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The Care And Maintenance Of Lifters

Isn’t it just the best feeling when you find out your doctor lifts?

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Isn’t it just the best feeling when you find out your doctor lifts? Doctors who lift say things like, “Let’s keep you working out.” I get a fuzzy feeling when this happens.

Recently, this happened when I went to a hand doctor for a sore thumb (no, really). A lifter himself, he said something else that resonated: “When something starts hurting, I know it’s just a matter of time til something else comes up.” He shrugged and smiled.

If you’re frustrated by aches and pains from lifting, let this soak in: Those of us who train consistently are hard on our bodies. It’s the same with runners and anyone else who trains repetitively. Repetitive stress injuries are common and don’t just come from sports – playing an instrument, using the computer, texting, playing video games, and cashiering are all repetitive motions.

When this kind of stress occurs repeatedly over time, the body’s joints can’t recover. As a result, the joints and surrounding tendons and muscles become irritated and inflamed. Muscle and joint dysfunction happen, along with chronic pain.

We lifters try very hard not to have flat-out injuries. We practice pristine form, add variation to our workouts, and give ourselves time to recover. We know the rules of lifting: Use your core, don’t arch your back, keep your shoulders down.

But what most of us experience more often than an acute injury is nagging pain or tightness in a muscle, ligament, or joint. Tendonitis, muscle spasms, and inflammation are language of repetitive use. The benefits of lifting outweigh these aches and pains, but we’d rather not have them because they interfere with lifting!

Ignorance Is Not Bliss; Lifting Is Bliss

While visiting my family in Dallas recently, we hopped in their minivan for an overnight trip about 85 miles away. My husband and I were startled when the van let out a loud, whining sound, but once the van warmed up the shrieking noise faded away. Apparently, this had gone on for some time, and everyone forgot about it. But sure enough, as we were getting ready to come back the next day, the minivan choked and refused to start. My dad looked under the hood and pulled out a belt that was completely tattered.



I’m sure you know what I’m getting at here. Over time, we accumulate wear and tear from lifting. If you ignore your body’s signals, it’s eventually going to break down.

Methodically addressing each ache, pain, and tweak helps you avoid bigger issues down the road. A side benefit of “ongoing maintenance” is that over time, you’ll have fewer aches and pains from lifting as you learn how to train smarter. Actively engaging in prehab is simple maintenance with a big payoff.

Treating Tweaks Like Training

In theory, the perfect training program will help you avoid injury. And it will help. But in practice, human factors like overconfidence, impatience, distraction, and inexperience can interfere. Take my thumb issue, for example. I probably strained it when did cleans as a warm up. Heck, it seemed like a fine idea at the time; I was feeling strong and limber and needed the challenge. Looking back, though, I can see that it was a lame idea, particularly with my degenerative wrists. I knew it probably wasn’t injured, but I wanted an X-ray to make sure.

Here’s the reality: When you train day in and day out (i.e., consistently), you’ve got to care for your occasional aches and pains as if they’re part of your training. I view this as the “care and maintenance” of lifters – you.

When an ache or pain crops up, you can learn from it. Eventually, you’ll understand what you should always do and what you should never do. Your tweaks become less frequent, injuries non-existent, and you’ll be able to do what you love – train.

We’re Jacked Up Before We Even Lift

Pretty much everyone is at risk for aches and pains from lifting, simply because we’re jacked up before we even walk into the gym.

Your 30-minute commute, hours of hunching at the computer, your 30-minute commute home, and the fanfuckingtastic evening couch time all cause tightness in your body and weak, inactive glutes.

The result? When you lift weights, your body tries to “move around” tightness and underfunctioning muscles, causing smaller muscles to take up the slack. Over time, your body’s compensations cause overuse of support muscles and dysfunctional movement patterns.

In the end, those tight hips from sitting might cause you to favor your quads during squats, thus knee pain. Those tight upper traps might cause you to unconsciously shrug during overhead presses, causing rotator cuff irritation or muscle spasms. All this noise hurts, as you most likely already know.

