Why Your Body Needs Rest Days

There is a hero in us all that loves to “just push through.” Push through the pain. Push through the fatigue, soreness, and hunger. While there is nothing wrong with a strong work ethic, it can be a mistake to push on at the expense of much needed rest and recovery.  Among the many reasons why your body needs rest days, here are five that might give you pause the next time you want to skip a day off.

1. Avoid Overuse Injuries (and Overtraining Syndrome)

Working out too much can push your muscles, bones,  and ligaments, leading go overuse injuries. Think tennis elbow, tendonitis, sprains, and tears. It can also lead to overtraining syndrome, a common condition that can include dragging fatigue, sleep disruption, and mood swings (among other symptoms).

2. Restore Muscle Tissue

Have you ever gotten the feeling after a day or two off that you return that much stronger and more energized? During nearly any kind of training, inflammation and even small tears occur in muscle tissues. During rest, the healing and regeneration of these muscles is what allows us to build strength, endurance, and muscle mass.

3. Replenish, Refuel, Hydrate

Rest days are also an opportunity to replenish the things your body needs to recover. A diet rich in lean protein, fruits, and vegetables will provide some of the calories, vitamins, and nutrients lost during exercise. Of course, you should continue drinking ample water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Not only will diet and water intake help you recover, it will prepare you for tomorrow’s workout, too.

4. Get Your Mind Right

Time away from the physical challenge and psychological strain that accompanies exercise, workout regimens, and sporting activities can do wonders for the mind. A bit of mental rest can recenter your memory, focus, and motivation that might suffer if you burn yourself out. Take a full day off and feed the mind with positive stimulation.

Taking a day off when your body needs rest isn’t a sign of weakness, or quitting—it’s smart. The world’s top athletes and trainers swear by it (alongside proper nutrition and hydration). Just getting a bit more sleep every night can make a world of difference in you mood, energy level, and motivation.

How long? Allow one to two days between working out the same group of muscles. These rules vary depending on type of exercise and body type, so it’s always a good idea to check with your physician or physical therapist to confirm.

Either way, rest is essential to better performance. Put it all together and you’ll come back stronger than ever.

5 Pointers for Better Training in Cold Weather

Should you be one of the brave and determined souls that engage in cold weather training, we salute you. No hibernation for the weary, especially when there are resolutions on the mind.

Cold weather training presents its own set of challenges. The body, for one, responds differently to the cold—during preparation, training itself, and recovery time.

Here are five tips for better, safer training in cold weather. Follow these and you’ll be well positioned to train stronger throughout the cold season.

1. Get Enough to Eat and Drink

Just because the temperatures are low doesn’t mean your body isn’t working just as hard (if not harder) than it might during summer. Calorically speaking, your body needs fuel not only to sustain your training routine, but to keep your body arm while doing it. And proper hydration is just as important during winter as it is any other month.

2. Insulate and Regulate

Beyond plain comfort, layering yourself properly can help manage cold weather conditions during training. Make sure to insulate your body so it stays warm, of course. But for longer routines, ventilate intermittently to make sure your body doesn’t overheat under the extra layers. Finally, shield yourself from the cutting wind best you can.

3. Stay Moving, Stay Loose

Cold temperatures can limit blood flow and encourage us to (consciously or not) stay tight and compact to keep in the warmth. While training in cold weather, it is important to maintain circulation throughout the workout. Runners, for example, can windmill the arms, or periodically shake them out. Wiggle the toes, open and close your fists. Maintaining good circulation prevents injury and keeps the body running optimally.

4. Cool Down Sensibly

A cool down is always a good idea, no matter the weather. That’s because after training, the heart is working extra hard and requires time to gradually return to a normal state. Cold weather puts even more load on the heart, so it’s important to get a gradual cool down to reduce risk of heart strain, fainting, or feelings of sickness. But don’t linger in the cold! Cooling sweat can increase your risk of catching a chill.

5. Clear It With a Physician

Vigorous exercise of any kind puts added strain on the body. Because training in cold weather requires more heart exertion, it is imperative that those new to exercise, or living with obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions, consult with a physician first.

