Friday, August 9, 2019

Biking in Iceland with Friends

"You didn't come to Iceland to ride your bike in nice weather!"

That would become prophetic.

We flew into Keflavik on a beautiful sunny day.  At 66 degrees latitude, the days were long and the sun was bright.  I was struck by the lack of trees.  A local told us the Vikings cut them down to make their ships and they have never recovered.  I have no idea if this is true.

After driving into Reykjavik we started walking around.  It is the capitol and biggest city in Iceland.  I was again struck by the quite.  You could have a normal conversation.  There were cars, but not that many.  The amount of people seemed to be about 75% less then what I was expecting in a big city.  In a country of around 300,000 I guess this makes sense when you spread them out over the size of piece of real estate the size of Ohio.  Sorry Iceland to make any comparison to one of our worse states.  (haha)

In America, you go into any store and you are blasted with music.  It seems to drown out your thoughts.  The person I was traveling with develops products as a job and stated that Europeans value quite and are always asking his company if they can make it more quite.  I get it now.  It become something I really enjoyed.  In comparison, on our way home we flew into Minneapolis airport and it was sensory overload.  Music, noise, beeps and flurry of background noise.

I don't believe I heard one siren, or one honk in a week.

Reykjavik is a super easy city to walk around.  No car needed.  Lot of small hills to navigate, but regardless, if you can walk 5-8 miles over the course of a day, you can see it all.  Found an amazing coffee spot called Reykjavik Roasters and over a day and half may have had a few (perhaps 12) cappuccinos.  I was told to try the local fair so we did.  We found a local spot that served them in tapas style.  Puffin, Lamb, Whale, Arctic Char.

The texture was not what I was expecting.  I'm not sure if it was only the place we were at, so reader beware.  N=1.  Not my favorite, any of them.  I was very happy, they came in small doses.

If you look up any top things to do in Iceland, you will eventually see, try an N1 hotdog.  N1 is a gas station.  So we did, and they were quite good.  I looked up what made them different and they are made of lamb.  Fried onions on the bottom of the bun, gave them a nice crunch.

That night we had a beer at Reykjavik Brewery where they were having a meet and greet for the riders of the bike race.  We ended up staying late there talking to the owner and his best friend from high school, who now is a Cardiac Imaging Specialist living in Iowa, who was back visiting.  (High school in Iceland is ages 16-20)  Being able to talk to locals about their country and ours, the interesting viewpoints of what you know and what they know and think is one of the greatest gifts travel can give.

"You are to big up top to make it up our climbs."

This was the first thing he told me when we told him we were doing the race.  Perhaps this was prophetic number 2.

Driving into our next stop where we would be staying for the race was quite a dramatic difference in landscape.  You started to see a few more trees and much larger mountains.  The greens became something of a mind boggling cascade of hues and highlights.  How do you describe the color green when you have never seen shades or highlights in that tone.  My best effort is some colors were so vibrant that it looked like a cheap B movies radioactive green slime was escaping the mountain side.

Most people find race reports pretty boring.  So I'll sum up as it was the hardest I've ever had to work on a bike.  Climbing into headwinds for hours is not my strength.  Nor is crossing rivers.  But, I saw things and had my eyes delight in things you would not get to see if you hadn't toiled for hours getting there.  I understand the development of the Lauf gravel suspension fork after riding washboards for 20 some miles.  An example of your environment dictating function and creativity.  The Rift valley is the crest where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates bump up.  It creates some of the most spectacular landscape in the world.  We got to ride our bike in it!

The next few days were spent exploring the countryside.  With it being July, the sun really didn't feel like it "set" till after midnight Eastern time.  If you like hiking, Iceland offers a plethora of trails.  Most are interlinked somehow.  Choose your own adventure.  Short, medium, long, hours to weeks could be had.  It was quite easy to get up on the ridge line of several trails and just scan out and take in miles and miles of views.  There is something magical about looking out over a horizon and not having it stopped.  No constraints.

One highlight was hiking an hour up a mountainside and spending a few hours lounging in a hot spring river.  Heated by the Geo thermal energy coming from the earth.  The higher you went up, the hotter it got.  Natures own hot tub.  It was easy to envision ancient Vikings hanging out here.

