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"We now have evidence that a social media fad has led to catastrophic results." - Dr. Elvin Montbard, Harvard University

An Unusual Experience: A Terrifying Day in Boston

For Boston resident Megan Brown, January 11th should have begun as a typical weekday morning. Megan Brown woke up to her alarm at 6 am in her North End apartment and then things went terribly wrong. She was awake and conscious, yet unable to move. Her body lay completely still as her alarm continued to ring.

Her roommate, Ali Sherwin, recalled, "I knew something really weird was going on because Megan was an early riser who always jumped out of bed to get a head start on her day before leaving for work. It seemed very strange to hear her alarm blaring for a few minutes without interruption. I don't think I had ever heard it for more than 10 seconds."

Sherwin, understandably concerned, knocked on Brown's door, and, lacking a response, rushed in. She found her roommate and friend of eight years lying completely still with her eyes open. Sherwin, a physician at Tufts Medical Center, checked Brown's pulse and breath, both of which seemed normal, and then began to gently shake Brown. After several minutes of increasingly frantic attempts to help her friend wake up, Sherwin said, "Megan finally began blinking nervously, took a deep breath, and asked me why she couldn't move. She was terrified." Sherwin had called 9-1-1 and an ambulance arrived soon after Brown's temporary paralysis ended. Brown was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital for testing and evaluation.

At first, the medical staff believed that Brown was experiencing sleep paralysis, a state in which individuals endure a brief inability to move, typically a few seconds. However, after realizing that by the time Brown was able to move, nearly 20 minutes had elapsed, the staff knew that something else was going on. More tests were done, including an evaluation of Brown's recent activities. Brown had taken part in four "Mannequin Challenges" as an organizer and participant, and that fact began to become more of a focus of the medical investigation. Brown was documented as the first case of hyper-extended sleep paralysis (HESP). The medical community is now worried that an outbreak may afflict tens of thousands of people over the next few months.

The Mannequin Challenge: All Fun & Games

The Mannequin Challenge, in which participants remain motionless while the camera filming them weaves its way around and between them, became a viral social media phenomenon last fall. It was popular in diverse groups across the globe, with participants including the Portugal national soccer team and star Cristiano Ronaldo, NBA superstar Steph Curry and his wife, singer-songwriter Adele, and Michelle Obama.

Gym Mannequin Challenge

The above video shows why the Mannequin Challenge became so popular: it is fun, allows for creativity, and looks really cool. As you can see, everyone in the video looks like a mannequin, carefully holding unique poses as the camera sweeps around them.

An estimated 22 million Americans have participated in the challenge since it began last October.

Long-Term Effects: A Warning From the Scientific Community

Megan Brown's case seemed like an anomaly at first. Over the last two months, however, similar cases were documented in Philadelphia, Winnipeg, Amsterdam, San Francisco, and Tel Aviv. While the Mannequin Challenge appears to be a playful and innocent activity, new research conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that participants are at-risk for experiencing hyper-extended sleep paralysis (HESP).

Sleep paralysis itself is not uncommon: 40 percent of Americans are affected at some point during their lifetime and six percent endure recurring sleep paralysis. Yet sleep paralysis does not last very long and is considered uncomfortable yet safe. NIH has reported 62 cases of HESP in which otherwise healthy individuals have experienced "consciousness without mobility" for 15 to 50 minutes at a time. In all cases, those affected had participated in at least one Mannequin Challenge event.

HESP can be dangerous -- and extraordinarily scary -- for those afflicted. Harvard Medical School neurologist Dr. Franklin Lestar noted, "the most disconcerting finding is that there does not seem to be any discernible predictor for which Mannequin Challenge participants will be afflicted." Therefore, there is no way to know which of the millions of people worldwide may experience hyper-extended paralysis the next time they wake up.

Early Hypothesis on Triggers for HESP

While the consensus is that the Mannequin Challenge causes HESP, the exact relationship between the event and the disorder has not been established. University of Pennsylvania neurologist Dr. R. Anthony Harris shared his hypothesis in the American Journal of Medicine. He argued, "As silly as it sounds, the old wives' tale we tell our children that 'if you keep making that face, it will stay that way forever,' has some truth. However, it is not the body that stays that way on its own. It is the mind that creates neuro-sensogenic loops that prevent the brain from communicating with the body and instructing it to move.

