Work travel. . . again.

I’m a health-consious person (but you knew that). I set up my daily life to make it easy— walk/bike/public transit. High-quality food in my kitchen, healthy snacks in my backpack, veggies with everything. Breaks for a stretch/walk. Standing and fidgeting as I work. Runs, yoga classes, gym classes surrounding and sometimes interrupting my work day. It’s easy for me when I have control.

But what happens when, suddenly, I’m stuck in an airport, on a plane, in another airport, in a hotel, in a conference center? No vitamix, no yoga studio, no time to seek out a grocery store even. I’ll tell you how I make it work, but I also have a wishlist for the hotels and conference organizers (I’m looking at you, Hyatt Bethesda).

Let’s start with the stuff I can do, no matter where I wind up:

  1. Pack workout clothes. No one can take this from you, even if your schedule is tight. If the weather’s OK and the location is safe, an outdoor run is the best— gets you oriented, helps your body clock, just plain feels good. This might mean packing something warm. If not, there’s almost always a gym. You can find out what they’ve got (pool? bikes? kettlebells?) before you go— website or phone call will usually do it.  Yes, a hotel gym can be a sad place, but I’m like my border collie mix (hi Pippi!)
    black and white dog with wagging tail

    we’re going for a run now, right? RIGHT??

    and if I don’t get at least 30 minutes of exercise in the morning, I’m a nightmare for the rest of the day. I’m not a treadmill person, but I’ll use one in a pinch. I’ve found I’m better off with a little structure for an indoor workout so I don’t quit out of boredom. I tried Aaptiv this trip, which lets you stream or download audio workouts for treadmill, bike, rower, strength training, etc. It got the job done (meaning, I got a good workout in on the treadmill and didn’t die of boredom). I’d do it again.

  2. pink hydro flask bottle

    keeping hydration cute.

    Bring your water bottle. Yes, you have to bring it empty through security. But you can find bottle fillers everywhere now, or at least water fountains. If you have access to it, you’re more likely to drink it (plus my pink hydroflask is just plain cute). And if you didn’t pay $6 for the water, you won’t ration it. Planes (and plane wine, let’s be honest) are dehydrating. Indoor air is dehydrating. Packaged, processed food is dehydrating. Too much coffee (guilty), even, could be dehydrating. Let’s keep things from getting too desiccated, shall we? Your skin, digestion, and brain will thank you.

  3. You can move around, even if the structure of the day doesn’t include it. Stand up at every break and walk outside, upstairs, to the bathroom, around in circles. Go out at lunch time instead of staying in the conference center. Walk to the restaurant for dinner (you can meet them there if you’re the only one braving it).
  4. Take a routine from home with you. I like to meditate, journal and plan in the morning, so I bring Headspace and my planner with me. It helps me keep some normalcy.

 

So, what could the hotels do better?

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What we talk about when we talk about research findings in the news

What happens when journalists report the findings of a scientific study to the general public? Often, the findings are stated out of context, broadly interpreted, and stripped of the nuance and uncertainty that characterize much of scientific research.  Should this scare us back from publicizing findings to a wider audience than you might typically find in a scientific journal? Or is publicity critical to uptake?

What is our responsibility as scientists to communicate our findings, not only through dedicated dissemination and implementation planning, but also through the popular press?

Here’s a recent example. JAMA published the findings of a study by Mandager et al.  on the association of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) with long-term mortality. CRF was measured by exercise treadmill testing in a sample of over 120,000 patients who were having this test done anyway as part of their care (that means these people were mostly being evaluated for symptoms potentially related to cardiovascular disease). The investigators quantified CRF as peak estimated METs. They separated by sex and age to calculate percentiles and then stratified CRF based on those percentiles. They used public and hospital records to determine mortality. Median follow-up was 8.4 years. The investigators concluded that CRF was significantly inversely associated with all-cause mortality (i.e., the fitter you are, the less likely you are to die). They went on to state that low CRF was as risky as or riskier than diabetes, CAD, or smoking. They also noted, importantly, that “there does not appear to be an upper limit of aerobic fitness above which a survival benefit is no longer observed”, but “there continues to be uncertainty regarding the relative benefit or potential risk of extreme levels of exercise and fitness”. They go on to offer several other sensible caveats, including that the study population may not be representative of the general population, and there are potentially significant unmeasured factors in this retrospective study. All things considered, though, this seems to represent very good news: a modifiable factor is strongly associated with increased longevity in a large sample with a long follow-up.  Bravo!

So how did this get reported in the popular press? Gizmodo’s headline reads “No Such Thing As Too Much Exercise, Study Finds”.

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It’s the iliopsoas, stupid!

What do low back pain, knee problems, poor pelvic alignment, hip popping, and weak glute muscles have in common? Besides the fact that all of these things suck and they are common complaints in my clinic. . . read on.

illustration of iliopsoas musclesThe iliopsoas (the p is silent) muscles run from the lumbar vertebrae (lower back) and interior of the ilium (hip/pelvis bones) to the inside of the femur (thigh bone). There are actually two muscles that make up this group: the psoas major (origin at T12-L5 vertebrae) and the iliacus (origin at iliac fossa of ilium). They are generally considered together, and they generally act together and insert together at the lesser trochanter of the femur. Phew. Ok. Why should you care about these little dudes?

Mirror muscles, they are not. Because they’re located deep to other structures, it’s not easy to see and feel them, so many people aren’t even aware that they’re there until something goes awry. But they are critically important to function and performance. The iliopsoas mucles are major hip flexors, pulling the thigh up to the abdomen, and stabilizers of the trunk and pelvis. They get major action with movements like running and cycling, or the constant external rotation of things like ballet, but they can also get weak and tight from sitting in a chair for long periods of time. Think about where those muscles go and what your position is doing to them. Sitting followed by hard training? That sounds like a perfect storm. No wonder they are often troublemakers!

What happens when things aren’t right in iliopsoas land? Sometimes it’s hip-specific problems like:

  • snapping hip syndrome, thought to be related to iliopsoas tendinitis or tendinosis
  • Iliopsoas bursitis, painful inflammation of the cuishioning fluid sacs
  • iliopsoas syndrome- pain and stiffness that can travel to the abdomen, butt, groin, lower back, hip, and thigh

But the trouble can also be more insidious. Continue reading