Ultimately, the mantra for cold weather training is simple: prepare well and be sensible. The five pointers above should help you train smart during the winter months and be in the best shape of your life come spring.

5 Tips for Reducing Joint Pain During Exercise

For most people living an active lifestyle, there comes a time when the joints start talking. It could be the knees, hips, and ankles; or it might be your elbows, shoulders, and wrists. No matter our sport or exercise of choice, we rely on our joints tremendously. And like any other body part, joints are prone to wear and tear, damage, and decline.

While joint pain is often associated with conditions like rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, overtraining, fatigue, and other factors can also cause joint pain. Even one’s diet can have a significant impact on joint strength and dexterity.

5 Ways to Reduce Joint Pain During Exercise

Let’s start here: if you have joint pain during exercise, it’s unwise to just take extra-strength painkillers and power through. Try, rather, to get to the root of the issue. If your joint pain cannot be resolved completely, managing the symptoms is the next best option. And this requires listening to your body and, in many cases, changing your approach to exercise entirely.

  1. Reassess What’s Best For You – There’s a fine line between “just living with” joint pain and doing lasting and irreparable damage. Give your body a rest and go talk to your physician or physical therapist to determine what’s best for your specific symptoms. Your current regimen might be doing more harm than good.

  2. Don’t Skip Warmup Or Cooldown – Besides avoiding injury, a good warmup and cooldown routine can help increase blood flow to your joints and prevent swelling, stiffness, or soreness later on.

  3. Avoid Too Much Repetition – Pounding the pavement on long runs, day after day, can worsen a problem like joint pain. Though activities like running and cycling are beneficial in many ways, it might be time to mix it up a little. Try incorporating a lower impact routine, such as yoga, tai chi, or swimming.

  4. Avoid Overtraining – Mixing up your routine is also a good way to avoid overtraining. Apart from other negative consequences on the body, overtraining can worsen joint pain during exercise. Make sure to get adequate rest between workouts!

  5. Reduce Body-Weight Impact – Excessive body weight and gravitational impact can also intensify joint pain. During resistance exercise, try reducing the weight you are lifting. Another alternative is to take to the water, as buoyancy helps reduce body-weight impact as well.

Related Article: Exercises and Movements for Managing Juvenile Arthritis

A Smarter Way to Reduce Body Weight Impact

While water-based exercises can help reduce joint pain during exercise, the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill can be particularly effective. Using Differential Air Pressure technology, AlterG treadmills allow you to incrementally reduce body weight impact during walking and running exercises up to 80%. Learn more about Anti-Gravity Treadmills from AlterG.

Best American Races for Runners in 2019

Why do we run races?

Love for the sport, sure. The challenge to body and mind. The camaraderie and setting are important, too.

For most runners, though, a race is more than just a chance to compete, or a medal to hang around their neck. It is a life experience worth cherishing for the hard work it symbolizes—for the sense of accomplishment that comes after crossing the finish line.

Fortunately, the United States is home to some of the most fun and scenic runs in the world. From sea to shining sea, big city to big mountain, we’ve hand selected must-do, must-see marathons to register for this coming year.

Classic City Marathons

If you can brave the sometimes unpredictable conditions, urban marathons are full of memorable buzz. Run among the skyscrapers, be among your people, be cheered on by the crowds. Here are three classics to consider.

Chicago Marathon

The annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon is one of the largest in the world, and it draws quite the crowd. Here’s your chance to criss cross the Chicago River, pass beneath the iconic Sears Tower, and pound the pavement along the shores of Lake Michigan.

  • Location: Chicago, Illinois
  • Month: October

New York City Half Marathon

Why just visit Central Park and Times Square when you can marathon them? The NYC Half Marathon is like a running tour of the Big Apple. Feel the energy as you pass through the world’s most famous city, take in the views as you bound across the iconic Manhattan Bridge.