One question that keeps getting asked and was repeatedly told to me before leaving was the cost of food.  It is more expensive.  They import almost everything.  From a personal viewpoint, some things are really bad and some were not.  I am used to paying 4 or 5 bucks for a coffee drink.  7-8 dollars for a craft beer.  This was no different there.  If you are trying to go to a sit down restaurant for dinner it will be pricey.  I'd estimate about 30-40% more.   You also do not tip in Iceland.   If you tip 20%, take this into account as it will drop your bill to only about 10-20% more.  Now if you are more of a eat on the go, you can find plenty of options on the cheaper side.

The craft beer culture has hit Iceland and it is (becoming) a known tourist attraction.  (Kind of like Grand Rapids where I live)  Siggy the owner of Reykjavik Brewery was telling it has more breweries per citizen then the United States.  They are coming of a beer prohibition that lasted until 1989.  Some interesting laws.  Gas stations and grocery stores can only sell a beer that is 2.25% ABV.  Breweries can not sell beer to go.  Verdun, their liquor stores,  are the only stores that can sell alcohol.  These are government operated and are not open on Sunday.  There is a profit margin per ABV that a brewery cannot go above.  So you won't find many super high ABV and for that matter quality craft beers will cost about the same as a cheaper beer.  One reason the craft beer culture is booming.

Driving along the country you are struck by the number of sheep roaming around and the coolest horses I've ever seen.  The horses are very unique (Don't by the way refer to it as a pony).  Smaller in stature they can have up to 5 gaits.  Most horses will have 3-4.  One unique trot is referred to as a To'lt.  It is a high stepping gait that is super smooth.  So smooth you can hold a beer and not spill it.  So I was told.  Their main is like a mohawk.  They are glamorous to see run.

In 2008 and I believe the following year, Iceland was in the news for almost a year and a half.  First with a banking crisis where they jailed their bankers for the mismanagement of the nations funds and followed up with a volcano eruption.  All the news and videos opened the eyes of the world to the beauty of this tiny island.  They went from getting 3-400 thousand tourists a year, to 3-4 million almost overnight.  It is just now that the infrastructure is starting to be in place to handle this amount of influx.  On plenty of the tourist attractions you could see old paths that lead much closer to a waterfall or tourist attraction that is now chained off.  Steps and walking paths are making it more easily accessible for the general masses.  Depending on your view points and who you are, this is good or bad.  Should nature be accessible to everyone or should you have to "work" to get there?  Should it be safe or should it carry common sense risk?

We drank out of the rivers on the bike ride.  Uncontaminated by man.  It felt weird and somewhat sad that something so natural now comes with the thoughts that I hope I don't get sick.  We had everything from 60 and sunny to 50 and rainy.  Some days, you would put on the rain jacket just in time for the sun to come out.  So be ready for all conditions.

Getting to spend time with friends exploring a new country by bike and hike was quite fun.  Having an event like the bike ride created an excuse to challenge myself from an endurance standpoint, but also gave a framework for the trip that allowed us to meet interesting people and get us to an area that you wouldn't normally explore.   It was a great way to see a country and get immersed into it quickly.  I highly recommend it.

A postcard I found on the way home.  It summed it up nicely.  

More pics can be found on Instagram  @drjasonross

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Baby Steps into the Endurance World: A Few Lessons I'm Learning

The first time my middle school track coach made me run a 200 meter dash, I half jokingly told him I wasn't an endurance athlete.  I'll stick to the 70m, 100m, and the long jump.  My sophomore year of high school, my track coach added the 400 meter dash to the equation.  I actually started running a few miles for conditioning to try to get better at the event.

College brought football conditioning and more track.  I discovered mountain biking.  But, back then, I was taught that aerobic development would make me slower.  As a fast twitch speed guy, this was the last thing I wanted.  (this is all pre Internet, no real books I found, and Hillsdale had no Strength and Conditioning Coach)

Rugby brought a new way of thinking.  You had run, tackle and display ball skills for 90 minutes.  I brought biking back in and used track workouts to get in anaerobic shape.  I still pretty much shunned straight aerobic work.

