Category Archives: Recovery

A Hamstring Quickie – Test, Smash and Stretch

It is winter time and for most of us that means a lot more time spent indoors. That usually means that we are sitting a lot more, and moving less. This can lead to tight hamstrings, which in turn can lead to back pain. Christmas also brings along a lot of traveling for plenty of people, so now is a good time to start some prevention work. Especially if you have a ski holiday coming up. Here are three very short videos on how you can test, smash and stretch your hamstrings. Your hamstring is a common name which includes these three muscles m.semimenbranosus, m.semitendinosus and m.biceps femoris.

What to think about when you do the hamstring test:
The leg that is on the ground should stay straight and in contact with the floor the whole time. The leg you are raising up should be straight at all times, no bending of the knee. When things are good you should get to at least 90 degrees without any problem. If not you have got some work to do.
Is there a big difference in flexibility in the two legs? Make sure you put in some extra work on the side that is less flexible. Asymmetry is harder for the body to deal with, as the side that moves a bit better has to compensate for the side that does not move well. The guys from MoveU are a little bit crazy, but they are energetic and to the point, and that I like!
*Unfortunately the videos from MoveU are currently not available on YouTube. I have added three different ones instead. As soon as the original ones are back I will post them here.

 

What to think about when you smash the hamstring:
The automatic reaction from the muscles when you try this is usually to tense up a bit. Therefore you may not “feel any tightness” right away. If this is so, take a couple of deep breaths and really let your leg sink into the ball. Once a bit more relaxed, start moving the leg in search of those tight spots. If you find yourself tensing up again, just go back to taking a few deep breaths, and then try again.

 

What to think about when you stretch the hamstring:
Try to keep the movement dynamic. Meaning, slowly move the leg from one position to the next (bend and straight the leg). From my experience the body seems to adapt quicker when we do it this way, and there is a lesser chance of overdoing it, rather than just holding a static stretch and pulling on the muscle.

Finish with a re-test to make sure that you did a good job, and have improved the flexibility of your hamstrings. If you do not have someone who can help measure your improvement, putting up some temporary marks on the wall with tape, can be a great visual.

If you are a runner, or on your way to your ski holiday, it is extra important to pay attention to a proper warm-up. Going straight from sitting into doing sports in cold weather will take a lot of extra effort from your body. This can be a killer for already tight hamstrings, as it takes longer for the body to heat up. A good warm up will significantly decrease your chances of getting injured. Here is a reminder of what a quick, good warm-up looks like.

Take care of your hamstrings, and they will take care of you.
Enjoy your weekend! 😉

 



Photo by Osman Rana, Asogqetti and  Natia Rukhadze on Unsplash

It’s 2am. Do you know what your liver is up to?

There is a rhythm to almost everything in life, and especially in our bodies. Knowing the rhythms of certain things can give us a lot of information. If we know what to look for that is. If we look closer at Traditional Chinese Medicine we find the Organ Clock, and it can help us getting some useful information.

Although the Organ Clock is not used in western medicine, “[Joseph] Takahashi and colleagues stated in a 2013 article that “almost every cell in the body contains a circadian clock. For example, these clocks, called peripheral oscillators, have been found in the adrenal gland, oesophagus, lungs, liver, pancreas, spleen, thymus, and skin.”[1]

So, what does the Organ Clock tell us? It shows us when different organs in the body are very active. For instance, a lot of organs are doing their “house cleaning” during the night when we are asleep. It’s the only time they are not frantically trying to accommodate our demands, and so they have some time to clean house and prepare for the next day. OK, so how can this help us?

Let’s take a look at the liver. According to the Organ Clock it is the most busy during 1-3am at night. (Assuming you go to bed around 10-11pm.) If things are running smooth in the liver, you will never notice that it is working at all. However, if the liver is a bit backed up from too much stuff it has to detox, (ex:pesticides, pollution, medication, hormones, alcohol) the cleaning process will not be smooth. You might wake up during this time at night and feel very warm, and not feel very well. The liver can raise body temperature quite a bit as it is trying to burn through our garbage. Maybe you know the feeling of having been out partying and waking up really hot and sweaty in the middle of the night. It most likely is your liver trying to get rid of all that alcohol.

