10 Benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy

Stretching has become a much debated topic in recent times. For years it was touted as the key to restoring flexibility, improving athletic performance, and reducing injuries. Then stretching, particularly passive stretching, fell out of popularity in favor of more dynamic moves that were designed to prepare the body for sport. Passive stretching is reserved for after the workout, and even then its value is controversial.

FST 2

What is Fascial Stretch Therapy?

Enter Fascial Stretch Therapy (or FST), a type of stretching that targets not only the muscles, but the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, and joints. FST also targets the entire joint and joint capsule, using traction to remove restrictions from movement and to stimulate lubrication. A therapist will gently pull and move the arms, legs, spine, and neck in a smooth motion through varying planes of movement. There is no pain, not even discomfort. Instead, the gentle movement is stimulating and relaxing at the same time.

The problem with many standard stretching programs is, well, they are standard. An athlete will finish her workout, run through her “usual” stretches, maybe paying extra attention to tight hips, sometimes pushing through some pain to get that final stretch. Sadly, this type of stretching is not effective and may even be causing more tightness and inflexibility. When you cause pain with stretching, your muscles respond to protect themselves, tightening up in a rebound type effect.

By contrast, a Fascial Stretch Therapist will evaluate their client, looking for imbalances, as well as the source of those imbalances. Then using breath to help with movement, the therapist will first warm up the joints and muscles with undulating stretching to maximize blood flow. Then using techniques of slow undulating movement, as well as traction (gently pulling to create space in the joint) and modified PNF ( proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation), synchronized with the breath, the therapist will stretch the entire body, following a logical anatomical order, to lengthen muscle, increase range of motion, and improve flexibility.

10 Benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy

  1. Increase Range of Motion
  2. Muscular Balance and Symmetry
  3. Improved Performance
  4. Reduced Pain
  5. Reduced Risk of Injury
  6. Improved Posture
  7. Improved Muscle Function
  8. Improved Circulation
  9. Decrease Compression and Impingement in the Joints.
  10. Improved Energy

The effects are cumulative. It took a while to develop the imbalances and stiffness in your body. It will take a while to reap the benefits of FST. But, that being said, you can feel immediate benefits, even after your first session.

Remember, I am not (yet) a certified Fascial Stretch Therapist. I will be studying and preparing for the class that I’m taking in August. My information comes from my experience as a client, as well as from the Stretch to Win website, and the book, Stretch to Win, which is written by Ann Frederick and Christopher Frederick, the developers of Fascial Stretch Therapy.

The above, by the way, is an affiliate link. I will make a few cents if you purchase that book through Amazon. Other than that I have received no compensation for this post. I have experienced FST first hand and I’m a believer in the benefits.

Linking up with Jill for Fitness Friday!

  
Have you heard of fascial stretch therapy? Have I piqued your interest? You can find a list of certified FST therapists on the website.

Fit Friday: For the Core

I’m excited to bring back one of my favorite series, Fit Friday. Recently I have felt that I’ve moved away from fitness posts by focusing more on running. I want to get back to my roots though, so, while there still may be a running workout on Fridays from time to time, you will generally find some type of strength workout. I introduce you to Fit Friday #1: For the Core.

Fit Friday

Here’s a quick core workout that will get your weekend started right.

For the Core

With all core exercises it is important that you focus on tightening and bracing your abdominal muscles for the most effective workout. Pull up your belly, brace like you’re preparing to be punched, and make sure you continue to breathe. There, now you’re ready.

Note: While the instructions say to perform each exercise for one minute, you should only do it as long as you can keep good form. So, if that is only 30 seconds at first or even less, that’s great. Work at it, get stronger, and before you know it you’ll be sailing along for a minute.

1. Plank with Alternating Knee to Elbow: Start in a high plank position, making sure that your shoulders are directly over your wrists and that your spine and hips are aligned. Inhale, then exhale as you bring your left knee to touch your left elbow. Hold for 2 seconds. Return to starting position then repeat with the right knee. Continue alternating knees for one minute. Modification: Put your knees down in your plank position.

Plank Altnernating Knee

2. One Leg Deadlift: Stand with your weight on your right leg. Start to bend forward at the hip, keeping your right leg straight and your spine neutral. Extend your left leg behind you with the knee straight. It should stay in alignment with your body throughout the movement. Lower until you’re about parallel with the ground. Slowly return to your starting position. Do all the repetitions on your right leg for a minute, then repeat on the left side. To increase the challenge: Hold a kettlebell in one or both hands.

