Exercise trends: Rucking

Have you heard about rucking? The word “ruck” is short for “rucksack,” a military backpack that soldiers use to carry supplies on their back. Rucking, or ruck marching, refers to walking over paved or unpaved terrain with a loaded rucksack for the purpose ofimproving your fitness.

The military often uses rucking to measure physical fitness. Many units require a soldier to complete a timed ruck march in order to qualify for the unit. For instance, the U.S. Army Special Forces requires potential recruits to be able to ruck 12 miles in 2 hours with a pack that weighs 65 pounds in order to be eligible for Special Forces Selection. Even after leaving the armed services, some veterans continue to use rucking as a way to remain strong and build social ties while exercising.

Rucking with even a modest pack strengthens the legs, back and core muscles, while improving your cardiovascular health.For most everyone else, rucking is a great way to add diversity to your training, regardless of whether you’re in or planning to join the military. Rucking with even a modest pack strengthens the legs, back and core muscles, while improving your cardiovascular health. And because you’re walking, it’s usually considered lower impact than running. Those who backpack or hunt in the wilderness can also benefit from rucking, as it provides a very functional way to train for such activities.

So how do you ruck? It’s pretty simple: Load a backpack up with some weight (not too much!) and go for a walk. It can be down the sidewalk or along the trails at the local park. Start with short trips — less than 30 minutes — and work up to about an hour. Then slowly increase the weight in your pack until you can do about 30% of your body weight.

The number one concern regarding these types of workouts is overexertion. Even with a lightweight pack and a short workout, this is still a very tough form of exercise.Dehydration can be a factor, as much of the time these workouts are performed in thewarmer months. Lower body injuries are also common with rucking, including such ailments as shin splints, knee pain, plantar fasciitis and ankle sprains. And don’t be surprised to you feel soreness in the shoulders and neck, as these muscles aren’t used to carrying a heavy load.

West Point rucking. Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public AffairsAs with any form of exercise, it is important to listen to your body. Start slow and build up your “ruck” stamina over time. Add weight and time gradually, and spread out the workouts with other activities — and rest. And if those aches and pains don’t go away within 48 hours of your rucking workout, talk to your physical therapist to discuss your exercise regimen and whether you may have an injury that needs to be treated.

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Cycling for better health

How are those resolutions coming? Are you cooking more at home? Have you seen your dentist (or at least made an appointment for your annual cleaning)?

If you’re looking for a way to increase your activity, cycling or bike riding is a great way to be active.

Anna Dark, the Fitness Director of the Take Charge Fitness Program (a wellness facility run by Physiquality member Clinton Physical Therapy Center in Tennessee), says that cycling has many health benefits. Cycling is an aerobic activity, which is great for your heart and circulation. Going for regular bike rides also increases muscle strength and flexibility, while also improving joint mobility and bone strength.

Cycling offers mental and emotional benefits that help you cope with stress.Like most exercise, cycling offers mental and emotional benefits that help individuals cope with stress, even when you’re on a stationary bike. “And cycling is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, which in itself can help individuals feel better emotionally!” Anna adds.

If you’re serious about committing to regular bike riding, Anna recommends going to the local bike store to choose the proper bike. Consult with the staff about the type of bike that might be best for you, a road bike, mountain bike or a hybrid, based on where you’re planning to ride. And, adds Anna, they will make sure that your bicycle is properly fitted to your body.

You must have the proper equipment for bicycling.Anyone new to cycling must have the proper safety equipment if they will be riding outside, as they’ll be sharing the streets with cars, pedestrians and other bicyclists, reminds Anna. Your bike should be fully equipped with safety features like reflectors and flags in order to be visible, especially at night. Check the air in your tires regularly in order to keep them fully inflated. And make sure that you have the appropriate gear to protect yourself, including a helmet, reflective vest and gloves.

When you’re going out on the road, says Anna, be sure to choose a route that you’re familiar with. This will give you confidence while riding, making the ride less stressful. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings, especially other motorists and traffic. And make sure to use hand signals to let others know where you’re going.

Lastly, have fun! Cycling allows you to enjoy the scenic route while bettering your health. And that’s something to celebrate.

Will overspeed running help me?

With margins in elite competitions getting smaller and smaller — Usain Bolt won his gold medal in Rio by running the 100 meter dash 0.08 seconds faster than Justin Gatlin — many advanced athletes, particularly in track and field, are constantly looking for ways to grow stronger and improve their times.

Overspeed training is one way that runners (and other athletes) try to strengthen the muscles used in short bursts of movement, by using some type of external assistance to run faster than one normally would run, about “8% to 13% faster than the athlete’s fastest speed.Daniel Butler, a clinical exercise specialist at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member in Tennessee), explains that there are several ways to do this. Tail wind running is the simplest method, running with a wind at your back. Similarly, slight downhill running is running down a hill with a slight grade. (A study in 2008 used NCAA sprinters to determine the best grade of hill for improving sprinting times; the authors concluded that a hill with a grade of about 5.8 degrees was optimal for improved performance.)

