Recently I was listening to a podcast and the guest talked about the fact that he had a bag prepared with the essentials that he would need for at least a few days. It included items like medicines, simple first aid and toiletries that he knew was ready for him to grab and go if needed. He didn’t talk about it like a disaster preparedness “go bag”, rather a system that prepared him to pack in a hurry. And I would bet that many people who travel often have a similar system that enables them to be more efficient, as well as have a level of assurance that they already have thought through what they might need. And this, naturally, had me thinking about the body.
A strong base of fitness provides the foundation for so many options that are not limited to those typically thought of as fitness. A trip to Europe with lots of walking and stair-climbing, a backpacking trip along the Appalachian trail or, as Tami has pointed out in her writing, a night of dancing in high-heeled shoes are all examples of activities that could be prepared for with a program that is focused on a strong foundation of fitness. One of the main challenges with this type of program is that it can seem less focused than a goal of bench pressing your own bodyweight or walking 20 miles a day for three days in a row. And while these types of goals are important in providing specific focused intensity and interest, and can be part of an overall fitness lifestyle, they also can derail the health of an individual by placing a higher value on the performance than on the body.
In her Masterclass, Misty Copeland talked specifically about this and attributed the worst injury that she had over her ballet career to her not paying attention to how she was using the right muscles of her body to dance. Clearly, if a ballerina can create the right appearance of movement without the body-focus that is important for longevity, then it is something we all can do. And, if a world-renowned dancer can learn to use the right muscles decades into her career, then I imagine we all have the ability to learn to retrain how we use our bodies.
If we use the definition of fitness as it relates to an ability, then training to maintain your strong foundation of fitness provides you the baseline to take advantage of so many more opportunities.
As always, let me know how I can help.
Functional Feet Part 2; Toes and Ankles in motion…(wah, wah)
Here again, for as impressive and complicated as the layers and mechanics of the foot truly are to allow for the endurance and adaptation demands, with such an ability to absorb a wide and impressive range of heavy-hitting support, the care of feet is kinda straight forward. In this article we review current insights or exercises for your feet, some designed to support the pliable/nimble foot abilities and others to engage the strength proficiency in motion. I focused on the offerings of physical therapists and athletic trainers to create this program of exercises to support your TOP-QUALITY CARDIO FEET! They're just a better way to live-
What I enjoy about the combination of those worlds works like this: the physical therapists often provide work that helps me to understand ways to isolate muscle contractions and use more specific/specialized body movements, whereas the athletic trainers provide bigger exercises with a nod to strength and full-body movement (Side Comment: I have always loved the way the practice of yoga triumphs foot awareness and capacity, AND how the practice of yoga brings feet into the body purposely--I think yoga can be great for creating top-quality feet --End Side Comment). Too much isolation/specialization often can fail in the need to build strong feet in motion, and too much demand through the feet in motion can result in a host of overload issues. At EQUIVITA this "line" is one we navigate often-- how to intertwine the modalities and present understandings, best, with the clients we work with.
THE TOES AND THE ANKLES IN MOTION
The sequence below kicks off with stretching and activating the toes and then tapping the feet to the floor. It will then progress to seated isolated ankle movements and then to weight bearing or loaded ankle movements.
Finally, running and walking focus the body movement mostly in the sagittal plane (the
forward-backward plane of motion). I think it’s fair to say the body supports your life best when it is conditioned to respond to movement demands of side-to-side movement and rotational movements as well. If we continue to load stress to one plane of movement, as we do in the duration practices of running/walking/cycling for 30 + minutes, then we risk the dull existence of samey-samey movement dysfunctions (irritated knees, irritated hip, stressed plantar arch), when we could insert multiplanar movement drills and train our joints, connective tissues and muscles into Tissue Super Heros!!! Besides, life doesn't work your body in one plane...lame. (psst, we aim at Top-Quality) Cool, let’s just add a little multiplaner routine to your movement-intelligence.
Some call it the step-around-the-clock drill, some call it the lunge matrix warm-up...I call it
F U N!
- Spread the toes wide, hold for a 3 count and pull them back together. Repeat for 7 reps.
