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Fitness Friday: Does high-altitude-simulation training work?

On paper it seemed like a fair fight: Rory versus Rickie. McIlroy came into this past September's Ryder Cup as the No. 1 golfer in the world, and Fowler was enjoying the best year of his career, having finished no worse than T-5 in all four majors. But by the sixth hole of their singles match, it was over. McIlroy was 5 up and showed no signs of fatigue from having played 70 holes of pressure-packed golf during the previous two days.

fitness-friday-rory-oxygen-mask.jpgWhy did Rory look and play so invigorated? One doctor believes it's because of the way he trains in the gym. McIlroy often runs on a treadmill wearing a high-altitude-simulation training mask (pictured). Known as hypoxia or altitude training, it restricts the flow of air while McIlroy is running sprints and doing other cardiovascular exercise. The goal is to improve endurance by training the body to require less oxygen for muscles to function optimally for longer periods in a sea-level atmosphere. Working with trainer Steve McGregor, McIlroy alternates between 90-second sprints and walking to vary his heart rate, says Dr. Ara Suppiah, a sports-medicine expert whose patients include PGA Tour stars Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Steve Stricker, Henrik Stenson and Hunter Mahan.

"It's a legal performance-enhancer," Suppiah says. "It increases endurance because the oxygen-extracting capacity in the muscles goes up. You don't produce lactic acid as much in those muscles, and when you do, that burning feeling dissipates much quicker."

There has yet to be a definitive scientific answer on whether this type of training works. In 2010, the National Center for Biotechnolgy Information published a report that stated "hypoxia as a supplement to training is not consistently found to be advantageous for performance at sea level." However, many elite athletes are now donning masks or working out in oxygen-deprivation rooms in the hopes of gaining an edge.

"You should not try hypoxia training if you have pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, poor circulation, diabetes, etc.," Suppiah says. "Everyone should be vetted by a doc first."

Regardless of whether you wear the mask, the type of interval training McIlroy does on the treadmill is great for golfers because it improves function of the fast-twitch muscle fibers needed to swing a golf club powerfully.

"Golf is a sport where you need explosive power for a second or two every few minutes, and then you rest," Suppiah says. "This type of training mimics those needs."

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

A quick pre-round warm-up for your shoulders

The shoulders play a key role in the golf swing—not just propelling it, but also STOPPING it. It's that second part that people take for granted. One of the keys to avoiding injuries to the shoulders is to complete the swing. Let some of that energy generated through impact dissipate naturally. Think of how sprinters pass through the finish line of a race. They don't just stop. They keep going. If you cut off your swing, your shoulders have to apply the brakes stressfully. That can result in pulls and tears to the soft tissue around the socket.

It's important to warm up the shoulder muscles before you play. PGA Tour trainer Dave Herman (@athletestrainin) recommends you keep a looped stretch band in your golf bag and use it before to prepare the shoulders before you play.

Click on the video below to see him demonstrate how.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Make The Turn Weekly Challenge #41: SuperPower Smoothies

Cate Ritter is the Director of "THE LEAN 18" Nutrition program at MTT Performance. The company operates out of Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, Calif. Follow MTT on Twitter at @mttgolf

Juicing can be a healthy and delicious way to get more nutrients, especially leafy greens, into your daily diet. These gluten, dairy and soy-free recipes are simple, delicious and don’t require much experience at all in the kitchen. If done properly, juicing can be a nourishing source of enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber that aid digestion, enhance detoxification, cleanse the liver, increase alkalinity, strengthen immunity, boost metabolism, assist weight loss, and support overall health.

With a good quality protein powder added, these vegetable-based juices make a quick meal or protein-rich snack. 

In addition to the examples shared in the video above, here are some more great healthy drink options for your to enjoy!

Add ingredients to a high-speed blender. Blend until smooth & creamy.

1. Lean Greenie
2-4 cups water or organic green/herbal tea; 1/2 Avocado; 2-4 Cups Kale; 1 celery stalk; 1/2 cucumber; 1 green apple, core removed; 3 Sprigs Parsley; 1 lemon, juiced; 1 scoop plain protein powder; Stevia (to taste)

2. Java Jumpstart
2-4 cups organic coffee (room temperature or cold); 2 TB Shredded coconut;‿2-4 cups fresh/frozen spinach; 1 frozen ripe banana (peel a ripe banana, cut it into smaller pieces & freeze); 1/2 TSP cinnamon; 1 TSP vanilla extract; 1 scoop plain/chocolate/vanilla protein powder; Stevia (to taste)

3. Choco-Nana-Nut
1-2 cups water; 2 TB shredded coconut or almond butter; 2-4 cups Fresh/frozen spinach; 1 frozen ripe banana; 1 TB cacao powder or maca; 1 TB Flax seeds; 1 scoop plain/chocolate/vanilla protein powder; Stevia (to taste)

4. Blueberry Muffin
2-4 cups water or almond milk; 2-4 cups fresh/frozen spinach or kale; 1/2 cup frozen blueberries; 2 TB almond butter; 1 frozen ripe banana; 1 TB chia/flax seeds; 1 scoop plain/vanilla protein powder; 1/2 TSP Cinnamon

