Adults & Sports – Reduce Your Risk of Injury


Over the last two months I have been researching the possible cause of the many lower body injuries in women. I know that injuries are a part of sports and being athletic. Nevertheless, I have become concerned with the number of female friends who have had some unique & severe injuries. The number of calf injuries among women my age is rising. You can tell when a person has suffered a calf injury recently or in the past because they now wear compression socks to help prevent being re-injured. The questions that came into my head were: How are these women working out? What they are doing outside of tennis that may be increasing their risk of injury? Are they stretching? Are they strength training? Are their muscles particularly tight and shortened?

For many adults, the muscles on the posterior side of our bodies (aka the backside) are often tight, shortened or underused. We tend to focus our exercises, our functional activities and most of our day on the front side of our bodies. The way we sit and work at desks and drive our cars, the strength exercises we perform, the cardiovascular activities we choose are often ones that involve the anterior or the front of our bodies. If the posterior side of our bodies are tight and we decided to play sports that ask for significant lateral, forward and backward movements (ie: tennis, basketball, soccer, etc…), HOW will our bodies perform?

I have been involved in sports my whole life and began playing tennis a year ago at 40 years old. When you are a part of a team as a kid or taking a fitness class, the instructor or coach is directed to get the team to warm up before they play and also to stretch afterwards. As adults, we RARELY do this…(I am as guilty as the rest of you). In college while playing lacrosse, the head trainer realized that a increasing number of girls were tearing their ACL’s (knee injury) during sports like soccer, lacrosse and basketball. He found that if they performed certain warm-up exercises before practice or a game, these severe injuries declined significantly. You can now see his research being incorporated in many female sports programs all over the country. His research is what has me concerned with the number of injuries in women out of college.

Playing competitive sports with significant lateral and stop & go movements are already increasing the risk of injury, but there are many ways we can reduce that risk and continue playing.

Everyone needs to ask themselves these questions:

  • Are you performing dynamic stretching before you play?
  • Is your fitness program supporting your lifestyle or sport?
  • Is your nutritional need being met?
  • Are you stretching and cooling down properly afterwards?

I am a realist and know that most adults are rushing to their game or match right before it begins and afterwards are pouring a beer to celebrate their friendships off the court or field. Nevertheless, I feel that with the recent spike in achilles, calf and hamstring injuries, we NEED to reevaluate our routines. Even if you can add just one of these into your workout, your body will thank you! (I am going to use tennis as the sport for these suggestions)

  1. Warmup: add in a dynamic warmup! This means move around, don’t just stand there and stretch your quads & hamstrings. Jog around the court 1 or 2 times and get the blood flowing, side shuffle your feet back and forth along the baseline 1 or 2 times, high knee skip up and back along the baseline 1 or 2 times.
  2. Make sure that your fitness routine supports your sport! If you play tennis or basketball or other sports that involve a lot of lateral movement and twisting, then your fitness routine should also incorporate these movements. Make sure that your strength workouts do not focus only on lineal movements, add in side lunges and side hops or slides to your routine. Also, make sure that your core is STRONG! Your core should be engaged in every movement (even if it is a lower or upper body move). If your core is engaged, your whole body is committed to the move and this can reduce your risk of injury.
  3. Stretch your lower body, most importantly your calves & hamstrings.
  • Standing Heel Raises: while standing, raise up on your toes and release back down
  • Wall Calf Stretch: Leaning against a wall with your hands, step one leg back and stretch, switch legs.
  • Step Stretch (A): Standing on a step, alternate dropping a heel off the back of the step.
  • Step Stretch (B): Standing in front of a step, place toes up on the rise of the step, keeping the heel on the ground, lean in for a deeper stretch.
  • Ankle Rotations: Rotate each ankle around in circles (both directions) as well as flex and extend your toes (point & flex).

4. Pay Attention To Your Body! Listen to what your body is telling you. There is a difference between “acknowledgment” & “pain”. Being sore at times is a normal part of a good fitness routine, nevertheless, your body may be telling you something. If there is a muscle or muscle group that is excessively sore or you feel pain, slow down and reevaluate your fitness plan. Remember that we are involved in recreational activities and not professionals. Also make sure that you are well hydrated and fueled for your match or practice and after wards you are refueling your body. If you don’t take care of your body, you will miss out on its greatness!

5. Cool Down & Stretch (& Ice, if needed)! As good as that cold beer or glass of chilled chardonnay sounds right after your match, you have to give your body time to recover. Stretch your upper and lower body afterwards and if there is a muscle or muscle group that is giving you some feedback, ice it! You can sit down, enjoy your adult beverage, ice you muscle and ask your friends to join you.

