Monthly archive for February 2016

The Benefits of Caffeine for Endurance Athletes

Performance athletes are always looking for ways to get faster, perform longer, and reduce recovery times. Caffeine has long been a popular choice for many athletes, but how much caffeine should you consume, and will it really give you an edge?

Benefits of caffeine
Once consumed, caffeine is easily absorbed into the bloodstream through the stomach and intestines, causing physical and psychological responses within the body. Levels peak between 60-100 minutes after consumption. But how does it effect us when we’re gearing up for a big race or endurance sport? Recent tests have shown that in addition to increasing alertness, caffeine reduces pain levels and alters your perception of fatigue, allowing endurance athletes to work at a higher level of intensity for a longer period of time. Less research is available on caffeine’s effect on strength training and shorter events, but what is available has shown caffeine consumption increases the dynamic and isometric muscular force, power, and endurance strength – all of which positively impact endurance performance.

After averaging out findings from various studies, researchers concluded that caffeine consumption before an endurance event can improve performance by 3-3.5%. That may not sound like much, but think about it; in a one-hour time trial that’s almost 1.8-2.1 minutes and in a 10-hour race that’s 18-21 minutes! Recent research has concluded that caffeine has a significant impact on recovery as well, reducing perceived muscle soreness.

How much caffeine should you consume to improve performance?

The studies have concluded that the optimal amount of caffeine consumed is 1.14-1.7mg/lb. So, for example, a 165 pound male would have to consume between 225mg-450mg of caffeine before the event. Consuming more caffeine does not enhance the effects on performance; if anything it can increase the chances of experiencing side effects such as nausea, gastrointestinal upset, and shaking.

To put this range in perspective:
8 ounces brewed coffee: 80-100mg
2 ounces espresso: 65-100mg
8 ounce energy drink: 80mg
8 ounces brewed tea: 40-50mg
12 ounce soft drink: 35-55mg
2 capsules Excedrin: 130mg
1 Tablet NoDoz: 200mg

Deciding the amount of caffeine to consume, when, and in what form you tolerate best can be intimidating and is different for everyone. Therefore, we recommend you start early and trial different amounts using different forms during your long workouts. Consult with a sports nutritionist or doctor before making big changes to your caffeine intake. Journal what you consume, when you consumed it, and how you felt during and after your workout. Caffeine isn’t for everyone, and no one wants GI issues throughout their race. If the side effects outweigh the benefits, recognize that and move on to another performance enhancer like a gait analysis or nutrition plan.

For other ways to enhance your performance, consult with our personal trainers and sports rehab experts by contacting the location nearest you.

Janis Kemper’s Weight Loss Follow Up, 2 Years Later

Janis in 2010, and in 2015

Two years ago we featured the story of Janis Kemper, our co-owner and physical therapist here at Northern. For many personal reasons Janis began a weight loss journey that left her 80 pounds lighter and feeling better than ever. No one knows better than Janis that weight loss is hard. The post we did two years ago remains one of our top visited pages every month so we wanted to do a follow-up with Janis to share the joys and struggles she’s had in maintaining her weight.

November 7, 2011 was the day my life changed. I vowed to say goodbye to bad habits, goodbye to overindulgence, and goodbye to part of myself. While none of it has been easy, it has been worth it, and for the most part I feel I’ve done a pretty good job in making and following through with certain lifestyle changes. I’ve continued to exercise six days a week and I make sure this gets done by scheduling my workouts into my calendar because as everyone knows, if it’s not in the calendar it’s not getting done! It is very rare for me to cancel or change an appointment with someone else, so I treat my exercise as an appointment with myself. Sure, life happens and sometimes my daily schedule gets messed up so in order to keep excuses at bay I keep a change of clothes and my bathing suit in my car so if there is a change of plans I can accommodate accordingly and still make it to the gym or pool.

So has it been easy?
The answer to that one’s easy…absolutely not! So often I get tired of journaling my food, preparing healthy meals, and reading labels. You’d think after all this time it would be second nature, and sometimes it is, but I still tire of it. Then I think, “I’m sure a person with MS or Diabetes gets tired of doing the things they need to do in order to control their disease,” and that helps me to realize that even though it does suck that I have to focus and work at keeping at a healthy weight, it really isn’t much different than the millions who have to manage their chronic diseases as well. *In 2013, the AMA recognized obesity as a disease.

In many ways 2015 was a really rough year for me. In a span of just a few months I had several stressful life events occur. My husband and I became empty nesters, our parents had medical issues that required a lot of our time, two of our beloved dogs died, etc…you get the idea. The way I chose to cope with this stress was with food. I resorted to some of my old bad habits and in the moment, the food did soothe me, as it always had. But then the vicious cycle began – guilt, shame, etc. I’m sure it feels the same as if a smoker gave up cigarettes and then caved and began smoking again. I was left feeling very out of control. I knew deep down I didn’t want to regain weight, but I was in denial for a while and chose to not weigh myself. When I finally got the courage to step on the scale I found that I had gained 25 pounds. This was weight that I had kept off for the past 2+ years! To say I felt devastated would be an understatement. I knew I had to get back to square one or all my hard work would have been for nothing.

