Healthy Ways to Celebrate Independence Day

The 4th of July is a weekend-long patriotic party and you should have more than enough time to be social, so make sure you take time for self care and healthy celebration during America’s favorite holiday. Feel grateful, healthy and refreshed, not run-down and depleted, when the celebration ends! Here are some healthy ways you can celebrate Independence Day.

Nourish your Body

Many people choose to celebrate the Fourth of July at a BBQ with friends and family, where food and beverage choices might lend themselves to some unhealthy consumption. Whether you do or not, be nice to your body and make good choices. Getting some light exercise not only feels good, but also helps make that second slice of pie guilt-free.

  • Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water to help combat sun exposure and heat exhaustion. Limit your alcohol intake, especially if you’ll be in the sun or swimming.
  • Get active! Check out free local fitness classes. Many gyms and studios have specials this week. Give that yoga studio you’ve been eyeing a try.
  • Take a leisurely stroll at a local park (you can even pretend you’re at the beach, if you like).
  • Find a local pool or lake and go for a dip. Cool off while getting in some light exercise.
  • Play some games with friends and family. Croquet, horseshoes, frisbee and ping pong are great, low-impact options.

Get Out Of Your Routine

  • Visit a new location or try a new activity. Step out of your comfort zone; maybe you’ll start a new tradition.
  • Take advantage of a museum or park offering free admission this weekend!
    Visit historical American sites or Revolutionary War reenactments to celebrate our Independence.
  • Meet someone new! Get to your community fireworks display early. Bring a camping chair, yoga bolster, or other comfy seating if needed. Chat with neighbors or those celebrating nearby and get to know someone new. Making new connections can boost endorphins, the chemicals our brain releases when it’s happy.

Feel Good by Doing Good

Consider how you can contribute to the life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness for someone else by volunteering your time or services to support veterans and those in the armed forces.

  • Check with local military bases and see if they need volunteers for an event.
  • Contact a soup kitchen or homeless center and volunteer your time, money, or supplies so that they can serve those less fortunate. While you’re there, talk to vets and really listen to their stories.
  • Volunteer in a parade! Help veterans get recognized by their communities and have some fun while you’re at it!

Color it Red, White and Blue

Get patriotic and display your pride!

  • Paint your pride with anything from face paint to car markers. Make your festivities pop with some red, white and blue!
  • Fly your American flag! Make sure you check the rules for displaying the flag here.
  • Create some decorations with your kids! Get out that red, white and blue construction paper and some glitter to make your own flags or banners, and brighten up your car windows, backyard BBQ, or even your dog.

Celebrate your freedom to take time for yourself, do something you enjoy, and make healthy choices. However you choose to spend it, Happy Independence Day!

What is Overtraining? What to Look for and How to Train Smart

Conventional wisdom tells us that the harder we work, the more progress we will make. Put in the extra hours at the office, for example, or study on the weekends, and you’ll be that much further ahead. Same goes for athletics and exercise, right?

Not quite.

What is Overtraining?

As it turns out, too much training can have adverse effects. Though it might seem counterintuitive, working out too hard can harm the body, stunt progress, and lead to injury. Once you reach this tipping point, you might experience overtraining syndrome, or the symptoms associated with training with more frequency and intensity than your body can feasibly recover from.

Signs You Might Be Overtraining

Have you ever gone out for your morning run and said to yourself, “Wow, I just don’t have it today?” Sometimes, you’re just having an off day. It could be sleep related. It might be due to something you ate the previous day. If it’s happening chronically, though, you could be suffering the consequences of overtraining.

Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Mood swings
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Diminished performance
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Incomplete or interrupted sleep cycles
  • Loss of appetite
  • Injury

You can find overtraining syndrome in people of all skill levels and conditioning. People starting new workout or training regimens, for example, are prone to overtraining. In their eagerness to start something new, newbies will often dive into a gruelling regimen headlong without giving their bodies ample time to adjust, recover, and repair.