  • Location: New York, New York
  • Month: March

Cherry Blossom Ten Miles

The Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run is one of the most scenic on our “urban” list. Open to runners of all levels, this ten-miler coincides with the spring blossom of cherry trees throughout D.C. And like the NYC half, it’s a running sightseeing tour: the route passes the Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery.

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Month: April

Bucket List Destinations

Racing through the big city is one thing, but some races are known for the natural beauty of their surroundings. Be one with Mother Nature for these three stunning destination races.

New River Half Marathon and 5k

Welcome to North Carolina in early summer. Stunning! The New River Marathon courses along the New River in the Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the oldest ranges in the world. Finishers rave about the fragrant trees, majestic scenery, and Southern hospitality. Participate in a full marathon, half, or 5k.

  • Location: Fleetwood, North Carolina
  • Month: June

Carlsbad 5000

Dubbed “the world’s fastest 5k,” the Carlsbad 5000 is a high energy, super fun 5k that courses along one of the most beautiful stretches of Pacific Ocean in Southern California. And for a post-finish cooldown? Take a dip in the ocean!

  • Location: Carlsbad, California
  • Month: April

Kauai Half Marathon

Ahh, the Garden Island. Is there a more gorgeous natural setting on earth? Not many, and there might not be a more gorgeous half marathon. Indeed, the Kauai Half Marathon is a sight to behold.

  • Location: Kauai, Hawaii
  • Month: June

The Fun Stuff

Okay, there are serious and competitive races, and then there are races for those of us who just want to have some fun.

Bay to Breakers

This famous foot race is over one hundred years old! Bay to Breakers brings out all the character that San Francisco is known for. Aside from passing through one of the most beautiful cities in America, have fun taking in all the wild costumes participants love to sport.

  • Location: San Francisco, California
  • Month: May

Walt Disney World Marathon

Run alongside all of your favorite Disney characters in one of the most magical places on earth. The Walt Disney World Marathon will certainly inspire your imagination!

  • Location: Orlando, Florida
  • Month: January

Keep Austin Weird 5k

Not to be outdone by Bay to Breakers, the Keep Austin Weird 5k is known for wild costumes and a fun, energetic atmosphere. This race is dubbed the “slowest race you’ll ever run” for a reason!

  • Location: Austin, Texas
  • Month: June

Run Your Best Race in 2019

It’s a big country with lots of pavement to pound. 2019 is shaping up to be a big year! The toughest part will be deciding which races to run …

As you prepare to run wild this coming year, make sure your body is prepared. Headed somewhere altitudinous? Check out our article on altitude and running. For those of you looking to push the limits and beat your personal bests—maybe even place in a race or two this coming year—check out how the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill can improve running.

No matter what, remember to have fun!

4 Ways to Safely Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions

In the spirit of optimism and support, we salute your new year’s resolutions, whatever they may be. In our experience, what separates those who achieve their new year’s resolutions and those who don’t is simple: setting and pursuing resolutions in an intelligent, safe way.

Failing to do so can not only derail a person’s gung-ho pursuit of newly minted resolutions, but lead to pain, injury, and unexpected consequences. Here are four ways to safely achieve your new year’s resolutions.

1. Make informed resolutions

One reason resolutions are so appealing is because they show us where we want to be. They do little, however, to remind us of where we are today. Before setting resolutions, take a detailed inventory of your baselines.

This should start with a visit to the doctor for a routine physical. This appointment will give you baseline numbers around your height, weight, heart rate, and other key diagnostics. Blood work and urine samples can help identify any other risk factors you might consider before starting a workout program.

Aside from  physician’s approval to exercise, you can also get a body composition assessment to get numbers around body fat percentage, BMI and other baseline indicators. If your resolutions include running, gait assessment and analysis can prove highly informative. All of this information will help you identify safe goals to set and give you concrete numbers to measure your progress against.

2. Under promise and over deliver (not the other way around)

A surefire way to fall short of fulfilling your new year’s resolutions is to set unrealistic goals. This is also a good way to find yourself out of commission due to injury. Avoid this common pitfall by setting specific goals that are both achievable and sustainable.

