The Plank, A Therapeutic Perspective

Here is a link to article I wrote on the Plank and its twin sister Mountain Pose aka Tadasana. Understanding the mechanics and principles of these movements will help clear up many common dysfunctional movement patterns and help hone skills that apply in additional movements. Coordination, synchronization, linkage, connection, etc. are all key to understanding the body and how the fascial structure works together through joints and muscles. For more info please open the PDF Link below.

The Plank

Advertisements

Why Iyengar Yoga is Perfect for Athletes

What is Iyengar Yoga

In short Iyengar yoga focuses on proper form and alignment of the body in yoga Postures. It incorporates tools such as blocks, straps, blankets and more to help people find their optimal position. In addition, more advanced practitioners of the practice are further instructed on breathing principles which are keys to deeper effects within the practice.

What you need to Know

Think of this a deep and prolonged stretching series that focuses on increasing flexibility, range of motion and overall muscular balance to the body. Most athletes suffer in some form or another in all 3 of the above. The Iyengar practice is an active practice where the athlete uses the bodies innate kinesthetic, anatomical and bio-mechanical principles to effectively stretch the body. While the postures make appear to be static they are far from. Using the concept of reciprocal inhibition and contract/relax such as in PNF techniques, the individual is meant to pay attention to the finer details and actively create the posture.

Athletes Do Not Need Another Workout

Athletes do not need more workouts therefore practices such as Vinyasa, Power or Bikram Yoga are not suited for their needs. All athletes have specific needs and it is important to provide them with the postures that suit. In the Iyengar system, the Teacher can pick the appropriate postures to address the needs. In addition, the deeper and more prolonged stretching will help to active the parasympathetic nervous system creating a relaxing feel and a gentle active recovery.

Conclusion

Athletes in general need far more specific work, much greater attention to detail within the work and generally simpler not more complex movements and instruction. We as Coaches and Sports Medicine Practitioners do not need to step beyond the basics to effectively address the challenges 95% of the Athletes and People we treat face in the Orthopedic side. Any movement provides the opportunity to be therapeutic, it is our ability to effectively teach and translate to the individual and their ability to do as asked that often determine the success. Iyengar Yoga is a system that allows us Practitioners to put our Athletes in positions that address common issues.

Components of Training, Forming a Strong Foundation

Below is a list of some essential components of training. As an athlete of all levels it is important that we have a strong awareness and foundation of these components. Training and competing is more than just showing up and doing the work. We must have rhyme and reason behind what we do. If not it is more than likely we will under perform, injury ourselves, burn out, etc. I like to think of training as a life long journey. Along the path it is likely that we will learn new methods, approaches, techniques, sports, philosophies and the like. Whatever it is we do it must be steeped and rooted in an underlying philosophical approach to success and integration. The foundation which we build is the key to the additions we will add throughout our life. Having a solid foundation is the key to building a strong and well integrated structure of varying physical activities, movements, sports, etc. Here are a few things that come to mind.

Progression: 

Elite level athletes follow the simple concept of progression. If your not progressing your digressing and in the world of athletics and in general this is a bad idea. Tudor Bompa does a fantastic job teaching how to program a progressive program for optimal performance. He gives you the framework and concepts. Additionally, it is my professional opinion that the conjugate method is the best for the majority of athletes who are in the lifting world of sport and athletics. This system was Developed and fostered in the old Soviet Union and popularized for good reason and measure by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. As the old saying goes, the proof is in the pudding, in this case the numbers. We must plan and execute for success and in order to do this we must have a system in place that addresses our strengths and weaknesses with the overall goal in mind. Progress does not happen by guessing and hoping, it is determined with an overall picture of the goal and the work that needs to be done to get there.

