Archive for the ‘General Health’ Category

Exercise and Cancer

Today’s post is a guest contribution from cancer awareness advocate, David Haas.  David is a regular contributor at The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance Blog.  In addition to researching the many valuable programs available to his blog’s users, David often writes about programs and campaigns underway at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, as well as creative fitness ideas for those dealing with cancer.  

As many of you know, the link between exercise (or lackthereof) and cancer incidence is very strong.  Any bit of information that can inspire you to start exercising, or help you improve the life of yourself or a family member dealing with cancer, is a message we want to get across.  Find the time to live a fit and healthy lifestyle now, or find the time to be sick later.  Simple as that. 

 

Family Exercise Outings Benefit Cancer Patients

When a person within a family is diagnosed with cancer, the entire family is typically affected.  While the cancer patient must often endure surgeries, radiation, weekly chemo treatments, or mesothelioma treatment, the family of the patient also usually experiences worry, fear, exhaustion, and feelings of frustration.  It can be extremely difficult for a family to watch a loved one go through the constant rounds of treatments that are usually so vital to the recovery and remission of the person.

Financial affairs can be greatly affected if a person in a family is diagnosed with cancer.  If a working parent has cancer, the loss of that person’s income can put many families into financial jeopardy.  This can leave a strain on the family that can produce worry and endless sleeping nights wondering how the family will survive financially.  If a child has cancer, the parents will often miss many days of work to take care of the child, oversee treatment, driving the child back and forth to the hospital and for check-ups.  This also places an enormous strain on the entire family.

Exercise is rapidly becoming more and more recommended to families of people who have been diagnosed with cancer.  Not only is it important for the cancer patient to obtain generous amounts of exercise throughout the week, the rest of the family can benefit from the physical exertion as well.  Exercise has long since been recognized for relieving stress and providing a physical outlet that works to fight stress, anxiety, and depression.

When a family has a person within the family who has been diagnosed with cancer, it is imperative that every person continues to take good physical care of his or her body.  This will provide energy that will help the family to be supportive of the cancer patient, and it will also be a tremendous benefit to the cancer patient by strengthening muscles and increasing cardiovascular health.

Working out together at a gym, going camping together, fishing together, or playing tennis together can be important and fun bonding times for families.  Families who have a person diagnosed with cancer can take advantage of the numerous exercise opportunities that are available to relieve stress, get a good cardio workout, and also to spend bonding time together.  Relaxing and working out together are vital to the entire family unit and promote overall good physical and emotional health for people who are struggling with the disease of cancer.

Cancer.net is an informative website that offers many helpful tips for people who have cancer and for people who have a family member that has been diagnosed with cancer. On the website, text states that emotional and physical health can be improved in cancer patients when exercise becomes a regular routine.

For more information from David on cancer and exercise, check him out here.

Slow and Steady? Forget that sHIIT…You’ve got to SPRINT!

 

If you want to see real gains, add sprints and really feel the burn.

Georgia’s Controversial Childhood Obesity Ads – Necessary or Overboard?

Strong4Life is a non-profit organization created in Atlanta to address the childhood obesity epidemic that has shown no sign of slowing in the state of Georgia. About 40% of Georgia’s children are overweight, yet the majority of Georgians don’t consider childhood obesity a problem. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta designed an ad campaign to gain people’s attention and create a sense of urgency for this neglected medical crisis. The campaign was specifically intended to get parents and caregivers out of denial as 75% of parents of obese children don’t think they have a problem on their hands.

The anti-obesity ad campaign features overweight children with messages such as “Being fat takes the fun out of being a kid,” and “It’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not.” The children in the ads were made aware of the ad’s intent and of the potential backlash that could result. Maya Watson, one of the 13 year old subjects, wanted to send a good message to others out there like her, showing them they are not alone. Feedback from her peers has been positive and since the launch she has gotten help from the hospital where she has learned what small healthy changes she can make to her daily routine in order to live a healthier lifestyle.

 However, not everyone believes these ads are beneficial. They have indeed gotten people talking but many do not agree with the angle that was taken. Many believe these ads are too negative and don’t help the problem as no solution is proposed. Mommy bloggers in particular are coming out to petition and put an end to the advertisements. They believe these ads cause shame, which will put a child down, not motivate them to make positive changes.

What do you think?

