Wellness Wednesday: ASTYM & Finding Hope At Finish Line PT

A few weeks ago, I made a comment about my ridiculous foot issue on a story on FitChickInTheCity about Finish Line PT.  Last week I got an email from them inviting me to come in to try an ASTYM treatment and their Anti-Gravity Treadmill. I made the appointment right away because although I didn’t fully understand what would really be happening at the session, I was dying to get to talk to a Physical Therapist.

Finish Line PT space

Finish Line PT is a stunning loft-like space, hidden in what looks like a normal office building.  It was much bigger than I expected.  I got there early because I figured there would be a lot of paperwork to fill out but the questionnaire was actually really short, so after getting changed, I hung out and scoped out the well laid out space. The treatment rooms are closed off by the large sliding screen doors – which I was warned not to change too close to for privacy’s sake – creating spaces that seem very light and cozy instead of a normal clinical medical vibe.

Brynn Fessette, my PT, came in and I immediately liked her –friendly, easy to talk to and not remotely judgmental. After describing my injury and feeling around my foot for a few minutes, Brynn told me what I knew was true. I have Plantar Fasciitis and it’s been going on for too long. She was open, very knowledgeable about why it occurred but comically excited that my injury was the perfect candidate for the ASTYM treatment. ASTYM (pronounced A-stim) is a soft tissue treatment that helps to breakdown unwanted scar tissue that may be causing pain or movement restrictions and brings blood flow into the area to rejuvenate the soft tissue that is being treated. Brynn told me a story about a doctor who’d been self treating his Plantar Fasciitis for two years and it was a series of ASTYM treatments that finally got him running again pain free. It was a hugely hopeful thing to hear; I was beginning to think I would just have it forever!

Brynn Fessette -Finish LineBefore we did the treatment though, Brynn did a gait analysis. I hopped on their treadmill which is rigged with s seriously cool tool called the Optojump – with two cameras – one shooting from the side, one from the back and a track that measured seemingly everything you could ever want to know about how you move, including things like the length, striking time and impact of each stride. All of that info is instantly fed into a computer and analyzed. Mostly I am very even, except for the fact that my right side takes a 4 inch shorter stride which is very bad thing apparently! My foot issue is tightening up my stride far more than is ok. Brynn told me that she would be giving me hip and calf stretches to do, to try and open that mobility up. It was so interesting to go over all of that data and to be able to see in such intricate detail how I actually move through space.

Then, it was off to actually get the ASTYM treatment. As I lay down, Brynn warned me again that it was going to hurt. The treatment uses two hard plastic tools pressed firmly against the area being treated, usually going in the direction of the muscle. The first is a longer blade like one, followed over the same area by the smaller wand like one that could “really get in there.” Maybe because I’d been warned so much that it would hurt, I was actually surprised by the fact that  it didn’t really hurt that badly at all.  It hurt, but not so much that I wanted to kick her & the whole treatment was over before I knew it!

AlterG Treadmill Finish Line

Before I headed out, I got a chance to check out the Finish Line’s AlterG treadmill, which is an anti-gravity treadmill that is just wildly awesome. When I heard about it, I couldn’t figure out how it worked, but once I was on the thing, it made perfect sense. I slipped on a neoprene skort and stepped onto the treadmill belt through a hole in a material cover, the sides raised up to my hips, and then zipped the skort in and created a tent for my legs. Then, I stood there on both feet as the tent filled up with air around me.  I started running and played with how much body weight I wanted to run with. SO MUCH fun! At 50% I felt like I was running on clouds. I hovered around 75% for most of my 2 miles and loved every second of the lightness and fun of getting to play with how weight felt on my legs…  seriously, I would love to run on that thing more often.  It was one time where I actually enjoyed every second of my run!

The best is yet to come

Photos of Finish Line PT from Finishlinept.com & bottom quote just a little bit of internet goodness.

Wellness Wednesday: My Green Juice Addiction & Finally Getting A Juicer….