So, if you find yourself waking up often at the same time at night, check out what the Organ Clock says. Which organ is the most busy at that time, and how do you think this could relate to you and your lifestyle? Start taking some notes, and see what you can learn from the information gathered. It is of course no precise medicine, but I have found it a very useful indicator on many occasions.

It’s 2 am. I know what my liver is up to. Do you know what yours is up to?
😉

P.S. Also, a BIG thanks to all of you who came and listened to my talk “Walk of Health”. It was a blast! For those of you who signed up, you will have the keynotes from the talk within the next few days.

 

 

 

 


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710582/

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circadian_rhythm

Photo by Michael Discenza, Adi Goldstein and Jan Kahánek on Unsplash 

The benefits of heat. Get in the Sauna! – Part 2.

Very recently I wrote about the benefits to the Nervous System of using the Sauna. I just came across this podcast with more reasons of why getting into the Sauna is really beneficial for you.

How about improving cardiovascular disease, or positively impacting depression for up to 6 weeks with just one sauna session? Read about that study here.

Dr. Rhonda Patrick Ph.D. who is an expert on nutritional health, brain, cancer and aging has done a podcast on the theme, and I find the information in it very interesting.  You can download it and listen to it here or watch it below.

Enjoy your weekend and hopefully a session in the Sauna 😉


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27172277
https://www.foundmyfitness.com/

Your Nervous System Wants You in the Sauna

If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere, winter has most likely arrived or is just lurking around the corner. The colder it gets outside, the more one tends to think about being warm. Going to the Sauna is a great idea at this time of the year. Actually going to the Sauna is good for us all year round, but in the summer time we tend to do more activities that makes us sweat, and as we do less of this in the winter – going to the Sauna can help us out.

When we are working out we are in action mode and our sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” system, is responsible for keeping us ready for anything. Sweating in this state is good for us as it cools down the body, and it will also help detoxify our bodies.

When we are relaxed and sitting still, it is the parasympathetic nervous system , aka the “rest and digest” system, that keeps us calm and relaxed. Sweating in this state is very different for our body than when we are in action or under stress, and it can help reset our nervous system.

Being able to positively influence our nervous system is something that is very beneficial to us. Typically we spend way too much of our time in the “fight and flight” mode, from stress, sugary foods and stimulants such as caffeine. The Adrenal Glands have many different functions, with one of them being the production of “adrenaline and noradrenaline, which function to produce a rapid response throughout the body in stress situations”.[1] When we are in this “fight and flight” mode for long periods of time it starts to wear out the Adrenal Glands, and other systems get over burdened as well. We commonly know this as being “burned out”.

Sweating in the Sauna while relaxing can help reset the nervous system, and give our bodies and especially the Adrenal glands a much needed break. And, we also get the beneficial detox happening at the same time. What’s not to like?

Don’t forget…
Make sure that you are properly hydrated before going to the Sauna, as well as during.  You will put an enormous burden on your body if you start out slightly dehydrated, and it will likely do you more damage than good. If you haven’t been for a while, remember to start out gently, and slowly increase your efforts to give the body time to adapt.

Enjoy the Sauna and a nervous system reset! 😉

 

 


[1] Melmed, S; Polonsky, KS; Larsen, PR; Kronenberg, HM (2011). Williams Textbook of Endocrinology (12th ed.). Saunders.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23859414

https://www.drlam.com/blog/heat-therapy-afs/2525/

Photo by Joshua Newton. Hernan Sanchez on Unsplash

28 Nov in Luxembourg -Save the Date!

I have been asked to hold a presentation by “Friskis and Svettis” here in Luxembourg, and the good news is that it is open to everyone! So save the date and come on over! What is it all about? Check out below and look here for more information.

“The Walk of Health”
Are you frustrated because you are doing everything right from training to diet, but you don’t get the results that you want, and/or you are still in pain?
There is a huge orange zone between being healthy and being diagnosed with disease.
Join Nathalie in this active talk where we will go through “the walk of health” to find out how improper digestion impacts every aspect of your health, from fatty acid deficiency to shoulder pain.
Simply put, you cannot out-train a shitty diet or a poor digestion. Learn to recognize the clues that tells us when something is wrong, and what to do about it.

