I write this monthly blog in honor of my brother Ryan. "So long as they speak your name, you shall never die".
The year was 1995. Bone Thugs N Harmony just released a new single titled Crossroads. I was 9, maybe 10, but somehow had a love and appreciation for rap music growing up. I have my brother Ryan to thank for that. Between the two of us, I feel like we owned just about every rap CD released between the years 1995-2005. But that summer, the song Crossroads was placed over and over and over.
One of these days you are all going to reach a crossroads. For young kids, it can happen very fast. You get to that point in life where you spend more time with your peers than you do with your family. You start making decisions on your own. There is no more consulting mom, dad, or any other guardian. You start letting your peer group influence your decisions. And if you start hanging with the wrong crowd, the results could be disastrous. Within days, weeks, months or years, your journeys can take a decisive and possibly irrevocable turn. When you reach that crossroads, you have to understand that the wrong decision could sometimes be a slippery slope. As a young kid, I decided it would be "cool" to drink some beers. Eventually this turns into drinking some beers and driving. And eventually, as a 22 or 23 year old, after drinking and driving for about 6 or 7 years, I got caught. This point was the lowest of lows in my life. I struggled getting over this moment for years. I had 3 friends in the car with me that night and spent a lot of time thinking that I could have done bodily harm to these guys if I smashed up my car. Someone could have been seriously injured. Someone, or some people, could have died. If that occurred, I could be spending a large portion of my adult life in prison. Fortunately for me, everyone is healthy and everyone survived. But that is not the case for everyone. I was lucky. The police in Hellertown intervened before that could happen and I am grateful for that. You won't find me with an alcoholic beverage in my hand again!
With mothers day not too long ago, it is important for every young kid out there to know that they are “some moms boy” and therefore “the most precious thing” in that woman’s life. That alone makes every one of you special. I want you to remember that every time you make a decision, keep that person in mind. That person is the one who has your back no matter what the circumstance. Life is about learning and poor decisions are always going to be a part of it. Poor decisions will also lead to failure, so I hate to break it to you, failure is here to stay. But failure does not make you a loser in life. Trying not to do better, trying not to be better, that will make you a failure.
Summer is right around the corner. Be safe, be careful, and make great decisions!
For all you physically active individuals, I am sure you've experienced this at one point in time. You are out there on a hot day, putting in a good workout, and then all of a sudden the calf tightens up, maybe the hamstring, or how about the foot. After some light stretching and some fluids, you breathe a sigh of relief. The cramp disappears and you tell yourself that you are never going to let that happen again. And then, what do you know, you fast forward a few days, weeks, or months and it happens once again!
Prevailing wisdom suggests that dehydration and electrolyte imbalances are the main cause of the exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC). Just ask Gatorade. They have made a career off of this concept. BUT, after further review (I sound like an NFL official coming out of the replay booth), it looks like this may not be the case. EAMCs are a painful condition that will hinder performance. The effected muscle will experience painful, spasmodic, involuntary contractions during or immediately post-exercise. In some populations, EAMC has been shown to be as high as 37%. That is a staggering number, and you would think, after all of these years, that there would be more definitive information on the topic of prevention. Unfortunately, this area is lacking!
Almost all theories identify muscular fatigue as a direct cause of EAMC. Muscle fatigue is currently understood to be a major factor involving EAMC. But first, we need an understanding of muscle spindles and the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO). As a muscle is stretched, the spindle reflexively contracts a muscle. The GTO reacts as an "emergency stop" button. At a certain intensity, the GTO will shut down an activity to prevent injury. As a muscle fatigues, there is an increase in muscle spindle activity and decreased Golgi Tendon Organ activity. That increase in muscle spindle activity could be that twitching you feel in your muscle as it tightens up!
