Staying Fit Through An Injury

photo 3Suffering from an injury can be a devastating and stressful experience, especially if that injury leaves one immobile and requires surgery. Recently, my sister, Cassandra broke her femur in an intramural softball game at the University of Tennessee. She was taken to the ER where the x-rays revealed she needed immediate surgery. After surgery, the doctors told my sister that she was going to be on crutches for at least 3 months and she could not put any weight on her leg. It was also recommended that she move around as little as possible (outside of physical therapy), which was also very upsetting to hear since she is an avid runner and regular yogi. Cassandra called me up and asked, “How do I not gain weight while I am recovering?” A common stress that many people experience with an injury is weight gain. This is primarily due to the fact that an injured person no longer has the luxury of burning extra calories throughout the day from physical activity and exercise.

Here are some tips I shared with her as well as some of her own tips for those recovering from an injury and wanting to stay healthy:

Say “No thanks” to comfort food! People know that you are hurt and want to make you feel good by making your favorite dishes or bringing you your favorite desserts. Comfort foods like mac n cheese, ice cream and pizza are often high-carb, high-calorie menu items and would not make the best menu choices if you’re being mindful of your caloric intake. Over doing it on these types of food is certainly a way to see a few pounds increase on the scale.

• Load up on fruits and vegetables. Instead of snacking on chips, crackers or granola bars, Cassandra made sure to have plenty of raw fruits and vegetables on hand to choose for snacks, make in smoothies and handle any sweet or crunchy cravings she would get.

Choose protein-rich foods. Protein is essential in the healing process as it helps rebuild damaged tissue. Fuel up on lean, wholesome protein sources such as Greek yogurt, nuts, chicken, eggs, fish, cottage cheese or even whey protein powder to make smoothies.

Don’t sleep in. Since she was unable to work and basically home-bound, sticking to a regular schedule can be tough. Cassandra kept her regular bedtime and wake up at the same time as she would with her normal routine. Too much or too little sleep can adversely affect one’s hunger cues and sometimes can make you eat more calories than you really should be consuming during the 1

Don’t skip meals. In order to save some calories, many people try to skip meals. Cassandra states, “I made it a point to eat breakfast every morning.” This fires up one’s metabolism for the day, plus eating regular meals is important for fueling the body with the extra nutrients it needs when it’s healing.

• Stay positive! Having a positive attitude can help anyone get through some tough times. Extremely bummed that she could no longer attend her yoga sculpting classes, Cassandra researched  different yoga techniques that she could practice. She came across chair yoga exercises as well as some other poses she could still do with her broken femur.

“The person who sends out positive thoughts activates the world around him positively and draws back to himself positive results” –Norman Vincent Peale

Figge’s Favorite Things (Part One)

Julie Andrews has her raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Oprah endorses her list of goodies and gifts to give during the holiday season. Here is my personal list of favorite things to keep you happy and healthy this season.

pigeon pose1. Yoga Mat Back Pain. Does it need any more of an introduction? After years of putting up with my chronic back pain, I decided to see a physical therapist. I learned that I have extremely tight quads, hamstrings and hip flexors (mainly from sitting all day long at work) and my remedy was a simple, daily stretching routine. Since that visit, I am now stretching those muscles on a regular basis and my back hasn’t been complaining since. Using a yoga mat, my favorite stretches to perform are the couch stretch, pigeon pose and a deep runner’s lunge which all target my hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps muscles. You can usually find yoga mats for a cheaper price at stores like TJ Maxx or Gordmans.

2. Garlic Press This is a kitchen utensil that is used quite frequently in our household. It’s a quick, convenient way to add flavor to meat and vegetables dishes. In addition to flavor, garlic provides health benefits such as reducing cholesterol, helps prevent blood clots and has anti-cancer benefits.

ch-4dcFood processor I love my Cuisinart food processor. It’s a fantastic way to puree nutritious vegetables into soups and sauces.  

