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Standing Desk Exercise Rx

Work Station Transition Training

As a physical therapist making his living taking care of people with pain problems and physical limitations caused by prolonged sitting, I am an avid promoter of standing desks.  Over the last five years, the prices of standing desk products have come down and the variety has increased.  Manufacturers now permit a 30 day “no risk” trial.  Try a standing desk for thirty days and then ship it back if it does not meet your needs.  I encourage anyone who must sit for more than five hours a day to convert some of those sitting hours to a stand up desk.  Employers are now aware of the benefit of standing desks and actively encouraging their use.  It can take some time to become accustomed to working at a standing desk.  I have three training tools that can help make working at a standing desk easier.  Read this article and watch the video for a demonstration of how to use each product.

Foot Care With a Spiky Ball

The bottom of the foot is a busy intersection of muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves.  Heel and plantar pain are common reasons we see patients in the physical therapy clinic.  Foot pain problems can take months to fully recover.  A little proactive soft tissue treatment will bulletproof the feet from overuse injury and pain.   A spiky ball is a small sphere with fairly aggressive projections.  Take off your shoes and give your peds a little love by rolling the bottom of your foot over a spiky ball.  Spiky balls come in various sizes and resistances.  I have found the smaller (2 ½ – 3 inch) and firmer models work the best for my foot.  Most people report that it “hurts good” and often get one for work and one for the home office.  Most spiky balls cost around seven dollars.

Posture Correction With Resistance Bands

If you have been a long-term seated data input warrior, you have probably been infected with the i-hunch virus.  As we get older, the muscles that hold the thoracic region tall and pull the shoulder blades back tend to get weaker at a faster rate than other muscles.  Prolonged standing is going to be challenging without some remedial rebooting of the software that holds you tight and tall.  I keep a ¼ inch superband (nine dollars from performbetter.com) at my desk and perform two upper body postural strengthening exercises.  Posture restoration takes some time so work on these drills every day for at least three months.

Band Pull Aparts

Choose a resistance band that allows you to perform a complete set without reaching failure.  The force produced by the band becomes greater as you travel through the movement so avoid a band with a strong resistance.   The tempo of the movement should stay smooth and steady.

Stand tall with the chest proud and the head pulled back.  Do not arch the upper back.  Tighten the abdominal muscle and keep the front of the rib cage down.  Hold the elbows fully extended and the wrist in neutral.  You can use either a palms up or a palms down arm position.  Individuals with some shoulder wear and tear may feel better with a palms up position.  Hold the arms up to 85 degree shoulder flexion and start with a low level of tension on the band.  Concentrate your efforts on the muscles between your shoulder blades as you pull the band apart and bring the hands out to the side.  Let the band stretch across the chest and pull the hands behind the body.  Tempo: Two counts- pull the band apart. Two counts- hold at end range. Two counts- return to the starting position.   Repetitions:  10 – 20 repetitions.

Postural Band Aid

One of the most convenient and easy to perform postural correction activities is an exercise I call the postural band aid.  Take a short length of therapy resistance band and stand up.  Assume a tall posture with a proud chest and the head pulled back.  Hold one side of the band in each hand with the palms up.  Keep the elbows by the side and bent to 90 degrees.  Pull the band apart so that your arms form a letter W with your arms and body.  You should feel a tightening of the muscle between your shoulder blades.  Hold the band apart for three counts and then slowly release back to the starting position.  Perform ten repetitions.

Dynamic Core Stability With Dynamax Medicine Ball

Physical therapy patients and fitness clients often complain of lower back fatigue when using a standing desk.  Solve this problem with some dynamic stabilization training.  Place a Dynamax medicine ball or an under inflated basketball under the desk and take turns elevating one leg up onto the ball.  The round ball creates a degree of instability that kicks in the stabilizers of the pelvic girdle and lower back.  Changing position and relieving stress on the joints in the pelvic girdle and lumbar spine can help abolish symptoms of fatigue.  It is one of the reasons your local saloon has a place to rest your foot when you belly up to the bar.  The majority of standing desk users report an improvement in symptoms using this simple alteration in stance.

Watch the video here

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

 

Will That Machine Help Me?

