Category Archives: Recovery

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 😉

Deskjockeys and athletes- take advantage of the couch!

Summer is here in Europe and I am seeing a lot more people out and about and doing sports. Awesome! This is also the time where a lot of people will decide that it is a good idea to start or restart running and cycling. With the ING night marathon in Luxembourg hitting the streets next weekend, (yes I will be there to cheer you brave guys on!), I get asked this question a lot – what stretches should I be doing?

Well, as you probably know by now, I am a real fan of mobility work because it targets the area right where you need it, and it’s very time efficient. So my first answer will be, do mobility work first. However there is one “stretch” that I find you should not do without. It is called the couch stretch, simply because it was invented on a couch, but no couch is required. This is not a static stretch though so it is important that you pay attention to the different segments and actively participate.

If you are a cyclist, runner or doing anything similar to that position, this should be on your daily to do list. If you are sitting all day at school or work this should also be on your to do list. If you are running and sitting all day I say you need to do this everyday.

Why is it so good? It gets into the whole front line (see deep and superficial lines from Anatomy Trains) of your legs, with the very important hip-flexors and rectus femoris (middle of your quads). If you can raise your arm up you will also get deeper into the hip-flexors, your abs and even lats (m.latissimus dorsi).

It is very important that you tighten the butt on the side where your leg is up on the wall, otherwise you will loose integrity of the spine, and that will keep you from working in the area that you are after. By tightening the butt and keeping your back straight, you will move your butt and back as one unit towards the wall, rather than bending just your back towards the wall.

Start in an easy position, tighten your butt and then move slowly towards the wall. After a little while release the butt muscles and move forward into a more relaxing position and then go at it again.

Remember, this position is not some high level acrobatics, even though it may feel like that for many of you. This should be easy – if you have good range of motion. If you are having trouble with this stretch it is a clear sign that you need to work on it. The very best option would be to do a few minutes of mobility work with the lacrosse ball or foam roller on your quads and hip-flexors first (and even lats), and then get into the couch stretch.

If this seems impossible for you right now, start by just sitting back on your heels for a few minutes. If even that is too uncomfortable, (contact me or someone in your area for an appointment because you need some more help), put a pillow, stack of books or a yoga block under your butt, so that you will challenge your position but not be in total agony.

Remember, if the couch stretch doesn’t count as acrobatics, sitting back on your heels comfortably counts as super easy. If it’s not, it is extremely important that you get to work on it before you do your knees and hips further or irreversible damage.

The good thing is that it often does not take as long as one thinks to improve your range of motion, so start working on it today and make a small note on where you are. Then check back in a weeks time after doing the couch stretch every day, and I am sure that you will have improved. Just try it!

One final video with a bit more description. Wishing you all a great weekend! 🙂

3 day reset after the holiday splurge

After 3 weeks of traveling in Asia I have enjoyed a lot of different foods and drinks, and as much fun as it has been I also can feel the toll it has taken on my body.
No matter how well you choose when eating out, eating in hotels and restaurants is always a challenge as you have no control over what is put into the food. Of course part of the fun when traveling is trying a lot of different things so I am not saying that you shouldn’t. But, all the added extras that tend to show up in restaurant food like different kinds of sugar, taste enhancers and unhealthy fats does make life very tough for your digestive system.

So what can you do on your way back home?
I like to look at the flight as an opportunity to transfer from the holiday fun back into a more healthy sustainable lifestyle. Whether or not there is a lot of jet lag involved I think that following my previous jet lag guide is a great place to start, and this includes avoiding all airplane food. If most restaurant food is not that great for you, airplane food is way worse. So plan ahead and bring your own healthy food along, like organic apples and nuts. Or if you are a bit more hardcore simply fast during the flight. If you think about it, even on longer flights you do not really need to eat, it’s usually something that you tend to do more out of boredom. But if you feel that it is too much, just try with a few healthy snacks instead.

