Tag Archive | Athletes

TCM Spring Training

Almost Spring at Zilker Botanical Gardens, Aus...

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Spring is the season of the Wood element and is characterized by reawakening and outward expansion. It is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder energetic systems, which when balanced are known for Qi that flows smoothly, initiative and good decision-making. Physical associations manifest in the eyes, tendons, ligaments and sinews which are nourished and maintained by the Liver. Just as the expansiveness of Spring can be seen in nature, emotional and physical energies associated with the Liver can be directed outward. Just like a sprout beginning to rise, energy is still fragile and can easily be damaged. Outbursts or projections of excess energy can best be put to good use with activities or projects that can utilize it.

Climactically Spring is associated with wind. The wind which can carry other pathogens also tends to aggravate the wood element. In the body it can cause allergies, itchy skin and pain patterns that tend to move from place to place. Symptoms may present as fever, slight aversion to wind or cold, cough, or mild thirst with burning pain in local areas. Sensitive people should enjoy windy outdoor time in minimal doses.

Injuries may present as:

  • Wind:  marked by a decrease in range of motion and pain that changes location.
  • Heat:  local inflammation and/or redness in the joints or extremities, and may be aggravated by heat.
  • Damp:  fixed and intense pain with a feeling of heaviness, numb skin and muscles that wet conditions may aggravate.

Movement in the Spring
To prevent injuries and improve performance in the Spring, consider the following:

Warm up properly utilizing dynamic stabilization exercises to ensure that postural muscles are activated prior to regular training.

As a stand-alone program or as an adjunct to another endeavor or sport, take advantage of strength training with slower to moderate speed movements. Strength guidelines state using 70%-85% of your estimated 1 repetition maximum, at a moderate to high volume (up to 25 sets when your main activity is weight training), with up to 60 seconds rest between sets. Incorporate this into your program for about four to six weeks to allow ligamentous tissues, which have a poor circulatory system, time to adapt. The nervous system and muscles characteristically adapt more quickly, which is part of the strength continuum but does not take all tissues into consideration. Transitioning into ballistic movements too soon, especially after a lay off due to injury or from sedentary life will predispose a person to further injury. Beginners should spend more of their workout doing stability exercises with a strength component.

As part of a post workout cool down, emphasize static flexibility to bring the body back into a more parasympathetic (normal) state. This will allow tendons to relax and circulation of metabolites in the muscles to move more smoothly.

Proper maintenance such as Tui Na, bodywork, acupuncture and meditative movements assist in recovery from exercise and injuries and boost the immune system.

Spring Time Nutrition
Food that assists in balancing the nature of the Liver and Wood element should nourish, soothe and keep the Liver clean, tonify the Spleen, nourish Yin, & strengthen Yang. Enjoy plenty of young plants, fresh greens, sprouts, and yellow to red veggies nutrient-dense and low in calories. These include tomatoes, loquat, beets, mint, onion, green beans, broccoli, chives and leeks. Flavor meals sparingly with vinaigrettes and pickled foods.

Keep high-calorie, refined, greasy or fried foods, sugars and alcohol that overtax the Liver and Gallbladder to a minimum.

Fasting will over tax the Liver and create more disharmonies in the body. A better way to cleanse the Liver is via sound nutrition, herbs that support Liver function and simply sweating from exercise.

Seasonal Recipes:
Ju Hua (chrysanthemum) congee: 100g white rice, 50g chrysanthemum.
Soak chrysanthemum separately for 30 minutes. Then combine with rice over heat for 5 minutes. Soothes the Liver and brightens the eyes.

An Chun (‘animal ginseng,’ quail) dish: 100g quail, asparagus 100g, mushrooms 5g, cucumbers 15g, egg whites.
Slice quail and mix with egg whites then sauté. Add asparagus, cucumber & mushrooms later. Sea salt to taste. Nourishes and soothes Liver.

