Monthly Archives: February 2010

Active Recovery

Recently, after a hard workout, I feel tired -and the next day I just feel beat up.  Tired. Sore. Hungry. Unmotivated.Classic signs that I might be overtraining.  An idea that seem so unlikely because I’ve worked out a lot harder before and been just fine.  I’m tracking my food and taking notes on that so see if maybe it’s my diet, but in the meantime I’m spending a lot more time in Active Recovery.

  • Active Recovery is using blood flow to remove lactic acid and other waste materials from muscles so that we can continue to exercise and heal.
  • Active Recovery is continuing an action or activity at a much lower rate after a hard exercise session or a long event (say running a half marathon).  It is the cool-down.
  • Active Recovery is repeating a workout a day or two later at a lower intensity and lower volume to assist in healing.

So there’s a lot to active recovery.  And, I’ll admit it, I haven’t been good about using this tool as well as I could .  But what does this all mean?

When I weight train, I often go fairly hard- working to get close to muscle exhaustion failure in the 3rd set or so.  If I were a good lifter, I would then take time between sets to actively recover- some dynamic stretches (easily swinging my arms or legs), some static stretches, walking around or easy jogging in place- something to encourage the blood pumping, reoxygenating the muscles, and clearing lactic acid from the muscles.

Yeah, I usually stand there breathless and sweaty, take a sip of water, and get ready for the next set.

Near the end of a training session, the ideal actions would be to do what are often called “finishing” exercises in the weight lifting schools: after working complex, large muscle groups – you move down to exercising the smaller muscles groups and supporting muscle systems.  The ideal reason to do this: keep the blood flowing at a lower rate so that it help in healing.  Move slower, and less intensely letting the body cool down slowly.  At the least, I could jump on a treadmill or elliptical and have a 10 minute or so go at some steady cardio.

Me?  I tend to go all out until I’m so tired that I drop my water bottle and cannot hold on to equipment.  Then I take a warm to cool shower to cool down.  (heads head in shame at admitting this.)

Two or three days later, I should return to a recovery workout.  This is a session using light weights and high reps to increase blood flow to the muscles while limiting micro-trauma to the muscles.  (If you are a baseball fan- this the “easy throwing day” that starting pitchers use between their starts).  A recovery workout could be a full-body workout or simply a few exercises added on to a complimentary workout.

Yeah.  This just doesn’t happen at all.

Because I’ve felt so beat up lately, I’m taking some time to work out this plan and seriously implement a plan of active recovery.


How to Do a Proper Push Up

Are you doing Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred? P90X? A boot camp experience -live, on DVD or exercise TV? Or working your own fitness routine?

Chances are if you are trying one of these programs -or beyond a rank beginning on your own- some time during the week you are doing pushups. OR YOU SHOULD BE.

The challenge is everyone believes they know HOW to do a pushup -and many are doing them wrong. The pushup is a full-body exercise that should be working most of the back-side muscles, the core, and the arms.

If you rely solely on your arms and shoulders to get your body moving, you are doing them wrong.

So let’s look a program to get you into prime pushup form. No matter where you’re beginning today – I think you could be doing a real pushup within a month.

1. Let’s start with plank. Last year I showed you how to do a plank plus a number of variations. For getting to the pushup, let concentrate on the basic only.

-lie on the floor, head shoulders off the ground and supported on your elbows. Your forearms in a straight line forward from the elbows, hands in a fist, thumbs facing inward. Toes are pointed.

-tuck your toes “in” under legs, and elevate your body. Push back through your heels feeling the tension along the calves, hamstrings and glutes.

-maintain a straight line from the back of the head, through the shoulders, hips, knees and heels.

-do not let your feet roll out into a V shape. Pull them perpendicular to the ground. You may feel increased tension along the inside of your thighs and through your groin. This a good thing.

Hold the plank for 30-60 seconds. Lower your body and repeat 2 more times.

Try doing several sets of planks each day. You should feel no pain while doing these. If you do, quickly analyze and correct your form. If the pain continues- stop and talk to a trainer or other professional to see what is wrong.

The plank will get your body working as one-and develop the strong back side coordination you need to do a push.

Next week- A progression of pushups to get you moving.

What The World Eats

You read that Americans and those in Western society suffer from metabolic diseases because of what we eat in the average week.  The poorer and simpler societies eat closer to the earth -and eat much fewer calories.

But what does this mean?

If you look through the collected photographs from the What The World Eats you can clearly see the differences.  Go check it out.

The Revi’s an American family eat enough food that they need to hang their bags of chips off the side of their cabinets.  Most of the food is packaged- soda, beer, juice, chips, vegetables.  There are few fresh fruits and vegetables in the pile.

Contrast this to the Ayme family of Ecuador:

Or the Namgay family from Bhutan:

Both these families eat closer to the earth- and obviously eat less.

