Fitness & Nutrition Blog

The Importance of Balance Training



THE BENEFITS OF BALANCE DRILLS

#1. REVERSING AGE-RELATED LOSS OF BALANCE

As we get older, our ability to balance declines. For instance, a critical predictor for longevity is the length of time that a person can stand on one leg.

Balancing is a complex skill that involves the brain, muscles, and parts of the inner ear. If you don't practice and maintain balance, the coordination between these three systems can deteriorate over time, making it harder for you to stay upright and maintain proper posture. 

Practice, however, keeps everything working as if your body were much younger, helping you to stave off some of the balance issues that might accompany getting older. Dance is one great way to work on balance.  


#2. PREVENTING FALLS

Balance drills help you to control your core and limbs more deftly. Not only does this help improve the elegance with which you move, but it also helps you avoid falls. When you have good balance, you can more quickly adapt to changes in body position, adjusting on the fly to unexpected variations in elevation or rocks that you didn't see underfoot.

Avoiding falls not only helps you avoid physical damage like broken hips; it also boosts confidence. When you have good balance, you no longer have to worry about whether you might fall every time you leave the house. Even if you're young, having this unconscious awareness allows you to feel more confident in your environment.

When your balance system is working optimally, you can more quickly react to slips, making it less likely that you'll fall.


#3. BUILDING BETTER POSTURE

Thanks to poor movement form, a focus on a narrow range of movement patterns, and an ever-more-sedentary lifestyle, the average person has terrible posture. Many people develop limitations like hunched shoulders, anterior pelvic tilt, and reduced upper-back mobility. Part of the problem is that, as a population, we don't do the balance exercises necessary to counteract the adverse effects of our lifestyle.

Improving balance is excellent for posture. It teaches you the static and dynamic positions that are natural to your human form. Outstanding balance requires good posture: the two go hand-in-glove.

 

#4. ALLOWING FASTER RECOVERY FROM INJURY

Many people who train athletically suffer injuries, especially of the leg and ankle. Much of what is known about balance comes from research on people with lower-leg injuries. What that research shows is fascinating: the more balance drills people perform, the faster they recover from their injuries. Balance drills may also prevent injuries in the first place. 


#5. IMPROVING COORDINATION

Humans should have excellent coordination, just like other animals in their natural habitats. But, modern civilization prevents many of the physical tasks that we would have been forced to do in the past. This sedentary lifestyle means that we rarely have to practice balance. One effect of this development is our generally poor coordination.

Balance exercises, especially dynamic balance drills, help to relegate balance to the category of reflexive response. Ultimately, with good balance, you should be able to intuitively adapt to practically any situation, without having to think about it.


#6. MAXIMIZING YOUR WORKOUT TIME

Most people doing weight training in the gym spend much of their time sitting around, doing nothing, while their muscles recover from the previous set.

If you're a busy person and want to use your time as efficiently as possible, then it's a good idea to find a way to capitalize on all that time between sets. Balance drills are an ideal use for those moments because they are low-intensity and do not interrupt muscle recovery.

 

#7. IMPROVING YOUR RUNNING TECHNIQUE

People with poor running technique can experience all manner of injuries, from shin splints to knee pain to hip problems. Poor form results from a lifetime of not having to run daily and not understanding the dynamic position of one's body. People with poor balance will often develop a sub-optimal gait to compensate.

Dynamic balance drills can help you to assess your center of gravity better unconsciously. Then, when you do go running, you'll feel more confident making more significant strides, opening up your hips, and turning your feet forward. With additional balance drills, you'll also learn how to swing your arms to counteract the rotation of your hips while striding, thereby reducing the strain on your core.


#8. INCREASING YOUR MUSCULAR POWER

Balance can strengthen your muscles, quickly increasing their power output. The more force they can exert, the faster you'll be able to sprint and the higher you'll be able to jump. Balance can help in practically any sport that requires short, sharp, and powerful movements, like boxing, and can help build all-around functional strength. 

 

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR BALANCE

You can practice balance training by walking on uneven surfaces, such as outdoor nature trails, or walking on a low wall. Even the act of walking on your tiptoes while completing basic housekeeping tasks around the home can improve your overall balance. 

