World Cup Fever

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Me and my pal, Tom Werner

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Liverpool 5, Arsenal 1

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Liverpool!

As an American-Irish Immigrant (that’s right America to Ireland,) I am relatively new to the football/soccer life.  But I have to say I am enjoying it!

In February, thanks to my friend, former client in LA and benefactor, Tom Werner, I got to see Liverpool route Arsenal; it was the spark that fueled a fire that almost led to first place  It was an amazing run, nonetheless!

Thanks Tom, for getting me hooked!

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Olympic Fever

Sochi 2014

Sochi 2014

images-1I love the Olympics!  It doesn’t matter the nation, sport or season, every two years I get obsessed.  If you’re calling me to go out, don’t bother; if you want to spend time with me, park it on the couch and no talking except during commercial breaks!  When the two weeks are up, the torch extinguished and regular snoozefest programming returns, I literally slump.  Several of my friends also go through the Post-Olympic depression knowing that many cool sports, that we’ve become addicted to, like Bi-athalon and Snowboard-Cross, we just won’t see for another four years.  The separation is difficult.

But the great thing I find about each and every Olympics is how much harder I begin to train in my own workouts.  That’s not to say that I get delusions of grandeur and start pumping iron five days a week, three hours a day.  It’s simply watching graceful individuals with purpose, dedication and discipline inspire me to emulate those qualities within myself and it starts coming out in my workouts first.  It’s not that I consciously even intend to work harder and better; but I get to the end of my planned workout and I have given it my all and it has left me in a better place than when I started.Unknown

It’s true that the Olympics like church is often beset by scandal, corruption and politics.  But the true Olympic spirit burns so brightly that it casts all those petty incidents into the shadows and the world is drawn together in a celebration of camaraderie and the best we have to offer each other.  It doesn’t matter that I can’t pronounce the name of the athlete who just went off pace by a fraction of a second and is brought to tears, my heart breaks just the same.  I yell encouraging “coach-like words” from my perch on my cushions as I see two athletes battling it out, both exemplary and both flawless – it doesn’t matter that they don’t speak my language or that they can’t hear me through the screen.  The elation I feel as I do a victory lap around my living room having just watched someone achieve absolute perfection and a world record leaves me feeling like I’ve just won the gold.  It doesn’t matter if they’re from my home or not.Unknown-1

This great spectacle of empathy allows us to celebrate the triumphs and lows of the individual, but it draws us together in one world of experience.  And that is magical!  And while I will be sad when the closing ceremonies turn the lights out on the athletes partying on the stadium floor, I will have been enriched by witnessing others strive to be their absolute best, not just to themselves, but to their fellow competitors, to the dogs of Sochi and to the human race!Unknown-2

Chronicles of Rehab – “Fun Police -the Sequel”

Unknown“For my entire life, I have been a “pusher.” Someone who puts my head down, shoulder into things and doubles my efforts when obstacles arise.  But I reached the point where I physically broke from this way of life.  And now I am discovering as Deepak Chopra says, “The Law of Least Effort.”  If I am more still, gentle and calm with myself I can discover better my true strengths and my own inner voice.  That does not mean that I am not strong.  As an athlete, I look forward to my body being able to be agile and powerful again.  But I don’t have to make up for anything I feel insecure about in this present moment.”

That was a paragraph I wrote while beginning my physical therapy to learn to walk again following a complete tear of my hamstring muscle off the bone.  I’m closing in on the first anniversary of my surgery and with the exception of some minor, stubborn, remnant bruising in my lower calf I am 100% recovered.  And like many, now that I am healthy again, I am tempted to fall right back in to my old habits of driving my body beyond reasonable limits.

