It is scary. Sarcopenia is a word that comes from Greek and means ‘poverty of flesh’. For our purpose, I’ll define as a loss of muscle as it seen with some diseases but it is most commonly associated with aging.
Research shows that everybody will experience a certain degree of sarcopenia as we get older; however, the degree of this loss of muscle is not pre-determined and is largely influenced by our lifestyle choices.
I hate to bring it up again but, as in many cases, the answer is diet and exercise. And when I talk of exercise, I talk of resistance training. The amount of resistance used must be sufficient to fatigue a muscle within about 10 to 12 repetitions. Thus, a 3-pound dumbbell, flung around for 50 repetitions, is not enough. Pick up a 10-pound dumbbell instead and only use it 10 times.
Sarcopenia is also not a phenomenon that applies to women alone. Men are just as likely, if not more so, to experience this loss of muscle as they age.
How does diet enter the picture? For a muscle to grow in size (this is called hypertrophy), the body needs to have sufficient protein available. For the longest time, the amount was defined by the following formula: 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For the metrically challenged, this means 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight. It appears that this formula needs to be revised upwards as we get older to about 1.0 to 1.5 grams per kg of bodyweight (0.45 grams to 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight).
How would you know that you have lost muscle? An indication would be that tasks requiring strength are simply more challenging to accomplish. If it feels that a gallon of milk has gotten a lot heavier, you have probably lost muscle. To found out more about it, you can get a body composition test. There are several methods; I personally use our machine called Futrex that uses near-infrared technology. Other methods are calipers or bioelectric impedance. There are fancier ways to do it but they are usually not easily accessible and tend to be very expensive.
What if you have a perfect BMI? Is everything okay? Not necessarily. If you are one of those lucky people who have maintained their weight since the age of 20, you may still have lost muscle. In fact, it is possible that you have perfect weight but – underneath it all – you have very little muscle and a lot of body fat. By the same token, very muscular people can have a BMI that classifies them as overweight by those standards but may have perfect body composition.
The bottom line: know your body composition to be sure. Go to the gym and get re-acquainted with resistance training if you have slacked and don’t let that sarcopenia bite you.
Credit for those words of wisdom (paraphrased) goes to Roberta Anding who is the Director, Sports Nutrition, Section of Adolescent Medicine and Sports Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital. I was fortunate enough to have attended her lecture on sarcopenia at the IDEA World Fitness Convention in Los Angeles in August of 2011.
Once upon a time, there was ‘stuff’ that nobody understood, and it was therefore blissfully ignored in favor of its neighbors which were open to inspection and let everybody know what they were doing.
That ‘stuff’ is fascia, and its very substance gives our bodies structure and stability. Fascia surrounds every bone, every muscle, and every organ. It connects the heel to the skull in long myofascial lines. It creates slings and stirrups, and it is insinuated in the nursery rhyme ‘Dem Bones’. It double-bags the viscera and thereby reinforces the protective structure of our core muscles.
Thomas Myers has recently called the research into fascia a Cinderella story, but it certainly appears that Prince Charming is on its way with the glass slipper. Gil Hedley has an absolutely fascinating set of DVDs called ‘The Integral Anatomy Series’ in which he beautifully demonstrates the prevalence of fascia and how it interconnects every facet of body function. These DVDs are dissections of human forms, and they are done with such reverence towards the donor and the family who are behind this form that – for me – it quieted any concerns I may have had about watching it.
Watching the DVDs has opened my eyes to a completely different world of anatomy where nothing exists independently, and while I cherish my anatomy books that create such a sanitized version, where everything has a clearly defined beginning and a clearly defined end, I now marvel in the realization that any action in any part of my body may have an impact on some place seemingly distant, yet connected through fascia.
I recently read a very interesting book: 'The Emperor's New Drugs' by Irving Kirsch. The drugs under scrutiny in this book are antidepressants, and while that were very intersting, there was another subject that caught my full attention: the role that placebos play.
Of course, we all know that there is always a placebo group in drug trials, and the placebo effect is legendary.
As I was pondering about that, I was struck by how little anyone can do to heal another person. Whether it is a doctor, chiropractor, a drug, a placebo or a spell. The only one with the power to heal is the person him- or herself needing the healing. Drugs and doctors can create a more favorable enviroment in which healing is facilitated easier but the power still rests entirely with the patient.
I am a MELT (Myofascial Energetic Length Technique) instructor, and this modality quiets the stress reflex and brings the body in a state of greater efficiency and a better alignment. People often report sleeping better and just feeling more energized. While MELT by itself cannot heal any ills, it is yet another way to create an environment in which people can easier tap into their own power to heal themselves.
