Ways to Ease a Muscle Cramp


Cramps are unpleasant, often painful sensations caused by muscle contraction or over shortening. Common causes of skeletal muscle cramps is-

  1. Muscle fatigue
  2. Cold Temperatures
  3. Not enough Warm up before exercising or playing a sport
  4. Dehydration
  5. Electrolyte imbalance

Ways to relax your Muscles & avoid Cramping:

  1. Hydrate Yourself- Dehydration is one of the biggest culprits of muscle cramps. When you feel your muscles tensing into a cramp, it could be a sign that your body is dehydrated. Immediately drink water before the pain becomes too bad.
  2. Massage It- The minute you get a cramp, gently massage the muscle that is cramping. Rub the knots that have formed in the muscle to ease the sharp pain. Make sure you rub in the natural direction of the muscle.
  3. Warm Bath- Warmth eases tension in the muscles. If you’ve been struck by a cramp, hop in for a long, warm shower. It will relieve pain, relax the cramped muscle & make you comfortable. And you will feel much fresher afterwards too!!
  4. Stretch- Stretching helps ease muscle cramps too. For example, if you have a calf cramp, stretch your leg out with toes pointing upwards & towards your head. Hold for 30sec. It also works for cramps in your thighs.
  5. Magnesium Oil- Magnesium oil is hard to find, but its a really good remedy for muscle cramps. It is a natural muscle relaxant. All you have to do is massage the oil into the cramp in order for it to be relieved within minutes.
  6. Go Ayurvedic- There are several Ayurvedic solutions for easing cramps, including mustard seeds. Saturate a tub of hot water with a homemade tea bag of brown/black mustard seeds. When you have a cramp, immerse your feet in the tub for around 20min & your muscle cramp should be relieved.
  7. Ice Pack- If you have a really bad cramp, rubbing an ice pack over it can help the pain. Rub the ice pack over your muscle till your skin becomes reddish. The redness is an indication that blood is flowing back into the muscle & the cramp should ease.
  8. Cover Up- The minute you feel a cramp coming on pr when your struck by one, cover yourself with a blanket/switch off the air conditioner if your indoors. The warmth will get rid of the muscle tension & cramp.
  9. Electrolyte Supplements- Make sure you take supplements that you need daily. Also, while suffering from a cramp, something salt heavy such as an electoral can help ease the pain.
  10. Apple Cider Vinegar- Drinking a mixture of apple cider vinegar everyday will help keep muscle cramps away as it is a source rich in potassium. However, if you suddenly get a cramp, drink some with a teaspoon of honey in some warm water will give your cramps instant relief.

If you have another method you use to relieve your muscle cramps, we’d love to know. Comment here to let us know!

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The Right Run- Your Action Plan


200498101-001Still hell-bent on racking up the miles? Remember there’s a fine line between pushing through and pushing your luck — and only you (and your doctor) will know what’s best when the running gets rough.

By taking a few precautions and planning, you can prevent many common running injuries. Here are some tips for preventing injuries.

To minimize the aches and pains, consider these general tips to help stay on the safe side:

