I just dropped my twelve-year old son off at the gym. He goes every second day for tennis lessons – and then every other day for matches. Read more…
I just dropped my twelve-year old son off at the gym. He goes every second day for tennis lessons – and then every other day for matches. Read more…
Today I’m doing a mud run with some clients and our staff. So I thought now would be a good time to step aside and let Matt take a turn with a post for you on using Epsom salts for recovery. After today’s event I might just have to have a bath like this myself. Take it away Matt…
Have you ever done a workout and then barely been to move the next day? Now, I don’t know about you guys, but I have certainly been sore lately! Our weekly stair runs have been wreaking havoc on my calf muscles. Recently, many clients have been asking me how I recover after hard workouts, and what my thoughts were on Epsom salt baths. Well to be honest, I choose to complete my daily ablutions standing up. More specifically, I am a pure shower guy, and haven’t sat in a bathtub since I was in pre-school. So, for all you bath tub enthusiasts out there this one is for you.
So what’s the deal with Epsom salts? Magnesium sulfate or Epsom salts are a readily available home remedy thought to ease muscle soreness and tension. But how does this really work? Is it pure mysticism or do these crystalline compounds really target muscle soreness and aid in healing?
During exercise, our muscles often accumulate large amounts of lactic acid. Lactic acid is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism and causes that nasty burning sensation in our muscles during a workout. Most believe that this deposition of lactic acid within the muscles causes that post-workout soreness. This soreness is thought to be due to a microscopic deformation of the protein chains within the muscle fibers.
Now for a little chemistry: acids and bases – the yin and the yang of science. Simply put, when a base (a substance having a high ph) interacts with an acid (a substance with a lower ph) the effect is for each one to “neutralize” or cancel each other out. Such is thought to be the same effect in our body when we bathe in Epsom salts – the more “basic” salts will neutralize the more “acidic” environments within our muscles, thereby decreasing muscle soreness and tension.
While Epsom salts are widely available and dirt cheap, a quick scan of your pantry may show – like mine, you have no Epsom salts on hand! Never fear, taking a warm plunge without salt can have some benefits too! Warm water will induce vasodilation of the blood carrying vessels within the body. This, in turn promotes increased blood flow to the sore areas, which helps to “flush out” the muscle, and remove those nasty post-workout byproducts.
So, whether you choose to bathe or to shower, a quick dip in some Epsom salts may help to ease that stiffness away. When used in conjunction with other methods such as stretching and active recovery, Epsom salts may provide that added edge for those looking to get back to their activities. Now it’s your turn: do you use an Epsom salt bath following a hard workout? Post a reply to this blog and weigh in on your thoughts regarding this post-workout recovery method.
Without question, one of the single worst habits I have (at least that I am willing to publically detail…) is that of “night eating.” Now, I don’t know if night eating is a “thing” in the clinical sense but it sure as shooting is a “thing” when it comes to my life. And it’s not new. I’ve been lost in the world of post-midnight munching for decades.
It all started back when I was seven or eight. Mom and dad would send me off to bed where I would lie for exactly the amount of time it took them to vacate the lower level of the house. Once they were out of sight I would discreetly slip to the downstairs television set and supplement my cultural education. Without a word of a lie, I spent a good ten years crouched a maximum of five or six inches from our old Zenith television between the hours of midnight and 4am, hand on the power button ready to switch it off the very second I heard movement toward the stairs. During these hours I consumed all manner of forbidden television fruit, from All in the Family to Cheers to the Tonight Show to Late Night with David Letterman and far beyond. Alas, my consumption was not limited to entertainment. When you’re watching this much telly this late into the night you get hungry – real hungry – and no food was safe when I went hunting.
My ideal snack tended toward the salted varieties – chips, crackers and what have you – but I would never limit myself to that. Oh no, I also freely enjoyed chocolate bars, leftover pizza, milk, cereal, cold lasagna, bread, butter, crackers, cold soup, soda pop, juice, candy, canned corn, raw potatoes, tuna, ramen noodles (uncooked), beef jerky, homemade root beer and on and on and on. If it could plausibly be ingested, I would try anything at least once.
