Thursday, July 29, 2010

Does Chronic Back Pain Make You Stupid-er?

I was reading a few weeks back and came across this interesting study about Chronic Back Pain.  Basically they took 26 people with chronic back pain.  For every year of chronic back pain they had an average loss of 1.3 cm cubed loss of gray cortical matter.  Patients with chronic back pain had  5-11% less neocortical gray matter volume than control subjects. This amount was the about the amount of the gray matter volume lost in 10-20 years.

I'm sure with most studies you have to consider a few things.  There is awesome new research showing how exercise and aerobic fitness can increase new brain synapses and brain health.  So the first thing that comes to mind is were these subjects sedentary?  Could the lack of movement or exercise, if it was applicable, contribute a large portion to the decrease gray matter rather then just the chronic pain?

Either way, chronic back pain is something that should not be put up with.  Find some help. Get a good hands on manual therapist and start incorporating smart exercises that will help the back for the long term.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Bike Fit and Problems That Occur

When you start having little aches and pains that occur on the bike one thing to look at is bike fit.  For athletes that spend multiple hours at a time on the bike it's imperative that you get a professional bike fit.  The money you pay is well worth the aches/pain it saves your body and is probably cheaper then seeing someone like myself to routinely fix those said aches/pains.  

When someone comes in with a recurring type problem that only shows up with cycling vs say running, I always ask when your last bike fit was.  70% of the time, a qualified bike fitter, gets rid of the problem.  It's somewhat like chiropractic/manual therapy.  Fix the source of the problem, not just the symptom.  That being said, here's a few great tips for the recreational rider with some aches and pains on the bike.

1.  If a saddle height is off by being too high this can cause posterior knee pain and having a saddle too low can cause anterior knee pain.

2.  Saddle position in terms of fore and aft.  Simply nose pointing down or up.  If it's pointing down, it can shift the hips forward and cause general knee pain.  Having the nose pointing slightly up can cause the lumbar spine to be under stress and give low back pain.  

3.  Pedal position should be right over the ball of the foot, which should be right over the front of the knee.  If this is off, you will be not be using your muscles optimally.  

For a great article on bike fit read THIS.  It's got a lot of tips on seat angle, crank length, cadence, all towards what has been shown to maximize VO2max and muscular power.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How diet soda causes weight gain

This is such a great informative video. I posted it last week on my facebook account, but figured I would post it here as well.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Motivation: Why it is Important

Motivation is a powerful thing.  I forget where I heard this story, but I've heard it before, and just recently heard it again.  A man gets locked in a storage freezer, one of those big ones.  He gives up hope and starts to write on it, getting colder.  A bit later, writes, freezing, hands going numb.  Even later he writes, can't feel anything.  He dies.  He's found and it's discovered that the freezer was broken, it never got colder then like 59 degrees F.  He had plenty of air, he should have lived.  His mind convinced him he was dying.

What you think had profound impact on your reality and your life.   You can't say if you think positive that great things will always happen, that's unrealistic.  But there is pretty substantial data to say if you think negative all the time, great things will certainly come slower, if it all.  Whether you think you talk to yourself or not, you do.  It's estimated you speak 800-1400 words a minute to yourself.  Better fill it with positive words.  Words paint pictures.  Just as if your staring at it.  Your mind doesn't know the difference between the two.

A Vietnam POW was in prison for 5 years.  Every day he woke up and to keep himself sane, would play 18 holes in his head of his favorite golf course.  He would imagine every swing, every situation.  He pictured himself walking the course.  He read the green.   When he was finally released he went to that golf course and shot 5 shots better then he ever had.  He had been in a 5x5 cell for 5 years!

Motivation can help you paint better pictures, that's why it's important.  Think great words, paint great pictures.  Expect a great week!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Recommendation and Grand Rapids Mountain Biking Rocks

This months book recommendation goes to James M. Tabor's  Blind Descent.  This was a really engrossing read about the subculture of deep cave exploration.  In a way it's a little like mountain climbing but only in the other direction.  It had some really interesting insights in how the human body reacts to being deep in the earth, with out natural light, for weeks.  We're talking miles deep, miles.  Some of the innovations and research that is going in with caves and exploration is helping everywhere from NASA to new drugs being developed from the microbes found deep in the earth.