Home Gym Hints

Television ads, holiday gift giving, and the return of frigid temperatures brings out the “What cardio machine should I purchase for my home?” question.  Is it the bike with an internet trainer, the fat blasting high intensity elliptical trainer, or the Euro designed Nordic ski machine?  Many of these units sell for over $3000 and they wish to choose wisely.  Most of the questioners have no experience with any of these gizmos.  I have some pre-purchase questions they need to answer before buying that expensive cardio machine.

Can you currently walk for thirty minutes without stopping to rest?

If you answer no to that question, do not bother purchasing a treadmill, bike, or elliptical unit.  Focus all of your efforts on developing the strength and skill necessary to walk for thirty minutes without resting.  If pain is a limitation, get to the physical therapy clinic and resolve the problem.  Walking is the essential neuromuscular activity that keeps a body healthy and out of the assisted living center.  Leaning over on a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or recumbent bike is very likely to worsen those walking woes.

Do you have a prior history of consistent exercise?

Just owning a new high-tech training machine will not make you thinner or fitter.  You must use the machine three or four days a week for the next year.  Many people believe that locating the machine in the dwelling will jump-start the exercise habit.  If you answer no to this question, I have concerns that you will not develop a relationship with your internet connected mechanical friend.

Is fat loss the primary reason you are purchasing the home exercise machine?

The fat loss the exercise motto everyone needs to learn is; “familiarity breeds failure”.   The human body is a master at adapting to a physical stress and the forty-five minute spin class that burns 440 calories in February only consumes 180 calories in August.  The sad truth is that the same amount of exercise time and effort produces a weaker fat loss response.   The crucial components for fat loss are long duration meal preparation and high intensity portion awareness.  After you get those under control, progress to activities that you find challenging (difficult, not good at, loath, hate) and change the training modality on a frequent basis.  Using the same exercise device month after month will not produce optimal results.

Michael O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Ho Ho More Go

Holiday Gifts for the Fit and Soon to be Fit

I was recently asked to write up my recommendations for the fitness fanatic on the holiday gift list.  All of these suggestions are products I currently own and use on a consistent basis.  I would be very happy to be the recipient of any of these gifts.

Power Blocks
Dumbbell training is one of the most effective forms of exercise.  The big limitation of dumbbell training is the cost of buying a series of varying dumbbell weights and the space required to store 10 – 15 sets.  PowerBlock has solved this problem.  A set of PowerBlocks occupies less than three square feet of your home, and depending on the size you purchase, replaces 10 – 25 pairs of traditional dumbbells.  I have put some heavy use on a set of PowerBlocks that I purchased in 1992.  They have functioned flawlessly and show minimal wear.  A beginner set of PowerBlocks (5-32 pounds) cost $330 and you can add an expansion set as you get stronger.  My thirteen-year old self would have loved to get a set of PowerBlocks for Christmas.

Purmotion Air Fit Pro
The creation of the suspension trainer set off a mini revolution in fitness.  The Purmotion Air Fit Pro ($250.00) is different than other suspension trainers in that it has a high quality metal pulley built into the system.  The pulley introduces a rotational demand that is rarely addressed in traditional training.  Purmotion (purmotion.net) makes many different straps and handles that can be used with the Air Fit.  The three dimensional resistance provided by the Air Fit Pro is unique.  I bought my first Air Fit Pro seven years ago and it still functions flawlessly and shows not sign of wear.

Personal Training
Numerous studies have shown that individuals that utilize professional guidance are more successful in reaching fitness goals.  No one performs exercises correctly after only one training session.  You need ongoing evaluation and progression on proper exercise performance.  Older and physically limited individuals need the assistance of a trainer more than any other group.  Our team of trainers and physical therapists can help anyone reach their fitness goals.  Our Christmas gift certificate cards can be used for any of the training programs at the club.  Team training sessions and personal training packages make great gifts.

Massage Stick
If you consistently exercise, one of the best things you can do to enhance recovery is perform some form of soft tissue work.  Targeted stick work is the recovery ingredient that alleviates pain and restores mobility.  The older you are, the harder you work and the more frequently you train, the more you will benefit from some daily stick work.  I like The Stick from performbetter.com ($30 – 50)—it is a well built product.  We use these tools every day in our physical therapy clinics and I have never had one break.

