It’s no surprise that changing up and down through levels can bring with it low motivation, often we find it hard to realign or adapt and getting out of this rut can be challenging. It's an especially important message this week, but I've spoken to a massive amount of my clients over the last little while about how to naturally finding your way back to a better place. Motivation is key to remaining productive - being focused, achieving and accomplishing tasks in our daily lives.
How do you know if you are lacking in motivation?
Did you answer 'yes' to one or more to the above statements? Then let me introduce you to a key player - dopamine. Dopamine lives within our brain as a messenger (neurotransmitter) and it is also a 'happy hormone'.
When we have low levels of this hormone, we can feel fatigued, lack empathy, unfocused, forgetful, moody, you can’t concentrate, you can’t sleep, crave sugar and of course, become low in motivation. Sounds familiar?
The go-getters of life, look for ways to get that dopamine fix, which can bring a ton of unhealthy choices - smoking, caffeine, sugary and fatty foods. Eventually, these addictive behaviours make us even more deficient in our natural levels of dopamine - especially in the long term.
So, if you have identified with some of these symptoms or are a go-getter, what can you do to naturally boost your dopamine levels?
1. Eat foods rich in Tyrosine. In order to make dopamine, your body needs tyrosine which can be found in almonds, bananas, avocados, eggs, beans, fish, and chicken. If you don't eat these foods you can also seek out a supplement from your local pharmacy.
2. Exercise regularly. In general, physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. It increases the production of new brain cells, slows down brain cell aging, can increase your levels of dopamine. Exercise has also been associated with improved mood and overall a better outlook on life.
3. Learn to meditate. The overall health benefits of meditation have been demonstrated through hundreds of research studies. Many of those have shown that meditation increases dopamine leading to improved focus and concentration. Even if you’re new to meditation, there are many helpful guided meditations for beginners to help you get started.
4. Get a massage. It has long been suggested that one way to keep dopamine levels high is to avoid stress, which is nearly impossible in this day and age. To counter the effects of stress, research has demonstrated that massage therapy increases dopamine levels by nearly 30% while decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone) levels.
5. Sleep. To ensure that your brain increases dopamine naturally, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep. This includes setting aside time before bed away from the computer or TV screen. Sleep helps all the cells in the body repair and renew. It gives the brain a chance to wash away toxins that build up during the day and helps keep the nerve cell connections and pathways active and constantly self-renewing. Lack of sleep has been shown to reduce concentrations of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, and their receptors.
6. Listen to music. It is no surprise that listening to calming music can increase pleasurable feelings, improve mood, reduce stress, and help with focus and concentration. Research has demonstrated that much of this is achieved due to an increase in dopamine levels.
Wave goodbye to winter! Down on the farm Mum said the baby calves and lambs are playing all over the place!
In the urbs at my place, flowers are in full bloom ☀️🐣🐑.
I Love Daylight savings. Gives that extra bit of light to play with.
Not so ideal circumstances - that C word has put a spanner in the exercise department and so, we have a tip!
When we ease into our exercise and give the body time to become accustomed (adapt) to what we are asking of it injuries can STAY AWAY.
John* had been out for a few runs post the 'c' word, and found he was trying to do the same distance he was doing back in Feb. John is used to running 5kms, several times a week, at a strong pace and was quick. Now, five months later with the time off, his sciatica came back with vengeance within a week of running. John was frustrated as he knows he used to run this distance and at a quicker pace with no issues before.
We had a chat about his running and found that John went straight back into it.
Do you struggle with the same thing and battle with mind ready vs body ready !
Yes, the mind wants you to get back into it, but more importantly we need to understand where our body is CURRENTLY at. When we run, our body (muscles, bones, discs, tendons and ligaments) is putting up with forces 5-7 times our bodyweight.
With any substantial period of time off from running, the body will have lost fitness, strength and power. Coming back into exercising, we need to ease into it gradually, so that the body has time to adapt, otherwise we become susceptible to injury or in John’s case - sciatica.
