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Health - Campus & Community

A Fitter U Q&A: November 2015

November 18, 2015

A Fitter U

Another month, another round of answers to fitness questions from the Drexel community.

Joe Giandonato, Drexel's manager of health promotion, has returned to answer questions on fitness and exercise brought up by Drexel’s faculty, staff and students. Those interested in asking their own questions can continue to email their queries for next month’s edition.

"What are the best stretches to do before and after a short-distance run? Is it necessary to stretch both before and after?”

The great stretching debate continues to rage on. Stretching has been long advocated but recently demonized by a number of fitness professionals on the premise that it activates protective sensory organs within the muscles thus inhibiting force output.

It’s worth noting that the structure of pre- and post-workout stretching strategies and the inclusion of certain tissue care modalities hinges on the type, intensity and duration of the anticipated activity.

A warm up for shorter runs should entail dynamic stretching drills such as skips, hops, brief-tempoed runs, walking lunges, high knees and butt kicks. Doing so will activate the musculature involved in running in addition to improving flexibility and joint function.

Static stretches, in which muscles and the joints they cross are held for a period of time, can be incorporated post-workout to alleviate soreness and help muscles regain their normal resting length. Since body temperature and blood flow will be increased from the workout, conducting static stretching will be safer and more effective.

"Any tips or suggested activities to make the transition into indoor-only workouts more bearable?"

Fortunately, we are in the midst of an uncharacteristically warm fall season, but with the winter and inevitably colder weather approaching, most fitness enthusiasts will be relegated to exercising indoors. Here are some steps to ensure your transition from the outdoors runs seamlessly:

1. Work out at the same time each day

Doing so will condition your body and its natural clock to expect exercise at the same time every day. Establishing a set time will stave off potential disruptions whether actual or perceived.

2. Think "inside out"

Position workout equipment near windows to receive direct sunlight. While Vitamin D-boosting UVA and UVB rays may not fully penetrate glass, beaming rays of sunshine will keep you energized and motivated. During the day, the windowed facade of our Recreation Center captures an abundance of sunlight, illuminating our fitness floors.

3. Embrace the cold

Take the colder weather in stride by hitting the ski slopes, strapping on a pair of skates or challenging your family members or coworkers to a snowball fight. (I'm just kidding about the last one!)

“I experience pain in my lower back from spondylolysis. What are good exercises or lifestyle changes to keep that area limber and pain-free when the spine gets stiff?"

Spondylolysis is a serious but manageable condition affecting the intervertebral discs stemming from repetitive and prolonged hyperextension of the lumbar spine. In this instance, it is probably in your best interests to consult your physician or consider physical therapy, which is offered at the Recreation Center.

Individuals who participate in sports in which lumbar hyperextension is common — football, gymnastics, dancing, wrestling and basketball — are more susceptible to spondylolysis.

Fortunately, pain and discomfort can be alleviated through these approaches:

1. Move around during the day

Unless you're bound to your desk or have an electric fence encircling your cubicle, get up and move around the office. Research has demonstrated that employees who incorporate intermittent physical activity throughout the day are fitter, happier and more productive.

2. Drop the load

Temporarily eliminate or reduce external loading from your workouts. Compressive loading via back squats may exacerbate lower back pain, especially if your spine is chronically hyperextended. Instead, perform bodyweight squats or supported squats to spare the spine as pain subsides.

3. Breathe better

Remedying breathing can create significant improvements in posture and the function of muscles that govern it. Most people breathe shallowly at rest and during exercise, taxing accessory breathing muscles and tightening up the muscles of the shoulders and lower back.

Want to make sure that you're engaging your diaphragm? Place your hands atop your rib cage and pull air in with the belly, not the chest. Inhale deeply through the nose and exhale fully through the mouth. Repeat throughout the day, ideally prior to or during stressful activities.

Have your own questions? Submit here through email and Giandonato may answer your question next month.