Book Review: The Boys In The Boat

The Boys In The Boat is an account of the US rowing team’s victory at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin; nothing to do with running, but certainly an inspirational story for any athlete, regardless of sports background.

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One of those “hard-to-put-down” reads, this book effortlessly captures the reader, provoking an instant sense of connection with both the characters and the setting. Much like Laura Hillenbrand did in her books, Seabiscuit and UnbrokenDaniel James Brown also delivers a triumphant story of hope against all odds, only this time the odds are overcome by a team of boys, who once introduced, you can’t help but root for.

Interspersed throughout the story are background snippets of a dark and grim reality going on behind the scenes, in Berlin, Germany. Brown provides just enough details to paint a clear picture of the level of grand deception orchestrated by Hitler, and his close associate Joseph Goebells (Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945). While the boys (from Washington State) were busy working hard to earn the coveted privilege of representing the United States at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Hitler and Goebbels were also hard at work – attempting to conceal all traces of evidence that might later expose their persecution of the Jews.

At the core of the story, is Joe Rantz, one of the members of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team. His strong resolve and humble demeanor make him a true hero. But as the story evolves, it becomes clear that his teammates are equally heroic, each possessing similarly unique attributes and an extraordinary will to overcome extreme odds.

The story cleverly climaxes, with Brown recounting the dramatic events leading up to the final race and then describing in vivid detail the race itself. It really is a remarkable story, backed by extensive research that makes it well worth the read; I encourage you to check it out and read it for yourself!

A few key points however (without giving the story away), include what I feel are valuable lessons for those of us who strive daily to succeed in both physical training and life pursuits:

1. The boys trained through the harshest of weather conditions, understanding that extreme discomfort was at times necessary if there was to be any hope at all of making it to the Olympics. A missed day of training meant an extra day of training for a competing team.

“They rowed six days a week, rain or shine. It rained, and they rowed. They rowed through cutting wind, bitter sleet, and occasional snow, well into the dark of night every evening.”

2. Some of the boys came from particularly challenging backgrounds, yet they approached life – in general – with optimism and hope. That attitude carried over to the training obstacles they faced, and equipped them with the mental tenacity required to endure many months of grueling workouts.

Joe Rantz, for example, had an uncanny knack for finding four-leaf clovers (it’s much easier to find the more common three-leaf clover). He told his girlfriend, 

“The only time you don’t find a four-leaf clover, is when you stop looking for one.” 

3. George Pocock, designer and builder of racing shells, played a pivotal role in leading the team to victory. He taught the boys many things, but paramount to their success was his insistence that once they entered their racing shell, they were to leave everything else behind. These boys were taught how to be fully in the moment during races; able to keep their minds one hundred percent focused on the task at hand.

“…..from the time an oarsman steps into a racing shell until the moment that the boat crosses the finish line, he must keep his mind focused on what is happening inside the boat. His whole world must shrink down to the small space within the gunwales.” 

4. The boys followed strict rules imposed upon them by their coach, Al Ulbrickson. They were tempted at times to break those rules, and on a few occasions they did, but for the most part they respected the necessary disciplines required of them.

“You will eat no fried meats, “ he began abruptly. “You will eat no pastries, but you will eat plenty of vegetables. You will eat good, substantial, wholesome food…..You will go to bed at 10 o’clock and arise punctually at seven o’clock. You will not smoke or drink or chew. And you will follow this regimen all year round, for as long as you row for me. A man cannot abuse his body for six months and then expect to row the other six months. He must be a total abstainer all year.” 

5. Finally, in the days leading up to the biggest race of their careers, the boys were understandably nervous and on some level, all dealing with fear and self-doubt. They each had their own coping strategies however, and intentionally implemented these in an effort to align their mental strength with that of their physical strength. 

