Monday, 16 January 2017

Flex Those Flexors: 3 Steps To Powerful Hips

If a few brief hip flexor stretches is your idea of mobility work, you're cutting yourself short. Make hip mobility a priority, and your reward could be a better squat and less back pain!

The hip flexors are a group of five muscles that connect the femur (or thigh bone) to the pelvis. They move in one of two ways. When the pelvis is stationary, a contraction of the hip flexors will draw the femur upward—think the classic "goose step." Conversely, if the femur is stationary, a contraction of the hip flexors will tilt the pelvis forward and the butt back.

1. Come Unglued

The first step in building better hip flexors is to spend some painful minutes ungluing tissues that have been frozen from years of sitting at a desk. We recommend rolling, aka "self myofascial release."

You can roll on just about anything. We've used several different types of foam rollers, a Rumble Roller, lacrosse balls, PVC pipe, a number of weird stick-shaped things. We have found that different materials are suitable for different areas on different bodies, so feel free to experiment and find what works best for you.

To work these tissues, start by locating your iliac crest. It's the top bony part of your hip that sticks out by your beltline. If you're using a lacrosse ball, simply move into a plank position on the ground and lay on the ball so that it presses into your hip just below the crest. Move side-to-side slowly, so the ball moves back and forth laterally several inches at a time.

Keep adjusting your position until you find a hot spot, then hold that position for at least 30 seconds. Your first impulse will be to tense up when you feel tenderness, but it's important that you relax and continue to move around the area. Keep it up, and don't hurry. The more slowly and more often you can do this, the better.

2. Get On The Couch

Now that we smoothed out that old tissue and dislodged a few fossilized nasties, let's see what we can do about improving extensibility. The couch stretch is one of the most effective movements you can do for opening up your hip to the end range of motion. Adopt a kneeling position in front of something that you can use to hold your foot up (i.e., a couch). Your back knee should be completely flexed, meaning your heel is as close as possible to your butt.

It's easy to compensate in this position by hyperextending your lower back, but it's crucial that you don't. Instead, We want you to focus on squeezing your glutes and hamstrings, which will push your hips forward into a full-on "schwing." If your right foot is back, you should feel an intense stretch on the right front side of your hip. Hold it for a long time, like a minute or two, and then switch sides.

Like rolling, this is a movement that deserves to be done as often as you can tolerate. We recommend doing it for two minutes on each side every half hour. That may be tough to manage, but the point is this: Frequent, long-duration stretches are the only stretches that will have any significant effect on your tissue length and mobility. If you want to improve, you have to commit.

3. Build Flexible Flexors

The psoas, our primary hip flexor, is usually the weakest of the five flexors, and the other four hip flexors have to work more as a result. To test if this is the case for you, lift one knee well above 90 degrees and hold it there, ensuring that you do not compensate by moving your pelvis or leaning forward. If holding this for more than a few seconds is painful or impossible for you, your psoas suck. You are going to have serious trouble squatting to parallel or lower if these muscles can't do their job properly.

One way to strengthen the psoas is by performing the type of toe-lifting movement.s We mentioned at the start of the article. However, in this case we prefer to rely on closed-chain movements, where the hands are fixed and can't move. This small change makes it harder to cheat or compensate, allowing you to focus squarely on the movement.

We recommend doing floor-slide mountain climbers. You will need some furniture moving pads, Valslides, or something similar that will slide smoothly on your floor. Paper plates even work well in a pinch. Put your feet on the sliders and move into a push-up position. To perform the movement, simply pull one knee at a time up toward your chest, going as high as you can while keeping your foot on the slider. You can alternate legs with each rep or do sets of one leg at a time. Don't expect it to be easy.

Your hips may not lie, but they can really sidetrack your training if they fall out of whack. Implement this three-part plan, and your hips will be more effective in the gym and less prone to injury moving forward!

Hip Flexor “TFL” Muscle Ball Release - Segment 3

Position the release ball on the Hip Flexor muscle called the “Tensor Fascia Lata”.  Then roll onto the muscle crossing the opposite leg in front of you. Roll slowly back and forth with your body weight on the ball finding that Sweet Spot. Continue rolling for about 2-3 minutes and then switch over to the other side doing 2-3 sets. This release technique can help with tightness of the hip flexor muscles, dysfunction in the sacroiliac joint, lower back, hips or lower back and disc strains. 