One of the most likely causes of fatigue during competition is improper training. This includes working at, or close to race pace during periods of your training and tapering accordingly. If you enter a race or competition with pre-existing muscular fatigue, you are making a terrible mistake. Tapering is crucial. You want to be fully recovered for the race. With recovery comes nutrition. You want to be fueled up for the race. There has been a connection between dehydration, electrolyte depletion, and cramping for over 100 years. Studies have been conducted and they prove one thing: electrolyte and carbohydrate supplementation have been shown to extend time until onset of EAMC. If you can push that onset of cramping back far enough, it may not occur during your race. So with that being said, you have nothing to lose if you fuel up accordingly, and possibly something to lose if you don't. Hydrate and be mindful of your electrolyte levels.
The human body is a complex machine. It is extremely rare to have a simple cause-and-effect relationships for things like EAMC. For example, if muscle cramps were caused strictly by fluid and electrolyte depletion, then stretching should have no effect on alleviating muscle cramps. Simply consuming some Gatorade should do the job. But yet, passive stretching does! So what do you do:
Need help with the dynamic warm-up? Leave a message in the comment box including your e-mail address and I will send SEVEN exercises to do prior to the race. This will take under 5 minutes to complete and will get your body ready for anything!
There was a certain time during my life that I was a huge boxing fan. I made an effort to watch all the big fights and didn't care what time of night I went to bed. The sport of boxing has seen better days and my days as a fight fan have been slowly diminishing. Last weekend I got an invite to watch the Floyd Mayweather v. Manny Pacquiao fight and decided to give this fight a shot. I knew the food choices would be sub-par and that my sleep cycle would be compromised so a thought occurred to me...Why not use this night to experiment with intermittent fasting?
Now, I had no intention of becoming this guy, but I did want to learn a little bit more about fasting and its effects on the body. I love eating, and often times overeating, so spending over 16 hours not eating was something I wasn't too excited about. Considering this was my first attempt, I set a goal of 16 hours for the fast. I ate dinner at 8 pm, then went to watch the fight. got home after 1 a.m., and decided to sleep in as late as possible. More time in bed = less time fighting temptation. I woke up and got moving around at 8:30, drank tons of water and black coffee and began doing yard work (apparently black coffee helps satiate appetite). Once the clock 12:30, it was time for a miniature feast. I realized that the cravings would be minimal and will continue to experiment with different fasting strategies. Next step: consumer all calories over a 6-10 hour window. In essence, you will have a mini-fast each and every day.
So why even fast in the first place? I've come across many articles written from individuals much brighter then myself who believe it could used a positive tool for healthy living. Dr. Mercola outlined three areas that I felt I personally needed help with:
What about the six meal a day strategy?
Ahhh yes, the grazing strategy. Outside of babies, I do not think human beings should be eating like this (for the record, I have been eating this way for a very long time and it will be incredibly tough to break this habit). Babies eat this way because they are constantly synthesizing new tissue and growing at an incredible rate. They are also hungry all the time. The average adult is not. We tend to constantly be in feast mode and, as a result, we consume too many calories throughout the day and our body composition does not improve. Another issue with this strategy is that our bodies burn those foods that are constantly consumed as energy. The result? Fat is not used as a fuel source. When you choose to famine, your body will eventually use fat as your main fuel source and you will see a decrease in sugar cravings which I know a lot of us suffer from!
This fasting stuff may not be for everyone. But I will say this, nutrition is integral to your success. If you eat potato chips or cheesy poofs everyday, you are not a victim of your diet. You are the perpetrator! Oreos just don’t jump down your mouth without your help. We need to take responsibility for our actions, especially when it comes to eating. There is no tractor beam pulling you to the fast food restaurant drive thru. Most of the time, it is our own eating habits and choices that determine how much we weigh, how we feel, and how we perform. The fitness legend Jack Lalanne once said, “Exercise is king, Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you have a happy kingdom.” Lets live our lives in a happy kingdom...and not by eating happy meals!
Chris is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association. He has recently served as a high school football and wrestling coach. Chris loves swinging kettlebells around, watching football and reading books!