There is ample evidence to support Harris' position. A (notably small) study conducted by the Mayo Clinic closely monitored the brain activity of six individuals who have experienced Mannequin Challenge-induced HESP for 10 consecutive days and nights. Four of the study's participants experienced at least one episode of HESP during the study, and, in each case, the brain was firing neurons that were unable to transfer due to an expansion of synaptic clefts. Mayo Clinic Senior Director of Research Dr. Sally Chung said, "The brain knows what it wants to do, but it is unable to send the signals far, which effectively creates a series of 'unanswered calls.'" Chung says that eventually, the clefts shrink, which ends the HESP incident, therefore bringing mobility back to the individual afflicted.

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“Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.” - Joseph Campbell

During my 28 years in the fitness industry, my body has undergone significant demands. I was a competitive bodybuilder for over two decades and I've been a spin instructor for 12 years.

I train hard. I ride fast. Without making excuses, I know that I often haven’t taken the time to provide proper self-care for my body.

As a result of my aggressive exercise regimen, I have had a serious left hip impingement for the last five years. I am a corrective exercise specialist. I have employed many techniques to address my pain and discomfort.

I would apply a post-surgery hip replacement regime to my workouts weekly to open up the external and internal rotation of my hip. This process would allow for me to move freely through my workouts, as well as my spin classes. I have also used a range of foam-rolling devices on the target area.

Nothing I tried would provide proper relief, however.

My wife, a massage therapist, would administer massage techniques along with Thai stretching which would provide temporary relief. Inevitably and quickly, the pain returned.

I continued to feel a strong sensation of tightness due to over-activity and had chalked it up to the demand being placed on my body.

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Rachel Stinar, Core Flyte Master Instructor

I was impressed when I watched some Core Flyte videos on Facebook and Instagram. The product appeared to be one that virtually anyone could use. The fact that Core Flytes work in a transverse plane of motion was super-appealing to me as this was the plane I would mostly try to accomplish to repair my hip challenges. I took the liberty of reposting the videos onto my pages of both social media platforms as I wanted to share the amazing display of exercise with my clients, colleagues, and friends.

A couple of months ago, I saw the Core Flyte Master Instructor application postings on social media. I had been thinking for a while, “How long am I going to count reps and ride bikes for a living?” I've been a Master Trainer for a long time and the thought of leaving the weight floor and spin bike frightens me, but I thought the end might be near as I was having so many complications with my hip. I thought by applying for another instructing avenue I might be able to age gracefully through the end of my career.

After applying to become one of the first Core Flyte Master Instructors, I received an email requesting an interview. I was shocked and excited! I had my interview, and was invited to join the Flyte Team! My excitement was through the roof! However, I was a little hesitant coming to the instruction weekend with my injury. I knew that I had to not only sit for long periods of time, but also perform various exercises using Core Flytes.

At the end of the first day of our workshop, we performed a challenging series of Core Flyte exercises in an intense workout. It was demanding for all nine of us, but it also moved my body in ways that were new to me. As I was sitting during a discussion on the second day of our workshop, it suddenly occurred to me that my hip was pain-free. Then, before I performed the Core Flyte plank pike for my chosen exercise, I thought, "Oh boy, this is going to be good...I can't ever get any height with this exercise!" To my astonishment, I was able to perform the exercise with a considerably larger range of motion.

I returned to my club this week and I noticed that I was pain-free a couple of hours after my spin class and training clients. The worst for me is sitting for long periods of time, then spinning, then standing still. The aching I would have is unbearable at times. The Core Flyte exercises help alleviate my pain… I believe for good.

I know so many people who have hip problems such as mine from the demand they place on themselves physically. I cannot wait to share my experience with them. I'm very grateful to be able to have my hip feel normal again.

