GymBug

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Archive for the tag “injury”

Compression gear

Hi there!

This post has been inspired by my most recent purchase! I just bought Sub Sports RX Women’s Graduated Compressio Baselayer Calfguards (try saying that 10 times fast). They are currently reduced from £19 to £12 with free UK delivery, bargain! I read reviews and the general resonse was that they were good quality and great for helping muscle recovery. I shall update you on my own personal experience once I’ve tried them out!

So, why bother spending money on compression gear? I personally suffer from shin splints and started with a pair of calf guards when I got sick of the bike and wanted to run again. I found they really did make a difference. The idea behind comprssion calf sleeves or compression socks is to squeeze your legs and help blood move up. Ths helps prevet inflammation, improves muscle recovery and (to a much smaller extent) reduces blood clots*. Runners World explains that it helps reduce lactic acid build up and increase circulation to the muscles.

Compression socks are no longer the only kind of compression gear you can buy. You can now also get full upper body or lower body compression baselayers, arm compression sleeves and compression shorts. Prices tend to be high for the decent quality gear (such as 2XU, CW-X and so on).

Initially, compression gear can be wildly uncomfortable to put on and take off, but after seeing how much it helped me recover and prevent shin splints, I can’t preach compression gear enough! Take a look around at the options, read reviews and try out different gear for yourself!

Have a great day! Almost Friday, woohoo!

Gym Bug

*www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/patientinstructions/000597.htm

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Working out sore muscles; Yaay or Naay?

Hi there!

I’m sure we’ve all been there. We’ve lifted heavier, pushed harder or returned to training after a break. We wake up the next day and feel like we’ve been hit by a bus. The question some of us may ask is; Can I (or should I) work out? I read an article recently from Greatist that discusses this. The pain is called Exercise Induced Muscle Damage (EIMD) and typically results in the onset of Delayed Onset Muscles Soreness (DOMS). I’ve been there, worst DOMS I experienced was after Tough Mudder, which I completely expected given I ran 11miles and tackled 25 gruelling obstacles. I had to take 2 days off from intense exercise to recover. Greatist also mentions that if your muscles are restricting your movement or limiting your strength then it’s probably best to listen to your body and give it a break.

The reason for taking a break? The muscle pain you feel is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibres and overworking these can make it much worse and lead to greater injury, which would see you out of training for a long time (trust me, I’ve been there).

You can opt for light exercise, such as walking or low-intensity cycling. Just make sure it’s low-impact. You can also work different muscle groups, focusing on those that don’t hurt, this is good also for ensuring you have a varied routine to ensure all muscle groups are worked.

Other methods Greatist mentioned to alleviate muscle soreness is ice baths, a massage and good old-fashioned stretching! Personally, I usually go for stretching and foam-rolling to help my achey muscles. I also use a massage bar from Lush which works wonders!

A key thing to mention and trust me, it’s solid advice you must adhere to; do not exercise if the pain is intense, on-going or highly restrictive. You should seek a doctor or a physiotherapists advice if you experience intense pain during, before or after a workout. I found myself with a grade 2 groin strain in January 2014 and was unable to do cardio for 8 weeks and once I could do cardio, it was light cycling for a few weeks before I could build it up. I also had to endure sports ‘massages’ from a physio (unpleasant to say the least). That extra workout when you’re sore is not worth it. Listen to your body. Plus, a sneaky extra rest day is always enjoyable (and good for the mind and motivation).

http://amandastonebarger.com/2014/05/04/mile-806-why-you-shouldnt-feel-guilty-about-rest-days/

Gym Bug

Image source; http://amandastonebarger.com/2014/05/04/mile-806-why-you-shouldnt-feel-guilty-about-rest-days/

Getting oot’n’aboot

Hi there!

For non Scottish readers “oo’n’aboot” translates to ” out and about”. It’s highly stereotypical and I love the phrase, I have no idea why. Anyway, now that I’m home I do not have access to a gym, which is really, really, really nice. I get to spend my cardio days outside in the gorgeous (haha) Scottish weather.