5. Sweet Potato Pie
2-4 cups water or almond milk; 2-4 cups fresh/frozen spinach; 1 small sweet potato; 1 small orange, peeled or 1 frozen ripe banana; 1/4 cup pecans or 2 TB pecan butter; 1 TSP vanilla extract; 1/2 tsp cinnamon; 1 scoop Plain/vanilla protein powder; Stevia (to taste)

6. Skinny Red
1-2 cup(s) water; 1-2 cup(s) beet greens or red swiss chard; 1 small beet, peeled; 1 medium carrot, peeled; 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries or 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds; 1/2 TSP ginger, dried; 1/2 TSP cinnamon; 1 scoop plain protein powder; Stevia (to taste)

7. Minty Melon
1-2 cups water or coconut milk; 1-2 cup(s) fresh/frozen spinach; 1 cup watermelon; 1 lime, juiced; 3 sprigs mint; 1 scoop plain protein powder; Stevia (to taste)

Try starting your day with one of these delicious protein drink options and you can count this week’s challenge as complete. 

Quick Meals
Maximize Nutrients
Feel Better 

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: 5 gift ideas for the holidays

Sure, you could buy the golfer in your life a new driver or dozen Pro V1s. But there are plenty of affordable fitness gifts that are great for golfers. Here are five gift recommendations to consider:

1. Barrel roller ($30, Soft-tissue manipulation, i.e. "foam rolling," is extremely important in terms of increasing mobility and muscle function, not to mention avoiding injuries. But it can also be extremely uncomfortable—like a Swedish massage on steroids. That's why SKLZ introduced rollers in various densities. For very sensitive muscle and tissue, you can use a soft roller. But as thing improve, you can switch to a harder-surfaced roller.

2. Bosu ball ($120, Still one of my favorite products for stability training. This physio-ball hybrid can be used for dozens of exercises and is portable enough to be stored under your bed. A great product for golfers just getting back into exercising, because it requires core stability in order to use properly. If you can strengthen your core, you now have the foundation for a better golf swing.

3. PowerBlock dumbbells ($330, Dumbbells are an essential tool for any workout routine, but they can take up a lot of space in your gym, garage or basement. PowerBlocks are adjustable-weight dumbbells, so you basically only need two. This particular set has a weight range between 5 and 40 pounds and replaces 15 sets of dumbbells.


4. SuperFlex bands ($80, This package comes with five looped bands of various resistance, among other goodies including an exercise program that details how to use the bands to improve your golf swing. The individual bands also are great for pre-round warm-ups because they are feather light and can be stored in your golf bag.


5. The 10 Minute Cushion ($30, Kyphotic posture is a serious issue for golfers. The rounding of the spine in the form of the letter C stems from a number of things including prolonged sitting. But golfers need more flexion in their torso in order to swing the club properly. This foamed wedge helps improve posture and spinal mobility. The best part? All you have to do is lay on it.


Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: Another study finds stretching to be ineffective

Poor, poor stretching. Once considered a staple to preparation for any sports activities, stretching has been singled out many times in recent years for its ineffectiveness in helping to prime the body for the rigors of athletic movement.

fitness-friday-tiger-stretching.jpgThe study I'm about to cite is not new. It was published in 2013. I bring it up now because earlier this fall, I was asked by to address the rising popularity of yoga with golfers. You can read the Nine Things Golfers Should Know Before Taking Up Yoga here. 

Yoga is often associated with long-hold stretching, as many of the poses do push the musculoskeletal system beyond its limitations at that time. But where yoga differs from stretching is that it also enhances muscular stability as well as proprioception. Stretching, studies have concluded, seems to have the opposite effect. Elongating muscles for prolonged periods reduces the ability to contract them quickly. It also makes it harder to coordinate movement. 

But here's what you should remember most about stretching, one study concluded: It DOES NOT help prevent injuries.

The Institute of Sports Medicine in Copenhagen, Denmark published the result of a massive study involving 25 trials and 26,610 participants. Of that group, 3,464 had injuries. Its conclusion was that while strength training reduced acute injuries by two-thirds and overuse injuries by nearly a half, stretching did not help. Not one bit.

Stunned? You shouldn't be. How many times have you blown off stretching before a round of golf? Did you get hurt? I'm guessing you probably came away from the round unscathed. But if you did, I can almost guarantee it had more to do with your herky-jerky backswing than it did with not getting those quads loosened up.

The lesson here is to prime your muscles before athletic activity—not stretch them beyond critical function. Take a brisk walk before a round. Do some jumping jacks. Move at a controlled, yet vigorous pace and you'll be much better prepared for whatever you're about to do—including that yoga class.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

(Photo by Getty Images) ... Read
Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: The way you sit can hurt your golf swing

fitness-friday-back-injury-lg.jpgIf you're sitting down as you read this, check your posture. Do your upper-back muscles feel stretched and your chest muscles feel relaxed? This hunched-over position is known as Kyphotic posture or C-posture, because it gives your back this concave look (pictured) when viewed from the side. Staying in this position for long periods of time can make it difficult to maintain good posture when you swing a club and can lead to pain and injury.