Some of these problems do originate in the weight room due to improper form, lack of knowledge, or bad decisions. We typically know it when we make a mistake that causes a tweak or injury.

A System For Lifting Longevity

If you listen to your body’s signals, tweaks usually won’t turn into full-fledged injuries. Incorporating preventative measures into your training and your life will help you move from constantly tweaked to that blissful place of being (mostly) strong and injury-free.

Prehab – Your Best Friend

I don’t really care what the current buzzword is for prehab. Just do it. Your routine should also be individual to your aches and pains, workout, and history. Most importantly, it should be systematic. Here’s what I do, and what I recommend for my clients.

Before Every Workout

Foam roll tight, overactive muscles and adhesions acquired while sitting and doing other repetitive motions.

Foam roll whatever feels tight or painful that day (adductors, hip flexors, quads, glutes, calves, lats, rhomboids, etc.).

Most people do not foam roll correctly. The proper technique is to find a tender spot and stay on it until it releases (20-60 seconds). Simply rolling back and forth might increase blood flow a bit, but it won’t work out adhesions.

By the way, if your low back hurts, please don’t foam roll your low back. Instead, foam roll your glutes, adductors, and tensor fascia latae (TFL), as these muscles tie into the lumbar spine. It’s also not a good idea to foam roll your anterior delts in most cases, but give your rear delts, pectorals, and lats extra love as needed.

There are endless foam rolling instruments of pleasure you can use! I posted this quick list of my favorite tools on Instagram:

Do a 10-minute dynamic warm up consisting of 6-8 exercises

Each time I arrive in the gym, I deliberately avoid looking at the squat rack. That’s because if I see that the squat rack is empty, I have an insane temptation to run over there without warming up. By now, I’ve suffered the consequences of skipping my dynamic warm up enough times that I rarely skip it. I’m not a fan of needlessly pulled muscles.

Dynamic warm ups are simple, bodyweight exercises that take your joints and muscles gently and safely through the same movements as your workout. Dynamic warm ups can result in increased flexibility and range of motion. In effect, that means your warm up is your best tool for lifting longevity.

A few of my favorite dynamic warm-up exercises are:

  • Single-leg glute bridge
  • Glute bridge with leg whip
  • Split-stance adductor mobilization
  • Quad/hip flexor stretch
  • Band pull apart
  • Shoulder dislocate

The lunge with thoracic rotation is another one of my favorites for upper-body mobility.

Post-Workout

♦ Do five minutes of static stretching. Your muscles actually get tight while you’re lifting, too. It’s a good idea to loosen things up with static stretching after your sessions. I personally spend five minutes stretching my hips, quads, calves, lats, and pectorals.

Foam roll any known problem areas.

Daily and As Needed

Posture. Sitting is a major source of aches and pains for many folks. Stand or walk as much as possible during the day. At the computer, keep your shoulders down and relaxed and your chin tucked. Don’t look up at the computer screen and don’t hunch down over the keyboard. Always be conscious of your posture, whether you’re cooking, standing, driving, or sitting.

Soft tissue work. I often use a la crosse ball on the bottoms of my feet during the day (stand and roll the ball under your foot with gentle pressure). I’ll also sit on a foam roller on non-workout days or use the Beastie Ball on my rear delt. I have muscle spasms that act up now and then and I always address it the same day.

Rest and recovery. We all love to go hard and wish we could train every day. But smart lifters know that recovery is just as important as training. Leave 48 hours between training the same muscles, and give yourself days off.

When Something’s Wrong

There’s aches and pains from lifting, and then there are injuries. This is basic stuff – don’t ignore the loud whining sound or you risk being down for the count for a long time. (Also, use your discretion on how to proceed. I am NOT a doctor, so please do not assume that my advice will replace one.)

  • If you feel a twinge, tweak, pull, or pain, STOP what you’re doing. It might be a good idea to grab a foam roller and try to work out the area right then and there. But I still recommend stopping the exercise until you can tell how bad it is. Just trying to “finish the set” is bullshit, so don’t do that.
  • Take standard precautions, like icing, compression, and rest.
  • For god’s sake, do not train that area again until it’s pain free!
  • Get a diagnosis and tests done to help you determine what’s up.

