Category Archives: Wellness

On The Radio! The Earth Diet

Wednesday evenings on the way home from work I often tune in to The Earth Diet radio show on Hay House radio.  I don’t have the book yet, but basically, Liana (the author and host) encourages a clean, vegan diet to revitalize, recharge, and restore health.  The goal is to thrive in the body you’ve been given.  She offers several healthy, whole, alternatives to kick cravings in the butt.  Her personal struggle and dietary transformation fuel the questions and discussion.

Finally, I did it.  I hit the “call in now” button…I actually did it, and I actually got through!  I couldn’t believe it!  People who know me can attest to my stage fright, so my heart was racing and clogging my throat.  The feeling of being in the presence of a pop star filled my stomach.  I had a simple question:  How can I eat clean, and in enough quantity to fuel my long marathon training runs and my heavy Crossfit workouts?

I love the feeling after a nice, dietary cleanse.  Eating healthy is so revitalizing…but then I’ve got to get back to the gym.  Exercise is my passion.  It’s my anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, my hobby, and my energetic release.  It’s created physical strength in my workday and motherly activities and cultivated discipline and respect.  I love it–BUT–a vegan diet doesn’t seem to cut it in the fuel department.  I know vegan athletes exist so I must be missing something!  After a few days of clean eating I feel as if I am running with cement shoes, my stomach is growling in the middle of a run, and I can’t lift a heavy barbell to save my life.

Liana Werner-Gray, author of The Earth Diet book, came to the rescue and gave me some wonderful tips.

  1.  Chia seed cereal (recipe below)–double the serving size it and take it to go.  I’ve been eating chia seed cereal, which has helped energetically in the beginning of the workout but it digests quickly, leaving me hungry by mile 7…simple fix…double the recipe AND take some to go for longer workouts.
  2. Nutiva protein powder–this is plant based as opposed to grain based, which may settle and fill the stomach and ease digestion.
  3. Fresh vegetable juice–vegetable juice power packs your system with nutrients so the cells aren’t bogged down, sluggishly looking for a fuel source.
  4. Hemp seeds–recent studies show hemp seeds may have more protein than meat!  How exciting!  Eat spoonfuls post workout or put them on just about anything for a nice, nutty flavor.  Three tablespoons has 10g of protein!
  5. Quinoa–this is a nice, clean, digestible fuel source, maybe the night or afternoon before a long run.  (My Paleo brain made me forget about this great source of plant-based protein)
  6. Brown rice pasta–also an easy to digest, clean fuel source the night before or afternoon after endurance training.  (Again, paleo brain made me forget this as a source during marathon training)
  7. Tiger nuts–I’m in love already.  They are so filling and delicious but take quite a bit of chewing to get down.  She suggested soaking them in water or placing them on top of the chia seed cereal to aide in availability during or after a long workout.
  8. Eat clean meat only–organic, grass-fed, free range is the key.  If the animals are stressed and eating crap, you will be stressed and eating crap.
  9. Vitacost!  Vitacost.com is a great website with discounted prices on clean food items.  Many of the prices I have found are cheaper and cleaner than Amazon, Sprouts, Central Market, and Trader Joe’s.  Liana told me to use coupon code earthdiet to get 10% off!

Chia Seed Cereal:  I put two tablespoons of Chia seeds into a bowl and put in about 1/2 cup to 1 cup almond milk.  I soak them overnight and add cinnamon and honey in the morning, mix up, and eat.  The thickness can be adjusted by changing the seed/milk ratio to your liking.  I make home made, chocolate almond milk to jazz mine up.

Almond Milk:  1 cup almonds soaked overnight in water.  Pour almonds into high speed blender with 4 cups water.  Add 1-2 dates (or none), a bunch of raw honey, sea salt, cocao powder (or none), vanilla extract, and nutmeg.  Mix on highest setting for 2 minutes.  Pour through nut bag or cheese cloth and enjoy!

 

Advertisements

The Switch Up

After 25, let’s face it, things start going downhill a little. Not technically downhill, just status quo. What I mean is that up to the age of 25 or 26, our bodies are rapidly developing, changing, growing (our brain), repairing, and regenerating—We. Are. Invincible!   Our first excuse is our 30th birthday…”as soon as I turned 30, my back started hurting,” and every decade after our excuse becomes more unarguable.