10 Greatest Fitness Tips of All Time

If you’re reading this article, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess it’s not the first fitness article you’ve ever seen. One thing you’ve probably noticed is the abundance of information everyone is throwing at you in regards to fitness. Every fitness writer on the planet has their own opinion they want to impart on you. As I’m sure you’ve found, a lot of times, information is contradicting, leaving you to guess which is the most correct. Often, people will become so overwhelmed with information, they fail to act on it at all, for fear of picking bad advice. Forget all the extraneous information for the time being. Consider the list below, your fitness Bible. These tidbits of information and widely accepted by the vast majority of fitness professionals and are KEY to helping you achieve your goals. If you make an honest committment to stick by these 10 rules, you WILL realize results. Forget the rest, stick with this list, and you’ll be good to. Now, on to the 10 golden rules of fitness…

1. Spot toning does not work. No matter what informercials or weight loss products tell you, you simply cannot spot tone that area of fat on your stomach, or legs, or arms. Fat loss is the result of a consistent and effective cardio program which causes a total loss of fat over your entire body. On a related note, doing a thousand crunches isn’t going to burn the fat on your stomach, but cardio will.

2. Vary your workouts. Whether you are doing a cardio-heavy routine, or a resistance-heavy routine, you MUST vary the exercises, weights, and manner in which you exercise. Your body grows accustomed to a specific type of stimulus after only a few weeks and progress will be diminished the longer you stick to the same thing. Add supersets, do high-intensity interval training, start swimming, go for high reps/low weight…you get the idea.

3. Protein + a simple carb is VITAL after a workout. You have a 30-45 minute window upon finishing your workout to get your protein. Your muscles are hungry for the nutrient and you can further the benefits of your workout by feeding your muscles what they crave. The addition of a simple carb to your protein shake further helps drive protein into your muscles to be sure they suck up every last drop. This meal is crucial. If you are skipping this, you are simply cutting yourself short.

4. Diet plays a bigger part in your body composition than exercise. Want to be lean, strong, and healthy? Exercise certainly plays a large part, but diet is the single most important factor it determining what your body looks like. A poor diet and a lot of exercise is going to get you no where. Give your diet the attention it deserves and properly plan healthy meals so you don’t find yourself resorting to less nutritous options.

5. Lifting legs will help you grow all over. Your legs are the largest muscle group in your body. When you lift any muscle, your body releases testosterone and other chemicals that foster muscle growth. By lifting with your legs (especially if you don’t give them much attention), you will be giving your body an instant boost of muscle-buildilng hormones that will help you develop in other areas. Pretty much a legal form of steroids…

6. Ladies, lifting weights will not make you look like a man. Women who lift weights regularly do not look like men, female body builders, etc. They look lean, long, toned, and sexy. The simple act of lifting weights will not make you big and bulky. Your bodies aren’t designed to build muscle like that. Now, if you are eating a female body builders diet and/or using unnatural supplements, that’s another story.

7. Lifting weights without proper fuel is a waste of time. Tied into the previous point, but this one is more for the guys out there. If you are going to spend the time lifting weights, mixing up your routine, and doing whatever else it takes to force muscle growth, you need to be eating properly. Muscles do not grow on their own; they need fuel. Make sure to take in extra calories when you are trying to build muscle or your muscle mass and strength will continue to plateau.

8. Compound movements are king. Compound movments, which require multiple muscle groups to complete are the foundation of any great weight training program. Deadlifts, bench press, wide-grip pullups, squats, and clean and presses are great for buildling a lean and defined body. Don’t neglect them. Find a way to include them into what you do; it is absolutely vital for your success.

9. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) will help you reach goals faster. You probably already know that cardio is neccessary to lose serious weight and tone up. But doing HIIT, i.e. jog for a minute, sprint at 100% effort for 20 seconds, repeat, is far more effective at building your cardiovascular ability AND helping you burn calories. HIIT shocks your body in a way that a static 5mph jog never could. As an added benefit, it’ll help you cut down on the time spent in the gym.

10. Building a lean, athletic build and becomign fit doesn’t require a gym. Contrary to what gyms want you to believe, you don’t NEED to be a member of a gym to get fit. Certainly they have their benefits, but if you simply can’t afford it, or don’t have the time, or whatever the reason, do NOT give up. There are so many great exercises and routines you can do with next to no equipment, being in a gym is not a requirement so many make it out to be. A well-designed at home program will get you exactly where you need to be.