"Most people don’t even realize they’re doing it,” says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@ben_shear). “Desk jobs promote it. So does riding in a cart. Even practicing your putting for long periods causes it. The deck is stacked against you.”

You need a posture reboot, Shear says, and he will show you how. “When you’re in this C-posture for long periods, your back muscles are locked in an elongated position while the muscles on the front side of the body are locked in a short and tight position,” he says. “You need to unlock them from these positions and then strengthen them when they’re back to normal.”

Watch this video to see Ben offer a three-pronged attack to improving your posture and, in turn, improving your golf swing.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Thanksgiving: Your seven-step game plan

Roughly 24 hours from now, you're probably going to be knee-deep in cranberry sauce and stuffing. In all honesty, so will I. However, Thanksgiving doesn't have to be something you regret on Friday.

Follow these seven steps to give yourself a fighting chance to avoid turkey-day hangover.

the-loop-thanksgiving-meal-lg.jpg1. Exercise in the morning. Aside from preparing side dishes and possibly picking up relatives at the airport, Thanksgiving morning is usually pretty quiet. Ideally you'd play nine or 18 holes—walking, of course. But if you can't do that, set aside 30 minutes for a brisk walk, run, bike ride or trip to the gym.

2. Drink tons of water—all day and all night. Not only is it important to stay hydrated while eating foods high in sodium and consuming diuretic beverages such as alcohol, drinking water also satiates your appetite. You won't be able to eat as much without feeling stuffed.

3. Snack on veggies and fruits. You know you're going to eat a heavy meal loaded with calories. So avoid the pretzels and potato chips and stick to the carrots and grapes until dinner.

4. Choose whiskey/spirits over beer and wine. This might seem counterintuitive, but we're talking about reining in calories, and you tend to drink less and drink slower when it's hard liquor.

5. Eat slowly. Put your fork down between bites. Chew thoroughly. The longer it takes to eat, the more time you give your brain to signal you that you're full, so you won't overeat and feel crappy. Be the last to leave the table.

6. Clean up. Take the garbage out. Do the dishes. Get moving after dinner and you'll be on your way to burning off what you just ate. At the least, take the dog for a walk.

7. Eat a light snack before bed.
Most Thanksgiving dinners are earlier than your typical dinner time. You'll be tempted to go for another helping or a turkey sandwich overnight if you don't give yourself something to light to snack on later in the evening.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to avoid knee injuries

Many well-intentioned people enter the gym each day with the goal of increasing overall strength and muscle function in order to protect their joints. The knees are typically at the top of the list—especially for golfers because of the stress placed on them over decades of absorbing punishment from swinging.

the-loop-fitness-squats.jpgI reached out to Mike Boyle (@bodybyboyle), a well-known strength-and-conditioning expert who works with a number of elite athletes including the Boston Red Sox, to get his thoughts on the do's and don'ts of knee care in the gym. If you know Mike or have heard him lecture, then you know he has carefully vetted hundreds of exercises for both safety and effectiveness, and isn't afraid to offer a counter opinion to what many believe to be good for the body.

One of his messages about the knees is to avoid "overloading" their tasks. Golfers knees already are susceptible to injury based on factors such as being overweight, a lack of dynamic exercise, and wear and tear caused by the swing. So why stress them even more in the gym by piling on a lot of extraneous weight or hyperextending/hyperflexing them. 

Click on the video below for Mike's great advice on what you should and should NOT be doing to your knees when you workout. Some of his tips might surprise you.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

How to condense your workout

Recently Mark Verstegen, an elite-level trainer and founder of Exos (@teamexos), assembled a pretty cool seven-minute workout program on behalf of the New York Times. You can see it here: The Advanced 7-Minute Workout. What I really like best about it is that it is well-rounded, keeps you moving and answers the age-old question of how busy people can find time to exercise daily.

It reminded me of my 20-in-20 workouts in terms of efficiency, but it also brought to mind that there are many exercises that can be combined in order to condense a workout without feeling like you short-changed yourself. For example, while doing push-ups, alternate lifting one leg off the ground. This helps strengthen your thigh and butt muscles while training the chest, shoulders and triceps.

A good idea is to combine upper-body and lower-body exercise. Click on the video below for a great example.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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Health & Fitness

Fitness Friday: How to hit it flush with your driver

Even at golf's highest level, rarely is a player a great driver and a great iron player. It's either one or the other, because the body is required to do something different to flush a shot with each club, says Golf Digest fitness advisor Ben Shear (@Ben_Shear).

Last Friday, Shear offered help for golfers who hit their driver fairly well but struggle with iron shots.If you recall, Shear says the problem is a lack of lateral movement in the swing. Bad drivers have another problem.

"They don't rotate very well," he says. "They tend to get out in front of the ball. The more golfers resist a lateral shift, hang back with their trunk, and just rotate toward the ball, the more they're going to be able to use their driver to sweep the ball off the tee -- a key for distance."

There's a way to train in the gym to resist the lunge, he says. Click on the video below to see two elastic-tubing exercises that will help you crush your driver.

Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.

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