Archive by Author

Little League Baseball – Spring Training

8 Apr

Spring is here and so is beginning of the Little League baseball season, weather permitting!  You’ll be making plenty of trips to the ballpark for practice and games, and often becoming just as much of a coach for your child as you are a proud parent and fan.  Because most youth throwing injuries occur while pitching, I wanted to throw out a few tips and bring to your attention some of the factors that may reduce injury risk for youth pitchers.

How Kids Learn
Whether in practices or games, seek to create an effective learning environment with young players. There are various styles of learning. The three primary modes are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic and an efficient teaching plan includes all three modalities.

Basic Movements
Don’t neglect the basic movement patterns that are involved in pitching and baseball in general.  All too often emphasis is placed on getting players’ arms in shape, but no attention is paid to preparing the rest of their bodies for the sport. Baseball pitching requires fundamental movements such as stepping, lunging, squatting, twisting, and balancing. Most kids are getting enough of these movements just playing at school, but if you feel your child needs more exercise to prepare for the baseball season, get them active with these fundamental movements.

Warming Up
Make sure to engage in a full body warm-up, not just the throwing arm, before throwing or pitching.  A full body warm-up elevates core body temperature, enhances motor unit excitability, helps maximize active Range of Motion (ROM) and is effective for reducing injuries in all sports. Basically, make them break a sweat before throwing!

Pitch Volume
Pitch volume is a significant factor in the injury of youth pitchers. All Little Leagues appropriately have pitch count rules in place, but pitch volume can be defined as the number of pitches thrown in a season, not just games.  This should include games, pre-game warm-up, scheduled practices as well as unorganized practices with friends and even Mom and Dad!  Several studies have confirmed that there was a 35% increase in elbow pain in athletes aged 9-12 years old who are throwing greater than 75 pitches a game and 600 pitches in a season.  I have not come across studies that attempt to count the number of pitches thrown outside of games and organized practices throughout a full year of baseball competition. Keeping tabs on your child’s pitch volume and encouraging him/her to communicate feeling fatigue and/or pain will help reduce overuse injuries.

Pitch Type
Another main contributor to injury is the pitch type. Several studies have recommended youth baseball pitchers not to throw breaking pitches (curveball and slider). This recommendation is based on the fact that throwing breaking pitches requires increased forearm supination and wrist movement when compared with the fastball.  The difference in hand, wrist and forearm positioning may lead to greater elbow stress and potential injury.  Overall, I recommended that youth baseball pitchers focus on the basic fundamental movements and the mechanics of pitching (balance point, stride, throwing elbow height, follow through).   After mastery of these fundamentals, focus on fastball pitching mechanics followed by change-up pitching mechanics. Both pitches should be executed with accuracy before introducing curveballs or sliders.

Resistance Training
Resistance training may reduce the risk of injury in youth sports by changing the size, density and mechanical properties of connective tissue structures.  (Marsh, 2010)  Other benefits of resistance training include recruitment and activation of muscles and enhanced coordination.   Strengthening muscles and connective tissues also allows for increased forces that athletes are capable of sustaining, reducing the risk of injury. The muscles of the trunk are particularly important in pitching. The trunk is where the force generated by the legs is transferred to the throwing arm and ball to maximize pitching efficiency and velocity.
Remember Little Leaguers are just kids.  They need to learn how to play the game and how to interact and work with teammates.  Above all, keep them safe and encourage them to have fun.

Reference:
Darrin Marsh, PT, ATC, CSCS, Department of Physical Therapy, McCarter Health Center, Parkensburg, West Virginia. “Little League Elbow: Risk Factors and Prevention.” December 2010 Strength and Conditioning Journal

For Improved Performance, Balance Your Endurance Training with Strength Training.

9 Mar

It seems intuitive for endurance athletes to train almost exclusively using cardiovascular exercise.  The truth is endurance athletes need to have a balanced training program which includes strength training for improved movement efficiency, enhanced performance, and reduced injury.

Strength training can help you run faster, longer, and more efficiently. A study published last year in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that runners who added three days of resistance training exercises to their weekly program not only increased their leg strength, but improved their running economy or efficiency.  This means they were able to run at their desired race pace for longer durations with less effort or even increase their race pace.  The added strength also increased sprint speed, giving them the kick often needed at the end of a race.

Getting in the gym and lifting weights not only increases strength, but will also increase your joint stability which can reduce the risk for repetitive stress injuries. Lower body exercises are particularly important when it comes to reducing injuries around the knees and hips, two of the most problematic areas for runners.  Incorporating exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges into a workout may help prevent these lower-body injuries as well as speed up the recovery process after strenuous runs.

An additional benefit of strength training in an endurance athlete’s training program is the maintenance or the addition of lean muscle mass.  The addition of lean body mass raises your metabolism and keeps your body burning more calories after a workout and at rest.  This helps maintain optimal weight for both competitive endurance athletes and recreational runners.

