All posts by Nathalie

Heal thyself by drinking tea! [part 3]

After having talked about the dangers of tea bags and natural flavors, let’s focus on the amazing powers of drinking tea.

Fresh tea leaves left out to dry, on the way to become tea.

Why is it that tea is healthy for us? and just to be very explicit when I say tea, I mean organic loose-leaf best quality you can get your hands on tea. So, unlike us animals that have the ability to run away from danger, a plant obviously cannot. Because it is stuck in one place it has to use other means in order to protect itself from things like UV-light, bugs and things that want to eat it. This protection comes from different kinds of polyphenols which are organic chemicals that have metabolic, toxic and therapeutic properties.

Harvesting tea leaves

Two of the most well known polyphenols in tea are called catechin and flavonoids. They are very powerful antioxidants, and have been used in many studies for cardiovascular disease and cancer prevention. So the plant, in this case tea, builds up a good defense mechanism for the environment where it lives so it can be strong and healthy. By drinking extracts from the tea plant (or drinking the entire leaves as in Matcha) we reap all of the benefits of the plants polyphenols. Pretty clever having the plants do all the work and we simply drink the benefits. We are for sure not the first ones to use this method to heal ourselves though, our animal friends in the wild already knows to eat certain types of plants to heal themselves from parasites or kill bacteria.

“If we can learn from animals that have used medicinal plants for millions of years, and then look at what they use it for, then we could learn interesting things,” de Roode says.[1]

Because each plant has a unique environment, it will build up a different combination of  beneficial polyphenols, from plant to plant. This is true for tea but also for all other plants. That is why, lets say an apple  that came from Sweden will taste different from an apple in Spain. They will also have a different polyphenol composition, even if it is the same type of apple. For this reason, it is very important to eat as many different types of vegetables and fruits as you can, to reap all of their different benefits and healing properties, and the same goes for drinking tea. Why limit yourself?

Checking out green tea in Japan.

Some of my favorite healing teas are Green Tea, Matcha, Pu’Erh, Oolong, and Yerba Mate. Here is a great overview of what’s what. Of course there are plenty of herbal teas as well that are excellent for health, such as mint, olive leaf, fennel, nettle, ginger, and chamomile  just to mention a few.

On a recent trip to Taiwan I had the opportunity to sample plenty of fantastic Oolong and Pu’Erh teas. The very best Oolong teas are all made in Taiwan and can only be bought in the country, as the locals are so fond of their oolong tea that they don’t want to export their top quality ones. I also had the chance to sample some really fancy old Pu’Erh teas from as far back as 1975! But, honestly I could not really tell a huge difference between the ages. What I did notice though was that the higher quality of the Pu’Erh, the sweeter and less earthy the taste.

 

I am carefully preparing green tea in a traditional outfit, on a trip in Japan.

We tend to be creatures of habit, so I would like to invite you to explore the amazing health benefits of drinking tea, and expand your tea horizon. Think of it as preventative and healing medicine that you can use daily. The next time you are out shopping, take the time to go into a proper tea shop and ask for help with finding a new tea. Just buy a small amount, and most important find out how you should brew your tea!

So many times I have friends who tell me that they don’t like drinking green tea, yet when they have it at my place they like it. That’s because a really high quality green tea should only be steeped in 70C for about 30s-1min. A lot of people leave it in a lot longer and/or use boiling water, and this makes the tea very bitter and quite nasty to drink. Don’t do that to yourself, or the tea!

Mixing teas has been known to be even more powerful – when the different organic chemicals interact their combined powers supersedes their individual ones. William Li mentions this is in his excellent TED talkCan we eat to starve Cancer?“. Tim Ferriss is also a fan of mixing teas and below is one of his morning versions.

Because many teas does contain caffeine (a diuretic), it is important to drink some water in between tea cups to stay well hydrated. I wish you a lot of fun in exploring the healing world of teas.