At the time it really wasn’t such a big deal. I was probably churning through more than enough calories day in and out as I was a fairly skinny kid. Sure, I ate like a threshing machine (look it up) but what young boy doesn’t? The main problem was that I created a habit which has stuck with me well into my forties, where my body is far less forgiving of the excesses it once tolerated.
While I’m certain there’s some big-brained scientific explanation of why staying up late and watching TV makes you eat more it doesn’t really matter. Bottom-line: it’s a bad habit that I absolutely have to break. And don’t even start on the hints. I’ve heard them all: “Oh, have some nuts” or “Drink lots of water and feel full.” Even the old “Have protein, that’ll fill you up” has been tried. They’re all great ideas but for me they act as little more than appetizers to the main event. I don’t ever stop with just one. I’m kind of like a food vampire. One bite doesn’t sate my desire – it only inflames it. This is why a handful of nuts becomes a third of the bag and little drink of water becomes three cans of soda, two sandwiches, a half litre of milk, a bag of munchie mix and three Snickers bars.
Look, I am aware of how wrong this is even while I’m doing it – which is crazy, I know. Why can’t I stop? I’m no analyst but I’m pretty sure the combination of a quiet house (a rarity for me these days…) and constant deadlines makes the night a tempting oasis of anonymous freedom. Sure it’s a paradise garden of bad choices but it also brings back memories of a simpler time. Of Letterman….when he was funny.
The morning after is without exception terrible. I wake up bloated and full, tired and frustrated. Now I don’t want to eat, so I just delay it until later and later, leading to overeating at other meals and then eventually right back into the night cycle again. It’s a vicious circle that repeats over and over again. I fear I may have savaged my metabolism beyond repair.
These days I have much more success when I hold to a 10pm bedtime with a total ban on eating after 7pm. Amazingly this idea seems to work pretty well. But I still can’t help but feel nostalgic for times past. The night was when I took my first independent kicks at life. Watching what I wanted, eating what I wanted. Now I have to avoid it like some kind of bad influence buddy that will ruin my life if left unchecked. Arrrggg! What’s next – dinnertime at 4:30pm? I have to say this getting older stuff is way less fun than I thought it would be….
I’m a climber. Not in the traditional sense though. I don’t own the fancy, grippy shoes or do finger-tip pull ups or anything like that. I’m just a guy that keeps trying to get higher (or better) no matter what situation he’s in. Now, if you’re an actual rock climber, I’d say reaching a plateau is probably a good thing. You’ve been crawling and scrambling and sweating your butt off climbing on up and you’ve finally reached an area where you can actually sit down and have a rest without (as much) risk of falling to your death. But if it’s not rocks you’re climbing and the battle is more along the lines of losing weight/inches than I can assure you a plateau is just about the least fun you’re ever gonna have.
I guess when it comes to the culture of fitness “plateaus” are fairly common. I have no idea of the scientific or even physiological reasons behind them (Chris tried to explain but my eyes glazed over after a few seconds).
[Chris here...let me step in for a moment and see if I can answer the question regarding plateaus and help generate a better result for Jarrod and anyone who has experienced a plateau.]
First of all it is important to recognize that a plateau isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Seriously think about it this way. If you’ve reached a plateau then that means you must have ascended to some level of accomplishment with your training but the results didn’t continue. But that’s the difference between a plateau where you achieve a result and simply getting started on a training program that ellicits no results whatsover. Big difference.
The second reason a plateau may not be a bad idea is because it is feedback from your body that is has gotten used to the stimulus. This may be a training stimulus or a nutritional one but either way the adaptation that had been happening is no longer happening because the system know recognizes the signals and knows what is coming. And that’s a major feature of the human body which is to maintain biological balance or homeostasis.