This list certianly isn’t comprehensive, and I’m sure others will wonder why I didn’t add this or that. The point is though, if you take away only 10 things from all the fitness bloggers, writers, etc. that you read…let these 10 be the ones that make the biggest impression. Understand them, know them, and follow them, and you’ll find yourself making gains you never thought were possible.

Slim up for Winter! Yes you read that correctly…

So here we are, the holiday season upon us yet again.  We just got through Thanksgiving in one piece and are now spending the next several weeks looking ahead to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever else gives us reason to celebrate.  Time off work, lots of eating, gifts, drunken holiday parties; things are looking up.  But see, that is the problem with winter.  It starts off with such a bang, lifts our spirits, and then once January 2nd hits…..back to reality.

Depending on where you live, you’re looking at a solid 3, 4, or even 5 months of cold weather, grey skies, rain and/or snow.  (Unless of course you’re like me and living in Southern California…although I will still find reason to complain about being cold whenever the temperature dips below 60).

I’ll be perfectly honest with you; going to the gym after getting home from work at 5:30, when it’s pitch black out, rainy, and 35 degrees, flat-out sucks.  There’s no way around it.  It’s saps your motivation, it’s uncomfortable, and at the risk of being over dramatic, it’s horrible.

Love handles everywhere rejoice.  They live to see another day.

What’s even worse, the majority of you did so well over the spring, summer, and fall.  You exercised regularly, ate better, and started to see progress.  Winter hits, and unfortunately for so many people, it’s like hitting a reset button.  All the progress slowly vanishes and you’re essentially back to where you started from last year.  It’s an endless cycle of one step forward, one step backward.

So we’re faced with a dilemma…do we brave the cold, miserable weather and force ourselves to do something we reallllly don’t want to do, or pull our best Yogi the Bear impersonation, fatten up, and hibernate all winter?  Neither option seems all that enjoyable….but what if there was a third option?

Let me get one very common misconception out of your head right now; you do NOT need a gym to lose weight, build muscle, stay healthy, etc.  What if you could continue to see the progress you saw all summer, without ever leaving your home?  That was rhetorical; we both know that would be awesome.

In home workouts have been shown time and time again to be just as, if not more effective than spending time in a gym.  All you need is an effective in home workout program to follow along with and getting your exercise during those long, cold, winter days is easier than ever.  The biggest challenge here is finding an effective workout program so you aren’t simply spinning your wheels all winter.  Try staying away from the countless sites giving you a workout plan consisting of a laundry list of exercises to perform in order.  Honestly, what could be more boring than that?  It’s a chore having to get through them.  Some may try to spruce up their plans by giving you a quick video clip for each exercise.  Oh my God, really?  A 10 second clip showing me each movement on the laundry list you provided me?  Where do I sign up..?  Get real.  Worse yet, those in-home pieces of exercise equipment.  For the love of God, please stay away from things like this.

Let me paint a picture for you for a minute.  You get home from work.  Change out of those uncomfortable work clothes.  Start dinner.  Move into the living room.  Fire up your exercise class on your laptop or TV.  While dinner is cooking you spend 30-45 minutes taking an exercise class that leaves you dripping in sweat.  Exercise for the day complete.

You didn’t have to leave your warm, cozy home to brave the bitter cold.  You didn’t waste time driving around town.  You were able to kill two birds with one stone by getting your workout in while dinner cooked.  You’ve saved time and you’ve put the love handles on warning; this winter things will be different!

The best programs are the ones that allow you to actively follow along with your instructor.  This has been the mantra I’ve followed since day 1.  When your instructor on the TV is doing burpees, you’re doing burpees.  When your instructor is doing lunges into dumbbell curls, so are you.  When your instructor breaks, you break.  By working out in this format, there is little left to chance.  There is nothing for you to think about.  The program you follow along with (if it’s a good one) has been designed with a goal in mind.  What’s more, (and if it’s a REALLY good one), it brings you closer to meeting that goal.

