What if you could experience less anxiety and less stress without a pill forcing your body to calm down? What if you could exercise your heart, lungs, muscles and bones without having to step foot in an LA Fitness? Seems too good to be true... but have you tried HIKING?
To some, hiking may seem like a pointless wandering through the woods, but for many folks the benefits are numerous and welcomed.
Hiking, or even a stroll through a nature setting, has been shown to decrease anxiety and lower risks of depression.
A Stanford study showed that “neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination – repetitive thought focused on negative emotions – decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment.”
That means that annoying repetitive voice in your head telling you that you don’t have enough time in the day can be quieted, maybe even silenced!
In the technology-driven world we live in, quiet and empty time is almost non-existent. By taking a walk through a nearby park during lunch or finding some trails on the weekend, you may notice mood enhancement and more productivity when working!
Another mental health booster—try taking a friend with you sometime. Personal interactions, without large groups and distractions or cell phones in our faces can help build meaningful relationships that are valuable for mental health.
Do you train really hard during the week? Take a hike on your off day/rest day as a way to keep the blood flowing and body moving while also allowing it an exercise input that is not 100% intense the whole time. Your body will thank you!
Hiking also provides a unique challenge that we don’t see often- an uneven surface. Unless we are still playing some sports as adults, like soccer or lacrosse, we tend to exercise on and spend our days on flat, hard surfaces. Navigating uneven ground challenges our foot and ankle stability, single leg control, and balance, unlike conventional fitness routines.
You can search for hikes according to distance and challenge at websites or apps like “All Trails.” I suggest trying some longer and easier hikes as part of recovery from tough fitness routines or as an easy mental release. These trails usually have less obstacles so there is less focus demand for watching your step. Of course, they are not as demanding on the heart and muscles, but that may be desired for an off day! Depending on your fitness level, you can also try to push it to more challenging terrain with obstacles and steeper incline. This will get your heart pumping and lungs working hard!
As we get in our weekly routines of work, gym, dinner, repeat, I think we tend to forget to use our fitness. We are exercising to keep the heart and lungs healthy, manage a healthy body composition and release stress or worry but also to be able to continue being active throughout our lifetimes. So get out and find a nature-filled area to hike or a park to walk through! Your mental and physical health depend on it!
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jackie, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
It’s baaaaack. The largest fitness competition on Earth, the CrossFit Open, is finally here. Maybe you’ve trained all year for this, maybe you’re still new to CrossFit and are curious about all the excitement. Maybe you’re a seasoned vet, maybe this is your first Open you’ve ever participated in. Regardless of your CrossFit background, your fitness will be tested, your mental toughness will be challenged, and you will certainly have a blast working through these workouts with your crew at your local CrossFit affiliate.
That being said though, this is typically a time where we start seeing an uptick in the people we see coming in for CrossFit related injuries. Having an athletic background, where I had to personally sit out multiple seasons due to injuries, I speak from experience when I tell you there is nothing worse than working all year towards a goal/competition/test and not being able to perform at an optimal level, if at all, because of an injury. And, look, I get it. There is inherently an increased risk of injury when you're pushing yourself in a competitive environment. However, there are some very important things you can do to minimize this risk and allow you to perform your best. Let’s take a look at the three easy things you can do:
#1 Don’t Be Reckless
This is huge and something I see year after year. If you’re a CrossFit coach, or even just an observant CrossFit athlete, I’m sure you’ve seen what I’m about to explain...You’ve worked all year to create movement patterns that are both safe and effective. You know the importance of good, quality movement. However, throw in the element of an international competition and it seems like all these lessons about technique go out the window.
For example, last year’s first Open workout (18.1) consisted of three movements: toe-to-bar, dumbbell clean and jerks and rowing. Can you guess what type of injury we saw coming into our clinic after this workout? If you said back pain, you’re correct. But why? Well, with this workout people were trying to perform as many rounds as possible for 20 minutes. To get better scores people weren’t maintaining core control for a solid hollow position with their toes-to-bar, they stopped getting full hip and knee extension for optimal power production during the drive portion of the clean and jerks, and/or they started to over-extend during the rowing component. All of these create situations that are destined to increase stress on your low back. Keep in mind that this was just the first workout! Now you’re either completely unable to participate in the other workouts or will not be performing at an optimal level because you’re trying to grind through an injury.
