Benefits of Inversion

Its mid summer and wakeboarding is in full swing. This means lots of riding, progression, new tricks, and unfortunately, tired and sore bodies. One part of the body that gets taxed the most during wakeboarding is the spine. The spine is our center where most of the shock absorption occurs. The discs, which sit in between each of our vertebra, or back bones, are little cushions that help translate the pressure that happens when we jump, land,  twist, and bend. Keeping these discs healthy is important to avoid nerve injury, compression fractures to the spine, and disc bulging or herniation.

There are two very easy ways to keep discs healthy and continue riding safely and pain free. The first is simple has been written about before. Hydration. Drinking water hydrates the discs, making them taller and more supportive. Water also helps to keep the surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments pliable and stretchy, which are good qualities of tissue to keep you injury free. Keep a bottle of water with you wherever you are: home, boat, cable, work etc. This will encourage you to drink more. Also, be sure to replenish lost water from sweat and exercise after riding and/or working out. Sun, wind, and sweating can dehydrate you quickly!

 

 

 

Handstand  Inversion Table

 

images: http://www.wholeliving.com and http://www.inversiontableanalysis.com

 

The second way to keep your discs healthy is inversion.  Inversion is the act of turning upside down in order to let gravity undo the daily pressures put on the spine. There are a few ways to invert, using a inversion table, which allows you to hang from your feet, or doing a head or handstand (freestanding or against a wall.) Both have astounding benefits for the body. These benefits include:

1. Natural decompression: Gravity pulls the spine in the opposite direction as our upright life, allowing for traction in the spine which increases the disc height, gives more space for the nerves and relieves pain. Not only does decompression help the spine, it also helps with hips, knees and ankles as well!

2. Posture correction and flexibility: Inversion stretches musculature and allows our bodies to elongate in the axial direction. This allows for misalignments in the spine to be corrected and slouching in the shoulders and middle back to be undone. Inversion keeps the muscles, tendons and ligaments flexible keeping joints healthy.

3. Circulation and Energy: Inversion allows for the heart to be above the head, causing a surge of circulation to the brain. This allows for increased energy, mental clarity and focus. The movement in the blood can cause a release in neurotransmitters causing an increase in mood as well. Increasing circulation also cleans the blood and moves lymph, helping with immunity.

Inversion can be done daily and should be held for 10-20 seconds upside down, then 10-20 seconds back at neutral (or right side up)  for a total of 10 minutes maximum. This allows for a pumping motion in the spine, causing the most nutrients, blood flow and hydration to return to the discs. Also, it is not necessary to be completely upside down. Many of the benefits of inversion can be received by moving the head below the heart, like in downward dog or shoulder stand, the yoga poses.

downward dog shoulder stand

 

 

 

 

 

images: http://www.the-yoga-connection.com and http://www.health.com

 

Note: Inversion is not for everyone. If you suffer from a heart condition, glaucoma, bone weakness, high blood pressure, ear infection, pregnancy, stroke, retinal detachment or significant spinal injury, inversion is contraindicated. Please consult a medical professional before trying inversion.

 

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Foam Rolling Revisited

I recently did a video here in Orlando for iWake.com for their Winter Workout series.  I highlight some of the best foam rolling exercises for keeping wakeboarders healthy.  Check it out!

IWake.com Foam Rolling with Abby

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Nutrition for Athletes

Arranged Vegetables Abs are made in the kitchen, right? There are ongoing statistics about how much of one’s appearance and athletic performance is based on diet versus exercise or training. What is concrete is the fact that quality of fuel in is going to reflect in the quality of structure built and the performance of that structure.  If you buy the cheapest fuel for your boat, chances are the gas efficiency and the performance of the engine will be less than that of premium fuel. This is an essential concept when talking about nutrition for athletes.

 

The problem in the US today is that most people don’t eat real food. Too much of our diets consist of processed or refined food product. The typical diet is full of convenience items, loaded with fast food and on-the-go treats. While some of these things help to make life easier, our bodies internally pay the price. We become overworked and toxic, taking away from our performance in other areas, like muscular strength or endurance.

