Exercising in the Heat

Is warmer weather finally approaching? Is it time for a tropical vacation? Do you still want to get some exercise in and stay on top of your routine? If so, here are a few things you should understand about exercising in the heat to stay safe and maximize your workout.

Various body adaptations occur as we adjust to warmer temperatures during exercise. Some things happen immediately, while other adaptations occur over time as you continue to get used to exercising in warmer temperatures. Here are the basic, major adaptations that occur.

HEART RATE, STROKE VOLUME, & BLOOD VOLUME

Short Term: Initially, your heart will work harder when you begin exercising in the heat as it attempts to maintain homeostasis. You may feel more sluggish exercising at the same intensities in the heat than you do at lower temperatures. This is because your body is working harder to stay cool and fuel your muscles in the heat.

Long Term: Once you adapt to the higher temperatures, your heart will be under less stress. Your heart rate will actually decrease but you’ll still be able to work at higher intensities. This allows you to perform better because as your heart rate decreases, your stroke volume, which is the amount of blood sent out with each contraction of your ventricles, increases.

Additionally, with an increased plasma volume, your body will be able to send more blood to the skin’s surface to cool you down, and also more can be sent to the muscles to allow them to work at their best.

BLOOD VESSELS, SKIN, SWEATING, & IONS

Short Term: Your body will immediately begin to sweat more in the heat, as your core temperature rises. Sweating is how your body tries to maintain homeostasis. In this case, homeostasis looks like your body attempting to stay within the ideal core temperature range. To do this, your body will sweat more as it tries to cool itself down.

In order to sweat, your body will increase skin and muscle vasodilation. This means your blood vessels widen, or dilate, in order to allow more blood to flow near the skin’s surface, where heat can be lost via convection, evaporation, and radiation.

Initially, sweating more than normal leads to a lot of water loss, which can lead to dehydration. You can lose more than 3 liters of water per hour while exercising in the heat, depending on duration and intensity. If you aren’t careful about drinking a lot of water or another beverage containing some electrolytes before and after a workout, this dehydration can lead to hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is a serious issue wherein your body is unable to cool itself. You might become dizzy, faint, and nauseous.

Long Term: Sweat is a mixture of mostly water and some salt. As your body adapts more to exercising in the heat, your kidneys will get better at holding onto the salt and excreting mostly just the water. This is a good adaptation because if you sweat a lot and lose too much salt, it can cause ion imbalances which can lead to cramping in your muscles.

The temperature at which you begin to sweat will lower as well. This allows your blood vessels to dilate sooner and your body to begin sweating, and cooling itself, sooner. This maximizes the benefits of sweating and lets you cool faster.

OTHER THINGS TO NOTE

If you are competing in higher temperatures that you are used to, you might want to give your body a week or two to adjust so that you can perform safely at your best. Your body makes most of these important adaptations in just one week, then results begin to plateau around two weeks.

Wear appropriate clothing that is light or designed to aid in evaporation, like compression clothing.

Additionally, wearing sunscreen will protect you in the sun and help prevent cancer and other skin issues. Wearing sunglasses or a hat is also a good idea to minimize squinting in the sunlight, which can cause headaches and wrinkles if done for a prolonged period of time.

And of course, if you know you’ll be exercising for a while in the heat, be prepared and pack plenty of fluids!

REVIEW

Short & Long Term Adaptations:
1. Blood volume and plasma volume increase
2. Heart rate decreases
3. Vasodilation of blood vessels
4. Sweating more, sooner
5. Retaining salt

Things to Remember:
6. Sun screen
7. Sunglasses/hat
8. Light weight/compression clothes
9. Water/gatorade

Next time you jet off on a tropical vacation or summer comes around and you want to exercise, you need to be smart! Think of how your body works to keep you safe and at your best in warm weather, then respect those limitations and needs, and take care of yourself.

The Dangers of CrossFit – Why the Workout Is Not Worth Your Money or Your Life

This post will probably be unpopular to people, but it’s not simply my opinion in a blog. A lot of what you’ll read below is scientific and factual. Not only did I study the mechanisms of movement and physiology of exercise in college; not only do I personally train athletes and adults in achieving various fitness goals; not only am I an active and fit person, but I have also done copious amounts of research on this topic. Additionally, I have yet to meet a professional in my field – high school and collegiate athletic coaches, Kinesiology professors, exercise physiologists, certified personal trainers, gym owners, and physical therapists – who recommend CrossFit. Every educated health professional I’ve talked to and every study I’ve read on the topic agrees: CrossFit is dangerous and is NOT the way to increase cardiovascular performance or increase strength gains.

The topic of CrossFit generally just makes me angry. It is dangerous. It is not based on science. There are so many issues with it, I could go on for hours. I’m going to delve into the main issues with CrossFit, so brace yourself for some heavy reading in this post.