Open your mind to other formats of fitness.  Fitness is NOT about having to be in a gym everyday to see progress.  Fitness is NOT about a laundry list of items to complete each day.  Fitness is about actively engaging your body through the use of a wide variety of exercises and workouts (see: Body Diversity Training).  As long as you have a well-designed program, it is much more likely you will realize success.  This winter, while you’re sitting around at home feeling guilty because you skipped the gym, but not guilty enough to overcome your desire to stay put, consider giving in home workouts a try.

If all this has left you more confused about where to turn now, feel free to leave a comment or shoot us an email.  We’ll be more than happy to help you find an in-home program that works best for you.

Powerlifting for All

Check out one of my favorite interviews below stressing the importance of lifting…and lifting HEAVY! This goes for males and females.  Ladies, you will NOT get bulky! If you haven’t taken my word on that yet maybe you will be convinced by Jean Fry, a very attractive and very successful powerlifter.  Thank you Jordan with Syatt Fitness for the great interview.

JS: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Jean. You’ve honestly been a huge inspiration, not only to me, but to thousands of people world-wide as a strength athlete and fitness professional. I know my readers will tremendously benefit from listening to what you have to say.

 JF: That’s so sweet, Jordan, thank you! I really am incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to train where I do, to have a loving family that supports me, and to be able to teach and affect so many people with my work. I sure hope they benefit from what I teach them…. But truth is, they are really the ones who inspire me!

JS: Alright, well before we get into the meat of the interview would you mind briefly telling everyone a little bit about yourself such as who you are, what you do, where you train, and why you began training in the first place?

JF:  Well, I got my first taste of the gym at 15; I was the extremely sheltered, shy only child who had always wanted to be a track sprinter, but therefore lacked the confidence to do it until high school. When a coworker introduced me to my now-good friend Scott Vickery, a gym owner and GREAT trainer nearby, it was game on! He took me under his wing and not only got me ready for track, but taught me how to TRAIN, which developed into competing in powerlifting.  Keeping a consistent schedule was tough once I joined the United States Air Force (USAF) and then went off to school at Ohio State, but I never stopped!

Ten years later, I have since graduated, gotten married, become a personal trainer/ nutrition coach, and most recently accepted a position as Health and Wellness Director for the YMCA. Since getting the invite from Louie Simmons himself at the Pro/Am in 2007, I have trained on the morning crew at Westside Barbell, and couldn’t be more grateful every day I walk into that place! It’s so humbling to know that so many of the greats were/ are there, too!

JS: And just for the record, would you mind telling everyone your personal best 1 repetition maximum (1RM) in the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift?

JF: Of course! My most recent meet was about 6 weeks ago (at the Powerstation Pro-Am), marking my 4-yr anniversary at Westside. I squatted 415lbs and deadlifted 375lbs at a body-weight of 123lbs; I also scraped out a pro total with 1025lbs (despite having a terrible bench day). My best benches to date are 250lbs at a body-weight of 123lbs and 230lbs at a body-weight of 114lbs.

 

Jean with 415lbs on her back.

 JS: Many women tend to shy away from Powerlifting and strength training in general as they’re under the impression it will cause them to instantly bulk-up. Instead, these women feel their time would be better spent on cardio machines, while occasionally making use of those neatly color-coordinated 2.5-5lb dumbbells. If you could give these women any advice, what would you tell them?

JF: Ahh, the CARDIO QUEENS! Look- here’s the deal… and you may have all heard this before but let me re-iterate. We as natural-borne females have not had the same amounts of testosterone “bestowed” upon us that most males have been. Thus, our ability to build muscle to those extremes is non-existent. So get off your pretty little machine and DO SOMETHING worthwhile! I am living proof. I started the sport when I was 15 years old and 117lbs (keep in mind, I was burning more cals via track, too). Ten years of heavy-lifting later, I am 5’5 and 130lbs, and wore my high school prom dress to a USAF formal dinner last year.

 

JS: What about the women who do cardio because they legitimately enjoy it? Is it possible to incorporate strength training and cardio at the same time? Should one be made a priority over the other?

JF: Sure! Lots of people do cardio for fun (not my preferred method of enjoyment, but hey!). Some people like it because it enables them to “zone out,” which is fine. Others do it just because they like how jacked their heart rate gets and the sweat that starts rolling in a brief amount of time. For those people, circuit training with weights would really be a great option to get both aerobic and anaerobic in at once.  Even if you are competing in marathons, a well-balanced training regime should NEVER consist of cardio alone.

