Archive for March, 2011

Ski

To purchase the Stretch Guru:Ski iPhone App, click here.
To purchase the Stretch Guru:Ski Android App, click here.

 

Ski Injuries

Skiing works the entire body, but especially the quadriceps, core and forearms. Don’t let your ski season be cut short by an injury that could possibly have been prevented by stretching, such as skier’s thumb, muscle strains, knee injuries and delayed-onset muscle soreness.

Skier’s thumb can be extremely painful and can severely impact your skiing abilities. Skier’s thumb is caused when the ulnar collateral ligament, which connects the bones to the base of the thumb, is stretched too far. It often occurs when thumbs are caught on a ski pole during a fall or jarring movement.

Knee injuries make up about a third of ski injuries, with ligament injury being the most common aspect. Menisci, cruciate and collateral injuries can occur when a skier falls and twists the lower leg, but the binding does not release in time.

Tibial injuries such as a spiral fractures and boot top injuries are also common among skiers.

Upper limb injuries such as shoulder injuries include dislocations and rotator cuff tears.

Muscle strains often occur in the lower back by overstretching or tearing the muscles or tendons. Tendons are the tissues that connect the muscle to the bone. Decreased elasticity of muscles is the most common cause of muscle strains in the lower back for skiers. Treatment often includes cessation of physical activity for 4-6 weeks.

Delayed-onset muscle soreness, known as DOMS, is typified by muscles stiffness that occurs up to two days after engaging in intense physical exercise. The cause of delayed-onset muscle soreness is thought to be miniscule tears in muscle fibers. Doctors suggest engaging in low-impact exercises such as yoga or stationary cycling to promote blood flow to your muscles. Gentle stretching is also helpful for pain relief.

Stretches for Skiers

Top 6 Stretches (Calf, Quadriceps, Hamstrings & Shoulders, Trunk rotation, Hip Flexor & Psoas, Inner Thighs)
Top 12 Stretches (Add to the above: Downward-facing Dog, Groin, Hips, Gluteus, Lower Back, Chest)
Top 18 Stretches (Add to the above: Achilles Tendon, Hamstring, Seated Piriformis, Upper Back, Triceps & Shoulder, Neck)

Performing the Stretches Correctly

Achilles Tendon – Stand straight with your hands against a wall with one leg slightly behind your other leg. Keeping your heels flat on the floor, slowly bend both knees. You should feel the stretch in the lower part of your leg. Repeat on the other side.

Calf – Stand facing a wall or other support, approximately one leg’s length away.  Lunge forward with right leg, extending arms to allow the wall to balance you. Feet should be about hip width apart, toes forward and left leg extended back with the knee straight and the foot flat on the floor. Push the left heal to the floor and move hips slightly forward. Repeat on the other side.

Chest – With right arm extended, place hand on a fixed structure at about shoulder height. Turn your body away from the right arm until gentle stretch occurs in the chest. Note that the upper chest stretch increases with the elbow lower and the lower chest stretch increases with the elbow higher. Repeat on the other side.

Downward-facing Dog – Start on all fours, stacking wrists directly below the elbows and elbows directly below the shoulders. Adjust the hips until they are directly above the knees. Straighten your legs and send your hips high while trying to place your heels on the ground. Remember to engage your core. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

Gluteus Maximus – Stand facing the back of a park bench. Take your left foot and cross it over your right knee, creating a figure-four-type posture. Holding on to the bench with both hands, begin to ease your rear end down until it is parallel to the floor. It should feel like you are sitting in an imaginary chair. If possible, release the left hand from the bench and press your left elbow down on your left knee for a deeper stretch. Release your elbow from your knee, put both hands on the bench, and slowly return to standing position. Release your crossed foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side.

Groin – Stand with your feet about 2 meters apart, toes pointing forward. Gradually shift all your weight to your left leg by bending your left knee. Your right leg stays straight. You can increase the starting distance between your feet for a greater stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Hamstring – Stand with your left foot on a park bench or low wall, no higher than hip height, with the middle of your shoe on the edge. Lock your left leg straight and bend your right leg slightly. Gently bend forward from the hip bringing your head towards the leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the left hamstring. Repeat on the other side.

Hamstrings & Shoulders – Begin standing upright. Extend your arms behind you, clasping hands together. Maintain a flat back while folding forward from the hip, releasing the shoulders and letting your hands and arms hang towards the ground. Feel the deep stretch in both your hamstrings and your chest. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

Hip Flexor & Psoas – Stand facing a bench or elevated platform, approximately one leg’s length away. Place right foot on bench or platform. Slowly lunge forward by bending right leg. With chest high, straighten hip of left leg by pushing hips forward. Keep torso upright, close to vertical and hips square to the wall. Repeat on the other side.

Hips – The double pigeon is an excellent hip stretch because it gives you a deep stretch right where you need it after a day on the slopes.

Sit on the floor, cross-legged. Stack your ankles, knees, and shins. Flex your feet and lean forward to increase the stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and then switch sides so the other leg is on top.

Inner Thighs – Stand with your feet wide and fold forward, placing your hands on the floor. Then walk your feet out as wide as you can go. Stay on your hands, or if you’re more flexible, lower onto your forearms. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Lower Back – This is just what your back needs after a vigorous day on the mountain.

With your feet shoulder width apart and pointed outwards to about a 15 degree angle and your heels on the ground, bend your knees and squat. Then lean slightly forward and try to lower the backside as close to the heels as possible until you feel a gentle stretch in the lower back.

Neck – Bend your head forward and slightly to the right. With your right hand, gently pull your head downward. You’ll feel a nice, easy stretch along the back left side of your neck. Repeat on other side.

Quadriceps – Near a wall or bench, stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend your left knee and grasp the top of your left foot with your left hand. Bring your heel as close as possible to the left side of your buttocks, feeling a gentle stretch of the quad and shin. Keep your back straight, your left knee vertically in alignment with your left hip and horizontally in alignment with your right knee. Repeat on the other side.

