Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Make Exercise a Dance

Anecdotal, scientific, and observational evidence align at one incontrovertible conclusion, music affects exercise. More than 250 million iPods deliver the beat. If you’ve ever exercised to music you’ve felt its affect. Just sitting in a chair music, tends to make you move. Even mass market science has taken note. Every study done on the subject concurs, exercise is easier to music. Studies have also found:
*Music distracts you from some of the unpleasantness of exercise
*Runners go longer at a higher intensity with a lower perceived rate of exertion
*Athletes listening to music are less stressed, release less cortisol, the stress hormone
*Heart rate and breathing correlates with a tune’s tempo
*Music influences an athlete's mood as well as performance
*Exercise and music commingle to boost short term cognitive skills like verbal fluency
*Body rhythms such as breathing and heart rate tend to take on the rhythms of the music
*Exercise intensity correlates with music intensity, a fast song helps you move faster
*Music stimulates the neocortex and verbal centers of the brain
*Music is motivating

Music turns exercise into a dance.

photo by marksebastian

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Self-Massage: Doing It to Music

Music improves athletic performance and will power your massage. Millions of runners, cyclists, and gym rats move better with their ear buds plugged into a tune. Running with an iPod has been shown to improve athletic performance, while reducing perceived exertion, amping enjoyment and upping motivation. As usual scientists are baffled by the phenomenon. The dance between exercise and music touches on biology, psychology, and kinesiology. One theory is that music affects our ability to withstand pain. But a more compelling one is that it distracts our mind and let’s our body do its job. If we let our mind focus on the music and our body just act, we perform better. Or at least that’s the best explanation to date on why, in one study, basketball players who were prone to choking under pressure shot better after listening to upbeat music and lyrics. Most athletes acknowledge music helps them train and perform. While the neocortex helps us do many things, physical activity is not one of them. DIY massage, a powerful form of physical activity, is greatly enhanced by music. So the next time you sit down to massage your quads, neck, or feet do it to music. photo by mark sebastian

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Massage Yourself to Sleep

Have trouble falling asleep? Try massaging your body to sleep or, if you wake up during the night, back to sleep. Just choose a single muscle, maybe your delts or pecs on one side of your body and massage the muscle slowly and deliberately as hard or as soft as feels good. Focus an easy attention on how the massage feels until the muscle relaxes. This will serve as a meditation, the only thing to think about is how the massage feels. Pretty soon you’ll become aware that your whole body has relaxed and with any luck, the next thing you’ll know it’s morning.

photo by planetchopstick
Suggested musical accompaniment: Brahms Lullaby

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Barefoot Running Revisited

Chris McDougall, author of Born to Run, spoke at the Boulder Bookstore last night. It’s been a few years since he wrote the book that started the barefoot running craze. He’s refined his thinking a bit. Here are the highlights:

*If used properly shoes beat no shoes
*Running shoes should be protective not corrective
*Running barefoot is an effective way to correct injuries caused by poor running form
*There’s a right way and a wrong way to run
*To learn to run the right way, run barefoot and adopt that stride to a minimalist shoe
*Running evolved as a cooperative social activity, a group hunt
*Humans are slow, even the fastest one, Usain Bolt can’t outrun a squirrel

Monday, June 7, 2010

Seated Massage on Tennis Balls

If you want to relieve muscle pain in your butt while giving your upper hamstrings and seat a treat and try this youtube video. This massage may help relieve pain you're experiencing in your lower back or knees. It will also serve to revive you if you feel your energy stores waning or if you need to get your upper leg muscles charged before a run.

This no hands self-massage routine lets you experience sensations you never thought possible. Every active person can benefit from this improbable combination of seated massage and dance. Try it! But before you do locate a couple of tennis balls and your sitz bones.

Sitz bones, or sitting bones, are the bones in your pelvic girdle that help support your body when you sit. If you study anatomy you probably know them as the ischial tuberosity. They’re the lowest of the three big bones that are your pelvis. When you’re sitting up straight you’ll feel one on each side of your seat. To locate them try placing the tennis balls directly beneath them. You’ll know them when you’re sitting on them because they’re the only bony structures in your butt. Don’t massage them but use them as reference points when working the muscles around them.

For a balanced massage synchronize each tennis balls in relationship to its sitting bone so that each ball is just to the outside of its sitz bones, or just in front, or where ever you like just as long as their relative distance from their respective sitz bone is about the same. Ok try it!