The ideology behind, and structure of, CrossFit is an issue. The structure includes WOD’s, or Workout of the Day’s. These workouts are the same for everyone across the board. No individualization. There is a serious difference between randomness and variation. Randomness is not productive. Variation, on the other hand, is. What’s the difference? Randomness is just that: random. Workouts are thrown together without foresight and a future plan or goal in mind, except to “be fitter”. But you cannot build and progress when your workouts are random. CrossFit doesn’t model their WOD’s on variation. WOD’s throw people into the same workout, regardless of experience, fitness level, etc. You can’t randomly start doing movements and exercises, then move to totally different ones the next day, and expect to make real progress and gains. You need variation in your workouts to keep your body adapting. You need to progress from one movement to another, moving up in advanced techniques, or weights, or intensity, or frequency, etc. Variation allows you to build and progress on prior gains.

In addition to this, during these WOD’s, CrossFit coaches push people past their safe limits. The more sore you are, the better workout you had. But that’s just not true. Soreness doesn’t correlate with a successful workout, or toughness, or fitness. Of course when working out there is going to be discomfort; burning in your muscles, shortness of breath during cardio, etc. But PAIN is a different sensation altogether and when a coach encourages you to push through the pain, you should question their professionalism, intellect, and training. It is NOT healthy to push yourself through pain. This only promotes your risk of injury and will be detrimental to your achieving your fitness goals.

This brings me to my next point: the people who run CrossFit. Coaches don’t even need education to run a CrossFit and instruct you. Trainers who REALLY know what they’re talking about and doing will have a educational degree in Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, or another related field, or they’ll have a certification from a reputable organization, like NASM or ACSM. These professionals will attend conferences to remain certified and up to date on their degrees. Often times, a reputable gym will require practical demonstration before hiring a new trainer to ensure that they are educated properly and can provide proper training.

If the CrossFit box is even remotely responsible, the coaches will go to a weekend training seminar where they learn power lifting technique. A weekend! To learn power lifting! I’ve been doing power lifts for years, and teaching them for a couple of years, and I still check myself and compare with other educated professionals to ensure I’m doing and coaching people properly. These are advanced movements, requiring precision and skill. You cannot learn perfect form and give perfect instruction on various power lifting moves in a matter of two days. Performing power movements with improper coaching and form at high repetitions or for time, as done in CrossFit, leads to an even higher risk for injury.

In addition to this point, the idea CrossFit employs regarding power lifting is unscientific. During workouts, participants are encouraged to do as many reps as possible in a timed circuit, or repeat a move for 20, 30, repetitions. Power lifting is NOT meant to be used in this manner. Power lifting and Olympic lifting are meant to be done with precise form, low repetitions, and high weight. These movements need to be executed with the proper technique and are supposed to be explosive, powerful movements. You’re supposed to perform them with adequate rest between sets, and they’re done over very short periods of time. You can’t simply run through an explanation of these movements, throw weight on a bar, and tell someone to repeat the movement as fast as possible for as many reps as they can for two minutes. It goes against your body’s capabilities and crosses the line into the danger zone. Your body is not meant to be put under such intense stress for so many of these explosive, powerful repetitions at a time. This only increases your chances of getting injured by putting undue stress on ligaments and joints. The more you do any movement repetitively, with high weight especially, the more you increase your chances of getting hurt and doing real damage to your body. So, if you’re going to engage in power lifting exercises, do it right. Find a real coach who knows the science of proper technique, who can coach you, spot you, and help you progress gradually to prevent injury – the way power lifting is supposed to be.

rhabdo

The next point is also related to danger. The photo placed here for your viewing is a CrossFit creation. This disgusts me the most. CrossFit appears PROUD and finds HUMOR in using this photo of a clown called Rhabdo, who appears to be on a dialysis machine, with a kidney on the ground, standing in a pool of blood, with various, serious tears in his muscles, looking absolutely decimated. What?! Is this what CrossFit promotes?! Without even getting into the science of it yet – is this what you want your coaches to make you feel or look like? Is that what you call a successful workout?!

Now the science of it – what is rhabdo? Why does CrossFit seem to know so much about rhabdo that they have a logo of a clown suffering from it? Rhabdo, or rhabdomyolysis is a serious, but typically rare syndrome. It involves the breakdown of muscle fibers to such an extent that their contents filter into your bloodstream, leading to kidney complications like renal failure, where the kidneys are so overwhelmed with clearing out waste from your body that they literally fail to do the job. Rhabdo can cause death. Usually, people need hospitalization (see the clown on dialysis?) to treat the issue. It can take weeks to recover from this, if you’re lucky. Rhabdo “is uncommon and normally reserved for the elite military trainee, ultra-endurance monsters, and for victims of the occasional psychotic football coach” (Robertson). Basically, your average mom or dad who is exercising, a fit, collegiate athlete, or another regular person working out, wouldn’t experience or suffer from rhabdo.

