Mobility vs Flexibility: What's the difference and why does it matter?

April 17, 2017 - Emily Norcross

Flexibility and mobility are both very important to keeping our bodies healthy.   But often, I find clients confusing the need for increased mobility with the need for increased flexibility.

Put simply: flexibility pertains to the length of the muscle and mobility is the ability to move through full range of motion.  Limitations in mobility can be affected by decreased flexibility but more often mobility is limited by other factors including joint position, joint capsule tightness, and hypertonic muscles.  We often incorrectly assume that if we are flexible then we won’t have difficulty getting through a full range of motion.  This is flawed in many ways as you can be super flexible and still have joint tightness in places or conversely, you can have joint looseness and have very tight muscles surrounding it.

Here's an example: you try to complete a squat and no matter what you do you can’t get low enough OR you can get low enough but in order to do so your chest falls forward, your feet and knees collapse in or your heels come off the ground. 

So many of us use a measurement, like the depth of a squat, as a marker of successful movement.  But if we are compensating at other parts of the body we are putting the knees or the back at risk for injury as they are now in an unsafe position.  Good mobility means you can go deep enough in your squat without making any other compensation movements.

So why does this all matter?  Maybe you don’t squat and don’t want to start.  Maybe you just want to get rid of your low back pain you have from sitting at your computer all day.  Either person can benefit from improvements in mobility to improve movement patterns and decrease injury rates.

If you notice that you feel as if a joint gets stuck or pinches as you try to move into a position and it is different from the feeling of muscle tightness, it is likely a joint mobility issue.   There are simple techniques you can do to self-treat decreases in joint mobility but you should consult a health care professional, such as an athletic trainer, physical therapist, or chiropractor, who can evaluate your movement and teach you appropriate was to improve your joint mobility.  Use caution on self-treatment – not all joints need to increase mobility.  There are some joints that are more common to be hypermobile and that brings an entirely different set of challenges. 

 

Why NormaTec? Details on the most popular piece of equipment in our Recovery Lounge

March 15, 2017 - Emily Norcross

NormaTec boots allow you to squeeze the most benefits out of your recovery time. While static compression socks are certainly helpful after a long run, bike ride, or travel, NormaTec is a system that pushes fluid back to the heart while causing relaxation in the muscle tissues being targeted. The system mimics the way your muscles naturally push blood from your extremities back to the heart when you are exercising while you are relaxing in our recliner chairs, sipping beer or kombucha poured straight from the tap and watching sports on HDTV.

How they Work:

PULSING: Instead of using static compression (squeezing) to transport fluid out of the limbs, Sequential Pulse Technology uses dynamic compression (pulsing). The patented pulsing action more effectively mimics the muscle pump of the legs and arms, greatly enhancing the movement of fluid and metabolites out of the limbs after an intense workout. 

GRADIENTS: Veins and lymphatic vessels have one-way valves that prevent fluid backflow. Similarly, NormaTec technology uses hold pressures to keep fluids from being forced in the wrong direction. Because of this enhancement, instead of tapering pressure off, the NormaTec can deliver maximum pressure in every zone. 

DISTAL RELEASE: Because extended static pressure can be detrimental to the body’s normal circulatory flow, Sequential Pulse Technology releases the hold pressures once they are no longer needed to prevent backflow. By releasing the hold pressure in each zone as soon as possible, each portion of the limb gains maximal rest time without a significant pause between compression cycles.

Studies have shown that compression in distant skeletal muscles improves microcirculation (1,2). Compression can also promote recovery for tendonitis resulting from overuse. Mild edema, the buildup of fluid, also results from overuse injuries or travel, inhibiting adequate range of movement and slows recovery. Compression therapy restores normal circulation, flushing lymph and waste products. The increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the injured or fatigued area speeds recovery and has immediate tangible benefits (3).

References:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10376732
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10073652
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24531439

Dynamic Plank Variations

The secret to successful movement and injury prevention for all athletes? A strong core!

Most people perform planks in a stationary, holding position. Though a great exercise for your entire core when done properly, a more dynamic approach to this core exercise will help you be better prepared and stronger for all of your favorite sports.

Proper form is key to completing this series of exercises. Whenever you start to lose form, stop and take a break. You want your shoulders back, hips down, core tight, and back straight. It’s best to do this with a buddy the first time so that you can form check each other and make sure everything stays in alignment.

Plank #1: Glute activation while keeping your core stable and tight in the plank position while limiting any movement from the hips up.

Plank #2: Adds side-to-side movements that challenge your balance and form. Easier with legs in a wider stance, work up to keeping your feet together while alternating shoulder touches. Keep your core engaged and hips in alignment…the less movement in your torso the better!

Plank #3: Dynamic, high-intensity core work to really challenge your entire core! Also lovingly known as mountain climbers (you know you love them), this type of plank really targets your hip flexors and form. Start off slow and controlled as you master form, then to a medium pace, and finish with a fast tempo. Pairing this with your favorite workout playlist will help keep you motivated as the tempo increases!

