muscles

You NEED This Head-to-Toe Healthy Overhaul!

We’ve got some simple tips, revelations and suggestions to share with you this week so take a quick read, and give yourself the tools to live your healthiest life!

Let’s Start At The Beginning!

With your feet! The first things to hit the floor every morning (if all goes according to plan…) There are 26 bones, 30 joints, and 100 muscles in your feet. We should probably take care of our feet as much as possible with that much going on in there.

Take your shoes off and try squatting while pretending you have a ladybug under the arch of your foot. Don’t squish it! Your range of motion is limited. That is exactly what happens when wear shoes with arch support! Even .5mm off in an arch support, from what you may need, can throw off your whole skeleton.

Try massaging your feet each day to increase circulation and mobility. Tip: Sit cross legged and put one leg on top. If you are mobile enough, use your elbow to massage the arch of your foot. If not mobile enough, use your knuckle. You might be surprised and find that your knee, hip, or neck may even start to feel better! It’s all connected!

Healthy Feet: Part II

Because they are that important! When you go to the gym, you wear loose clothing to be able to move and bend, right?

So why do we cram our feet into rigid shoes? When we break an arm, you put your arm in a cast and the muscles atrophy because the joint is stiff. The same thing happens with your feet when they are bound and unable to move naturally. Your ankle is meant to be mobile. When we hold it in place with a shoe, it will take mobility from the next joint, the knee – which is not built for lateral mobility especially. Certain shoes can be appropriate of course but maybe not for all day long.

Healthy Muscles

Muscles make up close to 40% of our body, give or take. We stop growing NEW muscle cells as a baby, so our only option to get stronger is to increase the SIZE of the muscle cells we have. When we strength train, we create tiny tears in our muscles and when we recover those tears are rebuilt stronger and/or longer (depending on the type of training that was utilized).

Sometimes we shy away from strength training because of soreness, BUT the best way to reduce soreness is active stretching and more exercise – light exercise – which allows the body to move out lactic acid, smooth out knots and bumps, get blood flowing, etc.

Our bodies can become stressed from the food we eat, work, family…even exercise! You heard that correct, exercise. Exercise is great, but we also need to recover properly! Listen to your body. Maybe after 4 days in a row it is saying it needs a day off, or recovery exercise like a leisurely walk, yoga, or shooting some hoops with the kids. If your muscles are screaming or you’re excessively tired, listen up and recover so you can get back to the grind sooner than later.

Healthy Heart

Our heart is a MUSCLE that we need to strengthen just like our other muscles. We often hear “I hate cardio” or a certain exercise is the ONE that works best for me. Sometimes we forget about the benefits we don’t directly see.

Cardiovascular exercise (aka relating to the HEART) like brisk walking, kickboxing, cycling, jump rope, and more are the heart-pumping/aerobic exercises needed to strengthen our hearts. Cardiovascular exercise reduces the risk of plaque build up which can reduce blood flow to the heart and cause damage. Ultimately this can cause a heart attack. A balance of strength and cardio is important for overall health!

Healthy Mindset

Exercise has a natural benefit on mindset by reducing stress. Still stressed afterward? Try reducing your sugar consumption and increasing the consumption of vegetables and fruit. Sounds simple? That’s because sometimes, it is!

Other outlets for a healthy mindset include meeting up with a close friend and/or finding friends that have similar challenges that you can talk with. Finally, find your happy place to recharge: read a book, take a walk, hang out with your dog/cat, meditate, head to the lake…what is YOUR happy place?

Healthy Environment

Finally, your environment plays a big role in your health. This could be from looking at the chemicals you use in your home and trying to give them a makeover (swap out that bleach based cleaner for vinegar and baking soda!), to opening the windows and allowing the outdoors in, to organizing, to having some plants inside that naturally filter the air. What is one way YOU create a healthier environment in your home?

Muscle Prep and Recovery Basics

First off, this article is a follow-up to our Ellipse Movement Basics 101 blog post last month. If you haven’t had a chance to check that out, please do! It is one of the most informative and important articles for those of you who are working out or looking to get started.

We’ve spent a good amount of time talking about various movement patterns. To move better we also need to prepare our bodies and help them recover.

Just as important as the movement itself is getting the muscles healthy enough to progress. Foam rolling increases blood flow, increases the temperature of the muscle, and works out adhesions. After foam rolling, do your body a favor and run through some stretches/movements of areas that cause you problems or anything that a Physical Therapist or Orthopedic Doctor has told you to do.

Use the time in the gym before your workout vs just standing or sitting around waiting to begin! What are the odds that you’ll do specific stretches or movements at home or at any other time? Make it a routine and your body will thank you!

Not sure what stretches/movements will help you the most? Ask your trainer. They can not only answer your questions but likely know areas that could use some TLC based on your form throughout your sessions.

Recovery

Your recovery will also impact your movements and the ability to perform at your highest level. Make sure to get enough shut eye (7-9 hours/night), drink enough water (4-6 cups PLUS, but this varies a lot by body, temperature, and activities), and eat a balanced diet (more vegetables, more vegetables, more vegetables).