Sometimes it takes going back in time and thinking more primal to understand what our bodies were designed to eat. The idea is to follow the menu choices of a caveman. Cavemen were hunters and gatherers. Their bodies evolved to be ready at a moments notice to chase down the next meal, because food wasn’t always available. They were mentally challenged to plan their ways of attack and other motives for survival. They survived on meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit and nuts. This becomes the basis of nutrition for athletes:

1. Lean Meats/Fish

2. Eggs

3. Vegetables

4. Fruits

5. Nuts

6. Healthy Oils

 

The benefits are vast. The higher protein intake allows for proper muscle growth and maintenance, the fiber is high to ensure intestinal health, and the omega-3 to 6 ratio is ideal for prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. Real, whole foods offer a higher amount of vitamins and minerals and keeps the body alkaline, which wards off kidney disease and muscle loss.  Hydration needs to be a main focus as water plays a part in every physiological process. As athletes, it is important to consume enough calories depending on your activity level. Plan ahead by making meals and snacks that are easy for on the go
image: http://www.in.gov

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Strengthening the Lower Back for Wakeboarding

backThe lower back is an extremely important area in the sport of wakeboarding. It acts as part of the core to stabilize while being pulled from either the boat or cable. It also is often engaged as the center of gravity for flips and spins. The lower back  is stocked with layers upon layers of muscles and ligaments for stability and cushioned with discs for shock absorption. The complexity is great, but often times, the small, but important,  muscles tend to be underutilized. It is important to keep them all engaged to prevent injury and remain pain free.

image: corpushumain.ca

Here are a few exercises to strengthen the stabilizing muscles in the lumbar spine:

1. Pelvic Tilts- Begin lying on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Start pulling your belly button into your spine and drawing it in and up. Hold for a few seconds then release, moving into an arched position. Repeat for 20 repetitions.

pelvic-tilt

image: ericavijay.net

2. Bridges- Begin in the same position as pelvic tilts. With your arms at your sides, palms facing down, push your pelvis up, contracting your glutes. Hold for a few seconds and lower back down to starting position. Repeat for 20 repetitions.

bridge-exercise

image: goldenworkoutroutines.com

3. Cross Crawl- Begin on your hands and knees, with your belly button pulled into your spine and your head in a neutral position. Start lifting right arm and left leg, extending out and elongating. Bring back to starting position and repeat with opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating for 20 reps per side, aiming to have a smooth transition and holding the abdominals tight.

lower_back-cross_crawl_kneeling2

image: humanhealthplace.com

4. Cat-Camel- Begin in the same position as cross crawls. Start by arching your back and sagging your belly (the cat). Hold for a few seconds and transition into pulling your stomach in as high as you can (the camel). Alternate back in forth for 20 repetitions.

catcamel

image: precisionsportsmedicine.com

5. Side Plank-Start in a push up position, except on the elbows. Move your weight to one elbow and open up to stack feet on one another or beside, depending on proficiency. Raise the free arm into the air or bend and place on hip. Hold for 30-45 seconds. Repeat on opposite side.

sideplank

image: womenshealthmag.com

6. Supermans- Begin lying on your stomach. Reach arms out overhead. Lift arms and legs a few inches off the ground and hold, while engaging the glutes and lower back muscles. Hold for 30-45 seconds. Repeat 3 times.

superman

image: fitnessandfreebies.com

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Hydration: How Important Is It?

hydration_300px

Water is a pretty important thing in our sport. Without it we don’t have one! But aside from the water that surrounds us daily, the most important thing about water is how much we drink. Hydration plays a key role in how our bodies function  and in turn, how we feel. For athletes, the demand for water becomes greater and the consequences of dehydration are much more severe. Because wakeboarding is typically done outside with the sun, heat, and wind, dehydration is much more likely to be a problem.

image: http://www.lifeionizers.com

According to the US Geological Survey, “Up to 60% of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70% water, and the lungs are nearly 90% water. Lean muscle tissue contains about 75% water by weight, as is the brain; body fat contains 10% water and bone has 22% water. About 83% of our blood is water, which helps digest our food, transport waste, and control body temperature. Each day humans must replace 2.4 litres of water, some through drinking and the rest taken by the body from the foods eaten.” This means water is one of the most important components to nutrition!

