Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yoga Outside the Box

I was browsing one of my favorite activewear sites and found THIS and loved it! Strong, creative women thinking outside the box! 
A lesson learned (again):
You don't have to be in a yoga class to do yoga.
Or in a gym to work out.
Or at a party to celebrate life.

Think outside the box my friends and don't let "standard" keep you down!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Crazy bloody yoga!

CrossFitters go into a WOD knowing about the aftermath; the palm tears and blood, the soaked T-s and muscle seizures. Then I mention yoga and everyone groans. Let me tell you though that "sissy" stuff I ask you to do after your WOD ain't easy. In many ways it's just as difficult as our beloved Girls! As you can see in the picture above, you may end up bleeding for the yoga (that pic is actually me with legit post-yoga blood).

CrossFit and many other disciplines (I'm referring to things like Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, KBs, Olympic Lifting, various forms of dance etc.) require dedication.  Sure you can be a weekend warrior in any of the disciplines, but to truly understand and appreciate the program it's necessary to immerse yourself. We expect our workouts to push us to the edge of our abilities and then beyond. That is WHY we do them! We don't like being comfortable and we don't feel really alive unless we're a little sore from a new PR. Then we do what we can with our sleep and nutrition to make sure our body and mind can facilitate the push & the recovery. If you have ever ended a date early or changed your meal order because you had a date with your coach the next morning then you know what I mean.

Yoga does this too. It pushes us to the edge of our abilities and then beyond. Yoga asks you to hold on, breathe and relax while your brain is trying to rush through to the next position. Instead of sprinting, yoga asks you to embrace the suck. Sound familiar?

How many times have you worked on handstand pushups and thought about how your overhead press would get better?

Have you worked your back squat and thought about how they'd benefit your thrusters?

Have you thought about how a stronger KB swing may benefit your power cleans?

Have you thought about how the neuroendocrine stimulus of even just a 15 minute yoga routine will benefit everything you do?

Maybe when you found CrossFit your strength was power lifting and you had a monstrous deadlift. It probably took you awhile to get excited about handstand pushups or muscle ups right? But you had faith and allowed your discipline to push you out of your comfort zone. Maybe you still aren't thrilled when you see HSPUs written on the whiteboard, but I'm pretty sure that your Jerk (Olympic lift) is better than it ever was before you worked your gymnastic movements. All these movements are linked; one movement benefits another.

Can you see how this Parsva Bakasana (Side Crow) pose may help you develop some balance and stability through the wrists, shoulders & core?

Instead of handstand pushups, yoga has inverted poses like Pincha Mayurasana (feathered peacock) which helps strengthen and stretch the shoulders, chest and back. This is also a nice alternative to hand stand holds post-WOD (do it with heels resting on the wall as you would with a handstand hold) as it enables you to hold the inversion and strengthen the shoulders in a slightly easier way then with arms fully extended.

So if you think yoga is sitting with your eyes closed in room with a gong, chanting OM & touching your toes think again. It will challenge your strength, your balance, your mind and oh yeah, it just might make you bleed. This sh*t is hard.


Monday, July 25, 2011

It's the (lack of) water, not the deadlifts! Part 2

Last week I started telling you about a client of mine that started experiencing low-back pain. She had asked me what she could do about it and at first I had given her a couple of back-friendly stretches and light exercises intended to get blood flow to the area. After insight smacked me in the face on my drive to my CrossFit box, I realized that dehydration may be playing a much greater role in her pain than I had first realized. I called her, confirmed my state-of-dehydration suspicions and recommended that she steadily increase her agua intake over the next few days.

When I saw her again I asked how she was doing with the water. I got a whimpering, "I'm TRYiiiiiiiing!" Almost in the same breath, "but I saw the doctor and he said it's sciatica" almost gleefully! I was surprised. She viewed drinking more water as a trial but having the diagnosis of a pinched nerve was a relief (?!). To develop some intelligent conversation and independent thought I asked her if he had mentioned the cause or if he had explained to her what sciatica was. On both accounts, "no". Awesome.

