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performance

Why Is Strength Training Important?

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Why Is Strength Training Important?

It is well-established that repeated physical activity is an important part of living a long and healthy life (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018). Thankfully, there are many options. Running, swimming, pilates, yoga, and playing recreational sports are all popular ways that people can stay physically active. These activities vary in the specific physiological demand and movement pattern of the body. However, they all have one thing in common. Performance in all of these activities is increased by a properly applied strength training (aka resistance training) program. In other words, strength training will make you a better swimmer, a better runner, and a better athlete in general. You could say that it is a healthy performance booster (especially for those who don’t do strength training often).

What exactly is muscular strength and how can we measure it?

Muscular strength is defined as the maximal amount of force that a muscle can exert in a single contraction. Strength can be measured in several ways, but in practical terms, strength is the amount of weight you are able to lift for a given exercise. For example, If you can deadlift 225 pounds for one repetition, that is a measure of strength, specific to that exercise.

A good strength training program involves many exercises that are functional movements (squats, deadlifts, overhead press, etc) that utilize all muscle groups of the body. It is important that exercises are completed with correct form, the correct amount of times per week, and with the correct amount of weight. It is also important to not overdo it! Let your muscles rest between lifting days.

Why is it good for us to be strong?

Reason #1

Stronger people live longer. Research shows that mortality rates are lower for individuals that are stronger (Metter et al., 2002). This is especially true for people over 60 years of age.

Reason #2

Greater strength levels increase performance in all physical activities. Yes, even long distance runners should lift weights if they want to improve their running performance. The reason is because strength training improves physiological factors in the body that increase our bodies ability to do other types of physical activity. Namely, the amount of fuel we have available for exercise (glycogen storage), our ability to tolerate intense exercise (buffering capacity), and how much energy we are using during exercise (STØREN et al., 2008). These physiological factors are important for many types of physical activities but often those activities will not improve physiological factors as significantly as resistance training. If you can perform activities at a higher level, you can burn more calories for a longer period of time. Through strength, we can achieve a greater performance in all physical activities we do, resulting in a greater level of fitness.

Reason #3

Strength training reduces chances of injury. It strengthens not only muscles, but tendons, ligaments and bones. All of which are important for staying injury free, allowing you to participate in many physical activities safely. For example, many people that run to excess can develop stress fractures in the bones, shin splints, or tendonitis. However, if you add strength training to your exercise routine, your chances of sustaining an injury are reduced.

Conclusion:

Strength training is an important part of living a healthy life because it helps you to live longer without injuries, and improves performance in all other movements that you do. The long distance runner who is trying to improve his/her time should do resistance training. The recreational basketball player that is trying to play an entire game without sitting out should do resistance training. And even just the average joe that is trying to live longer and stay healthy should do resistance training.

References:

  1. U.S. department of health and human services. (2018, June 21). 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report. https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/report.aspx

  2. Metter, E. J., Talbot, L. A., Schrager, M., & Conwit, R. (2002). Skeletal muscle strength as a predictor of all-cause mortality in healthy men. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 57(10), B359-B365.

  3. STØREN, Ø., Helgerud, J. A. N., STØA, E. M., & Hoff, J. A. N. (2008). Maximal strength training improves running economy in distance runners. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise40(6), 1087-1092.

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How "Why Not Now" Started

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How "Why Not Now" Started

When it comes to making fitness a priority, we've told ourselves, "We'll start on Monday," or "It'll be my New Year's resolution."  Well, why not now?  Empower yourself in the present and make it your lifestyle!

Movement

How many of us are in love with fitness, training, rehabilitation, or anything related to the word I try to avoid using: exercise? Okay, I like to call any of the previous terms “movement” because it’s more intentional and it’s something we all need to do not only to survive, but thrive. You don’t need to love to move, but you do need to commit to movement in one form or another. For some of us, it’s because we’re training to perform our best at something. For others, movement may be used to recover from injuries. For most of us, exercise is not natural or enjoyable but we know we need to do it in order to look, feel, and be the best versions of ourselves. Believe it or not, I don’t personally enjoy fitness unless I’m training for a sport or an event. There are a few unique specimens who are passionate and sometimes obsessed with resistance training, running, plyometrics, etc. because it’s fun for them and allows them to reach a state of flow. Flow, aka “the zone”, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. We can discuss that next time as it’s a subject that I’m particularly interested in. For now, let’s stay on task - I’m here to talk about: commitment.

