Archive for the ‘Muscles’ Category
I run 10 miles at 7 minute-mile pace, and I’m fine. Put me in a pair of high heels for more than 10 minutes, however, and we’ve got problems.
After you’ve been an athlete for a while, you tend to learn the triggers that will determine whether or not your muscles are going to be sore the next day. For me, it boils down to the following 3 things:
- High heels
- Working out after taking more than a week off
- Switching to a different sporting activity or exercise routine (Hello, Spring season of soccer coming up in a few weeks!)
Either way, it spells D.O.M.S. or what is better known as “Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness”. In layman’s terms, DOMS is the scientific way of describing the stiffness or pain that you feel following a day of intense exercise.
In the last post, I talked about my hamstring issues. In this one, I take a closer look at the problems that surround your hamstrings and what you can do about it.
Your hamstrings consist of a group of three posterior thigh muscles located on the back of your leg which run from just below your knees up the backs of your thighs, all the way to your gluteus maximus. As the name suggests, your “hamstrings” refer to the string-like tendons (that you can actually feel) behind the backs of each of your knees.
There are three hamstring muscles on the backs of each thigh, two on the inside of your thigh and one on the outside of your thigh. The scientific names for these muscles are:
- Biceps femoris (long head)
Your hamstrings actually play a pretty important role in your day-to-day life and can have far-reaching effects on your movement, stability and joint health. Your hamstrings are responsible for:
- Hip extension
- Flexing your knee
- Knee rotation and bending
- Jumping (and controlling trunk movement)
- Deceleration (particularly where your knees are involved)
You never realize how important of a role a particular body part plays in your daily life until it no longer works properly. Such was (and continues to be) the case with my hamstrings.
A few days ago, I went on a relatively short road trip to visit my grandmother in Charlotte. Things were going fine until I hopped in the car for the 3 hour ride back to Raleigh for a soccer game. I literally came home with just enough time to change into my soccer gear and head right back out the door to make it to the game a couple of minutes late.
Mistake number one.
I BARELY had time to do a couple of quick stretches, and then I was being called in because it was probably 95 degrees out with a relative humidity of 70 percent.
Mistake number two.
After trying to sprint for the ball the very first time around, I quickly realized that something was wrong with my legs. It literally felt as if my hamstrings in both of my legs were so tight that they were going to snap. I sucked it up and got through the remainder of the game, but it was so painful that I actually found myself asking the ref. how much time was left. I couldn’t wait for the game to be over (which is very unlike me).
There I was, normally the fastest person on the field, and I couldn’t even jog to receive a pass from one of my teammates.
We lost the game. And as I mumbled my “good game(s)” to everyone, I quietly gathered my things and hobbled over to my car to leave. As the rest of the day progressed, the pain only worsened. I tried to put some Bengay on my legs; I tried to stretch; I tried a hot shower. I started to get nervous. Maybe if I went to the gym and just tried walking on the treadmill for a little bit, it would loosen up my legs.
As it turned out, just walking up to the gym in our apartment complex was like climbing Mount Everest. I’m sure that anyone driving by me probably thought that I was crippled. Almost 3 days later, I feel much better and even managed to go for a slow run last night, but I still can’t figure out what would have caused my hamstrings to seize up the way that they did. It’s never happened to me before….In the next post, I will explore the possibilities as to what causes tight hamstrings, how to treat them and what kinds of stretches you can do to help.
It is amazing how crisper the general experience of life becomes when your body is given a chance to develop a little strength. -Frank Duff
Ever since I started up my soccer season and completed a grand total of 2 games, my left hip flexor has been bothering me. I’ve started to notice a slightly alarming, yet recurring pattern with this problem, and I’ve managed to conclude that the pain in my left hip flexor is possibly due to the fact that I have a career in which 90 percent of my work day is spent sitting in front of computer. Combine that with the quick, sudden movements involved in kicking a ball and sprinting on a soccer field and voila!
Hip flexor issues.
I’ve been doing a little research on how to *hopefully rectify my hip flexor issues, and I figured I’d share some of my findings below.
What are your hip flexors?
Your hip flexors consist of a group of skeletal muscles that allow your hip to bend and flex. This group of muscles are often referred to as the following:
Iliopsoas (Inner hip muscles):
- Psoas major
- Psoas minor
- Iliacus muscle
Anteriror (outer thigh):
- Rectus femoris
- Tensor fasciae latae (gluteal muscle)
Medial (middle thigh):
- Adductor longus
- Adductor brevis
Causes of injury
Contrary to popular belief, most problems that occur with your hip flexors aren’t due to a lack of strength but are due, instead, to a lack of flexibility (which is definitely a problem for me). For example, if you have a desk job in which you are sitting for hours on end, day after day, your hip flexors will begin to shorten and shrink, limiting your ability to fully extend your hip. The result is an increase in pressure on the joints of your lower spine, which can lead to all sorts of other problems in the long term [source]. Other everyday examples of things that might cause you to injure or strain your hip flexors include (but are not limited to):
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Desk job and/or too much prolonged sitting
- Explosive movement (i.e. sprinting, kicking a ball, etc.)
Exactly how long does it take for the average person to gain weight? I was thinking about this again the other day. With so many people around who are overweight, it really makes you wonder what people are doing wrong so that you can avoid it. Given my personality, it is easy to become paranoid about all of this and even more tempting to want to do nothing but exercise from the time I get up until the time I go to bed just so that I won’t have to worry about my health.
