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15 Oct

Too Old Not To Play

As kids, many of us lived for the moments we shared on the field, court, diamond, or pitch. Friendships forged, character reviled, and countless memories made, but as adulthood settles in and responsibilities build up, we often yearn for something we don’t even know were missing.  What life often restricts us from is the freedom experienced when engaged in sport. In those simpler times, the mind is free from the worries and demands of a career and family. You play the game to have fun, and you have fun because you are playing a game.

But why is it that so many adults abandon this former source of joy. A study performed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that while 75% percent of adults participated in sports during their youth, only 25% of them are still playing. This however didn’t stop these adults who are parents, from encouraging their children to play. In fact, 89% of those parents with a middle school or high school student saw sports as a beneficial factor in their mental and physical health.

So why is it that so many adults participated in sport, have children involved in sports, but yet themselves stay on the sidelines? This same study found that the leading reasons adults didn’t take part were health issues, lack of interest, or general inconvenience. While these can be argued as legitimate justifications, the positives provided through the involvement in sports are simply undeniable.

Physical Benefits

This may be the most obvious advantage to participating in sports as an adult. Many of us are aware that being active can have a positive impact on preventing heart disease, controlling weight, and improve muscle and bone health. These benefits can be achieved with regular exercise including running, walking, and gym routines. However, there are specific physical benefits that sports can provide that are often missed in those traditional workouts. Many team sports require a combination of running, jumping, diving, catching, and throwing that can assist in balance and spatial awareness. These types of movements are often left out of a gym exercise, but actually prepare you for the activities you face in real life.

Eric Sternlicht, a PhD and President of nutrition and exercise consulting firm Simply Fit, further explains that “When you are working at a fixed intensity, you tend to develop and strengthen only one system – like the heart’s ability to deliver oxygen but not the muscles’ ability to utilize it. During a game, you get spikes of activity, and end up recruiting and training different muscle fibers at varying intensities, which can help with endurance, stamina, power, and strength.” On top of that, it’s likely that you’ll find an increase in calories burned by moving at a competitive intensity. So not only are you training different parts of your body and working at a higher rate, but you are forgetting that it’s a workout all together, as your mind shifts to a competitive environment.

Mental Benefits

While we know being active is great for the body, it’s most impactful impression may be on the mind. Everything from motivation, stress relief, self-esteem improvement, and cognitive development can all be achieved with participation in sports. Studies have shown that people who dislike or feel awkward during their workouts will not continue with them. This is a situation that is common for many adults, who enter these spaces with the best intentions, only to quickly lose motivation. What sport does is take some of that pressure away, allowing you to focus on the joy experienced in competitive environment.

What can also be a huge boost to motivation is inclusion in a team atmosphere. Sports psychologist Karen D. Cogan, PhD, of the University of North Texas explains that “it’s a differently philosophy – you’re thinking more in terms of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.” Essential, creating accountability to the individual to continue participation, which in turn leadings to continued self-improvement.

Other cerebral improvements, that may be overlooked, are also found in those adults who continue to play sports. A New York Times article revealed that regular physical activity had been shown to increase new brain cells in the regions of the brain that are integral to memory and thinking. It’s also important for adults to continue to test their brain, and learning a new motor skill in particularly cognitively challenging. Previous neurological studies have shown that learning a new physical skill in adulthood can lead to increased volume of gray matter in parts of the brain related to movement control. Much like the use of brainteasers and crossword puzzle as a way to sharpen your brain, the addition of a new sport has the same effect with the added benefit of exercise.

Social Benefits

As if enhanced mental and physical capabilities weren’t enough justification for adults to return to the field of play, the social aspect of sport may be the most essential. While maintaining a regular gym routine or waking up for a run every morning can have many of the same benefits, there a certain experiences that can only be exhibited through sports. Join a recreational team as an adult can be an integral part to our health and happiness. Research has shown that while fitness results may differ depending on the individual, there are other socio-emotional health benefits to participating in group or team athletics. Having routine practice or games encourages us to simply get out and participate in a social environment. This can be significant for those who struggle or are susceptible to depression and anxiety.

One thing many adults struggle with is the creation and maintenance of friendly social relationships. As jobs, families, or other circumstances may relocate individuals to new and unfamiliar regions, many are left without the comforts of companionship. Once you’re out of the school environment, it is very difficult to make new connections with those of shared interests. But with sports, you’ll be exposed to different groups of people, and given the opportunity to develop new and meaningful relationships.

