Archive | March, 2013

Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Why It Happens, and How You Can Help It

27 Mar

knee_pain-225x300

If you don’t know what your iliotibial band is, try rolling the side of your leg with a PVC pipe. You’ll find out real quick.

Out of all the complaints you will hear most often in any sort of athletic activity, “I have pain in my knee(s)” is the most prevalent. This usually ranges anywhere from a very sharp and stabbing pain, to a dull ache, to just plain old discomfort.

Now, it’s easy to just look for the simplest reasoning possible and pin your pain on that – but it’s not always the most accurate. In order to find out what is actually going on, understanding the various different muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the leg – or any body part/area –  is important for pin-pointing what caused the pain and where the pain is actually coming from.

Just as with runners and cyclists, superficial knee pain is extremely common among weightlifters as well. And it is usually do to an imbalance rather than simply performing a movement in the wrong fashion and ending up with knee pain. But let me break down for you first what goes on in your leg every time you bend your knee.

What is the IT band?

The IT band is a strip of fascia that stretches from the top of the hip down to the knee, and inserts into an area outside of the knee just below the knee joint known as the lateral tibial tubercle (LTT; or, “Gerdy’s tubercle”). The IT band basically acts as a force transmitter from the hip down to the knee.

When you are bending and extending your knee, the IT band’s position changes. When your leg is bent at a 30 degree angle, it goes into what is called the “impingement zone”, and that’s where most of the friction happens. If there is too much friction going on it causes inflammation. This in turn can lead to scar tissue being formed, and/or tissue degeneration. As an example, in the case of a cyclist or runner, repetitive motion causes a lot of friction in this area, which is why so many distance runners experience ITBS, also occasionally referred to as “runner’s knee”. In essence, ITBS is an overuse injury. 

So while most people would think the solution to be rest, massage, stretching, etc., this seems to only delay symptoms, but not actually target the real problem. In addition to these things, rehabilitation exercises must also  be performed to strengthen the supporting muscles.

When an area on your body is weak, the nearest muscles will attempt to jump in and perform the movement in place of the weaker one(s). For example, if you have very weak hamstrings and stronger quads, when performing a squat the tendency will be to shift forward onto the toes, which would place the emphasis on the front half of your body rather than your posterior chain. The body knows nothing about form or technique – it only cares about getting the weight up no matter what. So where one area is weak, another area will try to act in its place.

Now, there is a little-known hip abductor muscle known as the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) which aids in pelvic stability and the bracing of your knee, for example when the opposite foot is lifted. This muscle will also attempt to compensate for a weakened gluteus medius and minimus, should the situation arise. The TFL is actually directly connected to the IT band. As a result, if there is direct stress being placed on the TFL, the stress will transfer to the IT band, which will then transfer the pain to your knee.

Anterior_Hip_Muscles_2 (1)

See where this is going?

Essentially, strengthening the glutes and hips, as well as freeing up your tight IT band will result in less pain (provided the injury is superficial).

Regardless if you are uncertain as to what is causing the knee pain, strengthening the glutes and hips will always be beneficial, and 9 times out of 10 will also be the solution to your discomfort during training (running, cycling, squatting, etc.) or at rest.

This is why it is very important to understand every area of your body and the way it operates so that you can look not only for temporary solutions, but long-term solutions. Rehabilitation through proper assessment of weak-points and targeted exercises is the best way to help prevent injuries from recurring. This could take anywhere from a week to several weeks, but as long as you are committed, the relief will come.

So – what are some steps you can take towards strengthening the glutes and hips?

The first step, obviously, is to stop doing what is causing you pain. If you are having a lot of pain in your knees while squatting, I recommend you stop squatting. This doesn’t mean forever, it means temporarily – at least until you have strengthened the weak areas a little. Perform movements that do not cause pain to prevent further inflammation.

Next steps:

  • Mobility work. This needs to be performed before every lower body training session, and for 5-10 minutes or so every morning.
  • Rehabilitation exercises focusing on the lateral hip, pelvic stabilization, and glutes.
  • Foam rolling the IT band at least 2-3x per week.

Recommended mobility routine to follow (lateral hip/glutes):

  • Lateral Leg Raises
  • Clam Shells
  • Pelvic Drops
  • Hip Thrusts With One Leg Elevated
  • X-Band Walks
  • Iron Cross

If you are experiencing pain currently, or it is on and off, you can do this routine every day if you’d like. I’d recommend 25-40 reps per movement, 1-3 sets. If you have experienced pain before and don’t currently have it, I would still recommend doing this for general prevention, glute activation, and stability.

