Foam rolling: What are you missing?

Foam rollerImage credit: Pilot Fitness

Have you ever been sore after a hard workout, long run or bike ride? What if you could limit that soreness and release the tightness you feel in your muscles in the days that follow? With a foam roller, you can! It’s like getting a deep tissue massage, without the hefty price tag. In fact, many foam rollers are less than $35 (see below for my foam roller recommendation!).

Foam rolling, technically referred to as “self-myofascial release,” has many benefits. The greatest of which comes from you being in control. You can find and work every sore muscle you have by applying as much or as little pressure you need on a precise area—something another person just can’t do.

Here’s more of what you’re missing by not foam rolling:

  1. Less muscle tension. Especially after a hard workout. Amen!
  2. Faster recovery time. Foam rolling helps with muscle repair so you can recover faster and get back to your workout (aka not be as sore the next day!).
  3. Less injuries. Just as proper stretching, warming up and cooling down help to prevent injuries, adding foam rolling into your routine will also help. This is because it will increase blood flow and circulation.
  4. Increased flexibility and range of motion. Foam rolling can help stretch and lengthen your muscles, which also means you’ll have a more effective workout.
  5. Bonus: Reduced cellulite. With its ability to increase and improve blood flow, foam rolling may also help in reducing the appearance of cellulite. I think most of us can get excited about that!

When should you foam roll? Use your foam roller after an intense workout, long run, bike ride or swim session. If you’re feeling extra sore before your next workout, roll for a few minutes before you start. I also use mine on rest days to help with muscle recovery.

What can you foam roll? The short answer: you can foam roll any muscle. However, NEVER roll a joint or bone and AVOID rolling your lower back and abdomen. I typically only use mine on my leg muscles (IT band, quads, hamstrings, etc.). Joe, my husband, frequently foam rolls his upper back.

What foam roller should I buy? There are various types of foam rollers on the market, all of which effectively stretch out muscles in a similar manner. Keep in mind, the denser the roller or the deeper its ridges, the more intense the stretch. For a dense roller that has moderate ridges with a price tag of only $32, plus, a FREE eBook on how to properly use it, I suggest the Kayla Itsines Foam Roller. Of course, there are also less expensive foam rollers (and much more expensive too), but I highly suggest Kayla’s because of the free eBook that will show you the proper way to use it. Plus, if you love pink as much as I do, you’ll love this foam roller even more! 💜

Shout-out and thank you to Pilot Fitness for allowing me to use their image as the cover image for this blog post! Pilot Fitness is a website and blog by husband and wife duo, Joshua and Lauren Dils. I just discovered their site and can’t wait to explore it further! Check it out here.

Important note: You should always discuss more than mild muscle discomfort with your doctor or other health professional. Even mild, persistent pain, should be discussed with your doctor. You only get one body, so take good care of it and listen to what it is trying to tell you!

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5 Reasons to wear compression sleeves

knee injury_runnerDo you have aches in your knees after a long run or bike ride? How about after lifting in the gym? Increasingly over the last few years my knee aches and pains have become more noticeable and linger longer after my runs, bike rides, and workouts. After 12+ years of gymnastics and many years of running and biking, not to mention inheriting my father’s lousy joints, it’s no wonder my knees ache.

After suffering for some time, I finally decided to invest in a compression sleeve for my knees to see if it would help. I was not only pleasantly surprised by the instant relief, but also thankful to have found relief in a form other than ibuprofen (and constant massaging).

Whether you are considering a compression sleeve for your knee or another part of your body, here are five reasons why you’ll benefit from wearing one:

  1. Enhanced blood circulation.
  2. Reduced pain, swelling and inflammation.
  3. Warmth. This helps in enhancing your warm-up via increases in skin temperature and also helps prevent strain and fatigue by keeping muscles warm while wearing the sleeve during physical activity.
  4. Faster recovery.
  5. Increased muscle support. Which increases performance through improved muscle efficiency.

