On A Roll

Need a massage but don’t want to spend the money?  It might be time to invest in a foam roller.  Known in the fitness world as “the poor man’s massage”, foam rollers have been gaining popularity with athletes and non-athletes alike.   They come in various sizes and densities, but no matter what type you use the general premise remains the same : find an area of tension (or knot), roll it out, repeat.  Since foam rolling breaks up the scar tissue on the outer lining of the muscle it is actually a form of stretching.  The beauty of foam rolling is that you can do it before a workout, after a workout, or while you are at home watching television.  There is no wrong time to foam roll.  When foam rolling with clients I generally concentrate on the lower extremities since that is where it usually does the most good.  Hamstrings are always key, as are the calves and quads.  One of the areas where a foam roll does the most good is the IT band (warning: this is a sensitive area for most and usually a bit painful, but in an it-hurts-so-good type of way).  That said, you never want to roll to the point of bruising.  If you find that happening, back off a bit or switch to a lower-density roller.


Physical Strain Improves Your Brain

“Jock” and “meat-head” aren’t necessarily synonyms for “rocket scientist” or “Mensa member” , but new research shows that being an intelligent individual and pumping iron might not be mutually exclusive.   In fact, recent studies have shown that regular exercise (in particular strength training) improves brain function.  It is believed that improved overall blood flow due to exercise does not stop at the neck.  Better blood flow in the brain leads to better cognitive function.  So let’s think about this in a more holistic manner: in my previous post I pointed to research attributing yoga to pain relief and healing due to increased blood flow.  In this post, I am pointing to research that shows exercise as a means to improve the mind through increased blood flow.  We already know that exercise helps your heart by (wait for it….) increasing blood flow.  Still unconvinced?  When health fails to motivate you can always count on vanity: exercise improves skin tone by flushing out cellular debris by (drum roll please) increasing blood flow!  So all those ladies who don’t like to sweat because it’s unattractive keep the larger picture of eternal youth and a glowing complexion in mind.  I could go on and on but I hope by now you are having trouble seeing the downside of physical activity.  Who among you would not want be a smarter, healthier, happier, and more attractive individual?

Next time you are at the gym and are having a hard time remembering the square root of pi go ask the musclebound man on the squat rack.  The answer might be closer than you think.

What are You Weighting For?

You’re no stranger to Zumba.  Watching episodes of The View on the elliptical has become second nature.  You have an occasional rendezvous with the treadmill and an on and off relationship with the recumbent bike.  Getting moving is great, but if you want to get all the benefits of an active lifestyle you have to hit the weights.  I know the weight room is scary.  All that grunting and gratuitous flexing is enough to make even the strongest of stomachs a bit queasy.  However, next time you think about forgoing that strength training workout to walk with 5 lbs weights on the treadmill (lame) I want you to remember the following things:

  • Bone up– Strength training improves bone density and decreases the risk of osteoporosis
  • Slim down– The more lean muscle mass you have, the easier it is to control your weight
  • Stay safe– Building muscle protects your joints from injury and improves balance, two key factors for injury prevention
  • Boost your endurance– The stronger you are, the longer it takes you to fatigue
  • Feel better– Strength training can keep chronic conditions like back pain, obesity, diabetes, and depression at bay
I could go on and on with benefits (being able to kick more ass on a daily basis, challenging people to arm wrestling competitions with confidence, amusing your friends at parties by making your pecs dance) but the bottom line is strength training is vital to an all around healthy lifestyle.  No need to become a gym rat either: 20-30 minutes a day at least twice a week will help you reap the benefits.  So what are you waiting for?  Give yourself the gift of some guns!