Once you are back home remember to hydrate! Drinking enough water really is key for optimal health. You can think of water as the body’s internal transportation system which is very important for proper cell function and balance within. Do some easy sports or just get out and walk, as your body will feel better with movement, and it will help your lymphatic system to drain excess fluid.
If you have the opportunity to use a sauna then do! It is an excellent way for the body to recover and to sweat out unwanted bacteria and toxins. A bath with epsom salt is also a great alternative. Cut out all sugars (this includes alcohol) as the sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your gut. I know this one is tough, but it is totally necessary.
Reduce caffeine as much as possible as it is a strong stimulant and as such keeps the body wired and makes it harder to relax and recover. Try green tea instead of coffee.
Eat as much vegetables as you can and take a break from meat, to make it easy on your digestive system. Adding a green smoothie into your day is a great way to boost your health.

We quickly get used to eating more sugar (and drinking) so it is important to make a strong reduction as soon as you get home so that you don’t get stuck in the new “holiday habit” you might have acquired. Taking a pro-biotic supplement to help the good bacteria take back control in your digestive system might be a good idea. It might also be a good idea to help out your liver and you could do that by taking the natural herbal supplement of milk-thistle.

Why a 3 day reset? It is small enough that mentally the obstacle isn’t too big, but still long enough to actually have an impact, and if you are up for it why not continue for another few days? I wish you a lot of fun during your future travels, but make yourself a favor and have a plan ready for once you are back home, so that your fun indulgences doesn’t become new unhealthy habits.

Enjoy exploring some new teas 🙂

My best mobile friends

If you have followed my blog you know that I am a huge  believer in prevention and taking care of yourself. And just because you are traveling it doesn’t mean that you should stop doing that. One of my favorite methods for doing this is using mobility exercises. There are lots of different ways to get the job done and tools to help you. Depending on how long you will be traveling for and how much space you have in your suitcase, you will most likely have to choose between different tools to bring.

The following two tools are the most minimalistic tools that I bring along where I feel I get all the help I need. They easily fit into your luggage and can also be thrown into your hand luggage or backpack if need be.

No 1 is the lacrosse ball. If you have never seen one before it’s the size of a tennis ball but made completely out of rubber. Therefore it is a lot more versatile than the tennis ball as it does not cave in with added pressure. Basically put the ball on a part of your body that you feel needs extra attention, like your calves after a lot of walking. Slowly let the ball sink into the muscle and then move back and forth across a small area for a minute or two. In my previous post I wrote about how to use lacrosse ball in flight, you can read about that here.

No 2 is the Gemini. I absolutely love this tool and use this every day to mobilize all the way along the spine. The shape of the Gemini is specifically made for this and it works great. I have tried a lot of different mobility tools and so far I have not come across anything that has been more effective in working along the spine than this. You can also use it for larger muscle groups like the quads or lats if you wanted to.

Usually I will bring a yoga mat with me as well as it gets me good traction and helps me avoid some dodgy hotel room floors, but it is not necessary if you are short on space, and you could always use a towel if need be. If I still had some extra space left in my suitcase I would add a foam roller to the mix as I find it to be more effective going over larger muscle groups as well. But with the lacrosse ball and Gemini you really have everything you need, and as they are so easy to bring with you no matter where you are going you will always find them with me while traveling.

Enjoy your traveling and keep up your mobility work 😉

 

 

Staying mobile above the clouds

As I am writing this I am midair somewhere over the Pacific Ocean on my way to Hanoi in Vietnam. It is my second longer flight in just a few days and how to prevent getting stiff from all that sitting and speed up recovery is on my mind.
So what can you do to help yourself? My all time favorite is to use the lacrosse ball for the hamstrings and part of the glutes (butt). With all that sitting, blood circulation is compromised, especially in the legs. This creates a lot of stiffness which  besides making you move like an old grandma also can have longer lasting effects on your hips and knees. This is due to muscles becoming tight and therefore restricting full extension of the hip and knee, for example being able to straighten the leg completely. If you don’t get this taken care of immediately then pretty soon you can end up with low back pain due to the altered way of moving.

How to avoid all of this stuff? Whenever you can – get up and move a bit extra. It is often said to walk around the cabin as much as you can, but I tend to find this very challenging. Instead I try to add in some squats (and lateral lunges if space permits) every time I get up and go to the bathroom. As a minimum I do 10 squats before and 10 squats after.