In addition, hip flexor mobility should be performed on a daily basis, regardless of pain being present or not.

Recommended hip flexor mobility exercises:

  • Cossacks
  • Pigeon
  • Fire Hydrants
  • Hip Swings
  • Walking Lunges
  • Glute Stretch With One Leg Out-Stretched
  • Frog Walks

 

Other exercises:

  • Cable Hip Abductions
  • Pistol Squats
  • Glute bridges
  • Split Squats (Bulgarian or regular)

Of course, you will want to make sure to be stretching the glutes as well. Roll these along with your IT band to help break down and prevent new scar tissue from forming.

source: drillsandskills.com

source: drillsandskills.com

glute-stretches1SeatedGlute

In general, so long as exercises (mobility and rehab) are performed consistently, you should see significant progress within the first 2 weeks.

Happy training!!

References:

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 10:169–175 Linderburg G, Pinshaw R, Noakes TD. Iliotibial band syndrome in runners. Phys Sportsmed 1984;12:118–130

R Khaund, M.D. and S Flynn, M.D., Iliotibial Band Syndrome: A Common Source of Knee Pain, the American Academy of Family Physicians, April 15, 2005.

Beers, A., Ryan, M., Kasubuchi, Z., Faser, S., Tauton, J.E., 2008. Effects of multimodal physiotherapy, including hip abductor strengthening, in patients with iliotibial band friction syndrome. Physiotherapy Can. 60:180-188.)

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Questions? Observations? Leave me a comment below.

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Deadlifts and Physiotherapy

27 Mar

I have been doing a lot more research/study on physiotherapy lately. To be honest, I wholeheartedly can see it becoming a career in the future. It’s been the past 5 years or so that I have been fascinated by it, and I figure the more time I put into studying, the easier the transition will be when I can actual manage/afford to get into a school.

One day. Maybe.

For now, I will bury my nose in books and learn whatever I can. I feel like in turn it will help me to be a better coach to others, as well as a better and more well-rounded athlete.

Always a good thing!

Training today: The Cube Week #5, Day #1

Deadlifts:

135×5

165×3

185×2

205x6x2

Snatch-Grip Deadlifts:

130×20

Squats: (See notes)

bar x bunch

95×5

115×3

145×2

165×1

175x5x6

DB Shrugs:

20s x3x15

Close-Grip Pulldowns:

62.5 x4x15

Planks:

4 x 1:15

NOTES:

I need to work on not over-analyzing and getting hyped up. I find that my squats feel a million times better when I am not filming them. Performance anxiety I guess, even though it’s just for form check.

Pretty solid day though! I pulled all the deadlifts from the floor since I don’t have anything smaller than a 4″ block.

Vids:

 

(NOTE: Slight over-extension of the back on the last rep. Unintentional, and will be corrected in the future. To be honest I was just surprised at how fast the reps were flying up that it sort of happened by default just due to the speed. Decent problem to have I guess!!)

Cookies and Mobility Drills

26 Mar

Hey everyone!

So I missed a couple of days of updates just due to work and life. On my last lower body training session I had a bit of a mishap with a Bulgarian split squat and pulled my glute slightly. Felt pretty fucking awful the first day, but is pretty much 100% now due to my handy foam roller and lots of stretching!

Speaking of stretching, I put together another lower body mobility drill video. And as weird as this shit looks, it’s pretty effective. This is just an example of the exercises I will do before a lower body training session. Shoulder dislocations, fire hydrants, and hip swings are also incorporated but aren’t featured in this video.

 

 

My dog likes to observe me when I am stretching/exercising at home. She thinks I’m crazy.

 

I’ve also been doing a lot of baking this weekend. Probably one of my favorite things to do to unwind. Brownies tonight turned out to be an epic failure due to me not realizing what size pan I had put them in, but the cookies I baked on Saturday turned out marvelous. I may or may not have eaten 75% of the cookies myself.

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Yes vegan. Yes chocolatey. Yes fudgey. Yes delicious. Especially right out of the oven – oh baby!!

 

RECIPE:

You could also add walnuts, chocolate chips, coconut, or whatever else you like.

  • 1 cup of butter-flavored shortening
  • 1 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tbsp. of ground flax
  • 6 tbsp. water
  • 1 1/3 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

    DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease baking sheets (or use non-stick sheets).
  2. Mix the ground flax with the water and set aside for 5 minutes to expand.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the flax mixture.
  4. Combine the cocoa, flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Gradually stir this into the wet mixture.
  5. Finally, fold in whatever you want, or leave as is.
  6. Roll and drop onto cookie sheets.

