The Holidays are upon us! Halloween has come-and-gone and soon Thanksgiving will arrive with December’s many holidays to follow. As we are all well aware, the holidays not only bring lots of fun, laughter, and love, but also a tremendous amount of stress. Whether it’s cleaning the house, cooking meals, long-distance travel, or having to see that dreaded family member, there’s no denying the holidays are stressful!
Too often we focus on taking care of our bodies during this time of year knowing full well we will partake in a few too many vices (Halloween Candy, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies), but we often overlook taking care of our mental state. Getting in extra bouts of exercise are important to fend off unwanted weight gain, but relieving stress can drastically improve your mood and chance for a relaxing holiday season.
If there is one thing you need take from this, it’s to be mindful. Mindful meditation is an easy technique which can be utilized to train the mind to relax. Research has found that those who practice meditation have health benefits including lower blood pressure/heart rate, less anxiety/stress, improved circulation, and more feelings of well-being. The intent behind mindful meditation is not to get involved with the thoughts you’re having or to judge those thoughts, but to simply be aware of each thought and the response each elicits. As you continue to practice this technique, you’ll begin to find patterns in how your thoughts and feelings flow. You may notice you judge certain experiences (sounds, tastes, touch, smells, etc.) and label them in a negative or positive manner. The goal is to be aware of these feelings and find inner-balance with them.
Most stressors in life, especially during the holidays, are those which are out of our control. In Buddhist philosophy, the ultimate benefit of meditation is liberation of the mind from attachment to what it cannot control. With practice, you may find the ability to detach from the desires and reactions to stimuli and instead stay relaxed, keeping a calm mind and balanced inner harmony.
If you’re reading this and starting to feel your stress levels rise because you don’t know how to meditate or where to begin, RELAX! Try these simple meditation techniques to reduce your stress levels this holiday season!
Simple Meditation for Beginners
- Sit upright or lie comfortably. If you choose to sit, do so with good, tall posture. Imagine you are something strong and unmoving, like a mountain. If you choose to lie down, do so in whatever manner is most comfortable to you.
- Close your eyes. If you have trouble keeping your eyes closed or are in a bright place, you may want to try using something over your eyes to create a relaxed, dark place.
- Make no effort to control your breathing. Simple breathe in and out, naturally and effortlessly.
- Focus your attention on your breath and how your body moves each time you inhale and exhale. Observe the muscles of your face, your chest, shoulders, and abdomen. Notice if there is tension or if things start to relax. Focus on your breath, but let it be effortless and natural, not manipulating the pace or intensity. If your mind wanders to a thought your attention is taken by stimulus (sound, taste, smell, etc.), return your focus to your breath.
Tips for Successful Meditation.
- Start with short periods of time. For beginners, three minutes may be sufficient practice time. As you are able to stay relaxed and mindful for longer period, increase the duration you meditate.
- Find a place you can consistently practice. It doesn’t matter where (indoors or outdoors, home or away), but make sure it’s a place you are comfortable and relaxed. If you can designate a place in your house and incorporate décor which puts you at ease, you may find it creates a more harmonious atmosphere.
- Hold an object. If you have a small object you can hold in your hand while you meditate, this can be used at a time of stress to bring peace. Holding the object and using your senses to notice the textures, weight, etc. will be allow you to focus on these attributes to reduce stress amidst chaos.
- Use music. If you use music, try to find some without words so your mind doesn’t wander to the lyrics. Instrumental chords can create a relaxed environment and hearing those same notes can bring peace when stress levels rise.
If you asked your friends and family to describe the holidays, you’d find many answers associated with food. We plan extravagant meals and take time to sit out to spend with our loved ones. Think about your usual eating session. If you’re like me, you go through it so quickly you’re surprised you even taste the food! Mindful eating meditation engages all of the senses to slow the process down and focus your attention on the food and away from outside stress. Try these steps next time you sit down to eat.
- Sit comfortably with the piece of food in your hand.