LW6A33S_011432_14. Lululemon Journey Crop  The Lululemon journey crop pants are by far my favorite workout pants I’ve ever had and they are perfect for any type of workout. The quality of the fabric far surpasses other brands of fitness attire and I’ve had some of my Lululemon pants for as long as 6 years.

bbcl_28_bk_15. Blender Bottle This is a perfect way to consume your protein shake after a great workout. I purchased my blender bottle from Bed Bath and Beyond and was able to use my 20% off coupon on it.

51BMhLEFqwL._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_6. Against All Grain cookbook  This is one of my favorite cookbooks and my favorite website to go to for grain-free and dairy-free meals. These meals are great for individuals with food allergies to dairy or gluten or for those looking to create dishes that use minimally processed food ingredients.

Check out Part 2 of Figge’s Favorite things.

Pu-Pu-Push it Real Good!

If you had only 20 minutes to workout, what would be the best exercises to do to fill that time frame? Is it a crunch? How about the treadmill? Or does it possibly include that funny leg machine (a machine I particularly do not care for, but that can be explained in another blog post)? While the best workouts challenge all the major muscles of the body, there are a few exercises that rise triumphantly to the short-time-to-workout challenge. They include the Push-Up, the Plank and the Squat. Unfortunately, many of us developed an adverse relationship to these exercises from the days we took elementary PE. Learning the benefits, variations and different levels of application of these exercises will hopefully reignite your passion for these exercises.

Anatomy of a push-up

Proper Push-Up Techniques

Proper Push-Up Techniques

The push-up is a phenomenal exercise. It challenges the core, chest, triceps and even the front part of the shoulder. There are hundreds of variations and modifications to this exercise making it effective for exercisers of all fitness levels. Taking your knees to the ground shortens the lever length, which can make this exercise easier. To make it harder, try having your feet suspended in TRX bands. Don’t have the bands? No problem. You can simply elevate your feet using any raised platform or add additional movements with the exercise. Try a combination of push-up + jump knee tuck or push-up + jumping jack feet. Remember to breathe throughout the exercise; inhale on the way down, exhale as you push-up.

Modification Tip: If doing push-ups on your toes is too hard, but doing them on your knees is not hard enough, try this tip: begin in the up-plank phase on your toes. Lower your body into the push-up position. Then drop your knees to the floor to assist with the pushing up phase. Our muscles can take on a greater load during the eccentric movements of exercise (the going down part of the push-up) so this is a great way to effectively challenge your upper body muscles. Here is a great list of additional push-up exercises to try.

Drop it like a squat

Even as little tots, our bodies naturally follow proper form for a squat. As we get older, we tend to bend over to pick up things, versus squatting down. Remember to keep your chest elevated and your back flat when performing a squat. A simple technique to help you do this is by looking up rather than looking straight ahead. Maintain a straight back as you push your hips backwards and bend into the squat. Sometimes our anatomies get in the way of performing a good squat. Having your heels slightly elevated can help your body achieve the perfect squat. (Ladies, this is why squatting in heels is easier!)


Squat Tips

If you haven’t performed a squat in a long while, begin with your own body weight to help you establish good form. Our legs contain the largest muscles in our bodies. This is why it is important not to skip leg day because a large portion of our metabolically active tissue is found in our leg muscles. Leg muscles need to be challenged—and adding weight will not make your legs big. What you will notice is that they become more firm and sculpted. Here is a great leg workout created by Amy Dixon. I have personally taken many of her workout sessions at fitness conferences and love every single one of them!

Squats also come in myriad variations. You can narrow your stance (similar to chair pose in yoga) or turn your feet outward and sit straight down for a plié squat (dancer’s squat). Performing the squats with more weight or more quickly or adding a jump can all increase intensity. Here are some more squat ideas to try.

“Walk the plank!”

The plank is an exceptional exercise because it targets the core, as well as the upper and lower body. It doesn’t require a gym membership to perform, and the many variations of the plank will never leave you feeling bored with this exercise. The plank can be performed on your toes or knees. You can also move up and down with your upper body for another challenge (plank push-up).

To target the obliques, try a side plank variation. In the side plank position you can dip your hips down and up, curl your top arm down underneath you and back up or raise your top leg for added challenges. The question is, are you ready to challenge yourself?

This is why we plank.

This is why we plank.

Plank walkup to pushup

Plank walkup to pushup