Sport also have the ability to return us to a simpler time. Chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise stated that, “team sports take us back to childhood, so we start to play again. When you’re engaging with other people while exercising, you tend to stop worrying about whether you’re doing ‘enough’ and instead just get involved in the activity because it’s fun.” And it is this pursuit of fun that can lead to a physically, mentally, and socially healthier life.

So take out your frustrations and stress by joining your local rugby club. Sign up for a rec soccer or basketball league to achieve a new level of fitness. Make new friends and restore some enjoyment to your life by going out there and getting back in the game.

By Dylan Hamilton – Adult Athlete and Writer for SportsUnlimited.com. Sports equipment and athletic apparel at SportsUnlimited.com

07 Oct

Injury prevention when lifting weights is critical to seeing progress without interruptions to your gains. The last thing any serious lifter wants is to be sidelined for 6 weeks with an injury. It is even more important to start injury prevention early in a lifting career so that you do not become discouraged when lifting is painful, or you just cannot progress. But how do you prevent injury while simultaneously pushing yourself towards your limits?

 

The first and perhaps most impactful step to take is to maintain a healthy lifestyle outside of the gym. Proper hydration, protein intake, and sufficient sleep are vital to recovery after a heavy workout. Workouts are designed to create microtears in the muscle tissues, which in turn heal back stronger. If you do not provide the proper fuel and rest time for these microtears to heal properly, you put yourself at risk for a major tear or strain. Outside of proper nutrition and sleep, which may be difficult for some individuals, how can you decrease your risk of injury?

 

Talk with your trainer. No seriously, talk with your trainer. Get some constructive criticism. You may believe that you know exactly what angles you need to be hitting, if you are getting low enough, if you are positioned properly, etc. They might see something that you miss. They can help you take videos and discuss form throughout the lift. They can give you their personal favorite exercise to aid in building strength that will support your major lifts. Almost every gym employs individuals for this exact reason. In this day and age you can read about and watch every professional teacher talk about proper form and lifting technique, but there is no replacement for serious one-on-one consulting and feedback. Seriously, utilize this resource!

 

Now the tedious stuff. Form, technique, endurance, warmups/cooldowns, dynamic stretching before lifts, static stretching between lifts, maintaining proper supportive muscle strength such as the core and rotator cuff, and maintaining a healthy posture. These things can be no fun. In fact, they can be downright annoying to work towards. This is especially true if you are a weekend warrior or can only sneak in a half hour a day between work and getting back to your kids. However, they are more important than the major lifts. When you are working all day, you need to maintain core strength and proper posture to minimize the fatiguing effects that the work day places on your posture and muscles. If you have poor posture at work, it translates into poor posture while lifting, which in turn leads to an increased risk of injury. A 2015 study examined the relationship between posture and incidence of rotator cuff injuries in over 500 patients. According to the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery, “Prevalence of rotator cuff tears was 2.9% with ideal alignment, 65.8% with kyphotic-lordotic posture, 54.3% with flat-back posture, and 48.9% with sway-back posture. Logistic regression analysis identified increased age, abnormal posture, and past pain as factors associated with rotator cuff tears.” Many lifters tend to work the “mirror-muscles” and end up with an anterior imbalance. Improve your posterior-chain muscles and improve your posture! Your body will thank you!

 

“I don’t have all day; how do I know what I should be focusing on?” That is the million-dollar question. What should people be focusing on if they have a limited amount of time? The simple answer is focus on something that you find enjoyable and will see benefit out of. If you enjoy upper body exercises, throw rotator cuff rehabilitative exercises into the mix to protect those shoulders. If you love deadlifts and squats, make sure your core can keep up with your legs and back. If you are a runner, stretch, foam-roll, and perform ankle mobilization and rehabilitation exercises to decrease your risk of plantar fasciitis. The long answer is a bit more difficult. Start with what your work out goals are, and discuss them and your current health with the appropriate health care provider. Looking to lose weight? Discuss an appropriate diet and workout regimen with a dietician, personal trainer, or your primary care physician. Looking to improve your posture? Talk with your local posture expert, whether that is a chiropractor, orthopedic, etc. Come up with a game plan surrounding your personal deficiencies (we all have them, mine is weak rhomboids and overactive pec major), and tackle it in a safe and effective manner. Once you have a game plan, start slow and start with the full intention of creating proper form that will last no matter how heavy you lift. Reevaluate your plan and your current health with your resources on occasion. Always remember that this path to fitness is for your personal benefit, and talking with others about where you are at and where you want to get to can only benefit you.

