We know that exercise can increase muscle strength and decrease body fat when coupled with proper nutrition. Exercise also allows us to look good in a bathing suit, and feel better about our appearance. When we feel good about ourselves we tend to get out and socialize and move more, which are great for quality of life.
Muscles are the the organ of longevity, and if we don’t use them, we lose them. Keep your muscles healthy by moving them as much as possible throughout your day. Even while sitting watching TV, you can do movements such as slow squats to the couch, knee marches, leg lifts, etc.
“The key to moving better and feeling better is to move every day”
Muscles and Age
But as we age, appearance begins to take a back seat to functional movement. Suddenly as a senior we become worried when we can’t bend over to tie a shoe, or fear if we fall, we will not be able to get up off the floor. These are all valid concerns because science shows us:
Older people with the highest loss of muscle strength were four times more likely to be disabled, have difficulty walking and need walkers or other mechanical devices to help them walk (Am J Epidemiol, 1998; 147(8):755–763).
The average person loses about eight percent of muscle size in the decade between 40 and 50 years of age, and the rate of loss increases to 15 percent per decade after age 75 (J Am Geriatr Soc, March 2003;51(3):323-30).
You can slow the loss of muscle fibers as you age and can enlarge the remaining muscle fibers by exercising against resistance, but you cannot increase the number of fibers once they are lost (The Journals of Gerontology, August 2012).
But not all is hopeless, we can improve our physical ability quite easily by moving more every day. Even better is to move every joint through the its natural range of motion. It isn’t hard, and the movements will leave you feeling refreshed and energized. Add in some resistance band work as your fitness levels improve and our muscle fibers can also enlarge.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, it is also one of the most important nutrients. It is found in muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, skin, and the digestive system.
When broken down, collagen is made up of amino acids. Essential Amino Acids (A.A.’s) cannot be produced by the body, while inessential amino acids are produced by our bodies. The primary A.A. in collagen is glycine, which is synthesized by serine, but not in sufficient quantities to meet daily requirements, especially in diseased states like arthritis or inflammation. Therefore some people recommend supplementing to meet daily requirements. Proline, glutamine and arginine are the other main amino acids found within collagen, each has their own key benefits for keeping the body healthy.
Collagen is also the protein that makes up around 75% of skin, and is key to its structure and elasticity.
But after the age of 20 or so, we lose around 1.5% of our collagen every year. Collagen is also broken down by stressors such as too much sun exposure. As our bodies age, we begin to see signs of sagging skin, wrinkles, and increasing joint pain.
Types of Collagen
While there are at least 16 different types of collagen within the human body, Types I,II, and III make up 80-90%.
Type I: This is by far the most abundant, and almost considered to be the strongest, type of collagen found in the human body. It is sometimes referred to as the “glue” that holds our body together.
Forms tendons, ligaments, organs and skin.
Forms bones and can be found within the GI tract.
It’s very important for wound healing, giving skin its stretchy and elastic quality, and holding together tissue so it doesn’t tear.
Type II: Type 2 collagen primarily helps build cartilage, which is found in connective tissues.
The health of our joints relies on cartilage made of type 2 collagen.
It’s beneficial for preventing age-associated joint pain or various arthritis symptoms.
Type III: Type 3 collagen is made of reticular fibers and a major component of the extracellular matrix that makes up our organs and skin.
It’s usually found with type 1 and helps give skin its elasticity and firmness.
It also forms blood vessels and tissue within the heart.
Benefits of Taking Collagen
The claimed benefits of taking supplemental collagen include:
Improves skin and hair.
Reduces joint pain.
Heals the lining of the digestive tract.
Improves wound healing.
Do I Need to Take a Collagen Supplement?
The first question to ask is whether you get enough collagen in your dietary intake?
If you readily drink bone broth and you simmer your soups with animal bones for 12+ hours, or regularly eat organ meats then you most likely don’t need to supplement.
If you eat a typical American Diet, your collagen intake can fall short of recommendations.
If you are unhealthy, sick or under a lot of stress, you might be deficient in producing amino acids necessary for building collagen.