Commitment

“A commitment is falling in love with something and then building a structure of behavior around it for those moments when love falters” - David Brooks’ lecture “The Next Big Challenge In Your Life”

I’m currently falling in love with the idea that I will be a parent soon, but I refuse to have a “dad bod”. My love and commitment has evolved, changed, and failed me several times - and that’s fine. I don’t have sporting events to train for, and I have no interest in training for a recreational event at the moment. In 2016, my commitment was to avoid having surgery to repair my ACL (yes, not having the surgery is an option). My focus was training hard to build the strength and body awareness necessary to have a fully functioning knee without a fully functioning ACL. Life is full of twists and turns and you don’t always have time to prepare for them, and that’s where motivation comes in. Your motivation is dictated by the current challenges you face. Motivation will keep you committed, and most importantly, keep you disciplined enough to keep you moving forward.

A Winning Mindset

Prior to the 2013 season, Russell Wilson inspired the the Seattle Seahawks with the phase “why not us”. In February of 2014, they won their first Super Bowl. Inspired by Russell Wilson, Justine and I came up with P4L’s slogan of “Why Not Now?” Why wait until tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year to focus on your fitness? Or better yet, why wait to commit to something you love? We all have a love for something, and that love will motivate us to stay committed to reaching our goals.


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Are You Holding Yourself Back?

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Are You Holding Yourself Back?

One of the first questions we trainers ask our clients at Perform for Life is “What is your goal?” As you can imagine, we get a wide variety of a lot of responses, from wanting to lose weight to getting bigger/stronger to being able to perform a certain task. I always try to avoid pushing a goal on an athlete, as a goal that I give them won’t truly drive them in a way that a goal they themselves came up with could. As a coach, it’s my job to help my athletes find the "why" that brings them into the gym. Weight loss and/or looking bigger can be your ‘why’ and there’s nothing wrong with that, but a question I like to ask next is “what can’t you do now that you’d like to, within reason, be able to do?”

I like this question because it follows the training philosophy we use at Perform for Life: we want everything to be built off of health and foundational/functional movement first then to work towards performance goals. If an athlete answers with “running”, we then look at why he or she can’t run at the moment. Sometimes it’s because of pain during running, after running, or it’s because the athlete simply doesn’t feel confident in their running. After the initial assessment, we’re able to see how close an athlete may be to this activity, and we’re able to develop a program that will help them work towards it. There are many different starting levels in an exercise program: someone may be working back from an injury, or simply exercising for the first time, so it’s our job to use progressions and regressions to safely work the athlete up to the activity they’d like to be able to do. We know our scope and will be honest as to whether we think we can help our athlete toward that goal, or whether they might need to be referred out to someone like our bodywork specialist Bob Gazso or another health practitioner. The little ‘within reason’ addition to my original question is for just this: we can accomplish many of our goals if we set our minds to them, but there are just some injuries/conditions that will prevent people from doing certain activities.

So why do I want people to really ask themselves, “What can’t I do now that I would like to be able to do?” Because I don’t think there should be anything in life that your body holds you back from - I believe that is true health. If ever you find yourself saying ‘no’ to something because you aren’t sure you’re physically able to do it, take a step back and ask yourself, “Do I want to be able to do this?” If it’s relatively unimportant to you, then move on; however, if there is something fun you’ve already counted yourself out of, maybe it’s time to make a change. Perhaps you’re already doing the activity you enjoy, but want to improve your performance. These are the types of goals that really drive people to the gym because they’re based on movement and quality of life. No one is happy to say they can’t do something, so start knocking things off of that list - think of something you want to accomplish, and start taking steps to accomplish it. This can apply in all realms of your life.