NOTE:

Bake for 8 minutes ONLY. They will appear uncooked at the center, but the set well when they are completely cooled.

Allow to rest on cookie sheets for 4-5 minutes before removing and transferring to wire rack to cool completely.

 

Fighting Insecurity With Perspective

21 Mar

not good enough

Let me tell you a little something about insecurity.

It hurts. It’ll eat you alive if you let it. And after battling with severe insecurity issues for 13 years of my life, I can tell you now that it’s a disease, and an infectious one at that. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your insecurities are your own battle to fight. Insecurity affects everyone around you, but especially those who are close to you.

The cycles of negativity we get ourselves into are tremendously destructive. We all have a PhD in defeatism, and thrive off of the abuse we inflict on our minds and bodies – always searching, but never really finding what it is we’re going after. The problem is that we are too often chasing perfection rather than striving for continual improvement.

If perfection is what you are looking for, you are never going to find it. It is inconclusive, and therefore unattainable. Regardless of what you may deem “perfection” now, that image will change when and if you reach it. There is no such thing as perfection, and there never will be.

So then you have to ask yourself again: what is it you are after, and why you want do you want to achieve it?

source: lifeisbeautifulhk.com

Behind every story of success, there was a definite cause. And behind every cause, there was a thought. And to know exactly what you really need to do to reach your goals you must determine what thought caused you to want change.

So tell me. Why do you want to change?

We are inquisitive beings by nature. Most of us are far quicker to question the motives of others, when really we should be taking the time to question our own motives. Behind every goal and every action, lies something;  and more often than not, that certain something is some kind of insecurity.

People hardly want to do things “just because”. There is always something that sparked the initial thought.  The only way you can find out the true motive is by breaking down your goal so much that you almost feel as though you’ve strayed from the original idea. For some people, this can lead them all the way back to when they were a kid in kindergarten, or their first relationship. It could lead them back to something someone said to them years ago, or something they read or saw in a movie. It could be anything, really.

Targeting the initial thought can take some time. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to take time for themselves. Everyone is too busy with things they “need to do”, or rather what they think they need to do. Nothing is more important than self-improvement. Without a little soul-searching, we’re as lost as a child on a busy highway. We have a general idea of what we think we need to do to find success and happiness, but spend no time getting to know ourselves well enough to determine whether or not what we’re doing is conducive to our goals. And instead of working on ourselves, we live a cookie-cutter life and battle with constant bouts of negativity and feelings of worthlessness for not being able to accomplish what we want in life, when really we are the only ones holding ourselves back.

insecurity

Insecurity comes from a decreased awareness of self. There is something broken in the mind to body connection that we are all born with, and it has separated your heart from your body. You feel inadequate when you feel imperfect. While some insecurities are human nature to develop, the stronger the bond between your body and your mind becomes, the stronger sense of self-awareness you possess, and the less likely you are to be self-abusing due to falling short of some idealistic view of yourself. And this is because you no longer have a picture of your “perfect” self in mind when you are working towards your goals. Instead, you have an ongoing mission to constantly improve and move forward.

Perspective.

I don’t want you to look into the mirror and tell me what you see. Instead, I want you to stop what you are doing, and look at your hands. Don’t focus on the physical qualities of them, but rather what they can accomplish.

Stuck? I’ll give you a hint:

Your hands have the power to heal. To love. To lift. To comfort. To embrace. To build. To defend. To help somebody up. To save a life. To hold hands with your partner or child. To write. To speak.

What was once considered to be mere flesh and bone now appears to be a genius invention with endless capabilities.

Once again, the change in perspective is everything. 

Is your body just a body, or is it the home to limitless potential? 

Open Hands

We cannot change through other’s or our own positive affirmations related to how we perceive our physical selves. The only way to replenish your depleted feelings of self-worth is to dig deeper. Look BEYOND the physical. Understand that you are more than your body. You are more than your job, your relationship, your possessions, or your accomplishments. You are yourself. A living, breathing, remarkable organism with the power and intelligence to accomplish anything you want.

The problem with focusing simply on visual body image is that it is only temporary. Looking in the mirror and telling yourself you are beautiful is not going to help you overcome your negativity. While it may lift spirits temporarily for some, you are still too focused on the image of yourself. You are too focused on what you can physically see.