*** Originally I planed on only writing this blog about injury prevention. As I was collecting information & talking to other professionals I was led to the topic of a second blog – Trainers need to get over themselves!
Stay tuned…

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Exercise During Pregnancy – Healthy for Mom & Baby


Pregnancy is such an exciting time for new moms-to-be! As your body goes through endless changes throughout the 9 months of pregnancy and into the postpartum stage, it can also be a very confusing time for many women. One major area of confusion is exercising throughout pregnancy. Whether you have an established fitness routine or you are looking for guidance to begin one, exercise during pregnancy is important and safe for most women with uncomplicated pregnancies. Always discuss with your OB/GYN before beginning a fitness routine to ensure there are no contraindications.

Exercise during pregnancy is focused on maintaining health and reaping the benefits exercise can have for you and your baby. This is not a time for weight loss or personal bests.
Benefits of exercise for mom and baby include:
Maintaining a healthy weight throughout pregnancy and overall physical fitness level
Decreased aches and pains, especially low back pain when core exercises are included
Decreased risk of Gestational Diabetes and Caesarian deliveries
Increased stamina for labor and delivery
Decreased recovery time during Postpartum period
If you were sedentary before, start slowly, beginning with 15-20 minutes of daily physical activity (walking or jogging), with a goal of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week including 2-3 days of strength training. Always make sure you stay well hydrated throughout the day, wear loose exercise clothing, and avoid exercising in high heat or humidity. It’s especially important now to listen to your body, and rest when needed. You should be slightly out of breath, but should ALWAYS be able to talk while exercising.

The first trimester can be one of the most difficult times to find motivation to stay active. Many moms experience nausea and fatigue throughout this time period. Start with walking or jogging as your body will tolerate it and eat small meals throughout the day. Focus on building the deep muscles of the core by performing Deep Belly Breathing. Lay on your left side with your hand on your belly button. Gently take a deep breath in, allowing your belly to expand, followed by a gentle exhale drawing your belly button into your spine. Continue breathing deeply, but gently enough that you do not feel light headed. Glute bridges, squats, and planks are all exercises that will help build a strong support system for the lower back and better posture throughout pregnancy.

During the second trimester, many moms experience an increase in energy as their nausea and fatigue begins to diminish. Avoid exercises that require lying on your back for prolonged periods and modify strength exercises from a standing to seated position as needed. As ligaments loosen to prepare the pelvis for pregnancy and birth, many moms may experience pain in their glutes and legs, especially when lifting one leg at a time. Single leg exercises may need to be avoided. Exercises can be done in a seated or kneeling position to reduce pain. Gliders and stability balls can also be used to decrease pain.

The third trimester often requires many modifications as your center of gravity shifts and balance changes. Stability balls are a great tool to perform exercises safely and comfortably throughout this time period. Strength exercises previously done from a standing position can be done while seated on a stability ball. Challenge your balance and core strength with the bird dog exercise. On hands and knees with a neutral spine, extend your right arm and left leg while continuing to breath. Hold for 10 seconds and return to the center, and switch sides. Complete 3 sets on each side.

Throughout all three trimesters, focus on engaging the core with each exercise and performing Deep Belly Breathing. Stay hydrated throughout the day, and make sure to drink water at least every 15-20 minutes throughout your workout. Always listen to your body, modify or skip exercises that cause pain as your body changes, and rest when needed. Remember, you always know what’s best for you and your baby, and have the power to be a strong, fit mom!

 

 

Kristen Szewczyk, RN, CPT is a Registered Nurse and Certified Personal and Perinatal Fitness Trainer in Nashville, Tennessee. Kristen works with Strength in Moms to provide personal training to pregnant and postpartum women in Nashville, TN and Atlanta, GA. For more information on exercise during pregnancy or to set up an individual session with Kristen, please visit http://www.strengthinmoms.com or email Kristen@StrengthinMoms.com.

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Together Our Voices Are Louder! #WomensMarch


While I cannot march today with my fellow women, men and children, I feel like I can still show my support. Today there are women all over the world showing their solidarity for each other. There are marches in cities all over the US, in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and even in Russia (where you have to have a permit in order to march, so their are strolling around together). There are tens of thousands of people standing together in order for our voices to be heard.
 
