God cares about our physical health but he cares for our souls a million times more. Keeping these things in balance means we understand that God is more concerned with the condition of our hearts than the way we look on the outside. This truth is something I need to come back to often and find rest in knowing my soul is of highest importance to God. 📷: @beckahueth
I've worked in the fitness industry for over 10 years now and been thinking on how we as women are faced with a lot of pressure around physical beauty. The fashion, ideal body shape, diets and workouts have all changed and I can't really think of a time when women did not define themselves by some ideal of physical beauty. Though the definition of beauty changes over time one thing remains constant - it is always a definition of beauty that is just beyond our reach. We want what we cannot have. If curvy is hard, we want curvy. If thin is hard, we want to be thin and this expectation of physical perfection hits us early on in life and often.
I was reminded as I sat in a Hawaiian church last Sunday that God loves us exactly where we are. For real! He Does! Not the skinnier version. Not the stronger version. We are image bearers of God. He made us just the way we are, in His image and likeness. This truth is so much more powerful, hopeful and encouraging than any worldly, societal pressure making me think some definition of physical perfection will bring ultimate happiness. That's a lie. Beauty is fleeting and our health will not last forever.
In this as in all things, there is hope and good news for the believer: one day we will enter Heaven and be free from our self-loathings and live in harmony with our physical looks. In the meantime we should absolutely steward the gifts of our physical bodies but for the sake of health and wellness not beauty.
Looking for a meaningful gift idea for someone this holiday season? Wellness By Little is offering personal training single session and package deals for new clients. We offer private and group training sessions for people of all ages and exercise backgrounds. In addition to personal training we also offer health coaching. Give the gift of health this season. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for pricing info.
May you have a joy-filled, healthy and meaningful holiday season!
- Wellness By Little
Well folks, it's going to get real here for a minute. There's no food pictures, recipes or exercise routines in this post. It's a little different from the usual WBL posts but absolutely still health and wellness related - enjoy!
My husband and I just got married in June (whoo hoo!) and this past wedding season thousands of couples have also said their "I do's" and started this life long journey with their partner. Leading up to my wedding day I've learned how totally sacred, sweet and beautiful marriage is. It is two people CHOOSING each other for the rest of their lives. It's heartbreaking that our culture views marriage as easily disposable and that divorce is not only acceptable but a likely reality for many couples. The day I said "I do" I freely chose to commit to Nathan (AKA The Baron of Ballard - he requested that I say that...) through any circumstance.
In our life together we will experience the deepest joy, intimacy, and love possible and we will also experience hurt, sadness, loneliness, misunderstanding, anger, frustration and emptiness in our marriage at times. I think and am learning, reading and discovering after previous relationships that marriage calls us to suffer well. We are not supposed to crumble in adversity despite the world telling us adversity and unhappiness means our marriages are failing. We are broken humans living in an imperfect world and in desperate need of salvation outside of ourselves. My heart and all of our hearts are prone to wander. As New York columnist David Brooks points out in his book The Road to Character, "people tend to shoot for happiness but feel the most formed through suffering." I can relate.
The good news is that marriage is not supposed to make us happy - so I can let go of that expectation! I realize that of course happiness is a byproduct of marrying someone you love but marriage is supposed to make us holy. Marriage sharpens us. Brings oneness. The purpose of marriage is not to experience the "happily ever after" - regardless of what we see on social media, on TV and in movies. Every couple has a side that's not shown publicly and comparison will truly rob us of joy in our marriages.
Investing in your partner by having the courage to confess your heart felt struggles (that one has taken me a few relationships and lots of practice to learn), asking for forgiveness, choosing to forgive, seeing the best in your partner (rather than assuming the worst), sacrificing yourself and your needs for your partner, being kind and lovingly pursuing their heart will point them to truth and ultimately result in an intimacy that will strengthen your bond and grow you deeper into relationship with God and one another. I learned later on in my 20's that my partner will never, ever fulfill me... The most unloving thing I could do is walk into my marriage with Nathan and put that expectation on him. When I've changed something in myself I've seen my relationship start to change.