So put some of this balance theory into practice and head outside to your local park and work on some balance drills. It could be advanced drills like balancing on a bench or try standing one leg in a crane pose at home while brushing your teeth - more difficult than it sounds!

 

 

 

A Guide To Egg Labels

 




Non-organic store-bought white eggs - These are the cheapest types of eggs you can buy. You know, the bright white ones that are all the same size? They generally come from chickens that are stuck in tight cages at large factories where they are fed GMOs, antibiotics, and hormones. The conditions they live in are usually unsanitary and crowded, where salmonella spreads easily. About 90% of the eggs in the US come from this type of scenario where the chickens never even see the light of day. 

 

Vegetarian-fed eggs - This one just makes me giggle. And for this reason, chickens are NOT vegetarians. There is nothing beneficial or natural about a vegetarian-fed chicken. Chickens are omnivores. Their diet consists of plants, bugs, and rodents. It’s not healthy for a chicken to be fed a vegetarian diet only. When they are not fed the proper diet, the chickens become deficient in a protein-based amino acid called methionine. Unhealthy chickens mean unhealthy eggs, which means nutrient-devoid food that won't help YOU. 

 

Cage-free eggs - These chickens may not be bound to their cages at all times, but they are more than likely still smashed into a closed-in structure with hundreds of other hens in the same unsanitary conditions that I listed above. People end up spending more for the cage-free label when the quality is the same as the cheapest eggs on the market. 

 

Omega-3 enriched eggs - These hens are still being fed the same non-organic, GMO-laden feed. They are normally still receiving hormones and antibiotics as well. The only difference compared to the other types of eggs listed above, is that these hens are administered omega-3s in their food.

 

Organic eggs - These eggs are stamped with a guarantee that the hens are being fed non-GMO, organic feed. While this is definitely better than the other options I have talked about, it still doesn’t mean that these hens have any type of freedom to roam outside in the sunshine, eating grass and bugs. They are often still raised in confined, unsanitary conditions as well.

 

Pasture-raised eggs - After comparing all of the different egg labels, pasture-raised eggs are the best type of eggs that you can pick up at the store. These hens more than likely live in sanitary conditions where they get to roam outside under the sun, eating grass and bugs as chickens should. These brown eggs are going to be rich and high in omega-3s. Although these are the best store-bought option, by far, they still won’t be as fresh as the eggs you can get right from the farm.

 

Farm fresh eggs - They come in brilliant colors like blue, green, brown, white, tan, cream, purple, and maroon. Their yolks are golden yellow or rich orange. AND they taste like heaven. These eggs are guaranteed to be fresh and oh-so-full of flavor. You don’t have to worry about these nutrient-dense ovals of goodness having antibiotics or hormones within them. The hens have more than likely lived like queens, basking in the sun and running on plush grasses, eating the bugs of their dreams. 

 

Don’t be afraid to ask your farmer what type of feed the hens eat as well. Chances are if they care to raise the chickens, they care to feed them well. Farm fresh eggs have proven to be exponentially higher in omega-3s, antioxidants, vitamin D, vitamin E, and beta carotene compared to eggs that come from hens raised on traditional feed in confinement.

 

How do you get your hands on fresh farm eggs, you ask?


1.    If you have a local farmers market, try that first. Chances are there will be at least one source, if not multiple sources of eggs there. Shop around and ask questions to figure out which hens will produce better eggs.

2.    Ever see those signs in front of farmhouses that say “fresh eggs for sale”? Go there.

3.    You can order super high-quality eggs online from trusted farms that ship fresh eggs overnight. Try Polyface Farm, Seven Sons Farm, and Five Mary’s Farm.

4.    Start a flock and raise your own hens to produce some amazing, flavorful eggs.

Tips For Healthy Travel



1. THINK WATER FIRST.

Staying hydrated is always important, traveling or not. However, it should be the first thing on your mind when you travel, especially if you’re on an airplane because the humidity inside the cabin is lower than normal. Your body will also be acclimating to a new climate, and between finding your way around and enjoying your trip drinking water can be easily forgotten.

Dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, and loads of other issues. It can also cause hunger, so bottoms up! When you arrive at your location find a convenience store and purchase at least 60-70 ounces of water for each day that you’re traveling.

 

2. EAT ONE HEALTHY GROCERY STORE/MARKET MEAL PER DAY.

Find the closest grocery store to where you’re staying. You may or may not be able to find a health foods store, but at least find the nearest market or grocery store to grab some fruit or fresh food. Dining out is a wonderful part of the travel experience, but try to have one meal a day from the grocery store. Think whole/real foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, and salads. (This is better on your pocket book, too!)

3. CREATE A HEALTHY TRAVEL BAG.

This doesn’t need to be anything fancy, you can even just use a quart size ziplock or a small travel pouch. Add herbal teas, raw nuts and seeds, low-sugar/healthy bars, extra vitamin C, probiotic stick packs, and your supplements in an easy to access small bag in your carry on. You can also keep a few small packs of almond butter on hand. 

4. CARRY HEALTHY SNACKS.

Like we mentioned above, carry a few healthy snacks with you. You don’t have to bring your entire pantry, just grab a piece of fruit that keeps well (apple, banana, orange), some almond butter, your own healthy trail mix, and/or a good-quality, low sugar bar. These types of healthy snacks will tide you over in a pinch and can prevent you from needing that pastry at the airport or chips from the gas station.

Save your indulgences for a fun local restaurant, not the cheap preservative-laden food you’ll find in terminals and convenience stations. Another tip that will save you from processed travel food it to eat a big, healthy, protein-rich meal before you leave your house. If you leave the house hungry, the candy bar isle might get the best of you.

 

5. JUST SAY NO TO THE AIRPLANE SNACK & DRINK CART.

Nothing good comes from this cart except for asking for water with no ice (the ice on airplanes is often not clean and full of germs—ew!). Ask for hot water for the herbal tea you brought on board or just sip a plain water no ice to stay hydrated. The snacks are full of white flour, sodium and preservatives, and all of the drinks are full of sugar. Bring your own plane snacks to start your vacation off right.

6. RESEARCH RESTAURANTS AHEAD OF ARRIVING IF YOU PLAN TO DINE OUT.

Not only will you have a better dining experience, you’ll be able to make sure you have good-quality food. Use TripAdvisor (app and website) to find places with good reviews and view menus to find a place that looks equally healthy and delicious. Traveling or not, when you look at food ask yourself if you’re respecting your body before you eat it.

No matter where you are try to stick to the following:

·       Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs with veggies, or fruit with a low-sugar nut bar.

·       Lunch: Some type of salad with a lean protein.

·       Dinner: Anything that sounds good. This is the time to enjoy local cuisines! 


The 90/10 way of eating allows us to enjoy these types of experiences guilt-free. Rules and structure with a little bit of wiggle room. 


7. STAY IN A HIGHLY WALKABLE NEIGHBORHOOD IF YOU CAN.

You may or may not have control over where you stay. If you’re able, stay in a highly walkable neighborhood and walk to most destinations. You’ll get to experience more of the city and add in extra movement, too. 

Quick tracking tip: The Health app that is built into the iPhone automatically tracks your steps if you have your phone on you. It’s a fun way to see how far you’ve gone (a FitBit or pedometer of course works great too.) Aim for at least 10,000 steps per day, traveling or not.

Along the lines of choosing where to stay, consider renting a condo or apartment with a kitchen instead of staying at a hotel. Preparing a few of your own meals in a kitchen, especially breakfast, will help you stay on track and probably save a little money, too.

8. CONSIDER A TRAVEL HUMIDIFIER IF YOU’RE TRAVELING TO A VERY DRY CLIMATE.

Dry locations in the US like Utah and Arizona can give you a sore throat if you’re not used to the climate. A small travel humidifier is usually less than $20 and can make a huge difference when you sleep. Also, if you’re staying in a hotel ask the hotel if they have any extra humidifiers. Most dry places stash a few at the front desk and make a world of difference for your eyes, nose and throat when you wake up in the morning.

