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Want Better Performance? Quit Stretching!

Strech_Girl

You know that pick-up basketball game you play every other month?  Before stepping onto the court to dominate the other 40-somethings with beer bellies, you do your usual 90-second stretching routine.  You sit down, spread your legs and, of course, keep your knees straight!  Gotta stretch those hamstrings, after all.  A few arm circles, 3 jumps in the air, and the proverbial calf stretch, and you are ready to go all Lebron James on your over-worked accountant friends.

WRONG! Much of what the sporting world has long believed to be beneficial about proper stretching techniques may actually have the opposite effect.  You should never stretch cold muscles. Especially before an athletic competition!  But what about simple static stretches?  You know – the kind where you hold the stretch before a workout or competition?  Nope.  These actually decrease your strength, power, and performance!

I can’t tell you how many times we went straight into stretching before football practice in high school.  Sports science has come a long way since then.  Always warm up first.  Always.  You DO need to stretch, but don’t ever do it when muscles are cold.  Always start with mild aerobic warm-ups (i.e. light jogging, stationary bicycle, etc.) to get blood to your tissues before doing any stretching.  Think of your muscle tissues like oil in your car.  If the oil is cold, it is thick and doesn’t flow very well.  It has low viscosity.  However, as it heats up, it becomes more fluid-like, smoother, and is able to function at peak performance.  Stretching a cold muscle can do damage just like over working a car engine when it isn’t warm yet.

So how long does it take to properly warm up?  Start with walking or slow jogging for about five minutes, instead of stretching before exercise.  Warming up in this manner increases blood flow, which increases the temperature in the muscles, which makes the muscle fibers (collagen) more elastic and pliable.  Remember the engine oil example?  After warming up, you can do some dynamic instead of static stretches if you like.  Dynamic stretching means slow, controlled movements rather than remaining still and holding a stretch.  They can include simple movements like arm and leg circles, yoga stretches, or walking & jogging exercises.  However, proper technique is key.  You must be in control.  Poor technique can put you at higher risk for injury.

Here are three simple dynamic stretches for your lower extremities:

Military march: Slowly lift your leg straight out in front of you, alternating as you walk with your normal stride length.  While others may think you look a little silly, it is great hamstring stretch.

Knee lifts: As you jog or walk, bring your knees up toward your chest.  Repeat on each side as you jog or walk.  You can add some torso twists (gentle) if you like.

Butt-kicks: As you jog or walk, bend one knee and lift it behind you as if you were trying to kick yourself in the butt.  This is great for stretching the quads.

Do 3-5 repetitions of 30 seconds each.  Again, the movements must be done in a controlled way.

After your workout is the time for static stretches.  This is the optimal time to lengthen muscles and improve your flexibility.  Always hold static stretches for 30-60 seconds in order to be effective. Don’t stretch to the point of pain.  Your high school coach was right about a lot of things, but the phrase “no pain, no gain” wasn’t one of them (at least in terms of stretching – strength training is a different story!).  You should go to the point of slight discomfort and intensity.  However, going into pain will actually cause a reflex in your muscles that counteracts the stretch.  So, you may feel that you are really working hard, but you are just spinning your wheels at that point.

So get out there, weekend-version-Kobe Bryant!  Dominate your Lions’ Club.  Just remember to jog to the courts. And, only do your stretching after the slam dunk contest, not before.

 

References:

Samuel, M. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, September 2008; vol 22: pp 1422-1428.
Ryan, E. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, August 2008; vol 40: pp 1529-1537.
Thacker, S. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, March 2004; vol 36: pp 371-378.

Work Habits

The Great Lies of Business Ownership

Lying

The evil rich.  Those much maligned 1%-ers.  They made their millions off the backs of the working poor, right?  Or, they inherited their parents money and spend their time globetrotting around the world like your typical trust-fund baby.  Maybe most of them are Wall Street types who in are bed with both Democrats and Republicans, embodying everything that is broken with government today.  Who knows, maybe they were just lucky? I mean, somebody has to win the lottery, right?  WRONG.

Undoubtedly, there are people who meet the descriptions above.  If all you watch is cable news and social media, you might think virtually ALL rich people meet those descriptions.  The funny thing about the truth, though, is that it exists whether you know it or not.  Facts are facts, and ignorance doesn’t change them.  In their phenomenal #1 bestseller, The Millionaire Next Door, Drs Thomas Stanley and William Danko extensively document the profile of an average millionaire in America.  Among other things, they note the following:

Average age = 57

Approximately 66% are self-employed

Approximately 75% of self-employed are entrepreneurs (the remaining 25% made mostly of professionals like doctors, lawyers, etc…)

By in large, financial success (net worth above $1 million) in America belongs to those who own their own business.  And not always big businesses – small to medium size businesses make up the majority of success stories.  So, why don’t more people start their own business?  There are more reasons than I’ll address here, but there are several lies about business ownership that people have accepted as truth – let the debunking begin.

Lie #1 – You need advanced education/training to own a business.  TRUTH: Education is helpful, but not required.  You do need to be highly education about the inner workings of your business, and the products/services you sell, but formal education is a luxury, not a necessity.  Your passion and commitment to being successful trumps your education level – every time.