A valuable component in my training life as a Master Trainer or Master Instructor is to be a "product of a product." The fact that I can speak with heartfelt conviction and personal experience with such an amazing piece of equipment is remarkable.

Before going to the Core Flyte Master Instructor workshop, I was planning to taper down my activities in my career, but now I feel as if I've been given the greatest gift: additional years added to do the things I love in the world of health and fitness.

We’d love to hear from you. What do you think about my experience? Comment below or on our Facebook page or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Rachel Stinar
Core Flyte Master Instructor, Flyte Fitness

P.S. DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR FITNESS UPDATES! CLICK THE BOX AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE!

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Every time I visit my doctor for my annual checkup I receive an official body mass index (BMI) that is documented in my files. I’m pretty sure you do too. But what exactly does BMI mean and what does it measure? Should we blindly trust BMI because doctors use it on both children and adults? Let’s take a closer look.

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Last weekend, the kids I babysat introduced me to the Jelly Belly Beanboozled board game right before dinner, with parental permission of course. I was told that you spin on your turn to decide what color jelly bean to try. Then, one of two similar looking but different tasting flavors could be yours. The kids each had spitting cups in case a flavor did not work out, based on their prior experience.

The first “negative” flavor I experienced was on my fourth turn. I picked the canned dog food instead of the chocolate pudding flavor since I listened to the wrong kid. The kids, however, were shocked that I didn’t think it tasted bad at all. Ironically, I thought it tasted pretty good, like a juicy, well-marinated piece of stir-fried pork. I probably liked it because I am a protein metabolic type and naturally crave meats often.

What is Metabolic Typing?
Just as there is no one particular workout routine that fits all people, there is no one diet that suits all people. Those who advocate for metabolic typing believe that each person has a unique metabolism and specific foods affect each person differently. The theory is that we should eat foods aligned to our metabolic type to improve our well-being.

Three General Metabolic Types
Most practitioners believe there are three different metabolic types. Type A is the protein type, type B is the carbo type, and type C is the mixed type that is somewhere in between. To find out what your personal metabolic type is, take the interactive metabolic typing quiz here. After you take the quiz and find out your results, read the explanations below.

Type A: Protein Type
As I mentioned, I am a type A (protein type). Protein types tend to crave fatty and salty foods. They should consume plenty of high-density, high-fat proteins. Think nuts, steak, red or darker meats, fish, whole milk, eggs, cheese, etc. Protein types are one of two things: either they possess fast oxidizers that burn carbohydrates too quickly or the parasympathetic branch of their autonomic nervous system is more dominant than the sympathetic branch. This means that the part of their nervous system that regulates the body at rest is stronger than the part of their nervous system that regulates the fight-or-flight response.

Although too much processed sugar can increase anxiety levels for protein types, this does not mean that they should not eat carbohydrates at all though. Protein types should eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, picking starches from whole grains. Overall, their meals should probably consist of 50% proteins, 30% fats, and 20% carbohydrates.

Type B: Carbo Type
Type B metabolic types would do well on a diet of low fat and relatively low protein foods with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Carbo types may crave sweets and refined sugar when they need healthy carbohydrates. The carbohydrates will either strengthen their weaker parasympathetic systems or speed up their naturally slow cellular oxidation rates.

Nevertheless, carbo types should still include protein in most meals. They should focus on leaner, low fat meats like chicken, turkey, and fish, limiting their red meat consumption compared to protein types. Overall, their meals should probably consist of 20% proteins, 10% fats, and 70% carbohydrates, focusing mostly on vegetables with moderate levels of sugar and starch.

Type C: Mixed Type
Type C mixed metabolic types need to eat a mixture of protein type and carbo type foods. Good foods to eat for this metabolic type include turkey, chicken, beef, salmon, soy, yogurt, low-fat cheese, sweet potatoes, and bananas. These foods help mixed types support both sides of the nervous system and maintain their cellular oxidative rates. They can consume most types of fats, including those from whole milk as well as low-fat products. Overall, their meals should consist of 33% proteins, 33% fats, and 33% carbohydrates.

