How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym

By

When I first started training for marathons a little over ten years ago, my coach told me something I’ve never forgotten: that I would need to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I didn’t know it at the time, but that skill, cultivated through running, would help me as much, if not more, off the road as it would on it.

It’s not just me, and it’s not just running. Ask anyone whose day regularly includes a hard bike ride, sprints in the pool, a complex problem on the climbing wall, or a progressive powerlifting circuit, and they’ll likely tell you the same: A difficult conversation just doesn’t seem so difficult anymore. A tight deadline not so intimidating. Relationship problems not so problematic.

Maybe it’s that if you’re regularly working out, you’re simply too tired to care. But that’s probably not the case. Research shows that, if anything, physical activity boosts short-term brain function and heightens awareness. And even on days they don’t train — which rules out fatigue as a factor — those who habitually push their bodies tend to confront daily stressors with a stoic demeanor. While the traditional benefits of vigorous exercise — like prevention and treatment of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and osteoporosis — are well known and often reported, the most powerful benefit might be the lesson that my coach imparted to me: In a world where comfort is king, arduous physical activity provides a rare opportunity to practice suffering.

Few hone this skill better than professional endurance and adventure athletes, who make a living withstanding conditions others cannot. For my column with Outside Magazine, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing the world’s top endurance and adventure athletes on the practices underlying their success. Regardless of sport, the most resounding theme, by far, is that they’ve all learned how to embrace uncomfortable situations:

• Olympic marathoner Des Linden told me that at mile 20 of 26.2, when the inevitable suffering kicks in, through years of practice she’s learned to stay relaxed and in the moment. She repeats the mantra: “calm, calm, calm; relax, relax, relax.”

• World-champion big-wave surfer Nic Lamb says being uncomfortable, and even afraid, is a prerequisite to riding four-story waves. But he also knows it’s “the path to personal development.” He’s learned that while you can pull back, you can almost always push through. “Pushing through is courage. Pulling back is regret,” he says.

• Free-soloist Alex Honnold explains that, “The only way to deal with [pain] is practice. [I] get used to it during training so that when it happens on big climbs, it feels normal.”

• Evelyn Stevens, the women’s record holder for most miles cycled in an hour (29.81 – yes, that’s nuts), says that during her hardest training intervals, “instead of thinking I want these to be over, I try to feel and sit with the pain. Heck, I even try to embrace it.”

• Big-mountain climber Jimmy Chin, the first American to climb up — and then ski down — Mt. Everest’s South Pillar Route, told me an element of fear is there in everything he does, but he’s learned how to manage it: “It’s about sorting out perceived risk from real risk, and then being as rational as possible with what’s left.”

But you don’t need to scale massive vertical pitches or run five-minute miles to reap the benefits. Simply training for your first half marathon or CrossFit competition can also yield huge dividends that carry over into other areas of life. In the words of Kelly Starrett, one of the founding fathers of the CrossFit movement, “Anyone can benefit from cultivating a physical practice.” Science backs him up.

A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that college students who went from not exercising at all to even a modest program (just two to three gym visits per week) reported a decrease in stress, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, an increase in healthy eating and maintenance of household chores, and better spending and study habits. In addition to these real-life improvements, after two months of regular exercise, the students also performed better on laboratory tests of self-control. This led the researchers to speculate that exercise had a powerful impact on the students’ “capacity for self-regulation.” In laypeople’s terms, pushing through the discomfort associated with exercise — saying “yes” when their bodies and minds were telling them to say “no” — taught the students to stay cool, calm, and collected in the face of difficulty, whether that meant better managing stress, drinking less, or studying more.

For this reason, the author Charles Duhigg, in his 2012 bestseller The Power of Habit, calls exercise a “keystone habit,” or a change in one area life that brings about positive effects in other areas. Duhigg says keystone habits are powerful because “they change our sense of self and our sense of what is possible.” This explains why the charity Back on My Feet uses running to help individuals who are experiencing homelessness improve their situations. Since launching in 2009, Back on My Feet has had over 5,500 runners, 40 percent of whom have gained employment after starting to run with the group and 25 percent of whom have found permanent housing. This is also likely why it’s so common to hear about people who started training for a marathon to help them get over a divorce or even the death of a loved one.

Another study, this one published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, evaluated how exercise changes our physiological response to stress. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in Germany, divided students into two groups at the beginning of the semester and instructed half to run twice a week for 20 weeks. At the end of the 20 weeks, which coincided with a particularly stressful time for the students — exams — the researchers had the students wear heart-rate monitors to measure their heart-rate variability, which is a common indicator of physiological stress (the more variability, the less stress). As you might guess by now, the students who were enrolled in the running program showed significantly greater heart-rate variability. Their bodies literally were not as stressed during exams: They were more comfortable during a generally uncomfortable time.

