Combating your Desk Job Slouch

no question that the human body is designed to move, but with the rise in desk
jobs, we spend more time sitting than moving. And with that, we come across a
number of problems: lower metabolisms, low back pain, tight hip flexors,
slouching posture, and weak cores among them.
some of the work-related issues in the gym with these moves:

Hunching over your desk/keyboard

This is a huge
cause for much of the stress we hold in our shoulders and the poor posture we

IYTWs over a ball:
You can do these with low weight or no weight, with or without a hold, and with
your palms in a number of positions to challenge your muscles. The key is to
pinch your shoulder blades and draw them down your back as you lift your arms
through the patterns.  This activates the rhomboids rather than the trapezius
(which is already well developed in tense shoulders!). Try one to two sets of
ten to start and notice how much straighter you stand up after! 

D1/D2 with a band:
These are diagonal patterns that work the shoulders and back complex and can
be done in a number of different directions. Stand with the band in your right
hand and under your right foot. Bring your hand across your body in a diagonal
pattern up towards your left shoulder and return it back to your right side.
This is a D1 pattern. You can also do it in reverse, with the band attached up
high by your left shoulder and in your right hand, and drawing
it down across your body. Sometimes we call these “Wolverines”
because it’s just like how Hugh Jackman whipped his claws out.

D2 patterns, stand with the band under your left foot and in your right hand,
with your hand by your left pocket. Draw it up across your body diagonally as
though you’re unsheathing a sword and then return it across your body to your
pocket. Again, you can do this move in reverse, attaching the band up high and
drawing it low. 

Rowing with a band:
For this, hold two ends of a band
that is wrapped around a pole in each hand, pinch your shoulder blades down and
back, and draw your elbows towards the wall behind you while keeping your
forearms parallel with the floor. 

Stretch it out:
Try a prayer stretch (also called child’s pose in yoga) to stretch out your
shoulders and back. Start in a table-top position (on hands and knees, with
your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips)
and sit back on your heels. If needed, you can walk your hands out a bit more
in front of you once you’re seated back. You can also try this with a rotation,
where you start with your hands off to one side, and then sit back. You’ll feel
it more along one side. 

You can also try an upper trap stretch. While standing up straight and looking
straight ahead, bring one ear towards your shoulder, then to the other side. To
increase the stretch, push the heel of your hand down towards the ground on the
side opposite the ear (so if you’re dropping your left ear to your left
shoulder, push your right hand towards the ground).

A good stretch to loosen up your chest and shoulders is the doorway stretch.
Stand in a doorway with your arms bent and step into it. You can change the
angle on this one, depending on which fibers are tightest.  

Tight Hip Flexors/Low Back Pain

A little while back, Drew
wrote a great article on stretching out hip flexors that become tight from
being in a shortened position (as they are when we’re sitting). Check it out here.


I’m sure you’ll love me for saying this, but planks are some of the best
exercises to strengthen the entire core. There are a TON of ways to do them to
keep them interesting and fun (go ahead, ask me sometime!) but the best way to
start? Try modified planks. These are just like regular planks, but your knees
are on the ground instead of your feet, shortening the work load and allowing
you to really focus on your form. When you get comfortable with those, you can
progress to regular planks and side planks and increase your time! Just make
sure you keep that form perfect.

Blog post by Ashley Crosby.

Just because you’re inflexible, doesn’t mean you have to be

Did you know that
flexibility is an entirely trainable quality? 
Sure, we get a little more
inflexible over the years (a process called fibrosis, where thick connective
tissue takes the place of some of our more pliable fibers that are getting worn
out), but it doesn’t prevent us from staying flexible. In fact, the most common
reason for inflexibility is not age, or genetics, or gender, but DISUSE. It’s
exactly because we DON’T stretch that we become so stiff. 
No, I’m not going to tell
you that to be flexible you absolutely have to start doing yoga, although you
might really enjoy the practice. But it’s been shown in studies that including
a stretching program twice a week for five weeks can improve your flexibility
over time. 
You can elect to do a dynamic stretching program–ask any of us
for some Burdenko moves, for instance–where you move through the stretches.
Dynamic stretches are great for athletes who are getting ready for practice or
competition, as they mimic the exercise movements they’ll perform during their
game and really get the body thinking about what it’s about to