  • Listen to your body: Don’t ignore pain. A little soreness is OK. But if you notice consistent pain in a muscle or joint that doesn’t get better with rest, see your health care provider.
  • Create a running plan: Before beginning a running routine, talk to a trainer. A trainer can help you create a running plan that is in line with your current fitness/abilities and long-term goals.
  • Stick to the 10 percent rule: Don’t increase mileage by more than 10 percent each week. Upping those miles unexpectedly is a major reason overuse injuries happen!
  • Warm up & cool down: Heading for an intense run? Remember to warm up and cool down to ease the body in and out of a workout. This will help keep injuries at bay.
  • Stretch: Many injuries occur as a result of inadequate stretching. Before and after you run, stretch your muscles thoroughly — especially your calf, hamstrings, groin, and quadriceps. Also, warm up for five minutes — by walking, for example — before you start stretching. Stretching cold muscles may cause injuries.
  • Fix your form: Smooth and efficient is the key. Not only will poor form hinder performance, it could lead to unnecessary pain. So make sure to use correct running technique to prevent injuries, especially shin splints and back aches. Imbalances in the body can also lead to problems down the road, and it never hurts to visit a skilled physical therapist who can help identify and address any biomechanical issues.
  • Strength train: Add weight training and ab exercises to your routine. This strengthens muscles and develops core strength. Lifting can increase structural fitness — which helps bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles endure all that pounding. Pay special attention to strengthening hips, since weak hips are linked to higher rates of injury.
  • Cross train: Mix up your fitness routine. Don’t only run. Try swimming, biking, tennis, or some other activity. This helps prevent overuse injuries that more commonly occur when you do the same type of exercise over and over again.
  • Dress appropriately: Wear lightweight, breathable clothing that wicks moisture away from your skin. Dress in layers. Also wear a hat to protect against the sun and cold.
  • Be sneaker smart: Wear proper-fitting socks and shoes with good support. If the soles of your running shoes have worn thin or are angled, it’s time to get a new pair. If you have foot problems, such as flat feet or high arches, consider using orthotic shoe inserts. Keep track of how many miles those shoes have logged, and replace them every 600 miles — if not sooner! It’s also worth swinging by a specialty running shoe store, where they can help you figure out which shoe is the perfect fit.
  • Run wisely: Run on a flat, smooth surface and avoid steep hills until your body gets used to the activity. Avoid running on uneven surfaces that put unnecessary stress on ligaments. And while off-roading is a fun change of pace, rough terrain may make it easier to twist an ankle — so be extra careful on the trails.
  • Know your limit: Make sure to take at least one day off per week, and mix up those hill-repeats with some easier recovery runs. Don’t forget to pencil in regular rest days, too. You (and your body) deserve it!
  • Be safe: Run during the day, in well-lit areas, or use a light so that you can be seen. Keep a cell phone and identification on you. If running with headphones, set the volume low enough so that you can hear cars and other noises. Run with a partner when you can.
  • Weather matters: Monitor the weather conditions before you go for a run. Don’t run outside if it is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, below freezing, or the humidity is high.
  • Stay hydrated: Make sure you drink an extra 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of water on the days you run. If you are running for more than an hour, drink a sports drink to replenish electrolytes lost in sweat.

Treatment of Common Running Injuries

imagesMost running injuries can be relieved by following these treatment strategies. If pain and discomfort continues, see your health care provider. You may need more advanced treatment to resolve your running injury.

Rest: Take it easy. If you keep running, your injury may get worse. Choose alternative ways to exercise while you heal, such as swimming or cycling.

Ice and cold therapy: Apply ice packs to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling.

Compression: Wrap the affected area with tape and use splints and supports to control swelling and stabilize the affected area.

Elevate: If you sprain your ankle or hurt your foot, elevate it to reduce swelling.

Stretch: To reduce pain and tension of the affected area, gently stretch and massage the injured area.

Pain relievers: Take pain relievers.

Activity levels: Decrease the amount of activity & return slowly to previous activity levels. Don’t try to push through pain. If you notice discomfort, take a break from running. If the pain continues, seek care from your health care provider.

Disclaimer: Remember that none of this information should substitute professional medical advice. Definitely check with a doctor or physical therapist first once those aches and pains arise!

Psoas: ‘The’ Core Muscle


This mighty muscle, lying at the very core of your physical body, has a profound influence upon our well-being.

The psoas is the most important muscle in the body for 3 reasons:

  1. It brought us up to stand. The lumbar curve was created when we came to stand upright by the psoas.
  2. The walking muscle.  It is the muscle responsible for propelling you forward.  There are a lot of muscles helping it, but essentially walking is falling, and falling is all about your psoas. A healthy psoas provides a suspension bridge between trunk and legs. The psoas responds to every movement of the spine. Ideally the psoas guides rather than bears the transfer of weight from the one (trunk) into the two (legs).
  3. It’s a muscle of trauma.  This is the muscle in your body wherein you’re storing your emotions. When feeling threatened it is your psoas muscle that propels you into fleeing or fighting or curls you into a protective ball.