Overtraining can affect even the highest level athletes, too, especially those with gruelling training programs. Distance marathoners, boxers, and and professional weightlifters come to mind.

No matter what kind of training you do, it’s important to train smart.

How to Avoid and Recover from Overtraining

The problem with overtraining syndrome is that it can be difficult to identify. Many of the symptoms are shared by other illnesses and disorders. If you think you might have triggered overtraining syndrome, it’s important to first seek your physician’s recommendations.

When you do return to training, mark your progress by increments and include rest and recovery days. Some days, it’s best not to do any training at all. And remember that no workout regimen can be successful without adequate sleep and a mindful diet. Here a few other tips to avoid overtraining:

  • Get at least eight hours of sleep a night
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day
  • Always warm up and stretch before exercises
  • Always cool down your body after training
  • Work “off” days into your training regimen

Finally, listen to your body! The human body is a complex machine with built-in mechanisms that signal distress, pain, and overuse. Listen to what your body is telling you, and remember that a “play through the pain” attitude can have serious consequences.

Winter Coping Tips for the Movement Impaired

As pretty as snowfall might be, the winter months can wear a person down. When added to the already glum mix of cold weather and limited daylight, mobility issues can make winter difficult to get through.

We can empathize! That’s why we’ve put together our favorite methods and tips for coping with winter blues. Spend a week or two getting to know these practices, just a little time each day, and spring will arrive in no time.

Silent and Guided Meditation

There is perhaps no simpler, more calming way to transport one’s self than through meditation. People around the world rely on meditation to reduce stress, calm the soul, and clear the mind.

During a guided meditation, a speaker (live or recorded) will walk participants through each step, using verbal cues to induce a relaxed state and encourage peaceful visualizations. Silent meditation is usually done on one’s own, and requires little more than a quiet, uninterrupted space and a commitment to the practice.

The best approach to meditation is to try it, unfettered and unconcerned with “getting it right.” For more information about silent meditation, check out the beginner’s guide to silent meditation from Zen Habits. For guided meditations, try searching YouTube, where you can specify the length and style you prefer.

Breathing Exercises

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average person takes between 17,280 and 23,040 breaths a day. But, because breathing is involuntary and so commonplace, many of us take it for granted.

Question is, do we really know how to breathe?

As it turns out, there are a variety of breathing techniques that can help during meditation, to reduce stress, or to stem the onset of acute anxiety attacks. According to the American Institute of Stress, a single or series of deep breaths can activate the body’s “natural relaxation response.”

Here are a few other breathing techniques to start your winter days with:

Let There Be Light

Though it might not seem like it, the sun is out there, even if it’s hiding behind a thick layer of grey clouds. Apart from supplying the body with an important vitamin, maximizing one’s exposure to daylight helps keep the winter blues at bay, while giving your body and mind a noticeable boost.

To get ample light exposure each day:

  • Keep the curtains open until nightfall
  • Position yourself near windows that let in light
  • At night, light candles around the room
  • Swap out old bulbs for bright, energy efficient bulbs

On the rare occasion that the winter sun does rear is radiant head, commit to getting outside any way you can! Even brief exposure to the sunshine can do wonders.

Workout Ideas for When Gyms Get Crowded in January

Have you noticed how crowded the gyms are in January? That’s because a curious phenomenon takes place at the beginning of each new year: people flock to make good on their New Year resolutions (and get the most out of their shiny new gym memberships).

Not your scene? No problem. There are plenty of creative ways (and places!) to get a solid workout in far, far away from the loud, crowded, gym scene.  Many of these ideas are quite simple, available in most areas, and—best of all—100% free of charge.

The only price of admission is a willingness to work hard.

Spice up Your Home Workout

Winter workouts at home don’t have to be boring, and they don’t require the purchase of gimmicks or new equipment. With a pair of tennis shoes, a bit of clear space, and an internet connection, the world is yours. Search YouTube for free yoga workouts, or fun, thirty-minute lower body routines. Try something new, find an instructor or series you like, turn up the tunes, and get to work!

