Rollin, Rollin, Rollin

Self-myofascial release is a fancy term for self-massage to release muscle tightness or trigger points. Using a foam roller, individuals apply pressure to specific points on the body, this aids in the recovery of muscles and assists in returning them to normal function.

Trigger points are “knots” that form in muscles, these points will refer pain.  This means when pressure is applied to an area, pain is felt or radiated in another area.  An example of a trigger point, while foam rolling your iliotibial (IT) band it causes pain to radiate up to the hip or all the way down the leg to the ankle. When rolling or working on tight/sore muscles you will experience discomfort or pain. Think of it like the pain you get while stretching. It should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and when you are done it should feel better.  Deep compression helps to break up or relax tight muscles and adhesions formed between muscle layers and connective tissue.

To foam roll properly, apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your body weight. You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second. When you find areas that are tight or painful, pause for several seconds and relax as much as possible.  You should slowly start to feel the muscle releasing, and after 5-30 seconds the discomfort or pain should lessen.

If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, shift the roller and apply pressure on the surrounding area and gradually work to loosen the entire area. The goal is to restore healthy muscles – this may be uncomfortable, but shouldn’t be painful.  Avoid rolling a joint, bone and the lower back area.

Some benefits of foam rolling:

  • Prevents injury and aids recovery
  • Breaks up scar tissue
  • Improves flexibility
  • Helps reduce lactic acid

Make sure you’re using your foam roller safely and effectively, consult with a physician or trainer before beginning your regimen.

 

Brush-a, Brush-a

Dry brushing – you’ve probably heard or read about it, but do you know why we should do it?  Let’s talk about what it is, how to do it and why you should do it.

Dry brushing is done with a natural (non-synthetic) bristle brush, use one with a long handle so you can reach all areas of your body.  It’s best to stand in the shower or bathtub when you brush as dry skin will fall.   Dry brushing is exactly what it sounds like, use long sweeping motions to brush your skin.

Dry skin brushing should be done daily for best results, or even twice a day if you like. Try incorporating it into your normal daily routine, avoid doing it too close to bedtime, as it may leave you feeling energized.

When brushing, always brush toward your heart, which is best for circulation and your lymphatic system. You can brush your entire body (including the soles of your feet). Start at your feet and work your way up your legs to your arms, chest, back, and stomach. Avoid brushing your face .

The pressure you apply while brushing your skin should be firm but not painful (avoid “scrubbing”). You can brush for as long (or as little) as you’d like.

Once you’ve brushed your entire body, rinse your body with hot or warm water then finish with the coldest water you can, it helps promote circulation.  When finished, pat skin dry and and apply a natural oil, like coconut oil for smooth, hydrated skin.

Why you should do it:

  1. To stimulate the lymphatic system.   Your lymphatic system is the system responsible for eliminating cellular waste products.   When this system is not working properly, waste and toxins can build up and make you sick. Lymphatic congestion is a major factor leading to inflammation and disease. When you stimulate your lymphatic system it helps release toxins.
  2. Exfoliation – Dry skin brushing removes dead dry skin, improving appearance, clearing clogged pores, and allowing your skin to “breathe.”
  3. Increases circulation – this helps release and eliminate metabolic waste.
  4. Reduces the appearance of cellulite – Dry skin brushing may help to soften hard fat deposits below the skin while distributing fat deposits more evenly. This may help to diminish the appearance of cellulite. 
  5. It’s invigorating!  Not only does it leave you with tighter, glowing skin, it can also leave you energized.

Cellulite, the not-so-cute dimples

Cellulite is a term for lumpy, dimpled flesh on the thighs, hips, buttocks and abdomen. Cellulite is most common in adolescent and adult women – so NOT fair!

Cellulite isn’t a serious medical condition, but might make you self-conscious about wearing shorts or a swimming suit.  Cellulite makes the skin appear bumpy or uneven.  Most of us know what it looks like, but many do not understand what causes it .

There is a layer of connective tissue between the skin and underlying muscle, fat lays in between.  The connective tissue is kind of like a window screen or web, when fat cells accumulate they push against the tissue causing a puckered or cottage cheese appearance on the skin.  Both men and women can have cellulite, however it is more prevalent in women as we carry more fat in the thighs, buttocks and abdominal areas.  It is also more common as we age, as skin loses elasticity.  Weight gain can make cellulite more noticeable, but some lean people have cellulite, as well. It tends to run in families, so genetics may play the biggest role in whether you develop cellulite.

Other factors that can contribute to the appearance of cellulite are:

  • Poor diet
  • Slow metabolism
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dehydration
  • Total body fat
  • Thickness and color of your skin

There are ways to lessen the appearance of cellulite.

  1. Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight
  2. Stay hydrated
  3. Use a self tanner – darker skin tends to make skin look smoother
  4. Exfoliate – keep as smooth as possible
  5. Strength train – having strong muscles under lumpy areas can help skin appear smooth
  6. Quit smoking – lighting up affects the blood supply to your skin, making it thinner and more likely to sag.
  7. Massage problem areas – this helps promote circulation, which makes dimples less noticeable.
  8. Use retinol creams – this helps thicken your skin’s outer layer and helps cover lumpy areas.

