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Best Body Tool: Foam Roll for Healthy Muscles!

Posted by tdifranc on October 14, 2011

Here at TD Athletes Edge, we are ALL ABOUT improving quality of muscle/connective tissue! If you train, workout, or compete regularly you know that your muscles can get tight, feel like they have knots in them, and even sometimes feel like they are “pulled”. This is no fun and frankly something that can be minimized if not avoided by taking some simple measures such as Foam Rolling.

Foam Rolling is an inexpensive, easy, effective way to stay on top of promoting healthy, high quality tissue throughout your body. This will help you avoid those unnecessary non-contact injuries that sneak up out of nowhere and limit your performance!!!

Prescription: 10-20 rolls on each body part shown in the video once per day will help to keep the nagging injuries away!

Here is a link to order a foam roller if you do not already have one and be sure to watch the video below for a quick tutorial on how to best use one.

Call or email TD Athletes Edge for any questions!

info@tdathletesedge.com

978.712.0260

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Best Body Tool: Thai Cashew Chicken & Cauliflower Rice

Posted by tdifranc on October 13, 2011

Refined carbohydrates like white rice, pasta, and white bread are everywhere. We all know that they should be avoided when possible but sometimes it is tough!!! There are good carbs out there but recipes like this one will help you to cheat the system and steer clear of the bad refined carbs. Not only does this dish taste GOOD (assuming you have an exceptional girlfriend like mine who is a genius in the kitchen) but, if you are watching your refined carbs it is totally refined carb free!!

Thai Cashew Chicken served over Faux Rice

4 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts- Cut into small, thin pieces

4-5 Garlic cloves, minced

2 medium yellow onions- chopped

Cashew Chicken & Cauliflower Rice

1 red pepper- chopped thin

1 yellow pepper- chopped thin

1 green pepper- chopped thin

3 dry red chilies- cut into pieces

4-5 Tbsp Soy sauce

2 Tbsp Fish sauce

2 Tbsp brown sugar

¼ cup Cashew nuts

Salt to taste

Olive oil for frying

Marinate the chicken pieces with 2 tbsp soy sauce, fish sauce and salt-let sit while you cut up the rest of your veggies.

Bake cashews on a cookie sheet at 325 for 5-8 minutes, be careful not to burn! Remove from oven and set aside.

Add olive oil and garlic to fry pan and cook until light brown.  Add the marinated chicken pieces and cook on medium-high until just about done.  Add onions and fry until transparent.  Add peppers and dry red chilies.  Cook for 3 minutes and then add 2-3 tbsp more of soy sauce, brown sugar, cashew nuts and salt to taste.  Cook for an additional minute and switch off the flame. Let stand a few minutes to absorb some of the liquid.                                                                                                                         Serve over faux rice.

Faux rice (Cauliflower)

Remove stems from cauliflower. Coarsely chop cauliflower florets and place in food processer- blend until ‘rice’ consistency. Cover and microwave for 5-6 minutes. Do not add water.

*Thai cashew chicken recipe modified from saltandspice.org.

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10 Exercises You NEED to be Doing!

Posted by tdifranc on October 13, 2011

1. Great Posture; 2. An Excellent Dead Lift; 3. A Strong Core…

NOT GOOD!

At TD Athletes Edge we work with clients and athletes of all levels with varying goals, history, and needs. Despite all of the individual needs and requirements that our clients have, the three ideals listed above are goals that we want all clients to have. I have said it before and I will say it again: “An athlete is an athlete”. I am not suggesting that sport specific training should be ignored nor am I underestimating the value of customized training programs because that is what we base our program design on.  I am suggesting that there are certain fundamental pillars that are IMPERATIVE for successful training and/or performance for all clients & athletes of all levels.

To be able to HONESTLY say “I have GREAT POSTURE, an EXCELLENT DEAD LIFT, and a STRONG CORE” you will need to be certain that the following exercises are regulars in your workout routine. The common denominator of this list is isometric strength and endurance – trust us it is crucial!!!

