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Tag Archives for " calves "
6

Prevent Shin Splints: 3 Calf Stretches

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dem bones, Dem bones, Dem Dry bones!

Shin splints are often the result of imbalance between the calf and shin muscles. When the calf (gastrocnemius) is much stronger or tighter than the shin (anterior tibialis), micro tears can occur as the relatively overdeveloped calf pulls on its pair — the shin. Making sure you have flexible, long calf muscles will put the odds in your favor to avoid this painful condition.

The foot bone connected to the ankle bone, The ankle bone connected to the shin bone, The shin bone connected to the knee bone, The knee bone connected to the thigh bone, The thigh bone connected to the hip bone, the hip bone connected to the back bone, The back bone connected to the shoulder bone, The shoulder bone connected to the neck bone, The neck bone connected to the head bone, Them bones got up and walked around. – Lyrics from the song Dry Bones by the Delta Rhythm Boys

Color the the shin bone S for Stretched & Sexy!

If you want your bones and muscles to get up and walk around, you have to keep them happy. Our singing does not necessarily make our bones happy! But stretching, well, that’s a solution of a different horse!

Try the 3 calf stretches you’ll see in our video to keep your calves from overpowering your anterior tib.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svwfS697gno[/youtube]

 

 

 

Want more ways to prevent shin splints? Check out our prior two posts on the subject:

Shin Splints highlighted on the anterior tibialis

You shoulda been stretching instead of playing with that highlighter!

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Photo credits: creativecommons.org: horse:  doe-c-doe, leg drawing:  rosswilliamdrew, highlighted shin splint:  Northcoast Footcare.

 

17

Foam Rollers: They Hurt So Good

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Foam rollers are an excellent tool for a group fitness class or personal training session, both for resistance training and for myofascial release (aka muscle release). In essence, a foam roller can be used both for a workout (especially for the core), and a self-massage, using your own body weight.

Quick kinesiology lesson

Don’t worry, nothing you can’t handle. The kinetic chain is made up of the:

  • soft tissue system (muscle, tendon, ligament, and fascia)
  • neural system (nerves and CNS)
  • articular system (joints)

All of these parts make up a whole that is interdependent. For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved (i.e., tight hamstrings can affect hip and lower back mobility). If you’re confused, please refer to this handy chart:

Foam rollers help with tension and release

Odd as it sounds, for a muscle to gain strength, the tissue has to receive enough stress to cause micro-tears. Once that’s occurred, you can help your muscles recover by using the foam roller to break up adhesions in the muscle tissue and/or fascia. When these “trigger points” are decreased, blood flow increases, which is good!

Alexandra: I like to use the foam rollers for myofascial release with my group fitness students every so often, mostly because I always get a laugh out of their moans and groans when they discover their tight iliotibial (IT) bands.

Kymberly: I admit up front that I love foam rollers! Roll, roll, roll in zee … Hey, that really hurts so good. (Insert silent scream here as I roll out my tight hammies and upper back. Did you get the movie reference I just made two sentences ago?)

Different than Operation: Find the Iliotibial Band

My, oh My, oh Myofascial Release

Alexandra:  I was starting to think it was about time to introduce the foam roller to this quarter’s “crop” of university students when I found out about an app called Roll Release Techniques, which has 100 different videos for using the foam roller for self-massage.

 

My feeling at discovering an app that I could take onto the teaching stage with me was something like this:

Release Me, Baby!

 

This app packs in 100 videos, more than 25 different muscle groups, and demos that show up to 4 different levels for each group. The creator of the foam roller app, Dr. Ryan Emmons, is the one demonstrating the moves, and it’s simple to use and follow. Tap the muscle you want, then tap the level you want (regression, main, progression or advanced). Simple to follow along; simple to use.

As a fitness instructor who doesn’t use foam rollers enough to know all the possibilities by heart, I found the Roll Release Techniques App super handy. For a fitness enthusiast at home who wants to get some quick myofascial release, it’s also super because there’s no need to know the names or function of any muscles; you can just tap the picture of the muscle you want to work.

