I must admit, I was a bit lazy last year. After running a 50 mile trail race, I laid low for the rest of the year nursing a heel injury. But I'm healthy now and back training. As per usual, I've set a few goals for the summer...some triathlons and a few running races. There is something about setting goals that keeps me on track--not just in athletics, but in life. Goals are important; they sharpen your vision, give you focus and help steer you to success.
The goals I set for myself are typically lofty ones. Whether it is competing in an Ironman, running up Mt. Kilimanjaro, or improving my bone density naturally through diet and supplements, they usually aren't easy tasks...but that's what makes them interesting. Besides hard work, I am always in search of ways to "boost" my abilities to help reach those goals. Now I am not talking about performance enhancing drugs in athletics or taking osteoporosis medications to temporarily improve bone density at the risk of adverse effects and building poor quality bone. I'm talking about doing things naturally but effectively. I hope you can relate to some of these ideas and use them to boost your own goal outcomes.
Improving Athletic Performance
Improving your performance in athletics, no matter what sport or activity, starts with making sure your body is healthy enough to sustain training for months on end. If you break down a few weeks before a race, all that training goes out the window.
Common sense suggestions:
First, maintain a healthy gut by eating a good diet and taking supplements. Putting high-octane fuel in the tank...lots of good green veggies, quality protein and plenty of minerals and electrolytes...allows the body to rejuvenate after each workout. Second, exercise regularly and focus on quality workouts. Third, get plenty of sleep. It is during the night-time hours that the body repairs itself and you can do a lot of damage to your body in a hard training session. Finally, keep a positive attitude and be patient.
I have found a few extra little things besides those basics that enhance my performance just enough to put me on a slightly higher playing field...enough to get me from 2nd place to 1st place in a race. For running and competing in triathlons, that edge or boost to performance comes from three things:
1) The nutritional supplement creatine. Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in the body that helps recycle adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy. But creatine levels decline as we age making it more difficult to effectively utilize ATP.* Not only does creatine help give us more zip DURING a workout but it helps with after-workout recovery.
2) Strength training. This might include the use of free weights, weight machines, elastic resistance bands, and/or simply resisting against your own weight. A well-executed strength-training program contributes to my feeling strong all over, increases total body mass, reduces the risk of sports injuries and improves core stability. **
3) Ensuring adequate electrolytes. For optimal nerve conduction and muscle contractions you need to have plenty of minerals and electrolytes. Nerves fire optimally and muscles respond best when the body is electrically alive and swimming in electrolytes.
Improving Osteoporosis Outcomes
My quest to improve bone health runs parallel to how I approach sports. I treat this goal as a huge challenge that arouses my competitive juices and makes me SO WANT TO SUCCEED. The key is to stay focused every day on the key factors that will keep bones strong and healthy.
Common sense suggestions:
First, maintain a healthy gut (probiotics, fiber, eliminate food allergens and sensitivities, digestive enzymes if needed), eat a good diet and take supplements. Second, engage in weight-bearing exercise regularly. Third, get adequate sleep. Finally, keep a positive attitude and have patience. Sound familiar?
I have found that a boost to improved bone health comes from similar sources as those that I use to enhance my athletic performance:
1) The nutritional supplement creatine.
2) Strength training. Muscles release myokines, chemical signaling molecules that tell bones to get stronger. This makes sense. Bones have to be strong enough to take the torque produced by muscles; so muscles and bones have to be in close communication with each other. The stronger your muscles, the stronger your bones will be; taking creatine and engaging in frequent strength training are two of the best boosts to this mechanism.
3) Ensure not just adequate minerals but minerals that can be EASILY deposited into bones AND be transformed EASILY into electrolytes. (Electrolytes are minerals with an electric charge.) In addition to providing one of the best sources of calcium possible for bone building, OsteoMineralBoost*** contains bio-active calcium, magnesium, and 72 trace minerals (from Aquamin red marine algae). It is easily incorporated into bone tissue, helps preserve bone, and is a natural source of electrolytes...perfect for people who suffer from bone loss...and athletes alike.
It is my hope that you will use some of these ideas in your daily regimen to kick-start or help "boost" your goal attainment. And, if you haven't set goals yet, what are you waiting for?! Whether you are an athlete or an individual who wants to improve health outcomes, the goal-setting process is needed to understand where you are currently, and where you want to go. The fact that you aren't where you want to be, should be enough motivation.
* We can obtain creatine from our diet but the best sources are fish and meat which are acidic and large quantities of these foods may not be the best way to ensure adequate creatine levels. Because creatine is only obtained through animal products, vegetarians have difficulty maintaining adequate creatine levels. For these reasons supplementing with creatine, especially if you have bone loss, is a good idea. For more info on creatine go to: http://www.osteonaturals.com/2015/07/creatine-and-resistance-training.html
** Of course, when any exercise program is undertaken by sedentary individuals, they should first check with their physician. In addition to the cardiovascular concerns of starting an exercise program, caution, especially in the osteoporotic individual, should be taken to avoid undue load on the spine or hips. For example, bending forward or lifting weights overhead can put a heavy load on the spinal vertebrae and if bone density is extremely low, this can result in a compression fracture.
*** OsteoMineralBoost provides one of the best sources of calcium possible for bone building...micro-crystaline hydroxyapatite. MCHA has been shown in research studies to contain growth factors for improved bone building activity in people with osteoporosis. OsteoMineralBoost also contains Aquamin trace minerals from red marine algae. Aquamin won the Ingredient of the Year for Healthy Aging at the 2016 Nutraingredients Awards in Geneva, Switzerland.