As far as my sore thumb goes, the hand doctor says it’s probably a strained ligament from months ago. It will heal eventually. When I tape it, it doesn’t hurt. So I tape it.

Those of us who lift consistently for years may face aches and pains from lifting from time to time. We may not be right off the lot, but if well cared for, we’ve got miles to go.

This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.

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Health & Fitness

How To Create Your Own No-Guilt Travel Workout

I like looking at training problems from angles most people don’t think of

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I like looking at training problems from angles most people don’t think of – until they come up, of course. Take your typical travel workout, for example. The usual articles focus on killer bodyweight workouts in idyllic settings. But how often do you have a perfect gym while you travel? How often are you actually motivated to do any exercise? And how often do any of those travel workouts resemble what you do at home? Hardly ever, in my experience. I find that there are two main roadblocks to travel workouts: equipment and motivation. Let’s talk about jumping over these hurdles, and then I’ll tell you how to create your own perfect travel workout.

Mastering Motivation
Most travel workouts feed fears that if you don’t train while you’re away, you’ll lose all your. But I prefer to look at it from a more positive spin: If I work out while I travel, it will be much easier to bounce back when I get home. I found this out firsthand when I took two back-to-back trips over the holidays.

Training to Bounce Back
Normally, if I’m traveling for a week or less, I couldn’t care less about missing lifting sessions. I see it as a chance to let my body recover because I rarely miss a session at home. But two weeks is a long time to do nothing. Once you get into the 2-3 week range, it could take several weeks to bounce back. When you come back to lifting after a layoff, you have to back up a few steps. If you don’t lower the weight and decrease the volume upon returning, it’s very easy to find yourself with a pulled muscle or worse. This has happened to me on a number of occasions (see my tips for avoiding this below). I’ll add that sometimes you have to force yourself to train when you travel. You do it even though it feels like shit at first, and then it’s easier once you get started. Put on your clothes and shoes, pull out your resistance band or whatever meager equipment you have, and just do it. (Never was there a more apt marketing slogan.)

Equalizing Equipment
Recently, I stayed at a hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, that had a full gym and even a personal trainer. I was in pure nirvana.

But this isn’t going to happen every time you travel. In fact, it varies wildly from hotel to hotel.

The solution is to make equipment a secondary concern. Instead of focusing on what equipment you might have (it’s often unknown), focus on your goals. Do you want to maintain your strength or cardiovascular endurance? Make it easier to return to the gym when you get back? Stay regular? (A valid goal if there ever was one.) Once you know your exact goal, you’ve got everything you need.

Creating A Successful Travel Workout
Traveling isn’t the best time to start a whole new style of training. Improvise on what you normally do with quick workouts that deliver a nice burn. It also helps enormously to plan what you’ll do ahead of time. Write it down or put it in your phone before you leave (you’ll thank me). Just remember your goals.

Full Body Works Best
A full-body workout is perfect for traveling because you get a lot of bang for your buck. A 30-60 minute workout that trains your whole body might even feel more challenging to you than your usual training split. During the two weeks, I was Texas and Mexico, I did three full-body workouts. I was pleased with this and felt it helped me come back strong when I got home. (I didn’t train at all the first week and it didn’t affect my strength.)

I normally do upper/lower body workouts, so I enjoyed the noticeable challenge of full-body workouts. I ended up doing more volume than I’d do at home because I trained each muscle three times instead of twice.

How to Create Your Own Full-body Travel Workout
here are certain things that will give you more bang for your buck in a travel workout. You may not think of it once you get there, so plan ahead.

  • Supersets. Doing two exercises back-to-back lets you save time, burn more calories, and get stronger. To increase the calorie burn, rest as little as possible between exercises.
    Examples:
    • Hamstrings/glutes and quads (hamstring curl and reverse lunge)
    • Chest and back (chest press and bent-over row)
    • Anterior and posterior shoulders (overhead press and rear delt raise)
    • Chest and shoulders (push-ups and lateral raise)
    • Calves and abs (standing calf raise and plank)
    • Biceps and triceps (cross-body curl and overhead extension)

You can do any of these exercises with either a band or dumbbells. Or if you don’t have any equipment, do push-ups, pull-ups, planks, and bodyweight lunges, squats, and hip thrusts.

