Reach me at 612.735.9993

Entries in exercise (5)


pH & exercise

I found an article in the December 2013 issue of Velo, the high-performance bicycling magazine, that piqued my interest because it gets into biochemistry. The article "Understading the Burn, Lactic Acid Myths Debunked" by Trevor Connor points out that lactic acid exists as a buffer with its conjugate base lactate. Our blood's pH is carefully kept near a constant somewhere between 7.35 and 7.46. If we wander even a bit out of this range, we face imminent danger and death. We never get systemically acidic. What can build up locally in those muscles is hydrons (H+). These are quickly removed by the lactate (the base).

Professor Matthew Hickey, head of the Human Performance Research Lab at Colorado State University, has been studying the physiology of this buffer system.

In reality "lactate serves many important roles. For example, "it is the principle fuel for the heart during vigorous exercise," Hickey said. And the liver can recycle it, "releasing a brand new glucose molecule as if you'd been drinking a sports drink."

Remember this formula for repiration from biology or physiology class?

C6H12O6 (s) + 6 O2 (g) → 6 CO2 (g) + 6 H2O (l) + heat

Professor Hickey says that humans have no problem acquiring enough oxygen. Our lungs are overly large; we only need 2/3 capacity to achieve optimal oxygen levels. It's the exhaling of carbon dioxide that moves us to fatigue, sore muscles and out of breath.

Our best immediate buffer is a molecule called bicarbonate. Bicarbonate binds to acid to produce harmless water and CO2. However, "that process is only as good as the last step, which is breathing off the carbon dioxide." If we don't breath it off fast enough, the CO2 is converted back to acid, and we lose the race. The takeaway? Concentrate on exhaling.

How to get the best exhale for your efforts? Improve your circulation! That means slow but long training hours, keeping warm, breathe deeply and effect long, deliberate exhales. You can also eat fewer carbs in order to train "fat reliance". Utilizing fats for energy rather than carbs reduces the fluctuations in pH and the concomitant activity of the buffer system. It makes you more efficient. Lastly, exercise at threshold.

"There are ways to train your heart, your less frequently used muscles, and your liver to better clear hydrogen ions," Hickey said. "And, not surprisingly one of the ways to do that is to bathe those tissues regularly in lactate." Start with short five-minute threshold efforts. Then as your clearance systems improve, build to 20 and even 30-minute efforts.

So no need to worry about or spend money on products promising to clear your lactic acid or lactate. You need it. It's working for you. Focus instead on your breathing and on promoting your circulation.



The weighted bladder

Research shows that bladder dysfunction is affected by changes in body weight. Even a five pound increase in weight can adversely affect a bladder already experiencing symptoms. The good news? A five pound decrease in weight can lessen the stress on the organ and, hence, mitigate the experience of bladder symptoms.


Sensory awareness

Since sensory awareness drives motor control, promotes sensory integration and helps to develop relationship with one's body, I've been adding sensory awareness exercises to my Core & Pelvic Floor Workout classes these past couple weeks. It is a trend I will continue.

This past week my participants and I were noticing how very minute shifts in our position--pointing a foot or leaning--can elicit profound changes in sensory perception. When one has increased awareness one enhances one's ability to control those muscles and the surrounding structures. As Janet Hulme, PT, avers, "Even muscles you are not aware of being able to control, like the bladder, are affected when you change muscles you can control." Perhaps this can be one definition of the subconscious life, connecting the unconscious and supposedly uncontrollable with the conscious and controllable. In politics the Chinese call this approach 'using the back door'. In biology it's sometimes called neuroplasticity.

Try this:

Move ever so slowly to a sitting position, paying particular attention to how your sitz bones (ischia) are moving. You should notice that as you sit, your sitz bones are spreading, moving away from each other, until the moment before sitting. As you release the tension to let yourself give your weight to the chair, the sitz bones move toward each other slightly. Do it several times in attemp to feel it.

Squat down and perform a slow, side to side swing of your buttocks. Notice the pull you feel on your opposign sitz bone. In other words, when you are swinging to your right, you should feel a slight pull on your left sitz bone. When you swing to your left, you feel that pull on your right sitz bone.

These simple exercises, and others like them, can aid in restoring normal sensation and function, when practiced over time.


Never do sit ups or crunches

No one should ever do sit ups or crunches anywhere, for any reason, ever. Not ever.

Medical organizations and medical professionals have come out against the exercises for reasons dependent on their focus:  Orthopedic and geriatric organizations are concerned about the inordinate pressure exerted on the thoracic spine and the propensity for back injury. OB/Gyn's and professionals interested in child development note the inordinate pressure exerted on the pelvic and abdominal organs and on the pelvic floor (from a direction that promotes prolapse).

Exercise specialists disown the exercises because they don't work and because they recruit the use of and end up working the psoas, a muscle you don't want to work in this way or you run the risk of chronic low back pain. There is a finite number of flexes in your spine before it fatigues, leaving it prone to disc herniation. This is called 'fatigue life'; sit ups and crunches are pronounced flexions.

All abdominal work should be done by engaging the transverse abdominus (by pushing out the TA just above the pubic bone) and moving the legs. This can be done with a person in plank position or on her back.

But never, ever do sit ups or crunches. Your back and your bottom will thank you.


Popular myths surrounding incontinence or urinary leaking

The three things that most people do when they find that they are suffering from any sort of incontinence or urinary leaking are to decrease their fluids, increase their frequency of urination and to stop exercising.

They figure that if they're leaking fluid that they must be taking in too much or that decreasing intake will somehow make it less likely to leak out. They figure that if they have been urinating every three or four hours and leaking in between, then maybe they can stave off that leaking by going more frequently. They figure that if they have been leaking on impact when exercising, then maybe they should stop exercising. All of these are rational; all of them are wrong and set up the bladder for more incontinence.

If a bladder is already compromised, it may be that there are false signals relayed to the nervous system indicating an urge to urinate when the bladder is not full. Often this is from irritation within the bladder or from dyscoordinated neuromuscular activity of the bladder with other surrounding structures. In any case, the strategies of drinking less and urinating more are strategies of dehydration. This is never healthy systemically and actually makes the bladder worse off as it atrophies over time. The bladder has a muscular layer, the detrusor, and like any muscle, needs to be worked to stay healthy. Unlike other muscles, the detrusor is only worked when filled and stretched. The detrusor is stretched by the bladder filling up to functional capacity, by drinking fluids and urinating infrequently.

There are studies that show that any exercise done regularly, even if it doesn't address the pelvic floor itself, will improve the condition of the pelvic floor over time. If there is leaking on impact, the leaking is not caused by the impact; it is caused by the neuromuscular dyscoordination. One might consider switching to a low-impact exercise or wearing pads while continuing the higher-impact exercise.

So, counter-intuitive as it may seem, the best course of action when one starts leaking or experiencing any sort of incontinence is to drink more fluids, urinate less frequently and keep exercising (or exercise more). Work that bladder!

You might want to check out the List of Bladder Irritants in my Treasure Trove (tab in navigation bar).