Usually I’m a bit snobby particular about the fitness information I’ll purchase and use, but this app totally rocked and rolled; well, it rolled! As you can see by the facial expressions on my students’ faces in these pictures, foam rollers are an effective tool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Readers and Rollers: What fitness apps do you use?

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own. Alexandra used her own money to purchase this app because it was totally worth $2.99 to get all the video demos.

Photo credit: Man jumping  kreg.steppe

 

17

3 Tips for Preventing Shin Splints

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

See how painful that looks? Only your heart should look this red and throbbing!

Do you want to prevent shin splints? Apparently many of you do as “shin splints” is our site’s most popular search term. (Yeah, we peeked). Our previous post about preventing shin splints is one of our “top sellers” (except it’s free to read).

 

 

 

The 3 tips in the video below will help you prevent shin splints. You’ll see more in future posts on what to do before and  after  shin pain. For now, take a look at this short video:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bW89wDktKCk[/youtube]

 

Key for you to know is that the shin (anterior tibialis) and calf (gastrocnemius, plus five other calf muscles  work as a team. Most people shower too much attention on the calf, and neglect the shin. The calf gets big and bossy and tries to exert constant force on the little tib. This makes the shin very envious and it shows its displeasure by becoming stressed and painful. If you give the shin a bit more love (that is secret code for “more training”) it will be happy and joyous and take you all kinds of places pain-free.

Have you ever had shin splints? What did you do to recover?

Photo Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

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17

Are Skechers Sketchy, Steppy, or Peppy?

Kymberly Wiliams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Who loves getting packages in the mail? We do! We do! Oooh…squeee! Free Skechers fitness shoes for us to use and review. Double ooooh, as those of you who have followed us for a while know that we are NOT fans of the rocker aspect. But we do have open minds and new closed-toed shoes to try out and report on.

Skechers Fitness Tone-Ups

Pink & Grey, just like Alexandra's Face & Hair!

We ripped open the package and found first a DVD with “Instructions.” Already we had to like that since we have unique senses of humor. The last time we got shoe instructions was when we learned shoelace tying in kindergarten. “Loop one bunny ear, then the other; send the rabbit around the hole, through the hutch, and ta dum! Shoes tied!” Aahh sweet memories of that and eating that white paste at recess after playing “cooties.”

Anyway… we decided to live life on the edge, skip the instructions and take our Skechers on all sorts of adventures to see what they could handle. Since we teach a variety of classes plus power walk almost every day, we thought our shoes should go with us.

Do Skechers make Kymberly's legs look longer? Just say "yes."

First up: Low Impact class with Kymberly and her spiffy looking Women’s SRR Pro Speed.
Report directly from Kymberly’s Skechers: “Yes, this was an excellent and comfortable experience. I made Kymberly’s feet dance and twirl in comfort and style. Do her pants make my tongue look big?”

 

 

 

 

Step, step, step to my Lou

Next up: Step class with Kymberly
Report from K’s Skechers: “Big no for this activity. Kymberly’s balance was all over the place and the up and down stepping, lateral moves, and my shoe tread combined with the step rubber did not really play well together. Our master looked styler at least (that’s what Kymberly insisted we call her or she was going to tie us in knots).”

 

Last in-class visit: Kymberly’s Strength Training Class with Tubing

Oops, we thought this was a snake.

No, I'm not being arch! Quit trying to resist!

Skechers shoes reporting directly: “Gotta say, I was comfy and foot supportive throughout. However, the tube exercisers insist on using had nowhere to fit under my rocker! That darn resistance tubing kept slipping out from underfoot as my shoe has no arch underneath to keep it in place. So, rocker type shoes and tubing are not destined to work out safely together. No way to anchor = tube snap!”

The Path to Happy Feet

Power Walking and Aerobic Moseying with Kymberly: Field report: “SUCCESS IS OURS! Being on Kymberly’s’ feet so long, I noticed she has arthritis in her big toes and a knee that has had two major surgeries. So normally long walks hurt her feet and knee. She is acutely aware of foot strike and impact issues and usually takes her shoes off the minute she gets home as her feet cramp. I overheard her tell her sister that these shoes were surprisingly the MOST comfortable ones she has walked in and that her feet felt cushioned, fully engaged in each stride, and very light and springy from start to finish! She even kept me on for hours afterwards walking around the house and generally being footloose and fancy free! Apparently I am ‘walkers’ not ‘rockers’!”

