HOW TO LIVE & ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS – MARCH 3rd 2012

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I would like to invite you all to a life changing transformational talk on goal setting – HOW TO LIVE & ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS – headlined by MERCY MOSE – keynote speaker and featuring guest speakers ALICE NDONG, Nutritionist & Diet consultant at Xenihealth, together with myself RAYMOND ONYANGO, fitness activist & consultant – at the KIVI MILIMANI HOTEL on the 3rd of MARCH 2012 at from 2 to 5 PM. For more details see the poster below or contact MERCY MOSE on Tel: 0706 032 561 or 0733 797 657. SEE YOU THERE!

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First, Do No Harm

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A guide To Avoiding Common Fitness Injuries

By Raymond Onyango.

First Do No Harm

Exercise is supposed to promote good health and contribute to longevity, but as the number of gym users around the world grows, so does the number of people picking up gym related injuries. Lower back strain, shoulder pain, sprained ankles, sore knees… are all injuries that many of us have had to contend with at one point or another as a result of engaging in recreational activities. Those of us who are lucky make a full recovery and put these unfortunate incidents behind us should count our lucky stars, because many more of us find ourselves nursing little niggling injuries that persist often for life.

These injuries not only cost us money and man hours, they also leave their physical imprint on our bodies, changing the way we move and greatly increasing our susceptibility to future injuries. For instance one of the worlds top tennis stars Raphael Nadal has had a career plagued by recurrent injuries as have other athletes including golfing great Tiger woods and our very own Dennis Oliech both of whom have had to undergo surgery to correct damaged knees.

In fact among the things I pay keen attention to, when evaluating my clients is their movement patterns. I look to see if they favor one leg over the other. Whether their right arm gives out before the left during a set of push ups, or if they enjoy more range of motion in one shoulder as opposed to the other. More often than not, these observations reveal to me, lasting evidence of old injuries, and hopefully help us both to adopt exercises that will heal rather than aggravate these existing imbalances.

The vast majority of fitness related injuries could be attributed to overuse and poor technique – factors that are absolutely in our control. Let us take a look at some of the more common fitness injuries and what we can do to avoid them.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Your shoulders are one of the most mobile joints in your body, enabling you to move your arms in a mind-boggling array of directions. Precisely because it is so mobile, the shoulder is also a very inherently unstable joint. It is not anchored deep in a socket like your hips and it is actually held together by a small but very important group of muscles collectively known as your rotator cuff muscles. When these get irritated and inflamed, the result is pain weakness and a reduced range of motion in the affected shoulder. The pain is often worst when the arms are raised over the head or rotated in their sockets and ma be accompanied by a grinding or popping sensation as you move the shoulder.

Horizontal rotator cuff exercise

External rotator cuff exercise

The most common causes of this type of injury are lifting too much weight especially without warming up. This can happen when performing common upper body exercises such as the bench press, the shoulder press, upright rows or even triceps dips.  Treatment usually includes rest, cessation the pain inducing activity and physiotherapy focused on maintaining range of motion, and improving circulation to promote healing.

You can however avoid getting injured in the first place by, trying out the illustrated rotator cuff strengthening exercises as a regular part of your workout regimen.

Strained Lower Back

Lower back strain

Almost each and every one of us is going to have to deal with this one at some point or the other. Twisting awkwardly or suddenly, lifting too much weight in poor form or trying a new fitness activity at a level that exceeds your proficiency and ability will almost certainly lead to lower back pain. The culprit is usually weak core muscles and poor flexibility especially in a key category of muscles known as the hip flexors, which play a huge role in activities like running together with shortened hamstrings often as a result of poor footwear choices and too much time spent sitting in our modern day lives.

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

As we age, our bone density also decreases, and the spine looses it ability to absorb impact and trauma. If the spine is overly strained or compressed from an activity such as running or weight lifting a disk may bulge outwards or inwards putting pressure on any one of more than 50 nerves rooted in the spinal cord, which control your body’s movements, the result can be extremely debilitating back pain and an enormous loss of personal mobility and autonomy.

