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The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness
I've said it before and I'll say it
again... I sweat more than anyone that I know! Always have. So going into
the Tough Mudder at the beginning of this month, my biggest concern
about compensating for my sweat over a 10 mile obstacle course was
realized! Somewhere around mile 7 or so, I got some pretty bad
cramps in my quads and calves. I made sure to drink plenty of
water at the rest stops, but that doesn't replace your electrolytes.
This loss in electrolytes, as well as other factors, can play a big
roll in the likelihood of you suffering muscle cramps!
A muscle cramp is an involuntarily and forcibly
contracted muscle that does not relax. When we use the muscles that
can be controlled voluntarily, such as those of our arms and legs,
they alternately contract and relax as we move our limbs. A muscle
(or even a few fibers of a muscle) that involuntarily (without
consciously willing it) contracts is in a "spasm." If the spasm is
forceful and sustained, it becomes a cramp. Muscle cramps often
cause a visible or palpable hardening of the involved muscle
What are the symptoms of common muscle cramps? How muscle cramps
Characteristically, a cramp is painful, often severely so. Usually,
the sufferer must stop whatever activity is under way and seek
relief from the cramp; the person is unable to use the affected
muscle while it is cramping. Severe cramps may be associated with
soreness and swelling, which can occasionally persist up to several
days after the cramp has subsided. At the time of cramping, the
knotted muscle will bulge, feel very firm, and may be tender.
are minerals which have an electrical charge when they are dissolved
in the blood or other liquids within the body. Electrolytes are important because many cells, including
nerve and muscle cells, use electrical activity as part of their
function. These cells can control their electrical charge by
modifying the amount of electrolytes inside and outside of the cell.
Electrolyte imbalances can disrupt the way that your muscle and nerve cells work because
they are the most sensitive to changes in electrolytes.
Electrolytes and Cramping
When your body gets low on electrolytes it can cause your muscles to cramp,
MayoClinic.com explains. Specifically, low blood levels of either calcium or magnesium directly increase
the excitability of both the nerve endings and the muscles they
stimulate which can lead to cramping.
Low potassium blood levels occasionally cause muscle cramps, although it is more
common for low potassium to be associated with muscle
depletion is more common when you are doing intense exercise because
you lose some electrolytes through your sweat. Electrolyte depletion
can also occur if you are taking diuretic medications or are losing
fluids due to vomiting or diarrhea.
Dehydration: Sports and other vigorous activities can cause excessive fluid loss
from perspiration. This kind of
increases the likelihood of true cramps. These cramps are more
likely to occur in warm weather and can be an early sign of
Chronic volume depletion of body fluids from diuretics (medicine
that promote urination) and poor fluid intake may act similarly to
predispose to cramps, especially in older people. Sodium depletion
has also been associated with cramps. Loss of sodium, the most
abundant chemical constituent of body fluids outside the cell, is
usually a function of dehydration.
True cramps are commonly associated with the vigorous use of muscles
(in sports or with unaccustomed activities). Such cramps may come
during the activity or later, sometimes many hours later.
What is the treatment of skeletal muscle cramps?
Most cramps can be stopped if the muscle can be stretched. For many
cramps of the feet and legs, this stretching can often be
accomplished by standing up and walking around.
Gently massaging the muscle will often help it to relax, as will
applying warmth from a heating pad or hot soak. If the cramp is
associated with fluid loss, as is often the case with vigorous
physical activity, fluid and electrolyte (especially sodium and
potassium) replacement is essential. Medicines generally are not
needed to treat an ordinary cramp that is active since most cramps
subside spontaneously before enough medicine would be absorbed to
even have an effect.
How can muscle cramps be prevented?
Authorities recommend stretching before and after exercise or
sports, along with an adequate warm-up and cooldown, to prevent
cramps that are caused by vigorous physical activity. Good hydration
before, during, and after the activity is important, especially if
the duration exceeds one hour, and replacement of lost
(especially sodium and potassium, which are major components of
perspiration) can also be helpful. Excessive fatigue, especially in
warm weather, should be avoided.