Airex Mat
Getting up and down off the floor is an essential movement skill.  Lose the motor control for this basic task and all sorts of independence issues start to happen.  Everyone should have a quality floor mat as a training tool.  Airex makes many different sizes that are all treated to minimize microbial activity.  A basic mat can be purchased for $80.00.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Triathlon Success: Hamstring And Glute Togetherness

To keep a triathlete healthy and resilient, the hamstrings and gluteal muscles must work together as a team.   The athlete fires the gluteals and hamstrings simultaneously to stabilize the pelvis and produce force through the lower leg.  When you run, bicycle, or swim, these muscles work at a team to produce efficient propulsion and reduce stress on the lumbar spine and knee.  A triathalon is the ultimate long duration physical endeavor.  Triathletes need hamstrings and gluteal muscles that can stay on and strong for a long time.

Most fitness programs do not properly train the muscle of the posterior chain.  Fitness center exercise generally involves training the hamstrings as knee flexors on some type of “leg curl” machine.  Gluteal training rarely occurs past neutral hip extension, with little effort on improving overall hip range of motion.  Any type of seated gluteal training is inappropriate for an athlete.

The term physical therapists and strength coaches use for butt muscles that are non- responsive is “gluteal amnesia”.  Our sedentary lifestyle involves very little of the glute recruiting sprinting, deep squatting, and climbing that activates the gluteal muscles.  We mistreat our gluteal muscles with hours of compressive sitting and little in the way of full range hip movement.  Many fitness clients and most physical therapy patients need some remedial gluteal training.  Give these three drills a place in your triathalon training program.

Single Leg Bridges

Lay supine with the arms braced against the floor to stabilize the upper body.   Bend the knees and place the feet flat on the ground.  Lift the right leg up off the ground.  Using the muscles in the back of the left leg, lift the hips up off the ground.  Push up through the heel of the left foot and drive the left hip into full extension.  Hold at the top for three seconds and then lower in a controlled manner.  Perform ten repetitions on each leg.  Common mistakes are allowing the pelvis to tilt and not fully extending the hip.  Hamstring cramping is an indication that you are not using the glutes enough and need to focus on creating a better mind to butt connection.

Goblet Squat

The squat movement pattern is a skill that is easier to teach if you add some load.  You can use either a dumbbell or a kettlebell for this exercise.  It has been my experience that the exercise is easier to learn with a kettlebell.  Hold a kettlebell by the horns, with the elbows down, and the kettlebell close to the chest.  Keep the chest proud and pull the abdominal muscles tight.  You may have to experiment with foot placement as everyone has different hips.  The position you would place the feet if you were going to jump is a good starting point.  Initiate the squat by pushing back the hips.  Keep the torso tall and descend.  Let your pelvis fall between the hips. The elbow should drop down between the knees.  Nothing will inhibit your progress more than thinking about how you are moving during goblet squats.  Keep your brain quiet and get in some repetitions.  Effort has amazing capacity to improve motor control.   Perform ten repetitions.

Mini Band Monster Walk

Your will need a mini resistance band–a nine inch loop of resistance band, (two dollars from performbetter.com).  Most fitness clients will do well with a green or yellow mini band.  Place the mini band loop around both legs just above the ankles.  Assume an athletic stance with the feet straight ahead, knees bent, and hips flexed.  The band should be held taught throughout the exercise.  Imagine your feet are standing on railroad tracks.  Walk forward for ten steps on each side, keeping the feet over the railroad tracks.  Walk backward for five repetitions on each leg.  Try to keep the hips and shoulders level throughout the exercise.

Once you have mastered all three exercises, build your gluteal and hamstring performance by traveling through the program for two or three trips.

  1. single leg bridges  R and L x 10
  2. goblet squats x 10
  3. mini band monster walk x 10 each leg

View video of the exercises here: https://youtu.be/QeteeLPF4AU

Kat Wood, DPT, ATC

Triathlon Success: Core Connection

In the fitness world core stability training has gained a solid foothold and more people are getting away from spinal damaging resisted twisting machines and the ever present sit up gizmo.  Most people know how to perform a “plank” exercise and have added this drill to their fitness routines.  Learning how to properly brace the core stabilizers and perform a sustained plank type isometric exercise will resolve back pain, improve the hip to shoulder girdle connection, and make you a better movement machine.  The problem is most people never advance beyond the basic plank exercise.  Triathletes need significant anti-rotation and anti-extension core strength and endurance.  I have three drills that will help keep you strong and resilient in your quest to complete you first tri.    Read the directions and give these activities a place in your fitness program.

