Monthly Archives: November 2013

Flexibility Isn’t Everything

The Sit-and-Reach test for flexibility.  There isn’t anyone who missed out on it in grade school.  Put your feet in the metal box, push the bar as far as you can without lifting yourflexibility knees off the ground and voila, your flexibility is precisely and accurately measured.  Unfortunately, flexibility might not be all it’s cracked up to be.  While incredibly important to gymnasts and dancers, stretching might not be beneficial to all types of athletes.

Recently, researchers have been exploring the exact benefits of stretching before playing a sport and how it can improve, or be a detriment, to athletic performance.  Most of the research is based on the fact that muscle fibers are like rubber bands, they stretch and recoil in proportion to their tightness.  You would much rather be snapped with a loose rubber band than a tight one, and your muscles are just the same.  The tighter a muscle is, the more force it can produce at a moment’s notice.  So why would anyone want to loosen their muscles up before participating in a sport?

The short answer is that it depends what you’re doing.  Flexibility is a measure of range of flexibilitymotion (ROM), or the range through which a joint can move freely through extension and flexion.  Normal ROMs around the hips, ankles and knees are integral for moving a joint in almost any athletic movement, and increased ROM can reduce muscle stiffness and risk of muscle strain injury.  Larger than normal ROMs are necessary for specialty athletes like gymnasts, hockey goalies and dancers who perform movements such as splits.

Unfortunately, performing a few minutes of static stretching immediately before heading to the floor exercise won’t improve your ROM.  A 2004 study in the September/October issue of Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found that to derive benefits from static stretching, it needs to be done regularly.  Gymnasts, goalies and dancers spend years working on their flexibility and practice stretching every day.  The gym regular who does some static stretching in close proximity to exercising doesn’t require the same kind of dedication.  That exact kind of stretching was discounted again in a 2012 study done by The University of Northampton (UK).  After reviewing earlier studies, researchers found holding static stretches for a minute, or to the point of discomfort, right before exercising was a detriment to performance, while stretches held for 30 seconds were not.  The stretches used in these studies were designed to stretch muscles like the hamstring and quadriceps, not to increase ROM around a joint and the difference is distinct.  It doesn’t matter how much force your muscle can produce if it isn’t able to move through the required ROM to perform the activity correctly.  What’s the lesson?

It’s not ‘stop stretching and you’ll be faster, stronger and jump higher than ever’.   The lesson from this research is if you like stretching, keep at it, although you’re better off waiting until after you’ve exercised to do it and if you don’t like stretching, that’s OK, too.  A flexibility routine that ensures proper ROM around the hips, ankles, shoulders and knees is an important part of any fitness program, but being able to do a split or reach past your toes isn’t.  The type and duration of your stretching needs to be based on the kinds of activities you engage in on a regular basis and what your goals are.  There is no one size fits all flexibility routine that works for everyone, so take some of what you learned here and find what’s best for your body.

Want help developing a flexibility routine?  Ask us!  Email today.

Crock Pot Roast

Pot roast is a hearty, warm and filling winter dinner dish that everyone loves.  Here’s Team FitNice’s low maintenance recipe for pot roast that’s done in the slow cooker or a crock pot.  Using low fat cuts of meat and reduced sodium ingredients, this roast is not only good for you, it tastes good, too!  With a simple recipe that makes meat so flavorful, juicy and tender it falls apart, this healthy pot roast is a wonderful way to refuel after a hard workout or get ready for your next one.

Servings: 6-8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6.5 hours
Difficulty: 3

3-4 lb rump round roastpot roastpot roast
1/2 cup beef broth
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons paprika
1 whole, diced yellow onion
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2-3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubedpot roast

1) Remove thawed meat from package and pour excess juice into crock pot.
2) Braise beef with salt, pepper and flour rub, about 4 minutes on each side.
3) Place meat in crock pot with onion and beef broth, top with paprika.
4) Put crock pot on low (we use a six hour cook time setting) for four hourspot roast
5) At four hours, add potatoes and carrots
6) Cook on low for an additional 2.5 hours
7) At the 6.5 hour mark, remove roast and blend drippings with flour and water to make gravy.

Notes: If drippings aren’t available, use beef stock to make gravy.  We use rump round roast, Yukon gold potatoes, paprika and low sodium beef stock because they’re our favorites, but you don’t have to!pot roastThere it is!  Mix in your own flavors or stick with ours to enjoy this low fat and delicious pot roast that’s good for you at your dinner table all winter long.

Plantar Fasciitis Problems

Plantar fasciitis is a serious issues faced by many athletes, and last week we went over times it’s just fine to miss, or skip, a workout.  Being injured is a great reason to take a day off, and this common one can be very discouraging.plantar fasciitis  We discussed the importance of taking good care of your feet two weeks ago, and this injury is a perfect example of something that can easily be avoided with proper foot care.

Let’s start with some anatomy.  The plantar fascia is the ligament that connects your heel bone to your toes.  It is a flat band of tissue that supports the arch of each foot, acting like a shock absorber with each step and can be strained in one or both feet.  When the plantar fascia is strained or injured, it becomes swollen, weak and irritable.  This will cause any of a number of symptoms, including heel pain or pain on the bottom of the foot when standing or walking.