However, in my opinion, I do believe strength should take precedence (for example, my cardio consists of dragging a sled, weighted box jumps, and a long, high-incline hike on the treadmill a couple times per week or cycle interval if I want to burn some extra body fat). Strength training =more muscle mass= higher metabolism = more cals burned at rest. So not only are you burning cals while you train, you burn more the rest of your day as well. Sounds like a no-brainer to me! BUT don’t forget about diet- it will stop any composition change from happening dead in its tracks.

  

JS: Many women are simply looking to get “toned,” and don’t care about being strong. Why might this be an issue and what do you tell women who express this as a major concern?

JF: Again, most women assume that cardio will get them “toned”- much like not eating will. Although both may result in a minimal loss (followed by a plateau) on the scales, the body will begin to eat its own muscle to live. Most women will not be pleased when their hair is dull, nails thin and break, and they develop skin issues as a result. I like to spin the “toned” look women want into a “healthy” look. In other words, we have to focus on burning body fat, while ALSO building muscle to be healthy and get results. In addition, lifting weights is important for women from their 20’s and older to ensure that our bones stay strong and healthy!

  

JS: For the general fitness enthusiast, female or male, do you think basing the majority of their training routine on the principles of Powerlifting and/or strength training would be beneficial? Why or why not?

JF: Absolutely! In our (powerlifting) training, we obviously physically condition the body, but what some fail to realize is, we train to condition the mind as well. One aspect of how a Westside “template” is set up, so to speak, is in a way that we are constantly setting and breaking PR’s (personal records). We rarely do a 1RM of the  “Classic lifts” (i.e. Squat/Bench/ Deadlift) as we would in a meet; rather, we do a rotation of similar lifts, establishing separate PR’s with different bars, bands,  weight releasers, and grips. This enables our lifters to consistently build confidence levels as well, allowing us better focus at a meet.

This relates well to the general fitness enthusiast, because from my experience, people are driven by results. This method of training (referred to as The Conjugate System) allows them to see new personal records on a regular basis, motivating them to stick with their training program consistently for a longer period of time.

JS: What, in your opinion, are the biggest misconceptions in regard to strength training today?JF: Well, we already discussed the myth about females, so let’s continue with the rest of my Top 5 Pet Peeves:

  • Guys who think they are going to get a bigger bench press by coming in every day and, you guessed it, bench pressing.  As discussed in the last question, our training utilizes The Conjugate System, rotating major exercises every 1-3 weeks (depending on if we are training maximal strength or speed-strength) to consistently hit PR’s for the psychological aspect. However, we do this for the physical benefit, as well. You will not get stronger by doing the same exercises over. And over. And over. It’s the law of accommodation- you must switch it up every 2-3 three weeks or your muscles will adapt to what you are doing and stop responding via hypertrophy!
  • You can’t work the same muscle every day. PLEASE wait 48-72 hours. Enough said. Oh- and while we’re at it, please don’t rep like a speed demon and heave the weights via momentum and think you are doing anything other than hurting yourself. Thank you.
  • The “followers.” Learn what YOUR weaknesses are and do supplemental exercises to bring YOUR weaknesses up to par. I see way too many guys out there who think just tagging along with a friend’s routine will get them optimal results.
  • DIET! It is NOT a myth that you need protein post- work out to achieve the maximum muscle gain. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself ~ 1hour window upon completion to get protein back into your muscles and rebuild over what was broken down. Avoid skipping that post-work out meal; sure, you’ll still burn calories, but you will do more harm than good in the long-run.

JS: What does strength mean to you, and why is being strong so important?

JF: Strength is a combination of willpower and physical talent. You can’t go wrong in life by having both of these in your back pocket!

JS: Jean, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to answer my questions. You’re truly beyond inspirational and a great friend. I know everyone (myself included) has thoroughly benefited from your generosity and knowledge. I’m very excited to see what my readers have to say in response to this article. Thank you so much, Jean!

 JF: No problem, Jordan- thanks for the opportunity! It was great getting to work with you while you were in town, and I wish all the best to you in life, health, career, and training. To everyone else reading this, TRAIN HARD! Whether it be your own health, or in competition, take control of your own destiny.

In the words of Louie Simmons, “the real contest is within yourself.”