- Look at the piece of food. Notice its shape, color, smell, weight, etc.
- Move it around in your hand. Notice the sound it makes as it moves, the textures you feel.
- Close your eyes and smell the food. Breathe deep and take in the scent.
- Place the food on your tongue. Keep it on your tongue and close your mouth around it. Just hold it on your tongue and feel the textures.
- Push the food against the top of your mouth. Notice what happens when you do so. Does it stay in one piece, is it dissolving?
- Start to slowly chew and let is move around your mouth.
- Now swallow your bite.
Focus! Focus! Focus! – Concentration Meditation
Mindful meditation trains the body to focus on your breath and let all other stimuli diminish. Concentration meditation involves focusing on a single point. This could again be your breath, a simple word or phrase, a photo or object, sound or music, or counting. Choose a single point easily attained/remembered so that you can take it with you if needed. Focus your attention on this single point and should your mind wander, let the thought go and refocus on the single point.
- Sit upright or lie comfortably. If you choose to sit, do so with good, tall posture. Imagine you are something strong and unmoving, like a mountain. If you choose to lie down, do so in whatever manner is most comfortable to you.
- Engage your eyes if you are focusing on an object or photo. Close your eyes if you are listening to music, repeating a phrase/word, or counting small object (beads of a necklace/mala/rosary/etc.). If you have trouble keeping your eyes closed or are in a bright place, you may want to try using something over your eyes to create a relaxed, dark place.
- Make no effort to control your breathing. Simple breathe in and out, naturally and effortlessly. If you are focusing on your breath, you may control the length and depth.
- Focus your attention on that single point. If it’s an object, notice its weight, textures, sounds, etc.. If it is music, notice the inflections in notes and the responses they elicit. Notice the cadence of the phrase/mantra you repeat and how it makes you feel.
We hope these mindful meditation tips can help you feel a little more at peace this holiday season. If you’re looking to add in a few extra workouts this season, contact your local FAST today. Wishing you and your family a healthy, happy and relaxed holiday season.
Goal setting is one of the most important factors pertaining to the success or failure of a new exercise program. This is especially true when starting a new running program. Whether this is your first-time training for a race or you’re a seasoned distance athlete, setting a goal can be the difference between a personal best and injury.
The most important thing to remember when setting a goal this running season is to be S.M.A.R.T.
Too often we set very general/vague goals. Focus on developing a goal with defined metrics. In terms of running program goals, setting a specific distance you’d like to finish and/or time you’d like to finish in helps to create accountability as you progress through your running program/season. When goals are specific, it’s easy to determine if you are on-track, ahead, or falling behind where you should be in your training.
Part of being specific is setting details which can be measured. Easy things to measure are distance (miles), pace (mph or minutes/mile), or elapsed time (length of time you’re running). GPS devices (watches, phone apps, etc.) make it very easy to track your progress in terms of measurable data. Knowing your numbers help to keep motivated and accountable. Also, it’s a great way to create friendly competition amongst fellow Ahwatukee runners!
While setting difficult goals can give you motivation to work hard, having too lofty a goal can actually be detrimental. You will want to set a goal that pushes you to stay disciplined, but not require complete lifestyle changes or extreme measures. Look at what you’re currently doing and take it a step or two further. If you’re used to running 5 or 10k’s, maybe shoot for a half marathon. If you’re a beginner, running a marathon or six-minute miles might prove to be too much. It may be difficult to stay committed if your goal is too difficult and feels out of reach. Chance of injury rises as individuals push too far outside of their abilities, as well.
Your goal needs be important to you. Disregard the goals others are setting and figure out what will motivate YOU to stay committed. It is your running program goal and no one else’s. Running programs, done the right way, require an ample amount of time to increase distance and this can become a bit monotonous at times. What is it that will get you out of bed on the weekends or to fit in a run after work when you’re tired and tempted to skip?
