Icelandic Fitness

Month: April 2015

Should you be taking Probiotics

Probiotics- Pros and Cons

 

A few of my clients have been asking me lately about probiotics- what are they and what can they really do for you. Well- if you eat yogurt, you’re already taking one kind of probiotic. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system.

 

Most think bacteria is a bad thing, but our bodies are full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are considered good bacteria because they keep your gut healthy by helping food move through your system.

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By the end of next year, the global sales of probiotics are expected to top $42 billion- that’s how popular they’ve become. Probiotics can come in tablet, capsule, powder, lozenge and gum form, and also in foods like yogurt.

 

Doctors often suggest patients take probiotics to help with digestive problems. And because they’ve become so popular, you can even find probiotics in chocolate.

 

How do they work? Well, researchers are still trying to figure that out.

Here are some of the ways they may keep you healthy:

 

  • When you lose “good” bacteria in your body, like after you take antibiotics, probiotics can help replace them.
  • They can lower the amount of “bad” bacteria in your system.
  • They can help balance out the “good” and “bad” bacteria.

Quite a few types of bacteria are classified as probiotics. They have different benefits, but mostly come from two groups. Your doctor can tell you what might be best for you.

Lactobacillus. It’s in yogurt and other fermented goods. It’s probably the most common. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.

Bifidobacterium. You can also find it in some dairy products. It seems to help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

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There is also research that shows probiotics can help with non-stomach related problems, like:

 

  • Eczema and other skin conditions.
  • Urinary and vaginal health.
  • Preventing allergies and colds.
  • Oral health

 

Probiotics are regulated like food, not like medications. The FDA does not require the makers of probiotic supplements to prove their products are safe or that they work. So, that’s why it’s very important to talk to your doctor about the correct product and dose.

 

In general, probiotic foods and supplements are thought to be safe.  But you could have mild side effects like an upset stomach; diarrhea, gas, and bloating for the first couple of days after you start them. It’s possible they could also trigger allergic reactions.

 

The bottom line is that probiotics could be very helpful in making you feel better and stronger. But, before you shell out the cash, ask your doctor whether putting “good” bacteria in your body is what’s best for you.

Jason Stone

Icelandic Fitness

How Masters Winner Jordan Spieth Stays “Country Strong”

You wouldn’t know it to look at him, but Masters winner Jordan Spieth can dead lift 380 pounds. He looks slender, but over the past year and a half, he’s been living in the gym when he’s not on the golf course- usually spending at least four days a week with his trainer. His workout focuses on core strength and lower body, in an effort to build muscle to maintain a club head speed of 115.3 mph.

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His trainer calls him “country-strong,” and he’s gained 20 pounds of muscle, thanks to some of the same methods and equipment I use with my clients- kettle bells and medicine balls. And, Jordan also has a foam rolling and stretching routine to help increase flexibility and mobility and improve stability.

 

All golfers, no matter if you make a living at the game or not, should have a full-body approach to their workout. It’s not enough just to strengthen your muscles, you also need to stay flexible and avoid building unnecessary bulk that could likely interfere with a smooth, consistent swing. And, you can increase fitness and play better with a simple short exercise routine.

 

Getting and keeping your core strong is extremely important. That’s because performance on the course- the effectiveness of your swing- is dictated by the power of your rotation. You need to have a full range of motion in the hip and thoracic spine, with a strong core that allows you to transfer force from your hips to your shoulders. The bottom line- the farther you can wind your body while maintaining good alignment, the more powerful your swing will be. And, the farther the ball will fly.

 

So, here are five exercises to help you master the perfect swing:

 

1) Standing Wood Chop (1 to 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 30 second rest between sets)

This exercise combines movements of the hips, back, and shoulders, while increasing strength and improving flexibility.

You can perform it with a cable or a resistance band, but you can also do it with a medicine ball like Jordan does.

Slightly bend your knees, raise the medicine ball overhead to one side, like you’re about to swing an axe. Throw the ball down and across your body. Repeat on each side.

2) Lateral Lunges (1 to 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 30-second rest, alternate legs)

This exercise improves range-of-motion and hip strength.

Make sure you keep good posture during the exercise. Just take a large step to either your right or left, and shift your weight to that side- bending that leg. Keep your toes pointed ahead.

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3) Glute Activation Lunges (1 to 3 sets of 8-12 reps, alternate legs)

These lunges are also good for increasing hip mobility.

Start with your feet together and your hands on your hips. Take a giant step forward, bending your front leg at a 90-degree angle (or until your thigh is parallel to the floor).

Your back leg should remain strong and straight.

Step back into a standing position and repeat.

 

 

4) Front Plank/Side Plank (3- 5 times, holding for 20-60 seconds)

Planks are great for core strength.

Front plank- lay face down, place palms flat on the floor.

Roll your shoulders onto your back, away from your ears, and push away from the floor.

Keep your back flat and engage your abdominal muscles. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds and release back down onto the floor. Repeat.

