. They’ve taken a stand with a no-GMO policy and carry only RBST-free dairy. They have a great selection of organic, whole-grain, free-range and grass-fed options. Most amazingly, their prices are very reasonable for the quality. And they never have sales – so you’ll always know what you’re spending.

TJ’s also caters to the time-starved and nutrition-minded shopper looking for convenient options. The frozen food aisle is filled with short-cut meals and sides – and while many are still high in sodium – are very nutritious and a better alternative to dine-out. A possible downside is that you might not find everything you need at TJ’s – sometimes you’re looking for a name-brand specialty product or you don’t find the produce variety or quality you want. (The stores are relatively small and don’t carry as much produce and choice in products). But, for some, this is what makes it an endearing shopping experience – the fact that you can only get one kind of turkey chili. And that can of turkey chili is the best you’ve ever had as it’s been selected by TJ buyers who’ve searched the world over to find the best one to privately-label. I’ve come to really enjoy the simplicity of that – in a buyer-beware world of grocery aisles offering too many choices, gimmicky sales and ingredients I often can’t pronounce.

Are Your Glutes Fired Up?

Are your glutes sleepy? The “glutes” are made up of four muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and tensor fasciae latae (TFL). Of these four, the gluteus maximus is the largest and one of the strongest muscles in the body but underactive and overlooked in training. Having active glutes will improve athleticism, hip stability, appearance and quality of daily activities. These muscles are so powerful; one could wonder how and why they become inactive.

Most of us find ourselves sitting for a good portion of the day. We sit at work, in the car, we sit when we eat and for some of us, we even sit in the machines here at the gym. Let’s take a look at what all this sitting does to our muscles. Your hip flexors (the muscles at the top front of the thigh) are a primary mover in raising our legs. When sitting all day, they are in a constant shortened state which makes them very tight. Now let’s roll over to the back side of the body. With shortened and tight hip flexors,the opposing muscles, your glutes, are in an overstretched and INACTIVE position.

There are many reasons why your glutes are not firing the way they should be but the two most common, are inactive and overshadowed glutes.

Inactive glutes:
This is simply; your glutes not firing correctly or being engaged. Imagine your glutes in a constant state of shutdown or the term “sleepy”. Oftentimes this is due to inactivity. Doing low level activities like getting up from a chair, or easy walking only minimally engage your glutes.

Overshadowed glutes:
This is when other lower body muscles like the quads or hamstrings become much stronger than your glutes. This will cause them to become dominate and take over the exercise. For example, exercises like lunges that should be targeting and strengthening the glutes end up being powered by other stronger lower body muscles. In this scenario your glutes are working and firing correctly, just overshadowed. Even the best athletes can have overshadowed glutes.

Now what, how do I fire up my butt?
Getting the glutes to wake up and fire is a multi-dimensional approach through loosening, lengthening, and activating the correct muscles. Below are some suggestions on how to go about this.

Loosen:

  • Loosen up the tight muscles.  Self myofascial release (most people will know this as foam rolling) is a great way to loosen your tight muscles. Try using a lacrosse ball on your hip flexors and foam roll on your quads.

Lengthen:

  • Try static stretching on your hamstrings, hip flexors, quads and muscles surrounding your ankles.

Activate:

  • Hip thrust

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  • Single leg hip thrusts

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  • Monster walk

 

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Integrate:

  • Banded knee squats

Learning to activate your glutes will help athleticism, improve daily activities and give you a fresh start on exercise. Implementing these activation exercises into your warm up before you exercise will help ensure that your glutes are “awake” during your workout. Keep in mind that every person is going to be different and have their own set of specific needs. Doing just one single approach may not be the correct prescription to waking up your glutes. If you need assistance on figuring out which approach would be best for you, consult with a personal trainer.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Teaser 1

 

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Purpose:  Humorously referred to as “the mother of all sit-ups”, the Teaser tests your powerhouse control to the fullest.  At the peak of the exercise, momentarily hold the position, “teasing” the balance.

 

1. Lie on your back with legs extended at a 45 degree angle.  Heels are together and toes turned out slightly.  Stretch your arms overhead by your ears.  Don’t allow your back to arch or your ribs to pop out.

 

2.  Maintain the scoop; inhale; raise your arms, head and shoulders in sequence, peeling the upper body up off the mat vertebra by vertebra.  The chin is toward the chest.  The fingers reach for the toes.

 

3.  Hold the “V” position, balancing on your tailbone. Exhale; begin rolling your spine back down to the mat.

 

4. When your head has touched the mat, stretch arms overhead to the starting position and repeat 3-5 times; inhaling as you float up; exhaling as you peel down.

 

 

Visualization:  As you roll down, imagine each vertebra touching the mat the way your fingers travel on the keys of a piano.

 

Checklist:

Breathe during the exercise or you will not be using your muscles efficiently.

Don’t lower legs past the point of control. If you feel back discomfort, raise legs up to the ceiling.

Take your time, relax your mind and find your rhythm as you go.

 

Note: If you suffer from a stiff spine, perform the exercise with your feet against a wall.

 

Modified Leg Position:  If you have difficulty sitting up all the way, slightly bend the knees, keeping the toes higher than the knees, as you lift and lower the body.