Setting a timeframe to complete you goal in is a great way to stay motivated and on schedule. It helps if your goal is six-months to a year away as this allows you to set mini-goals to accomplish along the way. If a goal is too near, it may be very hard to properly train to complete and if it is too far away, it can be hard to stay motivated. Signing up for a race is a great way to set a deadline to meet your goal. This way you know exactly how much time you have to achieve success and adjusting the timeframe is outside of your control.
Starting a new running program is a big step and can be a difficult decision to make. Setting a goal is a great way to create accountability, stay motivated and prevent injury. Starting this journey on your own can be difficult. I highly recommend joining a local running group or signing up for a race with a friend. This will give you a support group to help keep you motivated, accountable, and celebrate in your success!
With more than 100 varieties affecting the body in a multitude of ways, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in America. It does not discriminate as it affects those of all ages, races, and gender. Today, there are more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children suffering from the symptoms of some form of arthritis. Arthritis is not a single disease, but rather a way of referring to joint pain or joint disease. Those who suffer from arthritis experience swelling, stiffness, and pain leading to limited range of motion. Unfortunately, the development of this condition is a natural part of aging. The stress on the body’s joints over years and years of wear and tear causes structural damage and inflammation. Don’t give up hope and throw in the towel now, however! Exercise is a great way to prolong the onset and counteract the symptoms of this ailment. Those who suffer from the pains of arthritis know all too well that exercise may be the last thing they want to do when their symptoms flare up. Exercise should not be avoided and is actually beneficial when combatting this issue. Here we will focus on five tips to improve quality of life by exercising with arthritis!
Take the Time to Properly Warm Up & Cool Down
A proper warm-up will help to increase blood flow and temperature to the active sites of the body. The warm-up should emphasize moving the joints/muscles involved in the exercises you intend to utilize in that days training session. Start with slow walking movements such as pulling your knee to chest or small mini-squats. Pieces of cardio equipment such as a recumbent bike or elliptical work well to gradually ready the body for further exercise.
Once the workout is complete, don’t pack up for the day. Make sure you spend time stretching, rolling out, or using other recovery techniques once your workout is complete. By foam rolling or stretching the muscles surrounding the joints used that day, you will be able to reduce stiffness, soreness, and inflammation while maintaining an increased range of motion.
Focus on Full Range of Motion Exercises
Exercise selection is key when creating the perfect program to combat arthritis. Choose exercises which focus on moving through a full range of motion to help increase mobility. Be sure to gradually increase range of motion within the exercise as the body allows to reduce risk of pain or injury. Exercises such as lunges, deadlifts, and bent-over-rows are great selections in which you can ease into the full range of motion.
Keep Joint Impact Low
High impact exercises are detrimental to those dealing with arthritic issues. The impact will cause great pain and inflammation in the joint, leading to a decreased range of motion. Choose exercises which have low joint impact as they will help keep joint integrity high. Adding aquatic exercises such as swimming, deep water running, or aqua aerobics are a perfect way to increase intensity without adding impact to your joints. There are many benefits of exercising in water. In order to move through the medium, it’s found that water provides 4-42 times greater resistance. The buoyancy helps to reduce gravity’s effects on joints as water will support 90 percent of one’s body weight. Give aquatic exercise a try if you’re looking for a great way to reduce joint aches and pains.
Change It Up!
Variety is a great way to combat arthritis as well as boredom. One of the hardest things to overcome when starting to exercise is the monotony of doing the same thing over and over. Try a variety of forms of exercise such as yoga, Pilates, aerobics, resistance training, and a multitude of group fitness classes. Each exercise you choose will have a specific impact on the body. By changing up your mode of exercise, you’ll avoid putting too much stress on any one joint for too long a duration. Find the types of exercise you enjoy doing and stick with them. You’ll be more inclined to stick with your training regimen if you look forward to doing it each day!
Listen to Your Body!