Bobsled brought back pure power and speed.  Get big, get fast, run for 5 seconds.  You have 45 min to recover.  Fitness is truly defined by the parameters that you find yourself in.  I was in shape to push a sled well.  More then 5 seconds, and I was very unfit.

Decade and some change later, I find myself riding my bike for longer and longer stretches.  I have friends, that ride even longer.  Friends so good, they are Pros and win big races in the biking endurance world.

I find myself for the first time semi training to be an endurance guy.  Semi as in I try to ride my bike about 2x a week.  About two times less then is ideal.  But, in dipping my toes in this endurance world, there is some very interesting thoughts that come to mind.

Speed world is technical and done.  Mistakes mean hundredths of a second.  Gains are hard to come by.  Rhythm is big in the world.  I think this is why music is such a big deal to fast twitch archetypes.

Endurance you have time to think, I mean time.  Hours and hours.  It's the crux of being good (outside of being slow twitch monster)  It's your mental control of time.  It's your relationship to time.  Can you stay focused with each step or each pedal stroke.  I'm not sure how many times, I have zoned out on a bike, looked down and be going about 2 MPH slower.  My legs weren't tired, I wasn't tired, but my mind was.  I haven't trained the mental focus.  It too, needs to be trained.

Over the weekend I did a 100 mile gravel race as a training ride.  I purposefully went out to hard to put myself in a hole to see how my body would recover, physical and mentally.  I didn't expect to start cramping at 2.5 hours in.  My goal was 8 hours for the race.

It's really easy to project when you are in pain.  If this is how much I hurt now, in 4, 5, 6 hours what am I going to feel?  Fear.  Endurance lesson for me is stay in the moment.  Don't think about the outcome, do what you have to do right now.  Don't Project the Future.

Cramps have been my nemesis since I can remember.  Running through the woods when I was eight and getting a calf cramp.  I think most high school football games and rugby games I got calf cramps.  Every mountain bike ride over 2 hours, quad cramps.  I've tried everything under the sun.  At this point, I think I'm simply neuromuscularly under trained for the race/task at hand.  I don't do enough at the intensity I race at.

Endurance training takes time.  I miss the 45 min workouts.  Even the lung burners.   But, there are some nice life takeaways that are hard to own, when you haven't lived through them.  Be in the moment is great advice, but to shut off your anxiety of the future and work the minute is an entirely different takeaway.  Pain gets worse when we project it into the future.

I have some cool friends to bounce ideas and questions off, or just pick up some tidbits.  Here is my Matt Acker Pro Tip number 7, use loose sandwich bags to hold your snacks in.  Zip lock are hard to open with one hand when your biking down bumpy roads.  I forgot this tip going into the race.  I found myself struggling to open up my snacks.

I brought a PB&J sandwich to eat halfway of my last 100 mile race.  It may have been the 2nd most enjoyable meal of my life.  LOL.  Endurance work has a unique way of making ordinary things extraordinary.


There might not be a more fitting word to describe a successful endurance athlete.    

Monday, June 10, 2019

Thoughts, Musings and a Book Review

It is nice to be able to sit and write about things that have been percolating in my head.

The first, I have found myself reading more about logic and choices we make as humans.  None of it makes sense.  We are not logical.  We are emotional.  We know what we should do, but still find ourselves not doing it.  The key is most likely understanding and building in constraints.  I'm still building some ideas around that.  For instance, I find myself more genuinely a content person when I'm writing, yet it's the first thing I give up when time SEEMS crunched.  Yet it gives me a sense of peace and creativity.

Thoughts from work.

The best compliment at this point in time, "You seem to genuinely enjoy your work."  Years ago, it would have been, "You really are good at what you do."  Is that age or a different thought process.

