January is National Sports/Winter Sports TBI Awareness Month. TBI stands for Traumatic Brain Injury. This month is meant to shed light on concussions and other brain injuries sustained during sports, specifically that of winter sports. Traumatic brain injury occurs when a trauma, such as a fall, head injury, or car crash, causes damage to the way the brain functions. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, approximately 1.7 million TBIs occur each year in the US, resulting in 52,000 deaths and 275,000 hospitalizations. TBI is usually misdiagnosed which often causes complications or the death of the patient.
Football & hockey are most commonly associated with these types of injuries however skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and snowmobiling also can cause significant damage. A 10-year study by the International Federation of Skiing documented 320 concussions sustained by athletes in the disciplines of alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and ski jumping.
The National Ski Areas Association has provided the following tips for staying safe on the slopes this winter:
In the event that an injury does occur, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. Do not continue with the sport or activity until cleared by a medical professional. Rest is the best form of treatment when it comes to a concussion. This will allow the brain to better recover and prevent further damage. You may be advised to abstain from physical activity and even activities which require you to focus or learn new concepts. This may involve working less hours or shortening your school days. As symptoms begin to improve, you may gradually increase activity level as advised by your doctor. Keep in mind that repeated blows to the head can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. This is a progressive, degenerative disease that has been linked to memory loss, impaired judgment, insomnia, dementia, and severe depression. Follow the tips above & always err on the side of caution when participating in vigorous winter activities.
As with most sports & activities, you should get yourself in shape prior to hitting the slopes. You can’t ski your way into shape and you will enjoy it much more if you’re physically fit. Come to The Arena & train with our strength & conditioning coaches who can get you in great shape for the slopes & throughout the whole year.
By Gina Stallone CPT
This is a true story that I hope inspires you to take action.
A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s birthday dinner with my family. A lady sitting at the far end of my table suddenly stood up holding her throat looking in distress. She began walking toward the bar. The lights were dim and the music loud. Most people in the crowded room didn’t seem to notice. Her friends sitting at the table did not follow her. Maybe they thought she wanted privacy? Earlier I had overheard her saying that she had many food allergies and was extremely sensitive. I initially thought she was having an allergic reaction to something she ate.
A member of the waitstaff followed her. I was concerned and followed her as well. My thoughts at that point were to ask her about and look for an EpiPen as she had known allergies. As I got closer she collapsed to her knees still holding her throat. At that point it seemed more like she was choking and all of a sudden those years of CPR training and recertification I had received, that I hoped I never had to use, kicked in. I yelled to the bartender to call 911 (which they were on their way to do anyway). In an emergency, always call 911 to get help on the way as quickly as possible.
I asked her if she was choking and wanted me to help her and she desperately nodded. Strange and obvious as this question may sound, this is part of the protocol. There were some waitstaff and bartenders around us and someone asked if I knew what to do. I said I had training in this, would do all I can to help and then got to work.
After performing two rounds of the abdominal thrust protocol also known as the Heimlich Maneuver, her airway cleared and she started coughing and breathing. I cannot describe the relief and gratitude I felt, and cannot even imagine what she must have felt at that moment.
What was most striking, and almost surreal, to me during this experience was the automatic response and calm control I felt. The reason being, every time I’ve taken CPR classes over the years, I’ve always dreaded actually being in a situation where the training was necessary. My fear was that I wouldn’t act effectively under pressure in the heat of the moment. But I felt surprisingly clear-minded, the procedure seemed to flow and thankfully was successful. The lady, although a little shaken, was ok.
Another thing that struck me was the fact that with so many people around, no one else followed her to see if she needed help as she walked away. Some people may not be able to recognize signs of distress, or maybe want to give privacy and not embarrass someone if they don’t realize the gravity of the situation. If you feel you are in distress, make it known that you need help. This is crucial.
My reason for sharing this story is to encourage you to get training in CPR or CPR/First Aid. You can make a huge difference in, and maybe even save someone’s life. Familiarize yourself with the basics because things really do happen at unexpected times. Then continue to be re-certified/trained as years go by. Practice and brush up on these skills once in a while. Repetition is what creates motor memory and will make a difference when there is real stress involved.
Some of us are required to have this training based on our careers. But even if it’s not a requirement, do it anyway. Sometimes professional help may be too far away when every second counts. So the more prepared we are to respond and take appropriate action when time is of the essence, the better our chances of successful outcomes.
There are lots of resources online for basic information and classes everywhere. Simply Google CPR classes in your area and you’ll easily find one. Below are some links to help you get started.