Aerobic and Anaerobic

10 Feb

I often hear the same question from clients, “Should I do more cardio/endurance or strength training to reach my weight loss and general fitness goals?”  It always depends on the individual, but the best answer is, you need to train using a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

What is Aerobic and Anaerobic Training?

Aerobic literally means “with oxygen.”  Oxygen is required to keep muscles in motion for a long period of time.  Muscles use oxygen to metabolize carbohydrates, protein and fat to generate energy through an aerobic or oxidative metabolic pathway.  Aerobic exercise includes activities that can be sustained for longer periods of time, such as running, jogging, swimming, cycling, or skiing.  Just as aerobic means “with oxygen,” anaerobic means “without oxygen.”  While you obviously need oxygen to perform anaerobic exercise, your muscles are not using oxygen during high intensity exercise to generate energy.  Instead, the muscles metabolize creatine phosphate and glycogen through the anaerobic metabolic pathways.  This supply is limited and therefore can only sustain short, however intense, bursts of activity.  Anaerobic exercise includes activities like sprinting and weightlifting.

Why we train using aerobic exercise.

Most of us are familiar with the benefits of aerobic exercise.  Just 20 minutes of low to moderate aerobic activity can improve your heart and lung function, blood flow, immune system, and lead to a healthier life.  Aerobic conditioning improves endurance, which enables you to train for longer periods of time at higher intensities. Moderate intensity exercise sustained for longer periods of time can result in greater energy expenditure, which contributes positively to weight loss.  It’s because of these benefits that many people opt to train only the aerobic metabolic pathway.

So why add anaerobic exercises to my training program?

Most daily activities encountered in sport, work, and life require a combination of energy pathways.  During a tennis match you may need to sprint to get to an opponent’s shot and return the ball.  To be efficient in the sport would require anaerobic training, such as sprinting drills and power training exercises.  Additionally, research has found that repeated short bouts of vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running, rowing, and jump roping, not only improves aerobic capacity but also provides greater health benefits when compared to moderate intensity exercise (Swain & Franklin, 2006).  What about everyday activities like lifting several heavy grocery bags into the back of an SUV, or getting your carry on bag into the overhead compartment on a flight?  These tasks don’t take much time but require short bursts of strength and power.  Weightlifting can make these tasks easier and safer.  So, whether your fitness goals are for greater athletic performance or improved health you can benefit from anaerobic training.

Why FIT CrossFit – Guest Author Ilana Sharaun MA, MFT

11 Jan

Living fully has always been my way. Building a family, finding an occupation I love, and contributing to my community have all been deep sources of meaning and happiness. So, when it became obvious that the stamina and energy I took for granted were not as plentiful as they used to be, I knew it meant making new choices in the way I live. This meant that I must become aware of what affects my well-being, and find the right balance that would result in feeling more alive and vibrant.

A Journey Toward Greater Wellness

This journey toward greater wellness demanded that I address all aspects of my life, and among the most important was exercise. All the studies I have read show that physical activity is directly linked to well- being, but the amount, intensity, and frequency of exercise were not clear. Therefore, I looked for a regimen that will allow me to experiment. I wanted a challenging program with variety, scheduling flexibility, and some form of accountability. Most importantly, I wanted to have fun, which (for me) meant working out with other people.   FIT CrossFit delivered what I was looking for. My life is super full, so having the choice of three sessions per day, six days a week is a huge benefit. The daily routines are flexible and adaptable to each person’s fitness level, not a one sizes fits all program. The trainers are very knowledgeable, supportive, and motivating. The group dynamic is invigorating and encouraging. We all know that the toughest part of Crossfit is just getting started, and the biggest obstacle is believing that you can do it. This personal challenge is what I find most invigorating, and I always leave with more energy than I came in with.

How has my fitness level changed since joining CrossFit?

On a recent hiking trip to Rocky Mountain National Park I was astonished to find myself charging up mountains and flying down the steep slopes. I experienced a joy of movement in a way I never have before. I trusted my body and released myself to the experience without fear.

Living fully means that balancing and rebalancing my life is an ongoing process. The daily strength, stamina, and confidence that I get from the FIT CrossFit training program helps me stay balanced and focused on the priorities I value most in my life.

How Does Exercise Increase Energy?

1 Oct

School is back in session and so is your frantic non-stop pace of life!  While your daily schedule may leave you fatigued, usually the real culprit for decreased energy is our daily habits.  For example, the foods we eat, the amount sleep we get, and (SHOCKER) the amount of physical activity we get all affect how tired we feel.

One of the best antidotes to beating fatigue and increasing energy is to exercise more, not less.
“Contrary to popular belief, exercising doesn’t make you tired — it literally creates energy in your body.  Your body rises up to meet the challenge for more energy by becoming stronger,” says nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a nutrition adviser for the Journey for Control diabetes program.

