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Why You Need to Know the Difference Between Stretching and Warming Up

training-603981_1920As the New Year began, you may have started a new exercise regime or class.  Whether you’re new to exercise or not, many people, especially if pressed fro time tend to skip the warm-up, figuring the main workout is what really counts. Warming up before exercise is neither the fun nor glamorous part of your routine, but forgoing it sets you up to decrease your performance and increase risk of injury.

Many people get to the gym and start doing a few static stretches before they get going.  You may not know that stretching and warming up is not the same thing. You may think stretching is a warm-up, but this is a common mistake. In fact, stretching before an activity is not doing much for you at all.

What the Research Says

Traditionally, it was thought that you should stretch before strenuous activity to reduce the risk of injury.

Studies have shown stretching before activity does nothing for the reduction of injuries.  According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, injuries are believed to occur during the eccentric phase of contraction, which is part of a muscle’s normal range of motion.  If injuries occur during the normal range of motion, then why would increasing that range of motion prevent injuries?  So, if stretching before activity is not going to help prevent injuries, what is the answer?

What to Do Before a Workout

It is really simple.  Warm-up in a way that is specific to the activity in which you plan to participate.  Here’s something profound, a warm-up must actually make you warm.  The goal is to slightly raise your body temperature, just enough so you break a sweat. This, in turn, allows for less strains, tears, and sprains and results in a safer, more efficient workout.

Then consider that the warm up must match the movements you will be doing during your more strenuous activity. Perhaps an easier way to think of this is with weight training. If your workout calls for weighted squats, then a good warm-up would be body weight squats. This begins to activate the muscles around the hip, knee, ankle, and core.

Remember, the goal is to warm up with the same movements or as close as you can get to the actual movements required by your workout or sport.

Examples of versatile warm up moves that can be performed before most workouts include: jumping jacks, arm circles, walking lunges, butt kicks, air squats, and trunk rotations.  Start out with 30 seconds of each move.

The Takeaway

In order to get the most out of your exercise session, focus on warm-up movements that mirror the movements of the activities in which you plan to do. Do as many reps as you need until you feel ready.  Save foam rolling or static stretching for after training or at night. Unless you are a professional athlete, your training time is limited. By following the steps above, you will place your body in the right situation in the time you do have for increased performance and reduced risk of injury.

*Also, in winter your warm up is even more critical. We are in the middle of the season of tight, cold muscles and decreased mobility.  For optimum performance all winter long and an injury-free return to spring, a serious warm-up is your best friend.

Is Running Bad for My Body?

running

Many people look forward to this time of year due to the high number of running and walking races across the Des Moines area, including the IMT Des Moines Marathon that was a few weeks ago.  Running is a common form of exercise chosen by people that want to increase their fitness abilities. Programs like Couch to 5k have encouraged millions of Americans to get off the couch, lace up some running shoes, and hit the pavement toward better health.

However, running is also a very common source of sports related injury in this country.  Injuries to the foot/ankle, knee, hip, and low back can often sideline a runner for weeks, while delaying them from reaching their fitness and weight loss goals. We have seen this far too often when taking care of runners with chronic injuries.

Many times, the problem isn’t the sport itself, but the specific technique used while running.  Improper running form from poor running posture or repetitive heel striking are the most common culprits. Over the course of dozens of miles, heel striking can jar all of the joints of the lower extremity causing the spine to shift out of place. Of course, once the spine shifts out of place, then secondary conditions will inevitably result.

midfoot-strike-running-7810

Keep these steps in mind to help safeguard against structural breakdown while running.

So how can you make running safe?

  1. Change your form. The 4 steps above are a good start, but for personalized instruction, go to a local running store like Fleet Feet Sports or Fitness Sports. These establishments often have great classes and resources on proper running form.
  2. Evaluate your footwear. If you’re wearing the wrong shoes, then you will continue to get injured. The local running stores noted above have experts ready to fit you for the right shoe for your specific foot.
  3. Get checked for any underlying structural shifts that may be causing weak running posture, altered gait, and reducing your body’s ability to heal and repair.  It is hard to achieve proper form and be evaluated for proper footwear without first having a structurally sound foundation.

Don’t let injury slow you down from achieving your goals. Run safe!

 

 

 

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Avoid an Energy Crisis

One of the most common problems that people talk about is lack of energy.  If you’re reading this right now, you may be in the midst of a mid-afternoon crash, and looking fofatiguer some stimulation to keep your energy and focus up.

The “energy crisis” problem has become so widespread that energy drinks such as 5 Hour Energy®, Red Bull®, Monster®, and the like, have become a massive 9 billion dollar industry!

So, what’s the deal?  Why are so many people running on fumes in terms of energy?

Are we not sleeping enough?

Are we working too hard?

Do we all have a caffeine deficiency?

If you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense that people inherently need a pick-me-up during the middle of the day.  Quick fixes like energy drinks and heaps of coffee exist, but you may be looking for a long term strategy that can help create a higher energetic state without the detrimental effects.

4 Steps to Sustainable Energy

1. Start the Morning Fresh

There’s a lot of debate about how much sleep the average adult needs.  The truth is, everyone operates well with varying amounts.  The most important factors are consistency of sleeping times and the timing of your wake cycle.