The best thing you can do when exercising with arthritis is to be in tune with your body. Certain forms of arthritis will affect the body at different times of day. Identify when your body feels its best and try to plan workouts during that time. Also, gauge what is normal arthritic pain and what is unusual pain. If an exercise is causing a joint to become inflamed and painful, stop doing it. Never force a movement or push through the unusual pain as it could lead to further joint damage. If pain and inflammation are compounding after numerous days of exercise, be sure to utilize a rest to provide your body time to recover.
Bonus Tip: Consult a Professional
Navigating which exercises are most beneficial can be difficult. Never think you’re alone in the fight against arthritis. Don’t be afraid to contact a professional, such as a Physical Therapist or Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, to help you out.
We’re looking forward to being at the 2018 Walk to Cure Arthritis at the Phoenix Zoo this Saturday. Stop by the Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy and FAST booth to learn how physical therapy and/or personal training can help you navigate arthritis and get back to the activities you enjoy most.
The NHL season is in full swing as are all of the youth programs around the United States. Here in the desert, hockey often gets overlooked, but one of the brightest stars in the NHL, Auston Matthews, is showing how great talent can be developed even in the hottest of climates! Hockey is a very unique sport in not only the setting it’s played but the demands placed on the players. Because of the many differences compared to its land counterparts, strength and conditioning geared towards on-ice performance should reflect the demands of the sport.
Aside from being played on ice, the biggest factor separating hockey from other sports is the length of time during exertion. Most sports require an athlete to be consistently moving over a long period of time or in the case of volleyball and football, only a few seconds in between rest periods. Hockey, on the other hand, utilizes short line changes to keep players explosive. Even though the game of hockey is generally played over three, fifteen to twenty minute periods, long distance endurance is not critical. Too often, off-ice training programs focus on getting an athlete in shape through long, slow endurance exercises. During the 2016 NHL season, the average shift length was only 44.25 seconds. Hockey players must be able to exert maximal force for this length of time, recovery in the roughly 90-120 seconds while they are on the bench, and repeat. Here are the best tips toward getting the on-ice edge through proper off-ice training techniques.
Power is the single most important aspect of hockey. Whether you’re looking to increase your speed, shot power, or how hard you check an opponent, it all depends upon how much power you can generate. Also, most injuries occur when attempting to decelerate a motion. It is key to train the body to not only be strong enough to generate the initial force but to absorb that power and decelerate the body without injury. The impact of Olympic lifting and plyometrics are vital to keeping an athlete off the trainer’s table. A few great exercises to help development explosive power are single arm dumbbell snatch, lunge jumps (lateral & vertical), and medicine ball throws.
Although sprinting on land has differences compared to accelerating on the ice, there are similar components which can be trained off-ice. Just as with sprinting, skating is explosive and with each stride, the body must generate force to propel forward while then decelerating the leg without injury to reload and fire again. Utilizing overspeed training to train the motor neurons to fire at a faster rate and resisted running to gain strength and power are essential components to gaining skating speed off-ice. Utilizing a treadmill for overspeed and power generation pushes, resisted band runs (forward, lateral, backwards), and slideboard skaters will help to develop you acceleration and top speed on the ice.
In order to maintain proper form and prevent injuries during explosive movements, you must have built a proper base of strength. There are three tips that will help to build the strength you need for on-ice performance. Utilizing “big movers” to incorporate numerous muscles and gain the most strength is an important part of planning your workout. Focus on squat and deadlift variations to build strength in your lower extremities. Pull-ups and push-ups are a great way to build upper body strength.
Filling in your workout with exercises involving offset loads (holding weight on one side of the body vs even-balanced resistance) and unilateral (single limb vs double) movements help to engage the muscles of the trunk as well as correct any strength imbalances. Performing exercises involving offset loads or unilateral movements help to diminish any muscular imbalances or asymmetry while recruiting more stabilizing muscle groups. Skating, as with most sport specific movements, is primarily performed with only one leg in contact with the ground at a time. This means that all of the force needs to be generated and absorbed with one limb. Training your body with the use of offset step-ups, single leg get-ups, and Turkish get-ups will help to improve your on-ice performance.