For John, we looked at modifying his run to just 2 kms with a 3km walk - as he really wanted to keep with the 5kms. John is using this approach for at least 2 weeks and then slowly he will add 500- 1km onto his run for another 2 weeks and repeat, until he gets to the 5kms. This is giving John's body time to adapt and better cope with the stresses when running. John could then look at either adding more distance or working on his speed.
If you're a bit like John and trying to exercise just like you used too after a period of time off and things are playing up we can help and get you going in the right direction.
*please seek professional guidance on your individual circumstances.
Squats. Are you cringing or are you at one with them?
Squats are something you can do to help prepare for labour and the extra pressure your body is under during pregnancy. So we're big advocates for squats around here.
Massage Therapy alleviates pain, fatigue and improves your performance!
You've challenged yourself, pushed a little bit harder - and now your paying for it.
You've gone and got yo'self DOMS!
Let's break it down - Delayed onset muscle soreness - which is delayed onset occurs within the first 24 hours after strenuous or exhaustive exercise and gawd do you feel it when it peaks between that 24 -72 hour period! (Guo, 2017).
DOMS comes with
- muscle swelling and reduction in performance ( (Kargarfard et al., 2016; De Marchi et al., 2017)
- decreased range of motion (Cheung et al., 2003; Lavender and Nosaka, 2006)
Why it happens? It's unclear. The most accepted theory is that there is mechanical damage induced by exercise, which creates inflammation (to heal the damage). Which then results in your achy symptoms.
Therapeutic massage therapy has been around for thousands of years, world wide and is used to alleviate the symptoms of DOMS.
Massage Therapy aids in:
This results in great physical benefits such as:
There is also psychological benefits:
Robust evidence shows Massage Therapy is effective for alleviating DOMS, as well as increasing muscle performance. Especially after 48 hours post exercise. (Gou, 2017)
Cheung K., Hume P., Maxwell L. (2003). Delayed onset muscle soreness: treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Med. 33, 145–164. 10.2165/00007256-200333020-00005De Marchi T., Schmitt V. M., da Silva Fabro D. C., da Silva L. L., Sene J., Tairova O., et al. . (2017). Phototherapy for improvement of performance and exercise recovery: comparison of 3 commercially available devices. J. Athl. Train. 52, 429–438. 10.4085/1062-6050-52.2.09
Guo, J., Li, L., Gong, Y., Zhu, R., Xu, J., Zou, J., & Chen, X. (2017). Massage Alleviates Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness after Strenuous Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Physiology, 8, 747. http://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2017.00747
Kargarfard M., Lam E. T., Shariat A., Shaw I., Shaw B. S., Tamrin S. B. (2016). Efficacy of massage on muscle soreness, perceived recovery, physiological restoration and physical performance in male bodybuilders. J. Sports Sci. 34, 959–965. 10.1080/02640414.2015.1081264
Lavender A. P., Nosaka K. (2006). Changes in fluctuation of isometric force following eccentric and concentric exercise of the elbow flexors. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 96, 235–240. 10.1007/s00421-005-0069-5
It used to be said that getting a sports massage will help to flush out your 'lactic acid build up' in your muscles”.
Well, I am here to tell you that, this statement should have left our mouths years ago and in fact, everyone should all think of lactic acid as our ‘back up’ fuel source.
If we look at basic physiology, massage is unable to squeeze out the lactic acid from our muscles because lactic acid is recycled within our bodies as part of an important energy process called glycolysis.
Let’s look at an example. Say you raced your friend to the car.
Due to the speed you run, your muscles would be screaming out for oxygen to help keep up with the energy demand, but because your body could not get enough oxygen in – lactic acid was produced.
Where does lactic acid come from?