Alternate Single Arm Planks

Position the body in a toes and elbows plank, but separate the legs so the feet are wider than the shoulders.  Lift one arm up at a 45 degree angle in relation to your body and hold for five seconds.  Lower the arm back down and try the other arm.

If you are unable to perform the alternate arm plank on the floor, regress the exercise by placing the hands on a bench in a push ups position.  Lift one arm up at a 45 degree angle in relation to your body and hold for five seconds.  Lower the arm back down and try the other arm.  How many and much?  Perform three to five repetitions on each arm.  Work up to longer hold times instead of more repetitions.  Five repetitions on each arm with a ten second hold is a good goal.

Pallof Press

You need a cable machine or resistance tubing set at mid torso level.   Position your body at a 90 degree angle in relation to the pull of the cable.  Assume an athletic posture with the feet at least shoulder width apart and the spine neutral.  Push the hips back a little and keep a slight bend in the ankles and knees.  You should look like a tennis player preparing to return an opponent’s serve.  Use a strong overlap grip on the handle and set the hands in the middle of the chest.  Brace the midsection and hips and move the handle out in front of the body and then back to the chest.  Select a resistance level that permits execution of all repetitions without losing the set up posture.  If one side is more difficult, start the exercise on that side.  Perform fifteen repetitions on each side.

Many of us have terrible respiratory patterns.  We are unable to fully inhale and exhale when under any physical stress.  The Pallof Press can be used to improve respiratory control.  Use the same set up and press the cable out.  Hold the cable with the arm fully extended while inhaling for four seconds and exhaling for six seconds.  Bring the arms back in and then repeat.  Perform four of five inhale / exhale respiration repetitions on each side.

View the video here: View Video

 Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Triathlon Success: Hip Flexor Function

Two of the most important muscles for efficient running and a pain free set of knees are not visible in the mirror.  Most people have never heard the names of these muscles.  Located deep inside the body, covered by innards and all too often, layers of mesenteric fat, these muscles labor unloved and forgotten.  Triathletes interested in optimal performance and a body that remains injury free should give some attention to the iliacus and psoas muscles.

Anatomy

Five muscles flex the hip–bring your femur forward.  Three of the hip flexors attach to the front of your pelvis and run down the front and sides of your thigh.  They are the sartorius, tensor fascia latae, and the rectus femoris.  Two of the muscles attach to your spine and posterior pelvis and travel across all of the lumbar vertebrae, the sacroiliac joint, and the front of the hip joint.  They are the iliacus and psoas muscles.  The sartorius, tensor fascia latae, and the rectus femoris can lift your femur to parallel, 90 degrees hip flexion, and no further.  The iliacus and psoas are responsible for lifting the hip above parallel.  Many people have very weak iliacus and psoas muscles and are unable to flex the hip above 90 degrees.

Multi Joint Control

“Hip flexor” is a very simplistic description of the function of the iliacus and psoas muscles.  The iliacus and psoas flex the hip, but they also rotate the hip, stabilize the pelvic girdle / lumbar spine, decelerate hip extension and co-contract with a team of muscles to hold us upright.  Properly functioning iliacus and psoas muscles keep the pelvis stable when you walk or run and this mitigates stress on the knees and lower back.  When the iliacus and psoas muscles are weak, the pelvis tilts forward and backward.  This rotates the femur in and out and twists the knee.  Your knee joint likes to bend back and forth and dislikes any extra rotation.  Extra knee rotation wears out the back of the kneecap (patella) and places stress on the supportive cartilage (medial and lateral meniscus) of the knee.  A triathlete with a wobbly pelvis places significantly more stress on their lumbar spine.