Seated Piriformis – Begin in a seated position, crossing the right leg on top of the left being careful to stack the right ankle directly above the left knee. Fold forward and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Triceps & Shoulder – Extend your right arm straight up in the air. Bend arm at the elbow, pointing the elbow towards the sky and letting the forearm fall behind your back. Take your left hand and grab your right elbow.  Pull the elbow behind your head feeling a gentle stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Trunk rotation – With feet hip width apart and arms crossed over your chest, twist only at your torso until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Upper Back – This stretch gets right underneath your shoulder blades, which feels amazing after a day bent over your poles! It also does a good job of stretching your shoulders too.

With a straight back, put your left hand straight out in front of you. Twist your right arm underneath your left one. Reach up and grab the palm of your left hand with your right fingers. This is the start position. Now lift both of your arms towards the ceiling until you feel a stretch between your shoulder blades. Repeat on the other side.

Swim

To purchase the Stretch Guru:Swim iPhone App, click here.
To purchase the Stretch Guru:Swim Android App, click here.

 

Swimming Injuries

Swimming is a very low-impact sport that strengthens and tones most of the body’s muscle groups, including the hamstrings, quadriceps, core, upper back and shoulders. Swimming is often recommended as an exercise to athletes who have injured themselves through other intense physical activities. Despite being a very low-impact sport, there are still debilitating injuries you can sustain while swimming, including swimmer’s shoulder and muscle cramps.

Swimmer’s shoulder is typified by pain in the rotator cuff and is very common in competitive freestyle swimmers. Swimmer’s shoulder is caused by tendonitis, or inflammation in the tendons of the rotator cuff, often from overuse. Stretching, varying your swimming styles, ensuring you are using proper stroke form and lifting weights to strengthen the upper trapezius and serratus interior muscles can help prevent swimmer’s shoulder. If you incur an episode of swimmer’s shoulder, there are many methods of rehabilitation, including stretching, anti-inflammatory medication and even cessation of swimming for 4-6 weeks.

Muscle cramps often occur in the gastrocnemius (calf), hamstring and quadriceps muscles. Symptoms include spasms or cramping caused by involuntary muscle contractions. Sometimes intense muscle cramps are released only by guided stretching that helps lengthened the contracted muscle. Dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and muscle fatigue are all contributing factors to cramping. Stretching a cramped muscle until the cramp ceases is the best treatment for muscle cramps; however, proper warm-up and stretching before and after exercise greatly reduces muscle cramps.

Stretches for Swimmers

Top 6 Stretches (Calf, Quadriceps, Hamstring, Triceps & Latissimus Dorsi, Tricep & Shoulder, Upper Back)
Top 12 Stretches (Add to the above: Deltoid & Rotator Cuff, Chest, Hip & Low Back, Gluteus Maximus, Groin, Shoulder)
Top 18 Stretches (Add to the above: Neck, Hip Flexor & Psoas, IT Band, Side Arch, Backwards Stretch, Achilles Tendon)

Performing the Stretches Correctly

Achilles Tendon – Stand straight with your hands against a wall with one leg slightly behind your other leg. Keeping your heels flat on the floor, slowly bend both knees. You should feel the stretch in the lower part of your leg. Repeat on the other side.

Backward Stretch – While standing straight, place the palms of your hands against the small of your back. Tighten your buttocks and core and bend backwards, holding your neck straight.

Calf – Stand facing a wall or other support, approximately one leg’s length away.  Lunge forward with right leg, extending arms to allow the wall to balance you. Feet should be about hip width apart, toes forward and left leg extended back with the knee straight and the foot flat on the floor. Push the left heal to the floor and move hips slightly forward. Repeat on the other side.

Chest – With right arm extended, place hand on a fixed structure at about shoulder height. Turn your body away from the right arm until gentle stretch occurs in the chest. Repeat on the other side. Note that the upper chest stretch increases with the elbow lower and the lower chest stretch increases with the elbow higher.  Repeat on the other side.

Deltoid & Rotator Cuff – Bring your left arm across your body and hold it with your right arm, either above or below the elbow. Pull as close to chest as possible. Repeat on other side.

Gluteus Maximus – Stand facing the back of a park bench. Take your left foot and cross it over your right knee, creating a figure-four-type posture. Holding on to the bench with both hands, begin to ease your rear end down until it is parallel to the floor. It should feel like you are sitting in an imaginary chair. If possible, release the left hand from the bench and press your left elbow down on your left knee for a deeper stretch. Release your elbow from your knee, put both hands on the bench, and slowly return to standing position. Release your crossed foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side.

Groin – Stand with your feet as far apart as possible, toes pointing forward. Gradually shift all your weight to your left leg by bending your left knee. Your right leg stays straight. You can increase the starting distance between your feet for a greater stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Hamstring – Stand with your left foot on a park bench or low wall, no higher than hip height, with the middle of your shoe on the edge. Lock your left leg straight and bend your right leg slightly. Gently bend forward from the hip bringing your head towards the leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the left hamstring. Repeat on the other side.

Hip & Low Back – This great swimmer’s stretch opens up the hips and stretches the muscles of the hips, groin and lower back.

Begin in a forward lunge position then drop your left knee to the ground. Place your right elbow on the inside of your right knee. Press your right elbow gently into your right knee and twist your torso to the left. Reach your left arm behind you until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back and right groin. Repeat on the other side.

Hip Flexor & Psoas – Stand facing a bench or elevated platform, approximately one leg’s length away. Place right foot on bench or platform. Slowly lunge forward by bending right leg. With chest high, straighten hip of left leg by pushing hips forward. Keep torso upright, close to vertical and hips square to the wall. Repeat on the other side.