View from the sofa

View from the sofa

After having the best New Year’s Eve of my life, I came down January 3rd with the flu, that turned into bronchitis.  So two weeks later, as the penned up squirrels in my brain are starting to gnaw and bite at the confines of bed rest I hear myself say to someone, “Sure I can teach four combo Spin/TRX classes Monday.”  I hang up the phone and then proceed to cough for a full 5 minutes.  The wise grey squirrel who is the voice of my inner buddha gets the others voices to settle down.  And I think, “Did I go through that whole process last winter, only to ignore the lessons I learned?  Do I want to repeat this grade?”  As much as I want to go outside and play, my denial disappears and my over-eager confidence has a reality check.  Wheezing as I walk up the stairs, I envision trying to motivate twenty people over blaring music, the hum of exercise equipment without a microphone.  Honestly, how inspiring is it to be on a bike while your coach is hacking up a lung?  So in the best interest of the paying customers and in acknowledgement of what is truly best for myself, I pass on teaching the classes.

In the past I would have felt disappointed in myself that I didn’t just suck it up and muscle 8648876146_3df3e20120_nthrough.  I would have put pressure on myself and felt guilty about not being able to lead the exercising troops, like I had missed out on my duty and on having fun.  But the lessons of last year stuck; I feel no reluctance to care properly for myself.  Instead, I feel joy that I passed this test with flying colors.

So what this has re-taught me is to find my “victory” today.  If you’ve just worked a 60 hour work week and stayed up late with a sick child, and every minute of your day has been scheduled, why are you taking a kickboxing class?!  Take 1 minute out of each day and really check in with yourself and see HOW AM I?  And make better choices for yourself off of that answer.  Be your own Fun Police and feel blessed in every minute of your day, even in the face of challenge!cropped-vflogo-wing.jpg

Full Body Weight Exercise

images-2 The trend right now in fitness is for trainers to advocate “Total Body Weight Exercise” as being the magical cure for every person wanting to lean up and get buff.  But what’s not being openly talked about is the casualties that line this path.  I want more fitness professionals and their clients to be mindful about what “total body weight exercise” really means.

It is true that the more muscles you get working at any given time the more calories you burn. That makes intrinsic sense.  It is also true that your body moves on it’s own without you thinking about it, all day, every day in a multiplicity of complex multi-movement patterns.  All of that is good stuff.

Now, what most athletes, many turned fitness professionals fail to take in to consideration is the different types of learning and their effect on motor co-ordination and the ability to perform an exercise correctly.  There are varied learning types that people can be generally classified under, like visual or auditory.  Visual learning style, means you see someone do it and you can then do it.  Auditory learning style means you hear a list of directions and you can then sequence them back correctly.  Most athletes are kinesthetic learners, that means they learn by physically doing a task.  That is not to say that a visual learner cannot learn to perform the same task as a kinesthetic learner, but it means that there will be a higher learning curve for them on a task of physical nature.  So trainers, just because you can do 100 picture perfect burpees in a row at speed, does not mean that your client should or can even if they want to.

Full body weight exercise requires a base level of strength.  The building block structure should be first: 1) establish stability – the means by which the body can maintain the integrity of its joint structure under most forms of stress.  Stress itself can be constituted in training terms by speed (how fast or slow is the pace), load (how much weight you’re lifting) and duration (how long are you lifting each load.)images-1

Everyone has helped a friend move; imagine you lift a heavy box and you have to stand still and hold it until your friend gets his car. It would make a difference to your back and shoulders if that car were right out front or parked two blocks away.  Now imagine you and your friend have to lift a really heavy box – but you only have to move it ten steps in a straight line.  Chances are – you will both move as quickly as possible.  Lastly, imagine you are carrying a heavy box that requires you to move down several flights of stairs – you are under load and the duration will be long and the pace will be slow.  All of these scenarios are slightly different from one another in the demands they make on the body.  And everyone can relate to feeling stiff and sore after a move.  Proper training can get you to where none of those scenarios would be painful.  You would be stable in maintaining your joint integrity.