When working out and strength training, microtears in your muscle are unavoidable. Macrotears, however, are a problem. When an untrained, unfit, or previously trained person (and by this I actually mean anyone who isn’t pretty much an elite athlete or in military shape) participates in the high intensity of CrossFit training, and pushes themselves the way the coaches direct, muscles will undoubtedly become strained and sore. This can lead to rhabdo.

So why does CrossFit know so much about it when it’s prevalence is about one in hundreds of thousands of people? Well, in exercise, eccentric contractions of muscles allow the body to lift more weight than concentric contractions. If these eccentric contractions are done with high intensity volume, or high repetitions, you get into the danger zone. Your body is not ready for it. Does this kind of training sound familiar?

Yes: CrossFit. High intensity. High repetitions. High weights. Lack of education. Bad training. Being pushed beyond your body’s safe limits. Not working up to the exercises gradually. Rhabdo.

In an article written by the founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman, he literally discusses the risks this type of training has in promoting cases of rhabdo. He addressed the issue of rhabdo once, back in 2005. Apparently it’s such a problem, CrossFit has had to address it time and time again in their newsletters, issuing real warnings about the possibility and risk of suffering from rhabdo by participating in CrossFit. CrossFit recognizes that exertional rhabdo, or rhabdo from exercise of a high intensity, can be lethal. So the intensity and structure of CrossFit workouts can literally kill you. In the article, it states that one of the worst rhabdo cases CrossFit has seen involved a middle-aged, fit SWAT guy, who luckily recovered from CrossFit induced rhabdo, and can now “easily blast through workouts that once nearly killed him” (Glassman 2). If the workout nearly killed you, perhaps it wasn’t the safest workout to be doing.

The rhabdo associated with CrossFit so far is showing itself differently than what people typically see with rhabdo, which is associated with “exhaustion, dehydration, high humidity, high temperatures, and long practices” (Glassman 2). The author here states this is NOT the type of rhabdo CrossFit is dealing with. The people who have developed rhabdo at CrossFit sessions aren’t showing typical warning signs, like panting or discomfort. These people apparently left sessions just fine, like every other participant. Then went home and had near death experiences that led them to contact a doctor, or venture to the hospital. This is alarming! CrossFit attributes this phenomenon as a result of people not being capable of performing the CrossFit workloads as a result of inadequate prior training levels. They state that training programs including but not limited to those offered in “commercial gyms, fitness magazines, popular internet sites, the U.S military (including special operations training), and police agencies … all proved woefully inadequate at preparing [people] for sustained power output” (Glassman 3).

So…this guy is telling us that a U.S military trainee, someone who has undergone special ops training, who needs to not only endure, but pass practicals consisting of months of the most rigorous training both physically and mentally, is not even close to being physically fit enough for CrossFit? Does this not alarm you?! Perhaps the issue is not the prior training people have or have not had, but the “sustained power output” being referenced here; the same power lifting and Olympic lifting movements discussed previously; explosive movements and power outputs that aren’t meant to be sustained.

Finally, any of the benefits I’ve read associated with CrossFit can be said of just about any exercise program a previously sedentary person might begin. People who are overweight, inactive, and generally unfit try CrossFit and it “works” because they’re actually moving. This would still be true if they joined a gym or started doing cardio on their own. Simply adding movement that burns calories would give these people the same initial results of weight loss and strength gains. In the article “Why CrossFit works…but really doesn’t. The Randomness of Adaptation and why beginners just need change”, sums it up nicely. CrossFit is “Random highly intense exercise. For the unfit or formerly fit, this works great initially…It isn’t that the exercises are super awesome targeted muscle sculpting patented exercises. Instead, it’s that the people who generally do them weren’t doing them before” (Magness).

CrossFit should not be the training program inactive and unfit people turn to when they want to lose weight or get in shape because, aside from everything else you’ve read thus far, once those initial results plateau, which they will, there’s nowhere to go. In a random workout program like CrossFit, you can’t just push harder – you’re pushing as hard as you can already! And here we can circle back to the beginning of my post where I discussed randomness and variation. Variation allows you to progress in a specific direction depending on your goal. Randomness doesn’t. Therefore, there’s really no progress to be gained in CrossFit, unless you want to progress to injury, or worse.

To sum up this lengthy post: CrossFit is led by untrained individuals, promotes improper training techniques, increases the risk of injury, focuses on random workouts, and can kill you. Is the workout even worth this kind of risk? If you’re going to be fit, healthy, and train, do it right and do it with educated professionals who know what they’re talking about, can coach you on a personal level so you continue to develop, and can keep you safe. Oh, and alive.