Supine Hamstring stretch

A lot of lower back pain can be treated without surgery by strengthening the core muscles of the abdomen and lower back as well as stretching and strengthening both the hip flexors and the hip extensors. You could add these  stretches to your fitness routine to help you keep lower back pain at bay. Also, get yourself a Swiss ball, this inherently unstable surface will provide great training and resilience to your core muscles. Warming up adequately and working within your means are two proven ways of staying away from back trouble.

Runners Knee

Runners knee

Runners knee is a term used to refer to a number of medical conditions that cause pain around the front of the knee (patellofemoral pain). The knee, being a weight bearing structure is very sensitive, and can easily be irritated and injured as a result of misalignment or imbalances in the thigh muscles which support the joint or even factors such as flat feet or poor footwear choices, especially high heels. Lack of variety in your fitness regimen may also contribute to overuse of the knee joints, especially through activities such as running which place a lot of strain and impact on the joint structure.

Walking Lunge

To avoid knee injuries, your best hope lies in keeping your weight down because excess body weight is one of the major contributing factors towards developing knee pains.  You need to make a habit of stretching regularly especially after long running sessions and also to incorporate enough variety into your training to enable you give your knees a break at least 2 to 3 times a week if not every other day. For novice runners, mileage should be increased slowly to allow for adaptation and proper running gear including well cushioned shoes should be high up on your priority list.

Sprained Ankles

Ankle Sprain

This is by far one of the most common fitness related injuries, and most often happens when the sole of your foot turns inwards, overstretching the ligaments on the outside of your ankle and compressing those on the inside. As would be expected all activities that involve running, jumping and quick changes in direction of movement or lots of acceleration and deceleration, carry with them a high risk of ankle sprains. These include popular sports like squash, volleyball, basketball, many aerobics classes and sometimes even just walking on an uneven surface.

calf raises

The best way to bolster your defenses against sprained ankles is to work on improving your ankle mobility and strength. It is important to stretch and strengthen the calf muscles as well as the weight bearing Achilles tendons to help you achieve better mobility and resilience in the calves. Seated calf raises are one way to achieve this safely and effectively.

Have an injury free week, will you!

Can Muscle Turn To Fat?

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A good look at this age-old question.

By Raymond Onyango.

In my line of work, I get to hear all kinds of myths, half-truths and old wives tales associated with fitness. By far the most common of these, is that muscle can somehow turn into fat. I have had clients who were literary petrified about resistance training in the erroneous belief that all their muscles would turn into fat if they ever paused long enough to take a trip out of town. I’ve met scores of rotund men who tell tall tales about how they used to be so muscular until they ‘stopped training’ and then they grew fat!

The question is; ‘Is this really scientifically possible, can muscle just suddenly turn into fat?’

As a fitness professional, I know from my training that muscle and fat are two totally different types of tissue, as different as apples are from oranges. It is highly unlikely that muscle could ever turn into fat, and here is why! Fat is also known as adipose tissue and basically serves a dual purpose in the human body.  First, it provides insulation immediately below the skin to help our bodies retain warmth and maintain a consistent body temperature of about 37 degrees Celsius; a fact, which is integral to our survival as mammals. Second, it acts as an excellent reservoir of energy, which the body can call upon in lean times as a lifeline. It is not by accident that your body stores its energy in the form of fat. It is an extremely efficient way to store energy, especially when you consider that a single pound of fat (0.43 kg) contains a whooping 3500 calories of energy in it.

