Punishing Your Body, Part 1: Running

Ah running… the most widely practiced physical activity in the world with nearly two billion people jiggling their way to a body only a mother could love. From those staggering numbers it’s confirmed that we, as an industry, are not even close to where we need to be in terms of strength training frequency.

Let’s be honest, in 2015, it’s pretty damn hard to make CrossFit look like the less shitty alternative to an unsafe and ineffective form of training. Running wins this battle due to the punishment it delivers to your body with each successive step. Each leg pounds into the ground with the force of 4 times your body weight!

I don’t know about your country, but the American infrastructure wasn’t designed to withstand this kind of punishment. The streets deserve better.

Now, I read “Born to Run,” and still to this day it is one of my favorite books of all time. Loved it! It makes perfect sense. Our bodies were made to MOVE. Here is the problem: I don’t know one person that runs with form as good as the Tarahumara tribe, and when Americans aren’t running…they SIT. That’s the reality. That’s our working world, today.

I’ll be the first to admit I love hybrid endurance events and the challenge that they provide for myself. A sense of accomplishment engulfs me after every event. However, I’m not talking about marathons and half-marathons, here. I’m talking these new-found hybrid events such as Tough Mudders, combining strength, endurance, and pure grit. These events bring out the best in people, and it’s awesome to watch. I would never want people to stop participating in those because of injury. The problem lies within the training days leading up to the event.

It is not uncommon for me to have a new client come in and tell me that they are completely at a loss as to why their physical health is so horrible, and their body is just so weak. “Well, ‘Judy,’ what are you doing right now for activities?” — “I run almost every day, that’s why I don’t understand!” Hmmm….

Spinal stenosis, constant SI joint pain, hip pain, limited ankle mobility, stress fractures of the tibia…these are just a few of the issues that are common with “lifelong runners.” The biggest problems we run into with these people are with their spine. The amount of time people spend running with their subpar form causes problems in the SI joint and lower back. Pain in the sciatic nerve will erupt with vengeance if you run for many years with bad form.

In an attempt to save our roadways and orthopedic health, let’s take a deeper look into how running has continued to do absolutely nothing to eradicate the American obesity epidemic while adding to the ever-rising orthopedic dysfunction and injury rates plaguing our questionable medical system.

Running has single-handedly made the presence of pain the norm in an American society that’s struggling to be active. Up to 80% of runners are in pain on any given run, no matter the distance, intensity, or course. If you accept this statistic as “part of the game,” you’re just as much to blame as Phil Knight and the injury rainmakers over at Nike. Time to question your own beliefs and help evolve our poorly educated society, one runner at a time.

An ideal running stride is as rare as the thousand-pound squat. Just because you can run doesn’t mean you should. Without the ability to achieve proper biomechanics, your running is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Would you squat if you couldn’t keep from drawing attention from you atrocious form? I think not.

If you’re truly passionate about running, and it’s the only thing that provides an emotional release for you, that’s your prerogative! Just like anything else, try and use moderation. And for goodness sake, STRENGTH TRAIN! It’s just as good for your cardiovascular system and actually provides a benefit for the rest of your body, instead of deteriorating it! Need to lose weight? Running isn’t the only answer. Hit the elliptical and put on some lean mass by moving weights! The elliptical won’t beat down your body like the treadmill, and resistance training will add lean mass that is essential for raising your metabolic rates and sustaining any weight loss that you achieve.

There are a few fitness “trends” that punish our body, but running takes the cake.

Stay tuned for Punishing Your Body, Part 2.

Jared

Move to the beat of your own drum. 

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Strength Training for Women: The Myths

There are a myriad of myths regarding females and strength training – too many to count. Yet despite the growing number of women out there slowly converting to lovers of iron and ditching their cardio bunny ways, there are even more women who still believe that strength training is for men only, and that no proper lady would touch anything more than a pretty pink dumbbell.