Other Tools

In addition to a foam roller, try using a tennis ball for those spots a roller just can’t hit. Need a new approach? Stand near a wall and use the tennis ball and/or foam roller in a standing position to put pressure on the right spot. Use a Theracane for more focused areas or hard to reach areas on the back. On a really sore day, ice your sore muscles for 20 minutes to speed up recovery.

Move better, recover better, and perform better!

Why on Earth Do We Keep Lifting These Heavy Things??

It is frequently thought, pondered, and questioned, but often this question is not directly asked. Recently a former member inquired:

Why does we push heavy lifting here at Ellipse Fitness?

We can start with the 7 basics that most fitness professionals, weight loss experts, and physical therapist agree with.

7 Basic Reasons to Strength training and Lift Heavy

1. Builds confidence.
2. Burns more fat.
3. Strengthen bones.
4. Builds and strengthens muscles.
5. Prevents injury.
6. Improves endurance.
7. Defines the shape of a human body.

Enough said. Let’s just lift heavy, right? If only it were that simple…

The 4 Problems with Heavy Lifting

1. The term heavy is subjective. For so many of us, our body weight is heavy enough until we can move through the entire range of motion for any prescribed movement pattern. (That is semi-fancy trainer talk for perform an exercise, like a squat, correctly and without a load)

2. Adding a load and knowing when to increase it is confusing. Start small and increase minimally overtime. Increasing weights 2.5% each week or two can deliver amazing results overtime. The key is consistency. One heavy session is more likely to cause soreness, pain or injury as opposed to a progressive training program. Earning each pound added to any movement is required. Try adding load in small increments over the course of 4 weeks.

3. Fear of bulking up is something women tend to worry about more often than men. Some trainers respond with a line about women not having enough testosterone to bulk up, but the problem with this statement is not that it is entirely untrue – which is is. The problem is that the statement doesn’t even address the concerns of the client! Some women do build muscle fast and feel like they are bulking up. Many factors can be considered in this situation. Consuming too many calories, lifting too heavy too soon, etc. Accepting myths about women that change your perception like the “long, lean Pilates look.” That’s not real! We can’t lengthen muscles! These muscles are as long as they are going to be for adults. What we can do is tone and strengthen and maybe most importantly improve your health and quality of life.

4. Lifting as heavy as possible is not recommended every day. Discuss with your trainer how often you should lift heavy, max out, or PR (Personal Record). Muscles need recovery time to avoid injury. Limited recovery time is one of the most prominent issues we see. We are impressed by those who want to give 110% all the time. Inspiring? Of course. Smart? Maybe not always. Proper nutrition, sleep, stretching and foam rolling, and rest is the realm in which our bodies get stronger. Think about it. Lifting heavy causes fatigue and muscle soreness. We cannot, and should not, lift as heavy as possible again until we are fully recovered.

Program design plays a pivotal role in increasing muscle strength and endurance, changing the shape of our bodies, and fat loss. Ellipse Fitness provides many opportunities, on various days of the week, to lift heavy. When scheduling your sessions or selecting your weights on any given day, decide which day is best for you to lift heavy based on what physical activities you’ve planned for the rest of the week, whether you have time to eat a high quality meal near your workout, whether or not you expect to get a full night of sleep, etc. Discuss with your coach/trainer. Goal setting sessions are always available to our members.

Small group sessions allow our members to make strength training a priority. These sessions are available several days a week to ensure that we can get and stay strong. Custom programing is available for our members who have specific goals or limitations.

How heavy is heavy?

I don’t want to be a body builder. Do I really need to bench press my weight?

I don’t like Turkish Get Ups. Why do we do them?

I heard a loaded carry should be 75% of my body weight for 100 yards. Is this true?

We will find many landmarks for activities such as these. It is important to train the body to maintain strength. Once we stop challenging ourselves or even just visiting our perceived limitations, we begin to lose strength and definition. Our work capacity lowers. Our ability to get up and down off the floor weakens. We lose strength. We fall. We break bones. We gain fat. We lose confidence.

WHY should we lift heavy?

Because we can, and because it will ensure that we can into the future.

Foam Rolling

Foam Rolling came from a hands-on technique that’s been in use for years and has a technical name of self-myofascial release (SMR). Therapists would apply pressure and drag the force on the body for a long period of time. In doing so, the body releases the tissue tightness and restores mobility. From this tactic, the foam roller was born to allow one to be able to do this to themselves. What an inexpensive deep tissue massage, am I right?

At Ellipse Fitness we encourage members to foam roll for 5 – 15 minutes before and after each workout session. Foam rolling can inhibit overactive muscles by breaking up adhesions and loosening up muscle knots. Before a workout, foam rolling hydrates the tissue and gets blood flowing. After a workout, rolling over tight spots and trigger points can relax the muscle. By rolling them out, you help to clean up some of the lactic acid that builds up when you exercise.

Foam Rollers do not break the bank, but even so, a tennis ball will also do the trick. Heather Trevarthen, Owner and Trainer of the Allouez location, says they keep tennis balls at the studio and hand them out to members to use at home.  Heather says, “Tennis Balls help to grind into those hard to reach areas of the body, like the Piriformis.” These inexpensive rollers are a great habit to implement before and after a workout and help to reduce muscle soreness.