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KG: What are some of your training techniques with Rashad Jennings' trainer?
MC: For the longest time, when I would use my right leg to step up, I would feel sharp pain outside of my right knee. I thought there was something wrong with my knee but working with the trainer I discovered it was my ankle! We went through various exercises to improve my ankle mobility and recover the signals being sent to the brain to reconnect some of the muscles that weren't firing. Isn't it funny how the brain could just shut off signaling to this part of the muscle?
KG: I have to ask if you've experimented with acupuncture, homeopathy, or other more alternative therapies.
MC: Dry needling. I experience immediate relief and therefore immediate feedback. Whether you have a severe spasm or a small muscle knot, dry needling is like a miracle. We're talking three seconds, four seconds of inserting the needles and they do this twisting thing with the needles and you feel relief. I am a big fan of dry needling. We shouldn't not be allowed access to this treatment just because of some vague notions the medical industry may have that it's not legitimate. I am also a big fan of saunas.
KG: Infrared sauna?
MC: I was put on an infrared sauna regimen for a little bit, but I prefer the banya. It's a Russian sauna where the heat is very dry and penetrating. Again, with my culture – I have that Russian, Ukrainian in me – in my culture we go to banya. With my banya routine, once I feel really heated on the inside, I come out and take a cold plunge. The pool is maintained at about 6 degrees Celsius. Quite a drastic difference, so you go from 120 degrees Celsius in a dry room to a 6-degree plunge, and your body releases a healing protein. It's that release of protein that you don't get in any other activity. I also drink an amino acid mix in water to stay hydrated, and it gives me the extra healing boost. The next day I feel even better.
KG: Have you tried cold-laser therapy or any tech-based recovery systems?
MC: I can recommend NormaTec pants. This system massages your legs and essentially re-circulates oxygenated blood back toward your heart and then toward your extremities. I'm not a spokesperson for the company or anything, but it definitely works for me. After 30 minutes of this with your legs elevated above your heart, it really rehabs. But you tell me, how can it be otherwise? So that's a perfect day. I wake up, warmup, have a beautiful protein-rich meal and supplement with vitamins like K2 to offset some of the carcinogens that can be in my meat, then a long rehearsal, followed by banya. I do the hot, I do the cold, sip on aminos, I go home and eat a hearty meal, use my NormaTec pants for about 50 minutes, flush everything out of my legs, play with my son, and go to bed. That allows me to start over fresh and pain free. This has been an amazing journey, and a privilege.
KG: That is a perfect day, but do you think this approach can benefit everyone, or largely athletes?
MC: I can't stress enough, in my immigrant, not-English-as-my-first-language accent, that it's for everyone. I will make it my mission to explain to everybody the necessity of this. People say, "I like chocolate cake and there's nothing I can do about that." What do you mean you can't do anything about that? It's your mouth. No one's holding the fork and force-feeding you the chocolate cake. I love chocolate cake!I love dessert, but I love feeling good even more. You don't have to be like me and drink aminos while alternating between freezing cold and sweltering hot temperatures. No, you can do contrast hydrotherapy in your own shower and drink coconut water. My point is, yes, this is for everyone. It HAS TO BE for everyone. You know, growing up, my grandparents had a farm and grew naturally organic food. Today in 2018 the organic food that they ate cheaply is so expensive at the supermarket. Who can afford that, right? I get that, but at the same time you can control what's in your control, like not eating that chocolate cake, or not drinking that soda. When I was little, I hated being sent to my grandparents – they lived on a smelly farm with cows, chickens, no gaming systems like kids have now – but I remember waking up and gathering eggs straight from the chicken coop, or going to a stable, milking the cow and drinking it fresh out of a glass! Grandma would pick some stuff from the field and now you have your breakfast. And I just remember reading books under the peach tree and the cherry tree, and eating the fruits picked straight from the tree that moment. That is incredible, and an experience I would've loved for my son. We don't have that now and it's upsetting. What's more upsetting is that I have to go to this market that charges an arm and a leg to get organic peaches that arrived from somewhere I don't even know. The peach might be organic, but the soil is still probably depleted of the vitamins and minerals, so that's where supplementing comes in.
KG: What is your supplement regiment like?
MC: I became a spokesperson for LivOn Labs because I really feel a difference taking their supplement line. They use a Liposome Encapsulation Technology, which essentially delivers more bioavailable nutrients to your body. If you have gastrointestinal issues for instance, not all the vitamins you take can be absorbed and carried to parts of the body that need them most. Liposomal nutrients, on the other hand, are in these protective bubbles of fat that are carried through the digestive system directly into your bloodstream. Besides that, every morning I take a probiotic, I take vitamin K2, 10,000 IU's of vitamin D3, and krill oil. B-complex is important for nerve repair, and actually my father has been taking that and it's really made a difference for him. In Ukraine we weren't rich. All the money would go toward my dance lessons or Val's dance and violin lessons. My dad had a herniated disc and we didn't have money to pay for the best medicine and treatments. What happened was his herniated disc pressed on a nerve and essentially rendered it useless. His glutes and hamstrings started to atrophy. Moving here, my dad has access to LivOn Labs and other amazing supplements, and now he walks everywhere and recently even started going out for runs! I know you also spoke with Tony [Dovolani] and his approach is to source vitamins mainly from his diet, and that's just as important. Personally speaking, supplements play an important role for me because I need that extra support.
KG: I think you and Tony might agree though – dancing is the best medicine.
MC: 100 percent. I am the co-owner of eleven Dance With Me dance studios. We have students of all ages and of all physical capabilities. Students with hip or ankle replacements, full knee reconstructions, you name it. They come in and after about six months of dancing, they regain muscles, they regain range of motion, they feel like themselves again. I've had older people that kicked away their canes and walkers and jive better than anyone out there. I'm sure Tony would agree that you have to do your research about where you dance and who teaches you, just like you have to do your research about what clinic you go to and what doctor treats you. This is your body, and dancing can indeed be the best medicine.
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Katrina Gordin is a medical journalist and currently writes for a variety of commercial and peer-reviewed health publications. She would like to thank her father, Dr. Leonid Gordin, for advocating the importance of meditation and mindfulness, which has informed her writing and research.
Karina can be reached at Write@HealthWright.org.