You can also do static stretching, where you slowly make your way
into the stretch and then hold the end position for 30 seconds or so. The key
is to find a point in the stretch that’s just a little uncomfortable, but
doesn’t hurt–and where you definitely aren’t shaking. You trigger your stretch
reflex when you stretch TOO far, which can actually make you TIGHTER (it’s a
defense mechanism for your muscles, to avoid being ripped by being stretched
too far). Also, avoid bouncing into the stretch–while this (known as ballistic
stretching) isn’t technically as bad for you as previously thought when done correctly,
the risk for injury is much higher, and really not worth the “reward”
when static and dynamic stretching offer better options. 

Example of Static Stretching
One of the key things to remember is to warm up before you stretch. Warming up
is important in ANY of your activities, as it gets you ready for your workout
by increasing your body temperature, getting the blood to flow through your
body a little more, and improves viscosity in your joints (in other words, gets
the synovial fluids that keep your joints lubricated to move better so your
joints move better–more like oil than maple syrup), among a number of other
things. A general warm-up for five to ten minutes is perfect–a quick walk on
the treadmill (or around the block, or at the beach), a few minutes on a
bike–just enough to break a sweat.
Then, you can go through
and do a number of stretches as an “active recovery” day, or you can
continue on with your workout and stretch for 5-10 minutes afterward. 

Blog post by Ashley Crosby.

Signing up for a mud run? Try these.





Throwback Thursday: Warrior Dash ’11

The rise in popularity of mud runs has seen an explosion of these kinds of
races in the last few years, from the shorter Warrior Dash and Spartan Race to
the longer and more grueling Tough Mudder. And no wonder! They break up the
monotony of the work week, are filled with obstacles, involve a certain
camaraderie, remind us a little of our days on a playground rather than a
cubicle, and some (more than a few) end with a beer for those of us old enough
to enjoy one.

But how do you go about training for a race like this? It involves more than
just forward running, with obstacles ranging from wall climbs to electrically
charged wire pits to barbed wire you have to crawl under through thick mud. And
while going out on distance runs is a good idea to build a nice endurance base
for the 3-12 miles you may be running (sometimes up mountains), there are other
things to consider adding, both to improve performance, and to avoid injuries
on the course. Most trainers suggest at least 7-12 weeks of training for a
race–more, if you’ve never done much like this before.

Rope climbs

Sit on the floor, feet in front, holding the rope in both hands, and pull
yourself up to a standing position hand over hand. Then, lower yourself down to
the starting position. That’s one! These will help you climb up over the walls,
and builds upper body strength. 

Box jumps

Start in an athletic position (shoulders over knees, knees and hips bent),
slightly bend your knees and jump onto the box/platform, absorbing the landing
evenly in the same athletic stance you started in. Step down, and go again!

Monkey bars

Straight from the playground! This is great, since you’ll see these on some of
the courses, and are great for upper body strength as well.

Planks/side planks

Important for core strength, which you’ll need when crawling under those wires.
Hold a plank position for as long as you can without losing form. Keep
adding time as you go along through your training. Don’t forget side planks;
your middle is made of more than just one muscle.

Blog post by Ashley Crosby.