These plank variations can be done in any order, and you can add on rounds as you get stronger. And join us to learn more and have fun in one of our group classes!

#youbetter

Make 2017 a Year of Addition (not Subtraction)

January 1, 2017 - Stasi Kasianchuk MS, RD, LD, CSSD, CSCS

With the New Year upon us, it is not uncommon to make resolutions which focus on elimination, reduction, or discarding. Instead, why not think about something to add, rather than take away? The following are three things to add to your daily nutrition routine to invest in you and enrich your life. Start 2017 right by choosing to make YOU.BETTER.

1. Add a herb to your bite. Fresh or dried, in addition to flavor, herbs provide a variety nutrients, known as phytochemicals. These phytochemicals contain the “A3 benefit” for health and performance: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant. To obtain these benefits add extra fresh cilantro to a taco salad or thyme and oregano to roasted potatoes. For more ideas check out this link:

http://www.foodandnutrition.org/July-August-2015/Perfect-Pick/

2. Eat a crucifer. The nutrients contained in the cruciferous family are incredibly powerful when it comes to helping the body overcome the stress of training, illness, or disease. Given the benefits aim to include a veggie from this family at least once a day. The good news is you have plenty of options. Kale, kohlrabi, radish, brussel sprouts, rapini, arugula, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, turnip, bok choy, broccoli, and rutabaga are all options to include. For photos of all these check out this link: http://www.foodandnutrition.org/September-October-2016/Crazy-for-Crucifers-13-Cruciferous-Vegetables-Brimming-with-Nutrients/

3. Drink more water. While all fluids count when it comes to meeting hydration needs, water is especially beneficial when it comes to optimizing health and performance. In addition to supporting optimal training, hydrating with water also enhances the recovery process. At the very least just add one glass of water per day to what you are already drinking. Simply start by having a glass of water first thing in the morning and gradually increase to drinking half your body weight in ounces (i.e. 150 lbs=75 oz) over the course of the day. Ultimately you want your urine to be the color of lemonade on a consistent basis. For ideas on how to add flavor and nutrients to water without sugar and calories check out this link:

http://www.foodandnutrition.org/Stone-Soup/April-2014/Meeting-Your-Hydration-Needs-Yes-Even-Coffee-Counts/

Recovery Nutrition…the Forgotten Phase of the Workout

September 6, 2016 - Stasi Kasianchuk MS, RD, LD, CSSD, CSCS

During exercise, a multitude of physiological reactions are occurring in the body which result in adaptations to improve overall fitness. Often the emphasis of nutrition around a training session is focused on what to eat prior to training to fuel the workout. While this is certainly important, it is the nutrition used for recovery after the workout which helps to optimize the adaptations which occur. This is especially important when another training session is scheduled within 24 hours or less. In order to optimize training gains a variety of nutrients are needed. Ultimately a training session is not complete without recovery nutrition to support this. Whole food combinations, like the ones listed below, provide a “one-stop shopping” approach to initiating whole body repair to maximize training adaptations from one workout and get you ready for the next! 

Sweet potato, yogurt, and granola breakfast bowl 

Watermelon salad w/ mint, & feta cheese

Tart Cherry Juice & mango smoothie

Ditch the boring protein powder and shaker bottle and try one of the above whole food recovery recipes which are packed with the nutrients below. 

Refuel. Recover. Recharge.

Refuel. Recover. Recharge.

WHY SAUNA?

August 12, 2016 - Marc Norcross

Arguably the most eye-catching feature of Recharge Eugene is our full-spectrum infrared sauna.  With delicate lighting, a glass roof, fancy lighting and a natural cedar smell, it is hard to not be captivated by this piece of equipment.  However, there is way more to this machine than simply good looks and we’d thought we would highlight the benefits through some good old-fashioned Q & A.

What is a full-spectrum infrared sauna and how is it different from the sauna at my local gym?

The main difference is the mechanisms through which they work.  A conventional sauna relies on a heat source to warm the air inside the sauna.  This warmed air then circulates by the surface of the skin and heats the body primarily via a process called convection.  Think of this like stepping into a large oven and slowly heating yourself up from the outside in. 

In contrast, a full-spectrum infrared sauna emits electromagnetic radiation at longer wavelengths/lower frequencies than visible red light.  This electromagnetic energy is able to penetrate into your body where it is absorbed by your tissues to create an increase in temperature that can cause a whole host of other effects that we will talk about in a moment. 

So what does this difference mean for me? 

Very simply, a full-spectrum infrared sauna can have a deeper depth of penetration and can cause a similar increase in body temperature as a traditional sauna but at a much lower ambient temperature (130-140 °F vs. 180-190 °F).  For most people, this means that the infrared sauna is way more comfortable and better tolerated than a conventional sauna.

Great, I can sit in an infrared sauna comfortably. But what does it do for me besides make me sweat?

