Facts and Tips

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I was recently asked to submit three fitness-related facts and/or tips to be published in our gym’s newsletter. I’ve gotten good responses from other trainers as well as members and clients. I thought I’d repost them here for those who don’t receive my gym’s newsletter.

1

Trainers are forever telling their clients to bring their shoulders back and down. We don’t do it to be annoying, or to give us one more thing to correct. We do it for your health and shoulder safety. By bringing the shoulders back and down, what we call “stacking”, you activate many of the shoulder stabilizing muscles. This means the stress of whatever activity you’re doing takes place where it’s supposed to…the muscles. What usually happens when you let your shoulders go is the stress is placed on tendons, ligaments, and even bone. Tendons and ligaments do not have the healing capacity of muscles, so once they’re torn, they tend to stay that way for a long time (sometimes never healing at all). Ligaments and bone do not have the elasticity of muscle. Ligaments that get stretched too much stay that way, which is one reason dislocations are very likely to be repeated. Bone doesn’t stretch at all and tends to break if you try. So when a trainer says, “Keep your shoulders back and down,” what we’re really saying is, “We want you to keep your shoulders safe so you can continue using them for a long time.”

2

One of my favorite full body exercises is easily scalable to any level from beginner to elite. I call them “log-roll burpees”. Here’s the progression:

1. Log-roll: Remember these? Kids usually do it going down hill. Do these on a level surface. Lie on your stomach, put your hands over your head, and roll.

2. Log-roll with plank: Start with a forearm plank, lie down and log-roll once, then end in a forearm plank. Repeat going the other way.

3. Log-roll pushups: Start in the up position (plank on your hands), lower yourself to the ground (1st half of a pushup), log-roll once, push up into plank on your hands (2nd half of a pushup). Repeat on other side.

4. Log-roll squat thrusts: Start from a standing position, squat to put your hands on the floor, step or jump your feet back into plank, lower yourself to the ground (1st half of a pushup), log roll once, push up into plank on your hands (2nd half of a pushup), step or jump your feet to just behind your hands, and stand up. Repeat, but roll the other way.

5. Log roll burpees: Same as log roll squat thrusts, but add a jump each time you stand up.

I like to do a set of these and a set of rows, then a brief rest, followed by another set.

3

I sometimes see people pushing themselves so hard, they end up bent over, hands on knees, and panting. That’s great. It takes focus and discipline to push yourself to that point, and you reap the rewards in the long term. Bent over and panting, however, is one of the slowest ways to recover. A far better way to recover is what we call “active rest”. Active rest involves low intensity movement. For instance, when my clients reach that point, I often have them walk a lap or two around the room we’re working in, or if there’s no room, I have them do a step touch with bicep curls (no weights). This keeps the muscles working, maintaining the pumping action of repeated contractions allowing respiration at the cellular level to be more efficient. The more efficient cellular respiration is, the faster your body gets rid of carbon dioxide, which in turn means your breathing returns to normal much more quickly.

 

If there’s a good response to these here, I might add this type of post to my writing rotation. I might also take questions and turn them into posts.

Complacent Subluxation

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wrist-forearm small

I’m guessing I’ve been too positive in my approach to life recently. Either that, or too complacent. Life has seen fit to give me a partially dislocated wrist. Partially dislocated? Something’s either dislocated or it’s not, isn’t it? Well, not really. The technical name is “subluxation”. If you’ve ever had a joint pop out, then immediately pop back into place without the need for external pressure to put it back (like a doctor…or a wall), you’ve had a subluxation. Specifically, my subluxation is at the ulnar-carpal joint and it subluxes medially.

Subluxations typically happen when the dislocating force (pressure, torque, etc.) on the joint just slightly exceeds the stabilizing pressures of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. When the dislocating force abates, even slightly, the stabilizing pressures snap the joint back into place. Unfortunately, my particular subluxation is not a one-time thing, it’s repeatable. It happens every time I flex (i.e. palmar flex) my wrist under load. This indicates that there is an unfortunate amount of permanent ligament stretch.