What’s remarkable and encouraging about these studies is that the subjects weren’t exercising at heroic intensities or volumes. They were simply doing something that was physically challenging for them – going from no exercise to some exercise; one need not be an elite athlete or fitness nerd to reap the bulletproofing benefits of exercise.

Why does any of this matter? For one, articles that claim prioritizing big fitness goals is a waste of time (exhibit A: “Don’t Run a Marathon) are downright wrong. But far more important than internet banter, perhaps a broader reframing of exercise is in order. Exercise isn’t just about helping out your health down the road, and it’s certainly not just about vanity. What you do in the gym (or on the roads, in the ocean, etc.) makes you a better, higher-performing person outside of it. The truth, cliché as it may sound, is this: When you develop physical fitness, you’re developing life fitness, too.

Brad Stulberg is a columnist for Outside Magazine, where he writes about health and the science of human performance. Follow him on Twitter @Bstulberg.

Reward Yourself at CEO Challenges; Complex Knee Injuries in Pro Athletes; NBA vs NFL Injuries

Episode 16.34 with Hosts Steve Kashul and Dr. Brian Cole. Broadcasting on ESPN Chicago 1000 WMVP-AM Radio, Saturdays from 8:30 to 9:00 AM/c.

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Segment One:  The President of CEO Challenges, Ted Kennedy talks about the Camaraderie, Experience & Opportunity provided by CEO Challenges. Meet and compete with fellow C-suite executives that share your passion and interests. You’ll start out as strangers and finish as lifelong friends.

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Ted’s background is unique in the fitness industry and includes the following highlights:

  • 20 years in sales and marketing with packaged goods companies (Quaker Oats / Best Foods)
  • One of the original founders of IRONMAN North America (launching IRONMAN races in the USA)
  • Hosted the first ever CEO IRONMAN Challenge in Lake Placid in 2001
  • Started CEO Challenges with an exclusive license deal from IRONMAN in 2005
  • Sold his company to $1.4 billion Life Time Fitness in 2012 with the agreement to run it for five years

Ted has been interviewed by most major business news and fitness publications for hisCEO Challenges knowledge and relationship with CEOs that have a passion for endurance events. The CEO Challenge database includes 1,900 opt-in subscribers who receive monthly newsletters with race results and announcing new CEO Challenge events around the world. CEO Challenges enjoys an 83% post-event rating of ‘exceeded’ or ‘far exceeded’ expectations from some of the world’s most discerning customers.


nfl-knee-injurySegment Two: Dr. Brian Cole discusses the prevalence and his experience with
cartilage and complex knee issues in professional athletes; new techniques in dealing with the long recovery times; load related activity & pain management.


Segment Three:  Captain Matthew T. Provencher, MD MC USN with the Steadman Philippon Research Institute and Head Team Physician with the New England Patriots during their 2014 Super Bowl Championship Season. Dr. Provencher talks with Steve and Dr. Cole about his work in research; NBA vs NFL injuries and experience in setting up the Navy Seal Special Forces Tactical Athlete program.

Matthew T. ProvencherDr. Provencher graduated in 1993 with highest honors from the United States Naval Academy and was the Secretary of the Navy Distinguished Graduate, where he was an all-American rower. He earned his medical degree with Honors from Dartmouth Medical School in 1998.

He has served as Chief of Sports Medicine at The Massachusetts General since April 2013 and has been with the Patriots for the last two seasons. He also serves as a Professor of Surgery and Orthopaedics at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) and is a Visiting Professor at The Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Provencher completed his orthopaedic residency at the Naval Medical Center San Diego and his orthopaedic shoulder knee and sports surgery fellowship at Rush University in Chicago. A prolific researcher, he has received numerous academic and research awards including the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) Aircast Award, The International Society of Arthroscopy, Knee Surgery and Orthopaedic Sports Medicine (ISAKOS) Science Award.

He was also selected for several prestigious traveling fellowships, including the AOSSM Asia-Pacific, the American Orthopaedic Association (AOA) John Fahey North American Traveling Fellowship, and the American-British-Canadian (ABC) Fellowship. In addition, he has received multiple peer-reviewed research grants totaling over $1.5M to study topics such as shoulder instability, rotator cuff injuries, and ACL tears from funding agencies including, OREF, PRORP, and The Department of the Army and Navy.