- Tap flat bare feet on the floor for 30 seconds, like flippers, then start to press the big toe into the floor and lift the four toes, and alternate lifting your big toes off the floor and pressing the four toes into the floor. Do this for 10 sets.
- Loop a resistance band around the toe box area of the foot and flex and extend your foot for 30 seconds. Do that for two sets, alternating feet each time.
- Loop your band around both feet. Next will want to rotate your foot at the ankle joint, back and forth. Or evert and invert the foot for 30 seconds.
- Find a balance support, like a wall or the back of a chair, and begin with 30 calf raises using both legs (image not included). Next, stand on one foot and do try to do 20 calf raises through one foot at a time. Try this for several sets alternating right side and left side. To increase the challenge of step 5, use a stable prop, or a stair or the edge of an olympic weight plate and drop the heels below level. This can be performed using both feet together or using a single foot. Sets using both feet together should range from 20 to 30 reps each, for 2-3 sets total. Sets using one foot may range more like 15 reps each, for 2 sets, maybe 3. You want to feel some burn or fatigue set in, whatever it takes. :)
- To increase the strength and responsiveness of the feet, you will notice Carla is hopping from foot to foot in the first image. In the second, Carla hops at a wider distance AND she executes an increased heel lift at the end of her hop. Perhaps start drills like this for 20 second intervals, resting for 5 count between, for 3 sets. Eventually see if you can hop around for 1 to 2 minutes. Take your time, allow your body to condition to this.
The Clock. A multidirectional, and multiplanar way to have fun with your feet. You start at the center of your "clock" and step or lunge (depending on the day and your flexibility, joint tolerance that day) each foot through the hours of an analog clock. In this drill you get to load through your hips, knees, ankles and feet in all the directions--rotations/twists, side-to-side, and front to back. Over time you can increase your stability and control in these lateral and rotational movements, which should enhance your overall agility in cardio activity. And it's top-quality
F U N!
The exercises profiled in this article were chosen because I feel they have value and can be safely engaged by a broad body of humans with feet. Qualifier, foot care is most "straightforward" when you still sit in a place of prevention with the feet you have. If your feet experienced scar tissue, fracture or strain they most surely require steps for strength and mobility, but with slightly more specific considerations. When it comes to starting any new movement begin using a small range, at a slow speed, and as you teach your brain where your movements mobilize you can increase your range of motion, or reach, you can increase your speed or duration. Variables a plenty! If you have questions about any part of this content on toes and ankles in motion, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In good health!
A dose of cardio exercise is determined within parameters of the amount of work that your body is performing. For cardio exercise, this workload is typically determined by the type of exercise, the resistance and the speed. For example, when on an exercise bike you set a resistance level and pedal at a certain revolutions per minute you can determine the amount of work that your body is performing. If you also record your heart rate in response to this work, then you can predict your body’s oxygen consumption as well as your maximal oxygen consumption ability (expressed as VO2max).
Did you catch that or just flow along with the leap from work and heart rate to predicting maximal oxygen usage?
Whether you use the Karvonen formula (220-age) or Tanaka (208 - 0.7 * age) to predict your maximum heart rate, the fact that these formulas are used so often for programming makes it easy to assume that there must be something more substantial that they are based upon. And, yet they both provide numbers and people tend to love numbers. Numbers seem objective and real and can provide easy comparisons. But if you focus too much on those numbers then you might be misled into believing that the numbers are the reason that you are moving your body in the first place.
For instance, imagine that you are on a step machine with dependent steps (the kind where one foot pad rises when the other lowers) and your goal is to burn as many Calories as you can within 20 minutes. If you support your upper body on the hand rails and lean side to side you can probably get the machine to register that you are burning many Calories, but if you stopped supporting yourself and kept good form your heart rate would increase while the machine would register that you aren’t going as fast. So, which is actually burning more Calories? Good form, of course because the machine makes the assumptions about your form in its calculations but you were able to use actual feedback from your body. In this case your usage of heart rate is valid because you have controlled other variables. However, if you raise your arms up and your heart rate increases even more it is no longer a good predictor because using the arms can increase heart rate without the correlating change to oxygen consumption.