#2: Protect Your Sleep
There are four main pillars of health care that we look at with every patient who walks in the door at Athletes’ Potential: Movement, Stress, Sleep, and Nutrition. Sleep is easily on of the biggest problems that we see out of these pillars. And check this out: Sleep affects everything you do and everything you do is positively affected by quality sleep. Good, quality sleep literally improves everything: every marker on a blood panel, weight management, sport performance and recovery, productivity, and numerous types of disease management. The list goes on and on, yet the percentage of sleep deprived Americans, particularly in Urban areas, continues to rise at an alarming rate. In fact, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 30% of Americans are sleep deprived getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not giving your body a chance to recover. If you’re not recovering appropriately, then you're leaving yourself at risk for injury and decreased performance. So, bottom line: create an optimal sleeping environment, protect your night time routine, and get some good, quality sleep.
For more info on how to optimize your sleep, check out this article we wrote.
#3: Maintain Perspective
This comes full circle with tip #1. For those of you trying to make it on to Regionals, those extra few reps I mentioned could be the difference in making the cut vs staying home. However, for the vast majority of athletes competing in the CrossFit Open this is not reality. You all have careers, kids you need to take care of, and numerous other responsibilities that you need to keep rocking with once you leave the gym. Is bouncing off the top of your head to get an extra rep or two really going to mean that much if by doing so now you can’t look over your shoulder while driving? (yes, this is a real scenario that we’ve worked on at our clinic...I’m looking at you 17.4). Or is that two position jump on the leaderboard really all the important if now you can’t bend over to pick up your kids?
CrossFit is meant to be a competitive, fun, and challenging way to make all aspects of life outside the gym a little easier. This time of year is huge for all CrossFit athletes and it is truly impressive to see the physical accomplishments and PR’s that happen every single year in the Open. However, the Open isn’t an excuse to throw all safety out the window, but it isn’t something you should be afraid of either. Following these three easy tips will ensure that you have a great time, reduce your risk of injury, and maybe even hit a PR or two.
Thanks for reading,
Dr Jake, DPT, CSCS, CF-L1
“Since 2008, average family premiums have increased 55 percent, twice as fast as workers’
earnings (26%) and three times as fast as inflation (17%).”
“Premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage rise 5% to average $19,616; single
premiums rise 3% to $6,896.”
“Deductibles for covered workers has tripled since 2008, growing 8 times faster than wages.”
Not trying to be a Negative Nancy, but that’s no bueno. Unfortunately, this is where our current
healthcare system stands.
This data was released by the Kaiser Family Foundation in a recent survey.
The annual survey was conducted between January and July of 2018 and included 4,070
randomly selected, non-federal public and private firms with three or more employees (including
2,160 that responded to the full survey and 1,910 others that responded to a single question about
Over the past decade, insurance premiums and deductibles have significantly increased relative
to workers’ earnings and inflation.
We continue to pay more for insurance, but get less in return.
We want a healthier country, but we continue to create barriers to access “healthcare.”
So how do we change this?
Use the system less and, more importantly, NEED IT LESS.
What I’m getting at is taking control of our own health. We have plenty of data to show that
chronic disease is impacting this country.
Improving and maintaining our health and wellness through movement, nutrition, sleep, stress
management, and social relationships is crucial. With technology, we have this information at
our fingertips. While it can be tough to decipher through the guruism and instamodels these days,
it’s important to do your research and find professionals that you trust with your health.
Here are some general recommendations we give:
1. Move everyday. Strength train at least 2-3x per week. Test your heart and lungs.
2. Eat real food, not too much, mostly plants (but also.. protein is life).
3. Get at least 7 hours of quality sleep each night.
4. Stress management is often overlooked and this can be managed through self-reflection,
meditation, counseling, exercise, etc. Find what works best for you.