THAT is what prevents you from moving forward.

We cannot see capability. We cannot see accomplishment. That is why we so often hold ourselves back. We cannot see what we can do, and therefore we don’t believe we can do it. Even though it lives inside all of us, like any other belief, it requires faith to accept.

I am not religious by any means, but believing in yourself despite not being able to see what you can do is the same concept.  I believe that without faith in the capabilities we possess but cannot see, we will never progress. If you cannot trust and understand that you can do great things then you will fail to move forward.

Overcoming insecurity doesn’t start with trying to convince yourself that you are worth something when you do not believe you are. It starts with understanding what values and abilities you already have, and building upon them until whatever shortcoming you had previously seems insignificant in comparison. The rest will follow.

A shift in focus is what is needed; and I don’t mean in the way you perceive yourself. Your focus must be placed on who and what you already are, regardless of personal perception. Approach your conclusions with an impartial viewpoint. Think about what you can do and what you have done, instead of what you don’t like about yourself.

When the focus is shifted from unrealistic expectations to improving upon the great qualities you already have, you are able to find balance. You can be free from insecurity, but it starts with trashing your mirror, so to speak.

Henry_Rollins_Black_Flag_Punching_Mirror_Damaged

Just like the scale, the mirror does nothing but give us an image. It speaks nothing of your abilities or value as a person. Your greatest qualities are simply not visible to the naked eye. Knowing that, we understand that the body is simply a shell. Keep it healthy and treat it well, but never underestimate, criticize, or abuse it. And above all else, love and understand what is inside to help your perspective of the outside.

Only when we let go of our focus on image can we develop a more positive one.

Budget Grocery Shopping For Dummies

19 Mar
So FLUFFY. Fack.

So FLUFFY. Fack.

I was reflecting today on how much more manageable and varied my diet is since I made the switch to being vegan.

To give you an idea of what I can buy with only $40 a week, I wrote up a comparison chart. Examples of a weekly shopping list when I was a meat-eater compared to now…


$40 THEN:

  • 1 pack of chicken breasts (6)
  • 1 bag of frozen green beans
  • 5 cans of tuna
  • 1 bunch of romaine lettuce
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • Couple tomatoes

$40 NOW:

  • 2L. almond milk
  • 7 oranges
  • 12 bananas
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 bunch of romaine lettuce
  • 2 packs of portobella mushrooms
  • 5 cans of beans
  • 1 package of red lentils (lasts me way more than a week)
  • 3 cans of olives
  • 2 bags of frozen peas
  • 1 bag of frozen green beans

and more sometimes, if I get stuff on sale…

I love that I can get such a huge variety of different fruits and vegetables now. Usually I only need to buy spices every 2 months or so (depending). And other items such as lentils, oats, nut butter, rice, etc. are only really bought once a month. The only things that are replenished regularly are fresh fruits and veggies, and beans. So all in all I spend $40 or LESS every week on groceries, and I can get a LOT of nice stuff!

Being able to afford things like asparagus, fruit, and mushrooms is just so exciting to me. Being a broke girl on a budget, this is by far the best I have ever eaten.

Anyway, just had to share. I’m sure I could even penny pinch my grocery list down to $25 a week and still eat well. It is certainly a huge pro to this lifestyle.

I’m aware that not everyone chooses to eat this way. In that case, if you are on a budget, simply limiting the crap you buy is a good start. Think nutritional value FIRST. Quality over quantity, my friends.

Some tips for cheaper shopping:

  1. Don’t shop hungry.
  2. Buy in bulk. No more small packages if you can get the bigger one and save $20 in the long run.
  3. Cook in bulk. Freeze.
  4. Think nutritional value first. Pop Tarts taste good. They’re shit though and are a waste of money.
  5. Even if you are not a veggie like me, beans and lentils are cheap as fuck. And they do pack a good nutritional punch. Consider adding them in for some extra protein.
  6. Frozen veggies are a great alternative for fresh ones. Though optimally you’d buy fresh, fresh produce is more perishable and pricier. Better to get something than nothing.

Make note, comrades! Groceries don’t have to cost $100+ a week. Keep it simple.

Training for the day…Week 4, Day 1 of The Cube:

 
Deadlifts:

135×5
165×3
195×1
225×1
235x2x3


Snatch-Grip Deadlifts: (was supposed to be from a 2″ block but I didn’t have one)

160x3x10


Squats: (up 2 reps per set from 2 weeks ago)

bar x bunch
95×5
115×3
140x3x10


Front Squats: (low rest)

95x3x10

NOTES:

Workout was good, but everything was a little bit rushed since I didn’t have long before I had to get back to work. Didn’t get to do my planks at the end, but I will try to squeeze those in some time later today.