Instead of making a resolution to lose fifty pounds, aim for the first ten by the first of March. If your goal is to do the splits, start by touching your toes. Overly ambitious goals can lead you to push yourself unsafely, increase injury risk, and be too hard on yourself should you fail to achieve resolutions that might have been wildly unrealistic in the first place.

3. Remember that sudden change can shock the system

Though a shock to the system can sometimes be a good thing, it can also be dangerous for certain people, body types, and conditions. Rapid weight loss for obese individuals, for instance, or going from a sedentary lifestyle to marathon training can lead to injury, complications, and unforeseen consequences. Consult with a physician first and always remember the age-old adage: baby steps to the bus.

4. Believe in the basics and insist on them

Without adequate rest, a relatively balanced diet, and plenty of water, few resolutions have any chance of flowering. That’s like hopping into a car with no oil, coolant, or fuel, then expecting it to make a trip across the country! Put yourself in a better position to succeed by defining a list of five fundamentals, and then obsess over them.

Examples might be getting eight hours of sleep at least five nights a week, or drinking eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day. No food, not even snacks, after 8:00 or 9:00 pm. Always stretching before (warm-up) and after (cool-down) exercise. The more consistently you make good on these fundamentals, the better equipped you’ll be to make good on your greater resolutions. In fact, consistently doing these things on a daily basis could be a resolution in and of itself.

Because Safe Resolutions are Strong Resolutions

The new year is in full swing and we hope your resolutions are, too. We believe in you! We also believe in setting safe, realistic goals and putting yourself in the best position to be successful. You’ve got this! Follow the four fundamental steps above and you’ll be well on your way to always making your new year’s resolutions come true.

How to Warm Up Like a Professional Runner

Whether you’re a casual runner or an aspiring professional, it’s important to warm up before you run. A good warm up is one of the most overlooked elements of a well-rounded exercise regimen. Here’s a closer look at how professional runners warm up. We encourage you to borrow tips for your own warm-up routine, no matter what kind of exercise you are doing.

Why Warm Up Before You Run?

We like to think of it as priming the pump. You simply cannot expect to perform optimally without getting the blood flowing and loosening up the muscles. This is especially true if you are competing, or getting serious about improving running times. Indeed, a good warm up can help:

  • Focus the mind
  • Prevent injury
  • Improve performance
  • Increase longevity

A Few Tips on How to Warm Up Like a Professional

Whether you are a professional, amateur, or casual runner, applying the following three principles will enhance the efficacy of your warm-up. They will give it structure and give you room to tailor the warm-up to your specific exercise or sport.

  1. Don’t Rush It – When preparing for longer distance events, some professionals will spend the good part of an hour warming up. Though this might be overkill for the casual enthusiast, it’s still important to build enough time into your own runs—however long they are—to allow for an adequate warm-up.

  2. Walk or Jog Lightly – Give it about five or ten minutes to get the blood flowing. As an alternative, you can jump on a treadmill or stationary bike, or complete a five- or ten-minute jump roping routine.

  3. Keep it Dynamic – The dynamic warm up has grown rather ubiquitous in recent years. You’ll find it on football fields, track and field events, even swim meets. The dynamic warm-up is designed to target the muscles used during a specific sport or exercise. Runner’s World has a great dynamic warm-up routine on their website.

 

Bonus tip: Don’t forget the cool down! A good cool down routine after the workout can help prevent soreness and stiffness the next day and aid your body’s recovery processes. It’s also one of the most oft-overlooked elements of a running or exercise routine.

Training Teenage Athletes with AlterG

For so many collegiate and professional athletes, learning and development begins during the teenage years. Start ‘em young, as the saying goes. And for good reason: training teenage athletes provides an opportunity to not only get them moving, but to help them learn the correct movements. This can put them ahead of the game (literally) as they become more competitive in college and beyond.

Training is Learning

Yet, training teenage athletes is about more than just learning how to play a sport competitively. It’s about learning the fundamental forms that athletes will use over and over again throughout the rest of their lives, no matter which sport they decide to play.