One of the best pieces of marriage advice I got from a couple was about sin in marriage. When your partner wrongs you look past the hurt it caused YOU and pursue their heart. What led them to this place? How can I point them back to truth? My prayer for married couples is that God would give us the strength, maturity and love towards our spouses to earnestly walk alongside them by bringing light to a potentially dark situation - even when it's the hardest thing to do.
One thing that's been really fruitful in our marriage is Sunday night weekly recaps where we have a series of questions we ask about each others past week. We've adapted this from #beating50percent:
1.) what's something that brought you joy this week?
2.) what's something that was hard?
3.) how can I be praying for you this upcoming week?
4.) what's one specific thing I can do for you this week?
5.) is there anything that's gone unsaid, convictions, confessions or unresolved hurt that we need to address?
6.) what's a dream, thought or vision that's been on the forefront of your mind this week?
Although I'm fully satisfied when I bring a lunch with me to work or can stop by home for a lunch break it's not always possible especially when the day is busy with back to back appointments. The fantastic news is that we live in a wonderful city filled with healthy, nutritious and fresh foods right at our fingertips. I wanted to share a few of my favorite pit stops while on the road!
1.) Evolution Fresh (shown above)
I recommend their All greens scramble with eggs, broccoli, kale, lemon tahini and add the avocado and Siracha for an extra kick.
2.) Seattle Salads (www.seattlesalads.com)
You really can't go wrong with any Salad from here. My personal favorite is a shaker salad with quinoa, kale, spinach, gorgonzola, red cabbage, red onion, bacon bits and strawberry mint dressing.
3.) Whole Foods
They have a fully loaded salad bar, indian style foods, a variety of delicious soups, sushi, taco bowls, freshly made noodle bowls - they have it all!
4.) Marination Station (Alki, Capitol Hill & SLU locations)
I love their fish or spicy pork tacos and at $2.75 per taco you can't go wrong. Two tacos and you'll be satisfied. Every taco comes with fresh cabbage slaw and corn tortillas.
One of the newest professions in the healthcare market is health and nutrition coaches. The increase in demand for health coaches comes as no surprise with the rise of preventable diseases in America and the gap between patient and doctor communication. Health coaches help bridge the gap by offering more in-depth support where other health care professionals fall short. Health coaches are making an incredible impact on the well being of individuals in our local and global communities. On a large scale, clients receive one-on-one support to help reduce, manage and/or prevent chronic illnesses at a much lower cost than with physicians or nurses. Coaches are an integral piece to transforming America from a disease management system into a real healthcare system.
Wellness By Little believes that a health coaches primary role is to:
- Help people align their behaviors with their deeper values.
- Facilitate behavior change by esteeming people through empathetic listening.
- Create actionable strategies for achieving specific goals around ones health.
Here are 4 things you should know about Wellness By Little health coaching:
1.) The client is the expert. We do not tell our clients what to do or how to do it. The client discovers a vision that aligns with their own values and the coaches role is to empower and support clients in their behavior change journey.
2.) How do we actually integrate change? Most people seek the help of a health coach when they feel burnt out or stuck. They've tried to make changes but have found barriers, resistance and challenges. When clients feel this way it's often because they haven't explored the mental, emotional or spiritual factors that affect their health. When we dig a little deeper to the heart or root cause of something it's often here where resistance can emerge... because exploring these areas can be intimidating and scary. A coach should be able to sit in this space with you and feel comfortable with the uncomfortable stuff that comes up. We utilize several behavior change models such as the Transtheoretical Stages
of Change, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) Core Competencies & The 10 Tenets of Whole Health to best serve our clients.
3.) Time Commitment. We have 6 and 12 week programs. Clients meet weekly either in-person or over the phone and sessions range from a half hour to an hour.
4.) Referrals. It's important to note that the scope of our practice is limited. We are not medically trained or licensed to diagnose or treat illnesses. At any point during the coaching contract, the coach can refer client to the appropriate licensed or medical professional.
Have you ever set a New Years resolution to get in shape or trained for an event like a triathlon or wedding? Did you succeed in accomplishing your goals because you devised a plan and maintained a routine schedule?
In the world of fitness, there is more information at our fingertips then ever. There are fitness experts, Instagram Fitness Guru’s, ample Crossfit gyms, yoga studios and a variety of classes taught at athletic clubs. While all of this seems to make exercising incredibly convenient for us, we still have difficulty reaching and maintaining our goals.