Your Metabolic Type May Evolve Through Your Life
According to naturopathic wellness expert Kate Klemer, your metabolic type can change over time. Personally, I have probably evolved from more of a mixed metabolic type to a protein type between grade school and college. This makes sense because the stresses of college have probably taken a toll on my sympathetic nervous system. Nevertheless, I do adopt a higher carbohydrate, more mixed type diet during cross-country season when I do crave more carbohydrates.

We’d love to hear from you. Please let us know what metabolic type you are after taking the quiz and how that has impacted your thoughts regarding your diet. Comment below or on our Facebook page or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Dai Zhang
Contributing Writer, Flyte Fitness

P.S. DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR FITNESS UPDATES! CLICK THE BOX AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE!

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No, “Alexander Technique” is not code for standing in line for hours waiting or Hamilton tickets, although it will improve your posture! Alexander Technique (AT) is a well-researched yet not-so-well known process for re-educating our movement habits in order to improve the way we function, reduce pain, and move more naturally.

My Experience with Alexander Technique
I know a bit about Alexander Technique from personal experience. I started AT lessons to support shoulder injury rehab. I was doing a lot of physical therapy shoulder exercises. A lot! My AT teacher, Jennifer Roig-Francoli, warned me in my first lesson: “Pay attention to how you are doing them. Make sure you are not over-tensing muscles unnecessarily.” I knew she was right. There were days when I would mindlessly do exercises just to get them over with. This would lead me to have sharper pain afterwards instead of the expected soreness.

Tighter is Not Always Better
When we perform our core workouts, it is easy for us to focus on an end result, such as six-pack abs, without paying attention to what we are doing in the process. In AT, this is called end-gaining, but pain does not always equal gain. According to Australian Physiotherapist Peter O’Sullivan, many people subscribe to the belief that pre-bracing and pre-stiffening your back to engage core muscles during workouts helps protect your back during workouts and can even cure lower back pain.

However, O’Sullivan’s studies with patients reveal the opposite. Too much stiffening and tightening produces spinal compression, creating more pain. Massively overworking back and pelvic floor muscles can even cause stress fractures. He finds very little evidence that pre-tensing is normal. In fact, O’Sullivan states that this belief and fear about the vulnerability of backs has done damage, whereas a positive mental belief about the natural strength of the spine would produce healthier habits.

How This Myth Developed
University of Queensland researchers theorized in the 1990s that the delayed firing of certain abdominal and back muscles, particularly the transverse abdominis and multifidus, is the culprit behind chronic low back pain. This belief caused personal trainers and Pilates practitioners to adopt a “zip and hollow” technique of lifting the pelvic floor to activate the transverse abdominis, drawing the navel toward the spine.

How Alexander Technique Helps
Professor O’ Sullivan developed a treatment method called cognitive functional therapy, factoring in a patient’s beliefs, fears, movement behaviors, and holistic lifestyle to diagnose and treat back pain. Similarly, Alexander Technique helps people learn to move with more ease through greater self-awareness of mind and body as a whole. This includes being aware of our head, neck, and spine, in addition to our core.

This kind of awareness can be easily developed using Core Flytes since they require coordinated movements involving multiple muscle groups working in concert. This whole body muscle coordination enables us to improve muscle, balance, and stability through dynamic activity rather than isolated exercises.

Tips for Your Next Workout
Next time you use your Core Flytes, or do any kind of workout, consider the following Alexander Technique-inspired tips:

1. Focus on quality over quantity. Joseph Pilates emphasized this, too.
2. Give your inner core muscles a chance to strengthen by not tightening your outer muscles. More on how to do that with a plank here.
3. Do not force fixed postural positions. Instead, trust your innate postural reflexes.
4. Be aware that isolated muscle weaknesses are probably part of larger faulty unconscious habits of movement. The shoulder pain from my exercises are a prime example.
5. Not sure where to start? Jennifer Roig-Francoli advises asking yourself the following questions below.
a. Are my head and neck free? This primary control dynamic is pivotal to healthy movement in the rest of the body.
b. Is my breath free?
c. Am I aware of the space above, in front, and behind me? This can inhibit our bodies’ tendency to compress
d. Read and hear more about these “Freedom Directions” here.