When you get back into your seat use the lacrosse ball. You might be able to use a tennis ball but I don’t recommend it as I find it too soft against the seat.
Put the lacrosse ball under one of your hamstrings and then do small, slow movements across the ball with your leg. You can also move your lower leg from side to side and back and forth. There really is no right and wrong here so just try a few different angles and see what works for you. Then after a minute or two move the ball to another area and go through the same procedure. Once you have worked your way through one hamstring move the ball to the next.

I like to do this while watching a movie, and during a 10-12 hour flight I tend to do this at least 4 times. It is a huge help and as you only do small movements with the leg you are not jeopardizing to disturb your fellow passenger, which is a plus.

Of course you can do this on shorter flights too, or actually during any prolonged sitting. I have used this technique during long lectures for instance. Keeping the blood circulation as good as possible in your legs is also very important in preventing blood clots forming. You can read more about that here. I also find that compression socks are a great help. Make sure that you get some good ones that fit you correctly so that they are tight enough but not so tight that they are completely constricting you. You don’t want to feel as if an anaconda is eating its way up your leg! By measuring the width of your calf you should be able to find the right size for you.

The Using the lacrosse ball technique on my hamstrings have really saved me on many long flights so if there is just one thing you should try for your next flight, then try that.

Wishing you happy travel adventures 😉

 

Here is a motivational video for some more mobility on your next flight.


Air travel health tips from Harvard
http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/air-travel-health-tips

 

Do you say Good-morning when it is midnight?

It is getting to that time of the year where a lot of my friends are traveling far, and with changing time zones the question of how to best deal with jet lag often comes up. This was indeed the topic as I was talking to one of my friends about my upcoming Asia trip. She said that she always has a horrible time with it, so when I said that I usually don’t have much of a problem with it at all, she wanted to know my strategy. Before I tell you all about my strategy lets just take a quick look at hers, or rather the non-existing strategy.

She would:
Drink alcohol or take a sleeping pill.
Not pay attention to hydration.
Not move much.
Sleep as much as possible.
Eat all the food offered.
Would often sugar binge before and after the flight, and drink too much coffee to compensate the blood sugar lows.

During the last two decades of some crazy and extensive travel, this is the strategy that have ended up working great for me and hope it can be helpful for you too!

The day before traveling and on the actual day:
Drink lots of water so you are hydrated
No alcohol
No sugar
Drink very little coffee

On the plane:
Change your watch immediately you get on the plane to the new timezone, this way you are already mentally preparing for the change.
Drink lots of water.
No alcohol!
No sleeping pills!
No sugar. (makes for steady blood sugar levels which keeps the energy steady without major dips)
No airplane food. Bring your own or do a fast. Seriously, no one has gotten ill from not eating airplane food.
Get up and move when you can.
Don’t sleep a lot. I usually only sleep the last 3-4 hours before breakfast is served (on a 10-12 hour flight). That way I am already in the new time zone rhythm, and I am not completely dead once I land because I did sleep a bit, but I will be tired enough when it gets to the evening.

Day 1 in the new time zone:
Stay awake the whole day after landing and do not take any naps.
If possible do some easy sports or take a long walk and/or do some mobility exercises.
No caffeine after 3pm.
No alcohol.
No sugar.
Do some mobility exercises even if it’s only 5 minutes. (I find it very helpful to work along the spine, and on the quads, hamstrings and glutes)
Go to bed around 10pm. You should be very tired by now and manage to get a pretty good nights sleep, which will set you up great for the following day. I once landed in Tokyo at 08.00 in the morning, and it was indeed tough to stay awake the whole day, but I fell asleep in the evening no problem, had a good nights sleep, and the next day I was pretty much in the new time zone without a problem or major energy dips.

Day 2:
Do some sport early in the day or take a long walk and/or do some mobility exercises.
Keep drinking lots of water.
Avoid sugar.
No naps.
Aaaaand….You are good to go!

If you really want to get into more details about this there is also a great website you can use called Jet Lag Rooster. I hope my strategy will be as helpful to you as it has been to me, and enjoy your upcoming traveling.