Rather than sharing a list of exercises you should do to get in shape or posting a photo of some abs you someday hope to have, we believe that when you align your behaviors with your deeper values, true lasting change can occur. This requires a more personal, introspective approach to your health:
1.) List out 3 goals you’re currently working on in order of importance (These can be any health goals. For example: smoking cessation, lose 15lbs, gain 15lbs muscle mass, prepping meals, etc). After each goal, reflect on what has worked in the past and what made it harder to achieve that goal.
2.) Visioning. If you could create a vision statement centered around the ideal person you’d like to be someday, what would it be? Vision statements are intended to be long term being statements that start with “I am.” When you’re done writing your vision give yourself a % of completion for today’s date. 0%= not this person at all 100%= I am this person
Sample Vision Statement: I am a person who stewards my body well by eating in moderation and exercising regularly. 45% completion on 07/30/15
3.) In the next 7 days what are 3 baby steps you can take to work towards your vision/goals? These goals need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-oriented (or SMART). If I were to take the vision statement from above, a few goals might be:
- I will do in-home strength training workouts on M/W/S for 60 minutes with my trainer.
- On Sunday afternoon I will look at 4 recipes that I can make for dinner M-Th this upcoming week.
- I will go grocery shopping on Sunday evening for M-Th dinners.
4.) Lastly, rate your goals on % confidence and % of importance.
- I will do in home strength training workouts on M/W/S for 60 minutes with my trainer.
85% confidence / 100% importance
- On Sunday afternoon I will look at 4 recipes that I can make for dinner M-Th this upcoming week.
90% confidence / 80% importance
- I will go grocery shopping on Sunday evening for M-Th dinners.
95% confidence / 100% importance
If you’re below a 70% confidence, how might you alter that goal to raise your confidence? These goals are designed to be SMART so that you experience small weekly successes that empower you to move closer towards your vision.
Our professional recommendation is to track your progress for 6 weeks. Every week, reflect on your previous weeks goals and reset new weekly goals. At the end of week 6, rate your overall % of completion towards your vision statement. Have you made progress? If so, how does that feel? If not, what were the barriers to change?
Creating your own pathway to success has proven to work for many of our clients. It’s often easier to look at a magazine or the internet and hear how someone else was successful but we are not all the same people, with the same circumstances, with the same goals. Embrace your uniqueness by doing what you know will lead you to personal success when you dig a little deeper!
Tired of doing the same boring workout at the gym?
Switching up your workout and doing as many different types of activities is an effective way to increase overall fitness. Let’s take a look at a generic workout for example using the elliptical for 30 minutes 3 times a week. This routine is better than certainly none and if you are elderly, have joint pain or an injury/disease disabling you from higher intensity exercise, sustaining a low impact activity such as the elliptical is the right choice. Otherwise after about a month the body recognizes this routine as a baseline and the heart is not being challenged through interval training.
A healthy heart rate (HR) is anywhere between 60-80bpm at rest. During exercise the HR needs to increase and decrease multiple times. First off, ask yourself am I pushing myself hard enough (most likely you’ll know the answer to this question) and secondly are you bringing your HR up and then back down continuously through the workout?
Here’s an easy calculation to figure out if you’re pushing yourself enough and reaching a HR that will give you the best results for your time spent exercising. To find an approximate estimate of your maximum HR take 220 minus your age. For example: 220- 40 years old= 180bpm. That number is an average of the maximum number of times your heart can beat per minute.
From here we can look at the different levels of intensity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that a moderate level intensity ranges from 50-70% of max HR whereas 70-85% is considered high intensity. Let’s try a calculation for moderate level intensity at 65% of max HR. To work at 65% of your maximum capacity take your max HR and times it by .65%. Ex: 180bpm X .65%= 117bpm. Now lets do the same but at 85% intensity. 180bpm X .85%= 127.5bpm. To be working at 65%-85% of you max HR, a person of 40 years must keep the HR in between 117-127.5bpm. Maintaining a moderate to high intensity pace regardless of what type of exercise will give you the best results and now you know why! Next time you’re at the gym take note of your HR whether it be manually using your carotid/radial artery (count for 15 seconds, times by 4 to give you your beats per minute) or with a HR monitor. Workout smart so you don’t waste precious time at the gym!