Wishing you all lots of creativitea and claritea! 😉

 

Tea Mind
Humilitea, Possibilitea, Qualitea, Solidaritea, Abilitea, Equalitea, Individualitea, Serenitea, Insanitea, Confidentialitea, Vitalitea, Creativitea, Sportea, Claritea, Realitea, Activitea, Longevitea, Impossibilitea, Familiaritea, Humanitea, Puritea, Levitea, Longevitea, Immunitea, Digestabilitea, Electricitea, Sensualitea, Femininitea, Festivitea…
~Letters to a Young Zentrepenur – The Republic of Tea

 

 

 


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16968850

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5492114/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28723689

[1]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4267359/

Photo by Danurwendho Adyakusuma, Paul-Vincent Roll,  蔡 嘉宇 on Unsplash

What is really in your tea bag? [part 2]

When we think of tea we think of something healthy and natural. However, from last weeks article we learned that it ain’t always so. Have you ever thought about what the actual tea bag that holds the tea is made of? Probably not, but after reading this article I think you just might.

Most often tea bags are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and food grade nylon. These substances are considered “two of the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential”[1] But, what I am wondering about is what happens to these plastics when put in boiling water and left to steep for a couple of minutes?

Both of the above plastics have a very high melting point, meaning that they will not brake down in boiling water. However, there is another temperature point for plastics that is called “glass transition” temperature (Tg), which we should pay attention to, and this is much lower than the melting point. It means that even though the PET plastic will not melt in boiling water, it will start to dissolve on a molecular level, and could leach out right into your tea cup.

“If the question is, ‘As the polymer goes through that transition state, is it easier for something to leach out?’, the answer is yes,” said Dr. Ray Fernando, professor and director of polymers and coatings at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.[2]

The big tea companies, such as Lipton, claim that it is safe to use these plastics in tea. But what about this study that showed that mineral water in a PET bottles “demonstrate a widespread contamination of mineral water with xenoestrogens that partly originates from compounds leaching from the plastic packaging material… Overall, the results indicate that a broader range of foodstuff may be contaminated with endocrine disruptors when packed in plastics.“[4] Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic and interfere with our hormonal (endocrine) system, which can cause all sorts of problems within our bodies. And that is just from the PET bottle being in contact with the mineral water. What I want to know is, what happens when you put it in boiling water?!

Epichlorohydrin is another substance commonly used to treat tea bags, which makes the bags stronger and keeps them from breaking. According to Wikipedia ” In contact with water, epichlorohydrin (a highly reactive compound) hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD, a carcinogen found in food.”

The Environmental Protection Agency says drinking water with high levels of epichlorohydrin, over a long period of time, could cause stomach problems and an increased risk of cancer. For perspective: The E.P.A. allows up to 20 parts per million in drinking water, and epichlorohydrin-
containing bags may include 50 parts per billion. [3]

So, with this knowledge and still wanting to drink tea, what can we do? Inform yourself about the teas that you are already using and figure out what the bag is made of, and if the tea has been known to contain pesticides. Check out this article for more information. Dr.Mercola recommends us to “purchasing tea from manufacturers who can certify that their tea bags do not contain epichlorophydrin, and avoid plastic tea bags. Your best option is to opt for loose teaWhen selecting tea of any kind, it should preferably be organic (to avoid pesticides) and grown in a pristine environment (tea is known to accumulate fluoride, heavy metals and other toxins from soil and water, so a clean growing environment is essential to producing a pure, high-quality tea).”[5]

I wish you a great weekend with a nice cup of loose leaf organic tea! 😉

 


[1,2] https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/04/are-tea-bags-turning-us-into-plastic/274482/

[3] http://www.cleanplates.com/eat/tips-eat/these-teas-are-toxin-free/

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19274472

[5] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/04/24/tea-bags.aspx

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epichlorohydrin

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19274472

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocrine_disruptor

https://foodbabe.com/2013/08/21/do-you-know-whats-really-in-your-tea/

Photo by:

