Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

Issue #033 06/16/10 On the Road!

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Staying Fit While Traveling: Working Out on the Road

By Shaun T, creator of INSANITY®

Leaving your home where all your dumbbells and videos and favorite workout mat are all laid out for you? I'm here to tell you that's not an excuse to fall off the fitness bandwagon, or to act like you don't know exercise is NOT NEGOTIABLE. It's vital to your health, energy, and mental outlook. So now that I've called you out on it (you know who you are out there), here are some of the things I do when I'm traveling but not performing. And don't laugh. I do what I've got to do to get results. I make no apology.

Suitcases, Mat, Weighted Gloves, INSANITY, and Rockin' Body DVDs

First, pack anything you can within reason that will help your workout commitment. Grab sneakers, workout wear, favorite workout DVDs—INSANITY, Hip Hop Abs®, Rockin' Body® . . . whatever gets you moving!

When you get to your destination, whether it's a hotel or a friend's or relative's home, ask where a local gym is located. Most will be happy to give you a 1-day pass to check out their facilities, or only charge you a small fee for the day or week.

No gym in the scenic, out-of-the-way location where you find yourself? Rent a bike, or if it's winter, some cross-country skis. Got a computer? I'll bet it plays DVDs, so pop in your workout, Push Play, and get busy!

Running Up StairsNo computer or DVD player? Grab a chair and do squats and tricep dips. Lie on the floor and bench press your suitcase (close it securely first!), do push-ups, or if you can't do that, push off a wall to work your chest and arms. Need cardio? Find some stairs, go for a run, or turn on some music and do some of your favorite dance moves. Or do some yoga—those moving asanas are strenuous, and an amazing way of working your whole body.

Sound crazy? Recently while on the road I stopped by a friend's room to see if she wanted to go to the gym with me. She was lifting her little carry-on bag over her head doing tricep presses. Looked pretty effective.

You get the idea. Just keep fitness as a priority and you'll find ways to make it work.

Peace out,
Shaun T

Related Articles
"Staying Fit While Traveling: Leave Jet Lag Behind"
"4 Diet Pitfalls—and How to Avoid Them"
"5 Simple Rules for Eating Sugar"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, June 21, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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The Nerve of Some People! A Guide to Sciatica

By Omar Shamout

What is sciatica? It's a pain in the behind—and more. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the human body, originating in the lower back and running down through each buttock and the back of each leg. Sciatic pain is "radicular" in nature, meaning it can radiate from the nerve root at the base of the spine down to the toes. It occurs when the nerve is pinched or irritated by a disc herniation in the lower back, or by some other underlying cause. The pain can manifest anywhere along the nerve, and can change locations as the injury progresses. Fortunately, educating yourself, as well as using a little patience and common sense, can help make it a little easier to deal with the pain and inconvenience of sciatica.

Woman with Lower Back Pain, Man with Sciatica Pain

How can I tell the difference between nerve pain and muscle pain?

Because the sciatic nerve covers such a large area, many people confuse other types of pain with sciatica, when what they're really experiencing is "referred pain" from another source in the body, like a pulled muscle or an arthritic joint. Here are some characteristics of nerve pain and muscle pain to help you begin to tell the difference.

Nerve Pain

  1. Doesn't seem to be caused by an event or trauma.
  2. Constant and/or recurring pain that doesn't seem to go away.
  3. Burning, stabbing, pins and needles; even wearing clothing is painful.
  4. Feel depressed, helpless; normal pain medicine like aspirin does not stop the pain.

Muscle Pain

  1. Caused by a physical injury, such as a fall.
  2. Pain that stops once an injury heals.
  3. Sore and achy feeling.
  4. Feel distressed but hopeful because more pain medicine relieves the pain.1

Why should I be worried about sciatica?

Sciatica is not a disorder in and of itself, but rather a set of symptoms that potentially indicate the presence of an underlying condition. A herniated disc is the most common reason for sciatic pain, and depending on the severity, the pain will often get better after a few weeks of rest, but because back pain can signal the need for more extensive treatment, it's important not to ignore it. (Even minor back pain that's persisted for more than a couple of weeks should be checked out by your doctor.)

As we get older, the cartilage all over our bodies, including the lower back, wears down, leading to conditions like arthritis. This weakened cartilage leaves us susceptible to sciatic pain because the nerve is not receiving the same kind of protection it once was. When the nerve becomes pinched, the sharp pain that results can make it difficult to stand or walk. Sitting can also make the pain worse, so it's important to consult with a physician to find out if a) the pain is indeed being caused by the nerve and b) the underlying condition is severe enough to warrant further treatment.

Is there anything I can do to help prevent sciatica from either occurring or recurring?

There are several "prehab" techniques you should practice regularly to aid in preventing sciatic pain. Not only can these help with back pain, but they'll help with pretty much every activity you do in your daily life.