Usually the way to rehabilitate this kind of thing is to strengthen the muscles overlaying the ligaments. There is a problem, however. I’ve looked in two anatomical atlases and an athletic training reference text. There are no muscles that directly overlay the distal head of the ulna. The flexor carpi ulnaris and extensor carpi ulnaris travel down the outside (medial) of the ulna, but wrap to palmar or dorsal side respectively about an inch or so before reaching the distal head of the ulna. No doubt this is why the subluxation is happening medially…there is no support structure other than the ligaments. I can still strengthen the flexor- and extensor carpi ulnaris and hope that I can strengthen them to the point where they can hold the distal ulnar head in place via a third class lever type action.

In the meantime, I’m finding that I have some pain in the radial side of the wrist as the radius tries to compensate for an unstable ulna. Gotta love chain reactions.

From what I remember when I had a slight separation of the AC joint in my right shoulder, it took about 6 weeks for things to heal and settle into place. Granted there are different causal mechanisms at work, I’ll still use that as my baseline. At the moment, my plan is to keep my left wrist as immobile as possible (without a cast) for a few weeks. Ligaments don’t have a whole lot of healing capabilities, but they do have some. I’ll let them heal as much as they can, then start strengthening the ulnaris muscles.

Last Week and Measures

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Last week didn’t turn out as hopelessly as I’d feared. As I mentioned in my previous post, once I realized that pride was at stake, and not my passing or failing, I was able to calm down. Maintaining that attitude through the week allowed me to keep from panicking too much. For instance, working with my faculty client for the first time. I can only liken the before attitude to “first date” jitters. Most of the other student trainers felt the same. The pride versus competency discussion took place in my mind once more and I calmed down. The first session went really well.

Every now and then my life brings in these little leitmotifs. Last time was confidence versus inertia. This time it’s pride versus competency. I suspect this one will become a major theme for the semester with other issues taking up the leitmotif slots. We’ll see.

In other news, my personal physical activity schedule continues to decline. It is something I suspected would happen this semester, but it’s nonetheless discouraging to watch. Especially since I start to feel hypocritical between my actual work out schedule and what I know I’ll be telling my client. My major saving point is that we’re eating healthier at home. My estimated Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is somewhere between 1900 and 2000 calories per day. It’s hard to imagine, but that’s supposedly just to maintain weight if I’m lying down all day. It seems awfully high to me. I would have to do one of those labs where a machine analyzes my oxygen intake and output at rest to see if that’s actually what I’m supposed to be taking in. I’d love to do it…unfortunately money is the primary issue preventing me.

According to bioelectrical impedance, my total body weight is 29% fat. According to calipers done by a fellow student, I’m somewhere between 11% and 15% depending on 3-site or 7-site pinch tests. Looking at waist-to-hip ratio, I’m probably somewhere between 20 and 25%; however, according to BMI, if I were 0% body fat, I would be somewhere around a BMI score of 24 (overweight is 25 and obese is 30+). According to my age estimated max heart rate, I’m most likely already dead of an over worked heart. (Age estimated MaxHR (Gillesh method): 182 bpm; actual submax test results regularly put me over 200.) Why all of these odd numbers?

From my statistics classes way back when, the larger the population used in a measure, the more likely the distribution of results will end up as a bell-curve. With nearly all of the measures used in basic personal fitness training, the various interpretive tables and charts are based on a 2 standard deviation curve (I think). This means that for a minority of people, these tables are just plain wrong. (Performance level athletes usually have their own tables, so they don’t count as part of this minority.) The tables and charts and estimations are there both as a guide and, more and more frequently, a legal defense. The only way to determine an individual’s true maximum heart rate is to do a physician supervised maximal heart rate test. Short of that, you’re stuck with submaximal tests and age predicted equations. Most personal trainers are not certified to do submaximal tests, so they’re stuck with the equations.  Yet those equations are better than nothing. It gives an expected range recognized both by the fitness industry and by the medical industry. Work within that range and you’re protected by industry standards if something goes wrong. (Unless you do something incredibly stupid like responding to “my chest hurts” with “keep running”.)

How does this apply to me? I know I’m overfat; however, “normal” fat would still leave me “overweight”. So weight means far less than body composition (a good rule in any case). I’m roughly 100 pounds lighter than my dad at my age and probably at least 50 pounds lighter than my mother, so I’m doing fairly well with combating heredity. I take amphetamine salts for ADHD (brand name: Adderall) so my entire heart rate chart (including max heart rate) is shifted upwards (as is my blood pressure). Thus, using heart rate as a measure is dicey for me, so I have to rely on the RPE scale (Ratings of Perceived Exertion).

