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

Issue #029 05/19/10 Relax and Rebuild!

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The Rub on Massage: 8 Great Ways to Relax and Rejuvenate

By Denise Michelle Nix

Part of being fit and healthy is being kind to your body—listening to it when it tells you it's hurt and caring for it. Sure, if you twist your ankle doing P90X® or pull a muscle pushing yourself to your limits during an INSANITY® workout, you'll go see a doctor. But sometimes your body talks to you in a much quieter voice, asking for care and attention you didn't even know it needed or could benefit from. This is where massage can become a valuable recovery tool. Whether you're seeking to relieve an injury, focus your mind, or work on flexibility, there's a type of massage suited for you.

Woman Receiving a Warm Stone Massage

Besides just feeling good, studies show that massage can help bring relief from stress, manage anxiety and depression, reduce pain and stiffness, control blood pressure, and boost immunity. Massage therapy goes a long way toward preventing pain and injury, too. According to a 2003 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, subjects who received 20 minutes of massage 2 hours after exercising a muscle had significantly less soreness 48 hours later than subjects who didn't.

The different kinds of massages and their benefits are not always so obvious just from what's on a therapist's shingle or the menu at the most luxurious day spa in town. We've asked Los Angeles–based acupuncturists and massage therapists Tanja Degen and Hillary Wollman to break down the eight most popular kinds of massages and demystify what sometimes seems like a most mystical experience.


In Western massage practice, the experts agree that the Swedish massage is the basis for all others. It's meant as a relaxation massage, says Degen, an instructor at the California Healing Arts College. "It's your most common type, and it can be firm, moderate, or light pressure." she says. Long, gliding strokes on the skin, usually with the aid of massage oil, promote circulation and bring stress relief not only to tired muscles, but to the busy mind.

Deep tissue/sports

A deep tissue or sports massage builds on the techniques of the Swedish massage—but takes it further. "It's more of a focused, individualized discipline targeting different areas for deeper relief," Degen explains. While Swedish massage is relaxing, it doesn't have any therapeutic effect on the muscles the way a deep tissue or sports massage does, she says. The slow stroke technique, usually with a bit less oil, is designed to increase range of motion and loosen up tight muscles.


Man Getting a Chair MassageYou've probably seen this form of on-the-go massage therapy at the mall or street fairs. Clients sit fully clothed, facing the back of a special chair as hands, fists and elbows work their backs, necks, shoulders, and heads. "It's therapeutic and convenient for someone who doesn't have a lot of time, but still wants the benefits for what massage can provide," says Wollman, owner and operator of Bliss Acupuncture. While a therapist performing a chair massage is more limited in terms of range of motion and depth, the convenience factor makes it popular. Wollman often performs chair massages in the business setting for companies who want to give their employees a nice way to de-stress.


Shiatsu massage, commonly referred to as acupressure, is the basis for traditional Eastern medicine that dates back to ancient times. "It actually works with the body's meridians and energy flow," says Degen, explaining that meridians are the channels through which energy flows in the body. Where there's a block in a meridian, a therapist applies deep pressure, promoting circulation, relaxation, and both lymphatic and hormonal health benefits.


Also a part of Eastern practice, Reiki concentrates on the body's energy as well, but can be done either deeply or more subtly, says Wollman. In Reiki, the therapist places hands on the different energetic systems of the body, including the crown of the head, brow, heart center, and abdomen area. It's gentle touching that allows an exchange of energy between the practitioner and the patient. Reiki may not always involve massage. Wollman incorporates it into the end of her practice. "It helps close the session, almost like saying good-bye to the body without just leaving. It seals in the benefits of what just happened," she adds.


Incorporating warm, smooth stones into the practice is a great way to loosen up sore or tight muscles and heal injuries, says Wollman. "It is so delicious. It's very sensual and the heat of the stones is very penetrating." The therapist either places the stones on key points of the body, allowing their weight and heat to penetrate, or uses them to go deeper with strokes and penetration. The use of the stones increases circulation and has both calming and sedating effects. "For someone who is fitness-oriented and on the go, it is great," Wollman adds.


In reflexology, the hands and feet are the focus, with the idea that all the body's systems are represented there. "You can activate different points on the foot that then help the body's ability to function better," Wollman says. For example, people who have problems with their digestion or intestines can often find relief through reflexology. Another benefit is that it is a convenient therapy, because no oils or lotions needed and the patient can stay clothed if he or she chooses.


Woman Getting a MassageThai massage is the ultimate combination of Swedish or deep tissue massage, with some yoga-like qualities thrown in. In a Thai massage, therapists use practically their entire bodies to massage and stretch their patients. "It's a very active approach to getting things healed in the body," says Wollman. "It's active, but relaxing." For athletes especially, Thai massage helps with flexibility and range of motion. "You have to kind of know that you're gonna be almost thrown all over the place and have the practitioner on top of you," she adds.