One of the quotes that better describes the mindset of successful athletes says, “Top athletes train as if they are the worst, yet compete as if they are the best.” I find it to be a humble, yet a powerful description of how an elite athlete goes about the mental preparation to succeed. Success is not consistently achieved by just showing up to compete and trying your best. Elite athletes clearly understand that the best predictor of success is a well-structured practice that pushes their physical, strategic, and mindset boundaries. Only when practices are used to their fullest potential, ideal performance are achieved.
Here are the best five habits shared by elite athletes that we can also implement:
Elite athletes plan their course of action by specifically setting out their goals under a reasonable time-table. Knowing exactly what they want to achieve pushes them to take action in direction toward constant improvement. Goals are broken down by identifying long-term objectives first and then working backwards by setting short term goals. One way to effectively stay on track on the achievement is by using a SMART chart. Eliud Keichogue, who ran 2nd in the 2016 London Marathon, kept track of all his progress, which helps him to remind himself of all his success and progress he was making to meet his goals.
Embrace mistakes as a learning experience
Elite athletes compete against themselves. All their focus is on improving their skills, mindset and performance. Missing the achievement of a goal is not a setback, but rather an opportunity to learn and improve for next time. Avoiding mistakes will only limit their achievements. Learning how to cope with setbacks will push them to achieve their goals. They see a big difference between obstacles versus challenges. The former places focus on the negative whereas the latter on the positive. Elite athletes are constantly learning from all their opportunities that are given and use that experience to feed more information and critical thinking to plan better for next time.
Usain Bolt shared that his unnegotiable preparation routine is sleep. Sleeping is a time to recover and re-energize the body and mind. Make sure your room is free from electronics, a bit on the cooler side as it helps to rest the body quicker, and maintain a routine. Equally effective are power-naps. It provides time for the body to heal and, most importantly, for the mind to be fresh and ready to react and respond.
The imagery of attaining goals is a powerful tool that feeds the brain with positive energy, optimism and motivation. Athletes visualize the achievement of their goal prior to starting each of their performances and practices. There are two ways of doing imagery work: Internal Imagery: the athlete sees him/herself executing the ideal performance by bringing in as vivid an imagery as possible. The athlete “feels” the entire experience of the performance as if he/she is really doing it. The clearer and the more vivid the imagery is, the more the body will remember such an experience. External Imagery: the athlete sees him/herself competing as if he/she was on a canvas or screen of a movie theatre. In this case, there is an imaginary distance where the athlete “sees” him/herself successfully completing the entire performance rather than sensing it in his/her body.
Katie Ledecky, a multiple time Olympic and World swimming champion, has learned to take competition in a happy, more relaxed manner. She shares that she places anxious moments at an arm’s length by bringing positive thoughts to any negative thoughts that start to creep into her mind. She finds that smiling and laughter brings relaxation and are natural remedies to alleviate stress.
Hope these tips used by elite athletes are equally incorporated in your routines. If it works from them, it can clearly work for us.
Alex Diaz, PhD
Sports Mental Edge
Every year we all make our lists of New Year Resolutions and promise ourselves to get in better shape. The truth is less than 7% of us will actually change anything. If you really want to change, then you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Workout like you are 19 years old and willing to really sweat and be exhausted and sore. Figure out what motivates you and what kind of workout you enjoy. If you like running, do that. If you prefer elliptical or biking, do that. And if you prefer varying your work out, mix it up.
Nobody has enough time to work out the way they want to. I try to get an hour work out in before work; unfortunately, I can usually only do 30 minutes. We need to maximize the use of the minutes we have in the gym to be as efficient as possible. Interval training has been shown to have much more benefit than standard work outs. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to be even better than interval training.
A standard workout is going on the elliptical for 20 minutes at one speed. Interval training would be varying the resistance/speed with peaks and valleys during the workout. An HIIT workout would involve making the peaks much higher pushing you where your body cannot supply enough oxygen to the working muscles. This could include not only your leg and arm muscles but also your heart muscle. The HIIT workout will require your body to recover for hours after your workout. Your metabolism will be increased and you will be burning more calories for several hours even after you are done with your training. Short but intense workout challenges are the key to HIIT.
I was caught up in my routine workout and getting bored doing the same regimen for years. Then 3 months ago I decided to go on a bike trip to South America with my 19-year-old son. I knew I had to step up my training to avoid embarrassment and so I would not feel old next to a much younger real athlete. I started biking outside and then started spin classes as the weather got colder. Also, I hired a personal trainer to kick my butt and help me do new workouts. The trainer was smart and goal-oriented helping design a legs and core workout to get me ready for the mountains of Chile. Over the next 6 weeks, I lost about 7 lbs. and dropped my waist size. I also felt better and more energetic during the day. I was well prepared and did great biking abroad.