This Women’s March is not about Donald Trump. It is more about the common inequalities in the world. It is not about the election in the US, but about the protection of women in every country at every level. I am not anti-Trump, because I am an American and I love my country. I do not want him to fail, but I want him to learn and understand the frustrations of many of us. I am Pro-Women!
 
I believe in gender equality, racial equality, LGBTQ equality, reproductive freedom, equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, an end to violence against women, and an end to the general acceptance of verbal and physical abuse of women.
 
Women have stood up against inequalities together for centuries. Almost 100 years ago we fought for the right to vote and today we stand together to push these rights further and further in order to protect more people.Womens Inequality
 
I do not think Donald Trump is evil and hates women, but I do think that he lacks respect for women. As the leader of the free world, respect for all is a MUST! Throughout the election, he made statements that not only insulted women, but also people of color, immigrants, the poor and our planet. He generalized people into categories and engaged Americans into an ‘Us vs Them’ debate. The “locker room talk” that he laughed about and tried to brush under the rug is stuck in my head. I am not okay with how he speaks to people and about women. My kids even see him as a bully.
 
Over the next 4 years I will pray that he learns how to work with people and not over people. I pray that he does not isolate people, instead he unites us. I pray this because I am an American and I live here too. I pray this because there are people in my community who cannot speak for themselves or who are just not heard. Together our voices are louder!
 
Women are beautiful and strong. Women are leaders and team players. Women are hard working and determined.
This is why, today….Women March! #WomensMarch
Womens March
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10 Easy Ways to Find 10 Minutes of Exercise Throughout the Day!


Summer can be a tough time to stay active. With vacations, day drinking, & kids home, many people find summer a time of weight gain. Here are some tips to keep up your activity in a hectic day!

Strength in Moms

  1. Take the StairsTake the Stairs
  2. Park further away from the grocery store
  3. Take a lap around the entire mall before and after you shop
  4. Walk throughout your office rather than emailing or texting coworkers
  5. Get off the subway or bus one or two stops before and walk the rest of the way
  6. Walk around, up/down stairs, do squats or hold a wall squat while on a phone call or conference call
  7. Take the groceries in one bag at a time or take the laundry to rooms one group of clothing at a time
  8. Wash your car yourself (let the kids help!)
  9. Sit on a stability ball at your desk (work your core throughout the day)
  10. Play outside with your kids (tag, sports, hide and seek)Kids Parents playing

10 minutes every day can make a BIG difference!

Reduce stress, feel more fit, relax and have fun!

What everyday fitness activities do you enjoy?

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When Life Hands You Lemons…


…you all know how the rest goes…blah blah blah! Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 10.23.43 AM

The problem with this quote is that it doesn’t address the difficulty in accepting these lemons in the first place. I have been very active my entire life. If I wasn’t at practice, I was outside shooting baskets or at the batting cages. If I was between seasons, I was running or working drills. I placed my athleticism on the top of my attribute list. I took pride in the sports I played and my athletic ability. I was a runner, swimmer, biker, basketball player, lacrosse player, waterpolo player, softball player, volleyball player, triathlete…and then I turned 40!

There is a funny quote my orthopedist told me before I went in for my ACL replacement surgery in 1993…”God gave you the mind of an athlete, but the body of a pianist.” (no offense to the athletic piano player that is reading my blog right now).

I was always a little nervous & excited about turning 40 because at every event I participated in, I saw these 40+ year old women killing it. I thought to myself that it must be because they have more time to train since their kids are older. I looked forward to that level of competition in my 40’s. I anticipated my sprint triathon times to get faster and faster. I dreamed of the endless hours spent on the open road in rural Georgia on my bike with other cyclists. Nevertheless, God seems to have another path for me.

Since my 40th birthday I have been in some sort of physical therapy working on my knees, hip, feet, neck or shoulder. Sometimes I feel like my body’s warranty is up. This is my crossroads! Many people would take this time as their chance to check out or slow down. I cannot accept that option. I have decided to take this aching body into a fitness routine that works for me. I teach fitness and strength everyday. I modify for all of my prenatal and postpartum moms, why can’t I modify for myself? I CAN!

I no longer run. That was the first thing I had to accept. The impact of running makes my knees look like cantaloupes. I lift more often with lighter weights. My squats don’t go as deep, my stretching lasts a little longer, and my cardio exercises are non-impact. Slowly my mind and my heart are beginning to accept this fact.