How much should I drink?
Hydration guidelines should be individualized for each person. The
goal is to prevent excessive
(>2% of body weight). You should weigh yourself before and after
exercise to see how much fluid you lose through sweat. One liter of
water weighs 2.25 pounds. Depending on the amount of exercise,
temperature and humidity, body weight, and other factors, you can
lose anywhere from approximately .4 to 1.8 liters per hour.
Pre-exercise hydration (if needed):
0.5 liters per hour for a 180-pound person several hours (three
to four hours) prior to exercise.
Consuming beverages with sodium and/or small amounts of
salted snacks or sodium-containing foods at meals will help to
and retain the consumed fluids.
Suggested starting points for marathon runners are 0.4 to 0.8
liters per hour, but again, this should be individualized based on
There should be no more than 10% carbohydrate in the
beverage, and 7% has generally been considered close to optimal.
Carbohydrate consumption is generally recommended only after one
hour of exertion.
(sodium and potassium) can help sustain electrolyte balance during
exercise. Particularly when
there is inadequate access to meals or meals are not eaten,
physical activity exceeds four hours in duration,
during the initial days of hot weather.
Under these conditions, adding modest amounts of salt (0.3 g/L to
0.7 g/L) can offset salt loss in sweat and minimize medical events
Drink approximately 0.5 liters of water for every pound of body
Consuming beverages and snacks with sodium will help
expedite rapid and complete recovery by stimulating thirst and fluid
So yes, I'm going to use this as a learning
We're already planning on the Tough Mudder again next year, and you
can bet that I'll get a handle on my "in race nutrition" for the run
next year... or any other event of sizable distance or duration!
There are plenty of gels, powders, and chews that can be used to
replenish your electrolytes when rest stops only have water.
You can bet I'll be packin next time!
Yes... I know... you HATE walking lunges.
Everybody does! And why shouldn't you? If you do
enough of them, you certainly get a feel for where your
quadriceps are! Walking lunges are always good for a leg
burn, which makes them an excellent strengthening exercise for
Target: legs and butt (quadriceps,
Keep torso upright during lunge;
flexible hip flexors are important. Lead knee should point
same direction as foot throughout lunge.
forward with first leg. Land on heel then
forefoot. Lower body by flexing knee and hip of front leg
until knee of rear leg is almost in contact with floor. Stand
on forward leg with assistance of rear leg. Lunge forward with
opposite leg. Repeat by alternating lunge with opposite legs.
Doesn’t Mean “Healthy”
Sandy Todd Webster
With so much emphasis on organic, non-GMO foods these
days, many consumers are under the false impression that
foods labeled “organic” are bound to be healthy.
Not so. An ooey-gooey-chewy fudge brownie by any other
name is still packed with fat and calories and will bust a
diet just as fast as its nonorganic chocolaty cousin.
A recent study by Cornell University’s Food and Brand
Lab researchers set out to discover what factors an
“organic” food label might influence. Results revealed
that beyond giving the product a favorable health bias, an
“organic” label could significantly alter perceptions of
taste, calories and value. Some people appeared to be more
susceptible to this “health halo” effect than others.
According to a summary by lead author Wan-chen Jenny
Lee, 115 people were recruited from a local shopping mall
in Ithaca, New York, to participate in the study. Subjects
were asked to evaluate three pairs of products—two
yogurts, two cookies and two potato chip portions. One
item from each food pair was labeled “organic,” while the
other was labeled “regular.” The twist? All product pairs
were organic and identical. Participants were asked to
rate the taste and caloric content of each item, and how
much they would be willing to pay for each. A
questionnaire also inquired about each person’s
environmental and shopping habits.
“Even though these foods were all the same, the
‘organic’ label greatly influenced people’s perceptions,”
reported Lee. “The cookies and yogurt were estimated to
have significantly fewer calories when labeled ‘organic,’
and people were willing to pay up to 23.4% more for them.
