Archive for yoga

Does Your LowBack Ever Get a Little Cranky or Stiff?

Low back stiffness and pain is epedemic in this day and age. And the truth is, there are SO many potential causes for stiffness or pain in the low back. So, let's get this out of the way - it's not in my job description to diagnose, and even if it was, I'm sure as hell not going to try and diagnose in a blog post  - that'd be kind of ridiculous.

However, what I CAN do...is share a video that I shot this past week for my coached athletes. In it, I get right to the heart of ONE of many reasons why our back can get a little cranky.

I've seen this over and over again in a variety of people, from all walks of life and activity levels, especially, runners....OR (gasp!)...pain-addicted sickos who, for whatever reason, like to do side planking!

We ALL love to hate that one - it sucks so good, right?

THREE Common Causes of Low Back Stiffness and Pain

Before I get to the video I mentioned above, know this: In my experience working with athletes from different backgrounds and age groups who occasionally struggle with low back pain or soreness...

...in the majority of cases (that aren't the result of a traumatic injury like a crash) the issues are usually related to these...

  1. The hips aren't as mobile as they need to be:  We need the hips to move or the back will have to. As I have often said, the body will absolutely get movement from somewhere - the question is, is it the right somewhere. (This is the biggest culprit if you're typically "tight" or "stiff" or consider yourself inflexible).
  2. The hips aren't as stable or strong as they need to be: This is another way of saying the low back ends up having to compensate - and "pretends" to be the butt! Not a good thing.
  3. The core/trunk isn't as stable as it needs to be: Without a stable core, the low back WILL take a beating. In other words, if those smaller muscles throughout the trunk (whose job it is to make sure the spine and entire trunk functions as it should) aren't in synchrony with each other and integrated holistically with the other parts of the body, it's not if you'll have back pain, it's simply when.

To be sure, these aren't the ONLY reasons, but they're the top three.

Or are they?

As I think of it, there's also a FOURTH common cause.

And that is????

To get the answer to that question, you'll need to CLICK on the image to the left...

...and check out a 12-minute long video that I referred to above.

In it, I get right to this FOURTH reason for low back stiffness.

And, I give you four specific movements you can do to alleviate that stiffness right now.

You and I know any kind of low back pain and stiffness sucks. And if you can relate, then maybe I can help.

What are you waiting for? Click the above image and get right to it.

To your success,
Al

PS: If you're not following me on Instagram, pursuitathlete is my IG handle. I plan on continuing to share more cool training ideas and concepts in the future.

PSS: If you believe this post has been helpful and you'd be interested in hearing from me on a more regular basis via email, you can CLICK HERE to subscribe. I hope you've considered the time it took you to read this as time well spent. 🙂

Are You A Porsche Or A Cadillac?

 

Anyone who knows me well, knows I'm a car nut. I've always loved classics and muscle cars, and I love to go fast. So when I have the chance to draw an analogy between cars and running, how could I not speed ahead with it?

So here's the deal for today: To run faster than ever OR to finally get rid of that injury you've been nursing, you must think of your body as a spring on a car's suspension.

The optimal amount of springiness is NOT a Porsche. They're tight - firm - stiff, where you feel every bump in the road.

But, it is NOT a Cadillac either. They're soft and loose, bottoming out on every pothole.

Either scenario leaves you battling injury, recovering poorly, and running slower than you'd like!

Similarly, the answer to ANY question about flexibility, mobility, and stiffness for a runner is simply this: you want enough, but NOT TOO much.  

Don't be a Caddy OR a Porsche. To be a better runner, you'll need to find the appropriate amount of springiness and balance between the two.

Happy trails and have a great weekend!

~Coach Al

PS: do you love Yoga? The answer to that question might tell you which kind of car you are, and also where to focus your energy in order to improve.

Meet Our Trainers: Zack Kraft-Shinn, Our Yoga Dragon

Pursuit Athletic Performance trainer and teacher, Zack Kraft-Shinn

Pursuit Athletic Performance trainer and teacher, Zack Kraft-Shinn

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we are really proud of the awesome staff of trainers and coaches we have to help YOU improve!

Today we introduce our own "Yoga Dragon," Zack Kraft-Shinn. Zack teaches our very popular kid's bootcamp and kid's yoga, adult yoga and martial arts, and is also a personal trainer.  To learn more about Zack, check out his bio on our site here. 