 

Vitamin B12 Deficiency linked to Memory Problems

[cnn.com] There’s been a lot of buzz about vitamin B12 in recent years, and here’s another reason to pay attention to it:

A new study finds that a deficiency in vitamin B12 is associated with memory and thinking problems, as well as brain shrinkage. The research is published in the journal Neurology.

Researchers did not prove that low vitamin B12 levels cause these cognitive abnormalities, but they did find a strong association with markers of deficiency, said study co-author Dr. Martha Morris of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

The theory is that adequate levels of vitamin B12 is necessary for the brain’s myelin sheath, an insulating layer around nerves. When the sheath gets damaged, impulses between transmitted along nerve cells slow down.

Vitamin B12 is found in meats, fish, shellfish and dairy products, and some cereals are fortified with it. People over 65 in particular may need B12 supplements because older patients’ bodies have a harder time absorbing this vitamin.

Researchers looked at 121 participants in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. They looked at both serum levels of vitamin B12 and markers of vitamin B12 deficiency.

The study found that methylmalonate, a marker of vitamin B12 deficiency, is associated with a reduction of brain volume and so may contribute to cognitive problems. Homocysteine, an amino acid associated with low B12 levels as well as folate, was linked to thinking problems through a different mechanism involving abnormal white matter signals (as seen on certain kinds of MRIs).

There aren’t a lot of data on using these markers clinically for the purposes of testing the health of older patients, said Dr. James Lah, neurologist at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, who was not involved in the study. The study points to them as potentially helpful, but more research needs to be done, he said.

The study did not find an association between the serum B12 levels of participants and the likelihood of brain problems. Morris said that makes sense because while low levels negatively affect the brain, high levels above normal aren’t necessarily better than adequate levels.

“There’s a level we should all have, and if you fall below that, it could cause problems,” she said.

Quantifying that level is up for debate, but the National Institutes of Health offers  guidelines for recommended vitamin B12 intake at various ages.

Morris and colleagues did not look at this phenomenon in Alzheimer’s patients, but a small 2010 study in Neurology found that people who tended to eat vitamin B12-rich foods are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who did not. Vitamin B12 deficiency has not been shown to be directly involved in the pathology of Alzheimer’s in the brain, but it may aggravate the brain in other ways that could lead to Alzheimer’s. “We can’t discount its involvement,” Lah said.

Not So Sweet Sugar Facts

Via WackyOwl.com

 

 

Athlete Swimming to Greatness after Paralysis

(CNN) — Hope was stirring for Mallory Weggemann just 11 weeks after she lost movement below the waist.

Weggemann, who didn’t even try to make a college swim team when she could walk, was at a Minnesota pool with a club coach she’d just met. The teen wanted to know if she could return to the sport she knew as a girl — only now with absolutely no kick.

Her father told two of her old high school swimming friends — only half kidding — that they’d need to save Mallory should she start drowning.

“I didn’t know if she was going to float or what was going to happen,” Chris Weggemann recalled of that day in 2008. “But she took off swimming, and she got to the wall, and she said, ‘All right, what do I do now?’ ”

What she’s done in the three years since is smash world para-swimming records, collect an ESPY Award, swim on an NCAA Division I college team and put herself on course for what she hopes is a historic run at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

She was done with competitive swimming after high school, but the pool called her back after she became a paraplegic.

She was done with competitive swimming after high school, but the pool called her back after she became a paraplegic.

Heading into this week’s Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Edmonton, Alberta — where she’s won three golds in the first two days of a five-day event — she held 15 world records in her physical ability class. Of the seven solo events to be held in London in her class, she is world champion in six.

“When I got back into the water, it was a real turning point for me — for my mental state, my physical state, everything,” Mallory Weggemann, 22, of Eagan, Minnesota, said this month. “It brought back the emotion that I have and the passion that I have for the water.”

The transition from an able-bodied girl who had hung up her goggles to a world-beating para-swimmer began with an injection three years ago.

Weggemann began having severe lower back pain in high school following a case of shingles. After several unsuccessful treatments, she was prescribed three epidural injections over a number of months, and the first two brought pain relief. But after the third, in January 2008, numbness in the college freshman’s legs didn’t recede, her family says.

She was transferred from a clinic to a hospital. About three weeks in, doctors told her she needed to learn how to use a wheelchair. Complications from the procedure had paralyzed her from the waist down.