 

Day: Tuesday the 28th of November
Time: 19.00
Where: in Limpertsberg
Language: English
Address:  École Français (EF), 188 av de la Faîencerie, L-1511 Luxembourg
Cost: €10.- which also includes the Flex class starting at 20.00.

Hope to see you there! 🙂


Working Out After Sports Massage – Yay or Nay?

Every couple of weeks or so I get the question -Can I work out after a sports massage? Of course you can, but should you? My suggestion is don’t do it, because the body cannot do two things at once.

 -Can I work out after a sports massage? 

If you remember from one of my earlier posts, I was talking about why you often feel tired after a deep sports massage. It is because the deep massage helps the body to start its own cleaning and healing process. If you go and work out later that day, that cleaning process will stop. Instead, the body is now focusing on supplying oxygen and glucose to the muscles so you can do your training. Typically you will feel very tired and sluggish if you choose to work out after a deep tissue massage. It’s because the body has to switch from repairing mode to action.

If you feel like you absolutely have to do some type of training the same day, keep it light and short. Think of it more like active recovery than actual training. Do something like a short easy bike ride or go for an easy walk with a friend.

What about exercising before a sports massage on the same day? I would say that it’s ideal. It is a great way to get rid of the extra lactic acid that have been built up during the training, and get the blood circulating. It will speed up your recovery a lot and leave your body recovered and better able to adapt to the following training session.

But what about pro athletes, don’t they get massages all the time? Well, yes and no. It all depends on when and what kind of a massage. For instance when I work with tennis players they might need some massage to warm up a tight and tired shoulder before a match. That’s very different from a deep tissue massage, which they would have after the match. The goal before the match is just to warm up the muscles, which means that the time spent on that area is shorter and the intensity is lower.

If it was me, I would not do any training after a sports massage. If you have never had a deep sports massage before, or it was a long time since your last session I would even suggest taking 2 days off, with just some very light active recovery work on the second day. Give the body some time to adapt.

Enjoy your weekend! 😉

 


Photo by Braden Collum, David Marcu, Christopher Burns, on Unsplash

 

The Push Up Lie Detector Test – Will You Pass?

Recently I have seen a lot of shoulder wear and tear in my practice, often directly related to the amount of push ups my clients have been doing. With today’s many Fitness Challenges going viral, one of the popular ones being +100 push ups a day for 30 days, I have also seen shoulder problems increasing.

Why is that? Shouldn’t more push ups just make you stronger? The answer is poor technique! Just because you can do a lot of repetitions does not automatically mean that you are doing it right.

Are your fingers pointed forward? Are your elbows locked out? Are your forearms staying straight at 90 degrees from the floor at all times during the movement? Is your shoulder moving forward first (not your elbow!)? Is your core braced so that your spine and upper body moves as one unit pivoting from the floor?

Did you nod your head in agreement while reading those questions? Or, are you not really sure what I mean by them?  If so, you should take good look at  your push up technique right away. Unless you did higher levels gymnastics as school, or just happened to have an amazing coach, most likely this is all new to you. That’s OK. Don’t feel bad about it – get smart instead, and learn to do it right.

Doing push ups with poor technique is like driving a car where the wheel base is off. You can still drive it, but it will always pull a bit to the side and the tires will wear out unevenly and quickly because of the uneven weight distribution. You can think of your shoulders as your upper wheelbase (your hips being the lower) and the same uneven wear and tear will happen there. However, it’s not so easy to “change out the damaged tires” in a human body.

So what’s your game plan? Are you going to blame it on the tires, or are you going to invest some time and energy making sure that your wheel base is solid? Think of it this way. A well functioning machine with good alignment might need some extra oil once in a while but it will not break down just because you increased the repetitions. If it does, something is wrong with the mechanics and you need to fix it.

Coach Carl Paoli is an excellent movement coach, whom I have tremendous respect for. I think it would be a smart move on your part to pay attention to his teachings in all things movement. Practical tip: When you are practicing this, it is a great idea to put a book, block, ball or something behind your forearm. This is to make sure that your forearm does not move backwards during the push up. If your forearm comes in contact with the object, you know it moved, and you can adjust accordingly.