The take-away lessons:

  • Train consistently, and train when you don’t feel like training; getting outside your comfort zone regularly is necessary for growth.
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts, and train yourself to respond to adversity in ways that help you to favorably interpret situations.
  • When the starter gun goes, it’s time to narrow your focus! Get your eyes, thoughts, and expectations off your competitors, and focus instead on executing your “ideal” performance (one that you know is supported by weeks and months of carefully planned and progressive training).
  • Optimal performance requires optimal nutrition, sleep, and lifestyle habits – not just some of the time, but all of the time.
  • Tapering is a necessary part of pre-race preparation – and while the body is purposely rested – the mind on the other hand should be vigorously exercised and fed with generous doses of positive self-talk and affirmations.

You Might Be More Susceptible To OverTraining Than You Think

Most runners are familiar with the term overtraining, but few probably realize that they may be more susceptible to it than they think.

Because overtraining refers to a decline in performance due to excessive stress on certain parts of the musculoskeletal system, we tend to associate it more with competitive runners who endure higher volumes and intensities of training. But Dr. Inigo San Millan, PhD., says that blood biomarkers showing up in recreational runners are increasingly revealing signs of overtraining.

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Dr. Millan believes that the reason these biomarkers are being seen more and more in recreational runners, is because – unlike professional runners – recreational runners don’t have an entourage of training and recovery specialists facilitating everything they do on a day-to-day basis.

The following points highlight how and why a recreational runner might find him/herself in an overtrained state:

  • Runners, in general, tend to be A-Type personalities; they are by nature hard workers and goal-achievers. While it’s clear that recreational runners don’t train at the same level and intensities as professional runners, many – especially A-types – still train with as much purpose and determination; the problem is that they are often just as zealous in other areas of their lives, and therefore, unintentionally negligent when it comes to ensuring optimal recovery conditions.
  • A “zealous” and busy recreational runner for example, might have a lifestyle outside of training that keeps her (or him) from getting adequate sleep. When she wakes up consistently feeling tired, she might be inclined to tell herself that fatigue is a normal part of training and should simply be tolerated; she’ll therefore continue to stick to her training plan and make no modifications. A professional runner on the other hand (or her coach, at least), is more likely to recognize early signs of overtraining and accordingly reduce the training workload and/or intensity.
  • Diet might also play a role in the occurrence of overtraining symptoms. The average recreational runner might know a lot about training, but a little about nutrition. A professional runner makes it her job to know how to properly fuel both during and outside of training. Interestingly, a too-low carbohydrate intake appears to be a common factor among recreational runners who suffer from overtraining.
  • Recreational runners are more likely than professional runners to try and “make up” for missed runs by overcompensating with extra intensity and/or miles. Additionally, recreational runners often run too fast, believing that the harder they run, the faster they’ll run. Professional runners understand however, that slow, easy runs are an important part of training as they help to heal minor damage from previous runs by pushing oxygen-rich blood through the legs.

With all of the above in mind, take care when training for your next event, especially if you’re someone who holds yourself to high standards in everything you do.

Here’s a few quick tips:

  1. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
  2. Consult with a nutritionist if you’re not sure that your diet is supporting your training efforts.
  3. Remember to slow down and take it easy on recovery days, and make sure that you actually rest on days that you should be resting.
  4. Minimize your stress levels, to the best of your ability.
  5. Schedule regular massage visits once you begin to approach a peak in your training workload, and use your foam roller if you have one.

Happy and safe running!

Not Sure Which Running Shoes To Choose?

Getting a gait analysis done can be quite insightful, and certainly beneficial if you have no idea of what kind of shoes will give you the most comfort while running.

Running – as we all know – is a high-impact sport. With every foot strike forcing an impact of up to 3 x a person’s body weight, there is a greater risk of damage to joints, tendons, and ligaments. If, in addition to the impact, one or both feet pronate (rotate) inward or outward, the extra pressure can lead to progressive misalignment of the body and eventually to more serious problems. Poorly fitted shoes may aggravate the problem/s even further.

It’s been years since I last had a gait analysis done myself, so I was a bit surprised when the Physical Therapist I’ve been seeing suggested I go and do one. She thought that in addition to the actual therapy side of things, that I’d benefit from running in shoes that might help to stabilize my feet and ankles.

Now before I go any further, let me state that this post isn’t an attempt to convince you that the type of shoe you run in will improve your odds of staying injury-free. There are plenty of arguments that you can search online yourself that will help you form your own opinion about that. What I will say however, is that regardless of the science either for or against, if you believe that the shoes recommended for you are the most supportive, and if they feel the most comfortable, then they are probably the best shoes for you.