In another way you could also consider a plateau beneficial as it may help prevent repetitive strain. If performing the same activity repeatedly stops generating a result some will alter the activity and therefore not put as much stress on a particular area of the body than if the plateau were ignored and we continued to press on as before.
Alright so know that we know some of the reasons plateaus exist what can be done? Well I like to keep things simple and in that case I think we need to revert to basic laws of thermodynamics and apply our efforts in the right direction.
One of the basic laws of thermodynamics is that energy can’t be created or destroyed. Whatever energy I take in must be be balanced off i.e. burned, through physical activity.
Now while we are different in many ways this is one feature that unites us. For some the energy seems to come in more easily and for others the ability to burn energy is a constant struggle. There is no denying that this balance can be quite different for two different people. However the laws of physics are suspended for no one. Energy cannot be created or destroyed. It simply moves through different forms. And when we break it right down the left side of the equation has only one input which is food intake.
This is where it gets simple.
Simple in that the only way we can accumulate caloric energy is through ingestion. Period. The other side of the equation can be more involved as we can burn calories in a variety of ways including the nature of our occupation and our physical fitness. Now to add one condition to this would be that the quality of the food matters. Any five year old could tell you eating cotton candy not a healthy choice as compared to broccoli, spinach, chicken, fish or any of a number of other vegetables, proteins or fats. Yet there are still some who will believe that if they less than a certain number of calories in a day they will lose weight. The quality and number of calories both matter and cannot be separated and still expected to lead to weight loss.
So what about the exercise? If there is enough interest in this topic I go cover the exercise end of the equation in a future blog. But the simple answer is that exercise is usually not the result of weight gain or being stuck at a plateau. Instead it has to do with nutrition.
And here’s how you overcome it, if this is your weaklink.
Is your nutrition as good as could be? Are you eating the best quality foods you can? If you ever get food through a window, eat cereal, drink juice, enjoy baking than your nutrition could be improved.
Do you journal your nutrition? This is an essential step and often omitted by those at a plateau. There is no way you can expect to have the best results if we aren’t willing to track what we are doing. Do you think the best businesses in the world don’t track everything they do? Heck Walmart knows what flavour of poptarts are going to sell out when the next hurricane hits the Florida coast. And this involves predicting the behaviour of strangers at some point in the future. Imagine how valuable tracking your own information would be predicting your own health and results?
Is it cheat meals? Journalling will pick up on this if it is. If you snack do you know exactly which days you do? Do you know exactly what you have? Do you know how much you have? Do you know what type of activity you did on the day you have a cheat meal? And here’s the clincher…if your cheat was a sweet snack (i.e. sugar) do you know how much fat you consumed on that day as well? Unless you are journalling there is absolute no way to know the answer to these.
Do you know what the obstacles are to your success? When do you fail? How do you fail? When you are journalling your nutrition you’ll start to see trends that occur. Maybe it’s after slowpitch that you always have 3 beer, natchos and a few wings. Or perhaps it’s family dinners and gatherings that you can’t control what is being prepared and don’t want to be rude so you simply indulge as well.
Once you know your obstacles you can begin to put contingencies in place. For example, maybe at slow pitch you always drive so you have a quick opt out for not having a beer when you join everyone. Or perhaps you stop by the bar and get a jug of water for yourself so your glass is always full. Maybe you have a quick protein shake, some nuts or another healthy snack before joining everyone inside so you are less likely to be tempted to chow down. If it’s a family dinner that you know consists of many of the foods you are trying to avoid then offer to bring something. You will win on two counts for your offer to help plus you will be able to control the quality of food you eat when gathering.
I’ll wrap this up with the following points.
1. No one is excluded from the laws of thermodynamics. If weight gain is occurring or a plateau has been reach then we need to look at the inputs.
2. You need to journal your nutrition. This is not an option. It is only as much of an option as achieving your goal is an option. If you are serious about achieving your goal than you must maintain a journal.