Alisher Sharip

Filip Mroz

Drew Taylor

Tea, Cow Poop and Natural Flavors

Yes, you did read that right. Tea, cow poop and natural flavors have a lot more in common than you would ever have thought. How on earth did I ever end up making this connection? Well, last week I had a conversation with a friend about beverages and sugar content. At one point we landed on tea, and my friend said “well, at least I don’t have to worry about the tea I’m drinking, as it is all natural, right?”. Wrong! Unfortunately, you do need to worry if you care about what you are putting into your body, especially when it comes to tea in a bag.

Let’s start with natural flavors, what is it exactly? Well, it can be just about anything compiled of tons of different things, as long as it originally came from a natural source such as plants and animals. Read more about natural and artificial flavors here. The origin of a product very often used in natural flavors is called Castoreum, or in plain English beaver-butt. Hmm..beaver-butt in my tea? No, thanks!” Read more about it here, and check out the video below for more information.

Ok, so that’s pretty disgusting. But what does cow poop has to do with my tea? Well, as it is a natural source, it also goes under the disguised name “natural flavor”. Mayu Yamamoto, a Japanese scientist, managed to figure out a way to extract vanilla fragrance and flavoring from cow poop. It is a lot cheaper than using real vanilla. She actually won the lg Nobel Prize in Chemistry for it in 2007. You can read the long version here about her project, and the short version here. Yummy, beaver-butt and cow poop in my tea?

Checking up on what the European standards are,( most often they are the same as FDA’s), did not really help clarifying anything at all. According to the GUIDANCE DOCUMENT ON EC REGULATION ON FLAVOURING, Chapter IV, section 3.1.1 Natural flavouring substances:

Article 16.3:

The term “natural flavouring substance(s)” may only be used for flavourings in which the flavouring component contains exclusively natural flavouring substances.

So, whenever you read a food label on any kind of food or beverage, and you see that it contains natural flavorings, now you know that it can be just about anything ranging from beaver-butt to some type of sugar to cow poop. Also, when you read a food label, the ingredients are listed in the order with the largest amount of ingredient appearing first. Meaning that if you start reading the label for lets say peanut butter and it says: Sugar, sunflower oil, peanuts etc. Sugar would be the largest ingredient in that food product. Check it out the next time you buy something, it can be quite a revelation!

“Who knew that I would be the producer of the vanilla flavor in your ice-cream and other food products?”

So what can we do? Always check the label on anything that you buy, and find out which brands do not use natural flavors! In terms of tea, I recommend buying loose leaf tea. You can buy the empty tea bags separately and fill them up yourself, if that makes it more convenient, to use at work for example. PUKKA tea is one brand that I trust and that I use a lot when I am traveling.

Enjoy your weekend, and keep reading those labels!  😉

 


https://foodbabe.com/2013/09/09/food-babe-tv-do-you-eat-beaver-butt/

http://www.improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2008

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijce/2008/603957/

https://www.newscientist.com/blog/shortsharpscience/2006/03/vanilla-dung.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/facts-about-natural-and-artificial-flavors-2014-1?IR=T

http://effa.eu/eu-legislation/flavouring-regulation

http://www.effa.eu/docs/default-source/guidance-documents/effa_guidance-document-on-the-ec-regulation-on-flavourings.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Photo by Drew Taylor and Lydia Harper on Unsplash

 

 

 

Perspective On Success through Sergei Polunin

Sometimes you come across something or someone that reaches you on a deeper level and puts life in a bit of perspective. During recent travel I came across the documentary “Dancer” with Sergei Polunin, which did that for me, and I wanted to share it with you.

Sergei Polunin has been quoted to be the best male dancer of his generation, and has been linked to the very greatest of all time such as Nureyev and Barysjnikov. Being such an amazing performer and dancer does not come from nothing though, and this is the part that is so often forgotten in the search for success.  What does it really mean to be successful, and how far are you, and the people around you willing to go to make “it” happen? And when “it” does happen, was it worth the cost?