I love getting out and going for a good run outdoors. My first run since returning was great and it didn’t feel like a workout. I ran at an average pace of 5.33 minutes per km, which was faster than I usually run and I really enjoyed being outdoors rather than looking at my reflection in the gym window on the treadmill. Not getting sweat in my eyes was also an added bonus.

Running outdoors is not only more aesthetically pleasing, it also has additional heath benefits that you can’t get from a gym. Outdoor running means you’re exposed to a variety of different terrains. This adds to the development of muscles in your legs and gets them nice and strong!
Anyone who has run outdoors will also have probably, at least once, faced wind. Running against the wind requires more energy which requires more calories! You won’t get that kind of natural resistance in a gym.
You get fresh air! The gym can become a hot box and the air becomes thick and warm, but outdoors your lungs, body and mind can rejuvenate and benefit from getting decent fresh air.
I also find that running outdoors leaves me feeling more refreshed. I can come in from a run outside feeling more energised. I attribute this mainly to the fact that I’m not drowning in my own sweat and I smell of outside.

If you can’t run, I still recommend trying to get outside as much as possible. There’s so much to do! Go for a walk, a hike, a cycle, even sit outside and enjoy the fresh air. A well-balanced, healthy lifestyle is not achieved by powering it out in a gym. You need nature to help keep your lungs and mind fresh!

If you do decide to go outside for a run and don’t want a monotonous run, try mix it up a bit. You can sprint for 1-minute and jog for 1-minute (or any length of time). I like finding a hill and doing hill runs too. There’s a long hill next to my house and I find a good, challenging run is to run one full length at a moderate pace, walk down, sprint half the hill, walk to the bottom and repeat for a maximum of 5 times. I don’t plan on going beyond 5 repetitions of this because it will most likely end in injury. Instead I focus on improving my speed and recovery.

So get out there and enjoy the fresh air!

Gym Bug

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/treadmill-vs-running-outside.html

http://healthontrack.info/outdoor-running-benefits/

Slow or Fast; who wins this weights race?

Hi there!

Another weight training session today and I tried a slightly different technique based on some research I’d done. I got curious as to whether it was best to do fast repetitions or slow ones, so I researched it and tried out a slower routine today than normal.

Women’s Health Mag has discussed that both can have great benefits for the body. The key is the point in your training you’re at. If you’re a beginner, going fast will likely lead to injury. Going slow is also great if you’re looking to build strength. What you want to do is really focus on slowing down on the “release” stage of the lift. For example, doing a bicep curl, really focus on slowing the rate on the way down rather than on the way up.  By going too fast, too soon you risk injury to muscles and joints, especially if your technique isn’t quite on form. However, when performing the repetitions it’s best that you slow it down on the ‘release’ phase. I tried it today and I could definitely feel more of a burn, particularly with my abs. By doing the repetitions slower (for example, with a bicycle crunch) I could really feel my abs working hard.

Men’s Fitness also discuss this and state that lifting slow will see you develop more muscle mass. Again, it’s all about going slow on the ‘release’ phase of the repetition, this way you’re really working the muscles hard and developing more strength. Don’t worry ladies though, going slow won’t mean walking out the gym one day a bodybuilder, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it takes more than just lifting to get those types of muscles. Females lack testosterone, which is what’s needed to give you those bulging muscles. Always remember female bodybuilders or very muscular females are probably taking supplements to enable that type of muscle growth!

But does that mean fast isn’t beneficial? Not at all, however, it’s only wise to use faster repetitions when you’ve got the overall technique nailed down. This will help prevent injury. It’s also pertinent you’ve got muscle strength to maintain a safe technique whilst going through the more intense workout. By going faster you improve power and burn more calories but you need to be physically capable of maintaining a proper technique when more fatigued. By forcing the weight to move faster you’re using more energy, so you will notice you’re more tired, sweaty and out of breath by following this technique.  Be careful though!  Jerky, poor controlled movements will cause injury. You must remain in control of the weights to reap the rewards!

Here are a couple of exercises you can do both fast and slow;

  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Bicep Curls
  • Squats (maybe not too fast if you’re using a bar)
  • Push Ups
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Tricep Dips

I’m going to do a session of 10 slow repetitions of different exercises, then next session try 15 repetitions in the same time frame for the same exercises. This way I’ll get to experience both! Hopefully it’s a new way to mix up my workouts. You should give it a try too!

