FITDIVER® Blogging Above and Below

FITDIVER® Blogging Above and Below

Gretchen M. Ashton, CFT, SFT, SFN, NBFE

Scuba Fitness Featured Exercise: Strong Abs for Scuba Diving

All scuba divers have “wash board abs” - some just have a
load or two of laundry resting on top.
 
Whether they are visible or not, abdominal muscles are essential in supporting the back and stabilizing the body through complex movements associated with scuba diving. Without question a balanced abdominal strengthening program is an important component of scuba fitness and should be developed in conjunction with back strengthening and flexibility early in an exercise program. The challenge is finding the best method for individual divers to strengthen the abdominal muscles without creating or aggravating certain back conditions. While the basic crunch is considered the most effective abdominal exercise, it is not necessarily an option for divers with upper back, neck and shoulder conditions or weakness. Divers with bulging discs and/or low back complications may also find ball exercises difficult or contraindicated to their condition. Contrary to popular belief, it is never appropriate to place an unstable torso on an unstable apparatus. Numerous studies demonstrate, with the exception of the Oblique Abdominal Muscles, all muscles of the abdominal walls are engaged at a greater intensity performing exercises on benches or solid surfaces rather than an on exercise balls. Maladies of the back include misalignment from accident or injury, skeletal deviations such as scoliosis, degeneration and disease such as arthritis, and pain from tight hamstrings, lack of physical activity, and/or muscle imbalances. With a few modifications to the basic crunch and a variety of efficient abdominal exercises that also strengthen the back, divers can protect and work around maladies of the spine improving the overall condition of the back while safely advancing abdominal training to a more intense level.
 
Remember, strengthening the abdominal muscles and reducing body fat around the torso are distinctly different types of training. Aerobic exercise is the key to leaning out the waistline while resistance training strengthens the abdominal muscles.
 
Performing the basic crunch in this fashion reduces recruitment of the hip flexors and allows more focus on the anterior abdominals. Begin with a natural position of the spine. If needed a small folded towel or pad may be placed under the low back for added support. Contract the abdominals (pull the belly button toward the spine), place hands behind the head for gentle support, lift the chin upward and inhale deeply through the nose. Exhale while continuing to pull the belly button toward the spine and lifting the upper body as shown until the curve of the low back flattens against the floor or pad. Increasing the lift of the upper body any further would involve enough other muscles to become less efficient and increase risk of injury. Inhale while maintaining the abdominal contraction and lowering the upper body to the starting position and repeat.
 
Modification: Divers with precluding conditions of the upper spine, neck and shoulders may perform the abdominal contraction portion of this exercise for repetitions without raising the upper body and with a pad under the neck.
 
For a complete torso strengthening workout for scuba diving purchase FitDiver® Abs Mobile App at Google Play and App Store on iTunes.
 
For more information about fitness for scuba divers and the ScubaFit® Diver Course visit www.scubafit.com.
 
 

Sweet Potato stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Sweet Potato stuffed Portobello Mushrooms are a delicious meal for scuba divers focused on eating healthy this holiday season. As the main course or a side dish all divers will enjoy the earthy fall flavors and aromas. Vegetarian divers rely on the portobello mushroom as a meat substitute. The mushroom has small amounts of macronutrients; is naturally low in calories, fat, and sugar, with nearly equal amounts of protein and carbohydrates, and a good amount of potassium. The portobello mushroom has a neutral mild flavor that is a blank canvas for seasonings that satisfy a wide range of taste preferences. This version of stuffed portobello mushrooms is prepared on a cedar plank to add smokiness. 

 

Sweet potatoes have less calories than yams and are a good source of potassium and vitamin A.  One cup is about 120 calories, with zero fat, six grams of sugar, 27 carbohydrates, four grams of fiber, and more than two grams of protein. The serving portion of sweet potato in this recipe in a large portobello mushroom cap is about one-half cup.

 

Sweet potato stuffed portobello mushrooms make a great warm and

hearty meal before or after scuba diving.

 

Ingredients:

 

3 large portobello mushrooms for main course or six medium for side dish.

2 medium to large sweet potatoes.

1 medium Italian squash.

1 onion - optional.

3 Medjool dates.

1/2 cup  of roasted and salted Pepitas.