A new patient told me a story about his wife.  She had never been to a chiropractor.  She was playing tennis and ran into net.  She could tell she did something to her neck.  It wasn't bad enough to stop playing or even have a thought about seeking help or telling anyone.  A few days later she started having some more pain, but also some mental confusion.  They went to the hospital.  She had a minor stroke.  The first question the MD asked was had you been to a chiropractor.  Lets say she had.  The chiropractor would have most likely been blamed for a cervical adjustment that resulted in this style stroke.  I'm not saying that some have, but the story lays out some potential wiggle room of ambiguity in the future.

I think foam rolling has value from a compression and blood flow idea.  It usually feels good and feeling good can't be denied as a positive outcome.  I usually ask people to get down on the floor 3-5x a day for about one minute followed up with a type of exercise.  (I've had people only do the exercise without the foam rolling and it never seemed to work as well)  I watch people when they first do it and for the most part the coordination of moving the body across that little ball or roller is quite unatheltic looking.  But, a few weeks later they are moving around on it like a professional roller.  I had an aha moment, maybe the benefit is up and down off the ground over and over and learning to coordinate body parts.  They would be a hard research to do.

Thoughts from life.

My problems are all my own.  They aren't from other people.  They may do things you don't like, but they still are all on me.  Don't give up your joy for anything.

Your life is a love story.  It doesn't mean that in a romantic way.  It means find stuff you love and protect it.  Have filters.  It doesn't mean a person or work, but it certainly can be.  Ideas, hobbies, time.  The old thought we all worship a God, so choose carefully.  If we look at the love story like a movie, is it a dud?  How can I make it more interesting?

Read only what interest you.  When it doesn't,  move on.  No guilt.

Thoughts from training.

The tongue is a muscle that doesn't have a bony connection.  The upper palate is the insertion for this muscle.  Having room for this muscle to rest and support the neck and airway seems to be a big deal.

I did an hour of step ups to help prepare for a bike race.  When I looked down (close view) it seemed hard.  When I let my eyes gaze at the horizon, (long view) it relaxed and seemed easy.  I don't really know what this means quite yet, but it seems to hold true.

The better you get at something, the more warm up, or body prep it seems to take to feel like you are ready in that endeavor.

Talking to a friend.  We both have come to the same conclusion.  There is a cycle that seems to repeat itself.  A fringe thing is shared with a few close friends.  It stems from a dissatisfaction with the current way of doing something.  The small group has fun, it separates itself from the pack.  People notice.  They gravitate to the new "cool thing."  The small group is now a large group.  Logistics and big group antics slowly shift the fringe into the thing it was fighting against.  Wash and Repeat.  How do you stop the cycle is a question we both didn't have an answer for.

It is all about consistent effort.  Effort.  Real effort.

Book Review

I recently finished the book "Range," by David Epstein.  He wrote the "Sports Gene." I really enjoyed it.  In a world that is becoming more and more specialized, the generalist is going to have more an more usefulness.  People that can bridge one field of study to another.  Many science, sport, music and research stories are studied.

There are two environments.  Wicked and Kind.  Wicked environments change.  Soccer pitch, with ball moving, people trying to stop you is an example.  Kind environments are always the same, a chess board, a golf game.  Kind environments lend itself to having some success with early specialization.  Wicked do not.  Sorry all you parents that picked a sport like hockey or soccer for your 6 year old.  Years of research have shown it doesn't work out.  Broader range for years, produces a more athletic, healthier, more creative player that has a bigger ceiling.  The myths of early specialization is being propagated by people that have a financial incentive to keep your child in a travel team or single sport.  "Among athletes that go on to become elite, broad early experience and delayed specialization is the norm."

Even musicians that have been told your to old to start that instrument to have any real success have example after example of this being false.

The takeaways, your not falling behind, by trying out different sports or careers.  In fact, it usually is the weird knowledge that comes from something out of your field that triggers breakthroughs or separates trains of thoughts for a more creative outlook.

Brain dump over....

Friday, May 10, 2019

Chew Your Food for Health and Performance

It's funny how some of life's little tidbits of advice that your mom or grandma used to tell you truly are pearls of wisdom.  Things that we may have forgotten or written off as just old sayings get more and more science to suggest perhaps there was something to those old adages after all.