There are lots of things that can cause plantar fasciitis, and luckily, most are preventable.  People who are prone to plantar fasciitis include those who roll the foot inward when walking or running (excessive pronation), individuals with high arches, people who are overweight, stand, walk or run on hard surfaces for long periods of time, have tight calves or Achilles and finally, those who wear poorly fitting or worn out shoes.  All of these causes can be prevented or avoided very easily.  Two weeks ago, we wrote about the importance of taking care of your feet.  If you follow those suggestions, along with the ones we’re about to share, you’ll be as well prepared as you can be for the fight against plantar fasciitis.

Make sure you have good shoes.  If you wear the right shoes, any excess pronation will be prevented and both arches, no matter how high, will get support.  Replacing your shoes before they are worn down to the bones or using insoles helps ensure coplantar fasciitisrrect fit and keeps feet protected even if you stand, walk or run on hard surfaces for long periods of time.  Tight calves or Achilles tendons are an easy fix, too.  Daily stretching can help lengthen and strengthen these important parts while aiding in injury prevention.  Weekly foot massages, from yourself or someone else, are a relaxing way to prevent foot injuries, too.  Being overweight puts extra strain on your plantar fascia as well, so making sure you have supportive, properly fitted shoes when starting a weight loss program is incredibly important.

What if you already have plantar fasciitis?  While there isn’t one magical cure-all for making plantar fasciitisyour foot, or feet, feel 100% better, there are things you can do to help the process along.  The pain associated with this type of injury often makes putting ice on your injured heel and taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug a necessary part of recovery.  Taking a break from exercising or switching from hard surfaces to soft ones will give the injured foot, or feet, time to heal.  If you’re not ready to take a breather, daily stretching, or stretching multiple times per day, will aid in flexibility.  You can also consider night splints, a boot that stretches your calf and foot while you sleep to help even more.  Rolling the length of your foot with a tennis or lacrosse ball can act like a massage and stretches the arch of your foot, Achilles and calf.

Now that you know the symptoms, the treatments and how to prevent plantar fasciitis, protect your feet and get going!  For more help with injury prevent, email us at today.

Warm Up Chicken Noodle Soup

Warm Up Chicken Noodle Soup is perfect for cold days and chilly nights.  When it’s windy and sunny or cloudy and snowing, a big bowl of soup is always a great way to shake off the cold.  This recipe uses chicken breasts, rather than a whole chicken, to lower fat content and save time.  Give this Chicken Noodle Soup a try today to keep the cold at bay all winter long.

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutesWarm Up Chicken Noodle Soup
Difficulty: 4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 large, peeled and sliced carrots
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieceswarm up chicken soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces dry pasta of choice
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1) Chop onion, peel and chop carrotswarm up chicken soup
2) Heat olive oil in large stockpot
3) Add onion, carrots, potatoes, oregano and basil
4) Stir and cook until onions are transparent but not browned
5) Add chicken broth and chicken breasts
6) Cover and bring to boil
7) Reduce heat, add salt and pepper
8) Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes
9) Return to a boil and add noodleswarm up chicken soup
10) Simmer uncovered until noodles are cooked, roughly 15 minutes
11) When noodles are cooked to taste, remove chicken and shred or cut into bite-sized pieces
12) Return chicken and any juice to pot
13) Add any additional desired seasonings and let stand for 5 minutes before serving

Note:  Add an extra cup of water or replace water entirely with additional two cups of chicken stock to make soup brothier.

warm up chicken soupWarm Up Chicken Noodle Soup is an easy soup recipe that’s great for any season.  It can be made in bulk and frozen for the future or stored in individually sized containers that are perfect for lunch.  Stir up a batch today and stay warm tomorrow!

When Skipping a Workout is OK

Can just the thought of skipping a workout can make you twinge with guilt?  You’re not alone.  When hitting the gym regularly, it’s true that missing a workout can make almost anyone feel guilty, lazy or even depressed.  Pushing through a day when you lack motivation is hard, and completing a workout you didn’t want to do can give you an amazing sense of accomplishment.  Even if you’re training for a race or really, really close to reaching that next fitness goal, there are times when skipping a workout is just fine.  In fact, skipping a workout, or three, might actually do you some good.

Injury.  You’re hurt.  Working through an injury can be OK, but often the increased recovery time or risk of re-injury isn’t worth it.  Missing workouts shouldn’t be your first concern when skipping a workoutyou’re hurt, recovering and giving your body the time to properly heal is what you really need to be worried about.  Being hurt can give you a chance to try something new, too.  If your knee is the problem, try yoga or swimming, for example.  Follow the advice in this article and see a doctor to know if it’s time to head back to the gym.