Please refer to the list of references used in this post for further reading on various topics that were discussed in here.

References:

  • Glassman, Greg. “CrossFit Induced Rhabdo”. The CrossFit Journal Articles. Issue 38 (2005): 1-3. CrossFit. CrossFit Inc. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.
  • Magness, Steve. “Why CrossFit Works…But Really Doesn’t. The Randomness of Adaptation and Why Beginners Just Need Change”. The Science of Running. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.
  • Robertson, Eric. “CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret”. The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 24 Sept 2013. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.

And for a more personal, but still fact-based account of CrossFit, check out this great article below:

  • Simmons, Erin. “Why I Don’t Do CrossFit”. The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 29 May 2014. Web. 30 Apr 2015. Link.

Thanks for reading this far.

Agree? Disagree? Learn something new? Have a personal experience with CrossFit? Leave a comment.

Sneakers Sneakers Sneakers

As a runner, I cannot stress enough the importance of a good pair of sneakers…Especially if you’ve had a substantial injury pertaining to running! A good pair of running shoes can cost upwards of $100, but trust me, if you enjoy running and want to continue to do so injury free, you don’t want to skimp out on this.

When I ran in high school, my long distance coach told me how important it was to buy new sneakers every six months. Now, we were running for an hour or more each day, so we racked up a lot of miles very quickly. If you don’t run long distances very often, or only run for short periods of time, your sneakers will probably last longer.

But the point remains: Don’t continue to run in a worn out pair of sneakers.

Think of how great your sneakers felt when you first bought them. Like clouds on your feet? Like you never wanted to take them off? Like these pillows gently holding your feet securely in place? That’s how a good pair of sneakers should feel – comfortable and supportive.

asics sneaksWhen you realize your sneakers are tired and worn, fraying at the seams, with a wrinkled outer base from the constant pounding you put them through, I suggest going to a running specific sport store. At a store like this, compared to a large shoe franchise, the employees actually know what they’re talking about. Usually, if the store is good, they’ll have a footmapping machine you stand on to read the pressure distribution of your body weight in your feet. They’ll also analyze your gait and arches to see if you over-pronate, under-pronate, or have any other special concerns that you might need support for from your shoe. This machine will also measure your foot size, to ensure you’re in the right size shoe. Then the employees will know exactly what brand and style of sneaker will provide you and your feet the best possible support and cushion for your run. They’ll help you try on pairs until you find your perfect match.

A lot of people get sucked into cool looking sneakers that are currently hot in the market. For example, my senior year in college, a lot of my lacrosse teammates wore Nike free runs. Our practices were intense: three hours a day, six days a week. We did sprints and endurance conditioning mixed in with dynamic strength exercises. We were constantly sprinting, jumping, changing direction on a hardwood gym floor – putting a lot of pressure on our feet and ligaments. Those who wore Nike free runs had shin splints – or worse – in less than a couple of weeks. Why? Well, I believe it has a lot to do with Nike’s minimal feel.

These shoes my teammates were wearing had little to no cushion, minimal arch support and little to no ankle support. They just weren’t made for the workouts we were doing. Now, I’m not saying Nike shoes are terrible for all runners. I’m simply stressing the importance of wearing the RIGHT sneakers for YOUR preferred type of running and YOUR feet.

Personally, I enjoy long runs. I also enjoy running fast when I can. I tend to over-pronate. My ankles collapse inward when I run and my arches aren’t all that stable either. I told my old coach, who works at one of these fabulous running stores I’m talking about, about my stress fracture injury and how I was starting to run again after six months. She recommended a brooks2sneaker with good cushion and lots of support. So, I’m thinking ASICS. I’ve worn ASICS my whole running career and love them. I only wore Nike’s for one pre-season of lacrosse and after developing numerous issues in these shoes, switched back to ASICS. The ASICS I typically wore had adequate cushion, so I thought they were the best for rehabbing a stress fracture. However, this coach put me in a pair of Brooks, which offer the same cushion, plus a whole lot of stability and support.

These people KNOW what they’re talking about.

You’ll be amazed at how the quality of your runs will improve when your feet are being protected and supported the way they should be. Additionally, you likely won’t feel as sore and worn after a run when your shoes are the right fit. Sneakers not only support and cushion the impact to your feet, but also everything connected to your feet! The forces that come from the impact of your feet hitting the ground while running disperse and travel up your legs. In the right pair of shoes, your knees and your shins will be spared. In the wrong pair of shoes, you could develop plantar fasciitis, shin splints, tendonitis, stress fractures or worse.

I know sneakers can be expensive. Especially a good pair. But it’s worth the money to take care of yourself and ensure you can continue to exercise and enjoy your runs. Don’t skimp out and get injured! I swear, you really can feel a difference in the right pair of sneakers.