Zack is an amazing teacher who is passionate about teaching and sharing his gifts with young and old alike. Zack says, "I believe that knowledge is food for your brain, and as a member of Team Pursuit, my hope is to share weekly motivational and educational thoughts." To that end, enjoy!

shadow-ornament

 

I wanted to start off strong with something “neurologically nutritious”, so I present this for your consideration:  Life's a battle. It's like a daily knife fight. An ever present struggle of balancing will and choice on a hairline edge.

I always ask myself, "How can I bring forth all of my energy to give my genetic gift and serve; while also making sure I take care of myself and my basic needs?” Every day is different. Some days I train more, so on those days I make sure to give myself a little extra time to stretch so my body doesn't break. I eat larger portions those days so my body can stay fueled rather than feed on itself. I make sure to drink extra water those days to aid in the recovery of my torn muscles so that they can repair themselves more efficiently. And I make sure I get adequate rest, which involves much more than just the time I lay my head down.  Just as important is the environment I rest in. Are the lights on? If so I shut them off as that will affect the quality of my rest. I do little things to make sure that when I wake up the following morning at 4am....I jump outta bed healed and ready to attack the day. Ready to read, train my yoga then head off to my first job…to make the morning muffins. (And in case you were wondering...YES…I am the muffin master as well!)

photo 2I know that if I don’t take care of myself, is I start to slip...It's much like taking that cut in the “daily life” knife fight. Yeah, it may not be a big deal right now, but man, I'm gonna feel that later. Say, for instance, I get home at 12:30 am and I’m starving because I forgot to pack a cliff bar or a banana. I open the fridge to see what my options are. There's some lasagna my mom made, a delicious piece of chocolate cake and some leftovers of the mouth-watering sub I got from JAMSS. (Kidding on the last one, I never have any leftovers from JAMSS! The plate is usually licked clean to be perfectly honest!) So I heat up the lasagna and eat it, then wash it down with the cake. Tastes great!  BUT, because I ate right before bed, my body can't heal itself! Instead of focusing on healing, it's using those essential calories to break down all that food. Plus, because my body is so used to breaking down food while in a standing position, it’s now working almost twice as hard to do so lying down. What did I do?  I set myself up for failure. When I wake up, I feel it instantly. Instead of jumping out of bed, it's a slow zombie crawl approach to the day! So instead I make a better choice…understanding that I'm placing want over need, I close the fridge and chug some water.

Making good choices is one thing, but there is another kind of blade that life can use to cut me.  The stuff that I have no control over. The unexpected. The variables I never saw. The family tragedy. The loss of a loved one or a career. The relationships that leave scars or weren’t destined to be a part of my path. But the experienced knife fighter understands that almost always in a knife fight, you’re gonna have to take a minor cut to give a better one. Sometimes losing the opportunity for a new job or some love fantasy we feel would make our lives better or enrich it in some way, is actually a blessing in disguise. From my experience, I know a lot of good is lost looking for something better. By thinking of all I've lost, I miss out on the present. My mind is caught in an endless cycle of despair and should've, would’ve, could’ve scenarios. Because my mind is in pain my body follows. My negative thoughts manifest themselves through discomfort in the body, starting with bad posture.   Because I'm hunched over, looking down, putting unwanted pressure on my neck and lower back...my breathing is then changed. I've created less space in my body for air, my lungs aren't working as cohesively with my heart to pump all those much needed hard working, freshly oxygenated blood cells to the vital organs, muscles etc.photo 1

Luckily, at some point in this process I’ll realize what’s happening. I understand that I'm not present, and I will find my focus by saying a mantra of some kind. (Mantra's are words or groups of words we can say verbally or in our heads to promote clarity.) My favorite is from the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna is being counselled on the cusp of a battle that will tear the very fabric of reality. Krishna says to Arjuna, "If you bring forth what lies in your inner most self, what you bring forth will save you and it will save a piece of the world. If you do not bring forth what lies in your inner most self, what you do not bring forth will destroy you and it will destroy a piece of the world."