"Eat chicken soup when you have a cold."  Well it turns out the salt, the broth (that has been leached from bones) contains zinc and other vital nutrients that help support a healthy immune system.  Dehydration is one aspect that makes you feel worse with a cold, so getting that soup in your body is a way of hydrating.  The advice has merit.

"Chew your food."  While the advice was most likely coming from a fear of choking, it most likely has been passed down from generation to generation and the meaning most likely lost in the centuries that pass.

I am a notorious fast eater.  By fast, I mean I am a poor chewer of food.  Perhaps, it was being the youngest of five.  Perhaps, it was something I taught myself.  In college dining hall closed at certain time.  Because sports practice ended about 30 min before it closed.  I had about 20 min to get to the dining hall and get dinner.  I was pretty much in gain weight mode for 4 years at school for football.  I adapted a strategy of filling my tray with food and devouring as much of it as I could in 15 min.  Then going back for 2nds before it closed, to sit down and eat "2nd Dinner."  This probably created a habit I find hard to break today.

A few years ago, I tried to get into the habit of eating one big salad a day.  I was pretty good with this for a bit, but I got sidetracked along the way.  I again started to get into that habit and realized one thing, salads require chewing.  In fact, I noticed it took almost 30 minutes to eat the bowl of salad I had at one point.

This got me thinking.  Most diets, whether it is Keto, Paleo, Raw, whatever....require you to chew more.  (as well as you generally just ingest less calories)  Junk food is mostly processed carbs that don't require much mastication as well as you have eliminated most liquid calories.   So, does the chewing have just as much impact as the calories being less?  Food for thought!

I recently did the Valter Longo Five Day Fast Mimicking Diet protocols.  By day 2, without any conscious thought I was chewing slower.  It was as if I subconsciously decided to chew every last calorie out of the food.  To savor this bight instead of shoving the 2nd bite in.  It was an unexpected benefit to this 5 day protocol.

Practical Tip:  Put your fork down every time between bites.  This forces a slower eating, more chewing.  A good friend told me this.  It's a money move for changing behavior.

A few weekend ago, I took the Cervical Revolution seminar with Ron Hruska.  I've always found value in how they approach a few concepts.  I've had a few patients in the past year whose neck issues just seemed odd.  I've also noted a few interesting therapy practical concepts that I couldn't quite figure out why it worked.  I had some of my own theories but wanted smarter people then me to perhaps drive more insight.  For example, when looking at a right femur that was neurally guarded on adduction, working the right trapezius and some of the right occipitals, the femur moved much more freely.  I think this is the best example of purposeful learning.  Something I've been seeking out.  A few concepts your struggling with, a few ideas you have high interest in, seeking those answers.

One of the big takeaways from the course was addressing the mandible.  The jaw bone.  Occlusion and malocclusion and how they can be influencers of other systems and joints.

Tempromandibular Joint (TMJ) pain has a high correlation with other joints being sore or painful, the most common being the knee.  

Testing of knee strength with balanced and unbalanced bite has shown a decrease in eccentric strength of the knee when maloccluded.

Chewing is a mammalian behavior.  Carnivores generally chew very little.  Chewing stimulates the stomach acid and autonomic nervous system.

There has been influence of same side masseter muscle with the same side SCM muscle.

Chewing stimulates the sesorimotor cortex of the brain.  It activates the brains autonomic area.

Note from course:  People with low back pain don't know how to chew with their molars.

Practical Tip:  Chew your first 10 bites of any food, 10 on the back left molars and 10 on the back right.  

In the book "Jaws" by Kahn and Ehrlich, they outline what they call the hidden epidemic in youth jaw and teeth development.  Lack of chewing creates weak jaw muscles and doesn't allow room for the teeth and jaw to widen.  It's influence on fascial structure is very interesting.  It can lead to mouth breathing, which leads to poor airway development.  Interestingly there anecdotal observations with mouth breathing and things like increased nightmares, bed wetting and lack of good sleep.

The book contains on a chapter on GOPex (good oral posture exercise)

Some of the the takeaways of practical use were again.  Chew your food with mouth closed.  Even encouraging gum chewing with the mouth closed.