From bodyweight exercises, like push-ups, free squats, and lunges, to the fundamentals of walking, running, and lateral motion, establishing the correct fundamentals can help athletes perform at a higher level. More importantly, it can help athletes avoid injury that might result from bad technique. Here’s a few common approaches:

  • Repetition and drills
  • Half- to three-quarter-speed simulations
  • Recording and reviewing video with a coach or trainer

Gait Analysis and Training with AlterG

More often than not, teenage athletes tend to be unfamiliar with moving under the strain of added weight and resistance. When faced with these situations, they will often forget fundamentals, hence the tendency to develop bad habits. They might know how to sprint at 100% effort, for example, but they don’t necessarily know how to control their bodies while sprinting at 100% effort. Add in the pressure of official competition, and the challenge becomes even greater.

Learning proper movement and correcting anomalies is one of the common use cases of the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™. Many physical therapy clinics throughout the United States, as well as collegiate and professional sports teams, leverage our treadmills to train teenage athletes in a controlled environment that helps limit injury risk.

More specifically, Stride Smart Gait Assessment Technology can be used by certified physical therapists to not only help monitor and identify gait abnormalities, but to show the athlete incorrect movements in real-time. What a difference it makes for an athlete to actually see the improvements they need make. It makes self-correcting that much easier. And it can help avoid the development of bad habits.

3 Tips for Building Fast Twitch Muscles

Sprint faster. Be more explosive off the line. Increase agility and quickness. These common goals cannot be achieved without the development of fast-twitch muscles. What are fast-twitch muscles, you ask? The difference between fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles has a lot to do with the intensity of movement sustained over time.

If a person were to hold an abdominal plank for a two minutes, for example, or do a wall sit for five minutes, they would be developing and using  (mostly) slow-twitch muscles. When it comes to slow-twitch, think endurance.

Fast-twitch muscle fibers, on the other hand, are activated by high intensity movements sustained in short bursts. Examples include sprints, burpees, and quick lateral movements. Many activities, such as boxing and basketball, incorporate both slow-twitch and fast-twitch fibers.

How to Build Fast-Twitch Muscle

In many ways, building fast-twitch muscles is about diversifying your workouts. The idea is to introduce activities that force the body to recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers it might not otherwise use. Here are three tips to help you do just that:

  1. Expand your strength training – Resistance training is an important cornerstone of most fitness regimens. Incorporate more fast-twitch movements by performing reps at a faster rate, or working in exercises like power clean and snatch. 
  2. Sprints and agility drills – Straight sprints can be quite boring. Try adding changes in motion to your sprint routine, such as there-backs or three-point agility drills. Sprint up and down a flight of stairs. Incorporate resistance bands or perform explosive movements underwater. You can also recruit new muscle fibers by borrowing from sports you don’t even play, but that rely on good agility, such as football, soccer, and gymnastics.  
  3. Work in some plyometrics – Plyometrics are all about quick, powerful expansions and contractions of a given muscle or muscle group. The burpee is a classic (and timeless!) example. You might also consider explosive bodyweight exercises such as jump squats, split-squat lunges, or plyo push-up. Military training and crossfit programs are famous for incorporating plyometric exercises, so start there if you need ideas.

Pushing the Boundaries Safely

You’ll notice that building fast-twitch muscle fibers often requires pushing your body beyond the limits you are used to. While beneficial in many ways, this also introduces increased injury risk.

Athletes of the highest levels often perform these exercises in controlled environments, or under the supervision of certified professionals. Tools like the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill can be used, for example, to limit injury risk and body-weight impact during highly strenuous sprinting exercises.

Regardless of how you choose to build fast-twitch muscles, remember that no workout regimen is exclusive of your diet and sleep regimen. Your ability to perform these workouts without injury, as well as to recover properly after taxing workouts, is just as important to building fast-twitch muscle fibers as the exercises themselves.

Back to School! How to Deal with Youth Sports Injuries

First, the bad news: summer is nearly over. Sigh. For parents, this means everything is about to get a whole lot busier—everything. Back to school preparations. Rides to and from activities, sports, and clubs.  