We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share any thoughts or revelations you find after applying the above tips. Comment below or on our Facebook page or tweet us at @flytefitness.com.

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Michael Phelps set another record recently as the first male swimmer to make five Olympics, but life has not always been easy for Phelps.

Below are three takeaways we can glean from Phelps’ journey to achieve personal success.

1. Leverage Obstacles into Opportunities
Despite early athletic promise, Phelps struggled with concentration in the classroom. Phelps was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at the age of nine, as his parents’ divorce was finalizing.

His mother Debbie did not let being a single parent and Michael’s ADHD challenges faze her. When Michael’s teachers informed her that he could not concentrate on anything, Debbie, an educator herself, worked with Michael on various solutions in and out of the classroom to prove them wrong. Debbie instilled structure into his life, nurturing swimming into a focus he could own. Swimming provided Michael with self-discipline and the needed structure for him to come off of his ADHD medication without adverse consequences during his teen years.

Michael continued the resilient spirit that Debbie demonstrated and instilled in him. When Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe said in an interview that it was unlikely for Phelps to win eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, Michael taped the quote to his locker and used it as fuel to further motivate him. After Phelps won his eighth medal, Thorpe responded, “Never in my life have I been so happy to be proven wrong.”

2. Practice Relaxation When Faced with Unexpected Challenges and Intense Pressure
Phelps’ coaches claim they have never seen him nervous before races. U.S. Olympic Committee Sport Psychologist Sean McCann breaks mental strength into two components. The first is an offensive mental aptitude: an unyielding desire for victory, no matter the pressure. he second is a defensive resilience that allows athletes to roll with the punches through unpredictable situations like watering goggles or head-to-head collisions. Very few people possess both.

Swim coach Bob Bowman has prided Phelps on his ability to be incredibly relaxed before intense meets. He has never seen Phelps “choke,” despite losses faced in past meets. Phelps said, “...the only thing you can control is yourself. If I have a bad race, I can put that behind me and I know I have another one coming up.”

Fortunately, relaxation is a learned skill that can be developed. When Phelps was a teenager, Debbie taught him progressive muscle relaxation, which he used daily before bed. Another approach he employed is visualizing different scenarios before they happen. Coach Bowman contends that Phelps has one of the best programmed mental visualization techniques. Phelps mentally runs through different scenarios before a race. So when he races, he has programmed his nervous system to react to any one of them automatically.

3. Strive for Mental, Relational, and Physical Balance Outside Your Sport
Phelps’ passion for swimming dwindled in the months before the London Olympics. He argued with his coach, skipped practice, and withdrew from his family. His downward spiral led to a DUI arrest in 2014, prompting him to check into rehab. Phelps realized his motivation waned because he had not taken the time to gain knowledge and self-acceptance of his identity outside of his facade as a successful swimmer.

Rehab also forced him to process issues from his past, including his lifelong estrangement from his father. He and his father are now “closer friends.” Coming into his final Olympics, Phelps’ motivation is no longer simply getting more medals. He sets out to try his hardest yet at Rio, and has recently become a father.

Conditioning coach Keenan Robinson credits Phelps’ multi-faceted athletic approach as a lacrosse and baseball player growing up for reducing risk of the postural imbalances and injuries that plague swimmers who specialize early. Since swimmers should stay lean for speed, most of Phelps’ dry land strength training involves using his own body weight, including dips and pull-ups.

Robinson cites a focus on clean, efficient postural lines in Phelps’ strength training and core drills involving stabilization and rotational movements as instrumental toward his success. You can check out some of these core exercises from Faster Swimming and HASfit. Remember to incorporate Core Flytes to build enhanced stability and postural awareness in your circuit training.

We’d love to hear from you. What is a lesson you learned from an inspirational athlete? Comment below or on our Facebook page or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Dai Zhang
Contributing Writer, Flyte Fitness

P.S. DON’T FORGET TO SIGN UP FOR FITNESS UPDATES! CLICK THE BOX AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE!

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“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” - Bob Marley

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