Find a Set of Stairs

A set of ten, twenty, or thirty stairs can be a challenging workout in and of itself. Some common places to find stair sets include convention centers, university campuses, or the bleachers next to a high school or university athletic field. Add some body-weight exercises after you reach the top!

Hit the Trails

A change of scenery can turn the normal run into a beautiful experience. Head out to your local hiking trails, nature preserve, or beachfront for your next run. A little fresh air never hurt anyone, and the trails are likely to be far less crowded than the local gym.

Get Rollin’

Did you know that you can burn over 900 calories during an hour of rollerblading? That’s right. So dust off that pair of rollerblades and get rollin’! No rollerblades? That’s okay: roller skates will do just fine, assuming you still have the moves.

Find an AlterG

Did you know you can book individual or bundled sessions on the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill™? Using our handy Find an AlterG tool, just plug in your zip code and find facilities nearby that have an Anti-Gravity Treadmill available for booking.

If you’ve never experienced precision unweighting technology, you’ll be amazed. And you might learn a thing or two about your gait and how to improve it.  

Oh, and don’t worry about those crowded gyms: they’ll still be there for you when people inevitably give up on their resolutions come February.

How to Run Faster and Longer

Harder, better, faster, stronger is more than just a Daft Punk song. It’s what so many people want to achieve with their own conditioning, fitness, and strength. This might explain why the term “how to run faster” is searched for approximately 33,000 times on Google per month (with nearly three billion search results).

People are always looking for that extra edge, and running faster is an edge in almost any sport you can name.

Tips on How to Run Faster and Longer

What most people will find, though, is that there is no magic pill or secret formula to running faster. Anyone wondering how to run faster and longer won’t be surprised at the answer: hard work sustained over time. More specifically, athletes need to sustain hard work in a few key areas:

Focus on Technique

One of the things that sprinters work on over and over again is their start off the line. Long distance runners will focus heavily on form, too. Why? Because technique—efficiency of motion, essentially—can shave seconds off our times, allowing us to be as fast we possibly can be. If you want to run faster and longer, it’s important to not only get out there and practice, but to practice the right way. This starts with proper running technique.

Add Elevation and Altitude

Improving output and conditioning means introducing new challenges to your workouts. Working hill or altitude training can teach your body to do more with less oxygen—to perform under increased gravitational strain. Head to your local hiking trails, or choose the mountains for your next trips so you can get some alpine runs in. This will improve both your respiratory strength, lending to better short-term and long-term endurance.

Improve Your Core Strength

Your core is the epicenter of all movements. Gains in speed and endurance will not come without a solid core. Make sure you dedicate time to both static (planks and wall sits, for example) and dynamic (medicine ball workouts, for example) abdominal workouts. This will help you not only run faster and longer, but to perform better overall.

Recruit Your Fast-twitch Muscles

Fast-twitch muscles are the muscles you use for short bursts of high intensity movement, such as sprints, jumps, and even throwing a punch. Developing your fast-twitch muscles will train your body to recruit more of these muscles and improve your running, especially in the speed and quickness department. Sprints, lateral motion drills, and agility exercises, along with plyometric circuit work can make for a very effective fast-twitch exercise program.

Tools that Help Runners Push the Limits

There are a number of tools that can help runners push the limits. For starters, many high-performance athletes will use a heart rate monitor. By understanding their different heart rate zones, they can keep their bodies in hard and maximum zones to tap into their anaerobic system.

Other athletes will employ special training masks that simulate running at altitude. Athletes can wear these masks during their normal workouts to improve respiratory strength, another key aspect of one’s speed and conditioning (see hill and altitude training above).

Finally, treadmills allow runners to control speed and elevation for optimized workouts. Special treadmills, such as the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ line of produces, enable athletes to train beyond their maximum capacity—“overspeed training,” as it is commonly known. Using unweighting technology to reduce injury risk, an athlete can train approximately 8% to 13% faster than his or her maximum speed.

Read more about using the Anti-Gravity Treadmill to improve running.