acb8610d5d5ca8f4ffb31fa30b250201
Variation:
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting the same results. In training this rings true. Again looking at progression and the conjugate method as an example of, they embrace the idea of change. It is crucial that ones program and movement is in a constant state of change. Variation, stimulating and learning new movements, changing weights, reps, rest, etc. Are all part of variation and progressive adaptation. For instance, one does not squat the same weight for the same reps and sets week in a week out. This would lead to a negative adaptation if continued for  any length of time. The body is like layers, it will build and add upon itself and will need appropriate stimulus to do so.
Pattern identification
We must understand that the body moves in patterns and sequencing. We have to understand what it is we are working to achieve and be sure to enhance that particular pattern and sequence with our training. Weaknesses must be known and addressed but we must never forget where our strengths lie in the process.
weakestlink
Your weakest link
The old adage says, one is only as strong as their weakest link. How true it is. If for instance you have weak hamstrings this will have a direct effect on your ability to sprint, squat, Deadlift, clean, etc. A program should honor the individuals strengths and weaknesses. The program should see the body as a pattern of sequencing with a chain reaction. If one of the links of the chain, or the sequence fails to fire correctly the body will be compromised and unavailable to attain true peak potential and performance.
Form and function matter
In order to function at your highest level and achieve maximal results from your efforts you need perfect form. This is especially true in sports like track and field, gymnastics, ballet, martial arts, etc. But it is also true in sports where we attempt to achieve max effort lifts such as Weightlifting, Power-lifting, and even Crossfit. If you move better you will be more efficient and this will enable more movement potential as you will expend less energy. These two principles flow together to form perfection.
images
Technique is key to success
As the above states, technique is the difference. If you look at sports other than Track, gymnastics, Weightlifting, etc. and take a look at Crossfit and its top competitors you will see they move heavier weights/loads more efficiently. This is due to their technical ability and law of specificity in training context. But as we discuss technique, even in Crossfit technique is the one of the key differences between the best and the rest. Just watch Athletes like Rich Froning and Julie Foucher.
Breath matters
Breath into your diaphragm activating your deep core muscles and creating a stable environment for your spine and his enhancing your “core strength”. Remember where you have ribs, you have lungs this means your breath circulates around the whole body. Coordinating breath and movement is another crucial aspect. You must learn and know how to breath for the movement. For instance with a squat, we inhale as we squat and exhale at or on the rise.
images-2
Rest is the missing link:
I love how people are really pushing the limits and testing human potential. From pro athletes, Crossfitters, Ultra Endurance athletes, etc. Humans are pushing into new areas of performance. Another key to optimizing this performance is rest. This includes sleep and rest days from training. The body and the brain need a break. If you listen carefully to your body it will tell you via a number of intrinsic and extrinsic factors it needs rest….I.e. Elevated heart, insomnia signs, low energy, poor appetite, injury, slow recovery, etc. A good program and coach will be sure to include rest into the plan and hopefully avoid these factors that signal towards overtraining.
Listen to your body
Yes, your body is really smart and it will clearly communicate to your brain what it needs. Most likely we fail to observe and listen and this gets us in trouble. This is less of an issue with elite athletes whom are being coached. The challenge I have seen is the non professional who is competing at a high level in sports like crossfit, triathlons, marathons, etc. All these sports almost allow one to overtrain easily simply due to variation.
images
Mind over Matter
Physical ability is one thing but the difference between great and good is in the mind. Training in itself is a process of mental preparation and training. The old saying goes that training should be harder than competition. This is certainly true as far as I am concerned. Competition has so many unknown and unfamiliar variables that present potential distractions, the last thing we want is too feel unprepared physically and mentally. Now, as a coach and athlete we should always understand and prepare for the unknown to minimize distraction and optimize performance, this also goes along with the mind over matter. It is not just physical!

Simple & Short Series of Movements To Stretch The Psoas

This series is a great series for stretching the Psoas. The key is how we use the body in the series to strengthen and stretch the hips as a whole. Often times the gluteals, in particular the Gluteus Maximus is ineffective at doing its job. In this series it is crucial that the Gluteus Maximus performs properly in order to help release the Psoas. This relationship is crucial for the hips in terms of Bio-Mechanics and healthy function. So, we are not only ‘stretching’ but we are strengthening as well. Most important a consistent practice and use of these methods will help develop the all too important neuro-muscular coordination and function of the hip complex and more.

What you may also notice is mention of the core, the concept of squeezing the legs together, the use of the Lats and more. These are crucial concepts for proper function of the body on the whole. Yoga and this practice is Physical Therapy. Practice this and your body will thank you. Some of the concepts may seem esoteric therefore finding a good Yoga teacher may be helpful.