Discover Your Health with Biostrap

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Most wearables utilize a very basic PPG sensor capable of capturing your heart rate during moderate activity. Their signal, however is completely binary – counting only that a beat occurred. Our system is different – instead of checking your pulse at all times, we check while you’re still, allowing us to capture high-fidelity, raw PPG waveforms. These waveforms are the same kind that your doctor uses to evaluate your heart’s health. That’s why our device is being utilized by doctors and clinicians to monitor their patients.

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What Is Rotator Cuff Tendinitis?

Highlights

  1. Rotator cuff tendinitis, or tendonitis, occurs when the tendons and muscles that help move the shoulder joint are inflamed or irritated.
  2. It commonly occurs in people who play sports that frequently require extending the arm over the head.
  3. Most people with rotator cuff tendinitis can regain full function of the shoulder without any pain after treatment.

Rotator-Cuff-TendonitisRotator cuff tendinitis, or tendonitis, affects the tendons and muscles that help move the shoulder joint. If you have tendinitis, it means that your tendons are inflamed or irritated. Rotator cuff tendinitis is also called impingement syndrome.

This condition usually occurs over time. It can be the result of keeping the shoulder in one position for a while, sleeping on the shoulder every night, or participating in activities that require extending the arm over the head.

Athletes playing sports that require extending the arm over the head commonly develop rotator cuff tendinitis. This is why the condition may also be referred to as:

  • swimmer’s shoulder
  • pitcher’s shoulder
  • tennis shoulder

Sometimes, rotator cuff tendinitis can occur without any known cause. Most people with rotator cuff tendinitis are able to regain full function of the shoulder without any pain.

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What Are the Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tendinitis?

The symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis tend to get worse over time. Initial symptoms may be relieved with rest, but the symptoms can later become constant. Symptoms that go past the elbow usually indicate another problem.

Symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis include:

  • pain and swelling in the front of the shoulder and side of the arm
  • pain triggered by raising or lowering the arm
  • a clicking sound when raising the arm
  • stiffness
  • pain that causes you to wake from sleep
  • pain when reaching behind the back
  • a loss of mobility and strength in the affected arm

How Is Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Diagnosed?

If you’re having symptoms of rotator cuff tendinitis, your doctor will begin by examining your shoulder. You’ll be checked to see where you’re feeling pain and tenderness. Your doctor will also test your range of motion by asking you to move your arm in certain directions.

Your doctor may also test the strength of your shoulder joint by asking you to press against their hand. They may also examine your neck to check for conditions such as a pinched nerve or arthritis that can cause symptoms similar to rotator cuff tendinitis.

Your doctor may order imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis of rotator cuff tendinitis and rule out any other causes of your symptoms. An X-ray may be ordered to see if you have a bone spur. Your doctor may order an ultrasound or MRI to check for inflammation in the rotator cuff and to check for any tearing.

How Is Rotator Cuff Tendinitis Treated?

Initial treatment of rotator cuff tendinitis involves managing pain and swelling to promote healing. This can be done by:

  • avoiding activities that cause pain
  • applying cold packs to your shoulder three to four times per day
  • taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen

Additional treatment may include:

Physical Therapytherapy

Your doctor may also refer you to a physical therapist. Physical therapy will initially
consist of stretching and other passive exercises to help restore range of motion and ease pain. Once the pain is under control, your physical therapist will teach you exercises to help regain strength in your arm and shoulder.

Steroids

If your rotator cuff tendinitis is not being managed by more conservative treatment, your doctor may recommend a steroid injection. This is injected into the tendon to reduce inflammation, which reduces pain.

Surgery

If nonsurgical treatment isn’t successful, your doctor may recommend surgery. Most people experience full recovery after having rotator cuff surgery. The most noninvasive form of shoulder surgery is accomplished via arthroscopy. This involves two or three small cuts around the shoulder, through which your doctor will insert various instruments. One of these instruments will have a camera, so your surgeon can view the damaged tissue through the small incisions.

Open shoulder surgery is usually not required for rotator cuff tendinitis. However, this method may be used if there are other problems in the shoulder, such as a large tendon tear. Surgery involves recovery that consists of rest and physical therapy to restore strength and range of motion.

Home Care for Your Shoulder

There are several things you can do to help reduce pain from rotator cuff tendinitis. These techniques can also help prevent rotator cuff tendinitis or another flare-up of pain.

Shoulder self-care includes:

  • using good posture while sitting
  • avoiding lifting your arms repetitively over your head
  • taking breaks from repetitive activities
  • avoiding sleeping on the same side every night
  • avoiding carrying a bag on only one shoulder
  • carrying things close to your body

By Janelle Martel for Healthline

What does it take to Compete in Iron Man?; Customized Nutrition to Reduce Inflammation

Episode 16.21 with Hosts Steve Kashul and Dr. Brian Cole. Broadcasting on ESPN Chicago 1000 WMVP-AM Radio, Saturdays from 8:30 to 9:00 AM/c.