  1. Strengthen your core muscles. Strengthening the muscles in your abdomen and lower back is crucial to maintaining good posture, which will help to prevent the cartilage and muscles surrounding your sciatic nerve from weakening. Ideally, this should be done as part of a full exercise regimen like P90X, which features a Core Synergistics workout that helps you build the muscle groups that support your core.
  2. Man StretchingStretching. Keeping your muscles loose and limber is one of the best ways to prevent the occurrence or recurrence of sciatic pain.
  3. Maintain proper posture when sitting. Your feet should be flat on the floor, and your lower back and hips should be properly supported by your chair. Your knees should be even with or slightly lower than your hips to avoid putting pressure on your lower back. Avoid sitting for extended periods of time. If your job requires that you sit for more than 30 minutes at a stretch, try to take short breaks to walk around and help keep those muscles from tightening up. You should also avoid strenuous activity, like lifting heavy objects, immediately after sitting for a long time—try to move around and stretch a little first to warm up your muscles.
  4. Maintain healthy sleep posture, too. It may not be the most obvious connection, but the way we sleep is crucial to the long-term health of our backs. Avoid using giant pillows, or piling pillows on top of one another—this can force your neck into an unnatural angle. Not only can this leave you with neck pain, but the improper alignment can put stress on your entire back. Putting a pillow under your knees when sleeping on your back can help alleviate strain on your lower back. When sleeping on your side, putting a pillow between your knees and bending your knees slightly will help you keep your body aligned in a less stressful way for your lower back. (Sleeping on your stomach is generally not recommended, as this position doesn't support the natural lumbar curve of your back.)
  5. Consider taking glucosamine and magnesium. While the medical benefits of glucosamine and magnesium haven't been proven, many people take both in an effort to strengthen deteriorating cartilage, which can be a factor in back pain.

How do I deal with sciatic pain when it happens?

  1. See your doctor. Especially if pain is chronic or persistent. Almost everything you do radiates from your back, and it's not something to try to work through or take lightly. However, many of us have some amount of chronic back pain, and it's not always practical to call your doctor every time you wake up with a stiff back. Anyone with a preexisting back condition should be fastidious about their prehab routine. If you're unsure about what to do, have your doctor recommend a physical therapist, who'll give you exercises to do. Once you're armed with this information, it'll be much easier for you to assess when you should call your doctor and when you should take care of things yourself.
  2. Apply ice. Most pain is caused by inflammation, and nothing reduces inflammation as well as ice. Start by applying an ice pack to your lower back for about 15 to 20 minutes to relieve inflammation and discomfort. This should be done several times a day. If the pain continues longer than 2 or 3 days, call your doctor.
  3. Man SleepingRest. We recover best when we're asleep, so getting adequate rest is vital to promote healing. When pain is acute, all you can really do is ice and rest. If this doesn't make the pain better, you need to see your doctor.
  4. Apply heat. You don't want to use heat when you're inflamed, but for minor discomfort, warming up the area will help blood circulate in your muscles and make synovial fluids become less viscous. Applying heat can work in a way that's similar to an exercise warm-up if you're too stiff to begin doing any exercise.
  5. Move. Exercise is a very important component of recovery from any injury, but it's only advised when you know you're on the mend. Be careful, follow your doctor's and/or physical therapist's orders, and limit what you do. If you exercise to the point where your injury hurts again, you've done too much. Most of your prehab exercises can serve as your rehab exercises too. It's certain, however, that many things, especially many stretches, can make sciatic pain worse, so this is another area where you'll want professional consultation rather than just winging it.

At some point in our lives, virtually everyone experiences pain, sciatica included. However, if we're proactive about keeping our bodies strong, we can often help prevent or postpone the onset of chronic discomfort, while also preventing further injury to ourselves by taking precautions once we do begin to feel pain. That's why it's important to be smart about the way we react to pain, and listen to our bodies when they're trying to tell us something.

1 From the brochure "Understanding Nerve Pain," © 2004, The American Chronic Pain Association. (http://www.theacpa.org/uploads/Final_Brochure.pdf)

Related Articles
"Pain in the Plantar: FAQ about Plantar Fasciitis"
"Injuries, Part II: 3 Simple Steps to Rebuilding Your Body"
"Injuries, Part I: Just Say No"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, June 21, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Recipe: BBQ Beef Tri-Tip Roast

Tri-Tip Roast Beef

Summer's on the way, and so are backyard barbeques. Here's a flavorful recipe for barbequed tri-tip beef roast—the secret's in the sauce! (Well, in the marinade, actually, but "sauce" has that whole alliteration thing going for it.)

  • 1-1/2-lb. tri-tip roast
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. ginger, grated
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup plum jam (or use Chinese plum sauce)
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 bunches green onions, sliced in half
  • 3 or 4 serrano chiles, sliced
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste)
  • Blender
  • Casserole dish

Horseradish Sauce (optional)

  • 8 oz. unsweetened plain nonfat yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh horseradish, grated (or 2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish)
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • Small covered bowl
  • Whisk

Place all ingredients except roast, onions, and chiles in blender. Blend until smooth, then add onions, chiles, salt, and pepper and mix together. Reserve and refrigerate half of the mixture: one-quarter to use as basting liquid; the other quarter to serve as sauce with the finished roast. Wash roast thoroughly. Pierce meat with a knife or sharp fork several times so liquid can penetrate more easily. Place roast in casserole dish, turn to coat with marinade, and place in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (or as long as overnight), turning several times so meat marinates evenly.

Preheat grill. Remove meat from casserole dish and discard used marinade. (Important: Do not use marinade that raw meat has soaked in as a sauce.) Place whole roast on hot grill; brown 5 minutes on each side. Turn heat to medium and cook slowly, turning and basting every 10 to 15 minutes with half of reserved unused soy sauce mixture. (Refrigerate remainder to use as sauce when roast is served.) Allow about 45 minutes to 1 hour to cook a 1-1/2-pound roast; use a meat thermometer to test degree of doneness. (If it's cool or windy, you may want to use the grill's cover to keep heat in.) Transfer meat to platter and slice thinly across grain. Serve with unused marinade or horseradish sauce. (You can make a low-calorie horseradish sauce by whisking together horseradish, yogurt, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl and refrigerating for 1 hour.) Makes 6 servings.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes (plus marinating time)

Cooking Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour

Nutritional Information (per serving, without horseradish sauce):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
208 32 g N/A < 1 g 8 g 4 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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