I have been a huge fan of green juices for the last few years, but could never quite bring myself to actually buy a juicer.  It just seemed like such a commitment…expensive and not worth it because “I wouldn’t use it enough” and it would take up the precious counter space. With my love of green juices not waning and prices getting up in the $10 range for a good one, I recently decided I was wrong. After a lot of research, I settled on the Breville Juice Fountain Plus.  Not super expensive, reliable and reportedly easy to clean, it seemed the perfect choice. When it popped up on sale in an email after Christmas from Amazon, and was totally covered by my parents’ “fun money” gift and the Amazon gift card my brother sent me for Christmas, I decided it was a sign from the universe that it was time to finally get my juicer!

Since I am just getting started, I emailed my dear friend, Olivia, from GreenJunkieLiving.com for pointers and her favorite recipe.  This is her response:

I am, by most accounts, a health nut. Neti-pots, yoga, green smoothies, flax seed–I’m all over it. But salad? Even really good ones? So boring I can’t bring myself to eat them. Which is one of the major reasons (aside from, hello, delicious) I love green juice. When the craving strikes, this is my favorite recipe:

4 cucumbers, peeled unless organic

2 apples, quartered

1 head romaine lettuce

2 lemons, peeled

2″ chunk of ginger, peeled

1/2 bunch of celery (the leaves are an awesome source of Vitamin C)

1/2 broccoli stem

any leftover kale stems I might have

This makes at least two quarts, one of which I drink right away, the other I put in a mason jar filled to the tippy top (a little overflow is your friend–use filtered water to make up the difference if need be) and stored in the fridge until the next day. I love green juice; I hate cleaning my juicer.

If you’re craving something sweeter, carrot, beet, and apple make a great combination, and get you all the nutrients from veggies in a different color spectrum. Fennel and red cabbage can also be surprisingly tasty additions to either juice base.

Tips:

  • Double (or triple) juice the pulp to get as much liquid as possible.
  • Make double batches and store in filled-to-the-tippy-top airtight jars.
  • Experiment with whatever produce is on sale or needs to be used up from the fridge–but if you’re extra cautious, juice into separate containers and combine slowly. That way you don’t spoil a whole batch of juice if you realize you can’t stand the taste of juiced broccoli florets. (I speak from experience; love the stems, but couldn’t get through the florets.)

If you never tryMy very first juice attempt is in the video above and it was actually good! I’ve had my juicer for a little under a week and am already totally obsessed with it. Olivia’s tips have helped me get more out of it and given me an awesome new recipe and new combinations to play with! I can’t wait to experiment… and see how regular juicing helps with being in beast mode!

Video shot by Eric Stafford, Stafford Sports Media. Bottom quote just a little bit of internet goodness.

The First Time: Brooklyn Open Acupuncture with Rebecca Parker

I have wanted to try acupuncture for a very long time, but really it always just seemed far too pricey an experiment since I was weary of paying someone to stick needles in me to begin with and slightly doubtful that I could actually lie still while they were in. After a lot of research for an old job about acupuncture options in NYC, I had completely written off EVER being even able to afford it so stopped even considering it as an option.  Then over the summer on a walk by my house, I spotted Brooklyn Open Acupuncture, a sliding scale Community Acupuncture clinic on Atlantic Avenue. I snagged one of their flyers, read up about what “community acupuncture” really entailed but it was really one of my dearest friends who talked me into trying it. She is a huge advocate of acupuncture and is also the first one I’ve ever known who tried community acupuncture. The idea of sitting in a room full of strangers with needles stuck in me sounded horrifying but she swore up and down that it wasn’t. Even though I was dubious, she’s knows me too well to doubt her when she told me “You HAVE to try it. It is amazing and you will love it. GO.” Even after that, it took awhile to book my first appointment. In a testament to the world being small, one of the acupuncturists, Rebecca Parker at BK Open, turned out to know the fella because he bought her old surf board this summer, which seemed like a sign. I knew then, that when I finally got over my nerves, I was going to make an appointment with her.