While researching the benefits of compression I learned that the jury is still out in the scientific community whether compression sleeves are truly beneficial. I am however, a believer that compression sleeves do offer relief, having experienced it first hand. I do find wearing the compression sleeve a bit uncomfortable during my workout, so I put it on as soon as I finish. I’ve only bought one compression sleeve and so far love it and plan on purchasing a second one this week (so I don’t have to keep switching back and forth from one knee to the other). If you are curious which compression sleeve I use, you can find it here.

Are you a compression sleeve believer?

Post-Workout Recovery: What You Need to Know

Fueling your body, and what you fuel your body with, after your workout is essential for your body to recover and rebuild and will ultimately affect your next workout and training program. There is a 30-45 minute window for athletes to maximize recovery. Those athletes who properly recover soon after working out have a distinct advantage over those who do not. The key to post-workout recovery is to remember these 3 R’s: Rehydrate, Refuel, and Rebuild.

  1. Rehydrate: The best way to know how much to rehydrate your body post-workout is to weigh yourself before and after you exercise. The general rule of thumb is drink 24 oz. of fluid for each pound lost during exercise. If you weigh more than before your workout, you most likely are drinking too much water. Keep in mind that the goal is to stay properly hydrated while exercising, therefore maintaining the same weight. So, for each pound lost during activity, drink an additional 16 oz. of fluid the next time you exercise. For example, if you drank 8 oz. while exercising for 60 minutes and lost one pound, your goal is to drink an additional 16 oz. during your next workout, totaling 24 oz. of fluid intake while exercising. Ultimately post-workout, monitoring your urine to make sure it is clear (meaning hydrated) will determine if you are drinking enough fluids.
  2. Refuel: In order to refuel your body you need to eat carbohydrates to replace your muscle and liver glycogen to refuel your energy stores. You also need carbohydrates to produce insulin in order to drive muscle building.
  3. Rebuild: In order to help the growth of new muscle tissue, and repair existing tissue that may have been torn, it is important to also consume protein. Exercise drains critical amino acids, which are the building blocks for protein used to build and repair muscles. So how much protein should you eat post-workout? The recommendation for the proper ratio of carbohydrate to protein is 4:1 after endurance workouts (2:1 carbohydrate to protein following strength workouts). It is commonly recommended that athletes consume between 15-25 grams of protein post-workout. Also, according to Dr. Michael Colgan, author of “Optimum Sports Nutrition”, athletes typically need to consume more protein throughout the day. Colgan recommends consuming 1.4 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass as the optimal amount for endurance athletes to consume per day.

Many athletes may experience appetite loss post-workout as exercise can act as an appetite suppressant. Therefore, liquid meals are often more appealing as a post-workout recovery option. Liquids are also absorbed more quickly than solid foods resulting in better recovery. Choosing your fluid wisely is essential. The best options include: 100% fruit juice (“Antioxidant rich foods help reduce inflammation and decrease muscle soreness. One of the easiest ways to get an adequate amount of antioxidants and carbohydrates is by drinking tart cherry juice. Research shows that drinking tart cherry juice aids athletic performance and comes highly recommended for recovery foods. Following juice consumption with a form of protein would be recommended” http://www.active.com/nutrition/Articles/Recovery-Foods-that-Ease-Muscle-Soreness), non-fat or 1% chocolate milk or soy milk, protein shakes with fruit mixed in, or sports drinks. Chocolate milk has actually been shown to provide some of the best post-workout recovery benefits as it not only provides carbohydrates, but also electrolytes, sodium, and potassium lost in sweat. Small snack options are also great in assisting recovery and include foods like: Greek yogurt, energy bars, crackers and peanut or almond butter, or cottage cheese and fruit with a small nutrient-rich muffin. I personally enjoy a protein shake made with chocolate soy milk with added fruit. I have included a few of my favorite shakes below.