The nutritional aspects of these foods were also greatly
biased by the health halo effect. The ‘organic’ cookies
and yogurt were said to taste ‘lower in fat’ than the
‘regular’ variety, and the ‘organic’ cookies and chips
were thought to be more nutritious!
“The label even tricked people’s taste buds: when
perceived as ‘organic,’ chips seemed more appetizing and
yogurt was judged to be more flavorful. ‘Regular’ cookies
were reported to taste better—possibly because people
healthy foods are not tasty. All of these foods were
exactly the same, but a simple organic label made all the
Armed with this knowledge, you can evaluate food package
marketing and nutrition labels with a more critical eye.
bet you love, or love to hate them. This
weight-bearing exercise is fantastic at sculpting your
shoulders and arms, building up your pecs (and for us
ladies, giving us a little lift!), and making your
back look just incredible.
But, they’re not easy! So, I understand why when Tony
Horton or Shaun T tells you to knock out a set of
INSANITY, you groan. And, after a few sets of
exercises, perhaps you’ve started to wonder: How
much weight am I really pushing here? What percent of
my body weight am I lifting? Can I do push-ups on my
knees instead? And, if I need to do them on my knees,
should I bother doing them at all?
Articles published within the Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research revealed that men lifted about
66.4% of their body weight with each rep when they did
a push-up on their toes. On their knees, they lifted
about 52.9% of their body weight. In other words, a
180-pound man will lift 119.5 pounds per rep doing a
regular push-up and 95.2 pounds doing a push-up on
their knees. Women lift slightly less of their body
weight per rep, but the difference is negligible.
Want to determine approximately how much you’re
lifting? Put your scale on level ground and place your
hands on it and do a push-up on your toes. Have a
friend read the number on the scale if you cannot.
Then, repeat the exercise, but this time, do the
push-up on your knees. The number you see is
approximately how much body weight you’re lifting
though the number will vary depending on your arm
position (i.e. military, diamond, wide, etc.)
How to do the perfect push up:
Whether you’re on your toes or on your knees, it’s
important to have the proper form. To do a perfect
Get into plank position and make sure your hands
are aligned with your shoulders but just wider than
them. Tighten your core.
Lower your body until your chest almost touches the
floor, tucking your elbows in as you do. When you’re
at the bottom, your arms should be at 45-degree angle.
Keep your back flat and do not let your back or hips
If you can’t do a push-up on your toes yet, don’t give
up! You’re still getting a great workout.
For the few of you who want to make your push-up
harder and lift more of your body weight, here are
some tips from easiest to hardest:
Slow it down. By taking more time to do each
repetition, you increase the time that each muscle
must stay contracted.
Bring your hands and feet closer together to move
your center of gravity forward and make your
shoulders, pecs, back, and triceps do more work.
Tighten your core to protect your
Change the angle. Place your feet on a stable
surface – such as a plyo box or weight bench – and
keep your hands on the ground. This puts more of your
weight onto your shoulders.
Move away from a stable surface and do your
push-ups on a medicine ball or balance ball as
demonstrated in P90X2. These exercises will not only
muscles groups but also force you to tighten your
core to stay balanced.
June wasn't a bad
month... ran the 10 mile Philly Tough Mudder... family
vacation at the lake... 5K run for childhood cancer...and of
course I had to flip the
warrior tire 47 times on my birthday
J. The next
big weekend on my schedule was at the end of September when I
have the MS bike ride and Delaware Mud Run... that's just too
far away! So now I'm contemplating participating in my
first sprint triathlon! Running... no worries, Biking...
bring it on, but Swimming... big YIKES! Don't get me
wrong, I can swim... but I never did get the hang of that
whole breathing thing... plus I don't really float too much.
Once again, out of my comfort zone, but it's all good. I
wanted to stretch my goals this year and that's just what I'm
How about you? Any
stretch goals? I like to find something that's going to
require some work and then register for it... aka. COMMIT!
Commitment is a powerful thing that drives you to do what you
need to get it done. There are plenty of options out
there... find something that works for you and register today!
Oh right... and have an
outstanding and safe Forth of July Everyone! Go easy on
the BBQ ; )
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