One Leg Deadlift

3. Side Plank with Hip Dip: Assume a forearm side plank position. Make sure that your shoulder is above your elbow, your hips and legs are stacked. Hold the opposite arm in the air. Without losing form, lower hip to the mat. Return to your starting position. Repeat for one minute, then switch sides. Modification: Keep lower leg on the floor.

Side Plank

4. Supine Toe Taps: Lie on your back with your legs in a tabletop position (hips and knees bent at 90 degrees). Tilt your pelvis slightly and push your back into the mat. Slowly lower one leg and tap the toe on the mat. Return to starting position then lower the other leg. Alternate legs for one minute, keeping your back pressed down for the whole set.

Supine Toe Taps

5. Bicycles: The old fashioned bicycle crunch is still a great exercise if it’s done correctly. Lie on your back with your hands lightly supporting your head. Bring your right knee to your left elbow, then your left knee to your right elbow. Take it slow and don’t pull your head to reach higher.

Bicycles

6. Russian Twist: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Keep your back straight and lean back slightly until you feel your abs engage. Hold your hand out in front of you. Twist to the right and touch your hands to the ground (if you can without rounding your back. If not, just go as far as you can). Then twist to the left. Alternate for one minute. To Advance: Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell in your hands as your perform the exercise.

Russian Twist

7. Sliding Pike: This exercise should be done on a wooden or laminate floor (see below for variations). Start in a high plank position with your feet on a blanket or large towel. Using your abdominal muscles, draw your legs in, keeping your knees and spine straight as you move into a “Pike” position (inverted V). Return to your starting position. Repeat for one minute. Modification: Allow your knees to bend as you draw your legs in. Variation: This exercise can be done with your feet on a stability ball or sliders.

Sliding Plank

8. Leg Lowers: Lie on your back with your legs straight up in the air. As you engage your abdominal muscles, press your back into the mat. Lower your legs only as far as you can without losing form or lifting your back. This is important. Hold for two seconds then return to the starting position. Repeat for one minute. Modification: Keep your knees slightly bent and use a smaller range of motion when you lower your legs. Don’t do this exercise if it causes back discomfort or pain.

Leg Lowers

This workout should take about 10 minutes. You can complete one set or, if you have more time, repeat the workout for a killer core workout. Enjoy.

I’m linking up with Jill for Fitness Friday!

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Disclaimer: Although I am a certified Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.

What is your favorite core exercise?

Recap: The Week in Training and Life

Countdown to the SLO Marathon

(Still haven’t signed up? Click here and use the code WOODAMB at checkout to save $10)

SLO Marathon

The countdown to the SLO Marathon has begun! In less than four weeks I will be in San Luis Obispo at the start line of my 37th marathon. Will I be ready? Yes! Will I be able to rock the race as I’d planned? Um, maybe.

If you’ve followed my training recaps you know that life has interfered a lot in my training plan. While my long runs have been pretty much on target, my mid-week training has not been what it should. I’ve been getting in some of the planned speed work, but my efforts to get my total weekly mileage up where I’d like it have not been very successful. Last week I managed for the first time to get over 30 miles. This week, a long run cut-back week, I just barely managed 28 miles.

So to look at the big picture, and to stop whining about things I can’t change, I will have an okay race. Not great, but, barring any severe exercise induced asthma issues, I’ll be fine. And I still have two weeks before I start my taper, so I have hopes for these next two peak training weeks.

This week I got all my planned training runs done {high five!}. On Monday I was out the door at 5:15 in the morning. After a one mile warmup I did four half mile intervals on the road followed by two quarter mile repeats. I was running out of time, so I couldn’t get the three miles total in intervals that I wanted, but I’m happy with that.

morning run 2It was barely getting light when I finished my interval workout on Monday. Can you see the old man in the mountain in the picture below?

Morning run 3On Wednesday I ran a total of six miles, with three miles at half marathon pace. I ran with my neighbor Christina, and we got going at 5:15. I’m not crazy about running alone so early, so I was happy to have a running partner.

As I mentioned it was a cut-back week for my long run this week. I had 15 on the schedule with four miles at marathon pace in the middle of the run. Christina ran with me for most of it, and we did manage to run miles 5-9 at my goal marathon pace, which is about 10 minutes per mile. At that pace it’s not like I was sprinting, but I still found it challenging (which I have to admit concerns me at this late point in training). Anyway, I got it done. After I split off from Christina I had about four more mile to run, but I was really dragging, so I ended up finishing with 14 miles for the day.

ChristinaAlan’s hamstring is bothering him, so we didn’t do our normal dog run on Sunday. Instead I ran four slow recovery miles on my own, choosing perhaps the most challenging route, which is a big loop around our neighborhood that finishes all uphill for the second half. Oh well, I got it done, and took a few photo breaks so I survived.