Almost Friday. Keep going!

Gym Bug

The importance of a well-earned rest

Hi there!

Sunday is my scheduled rest day and I thought it was an opportune time to do a post about why these rest days are so important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I take one rest day a week (on average) but recommended exercise is between 3-6, so you can take more depending on your schedule, goals and other variables.

The type of recovery I’m discussing here is long-term recovery. Which refers to the scheduled planning of rest days throughout the exercise schedule. This will be the focus of the post.
Short-term recovery refers to the recovery immediately after your work-out and includes active recovery. Active recovery is doing low-intensity exercise to help the body recover immediately after intense exercise and also the days after.

So what makes them so important?

Professional athletes take rest days too. They appreciate the importance in allowing the body (and the mind) to recover, repair and strengthen. For those who do not complete on a professional level, it’ also a great way to maintain  a better balance amongst leisure, work and family life.
Recovery and rest is when the real training happens. Your body is able to adapt to the stress of exercise, replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues (for example, the breakdown of muscle).

Not allowing for adequate recovery opens a very wide door for injury, fatigue and illness. Lack of recovery leads to overtraining. Continuous training can actually hinder your performance. Overtraining results in depression, lack of energy, feeling drained, muscle and/or joint pain, insomnia, headaches, decreased immunity, injury, loss of appetite amongst other things. Overall, rest days are critical if you want avoid overtraining. By going too hard, you risk taking yourself completely out of exercise for an extended period of time, which is exactly what you don’t want.
I can give a personal example of this when I engaged in solid rowing training for 7 days a week for weeks on end. By the time January rang around I was struggling to walk without considerable pain in my right leg. Two doctors appointments and a physio visit later, I was diagnosed with a Grade 2 Groin Strain. 8 physio sessions and weeks off of cardio had me feeling annoyed, frustrated and disappointed. Trust me, it’s not worth it.

Rest days are also good for you mentally. I can’t imagine anything worse than having to get to the gym every single day. Whilst I love the post-exercise feeling I do value being able to lie-in and relax a bit more on my rest days. It keeps the gy from being repetitive, monotonous and downright dull.

How should I incorporate it into my schedule?

There are different methods for incorporating rest days. You can do what I do and select a specific day to have off, changing it as required by your commitments. You can also just pick and choose week by week depending on your mood (I’d be wary of this, as you may end up taking more than planned).

Men’s Fitness have a great article about rest days and recovery for weight training. Whilst this is a male fitness magazine I think the principles are applicable to both genders in their weight training schedule. To sum the article up, they suggest having “deload weeks” every 4-6 weeks, where you reduce the intensity to allow the body to recover. They also recommend incorporating stretching, core exercises and bodyweight movements into these weeks.
They also suggest taking 1-2 weeks a year for “rest weeks”. Here they emphasise a focus on doing things you enjoy, not exercise. Go walking, hiking, leisurely cycle, socialise, etc. These are really for after very intense sessions such as a marathon. However, I think it’s a great addition to any workout calendar. You get to escape the gym!

Women’s Health Magazine (keeping the balance) also recommend rest days. They state that strength does not come from training, it comes from the body rebuilding itself after the training. Their recommendations for rest and recovery include 1-2 rest days a week, alternating between intensities (e.g HIIT one day a week, endurance another), nourish your muscles (sleep right, eat right, stretch).

Again, rest days are needed, being a “gym rat” will not see you lose weight faster. It’s possible you may even retain more weight. Exercise releases the stress hormone cortisol which encourages fat storage. If you put your body under intense stress 7 days a week, you’re increasing the levels of cortisol in the body, encouraging your body to hold onto precious fat as a survival instinct.

Active recovery is a good way to allowing your body to recover too. On your rest day you could go for a walk as a way to get out the house, get some fresh air etc. You can also engage in low-intensity classes such as pilates and yoga. This way you are allowing recovery without any need to feel guilty. However, having a rest day is  NECESSITY so guilt shouldn’t really come into it (but I get that it can). Personally, especially when I’m home, I do some form of active recovery because I own a dog, so I walk him.

