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training

Do Compression Socks Really Improve Running?

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Do Compression Socks Really Improve Running?

Compression socks can improve performance, decrease lactic acid buildup and minimize muscle soreness, right? If you’ve been running for longer than a year it’s likely that you heard at least one of these statements regarding compression socks. Some runners will swear that it works and others will say it’s a myth. If compression socks can increase running performance how might they do so, and what does the research say?  

Understanding the Claims

Before we get into the knitty gritty of physiology, let’s start with compression socks role in blood flow and venous return. Our heart’s number one job is to pump oxygen-rich blood to our muscles and organs. When we run the demand for oxygenated blood increases so, in order to fill the new requirement, our heart beats faster and we breathe harder. Once our muscles take the oxygen out of the blood and dump in waste products (like lactic acid) our body has to work twice as hard to get the deoxygenated blood back to the lungs and heart to be refueled. Bringing blood back to the heart is more challenging due to gravity, so our body uses our muscles as pumps. Everytime our calfs contract they squeeze the veins in the lower leg, giving the oxygen-poor blood an extra boost. Once the blood finds its way home the whole process starts again.

But what does this have to do with compression socks and performance? Well, the more blood we can send back to the heart the more oxygen-rich blood we can send to our muscles. If a muscle has a higher supply of oxygen it can continually convert that oxygen into energy through the mitochondria. Considering compression socks constantly squeeze the calf, it would make sense to assume that the added pressure would contribute to muscle contraction causing even more blood to be sent back to the heart. The more blood we send back to the heart, the more lactic acid byproduct we are getting rid of. If we can get more oxygen rich blood to our muscles while simultaneously removing lactic acid then running performance should improve! What these statements have in common is “if.”

What do the studies show?

I was able to find multiple studies that pointed towards a clear answer - YES! Compression socks have been shown to increase performance and reduce muscle fatigue during bouts of exercise. In the studies done, they had two trials where runners run without compression socks and then again with compression socks (to put it simply). In every study the experimental group that ran with compression socks did better on the second trial. But why? This is where the studies begin to diverge from popular opinion. One of the biggest factors for increased performance was athlete perception. Preconceived notions of the effectiveness of compression socks may have added a placebo effect which would result in higher performance. Although it may seem logical that lactic acid concentrations were lower in subjects using compression socks, studies found that groups wearing and not wearing the socks had no difference in acid concentrations after a bout of exercise. However, the studies did support and find a significant difference in recovery during bouts of exercise; but it may not be why you think. The constant pressure applied by the compression socks inhibited inflammation. When muscles are damaged during exercise an inflammatory response is created to remove any waste and breakdown muscle to form new, stronger muscle. Therefore, the compression socks were able to hinder inflammation because of the lack of room necessary causing a temporary increase in recovery rate during bouts of exercise. As for any other possible benefits of compression socks (like an increase in venous return) there just isn’t enough data to support a definitive answer.

Final Thoughts

We may not know exactly why compression socks work, but they do! Their effects on running performance are clearly seen through a multitude of studies. If you’re still skeptical, try them! Maybe you’ll hit a new PR.

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Transformation Bootcamp

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Transformation Bootcamp

Why is our Transformation Bootcamp Different from Others?

A lot of times, people are so scared of the word “bootcamp” because they think they need to be fitness enthusiasts to do it. When people hear the word “bootcamp” they automatically think “intense burst of exercises” and get scared. But here at P4L, we take our education very seriously. This is not your typical “no pain, no gain” environment. Instead, during this 4 week period, we will build you up from the ground up.

Here’s why our bootcamp is different from anyone’s else’s. First, every person joining our program goes through a 30 min assessment that includes an inbody assessment, PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire), and a brief functional movement screening. Personalized nutrition guidelines will also be provided along with a 30 min complimentary consultation with our health and wellness coach, Marley Wiley. This ensures that all of our boot campers are well aware of their own bodies and know what muscle groups they need to focus on and what movements they should avoid. These elements tell us what fitness level you will be at and therefore, we can match you with a perfect partner with similar goals, personality, and fitness level throughout this 4 week period to keep you accountable.

There will be four phases during this four week period. First week, we will focus on stabilization and endurance. Second week, we will focus on strength endurance/hypertrophy. Third week, we will focus on max strength and lastly on the fourth week, we will focus on power. This is based on NASM’s scientifically proven OPT model. What’s most important is that this is a 10 people max bootcamp. If safety is your concern, you can take that off the list.