Everything from the chairs we sit in to the shoes we wear can curtail the natural movement of the psoas. Having a constricted psoas might be traced back to your first shoe. Wearing a shoe that shapes the foot, stops bones from rolling, limits ankle mobility, drops the heel behind or shifts the weight onto the toes can and does affect skeletal balance. It can stifle the vitality of your psoas.

Premature standing and walking (before the bones are fully formed and weight bearing) teaches a child to rely on their psoas muscle for structural support. Playpens and walkers encourage early standing and limits crawling, which is so important for kinaesthetic maturation. Plastic baby holders restrain and limit natural movement, rhythm and the protective give and take of a mother’s supple body.

The Effects/Symptoms of a Shortened Psoas

  • Pain with prolonged standing, or standing while leaning forward (doing dishes), pain on rising to stand after sitting, especially when you are leaning forward (computer use or bleacher sitting), and lying flat on your back with the legs flat
  • Constricted organs
  • Impinged nerves
  • Impaired diaphragmatic breathing
  • Putting pressure on the uterus, a tense or short psoas can cause cramping
  • Pushing the oesophagus forwards, a tight upper psoas can cause digestive problems
  • A short psoas can interfere with the diaphragm fully descending through the abdominal core

Psoas as ‘The’ Core Muscle

psoas

See the Psoas as a support.  It is the length and vitality of the psoas that helps to maintain volume in the core. Providing a diagonal muscular shelf, the psoas moves through the core supporting the abdominal organs. A major ganglion of nerves is located on top, around and imbedded through the psoas. Together with the diaphragm, the action of the psoas works like a hydraulic pump to massage the organs and viscera while stimulating the flow of fluids throughout the body.

The keystone of skeletal alignment, it is the balanced pelvis that provides a base of support for the spine, ribcage, neck and head. It is the aligned pelvis that transfers weight down through the hip sockets, legs, knees and feet. If the bones do not support and transfer weight properly, it is the psoas muscle that is called upon to provide structural support, making it tight & weak.

In addition to the psoas being tight, it is also typically weak at the same time. This creates dysfunction in the muscle. Our brain has trouble controlling the muscle because it has been in a shortened position for so long, thinking the psoas always needs to be flexed.

True core strength then, depends upon core integrity. Unlike other muscles, the Psoas does not need strengthening, but rather nourishing. The ‘weak’ Psoas muscle is really a dry, exhausted, Psoas; abused, over-used and too often misused.

Test your Psoas

  • constructive-rest-positionConstructive Rest is an easy position for releasing tension in your psoas muscle. After work and before your evening meal take 10 – 20 minutes to rest in constructive rest and feel the benefits.  Begin by resting on your back. Knees bent and feet placed parallel to each other, the width apart of the front of your hip sockets. Place your heels approximately 12-16 inches away from your buttocks. Keep the trunk and head parallel with the floor. If not parallel place a folded, flat towel under your head. DO NOT push your lower back to the floor or tuck your pelvis under in an attempt to flatten the spine. For best results keep the arms below the shoulder height letting them rest over the ribcage, to the sides of your body or on your belly. There is nothing to do; constructive rest is a BEING position. In this simple position gravity releases the psoas and you’ll feel more at peace with your self and the world.
  • Psoas Strength Test  hip-flexor-strength-test-226x300
    (Modified Sahrmann’s Test (3))
    Here is a general way to determine if your psoas is weak:

    1. Standing, grab and pull your knee to your chest as high as you can without leaning backward. You will need to get your thigh well past 90° (in relation to your supporting leg).
    2. Once your knee is close to your chest, release your hands and attempt to keep your leg above 90 degrees for 15 seconds.
    3. Start timing when you release your hands and stop when your thigh drops below 90° (make sure to use a clock on the wall).

    If you fail before 15 seconds then you have a weak psoas muscle. Any major body shifts, leans, cramping, or loss of control in the allotted time also results in a failed test.  Failure far before 15 seconds shows further weakness. For best accuracy have a fitness professional conduct your test.

For more on Psoas muscle & its conditioning, check out:

Thus working with the Psoas challenges the standard precept of core strength. To really achieve core strength you must first regain a supple, responsive and fluid core so that rich bio-intelligent messages from the central nervous system can foster healthy neuromuscular and skeletal relationships.