What makes me happy is when I have a new female client who comes in and says: “I want to get stronger and add more muscle to my body.” YES! I love to hear this. It means that some women are truly getting it! Adding lean tissue to your frame via strength training not only helps you burn more fat faster, but also raises bone mineral density (BMD). BMD is extremely vital for middle-aged women as they age. Low BMD leads to osteoporosis, which leads to your later years being NO fun at all. Women are MUCH more at risk for osteoporosis than men, which makes strength training just as important for them–if not more! 

Myth #1: You should steer clear of heavy weights because it will make you look like a man.

This is the most ridiculous myth out there! Women commonly use the phrase “bulk up” when referring to what they want to avoid. Men have 20 times the amount of testosterone as women have flowing in their blood…TWENTY TIMES THE AMOUNT! The little testosterone that women do have plays no role in muscle building…therefore, bulking up “like a man” is physically impossible (this does not count for anyone on PEDs).

With more strength training, a spiked increase in appetite will follow. Women (along with men) must beware of this increase in appetite. Don’t go off thinking you can eat whatever you want and not put on body fat. Sure, you can get away with more in the 2-3 hour window post-workout, but don’t succumb to poor nutritional choices with your newfound hobby. 

Myth #2: Protein powder is bad for women because it will make them huge.

There is NOTHING special about protein powder. It’s not magical fairy dust that meatheads throw into a shaker bottle and it makes their veins surface to their skin and protrude. Pure whey protein powder is simply taking the best part of animal protein and putting it into a canister for quick and efficient digestion. The biggest perk (and one of the only) about protein powder is its convenience! Adding water to it enables a faster process of protein being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Protein repairs the muscle fibers that have been broken down and torn (yes, little micro-tears) during your workout, and then it also plays a large role in building the muscle fibers back up–making them stronger.

So, if you just finished your strength training session and have plans to have a big, balanced meal in the next couple hours, then there is no reason for you to slam a protein shake. Save it for another day. You will get all you need from that chicken breast, turkey burger, etc…!

NOTE: Protein in excess amounts can increase body fat. The protein consumption method is not a “the more you eat, the stronger you get” type of thing. 

Myth #3: All the fitness models and fitness competitors are on steroids; the average woman could never achieve that look.

Before I go any further, I will qualify this point by emphasizing the fact that yes, there are very few people out there who are able to maintain a lean, stage- or photoshoot-ready physique year-round. I’ll also argue, however, that that’s not because it’s impossible. Rather, many choose to switch over into the offseason, during which time they likely intentionally put on some weight in an effort to make improvements to their physiques and dial even sharper than before come next season.

But all of that aside, here’s a cool fact: we all have abs. They’re there. That six-pack? Yes, you’ve been sporting it. The only thing separating them from showing themselves off to the world is a cozy coat of fat.

If you’re looking to achieve the look of a bikini competitor or fitness model, chances are good that you have most, of it not all, of the muscle mass necessary to start off. This is great, because all that means that is you have to lose bodyfat in order to unveil that coveted physique. Easier said than done, I’m aware, but think of it as an art. Over a period of several weeks and months, you’ll chip away at your body, slowly uncovering the sculpted arms and curvy legs you’ve been after.

Myth #4: You should switch up your training routine every week to keep your muscles guessing.

I recommend a minimum of four to six weeks on any given training program before moving onto something different. By this I don’t necessarily mean utilizing the exact same exercises for the same reps and sets week after week. There are multiple ways to go about implementing progressive overload besides increasing the load on the bar: varying speed, shifting body position in relation to the load, changing stability, and so on.

With that said, sticking to the same program gives you time to become better at the prescribed exercises by providing more opportunities for repetition.

I know what you may be thinking. “But I need to confuse my muscles and keep them guessing!” Unfortunately, muscles do not get confused (sorry, Tony Horton), nor do they participate in guessing games. And if you’re afraid you might get bored, then I ask you, what is so boring about making improvements from one workout to the next? What’s dull about going to the gym and lifting 10lbs more than the week prior or to mastering perfect technique? Boom…I’M FEELING SKINNY, TONY!! — What movie??