On a cellular level, there is a process called glycolysis, which helps to convert glucose into energy. Glucose will turn into pyruvate acid. If no oxygen is available pyruvate acid ferments and converts to lactic acid - called anaerobic metabolism. This lactic acid is your ‘back up’ fuel system. When you first start to sprint within 6 seconds, any energy stored in the muscle depletes, a 10 seconds window where muscle will use any available creatine to make energy and then around 30-40 seconds glucose stored in the muscles will be broken down into pyruvate and due to the lack of oxygen, it will undergo fermentation and be converted into lactic acid which will provide you with a couple of minutes more of energy to get you there quicker than your friend.
When the sprint ended and you go to the car, you would have found your body trying to get as much oxygen in as possible - this is called EPOC - Excess Postexercise oxygen consumption - aka I NEED OXYGEN! Once the oxygen becomes replenished in your muscles, your breathing rate slows down and then repayment begins.
What happens to lactic acid?
Any lactic acid circulating in the blood which was not used for energy is readily then converted back to pyruvate acid in the muscles and enter the pay as you go system - the aerobic pathway, where tonnes of energy is produced for body function. Even typing this I am using this pathway.
You can now see that lactic acid does not linger in our muscles and that in fact it gets recycled back into pyruvate to enter the aerobic pathway where there is plenty of oxygen or the liver may convert it back to be stored as glycogen, only to be release if blood sugar levels are low.
It is well known that exercise can help with the management of chronic pain, but it is often met with uncertainty of what to do. Sometimes homework given in the form of physical activity just does not happen. So when the words, "you must do these exercises" come out of the mouth of health professionals, what goes through your mind?
Being prescribed exercises for your rehabilitation are given from Health professionals who have the best interests at heart - they want you to get better. But what happens if there is a mismatch?
As the weather gets warmer, so does the aim to get out and about and ENJOY the weather! If you have taken to hibernation this winter the best advice is ‘steady as she goes’ – gradually building your fitness up over time is the key to reducing injury. When you are starting out on an exercise regime it is a good idea to know how to appropriately load the body so that it can adapt to the increased forces you are now asking of it.
Load does not just mean the amount of weights you lift, it also can be the amount of activity you do a week, how long you do it for (duration), how fast or slow you do it (speed) and we also have to remember adequate rest – the most important part of load management where you make your biggest gains.
If you suffer from things such as cardiovascular issues or you are new to exercise? It is always a good idea to check in with the doctor and get a W.O.F before embarking on any exercise programme.
Proof you have pushed yourself
Can’t hold your arm up high enough to brush your teeth? Getting up off the couch and taking that first step a bit ‘ouchy’? Chances are you’ve pushed yourself a bit further than your body is accustomed to and you’re in a lot of pain, so congratulations on your workout and we wish you the best of luck walking down the stairs for the rest of the week!!
What is DOMS?
DOMS stands for delayed onset of muscle soreness and it’s got stealthy tactics. Essentially 6-8 hours post exercise you’ll start feeling it and it will definitely be felt when it peaks around the 48 hours mark, even more so if you’ve performed anything eccentric. "Eccentric" is when your muscle is contracting at the same time it is being lengthened. For example you walk up a steep hill and you have sore calves, or run downhill and your hammies and glutes are sore, leg day 'can't get off the toilet' or after several bouts of lowering yourself slowly under control from a pull up, you pretty much feel sore everywhere! (let's be honest).
Why does it happen?
Exercise places a large amount of stress on muscle tissue. Microscopically that stress has resulted in “micro tears” that is accompanied by inflammation (part of the healing process) which causes your pain.
Should I be worried?
Not at all. The aches and pains you are experiencing should be minor. It is a tell-tale sign your muscles are adapting, so take it as encouragement you have had a good work out!!
Will I ever be at the stage where I will not get DOMS?
Yes – if you don’t challenge your body you won't get any adaption in strength and fitness so you won't suffer any pain but you will in plenty of other ways (that's a different topic altogether). We all want to be awesome, so really the answer is No. No one is ‘immune’, it affects the weekend warriors to elite athletes. I guess this is where the "no pain, no gain" comes from in exercise (not massage by the way) - essentially the stronger you get the more inclined you are to go harder, which will result in DOMS but that’s what you want.