At what should have been the very height of his career, Sergei decided to say goodbye to the world of professional dancing by performing one last dance, depicting his struggle with the decision, in the video “Take Me To Church”. That video instantly went viral, and suddenly his life took on an unexpected direction.

If you get the chance check out the movie as well.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend 😉


Poster for the film Dancer staring Sergei Polunin.
© West End Films.

Holiday Driving and Swiss Army Back Problems

It is about that time of year where a lot of people are about to go on vacation, and plenty choose to go by car. Sitting in the car for many hours in a row can cause a lot of muscle stiffness and back pain. Starting your vacation moving around like an unfolded Swiss knife is not exactly how most of us envision our vacation to start, so what can we do?

I would start by taking good care of the hip-flexors, and the large surrounding muscle groups. When we are sitting still for long periods of time our hip-flexors become very stiff, and when they get too tight they won’t allow us to stand up straight very easily. Instead the muscles on the flip side of the body, the glutes and hamstrings have to work a lot harder to try and keep you in an upright position. This is a loose loose power battle between the muscles, and after a while they all get jammed up and this is where you step out of the car like an unfolded Swiss army knife and are unable to stand up straight and move freely. That situation is definitely no fun at all, so, let’s do some preventative work instead!

Make sure to target the following muscles to stay as flexible as possible in your low back and hip area. Use the lacrosse ball for 2-3 min on each. Remember, where it is the most tender and painful, that is where the most stiffness is, so that is where it would be a good idea to add on a few extra minutes.

TFL or Tensor Fascia Latae
Quads or Quadriceps femoris
Glutes, don’t forget to work on the sides of the hips as well
Hamstrings

The TFL is really key here so make sure you spend some time on both of them. Here is a video to help you get into the right position. You can also do the same move with the lacrosse ball lying down on your side on the floor, instead of standing up. I prefer only using the lacrosse ball while lying on my side on the floor, but try out what works best for you. Remember that it is a small muscle so use small deliberate movements.

Add these active mobility moves to keep the hips free:
Lateral lunges (see video below)
Couch stretch (there is a previous post about it)

If you know that you typically will have a problem in the low back and hip area after a long drive, why not get ahead of the problem and start a couple of days or at least the day before with the above mobility exercises.

Think pre-hab instead of re-hab!

On the day(s) of driving, every time you stop, make a couple of lateral lunges, and stretch your quads. It will go a long way.

Also – hydration is key for the muscles and your body to feel well. So keep drinking that water. Aim for at least 2L a day and even more if you are drinking anything with caffeine or sugar in it as it will act as a diuretic.

I wish you a smooth drive and fun adventures 😉


Yellow Fever Hits Düsseldorf – Le Tour de France

Yesterday was showcasing the big Team Presentations with all the riders, including some of the fresh National Champions sporting their special jerseys, and tomorrow Le Tour de France 2017 kicks off in Düsseldorf. If you are not too far from the area and you have never experienced the Tour de France live before, why not head on over and join in the celebration of one of the biggest sport spectacles in Europe. If you are in Luxembourg you can catch the riders passing through the country on the 3rd Stage on Monday. If you  don’t have to work on Tuesday, or maybe can get away with taking a long lunch, you can watch them start the 4th Stage in Mondorf-les-Bains.

If you want to visit Düsseldorf during this weekend, you can find some great information here. You can also visit their facebook page that has a lot of fun videos and information, and Cyclingnews is always a good place to keep up with the results. If you have never been to Düsseldorf I highly recommend it. It is a very stylish and fun city with lots of new cool design buildings in the harbor area, and the Old-town along the river is a nice place to hang out and grab a bite to eat. For more information about what’s going on check here and here.