How Does Exercise Increase Energy:
As your heartbeat increases with a vigorous workout, more blood surges through the brain, more oxygen is absorbed by your brain cells, and you feel more mentally alert and energetic.  Better-conditioned muscles also make daily tasks that much easier. When you exercise, your ability to recruit and use muscle fibers are increased so you require less effort to perform any physical task.  And as you become stronger through exercise, so does your immune system.  Being sick drains us of energy.  Exercise  boosts immunity, which helps averts illness, or at least reduces its length and intensity.

What can I do with limited time?
Moderate intensity movement is all you need to increase energy levels.  Even a 10 or 15 minute walk has the primary effect of increased energy.  If taking a short walk doesn’t feel like enough of a workout, try an intense 30 minute bout of interval training.  While intense exercise may initially tire you out, it reduces tension, so that after an hour or so, when your muscles begin to recover, you will see a surge of energy but without tension.  If you can’t make it to FIT for even a 30 minute session, try a 10 – 20 minute interval training workout at home.  Exercise equipment is not necessary to deliver a good workout.  For on the road or at home workout suggestions, email me at jimmy@focusedtrainers.com.

“Fight Gone Bad 5” – How much fight is in you?

7 Sep

In 2006, a unique charity fundraising event was created to benefit prostate cancer research.  Crossfit gyms across the country and around the world were asked to hold a one-day, one workout event, to draw participants and donations for a great cause.  Using the “Fight Gone Bad” (FGB) benchmark workout, the Crossfit community, and those who joined ranks in support, have raised a combined total of more than $2 million for charity within the first four editions of FGB.

It can be so easy to get caught up in the importance of our own lives and successes that we forget about those less fortunate than us.  At FIT we strive to have a positive impact on our clients’ lives, both physically and mentally.  We also want to affect more than just our client base by reaching out and creating a difference in our community and our world.  FGB has been a great way for us to give back.  FIT and CrossFIT Los Altos have been involved with the FGB charity event since its inception.  In 2006, at FGB 1, we were excited to have 26 participants.  Last year at FGB 4 we had a robust 78 participants and raised over $25,000! That year CrossFIT Los Altos was the highest fundraising team in the Northern California 26> division, winning the honor of hosting the NorCal Regional Champion Traveling Trophy until FGB 5, this September 25th.

The FGB workout was originally designed over a decade ago for Lightweight UFC Champion BJ Penn.  It was intended to match or exceed the domain of a UFC fight in terms of the metabolic demand, force, range of motion, and speed.  After BJ Penn finished the workout for the first time, he was put flat on his back. When asked to compare the workout to a fight, he said it was like a “fight gone bad,” thus putting a name to the cause of his pain and this amazing worldwide charity event. Today FGB is one of the most famous benchmark workouts in the Crossfit program.

In 2010, FGB 5 opens its arms to benefit three charities: LIVESTRONG, Wounded Warrior Project and the Crossfit Foundation.  For more information on the actual workout, the charities, how to make a donation, or to join Team CrossFIT Los Altos, please visit the FGB 5 website at www.fgb5.org.

Social Wellness: A Benefit of Group Training

7 Aug

When it comes to physical well-being, exercise is considered an essential part of wellness. In the case of exercise at F.I.T., the contribution of group training to social wellness should not be overlooked.

It was at the end of an hour session during a very intense (remember intensity is relative) workout, and Mike was fighting through “one of those days.” Mike wasn’t going to quit, he never does.  But what I really found inspiring about that day was the other 5 group members.  They stayed after the session to cheer Mike on to the end.  And, after Mike finished the workout laying on the floor exhausted, the group helped break down his barbell and cleaned-up.  That’s CrossFIT at F.I.T.: everyone working as hard as they can, pushing themselves to their individual limit, and sharing the experience.

We’ve all been where Mike was at some point in our training.  And what I love about training with the CrossFIT group is that when I’m not having my strongest day, the motivation and support the group provides will push me through the workout.  Then there are the days that the WOD (workout of the day) favors my skills and I’m able to be the inspiration for others in the class.  It goes both ways and it changes direction daily just like the WODs.

There is inherent competition in the group setting and we welcome it because it
pushes us beyond what we thought we were capable of and allows us to reach our next level of fitness.  But more important than competition, there is a camaraderie that bonds the group, makes the workout enjoyable, and keeps everyone positive and consistent with their training, which is ultimately the key to everyone’s success.

The above example is why we consider the community at F.I.T. to be a key ingredient to the wellness and success of our clients.  Having a connection to the people in a workout group not only increases adherence to an exercise program, but, as we know and studies support, exercise is more fun when done with friends.

