Be Active In Recovery

By: Coach Nick Lape

What do your “rest days” look like? Do your they make you look like you have zero fitness goals? Now I know some of you read that question and tilted your head like a lost puppy. How could I possibly be comparing rest days with fitness goals? Because, we all know fitness doesn’t happen on rest days, right? If you answered, “right.” Then please keep reading. I have some words that you may need to hear. You may have heard us trainers talk about ‘active recovery’ days, and we do so for a reason. We use these days to keep our bodies and even our minds active and in tune with our fitness goals. Let’s be honest, there is no way our bodies can keep up with all out training for an extended period of time. That’s like someone asking an NFL team to be prepared to play in the Super Bowl every week. It’s just not doable. Eventually your body needs a little love.

When I discuss active recovery days with people, I bring up one of my favorite fitness personalities, Mike Boyle. He talks about creating active habits. Those include doing SOMETHING everyday. It doesn’t have to be deadlifts, it doesn’t have to be kettlebell swings or push ups. It could be, working on breathing techniques. It could be doing some of your warm up or mobility work. It could simply be getting on a foam roller and giving your muscles a little love, but DO SOMETHING. When we sit and do nothing, we regress, being sedentary is the world we live in today. We just have to make doing something active a habit, just like the workouts we are trying to recover from. Staying active and reminding your body that it needs to be prepared is the best way to do that.

It is so important to create these active recovery habits if for nothing else, for this one reason. Here I’ll quote Dr. Malcolm from Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” This could very well be where you find your active recovery days. So you made a plan to go to the gym but hey guess what, now your child is sick. There’s a chance to get some recovery movements in. Especially with a sick child! Why? Exercise helps increase your immunes systems ability to fight infection. Then your boss calls while your child is sick and needs you to leave town for a couple meetings. Boom, 2 more days we didn’t plan. Or, maybe you had a race, event, or an especially hard training session and you are pretty sore. A day off and being sedentary is not going to help in any scenario. All of these time are perfect to hop on a foam roller, use bands, go for a walk, work on breathing, or do a RAMP just to try and stay active. It just so happens that we have any entire system built just for this and all you would need is a band.

All I’m saying here, is that recovery days don’t and really shouldn’t have to be planned. If you know you aren’t going to lift anything heavy on Wednesday because you lifted heavy stuff on Monday and Tuesday, then take Wednesday to get in some active recovery. Don’t let your body just lay dormant. At the beginning of any program, one where you are trying to create positive lifestyle changes, a rest day of doing nothing can be a huge killer of momentum. Try to prioritize and set as the same time every day for some form of movement whether it’s a work out or active recovery in. It’s the easiest way to build a habit.

There are a million different ways to make your off days or what we like to call active recovery days beneficial for yourself. I only mentioned a few above with foam rollers and bands. But each person is going to be different based on the goals they set for themselves. With all this in mind, what will your next rest day look like? Don’t just lay your goals aside. Be active! I’d love to hear what your favorite active recovery includes!

This for That

By: Nick Lape

I had an epiphany the other day. If you know me, you know that it gave me an immediate headache (just kidding). But it happened during a team workout. I was complaining about flutter kicks, you know, the one where you lay on the ground and hold your legs up and kick them around. Yeah, that one. And this thought crossed my mind, “Good heavens, my legs are HEAVY! I strongly dislike this,” give or take a few choice words not to be mentioned out loud. Although, I’m pretty sure I said a few things out loud because Mike said to me, “You do know you do that to yourself right?” And once he explained what he meant, it made my mind go into a whirlwind of thought. What type of things do we give up in order to train for something specific?

I’ll just start by giving an example of my training goals at the moment. In short, I want to lift weights. Big weights. Weights that truly challenge the structural integrity of my body. We are talking hundreds and hundreds of pounds. Ok, I think you get it. In order to do that, my body has to match my goal. In order to lift big weights, guess what, my body and more specifically my legs have to match. I noticed it most during flutter kicks. My legs have gotten significantly heavier, therefore I have to work a LOT harder to do longer duration exercises like flutter kicks. And here’s the thing, I am MORE than willing to give this for that. I may hate flutter kicks and struggle whole heartedly at holding my legs up, but guess what, it means I don’t have to struggle so hard at lifting 400 and 500 pounds. Now maybe you see where I’m going with this.