Spring Herbal Considerations
This year has brought much change in the world and continuous perceptions of disharmony which sound nutrition and lifestyle may not relieve quickly. Strong emotions may affect digestion, causing stomach butterflies or bloating, acid regurgitation diarrhea and/or stomach pain. A Chinese formula that has made its way into  Western use is called Xiao Yao San or “Free and Easy Wanderer”. This formula profoundly soothes the Liver, thereby reducing the effects of stress on the body and helps prevent digestive symptoms. For those with enteric brains, this is quite a find. (For a thorough diagnosis, consult a Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.)

Climate and physiological change affect the natural tendency of the Liver to spread and grow. By nourishing and maintaining the Wood element, the outward momentum of Spring will segue nicely into the warmer months of Summer.

Read about the coming Summer

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OM Winter: Journey Inward for Outward Movement

In Oriental Medicine (OM) winter is the time to turn inward with meditative thoughts and conserve one’s energy. The winter’s energetic system is found in the Kidneys and manifests physically in the ears, lumbar spine and knees. Positive energy in this season reflects in a calm ability to handle stress with consistent focus and moderate energy throughout the day. Hearing can be more acute in the winter months, but the lower back and knees may experience more discomfort than in other times of the year. Some aspects of the Chinese medicine Kidney energetic can be seen in the biomedical kidney’s water metabolism, adrenal, reproductive and excretory functions . Through self-neglect or from prolonged stressors, people may find themselves anxious, irritable, fatigued and in some ways fearful or insecure. Since the cold slows the flow of blood and warmth to our extremities, activity should maintain continued circulation of the body’s fluids and proper joint relationships, as well as build our resources rather than deplete them.

Beneficial activities include Qi Gong, Tai Chi, low intensity movement or corrective exercises. Pre-workout exercises designed to warm the body up should be done for longer duration than in the hotter times of the year. Outdoor activities should be during the warmer, sunnier parts of the day and kept at a shorter length of time.

The weather can creep into the body and aggravate old injuries, arthritis and other aches and pains. This is especially true for outdoor athletes such as runners, bikers and hikers who spend a lot of time exposed to the elements as well as our aging populations and younger children. Pain patterns manifest in different ways.

  • Wind:  marked by a decrease in range of motion and pain that changes location.
  • Cold: fixed stabbing pain with spasms that does not usually have inflammation, is aggravated by cold and relieved by warmth.
  • Damp: fixed and intense pain with a feeling of heaviness, numb skin and muscles that wet conditions may aggravate.
  • Heat: not so common in the winter; characterized by local inflammation and/or redness in the joints or extremities, and may be aggravated by heat.

The wind is a carrier of other pathogens such as cold and dampness. Adequate clothing or protection is imperative. The yang parts of the body where most external pathogens enter and cause problems, such as the back and nape, should be covered. Normally our immune system (wei qi) is ample protection but chronic exposure, poor food choices and weaker or overworked constitutions create susceptibility. Enjoy foods that nourish the Kidneys and warm the interior of the body. Choices should include nourishing soups, broths and stocks, moderate spices and congees or porridge.

  • Foods that nourish the Kidneys: black beans, grapes, bone broth, eel, quail, walnuts (hu tao ren), black sesame (hei zhi ma), Chinese yam (shan yao), goji berries (gou qi zi), seaweeds: sargassum (hai zao), kelp (kun bu) or other varieties
  • Warm foods:  lamb, deer, beef, chicken
  • Warm spices and herbs: mild peppers, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger (sheng jiang)
  • Although salt guides to and nourishes the Kidneys, it is unnecessary to add copious amounts to our modern diets. Instead utilize seaweed, which is rich in iodine, and sea salts for cooking.
  • Raw and cold foods make the body weaker by disrupting digestive processes. They include:  iced drinks, ice cream, and excessive raw vegetables and fruits.

Overtraining or overworking in the winter will greatly affect your performance in the following season. Be aware of early signs and adjust your activities accordingly. Signs include – but are not limited to – a higher resting heart rate, decreased focus, mental fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, chronic muscle soreness, frequent injuries, delayed recovery, sensitive digestion, and/or unwanted weight loss or gain. Athletes and exercise enthusiasts who continue through the colder months of the year should follow these guidelines.