And don’t worry, no class will ever be the same. Even though this is a structured program, everyday will be different.  We will incorporate a mixture of strength and conditioning work, cardio boxing, and metabolic conditioning/HIIT training to give you the best results possible. Kettlebells, barbells/dumbbells, plyometrics, sled push, battle ropes, assault bike, core focus work, medicine balls...you name it, we got you covered. Here at P4L, we value two things: education and community. We will provide the support you need to help you reach YOUR goals in a FUN and SAFE way. This bootcamp will bring you into a community of others who keep you accountable and encourage you to show up everyday! So sign up now and get in the best shape of your life!

*We encourage all levels of fitness from beginner to advanced to participate*



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The Real Deal With Fitness Trackers

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The Real Deal With Fitness Trackers

It’s 2019, and the days of simply tracking our run times with a Casio watch bought in aisle six of Target are a thing of the past. Joking aside, seriously, the fitness wearable market has exploded in the last couple years. I’ll bet someone sitting next to you while you’re reading this has an Apple Watch on, or maybe you do. Smart watches and fitness trackers like Fitbits or Whoop bands have given us the ability to observe a plethora of information about how our body functions throughout the day. The big question that comes with all this available information then becomes how accurate is it?

I’m going to have to burst your bubble and tell you - not very. That being said I think they do have a lot of applicable uses (I even wear one myself). The problem arises when people get stuck on the number (or rings if you’re an apple watch user) on their wrist and forget to see the bigger picture.

To be frank, fitness trackers as a sole tool to engage in and succeed in weight loss or increase one’s level of fitness do not work. A study out of the University of Pittsburgh that ran for 2 years between 2010 and 2012 found that, in a study population who combined a weight loss program with a fitness tracker versus a group who just used the weight loss program without the tracker, the non-tracker group lost more weight (results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association). Let me break down why this happens (and why it happens more often than you’d think).

1.    How do fitness trackers work?

There are several ways your typical fitness tracker works. First, when it comes to the original function of wearable trackers - step counting - trackers use accelerometers, which are three-axis motion sensors to tell you how you’re moving through space and how many steps you’ve taken. Honestly, this is hard to screw up and most fitness trackers have decent accelerometers in them. From there the functions of trackers become more in depth, and the accuracy of the metrics they track may fall off.

The next major step in the tracker game was heart rate tracking. Most popular trackers, Apple Watch, Garmin’s Vivosmart series and Fitbit, track heart rate using optical sensors (that little green laser thing on the back) to light up the capillaries in the wrist and count the heartbeats. That is about as accurate as it sounds; shine a light at your skin and watch what happens underneath. The point is that they’re really just taking a guess at how fast your heart is beating. It was a good try though.

2.    How accurate are they?

The data collected by trackers are put through an algorithm to tell you all the other metrics you may desire to know. For a lot of people, calories burned is at the top of this list. The tracker needs to account not only for heart rate, but also body metrics (height, weight, age, etc.). Now, companies like Apple or Garmin don’t make these algorithms public, so then it becomes a bit of a guessing game as to how much they can be relied upon (Wearable.com).

3.    So what?

So now you might be questioning why anyone would purchase a tracker, or if Apple can really be that good. Well, let me tell you why trackers are so popular and why you may still want to go buy one.

According to research out of the University of Pennsylvania, fitness trackers do a really good job of motivating people to be active in a variety of ways. Specifically, one of the best ways found was through fitness trackers’ integration with social networks, allowing for the formation of community and competition based on the metrics that can be tracked by your wearable. They also are a good way to track a “me vs. me” competition within ourselves to beat our steps, miles walked, or active calories burned a day.

Also, fitness trackers are evolving. A lot of the research on their accuracy is fairly old now, and while new studies haven’t been done to quantify the newer tracker’s accuracy, based on the research going into not only the hard, numeric data but also the psychological and mentality edge fitness trackers may be able to offer (via goal setting, competition, etc.) we can at least hope that they’re becoming more intricate, useful tools rather than just another screen we carry around.

Bottom line: if you like it, use it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a good pulse on where you’re at day-to-day health wise. And, in a growing fitness technology market, a cheapish watch or band is a great, cost-effective way to do that. That said, just take your numbers with a grain of salt, and don’t make your Apple Watch your new Bible. It’s just one small tool in your arsenal. Don’t forget the basics and don’t let the numbers run your life. The most important thing in any exercise endeavor is to have fun and stay consistent. If a wearable fitness tracker helps you do those two things, then go for it.