With everything going on, the last thing parents need is an injury or illness. A kid coming down with the flu is one thing. But a broken leg suffered at soccer practice is something different altogether.

Avoiding youth sports injuries, and understanding how to deal with them when they do happen, is a major consideration for any parent. Here are some important considerations.

Thinking of Getting Your Child Involved in Youth Sports?

Good on you! There are many benefits to participating in youth sports. Apart from helping kids stay healthy and fit, kids can also find fulfillment in the camaraderie and socialization that comes with being part of a team. According to the National Council of Youth Sports, youth sports can boost physical health, social well-being, psychological health, and even academic performance.

Yet, youth sports are not without risk. Stanford Children’s Health highlights some eye-opening injury statistics youth sports:

  • Approximately 30 million children and teens participate in organized sports, resulting in more than 3.5 million injuries annually (United States) 
  • Approximately 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among American children are the result of sports and rec activities

The riskiest sports? In an article in TODAY, Dr. Bennet Omalu listed American football, ice hockey, mixed martial arts, boxing, wrestling, and rugby as sports to avoid until the age of 18. And though contact sports carry higher risk, a child can suffer an injury no matter what sport they play.

Common Youth Sports Injuries

The most common injuries will vary by sport. Common basketball injuries, for example, will likely differ from those of swimming. Generally speaking, there are two types of youth sports injuries:

  • Acute
  • Overuse

Acute injuries are usually the result of collision or a certain movement. Examples of acute injury include fractures, sprains, and contusions. Overuse injuries, on the other hand, result from repetitive motions and repeated stress put on a particular part of the body. Tennis elbow is a good example, as is tendonitis.

How to Reduce the Risk of Youth Sports Injuries

There are a number of precautions that parents can take with their children to prevent youth sports injuries. We’ve organized them into three broad categories:

  • Diet and hydration. A child’s nutrition impacts their everyday life, including sports performance. Without proper nutrition and hydration, the body does not have what it needs to stay strong and resilient during athletic activity. This contributes directly to injury risk. 
  • Preparation. There is a reason we stretch before going out for a run, or exercise at the gym. If we just jumped right into it, we’d likely injure ourselves. The games for youth sports, where stretching, strength and conditioning, and practice can help limit injury risk. 
  • Protection. Helmets, pads, and other protective gear is crucial, even during practice. This is especially true for contact sports like American football.

My Child Suffered an Injury – Now What?

Many common injuries do not require any kind of escalation. The old formula—rest, ice, compression, elevation (RICE)—will usually suffice. RICE and time.

When a child suffers an acute or overuse injury that requires therapy, however, you might consider physical therapy. Finding the right therapist will require a little work. We recommend look for clinics that specialize in sports rehabilitation and pediatric therapy.

You might also refine your search based on what tools and approaches a clinic uses. Some clinics leverage the Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ for pediatric rehab, helping adolescents overcome pain resulting from sports injury or other conditions. The best way to find out is to just ask.

AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill and Youth Sports Injuries

Whether it’s a young person or seasoned professional, the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill can be highly effective in rehab for athletes. Using unweighting technology, the Anti-Gravity Treadmill can be fine tuned to enable rehab while limiting the risk of re-injury or discomfort. Plus, what better way to convince kids to go to the physical therapist than to tell them they’ll get to walk on air!

Yes, the fall is here. The best way for parents to prepare for the bumps and bruises to come (and they will come!) is to stay informed and be prepared. Information is power, and knowing what to do when youth sports injuries do happen can help shorten rehab cycles and get kids back on the playing field sooner rather than later.

 

A Closer Look at Gait Assessment with AlterG Stride Smart Technology

To deliver the best patient care, clinicians need to stay up to date with the technology revolutionizing physical therapy. In our previous post, we took a look at Differential Air Pressure (DAP), the patented technology on which the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ is based. Continue reading “A Closer Look at Gait Assessment with AlterG Stride Smart Technology”