UnknownThe next phase of training should be symmetry. Is each individual joint and side equal to the tasks demanded on the body?  Anyone ever tried to carry a toddler in one arm and lifted a bag of groceries from the back of a car simultaneously?Unknown-1

The last phase is dynamic performance.  The ability to do intense, full-body, full-ROM exercises under various forms of stress.  Yes, FBW exercises develop dense muscle mass more efficiently and effectively than any other form of exercise.  But is it appropriate for everyone to go straight to the hardest, most bad-ass place first?  An athlete has been doing crazy compound loaded movements for a lifetime – the brain actually functions differently (this is another topic for a future blog in and of itself!) To expect a client to perform like that before proper foundations are put down is a recipe for disaster.  Anyone remember Tae Bo?  Yes, great results are achieved but at what cost? My goals are not for people to feel good for the one year they did Cross-Fit.  I want people to be equal to the physical challenges in their daily lives and to feel good and look great for the duration of their years!images

Balance Training

UnknownImagine you at age seven.  Now see yourself on a see-saw.  You are alone; your butt is low to the ground and it feels like a 1000 pounds.  On the other end sticking up in the air, seemingly far away is the empty end of the beam.  As you gaze longingly up into the blue sky, squinting at the warm afternoon sunbeams, a friend comes by.  This could really get going now; you could overcome Newtonian inertia and have a great playtime. But the friend sits down right in front of you and they too are facing the tilted empty distant plank.  So you ask the friend to go sit on the other end instead and the board comes into neutral and now, you can control the direction, pace and fun.

“What is the point of all this,” you ask? It’s simply a metaphor for balance.  I continually, see people who need work on balance. I’m not talking about being able to stand on one foot for thirty seconds.  I’m talking about the guy who’s working a 60 hour work week and then comes in at 7pm to do Boot Camp Class or the yoga die-hard who thinks stretching alone can take away all your aches and pains.

It is shocking to me how many people never stop to consider how much they are demanding from their bodies and yet, have absolutely no comprehension of how the system is actually functioning.  Consider a race-car driver who has no understanding of auto-mechanics but who simply wants to get in the car and go fast…predictably, a crash is probably in the near future.

I know many serious cyclists, marathoners and triathletes, many of whom just to do the training for their events are continually putting their bodies under a lot of stress.  It doesn’t feel all that demanding, because like all things you get used to it. Go back to imagining the kid on the teeter-totter.  If you sat in the down position for several hours, that would begin to feel normal. But your playmate brings the board into balance; it now feels “scary” and “awkward” because you just haven’t done that before, and yet, it’s doing what the toy was designed to do.

So let’s go back to that work-a-holic guy in the bootcamp class.  I’m not saying he needs to give up working out.  But I would recommend finding a workout routine that works on strength training but without the fever pitch pace.  And maybe a yoga class – NOT HOT OR POWER YOGA and a little more sleep.  We want to balance the plank.  Now for the lady in yoga class, who keeps complaining about back pain and thinks more stretching and more yoga is just what she needs.  I would recommend that lady find a great core class and build some muscle mass in order to stabilize her joints, instead of asking her tendons and ligaments to keep over-extending.  And you athletes – find some Hatha yoga, or even a basic breathing relaxation technique class, and let your system rest and repair itself so it can keep performing optimally. You may think that a boot camp class would count as “cross-training” because you’re not technically running or cycling.  BUT if your muscles and joints are doing rapid fire movement and your heart rate is in your training zone, to your nervous system, you’re still doing endurance training.

As Indiana Jones says, “It ain’t the years honey, it’s the mileage.”  If you want to keep playing forever, you have to begin to understand how your system is designed.  If you’re giving it a lot of one thing, give it the things it doesn’t have!  And if you need a playmate to help balance that board…contact me!  Deborah@VicFitLA.com!

Chronicles of Rehab: Part Four “How Did You Not Gain Weight When You Were Stuck on the Couch?!”

View from the sofa

View from the sofa

“How did you not gain weight when you were stuck on the couch?!” I got asked this question over and over and over and the truth is it was pretty easy not to.  Just because you might not be able to exercise or work for that matter does not mean you need to throw all good principles aside. For myself I tried to keep close to my normal schedule. I went to bed around 11pm and woke up around 7am.  I ate breakfast when I woke up and it didn’t consist of cold pizza and Coco Puffs! Lunch came about 4-5 hours later, afternoon snack 4-5 hours after that and the dinner followed predictably in due course. This approach seems like a no-brainer to me.  The regular input of  balanced nutrient-rich foods spurred what some may call a miraculous, speedy and complete recovery.  I would argue that my recovery was “optimal” not miraculous.  That means that everyone’s body would respond in like fashion when you nourish it!

