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Yoga for running – stretching tight hamstrings

hamstring-forward-bend

The yoga pose “forward bend” is an excellent way for athletes to stretch their hamstrings

This is an excellent visual on the goings-on of the standing forward bend.  This pose is awesome for becoming friends with your hamstring.  Most athletes probably HATE this pose.  Those that practice yoga laugh, when we say we “hate” a pose, that’s usually the pose that we need to practice more than anything.

Doing this pose with some thoughts in mind, listed below, will help you to gain big benefits that will have a great impact on your running, as well as feeling better before and after running.  I’m mean really, who would love to have a back that doesn’t hurt?

Thanks for the picture, Daily Bandha.

What Athletes and runners need to know about forward bending:

  • Hinging at the hips is important.
    What this means for the runners; most likely the runner has either one or two tight hamstrings is that you MUST be patient at this stretch. If you are only bent at the hips a little bit, that’s ok. Practicing forward bending with a flat back. This helps you to focus on stretching the hamstrings and not involving the back too much.
  • Understand that the hamstrings are connected to the back.
    You have two hamstrings that are separate and can be different in length. So what are we talking about here? Tight hamstrings can cause the pelvis to tilt backward, which causes the lumbar spine to flatten out. And it really doesn’t like to be flattened out. The lumbar spine is designed to be curved (lordosis). To compensate, the back muscles and maybe the psoasis (etc) work (excessively) to correct the imbalance. You get this tug of war with the athlete ending up with a very sore and cranky back. Then add that one hamstring might be more tight than the other, which causes a side lilt in the pelvis as well. This results in the athlete having one side of the back more angry than the other. This imbalance continues up through the back and can cause shoulder and neck issues as well.
  • Do not get aggressive with forward bending.
    The hamstrings need to be treated like babies. They work alot. They probably have been neglected and expected to work a lot for little pay. If you stand a lot, they are constantly engaged. If you sit a lot, they get short and angry. So when you are working with the hamstrings and back in forward bending, always go slower, be more mindful. Ensure that when you are stretching the hamstrings, that you feel the stretch in the belly of the muscle, NOT in the back of the knee or at the sit bones.
  • Use a block.
    If you are working on lengthening the hamstrings and you are doing a standing forward bend, use the block. Some athletes are resistant to using the block because they feel like it’s an indication that they can’t do it “right”. Using the block can be necessary to get a good connection with whats going on in the hamstring and the back. If you do this, you will stretch better. If you stretch better, you will have a greater chance of the hamstrings becoming longer and staying that way. If you do that, you will have a greater chance of getting to not needing a block faster. So…use the block! Also, there is this interesting thing that happens if you use the block: Having your hand on the block, mildly engaging the upper body, feeling a bit of push off from the block helps you to engage the entire back fascia chain. This means that kinetically you get smarter, experience a more whole body response. And that feels AWESOME.

    Let’s be clear. In yoga, “not right” is whatever hurts your body. For the runners, you want your yoga practice to help you race, be strong and stay in the game.

  • Forward bending engages the parasympathetic nervous system.
    This calls you down. Turns off your body’s stress response. Most of us, the runners, are very driven and perhaps prone to “running at high speed” all the time. In the gym or at the office. Forward bending can be very nurturing for the body. If you allow yourself to slow down for a bit, and during your yoga practice don’t skip the boring and slow stuff, you allow your body to recharge, rest and recovery.

Here is a video for hamstrings. Enjoy.

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Maximize Nutrition with Proteins

Protein is a powerhouse of a macro nutritions

  • Helps to create muscles, organs, nails and hair
  • Helps your cells to communicate
  • Facilitates muscle contraction
  • Transmission of nerve signals
  • Protein makes up
    • Immune molecules
    • Blood cells
    • Hormones, Enzymes and new protein cells
Protein is made up of chains of amino acids and each protein has its own unique combination of amino acids.  This explains how proteins serve such a vast role in the body and emphasizes why it is CRITICAL that you get your protein from a variety of sources, as each offers something unique.  The body needs all of these things.

Amino acids are broken down to build tissue, signal metabolism and a plethora of other processes.

Fyi.  Your DNA (again, everyone is different ... ) tells the body how to create the right proteins for nearly EVERY PROCESS in the body that occurs.  In order for the body to accomplish what the DNA is "programmed" to do, there much be plenty of amino acids available.  Even missing just ONE amino acid will stop a protein from doing it's job.

There are 20 amino acids.