3. Identify the weak links in your nutrition.
4. For the next month put all your attention towards that weak link.
Do so and I guarantee you will break past your weight loss plateau and enjoy the rewards of your efforts.
If you know anything about me you’ll know that I’m a stickler for details. Because if you’re going to do something it only makes sense to do it right. Read more…
Leaving town is such a big deal now, at least for me. It always seems like I have a thousand things to prep for – whether it’s arranging the reservations to where I’m going (hotel, car, etc) or just trying to remember all the friggen cables and outlet connector whatnots for the various stupid electronic devices I am obligated to cart around. Seriously, hotel rooms need to come with about 483 outlets just to handle the iEverythings we all have that constantly need charging. It’s insane, but it doesn’t stop there. No, I’ve got exercise to worry about too.
Now whenever I go to book a place to stay I find myself enquiring as to their fitness facilities. “Do you have a gym? When is it open? What equipment does it have?” The big lie is that almost every property says “yes” even when the reality of what they have is patently ridiculous.
Sure, I’ve seen some pretty awesome set ups – the Four Seasons in Whistler comes to mind – but thanks to my usual choice of discount lodging the gym I get often looks like a re-purposed laundry room where the hotel manager stores two sets of mismatched dumbbells and the exercise bike her grandfather used. Add in a torn yoga mat that was probably used to wrap a dead body and a stained pitcher of room-temperature “water” and you know what I’m facing. Heck, even if the gym turns out well-appointed the treadmill is on the fritz or they have an elliptical trainer that makes more weird noises than “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” But does it matter?
Yes, I was mad when I saw the treadmill was busted. I had planned on doing my little twenty min. run morning and night – and when I was denied this plan I got more than a little ticked. In fact, I even complained to the front desk for no other reason than to act all sniffy about them letting me down. Oh no. I couldn’t be the bigger man and let it go. I had to let it be known I was not happy. Basically, I’m an idiot, and in more ways than one.
How foolish am I for complaining (or even worrying) about this kind of stuff? You don’t need a fancy, outfitted gym to move your body. You don’t even need a piece a crap gym to move your body. You don’t need ANY gym to move your body. How about actually getting off my pampered butt and walking to a restaurant for dinner? I get to save some cab fare first off, plus it gets things moving before I eat which is good. Walk home after and I’ll probably even sleep better.
Don’t take what I’m saying to mean that I think you should forget a hotel gym and go on some blind run through Crip territory in Los Angeles. No one said be stupid. But why not just go up and down the ding-dang stairs? Those work too don’t they? I get so angry when I realize how precious I’ve become about exercise. The best workouts I’ve ever had usually occur miles from a gym (no offense OPP). [OPP here...no offense taken some of our favourite workouts include running sprints at the track, Rutland stairs, sand dunes, triathlon & Tough Mudder training, workouts away at conferences...]The world around us is built to exercise.
Yes, having big-dollar weight racks and swish rowing machines and groovy bikes is pretty cool but you don’t need them. Stuck in a hotel without a gym? Run around the building three times as fast as you can. Chase a hobo and run away with his shopping buggy – then see how far you can get before he tackles you. Aside from the thrill of the chase and the ever-present danger of getting smeared with homeless dude smell how is that any different from pushing that blinkin’ weight sled up and down the alley behind the gym? Not much.
Gyms are nice and awesome equipment rocks but we already have everything we need on board already. So skip the elevators on your next trip, flip the bird to the taxis and try running up and down the hotel hallways. Travelling doesn’t mean you need to spend more cash to exercise. It actually means you have a chance to try some new, creative ways to move your body for a few days. Who knows? It might even be fun.
This morning I was doing an assessment with a rugby player. And is the case when I am coaching I tend to use analogies to convey the points I am trying to make. This assessment was no different. Read more…
Sometimes I get the feeling Chris is toying with me.
Obviously all of us that train with OPP’s fitness don expect (and appreciate) the manner in which he arranges our workout schedules, plans our sessions and even maps goals for our individual physical livelihoods day in and day out. Read more…