IT Band – Standing near a wall for support, cross your right leg in front of your left leg. Extend your left arm overhead and reach to your right side. Put your right hand on your hip and push slightly to move your hips to the left until you feel a gentle stretch along the left side of your torso, hip, upper thigh and knee. Repeat on the other side.

Neck – Bend your head forward and slightly to the right. With your right hand, gently pull your head downward. You’ll feel a nice, easy stretch along the back left side of your neck. Repeat on other side.

Quadriceps – Near a wall or bench, stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend your left knee and grasp the top of your left foot with your left hand. Bring your heel as close as possible to the left side of your buttocks, feeling a gentle stretch of the quad and shin. Keep your back straight, your left knee vertically in alignment with your left hip and horizontally in alignment with your right knee. Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder – place one hand behind your back and reach up between your shoulder blades until you feel a gentle stretch.

Side Arch – Stand with feet just slightly apart. Raise your left arm, making a line from your left foot to the fingertips. Let your right arm extend down the right side of the body as you bend your upper body to the right feeling a gentle stretch along your left side. Bring the body back to the original position and repeat on the other side.

Triceps & Latissimus Dorsi – Standing about 4 feet away from a solid prop, slowly hinge forward at the hip, grab the prop at about waist height and allow your upper body weight to rest on your arms. Let the head drop deeply between the shoulder blades to create a powerful stretch in the tris and lats. Pulling down with the arms increases the stretch further.

Triceps & Shoulder – Extend your right arm straight up in the air. Bend arm at the elbow, pointing the elbow towards the sky and letting the forearm fall behind your back. Take your left hand and grab your right elbow.  Pull the elbow behind your head feeling a gentle stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Upper Back – Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your legs slightly bent. With arms straight, clasp your fingers in front of you while keeping your core muscles engaged and your body upright. Gently push your hands away from you until you feel a gentle stretch at the back of the shoulders and across the upper back.

Run

To purchase the Stretch Guru:Run iPhone App, click here.
To purchase the Stretch Guru:Run Android App, click here.

 

Running Injuries

Running places an enormous amount of stress on the hips, knees, shins and feet. Therefore, without proper warm-up and stretching, running can cause painful and sometimes debilitating injuries that can keep runners from exercising for days, weeks, months or even permanently. Common runner’s injuries include iliotibial band syndrome (also known as Runner’s Knee), shin splints, plantar fasciitis and stress fractures. It is therefore imperative to keep the muscles and tissues surrounding these areas supple by stretching them when they are warm.

Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome) is caused when the iliotibial band, a thick band of tissue that runs down the outside of the leg from the hip to the shin, becomes irritated. The IT band provides stability for the outside of the knee joint. Therefore, runners experiencing IT band syndrome experience pain in the knee joint. Pain often worsens with increased motion and diminishes when the knee is stationary. Treatment for this syndrome can be costly, so prevent your knees and wallet from pain by warming up and then stretching. This will help make them flexible and more resistant to injury.

Shin splints cause pain along the shinbone, or tibia. Shin splints arise when the connective tissues attaching muscles to the shinbone weaken due to stress, which is often caused by running on hard pavement. Shin splints are very slow healing and can cause runners to miss months of valuable training. Stretching the calf muscles and anterior tibialis (shin muscles) increases litheness and can prevent shin splints.

Plantar fasciitis is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue running from the heel to the toes on the bottom of each foot. Plantar fasciitis can result in excruciating pain along the arch of the foot, especially in the early morning. Plantar fasciitis can be prevented by using shoes that have proper arch support and stretching the feet before running. It can take months before patients with plantar fasciitis recover so don’t let this condition ruin your training!

Stress fractures are the most common sports injury. When an athlete such as a runner overuses a muscle group, the muscles become fatigued and are unable to absorb the shock of motions such as running, transferring the shock to the bone. The shock creates tiny cracks in the bone, called stress fractures. Stress fractures not only result because of overuse in the traditional sense, but because runners increase activity too quickly or run on unfamiliar surfaces too long. More than fifty percent of stress fractures occur in the lower leg and it can take up to eight weeks of no activity to heal. To help prevent stress fractures, warm up and then gently stretch.

Stretches for Runners

Top 6 Stretches (Calf, Quadriceps, IT Band, Hamstring, Groin, Glute)
Top 12 Stretches (Add to the above: Achilles, Plantar Fascia, Hip Flexor & Psoas, Piriformis, Tri & Shoulder, Lower Back)
Top 18 Stretches (Add to the above: Shin, Side Arch, Backward Stretch, Chest, Arms & Shoulder, Neck)

Performing the Stretches Correctly

Achilles Tendon – Stand straight with your hands against a wall with one leg slightly behind your other leg. Keeping your heels flat on the floor, slowly bend both knees. You should feel the stretch in the lower part of your leg. Repeat on the other side.

Arms & Shoulder – Bring your left arm across your body and hold it with your right arm, either above or below the elbow. Pull as close to chest as possible. Repeat on other side.

Backward Stretch – While standing straight, place the palms of your hands against the small of your back. Tighten your buttocks and core and bend backwards, holding your neck straight.

Calf – Stand facing a wall or other support, approximately one leg’s length away.  Lunge forward with right leg, extending arms to allow the wall to balance you. Feet should be about hip width apart, toes forward and left leg extended back with the knee straight and the foot flat on the floor. Push the left heal to the floor and move hips slightly forward. Repeat on the other side.

Chest – With right arm extended, place hand on a fixed structure at about shoulder height. Turn your body away from the right arm until gentle stretch occurs in the chest. Note that the upper chest stretch increases with the elbow lower and the lower chest stretch increases with the elbow higher. Repeat on the other side.

Gluteus Maximus – Stand facing the back of a park bench. Take your left foot and cross it over your right knee, creating a figure-four-type posture. Holding on to the bench with both hands, begin to ease your rear end down until it is parallel to the floor. It should feel like you are sitting in an imaginary chair. If possible, release the left hand from the bench and press your left elbow down on your left knee for a deeper stretch. Release your elbow from your knee, put both hands on the bench, and slowly return to standing position. Release your crossed foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side.

