Monthly Archives: January 2013

Maintaining Healthy Bones

Bones serve lots of purposes.  They provide support for our entire body, protection to our organs, and storage space for minerals.  Keeping them healthy is an important part of everyone’s life, especially as we get older.  Our bodies go through several stages of bone and muscle development throughout our lifetime.  From 18-24 bones are their strongest and most dense, from 25 to 35 our muscles are they strongest they’re going to get, at 35 we tend to lose half a pound of muscle and gain one and a half pounds of fat per year, and when we reach our sixties, we lose strength by 20 to 40 % every ten years.  Menopause, with its loss of hormones, can increase the rate of bone density loss, and around that same age, both men and women’s bodies become less efficient at absorbing calcium for bone production.  Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to help your bones stay strong for your entire lifetime.

Weight bearing exercise can help keep bones dense, and even increase bone density over time.  Lifting weights, walking, water aerobics, and even running can cause positive adaptations in joints, strengthening and prolonging their pain free lifetimes.  After you exercise your bones, stretching major muscle groups is important for many reasons, one of which is that stretching can keep ligaments, tendons, and muscles at their proper lengths.  Stretching also maintains joint flexibility and helps lead to a lower risk of injury.

While you’re exercising and stretching you also want to avoid food that’s bad for your bones.  Artificial sweeteners, soda, alcohol and table salt are all bad bones culprits because they bring the pH of blood down.  These acidic foods alter the pH to a point at which your body uses calcium from bones to neutralize their effects, instead of using that calcium to build new bone cells.  Smoking is another bad for bones activity for many reasons.  Smokers have been shown to recover more slowly than non-smokers from ligament surgeries, produce bones more slowly, and have weaker spinal ligaments (low back pain).  It’s also important that we drink in moderation.  Increase alcohol consumption alters your balance and can lead to bone breaking falls, not to mention the bone crushing possibility of car accidents.

The ability to properly manage stress will help your bones stay strong, too.  Cortisol regulates blood pressure and inflammatory responses; it also heightens memory functions and lowers sensitivity to pain.  As a result of cortisol being released at times of stress and chronic stress can raise cortisol levels in your blood, extended periods of stress ultimately result in weakened bone matrices. Combat this by having quality stress management strategies and eating vitamin and mineral rich foods such as milk, eggs, sardines, salmon, spinach, orange juice, and tuna.

One more way to protect our bones, especially as we age, is to work on our balance.  Better balance will make us less likely to fall, a major source of broken bones in older people.  Practicing standing on one foot while brushing your teeth or making dinner are great ways to keep your balance in top shape because they force the body to be keenly aware of what’s going on around it.

For more information on a program to help your bones stay strong, contact us at!

Good for You Foam Rolling

Most everyone has seen the chopped up pool noodles propped up on the wall by the stretching and ab work areas at the gym.  Even though they look like pool toys, foam rollers are a staple for many athletes, fitness enthusiasts and runners.  Foam rolling relaxes and treats sore muscles in a form of self-massage, improving circulation and increasing flexibility.  Cheaper than massages, this budget conscious option can be executed in as little as ten minutes.

Foam rolling works muscles by using a technique called myofascial release.  Fascia are the soft tissues that give muscles support and protection.  When these become restricted or inflamed from inactivity, overuse, or training, the resulting adhesions, occurring between the fascia and the muscle they protect, causes pain, tightness and a decrease in blood flow.  Rolling these tight muscles relieves this strain by pressing on and stretching the fascia to relax the adhesive tissues.  Helping to keep muscles loose, myofascial release is a key part of injury prevention.

Foam rolling helps prevent injury when used as part of a workout, and can be done as part of both warm-up and cool down.  During warm-up, a short rolling session will help increase circulation to the desired muscles, preparing them for some hard work.  After your workout, rolling stretches, massages and relaxes those same muscles after they were shortened and tightened by exercise.  Avoiding any torn muscles, you can roll and relax most major muscle groups, including quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, lats and traps.  Most runners swear by the foam roller for helping them avoid IT Band syndrome and aiding in recovery from a developing injury with deep tissue massage at very low cost.  Smaller muscles, like the chest and psoas, are better reached with lacrosse, tennis or other dense, weighted ball.

You can pick up a basic foam roller for about twenty dollars anywhere that sells fitness equipment, Dick’s and Target both carry them.  There are lots of different flavors of foam rollers available, including your choice of color to fancy trigger point styles, so you should try each kind and find what you like best.  Different densities exist as well, with white foam rollers typically being softer than blue or black rollers, so know that the harder the roller is, the more intense the stretch is going to be.

With all the benefits of foam rolling, you have no excuse for not giving it a shot!

Need to Know: Treadmill versus Outdoor Running

As the weather cools off and snow starts to fall, lots of runners turn to the temperature controlled pleasures of a treadmill.  While it can be a little less scenic than running outdoors, treadmill training has its own benefits.  It has its own pitfalls as well, so read on to learn what you need to know about the differences between outdoor and indoor running.

Running indoors is safer, sort of.  With the shorter days of winter, running indoors is safer than running outside in the dark, and it’s also much less slippery than maneuvering over snow and ice.  Treadmills can be dangerous as well, and while you can get in some guilt free TV time running indoors, it can also be boring.  Terrain is constantly changing outside, but you can turn your brain off on the treadmill because your foot lands the same way every step.  It’s important to stay aware, too far to the left or right and you can be sent straight back into a wall, another person, or another piece of equipment.

The belt of a treadmill is more forgiving than the pavement or sidewalk out in the cold.  At the same time, the belt helps you along.  It’s important to know that because the belt does this, your running form can change, and not always for the good.  Your foot can be in contact with the belt longer than it would be with the ground outside, and that alters your running stride.  Since the belt is moving, your quads fire to push off, but rather than using your hamstring to finish your stride, the belt does it for you.  This change puts extra strain on the quad and gives the hamstring less work to do.  Some people also learn forward excessively in an effort to keep up with the moving belt, which isn’t an issue outside.  Being aware of this and making sure to take short, quick steps will help protect proper running form.

Treadmills are flat.  They also have a great incline feature, allowing you do get in some serious hill work without braving the elements.  Raising the belt to various levels during a run can help keep your mind working, leaving you safe and sound in the middle of the belt, and can keep hamstrings a little more active.  Another outdoor condition you won’t find in the gym is wind.  Working against wind resistance is a natural part of running outside, and training without it can mean you expend less energy over the course of your run.  By increasing your pace slightly, you can get the same increase in heart rate as running against some wind while staying nice and warm inside.

Now you know how to get the most out of your next treadmill workout, so keep up on your training and get ready for your first spring race!

For more information on treadmill training or getting ready for your race season, contact us at!!!