Kymberly: Bottom line, these shoes are now my favorite walking shoes. But when equipment is involved, naaah!

Alexandra’s Shoes and Reviews:

Alexandra: I got the Fitness Flex Tone-Ups, which have very little of the “rocker” tone-up aspect, which is actually why I selected that style.
Here’s what I like about them:

* very lightweight
* attractive colors
* extremely comfortable, even with my wide feet
* great breatheability (this means I don’t end up with stinky feet)

Here’s where I won’t wear them: Teaching classes. I tried them in many of my formats (step, strength, hi/low cardio, kickbox, sports training,, etc.) and they were too unstable. I get the Good Sport award for thorough testing! Here’s where I will wear them: Walking. For walking I loved them. Keep in mind that I was walking on an unstable surface, not a sidewalk.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GTh4Oeh8og[/youtube]

Readers: We know some of you love them; some hate them. What’s your experience with the shoes? Do you feel drunk without having to actually drink when wearing them?

Photo Credits: I poached the Fitness Flex shoe pic off the Skechers site by doing a screen shot. Kymberly took all the other photos.

9

Why Is My Lower Body in Pain After Running & Walking?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

 

How come I can run 10 miles Saturday a.m. with no soreness, but walking 8 miles slowly leaves my entire lower body in pain? Sunday I rested. Monday I did a 5 mile easy run that felt great. It was Tuesday’s slow 8 mile walk that made me sore!

Sherry, the Deep South, USA

Lower bodies of 3 guys

What does a lower body that's in pain look like exactly?

Dear Sore Sherry:

Alexandra: Well, “Day-um” as my other southern friends would say! And “DOMS.” Which is not a way of cussing with a northern accent. It stands for Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. We talked about it in our suggestively named post “Calves Got a Stiffy,” and feel happy to talk about this topic even more. Essentially, elevating your core temperature (and thereby henceforthwith and so forthy warming up the muscles) within 24 hours of the original cardio exercise will help prevent muscle soreness later on. You don’t have to repeat the 10 mile run, but a walk of just ten minutes should do the trick.

Kymberly: Running is powered primarily by calves and quads. Walking is powered by glutes and shins (and therefore a great cross training or complementary cardio activity). So if you are used to running and added the walking recently, then your body may simply have been adapting to using your muscles in a new or different way. I am not sure if the pace has anything to do with the soreness unless the slow pace dictated or created an unusual gait that did not work for you biomechanically.

graph of Q angle

Q Angle for Women & Men

A: Door #3 – If it’s not delayed muscle soreness, could your pain be caused from overuse? Is it standard for you to do 31 miles in a 4-day span? Somewhere in here I’ll throw out the concept of post-run stretching…oh, there, I just did! With your entire lower body in pain, have you considered shin splints or your Q-angle? If you have fairly wide hips and/or a narrow stance, then your knees might be the ones yelling “ouchy.”

K: When you feel better, run or walk over to our place so you can let us know whether your pain and soreness are in your joints or muscles. If muscles, I’d say pull a Bobby McFerrin: “Don’t worry; Be happy.” If your pain is in the joints, I’d say, “whoa doggies, ask a health professional to assess you.” Do not light up those joints!
 

Dear Readers: When the crossing light says “Don’t Walk” do you run?

Photo credits: Photobucket and http://ericcressey.com/tag/acl

 

1

Indoor Cycle my A**, er, Glutes. And Calves.