The Mayo Clinic explains that:
"Sciatica refers to pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve and its branches — from your back down your buttock and leg. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from your spinal cord to your buttock and hip area and down the back of each leg.
Sciatica is a symptom, not a disorder. The radiating pain of sciatica signals another problem involving the nerve, such as a herniated disk. Sciatica may develop when a nerve root is compressed in your lower (lumbar) spine — often as a result of a herniated disk in your lower back. Disks are pads of cartilage that separate the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. Filled with a gel-like substance, they keep your spine flexible and act as shock absorbers to cushion the vertebrae when you move."
I poked around and did some research and found that dehydration was indeed a possible cause of her sciatica pain. The Bad Back Guy explains how this works pretty well:
(One of the) factors contributing to degenerative disc disease; and, neck pain, back pain, and sciatica is dehydration or simply inadequate hydration. The intervertebral discs are made up of approximately 85% water. During the course of the day we lose a great deal of water through a variety of processes and functions. By the end of the day, providing we do not take in adequate amounts of water, we go into water debt. The debt is difficult to repay and the damage done, if this debt is ongoing, is substantial. Water is crucial to bodily function and is necessary for cell health, for rebuilding and repairing various anatomical structures, and for overall physiology. Meaning, without water the structure and the function of the body is negatively affected. When it comes to spine health, dehydration leads to intervertebral disc degeneration because the main component of the intervertebral discs, water, is lacking.
Now my girl had increased her intake from a measley 23oz a day (at most) to a whopping 46oz a day. At least she was about half way there and even that small increase had her feeling better already! I'm still on her about the water though and text her occasionally throughout each day to make sure she's up to speed.

In order to find out how much water you should be drinking each day divide your weight in half. This new number is how much you should take in (in ounces) each day. Again, everyone will vary a bit dependent on location, activity levels etc etc. If you happen to be chronically dehydrated (which a LARGE majority of Americans are) increasing your water intake can be slightly uncomfortable for a few days. The discomfort comes in the form of "I have to pee ALL the time!" This will occur for a few days BUT WILL REGULATE!!

Now just in case you didn't ever hear of this, yes Virginia it IS possible to drink too MUCH water! Water intoxication is a very real thing and you CAN die from it. So don't go pounding 4 gallons of water because "more is better". To allay your fears about how much is TOO much, studies have shown that a person can ingest UP TO 10 LITERS in a day (envision five of those 2Liter Coca-Cola bottles...yeah, I wouldn't wanna drink that much either).

So start with the half-your-body-weight formula. Work up to it over the course of a week and see how you feel after TWO weeks of maintaining this new level of hydration. If you really are driving yourself nuts running to the bathroom every hour ask yourself which is LEAST unpleasant: getting up to pee more than usual for 3 days or that searing pain in your back that runs down your leg every single day?

I'd rather pee every couple hours :-)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Kitchen Yoga

I was doing dishes last night in my kitchen sink & realized I was rushing. I was hunching over all crooked and rushed and it felt awful. How often do I catch myself rushing and feeling panicked about something TRIVIAL? Alot. I even catch myself tapping my fingers on the desk before an email opens. I'm aware that I can't help how long that takes (unlike doing Fran) and I know shouldn't really allow myself to be stressed by it, but I do.

So I had to change my brain. I wasn't in the moment at all. I took a deep breath and accepted that my current task, the ONLY one I could do anything about at that right then was washing the dishes. My heart rate started to come down at once. Does this ever happen to you too? I chose to make the most of it by adding in some yoga.

Kitchen Yoga

Standing at your counter or sink engage your feet and start thinking about mountain pose (tadasana). Stand with your feet parallel and about hip width apart for stability while doing the dishes or chopping vegetables. ** Press all 4 corners of each foot into the kitchen floor. Feel that and breathe a moment.
** Lengthen the back of your ankle (achilles) and press your weight through your heal, not allowing 
     your toes to come up at all.
** Focus now on tightening your quads (muscles in the front of your legs & above your knees).
** Relax your glutes.
** Tighten your abs without hindering your ability to breathe. Draw your belly button down into your pelvis.
** Keep taking full breaths. Now you are tight and strong, active and balanced through your lower body like a mountain. Maintain a steady breath and focus on the task at hand until it is done.

My lesson (that I am constantly re-learning) was to BE in the moment. Be 100% in this current moment and do what you are doing with your full attention. Nothing less will suffice :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's the (lack of) water, not the deadlifts! Part 1

A client of mine asked me last week what I would recommend for her to do about her recurring morning back pain. So first my brain starts going over her muscle imbalances and which would be the most likely culprits. Sounded like sciatic nerve pain actually. But I put together a few light exercises and stretches to do, led her through the series and wrote them down for her. I asked her to do the series each morning for 3 days and then get back to me.