I was nervous as I made my way up to the 3rd floor space, down the long hallway and to the small front desk room about what I was really in for. Although I got there really early, by the time I had finally completed the long health questionnaire, it was time for my appointment. I met with Rebecca in a small private room where we talked about my concerns. I told her about my goofy hurt foot and tight lower legs.  She nodded knowingly and started to tell me how the treatment would go. She told me that I could be treated either laying down or in one of the chairs out in the group treatment room, and I could choose wherever I would be more comfortable. Rebecca also reiterated what I had read before, that the treatment would take about 45 minutes to an hour or whenever I “felt done”. I had no idea what “done” was supposed to feel like. She asked if I had any time restraints because if I didn’t and I fell asleep, she wouldn’t wake me. The idea that I could possibly fall asleep with needles poking out of me seemed comical. I chose to lie down because I figured that lying down, I would be less freaked out by the needles sticking out of me since I wouldn’t be able to see them as easily. I figured I would just lie there until she came to check on me and that would be “done” enough. By my table, I stripped down to a tank and loose yoga pants so she could have easy access and hopped on the table. Rebecca took my pulse and checked my tongue and then started placing the needles. They were mostly in my calves and feet but there also one in each hand, one in each trapezius muscle, and then one dead center in-between my eyebrows.

Some hurt more then others going in but nothing terrible and once they were in didn’t hurt at all. I could definitely feel where they were but it was more a pulsing then pain. Rebecca asked me if I was cold and needed a blanket, I didn’t at that moment but a few minutes later I was and was grateful when she came back and asked again.  She covered me in space blanket, like the kind they give out after marathons and told me to relax. I proceeded to drift in and out of conciseness – blissfully out of it. My muscles would twitch occasionally and snapped me out of my sleepy drift and then I would go right back into it. It was heavenly and I then I really did “feel done” and slowly started to fully wake back up.

Impressively, Rebecca was there by my side smiling just moments later. She told me my muscles might be a little sore and that I should take it easy. I sat up and put back on my layers nodding groggily. I was sore, slightly but also shocked by how much better my foot already was feeling. After being so worried about trying acupuncture for the first time, about being in room filled with people – it was in fact one of the most amazing things to be treated to that kind of relaxing calmness.  I am totally hooked …and already have made my next appointment.

I can’t wait.

Photos from the Brooklyn Open Acupuncture Website. Bottom image just a little bit of internet goodness.

Peak Performance NYC’s Diagnostic Testing & The Amazing Unexpected Result

Last week, I received an email asking if I was interested in Peak Performance‘s “Diagnostic Testing“.  My immediate response was “YES!” although I wasn’t entirely sure what it entailed. I read the descriptions of the test after I said yes because seriously, I wouldn’t EVER pass up a chance to go back to Peak. It is such an amazing facility and filled with inspiring, dedicated athletes that any chance to go is something I would jump at the chance for.

There are two parts to the testing and the body composition section came first. I was emailed instructions that I couldn’t drink the night before, have any coffee for 6 hours before, or any food for 4 before. The coffee part seemed evil and wrong, so I woke up early that day just so I could get in a few cups before the cut off time.  Really, no one should have to deal with me without coffee. Walking into Peak Performance, I was greeted by Kindra and immediately felt at ease – I went back and stashed my stuff in a locker before heading back to the front to get started. When I got back to the front, Joe Dowdell was there too and it was awesome to finally get to meet the founder of Peak Performance – I love being able to tell people in person how much I love what they have created.   Then, I was introduced to the man who was going to be giving me the tests that day, Derek Peruo. He is Peak’s “go to guy for all testing protocols” and has this very reassuring, calm demeanor. I liked him immediately. We went into a little room that had this very strange robot looking scale, with arms you grabbed onto after you stepped barefoot onto the foot plates. Derek entered in my height, age and gender and the machine started to go. On the waist high monitor, I watched as my weight registered, then it showed these pulses going through each part of my body – as it went, a bar graph ticked up, showing the ratio in each part of my body of muscle to fat. Derek explained what was happening as it went but what I really loved was being able to see the visual of it as it as the machine processed the information. It was slightly abstract and clinical but it also made it less about how “fat” you are and more about how much muscle you have and how you are really made up. Now that I have taken the test, I feel a little like a jackass for how much I was dreading this part of the test. It was actually REALLY interesting.  It was amazing because for the first time, I didn’t kick into a free fall about feeling fat after a body fat measurement, but just felt like an athlete finding out needed info to train more effectively. It didn’t hurt that what it meant athletically was completely Derek’s focus. According to him, I am really even, muscle wise, on both sides, which is unusual since most people have a dominant side with a distinct muscle advantage-“if I was training you for a fitness competition, that would be a VERY good thing to find out. That sort of evenness is what you strive for.”