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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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No Pain, No Gain | Truth or Myth?

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No Pain, No Gain | Truth or Myth?

Should we be working out until we're sore?

As a competitive athlete and chronic over trainer in the past, getting “sore” muscles during and after my training sessions was something I took pride in. Having sore muscles was something I paid particular attention to because I was somewhat of a masochist who mainly trained for contact sports like football and boxing. Sometimes it seemed that it was about how much pain I could endure.

Okay, okay other than being a crazy person, I did understand that muscle soreness should happen when I started a new training program. My coaches and trainers told me that it usually lasted for a few days and it would happen every 4-6 weeks as I slowly altered the intensity of my training program during new training phases.

Measuring the productivity or effectiveness of the training based on soreness has exponentially risen this day in age with the popularity of boot camps, spin classes, heart rate monitors, and other forms of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Over the past couple of years I have increasingly noticed that many of my athletes and clients have become very concerned if they are not sore after their coaching sessions or small group training.

Because I trained for several years with the mentality of getting sore, I developed a bad relationship with exercise, believe it or not. I was chronically over trained and my performance suffered at times because I focused on high intensity all the time. So when Justine and I created Perform for Life, one of our main goals was to make exercise an enjoyable lifelong process. Our movement specialists focus on mastering movement before intensity and building rather than breaking down the individual. However, we are still see a growing concern for and attention to intensity. I could do a 50-page paper on the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training, but I could also do a 50-page paper on HIIT and its catabolic effects on the body -  in other words, how it stresses our bodies out and we end up breaking muscle down and storing fat.

Although I really want to go deep into it I am here today to focus on SORENESS. Is it good or bad? And should we always strive to be sore? So Coach Charles and I decided to put together some research and here is what we found…..

 

  • Research shows progressive overloads leads to improved fitness. Changing the mode of the activity, volume, and intensity should be gradually done overtime. Exercising constantly to be sore can result in overtraining or overuse injuries, which can hinder your progress and goals.

 

  • Studies have shown on a scale of 0-10 that muscle soreness is a poor correlation between muscle growth and adaptation. Soreness could affect us in different ways based on our athletic abilities and our genetic make up.  

 

  • Although being sore after working out can indicate that you have trained a muscle differently than you usually do, you don't need to be sore to build muscles. Extreme soreness can lead to less training days which does hinder muscle growth.

 

  • After beginning a new training program, you should be sore. It’s actually okay. After a few days, the soreness should be reduced, which means soreness isn't an indicator of having trained at high intensities. Soreness is actually the body’s way of saying it needs time to recover. Training to be sore can lead to overtraining.

 

  • In order to get the most out of your training, consistency is needed. If you are too sore, it can reduce your overall effectiveness of your program goals. Mastering movement is the key before training with intensity.


In summary, a lack of soreness seems to just mean you have adapted to the type of exercise program. So a solution would be to SLOWLY adjust training variables such as the load, reps, tempo, etc.  We’ve also concluded that constantly being sore can result in overtraining which hinders results. Instead, we should be refocusing our attention on what your muscles feel during your workout. Basically, it matters how you activate muscles and if you contract them correctly in order to get the lean muscle and performance outcomes you desire. In summary, it really doesn’t f*#king matter if you are sore or not.

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Sources:

Daly, A. (2013, November 19). Does Muscle Soreness Mean You Had a Good Workout? Retrieved July 23, 2016, from http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/sore-muscles-after-workout

Duvall, J. (n.d.). Trainer Q&A: Should I Be Sore After Every Workout? Retrieved July 23, 2016, from http://www.mensfitness.com/training/pro-tips/trainer-qa-should-i-be-sore-after-every-workout

Gonsalves, K. (2013, October 08). Should You Always Be Sore After A Workout? Retrieved July 23, 2016, from http://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/should-you-always-be-sore-after-workout

Matthews, J. (n.d.). Should My Muscles Be Sore After a Workout? Retrieved July 23, 2016, fromhttp://www.shape.com/blogs/working-it-out/should-my-muscles-be-sore-after-workout

Yu, C. (2014, July 17). No Pain, No Gain? 5 Myths About Muscle Soreness. Retrieved July 23, 2016, from http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/doms-muscle-soreness/

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