Monday, 9 January 2017

Piriformis Muscle Self Release Ball Technique - Segment 2

After finding the piriformis muscle place the release ball onto it. Then straighten the leg and lean over with your weight on the muscle and roll onto it. Roll slowly back and forth on the ball finding that Sweet Spot. Continue rolling for about 2-3 minutes and then switch over to the other side doing 2-3 sets. This release technique can help with tightness or disfunction in the sacroiliac joint, lower back, hips, sciatica.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

5 Tips for Running in Sub-Zero Temperatures

The key to running in the extreme cold is to protect yourself, wear the proper clothing, and have an exit strategy.

1. Dress in Layers

You’ve heard this one before. Probably from your mother, who advised you take along your jacket — just in case. Well, you should listen to her. A good approach to running in sub-zero temperatures is to wear a breathable synthetic layer, followed by a second insulating layer, topped off by a wind-proof shell. (synthetic layer, half-zip shirt, shell) On the bottom, consider the same approach in two layers (synthetic layer, tights or pants).

2. Grease Up

You’ll be harder to catch than a greased pig in a snowstorm. Smother Vaseline on any exposed skin to offer insulation from the cold and protection from the wind. That means your nose, cheeks, chin, neck, and ear lobes. You’ll be amazed what a layer of this stuff can do.

Tip from the pros: If you’re racing in shorts on a cool day, you can coat your hamstrings and other important muscle groups in Vaseline to keep them warm.

3. Protect Your Bits and Pieces

Okay, guys. This one’s for you. Buy yourself some underwear that is synthetic and offers windproof protection where it’s needed most. You only need to run in the freezing cold once to realize the value of this garment.

4. Head, Hands and Feet

Wear a good hat that covers your ears and keeps you warm without causing sweat to trickle down your neck and freeze. There are several breathable winter hats made for this purpose. Keeping your hands and feet warm will prevent frostbite and make your run more comfortable.

We have found good success wearing wool mittens over synthetic running gloves. The mittens always seem to keep your hands warmer than gloves, and the synthetic gloves keep your hands from getting sweaty inside the mittens. On your feet, you could wear some warm Merino wool running socks.

5. Tell a Friend

It’s always important to tell a friend or family member that you’re going out for a run. However, running in sub-zero temperatures makes it a necessity. You don’t want to get stuck out there. It’s a good idea to bring a phone along as well. Let’s face it, even if you don’t normally run with your phone, you’ll be glad to have it. Be smart and stay safe and you’ll look forward to winter running.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Self Release Using Balls Segment 1

With your knees bent and feet flat on the ground place two release balls together on either side of the lower back. Then lie down with your hands behind your head and neck. A pillow can also be used to support your head & neck even more. Next, lift the buttocks up to increase the pressure contact point on your low back muscles with the balls. Increase the pressure point on one side of the back by leaning on that side and holding for 60 seconds and then switch to the opposite side to release for 60 seconds as well. Then roll your body down-ward to position the balls a little higher on the back muscles. Increase pressure contact points like you did before and repeat in as many back muscle areas as needed. This release ball technique can alleviate tight, stiff or sore muscles in the back. You can do this up to several times per day.

Monday, 2 January 2017

How to Release the Piriformis Muscle

The piriformis muscle is one of the most irritated spots on a human body. It attaches to the outside of each hip and to your sacrum, the spine’s lowest section. Its job is to turn your leg outward. The major issue for many people is that the sciatic nerve runs through or under the piriformis muscle. If your piriformis is too tight, it can lead to pinching and sciatica-like symptoms in the affected leg. When the piriformis irritates the sciatic nerve, it leads to pain in the buttocks as well as referring pain along the sciatic nerve felt down the back of your thigh or in the lower back.

Step 1

Stretch the piriformis. This is the first step in releasing the muscle. Lie on your back. If you need to release the muscle on your right side, bend your right knee, bring it across your body, and point the knee toward your left shoulder. Move the bent knee back to the starting position. Put your hands under your bent knee and bring it to your chest. You will feel a stretch in your buttock region--stretching the piriformis. Use progressive piriformis stretching. Start with five seconds, and gradually work up to 60 seconds of sustained stretch. Repeat several times throughout the day. If your pain is on the left, utilize the same procedure on the left side of the body.

Step 2

Take a tennis ball, place it under your piriformis and lay on it. This will work out a trigger point, or a knot within the muscle. Lay on the ball for 30 seconds. Relax for one minute. Repeat the process four to five times.