Groin – Stand with your feet as far apart as possible, toes pointing forward. Gradually shift all your weight to your left leg by bending your left knee. Your right leg stays straight. You can increase the starting distance between your feet for a greater stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Hamstring – Stand with your left foot on a park bench or low wall, no higher than hip height, with the middle of your shoe on the edge. Lock your left leg straight and bend your right leg slightly. Gently bend forward from the hip bringing your head towards the leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the left hamstring. Repeat on the other side.

Hip Flexor & Psoas – Stand facing a bench or elevated platform, approximately one leg’s length away. Place right foot on bench or platform. Slowly lunge forward by bending right leg. With chest high, straighten hip of left leg by pushing hips forward. Keep torso upright, close to vertical and hips square to the wall. Repeat on the other side.

IT Band – Standing near a wall for support, cross your right leg in front of your left leg. Extend your left arm overhead and reach to your right side. Put your right hand on your hip and push slightly to move your hips to the left until you feel a gentle stretch along the left side of your torso, hip, upper thigh and knee. Repeat on the other side.

Lower Back – With your feet shoulder width apart and pointed outwards to about a 15 degree angle and your heels on the ground, bend your knees and squat. Then lean slightly forward and try to lower the backside as close to the heels as possible until you feel a gentle stretch in the lower back.

Neck – Bend your head forward and slightly to the right. With your right hand, gently pull your head downward. You’ll feel a nice, easy stretch along the back left side of your neck. Repeat on other side.

Piriformis – Using a wall or bench for support, stand on your left leg, cross your right leg over and rest it just above your left knee creating a figure-four-type posture. Keeping your back very straight, do a one legged squat until you feel a gentile stretch of the piriformis muscle on the left side. Repeat on the other side.

Plantar fascia – Squat down with your left foot in front of your right foot and your hands on the ground for balance. Keeping your toes on the ground and arching your right foot, slowly move your body weight forward until you feel a stretch to the arch of the right foot. Repeat on the other side.

Quadriceps – Near a wall or bench, stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend your left knee and grasp the top of your left foot with your left hand. Bring your heel as close as possible to the left side of your buttocks, feeling a gentle stretch of the quad and shin. Keep your back straight, your left knee vertically in alignment with your left hip and horizontally in alignment with your right knee. Repeat on the other side.

Shin – Stand with the toes of your left foot on the floor on the outside of your right foot. Bend the right leg to push your ankle towards the ground until you feel a gentle stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Side Arch – Stand with feet just slightly apart. Raise your left arm, making a line from your left foot to the fingertips. Let your right arm extend down the right side of the body as you bend your upper body to the right feeling a gentle stretch along your left side. Bring the body back to the original position and repeat on the other side.

Triceps & Shoulder – Extend your right arm straight up in the air. Bend arm at the elbow, pointing the elbow towards the sky and letting the forearm fall behind your back. Take your left hand and grab your right elbow.  Pull the elbow behind your head feeling a gentle stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Golf

To purchase the Stretch Guru:Golf iPhone App, click here.
To purchase the Stretch Guru:Golf Android App, click here.

 

Golfing Injuries

Golfing is a sport that necessitates repetitive motion of the shoulders, hips and elbows. Large muscle groups used in golf include the hamstrings, quadriceps, abdominals, obliques, trapezius, latissimus, rhombus (these muscles are located in the upper- and mid-back), deltoids and over five muscles in the forearm. Overuse and improper alignment of these muscle groups can cause a variety of injuries including golfer’s elbow and DeQuervain’s Tendinitis.

Golfer’s elbow is characterized by pain localized near the inner right elbow. Golfer’s elbow is caused by the swelling of the tendon surrounding the inner right elbow due to overuse during a golf swing. Ill-fitting equipment, such as golf clubs, can exacerbate the condition. Bracing and strapping your elbow before golf, ensuring you engage in proper form and stretching to promote blood flow to the elbow help prevent golfer’s elbow. Most often, the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate) is recommended for treatment.

DeQuervain’s Tendinitis is typified by pain at the base of the thumb near the wrist. The two main tendons of the thumb pass through a tendon sheath, or a line of connective tissue that wraps around the wrist like a bracelet. When the tendons swell, the sheath continues to hold the tendons, but compresses them on to the nerves, causing pain and tenderness in the fingers. Treatment includes splints, anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroids for mild cases and surgery for more serious cases.

Stretches for Golfers

Top 6 Stretches (Calf, Quads, Glutes, Wrist Flexion & Forearm, Tris/Lats & Hamstrings, Shoulder & Chest)

Top 12 Stretches (Add to the above: Hamstrings & Shoulder, Hip Flexor & Psoas, Hip & Low Back, Trunk Rotation, Wrist Extension & Forearm, Anterior Shoulder & Chest)

Top 18 Stretches (Add to the above: Achilles, IT Band, Groin, Side Bend, Triceps & Shoulder, Neck)

Performing the Stretches Correctly

Achilles Tendon – Stand straight with your hands against a wall with one leg slightly behind your other leg. Keeping your heels flat on the floor, slowly bend both knees. You should feel the stretch in the lower part of your leg. Repeat on the other side.

Anterior Shoulder & Chest Stretch – Hold a club with both hands behind your back as close together as is comfortable and elbows extended. Stick your chest out while you raise the club back away from your body. Hold for 20-30 seconds.

Calf – Stand facing a wall or other support, approximately one leg’s length away.  Lunge forward with right leg, extending arms to allow the wall to balance you. Feet should be about hip width apart, toes forward and left leg extended back with the knee straight and the foot flat on the floor. Push the left heal to the floor and move hips slightly forward. Repeat on the other side.