What would a week’s worth of your family’s food look like?

Now what have I gone and done??

I teased you with a promise of some exciting things to come here. (admittedly not fully formed in my head – but close).

And now? I’ve gone and gotten a full-time job in a gym that begins in a just over a week. A gym without wifi. So the very many hours I’ll be spending there hanging around waiting for work? I’ll be thinking about you. Will I be writing in long hand a waiting to convert when I get online? Will go black again?

Only time shall tell. What is most likely to happen is that I’ll spring for a smart phone (probably a ‘droid) and connect that way.

I’ve Got Issues. Corrective Exercises- pt. 1

There is this piece of knowledge among fitness professionals: everyone has movement impairments.  These are weak or tight muscles somewhere along our body that we long ago learned to compensate for without even thinking.

These impairments might be immobile ankles (ever have a sprain?), poorly firing glutes (sit much?), or overactive lats (spend hours at the computer?).  We are often completely unaware of these movements impairments, yet wonder why we have lower back pain, headaches, TMJ, knee pain.  The whole kit and kaboodle of non-specific aches and pains that seem to come from no specific place can be attributed to movement impairments.

I’m working on an at-home study course to identify these impairments and learn how to bring the body back into a more natural alignment.  It involved foam rolling, and stretching, gentle exercises to stretch and strengthen muscle pairs, and exercises to get the body working as one again the way it was designed.

For the heck of it- and because I am always my own laboratory-I will be going through the steps on myself.  As much as I can, doing a full assessment and then working through my personal set of stretches and exercises to address my issues.

Having just watched my own movement assessment video tape, lordy I’VE GOT ISSUES.

-First, I have Hallux Rigidus.  This is extra bone growth around the first (big) joint in the big toe.  This extra bone limits the range that the toe can bend.  Guess what? When you can’t bend your toe, you can’t bend your foot.  When you can’t bend your foot- imagine the compensations that occur in your body every time you take a step.

Now the long time readers may remember that I had my left toe surgically repaired for this a few years ago.  Repaired so that I can now bend that foot.  But repaired is not the same thing as eliminated-and I apparently still have rather severe problems because of this issue.

Add to that: I’ve sprained my ankles 9 times.  Five on the right side, four on the left. Three severely- two on the right and once on the left.  Enough about that for now.

And then: I also have shoulder issues.  Lack of mobility on both sides, thoracic outlet syndrome and a strained/torn rotator cuff on the right.

Like I said, I have issues.  I’m going to post the video in a few days along with my initial assessment.

In the meantime, do you nagging aches and pains that you don’t understand?  Knees that hurt on squats or lunges? Lower back pain, head aches?  Start thinking about how you move every day.  We’ll take this discussion further.

I’ve been a bad, bad blogger

I know.  I’ve been a bad, bad blogger.  I get you started down a new path -and tantalize you with hints of interesting things to come – then disappear like all those dreamed-of increases in value from that home someone bought right before the real estate/bank/entire financial world failed.

What can I say?  I’ve been thinking. Dangerous activity, I know,that SHOULD lead to more blogging.  I mean doesn’t thinking by myself lead to spewing those thoughts out on my keyboard in order to organize them?  Isn’t that HOW I’VE BLOGGED for the past 6 years?

Yes.  Yes, it is.

So what does it say that I’ve been thinking and not spewing?

One thing it says is that I’ve been thinking about you.  Is my spewing really best form of communication between us?  Or maybe you deserve something just a bit better?

I think you do.  So I will try to give you a bit more meat with my “me”.

Also, I am truly interested in spreading information about women getting healthier and living healthier lives.  And I want this blog to reflect that.  How exactly?  I’m not sure.

But stick around.  I promise to come back this week- (whispers- I’ve got videos and I’m working on the things I’ve learned…).

Lessons in Weight Training #1: Show Up

This is likely to be an on-going but somewhat irregular series of lessons we learn through working out.

Lesson #1: Show Up

It may be obvious, but the very first lesson we learn from working out is that you have to show up.

Sitting on the couch sipping your morning coffee and watching Steve Ross move his class through their yoga moves – because you like the music on the show?- is NOT going to get you more flexible, more balanced, more centered. -And if does, would please share your brand of coffee with me?

The only way you benefit from training is to actually show up and do it.

Now this is true of anything- thinking, trying, hoping are poor substitutes for doing if it’s reading a book, finding a job, or hiking the Grand Canyon.  However- with the possible exception of the Grand Canyon trip- very few activities leave you with the physical evidence that you showed up as doing something physical.

First it’s soreness that reminds you the rest of the day that you DID something.  Then it’s the better sleep at night.  Eventually the presence of muscle tone -and muscles stands as silent evidence that exercise.

It all begins my showing up.