We all (hopefully) go into training with an idea of what we want. For me, strength is king. Always has been. For others, maybe athleticism is more of what they are training for. To be agile and quick. If my goals are to lift as much weight as possible, sure I can add some agility type moves into my workout. Am I going to be great at them? No, probably not. I’m going to have a lot more of me to try and move quickly. But remember, that’s not my goal. This could very well be the opposite for someone looking to have the quicker more agile training approach. Gaining large amounts of muscle mass for these people is going to make that type of training more difficult and possibly make them unsuccessful.

Everyone has a different mindset about their training. We approach things differently. But it is ALL fitness. Someone trying to lift hundreds of pounds can easily be looked as fit. Someone that is training for functionality or athleticism can also be considered fit. The things they are good at, are going to differ quite a bit. And that is where this title came from. This For That. It is something until recently, like 24 hours ago, that I never really considered. And honestly, I think it’s something that so many people get caught up in. They want one thing, just to look across the room and want something else, never settling on a path to reach a certain goal. This process can usually lead to people stagnating, or even leaving their path to wellness all together.

When I say give this for that, I don’t want you to think that you can’t train for something and change your mind about what you want. You most certainly can. It’s a matter of finding that one thing you want to train for the most and committing to that plan. That is why nowadays I am OK with struggling at certain things. Some of those things happen to be things that in the past I happened to be good at. I know that those things can help me reach my goal, but I also know that my goal is not to be great at flutter kicks. My goal is to be great at deadlifting and bench press. My goal is to compete with others that have that same goal. As you figure out what path you want to go down on your wellness journey, stop worrying about those little things that have all of a sudden become a bit more difficult. Sometimes those things whether thoughts, exercises or skills, aren’t crucial to you achieving your goals. The real worrying starts when we sit back and allow ourselves to just become mediocre. Don’t be afraid to give a bit of This for That.

Modifications: Starting Slow, Leveling Down

Disclaimer: I’m Maggie, the Administrative and Membership Staff Member at Forward Fitness. I lovingly write this blog from the perspective of a member. I am not a fitness professional.

 Wrestling with injuries is frustrating. Whether they are new or chronic, it’s a blow to your motivation. You know you can perform better, you know you can lift more, or have better flexibility, but your body is saying “NO ma’am, not gonna happen today!”

I’ve had the same SI joint issue since I was a teenager and “threw my back out” for the first time. It took 10+ years and several injuries for a doctor to finally diagnose the source of the pain correctly. Now that I know the problem, and can clearly picture the anatomy of where my pain originates, I can pay more attention to my movement, protect that area, and be better in tune with when it’s weak and more susceptible to injury. Because of this, and other limiting factors, I have several modifications that I rely on during workouts:

Here I am saying hi to our new Darth VaderBell.

  • I do my burpees with a medium box.
  • I raise my deadlift off the ground with an extra riser so I don’t have to hinge as low to start the movement.
  •  I lower my kettlebell swing weight if I’m not feeling 100%. I level down to hinge sometimes.
  • I do Spiderman from tabletop position because any jerky lower back movement is an easy way I can “tweak” myself.
  • I put something under my heels if we’re doing lots of squats.

And there’s NO SHAME in it! I learned all these tricks from our trainers in the last 2 years of being a client here. If I didn’t do these mods myself, one of them would notice something was off and attend to making sure I’m getting the most out of the workout by accommodating my specific needs.  They correct our form or give us an alternate exercise or variant of the move because they know our limits and what’s going to be most valuable to our performance.

The same feeling of frustration can happen when you’re new, or an exercise is new. It can feel uncomfortable when you’re leveled down, like you’re being singled out.  You could be super fit already, or brand new to the gym scene, and it still takes time to get the basic moves right so you can compound on them.

Sitting at the front desk recently, I was looking at a packed fit camp of all different ages and fitness and experience levels, and realized we’ve never had any sort of emergency or serious injury in this gym. I think that speaks a lot to the attention our trainers give EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US as we progress through different stages of capability, injury or limitation. They are always there to slow us down, suggest a modification, and conversely encourage us to challenge ourselves by advancing a level.

