Monday, 29 November 2021

Fitness Recovery Tools

 After discussing a book about fitness recovery (I'm clarifying because when I was talking about this book with a friend, they asked, "You're reading a book about recovery?  Alcoholism or drug use?" Ummmm, fitness--but that's an addiction of a whole other nature!) I have to show at least some of the more common recovery tools and techniques, especially the ones I am familiar with.

My first recovery tool when I started CrossFit.  The classic foam roller.

As I was a pretty insecure and shy participant in CrossFit at the beginning (we are waaaay past that now, haha) I felt awkward and ineffective when I first started "rolling out".  Once I got over the idea that I looked like a giant fish on an airport conveyor (I mean, I do. I just don't care anymore) I started to figure out where I needed the pressure of the roller--pretty much led by the discomfort.  If it hurts, that's the place to concentrate on and keep rolling until the tension in the area decreases.  

Lisa Scale: Quite effective when used consistently.  My favorite time to use it is while starting to wind down before bed and listening to an audiobook or even watching TV.

Up next: The infamous lacrosse ball

This was the second tool I used in CrossFit and the one I dreaded!  Except it helps and once you get used to the sensation, you realize that the discomfort (OK, OK, pain--but tolerable) eases and that tight knot that was bothering you starts to break up and disperse. While the sensations are intense, they are bearable and the resulting release of muscle tension is worth it.  I always tell my athletes that it's OK to yell and I certainly don't suffer in silence!

Lisa Scale: Very effective on difficult spots but can be overused so be careful! 

The third most common recovery tool I use is my percussion massager.  

I call it my Hammer Gun! I admit, I was skeptical at first and seriously doubted if it would work without bruising me.  Guess what.  It works!  And I don't get bruises.  This works in a similar manner to the lacrosse ball but in fast forward and not usually as intensely (although that can depend on your current level of general soreness).  There are many different models, do your research and compare speed, depth, and size, along with the cost of the ones that interest you before you make your decision.  The accessories aren't exactly requirement but they are nice to target different areas levels of tension.

Lisa Scale: Uh-Maz-ing! I can't recommend this enough.  You can even use it where you're not sore and feel the benefits of relaxation.  Try using it on your hands and feet before you go to bed.  Wonderful!

The fourth thing is often overlooked... SLEEP!

You have to give your body enough time to relax, recoup energy stores, and be ready for the next workout.  There are lots of articles and research regarding the best ways to fall and stay asleep and I'm still working on that as quality sleep is often elusive for me.  But, I strive!

Lisa Scale: Fantastic when I can get enough.

Here are some runner's up:

Ice bath for extremities: I use this sparingly and with great dread and only if I'm struggling with something acute: most typically a flair up of tennis or golfer's elbow or my carpal symptoms get worse.  20 minutes maximum in the frosty water.  Again, do some research on this as there are proponents and critics of the efficacy of icing.

Cryotherapy: this is a faster version of icing--it lasts only 2-3 minutes and brings the temperature in the surrounding chamber down to -166 to -122F.  It was invigorating but I didn't feel that it sped up or even affected my recovery but it was an interesting experience that I'm glad I tried! (p.s. if you are going to try this, make sure you have no moisture on your body because water will freeze and so will whatever it's touching).

Muscle Scraping (or Gua Sha)--I haven't experienced it but I have used the muscle scraping tools on a friend.  I can tell you that the palpable tension eases after the scraping and ease of movement follows and the scrapee expresses relaxation benefits. The tools come in a variety of shapes for different areas of the body.

Compression Boots--again, something I haven't tried, yet, but will as soon as I can.  These are essentially thigh-high boots that use air compression to massage your legs.  There are multiple settings and many athletes report they feel better after use and that it does help to speed recovery.

There are many more recovery tools out there; some worth the hype and some not.  Drop a line below to let us know your favorite ones and maybe we can start a new recovery trend!

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Book Review: Fitness Series--Good to Go

Book Review--Fitness Series 

Good to Go

What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery

Author: Christie Aschwanden

Audio version read by: Allyson Ryan

As an avid CrossFitter of two years now, I have learned new meanings of the words:


flexibility (or lack thereof)




Did I mention soreness?  Ohmygoodness!  I may be pushing back the boundaries of my weakness but it can come at a price.  Usually a lot of groans, extra stretching, foam rolling, and audible monologue about "why do I do this to myself?"  But I'm back at it the next day, working harder than ever!

But there are limits. 

Even the most conditioned athletes in the world have to take the time to let their body rest.  Christie Ashwanden takes both a personal and analytical look at the concept of recovery and how it benefits all of us.

How many of these recovery options have you tried? Ice, RICE, heat, Epsom salts, warm bath, naps, stretching, yoga, crying...  I have tried them all, even cryotherapy!