Lie #2 – Starting your own business takes a lot of money.  TRUTH: It depends on what you are starting.  If you’re talking about a huge, multi-national franchise then, yes, expect to dole out a million dollars or more to get started.  But, most of the time, that’s not the case.  If you are self-employed, the start up costs may be very minimal – in the hundreds or low thousands of dollars, depending on what you do.  Starting a home-based, or network marketing business usually costs only a few hundred bucks to get up and running.  And make no mistake, that is a legitimate industry and growing every minute.  The internet has revolutionized business – ALL business.  If you’re serious about owning your own business, coming up with a few thousand bucks should not take very long.

Lie #3 – Owning your own business takes up a lot of your time.  TRUTH:  Actually, this isn’t a lie.  Don’t kid yourself – owning your own business DOES take up all of your time.  At least it does in the beginning.  But, if you build your business correctly, you will eventually leverage your time through other people (employees, contractors, partners, etc…) and systems you put in place in order to free up your time.  After all, what is the point in having a lot of money without the free time to enjoy it?  The most successful business owners work their business, but they don’t allow it to consume them.

Those are 3 lies that keep people from starting their own business.  I’m sure there are more, but in 15 years of owning my own these are the 3 I have spent the most time refuting.  However, there are other lies about business ownership.  These lies are typically rooted in jealousy/envy or justification as to why that person doesn’t own their own business.  The list here could probably go on for days, but here are a few of the most popular:

Lie #1 – Business owners are greedy and materialistic and only care about themselves.  TRUTH:  The most successful business owners are servant leaders, putting other people’s needs first.  Self employed people and small business owners often go WITHOUT a paycheck in the beginning.  If they have employees, the business owner only gets paid after everyone else.  They are fulfilling a need in the marketplace and by providing VALUE, they reap a reward.  The more people they help, either with a needed product, service, or opportunity, the more financial gain they get.  Welcome to Economics 101.

Lie #2 – Business owners take advantage of tax loopholes, and that’s not fair!  TRUTH:  There is no such thing as a tax “loophole” – that is a completely made up term to generate anger and resentment.  These are simply legal incentives written into the tax code to incentivize business growth and development.  Now, are there some really dumb tax laws?  YES.  Remember, though, business owners don’t write the tax code – we just follow it.  It takes a while to make money in business, and just when you think you are about to turn a profit, you get to file your franchise tax. Then you pay your payroll taxes.  And insurance premiums.  And unemployment tax.  And worker’s comp insurance.  And quarterly tax estimates.  If anything, small and medium size businesses need more “loopholes,” not less.

Lie #3 – Business owners take advantage of friends and family to make money.  TRUTH:  Where do I begin with this one?!  News flash:  every time you spend money at a business, someone is making a profit!  Just because you ask friends and family for their business doesn’t mean you are taking advantage of them!  I commonly hear this as an objection to not starting a home based business, but it happens with brick and mortar business opportunities as well.  All businesses – ALL – succeed based on your hard work, the systems you put in place, and the VALUE you provide to others.  If you don’t understand how a business actually works, take the time to educate yourself.

Do you own your own business?  Have you thought about starting one?  Quit thinking and start doing!  Start it part time and on the side if you have to.  Follow your passion, provide value to others, and start pursuing your own dreams instead of building someone else’s.  Are there other lies about business that I didn’t mention?  Leave a comment below and share with your friends!

Medical

Your Patient Said WHAT??

A mixed race man looking confused about something

Are you in healthcare? Do you know anyone in healthcare? Chances are, you do. Or are. Or want to be. If you don’t know it yet, you are sitting on a gold mine of side-splitting stories about patients, their families, and other healthcare workers.

For example, if you are fortunate enough to know an ER doctor or nurse, they’ve surely regaled you of the time they pulled a phallic shaped “whatever” out of “there.” It’s never the patient’s fault, you see. In the immortal words of Frank Costanza, “It was a million to one shot, doc. Million to one!” If you aren’t familiar with Seinfeld references, they’ll be used a lot here.

Not all healthcare stories are quite as graphic, fortunately. Others are quite sad. I remember the one time in my physical therapy career that I called Adult Protective Services. While walking a patient through the home she shared with her sister, I noticed that the walls were coated with a strange coat of brown paint. It was irregular in its application, but liberal in its visibility. And then it hit me. It wasn’t brown paint at all. It was human feces. Surprisingly, I found a reason to cut the visit a little short that day. House #246 that will never be a part of my real estate portfolio.

Sometimes care providers can give you a good chuckle. Before stepping into a patient’s room a few years ago, a nice nurse’s aide stopped me to let me “in” on the patient’s condition. She was having a rough day, and had just returned from her doctor’s appointment. According to the aide, the patient had developed a “urinary contraction.” While I was unfamiliar with that particular malady, I agreed that it sounded quite painful! Hopefully, the antibiotic helped.

One of my all-time favorites actually happened to my wife (also a PT). She arrived at the house to perform a 30 day re-evaluation on the patient. The nice lady motioned for my wife to enter the home, but was still on a phone call. While wrapping up the call, the patient stated “Well, I’ve got to go. My re-vagination lady is here.” I didn’t even know my wife had been certified in that particular specialty.

I could go on for hours, but those are just a few of my fondest memories. Do you have a great story from your days in healthcare? Leave it in the comments section below. And if you’re a woman, always remember your yearly re-vagination appointment.