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I wasted a lot of time stretching

Man stretching

My passion for the field of sports medicine and strength and conditioning began when I was 15 years old.

I was a solid athlete and football was my passion. At the time my dream was to play Division I college football. Although I was successful relative to my immediate peers, I knew that I would have to work my hardest to have any chance of getting to that level.

I trained hard and searched for every advantage I could find. I read books written by famous coaches, trainers, and athletes. One of the most common pieces of advice was to constantly be stretching.

Every morning upon waking, I would perform a 15-20-minute stretching routine. I would repeat a similar routine prior to and after training, as well as before bed.

I would feel more flexible for a short period of time after performing this routine, however, did not notice any improvement in my performance.

When looking back at this now I realize that I never asked myself one simple question. What am I trying to achieve by stretching?

I was simply stretching because people told me I should!

So, what are you trying to achieve when you stretch? Will stretching be helpful for you?

As with most things, the answer is that it depends.

A muscle will become stiff when it is consistently resting in a shortened position. This may be due to posture or a person’s daily activities. For example, someone that sits for an extended period of time is likely to have stiff muscles in the front of the hips.

Stiff muscles may also occur as a result of movement compensations or a lack of movement altogether.

Simply stretching a muscle without correcting the reasons it occurred in the first place, may result in a lot of wasted time. The first step may be to simply move around throughout the day. A simple walk to the water cooler can be enough to break up extended bouts of immobility.

Also, a muscle may become stiff in an attempt to protect against an injury. For example, those with chronic lower back pain often have stiff hamstrings as the hamstrings tighten to protect the lower back.

In this case, it is important to learn to protect the lower back with exercise. One of the first steps is to learn to properly “stack” the pelvis underneath the rib cage. You will feel your abs when you are “stacked” properly. Attempt to maintain this feeling during weight lifting drills.

Below is a great exercise to learn do just that! Have fun and let us know if you have any questions!

Heels Elevated Squat

-Dr. Zachary Cohen

What most runners are missing in their training


At CHP, we often see distance runners for a variety of injuries including knee pain, plantarfascitis, and hip and lower back pain.

In addition to seeing runners as physical therapy patients, we help many runners improve their performance.

There are many things that can be done to help a runner both recover from an injury and positively improve their performance. However, one of the most overlooked pieces is a well-designed strength training program.

Many runners understand the importance of strength training, yet, may be performing strength training programs that are not designed for runners.

These programs commonly contain variations of double leg squats and deadlifts. These exercises are great in the right context, however, provide little carryover to what is required to be an effective runner.

When running, there is never a time when both feet are touching the ground simultaneously. The arms and legs are constantly moving in opposite and alternating directions as the body transitions from one foot to the other.

Therefore, double leg movements have little carryover to running itself.

For these reasons we advise that runners perform exercises that promote single leg control and strength. These exercises include, but are not limited to: lunges, single leg squats, split squats, and single leg RDLs (Romanian deadlifts). Simply adding one of these activities into each of your strength training sessions can have a large impact. Take a look at the videos below for examples of these activities.

A thoughtful and scientific approach to strength training, specifically designed for runners may be all that is needed to help you drastically improve your running performance. It may not even require you to train any harder, just smarter!

CHP Spotlight Interview: Steve Ballance, Co-Owner Digin Baseball

man in baseball uniform putting up two fingers

In this edition of the CHP Spotlight Interview series, Steve shared the wisdom and insight he has gained from being a baseball coach for nearly 20 years. Steve was kind enough to share the biggest mistakes he sees high school players make, in addition to how he approaches arm care for pitchers. Furthermore, he provides valuable insights to help parents differentiate a great coach from the rest. Check out this interview to find out this information and much more!

The Most Overlooked Part Of Health

dog sleeping on a couch under a blanket

Exercise and nutrition are often the first things that people think of when creating their health and fitness goals. And when it comes to injuries, it is common to blame things related to exercise or posture.