Cryotherapy was definitely invigorating!

Ms. Ashwanden delves into cryotherapy and icing along with a whole host of other common recovery techniques. From massage and meditation to ice baths and compression pants.  Foam rolling and percussion massagers to active recovery runs and beer, the range of options is as wide as the individuality in athletes.  What I appreciated most was that the author delved into the scientific authenticity of each recovery method while calling attention to the difficulty of quantifying what is essentially an individual response to stimuli.  I was intrigued enough to take the plunge in the cold tank so I could make my own decision about how it impacted my own recovery and it opened up questions and possibilities for me to try.

This is worth a read to offer you insights into pop culture cures, general physiological explanations, the dangers of trusting studies without looking into the statistical validity of them, and the overall importance recovery has, no matter how it looks for you.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Book Review--Preteniousness

Preteniousness: Why it Matters by Dan Fox

Anticipating and reading this book was a case of "expectation versus reality".

At the risk of looking foolish (not a big risk since I glory in the foolish), let me tell you the thoughts I spun at reading the title and subtitle of this book.

Pretentiousness: Why it Matters.  Ooh, that sounds interesting.  Depending on who I'm with, sometimes people think I'm pretentious because of some of the things I like. Often people are accused of being pretentious because they like things like the theater, art or other things not everyone understands or even enjoys.  But those things are important!  Without art, we wouldn't have beautiful things that many people enjoy, like sculptures, a lovely landscape in a lobby, or a glimpse into another culture.  Without live theater, nobody would learn how to be or think like someone else and learn empathy. I mean, without doing something that someone finds pretentious, nothing would ever be changed!  Of course it matters, I can't wait to read this book.

So.  Now we come to the actual reading of the book.

It starts off with the equation that acting = pretension and goes with that premise; not necessarily taking an in-depth look.  Moves into some other points.  Totally lambastes the fashion industry and then finally starts making sense when getting into art criticism, his field.  (Interesting to note that he never mentions the possible narcissistic aspect of fashion, just it's ephemeral quality).  The odd thing is, the end notes are so long it's confusing why they weren't incorporated into the text.  Since the focus is on how the author came into his career and his background it has a LOT to do with why he's writing about pretentiousness he could have disposed with the mock dissertation style and made it more personal and accessible with the same amount of scholarly knowledge and authority.

Overall, I came away with some interesting thoughts about this view but disappointed in the presentation.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Book Review--Cormoran Strike series

Image result for cormoran strike series covers

Image result for cormoran strike series covers

I have been aware for quite awhile of J.K. Rowling's pseudonym Robert Galbraith but am late arrived to the party.  It was worth the wait!

The good thing about waiting until several books in a series are out is that you don't have 'sequel despair' the impatience that comes from having to wait until the next book is published.  The difficult thing about Galbraith's Cormoran Strike series is that it is consuming enough that I need to take a break after each one and read something else before I delve back into the intense world inhabited by PI Cormoran Strike and his secretary/partner Robin Ellacot.

I am a huge Harry Potter fan and was not disappointed by Rowling's plot, character development, and pacing.  But you cannot find two more different series in intensity and subject matter.  I am in awe of the creativity and skill it takes to write for such different audiences with different intent.  I do also appreciate the progression of depravity from one book to another. In this aspect, I am reminded of Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine series (reviewed here) which took small steps toward horror genre without invoking a terror response. I find that these are excellent examples of series books that do not degenerate in quality as they progress.

As I listened to this book on audio through RBDigital (accessed through my local library--shameless plug that libraries are awesome places to get FREE access to books and more), I must mention the narrator Robert Glenister who did a fabulous job of giving life and depth to each of the characters.  His varied voices, accents, and pacing were amazing and matched the style of writing and penetrating events.

I am thoroughly invested in this series and can't wait for the next to come out--although it will be awhile since Lethal White was just released.  It's always good to have something to look forward to!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Where Do You Find Your Information?

Navigating the treacherous waters of the web while surfing the internet has many inherent dangers.  Disregarding phishing schemes, downloadable viruses, spyware, the scary tracking information websites use to trace your preferences and target ads to you; one of the scariest aspects of the internet (formerly known as the World Wide Web) is misinformation.

When I taught both undergraduate research classes and 8th grade English Language Arts, I hit the topic of reliable information very hard.  Even without my mellifluous voice-over teaching to this presentation, I'll bet you can still get the gist of what I was driving at with my middle schoolers. (You can also take a look at a similar post "Fact or Fable")

There's a term called "click bait".  That is when a website uses a grandiose headline to encourage you to click on the link to another article.  Considering I put links to my own previous publishing within posts on my blog, can I really say this is bad?  Yes.  Yes, I can. Because the intent is different.  When an author or website owner sends to you another post or page on their website to read actual content, that's o.k.  But the more scintillating the headline, the more likely it is that people will click over to it... and that's when advertisers step in. And that's where it gets really scary.