Apple Almond Butter (Super Fabulous) Protein Shake

1 cup light vanilla soy milk
1/2 an apple of your choice (I use either Honey Crisp or Granny Smith as I like the tart, crisp taste)
Protein powder (I use 3 tablespoons vanilla protein powder. Use whatever protein powder you prefer and measure to equal between 15-25 grams of protein as is recommended; see above).
1 tbsp. almond butter
Dash of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. honey
2 tbsp. uncooked old fashioned oats
1 cup ice

Place all ingredients into blender and mix until smooth. Enjoy!
Printable recipe

Chocolate Banana Almond Butter (Shut your mouth good!) Protein Shake

1 cup light chocolate soy milk
1 banana
Protein powder (I use 3 tablespoons vanilla protein powder. Use whatever protein powder you prefer and measure to equal between 15-25 grams of protein as is recommended; see above).
1 tbsp. almond butter
2 tbsp. uncooked old fashioned oats
1 cup ice

Place all ingredients into blender and mix until smooth. Happy eating!
Printable recipe

Sources: http://www.active.com/nutrition/Articles/5-High-Protein-Foods-for-Optimal-Recovery.htm; http://www.active.com/nutrition/Articles/Recovery-Foods-that-Ease-Muscle-Soreness; http://www.usaswimming.org/ViewMiscArticle.aspx?TabId=1596&Alias=Rainbow&Lang=en&mid=196&ItemId=2640; http://sportsmedicine.about.com/od/hydrationandfluid/a/ProperHydration.htm; http://www.virtualmedicalcentre.com/healthandlifestyle/exercise-recovery/186#C6; http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/hydrate.html; http://www.active.com/nutrition/Articles/How-to-Hydrate-Before-During-and-After-a-Workout?page=2; http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/food-rebuild-muscle-after-exercise-3987.html; http://www.active.com/nutrition/Articles/Your-Post-Workout-Recovery-Ritual.htm

Frozen Greek Yogurt (Delish!) Bars

I’ve been craving ice cream lately. I think it’s my mind’s subconscious screaming “Let it be summer already!” (Especially considering we got ANOTHER 8 inches of snow this morning). So I wanted to make something that would fulfill my ice cream/summer craving, but still be healthy and nutritious, and maybe also versatile. That’s one of the great things about this recipe; you can eat it for breakfast, post-workout, or for a late-night snack. You can also tailor the ingredients to your liking or whatever you have in the house (you’ll see what I mean in a bit).

Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars
2 cups Greek yogurt (I used plain, but use your favorite flavor. Vanilla would be great for this recipe).
1-1/2 cup chopped fruit (I used a triple berry frozen fruit blend of blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. I chopped the blackberries and raspberries in half to make them slightly smaller).
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used a mix of pecans and almonds).
3/4 cup granola (Use whatever you have on hand, or your favorite blend. I used a vanilla almond granola).
1/2 tbsp. honey, for sweetness (optional)
1/4 cup dark chocolate mini chipFrozen Greek yogurt bar ingredients. Chopped pecans, granola, dark choclate chips, frozen triple berry blend, Greek yogurt, almonds.s

  1. Using a large bowl, place all ingredients into bowl and mix.
  2.  Line a 9×13” pan with foil.
  3.  Evenly spread yogurt mixture into pan.
  4.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least 3 hours.
  5.  Remove from freezer, let thaw for a few minutes. Remove from pan; remove foil and place on cutting board. Cut into “normal” granola bar size bars (1.5in x 5in, roughly).
  6. Store in an airtight container in the freezer, separated by wax paper or foil.

So here’s the deal: as I said above you can use whatever you want in making these. For example, maybe you feel like pineapple mango instead of the berries I used. Maybe you really like strawberries and almonds. Or maybe you want banana strawberry with walnuts and chocolate chips. Whatever you have in your freezer and cupboard will work! Just stick to the portion size so the consistency is there and you’re set. I also recommend letting these set overnight in the freezer to fully absorb the flavor, and let them thaw for about 5 minutes before you try and bite into them…you’ve been warned, they are rock hard otherwise. These bars make a perfect snack, healthy and delicious, and will help your ice cream cravings. Enjoy!

Frozen Greek yogurt bars.