However, in my experience as a physical therapist, I rarely hear people attribute injuries to sleep.

Research tells us that sleep is just as important to your health as nutrition and exercise. In fact, insufficient sleep has been linked to chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and can have an impact on the immune system.

Thus, it is no surprise that injury risk increases when you are sleep deprived. In fact, the majority of injuries in professional basketball occur when players are sleep deprived on road trips.

So, what can you do about it?

The CDC recommends getting 7 or more quality hours of sleep per night. There are several things you can do to ensure you get good quality sleep to avoid injury and stay healthy.

To start, you can practice good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is a set of behaviors that can affect sleep quantity and quality. These behaviors can include going to bed and waking at the same time daily and avoiding alcohol or caffeine prior to bedtime.

Another large influence on sleep quality is light. Specifically, blue light suppresses production of one of our sleep hormones, melatonin. Blue light is emitted from the electronic devices we use daily such as computers and phones, and also from LED light bulbs. If you want to get fancy, purchase some blue light blocking glasses to wear a few hours before bed. However, if you want to keep it simple, simply place an electronic device curfew a few hours before bedtime.

There are a multitude of things that you can start doing right now to improve your sleep quality. For any further questions regarding sleep and how it affects your injury risk, please contact us at (240) 686-5609.

What Flight Attendants Can Teach Us During Stressful Times..

Fat man with a life jacket inflated around his neck

I am going to assume that you are not planning on getting on a flight anytime soon.  Yet, there is still much we can learn from our past flying experiences. 

Think back to the boarding announcements on any flight that you have taken. The flight attendant delivers the welcoming address with his or her personal style, however, the information remains consistent. 

The flight attendant explains “in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop from above.” The flight attendant then continues to instruct you to put your oxygen mask on before helping others. 

The reasoning for this is, if you fail to help yourself first, you won’t have the physical capability of helping anyone else. 

In stressful times, such as what we are currently going through, self-care often becomes the first thing to be neglected. With so many more important things to worry about, why would we be concerned with exercising, meditating, journaling, etc.?

However, these are the times when self-care is essential.

Research shows that as stress increases, our ability to make good decisions decreases. High levels of stress reduce the functioning of a portion of our brain called our pre-frontal cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for analytic thinking, decision making, impulse control, and the ability to focus. In other words, this part of our brain allows us to make healthy choices!

As a result, stress increases our tendencies to engage in unhealthy behaviors that include poor eating habits and less daily movement. To make things worse, these behaviors are easier to engage in now that we are stuck at home! 

So, what do you do to take care of yourself? Do you like to exercise? Take long walks? Meditate? Journal?

Personally, I meditate using my calm app for 10 minutes every morning before journaling, performing my preventive physical therapy exercises, and workout. This helps buffer the stressors of the outside world, and enables me to be present for my family, friends, and patients. 

While meditation is something that can be done easily from a variety of places, attempting to regularly exercise is a bit more challenging. 

The gym is closed and good luck ordering home fitness equipment during these times!

That leaves us figuring out how to exercise in our own homes, with minimal space and equipment. Our exercise options are limited causing workouts to be unproductive and possibly resulting in injuries by performing the same movements over and over again. 

This does not mean that you are out of luck. You can maintain, and even improve your level of fitness during these uncertain times. All of this can be done while preventing injury and we would love to show you how!

We are considered essential medical providers and believe that maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle is essential for you. Therefore, we are still open and in addition to our thorough and consistent disinfecting procedures, we are currently only seeing one patient at a time in the clinic. That means you don’t have to worry about interacting with anyone besides your therapist!

Do you prefer to stay at home? No problem! Virtual sessions are available!

Finally, if you have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, please let us know so that we can find the best option for you during these challenging times. 

These difficult times may have you feeling scared, stressed, and anxious. Now is the time to increase your self-care routine. Just remember, if you don’t put your mask on first, you are of no help to anyone else!