Janis’ business partner, Gina Otterbein, has supported and cheered for Janis along the way

Staying on track when it’s easier not to
I started out by writing down all the reasons I want to maintain a healthy weight. I got back to my support group. Then I decided to journal my food (which is the number one tool to successfully keep a healthy weight). As a result I cut my calories and have learned that because I want to cope with life’s stresses in healthy ways, food is not the best option for me. I’m sure I will occasionally turn to food in times of good and bad, but I don’t like the feeling of being out of control with my eating, so if I slip up one day, the next day I’m going to get back on track.

I also recently began putting time in my calendar for meal preparation, grocery shopping (while reading labels), and food journaling. These are tools that work for me – but they only work if I use them. Weight loss is a very personal struggle. The message I hope others get from my story is that it’s important to remember not to compare yourself to others. Just because someone else is thinner than I am, doesn’t mean they had an easier road. Everyone is coping with their own struggles. It can also be incredibly intimidating to go to a gym or fitness center when you’re overweight. But you have to remember that no matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.

Our Wayland team adores Janis and are thrilled for all she’s accomplished

Educating Others

Looking back on my successes and setbacks over the last two years I can see that part of the reason I was called to change my life was so that I could educate and share my experiences with others. When I first started to lose weight I used to dread going to the gym. Fast forward to today and I’m now in the position where I can, and have, led a few fitness classes here at Northern. It’s an exhilarating feeling, knowing where I started. I also never waste an opportunity to work with patients on the physical therapy side who struggle with weight themselves. Oftentimes they find exercise to be painful but what I want them to know is that there is an appropriate and pain free way to work out, no matter your weight, and a physical therapist can show you how. The more people I can share that message with, the better. Through learning the appropriate way to exercise, learning what’s right for your body, overcoming pain and injury, and potentially working with our personal trainers, anyone can be on the road to a healthier lifestyle.

The next chapter

I’ve come to the conclusion that my weight is something that will be in the back of my mind for the rest of my life, but it doesn’t have to control me. I’ve set myself up with the tools that work best for me and I understand the rewards that come with using them. I encourage everyone who is struggling to take the first step, literally. It’s a long road, but the destination is wonderful.

Learn More
Janis will be a featured guest on WZZM’s My West Michigan with Catherine Behrendt on March 21. Tune in at 9am.
Janis will also be the guest speaker at the next Weight Loss Support Group at our Grant clinic on March 29.

How Do You Foam Roll?

Foam rollers are one of the most versatile pieces of exercise equipment and they’re popping up all over gyms, fitness centers, therapy clinics, and rehab facilities. Because you can perform a “self massage” and use them on just about every body part, they’re a great addition to your home gym too. In a therapy-based setting you might hear foam rolling referred to as myofascial release because it can help “release the knots” in your muscles. 

Even though foam rollers are becoming so popular, many people still aren’t sure how to use them. So we asked our team members…”how do you foam roll?”

Race training
Alex is a Patient Care Specialist and fitness guru at our Grand Rapids clinic. She’s training for a 1/4 marathon and uses a foam roller to help her prep, which is a great habit. When you’re training for a race, the self-massaging technique of a foam roller helps loosen stiff muscles. In addition to using a foam roller, racers should stretch and cross train to help prevent repetitive stress injures that could sideline you.

IT Band
Lindsay, a fitness instructor in our Sparta clinic uses her foam roller to work her IT band, a thick band of fibers that runs along the outside of your thigh. When this muscle gets tight it can cause knee and joint pain. To massage this area, lay on your side and roll the foam along the length of your thigh. Go slowly, and don’t roll over your knee, stop just above it.

Ease back pain
Foam rollers can work your entire back, easing pain and relaxing muscles. Melissa, a physical therapist assistant in our Coopersville clinic uses her foam roller for just that. She suggests that if you’re new to foam rolling you’ll want to use a roller that’s less dense. What she’s showing here is supporting her middle back by placing the foam roller in a position where her gluteal muscles are on bottom and her shoulder blades are on top – that way you get to work your upper and lower back. For more support you can put your hands down, as Melissa does. Slowly shift your weight from side to side.

Shoulder and Upper Back
Our shoulders and upper back can hold a lot of tension – that’s why working the muscles can feel so good. This exercise helps with posture, and it’s great for people who spend all day at a desk. The movements in this exercise are ideal for shoulder blade strengthening which helps with shoulder mobility and stability. Do this with the Theraband, as the crew in our Coopersville clinic shows here. This creates stability for the shoulder blades and engages your core. Slowly move your arms up and down to feel the release. 

Its a balancing act
This is a definitely not for beginners, but, as Lindsay shows us, handstands on the half foam roll will definitely give your core a good workout.

Have fun
If you really want to have a little fun with your foam roller, you can use it like Lindsey, although this method might take a little practice.

For these and other great tips on how to use your foam roller, stop by any of our 6 locations and talk to our personal trainers or fitness experts.