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Muscle Toning

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Muscle Tone, Endurance, and Strength

Moving from Weakness to Robust Strength, Energy and Health

Muscle Tone is the continuous and passive activation of muscles throughout the body.
There are unconscious nerve impulses that result in partial contraction of the muscles at all times. When sleeping, muscle tone decreases.** There is a broad range in “muscle tone.” Some people have muscles in a fairly active and “ready to go state.” Others have lower tone leading to the need for more exertion to “get going.”

Clinical states of dysfunctional muscle tone are classified as:

Hypertonia or high muscle tone: This includes excessive muscle contractions leading to muscle spasms and/or contractions with permanent tightening of the muscle fibers, thereby limiting range of motion and function.

Conditions that lead to hypertonia should be addressed by a skilled professional. Generally neurologists, orthopedist, physical and occupational therapists*** address these concerns. Families are then given very specific guidelines regarding stretching programs and other supports.

Hypotonia, or low muscle tone: This relates to muscles being in a state of very low activation.
Some people are so “floppy” that they have difficulty or cannot sit upright and have a difficult time balancing and walking. Frequently the “low tone child” manages to learn to walk and sit but the quality of movement is poor. The child fatigues easily and prefers to be in a reclined position.

This child may be excessively clumsy and appears to be careless. Frequently the child is accused of laziness and/or stubborn behavior. The child may be whiny when asked to do something. This is the child who frequently is chosen last in gym class.

When a child is unable to acquire basic motor skills such as sitting, crawling and walking, child development professionals*** should be consulted. Serious hypotonia needs specific treatment just as hypertonia does.

When the issues are mild (more of a couch potato profile) the following guidelines can be used to recalibrate the neuro motor system and help the child increase overall muscle tone.
Keep in mind, this does NOT relate to toning muscles as in strength training.

Heavy Work Activities send nerve impulses to the motor centers of the brain that regulate tone. Ongoing bombardment sort of “wakes up” this system.

BUILDING ENDURANCE

Endurance is simply the ability to sustain for an extended period of time in an given activity.

Some people can spend hours working on a math problem and others give up after 30 seconds. (Guess where I fall on that spectrum).
Language oriented people may struggle with a cross word puzzle for hours.
With practice and training, the language challenged person can learn strategies to do cross word puzzles and with intermittent success, will keep at it for increasingly longer periods (when motivated to do so). Likewise, with a final examination looming in Calculus, the math challenged student will buckle down for hours (albeit unpleasant hours) to figure out those d— problem sets.

Likewise with physical activities. I have participated in 200 mile bike-a-thons over two days (yes, that is a century a day) with cancer survivors leading the pack. Some are still undergoing active treatment at the time of the ride.

There are thousands of stories of incredibly brave people who overcome the limitations of their physical maladies. I will briefly share just one, because I think it is rather remarkable. Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com**** is a cancer survivor. He bicycles across the country, SOLO, in a recumbent bicycle every year. He ended last year’s trans continental journey by participating in the Pan Mass Challenge, the 200 mile bicycle ride I was referring to earlier.

How does this relate to children?

Figuring our what the child enjoys and helping the child to increase the repertoire of enjoyed activities is pivotal to the child buying into working hard on physical activities.

I have one little boy who HATES “Rocketships.” I make him do these as a warm up ten times at the beginning of his treatment sessions. This activity requires him to lie prone on a scooter board, kick off the wall and “fly” across the room. It takes a lot of “heavy work.”
One day I decided to give up the same old drill and introduced a new component, which actually made the activity more difficult. Now he had to pick up a bean bag along the way, reach a bucket and toss it in-all in one big kick off the wall. You’ve guessed already. With the added challenge, he picked up all ten bean bags, with ten kicks off the wall, without complaint. Motivation is key.