 

If you are not able to do a complete push up yet, follow this push up scale video. Pay good attention and don’t worm yourself out of this one 😉

 

Ok, so you think that you already have great mechanics? Great, check yourself in the push up lie detector test by turning your hands the opposite way, having the fingers pointing toward your toes. Also, find out why doing push ups on your knees is not good for your shoulders, and why it will not lead you into a proper push up.

We all need to pay attention to good technique, especially when it comes to the basics as they lay the ground work for all other movement. When it comes to injury prevention there really is no substitute for a solid foundation with great mechanics.

Wishing you a great Push up into the weekend! 😉

 

 

 


Photo by Chris Benson and Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

This App Will Make Your Running Coach Obsolete

Last weekend I had the great pleasure to run the half marathon “halvevanhaarlem” in the Netherlands. Haarlem is situated in between Amsterdam and the ocean, and it is a very nice and laid back city. The running route was really fun, going through narrow city streets, cute neighborhoods, through the sand dunes on smaller trails, and we even ran on some gravel roads next to the canals.

The Plan and Preparation
I had never ran a half marathon before, and I knew I needed a plan to follow when I made up my mind to go for it. I decided to try the Nike+ Running app, NRC. With people like Ryan Flaherty behind the app, who is a brilliant coach and really knows what he is talking about, I wanted to see if the app could get me prepared. I went to the “coach” in the app, set the date for my half marathon, and put in the details of my running at the time. The app then set up a plan for me to follow, making sure that I did not increase the kilometers too soon. So far, so good.

Most common mistakes
Often people are so motivated, that they increase the mileage way too soon, only to get injured, and not being able to run at all. A second fault I see most people do is that they don’t change up their training with intervals, or any kind of strength training. For half marathons and beyond people typically just try to collect a lot of kilometers. This will not really make you a lot faster or stronger. It’s more of a surviving the grind kind of a thing. I think that it is neither fun nor smart training.

It is much better for the body to change things up, and do different things. The app does this very well, and I can tell you that on my own I would not have run so many different intervals as I did with this program. Sure, intervals are hard work, but it is also fun and the training sessions goes by a lot faster. And, it is really cool when you notice that your speed is improving.

The Nike+ Running Club App is also connected to the Nike+ Training Club app. I think it is a brilliant concept to put these two together, to build a more well rounded athlete. Because of this some of my scheduled training sessions were flexibility and strength training, and no running. It’s a great way to keep the fitness up, but letting the body adapt to more running step by step.

The Goal
My goal for the half marathon was to be as well prepared as I could, so that I could enjoy the day. I did not want to have to worry about injuring myself. I really think that all the interval work I did was key, because I only had 2 longer runs in the whole program at 14.5km and 16.5km. On the day of the race I felt really great and was able to enjoy the event. My goal was achieved! Two days after the event I was out with my friend playing catch with her dogs, and she said “you don’t move like someone who just ran a half marathon!” Trust me, I am no natural gazelle so I contribute that to the good programming and not increasing the kilometers to soon.

Running with the phone
Practically, I really do not like to run with my phone though. I don’t like the arm wrap from Nike, and the best solution so far that I have found is a sports bra from Lululemon that has an extra pocket for the phone on your back. If you have any other good suggestions do let me know. Instead I used my Garmin watch to get the length and time of my run, and then I just added it manually in the app. I would only run with my phone on the days where I had to do a “bench mark”  to see how I had improved. This worked well enough for me. However, I believe that you will get the most out of the app if you always use the phone.

A really good running coach is of course never obsolete. But most people are probably looking for more general guidance. As these apps are free and will help you to be smart with your training, there really is no reason not to use them. It would also be smart to work on your running technique for your long-term plan. Maybe there is a workshop somewhere close to you?

For your next running goal, whether it’s just for you getting off the sofa or taking part in a race, I would say you have two good options.
1. Get the app and follow the instructions as best as you can.
2. Find a real knowledgeable running coach who can help you.

Having a plan behind the training will make you better, less prone to injury and the training will be a lot more fun – what’s not to like?

