Chefs Work Out

by Karena Wu

Summer is just about here.  Chefs are starting to do more workouts outside of the kitchen, trying to get their bodies in shape. Free weights, body weight resistance, running, yoga.

There’s lots to be done without belonging to a gym and also needing your workout to be in the wee morning hours. Some hardcore chefs like Chef Dufresne are out on the NYC streets doing sprints after work, as in during the early am hours (think 1 or 2am!).  Others do it during normal hours, taking classes for the masses. One such chef asked for some help when I came in for a drink one weekday night.

Chef Marco Canora is known for his fantastic, fresh foods and he has taken up yoga to keep his body in tiptop shape.  Except for the fact that when students try to mimic the yoga instructor (who has years of experience and folds into poses without distress), people end up getting hurt.  So, when Chef Canora told me he thought he strained a rib during a spinal twist but felt like it was ok, I completely understood. But then he told me that his left heel and his left knee have hurt ever since.  That’s when my brain turned on and my holistic view of treatment came into play.

I am a firm believer in the lumbopelvic region as the core; the ‘foundation of the house’.  When you throw something out of alignment in the spinal region, everything and anything up and down the kinetic chain can get malaligned and cause increased stresses in the surrounding muscles and tissues. So, when Chef Canora told me of the initial rib injury, and then the leg pain, I knew he was out of whack. When the spinal joints are not in their best alignment, the nerves that exit the spine at each spinal level are working at a disadvantage.

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The body communicates by electrical impulse along the nerves.  Think of your nerves as a piece of floss.  At each spinal level, a nerve or piece of floss exits the spinal column and travels down the length of the extremity to whatever tissue it is supposed to innervate (communicate with).  The brain and spinal cord send information along the nerve and that nerve cannot send the message to the appropriate muscle, tendon or ligament. So when you ask your body to function and move, it is not moving as it should.

So, the pain and dysfunction that Chef Canora was experiencing was because he was moving in a malaligned body position, using muscles and tendons that couldn’t work as well as they should. After a while of using your body in such a fashion, the soft tissue ends up getting strained and causing pain. You can still move, but you move with pain. That is when you get injured.

When you have one injury that causes another, you have to take a step back and think holistically.  A good deep tissue massage might help alleviate this by loosening up the soft tissues enough for the joints to settle back into their rightful place.  If that doesn’t work, definitely see a good manual Physical Therapist who can evaluate you and check your muscle imbalances. They can correct your alignment and then prescribe the appropriate exercises to help maintain your good alignment. Maintain this state and you’ll be pain-free and doing what you want outside of the kitchen.