Since it’s been months now that I have been able to run consistently without pain, I heeded the advice of my PT and went and saw Niel Boshoff at ShoeScience in Mt Eden. I sent a couple of people to him last year and was super impressed by his knowledge and expertise!

The first thing Niel did was put my feet in the type of running socks I would typically wear, and with socks on my feet he then measured each foot. I already knew from previous PT and chiro visits, that I have one foot and leg slightly longer than the other, which by the way is not uncommon.

Once my feet had been measured, Niel had me jog up and down an in-store running mat that was electronically connected to a recording device. When the video was replayed, we were able to view it in slow motion and get a close look at how each foot struck the ground. It was clear to see that there was some inward pronation going on with my right foot.

Based on the video analysis, Niel then chose a few pairs of shoes for me to try on (keep in mind that other factors, such as foot and arch type, length and width of the shoe, frequency and distances of weekly runs, and type of running surface), are also considered. I tried each of the different shoe brands selected, and settled on a pair of Saucony “stability” shoes, a huge change for me given that I have always opted for lighter-weight performance shoes.

Before I left the store, Niel had me run in the new shoes on a treadmill. While running at a comfortable pace, Niel observed my gait from various angles and once again took a video recording. It’s not obvious when you watch the video below, but when carefully viewed in slower motion, we could see that my right knee collapsed inwards with every right foot strike.

With all of the information gathered from both video recordings and questions asked, we agreed that of the three types of shoes that Niel had shown me, the Sauconys were most likely the best choice. They were the heaviest of the three (though not as heavy as some other stability shoes), but surprisingly the most comfortable.

It’s now been a few weeks since I visited Niel at ShoeScience, and I am still seeing my Physio Therapist, but one change that has come about since I started running in my new Sauconys is that I now run with a renewed sense of confidence. My shoes make me feel as if I’m gliding effortlessly, and that feeling alone has helped to rewire my thought patterns towards ones that are focused more on healing rather than fear of further injury.

[Go and see Niel at Shoe Science in Mt Eden if you would like an in-depth gait analysis, coupled with amazing customer service! Niel will even let you take the shoes home and return them if, after a few runs, you decide they don’t provide the comfort you expected].

 

 

 

Wimping Out Doesn’t Get The Training Done

The title of this post is actually a quote sent to me by a friend; it is what he has used in the past as one of his training mantras in preparation for a big event. Let me explain how it ended up in my inbox………

Late last year, our dog (named Lucky), was attacked by a neighbour’s dog. To this day, whenever we walk past the neighbour’s house, Lucky becomes a cowering mess and starts tugging at his leash. At first I was sympathetic, but after a while I found his scaredy-cat antics kind of annoying and now, in an effort to help him overcome his fear, I make him stop outside our neighbour’s house and I order him to sit down. Usually, within the confines of a safe environment, Lucky has no problem responding to the directive, “Sit Lucky!” But outside our neighbour’s house he feels threatened and is reluctant to obey. I figure that in time he’ll surely regain his confidence.

That brings me to the point of this post; I witnessed a terrible cycling accident a few weeks ago and have been anxious about riding ever since. I even let a friend down recently by cancelling riding plans at the very last minute, because as I set out to meet him it started to rain and I was afraid that the roads would be too slick. My dog may not be the best reference point for comparison, but admittedly, my fear of riding is no more justified than his fear of walking past our neighbour’s driveway.

 

So thank goodness for athlete friends like the one mentioned above, as he is also the same friend who knew exactly how to coerce me into getting back on the bike last weekend. And it wasn’t with kind words; it was more like, “You’re being a wimp!” He was just jesting of course, but he also inferred that there’s no point in being a hero if common sense isn’t used; in other words, it’s not wrong to ignore legitimate danger cues, but otherwise, be smart and cycle defensively to allow for a faster reaction time.

