Valeo Training

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Q. What's the verdict on stretching? Should I do it before I lift?

A. Stretching (increasing a muscle's flexibility or range of motion [ROM] around a joint) is one of the most debated topics in the fitness field. Many swear by it while others never involve it in their program. When facing flexibility issues, you must approach it with a PURPOSE. Is your inflexbility causing joint mobilization problems? Is your daily functioning inhibited by muscle tightness? Is the issue muscle tightness or really weakness in the opposing muscle groups? All of these questions must be considered when stretching.

There are different methods of stretching:

1. Static Stretching - "reach and hold for 15-30 sec"
2. Dynamic Stretching - "gentle movements to lengthen the muscle fibers and get the blood to the muscle" (this is not ballistic).
3. PNF Stretching - "contract the opposing muscle to relax the stretched muscle" (performed with a partner or professional trainer).

Here is what stretching is NOT:

1. It is NOT A WARM-UP....before you say "Whatever! I HAVE to stretch before my workout or I feel tight!" - let me clarify. Static Stretching is not a warm-up. The purpose of a warm-up is to raise the internal temperature of the body by gradually increasing the heart rate and getting blood to flow to the muscles. Static stretching does not do this. Dynamic stretching DOES. Perform slow, gentle movements - either a toned-down version of what you are about to do (i.e. progress from a walk --> jog --> run) or a full-body movement like a few rounds of the Chopper Protocol with a medicine ball (10 down-the-middle chops, 20 side-to-side rotations with foot pivot, 10 diagonal chops with foot pivot). Always involve this type of warm-up to get your muscles and nervous system activated and ready for your workout.

2. From a performance (not rehabilitation) stand-point, it does NOT PREVENT SORENESS or INJURY - in fact, excessive (important word) joint laxity can cause injury during high performance movement. While I do advice static stretching at the end of your workout (or after a sufficient dynamic warm-up), there is very little research that proves static stretching prevents injury or muscle soreness. Many times, excessive soreness is simply from microtears in the muscle fibers (due to overload) or a lack of a sufficient cool-down from the previous workout. It is essential (and safer for the heart!) to gradually relax the body after intense movement (i.e. progress from a run --> jog --> walk). This will get the blood to continue flowing and remove toxin build-up (lactic acid, etc) from the muscle cells. Abruptly stopping movement disturbs the electrical signals to the heart muscle (can lead to heart attacks!) and increases the chance of muscle stiffness and soreness the next day.

3. It does NOT INCREASE STRENGTH OR POWER OUTPUT - the latest research now indicates that static stretching prior to physical activity - especially activity that requires a lot of force or high performance - can actually decrease the strength and power available in the stretched muscle. Even more surprising is that strength and power were also shown to be reduced in the opposing non-stretched muscle. Why? The reason isn't exactly known, but (without going into specific physiology principles...) it may be related to changes in the mechanical properties of a muscle or a central nervous system protective mechanism.

To see this stretch-reflex principle in action:
Put your hand on your lap, palm down. Take your middle finger and pull it towards you, giving it a good stretch. Release and notice how it "snaps" down back to your lap. This is due to the stretch-reflex properties of muscles.
Now do the same thing, but hold your finger in the stretched position for 30-seconds. As you release, notice how much slower the finger comes down...the "snap" or power output is significantly decreased.
What does this all mean? If you desire increased performance and your movement requires lifting, sprinting or any not static stretch beforehand.

As a disclaimer...stretching does have its place if it has a PURPOSE. Many of these 'limit your stretching' beliefs are directed at the relationship between athletic performance and excessive stretching. For the general fitness population, it is important to maintain (or even increase) the flexibility of muscles around a joint.

Points to remember:

1. Keep your stretching functional - stretch to the point that is equivalent to the range of motion (ROM) required in activities of daily living. Your tight hip flexors that are pulling your pelvis forward and creating low back pain does concern me and is a reason to stretch.....your inability to do the splits is not! ;)

2. Keep your stretching multi-directional - think opposing muscle groups and all three planes of motion (front/back, side/side and with rotation). Example - never stretch the hamstrings (back of thigh) without also stretching the opposing quadriceps (front of leg).

3. You should feel the stretch in the 'belly' of the muscle, not the tendons or attachments. If you are static stretching, hold for a sufficient time-frame (15-30 sec) and keep your breaths relaxed.
4. Save your static stretching for the END of your workout, after a sufficient gradual cool-down.

5. Remember that strength training is a very effective way to increase ROM. The "pull" you feel as you lower a weight stretches the muscle (through gentle, dynamic movement) before you contract that muscle to lift the weight. Resistance bands are also optimal for getting a good dynamic stretch.

Valeo H2O Bottles...with a twist of lime!

...good for all ages!! :)

Valeo water bottles are still available for $10. For an extra flair to keep you gulping, try adding a few slices of lime to your water for some refreshing summer hydration. Ahhhh! So good.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Q. Do you think the average person should weigh themselves often (or even own a scale)? I guess I personally think that if you are living healthfully you shouldn't worry too much about weight, but I also know weight is an indicator of health...