Gluteus Maximus – Using a golf club for balance, cross your right ankle just above your left knee. Once you are balanced, sit back and lean forward while keeping your back straight and our chest pushed out. Hold for 10-60 seconds. You’ll feel a gentle stretch in your glutes. Repeat on the other side.

Groin – Stand with your feet about 2 meters apart, toes pointing forward. Gradually shift all your weight to your left leg by bending your left knee. Your right leg stays straight. You can increase the starting distance between your feet for a greater stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Hamstrings & Shoulders – Begin standing upright. Extend your arms behind you, clasping hands together. Maintain a flat back while folding forward from the hip, releasing the shoulders and letting your hands and arms hang towards the ground. Feel the deep stretch in both your hamstrings and your chest. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

Hip Flexor & Psoas – Stand facing a bench or elevated platform, approximately one leg’s length away. Place right foot on bench or platform. Slowly lunge forward by bending right leg. With chest high, straighten hip of left leg by pushing hips forward. Keep torso upright, close to vertical and hips square to the wall. Repeat on the other side.

Hip & Low Back Stretch – This great cyclist’s stretch opens up the hips and stretches the muscles of the hips, groin and lower back.

Begin in a forward lunge position then drop your left knee to the ground. Place your right elbow on the inside of your right knee. Press your right elbow gently into your right knee and twist your torso to the left. Reach your left arm behind you until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back and right groin. Repeat on the other side.

IT Band – Standing near a wall for support, cross your right leg in front of your left leg. Extend your left arm overhead and reach to your right side. Put your right hand on your hip and push slightly to move your hips to the left until you feel a gentle stretch along the left side of your torso, hip, upper thigh and knee. Repeat on the other side.

Lower Back Trunk Rotation – With feet hip width apart and arms crossed over your chest, twist only at your torso until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Neck – Bend your head forward and slightly to the right. With your right hand, gently pull your head downward. You’ll feel a nice, easy stretch along the back left side of your neck. Repeat on other side.

Quadriceps – Near a wall or bench, stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend your left knee and grasp the top of your left foot with your left hand. Bring your heel as close as possible to the left side of your buttocks, feeling a gentle stretch of the quad and shin. Keep your back straight, your left knee vertically in alignment with your left hip and horizontally in alignment with your right knee. Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder & Chest:  Holding onto both ends of a club, lift it forward, over your head and then pull it behind your back as far as you can go while keeping your elbows straight. Hold for 10-30 seconds to open the shoulders and upper chest.

Side Bend – Hold a club with both hands over your head. Keeping your core engaged, bend as far as you can to the right and hold. Feel the stretch in your obliques and latissimus. Slowly return to the upright position. Repeat on the other side.

Triceps & Shoulder – Extend your right arm straight up in the air. Bend arm at the elbow, pointing the elbow towards the sky and letting the forearm fall behind your back. Take your left hand and grab your right elbow.  Pull the elbow behind your head feeling a gentle stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Tris, Lats & Hams – Take a golf club and sit it upright in front of you touching the ground. Hold the top of the grip with both hands and arms fully extended and back straight. Let the head drop deeply between the shoulder blades to create a powerful stretch in the lats and triceps. Pulling down with the arms increases the stretch further. You should feel a great stretch around your rib cage, hamstrings, triceps and lats. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

Wrist Flexion & Forearm: This stretch loosens the wrists and helps prevent golfer’s elbow.

Extend your right arm straight out, palm down and elbow locked. Use your left hand to pull back your fingers so they are pointing toward the ground. You will feel a gentile stretch in the forearm. Repeat on the other side.

Wrist Extension & Forearm: This stretch loosens the wrists and helps prevent golfer’s elbow.

Extend your right arm straight out, palm up and elbow locked. Use your left hand to pull back your fingers so they are pointing toward the ground. You will feel a gentile stretch in the wrist and forearm. Repeat on the other side.

Work

To purchase the Stretch Guru:Work iPhone App, click here.
To purchase the Stretch Guru:Work Android App, click here.

 

Desk Injuries

Sitting in an office chair all day can have devastating effects on the muscles of your upper and lower back and forearms, causing painful injuries including but not limited to back sprains and strains, shoulder soreness, neck pain, wrist tendonitis and carpal tunnel disorder.

Back strain and back sprain are associated with the lumbar region of the spine and are often caused by improper posture. Office workers can suffer from back pain because they often sit hunched over a keyboard or notebook for hours at time. Sprain occurs when the ligaments are torn, while strain occurs when the muscles are stretched or torn. While symptoms are generally limited to discomfort, severe cases have caused loss of bladder control and lower extremity weakness. Stretching and strengthening exercises, resting the back for up to 48 hours, icing  and taking anti-inflammatory medications are all treatment options for individuals suffering from lower back sprain or strain.

Shoulder soreness and neck pain can also be caused by prolonged periods sitting in the same positing or using repetitive movements such as using a mouse, being hunched over a keyboard or having to continually hold your head up in an unnatural posture.

Wrist tendonitis is caused by inflammation of the tissue around the tendons of the thumb, which results in pain around the wrist. Flexion of the wrist is often extremely painful for individuals suffering from wrist tendonitis. Rolling the wrists and flexing the fingers is often a way to prevent wrist tendonitis; treatment plans vary by doctor.

Carpal tunnel disorder is caused when the median nerve, which extends from the forearm into the hand, becomes pinched as it runs through the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a tunnel made from thick ligaments and bone that houses the median nerve as it travels from the arm to the hand. If the tendons surrounding the carpal tunnel swell, the tunnel is compressed, placing pressure on the median nerve and causing carpal tunnel disorder. Symptoms include burning, tingling, numbness and swelling in the fingers and palm. Some chronic disorders progress to the point where the muscles of the fingers wither, rendering them useless. Carpal tunnel generally occurs in the dominant hand first. Treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, stretching exercises and surgeries.