The Truth About Blood Pressure, Heart Rate, Cholesterol and Glucose.
1. Blood pressure
RANGE: A healthy blood pressure is 120/80.
INFORMATION: Blood pressure measures the force of blood against the arterial walls. When the heart beats faster or harder than normal and there is an increase in blood volume (mostly due to a diet high in sodium), the force of blood increases therefore raising the blood pressure. Anything above 120/80 can be related with a diet high in sodium (salt). Processed and packaged foods and fast food restaurants offer foods with a high sodium content typically because the food is designed to have a long shelf life so they preserve it with sodium.
PREVENTION: To decrease blood pressure stay away from fast food restaurants, packaged and processed foods.
2. Heart Rate
RANGES: A healthy heart is 60-80bpm although below 60 is even better if you are a healthy individual. For example, Lance Armstrong’s heart beats 34bpm at rest.
INFORMATION: If your heart rate is above 80bpm, it means that at rest your heart is working incredibly hard to pump blood to required areas. The long term affects of a heart chronically hard at work can be detrimental. During exercise the heart rate will increase naturally but at rest, the heart shouldn’t have to work hard to do its job of distributing blood.
PREVENTION: Drinking plenty of water can help heart rate stay in the healthy range as well as exercising.
RANGES: Total cholesterol in the healthy range is less than 200. HDL healthy range is 60 or greater and LDL 100-129 is considered healthy. Triglycerides should be under 150. INFORMATION: Now most likely you’ve heard about good and bad cholesterol but what’s what and how does cholesterol have an affect on the body? Cholesterol is actually a necessity for multiple functions in the body but excessive amounts of cholesterol have been linked to cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and the risk of stroke. LDL is the bad cholesterol while HDL is the good cholesterol. These two types of cholesterol work synergistically. If HDL is high that will help lower LDL and here’s how. In layman’s terms, HDL is essentially acting a garbage truck, going around and picking up all the excess LDL or plaque within arteries. The more garbage trucks (HDL) your bloodstream carries, the less plaque buildup you will have.
PREVENTION: The #1 way to increase your HDL count is to exercise. Cholesterol is found in animal derived foods such as meats and dairy. Trying to stay away from dairy and sticking to lean meats such as chicken or turkey will reduce your chances of having high cholesterol.
RANGES: A healthy glucose level is 70-100mg/dl in the fasting state. 70-125mg/dl if non-fasting.
WHAT: Glucose levels above 100mg/dl (fasting) means that either there’s too much sugar in the diet or your body can’t efficiently process it, which then causes blood glucose levels to rise. The result of the body not processing blood glucose properly is type II diabetes.
PREVENTION: By consuming whole grains instead of white or enriched grain/pasta/cereals and by increasing physical activity glucose levels can become more stable.
Starting the Day in a Healthy Way
By Ellyn Erving
If you are thinking about making some healthy enhancements to your life, starting small can be a great way to find and maintain motivation. Here are four healthy habits to incorporate into your morning routine. You can pick one that resonates with you and ignore the rest, or you can add all into your morning starting tomorrow.
1. Drinking 16oz of Water
Drinking water right when you wake up has multiple health benefits such as kick-starting your metabolism, waking up your gut for smooth bowel movements, and helping your body to flush out toxins. Hydrating in the morning will help your skin to glow and encourage your body and brain to wake up for a productive day.
2. 60 Seconds of Morning Stretches
Ever notice how your body just wants to be stretched right after waking up? Try reaching your arms up overhead and bending forward into a hamstring stretch. Doing some light stretching in the morning helps to wake your body up and provides an energizing feeling.
3. Set the Alarm 5 Minutes Earlier
Although it might feel amazing at the time, hitting the snooze button and getting those extra 5 minutes of sleep is not worth the rush it creates when you realize how little time you have to get ready for the day. Try setting an intention to wake up 5 minutes earlier than normal so you can go through your morning routine at a leisurely pace to reduce morning stress.