Dear Fun and Fit: I had a quick gym question and I thought you would be good sources to ask! Today when I was at the gym I was on a low, seated bike, and my friend was on the one next to me. During the workout I felt it all in my glutes and upper quads; however she felt it only in her calves. I was wondering, am I doing it wrong? Should I be feeling it in my calves?
Thanks! Cycle Princess in CA

 

Kymberly: Not liking to stab in the dark–poke, poke, scream of pain!– I will say I must guess into the wilderness as to the reasons for the different effects. One guess as to what happened was you powered your downstroke of the bike with your quads and your upstroke with your glutes and hamstrings. Most likely you also had your toes closer to your body than your heel (flexed foot or dorsiflexion), especially on the downstroke. That means your calf was not involved that much as it was in slight extension. Your friend most likely had her toes pointed away from her (plantarflexion) throughout the work, which is very common, though not ideal. Therefore her calf was in slight contraction. Is one way wrong? Depends on your goal. But generally it is considered good form and far more powerful to work as you did and NOT to put the load into the calf.

recumbent indoor programmable bike Tesco

Guess where you can find this bike? In the Tesco link on our homepage on the right!

Alexandra: I’m not sure if you’re saying it was a recumbent bike or if you just like to lower the heck out of your seat on the indoor cycle, but we’ll start at recumbent;

Was your friend’s seat farther back than yours, relative to leg length? Because if her seat was way back, she might have had to point her toes a lot (back to plantarflexion) to reach the pedals, which would put her into a calf contraction – and not the kind that leads to cute little baby moos.

Baby Moo

Who wouldn't want to feel this adorable calf?

If you were on an upright bike with a really low seat, that could also contribute to the different results, depending on whether your toes were up or down.

Bremshey Indoor Exercise Cycle

This one can be found via the Tesco link on our home page too!

Were you a good witch or a bad witch? But then, if your seat was too low, your knees will hurt soon anyway, so who cares about the calf ache?

What has been your experience with indoor cycles and your muscles? How pointy are your toes when you cycle?

Photo credits: Creative Commons

12

Off Your Rocker Shoe Review For You

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Welcome to the second in our new Thursday series offering reviews of fitness Products and Services, and inspirational stories of People. Do you have a successful exercise story to share? How about a product you’d like us to comment on (sure, it can be your own, but it better be right for our readers or we’ll get twisted and snarky). Today we look at rocker shoes as this remains one of the most popular questions we get in person in our hither and yon adventures.

A Shoe-in or Shoe-Off?

 

Shape Ups, Rockers, Skechers, Shoes

 

 

Kymberly: Whether you call them rocker shoes, toners, shape-ups, negative heel shoes, the funniest looking shoes you ever saw, or the shoes that saved the workout world, people are wearing them. And we are getting asked often “do they work? Are they worth the money?” “Are they actually helping me get more fit when walking?” We turned to self-appointed experts, ourselves, for a review.

Short answer: if wearing them moves you from “feet in slippers propped on the ottoman” to rocking it in your rockers, then they have value. You believe in them; therefore you walk more; ergo you get more fit. But we have to say that the only research thus far that touts their superpowers is all put out by the shoe manufacturers. Hmmmm. Fun and Fit is having a “suspicious ole’ coot” moment and wants to find out more. If you like lots of detail check out this short article: Shape Up Shoes and Other Negative Heel Wear, If you do not like detail, the general consensus is “the shoes don’t shape you up any more than any shoe or bare feet would.” So save your mega-dollars.

 

Wow. Earth Shoes

Okay, I admit to owning a pair in the 70s

 

Alexandra: I’ll just say right up front that aesthetically I will never, ever, never like any of these shoes because they remind me too much of the Earth shoes I bought in the 70s. I saved my money for a long time, got on a waiting list (demand way outstripped supply) and finally got my shoes. Guess what? I put them on once, decided they looked horrible on me and never wore them again. Now I see the originals on sale for $135. Guess I should have kept my unworn pair.

Hippie shoes for hippies in hippie vans

Wearing Earth Shoes did This to People

 

Looking past my traumatizing “sexy babe with immensely fat-looking feet” teen experience, let me say that professionally I tend to not like them either. I have a lot of fitness students of all ages, and have heard anecdotaly that the toning shoes have caused or exacerbated issues with balance and hip/knee joint pain. I have not had anyone yet vouch for them though. And we know a lot of podiatrists, chiropractors and biomechanic specialists who are not fans either. I wrote an article about choosing shoes and couldn’t get a single expert to comment favorably on any of the toning shoes. Actually, one of them went so far as to call them “nightmares.”