9. CREATE A DARK SLEEP SPACE.

Just like when you’re at home, a dark sleep space with no extra light will help you get better rest. Turn the alarm clock light off or unplug it, and use a towel under the door if light is pouring in from the hallway. Eye masks look funny, but if all else fails use one. Any light in your sleep space can disrupt your good night’s sleep.

10. PLAN DAILY MOVEMENT.

Hopefully you’re already walking a lot, and the hotel gym is always an option if you’re not getting enough movement in. Also try to incorporate movement into your vacation to enjoy the sights. Swimming at the beach, hiking to see the views, and other types of built-in exercise make the trip even more enjoyable.

11. REMEMBER YOUR SUPPLEMENTS AND TAKE EXTRA VITAMIN C AND PROBIOTICS.

It’s easy to forget simple things when you’re out of your routine, so be extra mindful that you stay on your high-quality multivitamin and supplements. You’ll be exposed to even more germs that you’re not used to, and if you’re on a plane you’re exposed to a lot of radiation just from being so high in the atmosphere. Extra antioxidants are of the utmost importance!

12. PLAN AHEAD… THEN SURRENDER AND ENJOY YOUR VACATION.

For the most part  business travel isn’t a vacation, it is important to stick to your daily routines and habits. When traveling for pleasure plan ahead using the tips we gave you above, and then go with the flow when you arrive!

 

 

Benefits of Eating Organ Meats

 




Organ meats, also known as “offal,” are the consumable organs of animals. Organ meats include livers, hearts, brains, and intestines, to name a few. There are many health benefits to eating organ meats, but there are also some downsides. 


Today in the U.S., livestock is generally harvested for its muscle meat. However, in many countries, certain animal organs are consumed as popular dishes, including duck liver in France, beef tongue in Latin America, and pork liver in Germany. Asian cuisine often includes many parts of an animal’s body, including kidneys, stomachs, and intestines.


Interestingly, during WWII, American consumption of organ meat greatly increased. This was due to a concerted effort by the government to sway people to eat organ meat, as much of the country’s muscle meat was going to the troops. 


According to Jake Young of the journal Gastronomica, meat organs are again experiencing a resurgence, this time in the world of fine dining.

Nutrition Information

Four ounces of raw beef liver contains: 

  • Calories: 153
  • Protein: 23 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams


Four ounces of raw beef heart contains: 

  • Calories: 127 calories
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Carbs: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams


Organ meats are full of nutrients, and are often pound-for-pound more nutritious than muscle meats. With the notable exceptions of tripe (intestines) and brains, most organ meats are good sources of numerous vitamins and minerals, including many of the B-Vitamins, iron, and zinc. 

Potential Health Benefits of Organ Meat

Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Thiamin ,also known as Vitamin B1, is present in liver. Studies have shown that thiamin can help prevent risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease,  including memory loss and plaque formation.


Increased Energy

Animal organs, especially the liver and kidneys, contain iron. Many people suffer from iron deficiency, the condition affects approximately 10 million people in the U.S. One of the main symptoms of iron deficiency is fatigue and lack of energy. Eating organ meat will increase your blood’s iron count. People with iron deficiencies can eat organ meats (especially liver) to increase their energy levels.


Reduced Risk of Cancer

Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2, is an important member of the B-Vitamin family that appears to protect the body against certain types of cancer. Riboflavin is found in organ meats, particularly the kidneys and livers. Studies have shown that riboflavin helps reduce the risk of lung and colorectal cancer.  A riboflavin deficiency has been shown to be a risk factor for cancer of the esophagus.


Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

All meat organs (except intestines) contain high amounts of Vitamin B12.  In combination with folate (also present in meat organs), Vitamin B12 helps moderate homocysteine levels in the blood. High levels of homocysteine are a risk factor for cardiovascular disease


Stronger Immune System

Many organ meats are high in zinc, including the liver, kidneys, and heart. Zinc is essential for your immune system to work properly. People with a zinc deficiency are more susceptible to infection.