Step 3

Utilize a foam roller. This also can work out a trigger point. If you need to release the piriformis on the left side, start by lying on your left side and placing your left elbow on the mat or floor. This will stabilize your upper body. Place the foam roller beneath the back side of your left hip, under your piriformis. Roll back and forth to release the tension in the muscle. Do the same thing on the right side if that is where you are experiencing pain.

Step 4

Treat other biomechanical problems simultaneously for best results and to prevent future problems. For example, overpronation of the foot can contribute to the problem. Pronation happens as the foot rolls inward and the arch of the foot flattens. Leg-length discrepancies also are commonly associated with piriformis problems, and can be corrected with use of orthotics. Prescription orthotics can be obtained by visiting a chiropractor and undergoing a gait analysis. Stretching may need to be combined with physical therapy for issues like overpronation.

Tips

Keep hydrated and take extra vitamin C, calcium and magnesium to promote tissue healing.

Things You'll Need

  • Tennis ball
  • Foam roller

Monday, 26 December 2016

4 Warm Winter Smoothie Recipes

Notice that refreshingly cold smoothies don't have the same appeal during wintry weather? Give your smoothies a winter makeover by serving them hot and toasty. (It's not as strange as it sounds—promise!) These ice-free, warm smoothie recipes will warm you up after a chilly morning jog.

Oats and Chocolate Hot Smoothie

It only takes six simple ingredients to whip up an outrageous oats and chocolate smoothie. Safety tip: Don't fill your blender or smoothie maker with boiling liquid! The steam creates pressure that can cause the lid to blast off, literally. Add the hot ingredients at the end.

Ingredients

  • 15g/0.5oz dark chocolate, chopped (check the brand for gluten free if required)
  • 200ml/6.75floz almond milk
  • 20g/0.7oz rolled oats (check the brand for gluten free if required)
  • ½ a ripe, medium sized banana
  • 6 almonds
  • 5g/0.2oz chia seeds
  • 20ml/0.7floz cold water

Directions

  1. Add the dark chocolate to a jug and pour in the almond milk. Microwave until the mixture is warm and the chocolate has melted (you can do this in a pan if you prefer).
  2. Add the oats, banana, almonds, chia seeds, the water and approx. a fifth of the almond milk to your smoothie maker or blender. Add in an extra splash of cold water if you think the liquid is too warm (see warning above about hot liquids and smoothie makers).
  3. Blend on high for a minute until the oats and chia seeds have been completely incorporated.
  4. Whilst it's blending, further heat the rest of the almond/chocolate mix until hot, but not boiling.
  5. Pour the blended oat mix into your cup, stir in the almond/chocolate mix and serve.

Warm Apple Pie Smoothie

This warm smoothie has all the taste of an old-fashioned, homemade apple pie—minus the hassle of baking. Plus, at 124 calories and 0 grams of fat per serving, you can slurp with a clear conscience.

Ingredients

  • 1 apple, cored and cut into chunks (peeled if you don’t have a high-powered blender)
  • ½ cup / 120 ml water (for a creamier smoothie you can use yogurt)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or raw organic honey)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • A pinch of allspice
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine apple, water, vanilla, maple syrup and spices in a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into a mug and microwave on high for about 2 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and if you’re feeling particularly daring, add a bit of whipped cream on top. Serve!

Wintry Warm Banana Smoothie

The tryptophan and vitamin B6 in bananas helps to boost your body's production of serotonin, which can improve your mood and increase feelings of satisfaction and relaxation.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 peeled ripe banana
  • ¼ cup chopped raw walnuts
  • 2 or 3 pitted organic dates
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Optional Anti-Inflammatory Addition: 1/4 inch knob of fresh ginger

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a high speed blender (such as a Vitamix) and process until smooth and creamy. Serve warm.

Apple Cider Smoothie

Need a healthy way to detox? This warm cider smoothie packs a ton of fiber, iron, and antioxidants - thanks to ingredients like fresh apples and spinach.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cup water
  • 3 green apples, roughly diced
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1-inch ginger, peeled
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 scoops protein powder *optional
  • Supplements – Vitamin C Powder, MSM, Fish Oil, Maca - optional

Directions

  1. Juice 1/2 a lemon and pour the juice into a high-powered blender or food processor.
  2. Add the water, apples, spinach, ginger, cinnamon and protein powder and blend until very smooth.
  3. You can enjoy at this apple cider smoothie at room temperature or cool it down by blending in ice cubes. To enjoy it hot, either heat it by running the Vitamix for 5 minutes or warm it in a pot on the stove.
  4. Finally, whisk or blend in the supplements and enjoy.