Balls on Butt Massage: Do It while You View It

Monday, May 24, 2010

Self-Massage for Fitness Professionals

If you’re reading this you probably need a massage. Or maybe you have a client or student who does. Most people aren’t aware of their need for massage but you are. As a fitness professional, you’re attuned to your body’s needs. You work with the bodies of clients and students, you observe them, evaluate them, and train them. You understand, better than most people, the regenerative and therapeutic powers of massage. But if going to a massage therapist every time a muscle tightens up is not an option; you might try self-massage.

Self-Massage Therapy
Self-Massage can improve your health, mood, and athletic performance. It’s handy, easy to learn, and you can’t beat the price. As a fitness professional, self-massage may even improve job performance, and it’s something you can teach your students and clients to help them feel better, and train more effectively.

Everyone uses self-massage to some extent. You’ve probably used it yourself to relieve a stiff muscle, work a kink out of your shoulder, or rub your feet after a hard day. Most athletes use it unconsciously, and often ineffectively. To get the most from self-massage you should use it with intent and effect by adopting some of the same techniques professional massage therapists use. All massage is therapy if performed properly.

Athletic Benefits
In addition to relieving muscle pain and soreness, self-massage therapy provides athletes with a plethora of benefits. It speeds recovery between exercise, and reduces the likelihood of injury. It improves circulation and warms muscles making them more fluid. Most of the performance enhancing affects of massage are obvious. That’s why athletes have used massage for thousands of years, since before the first Olympic Games in ancient Greece.

Improved Health
Not all benefits of self-massage are self evident. Recently, researchers discovered a host of health related benefits associated with massage. Clinical tests show that when massage is received at least twice a week for thirty minutes it strengthens the immune system. It’s also been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Stress not only effects mood but is a major cause of illness and injury. Massage, therefore, does double duty to improve health by strengthening your resistance to illness and reducing a cause of disease and injury. Of course, if your health and mood improve, you will be able to train more effectively and your athletic performance will benefit.

Stimulating and Relaxing
Massage has the ability to both energize and relax depending upon the stroke you choose. In that sense, it is like music for your body. Just as you would use gentle music while teaching yoga to relax your students, you would use gentle massage strokes to relax your body. However, if you were teaching a spin or kick boxing class you’d play more intense music at a higher volume to energize your students. Likewise, if the goal of your massage were to invigorate, your strokes would be intense and energizing.

Self-Massage and Professional Massage
Self-massage is not a replacement for professional massage therapy. The two are not mutually exclusive. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Self-massage provides almost perfect feedback. While a professional massage therapist can only guess how each stroke feels to you, with self-massage you get immediate feedback. Self-massage is convenient, it teaches you about yourself, and it’s empowering. On the other hand, assisted massage can be much more relaxing than self-massage. Professional massage therapists can go deeper and can better treat injuries because of their training and experience.

For You and Your Students
Use self-massage regularly to ease sore muscles, improve your health, mood and athletic performance. After you’ve learned first hand, how effective self-massage can be, feel free to teach it to your students and clients when they have a sore muscle or a hard workout.

Learning It
Self-massage therapy is easy to learn because it’s practically instinctive. There are only a few technical strokes to master, which, actually, aren’t all that technical. They include gliding, squeezing, squeezing and rolling, pressing, pressing and rolling, and drumming. Once you’ve learned these strokes, it’s just a matter of combining them and varying their intensity to suit your immediate needs.

Let’s try a few strokes. Glide your hand over your legs a few times. Vary the speed, pressure, and location of each glide. Next, press a few fingers into different locations on your shoulder with varying intensity. Then try squeezing your triceps. Slightly vary the intensities and location of each squeeze. Close your eyes and feel into each stroke. If you can perform these basic strokes and they make sense to you, learning effective self-massage will be easy.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Self-Massage for Runners

Every runner has a different reason for needing a massage. Maybe yours is your feet or your calf muscles? Or maybe it’s your knees and hips that need attention? Perhaps your quads or hamstrings are too tight? One thing is certain though, if you run often, or you run hard, your legs and possibly your whole body needs frequent massage. But are you getting it regularly?