A. Many of you know I’m not a huge advocate of scales – or at least of not allowing your hard work and self-esteem to be determined by the number looking back at you. If you find yourself becoming obsessed with whether that number has gone up or down, I say - throw the scale away! If you do choose to weigh yourself, do so no more than 1x/week and do it on the same day of the week and time of day each weigh-in. Why? Because your body can fluctuate greatly in one day – water weight gain or loss, the food sitting in our stomach, etc. all play a role and do not necessarily reflect actual fat tissue gain or loss. Weighing yourself can serve as a good reference point, and it can be used as a marker of progress. However, I am more concerned with what that number on the scale is representing – are those fat pounds or muscle poundsbecause the health consequences of each are vastly different.

For example, Person A could step on the scale and be 150 lbs. After his body composition assessments, I find that he is 30% body fat. This means that of the 150 lbs popping up on the scale, 45 lbs are fat and 105 lbs are bones, organs, water, healthy lean muscle, etc (“everything else”).

However, Person B could also be 150 lbs, but let’s say…18% body fat. This means that of the 150 lbs popping up on the scale, 27 lbs are fat and 123 lbs are bones, organs, water, and healthy lean muscle…MUCH DIFFERENT!!!

Excess body fat (not necessarily excess weight!) is directly correlated with increased health issues: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, increased strain on the heart and other organs, altered brain chemicals, heart attacks, strokes and even cancer. And remember (you may have to sit down for this one): You can be ‘ideal’ or even underweight and still overfat - and therefore at risk for these same health problems.

Why is weight so focused on then? In general, most people do not have access to Body Compostion assessments, so they don’t know what percentage is body fat verses lean muscle tissue. It is assumed that if your weight goes down, so does your amount of body fat. This is what we IDEALLY would like to happen...but remember, your body can only physiologically lose 1-2 lbs of fat a week (perhaps more if you are excessively overweight). If you are losing more than this (think extreme diets, etc) – you are losing precious muscle tissue. This ruins your metabolism and is not healthy.

Fat and muscle are two different tissues and are not interchangable (you cannot turn fat into muscle and muscle does not turn into fat). Your goal should be decreasing body fat and increasing muscle tissue. The way to prevent muscle loss (or even gain some muscle) while losing weight is to eat properly and STRENGTH TRAIN! It takes a focused and consistent strength-training regimen to see these changes happen, but the benefits are well-worth it. You may not see the numbers on the scale go down as much as you would like, but the percentage of fat vs. muscle will be positively altered.

You can have a smaller, tighter, stronger physique – and still weigh the same! Imagine a 1 lb ROCK (representing muscle) and a 1 lb PILLOW (representing fat)…put them on a scale, and they are both one pound. Appearance-wise, however, the rock is much more solid, dense, tighter and smaller than the big fluffy pillow.

With valeo / personal training, I’m into making ROCKS!!!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lakeshore Miracle Run for Rachael :)

Rachael and my nephew, Myles :)
Runnin' for Rachael!!

This morning I got to do one of the coolest races I've ever heard of. The Lakeshore Miracle Run is described as one of the toughest 10K races in Michigan - 6.2 miles of pavement, trails, waterfront beach and dunes. I decided last night to take part in it because all proceeds to go the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. My cousin's 14-yr daughter, Rachael, has been diagnosed with lymphoma and has been undergoing treatment at DeVos Children's Hospital these last couple weeks. Rachael is an absolutely beautiful, fun and faith-filled girl - and her strength and spirit through these rough times have been remarkable and inspiring.

Kelly, Sarah and I decided to make it a 'fun run' and let all the serious racers pass us by. Though the course was extrememly challenging, it was incredible!! Give me woods and water, and I am set :) - the beauty was breathtaking!!! Rain showers and heavy winds drenched us at the start, but subsided for awhile. The greyness of the morning made the woods and trails feel haunted and it was so cool winding up and down the dirt paths, dodging green leaves and branches and literally jumping over and ducking under fallen logs. It was so fun!!

The wooded trail brought us out to the Dunes overlooking Lake Michigan and the once-packed dirt turned into loose beach ground. Yee-ouch! We ran along the shore as we were pelted by flying sand - and opted to stay close to the water so we could get better footing (though soaked hiking shoes from the waves didn't really help!). The most challenging part of the race was the 1/4 mile run (ok...walk!) STRAIGHT UP the Bowl - Holland's infamous sand dune area. The site was amazing and though we felt like we were about to pass out - we all made it! :)

What goes up must come down, and we leaped and soared down the soft sand of the dune - it was a riot! We looped back through the woods and finished back on the road for the end of the race. We had a ton of fun and it was even better knowing it was for such a great cause - WE LOVE YOU, RACH!!!

PS - here's how you can help! :)


Last Sunday I ventured out bright and early for the Grand Haven Festival of Races. The triathlon consisted of three distances: Sprint, Olympic and Half-Ironman (one of only a few in the country)....I did the Sprint :) 500m swim, 12.4 mile bikeand 3.1 mile run...(people often respond w/ an "oh, that's not so bad" whenever I tell them the distances....I say that comment can only be reserved for those who've actually done them all strung together!) ;)

One of the best parts of the day was doing it with two of my friends, Elizabeth, who did the Sprint with me and Kelly, who rocked it out by doing the Olympic distance. This summer, we started a lil' women's triathlon club - Triple Threat: the Velo/Valeo Vixens (V3 for short):) and have about 13 women involved to train and race together.