Cool, huh?? But hey, no pressure!  J   However, I challenge you! Ask yourself not “HOW can I change the world”, but instead “how AM I changing the world today?" Cause every thought you have manifests itself into reality. Not only actions, every thought you have changes the world!  Choose to be non- judgmental to a passerby. Give a smile, high five or a hug to someone you feel could really use it. (It will usually be met with a rather contagious case of the giggles that in turn leads to an outbreak!) OR GO BIG! Get involved with your local community! Pick up trash, offer help to those in need, sign up for a walk that has a cause that doesn't affect you or anyone you know... It's all good! So please, I encourage you to take care of yourself, because you have to change the world today.... Love, light and happiness, The Yoga Dragon, OSS

Also, special shout out to my two new good friends for helping me in my Pursuit of perfection. Sensei Doc and Shifu Coach. Love you guys!

~Zack
P.s. Special shout out to Mark and Ange at J.A.M.S.S. catering in Old Saybrook, Ct for hooking me up with the sponsorship! I can't thank you enough for all the culinary masterpieces you both make for me daily! Love you guys!

Ps.s. Also huge shout out to my friend and brother Tim Seabre for helping me with my new Yoga Dragon Tukano Gi's! I can’t wait to rock those on a daily basis! Many tribes, one root!

Meet Our Trainers: Christine Kopcha

 

Pursuit Athletic Performance personal trainer, Chris Kopcha

Pursuit Athletic Performance personal trainer, Chris Kopcha

Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we are really proud of the awesome staff of trainers and coaches we have to help YOU improve!

Today we introduce Chris Kopcha, who teaches yoga, bootcamp, and fitness classes at our new space in Chester, Connecticut: the Pursuit Training Center.  To learn more about Chris, check out her bio on our site here. 

Chris is passionate about teaching and helping others to get stronger and improve. She hopes YOU will come out and take some of her classes and learn what she and we have to offer first hand.

To that end, Chris shares her thoughts on yoga including TEN REASONS why YOU should join her in her "tree house" for class.


Our "tree house" yoga room at the Pursuit Training Center.

Our "tree house" yoga room at the Pursuit Training Center.

One of the misconceptions of yoga is that it is only for skinny 20-something girls in spandex who can twist themselves into a pretzel. Or vegan hippies that sit around chanting and meditating. While you do find some of these scenarios in yoga studios, yoga is for everyone and the benefits go much farther than being able to tie yourself in a very uncomfortable knot.
1. CORE: We all know that a stable, strong core is important in keeping you injury free. But your core consists of more than just your abs. It includes everything other than your head, arms and legs and incorporates almost every movement in the human body. Yoga works your core in 360 degrees! Flexibility and balance stem from your core.

2. FLEXIBILITY: Who doesn't want to increase their comfortable range of motion? How many people do you know can't reach down to tie their shoes or have a hard time reaching for their seat belt?  Flexibility is one attribute we associate with being and feeling younger.

3. BODY BALANCE: As we move into our later years this is important in keeping us active. Even tasks as simple as walking.....the ability to stand on one foot at a time while propelling yourself forward requires a great deal of balance.

4. TRAINING BALANCE: Every good exercise program needs to include aerobic training, strength work, and stretching! Many athletes tend to hit two out of three of these genres, keeping them from reaching their full potential!

5. SPEED: By learning about your body and how it moves, you can work with what you've got allowing you to become faster.

6. LOW IMPACT: Yoga is it! Which means it's great for seniors and anyone who has joint trouble.

7. LOWERS STRESS: By encouraging relaxation, focusing on your body and breathing, it reduces the effects of stress by lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and improving digestion.

8. THE BREATH: Yoga practice teaches us to take slower, deeper, healthier breaths, improving lung function and increasing the amount of oxygen available to the body.

9. CLEARS THE MIND: Yoga helps us un-clutter our mind. It allows us to be still in a world full of chaos.

10. JUMPSTART A HEALHTHIER YOU: Yoga can be the jump start you need toward a healthier lifestyle. It can be your first step on a path away from unhealthy stress and poor eating habits, toward healthier habits that lead to long term health and happiness.

11. BONUS: And if you are interested, you can ALSO learn some really cool party tricks like headstands, handstands, splits, and arm balances.

These work for me – what about YOU?

Hope to see you in the tree house AND on the mat soon!

~Chris