A  direct quote from an unbiased study (meaning the shoe company didn’t fund the study) states: “Across the board, none of the toning shoes showed statistically significant increases in either exercise response or muscle activation during any of the treadmill trials. There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.”

How does the study above seem so different from the studies touted by the shoe companies that say toning shoes are almost mystical in their ability to transform your body? One, it could be the type of study conducted– clinical versus normal daily activity (although nothing has yet been done long-term, so it’s almost a moot point); two, there is a big ol’ difference between marketing science and real science. If you’re a really invested consumer, read the studies carefully. However, if you’re not into that plan, it might be best if you try on a pair and walk around the store.

K: Then sit down and take the darn things off your feet! If your goal is to be more toned, have shapelier legs, burn more calories, may I politely suggest DO YOUR DARN WEIGHT TRAINING! Ok, so I politely yelled. Why take yourself away from your body’s natural movement patterns? We keep looking for quick fixes. Instead, learn or relearn how to move in the body you have. Our feet are actually designed to help us walk in the best manner possible.

A: I’m trying to have an open mind (but not open toe) so I’ll mention the advantages. If you wear the shoes and start to walk more and stand up straighter, then the shoes are working because you are now moving the body that’s in those shoes. Are the toning shoes actually the key to lifelong buffness, happiness and a firm, lifted butt? Maybe. And maybe you’re just walking more since you feel so fabulous and groovy in your new shoes!

My final recommendation? If you loved Earth Shoes, you might just be a candidate for toning shoes. Otherwise, it’s way more important to move than it is to spend money on toning shoes.

Use your feet. Walk.

Start with your feet. Let them move your body. You'll get toned.

 

K: My final recommendation? When the foot experts, medical community and unbiased research say “oy vay, no way; save your mo-nay,” then I am going with that and lacing up my foot slimming, outfit matching, tried and true walking sneakers. Shoe-off!

Readers: What is your opinion or experience with the toning shoes? Did you know there are more than 25 companies that make them?

Photo credits: PhotoBucket and Creative Commons

13

Shin Splints S.O.S.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: Please help my poor shins! It’s been years since I ran so much and forgot to take care so as NOT to get shin splints. :(

Sherry
Atlanta, Georgia


Kymberly: Last time I got a plea like this it involved Nigeria and sending money to a dethroned prince. I am prepared to send you good advice at half the price. Yes, for a definition of shin splints, causes, and treatments, check out the links we suggest. Then send money to me, but preferably more than the dollar or two you stashed in your running shoes.

Alexandra: I’ll give you free advice if you promise to make sense of the complete lyrics to Ice Ice Baby. It would seem you increased the duration a wee bit too enthusiastically (and maybe overpronated).
1. Ice the shin.
2. When your shins feel better (not while you are still in pain), strengthen the muscle (anterior tibialis). You can do this with toe (up) taps. By this I mean, don’t focus on tapping your toes on the floor; focus on lifting the toes up. This will hurt a lot if you do it before you are feeling better. For expert tapping hints, have Savion Glover come over and make-out with help you.
3. Get some inserts for your shoes, especially if you’re going to be the bad girl of fitness and run before you’re all healed. And consider new shoes

as yours may be worn out and no longer supporting your foot, ankle, leg and high sense of fashion.
4. Become at one with the simple word “stretch.” As in, “Oh, I just ran for 72 miles (or 2 – but it would feel like 72 to me). Maybe now I should stretch out my shins by pointing my toe and holding for at least 15 seconds.”

K: 5. Stretch your calf – the muscle buddy to your shin (aka agonist and antagonist muscle pair in high-falootin’ circles.) A lot of shin splint trauma comes from an imbalance between the strong, tight, shortened, strong, bossy Alexandra calf and the comparably petite, underloved, underdeveloped, underworked, weak anterior tib. Reduce the pull on the shin from the calf by lengthening the calf with mucho stretching.
If you run again–and we hope you do, someone has to–try to stay on surfaces that absorb impact, such as asphalt, tracks, grass, cardio equipment. Avoid surfaces that have no springback or cushion such as CONCRETE. Translation – sidewalks! Even the best shoes and strongest shins cannot overcome the jarring effect of concrete pounding. Even the strongest of twins cannot overcome the jarring effects of my sister whining when she has to run (for cover).