While sports massage therapy has grown rapidly during the last twenty years, it can’t meet the needs of millions of runners. Just as a professional chef isn’t available every time you get hungry, a professional massage therapist can’t be on-hand every time a muscle tightens-up. One solution may be self-massage. Don’t snicker; self-massage is an effective way to relieve muscle soreness, prevent injury, and just plain feel better. It’s also easy to learn and simple to do.

Most runners know sports massage can improve athletic performance. What they don’t know is how to apply the benefits of massage to themselves. That’s where my new book Self-Massage for Athletes comes in handy. It teaches the same basic massage strokes professionals use. While not everyone can attend the Boulder College of Massage Therapy, everyone can learn a few simple massage techniques to help themselves feel better fast.

Let’s Try It
There are only three strokes you need to know for now: gliding, squeezing, and drumming. Once you’ve learned them, and some simple variations, you can apply them anywhere between your head and toes, and voila, free massage. So roll up your sleeves, get your running shorts on, and keep reading. You won’t need massage oil, massage tools, or malpractice insurance; just a sense of touch and a willingness to use it.

Stroke #1: The Glide
We’re just going to massage the legs, or to be more accurate: You are going to massage your legs. Begin with, the stroke that most sports massage therapists begin with, the glide stroke. Professionals call it effleurage. But by any name, it’s a glide, slide, or skimming motion. Get seated, get comfortable and try it. Just glide your hand over your thigh for starters. Use this stroke to warm up your body before the more intense massage strokes to come.

As a general rule, when applying deep pressure, your hand should move in the direction of your heart to help blood flow back to your heart. Try ten gliding strokes up and down your right thigh. Use light pressure away from your heart and deeper pressure toward your heart.

OK, now that you’ve got the idea try gliding your hand over your entire leg, from your ankle to your seat. You can use both hands if you like. Try ten strokes varying intensity and velocity. By reaching for your toes, you should get a gentle stretch as well. When you’ve sufficiently warmed your first leg move onto your second leg, again covering its entire surface. This should feel good, if it doesn’t, fake it for now, it will get better with practice. Let’s move onto:

Stroke #2: The Squeeze
This is a compression stroke called squeezing because it compresses the muscles you’re squeezing. It should be pleasing; let’s see if it is. The purpose of the stroke is to warm your skin and muscles, and improve your circulation. Improved circulation brings fresh nutrients and oxygen to your cells and forcefully ejects the toxins that have accumulated during your run. This is powerful therapy for runners because it feeds and cleans the very muscle cells that took it in the shorts during your run.

Try squeezing your calf muscles. Start at the bottom of your calf and work your way up in the direction of your heart. While keeping your calf muscles relaxed, vary the intensity of your squeeze. Try varying the volume, i.e., the surface area that you squeeze. Perform a minimum of ten squeeze strokes. Then massage the calf muscles that live in your other leg.

Now try squeezing your entire leg, begin at your Achilles heel and move on up as far as you can go. Use two hands if you want. Go slowly; it’s not a race. Stop at your butt. Massage your other leg using this squeezing stroke. Just press and compress the muscles as you gradually squeeze up your leg until there is no more leg to squeeze. Then you can either do it all again or move onto:

Stroke #3: The Drum
This stroke is called drumming for reasons that will be clear in the next sentence. It’s a stimulating stroke in which you use your hands to actually drum your body. Think of your body as percussion instrument with a low pain threshold, so don’t drum too hard or loud. If the neighbors complain, it’s too loud. A soft easy tapping will do. You can use your fists, flat open hands, the sides of your hands, or really any part of your hand that feels good. Begin at your feet, and move toward the largest muscles in your body, the ones you’re sitting on. Try drumming your other leg. Get a good rhythm going, and when you’ve had enough, stop.

Just Getting Started
Congratulations on completing the beginning of a powerful new practice that will improve your running. Massage will get easier and more effective with repetition. So practice it regularly, directly after running. You’ll find that your muscles are less sore and you’ll recover more quickly between runs. With time, you’ll also notice that your health has improved; that’s because frequent massage strengthens the immune system. It also reduces stress, anxiety, and depression which will improve your mood. And if nothing else, your improved mood will make your running partners happier as they desperately try to keep up with you.

Most of all have fun with it. If it feels good, do it. Self-massage is not an exact science. It’s user friendly and doesn’t require the precision of stretching. Eighty percent of self-massage is just showing-up and practicing it regularly. If after every run, you massage your legs for ten minutes, your running will improve, your health will improve, and your mood will improve.