 

Joshua Marty D.C. is a chiropractor at Marty Chiropractic & Wellness in Lakeville, MN with an emphasis on sports performance and injury prevention.

02 Oct

How To Stay Fit While Traveling: 9 Steps

No matter how many pushups you grunt out or kale shakes you choke down, the bodies we occupy made of meat and bones and blood will fail us someday. And that’s ok. That’s part of what it means to be human. Travel, and exploring this weird world, is also part of what it means to be human. As we charge full-force into The Age Of Technology, more of us are saving up, ditching out and embarking on 3+ month world trips. If you fall into this category, but are unsure of how to stay fit while traveling, this piece is for you. Staying in shape 17,000 km from home, along with the other experiences you have while traveling, will change how you see fitness. This piece covers 9 tips to stay in shape while traveling that include travel workouts with no equipment, nutrition, making the world your gym, smart partying, and cutting yourself some slack. Vamos!

  • 1.Plan Ahead And Prepare

The best way to stay fit while traveling is to sit down and come up with a plan for how you’re going to manage your fitness on this 3+ month trip. Obviously you need to plan the actual country, flight & logistics parts first (at least 6 months in advance is a good jump-off point); Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forum is a good place to start for that. But in terms of fitness, give yourself a month or so to prepare before you leave. Tighten up. Go hard at the gym. Eat right. Treat your body right. Get enough sleep. Lay off the booze. Do your research; find active/adventure activates to do in the various places you’re going to go and pick which ones you’re going to do. A multi-day trek, a peak you want to bag, a week-long bike ride through the desert, etc. Preparation also includes getting yourself a good pair of trail shoes/running/walking shoes. Everyday drivers. You’ll appreciate them.
Mentally prepare yourself before leaving on your trip as well. Realize you may miss workouts, you may get slightly out of shape, you may get sick, and that’s all ok. You’re on vacation! You’re gunning after the experience of a lifetime, not a physique.

  • 2.Remember The World Is A Jungle Gym

Depending on where you travel, you’ll have to get creative in order to get a good workout in. See that 7 foot brick wall at your hostel? There’s your pull-up bar. Rocks and cinder blocks on the beach are your weights, sand is your resistance trainer and old stone structures are your plyo boxes. Palm trees are for climbing, chairs are for dipping, hills are for sprinting. In my experience something deep in my primal brain is triggered when I go to battle with whatever I can find lying around. The world is your resistance trainer. Be a world-beater.
The key is that you can’t get self-conscious about how crazy you look holding a rock over your head doing split-squats red in the face while breathing profusely. I spent some time in the Caribbean and after two weeks of high intensity workouts (more on HIIT below) in the sand behind the hostel a friend asked why I was practicing my dances out back. In this case, my friend and I had a good laugh. But most of the time, you’ll never see that person giving you the sideways glance ever again. Who cares if you look like you’re summoning demons while doing alternate plyo split-squats. Get creative and stay weird.

  • 3.Exercises Without Weights

Exercises without weights are key to stay fit while traveling. Use your time away from the resources of a weight room to make sure your form is dialed on the basics like pushups and squats. Listen to your body; nothing exposes weak spots and areas for improvement like exercises without weights. Push yourself. Get more pushups this week than last. Maintain a static hold longer than you could before you left on your trip. That is the definition of how you get stronger.
Below are a couple examples of body weight exercises that you can do almost anywhere;

    • -Body squats
    • -Lunges
    • -Pistol squats
    • -Pushups
    • -Pullups
    • -Dips
    • -Vertical pushups
    • -Planks
    • -Wall sits
    • -Static holds in down pushup position and deep squat position

 

 

Crossfit Travel Workout: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

I get it. The word “crossfit” conjures up images of people who cannot so much as take a breath without muttering, “you should do crossfit” before exhaling. But there are real benefits to a crossfit travel workout. Here’s how to do it;

  1. 1. Download a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) timer app onto your smartphone.
  2. 2. Everyone is different, but I like three 15-second sets back to back with a 15 second rest (45 consecutive seconds work, 15 seconds rest).
  3. 3. Choose 3 body weight workouts from the list above.
  4. 4. Each 15-second set is full clip, as many reps as you can get before switching to the next.
  5. 5. You’ll repeat this 7-10 times, and that can be considered a full set. Some days you’ll be able to get 3 full sets, some days only one. Either way. You get the blood pumping in just 10 minutes. WHAT.
  • 4.The Goal Of Travel is Experiences, Adventure and Meeting New People. You Don’t Travel to Maintain Your Physique.