Recovery 3Pretty, huh? You wouldn’t guess that the day was going to heat up to about 100 degrees (on March 29!!!!).

The Life Recap

I’m not really sure why I’m including a life recap this week since it was generally pretty boring. Alan was away for a few days visiting our twin grandsons in Huntington Beach and cheering them on at the Jogathon at their school. Cash managed 31 laps in 30 minutes! I think this put him in second place overall.

CashAlan also went to their baseball game where both boys had some great plays. They all also played baseball with grandpa, rode bikes together, and of course, went to the beach (it was in the mid-80s!).

DaneMeanwhile, I stayed home to work. I also have been having afternoon headaches this week, which sucks. Unusual for me, they come on in the early afternoon, send me to bed for a couple hours, then seem to go away by early evening. I think it is because I recently got back on my hormones (Obamacare finally kicked in!), and my body is adapting. I’ll have it checked if I’m still having problems next week, but the last couple days seems a little bit better.

I did drag myself out on Thursday to see Cinderella with Christina. More on that tomorrow, but I will say that I loved it. I was fighting the stupid headache through the whole movie though, so I may just have to see it again when I feel better.

Pizza!

The food was pretty boring while Alan was gone. Between having only myself to cook for and not feeling good I kept it simple. Leftovers for the win! Also my favorite comfort food when I don’t feel good: a baked potato with salt and (vegan) butter. Not sure why this makes me feel better, but it’s been my go-to since I was very young.

Alan got home on Saturday and I was feeling pretty good so I made a pesto pizza. It was really, really, really good.

Pizza 2And worth a second look.

PizzaI have a 22 mile run on the schedule for next Saturday. I’ve been fighting a lot of doubts throughout this training cycle, so I admit that I’m fearing this distance. I’ll have to get a really early start too because I don’t think the weather is going to cool off very much.

Coming up on the blog this week I’ll have a comparative review of Cinderella 1965 vs. 2015, a great giveaway for desert locals, and the return of the Pin It Party with Lindsay and many other bloggers.

And finally, here’s something to make you smile:


How was your training week? Any events, races, or other fun times? Want to join the Pin It Party (it’s on Thursday if you’d like to participate)?

March Health Dares from UnitedHealthCare

This post is sponsored by United Health Care.

March Dares 2I am excited to be joining UnitedHealthcare this month and sharing their We Dare You To program. Every month UnitedHealthcare has a series of three health-related dares that are easy and have some great prizes.

The March Health Dares are:

  • Share a photo of your healthy breakfast.
  • Test your nutrition smarts.
  • Watch the “How to Read Food Labels” video and share your opinion

March Dares

Now for the prizes! The Grand Prize for each dare is a $400 gift card! Plus you have a chance to win one of the weekly prizes of a $25 gift card for each dare that you take. What are you waiting for? Easy entry, great prizes, and the opportunity to learn a little about living a healthy lifestyle.

I hope you will take the time to watch the “How to Read Food Labels” video. In just three minutes, nutrition expert Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, tells you what to look for quickly so that you know that you are purchasing the best product. While reading a food label isn’t difficult, she pinpoints the most important details to look for when you’re shopping.

My Healthy Breakfast

Since I eat the same breakfast almost every morning I rarely take pictures of it. A little granola, vegan yogurt, and some fresh fruit, plus some toast, and I’m good for a few hours.

Silk Yogurt Parfait

UnitedHealthcare dares you to take a small step toward a healthier life. Go enter, then come back and tell me about your healthy breakfast.

Running Strong with (in spite of) Exercise Induced Asthma

I have suffered from Exercise Induced Asthma ever since I started running, especially once I started racing and training at a higher intensity level. I didn’t realize at first what was happening. At the end of a race I would feel dizzy, nauseous, and weak, and take up to an hour to feel better. I chalked it up to my hard effort and really didn’t worry too much about it. But, as these things do, it got worse. Here’s a little timeline of my history with Exercise Induced Asthma.

Exercise Induced Asthma

May 1996: I was running a 10k in Yucca Valley. It was shortly after Alan and I had met, and he was going to pace me to a PR. He did that, but I don’t remember the last 2/10 of a mile because I was so seriously oxygen deprived that I passed out at the finish line. While I never coughed or wheezed, I was not getting enough oxygen to fuel my muscles, and it took me over two hours to fully recover. For a while I couldn’t even lift my arms up. On a happier note, I did finish second overall and first in my age group.

