Friday, April 25, 2014

Stretching and Flexibility Training: Mobility Vs. Stability

The principles of stretching and flexibility, both for pre-workout warm-up and as a sole means to improve mobility have completely changed since when you and I were growing up in P.E. class.  In a nutshell, stretching can do more harm than good if not done correctly or if performed with the intent of hyper-mobility (exceeding bio-mechanical ranges).  We also now know that joint stability and strength, are more important to athletic performance and lower injury rates, than flexibility is.   Optimal range of motion is the goal, with flexibility as one tool to get there.  Hyper-mobility or maximizing joint flexibility is never the goal for an athlete!    In fact some pro-athletes do not stretch at all in a traditional since, but rather warm-up and cool-down, and loosen up occasional tight spots and trigger points with targeted stretches, foam-rolling and massage.  Strengthening exercises, massage and compression-wear have taken over many areas for today’s relevant athlete, where stretching fell short in the past.  Pre-workout stretching should be used only as a means to acclimate your body to its normal range of optimal motion, as well as loosening up any ‘tight’ spots or fascia adhesions.  Pre-workout stretching is not the time to try to improve overall flexibility or push joints or muscles past their bio-mechanical maximum range of motion.  Pre-workout stretching should only be done after you have first warmed up your core temperature and increased your heart rate with some form of mild cardio exercise, like spinning, jogging, jumping rope, or mild calisthenics.  A warm muscle is a pliable muscle.  A cold muscle is prone to high-risk of injury.  Never stretch cold muscles!  Ideally the time to work on your flexibility – if that is important to you, is after your workout when all your soft tissue are very warm and pliable.  This may also assist in removing lactic-acid and in muscle recovery.  However, while post-exercise stretching and massage may lower next day (DOMS) soreness, it may also inhibit muscle-gains by reducing inflammation and prostaglandins, which both trigger follow on muscle growth, and Growth Hormone secretion.
My primary 'stretching' goals are to simply 'loosen up', prevent fascia-adhesions, manage scar tissue and to maintain optimal mobility - not to join some sideshow circus act with hyper-mobile joints!!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Juice-Cleanse Myth...and How You Could Be Harming your Liver!

Juice-cleanses, juicing-fasts, juice-detoxes...It is time I interject some common sense into this over-hyped, fructose-laden, crash-diet-in-disguise fad!  As usual I have done my best to sift through all the bro-science, and anecdotal, placebo-effect claims out there in internet land, and also have managed to sniff out all the false-marketing, testimonial-type, social media posts attempting to sell us cleansing kits, polluting our newsfeeds (pun intended).  ‘Cleanses’ and fasts are certainly not new as they have been around forever, and I don’t think they will ever go away.  Folks are drawn to them and always have been – beginning a cleanse is almost like a spiritual journey for many – like a baptism, and many also like the discipline and sense of accomplishment completing a cleanse can bring.  Cleanses and fasts permit us to immediately and radically start fresh, or break a downward spiral of poor diet and lifestyle choices.  They empower us and cause us to feel as if we are taking back control of our bodies and health with a tangible, simple plan.  However, they are also a means to rapid and sometimes unhealthy weight-loss, so many folks often use cleanses as way to kick start their diets, though often this sets in motion a pattern of yo-yo dieting, or fasting as a way to make-up for binging episodes.  It’s a slippery slope into diet abuse.  I’m sure you know of some folks who are cleansing every month whether they need to or not.

We can see that there are many mental and motivational positives to undertaking a cleanse or even a strategic fast.  In fact Intermittent-Fasting is even linked to improving longevity and boosting metabolism.  And of course there will be immediate accompanying weight-loss, usually temporary water and glycogen weight – but seriously, are our insides any ‘cleaner’ or less toxic as a result?  Doubtful.  And certainly the only claims of the latter I uncovered were anecdotal at best, or worse, evangelistic testimonials from folks trying to sell us cleansing-kits and products.  The bottom line is, are bodies do a fantastic and thorough job of maintaining and detoxing ourselves on a daily basis.  We have organs and systems designed just for this purpose and they never stop working for our greater good.  Liver, kidneys, sweat glands, mucus membranes, colon, lungs, lymph nodes, skin – they are all working in harmony to eliminate toxins and protect us.  All you have to do is not deliberately sabotage yourself, by leading a relatively healthy lifestyle, and you will be good to go!