This inspirational video was shot in Düsseldorf, starring a good friend who also used to be one of “my riders” from when I was working on the Pro-circuit, Steffen “Weigi” Weigold. Another one of “my riders” Marcel Sieberg is getting ready to start the Tour and you can see a short video with “Sibi” here.

With all this cycling inspiration and yellow fever going around, people tend to all of a sudden jump onto their bikes and ride a lot more than usual. I think it’s awesome that people are motivated and getting out there! However, I see a lot of people failing in their preparations so I want to highlight a couple of things that could be a brick in the road.

“To repeat, if your bike is not fitted correctly, everything from your position to your mechanics is compromised. In addition to not being as efficient as possible, you dramatically increase your susceptibility to injury.”[1]

Get properly fitted for your bike. It is supposed to feel good when you are out riding. Yes, tired muscles is one thing but you should not be in a compromised position slowly creating a chronic problem. Check out the below videos for some easy changes. Go to a bike store that has been around for a while and ask them to help you out. If you are into getting stuff done yourself, the book Power Speed Endurance [1] is a great source on how to do that.

And here are a couple of quick tips on proper form while riding.

Make sure that you invest in a good pair of bike shorts that fit you right. If the seams on the pad are just in the wrong place, or if the pad is too large for you the creases will quickly cause you a lot of discomfort and even saddle sores, and that, no amount of “chammy cream” can undo. Which brings me to my next point, do yourself a favor and use a good chamoise cream to put in your bike shorts and/or directly onto your crotch. It will make a big difference especially when you are increasing the length and frequency of your rides. I have always liked the Swiss Assos brand but there is plenty to choose from like for example DZ Nuts Pro created by another one of “my riders” Dave Zabriskie.

I hope today’s blog has given you some good basic information, but even more so, inspiration.
Enjoy the ride! 😉


[1] Power Speed Endurance by Brian MacKenzie & Glen Cordosa, Cycling as a skill p.140

Photo Credit to Robert Calin

Strawberries, the summer jewel that may toxify you!

Today starts the big celebration of “Midsommar” in Sweden. It is a tradition celebrated since ancient times, and one food to be found everywhere to celebrate this day will be strawberries. It is also the National Day of Luxembourg, and there will be plenty of strawberries eaten here as well. Let’s take a closer look at one of the most beloved berries in the World.

Strawberries are a great food because among many things they are a low-allergen food, which means that it is very rare for people to have an allergic or intolerance reaction to them.[1] Even so, many people think that they have a strawberry allergy. How can that be?

Last year one of my clients told me the story of how he ended up having to take his young daughter to the emergency room on a Monday, after her symptoms (skin rashes, itching) had gradually become really bad over the weekend. Long story short, it was one of the first weekends where strawberries were being sold, and they had bought a tonne. The daughter, who loves strawberries, had eaten her fare share every day that weekend, and it turned out that she had an allergic reaction to the pesticides that were sprayed on the strawberries, NOT the actual strawberries.

Because strawberries are such fragile fruits, they are sprayed heavily to keep them looking fresh as long as possible. Their skin is also very thin and porous, which means that they soak up anything that has been sprayed on them. Unfortunately, this is not something that you can just rinse off. Strawberries is the very top offender on ewg’s dirty dozen list that I talked about last week. To read even more about the pesticides used on strawberries got to www.ewg.org and type in “strawberries” in the search box, and you will have plenty to read.

Kelly Dorfman, author of Cure Your Child With Food, guides us to ask the following questions regarding your child, or yourself, to help figure out if you are reacting “to something besides the food itself, most likely pesticide residues, artificial flavors or colors or genetically modified food”[ 2]

      1. Do you, or your child get symptoms when eating strawberries sometimes, but not always? When you eat the strawberries at grandmas house you have no reaction, but when you are eating them at home (from supermarket) you get, for example, an itchy throat.
      2. Do you or your child get red cheeks or rashes that seem impossible to attribute to any one food?
      3. Do you or your child complain of an itchy throat or mouth?
      4. Do you or your child seem to be allergic to something, but nothing comes up in allergy testing? (symptoms could be itching, skin rashes, swelling, wheezing, nasal congestion, abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness)
      5. Are you or your child very sensitive to sounds, lights, temperature or smells? This could be an indication of a more delicate nervous system, which will be even more sensitive to toxins.