Once the body comp was done, we took a small break for me to have the snack I had brought and Derek went off to set up the next part of the testing. I went to the front to have my protein shake but I wasn’t done before Derek came to collect me for the next phase. So while I hurriedly finished, he explained a little more about the iMETT testing and how normally he has people follow their normal eating/ caffeine/ training routine before the test. It was only because I was doing both the body comp and the iMETT on the same day that I had to limit the food and coffee before. He also gave me the heart-rate band that I needed to wear and asked if I had ever used one. I immediately fessed up to the fact that I hadn’t ever used one, so he gave me the lowdown about putting the band on and where it needed to be positioned to get the best reading. I took it and went back to the changing room to put it on – I had always assumed it would be a really uncomfortable thing to wear but once I got it in the right place, I hardly felt it at all. When I finally had everything in place, I made my way over to the treadmill where the machine that would be measuring me was all hooked up. The iMETT basically is a specific VO2 Max test. It measures your heart rate and oxygen intake and processing to help determine your optimum heart rate range for working out. Your band gives the heart rate but your breath is monitored by a gasmask that is strapped securely to your head, covering your nose and mouth and then attaches to the machine. I had seen footage of professional athletes taking a VO2 Max test before and was in general prepared for this part but was shocked at how claustrophobic it made me. You aren’t allowed to talk when you have the mask on so all communication is done through a thumbs up / thumbs down system.

As the test started, I was just getting warmed up and did a walk to start, which was nice because it allowed me to get slightly more comfortable with the very strange thing that was getting ready to start. The idea is that you start at your normal running pace and then slowly the machine ramps up the incline to challenge you until failure. I don’t run very often, so choosing the speed was a little strange but once it was locked in, I was glad it was the pace, it felt natural – until the incline started to ramp up. Derek was, of course, really good about checking in, warning me what was going to happen next and I just put my head down and ran. As I went, Ed Williams, the Director of Continuing Education at Peak, came over to watch, although mostly he watched the numbers and not me. It was funny to hear them talk though, since mostly they were all “it is so interesting her body is anticipating the effort, then settling right back down. Nice.” I was proud of myself momentarily and then just went back to running. It was around when the incline went to 7%, that I started to worry. My legs were starting to feel leaden and I just wanted to take a small break – but that isn’t the way it works. All out until nothing is left. Then I heard Ed say “I think maybe one more, then that is it. Her legs are going to go before her heart.” It was totally true. I didn’t have much more in me and since you weren’t supposed to jump off at the end, all I could picture was being attached by my face to the treadmill and my legs going out underneath me and doing a face plant into the moving treadmill. I tapped out at 8% and it was true, my legs gave out before my heart. I love that someone would say that about me. Afterwards, Derek and Ed looked at the numbers and figured out where my range was and then the computer printed out all of the data and statistic and ranges I should be in when working out. No more generic charts ranges after this test, because your ranges are suddenly not based on averages and guess work. I also got a print out of a workout to do for the next four week based on heart rate optimization. I DEFINITELY have to get a heart-rate monitor soon since I am dying to try that program out!!