1. Standing Tubing Horizontal Row Iso: Stand tall through your chest while in an athletic stance; Row the tubing back and hold.

2. Standing Single Arm Cable Horizontal Row Iso: Stand tall through your chest while in an athletic stance; Row the tubing back with one arm and hold.

3. Split Stance Cable Face Pull Iso: Stand in front of a low cable with tricep rope attachment; Grasp rope and step back to create tension on the cable; Stand tall through your chest and raise both hands up towards your face/ears; Hold this position with elbows at shoulder level.

4. Rope Horizontal Row Iso w/ Sled Back-Pedal: Stand tall through your chest while in a low athletic stance facing the rope/sled; Perform a tight row pulling the rope/sled towards you without taking any steps; Maintain the row while you back-pedal staying strong in your chest/core.

5. TRX Diagonal Row Iso: Stand facing the TRX handles – the closer your feet are to the TRX the more difficult it will be; Plank your body from heels to shoulders; Be sure to avoid a slouched/sagging position prior to performing the row; Row your body towards the TRX and hold.

6. Single Arm Bent Over DB Horizontal Row Iso: Place one hand on a box/bench ~18in high while in a perfect dead lift position; Feet should be slightly more than shoulder width apart with knees bent; Grasp a DB with the free hand, perform a tight row and hold.

7. TRX Inverted Horizontal Row Iso: Grasp the TRX handles from directly under it; Plank your body from heels to shoulders; Be sure to avoid a slouched/sagging position prior to performing the row; Row your chest towards the TRX handles with a tight row and hold.

8. TRX Feet Elevated Inverted Horizontal Row Iso: Grasp the TRX handles from directly under it; Place your feet up on a box/step approximately 18 inches off of the ground; Plank your body from heels to shoulders; Be sure to avoid a slouched/sagging position prior to performing the row; Row your chest towards the TRX handles with a tight row and hold.

9. Standard Grip Pull Up Iso: Perform a standard grip pull up; Hold the pull up posture at the top as you attempt to “bend the bar” around your chest.

10. Narrow Grip Chin Up Iso: Perform a narrow grip chin up; Hold the chin up posture at the top as you attempt to “bend the bar” around your chest.

Whether you are constantly being told you have bad posture, you have trouble maintaining a flat back during your dead lifts, or your core does not seem to have much endurance/strength – these 10 isometric exercises should be staples in your training program. Starting with number one, add 1 or 2 of these exercises to your routine every 4 weeks to build a foundation for good posture, a better dead lift, and a stronger core. More importantly you will be building a foundation for performing at your best. You should begin with 5-20 second holds and work your way up to 30-60 second holds. Enjoy!

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Dear Egg Police: SETTLE DOWN!

Posted by tdifranc on September 15, 2011

The title of this post should say it all but in case you are having a hard time reading between the lines…I am indeed suggesting that consuming multiple whole eggs (yolks included) per day is perfectly healthy! There is a lot of paranoia out there when it comes to eggs and especially the “ever-dangerous” yolk. I have actually seen someone stagger to their knees after telling them I have been known to eat 4-6 eggs (including yolks) per day. Why is it that eating 4-6 eggs per day makes people think you are lining yourself up for an immediate heart-attack but eating a donut, 3 pieces of pizza, and piece of birthday cake in a day seems to be relatively acceptable????

Can someone please relay the following to the Egg Police: Eggs are packed with healthy nutrients, lean protein, vitamins, minerals, the good fats, and even antioxidants. Oh and I almost forgot…be sure to tell them that the yolk is where most of the benefits are found! There is a catch: not all eggs are created equal…

Your eggs are what your chickens eat! Believe it or not chickens are meant to eat grass, bugs, and critters. Unfortunately most chickens never get that opportunity and are force fed corn/grain! This process severely limits the nutrient profile of the eggs that grain fed chickens produce! You can see it in the color of the yolk…a DARK yellow almost orange yolk is GOOD…a light yellow yolk is BAD. The dark yellow yolk indicates the chicken was allowed to feed on grass, bugs and critters at least some of the time…this process results in the eggs containing much higher levels of omega-3’s along with an overall higher quality nutrient profile!