To put this into perspective, you need to consider that fitness experts largely agree that a very active adult human being needs to consume an average of 2200 to 2500 calories every day, in order to maintain his or her body weight. This means that a single kilogram of excess body fat, could presumably keep you going for almost an entire week in the absence of food.  I googled this fact and from  the results i got, the longest hunger strike I could find on record was credited to one Barry Horne, a British animal rights activist who spent a remarkable 68 days on hunger strike, without a single meal. That is more than 2 months without a meal and it shows you just how efficient body fat was at keeping the human species alive in the unpredictable world of our ancestors, where success at the hunt was never a guarantee and long periods of famine were commonplace. In the highly predictable we live in today however, the closest most of us will ever get to the excitement of a hunt, is to drive down the highway to the supermarket, and so excess body fat can be a problem rather than an asset. As a human species we are running like computers fitted with outdated software; our bodies are configured for scarcity, whereas the world today is engineered for plenty and predictability. Unless there is a disaster on the scale of the Asian Tsunami or the earthquake in Haiti, the majority of individuals reading this article are unlikely to face imminent starvation anytime soon!

Muscle on the other hand is composed of fiber, and as opposed to Fat, (which is a store of energy) muscle consumes energy! Look at it this way; every single muscle in your body is there to facilitate one thing and one thing only. That thing is movement. All this movement requires energy, and your body responds to this demand by increasing the pace at which it breaks down fat tissue (also known as your metabolism). In fact it takes energy to sustain your muscles even when you are at rest, and this is why fitness experts advocate for strength training, and more specifically a higher muscle to body fat ratio, as one of the most effective means of weight control. The catch here is that muscle is something that you must use; otherwise you will surely loose it. Our muscles have the capacity to ‘hyper atrophy’ or grow in response to regular exercise or else ‘atrophy’ or shrink with disuse.

One thing that is clear at this point is that muscle can clearly never turn into fat; you can dismiss that as a myth! But the fact is that all of us have the tendency to gain weight whenever we stop exercising, especially as we get older. The question is why? The answer lies in two symbiotic areas of our lives i.e. lifestyle and physiology.
Remember what we said earlier on about a very active adult having a daily energy requirement of about 2200 to 2500 calories a day? Ask yourself, what happens when you reduce you level of physical activity (and therefore calorie expenditure), but maintain a high level of calorie consumption. You are not eating any more than usual, but you are now moving less, and as a result your body has the opportunity to store all these excess calories you’re consuming as adipose tissue (or body fat) – insurance for a rainy day.  In my own career as a fitness leader I have come to see that most of my clients experience the most profound changes in their bodies, around the decade of their thirties! This happens to be the time when most of us have new and heavy commitments in our lives, from young families to fledgling careers – and often finding the time to exercise is a challenge. The culprit is lifestyle change!

On a physiological level, our bodies are constantly changing, both in response to our environment and also in response to the inevitable process of age. When we have fewer opportunities for movement either due to career pressure or family demands, our muscles no longer get the stimulation they need to keep them strong and toned. Gradually they begin to atrophy or shrink with far reaching effects on our metabolism. As a direct result of this the rate at which our bodies burn calories (also called our basal metabolic rate) will begin to slow down and we will inevitably gain weight. It also helps to bear in mind that our bodies are more or less maintenance free in our teens and twenties. Into our thirties, lifestyle choices make the difference between good health and a middle age riddled with lifestyle related conditions.

We can get away with murder in our twenties, coasting along on nothing but good genes and glow of youth, but by our thirties our everyday habits begin to catch up with us. Unmitigated Stress and lack of activity have been identified by fitness experts as two of the leading causes of uncontrolled weight gain. Scientific studies have confirmed the connection between increased levels of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ in test subjects and weight gain especially in the midsection. Which is the worst kind of weight gain not for aesthetic reasons but rather for its direct correlation to the prevalence several co morbid conditions including diabetes, cancer and hypertension. 3 major killer diseases, just to name a few.

It is not that muscle turns into fat! Its just that as we grow older, we tend to move less and eat more especially at a the time period where our bodies are far less forgiving of this sort of neglect and indulgence. It presses home the need to incorporate some form of physical movement into our everyday lives, especially, when urban symbols of affluence such as private cars help to promote a more sedentary existence among a global population that is rapidly getting urbanized, and even more rapidly overweight, with all of its attendant health implications.

Have an active week will you!