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Segment One: Robbie Ventura from Vision Quest Coaching talks about what it takes to train for Iron Man Competition.

Robbie Ventura is the founder and owner of Vision Quest Coaching. With a talented staff of world-class coaches, VQ provides expert training programs for over 300 endurance athletes of all levels, kids and beginners to elite-level, Tour de France champions.

Robbie graduated with honors from Lake Forest College with a double major in Business and Psychology. While working toward his Bachelor’s degree, he played on the Forester hockey team, which advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and was named to the All-American Collegiate Cycling Team. In 2008, he was inducted into the LFC Athletic Hall of Fame for his accomplishments in both hockey and cycling.

Robbie was a professional cyclist for 12 years. A competitive racer on the dirt, road and track since the age of 7, Ventura amassed over 70 victories during his professional career, was a member of the U.S. World Team and rode the Track World Championships in Hamar, Norway, placing 5th in the elimination.


Segment Two: Cole Cruz from Coalition Training talks about the importance of customizing your diet to reduce inflammation.

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Related: 11 Food Rules For The Ultimate Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Evaluating Pro Athletes Fitness to Play; Limiting Pitch Counts for HS Pitchers; The Importance of Multiplanar Training

Episode 16.19 with Hosts Steve Kashul and Dr. Brian Cole. Broadcasting on ESPN Chicago 1000 WMVP-AM Radio, Saturdays from 8:30 to 9:00 AM/c.

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Segment One: Dr. Cole and Dr. Bush-Joseph compare their experience as head team physician for the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox respectively, evaluating player fitness to play and potential risk of injury, during the recruiting process. Dr. Bush-Joseph is a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School in 1983, and is currently a Professor at Rush University Medical Center and the Associate Director of the Rush Orthopaedic Sports Medicine Fellowship Program.

Charles Bush-Joseph, M.D.Dr. Bush-Joseph is a respected educator of medical students, residents, fellows, and practicing orthopedic surgeons lecturing at numerous national educational meetings. He serves on the editorial board of several national orthopedic journals (including the prestigious American Journal of Sports Medicine) and holds committee responsibilities with several national orthopedic societies including the American Academy of Orthopaedics Surgeons and the American Orthopaedic Society Sports Medicine.


Segment Two: Steve and Dr. Cole talk about the recent change in regulations to limit pitch counts for high school baseball pitchers; the importance of cross training, rest and core strength training in preseason workouts to help minimize the risk of shoulder and elbow overuse injuries and young players; how these injuries and surgeries at the high school level can prevent players from progressing to higher levels of play.

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Segment Three:  Chris Garcia  from ATIPT talks about the Importance of Multiplanar Training.

The activities of running, swimming, and to a lesser extent, cycling all require someThe Importance of Multiplanar Training amount of movement and control in all three dimensions. Despite this, many cross training programs don’t include exercises that involve all three dimensions. For instance, many running programs focus on the sagittal plane (squats, lunges, leg press, and calf raises) and neglect the transverse (side to side) and frontal (rotational) planes.

Most natural human movement is executed in all three dimensions. These three dimensions, or planes of movement, are sagittal, frontal, and transverse. The sagittal plane is forward and backwards movement such as the leg movement with walking. The frontal plane is sideways movement such as jumping jacks. The transverse plane is rotational movement such as rotating your hip or shoulder during a throwing motion.

With running the primary movement occurs in the sagittal plane but one needs to be able to stabilize in the frontal and transverse plane in order to be efficient, powerful, and sustainable. Many of the injuries seen with running are related to too much movement in the frontal or transverse plane. Over pronation, inward collapse of the knee, or an opposite side hip drop are all problems of control in either the frontal or transverse plane.

Biking has its own challenges with lower extremity movement in the sagittal plane but stability needing to come from the upper body by controlling twisting and side bending forces. Many injuries are related to poor fit or alignment of the bike components but many others are related to the mismatch in lower extremity force production and stability of the torso.

Swimming (freestyle) requires sagittal plane lower extremity movement, transverse plane spinal movement/stability, and tri-planar movement of the upper extremities. Many repetitive strain injuries are related to poor stability or control of movement in the lower back and scapula area or a lack of mobility of the upper back or shoulder.

Improving strength and power output through resistance training can improve performance in all of these sports but neglecting the frontal and transverse plane is a common mistake that can actually increase ones risk of injury. Below are several options for developing strength and control in the frontal and transverse planes.

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