My favorite moment of all was after the iMETT test when Ed told me I did better than some professional athletes. That is just so amazing. I have been feeling pretty damn athletic and good about myself these days and was slightly concerned that these tests would prove that wrong, that I would go from feeling strong to worrying about the number on a scale. Turns out that isn’t even remotely what these tests are about. The body composition and iMETT tests are about knowing where you are at in your training, about becoming a better athlete not about the numbers on a scale. I shouldn’t have worried. There are things to work on, changes I need to make and I hope someday I get to take the test again now that I know where I am. At Peak, it is all about being an athlete not about a number.  On Tuesday, I walked out feeling like a serious, capable athlete and I can’t imagine a better result than that!

Photos of Peak Performance from Joe Dowdell (Fitness Page) Facebook page, bottom photo a little bit of internet awesomeness

A Perfect Mix: hard work & taking care of yourself….

On Monday morning, I met up with three of the fittest women I know at one of my favorite spots in the city, As 1. Of the 4 of us, we had two newbies, but I was absolutely sure they would both love the workout. I knew they would kick ass!  I found out that George wasn’t going to lead the group this time, Mark Merchant would be. It would be my first time with Mark.  I had heard he was amazing but tough, and I was a little nervous about whether or not this would change my love of the As 1 experience. In pictures, Mark looks far more like a drill sergeant than George does, and I was a little worried that he was just going to be very, very serious. Turns out, in person, Mark is very warm, open and just very committed to what he does – exactly what I should have expected from one of the founders at As 1. I liked him immediately and then he proceeded to kick my ass.

The first half of class we did a routine based on a plan Mark had designed for Esquire magazine. It was 5 rounds of 20 seconds-on-5-seconds-off of the following moves: squats with a sandbag on your shoulders, push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, split squats, bent-over rows with the sandbag, a move called the Dolphin (basically a plank with a raising up to a pike –over and over), and then another set of burpees. It sounded simple enough, but proved to be a killer! As with every workout, there we were, all watched like a hawk and throughout the whole thing, Mark made constant corrections to form as we went through each round. The second half of class was made up of another 5 rounds.  This time, it was pull-ups (to failure or 8,) one-armed rope whacking while squatting (this was virtually impossible for me, sort of like patting my tummy and rubbing my head is,) switch arms-repeat, then end the round running down 7 flights of stair and back up. Those stairs ARE hard, but the best part was that my partners in crime kept hooting and hollering as they passed one another – which made it wildly more fun than it should have been!  Plus, I was really grateful every time they passed that they weren’t just cursing me for getting them into that crazy stairwell!

I was crazy wiped out after class on Monday (As 1 was my 5th class in just 48hrs) and was really sore and really just wanted to lie down. Instead, I headed off to see Dr. Gregory Shure at Madison Square Wellness to talk about the importance of stretching and preventative wellness care. Turns out that really, it was such a random stroke of good fortune that his office had contacted me about coming in to talk to Dr. Shure last week! I have a lot of people I know and trust completely who have been saying pretty amazing things about Dr. Shure, so I jumped at the chance to go talk to him. I was fully expecting an office lecture (I don’t stretch nearly enough) and that maybe if I looked like a total hot mess, maybe he would crack my back (I have never been to a Chiropractor, so really, I didn’t know what a first appointment would entail). I just really didn’t know what to expect but knew it would be interesting at least. Mostly, he didn’t lecture me at all, but gave me a lot of solid advice.  He also didn’t call me a hot mess but did go on to give me a massage/realignment thing that was just out-of-this-world amazing. It wasn’t scary or aggressive cracking that I thought might be what happens in a chiropractic office, but more pulling and pushing to straighten me out a little. It was amazing!

I left feeling a hundred times better than I had when I walked in and feeling like I had found a really great resource for staying healthy and on my feet.  The very next day in my mailbox, I received an email from Dr. Shure as a follow-up that included a variety of stretches that I should incorporate into my daily routine, with links to demonstrations of the moves. It was such a cool and thoughtful follow-up and I was shocked – and completely grateful. I totally see why my friends have raved about him, since obviously, now so do I!

(Image of Mark from As 1’s Facebook page. Image of Dr. Shure from Madison Square Wellness Facebook page )