Sickness.  When you’re sick, your body is under the stress of trying to fight whatever it you have.  Putting even more stress on a sick body can prevent you from getting better and make you feel even worse.  There’s also the risk that whatever has you feeling cruddy is contagious, and nobody wants to share being sick.  Check out these tips for deciding if you’re good to go or should no-show when you’re feeling under the weather.

skipping a workoutNo sleep.  Not getting enough sleep isn’t good for your body or your mind, here are a few reasons why.  When you a little short on sleep, a good session can give you a solid, healthy energy boost, but If you’re exhausted, your workout will suffer and hurt, rather than help, you.  Determine exactly how tired you are, and decide if your time would be better spent taking a nap.

Overtraining.  Training too much can be detrimental to your efforts.  Exercising at a frequency and intensity that exceeds your body’s ability to recover will lead to injury, a lack of progress and even backwards movement.  Take rest days seriously, especially if you just gave your all in a race or event.  Taking a break from your normal workout routine is incredibly important.  Your body needs a few days off to recover, repair the muscles that were just worked to their max and get ready to go again.

You’re too busy.  Working out takes time and with the busy schedule on everyone’s plate these days, sometimes it just doesn’t happen.  Taking valuable free time and spending it on the treadmill, away from family and friends, isn’t always the answer.  There are tons of ways to put little bursts of exercise into your day, taking the stairs, doing push-ups while you’re on hold, and that means saving a hour or two for the gym isn’t an absolute necessity.

Black Bean Brownies

This week’s recipe comes from one of Team FitNice’s favorite bakers, Laura of Roxie’s Cupcakes.  A healthy alternative to out of the box brownie mixes or those with a flour base, these delicious Black Bean Brownies are a great way to top off any dinner or bring to your next special occasion.  Both quick and easy, this low sugar, high fiber recipe is just in time for the busy holiday season when everyone will want something delicious and good for them.  If all of that doesn’t sound good enough, you can even make it even better by using gluten free oats.
Servings:  9
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cook Time:  25-30 minutes
Difficulty:  4
Ingredientsblack bean brownies
(1) 15 oz can of black beans (preferably low sodium), drained and rinsed well
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup whole oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey, agave, or pure maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 egg whites
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
(1) 3.5 oz chocolate bar of your choice, coarsely chopped (we like extra dark, lots of anti-oxidants!)
Black Bean BrowniesInstructions
Pre-heat oven to 350°.
Dump everything except for the chopped chocolate into a food processor or high speed blender and blend the crap out of it until there are no lumps.  Stir in the chocolate and pour into a prepared 8″ x 8″ baking pan (Laura recommends Baker’s Joy, but any

non-stick spray will work)

Black Bean Brownies
Bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Best kept refrigerated, but can be frozen and saved for later.
Give these yummy Black Bean Brownies a try and visit Roxie’s Cupcakes today.  Laura’s Etsy shop, Roxie’s Cupcakes is full of even more exciting and tasty desserts, visit soon to order all of your holiday, and holiday party, treats.

Must Do Foot Care

Having two healthy feet is something most people take for granted.  Until one gets injured.  Foot care is often overlooked by runners who stretch hamstrings, quads and calves but miss their most important part.  Even when hitting the gym for strength training, a group class or round on the elliptical, those two feet take more impact than any other body part.  Almost all athletes will experience some kind of foot pain during their adventures, but here are a few foot carefoot care tips to keep you healthy.

Find the right shoes.  If your shoes are too loose, they can rub, causing blisters, too narrow and you are susceptible to callouses and if they’re too short, toenails can turn black.  When you buy running shoes, do so from a reputable running store, rather than from a big box chain where your sales person might not even be a runner.

Once you have the correct shoes, it’s important to know when it’s time for new ones.  Most shoes are good for 300-500 miles, but it depends on the wear they get.  A good way to extend foot careshoe life is by alternating pairs, especially if they get wet.  Putting wet shoes near a heater or in a dryer will cause them to shrink, potentially causing a myriad of problems.  By having alternate shoes to wear, you can let wet ones dry out naturally and not risk changing their fit on your foot.

Socks.  There are a ton of socks out there, and you want to be sure you’re running in the ones that are right for you.  Wet or cotton socks will lead to blisters, while other materials, such as acrylic, can help protect your feet from rubbing by pulling sweat and moisture away.  You might need to vary your sock choice based on the weather, a light sock won’t be equally fit for a speed workout and racing a half marathon.  Although there are lots of choices, socks are fairly inexpensive, so try different brands, fabrics and cuts until you find what works best.

Keep your feet dry.  This can be hard if you’re running in the rain, on the trails, in snow or on the beach.  Waterproof trail shoes are a great choice for those who brave nature, but for those who run mostly on pavement or a treadmill, the answer is usually to wear moisture foot carewicking fabrics, never start with damp or wet socks and shoes and carry an extra pair.

Massage your feet once a week by rolling them on golf balls, a rolling pin or wooden foot roller.  You can head into most sporting goods stores and find all kinds of foot care products that are built to help you stay on them.  Not only will a foot massage relax those hard working muscles, it’ll give you a few minutes to chill out and take a break.

Do foot and ankle strengthening exercises and be barefoot as much as possible to make weak foot muscles strong.  If the muscles in your ankles and feet are weak, your foot won’t go straight ahead while you run, and you’ll miss out on a lot of power, and speed, stronger ankles and feet can provide.