One of the best, but challenging, parts of living in west Michigan are the unpredictable and ever-changing conditions....and that morning was no exception! Strong rip tides, 4 ft waves and 20-mph wind gusts met us at the beach -- and they still made us swim. Ask me how I felt about that later... :) Though my knees were shaking and stomach turning with nerves, we made the best of it and actually had a blast. The "swim" (which actually turned into a "water-run/wave-jump/get pounded by whitecaps and try to not get pulled under" adventure) was nicely cut in half...which meant that we had to run the rest of the way to the pier through loose sand and barefeet! After finally reaching the boardwalk, I strapped on my Chaco sandels and ran the 1/2 mile transition to the YMCA, where we jumped on our bikes and took off on the Grand Haven roads. Despite some pretty steep hills, the bike went well and seperated the pack a bit more. The run was beautiful, winding along the boardwalk, water and parks - but I have to say the finish line was a glorious site! I was pumped to find out that I finished 4th among 103 women overall and 1st in my age group! Elizabeth and Kelly also topped their age groups...I think we represented the V3 Vixens well! Yea!

We had some fabulous photographers and cheerleaders throughout the race (THANKS Lee, Carmen and Marlene!!!) - whose cheers were more encouraging than you'll ever know! Turn up your speakers and enjoy this little picture video to give you a glimpse of the morning! :)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

"When instituting change make small changes in many areas rather than massive change in one area." -- Vern Gambetta

Friday, July 6, 2007


My sister, Tara, recently posted this on her blog. It encouraged me to matter what stage of life we're in, all of us can relate in some way to how much impact the presence - or absence - of even one piece of the pie makes. As much as physical health should be a focus in our lives, true wellness depends on each piece's presence.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Eat Pure. Live Pure. (and it's Yummy!!)

I'm sitting here eating a Pure Bar. Organic, Raw, Healthy and Delightful (just like the package says)! NO refined sugars, no trans fats, nothing artificial...! Created by Holland's own Veronica Bosgraaf, these health bars were originally made with kids in mind, as an alternative to sugary snacks. They've become so popular, they are now sold around the world and boast some of the best reviews. At 190 calories, 8g fat (from essential "good-for-you" Omega-3 fatty acids), 26g Carbohydrates - 4g of which come from filling-Fiber and 19g from natural fruit sugars and 5g Protein, these bars have it all - and are the perfect between-meal snack to keep you going.

It's been a long time since I've had something like this that's tasted so should try them! They are found in our local grocery stores (next to most sport bars), in health-food stores and in local coffee shops and cafes (JPs, etc). My favorite flavor so far is Apple Cinnamon...what's yours?

Q. How do I get the most out of my Strength Training?

A. Train smarter, not harder. Ask yourself, whether for sport or general fitness, is my training...

i. Ground-based (preferably standing) and closed-chain – feet or hands are connected to ground (return of power).
ii. Multi-directional (3-planes of motion) (sagittal: front/back, frontal or lateral: side/side, transverse: w/ rotation or around). We all must be able to move quickly and safely in any direction – and be strong muscularly on all sides of body (to reduce injury, aches and pains).
iii. Multi-joint – focus should be on whole-body movement-based strength training, not isolating a single-joint at a time. The only place for a single-joint lift (bicep curl, triceps extension, leg extension, leg curl, etc) is maybe in the Hypertrophy phase when the focus is simply to get bigger. The most functional and also time-efficient exercises are ones that will involve multiple joints at once, since this is how we move in everyday life.
iv. Applicable to the environment we live in – influenced by gravity, inertia, momentum and impulse. You must replicate the environment during training.
v. Incoportating Balance & Stability: Train brain and nerves to ‘talk to’ muscles to enhance proprioception à greater control of movement à greater execution of coordination and power. This is accomplished by training in an environment that is unstable (use 1-legged lifting, stability balls, balance exercises, etc) and multi-directional – improves coordination and reduces injuries (ACL, ankle, knee, etc). Unstable joints (especially shoulders, hips, knees, ankles) will ‘leak’ power that could have potentially been executed during movement.
vi. Emphasizing activation of core in all movement..
vii. Focusing on hip extensor muscles (primarily glutes, hamstrings, paraspinals/low back). The more they can load (think extend, ‘stretch’, eccentric), the more power they can unload (fire, concentric mvmnt) due to stretch reflex. Oftentimes, weakness in these muscles are main causes of pain (especially to the back).
viii. Generating power on a single leg through 1-L exercises and reaches.
ix. Emphasizing deceleration – ex) quads decelerate knee flexion in sudden stops/changes of direction (think squatting or lunging), hamstrings decelerate hip flexion (think squat and lunge again, RDLs or reaches), abdominals decelerate trunk extension (think how trunk loads during initial throwing, running or kicking action).

If you want to move, look and feel better, these Functional Training components should be the basis of your strength training program.