Triathalon Considerations

Riding a bike shortens and neurologically anesthetizes the iliacus and psoas muscles.  A tight psoas muscle compresses the lumbar vertebrae together and increases pressure in the lumbar discs.  Athletes with “quad strains” often have pain in the sartorius and rectus femoris muscles that has been brought on by overuse of these muscle as they compensate for a weak iliacus and psoas muscles.  Tight and inhibited iliacus and psoas muscles are responsible for the wobbly gait pattern you frequently see as the triathlete transitions from the bike to the run.  Two drills that will improve the function of the iliacus and psoas muscles are listed below.  Read the directions and watch the video.

Standing Hip Flexor Isometric

The Standing Hip Flexor Isometric drill functions as both an evaluation and a method of restoring iliacus and psoas function.  If you struggle with this exercise, you need to spend some time and effort on improving the performance of your iliacus and psoas.  Listed below is a description of the exercise and several activity regressions and progressions.

You need a box or exercise bench.  The taller you are, the higher the bench.  Six feet tall, try a bench that is 24 inches high.  Five foot, four inches, try a twelve inch box.  A mirror for visual feedback is helpful.  Stand with the right foot on the bench and the left foot on the floor.  Hold a pvc pipe, broomstick, or golf club overhead.  Brace the abdominal muscles to keep a tall spinal position and tight lordosis (inward curve) in your lower back.  Lift the right foot off the bench by pulling the thigh up with the muscles in front of the hip.  Hold the foot off the bench in a solid and stable position for five seconds and then lower.  Do not let the position of the spine change.  Do not bend the left knee or tilt the pelvis.  The only joint that moves is the right hip.  Athletes should be able to lift and hold the right knee 30 degrees above waist level.  Start with sets of three repetitions and alternate sides.  As you get stronger, increase the duration that you hold the foot up to ten  seconds.  If one side is weaker than the other, perform more repetitions or an extra set on that side.

Bench Assisted Hip Flexor Stretch

This drill will improve hip extension range of motion and enhance mobility in all of the hip flexor muscles.  Bicyclists often have very flexed lumbar spines and limited lumbar and/or hip extension.  This mobility exercise is the antidote for the physical restrictions created by too much time in the saddle.

You will need an exercise bench or a padded chair that is 12 to 16 inches tall.  Place a cushion or Airex pad directly in front of the bench.  Set up with the left foot on the floor in front of the Airex pad and aligned with the left hip.  Place the right knee on the Airex pad and the front of the right foot up on the bench.  Stay tall through the spine and hold the position for twenty to thirty seconds.  For many people this will be enough stretch.  If you are able take the arms overhead.  Work further into the movement by bending the front knee and moving forward.  Repeat on the other side.

Video of these exercises can be found here: View Video

 Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Triathlon Success: Foot Fitness

Foot and ankle injuries are the number one problem in the sport of triathalon.  The thousands of spins on the bike, impacts on the run, and kicks with the swim can take a toll.  Some preventative training can help speed tissue recovery in your feet and safeguard the ankles.

The foot and ankle are made up of twenty-six bones that are controlled by an elaborate combination of intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles.  A web of fascia interconnected to the muscles creates a dynamic sling that gives our foot form and acts as a spring to propel   the body through space.  Our feet evolved to guide us over an ever-changing environment of varying surface with minimal support from footwear.  Modern footwear, deconditioning, and prior injuries can all take a toll on the functional mobility and strength of the foot and ankle.  Preventative exercise activities can go a long way to prevent painful injuries in the lower leg and foot.  Watch the video and give these activities a try.

Foot Wave

You can perform this exercise throughout the day and it will help keep your feet healthy and strong.  Point the foot (plantarflex the ankle) and flex all of the toes.  Draw the foot up (dorsiflex the ankle) and keep the toes flexed.  Extend the toes while keeping the foot pulled upward.  Point the foot downward while keeping the toes extended.  Keep the foot pointed and flex the toes.  Move through this exercise in a steady and deliberate fashion.  Take time to feel the muscles activate and stretch in the foot and lower leg.  Repeat the “foot wave” for five to ten repetitions.

