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     The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2014 issue 6



Muscle Cramps

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 diagnosed?

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.


Electrolytes 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, 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 weakness. 


Electrolyte 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.


Sports and other vigorous activities can cause excessive fluid loss from perspiration. This kind of dehydration increases the likelihood of true cramps. These cramps are more likely to occur in warm weather and can be an early sign of heat stroke. 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.


Vigorous activity:
True cramps are commonly associated with the vigorous use of muscles and muscle fatigue (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?

Activity: 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 electrolytes (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 weight loss (>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):

  1. 0.5 liters per hour for a 180-pound person several hours (three to four hours) prior to exercise.

  2. Consuming beverages with sodium and/or small amounts of salted snacks or sodium-containing foods at meals will help to stimulate thirst and retain the consumed fluids.

During exercise:

  1. Suggested starting points for marathon runners are 0.4 to 0.8 liters per hour, but again, this should be individualized based on body weight loss.

  2. 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.

  3. Electrolyte repletion (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 associated with electrolyte imbalances (muscle cramps, hyponatremia).


  1. Drink approximately 0.5 liters of water for every pound of body weight lost.

  2. Consuming beverages and snacks with sodium will help expedite rapid and complete recovery by stimulating thirst and fluid retention.

So yes, I'm going to use this as a learning experience
J  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!

ref.  medicine. net

Rest Between Sets

Weight-training programs manipulate resistance, sets, repetitions and rest.  Changing even one of these factors affects the capacity in the others.  For example, a short rest interval reduces the capacity to lift heavy weights or perform more sets or repetitions.  Some research has concluded that the proper rest interval depends on the goal. 

To gain muscle size, you need to give your muscles adequate recovery time so they can continue to exert their maximum force.  After about 2 minutes following a lift, your muscles recover 80 percent of their strength.  The recovery percentage is less for each second before the 2-minute mark.  Take note of how much time you currently take between sets to see if you have to rest longer.

Rest longer if the goal is maximum strength development (5 minutes or more between sets).  Rest 3-5 minutes between sets when lifting loads less than 90 percent of maximum effort.  Rest 3 minutes when training for muscular power, and take short rest periods (30-60 seconds) when attempting to boost growth hormone levels.  Short rest intervals of about 30 seconds work best when training for muscular endurance.  Rest time doesn't mean much if you haven't optimized intensity and volume.  Constructing the optimal workout program is as much art as science.



Kettlebell Exercise of the Month!

Kettlebell Swing Snatch


If you've already gotten the hang of the kettlebell swing, then the swing snatch is the next progression to master on your list. Executing the appropriate form is important to prevent injury and ensure that you get the maximum benefits from this exercise.

The one arm snatch uses a swing movement produced by the hips and core to project the kettlebell from between the legs to an overhead straight arm lockout position in one uninterrupted motion. The one arm kettlebell snatch can be broken down into 4 phases

1. The Swing Phase
2. The Pull Phase
3. The Lock-Out Phase
4. The Drop Phase

During the lock-out phase, quickly punch up with your fist, and guide the kettlebell home with the arm fully extended overhead. Be sure to catch the kettlebell softly without banging the forearm, donít allow it to spin around the handle and travel a long way to hit your forearm hard. Instead, quickly punch up with the heel of your palm so the handle outruns the kettlebell and you catch the kettlebell softly with your forearm.


Target:  hips, legs, shoulder

(gluteals, gastrocnemius, deltoids) 

Straddle kettlebell with feet slightly wider apart than shoulder width. Squat down with arm extended downward between legs and grasp kettlebell handle with overhand grip. Position shoulder over kettlebell with taut low back and trunk close to vertical.

Pull kettlebell forward and upward from under body. As kettlebell passes knee height, jump upward extending body. Elevavate shoulder and pull kettlebell upward. Land on feet with bent legs. Catch kettlebell at arm's length while squat up into standing position with kettlebell overhead.

Drop kettlebell down and foward iwth arm extended. Swing kettlebell back down between legs and repeat. Continue with opposite arm.


Recipes for Health

Citrusy Banana Oat Smoothie

Hands-on:  5 min.
Total:  30 min.

Make morning prep even faster by freezing the banana and cooking and refrigerating the oatmeal the night before.