I am in no way detracting from the people out there coming into the gym to put on muscle or lose weight, but to them I’ll just say this: why not accompany that goal with one that has more meaning in your life? Make the gym somewhere that you look forward going to, and somewhere that you’re doing something that will truly improve your quality of life!

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Put Thirst First

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Put Thirst First

Optimal performance is not achieved on just training alone. A nutrition plan designed by an expert, proper hydration and rest all work as one to ensure the body runs as effectively as possible. Often times hydration is undervalued and overlooked as an important factor in a good training program. Here are some important ways hydration helps with performance.

Body temperature is regulated by fluids.

  • Stress is placed on the body due to high core temperatures which in turn negatively affects the body's energy systems causing problems with performing and recovering.

Blood pressure is regulated.

  • During both training and recovery, stress placed on the body can cause high heart rates. Effectively hydrating can regulate blood pressure by normalizing the heart rate.  Having excessive stress placed on the body might cause inflammation or other factors that might interfere with performing and recovering.

Helps in transporting and moving essential energy nutrients

  • Essential macronutrients, proteins, carbohydrates, fats and other supporting nutrients that the body uses for energy are transported by the fluid that is in the body. Also during intense exercising metabolic waste is produced and is removed by the fluids in the body.

When hydration is overlooked the risk of dehydration increases. Being dehydrated increases the chances of being injured, heat illnesses, and having an imbalance of electrolytes and also losing an excessive amount of sodium.

Being dehydrated increases strain on the body and can cause exercising to become more difficult.

American Council on Exercise (ACE) Hydration Recommendations

  • Pre-workout
  • Drink 17 to 20 fl oz of water two to three hours before exercise
  • Drink 8 fl oz of fluid 20 to 30 minutes before exercise
  • During workout
  • Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise
  • Post-workout
  • Drink an additional 8 ounces of fluid 30 minutes after exercise
  • Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise

As with proper nutrition plans, having an hydration protocol that is consistently followed will help achieve best results.

 

Learn more about Coach Charles here

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Heels or Toes? Foot Placement While Running Explained

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Heels or Toes? Foot Placement While Running Explained

Foot placement while running is an age old debate that many regular runners are familiar with. What’s wrong with running on your heels? “Landing on your heels is horrible for your knees and back!” Well what about forefoot striking? “What a great way to give yourself tight calves and plantar fasciitis”. If that’s true, then obviously landing on the midfoot is the way to go. Like Goldilocks would say, “Not too hot, not too cold. Right in the middle is just right”. The truth is, none of them are necessarily right or wrong.

How the foot strikes the ground has more to do with a runner’s speed, footwear, and the running surface itself.

However, there is a best way to orient yourself so that your feet land properly when running in various conditions.

According to physical therapist, Jay Dicharry, who is internationally renown in running gait analysis, placing the foot as close to your body is much more important in the grand scheme of the entire gait cycle than where on the foot you land. Just because you heel-strike, doesn’t mean you’re over-striding because there are plenty of forefoot strikers who over-stride as well. There are pros and cons to heel, forefoot, and midfoot striking, and which one is more optimal has more to do with the individuality of the athlete, speed, footwear, and the quality of the surface you are running on. 

Steve Magness, Head Cross Country coach at the University of Houston, former Olympic coach, and author of the book, The Science of Running, says that “ideal landing is close to the center of your body and directly underneath the knee”.

If you follow the above advice, your foot should naturally land the way it’s supposed to based on your speed and characteristics of the surface you are running on. When running at faster speeds, like when sprinting, your foot should naturally land more on the forefoot, whereas when running at a slower pace, like when jogging, your foot will probably land more on the midfoot or even on the heel. However, no matter the speed, you should always try to place your foot as close to beneath your hip as possible and then focus on driving your foot down and back to propel yourself forward.

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References:

  1. http://running.competitor.com/2014/03/injury-prevention/footstrike-101-how-should-your-foot-hit-the-ground_63548
  2. http://www.scienceofrunning.com/2010/08/how-to-run-running-with-proper.html
  3. http://www.somastruct.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Footstrike11.jpg

 

Learn more about Coach Randall here

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