My training studio sets itself apart from all the others because I have an indispensable co-trainer: my dog Mr. Darcy.
I love to learn, and dogs can teach us a lot about life. Of course there is the proverbial unconditional love, but there is also unconditional acceptance. A dog has the uncanny ability to look through all bodily imperfections and see the heart of the matter. It is not easy for us humans to truly accept others as they are.
Particularly in the field of fitness, people tend to seek out a personal trainer because they want to change something about themselves. I have never met new clients who told me that they love themselves just they way they are. Quite the contrary, people come with a list of inward and outward imperfections. I see negative self-talk, the belief that one will only be truly happy after a certain goal has been attained.
In comes Mr. Darcy with a smile on his face and a wagging tail. If he judges at all, it is only the individual’s ability to scratch his back and find just the right spot. He stands in eager anticipation for any client to come in, and, without fail, he is the first one to be greeted before any attention is paid to the human trainer.
Mr. Darcy sets the standard for me what it means to accepting another person and listening with full attention without interrupting. He also teaches that you should always stretch after you have been in any one position for a while.
However, he fails miserably when it comes to controlling his appetite and his food selection. I would not want to know how he would act if given free reign at an ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet. (However, I am pretty sure that the evening would end at the vet’s office.) Even in this, he is teaching me not to feel superior towards those humans who have a hard time with that but rather to be compassionate. As far as food is concerned, Mr. Darcy proves my firmly held belief that virtue is usually lack of opportunity.
And if you have not yet met him person, please visit my web site www.meltnc.com
(MELT at my studio) to see him in all his glory. He even has his own “Mr. Darcy’s Friends” tab.
I had known of Rolfing for the longest time. I am not even sure when it first entered my consciousness. Maybe the fact that Dr. Ida Rolf was German and so am I? Something of a field energy thing?
As a MELT Instructor, I have much more in-depth interest in fascia and studied Thomas Myers' (a Rolfer) book ‘Anatomy Trains’; it seemed only a matter of time when I’d take the plunge and try it out. I had heard people say that it usually involved a great deal of pain but I was willing to endure it in the interest of furthering my education.
Today was the day. I met Jason and saw immediately that he clearly had a physique capable of inflicting pain. He looked at my health history, did an assessment, and then the Rolfing session was about to begin.
Well, what can I say: I felt great when it was done, and I also enjoyed the process. Painful? Absolutely not. Jason explained to me that Rolfing has evolved over the years. Yes, there are still practitioners that practice a ‘harder’ style of Rolfing but Jason was not one of them.
The techniques are clearly different from massage, and I could feel how he lengthened connective tissue. I felt that my body was better aligned when I left. I also discovered some imbalances that I had not been aware of and am eager to get on my MELT roller to see whether I can make improvements using the techniques I am using.
And I am looking forward to my next appointment.
If you want to find out more (and better) information about Rolfing, here is the link to Jason's web site: http://raleighrolfing.com/
MELT is the first self-treatment technique for connective tissue, and one of the cornerstones of MELT is the Hand Treatment.
During the application of the MELT Hand Treatment, you use three small balls of different sizes and textures in a structured way. It takes about 15 minutes to do, and after you are done, the hands feel lighter, more energized and have greater flexibility, But it does not end there. Because hands function like a 'portal' into the connective tissue system of the body, the effects of the MELT Hand Treatment extend up into the shoulders and neck.
I personally like to use the little balls on myself and have instructed many people in their use.
Today, I was particularly lucky with my participants. They were members of our own North Carolina Symphony orchestra, and MELT was very warmly received.
I will be attending the performance by the North Carolina Symphony this weekend, and I am looking forward to listen to music to melt your heart.
We all have heard about the so-called French paradox: it is claimed that the French have all that good food, drink plenty of wine, and yet obesity does not appear to be a problem in France.
Greater minds than mine have tried to figure that one out. However, I have just spent a few days in Paris and have my own observations to add to the debate.
Indeed, I rarely saw an overweight person as I was meandering the streets and museums and eating at restaurants (except for the tourists).
Paris is full of little bistros and brasseries, and on every corner there is a small kiosk selling baguettes with cheese and cold cuts. I did not see one ‘All-You-Can-Eat’ buffet style restaurant. There were a few McDonald’s but the golden arches were not allowed to compete with the Eiffel tower.
The main thing I noticed about the food at restaurants was the portion size. It was not out of proportion. When I ordered a scoop of ice cream for dessert, the scoop was not the size of a baseball but rather a golf ball.
And something else to notice when you ask for the bill: food is expensive.
Maybe the secret to the French paradox is not so complicated after all?