Readers: What are your tricks to prevent or cure shin splints? Are you secretly harboring any Vanilla Ice recordings?

Photo credits: Creative Commons and Photobucket

7

My Calves Got a Stiffy

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: K & A:

Alexandra, I know you’ll probably faint, but having exercised for 1.5 hours TWO DAYS IN A ROW, I have a legitimate workout question for you and Kymberly. Yesterday and today a friend and I did a brisk, very hilly walk for an hour followed by 20 minute pilates dvd workouts.  Okay, that’s really 1.33 hours, so I exaggerate. It is now very clear to me that I did not stretch enough afterwards – my calves are getting really stiff.  It was 2.5  hours ago that I stopped working out.  Is there anything I can do now to help the lactic acid leave my calves?

Help please!

Liz, Goleta, CA

Dear Liz:

A: Why would I faint? I’m not the one who overdid it! I only go for walks on surfaces that are FLAT. Why would I want to sweat during my nice walk? If you want to get rid of stiffness, have your muscles practice public speaking. Or learn to become a better stretcher! Or ask to be carried down those hills on one! And what do you mean by “really hilly?” Is that a reference to a television reality show in which everyone must fend for themselves in a mountainous region (I define “mountainous” as anything rising above sea level)?

K: Well, as you probably noticed, we did not get the huge bribe gift for getting to your question via the super express rush deluxe insta-answer service. So let’s answer as if you were going to hike the hills again and wonder what to do next time. Hope you survived in the meantime.

A: Miss Lizzie, when you walk downhill, your shin muscles (let’s call them Aunty Tibby – formal name is anterior tibialis) lengthen and your calves (let’s call them Bessie & Bossy – formal names are gastrocnemius & soleus) shorten. Shorten is nature’s way of saying “contract.” If you had gone for a flat, or even mildly hilly walk, your bleating calves wouldn’t be crying so much for Mama. But you have admitted, under no oath whatsoever, that your walk was “very hilly.” For the record, I too go for really long walks. I call it “going outside and getting lost, then accosting strangers to ask for a ride home.” Your brain said, “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day,” while your calves said, “shorten, lengthen, shorten, lengthen.” See how stiff your calves are in conversation?

K: Concerning stretching, Alexandra is onto something. Post walking, stretch your calves and imagination by holding a position whereby your toes are higher than your ankle. aka dorsiflexion. Hold it, hold it, hold it. Now switch legs. Next, pay attention to your foot action as you go uphill. Did you bend at the ankle getting your heel to the ground with each stride? Pick that answer. Or did you basically head uphill on the balls of your feet, bending forward from the hip or spine? If so, your calves were in contraction throughout the walk and transforming into steers of steel. No bull.

And now for the big finish: next time — and there will be a next time doncha know — really break your record and do something cardio for a third day in a row. Yes, walk again within 24 hours even if only for 10 minutes so that you elevate your core temperature and minimize muscle soreness. Fancy names and accurate terms cost extra. But for you — free today. The term is DOMS – Delayed Onset of Muscles Soreness. Or – Darn Old Muscles–Stretch!.  When you suddenly up the ante on muscle use (different from “Aunty Tibby), those muscles are prone to soreness. But if you reheat them before DOMS sets in, you reduce that stiffness. And I am all about reheating unless Alexandra is cooking. Then I get it fresh.

To make this super simple: walk, walk, stretch, drink water, head home, sleep my pretty, sleep, wake, walk again until warm, stretch, call us in the morning. With that gift.

A: Kymberly is right; I am fresh. And onto something. Known as my stretched butt. DOMS – Don’t Offer Money to Sis.

Dear Readers: Have you ever experienced muscle soreness? What did you do about it? What do you wish DOMS stood for?