Runners use anti-gravity like those from AlterG to improve sprinting times.For more intense athletes, towing machines pull the runner down the track at a slightly faster pace than his normal rate. Runners have also used anti-gravity equipment like that from AlterG, a Physiquality partner, as well as wind tunnels, parachutes and speed harnesses. Chelsea Cole, a physical therapist assistant at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, cautions that athletes trying these types of methods should do pre-testing to determine maximum limb speeds and target speeds before training, and advises that any of these training methods should be created and supervised by a professional to ensure safety.

Daniel also notes that using pre-activation, or potentiation, exercises before sprinting has been shown to improve running times. “The exercise performed before the sprint would be selected for its ability to activate the target muscles without overly fatiguing them, allowing the muscles to fire more effectively and the athlete to sprint faster,” he says. John Shepherd, a coach for Team Great Britain, explains in an article how this has been done by other athletes: “To provide a potentiation example, the 30m sprint performance of athletes from various sports, including football, handball and basketball, was improved by performing 10 single repetitions at 90% of their 1 rep maximum 5 minutes before the completion of the sprints.”

Increasing leg strength through squats and deadlifts can help improve sprinting strength.Before focusing on speed and results, good form must be established, reminds Mark Salandra, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the founder ofStrengthCondition.com, another Physiquality partner program. Mark emphasizes the importance of flexibility in improving stride frequency and length, two key components of faster running times. He suggests strength training to increase leg strength, incorporating such exercises as squats and deadlifts into your off-track regimen, in order to increase your stride.

Mark also notes that overspeed training often causes eccentric muscle damage, which usually presents as soreness in the quadriceps (thigh) muscles and can be painful to the touch. To minimize such pain, Mark recommends that these techniques be introduced into any training program gradually, combined with other pre-conditioning and strengthening exercises. Daniel also emphasizes that overspeed techniques should be used only by advanced or elite athletes, as beginner to intermediate runners and athletes would see more results from perfecting their technique and form (as noted by Mark above) and building their explosiveness strength.

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Injury prevention for dancers

Most dancers know that one of the challenges of the performing arts is to make it look easy, effortless – and painless. According to Elisabeth Wheeler, a physical therapist who works with dancers at Allegheny Chesapeake Physical Therapy in Pennsylvania, up to 90% of dancers will have an injury at some point during their training. So whether you are a professional dancer in a company, or one who takes classes for physical (and mental) activity, it is important to pay attention to your body in order to avoid injury.

Elisabeth notes that dancers can have a variety of injuries throughout the body:

A physical therapist can determine the causes of chronic pain and develop a treatment plan.Like any athlete, if a dancer begins to feel pain that does not go away after a day or two of rest, Elisabeth advises visiting a physical therapist to determine the cause of the pain. Physical therapy treatments may include strengthening or stretching exercises to address muscular imbalances; neuromuscular re-education during dance-specific movements; modalities, including ultrasound and moist heat; and manual treatments like joint mobilizations and massage. If physical therapy can’t eliminate the pain, she says, an x-ray or MRI may be necessary for a diagnosis, along with a trip to an orthopedic doctor for further advice and treatment, and possibly surgery.

A dancer’s body is her instrument.  Read More

 

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What is the difference between reactive and preventive healthcare?

Many Americans take a reactive approach to their healthcare needs: They only seek care once they have an injury or fall ill. This approach, says physical therapist Kathy Blair, often involves a costly progression of doctor visits, tests, medications, and procedures, in order to diagnose and treat conditions that might have been prevented. In addition, she points out, this type of care accounts for more than 75% of healthcare spending in the U.S.

Preventive or proactive care, on the other hand, means taking responsibility for your healthcare and well being before something happens. This includes taking simple actions, like exercising more and eating better, which can help you avoid unnecessary procedures and costly ER visits. Preventive healthcare, says Kathy, “stresses personal responsibility for staying well, and keeps healthcare spending in check as a result.”

Raj Thangamuthu  opened Empower Physical Therapy and Fitness with the express purpose of integrating physical therapy and fitness in one facility.Raj Thangamuthu, a physical therapist, opened Empower Physical Therapy and Fitness (a Physiquality member in Michigan) with the express purpose of integrating physical therapy and fitness in one facility. His goal was to encourage clients to improve their overall health and actually spend less time in his clinic as healthcare patients. Raj gives several reasons why it is better to have a preventive approach to healthcare:

  • In preventive care, pain is often not a limiting factor in making progress.
  • Muscle imbalances identified in preventive care often respond to treatment more quickly than when an injury is present.
  • Preventive care can help identify imbalances within your body and ultimately make you function much more efficiently when addressed. Read More

 

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What every golfer should know about injuries

Whether you just started hitting the links or have been playing golf for years, understanding the variety of injuries that can result from playing golf will help your game, as well as your overall wellness.