I am competitive by nature, and this is part of what motivates me. When I am in spin class I won’t quit because I would not let the person next to me work harder. When my son passes me on the bike, I am pushing myself to keep up or even try to pass him. A lot of the work is mind over matter. Find what motivates you and use it.
Whatever physical activity you do, you need to push yourself. However, make sure your body can handle the challenge. As a physician, I advise you to know your body and realize that in doing too much you can hurt yourself. You need to know your limits and if you are uncertain talk to your own physician. It is a new year. Decide to be one of the 7% that actually change yourself for the better in 2018.
By Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA
Director Orthopedic Surgery Westchester Sport & Spine at White Plains Hospital
Many diet gurus, workout fiends, and nutrition specialists have been touting the benefits of the Paleo diet. A Paleo diet is named appropriately because it focuses on eating foods available only in the Paleolithic Age, when our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. This eliminates ALL processed foods, refined grains, cereals, and milk. Only fruits, vegetables, meats, nuts and seeds are allowed. The diet makes sense because evidence has shown that processed foods and sugars are responsible for many health issues. It increases the consumption of meats, fruits, and vegetables, which add nutrients and antioxidants to the diet.
Some of the health benefits of the Paleo diet include weight loss, reduced inflammation, increased satiety, regulated blood sugar levels, and corrected nutrient deficiencies. The diet is high in protein and fat, and since it’s all-natural, it is filled with nutrient rich foods.
Foods that should be avoided on the Paleo diet are refined sugars, refined oils, dairy, legumes (including peanuts, beans, and tofu), salt, potatoes, cereal grains, starches, and alcohol. Many Paleo experts allow grass-fed butter since it is more a fat than a dairy product, but that is a little controversial. Other controversial foods are pseudo-grains, such as quinoa. Quinoa is not strictly Paleo, but some people on Paleo diets eat it from time to time. It should be avoided if weight loss is the goal or if there are gut issues.
If your goal is weight loss, certain foods that are considered Paleo should be consumed in moderation. For example, butternut squash, acorn squash, yams, sweet potatoes, and beets are starchy vegetables. While technically allowed, their high starch content increases blood sugar levels and may promote weight gain, so they should be consumed in moderation. Additionally, processed meats and meat high in fat should be avoided since they provide more calories and fat. While fruits are Paleo-approved, they are also high in natural sugars, so consumption should be limited to once a day, with the focus on low glycemic fruits, such as berries and apples.
Some critics of the Paleo diet state that the diet may be too high in protein and difficult for many people to follow. Additionally, the diet is high in seafood. Many types of fish and shellfish are very high in toxins. However, in general, I believe the benefits of the diet far outweigh the negatives. In fact, if your goal is to lose weight in 2018, a version of the Paleo diet is a great way to start off the New Year!
By Denise Groothuis MS RD
A comprehensive randomized control study that came out earlier this year suggests that engaging in moderate aerobic exercise can significantly increase male fertility rates in previously infertile men. The study was conducted over a 24-week intervention period, with both exercise and non-exercise groups being physically similar in terms of body composition, semen quality, markers of inflammation and oxidative stress.
Throughout the course of the study, measurements were taken against baseline measurements, showing significant improvements in the exercise group in following areas: Increase in Vo2 Max, which measures aerobic capacity, an increase in semen quality and decrease in sperm DNA damage, decreased markers of oxidative stress, and decreased pro-inflammatory markers. Furthermore, during and post intervention, there were more total pregnancies and live births in the exercise group than in the control group, which reported 0% live births.
As the exercise subjects became more aerobically active, they experienced decreased body weight and body fat during the intervention. The decrease in oxidative stress is attributed to an increase in exercise-induced antioxidant enzymes. It was also reported that discontinuing exercise four weeks after the intervention period was not a long enough period have a significant adverse effect on fertility and pregnancy outcomes.
The take-away for men and couples hoping to increase their fertility, is that even a little goes a long way. Try to incorporate moderate physical activity into your lifestyle, 3-4 days/week, for at least 25 minutes per bout. Examples of moderate physical activity include:
By Rima Sidhu, MS
Circuit training is a great way to lose weight! Check out our videos with directions on how to complete a circuit so you can get yourself into a weight loss and exercise routine. Circuit training has many benefits. Read this article to find out the benefits of circuit training: http://thearenafitness.com/circuit-training-for-a-new-you/
‘Tis the season for family get-togethers, office parties, and lots of delicious foods & drinks. It’s a common belief that people pack on the pounds during the holiday season. That isn’t necessarily the case. The truth is, while you may gain a couple of pounds, chances are it won’t be anything significant. The holidays don’t necessarily signify weight gain – but overindulging does, and that can happen at any time of year. The key is learning balance. It’s important to focus your time on loved ones rather than counting calories. You should enjoy yourself and some treats, but there’s no need to be reckless! Here are some tricks to beating the bulge this holiday season:
Don’t skip meals! Often times, people think that if they skip a meal it will give them more calories to use later on. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, you’re doing serious damage to your metabolism when you skip meals. Your body will go into starvation mode, and instead of distributing the food the way it should, it turns to fat. Ultimately, you will end up being twice as bloated and feeling worse than if you had just had a small meal or snack prior to your party.