Happy travels! 😉

“He says Good-morning when it is midnight…”

This video is a special tribute to you Kate (Watson) and your amazing kids 🙂 what an awesome video and such fun times!

The streamlined warm-up that’s right on target!

And it can also can be done anywhere.

It is spring time, the weather is nice and the hours of daylight are longer. A lot of people find this time very motivating and suddenly I see a lot more people outside jogging and running. This is really great! However, within a few weeks I usually see a lot more people in my practice coming to see me for help due to running problems.

Pain associated with running can come from a lot of different reasons, such as tight hipflexors from too much sitting. Poor running technique putting too much pressure on the knees and ankles could also be a reason. Too much too soon, just increasing the kilometers in too short of a time, and not letting the body adapt is also a common mistake.

But, one of the main problems that I see, and I get this confirmed when talking to clients, is that there is no warm up and cool down. The reasons being as what I’m told: there just isn’t time for that, I don’t really need it, I warm up while I run…

“Flexibility is crucial to my fitness. Incorporating a good warm-up and cool-down into every session decreases my chances of injury.” -Samantha Stosur, pro-tennis player

Do yourselves a HUGE favor and take the time and get warmed up before running or taking part in any kind of exercise. This is just a few minutes spent prepping your body for what’s about to come and getting to areas that you might not get to while running, like your hips. This is not “extra” time, this is something that should be included in your exercise time frame every time. You might have been able to get away with it in the past, but it is just a matter of time before it catches up to you, so why not stay ahead of the game and create  a good work-out routine that includes a warm-up.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
-Benjamin Franklin

A good warm-up prepares the body for what’s coming. Your nerves get stimulated which means that your reactions will be quicker, and the dynamic movements increase the blood flow getting the body ready for action. Movement and warming up in different planes than just running keeps your body more flexible and less injury prone.

Below is a very streamlined warm up from The Run Experience, but it’s right on target and actually gets something done. I really like this combination and use it pretty much daily no matter what type of workout I’m doing. Do this dynamically before your workout, inside or out, and you can even slow it down a little and use as a cool down. Going one step further you should add something for your upper body as well but as we are keeping it very minimalistic, for now start with this.

After a couple of minutes of running I also like to add some lateral jumps into my routine. So if I was running forward I would turn to one side and jump sideways roughly 10 times in the same direction as I was already going in, then turn to my other side and do the same thing. This is a great way to get some more hip movement into the early part of your running routine, and increase body readiness.

A warm up should always be a part of your training. No excuses! 😉

 


Warm up and cool down info  https://youtu.be/zMReVEkdEnI

http://www.nsmi.org.uk/articles/injury-prevention/warming-up.html

 

 

Pillow talk – what’s your angle?

Imagine that you are standing up and looking straight ahead. Now turn your head 90 degrees as if you were to look over your shoulder. From there, tilt your head backwards. Here is a question for you, if you were to hold that position for about 7 hours, do you think that it would impact how your neck feels? I am confident that your answer is yes! Well, what if I were to tell you that when you are sleeping on your stomach this is the very position that your neck is in, which isn’t exactly great, so let’s see if we can improve on that.

In the previous post we learned about the best position for standing up. What is really interesting about that, is that to work on our posture standing up, we started with an exercise laying down. Huh, so does that mean that I can improve on my standing position while sleeping? I believe you can – which is pretty exciting news, I think. The key thing in the exercise was to keep the spine neutral. When we lay down we actually do this automatically, until we introduce the pillow.

“I realized that my ever-present pillow was, in fact, preventing the very motion of my neck I was practicing during my “stretch time.” -Katy Bowman [1]

When using a pillow, it puts our spine at an angle, like in the example above, or for the people sleeping on their backs, it moves their head much closer to their chest, which looks almost identical to the poor posture that many of us will be in while texting on the phone for instance. Using a pillow  just reinforces that same bad posture.

So why do we use a pillow?
It feels good because it allows us to stay within our limited range of motion. Take away the pillow and it is immediately obvious where our restrictions lie after a little while. We have gotten so lazy and stiff in our bodies that we are unable to conform to any surface unless it has thick, soft cushioning. And just because so many people are stiff in their necks we think that it is common to have this problem and we blame the poor pillow. Remember, common does not equal normal.