To answer this, I’ll summarize some information from a very informative video by Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D. that you may want to check out (https://youtu.be/aHOlM-wlNjM). 

In general, there are a host of physiologic adaptations that take place as a result of heat acclimation through what Dr. Patrick terms “hyperthermic conditioning”- or purposefully exposing your body to heat stress independent of your training through the use of something such as a sauna.  However, rather than jump right into a list, let’s get directly to the point and find out if these physiologic adaptations can actually help you perform your best.

I’m primarily an endurance athlete.  How is a sauna going to help me?

In a nutshell, it can improve your endurance.  Runners that used a 30-minute post-exercise sauna session twice a week for three weeks increased their run time to exhaustion by about 30% compared to a group that did not use a sauna.

(Scoon et al. (2007). Effect of post-exercise sauna bathing on the endurance performance of competitive male runners. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2006.06.009)

You’ve got to be kidding.  How in the world did adding a sauna session a couple times a week to their training protocol cause such a drastic increase in performance in just three weeks?

I’ll let you click over to Dr. Patrick if you want the nitty-gritty details, but it basically comes down to the fact that sauna use (heat acclimation) can cause the following effects:

Increased plasma volume and blood flow to the heart (stroke volume) that results in lesser cardiovascular strain for a given workload.
Increased skeletal muscle blood flow that improves oxygen and nutrient delivery and reduces the need to use glycogen stores by up to 50%.  Ever hit the wall?  That happens when you use up all of your stored muscle glycogen.
Reduced lactate accumulation in blood and muscle during exercise.
Improved core body temperature regulation, most notably through a more efficient sweating response.

Remember the study I mentioned that showed ≈ 30% increase in time to exhaustion in runners who used a sauna post-exercise compared to those that did not?  The authors also found increased plasma volume, blood volume, and red blood cell counts in these runners and attributed their performance increases to these cardiovascular changes.

Just so I’m clear, the science suggests that if I make the infrared sauna at Recharge Eugene a part of my training routine twice per week that I might be able to increase my performance without actually increasing my training?

Yes.  Yes, it does. 

That sounds great for those folks that run, swim, and ride for miles and miles and miles, but I don’t even run to the fridge for my protein shake.  All I want to do is lift massive amounts of weight and get huge.  How can the sauna help me?

Next time you see this stereotypical guy at the gym, please let them know that the scientific term for what they are interested in is muscle hypertrophy.  Like all tissues in our body, muscle adapts to the stresses placed on it through a process known as the SAID (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) principle.  So, by lifting weights we hope to stimulate our muscle fibers to increase in size (hypertrophy) as this is the primary way- along with improved neuromuscular control- that we can achieve increases in muscle force production or strength.

Yeah, yeah - I got it. But, the sauna?

Almost there.  However, while applying the stimulus (lifting) is important, muscle hypertrophy occurs only when protein synthesis is greater than protein degradation.  And, the greater the difference in the magnitude of protein synthesis compared to protein degradation- known as net protein synthesis- the greater the muscle hypertrophy. 

Enter the sauna.  Heat acclimation has been shown to reduce the amount of protein degradation via three main mechanisms:

The induction of heat shock proteins.
Increased release of growth hormone.
Improved insulin sensitivity.

I’ll let Dr. Patrick fill in the details (https://youtu.be/aHOlM-wlNjM), but the take-home message is that using the sauna can reduce the magnitude of protein degradation.

So, how does reducing protein degradation benefit me?

Three are three things that could happen depending upon your magnitude of protein synthesis and training status.

If you are seeing muscle hypertrophy as a result of your training, you are already in a state of net protein synthesis.  By reducing protein degradation, you can further increase this difference and may see greater hypertrophy from your current training load.

If you are having trouble inducing muscle hypertrophy with your resistance training and just seem to be maintaining the muscle mass that you already have, you likely have a relatively equal balance of protein synthesis and degradation.  However, you may be able to shift this into the net protein synthesis region by reducing your magnitude of protein degradation and end up facilitating muscle hypertrophy.

If you are not able to train normally due to injury or some other issue and are losing muscle mass (atrophy), your magnitude of protein degradation is greater than your protein synthesis.  Reducing the magnitude of protein degradation will get you closer to an equal balance and can reduce the rate and/or magnitude of muscle atrophy.

Whoa, I thought you said you were going to leave the details to Dr. Patrick.  Using words that kids would understand, can you tell me if the infrared sauna at Recharge Eugene can help me increase muscle mass and get stronger?

Yes, I can.  The science suggests that regular sauna use could help you to maximize the strength gains you will see from your current resistance training program.  Though the optimal frequency and length of sessions is not known, the physiologic effects suggest 2-3 times per week for at least 30 minutes per session may be sufficient.

Any final thoughts?

Always.  We chose to focus this blog report on two of the benefits of sauna- endurance and hypertrophy gains- that we thought would be most relevant to our members.  However, we’d be remiss to not mention how relaxing and rejuvenating an infrared sauna session feels.  Come on in and give it a try!