So, evidence has proven you do not need to confine yourself to a gym 7 days a week! Rejoice!

Hope everyone is having a great weekend and preparing to crack open their advent calendars tomorrow!

Gym Bug

Sources;

http://sportsmedicine.about.com/cs/overtraining/a/aa062499a.htm

http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/sampleworkouts/a/RestandRecovery.htm

http://www.builtlean.com/2012/06/05/overtraining/

 

 

 

Stretching your way to fitness

Hi there!

Today’s post is going to focus on stretching and the importance of it. I used to never stretch and the severity of this wsa revealed to me when I got injured with a grade 2 groin strain in January. It saw me out of rowing for the semester and out of cardio for weeks. It was painful and incredibly frustrating. Since then, I’ve ensured I fit in a stretching session after every single workout. I’ve noticed it’s helped my recovery and it feels good being able to touch the ground without feeling like something is going to snap.

Again, this information has been collected from research I’ve done and things I’ve stumbled across on Pinterest, Twitter etc.

  • Stretching helps your range of motion. It reduces muscle tenion and tightness, two things which reduce muscle function.
  • It can improve posture. Tight muscles will pull your body out of shape. For example, tight chest mucles pull out shoulders and head forward which gives us a hunched look. By stretching your muscles your releasing the tension and allowing your body to move more freely and allows you to have better posture.
  • It can help your calm down. Stretching is good for relaxation and the release of tension can be both physical and mental when stretching. When stretching practice deep breathing and clearing the mind. It’s amazing how relaxing it can be.

Something that surprised me was the complex lack of consensus regarding stretching and injury prevention. Some sources say it doesn’t do a thing to prevent injury, for example, Jillian Michaels whilst other argue differently, such as the article in Lifehacker. I believe it has benefits of reducing muscle tension, which allows increased range of motion which may prevent you overstretching it doing simple tasks. So I think it can indirectly help.

When stretching it’s important to hold it for a good 20 seconds, otherwise you won’t see benefits particularly quickly. Also focusing on the areas you worked most during that particular workout to ensure they get the best stretches.

The Mayo Clinic has a great slide show on stretching safely and gives advice on basic stretches to start incorporating into your workout. I discovered some really useful ones by attending some pilates classes also.

Have a happy Saturday everyone! Last weekend in November, almost time to get pumped for Christmas!

Gym Bug

Sources;

http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=2206

http://lifehacker.com/5983731/why-stretching-is-just-as-important-as-exercise

 

H.I.I.T

Hi there!

This is anther one of my older post from my previous blog, but I’ve mentioned HIIT a lot so I thought it’s best to upload again! HIIT standards for High Intensity Interval Training and is an excellent way to get your heart rate and fat burning capabilities through the roof!

The idea behind HIIT is simple; short bursts of high intensity activity followed by a short rest, this is repeated until the desired time is up. The best thing about HIIT is that you can do it with anything! (Note: when I say “on” I mean as hard as you can go, when I say “off” I mean recovery where you allow your heart rate to drop). I thought I’d convince the un-convinced by doing some research to get some scientific evidence in front of your eyes!

Simplyshredded refer to a study conducted in Laval University. They kept it basic, 1 group followed a 15-week HIIT training plan and one followed a 20-week steady state cardio plan. Steady-state group burned 15,000 more calories than HIIT group BUT HIIT group lost significantly more body fat! The science behind it is that because HIIT is tougher on the body, it requires more energy (calories) to repair itself afterwards. HIIT essentially has a more effective after burn.

Still not convinced? The same post also stated that short bursts of high intensity cardio help us hold onto our hard-earned muscle mass! You just need to take a look at Bradley Wiggins legs (who competes in long, steadier races such the Tour De France) compared to those of Sir Chris Hoy (who does short bursts of intense cycling around a velodrome).

All of this is further emphasized by Jim Stoppani, PhD, who refers to the same studies conducted in Laval University and Ontario University as well. Just  do a little research yourself if you need further convincing. However, please give these (or your own versions) a go, HIIT is amazing!