Song picks of the day:

^^ Going to see these guys in April. Awh yeeeeaah.

PWO meal…kale, romaine lettuce, black olives, chickpeas, and gala apples tossed in a light vinaigrette. Magnifique. 

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For the record, it’s a whole can of chickpeas. My salads are anything but bird-sized.

Portobella Mushrooms: Where Have You Been All My Life?!

17 Mar

Okay. So I do have a confession to make.

Although I am vegan, I do miss the TASTE of meat sometimes. However, I do not miss meat itself. I guess this is normal given that I have eaten meat my whole life up until recently. But I’ve just started buying portobella mushrooms and throwing them on the frying pan…boy oh boy, best fucking replacement for meat ever.

That is, if you want to exclude things like seitan which is very processed. I try to stay away from it but it is also a good alternative.

For now though, mushrooms are far more accessible and so easy to prepare in a delicious way.

IMG_2867

I marinated these in garlic, EVOO, and balsamic vinegar before tossing them on the frying pan. Throw them on a bed of coconut rice and you’ve got yourself a little slice of heaven.

That is, if heaven existed. If it did, I’m fairly certain it would be equivalent to the taste of a beautifully cooked portobella mushroom.

 

This is my post-training meal:

Big. Ass. Salad.

Big. Ass. Salad.

Not nearly as exciting, but not everything in life can be.

 

Training from today:

 

DB Overhead Press:

20’s x10

25’s x6

30’s x6

35’s x10

35’s x2x8 (rep PR from last week)

 

Front Raises:  (plate)

25x3x10

 

Seated Bicep Curls:

20’s x4x10

 

Calf Raises:

90×20

105x2x20

 

Machine Glute Kickbacks: (per leg; squeeze hard at the top)

30×10

40×10

50x3x10

 

Leg Extensions: (slow; toes pointed)

70x3x10

 

NOTES:

Machines are different from last week’s training. These ones at my main gym are a lot older and therefore much harder than the newer machines at the other gym I go to sometimes.

Low rest periods today, nice in-and-out kind of session. Can’t wait for deadlifts on Tuesday!!

 

Song picks of the day:

IMG_2876

 

IMG_2875

Training, Plus Stretch Demo Videos

16 Mar

Hello all! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week!

I had mentioned on my page a couple of days ago that I would do a couple videos of some different stretches you could do for the lower back and well as loosening up the hips prior to lower body training and/or post-training stretches.

I didn’t film as many as I wanted to today, but I will try to get a couple more video demonstrations soon. For now, here are the two I did get around to.

Lower back stretches:

DESCRIPTION:

Stretches to relieve stress in the lower back. Preferably done post-training, and hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

Basically, bring your upper body up high, keeping your hips on the mat/ground until you get a good stretch. Breathe deep and exhale as you are moving into the “release” stretch with your chest on your knees. Repeat a few times.

Hip mobility:

DESCRIPTION:

Here is a simple routine I do before all my lower body training sessions. Hip flexor stretch into pigeon, and a cossack. Sometimes I will do the cossack first and then have it flow into the other movements.

Each position is only hold for a couple of seconds before it is switched. Unless you are doing post-training stretching, do NOT hold these positions for long since you should not be doing static stretching before lifting weights.

Training from today…

Squats:

bar x bunch

95×5

135×3

165×2

185×8

Vid: (bad form; see notes)

Wide-Stance Good Mornings:

95×5

115×3

140x3x8 (5 lbs. up from last week)

DB Bulgarian Split Squats:

20’s x3x15

Burn-out Squat (see notes)

130 x20

Planks:

3 x 1:15

NOTES:

Form was not very good on my squats today. I was not on my heels enough and they came off the ground a few times. Also need to tuck my elbows down more and CONCENTRATE!! Olympic squat shoes would help. Need to save for some of those before my meet in June.

The burn-out squats were actually supposed to go to failure but I felt my pre-workout meal coming up my throat by the time I hit 20 (whoops!) so I stopped, haha. Had much more in me though.

Needless to say, that is the last time I will be eating so close to a squat session. I should have learned my lesson!

Some progress shots:

3-year back progress!

Stretch training post-squats. Back flexibility has improved.

Stretch training post-squats. Back flexibility has improved.