Bring your own healthy dish to the festivities. Let’s face it – time is of the essence this time of year. I’m sure the host will be more than appreciative for the help. Offer to make a healthy side dish or dessert. This will not only be a big help to the host, but it will allow you and your friends &/or family to enjoy the time together and not to worry about what’s on your plates.
If making something isn’t an option, practice portion control. This should be something that’s done all year round, but it’s especially important this time of year. Begin with salad or veggies and be sure to pace yourself by eating slowly before going back for seconds.
That being said, you want to choose your indulgences wisely. No one is saying you can’t have your favorite dessert or your family’s secret, delicious dish. Less is definitely more. Have a little bit of everything you really enjoy and move on. The easiest trick to ensure you won’t overindulge is to load up on water & veggies. That will keep you fuller and keep you from grazing the table.
Be realistic with time. This is another big one. Do your best to keep up with exercise – just 30 minutes a day can make a big difference physically AND mentally. This can be walking around the mall or walking when you first wake up in the morning – every little bit counts and will even serve as a great stress reliever.
Above all, focus on what’s truly important this time of year. If you do eat too much or don’t get as much time to exercise, be kind to yourself – you’re doing your best. Don’t feel guilty – just do better the next day. Life is short – don’t waste precious time agonizing over an extra serving of pie or an extra glass of egg nog. Spend that time with your loved ones; you’ll be happier for it in the long run.
Happy holidays to you & yours!
By Gina Stallone
As we age, it seems like every day we discover a new ache or a pain in our body that never bothered us before. Many of us are plagued by chronic pain, and we do not know how to alleviate it. Part of the issue is that we are constantly doing things during the day which exacerbate our symptoms and we don’t even realize it. Additionally, as we get older, we often forget that our bodies are not quite as resilient; after a week of sedentary behavior, we will hit the gym or play sports full force on the weekend and wind up injuring ourselves.
One of the most common complaints is lower back pain. This often results from sitting for too long and from sitting incorrectly. Sometimes lower back pain can be a result of a disc injury or arthritis, but for most of us, it is just the result of not moving enough. First, position your desk so you are sitting with proper posture. It is also important to get up for frequent breaks and to stretch and to move around. Outside the office, lower back pain can be exacerbated while exercising. It is imperative to make sure you are not using your lower back during weight lifting or other exercises. Instead, focus on activating the hips and glutes to protect your lower back during your workouts. Additionally, strengthen your core muscles to stabilize your trunk, which will also decrease the load on your back.
Another common malady is neck pain and stiffness. This can result from sitting improperly, walking incorrectly, driving with your head jutting forward, or from sleeping with you neck turned. Also, stress and tension play a significant role in neck pain and stiffness as well. Neck pain can increase outside during exercise as well. Often, while performing exercises, we lead with our chin and put extra pressure and strain on our necks without realizing it. Proper form and activation is key to keep the neck pain free. Meditation, stretching and other stress relief techniques are also helpful for decreasing neck pain.
Other common ailments are knee pain, joint pains, muscle strains, and carpal tunnel syndrome. If symptoms are severe and you do not see improvement, you should visit a doctor to rule out a major injury. Assuming there is no disc issue or major tear, sprain or break, many of these problems are caused by our activities of daily living and improper form during therapeutic and strength exercises. The way we sit, walk, talk on the phone, sleep, and exercise all impact how our body moves and feels. Form during exercise is extremely important. Many clients don’t realize their positioning is off and might be affecting their mobility, flexibility, cardio endurance, and strength.
Most people will feel better by engaging in a routine that includes stretching to improve join mobility. It is helpful to use tools like a foam roller or baseball to alleviate knots and to help stretching. Secondly, weight loss often helps with daily aches and pains. Extra weight can put pressure on the joints and cause pain and discomfort. A healthy diet and cardiovascular exercise can help decrease weight and issues with pain. Lastly, strength training, especially core training, helps decrease muscle pain because the muscles stabilize the joints.
It seems like the answer to feeling better and decreasing pain is to engage in physical activity with proper form. As the New Year approaches, make your body a priority, and meet with a personal trainer to ensure you are performing exercises correctly, and to make sure you are utilizing exercises to help with your individual issues.