Now back to my opening comment.  Turning lemons in lemonade is great, but when the lemons gets dropped on you, it hurts! Each of us will have to face a fitness crossroad at some point in our lives. It is important to think about the big picture and the long term affect. Just because your mind has a bucket list, does not mean your body agrees. Many people work their body so hard in order to cross off a fitness goal, that when it is over, so is their fitness routine. Listen to your body and accept that we only have this one body here to work with…take care of it! That means keeping it strong, healthy and loving it through the good and the bad!

…off for a walk!Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 10.22.19 AM

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Tis the Season…For the Holiday Bulge!


Tis the season….for the Holiday bulge! I’ll never tell anyone not to enjoy their holiday meals & treats, but there are ways to keep some self control.Turkey Day

1. Don’t stand in front of the appetizers, grab a small plate and walk away.
2. Eat a healthy snack before you go to a party to avoid overdoing the treats
3. At the holiday meal, taste everything you want, just watch your portions.
4. Watch the amount of liquid calories you consume.
5. Work for the meal by being active!

Have a Happy & Safe Holiday Season!

Stay Strong & Fit!

http://www.StrengthinMoms.com

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – A Virgin Backpacker’s View


Many of you know that I recently went on a backpacking trip in Yosemite National Park with a good friend of mine. This had been on her bucket list for years and I was the lucky girl that was able to join her. A trip of a lifetime! We met up with 5 other women and 2 female guides in Yosemite Valley to prepare for the week of backpacking ahead of us. We laughed at the fear in our eyes of the unknown that was laying in front of us.IMG_3191 As we sat talking, we all noticed the smoke haze that settled into the sky above. It was caused by the numerous forest fires that are currently burning in the park. Some of these fires are purposefully set by the fire department, while others are accidentally set by hikers or lightning. In fact, the park has placed a ban on campfires because of the high risk of fires. We sat as a group discussing our hopes, fears and plans for the week ahead. The park rangers changed our itinerary first because of a current fire at our starting trailhead. Secondly we had to adjust a second campsite because the stream that feeds the area is dry….completely dried up! (see picture – stream bed)IMG_3201The scenery and views throughout the trip were amazing and I can find no words that truly capture the moments. The week was filled with a lot of laughter, some frustrations, strong fears, breathtaking scenery, some body aches and pains…but most importantly the trip was filled with some KICK ASS AMAZING WOMEN! Some of the women were in their 30’s while others in their 60’s. We hiked 33 miles as a group, we supported each other and we gave each other space. These women inspired me then and continue to inspire me today. I will carry the pictures in my mind and the stories in my heart for ever!Top of Half DomeNow that I am home and digesting all of the memories, lessons and events of the trip, a few very important things stay in the forefront of my mind. I wanted to pass on some thoughts…

– California and other areas in the pacific northwest and pacific coast areScreen Shot 2015-10-08 at 12.54.08 PM in a dangerous & severe drought! It is truly hard to imagine when you only hear about it on the news, but rivers, streams and lakes are drying up! The river beds and lakes in Yosemite National Park feed northern California! We were witness to several streams that were bone dry and Cathedral Lakes was more or less down to one lake.

– The amazing waterfalls that everyone thinks of in Yosemite National Park are just small streams over rocks. They should be rushing waters over the rocks edge. You can see the water marks to either side of the waterfall stream where the water used to run and it is gone.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 12.53.31 PM– The lush green meadows filled with flowers and wildlife are becoming a matted floor of brittle weeds and dust. I know that fire is an important park of the ecology and it the restores the forest but the current state of the forest is making it easy for these fires to get out of control.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 12.52.16 PM– We ALL need to do our part to reduce, reuse, recycle! This means our water, our natural resources, our packaged goods…it includes everything. One of the points of backpacking is that you have to carry everything! You have to carry your pack of clothes, sleeping bag and tent, your food, your water, your filter, your personal items and your TRASH! Therefore, you are constantly making smart decisions to reduce, reuse and recycle everything.

We can do our part and we can make a difference, even if it is only in our little community. Every little bit helps!

  • Recycle your plastics, glass and paper goods
  • Don’t let the water run when you are not using it
  • Buy larger bulk items and then use reusable containers to pack snacks and lunches
  • Reuse in a different way, sell or donate items that you no longer need
  • Unplug items in your house or office so that they don’t constantly draw electricity even when you are not using them
  • Make good choices

Reduce  *   Reuse  *  Recycle

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 12.53.10 PM

  •  Thank you Yosemite National Park, Call of the Wild, Cori, Sandra, Emilie, Amy, Mark, Deanna, Laura Lee and most importantly – Thank you Laura Hathaway for inviting me and sharing your tent! My life has changed for the better because of all of you!
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