4. Invest in Breakfast
You have heard it before, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but sometimes despite your best efforts this meal just doesn’t fit into your morning. One solution is to cook when you do have time and have a breakfast ready to go. Try cooking a veggie frittata in a cupcake tray so you can grab one serving for your morning commute. You can also purchase healthy breakfast bars at PCC, Whole Foods, or your local health food store. Be sure to check the sugar content and make sure it is below 10g per serving to avoid a mid-morning energy crash.
With summer here, it's time to think about how we treat the outside of our bodies, not just the inside. Skin is the largest organ in the body and will absorb whatever we put on it. We've been told over and over that pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones and antibiotics are all toxic to the body and the mainstream sunscreens we all grew up using are loaded with chemicals.
Sunscreen is supposed to protect us from harmful UV radiation from the sun, but as more people use sunscreen, skin cancer incidences continue to increase. This fact alone has to make you wonder if sunscreen really provides skin cancer protection or if the chemicals in them are actually contributing to causing skin cancer? Some studies have shown that sunscreens do in fact protect us from some types of skin cancers but other studies show that sunscreens have actually contributed to the risk of some of the worst forms of skin cancer. Despite the evidence going back and fourth about sunscreen, for me personally, I wouldn't eat toxic chemicals so why would I allow them on my skin?
With all the hundreds of sunscreen products available today it can be confusing to know what to look for.
Below is a list of safe sunscreens
- Badger http://www.badgerbalm.com/c-24-natural-sunscreen.aspx
- Seventh Generation http://www.seventhgeneration.com/search/node/sunscreen
- Think Sport http://thinkbabybottles.3dcartstores.com/Safe-Sunscreen_c_22.html
- John Masters http://site.johnmasters.com/sun.htm
- Aubrey http://www.aubrey-organics.com/Category/40_1/SPF.aspx
- Raw Elements http://www.rawelementsusa.com/
- Sunology http://www.sunology.com/
How to pick a safe sunscreen
- Look for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide based mineral sunscreens, which do not penetrate the skin and provide UVA protection against the sun’s most damaging rays.
- Choose non-nano products that do not have small particles that can absorb into skin.
- Choose sunscreens that are unscented or use essential oils as fragrance.
- Pick lotion based sunscreens with water resistance vs spray or aerosol.
- Pick broad spectrum sunscreens that protect against UVA and UVB rays.
- Choose sunscreen products that are rated 0-2 in the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide
What to watch out for with unsafe sunscreens
Oxybenzone - this is a hormone disrupting chemical which penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. It is the most popular ingredient in chemical based sunscreens and only blocks UVB ray (sun’s good rays that provide vitamin D production), not UVA which are the most free radical damaging rays. Avoid any sunscreen that has this chemical at all costs, especially for children.
Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate) – A 2009 study by U.S. government scientists released by the National Toxicology Program found when this is applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight, it may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions.
Sure it may make the product smell nice, but this is a petroleum based product that is linked to organ toxicity and allergies.
The FDA does not regulate SPF higher than 50 and there’s no scientific proof they work better than lower SPF. Many of the higher SPFs do not provide any additional protection and studies have suggested that users are exposed to as many or more ultraviolet rays as those who use lower-SPF products.
Sprays or Powders
Generally speaking, sprays and powders have additional chemicals added to them for performance purposes. These additional chemicals are usually not something you want to be spraying on your body and can be toxic to the lungs. Besides, remember sunscreen is formulated for your skin, not your lungs. Many of the side effects of sprays and powders on the lungs are not tested before being approved.
Popular Conventional Brands
Aveeno, Banana Boat, Coppertone Sport, Coppertone, Bull Frog, Neutragena, Storebrands (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens), Hawaiian Tropic and many other popular brands are rated the worst in terms of safety in the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide.
I am Ellyn Erving and am both a Personal Trainer and Health Coach for Wellness by Little. After spending time in the corporate world, I garnered a deep understanding of how important, yet challenging, it can be to find time in your day to cater to your own health and wellness. I love working for Wellness by Little because quality is never overshadowed by convenience; in fact, clients get both!
My philosophy of health and fitness is derived from the idea that what the body and mind can accomplish together is what makes humans beautiful. I train with the functional fitness school of thought, meaning that I like to use movement to make people stronger and more energized in their everyday lives.