Wollman and Degen agree that everyone can find the massage therapy that works best for them. The key, Degen explains, is to communicate with the therapist before the session begins, discussing problem areas and the level of firmness desired. Both note that some people may be hesitant because massage can be such a personal experience, especially when your clothes are off. Most therapists, they say, will accommodate their practice to fit a client's comfort level.

The health benefits of this type of holistic medicine are bountiful, and it's an easy way to care for your body. "There are no (bad) side effects," Degen says. "And it feels great." Wollman adds that the strengthening and focus that massage brings can have far-reaching effects, especially for fitness buffs. "It can calm the mind in a way that can enhance better focus," she says. "It's something passive, but it helps support your game."

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"Tony's Words of Wisdom: Life Is Behavior"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, May 24th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

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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Injuries, Part II: 3 Simple Steps to Rebuilding Your Body

By Steve Edwards

Last week, we examined dealing with injuries from a preventative perspective: how to avoid getting injured in the first place. This week, in the second part of the series, let's look at what to do when prevention isn't enough and we have to deal with an actual injury.

Injured Man on Soccer Field

It's common to see athletes return from being injured better than they were before they got hurt. This is because when you're injured, you're forced to rebuild your body the correct way. Failure to do this could lead to your being handicapped for life. If you rebuild correctly, however, you can easily return from most injuries not only feeling fitter but better able to stave off additional future injuries. Here's a quick guide to how you can come back stronger and faster after you're injured.

Examining your injury

The first thing you need to do is assess your injuries. Let's throw major trauma out of this discussion, because in those situations you need professional healthcare right away. In situations of major trauma, you should follow your doctor's orders until he or she gives you the go-ahead to do things on your own. At this point, you probably still have some physical limitations to consider, but once your doctor releases you, the information I've provided below regarding minor trauma becomes relevant.

Pain is generally associated with an injury, but all pain doesn't mean that you're injured. A fairly common occurrence—especially for people who haven't worked out before—is to confuse standard muscle breakdown for an injury. This may sound absurd, but it's not when you consider how the body becomes stronger. The kind of breakdown we instigate through training is, in fact, a type of injury. The only difference is that it's a targeted breakdown, involving body parts that recover quickly. This is why recovery is such an important subject in fitness training. When you follow a workout program, the overload is progressive, meaning that the amount of breakdown increases over time. But when you overdo it during a workout, you create excessive muscular breakdown, which can feel like an injury.

Most other injuries that don't require immediate medical attention are called soft tissue injuries. These are referred to as sprains, twists, pulls, jams, etc., which are all different types of microtrauma to your ligaments or tendons. These injuries vary in severity. In some cases, you need to see a doctor to assess how serious an injury is—and whether it's something that needs medical attention. Minor cases are often left untreated. Leaving minor injuries untreated is an easy way to help an area turn into a chronic problem.

Injured Athlete with DoctorBut whether you're beat up from training or have an injury, your recovery protocol is similar. Although all pain doesn't mean you're injured, all pain should be treated as an injury, because standard recovery for microtrauma in uninjured muscle tissue is similar to that for minor trauma in injured muscle and connective tissue. The only difference should be in how aggressively you go about implementing the treatments listed below. For example, if you know you have muscle breakdown from jumping too high during yesterday's P90X® Plyometrics workout, you can be less diligent about certain protocols, like icing the "injured" region. Ice would still help the injured area recover more quickly, but given that you know it's not a real injury, you can be certain it will heal 100 percent anyway. Incidentally, an after-workout shake like P90X® Results and Recovery Formula™ that enhances quick replenishment can help you figure out whether you're injured, or you just overdid it. A properly timed recovery shake will improve muscle resynthesis so you're less sore.

So essentially there are two types of injuries. Major, which means you need to see a professional ASAP, and minor, which you can (and should) treat yourself. Keep in mind that a minor injury can become major. Therefore, keep a close eye on how your home treatment is progressing. If things continue to get worse, it's always better to get to a doctor—the sooner, the better.

Periodizational training for injuries

As soon as you notice an injury, whether you've twisted your ankle or noticed that a dull ache in your elbow seems to be getting worse, your protocol should be the same. Like an exercise program, an injury treatment program has steps for you to follow and progress through in phases. In most cases, the type of injury doesn't matter because these steps are the same. If your injury isn't so bad that you need to see a doctor, these are the steps you should follow.

Step 1: Post-injury assessment ASAP

When you get injured, your very first step is to assess the injury. Is it bloody, are you disfigured, can you mobilize the area, etc.? Your first step is to address whether or not you need to get to a hospital. If the answer is yes, you want to get there ASAP, because the sooner the treatment is started the easier your recovery period will be.