It's a bit science, a bit adventure, a bit of a race between to superpowers, as one American and one Russian are competing to find the worlds deepest cave.  I have never had the desire to climb Everest or in this case explore Cheve (the deepest cave in North America), but I've always enjoyed reading about the insights and adventure that they inspire.

On another note, I just received my monthly Outside Magazine and was pleasantly surprised that Grand Rapids, MI was named as one of the 25 best towns to live for adventure sports.  Grand Rapids made it as the best Mountain Biking.  In 2004 IMBA rated MI as a B+.  The same as New Mexico, Alaska and a few others.  2004 was the last year they did such a ranking.  Alls I can say is way to go Grand Rapids, I plan to hit the trails this weekend.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cluster Training

Cluster training is one of my favorite tools to use in weight training.  The old saying you can train heavy (intensity) or long (volume) but you can't train both is true, but cluster training starts to blur it very slightly.

A few examples.  Workout 1.  Lift your  5 rep max.  Pause 8-12 seconds, rep out a few more reps, rest 8-12 seconds, rep out a few more.  Your goal is to get 10 reps of your 5 rep max.  It's a great stimulus to put on strength and size.

Sample workout 2.  This is my favorite.  Find your 3 rep max.  Rest 10 seconds.  Do a single.  Rest 10 seconds.  Do another single....etc.  Try to get around 5 more reps.  Quit when the rep becomes more of a grind instead of a steady positive concentric.

Try this when you're trying to bump up your Max or when you have a plateau in your training.  I believe cluster training works so well it will be the norm for most programs in the future.  It is a Central Nervous System (CNS) intensive workout, so I would only recommend this once a week at maximum.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Motivation: Dean Karnazes in Holland, MI

This past weekend I had a chance to hear Dean Karnazes speak in Holland, MI.  He talked about his beginning running days and how he has started to do a little stand up paddling as a cross training tool.  He was actually in Holland for a long board competition.

If you have never heard his story it's pretty amazing.  At the age of 30 he was out drinking celebrating his 30th birthday.  He came to the conclusion he wanted a different path, "I had no challenges."  He left the bar through off his clothes, found an old pair of running shoes and ran 30 miles that night.  The ultramarathon man was born.  Dean has gone on to do some astounding feats.  Badwater 9x.  82 straight hours of running.  50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days.  Take a minute to digest that one.  How many have actually exercised 50 straight days!

While I wouldn't take away any training advice from him, he admits this openly, "Don't try to do what I do.  Don't listen to my advice."  Lets just say it out loud, he's a freak of nature.  A few years back they did a gait analysis on him.  The conclusion, he has a perfect foot strike, the perfect gait, the perfect alignment.

I did take away he kept going back to his alignment.  My alignment is always on, I'm always balanced, that's why I have never been hurt.  So before big runs, big bikes, get your alignment checked.  Posture, vertebral alignment, muscle balance, the keys to staying healthy.

The other thing to take away, the body is capable of much more then we give it credit for.  His future plans, run a marathon in every country of the world in one calendar year in 2012.  For those counting that's 205 marathons.  Lets hope we can all exercise 205x in one year.  Get out there and get moving!

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Goings On in Grand Rapids

Last night I got to present to a group of triathletes at the Striders running store.  It was great to be able to try to answer peoples questions on training and recovery.  Hopefully everyone took away one nugget that will help their summer go a little better in terms of training and performance.  Many were looking forward to doing there first 1/2 ironman, with a few getting ready to do one of the big ones later in the year.

After I headed over to see Matisyahu in concert at the Intersection.  I've been wanting to see him for quite some time.  He put on a great show.

Tonight I head to Holland, MI to hear Dean Karnazes speak.  The ultramarathon man.  50 Marathons in 50 days in 50 states.  Should be interesting.  Think he has any recovery tricks or is just a freak of nature?  I'm guessing a little of both.