I have always been a multi-sport athlete including volleyball, cross-country, soccer, and track and field. My collegiate track career made me a four time Southern California Conference Champion in the Long and Triple Jump, and a Track and Field All-American. I have an extensive background in CrossFit and earned my Level-1 Certificate in order to keep learning about ways to train people of all fitness levels.
In August (2015) I will graduate from Vera University as a Certified Health and Wellness Coach. The coaching aspect is something often forgotten in the world of health, yet a holistic, understanding, and non-judgmental view of our daily activity is vital for reaching our full health potential. Wellness Coaching meshes seamlessly with Personal Training because of the personalized dynamic it adds to the training relationship.
In my spare time I like to practice yoga for both the mental and physical benefits. I am a life-long student and can frequently be found reading on my couch or at an overly trendy Seattle coffee shop. I enjoy running, scouting out farmers markets, lifting weights, and talking about Anthropology.
I’m Mary Little, owner of Wellness By Little! Growing up in West Seattle, I participated in a variety of activities from gymnastics, soccer, track and dance to a long family history of exploring the Pacific NW outdoors.
My motivator behind living a vibrant, active lifestyle ignited when I decided to do my high school senior project on sustainable agriculture. Around that time, a friend told me about Bastyr University’s Exercise Science and Wellness program, which ultimately stemmed my personal interest in stewarding my body well and a strong desire to teach others how to do the same.
As apart of my program at Bastyr, I completed a 400 hour internship at the Washington Institute of Sports Medicine where I received my Athletic Republic 1 & 2 certifications. I also participated in a 240 hour internship with SloBody yoga - a functional, athletic based approach to yoga where I completed Level 1 & 2 teacher trainings. Once I graduated from school in 2011, I got to work in the health industry working at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle, Latitude Sports Club in Boston and many of the local studios here in the Seattle area. In August 2015, I completed Vera University’s health coaching program. Personal training and health coaching mold together to bring clients an enhanced experience through supportive mentorship to cultivate positive health choices in and outside of exercising.
Wellness By Little wasn’t always an in-home training business. It started out as a fitness and food blog. As the blog grew in popularity, my interest in opening an in home training business became a reality. I’ve remained in this profession because of the incredible client relationships I’ve had and for the many teachers and coaches who inspire, challenge and motivate me to continue to learn and develop my skills. Wellness By Little opened their doors to the greater Seattle area in September 2014 and has been getting Seattle in shape ever since!
Each one of us is responsible for our own health and well-being. Wellness By Little exists to empower you with the knowledge and information needed to stay on top of your health so you don't ever lose it. There are many dimensions to wellness and one is not more important than the other. These 7 principles guide our thinking and beliefs, as we partner with individuals in providing a holistic approach to wellness:
Emotional Wellness - The ability to understand ourselves and cope with the challenges life can bring. The ability to acknowledge and share feelings of anger, fear, sadness or stress and hope, love, joy and happiness in a productive manner.
Environmental Wellness - The ability to recognize our own responsibility for the quality of the air, the water and the land that surrounds us. The ability to make a positive impact on the quality of our environment, be it our homes, our communities or our planet.
Mental Wellness - The ability to open our minds to new ideas and experiences that can be applied to personal decisions, group interaction and community betterment. The desire to learn new concepts, improve skills and seek challenges in pursuit of lifelong learning.
Occupational Wellness - The ability to get personal fulfillment from our jobs while still maintaining balance in our lives. Our desire to contribute in our careers to make a positive impact on the organization we work in and to a society as a whole.
Social Wellness - The ability to relate to and connect with other people in our world. Our ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with family, friends and co-workers.
Physical Wellness - The ability to maintain a healthy quality of life that allows us to get through our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. The ability to recognize that our health is vital and to adopt healthful habits such as eating well and participating in physical activity.
Spiritual Wellness - The ability to establish peace and harmony in our lives. The ability to develop congruency between values and actions and to realize a common purpose that binds creation together.
Yoga is a beautiful and highly effective practice of mental focus and physical stamina but you don’t have to do yoga or be good at it to reap the benefits to be had by stretching. One of the valuable reasons to participating in 60-90 minutes of stretching a couple times a week is that it forces you to stretch for longer then the quick and infamous post workout quad, pectoral and touch your toes stretches that really don’t do much for creating flexibility.