CrossFit on the Road

4 Jun

Summertime is rapidly approaching, and for many of us that means vacation! It also means time away from FIT.  But, you don’t have to let your fitness suffer.  It only takes 30 minutes a few times a week, to maintain the fitness you’ve earned.  All you need for a solid workout is:

1. Motivation

2. Space

3. Creativity

Motivation will most likely be the greatest obstacle to training while on vacation.  Having a structured regiment at your finger tips could be the stimulation you need.  While planning your vacation,  put a 30 minute WOD on your travel itinerary.

Finding space is easy. The hotel fitness center (as small as it may be), a park, or even your hotel room has ample room for squats, push ups, and burpees.  Another option is to find a CrossFit affiliate within your travel destination.  Most affiliates allow experienced CrossFitters to drop-in for a workout.

With some creativity, equipment limitations are easily overcome.  Some fitness centers have dumbbells and cardio equipment, however usable items can be found anywhere. Look for monkey bars and benches in the park. Even a hotel chair can make a good dip station. Regardless of exercise equipment, the combination of body weight and gymnastic exercises are virtually limitless for a great workout!

Here are some sample workouts designed to deliver a good dose of intensity in 10-20 minutes.  All you need is your able body and a little room to move.

-50-40-30-20-10 reps of: Squats, Walking Lunges, Push-ups

-5 rounds: Run 200m, 15 Burpees

-As many rounds in 20 minutes: 5 Burpees, 10 Squats, 15 Pushups

For more CrossFit on the Road workouts email me at jimmy@focusedtrainers.com.

Remember, getting the workout in is great, but if you’re putting too much junk in your body’s fuel tank you’re really just taking one step forward and two steps back.  Have a great summer!

Making Exercise a Sport

5 May

Crossfit Games 2010 Norcal Sectionals where FIT Trainers, Jimmy and Rick, Competed

Physical activity and exercise are interchangeable phrases, but sport is defined as: an individual or group competitive activity involving physical exertion or skill, governed by rules, and sometimes engaged in professionally (often used in the plural).  Physical activity is the goal for health and well-being but motivation can often be a challenge so why not look to sport for the inherent motivation it provides?

Being a part of a team, the motivation that comes from trying to make yourself better, the satisfaction derived from supporting others to do the same . . .these are all benefits traditionally been reserved to organized sport but thanks to Crossfit, every and any individual who wants to stay or get in shape has access to them.  Participating in Crossfit is different from going to the gym to get a workout, it is the feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself.  The workout of the day is not just about how well you do, it’s about supporting or inspiring those around you, it’s about pushing yourself to try your hardest and do your best.  Like taking up any new sport, it can feel awkward at first leading to uncertainty, but then you chat with a more seasoned Crossfitter and learn that they too were once like you.

Greg Glassman, founder of Crossfit, describes it like this: In implementation, CrossFit is, quite simply, a sport—the “sport of fitness.” We’ve learned that harnessing the natural camaraderie, competition, and fun of sport or game yields an intensity that cannot be matched by other means. Using whiteboards as scoreboards, keeping accurate scores and records, running a clock, and precisely defining the rules and standards for performance, we not only motivate unprecedented output but derive both relative and absolute metrics at every workout; this data has important value well beyond motivation.

The Crossfit principle is competing against yourself.  It’s about self-improvement and mastery of skills.  It’s about practicing skills so you can be better than you were the day before. Like any team sport, tt’s not just about how well you do, it’s about supporting your teammates and being part of their success.  The thing most people seek from team participation, aside from the sport itself, is the camaraderie and community among teammates . . . if this is something you are seeking, and looking to try a new ‘sport’, why not drop in to a crossfit class and give the sport of fitness a try?

Crossfit Games

5 Apr

Rick and I participated in the Sectionals of the Crossfit Games on March 27th and 28th at Mitty High School in San Jose.  Over 250 men and 150 women paticipated in the two day event.  While we didn’t qualify for Regionals, we had a great time competing and really absorbed the spirit that all the athletes and fans brought to the event.  The workouts and competitiveness was fierce, but everyone was supportive and in the end what mattered was that you gave it your all.  I know it sounds like an advertisement, but it even shocked me!  Anyway, here are the workouts we went through:

Saturday, Workout 1:

In 6 minutes, you ran 800 meters and then completed as many overhead squats as possible with 115lbs.

Saturday, Workout 2:

10 minutes, AMRAP:

7 Barbell Thrusters @ 115 lbs

12 Kettle Bell Swings @ 55lbs

7 Chest to Bar Pull-ups

Sunday – Chipper

6 minutes to register your best Clean and Jerk.

Immediately following the 6 minutes you had to complete the following for time:

25 Burpees

100 yards of Walking Lunges

5 Rounds of 15 DB Thrusters and a 100 yard Farmers Walk @ 40lbs

25 Burpees

500 m Row

450m sprint.

Only 357 days left of training until next year!