While in Vermont during the weekend several weeks ago we were able to get our hands on one dozen eggs from farm-raised chickens that were allowed to roam in the fields, eat grass, bugs, and critters. We brought them home cracked them in a bowl and I realized my Mom had a few eggs from the grocery store in her refrigerator. I figured the more the merrier so began to crack them into the same bowl…can you tell which one is from a grocery store/originally from a chicken that was fed grain and never a blade of grass, bug or single critter? 

Not convinced yet…Here is some lovely research to help change your mind.

If you get bored with scrambled & over-easy here are 14 ways to change it up!

How do you shop for eggs & know where your eggs come from/what they are fed? Look for local eggs and look for any mention on the label that they were allowed to eat grass or be in a pasture. Also seek eggs that are from chickens fed with additional omega-3.

Are you wondering if the eggs you normally buy stack up against the rest when it comes to the above criteria? Check the Cornucopia Institute Egg Scorecard. Hopefully after reading the links sprinkled throughout the above text you have made a pact to eat more eggs from chickens that eat grass, bugs, and critters! Here is how the farm-fresh eggs from VT turned out for us:

more eggs please!

References:

Aaron, K. Buy The Healthiest Eggs – http://www.menshealth.com. August 17, 2011.

Are Egg Whites Better than Whole Eggs? – http://blogs.menshealth.com/bellyoff-nutritionist/are-egg-whites-better-than-whole-eggs/2011/08/01/. August 1, 2011.

http://www.cookinglight.com/food/top-rated-recipes/healthy-5-star-egg-recipes-00400000048762/page16.html

http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg-scorecard/index.html

Weight Loss & Breakfast: Eggs are Better. – http://www.healthhabits.com. April 20, 2009.

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What I did on my summer vacation…

Posted by tdifranc on August 30, 2011

Our clients work hard and hard work pays off! The off-season is the absolute best time to address limitations that athletes might have and work on that bulletproof body for the upcoming season. If it is done right and approached with a plan it can be extremely beneficial! Here are a few of the main things that MUST be addressed during off-season training:

  1. Injuries: Injuries that limited the athlete during the previous season can and will carry over into the next season if they are not addressed. It is not good enough to simply assume that a little rest will solve the problem…that is like pulling over and turning the car off for 5 minutes when the check engine light comes on and hoping that when you turn the car back on it will be gone. Has that ever worked???? Find a good PT or performance trainer who can evaluate and assess why certain injuries occurred during the previous season and most importantly fix them! They need to be able seek the source and not just the site of the injury!
  2. Mobility: Sport seasons are long and they require athletes to do the SAME motions over and over again. This results in athletes who get tight and limited in movements that they ignore during the season. A simple dynamic stretch like the Bulletproof Body Tool we call the Dead Lift-Y can help you avoid or regain mobility that can be lost during a season.
  3. Strength: A bulletproof body doesn’t become bulletproof until you get STRONG! You get strong by moving or lifting heavy weight with perfect form. In the video below you will see Nikki Rose pushing nearly twice her body weight on the sled…enough said!
  4. Explosiveness: Most sports require a certain amount of explosive or plyometric activity. If you think you can go through an off-season without developing this tool and then jump into a pre-season with tons of plyometric requirements without a problem – you are WRONG!
  5. Energy System Enhancement: It is simply a fancy term for sport specific “cardio” or conditioning. Unless you are a long distance runner your sport probably requires short bursts of high intensity work. Train for your sport and be sure you are training the correct energy systems…soccer & basketball players (for example) don’t need to be running long slow miles on the treadmill or road! They NEED to be doing short/powerful interval style conditioning just like their sport requires. See the video below for Bates basketball star Allie Beaulieu doing the ropes and Nikki Rose (new member of the Swampscott Girls Varsity Soccer team – as a freshman) doing mountain climbers. No more than 20 seconds of HARD work followed by short periods of rest is a good format to shoot for.