Or if you partake in one or more of the following which decreases collagen production:
High sugar diet.
Consume excessive alcohol.
Have too much sun exposure.
Scientific Validation of Collagen
While there are over 200,000 publications on collagen, including 6,000 clinical trials, various studies have various recommendations. Unfortunately some of our supplement and pharmaceutical businesses have been known to pay scholarly authors to support claims to financially benefit the business, not protect consumers like us looking to improve our health. Discerning valid research from invalid research can be quite challenging.
A few good scholarly sites exist to help wade through the mounds of data. According to Examine.com, a nonpartisan scientific research review company that refuses to take financial support from businesses, Type II collagen (CII) is a peptide and component of joint cartilage. It’s oral ingestion appears to reduce autoimmunity to the body’s own CII, resulting in less inflammation in instances of osteoarthritis and rheumatism and benefits to joint health. Other studies they reviewed showed increase in joint range of motion and both prolonged how long one could exercise before joint pain occurred while improving recovery speeds after exercise.
So while studies continue to be released, some showing the benefit(s) of supplemental collagen and others being inconclusive, we can take steps right now to improve our health. The big ticket items that we have scientific validation for the positive influence on our health include:
Maintain a healthy weight.
Reduce processed food intake and sugars.
Be active – move as much as you can every day.
Drink plenty of water.
Be mindful of sun exposure, both getting enough sunlight but not excessive amounts.
Having flat feet, technically known as overpronation, invariably causes a myriad of issues that will continue to get worse unless corrected. Untreated overpronation can lead to imbalances that transmit up through body, including the knees, hips, low back, shoulders and even the neck.
As imbalances slowly get worse, the result is chronic pain during movement. When it hurts to move, we move less often, and the cyclical effect begins to snowball leading to less activity, weight gain, and more pain.
Overpronation Can Lead To:
Achilles Tendon Pain
Pain While Standing or Walking Especially for Long Periods of Time
Low Back Pain
What is Pronation?
Pronation is normal movement of the foot collapsing inward toward the middle of the body to absorb transmitted forces while moving. If our foot collapses too far inward (overpronation), a disruption in normal function occurs and it causes additional stress to other body areas.
As we walk with a flat foot, the leg impacts the floor at a different angle, altering the direction of the pressure as it reaches the knee.
This causes the knee to cave inward.
The caving in of the knee causes the hips to shift forward, which can lead to hip and low back pain.
Do you see a pattern here?
The Key Point Is:
“The Feet and Ankles Literally Form the Foundation of the Human Body.” We learned in Mobility and Stability are The Keys to Movement Efficiency that the foot provides stability to create force production while the ankle allows for mobility. Overpronation will most certainly affect our entire kinetic chain.
Stand barefooted and look at your feet. Can you see an arch? If not, you have flat feet.
Pinch your calf muscle. Is it tender? If so, there is a good chance your calf muscles are overactive from improper striking of the feet.
Use a tennis ball if the golf ball is too painful.
Start while sitting, and as pain diminishes, stand up and roll.
Foam roll the achilles tendon and calf to release those restrictions.
Use a soft ball or lacrosse ball for more advanced rolling of the achilles and calf.
Use the Fascia Blaster Mini 2 or full size Fascia Blaster to get deeper into the fascia. (Click on link for direct transfer to Amazon). Note: Clicking on Amazon Affiliate links through this web site provides a small monetary return to this web site. There is no extra fee for the purchaser when clicking through this site and all products are delivered through Amazon.
2. Stretch the foot and calf muscles to increase flexibility and retrain correct movement pattern:
stand with feet in a staggered stance with feet facing forward.
Gently lean forward keeping both feet in contact with the ground.
Pull up on the the toes to get a deeper stretch.
Hold for 30 seconds and switch to the other side.
Stand barefoot with toes pushed up against a wall.
Keep the ball of the foot in contact with the floor.
Slowly collapse the foot into pronation to stretch the plantar fascia then pull it back to neutral.
Hold for 30 seconds then switch to the other foot.
3. Strengthen the muscles by retraining good walking mechanics.
Go barefoot and actively pull your arches up by putting pressure more on the outside of the feet.