1 teaspoon of each: Garlic (fresh, powder or juice), sage, cinnamon, salt and pepper

1/2 cup olive oil.

 

Preparations:

 

Preheat the grill or oven to 375 degrees. The oven may already be hot from baking the sweet potatoes. (see below). If using a plank, soak in water for 20 to 60 minutes. Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes then peel and mash ahead of time. This is also great way to use up left overs. To keep calories, sugar and fat low, butter and brown sugar are not added to the sweet potatoes for this recipe. Grate the uncooked Italian squash into thin strips. If adding the optional onion, grate it into thin strips and mix with squash. Wash and remove the stem from the mushrooms then gently pat dry. Mix olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and all of the salt, pepper, sage and garlic for basting the mushroom. Remove the pits from the dates and dice into small pieces.

 

Stuff the Mushroom:

 

Place the mushroom caps on a cedar plank or nonstick tray. Brush them with the seasoned olive oil. Place a layer of grated Italian squash (and optional onion) in the mushroom cap. Add several tablespoons of mashed sweet potatoes forming a mound rising from the mushroom cap.  Sprinkle the stuffed mushroom and filling with dry cinnamon and chopped dates.  

 

Grill or Bake:

 

Grill or bake large mushroom caps at 375 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes.  Smaller caps will take less time. Baste the mushroom cap with the seasoned olive oil about half way through the grilling or baking time. When juice begins to run from the bottom of the mushrooms cooking is usually complete.  Removing the mushrooms now keeps them from getting soggy or soft.  If you wish, the broiler may be used for a couple minutes to brown the tops.  The dates are delicious when a bit crispy.

 

Serve:

 

Place the cooked sweet potato stuffed portobello mushrooms on a serving tray and sprinkle the tops with the roasted and salted Pepitas.

 

Enjoy!

 

For more fitness for diving information and healthy eating recipes for scuba divers visit ScubaFit.

Follow ScubaFit on Facebook.

Subscribe to FitDiver Magazine.

 

Sand Beneath My Feet

Photo credit: istockphoto.com/kokouu 

 

During my years as a competitive power lifter I utilized cross training to enhance my performance.  Each summer I selected a completely different activity from my usual training to stimulate mind, body and spirit. One of my most memorable experiences was the season when I took instruction in Goju Ryu, an Okinawan style of Karate.

 

Goju Ryu is a close contact encounter with hard and soft techniques. Although Goju Ryu includes kicks, takedowns and throws, most of my training was centered on grappling, circular hand motions, breathing and concentration. 

 

My favorite workouts were at the beach practicing Katas. Katas are prearranged sequenced movements for exercise and training used widely among the martial arts. Other exercises included the low and very wide stance generally referred to as a "sumo stance" which was incredibly effective leg training for the big lifts of the squat and dead lift. My Sensei seemed to float across the sand and my task was to simply stay face-to-face with him while in this sumo stance position.  At the time it seemed impossible but I did my best and experienced improvement. 

 

The breathing technique was amazing! Beginning with an inhale through the nose I was told to imagine the air flowing down into my abdomen curling around in a constant flow.  The inhale, and the exhale which was a reversal of the process, was practiced with a goal of lasting as long as possible and timed with specific body movements.  I continue to practice and benefit from this breathing technique, especially for exercise and scuba diving.  My Sensei also taught me to listen to the breathing of others; valuable awareness when presented with an opponent, but for me especially helpful when training fitness clients.

 

While walking at the beach I sometimes stop and try to perform the Sanchin Kata as I did that Summer; standing in knee-deep surf, focusing on the horizon, with the sand gradually washing away beneath my feet. Arigato Goju Master.

 

ありがとう

 

Chicken Soup for the FitDiver's Soul

This recipe can be made with almost any ingredients you enjoy eating, but I recommend sticking with a healthy version with lots of vegetables.  Use a large pot and freeze portions for later use.

