|Richard & Ruth Cook|
"You can't put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get."- Michael Phelps
Here is a question posted recently on the Team CMT facebook page by member Ruth Cook.
My husband, Richard, has CMT and was wondering if any of you have had any experience in increasing your muscle mass - especially in your legs, quads, etc.? We work with a personal trainer once a week and have seen his muscle mass improve over the past 2 years. Richard is AMAZING!!! He has completed 2 marathons and several 1/2 marathons in that time frame and has applied to Boston for the 2013 Marathon. Actually he started to cycle more recently - this weekend will be his 2nd Century Ride this season. Any suggestions on increasing his muscle mass would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
I 've had the same question myself. Like Richard I am a long distance runner and will be lining up for my 2nd Boston Marathon this April. Really hoping to see Team CMT member Richard at the start line as well. Like Richard I am an avid cyclist. I have also been doing weight training for 15 years and have seen both the activity increase my muscle mass and reduce my CMT symptoms.
I always say athletes with CMT are like one big science experiment. We have to experiment to figure out what works for us.
Medical professionals are not much help. I asked the first physical therapist I was sent to after my diagnosis if there were some specific weight training exercises I should be doing. He knew all about CMT since he specialized in nerve disorders. He did a search and found nothing. The 2nd PT I went to was at a sports medicine clinic. The head of PT there told him when he asked about specific weight training that she thought people with CMT couldn't run. He did come up with a couple of things that I will share later.
Athletes with CMT have to experiment to see what works and what works for them. I will share what has worked for me. Try it out and adapt it based on your results.
Because I am a triathlete I follow training plans for multi sport athletes. CMT affected athletes need the same training and conditioning as any other athlete. I would suggest getting a good book on running or multi-sport training.
Athletes have to find the balance of training enough without training too much. People with CMT expend twice the energy as those without CMT. Because of this I get very tired in races. I find I have to train extra time and distance. Be careful if you try this. I have been a competitive athlete since I was in college. I have a huge training base. Any athlete has to work up to this slowly.
Even though I am a long distance runner, I only run about 3 days a week. Athletes with CMT have inflexible calf muscles, weak ankles and little flex in their ankles. We count ourselves lucky to be running at all. So don't push you luck and run every day. Alternate with activities that mimic running, like pool running, or an elliptical trainer. Even better if you are a tri-athlete since you have to train in three sports. Biking, rowing and swimming are all great low impact activities. I cut a minute per mile off my running time when I joined a local rowing team. I rowed for 10 years and was never ever injured.
To build strength you need to do speed workouts. These can be done running, on the bike, in the pool or all three. These should be done only a couple of times a week. Alternate a hard workout followed by an easy day. Training plans for running and triathletes will outline the type of workout you should do. Easy days are perfect days to have an easy day if you are a single sport athlete. See a sport specific training plan for ideas. For running these are track workouts, hill repeats and tempo runs. A little goes a long way, but they can be a great way to build muscle mass and strength.
Rest is just as important as workouts. It gives your body time to recover and build back up. If you are always stressing with hard workouts you will get injured. Even elite runners and triathletes take days off.
Take a day off a week. One week a month cut back your workouts Cut by half if not training for an event, or by the amount on your plan if training for an event.
I also find I need more sleep then the average person. Be sure you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep. Sleep with when your body rebuilds. When I am tired I go to bed. I don't care what time it is. Listen to your body and give it sleep when it needs it.
To build muscle mass you need to get protein in your diet. Have protein at every meal. After a long help to build up muscles with a carb/protein combination. Chocolate milk is great or half of a peanut butter sandwich. Protein bars are great snacks. I often eat one with a glass of milk for breakfast. Protein powers can be good mixed into milk or a smoothly. Protein is essential to build muscles.
Any weight training recommended for your sport (running, cycling, triathlete) is also good for CMT affected athletes. Again get a good book on conditioning for your sport. "Training Plans for Multi sport Athletes, by Gale Berhnardt outlines strength training A trainer can give you suggestions. I use free weights at home and do lunges, squats, arm curls, abdominal work, etc. A good trainer can give you suggestions and check your form. I do my weight training on my hard workout days so I can have a true easy day on my cross training days. I do both upper and lower body on the same day. That is a little different than typically recommended. I lift weights about 3 times per week. Runners World has some great weight training exercises on their web site.
My PT recommended calf raises. I do them with 5 lbs of free weights in each hand.Raise up on your toes and do 4 sets of 20. I do two leg and one leg. The one leg are good for balance. Stand near a wall or chair if your balance is weak like mine.
I also take the 5 lb weight and while sitting in a chair, but the weight on the top of my foot and flex my foot as far as I can. This is to keep my foot drop from progressing.
CMT athletes have poor calf muscle flexibility. It is very important to stretch. Yoga can be a great way to stretch and maintain flexibility. Yoga is also helpful for maintaining balance. I have seen a big improvement in my balance from yoga. Take a class, because it can be helpful to have an instructor correct your form. Don't be discouraged if you are not as flexible as your classmates. Those of us with CMT just are not very flexible.
Getting a regular massage also helps with flexability and can prevent injuries or prevent them from happening by working out tight areas.
CMT athletes do have special needs, but the same things that build strength in athletes will also work for CMT affected athletes. Try my suggestions and let me know if you have any questions.
Founder & Manager Team CMT
Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have almost 100 members in 17 states. If you wish to join us visit our web site.
CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS). It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.
Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.
Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.
Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.
Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.