It was an unusual result: Though the risk of paralysis stemming from epidural injections varies by type and location, paralysis from epidurals in the lower back is exceedingly rare, said a physician not involved in her care, Dr. Steven P. Cohen, a pain medicine specialist at Johns Hopkins and director of pain research at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Grieving and slow to accept the paralysis, Weggemann made a list of things she would do — but only when she could walk again: Return to class. Travel. Even try out for a college team.

“I was down in the dumps, kind of confused, and asking ‘why-me’ questions, not knowing what was going to be next,” she said, recalling her return home in a wheelchair after weeks of rehab.

Then one of her sisters, trying to cheer her up in April 2008, took her to the University of Minnesota to watch the U.S. swimming trials for that year’s Beijing Paralympic Games.

Weggemann, who started swimming at age 7, saw athletes leave their wheelchairs and crutches and do their thing in the water. She went down to the pool deck and talked with coaches, including Jim Andersen, a longtime club swim coach who only recently had started guiding disabled athletes.

Suddenly, Weggemann wasn’t thinking about goals for a time that might not come. She wondered what she could do now.

A few days later, she had her first practice with Andersen, launching a partnership that would see Weggemann — viewing swimming as something to pour her energy and grief into — test the limits of her newly constrained body.

“When Mallory gets in the water, she feels normal. And I think it made her grow up,” Andersen, 60, said of her return to the pool. “I can’t imagine how devastating it would be to have happened what happened to her, and what my mental mind-set would have been. But (swimming) was a great thing to enable her to recover.”

Weggemann, 22, starts races from a block, swinging her upper body forward with her arms.

Weggemann, 22, starts races from a block, swinging her upper body forward with her arms.

The beginning wasn’t easy.

Not all para-swimmers are unable to kick. Some have dwarfism; some are missing a limb; others have a number of other disabilities but can move their legs. Weggemann’s challenge was not only propelling herself solely with her upper body, but also making turns and starting off a block.

Instead of a flipping and kicking off a wall, she learned to push off with her hands, redirecting herself in a semicircular motion. On the starting block, she can crouch and dive into the water, but does so by grabbing the block and swinging her upper body forward, rather than pushing with her legs.

She found her initial competition at able-bodied club meets. At the first one in May 2008, Weggemann, then 19, looked at her 9-year-old competitors and then shot a glance at her dad.

“She looks over with this look of, ‘If these guys beat me,’ ” Chris Weggemann said. “And they did.”

"I can get out of my chair, and it's just me and the water, and I can move about freely," Weggemann says.

Undeterred, she saw chasing the able-bodied as a game: See how close she could get, chase them for faster times.

Soon, she was not only keeping up with the competition at disabled meets but also beating able-bodied collegians.

She transferred from her small school near Eagan to Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina in January 2009. The kid who thought she wasn’t good enough for a big program before paralysis was now a full member of a Division I team.

Weggemann didn’t win any races at the conference meet in February. But she beat some able-bodied competitors in preliminary heats and electrified her team, Gardner-Webb coach Mike Simpson said.

Beating able-bodied athletes was just an extra, because she was focused on improving her times, Simpson said. But spectators “were pretty blown away” when she beat some swimmers in her 500-yard freestyle heat.

Ahead of the London games, Weggemann -- on a two-year break from college -- will train six days a week in the pool.

Ahead of the London games, Weggemann — on a two-year break from college — will train six days a week in the pool.

“She added a lot to the team,” he said. “When you have people swim way faster than their best time, that creates momentum and energy for the rest of the team. … (Her performance) got everyone else really excited.”

After that, para-swimming records fell and ambitions rose.

At a USA Swimming meet in Minnesota in May 2009, she swam 1:26.20 in the 100-meter butterfly, breaking the old top U.S. mark in her class, 1:28.12.

That summer in Edmonton, she broke three long-course world records, including in the 400-meter freestyle. Her 5:12.30 time in that event beat the record, which had stood for nine years, by almost five seconds.

She transferred to the University of Minnesota that fall — not to join the team, but to train again with Andersen. She broke several other world records in following months, but her signature moment came the next summer.

Weggemann wants seven individual golds at London. She's the world record holder in five of those events, champ in six.