Short Foot Drill

The muscles on the bottom of the foot are called the foot intrinsics.  The foot intrinsics function in a manner similar to the core muscles of the torso.  Their job is to brace the foot so it can transfer forces through a stabilized series of boney arches.  Weak or slow to respond foot intrinsic muscles impede the foot’s capacity to decelerate forces.  The short foot drill will improve foot intrinsic muscle performance.

To perform the short foot drill on the right foot, place the right foot flat on the ground and place the left foot back.  Bend the right knee about 20 degrees and lift the left heel off the ground so more weight is on your right foot.  Lift and spread the toes of the right foot.  Lower the toes back to the ground and grip the floor with the big toe.  Contract the muscles on the bottom of the foot.  You should feel a lifting of the foot arches.  Tighten the muscles of the right leg from the calf to the hip and lift the pelvic floor.  Hold this tension in the foot and leg for ten seconds and then release.  Perform five repetitions.

Soft Tissue Mobilization

Treat the soft tissue structures of the ankle and foot with a consistent program of massage.  Three or four times a week, take five minutes and perform some massage stick work to the muscles of the lower leg.  Find a tennis ball and roll out the plantar aspect of the foot.  Deep soft tissue work helps improve circulation, prevents aberrant scar tissue formation, and promotes tissue elasticity.

Cryotherapy

Age brings lower leg arthritic changes and circulatory deficiencies.  These can create pooling of inflammatory byproducts in the feet and ankles created by a week of triathalon training activity.  Cooling the feet and ankles in an ice bath can help break the chemical cycle of inflammation and enhance recovery.  At the end of a training day, fill up a bucket with water and lots of ice.  I like to get most of my lower leg under the water.  Try fifteen to twenty minutes every other day.

Watch our Foot Fitness video for demonstration of these exercises: View Foot Fitness Video

Kat Wood, DPT, ATC

Triathlon Success: Movement Prep

Limited mobility is a fairly common finding among recreational runners, bikers, and swimmers.  Very often, the deficits are worse on one side of the body.  A movement asymmetry makes any triathlete more susceptible to injury.  As a group, triathletes benefit greatly from the diligent application of a simple movement preparation program.  Movement preparation drills help prevent and/or train away mobility impairments.

Movement Prep is Superior to Stretching

For athletes, movement preparation drills are more beneficial than static stretching.  Movement prep improves postural reflexes, deceleration skills, standing balance, and coordination.  Any extra mobility you achieve with training must be controlled by your neuromuscular system during varying level of fatigue.  Movement prep develops all aspects of athleticism.  The two exercises I recommend for endurance athletes are the moving posterior lunge and the world’s greatest stretch.

Moving Posterior Lunge

Most runners and bikers have tight hip flexors, weak lateral gluteals, and limited lumbar extension range of motion.  This exercise will improve all of these areas.

Stand tall and step backward with your right leg.  Try to get the right knee close to the ground, stay balanced, and keep the torso tall.  At the same time, bring your arms overhead.  Push up with the left leg, lower the arms, and return to standing.  Repeat with the left leg and move down the track with alternating posterior lunges.  Perform ten repetitions on each leg.  Perform five times on each side.  Common mistakes are allowing the torso to tip forward and caving inward of the front knee.

World’s Greatest Stretch

Running, biking, and swimming are primarily single plane motions.  Runners do little in the way of rotational motion and often have restricted thoracic spines.  The world’s greatest stretch opens up the thoracic spine and will reveal any limitation in movement capacity between the right and left legs.

You need about ten yards of open space.  Stand tall and step forward with the left leg.  Place the hands down on the ground and attempt to lower the pelvis to the ground.  Pause, support the torso with the right hand, and turn toward the left leg.  Reach the left hand to the sky and pause in full rotation.  Return the left hand to the ground outside the left knee and gently attempt to straighten the left knee and then pause.  Bring the right leg up and return to standing.  Repeat the drill with the right leg stepping forward.  Perform five times on each side.  Many mistakes are made with this drill.  Please persevere as it is worthy of your efforts.

View the video here: Movement Prep Video

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Triathlon Success: Myofascial Management

Triathlon training is a vigorous and demanding athletic endeavor. The successful triathlete is often the one with the fewest injuries and the best recovery capacity.  Soft tissue mobilization with a roller helps decrease pain, improve mobility, and will speed up recovery between bouts of exercise.  Few of us can afford or dedicate the time to a daily massage.  The roller is the best do-it-yourself method of enhancing myofascial recovery.  Triathletes should begin every training session with five to ten minutes of roller work.