Animals and young children sleep in all sorts of weird positions, yet you never hear or see them complain about neck pain. Why? Because they are still very flexible in their bodies and can easily conform to different situations. Over time though as we get more and more rigid in our bodies we loose this fine suppleness, and that is when the problems starts to add up.

“Just as constant shoe-wearing and flat, unvarying terrain have left you with poor foot mobility and strength, always sleeping on something flat and squishy has altered the mobility and sensitivity of your parts. The joint-alterations required for ground-sleeping are natural and they’re currently under used. Your muscles are simply out of (sleep) shape.” -Katy Bowman [2]

About a year and a half ago I came across the book Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman where she talks about this. Your pillow is an orthotic is also a great article on the subject. Her solution was to get rid of the pillow, which really intrigued me, and so I decided to test her thesis. As per her recommendation I gradually reduced the height of my pillow, until I felt comfortable daring to give it up completely. The first days without a pillow felt weird, I mean I had been building up this habit my entire lifetime, but the cool thing was that my neck felt so much better. My range of motion improved with time, and that simply from sleeping. Genius!

All in all, it probably took me anout 3 months to get completely comfortable without a pillow. Sleeping on my side without a pillow took even a little longer to get used too, but these days I do not even think about it anymore. The best part? No more complaining about the bad pillows while staying in hotels. Whoop, whoop!

“Adaptation, people. Your body is the result of what you have done. Want a different body? Do something different.” - Katy Bowman [3]

When did we become so rigid and stiff in our bodies that we decided to blame the super soft pillow for being at the root cause of our neck problems? Stop for a moment and THINK about that.
Clients are often asking me which type of pillow I think is the best and they are often willing to spend a lot of money on one too. My advice would be this, invest that time and money in you instead. Work towards becoming more flexible and supple in your body, and start by (gradually) getting rid of your pillow.

What’s my angle?
Improving my neck and spine health while sleeping  😉
What’s yours?

 

 


Resources

[1] Katy Bowman Move Your DNA, release your Pillow p.155

[2] [3] https://nutritiousmovement.com/your-pillow-is-an-orthotic/

 

Is your mental game app on?

Imagine a basketball game where the score is tied with just 5 seconds to go, a foul has been made and now one player will get to do a free throw. One throw, one that he or she has done a million times. It should be so easy to make that one basket, but now the pressure is huge because this could win the game.

Do you think this player might react differently to the very same shot during practice? What is the big difference, it’s the same basket and the same player, right?! I am pretty sure you will say “well the pressure is on, so it’s all in the head now”. We know this to be true, that in that moment, it is not how fit that athlete is, but how fit his or her thinking is, especially under pressure, just like Tommy Bolt says “The mind messes up more shots than the body.”

It would make a lot of sense then to practice the mental game – I mean, the best athletes always do, so why shouldn’t we?

What you are thinking, what shape your mind is in, is what makes the biggest difference of all.” – Willie Mays

What is so different in sports compared to real life? Why don’t we practice our mental game on a regular basis for everyday life, which tends to throw us a lot more difficult curve-balls than what we get in the sports arena?

Don’t you want better computing power with faster software?
Don’t you want less glitches, bug fixes and especially crashes??
Don’t you want to be the “player” in real life that makes the shot with only 5 seconds left on the clock?
Well, how are you going to get there if you never practice?

Things don’t correct themselves, you’ve got to go out there and work hard to correct them” – Tom Brady

Every day you are creating your very own mental game app. You have programmed it for years and are still reprogramming it every single day. Do you even know what your inner podcast is broadcasting, or are you so used to the same old, same old, that you don’t even realize what is being said? Stop and take a listen – and if you do not like the daily podcast you are listening to, make sure you change it – because you can!