At the long-course para-swimming world championships in August 2010, Weggemann took eight gold medals and one silver, and broke nine world records, in individual races and relay events with her U.S. teammates. Her record time in the 100-meter freestyle was 1:08.45. “There’s a lot of able-bodied swimmers who can’t swim that fast,” Andersen said.

And she swam the 100-meter breaststroke final in 1:35.51 — four seconds faster than a world record that a competitor had set in a preliminary heat.

For her performance in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Weggemann last month won ESPN’s 2011 EPSY Award for best female athlete with a disability.

Back in 2009, she told Swimming World magazine that she hoped to win a gold medal at the 2012 Paralympic Games. Now she wants all seven individual golds — a feat last done at the 2004 Athens Paralympics by American and two-time ESPY winner Erin Popovich.

Weggemann gives much of the credit for her success to her coach, Jim Andersen.

Weggemann gives much of the credit for her success to her coach, Jim Andersen.

And Weggemann — a public relations student on leave until the 2012 games — wants to set world records in each of those events along the way.

“This falls into being a mental game for me,” said Weggemann, who credits Andersen and her family for her success and ability to carry on. “If I can win one (gold), I don’t want to stop at one. I want two and then three. I want to push my body as hard as I can push it.”

Weggemann has been a role model for able-bodied and disabled alike, said Jim Hanton, administrative vice chair for Minnesota Swimming. She has lobbied high-profile state meets to include heats specifically for disabled athletes, and she’s made herself available to young swimmers, speaking to high school teams and showing kids around the aquatic center, he said.

 “I’m a big fan,” Hanton said. “She always has a smile on her face. I think of all the athletes who are grumpy and everything else — she’s happy.”

Weggemann is working herself back into shape following illnesses in late 2010 and early 2011, and will hope to be in top form for the U.S. Paralympic trials in March in South Dakota.

If she’s happy, it’s partly because she found her way back to familiar surroundings so quickly after her paralysis.

“It’s something where I can get out of my chair, and it’s just me and the water, and I can move about freely,” she said. “Even when my competitive days are over, I’ll still need that, because it’s a big part of who I am and what I know.”

By Jason Hanna,CNN

Need a Little E-Motivation?

What’s the biggest reason people give up on their workout program?  Plain and simple, they get burned out, lose motivation, and stop going.  Finding unique ways to keep motivation high is problem Share It Fitness and other exercise companies are looking to address.  Providing boring workout plans that are nothing more than grocery lists, do not work.  Watching 5-minute exercise videos then going off on your own to recreate what you’ve been told, does not work.  Watching the same exercise DVD’s over and over again is a sure-fire way to lead to burn out.

At Share It Fitness we are always looking for other companies who have similar ideals about fitness as we do.  I’d like to introduce you to another website that offers a unique and motivating concept on staying and/or getting healthy.  The website is Konkura.com.  Konkura is the brain-child of Dr. Phil Worthington and aims to tap into that natural instinct of competition in each of us, to promote health and fitness.

Konkura is a free site where you can join sport and fitness challenges, or create your own, to compare your performance with other people around the world and get inspired and motivated to train harder/smarter.  The challenges can involve any aspect of sport or exercise that you can measure – from single exercises to whole workouts.  For this reason, it’s great for benchmarking how you’re improving your strength, fitness or endurance, both compared to other people and against your own past performances.

As Phil says “We created Konkura to encourage friendly competition and make exercise more fun and motivational.  If you’ve got a competitive spirit, we think you’ll get a kick out of taking part in Konkura challenges.”

Phil goes on to say, “You can use the site to find new things to do to mix up your training, or stick to a few specific challenges that are closely related to your sport or fitness goals, and use the competitive element to benchmark your performance with other people to help you keep improving.

If you create your own challenges you have the option to keep them private so that only your friends or teammates can take part.  We think that’s a fantastic way to train as a group and motivate one another, particularly if you can’t physically meet up for every training session.”

As many of you know, we here at Share It Fitness believe in our concept of Body Diversity Training.  That is, engaging in various types of fitness across all disciplines, and at varying levels, to realize the greatest potential growth.  Konkura challenges complement our philosophy by allowing you to break the mold of your standard workout program.  What’s more, fostering competition has been shown to make individuals work harder and more intensely than if they were simply doing a laundry list of exercises at the gym.

Check them out at Konkura.com for more information.

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