Once we begin to perceive pain, there’s a switch up. Some people are highly motivated to find the culprit, fix, and eliminate it, while others hold fast to the belief that it’ll just go away or that it’s a fundamental part of aging—a slow decline with increased pain (deal with it).   At this point, we have simply discovered that we are in fact destructible; however…and here’s the kicker…we can prevent decline and move into a state of maintenance. It’s not about living to die, it’s about thriving while alive.

Maintenance requires constant touch ups. This may mean moving around some physiological furniture and dusting. Say you develop elbow pain. Are you leaning on the elbow at work all day, do you constantly prop this arm up, have you been subjecting this arm to repetitive stress (hammering, drawing, throwing, etc.)? It’s time for a switch up! Switch arms for the task, become more ambidextrous, switch your work posture. Pain = time to change.

For a runner, it may mean new shoes. Yes, 10 years ago you were fit for the perfect shoe for your foot type—well, that was 10 years ago! Ligaments stretch, muscles change…take another look at it. Maybe you need a different type of insert, a wedge, compression socks, or a totally different type of shoe. It may also mean that more strength training needs to be done. It is well documented that strength translates to endurance; however, endurance does not translate to strength.

For a musician it may mean adjusting the heights of microphones, stands, props, pedals, changing playing and practicing posture to sitting, standing, more support, improved ergonomics, etc.

Become an investigator, google some stuff, phone a friend. Pain is normal, but you may be able to ease or eliminate it to maintain your current lifestyle and leisure activities.

Food, Supplements, and Exposure also play a huge role in life maintenance. I could eat McDonald’s and Dairy Queen as a tween and young adult too, but now I am not invincible, my guts have become sluggish…I can’t do it anymore! Eat clean and drink water—yes, water…PLEASE stop the soda and juice (unless YOU juiced it or it contains nothing but fruit juice)—bad food (stuff not from the produce or meat isle), soda and sugary juices are a request for a chronic illness. MOST days of the week be good, have some fun on the weekends. Supplement with things like probiotics, magnesium, or something else pharmaceutical grade, use high quality essential oils, and parooze the fermented food section or google what the heck fermented food is. Cut dairy and gluten MOST of the time, and eat organic as much as possible.

A little investigation and house cleaning can eliminate or decrease pain and keep you keeping on.

Knee Pain: Look Above and Below

“My knees never bother me”—said no one ever. Everyone has experienced either a complex knee injury or a simple tweak that is now haunting. “Oh great, my knee doesn’t hurt anymore”…<perform max squat clean>…”Never mind.” Here’s another scenario—”I’ve never had knee pain”…<gain 10 pounds>…”Why do my knees hurt all the time?!” The knees and low back are the middle ground, Switzerland, neutral territory. With neutrality comes comprise. Our knees and back compromise when the feet, hips, and upper body battle.

Look above and look below. What does this mean? It’s important to look at the joint or structure above the knee pain and below it to fully treat the problem manifesting in the knee.

In the foot, we’re looking for over-pronation (flat feet, knock knees) or under-pronation (rigid feet, bow legged). A simple correction to a neutral foot position may remedy knee pain. This may mean changing shoe type, getting new shoes, or getting a running/walking shoe evaluation (done at many running stores on a treadmill for free).

In the hip, we are looking for a neutral pelvis, leg length, muscular weakness (typically the gluteals in adults), and muscular tightness (quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, piriformis), which may be affecting knee position and function. Correcting leg length in athletes may greatly reduce knee and back pain.

Here’re a couple of tips to deal with knee pain:

1)  Stretch—seriously, at least 1-2 times a week spend some quality time stretching. Stretches specific to the knee include: hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteus, piriformis, gastrocnemius, and soleus.

2)  Joint mobilization—Try a gentle knee mobilization with a towel roll hold 30 sec to 2 minutes and repeat as feels comfortable.

3)  Strengthen—Target the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, and hamstrings.

4)  Good shoes—don’t wait until the tread wears off or until your pinky toe is sticking out to get new shoes. Generally, for those exercising daily, this means zapatos nuevos every 6 months.