The following stretches mainly target the muscles of the back, neck and shoulders as well as the hips and glutes. If you do these stretches throughout the day, they can help increase flexibility and reduce tension and stress.

Stretches for Desk Workers

Top 6 Stretches (Chest, Lower Back, Shoulder Shrugs, Hip Flexor & Psoas, Wrist Flexion, Wrist Extension)
Top 12 Stretches (Add to the above: Hamstrings & Shoulder, Hip Opener, Neck, Spinal Twist, Torso, Upper Back)
Top 18 Stretches (Add to the above: Arms & Shoulder, Chest with Band, IT Band, Piriformis & Gluteus Maximus, Quadriceps, Triceps & Shoulder)

Performing the Stretches Correctly

Arms & Shoulder – Bring your left arm across your body and hold it with your right arm, either above or below the elbow. Pull as close to chest as possible. Repeat on other side.

Chest – Stretching the chest may be one of the best things you can do for your body if you spend a lot of time hunched over a computer.

While seated in proper posture, extend your arms behind you and bring them to meet, clasping your hands if you can. Push the chest outward as if someone were pulling on your sternum with a string. Feel the stretch in your pectorals.

Chest with Band – In a seated or standing position, hold a resistance band in a wide grip overhead. Take the arms back slightly as you lower them down, stretching the chest. Hold.

Hamstrings & Shoulders – Begin standing upright. Extend your arms behind you, clasping hands together. Maintain a flat back while folding forward from the hip, releasing the shoulders and letting your hands and arms hang towards the ground. Feel the deep stretch in both your hamstrings and your chest. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

Hip Opener: While sitting with back straight and legs open, place the feet about four feet apart and toes pointed slightly out. Rest your elbows on the upper thighs and bend forward with a flat back, keeping your core engaged. Gently press forward while using the elbows to push the thighs out until you feel a stretch in the inner thighs, hips and groin. Increase the stretch by reaching to the floor if you can.

IT Band – Standing near a wall for support, cross your right leg in front of your left leg. Extend your left arm overhead and reach to your right side. Put your right hand on your hip and push slightly to move your hips to the left until you feel a gentle stretch along the left side of your torso, hip, upper thigh and knee. Repeat on the other side.

Lower Back – In a seated position with feet wide apart, engage your core and hinge at the hip, bending forward and positioning your shoulders between your knees. Reach to the floor under the back of your chair until you feel a gentle stretch in the lower back. Hold.

Neck – Many of us drop the head forward when working on the computer, which can put extra stress on the neck muscles, leading also to headaches and upper back tension.
While sitting, reach down and grab the side of your chair with your right hand and gently pull. Tilting your head to the left until you feel a gentile stretch down the right side of the neck and shoulder. Repeat on the other side.

Piriformis & Gluteus Maximus – Begin in an erect seated position, crossing the right leg on top of the left being careful to stack the right ankle directly above the left knee. Fold forward and hold for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Quadriceps – Near a wall or bench, stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend your left knee and grasp the top of your left foot with your left hand. Bring your heel as close as possible to the left side of your buttocks, feeling a gentle stretch of the quad and shin. Keep your back straight, your left knee vertically in alignment with your left hip and horizontally in alignment with your right knee. Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder Shrugs – While sitting erect, engage your core, tuck in your behind, pull back your shoulders and tuck in the chin. Lift your shoulders up to your ears and hold. Release and repeat.

Spinal Twist – While sitting erect and core engaged, place your right hand directly next to your right hip. Place your left hand along the outside of your right thigh. Using your arms, pull your body into a twist. Your left shoulder should be turning toward the right, your back should be straight and your hips square. Hold. Repeat on the other side.

Torso – Even if you pay attention to your posture, you may find yourself hunched over your keyboard, causing a backache. This simple move will stretch the muscles in your back, sides and arms.

Seated or standing, lace your fingers together and stretch them up towards the ceiling. Stretch up as high as you can then open your arms, sweeping them back down to your sides. Repeat.

Hip Flexor & Psoas – The lower body gets tight from sitting too much, especially the front of the hips. Stretching this area several times a day will help reduce that tightness.

While standing and holding the back of your chair, take the right leg back as though you’re going to do a lunge. With chest high, torso upright, close to vertical and hips square to the chair, squeeze the glutes as you bend the knees, lowering down until you feel a stretch in the front of the right hip. Repeat on the other side.

Triceps & Shoulder – Extend your right arm straight up in the air. Bend arm at the elbow, pointing the elbow towards the sky and letting the forearm fall behind your back. Take your left hand and grab your right elbow.  Pull the elbow behind your head feeling a gentle stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Upper Back – The upper back can become tense and tight from hunched shoulders, especially if you hold the phone against your shoulder or use your mouse a lot.

While seated or standing, stretch the arms straight out and rotate the hands so that the palms face away from each other. Then cross the arms so your palms are pressed together and round your back, reaching away as you relax your head. Your body should be in a C shape and your core engaged.

Wrist Flexion & Forearm – Extend your right arm straight out, palm down and elbow locked. Use your left hand to pull back your fingers so they are pointing toward the ground. You will feel a gentile stretch in the forearm. Repeat on the other side.

Wrist Extension & Forearm – Extend your right arm straight out, palm up and elbow locked. Use your left hand to pull back your fingers so they are pointing toward the ground. You will feel a gentile stretch in the wrist and forearm. Repeat on the other side.

Bike

To purchase the Stretch Guru:Bike iPhone App, click here.
To purchase the Stretch Guru:Bike Android App, click here.

 

Biking Injuries

Road cyclists are susceptible to many overuse injuries, so one must take precautions to avoid incorrect form and excessive wear on joints and bones. Cycling also engages a variety of muscle groups, including the quadriceps, calves, psoas and soleus, gluteus, piriformis, abdominals and obliques, so stretching thoroughly after riding when your muscles are warm will help prevent injuries common to cyclists. These injuries include Plantar Fasciitis, ACL and PCL injuries, Knee Bursitis, Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB), Patellar Tendonitis, Chondromalacia, Ulnar Neuropathy, Lower Back Pain and Muscle Strains.