I’m obviously stoked to have gone out riding last weekend – and a fair distance at that – but I still need to find courage to ride by myself. I think however, that if I am forcing Lucky to confront his fear head-on, I should probably be doing the same 😉

In that vein, I guess the best way to get back on my bike, is to get back on my bike!

A Mother’s Tough Love

It’s Mother’s Day today and while most mothers are probably enjoying time with family – or without – one special lady I know is experiencing a completely different kind of Mother’s Day.  I’m featuring her in this post because she deserves, in my eyes, an “Exceptional-Mother-Of-The-Year” award.

A year ago to the day, this friend of mine received on Mother’s Day, news of her second eldest daughter falling 30 feet from an Arizona ridge top. Her daughter survived the fall but was paralyzed from the waist down. Over the past twelve months, I’ve had the privilege of being able to follow social media and video documentation of some of the victories and setbacks experienced by my friend and her daughter.

I’m not going to go into too much detail as their journey – despite being shared amongst friends and family – is private. But there is one aspect of this friend’s parenting that really “wowed” me; she dished out a hefty dose of tough love! Instead of falling at her daughter’s feet and catering to her every need, she nagged her in the same vain that a mother would nag a lazy teenager. In essence, she tossed her daughter’s prognosis out the window and ordered her to start walking!

One year later, my friend’s daughter is still not walking, but she continues to endure difficult rehabilitative sessions, and her progress, though slow, is impressive. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of her accident, and to celebrate (yes, I did say celebrate), they are opening their home up to host a party that they’ve called ——–’s d-day, unbirthday, or yahoo she didn’t die anniversary.

The following is the cover picture posted on the event page:

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Does that not speak volumes about the kind of mother my friend is!

That’s it; no message to pass on! I simply wanted to acknowledge the incredible strength, courage, and love of a friend whose Mother’s Day will never again be the same, and yet if you were to ask her how she feels about that, she’d only be able to tell you how amazing it is.

 

Choosing Quality Over Quantity For Greater Health And Happiness

Is it just me, or is anyone else tired of hearing that it takes 10,000 hours to get good at anything? Ever since Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea of the 10,000 hour rule in his book Outliers, it seems to have become a cliche of sorts, and thank goodness too, because who has time to spend 20 hours a week for a consecutive 10 years trying to master a skill (unless your skill also happens to be your profession).

Why am I even bringing this up, because truthfully, the point I’m about to make has little to do with the 10,000-hour rule. It’s just that every time I hear or read of it, it conjures up – for me at least – thoughts of extremism and peoples’ tendencies to take an all-or-nothing approach when it comes to improving their appearance, health, and/or fitness.

I have been hearing a lot of the same stories for example; declarations of some ambitious goal with extremely confining boundaries, backed up by the notion that momentary pain and suffering will be worth the end result. But is it really worth it, if old habits inevitably return soon after the goal has been achieved?

I think Cassey Ho (one of my BFFs by the way; she just doesn’t know it) gets it right when she repeatedly insists that life is all about quality, not quantity! And that life should be enjoyed at every stage, through each journey and not just at the end of each journey. I slightly altered the context of her message (she refers to exercise specifically), but you can see how the same could be applied to life in general.

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I think, that we all should challenge ourselves to stop challenging ourselves! In other words, no more “x-number of days” of extreme dieting, or extreme exercise, or basically, extreme anything. Why can’t we simply practice good old fashioned restraint and discipline; do everything in earnest and with a genuine good effort, and leave a little room for playing, enjoying, indulging, relaxing……..

Wouldn’t our lives be healthier and happier with frequent, but small doses of the things we take pleasure in, versus sustained periods of time with no pleasure at all?

The Best Way To Diet Is To NOT Diet!

Jannine Myers

Losing weight is challenging enough, but attempting to maintain a desirable weight is even more so. Many women with weight loss and maintenance goals are failing because they’re either rebound dieters, or under-eaters.

Rebound dieters are those who repeatedly resort to short-term deprivation-type diets that yield quick, but unsustainable results. Women who fall prey to rebound dieting are typically willing to endure temporary discomfort, but not necessarily committed to making permanent lifestyle changes. Consequently, their efforts reap only temporary success, since normal eating patterns usually resume soon after the desirable goal has been achieved.