 

Dance to Fitness- Part 1


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MOVE, GROOVE…BURN AND LOSE!

It is no secret that that regular exercise is important to good health and longevity. But it can be a challenge to find new ways to exercise, avoid boredom & work a broader variety of muscles.

Sick of the gym? Just dance!

The American Council on Exercise says, dance-based workouts as a growing trend. Plus, you burn about 200 to 400 calories per hour dancing – similar to the calories you burn swimming, cycling or walking. If regularly practiced, dancing can lead to

  • improved strength & stamina
  • sharper balance & coordination
  • increased bone density
  • slower heart rate
  • lower blood pressure
  • improved cholesterol levels
  • boosts your mood, energy level, confidence & self-esteem while it lowers your stress & fatigue;

all signs of improved health & fitness. So if you’re ready to get your dance on (and burn off the fat!), read on for more ways to shape up while shaking your stuff!

Ballroom Dancing:

ballroom-dancing

  • Full body workout
  • Breeds toned arms, lean legs, chiseled abs & amazing flexibility
  • If regularly practiced, dancing can lead to a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure & improved cholesterol levels, all signs of improved health and fitness.

Ballet:

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  • Increase your flexibility
  • Engages the hips, thighs, back, & abs
  • Gentle enough to practice during pregnancy

High-energy routines like the salsa, samba and cha-cha can be compared to an intense workout at the gym. Plus, because it’s a weight-bearing activity, ballroom dancing builds bone density and works nearly all the muscles of the body and sharpens balance and coordination.

ZUMBA your way to a HOT Bod:

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  • Improves Strength & Stamina
  • Body Sculpting
  • Burns 500 to 800 calories
  • Energising

Hot Workout: Sexy Fitness

Forget treadmills & elliptical machines! From strip-tease aerobics to pole dance fitness, there are some super sexy ways to get slim & build up confidence in your body.

Hit the pole

pole_dancing

  • Build strength
  • Improves balance & flexibility
  • Burn up to 400 calories an hour
  • Moves like backbends, kicks and slides work your abs, thighs, glutes and legs.

Work up a sweat with a Striptease

  • For a low impact exercise
  • Improves Stamina
  • Body Sculpting

Shake & sweat with Belly-dancing

Ana-Maria-bellydance

  • Works your Core & Pelvis Floor muscles
  • Improves Strength & Stamina
  • Improves Flexibility of the Hips & Spine
  • If you’re pregnant, belly dancing is a great way to stay active without hitting the gym – the movements perfect your breathing techniques & work the ab and pelvic muscles crucial for a healthy (and speedier) labor & delivery
  • Belly-dance is also good for joint & bone health

Samba:

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  • Focuses particularly on your torso, legs & gluteal muscles
  • Developing lower body & core strength

Hip Hop:

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Nightclub Cardio Workouts:

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  • General Body workout
  • Improves Stamina

Jazzercise:

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  • Combines Jazz dance, Pilates, yoga, resistance training & kickboxing movements
  • Improves cardiovascular health
  • Improves strength & endurance
  • Improves flexibility

DIY Dance:

Can’t make it to a studio? Create your own dance floor at home. Turn up the tunes (and close the shades, if you’re so inclined) & just let loose. Jump, skip, twist, turn & wriggle around until you get your heart rate up. And if you have kids, grab them for an impromptu dance party set to their favourite songs. You’ll work up a sweat, &  they’ll love seeing all of mommy’s moves!

If you can get your heart rate going, sweat some and move during dance it is an excellent way to get your metabolic rate motivated and going. Expert fitness instructors will tell you that after a good work-out, our bodies burn more calories for a couple of hours. Now think about the advantage of dancing for fun and burning more calories after you’ve ended your daily routine. Not only will you benefit from dancing but everyone will have fun. You may even become a good dancer in the process of getting fit.

There are many forms of dance from ballet style to hip hop and even tap dancing. Choose what suits you best or combine a couple different styles for your routine. The key is that you are moving & becoming more active & in a fun way. This means you’ll tend to stick with exercise more so than with other forms. You can customize your routine to fit your age & fitness level, too.

GO DANCING!

P.S.: Dance to Fitness- Part 2