There are a variety of sleep tracking apps and wearable devices on the market.  An app that you may find useful is Sleep Cycle.  It allows you to place your phone under your sheets and it senses how much you move during the night.  You set an alarm with a 30 minute window to wake you up.  Using these criteria, the application will sound the alarm during your lightest period of sleep.

The end result is waking up at a time when you will feel refreshed, even if it means waking up a little earlier than your set alarm time.  Using an inexpensive application like this can make early mornings seem MUCH more bearable.

2. Get the Right Fuel

We won’t go into too much depth today on fueling your body.  Keep an eye out for our December Keystone Update in your inbox that will discuss this more in depth.  In terms of fueling your body with food for lasting energy, keep in a mind a few things:

A. Avoid Processed Carbohydrates and Refined Sugar

Processed grains, which lack fiber and nutrients, and refined sugar both get digested and absorbed quickly, which can wreak havoc with your blood sugar and energy levels.  Ditch sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea, and lemonade and stick with carbohydrates from whole foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats.

B. Avoid Carbohydrate-Only Meals

Carbs are the most efficient source of fuel for every cell in your body, which is probably why they’re so abundant in nature, and why they get digested and absorbed pretty quickly.  But if you’re looking for sustained energy over a longer period of time, combine carbs like fruit and grains with lean protein and good fats.  That means steady rise in blood sugar and better insulin control, so your cells will receive even, time-released fuel (read: energy) over a longer period of time.

C. Eat the Rainbow

…And NO, we’re not talking about Skittles®.

Eating a wider variety of foods exposes your body to a broader spectrum of antioxidants and nutrients, which means better overall nourishment and energy.  Expand your variety by aiming for five different colored fruits and veggies every day (blue, green, orange, red, white) and use a variety of antioxidant rich herbs and spices to season your food (basil, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, etc.).  Ensuring your body is getting both the macro nutrients (fat, carbs, protein) and micro nutrients (vitamins & minerals) it needs helps optimize energy through food.

3. Get Moving

It doesn’t have to be extreme, especially if you currently do little to no exercise.  Our bodies are built to move.  It doesn’t have to be a full hour workout or running miles at a time, but movement will help keep your brain oxygenated and alert.

A good recommendation is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week.  Can’t fit 30 consecutive minutes in?  Break it up into manageable increments throughout the day for a quick energy boost.  It may be 15 minutes of yoga before you get in the shower or squeezing in a 10 minute walk at lunch time.  Or, if you’re a pretty fast runner, why not knock out a quick mile?

4. Ensure Your Nervous System is Unobstructed

You may be asking, what does that have to do with energy?  While there are many causes of low energy, a common one you may not have heard of is abnormal nervous system function.  Energy and messages flow between your brain and the rest of you body through your nerves.  Structural imbalances in the spine can obstruct the flow of these messages, which can lead to secondary problems like fatigue.

If you haven’t had your spine checked for structural abnormalities, it may be time, as this could be a contributing factor to your “energy crisis.”

Here’s the deal, if you have to stare at a clock and fight that miserable feeling of fatigue every…single…day, does it make sense to make a few changes to improve your life?  The choice is yours.

 

Did you like this article?  Feel free to share it with the people you care about, and sign up to receive Updates from Keystone Chiropractic.  It may just be the next step in regaining your health.

If It’s Happening in Pro Sports, It’s Happening in Your Child’s School, Too.

Fall is here and the fall sports season is well underway around the Des Moines metro.  Unfortunately, along the spectrum from young to professional atheletes, comes the risk of concussion.  Each year, nearly 2 million traumatic brain injuries occur, 75% of which are concussions.  Approximately 300,000 of those are sports related, in large part, due to football.

But, let’s not blame football for all of them.  A spike to the head in volleyball, or perhaps a fall from the monkey bars, injuring the neck and/or head can certainly be responsible for a concussion

Now, concussions in professional sports are always in the news.  So, it’s safe to say that if it’s happening in professional sports, it’s happening in  your child’s school, too.  The good thing about being a pro-athlete, such as an NFL player, is the access to some of the greatest concussion care available.  The NFL and other leagues are highly invested in the safety of their players because:

  1. They want to avoid lawsuits down the road, and
  2. They want to make sure the athletes have the best care for a safe and quick return to play.

Even in the NFL, though, there is no helmet standard.  Regardless, NO helmet is capable of preventing the brain from shifting around within the skull during a collision.  It is the movement that can cause damage to the brain and central nervous system, leading to concussion.

Your child may not have immediate access to such great care.  If you have a child is sports, or who is injured on the playground, you should be aware of these symptoms associated with concussion:

  • Brief loss ofkids-56952_1280 consciousness
  • Memory problems and confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Headaches (with or without vomiting)
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Problems with balance
  • Slow reaction time
  • Fatigue

If you know your child took some hard hits during the game, or begins to show any of the above signs as the season wears on, it would be prudent to have him or her evaluated by a qualified professional as soon as possible.

What may surprise you is that head injuries and structural abnormalities of the neck are closely linked.  The potential damage to the brain is often the sole focus, and the potential injury to the cervical spine (neck) is often overlooked.  Stay tuned for a future blog post that illustrates how concussions can lead to injury and structural issues in the cervical spine.

 

 

Did you like this article?  Feel free to share it with the people you care about, and sign up to receive Updates from Keystone Chiropractic.  It may just be the next step in regaining your health.