“Failing to plan, is planning to fail”
Enjoy your weekend! 😉



Full disclosure, I am not affiliated with Nike.

A great podcast “The Savant of Speed” with Ryan Flaherty and Tim Ferriss
The Savant of Speed — Ryan Flaherty

Photo by Bruno Nascimento, Tim Gouw, Autumn Goodman, William Iven, Jenny Hill on Unsplash

Help M-O keep it clean

The question just recently came up from one of my new clients. “Why do I feel so tired after a sports massage?” It was her first session of a sports/deep tissue massage in a very long time, and she was in bed by 9pm that night. If it’s your first time in a while since a sports massage this might often be the case. It will get better after a few sessions, as the body starts cleaning out the gunk that has been stored in it for so long. Gunk, what gunk?

Stored gunk
We store heavy metals, pesticides, pollutants and other toxins in the fatty tissue in our bodies. When there is an overexposure of these toxins, or the liver is under too much stress for other reasons, it cannot clear out all the toxins right away. As a protective mechanism the body then stores these toxins in the fatty tissue. This may be a good short term strategy, but with all the toxins that we are faced with everyday, we just keep accumulating toxins in our fatty tissues. The liver is under constant pressure to catch up with all the cleaning. This is on top of all the usual waste products that the liver has to clean up as well, like for instance lactic acid.

A thorough deep cleaning
As you are getting a sports massage, it’s in a way like a deep spring cleaning of your house. You will find dirt you didn’t know about and it will take some effort to get the house cleaned. Going deep into the tissues will help liberate stored toxins and waste products and get it out of storage and into the bloodstream. From there it gets transported to the liver, who can safely disassemble them and make sure the garbage leaves our body through the urine and poop.

It gets worse before it gets better
I had a client who used to smoke a lot and had recently quit, and the first couple of times she felt really nauseous after the massage. This was due to the built up of toxins from years of smoking that now were released out of the fatty tissues and into the bloodstream. As the toxins enters the bloodstream, it can make you feel worse at first, before the liver can take care of it. For the body it is like you just ingested all those toxins again.

Another client works as a painter and is constantly in contact with toxic fumes. Changing his line of work is not an option, even though from a body-toxicity exposure that would be better. Instead he has created a preventative strategy that works very well for him.  On a regular basis he goes to the sauna, gets deep tissue massage, runs a couple of times a week, stays well hydrated and takes herbal supplements to support his liver. Twice a year he does a week of detoxification as well.

“It is unrealistic to think that we can all change our work or where we live based on the amount of toxicity that we are exposed too. But, we can certainly have an influence on how well the body is prepared to deal with it all.” [2]

Being M-O
It takes a lot of work and energy for the liver to deal with all the extra cleaning that comes from the toxins that just entered the bloodstream. By getting a deeper treatment you are helping the body to start the process of self-healing through detoxification and an increased blood circulation. Therefore it is very common to feel extra tired due to the energy expended.
From my experience, the better shape your body is in all around, the less tired you will be. Feeling relaxed after a massage, which you should be, is different from being tired.
The life of your liver is very much like being M-O, and you are the one that keeps bringing in the dirt. So, take very good care of M-O. Help him out by bringing in as little dirt as possible, as he is doing his very best continuously taking care of you!

Extra tension
It is common to feel extra tension for 1-2 days in some areas of the body that felt very tight during the massage. After the very  first couple of sessions you may even feel it for a few more days, but that should subside as your body gets used to the treatment. You should not have any bruises after a sports or deep tissue massage. If that happens let your massage therapist know so that they can adjust their work with you accordingly.

Best preparation
Make sure you are hydrated before the treatment and hydrate well after. It is the quickest way to make sure that the body has enough fluids to easily transport and disassemble all of the gunk that is coming out of storage. You will help the body to recover quickly and you are making it easy for M-O (the liver) to do his job. If you are, or know that you have been exposed to a lot of toxins, it might also be a good idea to support your liver with some herbal supplements.