Practice raising the toes off the ground while keeping a good arch.
Practice splaying (spreading) your toes apart before bed every night.
Having chronic pain means people have slowly grown accustomed to the discomfort. Don’t suffer any longer, try these easy solutions to see if we can get rid of your foot pain. It will take a few weeks to see improvements so don’t get discouraged.
This video will outline the steps we mentioned above:
We hear “engage your core” all the time by our Coaches, but what exactly does that mean? Do we suck in the belly just before a movement? Do we keep it sucked in the entire time? How do we breathe when we are sucking in our abs? This article will answer those burning questions, plus teach you the importance of bracing your core to help us move more effectively.
First, What is Your “Core?”
Your “core” are the muscles that control the position and motion of the trunk over the pelvis, and stabilize the spine for voluntary and involuntary loading. A strong core allows optimal production, transfer and control of force and motion to other areas of the body, and is the basis for good posture. Those with a weak core are much more prone to suffer back injuries, have greater difficulty with basic and advanced exercises, and are less likely to reach their strength potential.
The “Core Box”
Think of your “core” as essentially a box, with each side being several layers thick. It can be divided into front, back, top, and the sides.
On the posterior surface, or the back, the spinal stabilizing muscles (erector spinae, multifidus and latissimus dorsi) run from your shoulder blades, along your spine and back. They are important for segmental stabilization of vertebrae, and are rich in sensory nerves, transmitting continual feedback to the brain regarding loading and position of the spine. These muscles generate gross movement and forces.
The diaphragm muscle forms the top of the “core box”, and is also the primary muscle for breathing. So this is where the breathing part comes in when we teach how to engage our core. There are many recent studies of how important proper breathing is to sports and movement. There will be more articles on this topic in the future.
The outermost layer on the anterior surface or front is the powerful rectus abdominis muscle, which begins at the pubic bone and ends at the sternum. This muscle is activated while doing crunches because it pulls the ribs and the pelvis in and curves the back. This muscle is also used during childbirth, bowel movements, and coughing. Breathing in and holding the rectus abdominis in pulls in the abdomen. When this muscle is exercised and layers of fat disappear from the abdomen, the exposed rectus abdominis muscle creates the look of a “six pack.”
The transverse abdominis (TVA) is also on the front wall with the rectus abdominis but is the deepest layer. The TVA is often referred to as the corset muscle since activation produces a hoop effect similar to cinching a belt around the waist. This contraction pulls in the muscles, stabilizes the low back and pelvis before movement, and increases intraabdominal pressure to help brace the core. Having a strong TVA produces a slimming effect by drawing in the abdominal area. A weak TVA can cause the lower abdomen to pooch out, and allow the pelvis to become anteriorly rotated, an imbalance that can lead to further dysfunctions.
The quadratus lumborum, external and internal obliques connect the front to the back (ie are the sides of the box), while the pelvic floor musculature comprises the bottom of the “box”. These muscles stiffen to support loading and movement, and provide a stable foundation for the body to work from.
So How Do I Engage My Core?
First lets see if you can engage your TVA. You can’t strengthen a muscle you don’t know how to activate.
Lie on your back with knees bent. Find your Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (the ASIS is the top corner of the hip bone).
Place a finger on your ASIS bone and then slide the finger an inch toward the belly button.
“Draw in” the muscle of the TVA (10- 50%) but not maximal effort because that will engage the rectus abdominis. Another example would be to suck your belly button to your spine. It is important to keep breathing as you maintain a nice easy contraction of the TVA.
You should feel the TVA muscle when you contract it. You should not have any other movement occurring.
Strengthen the TVA
Perform 3 sets X 10 repetitions with a 3 to 5 second tempo and a 10 second rest between each set, while still breathing normally throughout the exercise.
Now do the lying TVA activation but lift one leg while bracing the TVA. Don’t hold your breath or bulge your lower abdomen.
Once you can lift the legs with proper form, lie on your side, and do a clam shell move (keep ankles together and lift your top knee) while maintaining the TVA activation.
Now work toward bracing the core while walking and moving.