There are other options that are very pricey and require ongoing treatment to keep the smooth appearance.  Skip liposuction as this procedure can actually make cellulite worse.

Cellulite is a common condition that affects roughly 90% of women.  Chances are, you notice it more than anyone else.  Control the things you can control and let the rest go,  In the end, it’s more important how we look on the inside.

Planning is key!

You can still enjoy the holidays without derailing your diet, really, you can!  You’ve been working hard to stay on track, shedding winter weight and toning up to debut that new swimsuit – don’t let the Memorial Day celebrations distract you.  Here are some simple tips on how you can enjoy this holiday weekend AND stay on track.

  1. Stay hydrated.  Start drinking water when you wake up and keep it coming.  Many times we find ourselves reaching for food, when our bodies really only need water.  Staying hydrated will keep your hunger signals in check, if you’re hydrated and you feel hungry you really ARE hungry.  If you’re dehydrated and you feel hungry it’s hard to tell if you’re really hungry or if you just need fluids.
  2. Fill up on raw veggies before you leave the house.  Make a good choice, something low in calories that will fill you up and take some time to digest.
  3. Take it all in.  When you arrive check out the food table, make mental notes of the items you REALLY want to enjoy.  Then, walk away – leave the table for 10 or more minutes, take this time to thank your hosts and visit with other guests.  When you go back fill your plate with small portions of 3-4 items.  Take your plate away from the buffet, eat slowly and enjoy.
  4. This isn’t the last supper, you don’t need to eat everything on display.  After you finish eating, take 20 minutes to again, work the room, play horseshoes, etc…  if you still find the buffet table calling your name, choose 2 items and keep portions small. When you finish, toss the plate and avoid the food table for the rest of your stay.
  5. Beverages, choose wisely!  Liquid calories can be dangerous and sabotage the best of diets. There is a reason they call it a beer belly – if beer is your drink of choice, try to stick with a low carb variety if possible.  Sugary cocktails are delicious, but they can pack up to 600 calories in a medium glass – sour mix and juices are loaded with calories and sugar – these are the most dangerous, as they will spike you blood sugar and most likely have you headed back to the food table in an effort to stabilize that blood sugar level – I recommend you skip these.  If you’re into mixed drinks, keep in mind darker liquors have more calories than clear ones.  When you pick your mixer try to stick with one that is low in sugar like club soda or water.  When you mix with soda or juice, you’re falling into the that sugar trap.  Whatever you choose – moderation is key.
  6. We’ve made it full circle, going back to #1, stay hydrated.  Hydration isn’t just important before your fun and games.  Try to alternate drinking water with your beverage of choice – this helps you stay full, avoids blood sugar spikes and hopefully hangovers 🙂

Most of all, enjoy your time with family and friends!

Give it a rest!

Many of us believe more is better when it comes to exercise, I’d like to explain why less is more.  Over-training can have negative consequences for those trying to lose weight.

Working out six or seven days a week doesn’t allow enough time for rest and recovery, which is one of the crucial elements of fitness.  You see, many believe our muscles grow when we work out, this is not so.  Working muscles causes tiny little tears in the muscles, it’s when we rest the muscles, that they repair themselves and become stronger.  It’s important to work your muscles (hard), this stimulates muscle-building  proteins, then it’s time to let the muscles rest and repair.

Over-training can also cause a weight-loss plateau – yikes!  Training too hard or too often can lead to your body burning muscle instead of fat because you are burning more calories than you are taking in. When this happens, your body goes into a protective mode similar to the effects of starvation where it will store fat while burning muscles to provide energy.

Training causes hunger, it’s normal – the exertion and burning of energy causes us to be hungry.  Unfortunately many times we eat more calories than we burn.  Over-training can leave you famished,  leading to over-eating then starting the vicious cycle of burning energy and replacing it with more calories than you burned.  For those trying to lose weight, this will also lead to stress, increased cortisol and weight gain – the opposite of what they’re trying to achieve.

In the end, it’s really about balance.  You need to exercise regularly to stay healthy and fit, but don’t forget you also need rest to stay healthy and fit.  Make sure you’re incorporating 2 rest days into your weekly routine.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do anything, if you feel like you need to move try taking a walk at a moderate pace (you can hold a conversation) for 20-30 minutes.  Think of it as a “thank you” to your body for all it allows you to do on the other 5 days.

 

 

Manipura – the third chakra

The third chakra is called Manipura, which means “lustrous gem”.  This chakra is located in the navel in the area of the solar plexus and up to the breastbone, it is a source of personal power and governs self-esteem, warrior energy, and the power of transformation. The Manipura chakra also controls metabolism and digestion.

When you feel self-confident, have a strong sense of purpose, and are self-motivated, your third chakra is open and healthy. If your third chakra is out of balance, you can suffer from low self-esteem, have difficulty making decisions, and may have anger or control issues.