5. Social connection and relationships is an area I believe is very important for all of us. We
all have our people and it’s important to prioritize those relationships for our own health
If you want to dive further into the details of this survey, you can find the original article here:
Insurance and healthcare is expensive. Employers and employees are starting to take notice of
this tread. They’re being incentivized to take a proactive approach as well as minimize the use of
At the end of the day, let’s get people moving better and eating less shit, and more importantly,
realize that we have the power to take control of our health and avoid being imprisoned by this
expensive healthcare system.
Dr. Ravi, DPT
To quote Dr. Kirk Parsley, renown sleep expert who improved the sleep of some of the most revered badasses on the planet, Navy Seals, “Sleep affects everything you do and everything is affected positively by better sleep."
As snake oil-like as it may sound, good quality sleep literally improves everything: every marker on a blood panel, weight management, sport performance and recovery, productivity, and numerous types of disease management. The list goes on and on, yet the percentage of sleep deprived Americans, particularly in Urban areas, continues to rise at an alarming rate. In fact, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 30% of Americans are sleep deprived getting fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night, and that’s a problem. Study after study proves that we need 7-9 hours of sleep per night in order to recover appropriately and prevent the many negative consequences that come from sleep deprivation.
I see people with sleep deprivation all the time in the clinic. Parents with young children, serial entrepreneurs and CEOs, students cramming for exams, and countless people who simply have a hard time “turning on their off switch” in order to fall asleep. However, in many of these cases when we have these patients make dedicated efforts to average 7-9 hours of sleep per night for just one week, something wild happens. All of a sudden their back pain isn’t as severe, or their elbow pain thats nagged them for weeks is no longer there, or their knees no longer hurt when they squat. The benefits of good sleep cannot be understated, and the mechanisms behind how sleep benefits you and what exactly goes on while you sleep are both complex and incredibly fascinating, but that’s for a later article.
One of the biggest reasons adults have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep is because they lack Sleep Hygiene, which is simply having the appropriate routine to put themselves in an environment to promote sleep.
For those of you reading this who have young children, think about their night time routine. You give them a bath, brush their teeth, tuck them in, read them a story, and give them a kiss and rub on the back as you shut off the lights.
Now compare this to what we do as adults. Read emails on our computers, watch our favorite show or sports team, check our social media feeds, and then immediately try to get in bed and fall asleep. No bueno.
Just like when we were kids, we need to have good sleep hygiene as adults, and below you’ll find the top two ways to do just that put yourself in a better position to optimize your sleep.
Optimize your Environment:
In order to optimize you sleeping environment, you must do three things: Make it dark; make it cold; make it quiet.
Create A 10-Minute Routine:
This isn’t some crazy, convoluted process. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Your nightly routine should be something that you will be able to perform on a consistent basis and be easily replicable regardless if you're at your home or in a hotel room. This could literally be something as easy as drinking a cup of your favorite (non-caffeinated) drink, performing light stretches, reading a book, or working on various breathing techniques. However, there are some simple rules to keep in mind with your routine:
Consistency is key with your night time routine. We are creatures of habit, and after doing the same routine a few times in a row your body will start to recognize that you're winding down to sleep and will up-regulate the the portion of your brain responsible for helping you fall asleep.
At our clinic here in Decatur, Georgia, the number one excuse for poor sleep is lack of time. Well, your health is pretty important and you only get one body... you need to take care of it. Sleep is a crucial part of that process and should be made a priority in your life. Just try the steps we covered in this article for seven days straight, start optimizing your health, and feel great in the process!
If you've been struggling with a nagging injury or are frustrated with your current medical provider, give us a call. We work one on one with all of our clients and they see a highly qualified Doctor of Physical Therapy every time they come in. We help people get back to living an active life full of movement and interactions with the ones they love most.
If you'd like to set up a 15 minute phone call with one of our Doctors for free, we'd love to do that. If you're not an ideal fit for what we do, we can help get you to the right person, no strings attached. Click the image below to request a phone consultation with one of our Doctors.
Thanks for reading,
-Dr. Jake, PT, DPT
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.