  • Low-risk exercises. You don’t want to strain your low back or pull a groin muscle on vacation. Risky exercises for your low back include deadlifts, good mornings, and even barbell squats. Bent-over rows can tweak your back too. If it feels iffy, don’t do it. If you feel strong and like your normal self, go for it. You might want to avoid upright rows, too, or any other shoulder exercise that might get wonky. Keep your form pristine and don’t rush.
  • Back-healthy exercises. Do face pulls, cobras, scapular retraction, and any other exercise to strengthen your upper back. Bunching up in planes and over pina coladas can tighten you up good.
  • Core activation exercises. Get more bang for your buck by doing exercises that engage your core big time. Unilateral, full-body, or standing exercises will do the trick. Think squat to presses, lunges, single-leg planks, or military presses.
  • Unilateral exercises. It’s always smart to do exercises one leg or arm at a time to improve your balance and stability. But unilateral exercises are especially useful if you don’t have access to heavier dumbbells. Do lunges, Bulgarian split squats, and single-arm presses and rows. 

Don’t forget to warm up thoroughly, either on a cardio machine or with dynamic warm-up exercises.

Two Ready-Made Workouts
Here are two workouts I created that can work while traveling:

I bet you hadn’t thought of some of these tips, had you? Now go enjoy yourself and come home feeling strong.

This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.

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LynxMode

Love is Fattening 

Savannah Lynx

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Photos by Ludwig Araujo Photography

It’s Tuesday night and I’ve run out of toilet paper. Walking the two and a half blocks to my neighborhood CVS, I step inside and chuckle smilelessly, eyeballing the egregiously festive decor glued to every visible surface. Visually wading through an explosion of vulgar red and pink balloons, I-love-you candies, cards, and toothy grins stapled to a dozen googly-eyed teddybears, I deduce that Valentine’s Day is near. To be honest, I’ve always loved the way CVS really goes for that holiday spirit, celebrating whatever cause for celebration is around the corner. Be it Christmas, Fourth of July, National Pizza Month, or Arbor Day, I can always rest assured that my go-to convenience store will have whatever needless thing I need to purchase. And so, as I swim through boxes of disgusting SweeTarts and funny faced stuffed animals, I begin to think of what a funny thing it is to be in love.

Now take it from me, I love love.  I can fall faster, get higher, and heartbreak harder than anyone I’ve ever met.  If there were a Love Olympics, there’s no question I’d win every event…and I mean every (wink wink). But I digress… the funny thing about being in love, is that it changes who you are. Being in love actually induces a shift in your brain chemistry, and sometimes, that’s not a good thing.  While you’re enjoying an afternoon delight or midnight snuggle sesh, your brain is flooding you with dopamine, serotonin, and all those warm fuzzy feelings that everyone’s a sucker for. So what’s the problem?  In my personal experience, the problem with love is that it plays a huge role in determining my diet and exercise regiment, and consequently, my body weight. Let’s review what I call the Six Phases of Love.

First, there’s Phase 1. You’re newly in love, on a constant adventure, and your gut is filled with butterflies and nervous energy.  This is the stage where you don’t even think about food since your stomach is full of that chaotic frenzy that runs on empty.

Next, there’s the Settle Down Phase. This is the moment when the initial euphoria starts wearing off and you’re able to revert back to normal eating habits and workouts.  Things seem stable for a moment, but soon enough, you’ve entered stage three.

pillow talk 💭💭 @fitnessgurls @ludwigaraujo

A post shared by Savannah Lynx (@savannahlynx) on

Also known as the Sitting On the Couch Watching TV Phase, this is perhaps the most dangerous phase of them all.  This my friends are where we gain what’s referred to as Happy Weight. Slightly reminiscent of the Freshman Fifteen, Happy Weight is the extra ten or so pounds you pack on in the haze of love’s nonjudgmental embrace.  You’ve established your love for one another, so the extra weight doesn’t bother either of you. However, after some time, you realize that you’ve totally replaced all your good health habits with Chex Mix and microwave pizza thingies. It’s at this phase where you decide to get back into shape or not. If you decide to keep the extra weight, there might still be hope for you if you decide to break up. In the last three optional stages of the breakup, we experience the What Do I Do Now Phase, Post Breakup Regulation Phase, and finally, the Revenge Body Phase.