Follow the steps above and you will be bulletproofing yourself for a healthy pre-season and successful season!!!

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Vitamin D Remix

Posted by tdifranc on August 22, 2011

I posted this on Vitamin D about a year ago and since then there has been more info found on Vitamin D so here it is again with the updates:

The best training/strength program in the world will only go so far if the participants are clueless on how/what to eat.

People ask me often what vitamins/supplements they should be taking and I like to keep it simple but the first ones I tend to talk to them about are vitamin D and fish oil.  These two are important for me because of the effects they have on muscle atrophy/weakness, bone wasting, muscle/bone pain, energy levels, and fighting inflammation.  Lets chat a bit about vitamin D!

Here’s the deal:

* Somewhere between 30-80% of the population is vitamin D deficient

* Vitamin D deficiency can result in:

  • Increased cancer risk
  • Loss of muscle strength/mass
  • Limited bone development ability
  • Increased local and general bone/muscle pain
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Impaired neuromuscular function
  • Impaired immune function

* Benefits of having appropriate levels of Vitamin D:

  • You will eat less and feel more full! This is related to Vit D’s links to leptin and insulin regulation (both hormones responsible for making us feel full or hungry).
  • Your fat cells will stop trying so hard to make/store FAT!
  • Vit D appears to be particularly good at helping to decrease belly fat. This is due to the connection between Vit D & Calcium. The two work together to reduce cortisol production  (a stress hormone). Cortisol is a nasty character that helps to store belly fat.
  • Vit D is now being linked to helping stave off heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and memory loss.

* The best indicator of vitamin D levels/status is “Serum 25(OH)D” levels

  • When you go for a physical – ask your MD to check this!

* Vit D3 is the animal form…is fat soluble, best absorbed, and has best efficacy

* Vit D2 is the plant form

* Even if we did have regular access to REAL food that hasn’t been processed, stripped of all goodness and pumped with chemicals, antibiotics, growth hormones etc…it would still be very hard to get vitamin D through food.

* Foods that do have vitamin D in them (at low levels) include:

  • Fatty Fish like salmon(farmed or fake fish are fed grain and kept in tanks where they poop the grain out then eat their own poop so not surprisingly they have lower vitamin D levels than wild fish) – 6oz. = 900 IU
  • Cod liver oil…mmmm!
  • Mushrooms – 3oz. = 400 IU (if they are UV Light grown)
  • Liver – 3.5oz. = 50 IU
  • Eggs (REAL eggs from REAL chickens that eat REAL grass, bugs & critters, and/or Omeg-3 enriched feed) – 2 large omega-3 enriched eggs = 160 IU

* You can NOT rely on food to keep your vitamin D levels up (especially if you live in the Northeast) but you should try to eat as much Vit D in your diet as you can!

* Sunlight and appropriate supplementation is the only way to keep your vitamin D levels up to where they need to be unless you plan to drink wild salmon, mushroom, egg smoothies several times/day…good luck with that!

He probably got more than 4,000 IU!!!

* Vitamin D levels should be between 75-100 nmol/L

  • Tell your MD to check your vitamin D levels via “serum 25(OH)D” levels and see if it is between 75-100 nmol/L

* If you live in the Northeast you need to eat a Vit D rich diet and get:

  • 15-30 minutes of mid day sun OR 2,000 – 4,000 IU of supplemented vitamin D3 per day from Feb-Nov
  • 2,000 – 4,000 IU of supplemented vitamin D3 per day from Dec-Jan

* If you live South of LA/Dallas/Atlanta you need a Vit D rich diet and:

  • 15-30 minutes of mid day sun OR 2,000 – 4,000 IU of supplemented vitamin D3 per day (regardless of the time of year due to a lack of snow and below zero weather)

* The skin produces 10,000 IU of vitamin D in response to 20-30 mins of sunlight (this is 50 times the amount the US government recommends!!).

* Sunlight through a window is no good!  The glass blocks nearly all UVB and negates vitamin D from being made in the body!