There are a series of events that happen during a stretch. When a muscle is stretched, something called muscle spindles are also stretched. Muscle spindles record the change in length (and how fast) and sends signals to the spine that will convey this information. This triggers the stretch reflex, which essentially tries to resist the change in muscle length by causing a stretched muscle to contract.
To put it into perspective, the stretch reflex occurs when performing a plyometric exercise like jumping. The muscle spindle senses that a muscle is lengthening and tries to protect the body from injury as if you were to pull a muscle, by contracting the muscle even more. The more sudden the change in muscle length, the stronger the contractions will be. Yoga is all about slow and purposeful stretches. In layman’s terms, this allows for the muscles to realize “oh this is ok, I’m stretching and don’t need to protect the muscle by contracting it even more.” One of the reasons for holding a stretch for a prolonged period of time is that as you hold the muscle in a stretched position, the muscle spindle habituates (becomes accustomed to the new length) and reduces its signaling. Gradually, you can train your stretch receptors to allow greater lengthening of the muscles.
The next time you’re in a yoga class or stretching elsewhere, think about your breath and how that relates to muscle relaxation. An exhale is when you find room to deepen into a stretch. An inhale is designed to realign and lengthen the entire body. It may not be until a series of deep breaths that your muscles are ready to release from a contracted state. With practice, muscles can be controlled so that there is little to no reflex contraction in response to a stretch. This type of control provides the opportunity for the greatest gains in flexibility.
Have you ever owned a pair of minimalist shoes such as the Nike Free, Vibram toe shoes or another shoe brand offering a minimalist shoe? Chances are you have if you're into fitness. I've owned many versions of the minimalist shoe and like many people I am drawn to them because they are stylish with fun colors and they are light weight with the "fits like a glove on your foot" feel.
Mainstream marketing has done an extraordinary job convincing the health and fitness population that style is more important than the less stylish shoe that fits properly to your individualized foot. There has been much debate over the minimalist shoe especially after Vibram's five finger toe shoes were sued for 3.75 million dollars over false claims of being a better shoe biomechanically, for everyone. The truth is, is that the minimalist shoe may be great for one person but detrimental to another foot.
What is a minimalist shoe?
The theory behind the minimalist shoe is compelling. The theory is that our ancestors ran for many years without shoes and therefore the anatomy of our foot is designed for the barefoot style running and not the contrary; to put our foot in a bulky shoe that can artificially alter our running mechanics. A minimalist shoe promotes barefoot style running and in theory can help reduce the risk of injury and facilitate efficient, faster running. The reality is that most of us grew up wearing supportive, cushioned shoes and have not developed the power, flexibility and endurance in the muscles of the foot and ankle to suddenly change into a no support shoe.
It's important to wear the right footwear whether your walking, running or going to work. You may discover that you need different shoes for different types of physical activity. The smart thing to do is go get a gait analysis done at your local shoe store prior to your purchase. Although they may not look as in depth as a physical therapist or personal trainer, they will look into the following:
Used to determine foot length, foot width and arch height to get a general idea of the size, width, and style of shoe that may work best for you.
Shoe Analysis- If you currently are a runner/walker/exerciser, they will want to see your shoes to analyze internal and external wear patterns, which indicate how your foot fits and strikes in your current shoe.
Electronic Foot Scan
This is a static foot scan used to determine how weight is distributed along your feet. This provides a comprehensive analysis of whether you would benefit from the use of orthotics in your shoes.
With cameras focused on the back of the foot and leg, they can analyze your unique gait cycle by viewing a slow motion video of your gait. This will show whether your foot is pronated, neutral or supinated and what your ankle stability and flexibility is.
From your gait analysis, you'll know what type of shoe works best for you. Whether it be a minimalist shoe with no arch support, a shoe with higher arch support or somewhere in between like a minimalist style shoe with a bigger sole for a cushioned, less impact feel.
If you a have knee or hip injury or any discomfort, getting a physical therapist's opinion is important as they will look at the biomechanics of the entire leg up to the hip, not just the foot and ankle.