People experience the What Do I Do Now Phase in two opposing ways. After a breakup, some are simply too depressed to eat, and unhealthily lose all their Happy Weight in a tidal wave of despair. Others prefer to drown out their emotions with boxes of sad, half-eaten chocolates, ice cream, or any kind of carb that can be delivered straight to the door.

Once the initial blow of love lost has subsided, the Post Breakup Regulation Phase kicks in, thus inspiring the “I’ll show him” mentality. This is where we get back to homeostasis and return to our diet and exercise routine PB (pre-boyfriend).

Finally, this brings us to the Revenge Body Phase. Because we all secretly crave the self-satisfaction of running into an ex-looking impossibly stunning, we prepare for this chance encounter by hitting the gym extra hard and eating super clean.

In summation, love takes a toll not just on our hearts, but our bodies, too. Now that we’ve covered our bases, let’s attack the root of this all. which is none other than OUTSIDE INFLUENCE.

If you’re dating someone in the fitness industry, you know it’s easier to stay on track with your diet and exercise goals with him than with someone who’s a couch potato, but even then, things change when there’s a new person in your life.  Personally speaking, in the last year of my relationship I gained 10 pounds of happy weight, then lost 15 because I looked down and said in the wise words of Regina George, “sweatpants is all that fits me right now.” At first, it was hard to stick to my diet goals when he would eat everything I couldn’t, and who wants to be annoying and awkward saying “I can’t have that I’m on a diet.” Ew. Not to mention, my boyfriend loves me regardless of my weight, and I felt a bit silly trying to slim down when he couldn’t care less. But a true support system will support your decisions to be a better you 100% of the time, and so he encouraged me to go to the gym on days I didn’t feel like it. I’m happier than ever with him, but I’ve been able to lose the weight I put on in the beginning because I stuck to my goals and he helped me reach them.

It’s hard enough as it is to navigate your way to a fitter you, but it’s double the struggle when you’ve met someone you want to spend all your time with. In love or simply out with friends, peer pressure eating and habits are tough to get over. My solution? Be aware of the phases of love and always be mindful of where you are in your personal journey. Nevertheless, it’s totally OK to gain some happy weight!!! Don’t stress yourself with life’s fluctuations. If you’re lucky enough to be in love, enjoy it.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Workout Wednesday

Jade Atkinson’s Full Body & Core Workout

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How would you like to look and feel your best? Get in fabulous shape with one of the most beautiful and inspiring fitness leaders, Jade Atkinson. Her workout, emphasizing the upper body, legs, and midsection, is sure to leave you invigorated and on your way to a fittest and appealing look. If you’ve been searching for a high-intensity, fat-burning, muscle-toning workout, look no further. Jade has it right here for you. Leading you through a no-nonsense yet eminently doable set of exercises, you will notice and feel the difference right away.

Get Jade’s Last Article: Jade Atkinson’s Upper Body Conditioning & Abs Workout

Jade Atkinson's Full Body

1Circuit 1

3-4 Rounds, 60-75 second break
KB swings x20
Miller plank x pushup x20
Squat to press x15
Sled sprint x2 laps or 20 steps
Ball slams x15

2Circuit 2

3-4 Rounds, 60-75 second break
Push up x20
Low plank jumping jack x20
Db curl to Press x10
DB military Press x10
One arm kb swing x15/arm

3Core

4 Rounds, 30-45 second break
Elbow to Toe Crunch x15/side
Weighted jackknife x15
Decline bench leg raises x15
Cork Screw x20

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