And it continues to get even more confusing with heart rate programming which is the reason for development of the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale, but the problem with such a subjective assessment is that it is fairly easy to convince ourselves that we are working substantially harder than we really are. But to determine whether that matters we must first figure out why you are exercising in the first place.
Each of the 4 parameters of Cardio (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type) have varying levels dependent on the reason for exercise and the design of your exercise program must start with the reason. Without a true focus it is too easy to work really hard to achieve something that you didn’t really want.
As always, let me know how I can help.
90% of people breathe incorrectly which can cause and aggravate many chronic diseases such as those related to the circulatory system, nervous system, immune system, musculoskeletal system, etc. This isn’t entirely our fault, some of it is the result of dysevolution—not all things passed down throughout generations are beneficial! This is partly why the bone structure of skulls from hundreds, even thousands, of years ago look much different than ours today. When we work to extend each breath from the average 3.3 seconds per inhale/exhale cycle to 50-70 percent, getting to around 6 seconds per inhale/exhale cycle (giving us 6 breaths per minute), we can drastically increase our carbon dioxide levels (which help our body process oxygen better) and reduce the stress on the body, allowing it to work more efficiently. This includes while doing cardio.
So why is this important, and how does taking in less result in more?
We have 100 times more carbon dioxide in our bodies than we do oxygen, and most of us don’t get enough of it. Big, heavy breaths deplete our bodies of carbon dioxide and can be harmful to us. I won’t go into the specific scientific explanation of the relationship between oxygen and carbon dioxide, but I will say that carbon dioxide attracts oxygen, and helps dilate blood vessels which helps the blood carry more oxygen. When we take rapid, big breaths we are actually doing a sort of purge of the carbon dioxide in our body, starving ourselves of carbon dioxide which can make you feel like you’re not getting enough air even though you’re taking a ton of breaths each minute.
The “magic” of this is in the nose! The nasal system is the body’s “first line of defense”, and contains turbinates that look like mini seashells that help filter and clean the air that is inhaled—these same invaders if inhaled through the mouth can cause infection and irritation when they reach the lungs. These turbinates heat, slow and pressurize the air, making it easier for the lungs to absorb more oxygen. Mouth breathing decreases pressure causing soft tissues in the back of the mouth to become loose and flex inward, creating less space and making breathing more difficult. Nose breathing forces air against the soft tissues making the airways wider and breathing easier. Meaning your body can do a lot more with a lot less when inhaled through the nose. The sinuses also release a large amount of nitric oxide that helps increase circulation, effectively delivering more oxygen to cells. When we inhale through the nose in full breaths, and slowly exhale, we are keeping that ratio of carbon dioxide and oxygen in our bodies at a healthy level. Plus it can help boost lung size by up to 15 percent.
A study done by James Nestor (you can visit his website here) where he mouth breathed for 10 days, then nose breathed for 10 days showed some astounding results. Below is a representation of the results. Note that the nose breathing ones are the changes in just 2 days.
Athletes all around the world, including those in the Olympics, have practiced slow nose breathing techniques for tens of years, helping some even win gold multiple times. For the average person however, slow nose breathing can be a beneficial way of increasing performance and “gains” during workouts, not to mention al the other amazing results beyond exercise, just by giving your body the right ratio of carbon dioxide and oxygen by breathing correctly. Focusing on how you breathe when doing cardio exercises can be tricky. Personally, I’ve been working on it for about 6 months now and some days I’ve got it, and others it’s a major challenge. But as the months pass, I’ve noticed tremendous effects: increase in stamina during exercise, increase in distance during running, increase in recovery, decrease in the times I get “winded”, decrease in soreness, and an increase in control and clarity, just to name a few.
The best way to practice is just as you would with anything else—in intervals. Rather than jumping right in and trying to take 6 breaths a minute during the entirety of your cardio workout, do it in stages. Begin practicing this breathing technique while at a comfortable walk with the treadmill between 2-3 speed approximately (speed number may change depending on the treadmill). This will give you a feel for this new rhythm of breath. Then practice a comfortable run for 30 seconds to 1 minute using this breathing technique before returning to walking, then running again. The nose and respiratory system are just like any other system in the body, it takes exercising them and building them up to reach their full capacity and capability.
All the best,