Under-eaters, on the other hand, habitually consume too few calories. There seems to be a common misconception among under-eaters that a healthy and ideal daily caloric intake should be less than 1200 calories. While a caloric deficit is necessary to achieve fat loss, a too-extreme deficit (especially over a long period of time) causes the body to make drastic modifications in order to maintain homeostatic balance; such modifications generally produce negative health effects and conversely, an increase in weight..

To make matters worse, knowing how and what to eat – in a way that keeps the body fit and healthy (and the mind happy) – has become way too confusing. With various health and nutrition groups all advocating different beliefs, food decisions have become complicated and stressful.

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The only thing we can all be certain of is that we will never get it 100% right. That doesn’t mean however that we can’t reduce or eliminate stress surrounding difficult food choices. The following is a list of habits that are a routine way of life for me, and what I also believe to be a fairly simple and non-restrictive approach to eating mindfully, healthfully and happily:

1. I never skip meals; the only exceptions are if circumstances prevent me from doing so or if I am legitimately not hungry.

On the topic of meal-skipping, I’ve noticed that many of my former clients tended to skip breakfast and lunch meals if they had some special event to attend later in the day. They preferred to “save their appetites” for the event, so as not to exceed their daily caloric allowance. But almost always, they complained of overindulging anyway. Going to an event half-starved is never a good idea; It’s better to eat as usual throughout the day and enjoy later on, the freedom of feeling in control and eating/drinking in moderation whatever is on offer.

2. Like everyone else, I have some major slip ups from time to time. But I’m able to get myself back on track because I don’t diet. Whenever I go a little overboard, I just get right back to my usual habit of eating regular and well-balanced meals. Since most, if not all of my meals, contain all of the macronutrients (a lean protein, a dense carbohydrate, some vegetables and/or fruit, and a small serve of a healthy fat). my blood sugar levels and appetite stabilize pretty quickly. And any fat loss that occurs is more likely to be long-lasting, since my body won’t try to fight for it’s return (as it would if it were deprived of energy and nutrients).

3. There is nothing I cannot eat or drink. I don’t have any food or beverage restrictions, but I tend to stick to an 80/20 (sometimes 90/10) approach, where at least 80% of my diet comes from nutrient-dense foods and beverages, and what I consider my “treats,” make up the remaining 20%. I recommend developing a mindset that focuses on adding foods versus eliminating them; as you begin to add a greater variety of healthy foods to your diet you’ll hopefully begin to also lose the desire for less nutritional foods.

4. I eat mostly foods that I prepare myself, and I include fresh produce daily. That means that I am in the kitchen a lot, but I’m a big believer that people find time for the things they value the most.

5. I make it a habit to eat different foods every week. It’s very easy to fall into the habit of eating the same meals day in and day out (which by the way, can be initially helpful to anyone attempting to lose weight by calorie counting), but repeatedly eating the same foods limits the nutritional value of your diet and often leads to bouts of binge-eating.

6. Speaking of binge-eating, don’t beat yourself up when it happens! Don’t try to compensate by following the binge with excessive exercise and extreme dieting; it never works and usually results in a vicious cycle. Also, don’t delay getting back on track by telling yourself you may as well wait until next week. An analogy I often share is this: if you slipped and fell in an icy parking lot, would you lie there and wait a few days to get back on your feet? Of course not; you’d get up immediately and keep moving forward.

7. My food choices are heavily influenced by my mindset, versus emotion. In other words, I choose to eat foods that nourish my body and not weigh or slow me down. I am happiest when I have a lot of energy to move and be active, and anything that interferes with that is fixed in my mind as something I need to persevere against. Carrying an extra 20kg for example will obviously slow me down, so a question I might ask myself if I felt my clothes getting tighter is this: “Would I intentionally put on – and walk around all day with – a jacket that weighed 20kg?”

8. I eat meat, grains, dairy, seafood, and soy (pretty much everything we’re told NOT to eat) – but in differing quantities, and according to my taste preferences and stomach sensitivities. I also eat a wide range of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds, legumes, and healthy fats. The only foods I try not to eat are those that come with an ingredient list a mile long!