Psoas Short Series

IT Band Stretch Series

Below is a link to a series of 4 stretches for the IT Band. In addition to doing SMR (Self Myofascial Release) via the foam roller, these stretches will help address the typical tightness and imbalance of the IT Band.

First do your foam roller then follow with this series. Additionally, work to the get the Quadriceps online in particular the Rectus Femoris. You can accomplish this by doing simple contract and relax movements such as Squatting or lunging actions. When in the standing position of either move, focus on contracting the Rectus. Do this is a slow fashion to be certain the muscle contracts, you can enhance this by providing tactile feedback aka touch the Rectus.

IT Band Stretch Series

Why I Train, A 40 year olds Shifting Perspective

I suppose this is an honest question worth asking myself, especially at 40. Maybe even more so why do I train the way I do which includes following a structured plan (albeit with room for play and learning new things), with a focus and intensity aimed at improving, and as an integral part of my existence.

First things first: At 40 structure is important.
This does not mean I cannot go out and have fun and play around because that is included in my structure. Meaning that my training helps me to be ready to do just about anything or activity. But mostly I train structured because of the need to stay healthy physically in terms of joints, muscle aches and the like, the need to minimize stress on my body and my mind, and to continue to adapt and improve. So, recovery and performance are the dictators of my strategy, structure and plan.
The simple truth is at 40, with a lifetime of sports under my belt I am more conscious of the long term prospects. I feel fit, strong, flexible and capable. I am consistent, dedicated and enjoying the process. And I feel healthy mentally and physically. I have no need to be a pro athlete, a super athlete, etc. if anything I am now focused on helping others get to their goals.
Intensity and Focus:
I have a choice on any given day to train or not. Too me training is a microcosm of life. I am in the gym not just to exercise but as a deeper look into my spirit, my humanity, my person. To me sport is a microcosm of the life we live. I feel professionally it is best to lead by example. I would not ask of others (unless pro athletes) what I would not ask of myself. I have been fortunate to personally experience many realms of sport and I believe this helps me to better understand how to coach others.
Training is also a deep meditation for me. My intensity and focus are an opportunity in that moment to be one with myself. My mind quiets and I take all those years of moving into that moment to get the best and most of that moment and myself. This ties into structure and the idea of practice makes perfect. Indeed it does or at least brings one closer to perfection. It is evident in factors such as weight, sets, reps, time, technique, etc. For example when I roll out my mat to do yoga I know the poses, I have been there countless times so I am able to actually flow and dig into a deeper awareness and state of consciousness within the pose both mentally and physically. This is also no different with lifting weights, and other sports. Practice brings about an ease and that intensity and focus is part of being skilled and able to embrace the moment and feel at one with it and that activity at hand. Nothing seems separate and all seems connected.
Integral Part of Life:
As elluded to above, training is an opportunity for me to enhance my being not only physically but emotionally and spiritually. It is in these times as an athlete or during my training and practice that I learn so much about myself and others. It is a way to exert energy, exercise away stress, spend quality time with friends, have fun with your partner, share a platform with your buddies, spend time with your dog, etc. So much of my life personally and professionally revolves around training, sport, exercise, health, wellness, etc. I have chosen this path and I love it. I met my wife and best friend as a result of being part of this world. I have numerous quality people in my life as a result. And I am fortunate to make a living and be able to afford to live and have time to do  what I enjoy as a result. As I said above, training is a microcosm of life.
Another facet which cannot be ignored is the fact that I have as long as I can remember been a curious person with an adventurous personality. I enjoy learning and experiencing life in all facets and means. As a result I have been fortunate to walk many varied path and experience many a varied thing. I have travelled the world, accomplished 3 degrees including 2 Masters and all in different topics; I have studied and learned professionally with and from some of the top names and the list goes on. It is not this list or the list itself that matters. What the list shows is again how everything is a microcosm of my self, the person I be. This helps explain in large part why I chose the life I have and continue to do.
Of course a key aspect of my life is marriage. I must always consult and take into consideration my wife, where as earlier on in my life this was not the case. I have found my wife by in large to be supportive but also keep a healthy perspective on us and our larger goals. The best part is I can satisfy my curiosity and adventurous spirit in my everyday existence and part of this is training. I certainly desire to rekindle my love affair with nature which means more hiking, trail runs and mountain biking versus time in the gym. Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient and the Sun and being in nature certainly fulfills this.
At 40 I feel healthy, fit, flexible and free to just enjoy the process. I do not feel the need to prove, accomplish, win, compete, etc. I am more curious to dig deep within and continue to explore the depths of my being. I hope to be a father and as so be able to lead by example. I suppose I would be lying if I did not say that I hope our kids have a similar love as my wife and I do for fitness, sport, and health.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Incremental Progress