The major lesson here? Measures are good guides to understanding, but relying too heavily on them could lead to misunderstanding.

A Personal Fitness Trainer’s Dictionary

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Late in my high school career, I discovered Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary. I was so taken by its cynical and humorous redefining of everyday words, I started doing it on occasion. When given the freedom to be creative with one of my college papers, I used this definition format. I’ve since occasionally come up with new definitions that tickled my fancy. For instance:

Paradox: Two piers side-by-side, one of which cannot logically exist.

I recently rediscovered The Devil’s Dictionary. It inspired me, or perhaps challenged is the better word, to do another thematic list. Since I’m currently working towards an Associates of Applied Science in Personal Fitness Training, I thought I’d see what I could do with some of the concepts. Some are amusing, some are less than stellar, but it was an interesting exercise. Here are my definitions of relevance to personal trainers:

Cardiorespiratory – if blood were air, pushing this will make your heart gasp

Endurance – a partial trance state which allows you to beat up your body, and your body will thank you…much later

Exercise – Banishing fat through movement instead of bell, book, and candle

Expensive – no longer thinking

Fitness – the quality of being able to wear the clothes you want

Frustration – psychological resistance through which the mind can prove itself wrong

Group Exercise – banishing fat through movement instead of bell, book, and candle…with friends

Guilt – mistaking dross for gold and providing a reason to do better

Gym – a healthy jungle of metal and machine

Heart Rate
How fast does my heart beat for me?
Far less than it beats for you.
And yet it is sufficient
That it beats in time.

Rehabilitation – making your body livable again

Resistance – something by which achievement becomes meaningful

Spa – Special Privilege of Affluence, or less cynically, Sound Preventive Activities

Strength – the ability to bear up under pressure

Train – to do something over and over in order to pull your baggage up a hill

Weigh – something you don’t want to do after you eat too many curds

Wellness – not just the characteristic of being a hole in the ground

Effects of Depression on Exercise

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*I got tired of hearing about how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and that the incidence of depression among regular exercisers, so when an opportunity to look at the reverse appeared, I took it. Here is a summary of my research (“lit review”/”background review” for you nit pickers).*

Exercise normalizes the body’s functions. For example, if a person with high blood pressure were to continue on a long-term exercise plan, blood pressure would be reduced. Exercise works the other way, too; a person with very low blood pressure who follows a long-term exercise plan will find their blood pressure rising into the body’s optimum range. Likewise it reduces the effects of insulin resistance (in other words, it increases the body’s sensitivity to existing insulin levels), which is why exercise is often part of the management plan for diabetics.

Exercise has a similar effect on the brain, and therefore, mood. In a normal person, exercise releases endorphins, increases serotonin and norepinephrine levels, and reduce cortisol levels, all of which result in an increase in perceived mood. Unfortunately, such is not always the case with those who suffer from depression. There is a high correlation between patients with major depressive disorder and those with smaller than average hippocampal regions with less neurogenic activity in the region affecting both memory and mood. (Lorenzetti, Allen, Fornito, & Yucel, 2009)

What exercise will do for the depressed client is: reduce cortisol levels and increase endorphins. There are conflicting studies as to whether or not levels of neurotransmitters are changed via exercise; however a recent study involving mice demonstrates that exercise decreases observable depression-type behavior even when tryptophan levels (a precursor and limiting factor for serotonin) were kept low. This indicates that, as with diabetics, exercise may increase the brain’s sensitivity to existing levels of neurotransmitters rather than affecting the concentration of neurotransmitters. (Lee, Ohno, Ohta, & Mikami, 2013) Other studies have shown that there is a lower rate of incidence of depression in regular exercisers. (Strawbridge, Deleger, Roberts, & Kaplan, 2002)

There is a vast pool of literature that tests and retests these conclusions. Few doubt the benefits of exercise on depression. Unfortunately this picture is incomplete. Those who are chronically depressed tend to find it irritating when these and other studies are quoted and we are expected to be motivated. Among other things, we’ve been assured that everything from St. John’s Wort to Prozak will make things better. When treatment after treatment fails, it’s hard to have faith in yet another lifestyle change. The Missing Piece

Get SMART

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Few doubt the efficacy of goal setting as a means of accomplishing what you need or want. Yet for most people, goal setting is limited to “Lose weight” or “Get fit” or even “Get better at _____.” Those who leave their goals at this point are either doomed to failure, or damned with faint success. I’ve recently encountered two acronyms for goal setting: SPIRO and SMART.