Plantar Fasciitis is caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue running from the heel to the toes on the bottom of each foot. This band supports the arch of the foot and is under strain when the foot is bearing weight. When the foot supinates, such as when pedaling a bike, this places additional stress on this fascia, which can result in excruciating pain along the arch of the foot. Also caused by improper arch support, plantar fasciitis can be prevented by using shoes that have good arch support and stretching the feet before cycling. It can take months before patients with plantar fasciitis recover so don’t let this condition ruin your training!

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, works with the PCL, the posterior cruciate ligament, to provide stability during knee flexion and extension. Without the ACL and PCL ligaments, or if the ligaments are not functioning properly, the knee can move sideways, which is painful and inhibits movement. An ACL injury occurs when the ACL tears, either partially or completely, because it is overstretched. ACL injuries are common when an athlete changes direction suddenly, such as when you unclip your shoes to place your foot on the ground to stop your bike. Individuals with an ACL injury are often required to have surgery and use a cast for up to four months. Keeping the calves, quads, hamstrings, inner thighs and hip flexors nicely stretched when warm can help prevent this injury.

Knee Bursitis is a condition that occurs when the bursa, a fluid filled sac that cushions the tendons and ligaments, become irritated and inflamed. This leads to redness and swelling in the area. In some cases the bursa may rupture causing the fluid to leak out and impair the ability of the bursa to cushion. Repetitive flexion and extension of the knee can cause irritation to the bursa on the outside of the knee or on the top of the kneecap. The pain and inflammation will usually subside with rest. Flexibility training and regular stretching of the quads, hamstrings and calves can reduce your chance of this injury.

Iliotibial band syndrome (IT band syndrome) is caused when the iliotibial band, a thick band of tissue that runs down the outside of the leg from the hip to the shin, becomes irritated. The iliotibial band, commonly called the IT band, provides stability for the outside of the knee joint. Therefore, cyclists experiencing IT band syndrome experience pain in the knee joint. Pain often worsens with increased motion and diminishes when the knee is stationary. Treatment for this syndrome can be costly, so prevent your knees and wallet from pain by warming up and then stretching to prevent IT band syndrome. Stretching the IT band, glutes, hamstrings and tendons makes them flexible and more resistant to injury.

Patellar Tendonitis is often characterized by pain surrounding the kneecap, especially during times of intense physical activity. The exact reason patellar tendonitis occurs remains somewhat a mystery, but it is generally accepted that the pain is caused by trama to the tendon surrounding the patella, or kneecap. For cyclists, it is most commonly due to overuse or incorrect pedaling form. The tendon rubs over the bone and causes inflammation that aggravates the condition, leading to a cycle of inflammation and pain. Individuals with patellar tendonitis must reduce intense physical activity; so make sure you stretch so this painful condition won’t keep you off your bike!

Chondromalacia is often confused with patellar tendonitis sine the main symptom, pain surrounding the kneecap, is similar. However, it is damage to the articular cartilage located underneath the patella causes the pain associated with chondromalacia. Pain increases during physical activity and is extremely common for cyclists. Helpful treatments for individuals with chondromalacia include low-impact exercise that strengthens the muscles surrounding the articular cartilage such as swimming and cross-country skiing.  Arthroscopic surgery that cleans out damaged cartilage is a treatment for severe cases.

Ulnar neuropathy, also known as handlebar palsy, is an inflammation of the ulnar nerve that runs through your forearm to your hand. (When you hit your “funny bone” it is the ulnar nerve that causes the uncomfortable feeling all through your arm.) Ulnar neuropathy is characterized by numbness and pain throughout the arm, from the pinky finger up to the elbow. The condition is very common in bicyclists because of the repeated shocks to the hands and arms when bouncing and jostling on changing road surfaces. Treatments include wrist splints and anti-inflammatory medications. Stretching the upper arms, forearms, and wrists can help mitigate your risk for this injury.

Lower Back Pain can be caused by a cyclist maintaining a specific riding position for extended periods, having poor riding posture or being fatigued. The lower back muscles can then become tight and painful. This pain usually subsides with rest and stretching. Pressure on the intervertebral discs, however, may require medical help to relieve.

Muscle Strains are caused by overstretching, overworking a muscle or by overtraining a muscle and not allowing for rest and recovery. The muscle fibers tear causing inflammation and bruising. The resulting pain may lead to the surrounding areas guarding the muscle. Stiffness will also set in due to scarring.  Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication are used to treat muscle strains. To avoid these strains, listen to your body’s limits and keep it flexible and lithe with a good stretching program.

Stretches for Cyclists

Top 6 Stretches (Calf, Quadriceps & Shin, Hamstring, Hip Flexor & Psoas, Gluteus, Low Back)
Top 12 Stretches (Add to the above: Planter Fascia, Shoulder & Triceps, Groin, Piriformis, Tris & Lats, Neck)
Top 18 Stretches (Add to the above: Arms & Shoulder, IT Band, Forward Stretch, Backward Stretch, Chest, Hip & Low Back)

Performing the Stretches Correctly

Arms & Shoulder – Cyclists spend a lot of time hunched over the handlebars. This basic stretch can help loosen a tight shoulder.

Bring your left arm across your body and hold it with your right arm, either above or below the elbow. Pull as close to chest as possible. Repeat on other side.

Backwards Stretch – Your abdomen and back muscles are the support system for your legs as they pedal. This stretch will help elongate the abdominal muscles.

While standing straight, place the palms of your hands against the small of your back. Tighten your buttocks and core and bend backwards, holding your neck straight.