* Looking for vitamin D from a multivitamin?? Bad plan!

  • In order to get the appropriate/beneficial amount of vitamin D from a MV you would have to go into toxic levels of all of the other vitamins in the MV!

* In order for the body to optimally utilize vitamin D there are several other co-factors that it works best with:

  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin K2
  • Boron
  • Vitamin A (http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/)
    • So pay attention to how much of these you are getting as well (magnesium is the most important)

* Several vitamin D product options on the market now that include the higher dosage of vitamin D that you need and are approved by the vitamin D council include:

References:

Andrews, R.  All About Vitamin D – www.precisionnutrition.com.  June 29, 2009.

Bowman, A. (2011, September). Feed Your Fat Burner. Men’s Health, 128-133.

http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/

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Best Body Tool: Dead Lift-Y

Posted by tdifranc on August 22, 2011

Why it’s good: This exercise will help you build a great base of strength and mobility at the same time. A strong back and powerful hips are important for everyone and the Dead Lift-Y can create that foundation!

Points for PERFECT form:
* Start “tall” in good posture from the shoulders down
* “Puff” your chest out and pinch your shoulder blades back
* Sit your butt back with a slight knee bend (DON’T let your knees “shoot” forward)
* Use the hip hinge pattern to tip your chest over towards the ground with a perfectly straight back (as if you are doing a dead lift)
* Sit your butt down into a deep squat with a high/tall chest
* Raise one arm at a time to the ceiling in a “Y” position
* Stand up after you have achieved the “Y” position with your arms

How often: 2-4 times per week.

How much: 4-6 repetitions each time you practice it is a good number to work towards.

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Kids These Days!

Posted by tdifranc on August 15, 2011

I just hit the big “three-oh”…yup I am 30! This means that my body starts falling apart now and shortly my mind will go too, so I will not be able to remember things from my youth. Luckily I am capable of recalling enough of my childhood, however, to know that it was not quite the same as what “kids these days” experience.

After I graduated from physical therapy school with my Doctorate, I expected to get out in the field and be faced with treating mostly older people (over 30). I anticipated I would see people who had just put too many miles on their bodies and had started to breakdown. Although I did see some of this I was SHOCKED to see so many KIDS under the age of 15.

At the time I was only 26 (or 27…I’m not sure it was so long ago) and I was treating kids who did not even know who Bill Clinton was! I was confused! I was young at the time and yet kids who were half my age were coming in for physical therapy related to non-contact injuries like knee pain, back pain, hip pain, and shoulder pain.

I thought about it a little more and I could NOT remember a point in my pre-high school days when I had a non-contact injury, let alone one that caused me to have to go to physical therapy!!! I had my fair share of contact injuries including broken bones, ankle sprains, and finger dislocations but never the non-contact variety.

Non-contact injuries can develop over a long period of time or they can be sudden. They are common and expected to occur in older people (over 30)…but not in twelve year olds!!!

Now that I am 30 I am qualified to use the term “when I was a boy”…
Way back “when I was a boy” I was allowed, and encouraged to go “play” outside in the woods, the park, or in the neighborhood. I am not so sure this is the case anymore. I used to play three different sports in a single day and sprinkled in between those sports I would climb a few trees, jump off of a few rocks and help my Dad stack some wood. Aside from my Dad laughing out loud at my potentially false claims of helping him stack wood, I believe that most people reading this can say the same about their childhood: it included constant unstructured activity that varied from hour to hour.This is GOOD...

Instead of climbing trees, jumping off rocks, and lifting/stacking wood, “kids these days” have a different set of daily activities! They climb into SUV’s, jump out of SUV’s, and lift their back-packs in and out of SUV’s, all year around as they travel to and from the one sport that they have chosen to specialize in since they were 8 years old.

Lets recap that…kids today get little to no opportunity to challenge their bodies to get strong, develop balance, and create flexibility (the way we used to). They are encouraged to play more of the same sport than ever before and yet we just can’t understand why they are complaining more and more about unnecessary, avoidable non-contact injuries…hmmm isn’t that strange! This is BAD!