In summary, I don’t DIET! The way I eat has become a fixed part of my lifestyle that never changes; the foods I eat change all the time, but how I eat does not. The satisfaction that comes from knowing how to manage my weight is liberating, but even greater is the joy that comes from not being physically or emotionally bound by confusing and restrictive “food rules.”

Skin Cancer Is Not Racist; It Favours All Skin Colours!

Jannine Myers

Runners talk often about injuries, and how to prevent, treat, or manage them, but rarely do I see or hear of conversations that make reference to the dangers of sun exposure. It’s odd really, given that runners spend significantly more time outdoors than the average person. In fact, if I hadn’t just had a very real encounter with a melanoma threat, I may never have brought this topic up at all.

A few months ago I wound up in my doctor’s office with a skin lesion that had broken open and started bleeding. I left that appointment with a referral to see a skin specialist, and it was at that secondary appointment that I was told that I had either basal cell cancer or melanoma; either way the mole in question needed to be removed immediately.

As a not-so-fair-skinned woman who has never really had any problems with sunburn, I never worried too much about skin cancer. That’s not to say that I didn’t apply sunblock when I went outdoors; in fact I was quite diligent about doing so. I even took sunblock in my car to early morning group runs and offered it to others, knowing that most would not think to apply it so early in the morning. Needless to say, I was not prepared to hear that a spot on my skin was cancerous.

I can’t really express the depth of what I felt when I was told I might have melanoma, and here’s the thing: when you’re waiting for potentially life-changing news, it’s much harder to reckon with than one might imagine. It’s very easy to say positive affirmations and practice mind-control techniques, but the real challenge is in lining up what is said and done with what is actually believed.

In addition to having to wait for my biopsy results, I developed a nasty virus after the surgery which resulted in several days of sick leave. As much as I resisted, I constantly entertained the type of thoughts that I was trying so hard to dispel. When I finally received the news that I had basal cell cancer and not melanoma, only then was I able to relax and breathe a sigh of relief.

My point is this: runners are more susceptible to skin cancer, and while skin colour may determine your level of risk it but won’t rule you out as a candidate. Runners know this of course, yet they’re more inclined to focus on essentials such as gels, electrolytes, recovery fuels, and running accessories; sunblock is often an after-thought.

If you can relate, and the threat of skin cancer has been something you’re guilty of being blasé about, then I urge you to start treating it seriously. Start by getting yourself a full-body skin check, and make it a priority to routinely apply sunblock as you’re changing into your running clothes. Take preventative measures now so that hopefully you’ll avoid being the recipient of news you don’t want to hear.

[FYI, skin cancer is most prevalent in New Zealand and Australia, and cases of melanoma in the United States have doubled in the past 30 years! Some skin cancers can spread very quickly, so don’t delay in seeing your doctor if you notice any changes in your skin; early detection and taking preventative measures can save your life. See the chart below for images of what different skin cancers look like]

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Is Your Core Strong Enough to Maximize Mobility As You Get Older?

Jannine Myers

It’s no secret that we lose muscle as we age. While muscle loss is easily noticeable, it’s degenerative effects are often less so; it’s not until limitations in flexibility and movement begin to cause pain and discomfort that they are recognized. And where back pain is concerned, weak core muscles are often at the root of the problem. The weaker the core, the less able it is to support the body as intended, hence the onset of pain.

The truth be known, I had never before considered, or felt it necessary to have my core strength evaluated. But with the Exerscience Clinic directly opposite my place of work, and proclaimed as the “first medically-focused exercise rehabilitation clinic of its kind in New Zealand,” it was inevitable that I’d eventually learn more about them and what they offer. Included in their list of services, is a test that uses the MedX Lumbar Extension Machine to assess lower back strength, and it was with an overconfident attitude that I went ahead and took the test.

Unexpectedly, my assessment results revealed that my actual versus self-perceived strength differed significantly. I learned that in comparison to other healthy women in my age group, my lower back strength was considerably less than average (it’s a wide gap in age, mind you; 36 to 59). But even when the data was skewed to further break down the comparison of other women similar to myself in size, I still fell slightly below average on the measurement chart –  by 3% – across all angles tested. The Exerscience Clinic recommended a 12-week programme involving twice weekly dynamic sessions on their MedX machine, with mid and post-programme strength testing.