Calf – Stand facing a wall or other support, approximately one leg’s length away.  Lunge forward with right leg, extending arms to allow the wall to balance you. Feet should be about hip width apart, toes forward and left leg extended back with the knee straight and the foot flat on the floor. Push the left heal to the floor and move hips slightly forward. Repeat on the other side.

Chest – Since much of riding spent with the shoulders rolled forward, it is important to counter this with an effective chest stretch.
With right arm extended, place hand on a fixed structure at about shoulder height. Turn your body away from the right arm until gentle stretch occurs in the chest. Note that the upper chest stretch increases with the elbow lower and the lower chest stretch increases with the elbow higher.  Repeat on the other side.

Forward Stretch – This intense stretch is wonderful for the hamstrings and spine, two areas that get taxed heavily when cycling.

Stand upright then bend forward from the waist, keeping your legs taut and your body weight equal on both feet. Try to touch the floor and, if possible, place your palms on the ground. Breathe evenly and try to increase the stretch on each out-breath.

Gluteus Maximus – Stand facing the back of a park bench. Take your left foot and cross it over your right knee, creating a figure-four-type posture. Holding on to the bench with both hands, begin to ease your rear end down until it is parallel to the floor. It should feel like you are sitting in an imaginary chair. If possible, release the left hand from the bench and press your left elbow down on your left knee for a deeper stretch. Release your elbow from your knee, put both hands on the bench, and slowly return to standing position. Release your crossed foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side.

Groin – Stand with your feet as far apart as possible, toes pointing forward. Gradually shift all your weight to your left leg by bending your left knee. Your right leg stays straight. You can increase the starting distance between your feet for a greater stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Hamstring – Like the hip flexors, the hamstrings don’t extend fully while cycling and can be prone to stiffness. The pedaling motion develops short and powerful hamstrings. Unlike running, which lengthens hamstrings, cyclists are prone to tightness in these muscles.

Stand with your left foot on a park bench or low wall, no higher than hip height, with the middle of your shoe on the edge. Lock your left leg straight and bend your right leg slightly. Gently bend forward from the hip bringing your head towards the leg until you feel a gentle stretch in the left hamstring. Repeat on the other side.

Hip Flexor & Psoas – are groups of muscles that bring the legs up toward the trunk. Cyclists often have tight hip flexors because the cycling motion never allows to thigh to fully extend. Keeping the hip flexors limber is essential to avoiding muscle imbalance and post-ride stiffness.

Stand facing a bench or elevated platform, approximately one leg’s length away. Place right foot on bench or platform. Slowly lunge forward by bending right leg. With chest high, straighten hip of left leg by pushing hips forward. Keep torso upright, close to vertical and hips square to the wall. Repeat on the other side.

Hip & Low Back – This great cyclist’s stretch opens up the hips and stretches the muscles of the hips, groin and lower back.

Begin in a forward lunge position then drop your left knee to the ground. Place your right elbow on the inside of your right knee. Press your right elbow gently into your right knee and twist your torso to the left. Reach your left arm behind you until you feel a gentle stretch in your lower back and right groin. Repeat on the other side.

IT Band – The IT Band runs down the side of your leg and helps in balance and control. The section that affects cyclists is between the hip and knee.

Standing near a wall for support, cross your right leg in front of your left leg. Extend your left arm overhead and reach to your right side. Put your right hand on your hip and push slightly to move your hips to the left until you feel a gentle stretch along the left side of your torso, hip, upper thigh and knee. Repeat on the other side.

Lower Back – With your feet shoulder width apart and pointed outwards to about a 15 degree angle and your heels on the ground, bend your knees and squat. Then lean slightly forward and try to lower the backside as close to the heels as possible until you feel a gentle stretch in the lower back.

Neck – Checking for traffic and other riders behind you is where the neck muscles come into play.

Bend your head forward and slightly to the right. With your right hand, gently pull your head downward. You’ll feel a nice, easy stretch along the back left side of your neck. Repeat on other side.

Piriformis – Using a wall or bench for support, stand on your left leg, cross your right leg over and rest it just above your left knee creating a figure-four-type posture. Keeping your back very straight, do a one legged squat until you feel a gentile stretch of the piriformis muscle on the left side. Repeat on the other side.

Planter fascia – Squat down with your left foot in front of your right foot and your hands on the ground for balance. Keeping your toes on the ground and arching your right foot, slowly move your body weight forward until you feel a stretch to the arch of the right foot. Repeat on the other side.

Quadriceps & Shin – The quads are the biggest cycling muscle, and deserve a very slow stretch. Be careful not to pull too hard too fast.

Near a wall or bench, stand with your feet hip width apart. Bend your left knee and grasp the top of your left foot with your left hand. Bring your heel as close as possible to the left side of your buttocks, feeling a gentle stretch of the quad and shin. Keep your back straight, your left knee vertically in alignment with your left hip and horizontally in alignment with your right knee. Repeat on the other side.

Shoulder & Triceps – Extend your right arm straight up in the air. Bend arm at the elbow, pointing the elbow towards the sky and letting the forearm fall behind your back. Take your left hand and grab your right elbow.  Pull the elbow behind your head feeling a gentle stretch. Repeat on the other side.

Triceps & Latissimus Dorsi – Balance on the bike with weight resting on the arms. Let the head drop deeply between the shoulder blades to create a powerful stretch in the triceps and lats. Pulling down with the arms increases the stretch further.

Kafakumba Training Centre

Africa

Childhood Longings

I’ve always had an inner longing for Africa. I’m not sure where it started, but it must have been sometime when I was a kid. I was told that when I was 3 or 4 years old, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said with excitement and wonder, ‘I want to be a Negro!’ (This was long before any sense of political correctness had entered my awareness.) I’m not sure what the parental reaction was, but I do have a picture of me playing with a little African Barbie doll, so I guess they embraced my desire in a symbolic way.

(more…)