Today I want to tell you about a book that I checked out from our local library a few weeks ago. It is called ‘The End of Overeating’; its author is Dr. David Kessler MD.
When I discuss with people personal fitness training, the wish to lose weight is almost always on top of the list. The newspapers are full of articles about the ‘obesity epidemic’. There is no shortage of diet books and programs. It is a huge industry only topped by the food industry trying to get us to eat even more.
Whether it is the Atkins’, grapefruit or Ornish diet; regardless of whether you go to Weight Watchers or L.A. Weight Loss: all of these programs work because they have one thing in common: they reduce the number of calories consumed.
Given the number of successful programs, we should be a nation of skinny people. Something obviously is missing, and I found interesting answers in Dr. Kessler’s book.
The mechanism of ‘conditioned hyper-eating’ as he calls is well explained with light shone onto the food industry as well as the individual as he or she is responding to it.
This book was of particular interest to me as I have never been overweight, and yet, I desperately want to help those who are. I have a certification as a Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant from the American Council on Exercise (ACE). I can whole-heartedly recommend Dr. Kessler’s book to all who have tried every diet there is. It may just give that empowering knowledge to take up the fight one more time.
On a personal note: the fact that I have ideal weight has little to do with personal virtue. When I get stressed, food is the last thing I can - literally – stomach. And while I do not live in a constant state of stress, handling the over-abundance of food is simply easy for me.
If we all still lived in caves, I would no longer be alive; but then, if we still lived in caves, you would hardly need to read a blog written by a personal trainer.
Shoulders are a subject, which is close to my heart. I had surgery on both of them for something called impingement syndrome, and, on top of that, I had a frozen shoulder. This has made me an expert on my own shoulders. I have learned the hard way what to do and not do and want to share my lessons with you.
Most shoulder injuries are, I believe, avoidable if proper weight training or general lifting techniques are observed. But that is a mute point once your shoulders start hurting.
Once you have any kind of strange discomfort, maybe a twinge, in your shoulder: don’t ignore it. Shoulders do not get better by themselves. We move our arms so much in the course of a day, that the occasional twinge quickly becomes a nagging pain. It may begin to interfere with sleep. I hope at this point you have already seen a doctor and are in physical therapy where you are instructed in strengthening of the rotator cuff muscles and the shoulder girdle.
With proper strengthening as indicated in physical therapy, many shoulder problems can be treated very successfully, and yet I also see lingering pain and lack of improvement. I can certainly say for myself that I made all of the mistakes below which ultimately led to the need for surgery.
1.It does not get better overnight.
Patience is a virtue, and it is imperative when it comes to shoulder rehabilitation. Keep doing the exercises as prescribed even if you do not see significant improvements in the short term.
2. If it hurts, don’t do it.
As you go through the day, you may move in ways that hurt. Try to find a better way. Every time you need to say ‘ouch’ you have set yourself back in your therapy.
3. Some things never to do.
There are some movements which can easily aggravate a shoulder. Reaching into the back seat of the car to retrieve your pocketbook is one of them. The other one is pulling a roller board carry-on behind you when you travel. In both cases, you rotate your shoulder and reach back as you apply a load. Don’t do it!
4. Keep your elbows by your side.
When you need to push something, brace your elbows into your waist and push with your entire body. You are much stronger that way and protect your shoulders.
I also found out (the hard way) that those are exactly the same things that you need to do if surgery became necessary after all. So please: skip that step and look after your shoulders.
Even before I became a MELT instructor, I had an inkling that fascia, aka connective tissue, is something worth knowing more about. That’s what had prompted me to select sessions at the IDEA World Fitness Convention in 2009 that promised more insight. It was at that convention when I first encountered MELT (Myofascial Energetic Length Technique) and its creator, Sue Hitzman. I became an instructor for MELT the same year.
Since then, I have seen information about fascia more frequently and prominently, and not only because I am looking for it. The latest IDEA Fitness Magazine has a cover article called ‘Fascial Fitness’ by Thomas Myers; he is one of the first to study this in greater depth.
In this article, he calls the fascia the ‘Cinderella’ of body tissues as it had been overlooked for the longest time – much as you throw away the bubble-wrap. Except, it appears now more and more clearly, this ‘bubble-wrap’ has a rich inner life and contributes significantly to the functioning of the body.
In Europe, scientific conventions are dedicated to the fascia, and Sue Hitzman was in Munich, Germany, last year to present her creation of MELT as a practical application. While treatment modalities for connective tissue have been available in massage therapy and Rolfing, MELT is the first method to make it accessible to more participants because it teaches the SELF-TREATMENT.
It is exciting to be on the cutting edge of this development as it is beginning to emerge into the consciousness of a wider audience.