My knee benched me for the beginning of the high-school season, a blow that hit my fragile teen psyche the hardest. I felt inferior, damaged, irrelevant.
So, when I spotted this BeWell@Stanford piece on exercising with injuries, I devoured it eagerly. Although I’m much healthier emotionally than I was as a teen, I know I want to remain active, period.
In the Q&A, Gordon Matheson, MD, PhD, a sports medicine physician, says that an injury shouldn’t kill your workout: “Fortunately, programs can be devised that work around almost any musculoskeletal condition.”
He also weighs in on the mental benefits of exercise:
Regular exercise has two main effects. One is that exercise builds greater capacity within your body; it increases bone, cartilage, muscle, joint and heart health; and helps manage weight. The other effect is something known as self-efficacy or confidence. Both are equally important. Even if you aren’t exercising vigorously, the fact that you are taking time to do something good for your body sets the mental stage for further development of your exercise goals. Once you incorporate exercise as a means of increasing the health of your daily life, you will experience an empowerment that helps to overcome the feelings of frustration and limitation.
Exercise keeps you aware of the state of your body. When you’re running, or exercising vigorously, you get some feedback if you’ve eaten too much or too little. Your body sends you a message if you’re dehydrated. You can feel bloated and stiff if you’ve had too much salt or alcohol the night before. You have trouble finishing your workout if you’ve gone without enough sleep for a number of nights. All this feedback works to help you take care of yourself and to pay attention to habits that affect your health. So it’s important to pay attention to your body if you’re not able to exercise. Don’t check out and get numb to the effects of your eating, drinking, and sleeping habits. Pay attention.
I will, thanks.
To get some answers I turned to Michael Fredericson, MD, who has served as the head team physician with the Stanford Sports Medicine Program since 1992. In this two-part Q&A, Fredericson discusses the role of flexibility in injury prevention and fitness performance and what the scientific evidence indicates about the effectiveness of stretching.
From a biomechanics point of view, how does flexibility influence athletic performance and help reduce the potential for injury?
It is difficult to make a vast generalization about the impact of flexibility because of the broad scope of biomechanical stresses and physical requirements throughout various athletic endeavors. For example, functional flexibility for a hurdler requires greater lengthening of the hamstring and a greater range of motion than for distance running. But in general the concern is when stretching increases a person’s flexibility beyond what is required for a specific motion.
Excessive flexibility may impair performance in sports where a high degree of flexibility is not required. For example, runners with less flexibility are actually more efficient at running. One example in a study involving 100 people, researchers evaluated participants’ flexibility with 11 different tests and then measured their efficiency while walking and running. Results showed, participants who were the most flexible expended 10 to 12 percent more energy to move at the same speed as compared with those that were the least flexible.
In everyday life, individuals maintain flexibility in a specific joint by using it. As we age, decreased activity and lack of use of a joint leads to reduced flexibility. The same is true for athletes. Participating in the sport itself provides the stimulus required to maintain their necessary range of motion. So, in many sports it is more desirable to achieve the required range of motion through specific actions that simulate the movements of the sport, rather than with prolonged stretching. Intense stretching could result in the range of motion exceeding what is needed for athletes to compete and consequently diminishing their performance.
Static stretching can increase muscle length but this doesn’t necessarily benefit all athletes equally. While some athletes such as gymnasts and swimmers may need to gain flexibility, being excessively flexible doesn’t benefit distance runners. Consider the standard hamstring stretch. Stretching your hamstring teaches the muscle to relax when the knee is fully extended. However, this doesn’t benefit runners. Instead, runners need to have their hamstrings stiff and activated when the knees are extended. Additionally, studies such as a recent USA Track and Field study (.pdf), have found that static stretching seems to have little benefit in terms of injury prevention, particularly against the overuse injuries common in running.
Another thing to keep in mind is that prolonged stretching, greater than 60 seconds, prior to athletic activity can reduce maximum force production with the loss of voluntary strength and muscular power. This effect can last up to one hour after stretching. For this reason, intense stretching is not typically recommended prior to competition. However many athletes, especially dancers and others participating in activities that require more than average flexibility, may still find shorter bouts of static stretching beneficial.
Salar Deldar, a third-year medical resident at Stanford, contributed information to this entry. The Q&A continues tomorrow with a discussion about the effectiveness of stretching before a workout vs. afterwards and the role of genetics in flexibility.
Photo by lululemon athletica
Like so many who achieve and surpass their goals, David Goggins understands that it is often our minds, not our bodies that create obstacles and throw us off track.
Exercise to offset sitting risks
It’s not as hard as it sounds if you follow these new guidelines that might even extend your life expectancy.
It is what the 41-year-old former navy SEAL and ultra-marathon runner refers to as the 40 per cent rule.
In a new book, entrepreneur Jesse Itzler describes how he hired Goggins to be his live-in trainer for one month ahead of a race.
David Goggins. Photo: Facebook
Goggins – known as the “SEAL” – explains to him that when our minds tell us we are finished, we are only at 40 per cent of our capacity. This is how so many people (as much as 99 per cent of starters) finish a marathon; they break through the inevitable mental barrier that hits them at some point during the race.