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I decided to follow through with the programme, as each session takes only 5 minutes and no more than one set of 10 to 15 repetitions on the Lumbar Extension Machine. I think I should also emphasize that if you’re someone who includes core work in your regular exercise routine, you might falsely assume, as I did, that you’re already doing enough to maintain overall strength.

One more thing to consider, the term “core strength” elicits for most people thoughts of strong – and quite visible – abs! But the core is much more than that; it’s the transverse abdominals (the muscles that lie deep beneath the waist and form a protective and stabilizing belt around the spine); the obliques (that help to rotate the trunk, as well as perform other vital functions), the rectus dominus (the long muscle in the front abdominal region, or the ever-elusive six-pack, that enables flexion of the torso and spine), and the erector spinae (the muscles that run the length of your neck down to lower spine). All of these muscles work in conjunction to contribute towards ease of movement, injury prevention, and protection of the inner organs and central nervous system.

With all of the above in mind, take a look at the progress I made over a period of 12 weeks and a total of 20 sessions:

  • Initial Test Results – maximal amount of force produced over a series of angles from 0 to 72 degrees: 75 ft-lbs of force at the fully extended position of 0 degrees, and 133 ft-lbs of force at the fully flexed position of 72 degrees.
  • End Of Session Results – 118 ft-lbs of force at the fully extended position of 0 degrees, and 166 ft-lbs of force at the fully flexed position of 72 degrees. The chart below also shows an increase in the amount of force produced across all angles.

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That’s an increase in isometric lower back strength by 29%, and a huge jump from being – on average – 3% weaker, to 26% stronger than healthy females of a similar age and size! Also, about halfway through the programme, I suffered minor whiplash from a rear-end car accident and temporarily saw a chiropractor for relief. At the initial consultation, after assessing an x-ray, the chiropractor was impressed (considering how long I have been running), at how well-hydrated my spinal discs are. What he meant, is that because I have great range of motion in my lower back region, my spinal discs are able to more adequately receive nutrition and hydration, and that in turn leads to a slower rate of age-related degeneration and greater odds of avoiding chronic pain and disease.

Now, moving forward, I am following an on-going maintenance programme that involves just two 5-minute dynamic workouts a month on the MedX Lumbar Extension machine.

If you would like you to have your lower back strength tested, or if you suffer from back pain and/or arthritis, go see the girls at The Exerscience Clinic in Grafton, Auckland; they’ll take great care of you and get you on the right path! Call them at 09 393 8500, or email them at info@exerscience.co.nz

Use Pantry Staples To Avoid Splurging On End-Of-Week Take-Away Meals

Jannine Myers

Do you find that meal prepping only seems to take you through the first half of the week and by Thursday you’re out of food and meal ideas? I’m sure you’re not alone; I feel that that is probably the case in most households, even in those where meal prep and planning is a priority. It’s difficult to keep the momentum going from Sunday all the way through to Friday, and most likely, end-of-week temptations to pick dinner up from a favourite take-away joint will override any resistance.

If you really want to save money however, and also put a healthier home-made meal on the table, then don’t underestimate the meal potential of a few staple pantry items and leftover produce. Last week, for example, as Thursday rolled around and the perishables from our previous weekend’s grocery shop were mostly all consumed, it was time to get a little innovative. Here’s how I managed to put together a meal (that also served as leftover Friday lunch), from the following items:

  • Canned corn kernels
  • Canned pink salmon
  • Brown rice
  • Oats
  • Eggs
  • Dried onions and dried garlic
  • Italian seasoning
  • Shredded cheese
  • Leftover produce – broccoli, beets, and zucchini

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I guess you could say the end result was a brown rice and salmon pie, with roasted veges. It’s obviously not nearly as appetizing as the take-away meal you’d much rather be eating, but if health and finances are a priority for you then cooking with simple and minimally processed pantry staples should be an option you’re willing to consider : )