Browsing Tag


Loosen Up

June 18, 2015
The Acrobat, Pablo Picasso, 1930

The Acrobat, Pablo Picasso, 1930

Muscles, when exerted consistently, get tight. Between a build-up of lactic acid and an emphasis on a specific, abbreviated range of motion, a worked muscle becomes sore and contracted. Without intervention, the next work out becomes even more arduous, the results less and less impressive. That’s where mobility exercises come in—to relax and restore range of motion.

The ur-text of this type of body work is Kelly Starrett’s “Becoming a Supple Leopard,” which advocates approaching all movement—from sitting in a chair to lifting a barbell—with mindfulness. It’s so common to see this book at CrossFit and weightlifting gyms that it’s easy to take for granted. But if you perform any actions from any pages for just five minutes a day, I promise you will soon see a more flexible (and better performing) you.

I begin every training day with at least thirty minutes of mobility work. There some I do daily no matter what—I always foam roll my shoulders and IT bands, and perform over/under shoulder dislocates (but I use a metal pipe instead of PVC), and Olympic wall squats, for example; others I tailor to whatever work is on deck for that day. If I am doing gymnastics, I mobilize shoulders; weightlifting, hips; running, hams, quads and ankles. I use props: a foam roller, lacrosse ball, 2” elastic band (6’ diameter), and a 6’ length of steel pipe. Mobility is not to be confused with a warm-up, which spikes the heart rate, preps the central nervous system and usually works up a sweat; with these mobility exercises, I’m preparing my muscles and joints for the hard work ahead.

Elizabeth Martineau, Christopher Peddecord

Elizabeth Martineau, Christopher Peddecord

After working out, I often mobilize again, about an hour later. Some days, I’m just too tired to lift my own limbs, and I head to a new spot in Venice called Stretch Lab, which provides one-on-one stretching with a flexologist. And at least once a week, Jessica and I turn to our local best-kept-secret Thai massage spot, where traditionally trained therapists rhythmically press and stretch the entire body using their hands, arms, feet, and body weight (by standing on you), a treatment I liken to passive yoga. It’s amazing.

But like everything in life, moderation is key. Too-loose joints can lead to torn muscles or tendons. I was recently alerted to the importance of maintaining tension for top performance, too. If, for example, your hips are “too limber,” you’ll have problems getting the bounce at the bottom that you need to lift heavy weight to standing. So I’m always looking for that sweet spot: limber and relaxed, strong and stable.



Recovery Voodoo

April 10, 2015

Week's Work

I’ve had an especially heavy workload this week as I prepare for the Master’s Qualifier events, which will be announced on April 23. The work has taken a toll: I have a crook in my neck, knot in my upper back, a bruise on my collar bone, blisters on my palms, a cramp in my left forearm, abs so sore that it is a struggle to get out of a chair, and quads and glutes too tender to sit on anyway. But I will be back at it again tomorrow, so there’s no point wallowing.

Easter Egg, Venetian Red, 2009. Amy Bessone

Easter Egg, Venetian Red, 2009. Amy Bessone

Besides, the first and most important thing I can do to recover is to remain optimistic that I will feel better, even in a few hours, than I do right now. The active ritual of taking care of myself helps me foster a positive mindset and passes the recovery time in a productive way, which is healing in itself. I don’t claim to understand any solid science behind any of the things I do, and some of my recovery rituals may have as much medicinal merit as snake oil. But here are a few of the things I did today to prepare for tomorrow (in no particular order):

  • Sleep (eight hours), hydrate (three quarts of water with 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, turmeric juice, and ginger juice added to each one), and sun (about 20 minutes of exposure, wearing a hat but without sunblock).
  • Roll out my back, shoulders and IT band with a HyperIce Vyper Foam Roller Massager, massage my calves with a Body Buffer, and stimulate my quads with my Marc Pro.
  • Soak, slather, spray, and cover.

I also took my dogs on a nice long walk and spent time visiting with the neighbors whom I often rush past on my way to the gym. As I write this, I am enjoying an afternoon cup of Matcha Tea — making it is a ritual in itself — with foamed apricot kernel milk and Manuka honey, which are also said to have healing properties. Who knows? It sure tastes soothing.

What are some of your recovery rituals?