For a side plank, lay on your side with your legs stacked. Rest your body on your forearm, shoulder directly over your elbow.

Lift your hips so that your body is in a straight line. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds and lower back down. Repeat on each side.

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5) Supine Spinal Twists (1 to 3 times, hold for 20-30 seconds, switching sides)

These twists also increase core strength and your shoulders should get a good stretch.

Start on your back with your feet raised and bent in a 90 degree angle, or so that your calves are parallel to the floor.

Extend your arms out wide, with palms facing down. Slowly lower your legs to the right side of your body, keeping your knees together. Hover above the ground for about 20 to 30 seconds, and then return to center.

Switch sides and repeat.

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For the most benefit, these exercises should be combined with others that target more muscles and body parts. If you’re consistent, you should start to see improvement in your strength and your swing in a few weeks.

 

Jason Stone

Golf Performance Coach

Rory McIlroy, taking the proper rest

The Masters gets under way this week on April 9th and the world’s number one player is taking some time away from competition. Rory McIlroy will have been “off” nearly three weeks before he hits his first drive at Augusta. Like other top tier athletes, McIlroy knows that tapering before a big competition helps reset the body and the mind and puts you in a position to excel.

 

Marathon runners have used tapering for years to give their bodies a chance to rest before pushing themselves during the big race. The idea behind tapering is that coming into an event well rested allows you to maximize the strength and fitness gains you’ve made over the previous weeks or months of training.

 

Of course, McIlroy has not been sitting around. He’s been practicing at Augusta with his dad and New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, having fun on the course, getting used to the lay of the land, taking nothing seriously. It’s a mental and physical rest.

Rory and Tom Brady a few weeks ago at Augusta National

Rory and Tom Brady a few weeks ago at Augusta National

 

For some athletes, however, tapering can be difficult, because the decrease in training leaves them feeling antsy and, in some cases, sluggish. There’s a fear of losing your edge, causing some serious pre-competition anxiety.

 

Like McIlroy, keeping your mind and body “in the game” is the key. While he’s tapering, he’s still playing golf. Just not at the same intense level that he’ll undoubtedly be playing during competition. Tapering is the time to refine technique, no matter your sport, and get a good feel for your desired competition pace.

 

Of course, taper length varies from person to person, and depends on the athlete’s preferences and the length of the event. For runners, a taper for a half-marathon might last a week, while a taper for a triathlon might be four times as long. The Masters is kind of a golf marathon, with play stretching out over 72 holes, that’s four complete rounds over four days.

 

For most folks, truly perfecting a taper plan requires a degree of trial and error. If the taper period is too short, you didn’t get enough rest. Too long, you run the risk of losing not only your mental edge, but also your physical conditioning.

 

So, most trainers and coaches suggest that you maintain a consistent number of training days per week. If you usually work out five days a week, continue that during the taper, but reduce volume by cutting training time (or distance) in each workout.

 

Look at it this way- pushing yourself each and every workout, with no rest, is like running a car engine 24/7. It’s only a matter of time before it (and you) break down. Do yourself a favor and build some taper time into your workout schedule.

 

Jason Stone

Icelandic Fitness

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Crack of dawn, or after dark? The best time to workout

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Quite a few of my clients lately have been asking me- when is the best time during the day to work out? Some like to get up before dawn for a run. Others could never bring themselves to break a sweat before noon. The truth is that while there could be some calorie burning advantages to working out in the early morning- it’s certainly not for every one.

 

Why? Well, I like to work out early, but my body clock is probably not the same as yours. Your body’s circadian rhythm determines whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, and there’s not much you can do to change that.

 

The earth’s 24-hour rotation governs your circadian rhythm. The rhythms influence pretty much everything about your body- blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels and heart rate. All of that plays an important role in whether you’re ready to exercise or not. Of course, most of us also have to take into account our work schedules and family obligations.

 

Bottom line- the most important thing you can do it to choose a time of day you can stick with, so that exercise becomes a habit.

 

Why early morning? That could be best, especially if you have problems with consistency. Get your exercise in before other pressures interfere- like work and family.

 

Of course, to feel like exercising in the morning, you need to have a good night’s sleep. Good, regular bedtime habits help get your body ready for rest so you can get your eight hours. Late night physical activity or eating late can sabotage your body’s urge to sleep.

 

For some people, lunchtime is the best time to exercise, especially if they enjoy company, like co-workers who are willing to hit the gym or take a run or a walk. One thing to keep in mind- eat after you work out, not before. If you eat before, the blood that needs to go to your muscles is going instead to your digestive tract to help you break down that meal. Remember what your mom told you about swimming? Wait 90 minutes after a heavy meal to work out.

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You don’t have to be an expert on circadian rhythms to determine the best time to exercise. Simply try different times of the day. Work out in the morning for a few weeks, and then try lunchtime, then early evening. Discover which time you enjoy most and which makes you feel the best? Then, make every effort to keep that appointment with yourself.

 

Most importantly is to find a time that makes working out a consistent part of your life.

 

Jason Stone

Icelandic Fitness