While I slowly climb off of my soap box (I would jump but I am over 30 now so I have to be careful) lets review some solutions to this issue. It is important to understand that I am not suggesting that we let kids go play outside all day without supervision. Kids activities may have changed but so has society and that just would not be realistic/safe.

I am not talking about trying to change the evolution of kids in today’s society but I am trying to find ways to balance or combat the pitfalls this evolution may be bringing on.

Solutions:
– Encourage kids to play different sports that they enjoy.
– Lead by example and show kids how varying your physical activities can be fun and exciting.
– Give kids opportunities to engage in unstructured fun physical activities.
Buy them an iphone before the age of 5.
– Allow kids to take at least one season off during the course of the year to recover; participate in cross-training of some sort.
– Find supervised/safe ways for kids to attempt physical challenges like climbing, jumping, pulling and lifting.
– Challenge your kids in a fun way to attempt to do at least one of the following everyday (they should always be done with safety in mind):
o Text for 8 hours straight
o Use the computer until they fall asleep on the keyboard

o Run as fast as they can
o Jump as high as they can
o Throw something (safe) as far as they can
o Push something heavy
o Pull something heavy
o Climb something
o Do as many push ups as they can
o Do as many pull ups as they can
o Skip for as long as their favorite song lasts on their ipod
o Ride a bike up and down a hill

Believe it or not there are kids that do not do even one of those activities for weeks at a time. It is not normal anymore to do these types of things spontaneously. This is creating an environment where kids get weak, injured, and overweight. I think we can all agree that an environment where kids are hyper-susceptible to any one of these pitfalls (general weakness/non-contact injury/overweight) is a bad environment!

Here’s what some of the under 16 year olds have been up to at TD Athletes Edge:

Are your under 16 year olds doing stuff like this everyday????

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Best Body Tool: Tall Kneeling Superman

Posted by tdifranc on August 15, 2011

Why it’s good: It challenges your abdominal musculature in anti-extension. “Anti-Extension” refers to the idea that if you were to completely relax your abs while in this position you would go into low back hyper-extension. This is the primary function of the anterior ab muscles and yet we often ignore that.

Points for PERFECT form:
* Avoid falling into low back hyper-extension. This happens if you let your belly/butt sag towards the ground.
* Avoid sinking into or hanging on your shoulders. You should feel like your lower abs are holding you up as your shoulders/arms keep you stable.
* Don’t bend too much at the hips. You want your hips to be near “flat”.
* Use padding under your knees for comfort.

How often: 2-4 times per week.

How much: Work up to being comfortable with a 90-120sec hold. This may take months before getting to this point. Start at 10-20sec and go from there.

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No Time for Lunch

Posted by tdifranc on August 12, 2011

I hear the excuses all of the time about why people don’t have time for lunch! Those excuses come from the same people who are reading this blog while they are supposed to be at “work” and by the time they finish reading this post could have eaten what’s in it…You started reading it so you may as well finish and learn something during your time procrastinating from “work”.

How about this combo for a QUICK, healthy lunch that requires almost zero prep time, provides 25g+ of protein, costs under $5.00 and can be stored in your office desk/refrigerator:

A. 1 Vermont Smoke and Cure Snack Stick: All natural beef stick made with beef that has never been introduced to antibiotics; No nitrites or nitrates; 7g Protein; $1.49

B. 1 Greek Yogurt (flavor/brand of your choice): Greek yogurt has a higher protein content and depending on your favorite brand is typically not laden with corn syrup or additives (Skyr.is, Trader Joe’s brand, Fage, Chobani); Typically have between 12-20g Protein; $1.29-2.50

C. 1 Justins Natural Nut Butter Squeeze Pack: All natural/organic ingredients with great flavors like maple-almond or chocolate-hazelnut. They can be eaten very easily on the go…right out of the pack; 5-7g Protein; .69-99cents!

***If you aren’t a meat eater…substitute a hard boiled egg for the beef stick.

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