Potential Risks of Organ Meat

Cholesterol Levels

While organ meats are highly nutritious foods, they also contain a lot of cholesterol (especially the liver and heart). High cholesterol levels raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, it’s recommended that organ meats be eaten in moderation.

Gout Concerns

People with gout should avoid organ meats, as they contain high levels of purine. Foods rich in purine can contribute to the progression of joint damage for those with gout.

Hemochromatosis 

People diagnosed with hemochromatosis, also known as an iron overload disease, have too much iron in their blood and should therefore limit their intake of iron-rich organ meats.

 

Amazing Foods You Should Be Grilling

 



We’ll bet the foods we’re about to suggest have never touched your grill before, and once you’ve tried them, you’ll never do a cookout without them again. Not only are they delicious and unlikely to be found at your neighbors’ parties, they’re healthy, and perfectly complement the more conventional grill foods your friends and family will bring over. And by “healthy” we don’t mean another chicken breast—we’re talking good nutrition with full flavor: smoky guacamole, potato kebabs, peaches and cream, and more.

1. Avocado

Yes, seriously. This beautiful green fruit is loaded with healthy monounsaturated fats (which reduce the risk of heart disease), fiber, and many other nutrients. You’ve certainly had it raw on salads or with eggs, but avocado can be grilled for a unique, fire-roasted flavor. Use it to make a smoky guacamole that can top burgers, or as a dip for chopped vegetables.

Smoky Guacamole Recipe
Serves: 4

Ingredients

½ red onion, sliced into rings with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top
2 whole avocados, cut in halves and pitted
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp smoked black pepper (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat the grill to medium and, when hot, place the sliced onion onto the grill grates (or use a grill basket if you have one). Cook 3–5 minutes.
2. Place the halved avocados on the grill, flesh-side down. Now return to the onions, tossing them and cooking until tender and caramelized.
3. Carefully remove the avocados and onions from the grill and place on a cutting board. Remove the avocados from their skin and add to a bowl. Chop the grilled onions and add to the avocados, along with the cilantro, lemon juice, and pepper. Mix all the ingredients together to form guacamole.


2. Wild Salmon

Salmon is meaty, like a great burger, so unlike other fish it holds up well to the high heat of a grill. With only some balsamic vinaigrette to season it, you have a quick and filling meal that’s packed with omega-3 fats.

Salmon Fillet Recipe
Serves: 4–6

Ingredients

1–2lb wild salmon fillet with skin
balsamic vinaigrette dressing (to taste)

Directions

1. Preheat grill to medium and brush the flesh side of the salmon with the dressing. When the grill is hot, place the salmon on it, skin-side down. Close the grill lid and cook for about 10 minutes per inch of the salmon’s thickness.


3. Potatoes

Grilling a potato results in that fluffy, all-American baked-potato consistency, but takes less time to cook and offers that unique grilled flavor that your oven can’t. Keep the skin on to boost the fiber content. Also, don’t fall for low-carb propaganda claiming that potatoes are only starch—they provide more potassium than bananas and are also high in vitamin C.

Potato Kebabs with a Lemon Herb Drizzle Recipe
Serves: 2–4

Ingredients

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (such as basil, rosemary, marjoram, and sage)
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 lb potatoes (any type), scrubbed clean
2–4 grilling skewers
12 oz package precooked chicken sausage, sliced 1/4-inch thick on the diagonal
2 ears fresh corn, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick on the diagonal

Directions

1. Place a saucepan over the stove on medium heat. Add the olive oil and, when it’s hot, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the garlic.
2. Let the oil cool, then stir in herbs, salt, lemon juice and pepper and set aside.
3. Place the potatoes in a medium-size, microwave-safe bowl and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Note: if using plastic wrap, make sure the plastic does not touch the potatoes and poke one small hole to vent.
4. Microwave potatoes on high 10–12 minutes, or until tender. Carefully remove from oven. When they’re cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes into chunks. Preheat the grill to medium and thread the potatoes, sausage, and vegetables onto the skewers.
5. Grill the skewers about 10 minutes, turning frequently and brushing with some of the herb mixture during the last few minutes of cooking.
6. Remove skewers from the grill and place on a platter. Drizzle the remaining herb mixture on top.