In the book, Anatomy Trains, Thomas Myers describes the interconnected webs of fascia and muscles that move our joints and hold us upright.  The human body is not just isolated muscles, but rather a series of interconnected lines of muscles and fascia that are reliant on one another to produce efficient movement.  The mechanical stress created by a roller keeps the tissue lines sliding and gliding across one another.  It removes neural and mechanical inhibitors of movement and makes exercise easier.

More varieties of rollers have come on the market and whenever we are faced with a lot of choices, it becomes more difficult to make a decision.  In this short presentation, I have some suggestions on the proper roller for the job.

Rollers are available in three foot and one foot lengths.  I find the longer versions easier to use.  Bigger and taller athletes generally do not do well with a short roller.

The best roller for you will depend on your tissue tolerance or how sensitive you are to the compressive forces of the roller.  If you are new to foam rolling, a low density white foam roller is softer and will create less discomfort.  As you develop better tolerance to rolling, you can progress to a firmer black foam roll.  It has been my experience that the white rolls break down faster than the firmer black versions, so be prepared to replace a white roll fairly often.

Hollow, pipe style rollers are newer to the market and I have had good results with two products.  The Grid Trigger Point roller is a cushioned hollow pipe with a grid pattern across the surface of the roller.  Many smaller clients and patients report they like the short version of the Grid roller.  Another hollow pipe version is the Rumble Roller.  This product has a series of projections that extend from the roller surface.  Self-soft tissue mobilization with a Rumble Roller is more uncomfortable than any other roller I have used.   It is a more aggressive treatment, but I have found it works well for individuals with thicker and denser muscles.

So how often should you, a triathlete, use a roller?  I like to stay active, pain free, and maintain my posture, so I use a roller every day.  Physical therapy patients with painful myofascial restrictions may need to foam roll two or three times a day.  Including five to ten minutes of foam rolling prior to a training session is the preventative medicine that will keep you on the road and out of the doctor’s office.  Watch the video that accompanies this article and get going on a roller.

View video here: Roller Video

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Motrin Mayhem

More Research On Effects of Exercise and NSAID Medications

Millions of Americans take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) every day.  Many use these over the counter drugs to reduce the discomfort / pain of fitness activities.  Big Pharma marketing makes the use of these chemicals look harmless.  In the commercial, the lady pops three pills and glides effortlessly through her run.  The basketball player takes his gel capsules and bounds through the game with his buddies.  Most of us view these drugs as harmless and beneficial.  Ongoing studies have shown that the use of NSAIDs as a pre-exercise activity preparation can limit your muscle recovery and damage your internal organs.  A recent New York Times *article by Gretchen Reynolds should scare everyone away from medicating with NSAIDs prior to a training session.

Exercise induced inflammation is a critical biochemical process that helps us recover from a bout of training. You do not get fitter while training, you get fitter during recovery from a bout of exercise.  The inflammatory biochemicals that make you sore and stiff after a vigorous exercise session are called prostaglandins.  NSAIDs work by interrupting the chemical assembly line that makes various prostaglandins.  No prostaglandin production means you have no delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), so you feel better.  Prostaglandins are the chemical signal that tells your muscle cells to get busy repairing and reinforcing your skeletal muscle cells.  No prostaglandins, no beneficial adaptation during recovery.  Take a NSAID before training and it’s like you never exercised at all.

Prostaglandin production creates vasodilation– more blood can get where it needs to go during a session of exercise.  The studies cited in the New York Times article have demonstrated that inhibited prostaglandin production creates diminished blood flow to your kidneys.  Limited kidney function dramatically blunts progress toward all fitness goals.   It is very difficult to run further, get stronger, or become leaner while undergoing dialysis.

Take the time to read the article by Gretchen Reynolds and rethink that pre-exercise NSAID protocol. You can view the article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/05/well/move/bring-on-the-exercise-hold-the-painkillers.html?

*Bring On the Exercise, Hold the Painkillers, Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times, July 5, 2017

Barbara O’Hara, RPh.

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