Saturday is Rock Hard Rugby 7's tournament here in Grand Rapids.  The boys have been training hard here at the Train Out Pain Gym on Monday nights.  Hopefully they can put up a great showing.  I here there may be 60 teams in attendance.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Val Slide vs EZ Sliders

After playing around with the Val Slide this last month, I've become a fan.  You can do a lot of different moves with it and can travel with it real easy.  A patient tipped me off that he got a knock off thing to help move furniture after seeing some of the video's I put up.  I looked around and picked up these EZ Sliders from Bed Bath and Beyond.  You can get a pack of 4 for 15 dollars as opposed to the Val Slide (green in the picture) for 38 dollars.  I put them to the test yesterday and they work perfect.  So save yourself a few bucks.  But definitely a great tool to have in your home gym or workout travel bag

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Outdoor Athlete Magazine Article

Check out July's issue of Outdoor Athlete Magazine.  I wrote an article called Muscle Imbalances and Mountain Biking.  If you're not from Michigan click on the link above for access.  It's about muscle imbalances I see in many of the Mountain Bikers I treat and also some of the exercises I use with Danielle Musto, pro biker for Salsa bikes.  Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Motivation

Can't is the word that is foe to ambition,
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
Its prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill.
Hate it, with hatred that's deep and undying,
For once it is welcomed 'twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
And answer this demon by saying: "I can."--Guest

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Great Post from Jason Ferruggia

This is a great post from Jason Ferruggia.  It's definitely worth your time to read.  It's 53 points to consider to get the most of your training.  Jason is a top Strength Coach of Renegade Gym out in NJ.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tibialis Anterior Function and Discussion

The Tibialis Anterior is the thick muscle on the front part of the shin. It is the primary dorsiflexor of the foot. Last years Performance Enhancement Seminar in Indianapolis, Mike Robertson, stated that it's the least trained movement in training.

Anatomically it originates off the upper lateral half of the tibia bone and off the interosseus membrane. It runs down and inserts on the medical cuneiform and first metatarsal. It functions to hold up the medial longitudinal arch and dorsiflex/invert the foot. It forms a fascial sling with the peroneal muscles as well. It is innervated by the deep peroneal nerve, L4,L5.

Functionally it resupinates the foot thus helping hold the arch up. If it doesn't perform that function well, the deeper calf structures such as tibialis posterior take up the slack and can in turn develop deep knots and tightness. Again, one of the prime maxims of therapy, treat the body, not the site of pain.

I came across a great article entitled the Neuro-biomechanics of Sprinting. In the paper it stated that faster sprinters sent the message to the anterior muscles to dorsiflex faster, and slower sprinters sent the message much later. Some of the faster sprinters even sent the message during the midstance phase. They state. "This finding further validates the concept of anticipatory firing or reprogramming the athlete's nervous system to send the dorsiflexion message sooner."

From a therapy standpoint, I like to try to remove all adhesions in the tib. ant. muscle as well as the extensor hallucis muscle.  From a strength coach view, I'm playing with different ideas on how to get that neural reprogramming in the weight room. Can it even be done? Do you have any drills/exercise you can do in the weight room to facilitate better dorsiflexion that will carry over to sprinting?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday Motivation: Prowler Pushes in Grand Rapids

Prowler pushes are about as hardcore an exercise as you can do. Power development, conditioning, it does it all. This is my sister in law demonstrating outside out my office in Grand Rapids. She has Cerebral Palsy (CP) which effects her gait. I guess you can call this an adaptive exercise, but she does it so well, it's just exercise! She has been working this summer on getting her legs stronger before she heads off to Albion College in the fall.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Running is a Skill

  Picture this scenario.  Two people talking about getting in shape. "I'm going to get in shape, think I'm going to go to the lake and swim a half mile."

The friend asks, "Have you ever swam before?"
"Well no, but how hard can it be?"
Can you picture the consequences of this scenario.  Not pretty.  Swimming is a skill.  It needs to be learned, practiced and refined.

Now insert running for the word swimming.  How many people just out of the blue, say, "I think I'm going to start running."
They run a few hard earned miles over the course of a few weeks or even months.  Various things start to hurt, and they decide to give it up.  "I guess I'm just not a runner."

Running is a skill, learn to look at it that way.  Just because you can put one foot in front of another doesn't mean you know how to run.  Just like you wouldn't dream of just jumping in the lake and giving it a go if you didn't know how to swim, get help with running.

Learn to look at running as a skill that is developed rather then something that is pushed through. Why do you think you see Elite runners doing drills before they run?  Sure it's part of the warm up, but they are also breaking down running into individual components that can be worked on and refined.  Instead of buying the most expensive running shoes, spend the rest to hire a local cross country or track coach for an hour a few times a month, to teach you some drills and tell you what to work on.  It will save you some frustration, injury, and make it much more enjoyable.