So, what can you do? Start by paying attention to the questions and symptoms above. Learn about the dirty dozen from ewg. And regarding strawberries I think the best cause of action for your health is to plant them yourself, buy them organic, or simply let it be.

Enjoy the festivities and your organic strawberries 🙂


[1,2] Kelly Dorfman, MS, LND: Cure Your Child With Food, p.256, 269

Is your favorite on the dirty dozen list?

The dirty dozen – sounds like it could be the next Quentin Tarantino movie, doesn’t it?* But you guessed it, it is not. So, what’s up with the dirty dozen?

The dirty dozen is a list that gets put together by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) every year based on the amount of pesticides and chemicals they contain. Meaning that the item at the very top of the list contains the highest amount of pesticides, and therefore it is not considered a wise food choice.

To make it easy, when you cannot remember the list, think of it like this. The more fragile the vegetable or fruit is, the larger is the chance for damage during transportation. This means an increase in using food spray and anti-mold chemicals to make sure that vegetable or fruit does not get damaged. Also, the more porous the skin is on the fruit and veggies, the more it will absorb everything that has been sprayed on it. It will basically act as a sponge, like strawberries for example. This is important to think about, because once it has been absorbed by the fruit or veggies you cannot simply rinse it off. Still need some more help with the list? EWG has an app to help you out.

Not only does these different chemicals mess with our liver and kidneys (that have to work very hard to try and filter them out of our bodies). These chemicals also interfere with our nervous system.  A common misconception is that nerve toxins used to kill insects are not very harmful to humans. This is not true as they are toxic to our nervous system[3] and neural development [4]. They also interfere with our hormonal system (one of the most used herbicide in the world, Atrazine, is a known endocrine disruptor)[2], and the nutrients in the food by making it harder for our bodies to absorb them.

Here is the current Dirty Dozen list from 2017

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Peaches
  6. Pears
  7. Cherries
  8. Grapes
  9. Celery
  10. Tomatoes
  11. Sweet bell peppers
  12. Potatoes

But, what about organic food costing more? Yes, it does cost a bit more, but it is an investment in yourself and your family. I think that it is very important to buy organic produce. We are getting enough pollution through every day life, and I believe we do not need to add even more to our bodies through food. Did you know that “at least 107 different active ingredients in pesticides have been found to cause cancer in animals or humans; of these 71 are still in use on food crops”.[1] If taking the step to buy organic seems like a lot to you, at least start thinking about omitting the biggest offenders on the dirty dozen list. You will be doing yourself a big favor by reducing the amount of poisonous chemicals that your body has to deal with on a daily basis.

Did you know that people who are allergic to a certain vegetable or fruit are most likely allergic to the pesticides and food sprays on it, and not the actual food itself.

Think of the nutrients and organic food as strong clean building blocks for “the house” (you) that you are constantly building. Think of the pesticides, food sprays and other chemicals of acting like heavy duty fungus, mold and termites in this metaphor. You may not notice that they are there right away, but after a while they can and will destroy your entire house. What kind of building blocks are you interested in choosing for “your house”?

Spread the word, not pesticides!  😉

 


* Actually the Dirty Dozen is a World War II movie from 1967

[1] According to the National Campaign for Pesticide Policy Reform. p.418 Staying Healthy with Nutrition

[2] Endocrine Disrupters. p.418 Staying Healthy with Nutrition

[3] Misconceptions about Pesticides p.432 Staying Healthy with Nutrition

[4] http://e360.yale.edu/features/from_the_fields_to_inner_city_pesticides_affect_childrens_iq

By the way, real athletes don’t wear flip flops

Hey there! So last week we talked about shin splints and how to best take care of them. One very important piece of the puzzle also has to do with the shoes that you wear. But, I am not going to talk about the shoe that you are wearing while working out, but rather the shoe that you wear before and after, especially in the summer time. Wearing this shoe for many hours during the day, day after day, could have a big impact in a fairly short time frame. What am I talking about? I am talking about the flip flop.