Many of the 20 amnio acids can be synthesized in the body.  There are eight amino acids that you are unable to make.  We must get them from our food, thus they are called the essential amino acids.  Fact: animal proteins contain all eight of these amino acids.  There are also several complete plant proteins, but not all of these proteins are available in these  non-animal foods.  The human body is not designed to absorb them.  This might lead to plant based protein eaters not getting all of what they need and leading to deficiencies if they are not aware of this fact and supplementing accordingly. FYI.  New studies are showing that it is not the "red meat" that is causing all the issues (cancer and heart disease), but the fat composition of the red meat.  So again, the quality of the meat can make a huge difference.  As with all things in the food chain, red meat serves a purpose and is beneficial if consumed correctly and cleanly.  Grass-fed happy cows and that are "handled well" would be a great example of a source of red meat that is "clean" and of high quality.

High quality protein

  • grass-fed beef
  • pasture raised eggs
  • wild-caught salmon
  • organic vegetables

Protein is an essential structural component of all hormones.

  1.  Protein is digested
  2. Insulin acts as a gas pedal
  3. Glucagon acts as the break
  4. Protein doesn't have much sugar in it so ... a lot of protein without "sugar" causes hypoglycemia (blood sugar drops)
  5. To slow insulin down, arginine (amino acid from protein), tells insulin to stop stealing all the glucose out of the bloodstream
  6. For those with insulin resistance, one meal a day with only protein helps to keep the blood sugar from swinging so much

How Much Protein Do You Need

Low Protein Diet (less than 50 grams a day)
  • Decreases prolactin, growth hormone, estrogen, thyroid hormones, and insulin
  • Stimulates the stress response
  • Increases body fat and fatty liver
High Protein Diet
  • Can be damaging to the kidneys
  • Increase in body fat
  • NON ATHLETES: more than one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight
Protein consumption might need to be unique per individual depending on the particular imbalances going on, such as being anemic. There are a lot of plant proteins that vary in amino acid composition and bioavailability.  This means how much protein the body is actually able to be digested and processed in the human body.  Please recognize that ALL proteins, plants as well ... are a food source for all animals.  Thus, in common sense terms, different plants and animals are designed to "feed" different animals more efficiently.  This is how mother nature works.  Just because we can pick it and eat it doesn't mean that we were designed to digest and utilize the plant nutrients.

Best Plant Proteins:  Complete and Highly Bioavailable

  • Spirulina
  • Hemp
  • Soy
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
Other plant proteins, while they aren't complete, when added to the above listed help to increase protein completeness and value.
  • Brown rice
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Tahini

It is not necessary to eat a complete protein at every meal, to work to ensure that you get all the amino acids (a variety of protein including a completely protein) every day.

Plant proteins ... the benefits

  • Provide a host of phytochemicals or plant nutrients = biologically beneficial compounds found in plants.
  • The deep colors
    • Bioflavonoids:  anti-oxidants that protect the body against stress
      • citrus, onions, tea, parlsey, wine, soy, and dark chocolate.
    • Isothiocyanate:  sulfur containing nutrients help fight cancer and combat stress in the body.
      • cruciferous vegetables:  broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and kale
    • Carotenoids:  Yellow and orange pigments that act as precursors to vitamin A such as beta-carotene and lycopene.  They may play a role in preventing some cancers.
      • Carrots, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes
    • Anthocyanins: Blue and purple pigments that are a form of flavonoid.  They scavenge free radicals and acts as antioxidants, helping to reduce stress in the body.  They may play a role in preventing heart disease.
      • Blueberries, edlerberries, blackberries, purple and red grapes
    • Polyphenols:  Flavonoid which prevent cancer cells from creating new blood vessels, reducing stress, protecting from ultraviolet radiation, reducing inflammation, and p rotecting the heart.
      • Tea, cinnamon, coffee and many fruits and vegetables
    • Chlorophyll:  green pigment found in all plants. Component in vitamin A, C, E, and K as well as magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium and fatty acids. This nutrient also helps to repair DNA and keep it from mutating, which may help to prevent cancer.
    • Phytosterols:  may help block uptake of dietary cholesterol
      • Wheat germ, rice bran, sesame oil, whole grains, nuts and legumes.
    • Lignans:  phytoestrogens found in seeds and plants.  They may decrease levels of testosterone but have been shown to be beneficial in keeping blood sugars more stable (diabetes). Also have been shown to improve fatty liver.  Lignans can interrupt the circulation of estrogen in the GI tract in two ways, as a dietary fiber that binds to estrogens and as a compound that affects the composition of intestinal bacteria, reducing enzyme activity which lowers levels of free estrogen.  Dietary fiber also increases the concentration of globulin in the blood which binds to sex hormones and reduces the levels of free estradiol (rendering them inactive).  This can help with females that are estrogen dominant.
      • Flaxseed
      • Males with low testosterone will want to avoid
      • Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome might benefit

Plant proteins ... the down side

Plant protein comes packaged with carbohydrates.  (Animal protein comes packaged with fat.)