Because water is used to regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, move waste, and dissolve nutrients, water plays an important role in our daily bodily functions. The effects of dehydration can be felt many ways:

  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • sore joints
  • headaches
  • poor concentration
  • muscle weakness
  • dark urine
  • excessive thirst
  • decreased metabolism

The unfortunate thing about dehydration, is that when you begin to feel the effects, dehydration has already set in. This makes it even more important to be properly hydrated ahead of time. It is recommended to drink 8 8oz glasses of water daily. As this is just a general rule, for athletes, this amount should be higher. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they are dehydrating in themselves, and beware of extra sugar and calories in sports drinks and juices. The best way to hydrate is with regular water!  Remember to carry water bottles with you, especially to the gym, outdoor activities, and especially on the boat or at the cable when riding!

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The Importance of Time Off: The Truth About Overtraining

We think there’s no possible way to over train in wakeboarding, right? The set is only 30 minutes long riding boat or an hour at the cable, so there is no way you can damage yourself by riding daily! WRONG.

The constant load on the body during wakeboarding can have some devastating effects.

overtrain

image: ausport.gov.au

How do you know you are overtraining?

1. You aren’t progressing, you are actually regressing. If you can no longer land the tricks you normally land, it takes more effort to do what was normally simple or routine, or if you feel sluggish with nothing to attribute it to (hang-over, heavy crosstraining, extended period off the water), you may be overtraining.

2. You feel restless, anxious, or have trouble sleeping. “When a power athlete overtrains, the sympathetic nervous system dominates. Symptoms include hyperexcitability, restlessness, and an inability to focus (especially on athletic performance), even while at rest or on your off day. Sleep is generally disturbed in sympathetic-dominant overtrained athletes, recovery slows, and the resting heart rate remains elevated. Simply put, the body is reacting to a chronically stressful situation by heightening the sympathetic stress system’s activity levels.”

Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/overtraining/#ixzz2E1mdqgE0

3. Your muscles and joints hurt. Constant overuse can contribute to stress fractures, muscles strains, and an early onset of degeneration due to the constant forces on the body without any time for recovery. Muscles, especially, undergo Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), after an intense workout and may not show up until a few days after the initial workout, but can also be easily confused with improper training techniques or a microtrauma. It is important to differentiate the two, so any minor injuries can be given proper time and treatment to heal.

4. You are tired, have lost your appetite, lost muscle mass, and are irritable. Not a great combo, but are some tell-tale signs you’ve been training too hard.

So, what to do? 

Make sure you have at LEAST one day off completely. No activity.  Schedule cross-training and yoga/stretching/foam rolling so that the activity that requires the most effort (wakeboarding) is first, and the optional activities happen later. This will help prevent injuries caused by wakeboarding while  fatigued.

Listen to your body. If you are sore, in pain, fatigued etc. take the day off or commit to doing a lighter activity.

Use modalities like heat and ice, as well as proper nutrition and hydration to keep your body functioning at its highest potential. Massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic treatments are beneficial to help recovery times and aid in minor injuries.

Keep an eye out for warning signs to prevent any serious damage or injury.

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Fall and Winter Weather Riding: How to Battle the Bite

Around this time, in most places, fall has begun to settle in. The air has gotten cooler and soon to follow will be the water temperature. Riding in cooler temperatures brings a whole new set of conditions to deal with, but who wants to cut the season short? Below are a few tips to help keep your riding at its best throughout the fall and winter months.

photo: redbullusa.com

1. Get a wetsuit: a good one. Being comfortable on the water is the most important. Wetsuits are design to maintain your core temperature and keep a small layer of water between the skin and wetsuit warm, so you stay warm. Quality wetsuits can make or break your winter. Find a suit that is a proper thickness for your climate, and try to find one that is sealed, GBS (glued and blind stitched.) You want mobility so find one where the neoprene is stretchy. Also, shop around and make sure you are comfortable in what you buy.

2. Do a proper warm up. Don’t just jump in and go! Warm up on land a but to help to increase your body temperature and heart rate. Then when its your turn, make sure you spend time warming up some basics before jumping into your hardest mobe. This will help to increase the circulation to your hands and feet, the areas that will lack blood supply when in colder temperatures.

3. Know when its too cold.  Nothing good will come out of a set that is in 45 degree water with 40 degree air temp. Know the boundaries and stick to them. You risk injury, hypothermia, and feeling pretty uncomfortable when you battle the weather. Make sure the benefits outweigh the risks.

4. Listen to your body. When you are riding, listen to your body and the signals it gives you. If you cannot feel your hands or feet, its probably time to come in. If you feel any aches or pains, or have trouble catching your breath, its also time to go in and get warm.