Incremental Progress

Long ago I learned the value of incremental progress. A process requiring patience and attention to detail. Incremental progress takes the approach of having a plan with an end sight in mind.

For example: In the sports of Power and Olympic Lifting competitive athletes know the exact dates of their meets and their current numbers. Within these 2 key aspects of the plan in place, the athlete will plan from the meet date to the first day of the new cycle aimed at prepping them for the meet. For instance if they have a meet in June and it is currently January, the athlete will start their plan from the June Meet Date and look backwards all the way to the current January start of the cycle.

In this example the athlete knows the numbers they currently have, approximately the numbers they should achieve at the meet and the time frame. Certainly we can call this a goal but it goes beyond just having a goal. For these athletes they have spent time day in and day out training making incremental progress towards this day. Often the next meet is not their last but a stepping stone to their next. Along the way the focus on a planned an incremental progress. Along with their coach they have a damn good idea of what each day from January 1st to June 1st will look like in terms of their training including exercises, weights, sets, reps, rest, nutrition, sleep, etc. at least on an elite level.

In my experience and through my training we focus on making incremental progress. In Kettlebells it may be a 1 size increase in bell week by week for 4 weeks, an increase of 1 set per week or even 1 rep per week during that 4 day period. It depends on the movement and overall goal.

In Olympic Weightlifting it may be 1-5 kg from week to week within a movement complimented by a proper adjustment of sets, reps and volume. Typically as the weight increases the sets and reps decrease as a whole, the law of supply and demand and an inverse relationship.

The point is do not rush your training, do not feel as if each time you need to test your limits. Instead focus on building brick by brick, layer by layer, making incremental progress. Schedule and plan back off days and weeks. This applies to all athletes not just elite and probably even more so than those whom train hard while working a regular job and having a life where their sport does not pay them in money but in other more intrinsic rewards.

The Elite perform as such not because they hammer or grind or crush or push and test but through incremental progress and intelligent design. It is fine to push, grind, hammer, test, etc. but have prepare for it so when you do you set a new PR and have something to build off of, a foundation moving forward

. IMG_2663 IMG_2661IMG_2662

The Art of Happiness

The Art of Happiness

  • Discover your passion
  • Find a way to express and live your passion
  • Find meaning in your work and life
  • Be generous, often finding passion in work that helps others brings more joy to your own life
  • Find joy, smile and laugh
  • Be compassionate, place yourself in the shoes of others and see life through their lens. This will often provide clarity and perspective and this will lead to a great understanding, empathy and compassion. This is similar to the concept of non judgement but in my thoughts an easier way to conceptualize and integrate.
  • Be grateful and make the most of out lives everyday opportunity (refer to the above)
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Meditation is a form of absorption. It is being so consumed by what we are doing in the moment that all else ceases to exist. I would surmise that many of have experienced this. I know as a practitioner of yoga, an athlete, a doctor and a coach I have felt this many a time. One instance that stand outs was my first ever rock climbing experience in Joshua Tree. Scared, sweating profusely and filled with negative self talk there were 2 distinct moments when all ceased to exist, I consumed and at peace, my mind quiet, my breath at ease and I was able to take it all in. I can still to this day relive this moment in my mind and body.
  • Think Happy, See Happy, Breathe Happy, Be Happy, it is an attitude and state of mind. If we surround ourselves in our everyday lives with passion, meaning, empathy, generosity, laughter and gratitude we will find our peace and be happy.

This meditation and reflection came about from my current reading and listening.

Here are links to the 2 talks