Later that same week while on an easy run, I had my first incidence of a full blown asthma attack. I coughed, I wheezed, I cried (it’s very scary and emotional if you don’t know what’s happening) which made it even worse. Because my mother had suffered from asthma all her life, I figured out what was going on, made a doctor’s appointment and got my first inhaler.

December 1996: I ran my first marathon, in Honolulu. Starting about mile 16 in the race, I started having problems breathing and began using my inhaler. It slowed me down considerably, but I finished.

Honolulu-Marathon

1997: My doctor tried a variety of medications. At one point, I was using three different inhalers and a pill that I took daily. It did help, but that’s an awful lot of medicine.

1998: I created a holster in which I could carry my asthma inhaler. After seeing a woman using a similar one at the San Diego Marathon (it was a gift so she didn’t know where it came from), I used the belt loop part of a flashlight holster with a big paper clip. The inhaler fit perfectly and was easily at hand whenever I needed it. I should have patented it and gone into production. I was asked about it at every race I ever did.

June 2002: The first marathon I ever dropped out of because of my asthma, Rock and Roll in San Diego. You can fight through a lot of things, pain, tiredness, but you really need to be able to breathe, and I couldn’t. I also dropped out of the same race two years later. The only races I’ve ever dropped out of for any reason.

2006: After a knee injury slowed my times and I just got tired of fighting the asthma, I ran my last marathon. For the next few years, I continued to run and race, but never trained at a very high level. I still had the asthma problems during races, but they were infrequent enough so that I stopped taking all the preventative medications and just stuck with my rescue inhaler (albuterol).

2013: With renewed enthusiasm for running, I decided to train hard with a goal of running a sub-2 hour half marathon for the first time in years. That meant adding speed workouts back to my schedule and running longer and harder. It also meant the return of the asthma. Alan (who suffers from asthma too) had been having great success with montelukast, which is the generic version of Singulair. I decided I wanted to try it as well, and after multiple allergy and other tests given by my doctor, I picked up my first prescription.

Exercise Induced Asthma - Health Ox Oximeter

In my first race while using the montelukast, I still had a few issues. I think one of the problems is that I was taking it in the evening before bed. I should have taken it in the morning, a couple hours before the race. Hindsight is 20/20, but I will know this for next time. I did, however, accomplish my goal of running a two hour half marathon.

Fast forward to 2015. After running the Rock and Roll Marathon last June, my first in over eight years, I am now training for the SLO Marathon, which is in April. I have stated that I want to run a strong race, so that means thinking about asthma medication again. I’ll be sticking with the combination of montelukast, along with a rescue inhaler. I don’t start using the medication until about three months out from the race. That is when I start to increase both the intensity and distance of my runs. I’m hopeful that the combination of medication and sticking with my training program will get me across the finish line one more time.

That’s my story. Now a little bit about Exercise Induced Asthma.

What is Exercise Induced Asthma?

If you cough, wheeze or feel out of breath during or after exercise, it may be more than exertion that is the cause. If you feel tingling in your extremities, dizziness, or like you are breathing through a straw, you may be experiencing Exercise Induced Asthma. Even if you’ve never had any breathing issues in the past, EIA may be causing you to slow down, drop out, and begin to wonder if exercise is all it’s cracked up to be.

Having Exercise Induced Asthma does not mean that you should stop exercising. On the contrary, exercise helps to strengthen your entire cardio pulmonary system, and proper treatment of the condition can help keep you active, whether you are an elite level swimmer, an age group runner, or a weekend warrior.

Symptoms of Exercise Induced Asthma

Some of the symptoms of Exercise Induced Asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightening in the chest, fatigue during exercise, and poor athletic poor performance. These can happen during or after exercise. Many people don’t realize they have EIA because they think the symptoms are their body’s response to exercise.

My personal symptoms start with a feeling like tingling in my extremities. I always think that they feel like they are not getting enough oxygen. I start to feel weak and my body suddenly needs to slow down. If I try to push through, I feel like the continued lack of oxygen will cause me to faint and even feel like I have encroaching blackness in my peripheral vision.

As asthma attack can be a life threatening occurrence. Get immediate medical help if your symptoms continue to worsen even after using a rescue inhaler or if your symptoms continue after you are finished with your workout.

Causes & Risk Factors

While no one really knows why one person suffers from EIA while another doesn’t, some things that increase the likelihood of an attack include cold, dry weather, air pollution, high pollen counts, chemicals (such as chlorine in a swimming pool), and having a cold or other respiratory infection.

Again, my personal experience is that warm, humid climates make it more likely to have an attack (contrary to everything I have read, but have heard from others). I also have difficulties at high altitudes, especially during the adaptation period. And while I will occasionally have an EIA attack during shorter, high intensity exercise, I seem to have more problems during lower intensity, but longer efforts.