5)  Correcting leg length—this may be as simple as adding an insert or heel lift in the shoe of the short leg. For significant discrepancies (greater than 1cm) the use of a shoe cobbler may be beneficial to build the shoe up from the outside.  Many times shoes can be altered (even cute sandals) with no apparent, aesthetic, difference.

heel lift

6)  Knee sleeves—I know I know…I hate to rely on supportive devices but my left knee has converted me. For those of us squatting (especially below parallel), lunging, and lifting regularly, a knee sleeve can alleviate pain during these tasks. DO NOT wear the sleeve 24/7 unless recommended to do so by a PT or physician.

knee sleeves

7)  Allow time to heal—for a solid 10 WHOLE days after the initial injury, avoid movements that exacerbate the pain. In this time, you are stretching, strengthening, and mobilizing pain limited or pain-free. You may implement knee sleeves if returning to the activity continues to cause some pain.

8)  Maintain a healthy weight—fast every now and then. From my observation, the leading cause of knee pain is carrying around too much weight. The quantity of food I can consume in one sitting has changed drastically since fasting (I’m a small lady but I can eat!). Over one year, I worked my way up to tolerating a liquid only fast for 24 hours about once a week. If I have a crazy hard workout planned on a fasting day, I definitely throw some protein powder in the mix. I also allow myself to fail if it’s getting too hard and I need dinner—I just pick it back up again next week. This practice and regular exercise keep me in check.

**all of these recommendations are in the absence of a severe injury that requires medical attention such as a fracture, or ligamentous tear. You’ll know its severe if the pain intensity stays the same and function continues to be inhibited or impossible.

Rotator Cuff: Core stability for the shoulder

Most people associate any type of shoulder pain as a problem with the rotator cuff. It’s important to understand that the rotator cuff is not one muscle but a combination of muscles that surround the shoulder and scapula. These muscles act with the ligaments and labrum to stabilize the shoulder and allow it to function in all ranges. Its job is pretty intense because the shoulder must be very dynamic. If the shoulder is injured, often the elbow, wrist, and hand cannot do their jobs. Various other muscles help to stabilize the shoulder as well, so don’t get hung up on strengthening only the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers are much smaller than the overlaying musculature (deltoid, biceps, triceps, pecs) and are often under strengthened and prone to over-use type injuries. Poor posture and poor body mechanics anger small, stabilizing muscles because they are forced to work like the big guys.  A good yoga and meditation practice will assist you in relaxing over worked muscles.  Gentle strengthening, stabilization, and balance will advance your shoulder strength and reduce over use pain.

Guys…everyday cannot by bicep day. Girls…everyday cannot be leg day. Take at LEAST one day a week to incorporate these small, but difficult exercises into your strengthening program to improve lifting strength, and to decrease nagging shoulder, and even neck and mid back pain.

I don’t care how strong you are, scapular strengthening is hard, so use light weights and/or bands. Also movements are small because the muscles are small, so don’t substitute large movements utilizing large muscles.

Two bands are utilized in these pictures.  We have them mounted to a peg board in the garage.  I would recommend a very light band, a light/medium band, and a medium/firm band for these exercises.  If the bands are too firm, an injury or larger muscle substitution occurs, which defeats the purpose.  There are a variety of ways to set the bands up.  Perform 8-12 repetitions of each exercise:

External rotation: Facing toward the bands, lift the arms to 90 degrees and gently rotate, pulling backward.

ER

Internal rotation:  Face away from the bands, elbows up at 90 degrees.  Gently pull forward rotating the arms down.

IR

Single arm external and internal rotation:  Keep the elbow by the side.  Gently pull in with the hand closest to the band (internal rotation) or pull out with the hand farthest from the band (external rotation).  This is a very small movement!

IRER

Scapular protraction or Serratus Anterior punch: Gently push your shoulder blade out.  This is a very small movement as well.

serratus

I, T, Y, W: Starting point (1st picture).  I (2nd picture) pull the bands by your sides squeezing the shoulder blades and sticking the chest out. T (3rd picture) arms are raised to 90 degrees, gently pull the band back squeezing the shoulder blades together.   Y (4th picture) arms are up at 90 degrees, gently pull the band up forming a Y squeezing shoulder blades down and in.W (5th picture) pull the band back forming a W with the arms pull the shoulder blades down and in.

I,T,W,Y

Additional Information:

The rotator cuff consists of four muscles: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis.