  • Regular acupuncture and tui na treatments restore balance to the body and speed recovery.
  • Warm up sufficiently. Include the use of a foam roller and dynamic stretching.
  • Avoid prolonged static or deep stretching at the beginning of workouts as this will cool the body down further, increasing the chance of injury.
  • Stay hydrated and maintain adequate nutrition. The body sweats less in the cold and relies more on exhalation and urination to expel water and waste, which creates the illusion of hydration.
  • Rest and be aware of signs of over-training.

By conserving energy, exercising moderately and eating well you can enjoy the season and ready yourself for a smooth transition and expansion into Spring.

For other articles on winter, see Oriental Medicine Winter.

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Benefit Athletes

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English: logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re an athlete, you might know what it’s like to suffer from pain, stiffness, swelling and injury. The causes of most of these obstacles to training can include trauma, inadequate warm-up and cool-down, improper form, overtraining, irregular diet and weather – which is often over-looked.

To alleviate the problem, common treatments such as excess application of ice and cold therapies are used, medications with side-effects are taken and injuries are sometimes ignored in hopes that they will go away. These approaches can all mask deeper imbalance, further exacerbating the original problem.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine create a competitive edge that is safe, time-tested, natural and drug- free.

Benefits that athletes and weekend warriors gain from acupuncture and Oriental medicine treatments include injury prevention and recovery, decreased pain, improved mental state and clarity of mind, improved flexibility and ROM, faster recovery time, decreased inflammation and overall enhanced performance. 

Oriental Medicine takes the entire person into consideration. Not only is the local area of discomfort examined but the whole body, mind and spirit are also addressed. Questions will be asked about sleep patterns, diet, allergies, focus and digestive health to provide a more accurate picture of how to treat you.

Initial treatments utilize distal points on the body or head. Follow up treatments may include local needling such as Dr. Lu Ding Huo’s oblique needling sports medicine techniques. Many effective acupuncture points have a strong correlation to trigger points and motor end points.

Chinese herbs, Tui na (Chinese medical massage) and corrective exercise may be prescribed as an adjunct to acupuncture. Herbs are used to continue healing at home between treatments. Tui na reinforces the acupuncture treatment and assists in breaking up fascial adhesions. Corrective exercises are given to restore proprioception, normal movement and balance in the affected area.

As seen in the 2010 Olympics all athletes can benefit from acupuncture; this includes cyclists, runners, swimmers, volleyball players, bodybuilders, wake boarders, martial artists, dancers, golfers, yogis, and even moms who keep up with their kids and desk jockeys.

 

Plyo’s

Plyometrics are a training phase that can be incorporated after a sound strength training foundation has been laid. Plyometrics are the result of strength produced at an accelerated rate. They improve overall performance and can be seen in nearly every athletic move. To start your own program follow a few simple rules in every workout.

1. At the beginning go moderate and easy with a focus on form.

2. Then concentrate on explosive movements.

3.  Always have control in landing or maneuvering.

Good exercises that can be incorporated into drills include jogging or step-ups to warm-up, easy skipping or hopping, one-legged hops, hopping to a platform, and tossing a weighted ball away from you. Try modifying with side to side, backward, and spinning movements. Repetition schemes can be done in reps, as well as for short distances. Rest between intervals or sequences should be 1 to 2 minutes.

Positive Thinking

Words and thoughts that you use to express yourself paint an image of things to come. If a person thinks about and verbalizes themselves in a positive light they tend to be successful. The reverse holds true for negativity. Previous experiences and labels make us feel that this is who we are today. Take a moment to redefine negative perceptions and reemphasize a positive self-image. Use positive affirmations, visualizations and/or repeatedly writing a positive word about you as tools for success. Remember that everyone is a natural athlete in some way, shape or form.

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