Too many carbohydrates in the diet can contribute to inflammation and blood sugar imbalance.

Plants are not defenseless.  They are designed to prevent creatures from feasting on them.  These compounds are known as antinutrients.  These antinutrients can keep us from absorbing all the nutrients in the plants and can cause side effects for people that are sensitive to them or have hormonal imbalances.
  • Phytate or phytic acid: primary storage compound of phosphorous in plants.  It is known to bind minerals in the GI tract Grains, keeping them from being absorbed.   This can lower iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium levels.  It can also make it harder to digest proteins and fats by inhibiting digestive enzymes.  Phytic acid also has some benefits such as scavenging heavy metals.  Also, phytic acid slows digestion down so it may help balance blood sugar levels.
    • The highest sources of phytic acid is from beans, soy, sesame and rapeseed oils.
  • Oxalate or Oxalic Acid: Can bind with calcium and other minerals making them insoluble and decreasing their bioavailability. Consumption of high oxalate foods my cause decreased bone growth, kidney stones, renal toxicity, diarrhea, and impaired blood clotting.
    • Rhubard, tea, spinach, and parsley (asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, collards, lettuce, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, peas, coffee, beets, etc.  It
  • Goitrogens:   Make it harder for the thyroid to absorb iodine because the compete with iodine for entry into the gland.  They also weaken the activity of the enzyme thyroid peroxidase which is required for conversion of T4 and T3.  However, in common sense terms, you would have to eat TWO POUNDS of kale in order to have an impact on your thyroid.  For those with thyroid issues, the vegetables to avoid are raw brussels sprouts and collard greens.   Cooking decreases the affect.
    • Cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli
  • Lectins: present in high levels in legumes.  Lectins are able to bind or clump together red blood cells, which can cause blood clots in coronary arteries, blood vessels to the lungs and smaller blood vessels in the GI tract.  They can also interfere with nutrient absorption from the intestine.  And they may encourage bacteria overgrowth in the GI tract.
    • Black beans, soybeans, lima beans, etc and grain products
  • Glycoalkaloid: antinutrient produced by the nightshades.  For people that are sensitive to nightshades, consumption of these foods can cause depression, anxiety, indigestion, joint pain, and anemia.
    • Potato, tomato, peppers, eggplant, tobacco, and goji berry.  Potatoes are the highest producers.
  • Heavy metals:  found the soil that plants are grown in.  They have no biological function and highly toxic.  Heavy metal build up have been linked to breast, endometrial cancer, endometriosis, and spontaneous abortion, preterm deliveries and still births, and low birth weight.
    • Arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium
    • Aluminum has been shown to damage nerve tissue and may contribute to Alzheimer's.
  • Soy:  90% of soy is genetically modified. Soy is hard to digest because it has trypsin inhibitors which inhibit digestive enzymes. Fermentation helps with the digestion but not completely.  This is why miso and tempeh are recommended over others like tofu.  Phytoestrogens (from soy) have been implicated in infertility, testosterone deficiency, and thyroid suppression.  Soy in baby formula may contribute to early puberty, asthma, thyroid disease, and food allergies, and behavioral problems.  Some processes required to package soy protein requires using acid washing in aluminum tanks in order to remove the antinutrients.  This leaches aluminum into the product.
Antinutrients can be decreased by soaking, fermenting, heating, sprouting, and milling or grinding.  Soy is very resistant to many of these methods. With balanced protein consumption from the plant world, adequate protein can be consumed, though supplements can be helpful.   Sources: 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27459444 2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22412075 3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19307518 4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15927927 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22470009 6. http://www.nature.com/articles/srep25145 7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9605218 8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4264239/ 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23553645 10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12083319 11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12016126 12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15113961 11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12016126 12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15113961 13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11916349 14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11142531 15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24460407 16. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0001148 17. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ptr.5635/full 18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11445478 19. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/09637486.2016.1161011 20. http://lifestyleworksclinic.com/Estrogen%20Metab%20ANSR%20Research.pdf 21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2266880/ 22. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3153292/ 23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26946249 24. http://het.sagepub.com/content/5/1/15.short 25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26094520 26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27479193 27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12639286 28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21325465 29. Van Wyck JJ and other. The Effects Of A Soybean Product On Thyroid Function In Humans. Pediatrics, 24, 752-60 30. Poley JR and Klein AW. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1983 May;2(2):271-87 31. Freni-Titulaer LW and others. Am J Dis Child 1986 Dec;140(12):1263-1267  

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