“The first day that ‘SEAL’ came to live with me he asked me to do – he said how many pull-ups can you do?,” writes Itzler in Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.
“I did about eight.
“And he said all right. Take 30 seconds and do it again. So 30 seconds later I got up on the bar and I did six, struggling. And he said all right, one more time. We waited 30 seconds and I barely got three or four and I was done. I mean couldn’t move my arms done.
David Goggins. Photo: Facebook
“And he said all right. We’re not leaving here until you do 100 more. And I thought there’s no – well we’re going to be here for quite a long time because there’s no way that I could do 100. But I ended up doing it one at a time and he showed me, proved to me right there that there was so much more, we’re all capable of so much more than we think we are. And it was just a great lesson.”
In a new interview, Goggins, who once held the World Record for most pull-ups done in 24-hours (4025), insists his message is about finding ways to challenge our beliefs about our capabilities, not to all become masochists.
“It’s not about pushing yourself until you die,” Goggins tells Rich Roll in a new podcast. “It’s about not giving up when something is uncomfortable – that’s what the message is.”
Goggins intimately understands how we hold ourselves back by telling ourselves we are incapable.
He grew up in an abusive home where his father beat him up, was bullied at school, stuttered and was, at one stage, obese. The first time he ran, he made it only 400 metres.
“I saw myself as the weakest man on the planet,” Goggins reveals, “and I wanted to change that.
“Instead of making it ‘woe is me’… I changed my thought process.”
As he challenged his perceived weakness, taking on physical challenges, he uncovered his self-doubt.
“Before you start a goal – let’s take care of our insecurities because they are going to surface when you put yourself in the crucible and you’re suffering,” says Goggins, who has been a top finisher in 10 of the world’s most difficult ultramarathons.
“What keeps the person in the fight is having a purpose – leave the ego at the door, because the ego will kill you every time, you will always quit.”
Every time he told himself he should quit, he reminded himself of the pain he had endured and how he had made it through.
“When you’re in hell, you forget how great you really are because you’re suffering and you forget the great things you’ve done,” he explains.
While Goggins believes he has now gained the insight into himself he needed from running ultramarathons (and doing 4025 pull-ups in one hit), he says it has taught him that even when he fails “20 times trying”, he is far more capable than he ever believed and he hopes to help others realise they are too.
“People think you need to have all this stuff [to achieve] and they have this thing like ‘it wasn’t meant to be’ – if I had that mindset one damn time in my life, I’d be a 400 pound man spraying for cockroaches still,” Goggins says.
“My whole thing now is I know how to think properly to be successful in all aspects of my life. It’s not about ultra running, or being a SEAL or pull-up records, it’s about if you want to be better you have to change your perceived limitations and take the barriers down.”
Breaking barriers in our minds to create breakthroughs
Many experts in mindset understand that growth and success in any area of our life starts with our minds.
“Big changes can come in small packages,” reminds author of Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss. “To dramatically change your life, you don’t need to run a 100-mile race, get a PhD, or completely reinvent yourself. It’s the small things, done consistently, that are the big things.”
Philanthropist and author Tony Robbins adds that we cultivate change with these small things by starting “at the root: a shift in perspective”.
“It’s these small changes that can lead to shifts in behaviour, and cumulate over time to create one massive transformation.”
To shift perspective and cultivate courage to change and grow in the face of challenge, Michaela Haas, author of Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks into Breakthroughs suggests many methods. These include anchoring with the breath, identifying unhelpful patterns, practicing compassion and daring to explore.
The only reason I give you this information now, instead of months ago, is because it’s ideal weather for hiking with an energetic dog.
Exercise with a buddy. Photo: iStock
But there are many caveats to keep in mind if you are letting your dog run off leash, especially along wilderness trails and meadows. The first, and most important, is that your voice should be an absolute magnet to your pet. Train your dog so that if you call, he or she will come immediately. This must be very strict training. But that’s only part one.
Part two is that you’re also there to get a workout. You are running with your dog. That means your heart is pounding as well. Your pooch should never be more than three feet away. If you can’t run fast enough to keep up, leash up the dog and run together. You’ll be pulled along by the leash, so you’ll easily run faster with less effort.
Part three: are you running up a meadow, like a wide run at a snow resort that has not yet opened for the season? There’s usually so much room that you can see if other dogs or people are nearby, and take necessary precautions. Or are you running up a narrow trail with a hill on one side and a cliff, or steep drop-off, on the other? That’s a dangerous kind of trail to take with your furry best friend. Another dog may come along and start barking or acting aggressively. Your pooch may be frightened enough to run off the trail and fall over the cliff, leading to injuries or even death. The sad part is that you’ll have to find a way down to it, and perhaps also find a way to carry your pet back to your vehicle if it’s injured.
If your dog tends to aggressively vocalise with stranger dogs, a muzzle may be a good idea. That way, your dog can’t bark or bite.
At the same time, another important thing to remember is that even though temperatures may be cool, both your dog and you will eventually need water after getting heated up by a hard run. Carry a water bottle for you in your backpack, carry a foldable water bowl for your dog, and enough water to fill it several times for your canine.
Running in the wilderness is a wonderful way to spend a day bonding with your dog. Afterwards, you’ll both love each other even more than you do now.
Adventure Sports Weekly