I’ve learned that being new at a certain movement, or suddenly needing to take a step back is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s more important to do it right, to do it productively than to do it quickly or with too much weight! I like the feeling of confidence I get starting every fit camp or semi-private session, knowing that I don’t have to overdo it or risk hurting myself to be a fully present participant in my workout!

Foam Rolling to Perform and Feel Your Best

When you are short on time for a workout or stressed and just want to get started, foam rolling is typically the first thing to get cut from your workout. Right? This can prevent you from getting the most out of your workout and feeling your best. Watch Mike as he explains how to effectively roll before a workout.

 

If you have never foam rolled before a workout, start. If you typically skip it, don’t. Pay attention to how you feel during your workout. Let us know what you think!

Cressey Press

 

Anti-rotational movements are extremely important for not only core strength, but spine health as well. Practicing anti rotation regularly helps to defend against torque that might be put on the body. Torque is essentially any twisting motion of one part of the body against another part of the body that is trying to remain stationary. For example, if you are in your car and reach over to the passenger seat to grab something you are putting torque on the body. This can be a problem as usually this force ends up causing injuries more often than not. Anti-rotational movements can keep us stable during these times and along with proper strength training. Check out this move we learn from Eric Cressey, hence the title Cressey Press.

Level it Down!

By: Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Don’t risk it, level it down!

We love it when people come to the studio ready to work and ready to put all their effort into their training session. We love the dedication and the desire to improve. However, when that effort and dedication is combined with a lack of body awareness, lack of knowledge of form, and/or fatigue it can turn it into a bad thing. This is where form begins to fail or was never there in the first place. The moment that bad form happens, if it can’t be fixed it right away, taking a step down and moving backwards to reteach yourself a movement or lock in good form could actually allow you to get better results. No matter what we read or what we see on TV leveling down or performing a regressed version of a movement is NEVER a bad thing.

Like I mentioned, when someone works as hard as they can in a workout, form can start to go to the wayside. When this happens, it really doesn’t matter who it is that is doing the work or attempting the movement, when the body starts to fail at a movement it is time for a change. This is where forgetting your pride and adding a little bit of knowledge can come in handy. Level it down!!! Take the time to do it right and you will be SOOO much better for it. Consistently doing exercises in poor form just to pump out another rep or to protect your pride can be disastrous to your body. However, if you level down at the appropriate time you can prevent injuries and get better results. Leveling down an exercise goes so much farther than just physical aspect.

One experiment I like to do with my clients is a quick one. I’ll give you 5 seconds to think about the worst thing that happened to you in the last 48 hours, GO!!! Ok, now think about the best thing that happened to you in the last 48 hours, 5 seconds, GO!!! I have found that people can recall a bad memory faster and in more detail in 5 seconds than they can a good one. I’m not going to get all scientific, but think about that. What do you think happens when you attempt an exercise in poor form? Your brain remembers it, and it can become that much more difficult to re learn the proper version. These ‘bad reps’ are learned when we have either not learned properly or we have become fatigued during the back half of a workout.

In the same sense, doing an exercise improperly can in fact mean the difference between a quality life and painful one or a lack of results or one filled with great results. Even some of the strongest people I know lessen the weight they lift when they know it doesn’t feel right. The difference between them and the person doing that push up that looks like it may actually be killing them is the fact that they know taking a step back at that moment will allow them to go farther in the end. We are all about pushing yourself and doing your best at each training session. To us that means working your hardest while keeping good form through the entire training session.

Mandatory Monday

By: Mike Klaus RKC, FMS

MondayWhat is your opinion of Monday? It is typically seen as the worst day of the week, the day most people dread. However, there are some who see Mondays as a springboard start to a productive and successful week. No matter what your profession is, you have an option to stew in misery or make the very best out of each day and opportunity. The same is true with health and fitness. Imagine the difference in your week if you do or do not workout on Monday. Are you more likely to get more workouts in? How would you sleep that week? What about your food choices? Would your mood be better?

For the most part, gyms are full on Mondays. This is a good thing! These are people who are getting a jump start on their week. This is a practice I whole heartedly believe in. Health and fitness does not happen overnight, it is a process. The work has to be put in and like anything else, getting started is the key. There are many benefits to making your Monday workout “mandatory.” Here are my top 5 reasons why you MUST train on Monday!