It has become a hot topic to train the “CORE,” especially with hockey players. Too often we find our athletes partaking in numerous sets and repetitions of crunches and planks. These aren’t bad exercises but there are much better options when transferring to the ice. The primary function of the muscles of your trunk is two absorb the forces of your extremities and transfer them without injury. Even though you swing your arms while taking a slap shot on the ice, the power for the shot is generated in your legs and hips. The trunk must transfer this power to our upper extremities and into your stick to make contact and produce a hard shot. When it comes to training the CORE, there is the debate of Isometric VS Rotational/Mobile CORE training. How much stress do we want to put on the spine with twisting and bending if the trunks purpose is to stabilize? As much as we don’t want to overload the spine, it is a vital component of hockey and numerous other activities. As stated earlier when discussing power and strength, exercises with heavy loads, explosive movements, and offset loads engage the CORE to maintain proper posture during the exercise. These along with Paloff variations are better options to help build your CORE strength. The ability to be strong through the full range and absorbing great forces is the key to staying healthy.
Having proper range of motion is important for preventing injury in any activity. When it comes to hockey, thoracic and hip mobility are especially important. Without proper hip mobility, stride length and power will diminish. Proper thoracic mobility will help with stick handling, shot power, as well as defensive stick use all while maintaining proper skating posture. Work on gaining full range of motion through the use hurdle over-unders, quadruped thoracic rotation, and quadruped hip circles.
Gaining the on-ice edge with proper off-ice programming can be the difference between being a first-liner and not making the team. Use the tips above to help improve every aspect of your game. If you have any questions or would like to take your game to the next level, contact your local FAST!
During Thanksgiving, it’s easy to consume unhealthy foods, over-eat Grandma’s award-winning pie or slack off on working out. Our FAST Ahwatukee team of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists are here to share 7 tips for a healthier Thanksgiving.
Tip #1: Load up on vegetables.
Not sure what will be at your Thanksgiving? Call the host to inquire on the menu and offer to bring a healthy dish. No veggie tray? You can bring one! Another option is to try making a healthier twist on green bean casserole, or swap mashed potatoes for sweet potatoes. If you’re looking for other healthy food swap options, check out this Thanksgiving food swap blog.
Tip #2: Drink water.
Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Water can temporally suppress your appetite and help you burn more calories throughout the day.
Tip #3: Choose your meat wisely.
When it comes to enjoying turkey, choose white meat over dark meat. White meat has less fat, therefore it has less calories than dark meat.
Tip #4: Choose your pies wisely.
If given a choice, choose pumpkin pie over the others. Compared to pecan pie, pumpkin pie is far less calories. Also keep the toppings in mind. Choose whip cream over Cool Whip. Cool whip is artificially made and has more calories when comparing fat free Reddi whip and fat free cool whip.
Tip #5: Grab a smaller plate.
Chances are if your plate is smaller your serving size will be much smaller. Another good tip to avoid over eating is to leave the table and move around after you are done eating. If you sit at the table for long periods of time, your chances of continual grazing are much higher.
Tip #6: Be mindful of your alcohol intake.
If possible, skip the alcohol or keep in mind how much you are drinking. A glass of wine or beer has anywhere from 100-250 calories.
Tip #7: Don’t skip on your physical activity.
Make sure to get a workout in or at least a walk. Being active before the big meal helps to burn calories throughout the day and can help keep your goals in mind. Here is a workout you can do at your house or wherever you may be during this holiday: no equipment needed!
· 1 Minute plank
· 50 Jumping Jacks
· 25 Squats
· 15 Supermans
· 10 Push-Ups
· 5 Burpees
· Repeat 3-4x
What are you most excited for this holiday season? Whether it be spending time with your friends and family, enjoying homemade cranberry sauce atop your turkey, or watching the Macy’s Day Parade, we’re wishing you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! As always, our team of Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists are here to help create a personal training workout plan to meet your fitness goals. Visit one of our 10 valleywide locations to learn more.
