Archive for April, 2007

Relax to Concentrate

One of the more charming and to-the-point advertising campaigns of our times is NIKE ‘s “Just Do It.” It is at once simple and profound. Implicit in this admonition is the warning not to think too much, not to agonize, not to worry and fret, not to get hung up in circular rationalizations. When it comes to regular, physical activity or training, the habitual athlete knows what it takes to just do it. “Can it really be all that simple?” you might ask. The answer, of course, is, “Simply, yes; and it’s there for the taking.”

The ancient Eastern philosophy of Zen calls for the individual to break through the mundane and petty barriers that surround us and into a state that transcends self-consciousness. It is when we are freely in that state that we are able to perform at our very highest level, whatever we do. It is just this idea of relaxed concentration that all performance-oriented athletes reach for.

Relaxed concentration is an approach to running and other athletic endeavors that will work for nearly everyone including every fitness jogger, elite, racing cyclist or senior walker alive. Here are some thoughts about how to develop that mind-over-matter technique.

Know it when you hear it. A lot of us assume that the ambient clamor and confusion in our lives is just part of the life drill, as normal as apple pie and bulging mid sections. It isn’t so. Running or walking or swimming or cycling or whatever you do, at their best, are, or should be, quiet times, away from all of that. Protect these times as such. Remember that static exists mainly in your own mind. and only you can control what goes on in there. Teach yourself to block the static out at will. You will be amazed at how it will free you. And when you come back to deal with it, you will be refreshed and strengthened.
Interference: It is, for many of us, a constant challenge to get over and around the barriers that act to keep us from our regular training. The pouring rain, the bitter cold, early morning meetings, late nights out, sick kids, chores, jobs. Name it; everyone’s hassled and conflicted. But such conflicts often arise from our own blurred sense of what is truly important to us. So, rather than wail about a life over filled with competing demands on your time and energies, stand back and take stock of your inner values and goals so that you can make some order of your true priorities. Once these have come clear to you, you will find it easier to make the right choices and easier, then, to “Just do it.”

Thank goodness for habits. Once you have established a pattern that is comfortable and sustainable, a lot of your life will easily flow of its own vitality and momentum. Habit is just rhythm over time. Once you are in that beat, its own force will add to your inner strength. You own it; use it.

The best athlete is the person who is happily centered, not pulled by every whim or blown off stride by every gust. It helps to like yourself where you are at the moment, to like what you do day to day, to feel some comfort from where you have been or what you have survived and to be able to look forward with enthusiasm and optimism.

It helps, finally, to work on your form, your speed your pace your endurance and the techniques that will take you there. Get a coach or a mentor or companions if you can, or read and practice what you learn. Any such efforts will enhance your overall experience as you sharpen your technical skills. These measures may or may not make you stronger or faster, but if you are not too greedy or impatient, they will make your training more enjoyable, and less difficult and will bring you closer to that state of relaxed concentration where the best there is begins to happen.

Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.President
The Pressure Positive Company


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Quick Fixes For Aches and Pains
By Bun Gladieux Jr.

We who exercise or train regularly are generally down-to-earth, practical types, friendly to things that work. So it is not surprising that our confidence in medical care runs to the pragmatic. When we are hurt, we want the fix; we want it now, and we want it simple.

Here are some practical, approachable, effective fixes that can keep you up and chugging if they are applied appropriately. There are no magic bullets here, no dramatic cures or panaceas. Their bedrock is common sense and moderation.

If you hurt from plain overuse, in all likelihood the problem is in some soft tissue
like muscle or tendon. The tissue is inflamed, swollen and painful. Icing the area will help to decrease the inflammation and swelling, reduce the pain and encourage blood circulation. All of this helps to accelerate healing. Apply your ice in whatever form is most convenient. Cool the injured tissues well to achieve the desired effect using ice bags, packs, cubes or a pail of ice water- they all have their place.

By manipulating soft tissue with the hands, it is possible to reduce stiffness and pain and to increase circulation. Most people know intuitively how to rub a sore spot to make it feel better, but the results of a trained, knowledgeable, sports massage therapist can be dramatic. As a general rule, if you have access to someone who has the “gift,” be very nice to them, and if they offer to help you, accept the kindness gracefully and gratefully.

Trigger Point Compression:
This technique is different enough from massage to merit its own niche in a catalog of first-line measures for treating muscular or myofascial injury. Again, it is something you can do for yourself if you can reach the site with your hands or with a device that extends your reach. You may also be able to track down a myotherapist or a physical therapist who specializes in “myofascial release.” Although the actual physiological mechanism is not universally accepted or fully understood, ischemic compression (that is, direct pressure deep enough to slow the flow of blood through the tissue at the site) usually does provide a marked release of muscle tension that enables greater range of motion and an early return to strengthening and stretching exercise.

Sometimes a problem like plantar fasciitis will go away just by changing shoes or by inserting an arch support or an insole. But the best and surest solution to a foot or foot strike related injury is professionally fitted orthotics. These devices are not cheap, but good ones should last forever. In the long run, given what they can do for you,
they’re a bargain.

For some injuries, like a sprained ankle or a sore knee, you can sometimes get protection and a little more mileage out of wrapping with an elastic bandage. If you know what you are doing and have some training and experience in wrapping, it can protect you from further injury. Wrapping a new joint sprain along with ice and elevation can help to keep swelling down and promote faster recovery.