There are several ways to help open and balance this chakra.  Certain foods can be used to heal this chakra. Adding these foods to your diet or increasing the amount you eat can help activate your chakra:

  • squash
  • sweet potatoes
  • pumpkins
  • lentils
  • yellow and orange peppers
  • lemons
  • corn
  • yellow pears
  • golden apples
  • brown rice
  • oats

Daily affirmations can also help to balance the Manipura.  Starting the day with affirmations can put you in the right frame of mind to balance this chakra.  Since this chakra is closely tied with strength and a healthy sense of self, affirmations that focus on self-acceptance and boundaries are most useful. Affirmations like:

  • I love and accept myself.
  • I can achieve anything I desire.
  • I believe in myself.

Certain asanas or yoga poses will help both open and balance this chakra.

Boat pose

5 Boat Pose Variations To Wake Up Your Core

  1. Start in a seated position. Rock back so you are on  your two sit bones and your tail bone.
  2. Lift your chest and lean back slightly and slowly begin to lift your toes up off the floor.
  3. Bring your shins parallel with your mat or begin to lengthen the legs to create a V shape.
  4. Extend arms towards the feet.

Half Lord of the Fishes pose

  1. Begin seated on the floor with your legs extended in front of you, arms resting at your sides.
  2. Bend both knees, placing the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Then, drop your left knee to the floor. Tuck your left foot under your right leg, resting it alongside your right buttock.
  3. Raise your left arm overhead. Exhaling, twist to the right. Place your left elbow to the outside of your right knee. Keep your forearm raised, with your fingertips pointing toward the ceiling.
  4. With each inhalation, make your spine longer; and with each exhalation, twist a little deeper.
  5. Turn your head to gaze over your right shoulder.
  6. Repeat the twist for the same length of time on the opposite side.

Bow pose

Lay on your stomach, bring both arms back by your sides. Lift your arms and chest up off of the floor while raising both legs up off of the floor and bend your knees to ninety-degrees. Grab the tops of your feet and press your feet into your hands until you feel your legs and chest lifting just a slight bit more. Stay in the pose for up to 5 deep breaths.

Balancing and opening the third chakra allows you to feel centered in your mind, body, and spirit.  Relaxed and comfortable in your own skin.  It allows you to be more aware of your own energy and being, comfortable in your decisions, and connected to your “gut” feelings.  The phrase “go with your gut” indicates confidence in your  self and your energy to know what is best for you.

 

 

Once again, Mom was right….

We’ve all heard it, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.  Well,once again, Mom was right!  You can go online and find conflicting reports and different reasoning – but I’d like to share my thoughts on breakfast and why I’m taking Mom’s side.

Studies show that you need to eat regularly to maintain a healthy weight, this keeps blood sugar stable (if you eat the right foods), helps ensure appropriate vitamin and nutrient intake and gives you energy to keep moving.  For example, if you eat dinner at 6:00 pm, sleep all night and wake at 6:00 am – you’ve gone 12 hours without food.  Our metabolism and bodily functions naturally slow when we sleep – this is why we don’t need to wake up and eat a meal in the middle of the night.  But, when we wake up, our systems are up and at ’em – everything “turns on”, this requires food/calories/energy.  If you skip breakfast and wait until lunch – you’ve possibly gone without food for 18 hours!  What does this do to your metabolism?  It slows it dramatically, putting you into storage mode.  Your body is complex and will acclimate to circumstances.  If you “starve” it, it will begin storing every calorie possible as it doesn’t know when you will feed it again.  The body needs to know you will feed it what it needs regularly and it will operate optimally, ie. falling into a healthy weight and maintaining energy to keep you going all day.

Eating a healthy breakfast also helps reduce the stress hormone, cortisol, which is at it’s highest in the morning or waking hours.  When we go to sleep at night our bodies slow, however they take this time to repair themselves and they still have to provide basic functions.  Our liver stores glycogen, our bodies will use the glycogen and our blood sugar to perform these functions as we sleep.  By the time we are ready to wake up, the glycogen and insulin are depleted and need to be restored.  If we do not consume calories to help restore these energy sources the body will release cortisol.  This stress hormone is notorious for causing belly fat and starts to feed off of muscle proteins in a desperate effort to feed itself.

A healthy breakfast can also prevent “brain fog”.  Studies show, children who eat a healthy breakfast have better concentration at school, it improves overall mental performance and math scores.  According to pediatrician Dr. William Sears, children who eat breakfast also participate more in class discussions, are better able to handle complex problems in class and get better grades.  The same goes for adults, we tend to think more clearly, be more alert and less distracted when we have a morning meal.

Overall, people who eat breakfast are healthier than those who don’t.  Science is hesitant to say that breakfast is the reason for better health or a healthier weight, as they’re not sure if it’s actually breakfast that makes a person healthier or if people who live healthy lives are breakfast eaters.  Either way, it’s the same end result – healthier weight, healthier bodies, healthier brains, win win win!