4. Asparagus

These green spears have natural diuretic properties, which can come in handy in reducing the bloat you get from salty foods and booze. Furthermore, the Journal of Food Science reported that the amino acids and minerals in asparagus extracts can reduce hangover symptoms and protect your liver cells from toxins.

Lemon Asparagus Recipe
Serves: 4

Ingredients

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 lb asparagus, stems trimmed

Directions

1. Preheat grill to medium and mix the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt together in a bowl.
2. Lay out the asparagus on a plate or platter and drizzle the dressing mixture over the asparagus. Place the asparagus on the grill. Note: position the spears perpendicular to the grill grates so they don’t fall through, or use a grill pan. Asparagus cooks fast, so toss every minute or so until tender.


5. Peaches

The heat of the grill softens a peach and maximizes its sweetness to the point where it tastes like candy. In fact, grilled peaches with Greek yogurt can offer the flavor of a decadent pie with a fraction of the calories, more protein, and no processed sugars.

Peaches and Cream Recipe
Serves: 1

Ingredients

1 peach, halved and pitted
1 tsp honey
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat the grill to medium and, when hot, add the peach halves flesh-side down. Cook 3–5 minutes.
2. Carefully remove peach halves from the grill and place in a bowl. Add the yogurt and drizzle the honey over the top. Garnish with mint and serve.

Electrolytes For Better Athletic Performance



What Are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are minerals that are transported through your body fluids and carry an electric charge. They play important roles in generating energy for cells, transporting signals to and from the brain, muscle contractions, and more. The main electrolytes are calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium.

 

What Is an Electrolyte Imbalance?

When you sweat heavily, due to heat exposure, physical activity, or a combination of the two, your body loses water and the electrolytes it carries. For athletes in the middle of a training session or competition, especially in summer time, this loss can be disastrous. In its position stand on exercise and fluid replacement, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states that losing as little as two percent of your body weight in water can compromise performance and health.

 

But drinking water by itself isn’t enough to undo the damage. Not only does it not contain electrolytes, but drinking too much without taking in an appropriate amount of electrolytes at the same time will lead to an imbalance—read: you can drink water well past the point of quenching your thirst, but it won’t recharge you.

 

You see, when you chug plain water, you dilute the electrolytes you have left in your system. This makes it even harder for them to serve the body processes they play such a critical role in. What’s more, it actually results in some of the same problems as those caused by not getting enough water, and other challenges as well.  Research shows that an inadequate electrolyte imbalance can cause blood pressure changes, confusion, fatigue, lightheadedness, muscle weakness, and decreased muscle control. In other words, drinking too much water is just as bad as not drinking enough!

The New England Journal of Medicine analyzed runners in the Boston marathon. Thirteen percent of the competitors tested were found to have an inadequate electrolyte balance during the race. In fact, the runners who drank the most water—at least three liters of fluid over the course of the marathon—had the worst finish times (greater than four hours). All that water actually resulted in them gaining weight—over the course of a four-hour race!

 

The amount of water and electrolytes you need is highly dependent on your size, the activity you’re doing, the time you spend exercising, and the weather conditions, so it’s impossible to give a blanket recommendation on how much to consume. But experts say the smartest strategy is to drink a water and electrolyte mix periodically throughout your workout—even before the first sign of thirst. The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine suggests downing about one and a half to three cups of water per hour of activity, and the Institute of Medicine recommends that your beverage include sodium and potassium, in particular, to sustain performance during prolonged exercise in hot weather.

 

Benefits of Electrolytes

Supplementing with electrolytes has been found to have a positive and significant impact on two main measures of performance. It can…

 

1. Support Endurance  

Sodium, in particular, has been shown to support lasting energy for long-duration endurance exercise. A 2016 study found that triathletes who supplemented with sodium during a half-ironman finished faster than a control group, and lost less body mass from water depletion along the way. The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports reported that cyclists taking sodium improved their finish times by 7.4% over a control group, which researchers credited to greater cardiovascular function. Another study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine discovered that sodium bicarbonate helped to stave off fatigue in swimmers, improving their finish times in the 200-meter freestyle race—most likely by assisting with the athletes’ acid-buffering capacity.