What would your daily self-talk sound like in the above example? “I cannot miss this shot! I cannot let the team down! Shit, what if I miss. I cannot screw this one up. What will everybody think? I can’t be a loser.” The end result of that type of thinking might look like this:

Or does it sound like this? “You can do it. You got this. This is just like practice. Take it easy. Breathe. It is just you and the basket. My team is here for me. I can do this.” That might look like this:

 

I believe that we have the power to change our inner dialogue, and how we use our brains. In one of my favorite sports psychology books, Mind Gym, it says “ Sports psychology is the science of success. Studies show that within a group of athletes of equal ability, those who receive mental training outperform those who don’t almost every time. Mental skills, like physical skills, need constant practice.” So let’s get practicing then!

“Ok, I’m listening, but how?”
Daily meditation works really great for increasing your brains capacity. Think of your brain as a mind gym, one that you need to practice in daily to be in the best shape. Did you know that a daily meditation practice changes structures in the brain for the better with just as little as 8 weeks of meditation? Did you know that a session of meditation lowers the amount of stress and anxiety in your body? Did you know that it also improves your memory and learning capabilities(A), as well as lowers levels of inflammation? (B)

The mind is a powerful thing and most people don’t use it properly.” -Mark McGwire

Calming the mind and giving it a chance to recover is so important, especially in this day and age of constant over stimulation from all the tech, computers and social-media we use everyday. We are constantly being bombarded by stuff that our brain is trying to sort through, so giving it a chance to relax and recover, and training it in how to respond in difficult situations is worth a million.

“While you can’t always control what happens, you always can control how you respond to it. It’s not the situation but how you respond that makes the difference.” -Mind Gym

Listen to what neuroscientist Sara Lazar has to say about meditation:

 

I really like to use an app called Headspace, which I use daily for my meditation practice. (Full disclosure, I am not affiliated, I just think that it is a great app.)

 

Stop, Breathe & Think” is also a great app, where you choose keywords describing your current mood and they will suggest a meditation that suits that, which is pretty cool. There are of course a lot more meditation apps out there, so do not hesitate to explore further to find one that suits you.

When you start out you might not feel an immediate difference, and that’s OK because change takes time. Just commit to the process and show up every day to do the work. Over time you and the people around you will notice a difference.

When to meditate? It is of course up to you, however I think it is a good plan to outsmart yourself from the beginning and plan it in as if it was an important meeting. If you don’t chances are you will never get to it. I do it first thing in the morning. It is the least chance for me to get interrupted and I also feel that I set a really nice tone for the day. Some people like to do it in the evening, but I find that I tend to fall asleep, and often other things will come in between, and it becomes a struggle to get it done. But, hey, just try it out and see what works for you.

If you still find this to be too much, try a mini meditation by taking 3 deep breaths and really focusing on each breath. Your inner commentary might say something like “one, I breathe in, one, I breathe out. Two, I breathe in, two, I breathe out. Three, I breathe in, three, I breathe out” And you are done, simple as that! Try it next time you are waiting in line at the grocery store or stuck in the car.

It needs to be said that a healthy mind needs good nutrition and good hydration. There is a very strong gut-brain connection in the body, and if your gut is not in order neither will your brain be. (C) That is however an entire topic on its own, and not the focus on today’s blog.

Great news for you readers – I have a free month of Headspace to give away, as a part of their give some get some program! Yes, that is correct, anyone in the world can send in their reason as to why I should give them a free month of subscription. Rules: Summarize your reasons into a maximum of 3 sentences, and email them to me before midnight CET Monday the 27th of February 2017, at nathalie@tigersports.eu. I will announce the winner later that same week!

So let me ask you again,
Is your mental game app up and running?
If not, I think it is time for an update and some bug fixes, don’t you? 😉


Resources

A. Harvard Neuroscientist
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/05/26/harvard-neuroscientist-meditation-not-only-reduces-stress-it-literally-changes-your-brain/?utm_term=.090073f23173

B. Meditation and Inflammation in the body
http://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(16)00079-2/abstract?cc=y=

C. Heal your Gut, Heal your brain
https://chriskresser.com/heal-your-gut-heal-your-brain/

Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361002/

Making meditation easier
http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-18385/7-insider-tips-to-make-meditation-easier.html

Mind Gym by Gary Mack with David Casstevens (I really can recommend this book to anyone who wants a short and user friendly book to the point on Sports Psychology.)