Nutritional Concerns As We Age

One of the top concerns
for aging Americans is whether they are getting enough of the right nutrients,
not just to maintain health, but in many cases, to mediate the effects of
diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
As we get older, our
metabolism slows down, meaning we don’t need as many calories to fuel our daily
activities, but that doesn’t decrease our needs for nutrients. In fact, as we
age, we may even need more nutrients in order to meet our bodies’ demands. For
instance, our ability to absorb Vitamin B–which our bodies use to help make
red blood cells, increase our cognitive abilities, and to unlock the
energy we take in as food–decreases drastically as we age, often meaning we need
to eat more of it. (Ask your doctor
and/or a registered dietitian before starting to use any supplements.) 
also tend to lose our appetites as we age, and our “thirst cue”
diminishes, both of which can leave us undernourished and dehydrated.
This so-called
“anorexia of aging” can actually lead to greater risks of falls as
well (because our bodies are not strong enough), cognitive decline (largely
because of a decrease in B vitamins, both being ingested and absorbed),
anemia, and immune deficiencies, because we are not getting enough of the
nutrients we need. A lack of physical movement, too little fiber, and too
little water intake can lead to gastrointestinal discomfort as well.
On the other end of the
scale is weight gain as we age, a concern for those with osteoarthritis, as
weight gain puts added stress on already inflamed joints. It’s also a concern
for folks with cardiovascular disease or metabolic diseases as it can increase
risks of stroke, heart attack, and Type II Diabetes. Weight gain–as well as
weight loss–can be seen as a psychological coping mechanism for
depression or as a metabolic problem caused by inappropriate nutritional
balance–both good reasons to go see a doctor.
Another major nutritional
concern for us as we age is drug-nutrient and drug-drug interactions, which is
a key reason to meet with a registered dietitian and your primary care
physician. Drugs can interact with nutrients either diminishing the
effectiveness of the drug or blocking the nutrients from being absorbed. 
So what are the best
things for us to do?
Move! Physical exercise is key to moving nutrients
through your body, keeping muscles and bones strong, and even keeping your mind
Stay hydrated. Even though we may not feel thirsty, our bodies
still need to frequently be replenished with water. Of the six major 
nutrients, water is the most essential!  Our needs for water depend on our
activity levels, the temperature outside, elevation (higher altitudes need more
water), humidity, health, medications…a whole host of things. A safe bet is
to drink a glass or two of water in the mornings and continue to
“re-fill” throughout the day.
Eat more
nutrient-dense foods.
fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, and good fats (unsaturated).
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals including
cancer-fighting antioxidants, that our bodies need to stay healthy. Check out
the ANDI index (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) to see what vegetables
and fruits rank highest in nutrient density.
Think “Food
Our bodies use
nutrients from food far better than they do nutrients from supplements. A
healthy, balanced diet will often negate the need for supplements (vitamins,
etc.), barring any health problems or nutrient deficiencies.
Talk to your
Ask if there are any
drug interactions you need to be aware of or if there are certain nutritional
needs you need. Every body is unique in its nutritional needs and daily values
are largely based on averages. You may need more or less of a nutrient. Your
doctor or a Registered Dietitian will be able to help you best.

Blog post by Ashley Crosby.

Make Interval Training Work for You

High Intensity Interval
Training (HIIT), and other acronyms/names for interval workouts (tabatas,
anyone?), have become de rigueur
among fitness enthusiasts and trainers lately, and no wonder. The workouts,
which include brief periods of a burst of high intensity exercise, followed by
a set period of lower intensity “recovery” exercise, or even complete rest, are
shown to be quick, efficient, and they leave those doing the workouts feeling
like they’ve really killed themselves (in that way that fitness fiends and
athletes love).

The benefits of interval training are
pretty attractive, too. The high intensities push your heart rate up, helping
to improve your cardiovascular fitness (in some cases, even doubling your aerobic endurance
capacity); you can accomplish higher training levels (i.e. run farther at
higher intensities) because you allow your body to recover a bit in between
bouts; and it’s been shown in studies to improve time-trial performances (in
other words, can help you hit that PR you’re aiming for in a race). 