SPIRO
Specific
Practical
Inspirational
Realistic
Obtainable

A SPIRO goal contains all of these elements. But what do they mean? In brief: Specific means something concrete, something you can point to and say “I achieved that.” Practical means the goal has to be applicable in a meaningful way, a specific goal of lifting 150 lbs. is not really germane if your overall objective is to write 2000 words a day. Inspirational means the goal has to be something that you not only want to achieve, but will provide something on which you can base further developments. In other words, the goal itself is something you want to achieve as opposed to being merely a means to an end. Realistic means it has to be achievable without having to take drastic, and potentially harmful, measures. For instance, losing 30 pounds in two weeks can be done, but only at severe hazard to both short term and long term health. Obtainable means it must be achievable within a person’s limitations. For instance, someone with advanced cerebral palsy is probably not going to be able to type 100 words a minute, though typing as an activity is not necessarily out of their range of ability.

SMART
Specific
Measureable
Attainable
Relevant
Time-bound

SMART goals have a lot in common with SPIRO goals. “Specific” is obviously the same, “attainable” and “obtainable” are close enough in meaning that most people use them interchangeably, “practical” and “relevant” in all the discussions I’ve seen on these two processes are essentially the same. The main differences, then, are that SMART goals tend to be more numbers drive (or at least have an emphasis on concrete results) and SMART goals have a time limit. It should be noted that “attainable” includes not only “obtainable” but also “realistic”.

Despite their similarities, SMART and SPIRO goals have different emphases. SPIRO goals appear to be more applicable to therapeutic milieux. In that setting, “realistic” and “obtainable” are separate. While an inspirational goal is generally to be desired in any setting, it plays a special role in therapy that is not generally required in other settings. SMART goals lend themselves to benchmarking. The acronym actually contains the word “measurable”. SMART goals are more likely to be used where productivity is a factor since time is a component both of the goal and of productivity.

So why does it matter that there are multiple acronyms to guide goal setting? Who cares about the differences? For many people, it doesn’t really matter. Those will read this post and say, “Meh. Kind of a dry subject.” Others, though, may have encountered multiple goal setting methods and been confused. To those readers, I’d like to point out that goal setting methods are not really interchangeable…a particular method may or may not be appropriate to a specific setting. All these methods guide you to setting good and appropriate goals, but in order for the goal to be truly good and appropriate to your purpose, the guide must also be appropriate. For instance, if there’s no reason for a goal to be time-bound, as in some therapies, adding an artificial deadline adds yet one more thing for the client to deal with, which may act as a barrier to the client’s ability to achieve the goal. On the other hand, if you’re training for a race, time will definitely be a factor in setting goals since the deadline is not only concrete, but very public.

Having a goal is often necessary to progress. It provides something to strive for, something to make it worth overcoming obstacles. It’s the first step in motivating yourself. For a goal to accomplish these things, though, it must be meaningful. Both SPIRO and SMART are guides to creating a meaningful goal. They are not the only ones, but they’re a couple of the easiest to remember.  Which one gets used will depend on the activity or activities in question.

What’s orange and good for you?

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I have decided that oranges are the new wonderfruit. Why? Because they taste good, they have the right nutrition for after a workout. Especially a workout that involves the occasional bruising. Everyone knows oranges are awesome with the vitamin c (anti-oxidant), but they also have lots of potassium. Other beneficial nutrients include vitamin a, thiamin and folate. They even have a little protein and calcium. And it does all this without filling you up and weighing you down. (I really hate the feeling of eating something and having my stomach yell at me for eating an anchor.)

What about all the sugar? Yes. Oranges are carb heavy…the good thing is that the carbs are quickly metabolized and used. This means they don’t stay around in the system, providing a quick boost without the same kind of risk of weight gain from most sports drinks. The glycemic load of a serving of orange is also 1/3 that of a serving of banana.

Don’t forget the fiber that comes with all fruits and vegetables. Not as much as celery, but a respectable 17% of daily value (assuming 2,000 calories daily). Oranges are a good fruit to have on your healthy eating list.

After a workout, the high water content of an orange is very welcome. Not only does it help with being thirsty, it helps with faster uptake of nutrients than solid food.

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