Practical Tip:  Read out loud with good punctuations.  This encourages nasal breathing.  Pause at full stop and take in a breath through the nose.  5-20 min of this per day.

You can play around with surgical tape on the mouth and do some fun games/activities which forces nasal breathing.

Practical Tip:  Always begin your swallow with the teeth of upper and lower jaws touching.  Consciously pause for at least a once second before the swallow.  This will allow the tongue to go the roof of the mouth.

Chewing is an autonomic activity.  We don't need to think about it to do it.  (unless it's painful).  Much like breathing.  But, like breathing, when we bring conscious thought to it, we can make some significant health and performance improvements.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Learning is Asking an Emotional Question

Growing up, if you asked me what learning meant, I would have answered that learning was the memorization of "stuff."  Ask me a question and I will repeat what I had "learned."  Ask me in a week, and I might not remember it anymore.  I got the A and moved on to the next piece of information to be memorized aka learned.

Is that really learning?

In college, I had the fortunate opportunity to have several, several teachers that didn't allow memorization to be tested.  Concepts were expected to be understood.  They couldn't be memorized.  It took several failed attempts to memorize super large quantities of data to change the pattern of my study process.  Concepts were understood, learned.

Is that really learning?

I had several opportunities to play sports in different settings.  From baseball and soccer,  to football, rugby and bobsled.  Skills were taught.  Techniques were practiced.  Practice until you can do them well.  Looking back, I realized I practiced till I could do a skill, without really an understanding of the why.

Is that really learning?

Taking a poll of my younger self.  I would have stated, I don't like school, I don't like reading, I don't enjoy "Learning."  I just want the end result.  Give me the answers.

Present day, one of my favorite things in life is reading, I'm not really in a Joy state if I'm not learning things, if I'm not pursuing something.

Pursuit.  Pursuing is an emotional thing.  Your whole being is involved.  It implies passion and thought and commitment.  My present self would go back and tell my younger self, you do love learning.  You just don't get what that means.  Learning is finding the secrets to the subject your interested in.  The answers to an emotional question.

What are the emotional questions?

My first emotional question was how do I play football in college.  As a 119lb freshman in High School, the answer was get bigger and faster.  So I learned about training.  I showed up and trained.  I asked questions.  I observed other athletes training.  I wrote every coach I could think of and asked how to train.  I experimented with training.  I devoured a lifestyle of training.  This bled into not only lifting weights and running, but I learned about other methods of training.  I remember writing Istvan Jvorak and learning and using his Complexes and not understanding how all of a sudden by lifting lighter and faster I put 4 more reps on my 225lb bench and 3 inches on my vertical in 12 weeks.  I read up on nutrition and supplements.  I read about hormones.  I learned about wave cycling.  But, I didn't know I was learning.  I was just pursuing an answer to a question.  I never said to myself.  I'm going to study new rep schemes tonight.  I'm going to study some biochemistry tomorrow.  It just happened.

My view point at this point in time is that a thing can't be learned if it doesn't come from an emotional question.  The answer will be superficial at best without.  You may know the answer, but only when the question is exactly what you studied.  Life very rarely gives the story book question.

I knew how to rehab a tendon a year and half ago.  After my own achllies tendon tore a year ago,  I pursued the answer to how to sprint again.  Now I KNOW how to rehab a tendon.  The intricacies of reps/timing/nutrition.  Tendon research.  Tendon researchers.

In 2013, my daughter was one.  I realized I couldn't squat deep anymore.  My mobility had deteriorated.    My emotional question was how do I regain my mobility.  Again, deep dived into mobility training and theories.  Functional Range Conditioning kept popping up.  Dr Andreo Spina, created a system.  An amazing process of principles.  I regained my hip mobility.  More importantly I learned about mobility training.

I don't think you necessarily have to have your own tendon failure to learn about tendons.  But, I do think there must be an emotional connection to your question.  Perhaps it's a friend, family member or patient that drives you into the pursuit.

A person picks up a bow and arrow and shoots it at a target.  They miss. They keep practicing.  They get better.  They start to love archery.  They ask the emotional question, How do I get better.  They learn about wind.  They learn some physics and geometry.  They start making their own arrows.  They study the history of the bow.  They practice breath control.  They test equipment.  They learn the bow and arrow.