5. Bring a change of clothes. As soon as your set is done, change out of your wet clothes immediately. Especially if you have a few more people riding before you head in. This will get you warmer faster by eliminating the feeling of water evaporating.

6. Stay in shape and eat well. Keeping your fitness up and feeding your body with proper nutrition will keep you more conditioned to ride, regardless of the outdoor conditions. This will help you to bare the elements throughout the winter!

7. Ride at a cable park. Typically you spend less time in the water at a cable park (I supposed this is dependent on skill level…) and when you are in the water you are moving, kicking, and swimming to the side. Another thing at the cable is that you tend to ride, collectively, for a longer period of time. Your activity is more sustained, leading to a higher output of energy which keeps you warm! But, that being said, still keep in mind all of the above!

8. Plan a warm weather wakeboarding trip! 

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Rib Pain

Rib pain is nothing to mess with. Whether you fell on a rail, smacked the water, or feel pain from overuse, rib pain is something that is unforgettable. Pain around the ribs is very significant due to the inflamed intercostal nerves, which are very sensitive and run in between each rib. The pain can range from acute, stabbing, tearing pain, to a simple dull ache. Also between each rib is intercostal muscle as well as ligaments and tendons, which can be torn or pulled, also leading to pain on or around the rib cage.  The bones of the rib cage can break, from impact, which can lead to local pain directly over the region affected.

 

image: m-handbooks.blogspot.com

 

How do you know for sure you’ve injured your ribs? Look for:

1. Pain in the vicinity of the rib cage.

2. Bruising or swelling around the ribs.

3. Pain with pressure, contraction of the abdominal muscles, or deep inhalation.

4. Pain when stretching the rib cage area or twisting of the torso.

5. Pain that wraps around the chest and is band-like.

When to see a doctor:

1. If breathing becomes difficult or you experience any shortness of breath.

2. If you think you may have broken a rib.

3. Pain in a band that is accompanied by a rash.

What to do if you’ve injured your ribs:

Rest. Overusing the ribs or attempting to push through will only cause the injury to stick around longer. Take some time off and avoid re aggravation.

Ice. Icing the area for 15-20 minutes, multiple times per day will decrease local inflammation and reduce pain.

Take normal sized breaths. Avoiding full lung capacity will only increase the risk of lung infection, so try to breath normally, with occasional deep breaths, even if it is painful.

Protect the area. Be careful to avoid contact or activity that will further injure the ribs. KT taping is also helpful to temporarily support the ribs and surrounding tissues to speed healing.

Use massage or Graston/Gua Sha. These techniques can help to align torn fibers, reduce scar tissue and adhesion in the fascia, increase circulation, and speed healing.

 

The best way to help rib pain is to avoid injury or overuse in the first place! If trying new tricks or rails, wear a fully padded vest to ensure extra cushion in case of falls. Also, strengthening the muscles of the abdomen, back, and shoulders will secure the extra strength so the rib cage is protected. Happy Riding!

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Wakeboarding and Low Back Pain

Has wakeboarding given you low back pain? Unfortunately, the nature of falling from the sky onto flat water just isn’t ergonomically correct! Wakeboarding causes repetitive stresses to the tissue of the lower back, the vertebrae, discs, and muscles and ligaments that hold everything together. These tissues can cause pain that is local in nature, achy, and can turn into sharp or debilitating depending on how severe the damage is. What kind of pain are you having?

 

image:  www.necksolutions.com

Muscle

Muscle pain is typically the most common and is diffuse, or spread out, and is achy in nature. It comes about after lengthy rides, trying new tricks, multiple falls (that aren’t severe),  and typically feels worse after inactivity (like sitting) and better once you move around for a little while. Muscle pain can also be severe during the situation of muscle splinting or spasm. Muscle pain responds well to soft tissue treatments like massage, Graston, manual therapy, etc as well as icing techniques (15-20 minutes with small towel or shirt between ice and skin) and electrical stimulation to decrease inflammation or pain.

Vertebrae

Vertabrae are the bones of the spine that make up a column to act as the foundation of the midsection as well as protection for the spinal cord. Falls, repetitive stress, and the constant pounding from landings can cause the vertebra to shift and be come whats called subluxated. This is a malposition of the vertebrae which can cause pain and inflammation of the surrounding nerves. It can also cause decreased range of motion and over time, if not corrected, can lead to degeneration of the joint. Getting adjusted by a chiropractor or DO, stretching and yoga, and foam rolling can be useful in addressing pinched nerves and subluxations.

