Monthly Archives: November 2010

Brief check in: Stiff

I promise that the foam rolling video is coming.

One problem I’ve had this week: there is a major weather pattern moving through – and I have so stiff from this that it’s been difficult to get up and down off the floor to get the good video shot.  What I have so far?  Not view worthy.

But the front has finally moved in.

Foam Rolling-Part One:What’s It All About?

Man foam rollingFoam rolling is professionally known as Self-Myofacial Release.  It’s designed to allow your fascia to work without impairment.  But what exactly are fascia? The easiest way I can explain it is to have you imagine that each muscle comes with it’s own condom.  You want this condom to contain, not be too tight, and slide appropriately when its muscle moves.  THAT is the role of the fascia.

Self-Myofacial Release -foam rolling-is a technique to keep this “muscle condom” working in perfect order.  A simple explanation: using a tool to massage the fascia covering a muscle group.  Often that tool is a 6″ round foam tube, though PVC piping, balls, rolling pins, water bottles, and specialized tools can be used too.

This fascial massage:

  • Improves ROM by removing adhesions, reducing tension / tightness and neurological inefficiencies, and passively lengthening the muscle.
  • Used in conjunction with stretching protocols can improve muscle length, flexibility and mobility
  • Improves recovery and helps relieve the effect of DOMS

First point: It increases RANGE OF MOTION.

While we’re inactive- sleeping or spending too many hours working at a computer- our fascia relaxes, and small fibers of “fuzz” grows between them.  If we stretch completely when we get back up, this fuzz can easily be broken down again.  However, if we don’t move our muscles through their full range of motion, that fuzz remains.  And grows.

Eventually these fuzzy fibers stick together making a small “knot” of fuzz.  This knot may make a movement painful- restricting your range of movement.  Now think about when you’ve seen a wool sweater that has been thrown in the washing machine.  The fibers tangle among themselves becoming tighter and smaller.  The sweater shrinks and eventually -if enough heat and cold and agitation is present-becomes felt.

The same thing happens to the fuzz that grows between myofascia.

If we attack this fuzz when it’s light and thin, it’s easy to get rid of.  A thorough stretch before we get out of bed will help.  And foam rolling once a day will go even further to break down some of the “felted” knots we’ve developed over the years.

Like wool fibers, fascia runs in one direction: the direction in which the muscle moves.  Slightly injure a spot on a muscle and the fibers in that spot will realign themselves in different directions to protect those muscle fibers while they heal much like a patch on bicycle tube.  Afterward, we must work to break down this patch -by stretching to the point of tightness, relaxing and working for greater range of motion.  Foam rolling helps things along by encouraging the fascial fibers to realign themselves- once again moving in the direction of muscle fiber movement.

Oh, if only we could do the same thing with our ruined sweaters!

EPOC-Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption

In The Truth-It’s Bad…I mentioned how I could track EPOC when checking my BodyBugg program on an exercise day. When sitting at my desk or on the couch, my minute-by-minute caloric burn jumped to 1.5 cal over the standard .8.

After aerobic or resistance training, your body continues to require more oxygen in order to heal the muscles and expel the lactic acid built up in the muscles.  This extra oxygen consumption increases caloric burn.  And that is the essence of EPOC.  This is also the reasoning behind High Intensity Interval Training -which by nature of its intensity increases EPOC.

There are too many studies of this for me to cite them all – or discuss their various conclusions.  I’ve spent most of this week reviewing these studies trying to find some kind of common thread -a real nugget on knowledge to share with you- to no avail.  The conclusions just don’t wrap things up into neat little packages.

  • Yes, EPOC creates higher caloric burn, but the total may only be about 10% of what occurred during the exercise itself.  Burn 400 calories in a HIIT session?  In one study, you could then expect to burn an extra 40 afterward.
  • Women seem to have much shorter periods of EPOC than men- sometimes only 60-90 minutes instead of the 48 hours promoted by a number of fitness specialists.  —Or did the testers only measure for this period of time?
  • Women DO burn more calories from circuit training than from running intervals and seem to demonstrate EPOC for slightly longer.  But the total number of calories when you do the math?  Maybe 20-50 total.

Do you have a headache yet?

That is why I appreciated seeing the numbers recorded on my BodyBugg.  I could determine the changes that took place and see the effect of EPOC on my day.  For me- for this one day- it resulted in approximately an additional 200 calories burned.  Much more than any of the studies suggested.  Even more significantly, when I was active after my exercise routine, it increased the burn of simple activities like grocery shopping.

I believe you could see this same effect if you were wearing a heart rate monitor.  I don’t own one- but I think it would be fun to compare the bodybugg with a HRM.  Maybe sometime in the future I will indulge my geeky side and give it a try.

Do you have any personal observations about EPOC?  Any questions?

The Truth- It’s bad but not too bad.

This morning I stepped on the scale predicting the results. I am now the same weight I was when I began this fitness journey over 4 years ago. Months of limited activity because of my shoulder injury have taken a toll on my body.

I’ve watched the scale going up and I’ve been getting disheartened. I’ve started going back to try and determine THE TRUTH on where I stand today. I’ve (mostly) tracked my foods and macronutrient intakes this past week. I’ve worn my BodyBugg again to determine my real caloric burn. I’ve analyzed the information.

It sucks. No delicate way to say that.

When I spend a day sitting on the couch reading, knitting, watching tv, healing, my sorry post-menopausal body is burning only 1440 calories a day; sitting, I burn about .8k/minute and walking about 1.5calories. Most days- if I eat when I’m hungry and consume a reasonable amount of protein, vegetables and fruits – I eat about 1700 calories a day.

No surprise why the weight has packed back on.

But there are surprises here.

Yesterday I did a half-hour of cardio and an hour of weight training- burning more like 3 calories a minute instead of the .8 I burn just sitting on my butt. And the greater reward? Afterward, I went grocery shopping; with the post-exercise burn still cooking, I continued to burn nearly 3 calories a minute just walking around the store. Walking the dogs yielded the same bonus. A 50 calorie an hour bonus for about 4 hours post workout.

Tangible explanation of EPOC: Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption. -or a higher rate of caloric expenditure.

Other positives:

While I am the same weight I was 4 years ago, I am not in the same shape. I actually have more muscle mass, less body fat (though, sadly I am still borderline obese), more endurance, more body awareness. I’m physically about where I was 3-6 months into the program- and that’s the point where I started burning fat quite successfull

So the journey back to a healthy body fat level, healthy strength level, healthy movement should be that much easier. Today marks 2 months post-surgery. Much of the big healing is behind me -and I can start taking the endurance and strength challenges on.

Let’s get this party started.