Ask an Emotional Question.

Practically speaking we live an an amazing time for available information.  One of my favorite ways to spearhead an emotional question is search out a a concept or person with books/podcasts and articles and listen and read everything that person has done for several days/weeks.  Then if my pursuit is still calling me, you dive into the research papers and textbooks and see how to apply it.  

But again, those deep dives are coming from an emotional question.  Right now,  I have two questions that I'm asking.  One.  How do we create Biological Durability.

"Avoid inactivity of your organism as you would avoid severe illness and cultivate the endurance function as a pathway to biological durability."  Ernst van Aaken.

Two.  What do we know post cancer?  Valter Longo keeps coming up.

These are all my theories and thoughts, and maybe I'm the only one that learns this way.  It would be great if I could just pick up a topic and own it thoroughly, but I'm not wired that way.  I don't think I'm alone.  I do think that we can cheat the system though.  By simply asking better questions, finding that emotional connection, we can learn better.

Keep Learning.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Circadian Rhythm of Life and How to Enhance It

The weekend marks another spring forward time change.  Setting the clocks forward often means a loss of an hour of sleep for many people.  The reason many people have a hard time with time changes is because our bodies naturally adopt a certain ebb and flow to the sleep/wake cycle.  We can essentially train our self to fit our lifestyle.  This can be good and bad.

The good.  Humans greatest physical attribute is perhaps its ability to adapt to its environment.  Cold, hot, sea level, mountain living, city, country, much like a coyote, humans will figure it out and thrive. 

The bad.  We are so good at manipulating our environment to survive, we have altered our natural rhythms of life that we have built into our cell biology.  We are finding this to have some serious health consequences.  

First, some science.  Chronobiology is the study of circadian rhythms.  Humans have built in biological clocks (an innate timing device) in every tissue and every organ.   Biological clocks produce and control circadian rhythms.  There is a master switch in the brain that is composed of 20,000 neurons called the suprachiasmatic nucleus that controls the biological clocks.  This resides in the hypothalamus and receives input through the eyes.  This is an important distinction as this will show the significance and power of light.  

Light has the ability to turn on and off genes that control biological clocks.  Because of this powerful impact light has,  it becomes very important how much we get and when we get it.  To jump start a day, let sunlight hit your eyes.  Sunlight has blue light.  It creates a power trigger for alertness.  Equally important as the sun sets, eliminate or diminish all blue light to allow the body to start producing melatonin (sleepiness hormone).  This also coincides with a slight reduction in body temperature.   Staring at a computer or cell phone is just triggering the biological clocks that it still daytime.  In the absence of light, humans are still wired for around a 24 hours of sleep/wake.  Light just influences how we go about regulating other circadian rhythms in the body.  

Our natural circadian rhythm is built around a 24 hour cycle(day).  There are also other parts of our biology that have circadian rhythms in it.  One of the most important is cell metabolism or energy.  Every cell has an organelle called mitochondria in it.  Mitochondria are the power houses of energy production.  They have a fusion/fission pattern.  If this is disrupted, energy production is compromised.  This pattern is linked with circadian rhythm of the body.  How and when energy is produced is in direct relationship to the health of your rhythm.  Disrupt your circadian rhythms and disrupt your mitochondrial ability to produce energy. 

Performance can even be potentially thought of as having a rhythm.  It has been speculated that peak alertness is around 10am.  Coordination around 2pm and peak cardiovascular and strength around 5pm.  I have heard these numbers thrown around before but couldn't find much on the origins.  Peak body low temperature is around 4am and peak body high temperature is around 7pm.  Perhaps they were able to coordinate it with this.  I for one have never felt strong in the morning when lifting weights.