When a Parent Suffers a Stroke

There are certain phone calls we never want to get, especially as our parents age. Finding out that a parent has had a stroke is among the worst. Immediately the questions begin swirling. What kind of stroke and how severe was it? How much cognitive and motor function was lost?

What will the stroke recovery process look like?

All valid and important questions to ask after such a phone call, one that, unfortunately, is far too common. According to the Internet Stroke Center, stroke is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.

What to Do When a Family Member Has a Stroke

The stroke recovery process will begin in the hospital. Immediate and constant monitoring is usually necessary to help stabilize a stroke patient, assess the damage, and then develop a long-term plan for rehabilitation. This will involve a team of physicians, including neurologists, physical therapists, and other specialists. The time needed for convalescing will vary depending on the severity of the stroke.

As family members of a stroke victim, there are a few things we can do lend a hand throughout the stroke recovery process:

Be There for Them

At this time, it’s important to support the stroke victim. The easiest way to do so is to be by their side. Not only can you help them through this difficult time; but you can stay abreast of the latest information from the medical team, including outlook, treatment, and next steps.

Inform the Family

Reach out to family members to inform them of the event and to enlist their support. Visits. Food. A shoulder to cry on, a person to talk to. The stroke recovery process will “take a village,” and no single family member should be expected to shoulder the load alone.

Educate Yourself

Being able to identify stroke and understanding the treatment and recovery process will help you not only support your loved one, but cope with the trauma yourself. Here are some solid resources for stroke awareness and education:

Be an Advocate
Stroke education goes hand in hand with being an advocate for your parent after they suffer a stroke. In hospitals, the saying goes “squeaky wheel gets the oil first.” It’s up to you and your family to ask timely and relevant questions and communicate on behalf of the stroke victim. Stroke recovery is a long, multifaceted process—the opportunities for patient advocacy are plenty. Here are some considerations you’ll likely have to make:

  • Procedures or surgeries needed
  • Medication schedule
  • Fall risk and stroke repeat risk
  • Next step after the hospital
  • Home modifications
  • Post-discharge caregiving needs
  • Insurance considerations
  • Power of attorney
  • Living will and testament

What to Expect During Stroke Rehabilitation

Typically, stroke patients will transition from their inpatient care facility to either inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. This is when the stroke patient begins the arduous work of relearning motor and speech skills, redeveloping cognitive function, and learning to live with any permanent damage caused by the stroke.

Stroke rehabilitation typically breaks down into three general areas:

  • Speech therapy 
  • Occupational therapy 
  • Physical therapy

During rehabilitation, therapists will make periodic assessments to help make recommendations for insurance companies, discharge, and post-therapy options. Therapists will also perform assessments on a patient’s ability to operate vehicles and return to work.

Because stroke events can severely affect balance and coordination, the rehabilitation process often includes specialized tools. The AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ for example, is sometimes deployed during stroke rehabilitation to enable patients to exercise while limiting fall risk. Physical therapists can also use video monitoring to deliver fine-tuned therapy sessions.

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

A wise doctor once said, “there are no minor strokes.” Every stroke is different, and every stroke patient will follow a different path to rehabilitation and recovery. It will never be easy—not for the patient, nor the patient’s family.

From the family’s perspective, there will be a lot of coping and psychological impact. Seeing a parent who was active for so many years lose function is tough. And there is a tendency for family members to shoulder more burden than is healthy or sustainable.

It is important that no one family member bear the burden alone. It’s also important to talk with other family members, seek support and additional information where necessary. Taking care of ourselves, leaning on the people close to use, and being good advocates are the best ways we can best support our parents through this difficult life event.

New Advancements in Evidence-Based Physical Therapy

In our last post, we explored the various benefits of evidence-based physical therapy. In recent years, physical therapy has seen great advancements in approaches to evidence-based care. Optimizing therapy for better outcomes requires new innovations, new tools, and new sources of objective data. Continue reading “New Advancements in Evidence-Based Physical Therapy”