  1. You are more likely to train throughout the week. After starting your week with a productive workout, odds are you will continue that trend.
  2. Sleep improves. Mondays are usually packed with tasks. Having 45 minutes to an hour in a workout where you don’t think about work or other stressors will help to ease your mind. You will also be physically tired and in need of recovery.
  3. Nutrition will more likely be a priority. It has been proven in studies that people who work out make more of an effort to eat better. Are you more likely to choose fettuccini alfredo and rolls for dinner or grilled chicken with roasted veggies and goat cheese and beet salad?
  4. Your mood improves. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you feel good. A morning workout can start your day off right. An evening workout can help you burn off steam. Also, in my opinion it is a great tool to help with depression or anger. Do yourself and everybody the favor of talking your aggression out on the iron!
  5. Erase a weekend that was less than optimal for your health. Did you put down a couple of cocktails? Were queso dip and chips  on the menu for dinner? Work that wild or lazy weekend off!

Make your Monday workout mandatory and set yourself up for success the rest of the week!

Stop Winking at Me

By: Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Every person that I know wants to have a glorious back side. Why? Because, they all want to look great in their favorite pair of jeans. They want to know how people like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez do it! So they search online and find the “best” articles they can on how to do the perfect squat. And what do you know, everyone starts squatting to get a little lift behind them. Here is the problem: most people either don’t squat down far enough OR they squat too far. Yes, there is such a thing as too far, especially when talking about a healthy spine. This is where we get what most fitness professionals call the ‘Butt Wink.’

No, no. Don’t be flattered. This isn’t the kind of wink that the guy or girl from across the bar gives you that makes your heart flutter. This is the kind of wink that can leave your lower back debilitated for quite some time. It occurs in your hips when you have gone past a certain range of motion in your squat. This ‘winking’ is when you drop too far into your squat and your hips tuck under causing stress on the disks in your lower spine. Doesn’t sound too fun, does it? If you answered “not at all” then you would be correct. Now the question is how do we fix it?

As we have all heard in the past, the key to fixing any issue is addressing what the problem might be. When talking about ‘Butt Wink’ there can be quite a few underlying causes, but for the sake of time, I’m going to only talk about the two most common causes. These two are tightness in the hip flexors (front of the hips) and a weak core that can’t help hold you upright. More often than not, when these two things begin to be corrected, squat form becomes better.

Now here’s how we can correct it. When hip flexors are tight, they can keep a person from being able to sit back into their squat, keep the weight in their heels, and ultimately prevent the muscles in their backside from engaging. We can remedy this by simply adding a heel lift. Squat with your heels on a pair of 10 pound plates and you will see a difference. The weights will displace your weight forward and allow you to lean back farther. It’s a simple fix. Now, you might ask, what happens when my core doesn’t turn on? Luckily, it’s another simple fix.  When your abs don’t turn on in your squat, it will have the same effect as tight hip flexors: you will lean forward. In order to get the core to engage, hold a weight in front of your body instead of behind your neck. This will not only act as a counter balance to make you sit back farther but your core will turn on as well.

Adding these two simple things to your squat can be a HUGE game changer. It can greatly increase the range of motion in your squat and allow you to get deeper without that ‘Butt Wink’. Will they keep you from ever winking again? No. Even while using these tools it is highly recommended to stand sideways to a mirror and watch your hips as you go down. If your hips tuck or ‘wink’ you have simply gone too far. My advice is to stop just before that happens. Stopping at that end range and adding these tools to your squat will keep you healthy and build that beautiful backside you’ve always wanted, or just use them to watch your squat numbers increase!

Warm It Up and Cool It Down

Nick Lape ACSM, FMS

Beautiful woman doing stretching exerciseAs far back as just about anyone can remember, especially in places like your elementary school P.E. class, we have been taught to warm up before activities were done. It wasn’t long after that we started learning about something called a cool down. It is no different now than it was 15, 20, or even 30 years ago. They are absolutely essential parts of making sure that your body is ready for what you are about to put it through and then ready to recover afterwards.