Other important shoulder/scapular stabilizers include: Teres major, subscapularis, latissimus dorsi, infraspinatus, teres minor, posterior deltoid, serratus anterior, levator scapulae, rhomboid major and minor, middle and lower trapezius.

Neck and Shoulder Pain

Nagging neck, mid back, and shoulder pain often impedes, disrupts, or prevents peaceful sleep, and makes sitting, standing, and working in an upright position pure torture.  No matter the cause of the pain, I have created a simple list of easy, in the moment fixes as well as advanced techniques to take it a step further.

As is my soap box–the majority of our pain is a result of some habitual posture.  Balance and symmetry are key here to shift spinal pressures.  When pressures are shifted, the spine gets to “breathe.”  It is extremely important to get up and move out of habitual postures every 15-30 minutes.  You can try the following stretches while taking your posture break:  Standing pec stretch for the anterior neck, an upper trap stretch for the side of the neck, and a back extension stretch for the thoracic spine, and a wall pec/side/anterior neck stretch.  Hold each stretch for approximately 30 seconds to 2 minutes.

trapstanding pec stretchstanding back extensionwall pec

My seconds soap box–Sit with good posture.  Poor posture places more harmful stress through your spine than lifting heavy objects.  Hers how to sit with good posture:

  1.  Scoot your butt all the way back in the seat
  2. You may place a towel roll in your lumbar spine (optional)
  3. Place your shoulder blades on the seat back.  This is the most important step for neck pain sufferers!
  4. Adjust your workstation to accommodate this.  This is the only that position allows your neck muscle to relax.

Here are some additional exercises:

Upper trap stretch with 1st rib mobilization:  The first rib and clavicle often become elevated with neck tension.  Use a belt to mobilize the rib and clavicle down.  This will give an even deeper trap stretch.  belt trap

Self lateral neck traction:  If the pain is present predominantly on one side of the neck or mid back try this: Lie on the non-painful side with 1-2 pillows at your shoulder (not your head). Now hang your head and relax. This acts to open up the painful side of the neck and mid back. Also, this is an easy position to rest in.  This is a form of lateral decompression.  Hold 2-5 minutes.self lateral traction

Eagle pose arms only: Hold for a few breaths or 30 seconds. Now move the arms up for 30 seconds, and down for 30 seconds.  This stretches the posterior neck and shoulder.eagle pose arms only

Decompress with a shoulder stand and/or plow pose: Both act to provide traction through the neck and spine.  Hold 30 sec to 2 minutes

shoulder standplow pose

Floor Pec stretch:  This opens up the shoulders and lengthens the anterior neck.  Hold 1-3 minutesfloor pec

Threading Pose:  This stretches the back of the shoulders and neck.  Hold 1-3 minutesthreading

Towel Roll (rolled hand towel, you may also duck tape it for durability):  Rest with a towel roll running down the center of your back (vertically) or running along the shoulder blades at the most painful area of the mid back (horizontally). This mobilizes painful vertebrae and compresses painful trigger points.towel

Breathe: Take several deep breaths throughout the day. Send the breath to the painful area. Inhale 3-5 seconds, hold 3-5 seconds, and exhale 3-5 seconds, focusing on relaxation on the exhale.  Repeat 3-5 cycles.breathe

Strengthen the rotator cuff.  You can google specific exercises.  I like I, T, Y, rows, and external rotation.  (I will update my shoulder blog soon with specifics on this!)

Relax the jaw: Throughout the day and when trying to drift to sleep, remind yourself to relax the muscles around the jaw and let it drop slightly.relax jaw

Shiatsu massage pillow and Lacrosse Ball:  You can buy shiatsu massage pillows on amazon.com, I recommend one that has a timer to prevent skin breakdown if you fall asleep.  Using a lacrosse ball against a wall or lying down, find the nauseating trigger points around your scapula (shoulder blade), upper traps, and posterior neck.  Push the ball into the trigger points and hold 30sec -2 minutes OR until you feel a relaxation.  lacrosse

Reduce the Pillowage:  People with neck pain typically need to sleep with a flat pillow, tempurpedic pillow, or no pillow at all.  If you sleep with multiple pillows start slowly reducing that number.

Chakras:  Investigate the balance or malady present in the heart, throat, third eye, and crown chakra.  Clear energetic blockages or buildup that may  be present from early childhood or from the recent past or present.