 

If your athletic endeavors are limited to your backyard or garage, sodium works for anaerobic exercise too. A trial from 2014 found that basketball players maintained sprinting performance into the final quarter of their games better on sodium bicarbonate than a placebo. Meanwhile, Amino Acids published a study showing that sodium promoted increases in the total work performed by experienced judo and jiu-jitsu competitors, as well as anaerobic power. That means the potential for more throws and submissions in the same amount of time.

 

2. Stimulate Strength Gains

Magnesium has long been linked to force production. A 2015 study found that it promoted max bench-press strength by 17.7%. (Good news for the impatient: it only took one week.)

 

Furthermore, a Magnesium Research study concluded that the mineral was directly associated with maximal core, leg, and grip strength—and jumping performance—in basketball, handball, and volleyball players. The researchers wrote: “The observed associations between magnesium intake and muscle strength performance may result from the important role of magnesium in energetic metabolism, transmembrane transport, and muscle contraction and relaxation.” They also noted that, in general, athletes’ magnesium intakes are “often below recommended levels.”

 

Do I Really Need Carbs For Energy?

Don’t get us wrong. Electrolytes are an underrated and essential nutritional element for high performance, but carbs are also important for keeping your energy up during exercise. You just don’t need them by the barrel full.

The ACSM recommends consuming no more than 60 grams of carbs per hour of activity. More than that can delay the rate at which your stomach empties of food, causing you discomfort in the gut that can affect your performance.

 

Furthermore, solutions made with a 2:1 ratio of glucose to fructose seem to offer more benefit than just slamming carbs in any form you can get them.  The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutition reported that this glucose-to-fructose combination aided performance in an array of activities, including sprinting, lifting, jumping, and shuttle runs. Meanwhile, a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that it helped cyclists improve on timed trials by eight percent. The pairing of glucose and fructose appears to help the body absorb carbs faster than consuming either type alone, making them more readily available during exercise.

 

 

Reasons Why Summer Is The Best Season

 




1.    There are Reduced Rates of Heart Attacks in the Summer
Research indicates that you are less likely to die of a heart attack in the summer than in the winter. In a study of almost 11,000 people who had heart attacks over a period of nine years, survival rate increased by 19 per cent if the attack occurred in the summer. Higher levels of Vitamin D – which is synthesized by sunlight – are also thought to play a protective part in those who suffer heart attacks.

 

2.    People eat more fruit
Rising temperatures and increased availability of summer fruits make it easier to fulfil the recommended quota of eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. They also boost the immune system and, because of their low calorie content, help with weight loss.

 

3.    Relieves skin complaints
Controlled exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can have a therapeutic effect on skin complaints such as acne, psoriasis and dermatitis.

 

4.    Increases agility
The summer is an excellent time to begin an exercise program. Not only do summer clothes provide an incentive to get the body in shape, but the feel-good factor created by sunlight boosts our enthusiasm to begin a fitness regime. Exercise is not only the most effective way to burn up excess calories, but also improves the vital flow of oxygen to the brain, lowering stress levels and improving powers of concentration.

 

5.    Increases our water consumption
Water is vital to thousands of chemical processes that take place in the body’s cells to enable it to function. These include promoting digestion, regulating body temperature, improving the health and vitality of our skin and flushing toxins from the body. In the summer months we are more inclined to drink the recommended ounces of water a day needed for optimum health. Take your body weight, divide it in half and that is how many ounces you should aim for every day. 

 

6.    Helps to regulate sleep disorders
Waking up to the sun and getting early-morning exposure to its light can help those suffering from sleep disorders such as insomnia. This is because sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of sunlight between 7am and 9am each morning to help those who have problems getting to sleep at night.

 

 

Importance Of Exercise Intensity

 



What Is Exercise Intensity?


Intensity is probably the most important element of your workout. When you work out at a sufficient intensity, your body grows stronger and you'll see changes in your weight, body fat percentage, endurance, and strength. Exercise intensity is usually described as low, moderate, or vigorous.