 

1 Whole Organic Chicken

3 Organic Zucchini Squash

3 Organic Yellow Crook Neck Squash

2 Cups of Organic Baby Carrots

1 Head of Organic Napa Cabbage

1 Can of White Beans

! Can of Garbanzo Beans

1 Can of Butter Beans

1 Can of Diced Green Chilies

1 Bunch of Organic Cilantro

1 Diced Organic Onion

 

Begin by roasting the chicken in the oven for one hour at 425 degrees.  Use a chicken stand that allows most of the fat dripping from the skin to drain into the bottom. Discard these drippings to reduce the fat in the soup. After roasting the chicken, place it in a soup pot and cover it with water.  Add diced onion, cilantro, diced green chilies and season with salt, pepper and garlic to taste.

 

Cook the chicken until the meat falls off the bones.  Remove chicken from water, discard the bones and skin, chop the meat and return it to the broth in the soup pot.  Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Chop and add the vegetables.  Simmer for about one hour.  Enjoy!

 

As an option, brown rice is a nice alternative for the beans.

 

Winter Warm Up for Scuba Divers

 

It is bracing cold outside and time for a zero dark thirty workout.  Like most mornings my training buddy and I are the first to arrive. We converge at the fitness center entrance without words, grab a half cup of black coffee from the courtesy table and bolt for the sauna.  Still bundled up in coats, hats and gloves we defrost for a few minutes on the inside and outside before peeling off layers and making our way to the gym floor.  Although we are now acclimated to moderate indoor temperatures, the sauna is an unconventional first stop, not recommended for everyone, and definitely not a complete warm up.  We move on to the treadmills where this winter warm up for divers begins with aerobic exercise focusing on the areas of the body to be trained.

 

All warm ups should begin low and slow gradually working up to increases in breathing and heart rate over a period of 10 to 15 minutes.  The easiest way to accomplish this is to walk beginning at a pace of 1.5 miles per hour and increasing to 3.0 miles per hour.  Warming up prepares the body (including the heart, blood vessels, lungs and muscles) for the more intense exercise of the workout session, helps to prevent injury during exercise, and reduce soreness that some divers may experience after exercise. 

 

More specifically, according to the American College of Sports Medicine, moving the body through a gradual progression utilizing large muscles increases blood flow to muscles, increases the speed of nerve impulses, enhances the flow of oxygen to muscles and removal of waste products.  This preparation of the body enhances performance during the workout. Also during this warm up synovial fluid (an oily substance in the joints) changes in response to exercise lubricating the joints. Divers with respiratory conditions or allergies may find a longer warm up helps prevent exercise induced asthma.

 

Divers who participate in group exercise may be accustomed to warm ups consisting of a low intensity sampling of the same movements that will be performed during the class. During strength training workouts, even after a pre-workout warm up, it is recommended that the first set of each exercise be performed with less weight before performing working sets at higher intensity.  Stretching by itself is not a warm up, but may be performed afterward. 

 

A cool down period of gradually decreasing exercise is just as important as the warm up.  Again, aerobic exercise at a low intensity works well.  This is also a great time to stretch, mediate and then perhaps enjoy a short sauna. Remember to bundle up if it is cold outside.  Leaving the gym sweaty makes the body work harder to maintain its normal temperature. 

 

Exercising Outdoors in Cold Temperatures. It is even more important to warm up before exercising outdoors in cold temperatures. Begin with a walk or gentle calisthenics before running, cross country skiing or other winter sports activities.  Never stretch when the body is cold. Divers who enjoy snowboarding and downhill skiing may have the option of warming up in a resort fitness facility before hitting the slopes. Stay as warm as possible without overheating before, during and after these activities.  Stay well hydrated before, during and after exercise and recreational activities in cold weather.  

 

Dress in layers with a quick dry base close to the body.  Protect hands, head, feet and face from the extreme temperatures.  Exercising in cold temperatures may not be recommended for divers with heart and respiratory conditions. 

 

Remember diving is not a workout.  Ice diving (as shown in this cool photograph) requires special protection from the elements and unique safety protocols.   It is highly recommended that divers who enjoy diving in extreme environments achieve and maintain a high level of physical fitness.

 

Calories Burned in Cold Temperatures. The body utilizes slightly more energy to regulate normal body temperature in cold environments such as diving in cold water.  However the additional calories from temperature are negligible. Exercise exertion, which during diving is to be avoided as much as possible, is what produces higher calorie burn.  Generically speaking, a diver utilizes approximately 300 calories during a typical dive – about the same as going for a moderate to fast walk for an hour.

 

 

 

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