A practice used routinely in many competitive sports, taping is often used to provide joint stability and/or rigidity. Taping is also a preventive measure used, for example, to prevent further sprain of an unstable ankle. Such taping can be very helpful, but it can also drastically alter the biodynamics of your stride to produce stress problems in your knee, hip or back. Use taping sparingly and only if you know what you are doing.

Blisters and chafing can bedevil any endurance athlete, and potions abound. To prevent rubbing injury like chaffing or blisters, a heavy, stable grease like petroleum jelly or bag balm (made for soothing milk cows’ udders) rubbed on the likely area of skin can save a lot of grief. Once you have a spot rubbed raw, a loose dressing with a healing salve or a “second skin” type product can ease the pain and speed healing.

The ugliest, most feared remedy of all is, in the end, the simplest, most effective and the most difficult for the habitual athlete; it is rest. No one can make you stop your training until you, yourself conclude that there is no short cut and no other way. Sadly for many athletes, arrival at that conclusion comes only when the injured part just rebels and quits working. Save yourself that anguish. Look ahead enough to see just where you are going and if you don’t like what you see, change your direction, pronto. It is easier to do before you hit the skids on the slippery slope of the overuse syndrome.
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By Bernard L. Gladieux, Jr.
However some people try to make it otherwise, running and other fitness oriented activities are not generally very complicated enterprises. They are, after all, figuratively, if not literally, a matter of putting one foot in front of the other – over and over again. But as simple and natural as such pleasures can be, to the uninitiated, the prospect of starting for the first time
or after a long period of inactivity, the prospect of starting can be as daunting as any hurdle in life.

Here are some of the time-honored steps that most experts recommend when asked,
“How do I get started?”

Check-up: Ask your doctor, especially if you are over 35, fat or smoke cigarettes.
Have yourself checked out. To do it right, you should probably have a full stress electrocardiogram plus an analysis of your blood to determine your cardiovascular risk level or anything else that might be lurking in the wings. If you have been sedentary for five years or more, you are due for a physical exam anyway. Spring for it.

Gear-up: Go to a good running or fitness oriented sports store. There are plenty around in most places. There are also plenty of good running shoes that can be used for a variety of sports and exercise activities. Expensive ones are not necessarily going to be better for your feet or for your performance. Pick shoes that feel comfortable on your feet over the kind of socks that you plan to wear when you are out in the field, so to speak. If you shoe shop late in the day, you need to take into account that your feet will be somewhat larger than they will be right after breakfast. Choose a color that you can live with day after day.

You can wear any clothes you have that work for you and won’t be an embarrassment to you or your family. Bundle up when it’s cold, and when it’s hot, shed to the same sort of common sense point. Later on at events or expos or sales, you can pick up just about any other gear and accessories you will ever need.

Ease-in: Treat yourself tenderly. Even if you were a great athlete in school, your
time away from it may have left you unprepared for anything like a rapid re-entry. As a rule, plan to do one week of very slow jogging or walking for every year you have not done any significant exercise. If you are also overweight, continue this slow startup regimen until you are within 10 or 15 pounds of your weight at 21 or what you think of as your ideal weight, whichever is the lower.

Team-up: Seek out other runners or exercisers. Try to pair up with someone who is roughly at about your level of development one or more times a week. It will help you keep your commitment to yourself. Races and fun runs are terrific places to find kindred spirits. Ask questions. Subscribe to one of the magazines in the area of activity to which you are the most drawn. Join a local club if you wish, and throw yourself into it with abandon.

Eat-well: To truly and honestly pursue your new-found purpose, and to enjoy fully the benefits that will flow from your new, exercise-induced, fitness, you need to maintain and achieve and maintain relatively lean body. This rule is somewhat less true of swimming compared with weight bearing activities, but remains a worthy objective nonetheless. If your diet is haphazard or is weighted towards steaks, fries, donuts and ice cream, you may be taking in a lot of fat and simple carbohydrate calories that go directly into storage when you don’t use them promptly. Start by cutting out or off all the fat you can plainly see. There will be plenty left to satisfy your need for this highly rich fuel. Lean toward vegetables that are raw or streamed. Rigorously avoid hydrogenated or trans-fats altogether. If you are a carnivore, opt for fish, skinned poultry and lean cuts of other kinds of animal protein. Take in plenty of water every day or mix fruit juice with seltzer if you like the fizz. And finally, avoid both sugared and diet soft drinks except, maybe, for rare ceremonial occasions.

Block-in: Scheduling may be your most persistent obstacle to a new, fitness directed lifestyle. Most of us are bound up with too many things to do already. So running or any regular exercise program is going to have to entail priority setting, some juggling and lots of hard determination and focus. Look at your week realistically. Where can you most easily and conveniently fit in an hour time block three times? Five times? Keep yourself flexible and take your opportunities when they present themselves, but mostly try to plan ahead and, above all, hang on.

Listen: If you have been away from your physical side for a very long time, there is a good chance that you have become desensitized to the simple and subtle messages that your body regularly sends to your brain. In the days after you begin, you may feel some muscle soreness.

If it is really painful, rest until it eases up, then start up again more slowly. Your body is already beginning to adapt. It gets easier and a lot more fun. Trust me.

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