It’s Not Always That Simple
When looking at weight gain, weight loss and overall “good” health, you can choose to look at it in one of two ways: complicated or easy. In fact, if you really want to be scientific about it, there are many factors that go into why some people look the way they do. The main factors that we’re talking about here include some of the following:
- Diet- Diet is king. You could look like you’re in great shape on the outside but still have high cholesterol as a result of a diet that consists of nightly binges at the local fast food restaurant, etc. Having a good diet is a habit that you have to develop and consistently work at in order to have it turn into something that you’re not always obsessing over (and trust me, obsessing is just as bad!). However, for many people who weren’t raised by health-conscious parents or who have fallen off of the wagon for some time, getting back into the healthy swing of things isn’t easy at all- the main reason being that we live in a world where we are CONSTANTLY surrounded by tempting junk food. Eating healthy is just like running; it’s 90 percent mental.
- Exercise- There are also those people who only eat the healthiest, organic foods. Heck, they may even be growing a garden in their backyard, but none of this makes a difference when they can’t make it up a flight of stairs without getting winded. Exercise and Diet are a match made in Heaven. If the two get divorced, then you know you’re going to have problems.
- Lifestyle- Most Americans follow the code of “work, work, work..” not necessarily because they want to but because they feel like they have no choice. I’m not advocating anyone quitting their jobs (especially in this time of economic crisis), but at the same time, you do need to take a breather every now and then so that you can sort of reassess your life situation. I wound up quitting a job once because all I did was work, and it left me no quality of life…and believe me, Life is extremely important. After all, what are you living for? Your lifestyle should be anything but sedentary. Even if you work a desk job, set a timer if you have to in order to remind yourself to get up and walk around and/or take a stretch. Need to grab some light groceries from the corner market? How about a nice walk versus revving up the engine in your car? You’ll save on gas too!
- Emotions- Many people downplay the effect that their emotions have on their life; but the truth of the matter is that emotions play a HUGE role in our overall health. For instance, studies have been done which show that sad/depressed people get sick and have more health problems than those who have a sunny, optimistic disposition. This is where it helps to have a friend, partner or trusted family member who you regularly communicate with. If they tell you that something’s “off”, don’t just poo-poo it. Keeping a journal is another great way to keep on top of your emotional health. If all else fails, there is certainly no shame in seeking the professional help of a licensed counselor or therapist. One of the main reasons that people have issues with their diet is due to how they feel emotionally. It isn’t uncommon for women to eat more of a certain type of “comfort food” when they are experiencing the dreaded PMS symptoms. The same thing goes for someone who has lost a close friend or family member or who may just be going through a rough patch.
- Sleep- This is the other thing that is overrated but shouldn’t be. Quite the opposite, sleeping is one of the most important things that our bodies need. Rest is what allows our bodies to recover after a hard workout or a long day at the office. It is what allows muscles to repair themselves and grow; and it is also responsible for helping us to think more clearly the following day, putting us in a better mood, etc. Even taking a cat nap from 15 to 30 minutes can work wonders.
More to Love
This is the key to weight loss as well as muscle strength. When you take a closer look at nutrition, you’re really only looking at three things: protein, carbs and fats. So whether your goal is to lose those lovehandles or bulk up for a bodybuilding competition, you’re going to have to look at various ways of manipulating these three items in order to make it happen.
Remember when I said earlier that there are two ways to look at weight gain/weight loss? Well, this is the easy way of looking at it. The problem with people gaining weight (not the good kind) or trying to lose it lies not in all of those “diet” schemes. Rather, it simply relies on the individual’s ability to have self control.
Yup. It’s that easy.
EVERY PERSON SHOULD BE EATING HEALTHY AND GETTING SOME FORM OF EXERCISE IN EVERY DAY. Let me break this down for you to make it even easier:
- Portion Control/Caloric Intake- You don’t have to be one of those crazy calorie counter people to lose weight. However, the benefit of sometimes knowing (especially in the beginning of a training regimen) how many calories you are consuming and where they are coming from can give you a more accurate representation of what you’re doing and what’s working for you. The main thing to remember here is that the more calories you consume coupled with a lack of exercise, the more weight you will gain….so, eater beware. Now, for some reason, here in America, portion sizes have gotten completely out of control, and if you come from a background where you were taught to “clean everything on your plate,” then you’re going to have problems.*Instead, practice some self control and scale down the portions that you’re eating. For those who are really challenged, you may want to invest in some smaller bowls and plates!
- Exercise- Again, you can’t/should never avoid exercise…mostly because it just means you’re lazy. Think of how many other things you make time for in your “busy” day. I find that exercising first thing in the morning is a great way to wake up because not only do I feel completely refreshed and energized afterwards, but I also don’t have to deal with the excuse of “being too tired after work to do anything”. You never know what sorts of things are going to pop up unexpectedly throughout the day, which is why A.M. exercise is even more appealing.
- Being Picky as a Good Thing-My boyfriend jokes around all the time that I am just like Meg Ryan’s character from When Harry Met Sally when it comes to ordering food from a restaurant. But in all seriousness, when you’re trying to eat healthy, being picky is an excellent thing to be. For example, when I occasionally order a sandwich from the bagel shop, I used to order it with “a little bit of honey mustard” on the sandwich. However, I soon realized that everyone else’s idea of “a little bit” was not the same as mine. I switched to asking for “a drizzle of honey mustard” on my sandwich, and when that STILL didn’t work, a light bulb in my head went off. Now I order my honey mustard “on the side” where I can drizzle at my own discretion!
*Quick Tip: The next time you go out to eat at a restaurant, ask the waiter how big the portions typically are. If the portions are huge, then order a to-go container to come out with your food. When the waiter brings out your food and the to-go container, before you even take a bite, portion off half of that massive serving into your doggie bag and save it for later. What you’ll be left with on your plate is a portion that is more reasonable and that you won’t feel bad about finishing!
If someone says, ‘Hey, I ran 100 miles this week. How far did you run?’ Ignore him! What the hell difference does it make?…The magic is in the man, not the 100 miles. -Bill Bowerman