If there's no doctor on your agenda, your next step is to immobilize the injury. Adding further stress at this point can make the injury worse. So when you've hurt something, the first thing you want to do is to stop moving.

Next, you want to keep the area from becoming inflamed. If you're away from home and you need to keep moving, this can become step one. Taking anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium should be the first thing you do, unless you have an issue with these medications.

Icing an Ankle InjuryYou'll want to ice and elevate the area immediately. Of the two, icing is more effective. Doing both is best. Getting ice on an injury as soon as possible is probably the best way to speed up your recovery. It's amazing how effective keeping an area iced and elevated post-injury are for speeding recovery. By taking the time to do this, even when the injury isn't too severe, you can change something that could become a nagging, chronic problem into something that is gone so fast you forget you were ever injured.

Ice helps with standard exercise recovery, too. If you know you've overdone your workout, immersing the affected areas in ice will greatly speed up your recovery. It's important to keep in mind that icing small areas like your fingers can lead to frostbite, because you don't have enough circulation to melt the ice in those areas. The smaller the area, the shorter the time you should ice it. For fingers, don't exceed 10 minutes or so. For larger areas, like ankles, standard practice is to ice for 20 to 30 minutes. After icing, allow the area to warm up fully before icing again. During the acute stage of an injury, you can ice up to 5 times or so a day. Don't get discouraged if you can't do this. Any icing is much better than none.

Now rest. During the acute stage of this phase, you don't want to do any other exercise. This will cause breakdown that reduces your body's ability to repair the damaged area. The length of this period depends on the injury. For an injured finger, you might be able to move into the second phase the next day. For a larger body part, you might need a few days or more of downtime.

Step 2: Recovery

As soon as you can, you want to get the rest of your body moving again. This helps speed your recovery by reversing the atrophy that begins once you stop movement. What to do during this step varies a lot and is entirely dependent upon the location of your injury. The only constant is that you don't want to stress the injured area at all. Other than that, you can do any physical activity you want.

Step 3: Physical therapy

This is where you target the comeback for your injured area. Visiting a physical therapist can help greatly, because, well, it's his or her job to help you recover. The training you do will generally start with simple manipulations of the injured area. Once these can be done without pain, the intensity begins to increase.

Person Receiving Physical TherapyPhysical therapy exercises focus on muscular balance. That is, they tend to target both the large prime mover muscles of an area along with the smaller stabilizer muscles. Because you focus on these in combination—which often doesn't happen during sports, or in training programs that are are only based on changing how you look—you'll often return from an injury more balanced than you were prior to the injury. This is why many athletes come back from injuries stronger than they were before.

It's impossible in the scope of this article to explain all the types of exercises you could do for injured areas of your body. There are many references on this subject, including physical therapists. Beachbody now offers a solution as well. Our Total Body Solution™ program covers basic movements you can do for rehab. Keep in mind that you can also do these to help prevent injuries. Total Body Solution also has assessment exercises that will help show you if your body is out of balance.

You know that injuries are really just a part of life, as is how we respond to them. If you follow a regimented protocol, there's really no reason to fear injuries. Like most things in life, they're simply a part of the process of living. How we deal with them can make them worse, or turn them into a positive.

Related Articles
"Injuries, Part I: Just Say No"
"Can Hard Exercise Hurt Your Immune System?"
"Sore, Hungry, and Slow: 3 Signs That Show Your Program Is Working"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, May 24th, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

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.

Submit A CommentTell A Friend Bookmark and Share

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Shakeology® Taste Test on YouTube®!

See what P90X devotee anthonyle247 has to say about Shakeology on YouTube—both the Greenberry and Chocolate flavors!

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Recipe: Herb-Spiced Tuna Steaks

Herb-Spiced Tuna Steak

When you're recovering from an injury, one thing your muscles definitely need to help them rebuild and grow strong is some high-quality protein. Here's a quick, flavorful recipe for tuna steaks that are high in protein and low in fat.

  • 2 12-oz. fresh tuna steaks (each 1 inch thick)
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, fresh
  • 2 Tbsp. rosemary leaves, fresh
  • 2 to 3 tsp. lemon zest (about 1 lemon's worth)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Salt ( to taste)
  • Ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat grill, grill pan, or skillet. Rinse tuna and pat dry. On a cutting board, pile parsley, rosemary, lemon zest, garlic, salt, and pepper together and mince until combined. Drizzle both sides of tuna steaks with oil and rub herb mix into fish. Set aside for 5 minutes to let flavors marry.

Grill steaks 2 minutes on each side for rare or 5 minutes on each side for well done. Cut each steak into two pieces. Makes 4 servings.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 4 to 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
244 38 g 0 g 1 g 9 g 2 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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