For beginners, says Chris Wickel, a physical therapist at Conshohocken Physical Therapy (a Physiquality member in Pennsylvania), injuries can often happen because of poor body mechanics. While many people may think it’s simple to pick up a set of clubs and hit the links, a bad golf swing can lead to years of bad habits (and bad scores).

If you’re new to the sport, consider taking some lessons with a teaching pro — the PGA certifies teachers who can ensure that you learn the game with proper form. If you’ve tried playing and have felt pain during your swing, consider consulting with a physical therapist, whose musculoskeletal expertise can reduce pain and improve your game. As a Titleist Performance Institute Certified medical professional, Chris is an expert in evaluating a player’s golf swing and pinpointing where an error occurs in its mechanics.

Seasoned golf players can experience a variety of pain and problems.More seasoned players can experience a variety of pain and problems. Brandon Brackeen, a physical therapist at Moreau Physical Therapy in Louisiana, points to a Harvard Medical School study that underscored overuse as the key reason golfers have back, shoulder and elbow problems, unsurprising when you consider how many times a golfer swings his clubs during a round of 18.

Brandon points out that many golfers experience back pain due to a lack of mobility in the hips and lower back, and weakness in the lower back and core muscles. He cautions golfers to seek help from a physical therapist if they experience back pain, especially with bending or twisting; excessive back stiffness during or after playing golf; muscle spasms; or pain or weakness in the legs. “A physical therapist can address such pain, then assess the person’s movement patterns and golf swing to determine the probable cause of the pain,” Brandon says.  What every golfer should know about injuries

 

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Preventing injuries

Many people think of physical therapy clinics as a place to recover from injury, or a place to do rehabilitation after an operation. But many physical therapy clinics are now offering a broader range of services, shifting their attention to both prevention of and recovery from injury and illness.

Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in Clinton, Tennessee, launched their wellness program, now known as the Take Charge Fitness Program, 20 years ago in 1995. It was originally intended as a bridge program for clients who had reached the end of physical therapy, but weren’t quite ready to exercise on their own. “Many of the people who come here need supervision that they can’t get at a health club,” says co-owner Joyce Klee. “We can cater their exercise programs to specific health issues, whether they are orthopedic or neurological problems, or other issues, like obesity.”

Anyone who joins the Take Charge Fitness Program gets a thorough evaluation.Now they often have clients who have never been through physical therapy, which is why anyone who joins the Take Charge Fitness Program gets a thorough evaluation. “During this screening,” explains Anna Dark, the Fitness Director at TCFP, “we look for any potential musculoskeletal dysfunctions or imbalances that can lead to injury if not addressed.” The staff at TCFP then incorporates specific exercises to improve and correct such problems, as a part of the member’s exercise regimen.  Read More

 

How to adapt your workout as you age

As you get older, it’s easy to let your exercise regimen slip away. Schedules get more complicated with work, spouses and children. Bodies don’t respond as well to high-intensity workouts or longer bouts of activity. But it’s important to stay active for the long run — for a variety of reasons.

As we age, the goal of our activity may shift from weight-loss or general health to more specific goals. Injury and even death from falls is an unfortunate trend for older adults — as adults approach their 70s, they need to consider how to improve their balance and reduce their chances of falling.

There are lots of exercises and programs to improve balance that can be done at the gym or at home.There are lots of exercises and programs to improve balance that can be done at the gym or at home. Lee Spieker, the founder and CEO of Physiquality partner program Railyard Fitness, lists a variety of exercises that challenge balance and coordination:

You can also use a balance board to challenge your balance at a higher level….. Read more 

Does the seven-minute workout work?

Last summer, yet another fitness fad/trend received some attention. It was first published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness Journal, and then it received coverage in a variety of newspapers and websites, including the New York Times. While high-intensity circuit training (HICT) is not new, the specific circuit training cycle discussed in the article received attention because the circuit duration lasted approximately 7 minutes. In addition, the authors theorized that it could also benefit “the masses.”

It is important to understand that this article was a case report on how the two authors manage limited training schedules and environments for their elite-level athletes: using body-weight resistance without any other equipment, in a seven-minute workout cycle, and repeated as many as 1-3 times based on time availability. For their purposes, the authors felt that this training tool was an effective way to help their athletes manage their workouts while maintaining intensity and improving aerobic conditioning in the presence of busy lives.

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How to train safely for a marathon

Running a marathon has become a common goal for even casual runners. Aside from giving runners a goal to work toward (and giving them a reason to continually train), it has become a sign of a Serious Runner, one who can complete the challenge of such a long-distance race. And while some people think training isn’t that important, most trainers agree that it takes months of steady preparation to ready your body for such a rigorous run.

“As soon as you sign up for your first marathon, your running transforms to actual training,” says Heidi Beasley, a physical therapist at Accelerated Rehab (a Physiquality member in Gilbert, Arizona). If you are new to the sport, she suggests, plan at least six months to complete your training; consistent runners should train for at least 10 weeks for a half marathon and 12-24 weeks for a full marathon. And any runner should check with her physician before engaging in training.  Read More