Wait, what? The flip flop is not good for you? Isn’t it almost like a “barefoot” shoe with zero drop, isn’t that good? In terms of the flip-flop being a minimalist shoe with zero drop, I agree, that would be great for your feet. However, because there isn’t any attachment around your heel, you have to clench your toes every time you walk so that the flip flop doesn’t fall off. Because you are clenching your toes, the under side of your foot, the plantar fascia, becomes very tense and rigid. This rigidity deactivates the smooth “suspension system” in your feet that you were born with. This rigidity also translates into the rest of your legs and especially your shins, as these muscles is what helps your toes to clench down.

Sadly most of us have completely lost the flexibility and natural shock absorbing capacity of our feet over the years, due to wearing very hard, constricting shoes, high heels etc, and add to that the lack of walking barefoot on uneven ground. So, to compensate for that we keep looking for shoes with more and more cushioning thinking that it will solve the problem, when really we need to take care of our feet from the ground up, not bolstering them up like the Bubble Boy in Seinfeld!

Your feet contains 28 bones that all work together, but they also work like individual pistons constantly adapting to the ground that we walk on. It is a beautiful piece of machinery that we have tied down and constricted for so long that it now moves more like a 2 piece joint, rather than a 28 piston shock absorber. The best way to help yourself is to limit restricting or over cushioning shoes and starting to walk barefoot as much as possible.

But what about my flip flops? A couple of years ago I came across the information that wearing flip-flops any extended time is bad for your feet. As I had some problems with my shins and under my feet at the time I was intrigued, but also very sad as I loved wearing flip-flops. After having spent many years living the beach life in California, Australia and Indonesia, I had gotten used to wearing flip flops whenever possible. The one thing that probably saved me back then was being barefoot a lot and playing beach volleyball, like all of the time, which helped to even things out.

Anyway, I decided to try get rid of the traditional flip-flops, and switched to a “flip-flop sandal” by Havaianas that actually goes around the back of your heel. The effect was not instant, but I did notice a difference after about a week, and especially after using them on a city trip I noticed a huge relief compared to before, my feet just weren’t as stiff. Currently my feet and I are happy with this arrangement and have not turned back since.

I also have to say a few words on sandals like Birkenstocks. As they also do not have a heel strap, you have to clench your toes here as well, even though it might not be as obvious as with the flip-flop. And the arch support that so many people like about them, is actually what makes them so bad. Why? Because it makes our feet very lazy and we loose strength and agility. Think about it, it is for our feet as if we were walking around with crutches all the time. Yes, there is a time and a place, if you have injured yourself, where you might want to use crutches for as short time as possible. If you continue using them too long, you are going to build a dependency on the crutches and after a while you will feel uncomfortable moving without them. That is not a good habit to cultivate.

Maybe your running is not the culprit of why you are having some lower leg and foot issues. If suddenly you are wearing flip flops a lot of the time just because it’s summer, that could be what is causing or certainly adding to the problem. If you decide to start walking more barefoot and removing your flip flops, remember that with any change your body will need some time to adapt, so be gentle, think about the long run, and give yourself some time to get used to the changes. It may seem like small things, but at the end of the day it is all the little things that adds up and puts you in the situation where you are right now, so why not make small changes that will add to making the best possible version of you?

Ciao!  😉

 


Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with Havaianas

http://www.menshealth.com/fitness/risks-of-wearing-flip-flops

Don’t let these tiny muscles stop you.