Disc

Between each of the above named vertebra are discs. Discs act as cushion for impact between the two bones. Discs can bulge or herniate if impact is great enough and cause significant pain due to the close proximity of the disc to spinal nerves. Pain from these nerves radiate, or originate at the spine but travel down an extremity. Disc pain can be treated through decompression, traction, adjustment, and therapies to reduce inflammation, like ice and electrical stimulation. This can all be done at a chiropractic office or physical therapist. If the disc issue doesn’t respond to conservative care, further evaluation should be done by a neurologist.

 

Lower back pain is  a very treatable condition when it comes to wakeboarding, and the best way to start is with ice and rest. Once the pain is under control, strengthening the lower spine will keep you from injuring it again in the future. More on that, coming next!

 

*If you have back pain accompanied by a fever, flank pain, abdominal pain, or bowel or bladder problems, consult your general practitioner to rule out the possibility of appendicitis, diverticulitis, kidney issues, or other organ pathology. If in doubt, always consult a physician. 

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Bindings, Landings, and Crashes: What to do about your ankle pain?

At some point or another, while wakeboarding, you may have experienced some ankle pain. It may have been while riding, after a landing, or something you have noticed later after you took your set.  You may have noticed swelling, tenderness, or an inability to bear weight on your foot. While riding, the ankle undergoes multiple forces that shear the bones and lead to inflammation. Bindings that don’t fit correctly, hard landings, or major crashes can cause the ankle to become injured.

Because the ankle attaches the lower leg to the foot, there is a complex network of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones involved.

    

image: medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com, http://home.comcast.net/~wnor/lljoints.htm

Bindings 

Typically, if your bindings don’t fit correctly, a pinching sensation will be felt in the front of the ankle. Because the binding is too tight around the metatarsals and forefoot, all the motion from leaning to stay on edge or landing must come from the joint between the talus and the tibia, instead of being able to translate through the foot . This “pinching” sensation is the bones putting pressure on the tendons and ligaments that cross the joint. Repetitive pinching can lead to inflammation and longer-lasting pain. Also, the lack of motion translated through the foot leads to a heavier heel stike on landings, cause heel pain after multiple tricks.

Landings

Landing hard, like into the flats or casing the wake, can lead to ankle injury. The force from the board hitting the water is dispersed through the joint , leading to pain that can manifest in a variety of areas. The pain will most likely be felt in the weakest part of the ankle,  which for most is the lateral, or outside, part. Because the ligaments in this area are the smallest, it is the most frequently sprained area of the foot. Making sure landings are absorbed with the knees, or are positioned correctly over the second wake will help prevent these injuries. If the injury has already occurred, proper treatment to resolve the injury is important so the ankle joint remains strong and doesn’t develop stress patterns and ongoing pain.

Crashes

The ankle is affected during many of the infamous wakeboard crashes. The worst seems to be the “foot came halfway out of the binding” crash. During this maneuver, the front of the ankle becomes stretched and the backside compresses. This overstretches the ligaments and muscles of the anterior ankle and pinches the calcaneous, of heel bone, into the talus and achilles tendon. This stretch and compression can lead to inflammation, swelling, and pain. Other crashes can cause the ankle to bend laterally depending on how you fall. This can lead to the more normal presentation of ankle sprain. Sometimes, however, the pain from crashes can be felt up the shin due to the design of bindings. It is important to treat the entire lower leg, below the knee, when the ankle is involved to ensure no causative factors are missed.

So what to do?

1. Make sure your bindings fit properly. Get advice from a representative or an employee of a local boardshop to make sure your bindings are the correct size and shape for your foot and your riding style.

2. Strengthen the ankles. Simple calf raises, toe and heel walks, and ankle ABC’s can do wonders to strengthen and prevent injury.

3. Treat injuries as soon as they happen. Remember RICE. Rest comes first. Don’t ride on a hurt ankle if you don’t have to. You will lead to further damage and possible stress fractures. Ice should be your best friend. 10-15 minutes 2 times per day will help calm inflammation and swelling, as well as numb your pain. Compression and Elevation will also help to reduce swelling.

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