Running;
If you’re interested in giving HIIT a go with running to mix it up and maximize calorie burning then best start off with an “easy” HIIT run to get a sense of you’re own capabilities. Doing this until you pass out is ill-advised, for obvious reasons. When I gave it a go prior to being injured I ran hard for 30 seconds and took 30 seconds off. I repeated this until I had doing it for 15- minutes in total. The run itself was 30- minutes (7.5- minutes warm up, 15- minutes HIIT, 7.5- minutes cool down). HIIT is great because it never gets easier! You can alter the length of the intervals or the intensity as you see appropriate!

I now tend to do 15-20 minutes of HIIT (1 minute on, 1 minute off) with 5 minute warm and 5 minute cool down.

Cycling;
This would be applicable to a typical spin class for example. It’s intense, short bursts followed by recovery. Then you sob as you’re told to do it all again. If you’re not part of a class you can still do this, indoors or outside! I have 2 sessions, each lasting 45-minutes.

Session 1: This is a sprint session. Take 5-minutes to gradually increase your heart rate through increasing the resistance. Once the 5-minutes are up it’s 35-minutes of work! I tend to follow the same (monotonous, yet effective) pattern, 1.5-minutes on with 1-minute off. You repeat this a total of 10 times, then it’s a 5-minute cool down. (Note: feel free to lengthen the warm-up and cool-down as you see fit).

Session 2: This one uses hill & seated climbs, sprints and jumps (alternate between 10-15 seconds standing, followed by 10-15 seconds seated, repeat for desired length). Again, I do a 5-minute warm up, 35-minutes of work, 5-minute cool down. The 35-minutes of work consist of 2.5-minutes of either a hill climb, seated climb, sprint or jump. Mix it up to enhance the work-out. This is harder, in my opinion, than the solid sprinting because it’s uses different muscles, for example, when I hill climb there’s a lot of burning on my glutes, which is less severe when I do a seated climb.

Aerobics;
Aerobics aren’t new and they’re great, but not as challenging as they could be. This is where “HIIT-ifying” it comes in. Give yourself 30-minutes and split it into 5-minute warm up, 20-minutes work, 5-minute cool down. I’ve written out an example below for a HIIT workout I do (no equipment needed, but if it has a * next to it, you can use a dumbbell(s) to make it harder). Work for 40 seconds with a 5 second rest between each exercise, then take a 1-minute rest between each set.

Repeat each set three times. It’s 3.25-minutes per set with 5-minutes break in total, so it’s 19.5-minutes of work! Remember 40 seconds on, 5 seconds rest between exercises with a 1-minute rest between each set.

Set 1:
Jumping squats
Press ups
Bicycle crunches
Russian twists*
High knees

Set 2:
Running on the spot (go as hard as you can)
Tricep dips (overhead tricep extensions with a dumbbell works too)
Push up plank (explained below)
Superman (explained below)
Burpees (explained below)

A really good idea is to mix it up! Write out your own HIIT aerobics plan that targets those large muscle groups you’re aiming to improve/tone/strengthen/shrink. Now a quick explanation on some of the moves.

Push up plank- start in a normal plank position with your elbows on the floor. Move into a raised plank position with your hands on the floor and your arms straight. Return to original plank position with elbows on the floor. Repeat for stated length of time.

Superman- lie on your stomach, arms and legs stretched out. Lift your head, arms and legs together and hold for a few seconds/the whole time. If you hold it for a few seconds before returning to the start position, repeat until the specified time is up.

Burpees (I hate these, but they’re a good exercise)- start on your feet. Jump as high as you can and when you land go straight into a crouch. Kick your legs back (so you’re in a raised plank position) and then bring them back into so you’re in a crouched position again. Jump back up, making sure to explode from the ground and repeat.

Anything that is unclear best go onto youtube/google to double check. As always, best to be completely clear on the technique and the moves to avoid any injury. It’s also possible incorrect technique means you’re not actually benefitting from the exercise. Nothing worse than wasted effort! (except injury)

HIIT is a great way to mix up your exercise regime and can help keep you away from the weight-loss plateau or the horrible repetitive strain that can occur. Otherwise it’s another way of keeping fit and healthy! Be careful though, this is a very intense form of exercise if done to highest of ability, so limit yourself to how many you do a week!

Gym Bug

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