Advertising has rooted itself in psychology and it often works by manipulating your emotions, your self-identity, and your worldview. Take a look at this infographic for a quick overview of how marketing targets different areas...

The Sneaky Psychology of Advertising

... scary isn't it?

The American Psychological Association (of the dreaded APA citation fame) published the article "Advertising as Science" in 2002, now available online, which discusses the roots of psychology use in advertising.  It covers the first commercially successful book about the subject but also discusses how psychological principles can be used to target messages successfully.

An even scarier thought, for me as a parent at least, is the often unrestricted access children have to advertisements while they watch shows.  The APA did an entire task force report regarding "Advertising and Children" and the implications are chilling, especially considering that this task force report was developed in 2004 before personal WiFi devices were such a common occurence in youngsters hands. With the advent of cable television and now the internet, an entirely new demographic opened up for companies who previously only had adults as their intended audience.

What can we do?

Well, for starters, we can turn our skepticism up every time we see an ad.  From a click bait "lose weight fast" to the next coolest cleaning invention, stop and think:

1. Is this a real problem they are addressing or are they making one up for the 'solution' they want to sell? 
2. What is this aimed at making me feel?

Secondly, make sure you watch ads or look at them on the computer with your kids and talk about those two questions.  Help them identify if the article is making them feel jealous that they don't have the next best thing.  Or let them know the way it's phrased makes you feel insecure.

You can also do simple research.  Google is a powerful tool when it comes to debunking advertising claims.  Run a search for the 'the item reviews'.  Look for good and bad reviews.  If it's on Amazon, check the stars and read the highest and lowest ratings to see if the claims are true.

The truth of the matter is, we can live without a lot of the things we see advertised and we can change our own habits when it comes to falling for outrageous claims.  Identify the psychological method used and enjoy your healthy dose of skepticism and do your research.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

New Book Review--Cannibalism

Why does the idea of cannibalism intrigue us? It manifests itself in cinema and television (Zombieland and The Walking Dead), literature (Robinson Crusoe, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and even everyday language and jokes ("She's a man-eater";Two cannibals were eating a clown.  One says to the other, "Do you think this tastes funny?")

Bill Schutt addresses this fascination with his book Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History. His engaging writing style takes a look at the variety of cannibalistic instances in the animal world and widens to include humans, even if we often consider ourselves above common animal predilections.  Schutt starts the discussion with an overview of some of the simpler organisms in the animal kingdom and their penchant for eating one another. From Daphnia (a type of water flea), to fish and salamanders to polar bears and other mammals, he lays out observations of the phenomena and what researchers report are the probable indicators for such behavior.

Image result for cannibalism a perfectly natural historyAfter somewhat 'normalizing' the behavior in the animal kingdom, Schutt shifts focus to people. The breadth of information is amazing and his research is well-rounded and he discusses a topic that can engender harsh judgments from readers with dignity and objectivity while managing to introduce some lighthearted comments.

While I agreed the epilogue segued into the sensationalism he avoided throughout the rest of the book, which he acknowledges as he does it, it didn't detract from the extent of the research or the treatment of the subject.  This is well worth a read to become familiar with a fascinating subject that has such culturally diverse meanings.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

New Picture Books!

We've gotten some fun new kids's books in.  Here are my faves!

Daddy Long Legs by Nadine Brun-Cosme and Aureli Guillerey

This adorable book is a cute interaction between a boy and his father.  When the car has trouble starting, Matthew gets worried that Daddy might not be able to come get him after school.  Daddy lets Matthew know in bigger and crazier ideas, that he will always find a way to get to his son.

Raymond by Yann & Gwendal Le Bec

Raymond is a dog who has a pretty good life.  But he wonders if it could get even better if he did things more like his human family does.  He becomes very successful but has to wonder if giving up his former life is worth it.  This is an especially cute read for those who love to imagine their pets doing great things and there are enough puns to satisfy adults as they read aloud.

MINE! by Jeff Mack

Can you write a hilarious, spot-on (for toddlers and young children) book with only one word?  Jeff Mack can! The expressions of the mice are priceless and the action-oriented illustrations keep the story rolling until the surprise ending.  This is just flat-out fun!

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton

Follow the adventures of Narwhal (Unicorn of the Sea) and sidekick Jelly as they go on some super adventures in the second book in the series.  This fun graphic novel is excellent for younger readers who love adventure but may be intimidated by chapters.  Plus--it's about superheroes; you can't beat that!