Don't wait to get this done, every time you wear your shoes you could be doing more damage than good to the musculature of your foot, ankle, knees and/or hips. Wearing a shoe that fits properly can help prevent an injury from happening down the road.
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Yoga and running are considered two very different activities but when practiced together they can power the ultimate human machine to achieve optimum performance. If you want pain free running, you must have increased strength and flexibility. If you want to prevent injuries you need good posture and body awareness.
For many, running equates to meditation in motion. The body is set on a repetitive cycle that allows the mind to tune into the present moment through the senses. The warm air brushing up against the skin, the visual of sunlight peaking through the trees, the smells of new life, or even the sound of silence. As our senses are heightened, our awareness begins to shift from the head and into the body. We start to become embodied. This expression of embodiment can be a key component in calming anxiety, reducing stress and capturing a moment in the present.
The use of yoga has recently gained popularity in preparing athletes for competition. Yoga is an important and often times missing piece in many individuals workout routine but especially a runner’s world. Research shows that yoga positively effects flexibility, ventilation, breathing regulation and relaxation.
The Problem With Short Duration Stretching
The reason a quick stretch session after a run isn’t enough is because the muscles need to learn how to lengthen and that isn’t possible when you hold a stretch for only 20 seconds. When a muscle is lengthened, nerve signals increase to the brain. The brain sends a signal back, causing muscle fibers to contract and resist the stretch. This is a protective mechanism to prevent a muscle from being pulled. When holding a pose for 3-5 minutes the brain understands that the stretch is intentional and safe. The muscles can then relax and the body can deepen into a pose.
Below are a few yoga poses that strengthen and lengthen specific muscles that attain to runners. One hour of yoga a week can improve the quality of your runs significantly (but the more the better!)
While Standing, slide right foot 3-4 feet back. Turn right foot 30-90 degrees right.
Place left hand on shin or the ground. Keep thighs firm, buttocks relaxed and knees soft.
Reach right arm forwards, then up.
Extend spine on inhales, rotate spine on exhales
Take 6-10 breaths, then switch sides.
Standing Forward Fold
Place feet 6-12 inches apart, keep feet parallel and knees slightly bent. Hang over the legs.
Extend hands for the ground and relax the neck by tucking the chin.
Inhale the chest away from the belly towards the knees. Extend the spine.
Exhale and hang. Keep big toes, pinky toes and heels down.
Hand for 6-10 slow, long breaths.
From Downward Dog or plank move left knee to left wrist and right leg back as far as possible.
Move left heel towards right hip. Rest left shin on floor then lower hip.
Place forearms on the ground with elbows under the shoulders. Move hips gently left and right to release hips and rear end.
Raise upper body by pressing down through palms. Relax the elbows and settle hands and shoulders.
Maintain for 6-10 breaths, then switch sides.
Do you or someone you know suffer from knee pain? A common knee issue for many American's is patellar tracking of the knee. Patellar tracking can be fixed through proper activation, strengthening and lengthening of specific muscles that will help realign the knee. Whether you are training for a marathon, triathlon, bike race or just wanting to move more pain free throughout the day this discussion will include the skeletal anatomy of the knee joint associated with patellar tracking, the muscles involved and how to train smart for an effective and productive workout.
The anatomy of the knee joint is very sophisticated. The patella is located between the femur and the tibia and fibula. The kneecap is held in place in the front of the knee joint by tendons on the top and bottom and by ligaments on the sides. A layer of cartilage also lines the underside of the kneecap. The muscles and tendons related to a patellar tracking problem include the iliotibial band (IT Band), the hamstring tendon, quadriceps muscles and tendon, the lateral patellar retinaculum and the patellar tendon.
The quadriceps muscles are hugely related to patellar tracking disorder because they stabilize the kneecap. Patellar tracking disorder is usually caused by a combination of things. The shape of the patella, too loose or too tight of muscles and tendons in the leg and overuse are typical causes of a patellar tracking problem.
There are a few exercises to perform to help build knee stabilization to correct a tracking problem. One option is to strengthen the quadricep muscles by doing leg extensions, slow squats and single leg exercises. If the patella shifted towards the inside of the leg, performing wall sits with a small ball placed in between the knees will help strengthen the inside of the thigh (vastus medialis) muscle which in return will help externally rotate the knee for realignment.