Take good care of M-O and have a great weekend! 😉

 


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3569688/
[2]quote from Nathalie Visser

Photo by Jeremy Bishop, Hernan Sanchez, Pan Xiaozhen, Tim Mossholder and Matt Hoffman  on Unsplash

Adding Salt to the Hydration Formula

Last week we took a deeper dive into the importance of water in the body, and how to figure out your very own Hydration Formula. Today we will look at the importance of salt in hydration. As a large percentage of our bodies consists of water, the role that salt plays in it becomes very important.

“Not only is blood mostly water, but the watery portion of blood, the plasma, has a concentration of salt and other ions that is remarkably similar to sea water.”[1]

Salt in the human body is involved in many different functions such as regulating blood pressure, muscle contraction, sending nerve impulses, and regulating the fine balance in the sodium-potassium pump. You can think of the sodium-potassium pump as a doorway in the surrounding cell wall (cell-membrane). It is critical for good cell function that this door is able to open and close whenever it needs to. When there is a dis-balance between sodium and potassium in the body the cell cannot get the nutrients or messages that it needs, and it is also becomes difficult to send anything out of the cell.

But, isn’t salt bad for you?
Yes and no. The salt that is bad for you is the type of salt that you will find in processed foods and your typical crisp white table salt. These salts have been highly refined and stripped of their beneficial minerals. They are often bleached to become extra white, and have added chemicals in them to keep them from clumping. These things are definitely not good for your health, and are something to stay away from. However, sea-salt such as pink Himalayan sea-salt acts very different to these processed salts.

Sea-salt is great for your body and we need it!
Did you know that…

SALT
-is a natural antihistamine
-is vital for the kidneys to clear excess acidity
-is essential for preserving the serotonin and melatonin levels in the brain
-is a vital element for diabetics through blood sugar regulation
-clears the lungs of mucus particularly in asthma [2]

We have become so scared of real sea-salt because we have been told for so long that salt (meaning processed salt) is bad for us. This has created a problem where people who care about what they eat are eating so “clean” that they more or less omit to eating salt. This is a very bad idea as it creates an imbalance in the body on a cellular level which can take on all sorts of expression. PhD Stacy Sims, who is a specialist in hydration says a common mistake she sees athletes make is drinking lots of water, but without the salt. It just makes you run to the bathroom all the time, because without the salt the body cannot absorb it, and even though your pee is clear you may be under-hydrated. [3]

The Salt Formula
Ok, so how much salt do I need then? According to Dr. Batmanghelidj, an expert on hydration, as a general rule you need at least 1.5g of sea-salt  for every quart of water (950ml) that you drink.[4] So, if we go back to our example of Ben from last week, who should drink 2.3 Liters of water on an average day. He should then add at least 3.6g of sea-salt to that amount of water. To give you an indication visually, 3g of sea-salt is roughly half a teaspoon of salt. Another thing worth mentioning is that if you are using a reverse Osmosis water filter you need to add even more, as the filter system is so good that it also clears out most of the minerals. Read more about that here.

The Salt Formula
 1.5g of sea-salt  *  your daily amount of water in Liter/quart (calculated from last week) = total amount of salt to add to your water

Maintaining the fine balance
Great, so now that you will start adding some good quality sea-salt to your water and food, it is also important to keep in mind the sodium-potassium balance. When you start adding salt you should also make sure that you are getting enough potassium, to keep that healthy balance. This is easy, and one of the best ways to do that is to eat plenty of veggies and fruits, such as avocado, spinach, beets, black beans, sweet potato and watermelon.

“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”
-Nelson Mandela

Enjoy a salted, well hydrated weekend! 😉

 

P.S Check out this video if you want to nerd out some more on hydration, salt, VO2 output, blood volume and fatigue in athletes. FYI, sound quality is unfortunately not awesome .

Current Concepts and Thinking in Hydrating Athletes w/ Dr. Stacy Simms | Community MWod Video

 


[1]http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/21/science/21angi.html?mcubz=0

[2,4] F. Batmanghelidj, Your Body’s Many Cries For Water, Salt, pg 154-160.

[3] Dr. Kelly Starrett, Ready to Run, Hydration, pg 162.

Photo credit to Izzy Gerosa, Mira Bozhko, André Robillard, Roman Mager on Unsplash