 We all remember having that one teacher who made sure you stretched before the class started. A classic example would be the hurdle, or runner’s stretch. And while stretching does have its place, we have come a long way from static stretching. Nowadays we know that using dynamic movement is probably the biggest key to unlocking the body before strength training, and even cardiovascular training. If I had a dollar for every person that I’ve seen not warm up and say, “Eh, I’ll be fine,” and then ‘tweaked’ something in that workout, I would have, well, a lot more money than I do now.

One part that some people don’t understand isn’t so much the fact that you are moving your body through ranges of motion, but the fact that you are connecting your brain neurologically to the different joints, bones, and tissues involved in each movement. If your brain is asleep, especially you morning gym goers, it is imperative to make sure that you wake it up with dynamic movement patterns before you start adding large amounts of weight.

There is always one question that goes along with the whole ‘brain’ explanation. Why? The best explanation that I have is to think about when you first roll out of bed. Is the first thing you think of doing a deadlift or stretching REAL big to get your body going? I highly doubt it. If you didn’t stretch, you wouldn’t break up connective tissues that get stiff while you sleep. Same thing goes for a workout. If the first thing you think of when you get to the gym is doing heavy deadlifts and nothing else you set yourself up for failure.

The second part of this is the cool down. The same way you get your body warmed up is almost the same way you want to cool down. Taking your body through some very low intensity dynamic movements and breathing patterns is perfect for getting your heart rate down. Adding some soft tissue work to the mix can help with relaxing any muscles that feel a little tense. Possibly the most important part of the cool down is the breathing though. Again, it goes back to the brain and making sure that you are taking your body out of that heightened state in order to start the recovery period.

Not doing either of these things and rushing into and out of a workout can actually end up being a recipe for disaster. Some people think that saying you could get hurt is just a way to scare them into warming up and cooling down. These are the same people that see it as a waste of time. I’ll also bet that most of these people don’t see the results they wish they could have. Why? (There’s that question again.) When the body is in a heightened state and hasn’t been properly warmed up or cooled down, you are in this constant state of flight or flight, which leads to prolonged recovery periods, plateaus and other not so fun gym terms. Do yourself a favor, warm up before and cool down after. Your brain and body will thank you, and you may just see more and better results than you did when you weren’t doing those things.

Recovery: Fitness that Doesn’t Come from a Gym

By: Nick Lape

Time to Recover - ClockJust about every person that I meet asks me what I do for a living. After I tell them I am a trainer, they all respond with what they are currently doing at the gym. More often than not I hear something similar to, “Nick, I just started a weight training program. I work out like 5 or 6 times a week and I hit ALL my muscles every day. I love how sore I’m getting BUT, I can’t seem to lose any more weight or get any stronger. How can I change things up?” When I ask them how much water they are drinking or how many hours of sleep they are getting on average, a huge look of surprise overtakes their face. Many people fail to realize that recovery outside of the gym is just as important, if not more important than their training inside the gym.

The number one thing that seems to be over looked in a training program is the rest or recovery phases. Without these, you will hit plateaus. Fat loss will begin to slow and strength gains will stop happening. You will be stuck because your brain and body are on overload. They don’t want you to do any more. You might tell it to push harder, but at some point your body will say “No.” It will worry more about surviving in this state of overload than losing weight or building muscle. It won’t matter how much harder you push yourself at this point, your body won’t progress until it has a chance to recover. Then you will be back at square one asking someone what to change.

In all honesty, if you are looking to change something there is a good chance that it has nothing to do with the gym. It is something that I personally tell people all the time. Most of your strength and physique changes happen in your kitchen and while lying in your bed, when your internal processes are hard at work. An example of just one of these processes is the release of Human Growth Hormone that helps repair our body as we sleep. All you did with your workout is shock these systems into working more efficiently. If you aren’t getting enough sleep or your diet isn’t feeding your metabolism the way it should, you may as well just concede to your plateau. It won’t be going anywhere for a while.

Recovery, though you may not want to, could mean taking a day off or the gym and just foam rolling or breathing silently. It could also mean adding more veggies, water, and protein and taking out sugar and processed foods. Maybe it means turning off the TV an hour earlier and getting an extra hour of sleep in.  Everyone is different. Everyone will react differently to changes that they make. Plateauing is a common sign of overtraining. That means TOO MUCH training. Change things outside of the gym first and then worry about the next phase of your training.