Additionally, from a mental health perspective being a prisoner of your couch can be depressing!  I was not without repeated bouts of tears of frustration.  But then I thought, “I am getting better every day.  I am in my own house from which I have a lovely, peaceful view.  I am able to eat foods that I love and are prepared with care and I have the support of my friends and family.  Some people are stuck in a hospital bed and are not getting out anytime soon.”  So after my epiphany and self pep-talk and realization of all the things I had to be grateful for, I got on with the healing process.  Great food choices chemically assist in the battle of the mood swings in your brain.  Again, keeping to a great diet, that was balanced in terms of portion sizes and nutrients helped my mental state to stay optimistic and thus, boosted my healing.

Perhaps the one thing I did do that might not seem so obvious was I did NOT leave the T.V. on all day long.  In fact, it was turned off most of the time as I chose instead to work on the computer, read a magazine, renew my certifications, build a website, write a book, etc.  The benefit to this was that I was not constantly bombarded by advertisements about fast food, salty foods, or any kind of food.  We as humans are very stimulated by visual mediums, so when you see food in front of you constantly, guess what happens…you want to eat…constantly. Plus, I think I got smarter from all the reading I did – so my body healed quickly and my brain was stimulated too.

So to recap here’s my suggestions to anyone facing enforced couch time, whether from a physical disability or work layoff or illness:

1) Stay rested and keep your sleep schedule in tact.  Don’t oversleep or under sleep. Try to get 7-8 hours/night and try to maintain your set routine.

2) Keep eating balanced, appropriately portioned, nutrient rich meals.  It promotes health (body and mind) from the inside out.

3) Turn off the TV!  I am certain there are 1000 things you can find to do to pass the time and give your brain some healthy fuel choices too!

4) Don’t decide that because one piece of the puzzle isn’t there that you can’t make out the beautiful view of the rest of the layout.  In other words, just because you can’t exercise doesn’t mean you have to give up every other basic tenant to healthy living!

Chronicles of Rehab: Episode Three “Fun With Physio Tape”

Fun With Physio Tape

One day in rehab – my back was feeling WRETCHED!!! – Coincidentally that day, I also had a checkup scheduled with my orthopedic surgeon and Mike, my most excellent PT was concerned that there were so many systemic issues that didn’t seem to be resolving themselves fast enough for his liking.  So with concern and diligence he worked and worked on my back – finally with utmost and precise care he taped my back.

Now there are several reasons for physio tape – yes, that’s the stuff that you see popping up everywhere in strange colors and patterns and made popular by Olympic athletes – the main one being that it keeps the skin taught thus promoting lymphatic drainage, decreasing inflammation and lending neurological support to the surrounding musculature.

My doctor’s appointment was uneventful, except to say that Dr. Gerhardt thought I was progressing remarkably well.  “I need to remind you and Mike of the magnitude of your injury.  The hematoma was massive!  And you’re not going to bounce back in three months.  I will tell you that as good as your PT’s are, they have probably never seen this particular injury, a complete tear – let alone one of this extent.  Unless they are working with pro-athletes it’s very rare.  So we can’t expect it to heal like an ACL or a basic surgery.  If you have any random symptoms left at the end of the summer come back and see me, but I’d be very surprised because you’re healing great.”

The next day I’m getting out of the shower (yes, physiotape is waterproof) and I catch a glimpse of my backside in the mirror and this is what I saw…Now some think it’s an arrow pointing down to my butt crack, others…well, definitely phallic…should I be concerned…when I point it out to Mike, he is MORTIFIED!!!!  Well, if it makes my back feel better, I’m not complaining.  But laughter’s good for healing as well.  Whether it was the tape, Mike’s caring ministrations, the belly chuckles or the thought of sex – my back felt better!