This can be tough to wrap your head around after spending years dedicated to achieving peak physical condition. But like we’ve eluded to before. You’ll have stories about your 3-month adventure through Southeast Asia when you’re 90 years old as you sit down to dinner with your grandkids. You’ll learn more about the world and people and yourself in those 3 months than you have in the past 3 years. While you should do your best to stay fit while traveling, even Zoolander understands “There’s more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good-looking”.

  • 5.Leave Weight Gainer And Supplements At Home

You don’t need them. They take up space, they add weight and they will not make or break your plan to stay healthy while you travel. But if you insist, try to limit it to a couple essential supplements like Vitamin B, BCAAs, zinc, etc. Many parts of the world are not accustomed to protein powders and you may very well be less-than-kindly greeted upon your arrival in Singapore when they find your “Hypertrophic Myo-Whatever Weight Gainer 7000”. To them you’re a foreigner bringing in a kilogram of mysterious white powder. Buckle up, that’ll be a fun 48 hours.
Instead, use the money you’d spend on that weight gainer and those supplements to pay for something crazy. Go paragliding or get your diver’s certification. Plan an overland trip. Get a guide for a big peak in the country you’re headed to. Go bungee jumping. Or just use that extra cash as a buffer for your budget.

  • 6.Walk. Run. Surf. Bike. Hike. Climb. Everywhere

Staying fit while traveling means staying active or finding opportunities to get active. Instead of catching a taxi, ride a bike. If you’re new to a city, go for a run and explore it. If you’re by the beach, go surfing (learning how to surf is perhaps the most physically and mentally exhausting thing I’ve ever tried). Use MeetUp to find a group of locals that hike in the area. Maybe there’s a trail-running crew. These are some of the best ways to meet locals or travelers that you can link up with for a big portion of your trip. Get out there.

  • 7.Be Smart About Nutrition And Partying

It’s very easy to get sucked into the party scene when you travel. All the sudden 3 months go by and you realize you haven’t had a conversation with a local or tried any real local foods. You’ve been in a quasi-blackout state speaking your native language with your countrymen eating pizza. That’s being a tourist. Be a traveler. Get away from the party scene every once in a while. Exploring and transformative experiences are things alcohol doesn’t facilitate very well. Added bonus- you save a ton of money. With all that said, don’t be afraid to indulge. But just be smart about it. Keep the beers to light beers. Stay away from sugary soda mixers. Don’t always shoot for a blackout night.
If you want to stay fit while traveling you cannot let yourself fall into the sugar traps that exist in so much of the developing world. The land of cheap and plentiful sugary snacks is the land of addiction. Literal physical addiction to sugar and carbs. Watch out for that trap. Buy fruit instead of processed sugars. Eat vegetables when you can and try to limit the rice intake. Drink water when you’re craving carb-filled salty goodness.
Ah yes, water. Drink more water. Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Drink a bottle when you wake up and a bottle before you go to bed. Use your trip as an opportunity to really juice up the muscles and tendons and joints.

  • 8.Y.O.G.A.

Remember that overall health and wellbeing is about more than just physical fitness. There is a mind element as well. Use this time to get flexible and get strong. Yoga strength is different than explosive strength, and it will make you stronger. You’ll be in some of the most beautiful places on Earth while you’re traveling, so make sure to breathe deep and stretch deep.

  • 9.Take It Easy On Yourself

Look. You won’t adhere to your “Stay Fit While Traveling” itinerary as strictly as you think you will. This is the nature of traveling. You’re dealing with the unexpected and the unpredictable. Do the best you can, where you are with what you have.
Traveling will change the way you see the world around you and the way you view yourself. Don’t let the desire to stay in peak physical condition stop you. You can stay fit while traveling. You can have the experiences of a lifetime without sacrificing everything you’ve worked for. So get after it.

 

My bio: Jake Muniak is the founder of SEO For AI, a digital marketing agency focused on helping small businesses prepare for the explosion of technology that accompanies machine learning. He manages SEO For AI from abroad while doing his best to follow the guidelines above.