Now, I have a tendency to mull. Ask me a question today and I'll be thinking about it in the car next week.
The next day I was driving to my home box, CrossFit 203 when Insight smacked me in the face. I had Paul Chek's book on CD You Are What You Eat playing and was on the chapter about water. The thing that hit me was when he said that we can experience localized pain or discomfort from being dehydrated.

Say what?!

I'm simplifying here but stay with me: our bodies have a PHENOMENAL preservation mode. If we are starving (or eating and drinking tons of b.s processed foods & sodas thereby taking in very few nutrients), our body will snag whatever nutrients and whatever moisture it can and shuttle it to the brain or the heart etcetera. Survival is our body's number one duty. So if it only gets a small amount of water the body will give it NOT to the organ with the greatest need but that with the greatest role in our body's survival. For a silly example, the tonsil can remain thirsty forever as far as the brain is concerned. If the tonsil isn't working optimally, that's kind of okay. If the brain isn't working optimally, that is most certainly a serious problem.

As perfect as it was, Paul Chek started discussing how chronic dehydration could manifest itself as low back pain. The reasoning was that your body was taking whatever water you were giving it and shuttling it to the most critical organs first. With chronic dehydration the demand for water may be so bad that even something like the digestive tract becomes secondary to the brain. So let's think about how it'd feel if your intestines have been given something to digest but there is no water to assist either the food's breakdown or it's passage through roughly 25 feet worth of intestines. Sounds like a pain right? EXACTLY! Low back pain!!

Oh my gosh: so was my girl that dehydrated!? I called her to ask her what she had to drink that day and she said, "one of those sport bottles of Poland Spring they sell at the gym." It was 4pm and she had only had 23oz of water that WHOLE day. No soda. No coffee. No liquids had passed her lips but that meager 23 fluid ounces. (If you weren't aware, an easy standard baseline recommendation is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces a day.) Yup, she was certainly dehydrated. I immediately changed my prescription for her to include a steady increase of fluids over the next 3 days and to keep me updated on any changes.

I will keep you updated with It's the (lack of) water, not the deadlifts! Part 2.

Homework for You:
Do a Dehydration Body Check. Think back a couple days and consider the following:
1) Do you have any recurring pains? ie back pain, knee pain, general aches
2) Do you suffer from headaches? Dizziness?
3) Do you suffer from fatigue? Muscle weakness?
4) Do you have dry skin OR chronic acne? 
Any and All of these symptoms may indicate that you are dehydrated. 
5) Review how much pure clean water you are drinking each day. Take your bodyweight, divide it in two and then use that number as ounces to find your baseline (everyone's requirements will vary due to personal variances, work load, environment etc.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Meet me at the whiteboard...

As CrossFitters, we identify ourselves with killer WODs. We want it faster. We want it heavier. We kind of want some blood and sweat of ours on the floor when we're done. So when it comes to stretching which is NOT fast, it is NOT heavy and it will NOT make us bleed, we turn our noses up.
"Pssh. Stretching, whatever," we say, once we can catch our breath.

So, did you just do a 20 min AMRAP? Did you hit a Fran PR? Maybe you worked your Back Squat.
Whatever you did I'm sure you left it all out there and you will certainly feel it tomorrow! So now you're probably focused on trying to catch your breath and getting your post-WOD drink together.

But post-WOD we are perfectly primed to work on our flexibility...we are well beyond warmed up!
So let me recommend you drop and do a short yoga routine!

WHY? Doing some dynamic stretches immediately following your WOD will:
1) remind you to get it done!
2) develop your ability to move more freely by increasing flexibility and range of motion (are your squats a little shallow or your overhead squats not so upright?)
3) cool your body down properly before you jump in the car and head to work/home!
4) decrease muscle soreness & tightness; flush the lactic acid that has accumulated during the WOD out of the muscles by lengthening each muscle fiber back out!

I've also heard it said that you can increase your strength by stretching the muscles just used. The theory there is that the longer the muscle, the greater the distance over which you'll be able to move a weight thereby increasing power. Remember: Power = Force x Distance / Time.
So if the promise of greater Power doesn't entice you to stretch post-WOD I don't know what will!

Does this sound a little froufrou for you? Suck it up buttercup and hit that Downward Dog pose like you mean it. Your "Nancy" time will thank you.