So! HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is all the rage. I would call it outrageous.
I just returned from the 2014 IDEA World Fitness Convention, full of motivation and ready to continue helping my clients towards better health and fitness. And one thing is for sure: HIIT will not have any place in my programming.
I took two classes; one with a ViPR, the other one with a new machine called CoreStix. Ultimately, the type of device is irrelevant, but the style of training is.
HIIT has made the headlines because it ‘burns more calories’ in a shorter period of time, and, in today’s environment, who would not want a shortcut. The premise is that one does one or a series of exercises for a short period of time as fast as possible to exhaustion, then rest, and repeat. Perfect form, we are told, is actually detrimental because in real life we do not align our bodies in the correct way and move 100 % correct. (And I can see that argument – to a point.)
What I have seen in my two sessions was the following: a room full of fitness professionals all of whom without a doubt in complete knowledge on how to perform exercises well, being cheered on by the presenter and by motivating music to give it their all. And give it they did. As exhaustion set in, form was lost. However, the amount of resistance remained the same. In the heat of the moment, it was not easy to quickly find suitable modifications to make the exercises more appropriate. Fortunately, I have reached a stage in my life where I can leave my ego safely in the coat check and only do what feels right, no matter how much somebody may shout “Faster, faster”.
My conclusion: fast tempo coupled with resistance is a recipe for injury. It does not matter whether it is called Tabata, HIIT or CrossFit.
I love to study and to learn. Recently, I have focused more and more on corrective exercises in the quest to restore ideal alignment and posture and to help people get out of chronic pain as a result of those misalignments.
The MELT Method is a great tool to accomplish this. I love the fact that it based on the concept of self-treatment thus empowering people to do something for themselves and not having to depend on others to administer treatment to them. I also like the concept of self-assessment in MELT because people can learn about imbalances in their bodies because they can feel them.
I have recently studied another method, called The BioMechanics Method by Justin Price who is also a well-known name in the fitness industry. He also starts with an assessment which initially is conducted by the specialist in his method but is almost immediately taught to the client with the goal that they client can understand their imbalances and can feel the changes of the program. The corrective exercises in his method are a systematic approach of myofascial release, followed by stretching and then strengthening.
As an advanced MELT practitioner of 5 years and a newly-minted BioMechanics Method Corrective Exercise Specialist, I will be able to use them both in the shared goal of helping people get out of the chronic pain which is caused by muscle imbalances.
They both have their strong suits. I love the foam roller length techniques in MELT but I also like the myofascial release approach with tennis balls which makes this more portable when people travel. I find the TBMM process more systematic and love the stretching components. The strength components of both methods are great. Some of the individual techniques are better in one, some in the other method.
Bottom line: two great methods with equal value in both of them.
Added bonus: one person (me J) who knows them both.
Lately, I have been using my treadmill and elliptical trainer with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. The reason? I just finished reading the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John J. Ratey, MD
I had seen enough statistics over the years that demonstrate how helpful exercise is for just about any condition known to man, be it hypertension, diabetes, heart disease ….. you name it. I had also seen data on the effects of exercise on some mental disorders such as depression and ADHD. But I have never seen all the evidence combined in one place on the profound positive effects that exercise, mainly aerobic exercise, has on brain function.
I grew up with the belief that every cell on our body renews itself except for the brain cells. You are born with so many, and it only goes downhill from there. This has been soundly disproven. The brain can grow new cells and make new connections but it needs some MIRACLE GRO fertilizer, and that fertilizer is EXERCISE.
I cannot recommend this book more. There are some on the Amazon book review who consider this book “really, really boring” since it reads like a textbook. Well …. I could not put it down. There is a line in this book that just struck me:
“If you are not busy living, your body is busy dying.”
As a MELT instructor for almost 5 years, the subject of ‘fascia’ (sometimes also referred to as connective tissue) has been of great interest to me. I have witnessed firsthand the effects the MELT techniques have on my students, whether they are in my classes as one of many or get instructions from me one-on-one. Yes, I had very few people over those years that I could not reach with MELT but I would put this number no higher that 1 out of 100.
I also like to educate my participants about the properties of fascia, what it is, what it does and why it is so important to keep it healthy. I have come up with analogies ranging from body stocking to orange to panty hose, and I am still searching.
I recently got some unexpected help. Europe, and Germany in particular, is way ahead of the curve in research of fascia, and I was made aware of a broadcast from a German television station on that very subject. Not only does this video (with English subtitles) explain in very simple ways what fascia is, it also shows the possibilities that are opening up for the treatment of many chronic pain conditions.
If you have 30 minutes, please do yourself the favor to watch it. And then just get on your roller or get out those little balls and just make your fascia happy. Here is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ikx-0s8y480.
A few days ago I attended a short seminar at Duke Raleigh Hospital by the shoulder specialist Dr. Kevin Speer who talked about the aging shoulder.
I had observed that many people are suffering from shoulder problem as they are getting older, often for no apparent reason, and I was looking forward to the talk in hopes of an explanation. I was not disappointed.
Dr. Speer stated that the shoulder will develop bone spurs and a degradation of the muscles and connective tissues as an inevitable results of getting older. That does not necessarily mean that this leads to pain but it often does. Shoulder pain is typically referred pain, meaning that the place where it hurts is not necessarily where the problem is. With shoulder issues, the pain is often down the upper arm or in the front of the shoulder.
He had a number of suggestions for maintaining healthy shoulders to the degree possible. Good nutrition was his first recommendation. The following list is taken from the www.webmd.com for an anti-inflammatory diet.
· Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
· Minimize saturated and trans fats.
· Eat a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts.
· Watch your intake of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice.
· Eat plenty of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat.
· Eat lean protein sources such as chicken; cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
· Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
· Spice it up. Ginger, curry, and other spices can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
On the supplement list, his recommendation was for fish oil. He also suggested a heat (before exercise) and cold (after exercise) therapy when some pain has already crept in. As an exercise maintenance routine, rotator cuff exercises to strengthen the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder should become part of the workout.
When shoulders are beginning to hurt, he looked at it from two perspectives: the first is whether the pain goes away with rest and avoidance of triggers, the second whether pain starts interfering with a good night’s rest.
In the first case, it can be managed with ice, maybe some anti-inflammatory medication and rest. Some exercises may have to be avoided for good such as overhead presses or push-ups. Downward dogs should be left to the dogs as well. The elbows should always be in the field of vision.
However, when shoulder pain interferes with sleep, a visit to the doctor becomes necessary. Even then, physical therapy may help, and Dr. Speer stated that he was a great fan of it. Only when all else fails, there is surgery which he views as the last option.
So here I am, a newly minted Sports Performance Professional. I have studied the excellent NASM material to enhance sports performance and am eager to apply my knowledge.
As I read and studied and thought about it, it struck me how applicable and modifiable those concepts are to every client. We all need to generate power in our lives at one point or other. The challenge in training is to stay on the right side of the line where the benefits of the exercises justify possible risks.
I had applied ‘controlled unstable’ environments throughout all my training. I saw it work, and now I see the underlying rationale why that is so. As with training for power, I try to apply the same concept.
My latest and dearest toys are sandbells which I have in ranges from 4 to 12 lbs. in 2 pound increments. Those are now happily flying across the studio. We slam, and we catch, and we bounce them off the Bosu. We work on grip strength by catching with one hand. Some of my clients are standing right in front of a massage table for a security blanket as they are catching a 4 lbs. sandbell. Others have the 10 lbs. one hurled towards them.
And the best part? It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it gives a great deal of satisfaction (after everybody has caught their breath including the trainer who gets thrown back to).
Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and we will soon experience the triple H days of summer: hazy, hot and humid.
While a little warm is good, too much of it can be deadly. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke which claims lives every year.
Here is how you can recognize the warning signs of heat exhaustion (taken from the CDC website):
· Heavy sweating
· Cold, pale, and clammy skin
· Fast, weak pulse
· Nausea or vomiting
And this is what you should do immediately:
· Move to a cooler location.
· Lie down and loosen your clothing.
· Apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible.
· Sip water.
· If you have vomited and it continues, seek medical attention immediately.
If in doubt, call for emergency help.
AND NEVER LEAVE ANYBODY, PET, CHILD OR ADULT, IN A LOCKED CAN FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME.
“Stand up straight”, “don’t slouch”! Words of wisdom from mothers across continents, and right they are.
Whether you come to my MELT classes or are working with me one-on-one, the most often used phrases are ‘neutral pelvis’, ‘shoulders relaxed’, ‘good form’ and derivatives thereof. So why is good posture so important even if I disregard the fact that it looks a lot better?
A body in ideal alignment is a balanced body. The relationship in length between muscles is optimal, and movement is effortless because all the players know their role. The central nervous system is like a conductor, and just as in an orchestra, everybody must be well-tuned and know the score to create a harmonious performance.
If a body is out of alignment, then some parts have to work harder and still don’t get it done right. The result is that some parts wear out sooner than others, and this can start a pain cycle that only perpetuates the problems and adds to them. Even though medical science has given us replacement parts and perfected the techniques to implant them, we would do a lot better looking after ourselves as well as if we were our own car.
Did you ever hear of anybody, who would change the tires on their car, not get them balanced but then take the car out on a 1,000 mile road trip with heavy cargo and a hanger? Me neither.
When I start my MELT classes, I describe the position of ideal alignment, and just about everybody raises their hand when asked whether they felt discrepancies. Soon into the class, those discrepancies diminish and sometimes disappear altogether, and my students walk out straighter and often in less pain than when they walked in. After having taught MELT for almost 5 years now, I see permanent improvements after just a few months with regular MELTing.
Aren’t you worth it?
I have always loved ballet. Even though I never danced myself, classical ballet is my favorite dance art form; the more tutu the better. Living now in Raleigh, North Carolina, we have been so fortunate to having the professional Carolina Ballet since 1997. I had season tickets all those years, looking forward to every single performance.
Even the greater my pleasure when I recently had an opportunity to introduce some of the dancers to MELT.
While watching the performances and the performers, it was always quite obvious to me that all that grace that I admire so much is the result of rigorous training, and I was conscious of the fact that injuries are the inevitable by-product of such training.
Over the last 5 years of teaching MELT, I have seen enough of its beneficial results on many bodies that I knew that its positive effects could be felt equally by a professional dancer as by weekend warrior or somebody recovering after a hip or knee replacement surgery.
So it was not surprising to me on some level to hear the same comments about some of the MELT length exercises that I am used to hear from my more conventional class participants. The sensation of length beyond ordinary stretching which can only be described as ‘hurting so good’.
What I absolutely had to admire, though, was the amazing ability of the dancers to take my verbal instructions and translate them into body movement. Those familiar with MELT know that the greatest impact is often made by the smallest changes in body position, and those require a great deal of body awareness. And while this is hardly unexpected, it is nonetheless astounding to watch.