Post Attributed to Kyle Schneider, CSCS (Ahwatukee Location).
Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training locations deliver Phoenix personal training services to athletes across the Valley. We will help you achieve your fitness goals by providing individualized exercise plans that challenge you to push yourself to your highest level of performance. We also offer a free assessment of your current level of fitness, which can be scheduled online here. For more information about personal training, follow our blog.
Kyle Schneider is a Phoenix personal training expert who has worked with athletes of all ages and abilities. He is here today to discuss the impact of technology on our lives, and how it could actually positively impact human health.
Technology continues to make our lives less strenuous. Each year, more and more studies conclude that our world’s population is becoming less active. It’s impossible to deny the facts – the rates of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and the cost of health care climb every year. Young people spend more time in front of a screen than ever before, and free play has become almost nonexistent. Technology has negatively affected human health by allowing humans to have a very sedentary lifestyle, but recent advances are looking to fight back against this problem.
Technology is starting to help combat inactivity and promote healthy lifestyles through a variety of means. Exercise equipment has been around for a long time, but recent advances have allowed many machines like treadmills and stationary bikes to motivate and give insight on a whole new level. Equipment can provide you with information like your heart rate, revolutions per minute, miles per hour, distance, and much more. Exercise machines are now even capable of communicating with each other. This allows two individuals to run, row, or ride ‘against’ each other, providing a new level of competition and motivation.
If you don’t enjoy going to the gym or you’re pressed for time and can only get a workout in at home, don’t worry – you’re not alone. New treadmills and bikes hitting the market have display units and Wi-Fi capability, allowing users to access routes and classes from the comfort of their own home. Now you can ride a spin bike at home with a route from the 2015 Tour de France on the screen in front of you as you ride through the stage like a pro while the bike changes difficulty as you go up and downhill. If you feel the need to be pushed harder, you can access one of many gyms from around the US and do that day’s spin workout. The instructor will push you through the workout just like they did participants in the class.
If lack of motivation is your fitness fault, don’t fret. With internet access seemingly everywhere, there is no excuse to not stay on track. Booming use of social media may lead to some people spending countless hours sitting on the couch, but it could have an upside. Large groups like gyms, race organizers, schools, and even groups of individuals can set up competitions and motivate each other through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and more. Users of these websites and apps are able to look at what others are doing to be successful and try it themselves, or gain access to new fitness tips.
Social media sites have also become important for individuals to adhere to the goals they’ve set. Announcing that you are training for a specific race, trying to lose weight, or achieve any other fitness goals keeps you accountable and allows friends and family to encourage you to stay on track. People who are hundreds of miles away from each other can compete and post results to push each other to do their best.
The internet also means that access to information on nutrition, strength training, cardiovascular training, and every other fitness topic is at your fingertips. Sites like YouTube, Twitter, and blogs allow professionals to give video instruction on how to perform various exercises and provide other tips. Many types of group exercise classes for individuals to follow along with can also be found online.
Another exercise advancement has arrived in the form of wearable technology. Most people now either wear or know someone who wears a fitness watch like a FitBit, iWatch, Garmin, or other brand. Wearable tech has revolutionized the way we gather information regarding our health. Before the use of this equipment, data could only really be gathered through surveys that were not always accurate. Now, we have access to objective data such as heart rate, number of steps taken, and sleep patterns, and users can input food logs. This allows us to analyze an individual’s health without using subjective data or an individual’s best guess on their level of activity. These technologies also motivate people to walk more, get more sleep, decrease their resting heart rate, or figure out how many calories they’re consuming, and researchers can use this data to help create healthier lifestyles and battle obesity.
So before we blame technology as the downfall of modern human health, let’s give new exercise technology a chance to motivate people and change the role of technology in our lives. Now that is it easier than ever to track your workouts and diet, gain new ideas on what you should be doing to reach your goals, and stay motivated, what’s your excuse for not getting healthier this year?