We just had the ING night marathon here in Luxembourg and this weekend the Stockholm marathon is taking place. What do these two things have in common other than being great marathons? A lot of people will have pain along the front of the lower leg after the race. This is often a case of too much too soon, together with a non optimal running technique, and of course the more tired you get the worse your technique will be.

So maybe you have just recently been taking part in a race, or you have just upped the speed or kilometers in your training lately because the weather has been great (and who has time for a calculated steady increase then?), and now you have been feeling some pain along the front of your lower legs aka shins. The common misconception is that there is always an inflammation present when there is pain there, which is commonly called shin splints. So, most likely you will start downing the Ibuprofen to get rid of the alleged inflammation.

Before you do any of that, please do yourself a huge favor and check the muscles along the shin before jumping to any conclusions, especially m.tibialis anterior. If the muscles along the shins are tight they can cause a lot of pain there, and they can also refer pain to underneath the foot. More often than not, “shin splints” is simply a case of very, very tight muscles. It is very easy to mobilize these muscles yourself with a lacrosse ball. Check out the videos below for easy instructions on how to mobilize the muscles along the inside and outside of the shins. In the second video I do not agree about what she says about not using a lacrosse ball (she says it is too hard) as I think that it is very easy to adjust the pressure yourself. But of course, if you have different types of balls do try them out and see what works best for you.

video for mobilizing the inside of the shins

 

Sometimes the reason why these muscles are so tight could be because you are new to the sport, have new shoes, have added kilometers or intensity, or simply had a city trip where you were just walking a lot more than usual. If that is the case then doing this mobility exercise everyday for a minimum of a week, plus adding the couch stretch should more or less take care of the problem, depending of course on how severe the pain was from the beginning. If your shins are tight most likely your calves are tight also, so you might as well give them some love too. Dive into your mobility work and you will back into your running routine very quickly.

But, let’s say you went down Ibuprofen alley instead, and didn’t do any mobility work. Most likely you also stopped running which will take some of the pressure off. The Ibuprofen will make you feel as if the pain is going away, and after 10 days or so on anti-inflammatory medicine (in case you went to see the doctor) you are now cleared to go running again. Maybe the first day will be fine, but within a very short time, usually just a few runs, the pain will be back again, and you wonder why, why, WHY?

It is because you haven’t taken care of the tight muscles, which is the reason for your pain in the first place, and anti-inflammatory medication will not help you with that. You need to put some length back into these muscles so they can relax and be flexible again. I hear these kind of scenarios all the time in my practice when people are complaining about lower leg and foot pain, and people are often surprised to find out just how tight their muscles are along the shins. The second surprise is when they find out how easy it is to take care of this problem yourself with mobility work.

However, if this is a frequent area of pain for you, you should think about the long run (no pun intended) which means that you would want to look at improving your running technique. If you are putting your foot down in front of your pelvis when you run, as a typical heel striker would, you will put a tremendous amount of pressure along the shins, and further along the leg. This is really not ideal, as you also loose a lot of power this way. Think about it, did you ever go snow sledding as a kid? Well, if you did you will know that putting your feet out in front of you into the snow will slow you down. So when you are running it would be a lot more preferable to have the foot land underneath your pelvis with the forefoot instead. From this position if you just lean forward a little you have created a rolling forward motion. Find out more about this here. This technique takes a lot less energy and is also a lot easier for your body to absorb, being a spring like motion, and it also makes you faster. Win-win! In real life it (should) look something like this

Most people completely neglect their shins unless it becomes really painful. If you are a runner start thinking pre-hab instead of re-hab by moving this mobility exercise into your regular routine. That way you will instantly feel how you are doing, and can adjust right away, rather than waiting for the pain to be your motivator. Before I finish today’s writing I should also mention that there is one type of shoe, typically used in the summer time, that will wreck havoc on these muscles too, whether you are a runner or not, but more on that next week.

Be wiser and get ahead! Think pre-hab instead of re-hab 😉