Chemically/metabolically, it’s helped improve muscle oxidative potential,
muscle buffering capacity, and muscle glycogen content–fancy ways of saying it
helps delay fatigue by getting the muscles to store/use energy more

The trick to intervals is
knowing what you’re training for, since the intensity/rest ratios can be
manipulated to target very specific energy systems. Are you a 100-m dash
specialist looking to gain an edge (in the form of maybe a tenth of a second
shaved off your time) for your upcoming meet? Are you looking to improve
your endurance for your next soccer season? Or are you looking to improve your
time in an upcoming marathon? Knowing your goals is the first step. The next is
knowing how intervals impact the energy systems in the body. There
are three major energy systems that we use:
  1. Phosphagen System
  2. Glycolysis
  3. Oxidative System
Knowing how long to let
the body recover so that the energy sources being used can “re-up” and be fully
taxed again means the difference between training that particular system and
having another energy source “step in.” (All three systems are at work at
any given point in time, but one is more dominant depending on the energy
sources available).
So what are some
good interval-to-rest ratios?
If you want to increase
power/strength–needed in short sprints and Olympic/heavy lifting–tax the
phosphagen system. The phosphagen system is mainly responsible for very
short-duration, high-intensity exercise. You’ll want a 1:12 or even a 1:20 work
interval to rest interval ratio. That means 10 seconds of hard, very high
intensity work to 120 seconds of rest. This kind of interval is best used
by elite athletes training for a very specific power improvement, and typically
done under supervision of a trainer.
For more moderate
intensities–good for improving performances in sports, like soccer, where
you need short bursts of speed and power (a sprint down the field) followed by
longer duration exercise (field positioning)–try working on the glycolytic
system. Those intervals, which can last from 15 seconds to three minutes, are
best targeted by intervals with a 1:3 or 1:5 ratio…a minute of
moderate-to-high intensity work and three to five minutes of lower intensity
recovery. If you have a solid aerobic base already, this is a good
interval system to try, but it’s suggested to have a fitness test done before
you start doing these.
If you’re looking to
improve your time for long races and endurance levels in general–good for beginners, and for
endurance athletes like marathoners–working with your oxidative system is your
best bet. Use 1:1 or 1:3 low-to-moderate intervals of work, followed by low
intensity recovery intervals. If you’re new to running, try jogging for a
minute and then walking for a minute.

Blog post by Ashley Crosby.

What motivates you?

Why do you work out?

Is it because the doctor told you to? Because you want to
lose that holiday ten? Because you want to shave a few minutes off a personal
record for that upcoming 5K? To win a “biggest loser” challenge
against your coworkers? 
Or is it because it’s fun and you enjoy it?
If it’s any of the first reasons, you’re what sports
psychologists call extrinsically motivated–in other words, you’re motivated to
step it up and sweat because of an external reason or reward. Someone has told
you to, you want to look great in that swimsuit for summer, you have some goal
that you’re aiming to meet.
If it’s because you just love working out and the feeling
you get from it, then you’re intrinsically motivated. People who go out
and run just to experience that “runner’s high” are in this group.
You work out because you love it! That’s probably why studies have shown that
people who are intrinsically motivated tend to stick to their workout programs
longer and achieve their goals more often; if you genuinely enjoy what you’re
doing, you’re more likely to do it and make fewer excuses.
This isn’t to say that if you’re extrinsically motivated,
you won’t attain your goals. Most people are a mixture of both extrinsic and
intrinsic.  In fact, while intrinsic motivation will get you out to the
gym, it’s often extrinsic factors that motivate you to push your boundaries
through the goals you set, whether it’s a new PR or better health goals.
There’s a way to get the most out of your workouts through
your own personal blend of motivations. First and foremost, make it fun! Try
out a new class or group training session, find a new friend who keeps you
motivated, try working out with your significant other for a different kind of
date idea. Stop thinking of going to the gym as a “have to” and start
thinking of it as a reward for yourself–after all, what could be a better
reward than taking care of your body?
Second, meet with a personal trainer and talk to them about
your goals. They have the experience and the knowledge to not only help you set
SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound), but to
design programs or progressions to help you meet them.
So get out there and make your goals work for you!

Blog post by Ashley Crosby.