Those who have asthma that is triggered by other causes are more likely to have EIA, as are children, smokers, and high intensity exerciser (like runners).

Treatment

asthma

So what is an athlete to do? For many people, a couple puffs from a quick relief inhaler such as Albuterol is enough to control symptoms.  These are called bronchodilators and can help open the airways during an attack as well.

If a bronchodilator is not enough, speak to your doctor regarding the medications that are available to prevent asthma attacks. This type of medication is taken on a daily basis to help reduce inflammation and keep your airway open.

In order to prevent an EIA attack, several things are known to help, including a long warm-up of 10 minutes or more, trying to breathe through your nose, covering your mouth in cold dry weather, and if allergens cause you to experience EIA, avoid them as much as possible (maybe skip a workout on a high pollen or pollution day).

Don’t stop exercising. As I mentioned, exercising improves your lung function, so it is an important factor in the control of asthma symptoms. And don’t be discouraged. It may take a while to find the right combination of medications. I have finished 36 marathons with (in spite of) Exercise Induced Asthma, with a PR of 3:16, and many races of shorter distances, so it is possible to race and train at a pretty high level.

Remember, I am not a doctor! If you are experiencing Exercise Induced Asthma symptoms or feel like you are having difficulties breathing during exercise consult your own physician. While I researched the topic, I am speaking from my own experience and yours may be completely different.

The Scoop: Blogfest and IDEAWorld. Gabby, Jillian, Beto and more!

blogFestBody

The powers that be at IDEA have finally released the speaker list and schedule for Blogfest and the IDEA World Fitness Convention, which is July 16-19, 2015 at the Los Angeles Convention Center! Pay attention because you will want to be there after you read this.

Blogfest

You may have heard that Gabrielle Reece will be the keynote speaker for Blogfest 2015, but did you know that she will also be leading a workout? That’s right, Gabby will be teaching the fitness workout she created – HighX!

Laird Hamilton

I never met Gabby Reece, but I did have a chance to meet her hubby Laird Hamilton at a fitness convention a couple years ago.

In addition to High-X, there are several other options for getting your sweat on at Blogfest. Dancer Ian Waite will be teaching his class Dance Yourself Fit. On Friday you can wake up to Kaia Fit with creator Nikki Warren. And while it’s not a workout, you will get a chance to get Up Close and Personal with Zumba creator Beto Perez.

Ian Waite 2

And if that’s not enough fitness for you, on Saturday and Sunday you will have exclusive access to all of the IDEA World Fitness Convention sessions, including the workouts, which include the Hollywood Trainer Ultimate Mash-up with celebrity trainer Jeanette Jenkins, Bodyshred with Jillian Michaels, Zumba, taught by it’s creator Beto Perez, plus many workshops that will include lectures and workouts. And that’s just Saturday!

Jillian and others

Of course you come to blogging and fitness conventions for more than just workouts. You won’t be disappointed. Blogfest sessions include topics such as: How to Increase Readership and Market Your Message to the Masses; Mindblowing Blog Tips; Busting the Top 5 Nutrition Myths; Build a Following on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter (three separate sessions); Make a Career Out of Blogging; The Future of Blogging; and SEO Tips and Tricks. Speakers include Katy Widrick, Melissa Burton, RD, Kasey Arena, Amanda Vogel, and many more. Check here for the complete schedule.

Friends 18

I was fortunate to meet Katy Widrick at Blogfest 2014.

Along with your access to all of the sessions, workouts, and speakers at IDEA World on Saturday and Sunday, all Blogfest attendees also are invited to the opening ceremonies on July 16, which include keynote speaker New York Times best selling author Brendon Burchard, 2015 IDEA Jack LaLanne award recipient Jenna Wolfe, and 2015 IDEA Fitness Inspiration Award winner Anthony Robles. And you won’t want to miss the IDEA World party!

And don’t forget that the IDEA World Fitness and Nutrition Expo runs July 16-18, 11:30 to 6:30. It is one of the largest fitness expos in the world, so come prepared to network, chat, shop, and eat your way through the LA Convention Center expo hall.

Perhaps the best part of Blogfest, and one of the main reasons I will be back, is the opportunity to meet so many of the people whose blogs you have been reading for years. To finally put a voice and a face (beyond a photograph) to these women and men is priceless, and it really is what makes Blogfest such an important event to add to your schedule.

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I have a special code that will save you $100 on your registration! Just click here to sign up and use the code BLOG100 at checkout. There are a limited amount of openings, so don’t delay.

Blogfest Register 2015 new

I’ll be there! Will you? What blogger would you especially like to meet?