  • 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup prepared quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 large banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1 cup ice cubes

Combine first 7 ingredients in a blender; pulse to combine.  Add ice; process until smooth

Serves 2 (serving size 1 1/2 cups)
Calories 228
Fat 3.9g (sat 1.2 g, mono 0.6g, poly 1.4g)
Protein 8g
Carb 43g
Fiber 4g
Chol 4mg
Iron 1mg
Sodium 24mg
Calc 66mg

ref. Cooking Light, April 2014

Training Heart Rate 

An important component of exercise for fat loss and health is aerobic (aka. cardiovascular or cardio respiratory) exercise.  This type of training is called "aerobic" because you use oxygen to burn fuel.  Your exercise routine should include aerobic training (ie. biking, walking, running, etc..) 3-4 days per week for optimum results.  Gauge how hard to push yourself by taking a percentage of your maximum heart rate.  To calculate this, subtract your age from 220.

Maximum Heart Rate:  220 - Age

To derive any benefits from aerobic exercise, you need to exercise in an elevated training zone which equates to a percentage of your maximum heart rate.

Training Zones
Healthy Heart Zone (Warm up) --- 50 - 60% of maximum heart rate: The easiest zone and probably the best zone for people just starting a fitness program. It can also be used as a warm up for more serious walkers. This zone has been shown to help decrease body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol. It also decreases the risk of degenerative diseases and has a low risk of injury. 85% of calories burned in this zone are fats!

Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) --- 60 - 70% of maximum heart rate: This zone provides the same benefits as the healthy heart zone, but is more intense and burns more total calories. The percent of fat calories is still 85%.

Aerobic Zone (Endurance Training) --- 70 - 80% of maximum heart rate: The aerobic zone will improve your cardiovascular and respiratory system AND increase the size and strength of your heart. This is the preferred zone if you are training for an endurance event. More calories are burned with 50% from fat.

Anaerobic Zone (Performance Training) --- 80 - 90% of maximum heart rate: Benefits of this zone include an improved VO2 maximum (the highest amount of oxygen one can consume during exercise) and thus an improved cardio respiratory system, and a higher lactate tolerance ability which means your endurance will improve and you'll be able to fight fatigue better. This is a high intensity zone burning more calories, 15 % from fat.

Red Line (Maximum Effort) --- 90 - 100% of maximum heart rate: Although this zone burns the highest number of calories, it is very intense. Most people can only stay in this zone for short periods. You should only train in this zone if you are in very good shape and have been cleared by a physician to do so.

Measuring Your Heart Rate
Wearing a heart rate monitor is an easy, accurate method of checking your heart rate... but you don't have a monitor. Here is another easy way.

The easiest place to feel your own heart beat is the carotid artery. Place your index finger on the side of your neck between the middle of your collar bone and your jaw line. (You may also use the radial artery on the under side of your wrist.) You can count the beats for a full 60 seconds or count for 6 seconds and add a zero at the end. If you felt your heart beat 14 times in 6 seconds the number would be 140 for a full 60 seconds. Counting for only six seconds is a convenient method, of course it is more accurate to count for the full 60 seconds. You can use several varieties of this method (30 seconds x 2, 15 seconds x 4, etc.). The longer you count the more accurate your reading. Whatever you choose, be consistent in your method.

It's Go Time!

Well, the ACL rehab is coming along, but it looks like I'll have to postpone my 48 birthday tire flips this month for a little while until I'm cleared (sigh).  Better safe than sorry, right?  It's killing me though... I'm already missing out on a few mud runs and training opportunities... I'm having a Mud-Life Crisis over here!  Ah well... I'll try to be a little good and just have to plan for more events in the fall, that's all.

June is an exciting time.  The school year is coming to an end, kids are graduating, and summer vacation plans are in full swing!  Although most of us still have to work, but sure to make time for your family, friends, and of course your workouts!  Enjoy!

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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT

"The only one thing I can change is myself,
but sometimes that makes all of the difference."

youtube of the month --> Furniture Sliders Exercises
This is a great collection of exercises that could be performed with the very affordable sliders that are used to move furniture. (Exercises start at 2:40 into the video) | Personal Training | News | Tips & Tools | Fitness Stuff




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