Myth #5: To lose fat, you need to crank up the cardio.

Actually, doing more cardio is the best way to… do more cardio. Doing it for the calorie burn will ultimately leave you disappointed, cranky, and tired.

This may be a hard pill to swallow, but steady-state cardio burns surprisingly fewer calories than you’d think. One study found that it takes an average of 86 hours’ worth of aerobic exercise to lose 1 whopping kilogram, and a meta-analysis revealed that steady-state cardio in and of itself is not an effective weight loss therapy.

I don’t know about you, but I can think of about a thousand other more useful things I could be doing with those 86 hours than peddling away on a bike. If you do it because you love it, or because you are training for the events that you love, that’s different! I totally get it! I love it, as well…but, it’s not going to give me the results I’m looking for. 

Rather than steady-state cardio, interval training is the way to go. Other names for this include metabolic conditioning, circuit training, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). These short bursts of high intensity activity alternated with periods of active have been found to produce equal, if not better, results as traditional steady-state cardio with just “a fraction of the time commitment” (namely, 0.75 hours versus 13.5 hours). This is likely due to the increased excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or energy expenditure in the time following the workout. Basically, go harder for shorter bursts…and take very brief rests in between each bout. 

I hope I’ve inspired at least one woman to begin, or get back to,  their strength training. 

 

Happy New Year’s Resolutions!

Jared

 

Move to the beat of your own drum.

Adding Sprinting to your Strength Training

While sprinting has been around since the dawn of man, only in the past few years has it really taken off as true fitness trend. In other words, it was either what we did to kill our dinner in prehistoric times, or it was a modern athletic competition. Only recently have we realized that doing sprint work for our interval training is a tremendously effective way to get/stay lean, enhance mobility, improve athleticism, and prepare ourselves for the demands that life throws our way.

Obviously, if you haven’t even gone for a jog in recent years, it would be unwise to go out and start doing high intensity sprints tomorrow. There are some things you will want to nail down before sprinting: mobility, good tissue quality, and strength.

Be sure that you have no problem completing simple stretches before you begin sprinting. Good examples of this are a hip flexor stretch in a lunge position and a downward dog yoga pose.  These both require flexibility either in the hips, hamstrings, or the thoracic spine, which all play a role in sprinting. 

DO NOT sprint at 100% intensity right away. This may be common sense to some, but it still needs to be reiterated! Sprint work does not have to be at 100% in order to gain benefits from it.  Most sprinting should be in the 70-90% range.

If and when sprinting days become part of your workout program, two days a week is plenty of work to derive benefits. Don’t let the sessions last longer 30-45min, and that includes the resting in between sets. Also, no other lifting should be taking place on these days. One or two days should be set aside throughout the week, on non-consecutive days.

At first, you should avoid sprinting through fatigue in your workouts. Fatigue can cause breaks in form during sprinting that can lead to hamstring, calf, or even achilles injuries. Once you feel that you are using great form and have been conditioned quite a bit, sprinting through some fatigue is necessary. Fat-loss can still be seen when not sprinting through serious fatigue.

Don’t go out and sprint on pavement. Pavement can cause lower extremity injuries because of the unforgiving surface that it poses. Choose between artificial turf, grass, or a track surface!

Here is a great day-by-day cycle of where to incorporate sprinting. This kind of program would only be suitable for athletes or experienced lifters due to the volume of training (6 days), but anyone can get the idea of where sprinting should be placed. 

Mon: Lower body strength training

Tues: Upper body strength training

Wed: Sprint work

Thurs: Lower body strength training

Fri: Upper body strength training

Sat: Sprint Work

Sun: OFF

The benefits of using high intensity interval sprints is undeniable, and as of late, the research supporting this has really taken off. So if you’re looking to build lean muscle and trim off body fat, you may want to ditch the slow, long distance runs and try out sprint work. I believe you will be pleased with the results.

 

Jared

 

Move to the beat of your own drum.