Is there anything that can help me? What can I do?
There is nothing proven to stomp DOMS out, but here are some #topnotchtips to help alleviate that soreness.
1. Keep it up – regular exercise will diminish that soreness as your muscles will adapt and become stronger. But there is a catch, if you challenge your muscles again or too soon you will experience DOMS.
2. Do a proper cool down – No I am serious do a proper cool down. 10 minutes max will do it, choose anything such as a light jog, or a walk and then finish with specific stretches targeting the muscles you have just used.
3. Active recovery – Do a lighter workout THE NEXT DAY, keep that bod’n’motion so to speak, and it is crucial you can talk and hold a conversation whilst you are doing this workout so that you keep it 'light'.
4. Get a sports massage. Come and see us at Top Notch, we regularly see people who are suffering from DOMS post exercise – we assist in the recovery process by reducing your pain. Massage reduces soreness when performed 2 hours post exercise (Hilbert, Sforzo, & Swensen (2002) & Ernst. E. (1998)).
1. Hilbert, J. E., Sforzo, G. A., & Swensen, T. (2002). The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness. British Journal of Sports Medicine (37) 72-75. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.37.1.72
2. Ernst. E. (1998). Does post-exercise massage treatment reduce delayed onset muscle soreness? A systemic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine (32) 212-214
If you ever have experienced this sudden intense pain, you will agree getting cramp can become extremely frustrating
We see a lot of our patients coming in regarding cramping especially in the calves (which is one of the most common places) and it makes no difference whether it be our ultramarathon runners, elite triathletes, the recreational fitness fanatic, our desk jockeys, musicians or our mums to be. It can affect everyone.
What it is not proven - Debunking the Myths
Muscle cramping mythology is said to be linked to having low electrolyte concentration after exercise, becoming dehydrated or exposed to extreme weather conditions, such as hot and humid environments, but these 'theories' which are widely promulgated are only said to be anecdotal clinical observations which have never been proven.
What is proven
Accumulating evidence suggest it is has a neuromuscular basis. Firstly it is associated with how the muscle is contracted through nerve stimulation. Secondly, it is associated with how sensory receptors (muscle spindles and Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) play a key role in controlling the muscles length and state of relaxation (muscle tone) after exercise. For example when sensory receptors are exposed to such things as faulty posture, shortened muscles, intense exercise, and exercise to fatigue; it results in ramping up these sensory receptors to increase muscle activity, this provokes a neural response similar to a contraction and causes cramp.
What attributes to cramping
High Intensity exercise
Exercising for a long duration
Performing high mechanical loads, such as Hill running
Conditions causing premature fatigue due to going too hard too fast or being unfit
Poor stretching habits and/or flexibility
Two-joint muscles such as your calves and hammies. The most commonly affected is the calves
A genetic predispostion for cramping in your family history
Muscle stretching - this is your first port of call. Slow passive stretching is the most common and effective therapy for relieving acute muscle cramps as this ideally acts on a certain sensory receptor called the GTO which works to inhibit cramp.
To lessen the affects of cramping here are some useful strategies to implement.
1. Have a good warm up, followed by a well-controlled exercise session (avoid going too hard too soon), a good cool down with stretches and adequate rest.
2. How's your fitness? Are you fit enough to perform the activity and are you giving your body enough time to adapt to your training programme?
3. Commence regular stretching - the team at Top Notch Massage and Health can show you the right stretching relaxation technique that you can perform at home during your next massage session.
Other strategies such as incorporating plyometrics or eccentric muscle training, maintaining adequate carbohydrate reserves during competition still remain speculative.
Bently. S. (1996). Exercise-Induced muscle cramp. Journal of Sports Medicine, 21(6), 409-420.
Hoffman, M.D., & Stuempfle, K.J. (2015). Muscle cramping. Journal of Sports Medicine. Unpublished.
Schwellnus. M. P. (2008). Cause of exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC) - Altered neuromuscular control, dehydration or electrolyte depletion? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 43, 401-408. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2008.050401