Other organs also operate with a circadian rhythm.  The liver is a prime example.  Liver enzymes that help to convert calories to energy are stopped being produced at night.  It is producing enzymes to store energy. To take in a large meal before sleeping then disrupts this natural rhythm.  Like light, food then becomes a powerful environmental trigger for supporting the natural circadian rhythm.  This is becoming known as time restricted feeding.  There have been many health benefits shown for creating a smaller window for eating.  Instead of 16 hours of eating, trying to get to 10-12 and even 8 hours.  For myself, I've been trying to do 10-12 as this allows me to still support biking/lifting and a social life.  

Skeletal muscle makes up 40% of all tissues in our bodies.  It also contains biological clocks that influence circadian rhythm.  The last decade has brought lots of research on studying how exercise influences this rhythm and whether there truly is an optimal time of day for exercise.  There have been many studies of mice that show that exercise influences and enhance the health of the biological clocks, but to date no consensus has been shown at what time or what is "best."  Most studies have been done with endurance activities, but resistance exercises have also shown to have an impact on the genes and gene expression of the biological clocks.  

As humans we have built in rhythms.  These rhythms drive almost all aspects of our physiology.  Because we are so amazingly adaptable, we can fight against these natural rhythms for years, perhaps decades, before any "wear and tear" or signs of distress show.  There is a difference between adequate and optimal though.  Science is in agreement, for optimal health, the circadian rhythm must be respected and nourished.  

The 3 most powerful tools we control are LIGHT, FOOD and EXERCISE.  Establish routines for all three.  There will be arguing over the minutia, don't let this paralyze you.  Get 7-9 hours.  Eat in a certain window of time consistently.  Try to exercise everyday around the same time when possible.  Following these three principles will give perhaps the best foundation for a healthier lifestyle.    

Friday, February 1, 2019

7 Ways To Train Your Grip

Since the earliest strongman days, feats of grip strength have often been demonstrated.  Lifting weird or unstable objects have been synonymous with strength.  Many sports, from rock climbing to wrestling, rowing to Jiu-Jitsu,  require extraordinary grip strength to be successful.   Not only is grip a requirement for sports, it has a very high correlation with health and lifespan.  Grip strength continues to show a high correlation with low cardiovascular risk and longer lifespan.  Improvements in grip strength have been shown to decrease Blood Pressure by up to 10-15 units of measurement.  This was studied after early fighter pilots were passing out at higher speeds.  Pilots that gripped the joystick with an intense squeeze stayed conscious.  This act kept the blood flow to the brain adequate.

 Quite often in certain lifts, it is the grip that gives out first.  A secure grips gives the brain/body positive feedback that allows more power to be generated.  The grip is neurologically tied to the rotator cuff muscles.  Often the first thing I will do with a patient or athlete with a rotator cuff injury is to find safe ways to train the grip.

JL Holdsworth owner of Spot Athletics in Columbus OH did a great presentation at the 2018 SWIS in Toronto on training grip.  He outlined 7 ways to train it.  JL is wold champion power lifter and also competed at the highest level in grip competitions.  I was fortunate enough to meet him at a RPR seminar a few years ago and he did an excellent job presenting then as well.

7 Grip Training Methods

1.  Support.  This is your classic hold in hands for time.  Your classic deadlift or farmers carry is a good example.

2.  Crush.  The handshake.  Captains of Crush is a common tool.  The fingers are the movers and the thumb is support.

3.  Pinch.  Holding two 10lb weight plates together and not letting them fall apart.

4.  Friction.  This is something that can slide through your hands.  Climbing a rope.  Doing pull ups with a towel.

5.  Clamping/Crimping.  This is done almost exclusively with the fingers applying pressure into the palms.  Think rock climbing on small crimps and jersey tackling in football.

6. Forearms.  Flexion and Extension as well as pronation and supination.  The old school wrist roller held at arms length.  Holding a dumbbell and doing pronation and supination around the elbow joint.

7.  Wrist.  Ulnar and Radial deviation.  The wrist is the only thing moving.  A common way is to use a hammer and control the uneven weighted object into radial and ulnar movements.

Grip Training is not often scene in many strength programs.  As you can see there are several styles of grip training and each style has to numerous of examples to list.  But, what can't be overstated is the health impacts developing a strong grip can have and also its importance in sports.  For these reasons, grip should be given a higher level of importance then it usually is given.