Other Ways to Engage the Core
The various cues for core engagement may vary depending on the specific movement you are doing, but in general, here are a few ways to turn on additional core muscles:
Scapular Retraction. Press your shoulder blades down and away from your ears as this helps to ‘cap’ the contraction of the abs and engages the core muscles in your back.
Pelvic Floor Contraction. Think of ‘lifting up’ through the pelvic floor to engage the muscles in the pelvic floor and deepen the contraction of your abdominal muscles.
Proper Breathing. Use your diaphragm, not only your chest during each breath. Your stomach should also rise and fall with each breath.
Breath out during the concentric phase (like the upward pushing during a push up)
Breath in during the eccentric phase (at the top of the pushup and during the initial lowering.
Starting Core Exercises To Develop Strength
There are many core exercise that will help strengthen the entire region and provide life lasting benefits for you. Work your core three times a week on nonconsecutive days for 5 minutes. Start with the first exercises listed below and progress to more difficult ones and you become stronger.
Dead Bug – Start with keeping knees at 90 degrees and arms elevated. Slowly move one arm back overhead, then the other. Progress to opposite leg and arms moving while building the number of repetitions.
Quadruped – On hands and knees, slowly extend one leg while maintaining core bracing. Once comfortable, add in the opposite arm. Extend the length of time you can hold each limb. Also add in movement by tucking the raised knee into the the raised elbow, then extending back again.3. Plank – Variations include starting on knees, then progressing to elbows, to straight arms, leg or arm lifts then to moving planks and unstable surfaces such as on a Bosu Ball, or large ball.
4. Side Plank – Variations include starting on a knee, then elbow, then straight arm, then moving arms overhead, and then unstable surfaces.
A strong core will make your movement patterns more efficient, decrease chances of a back injury, and will enable you to generate more power to your limbs. Your posture will improve and if you have ever experienced bouts of incontinence during jump roping, that too can go away with proper core work. As far as those six pack muscles shining through, these exercises will start you in that direction but six packs are also made in the kitchen.
What, your 2018 fitness goals have already died? Hold on, it really isn’t as hard as you think. Just pick one obtainable fitness goal and make it into a habit. Once a habit is formed, then you are on your way to setting a new goal(s). Habits are built on consistency and that means every little step adds up to big eventual changes. Don’t miss your target by failing to think through your goal setting.
All goals should follow the S.M.A.R.T. Goals outline to improve your chance for successful completion. S.M.A.R.T. Goals should be:
Specific – Clearly written and defined.
Measurable – Provide tangible information so you know what is required.
Attainable – Should stretch you so you feel challenged but not overwhelmed.
Realistic – Measure an outcome(s) you are willing and able to do.
Time bound – Specify a timeframe to accomplish the goal(s).
I like to add 3 additional steps:
Step 1 – PLAN. Break you goal down into little steps, and structure your plan of attack to reach each small step along your journey. Write your goal down where you can re-visit it daily. Make a written check off sheet to show your daily completion.
Step 2 – REASON. Write down your “Why” for your goal. “Why” is this important to you? Will it make you better or healthier? Will failure or success impact others?
Step 3 – FOLLOW THROUGH. You’ve heard the phrase, once you do something 21 times it becomes a habit? So focus on the next 21 days:
Create an environment conducive to success.
Stick motivational quotes or pictures across your mirror so every morning you have to see them.
Talk about your goal(s) with friends and family so they can encourage you when the going gets rough.
Partner up with someone who has a similar goal.
Reward yourself when you hit 21 days of consistency.
My 2018 Fitness Goal:
To be able to perform 100 Double Unders in a row by December 31, 2018. My plan is to practice Double Unders two times per week after my workout. I will rotate between jumping for timed intervals and jumping for a maximum number per set (ie keep jumping until I get 20 in a row). My reason is to overcome my struggles with this CrossFit Movement that I find very difficult. I have worked on improving my Double Unders for over two years, but a lack of consistency has halted my potential. When I hit 50 in a row, then I plan to go out for a nice dinner as my consistency reward. So here it is…… my goal is public and I am on my way. What about you? Will you join me in building a new habit?