Low Intensity Exercise

Low intensity exercise raises your heart rate mildly and then keeps it steady. It is fairly slow-paced. Examples of low intensity exercises include:

  • Walking at a leisurely pace
  • Riding a bike on flat ground
  • Lifting light weights
  • Using an elliptical machine at a slow pace


Moderate Intensity Exercise

A moderate intensity workout raises your heart rate. You will be sweating, breathing heavier, and moving at a quicker pace. You may not be able to talk easily, and you will feel warm.  Examples of moderate intensity exercises are:

  • Hiking
  • Brisk walking
  • Biking at 10 miles per hour or less
  • Water aerobics


Vigorous Intensity Exercise

Vigorous intensity exercise gets your heart pumping, elevates your heart rate, and leaves you breathing hard. When working out at more intense levels, you will likely not be able to talk for long stretches without needing to take a breath. Examples of vigorous intensity exercises include:

  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Jumping rope
  • Cycling faster than 10 miles per hour


Benefits of Moderate and Vigorous Intensity Exercise

Increasing the intensity of your workouts can have many benefits. Regular moderate to vigorous exercise offers health advantages.

  • Improved mood: Studies have shown that increasing the intensity of a physical activity can have a positive impact on mood and lower symptoms of depression. 
  • Increased calorie burn and metabolic rate: A small study examined 10 male subjects and found that 45-minute vigorous exercise resulted in higher calorie burn and a post-workout energy expenditure that lasted for 14 hours. 
  • Lower mortality risk: A 2019 research review examined how vigorous and moderate exercise affected mortality risk and found that higher intensity workouts, in particular, lowered the risk of death.


How Hard Should You Work?

How hard you work out during any fitness session depends on a variety of factors. Your current fitness level, any physical limitations, and your fitness goals all affect desired workout intensity. And it's also important to vary your workouts and intensity levels to decrease the risk of injury and burnout.


Adults should participate in both aerobic (cardio) and muscle-strengthening workouts every week to improve their health, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of exercise per week (that's 30 minutes a day for five days, but you can schedule it any way that works for you).

How to Measure Exercise Intensity

It's helpful to monitor your intensity while exercising to make sure you're getting an effective workout. Unfortunately, it's one of the harder elements of exercise to measure. There are several choices, but none of them are perfect. It often takes a combination of methods to really get a sense of how hard you're working.

Heart Rate

Using a percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR) is probably the most widely used method of tracking intensity. It's simple, as long as you have a heart rate monitor device. For this method, you use a formula such as the Karvonen Formula to determine your target heart rate zone – the heart rate zone you try to work within to get the most effective workout.

The drawbacks: Formulas used to calculate target heart rate are imperfect and can be off by as much as 12 beats per minute. And you'll need a heart-rate monitor (with chest strap, for greater accuracy) or fitness tracker, unless you want to take your pulse regularly and do some calculations.

Heart rate monitors and fitness trackers that detect your heart rate use it as the basis for displaying your exercise intensity. 

Talk Test

This is a very easy test to figure out your intensity: Just pay attention to how breathless you are. If you can easily talk, you're working at a light intensity, which is fine for a warm-up. If you can talk, but it's a little harder, you're getting more into the moderate zone. If you can only speak in short sentences, that's right about where you want to be for a vigorous workout.

If you're doing hight-intensity interval training, that may include some breathless or anaerobic intervals where talking is out of the question. This is the high end of the intensity spectrum.

Perceived Exertion

Your rating of perceived exertion (RPE), refers to how hard an exercise feels. The standard scale is the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion, which ranges from 6-20 and is designed to help you estimate your heart rate by multiplying the rating by 10. If you're at a 15 on the Borg scale, you're working pretty hard (say, running) and your heart rate is an estimated 150 beats per minute (15 x 10).

You could also use a 1-10 scale, which is a little simpler. The idea is to check in and ask yourself how hard you're working. If you're very comfortable, maybe you're at a level 3 or 4. If you feel like you're exercising, but are still just in your comfort zone, you may be at a level 5. If you're sweating and very breathless, you might be at a Level 8 or 9.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you increase the intensity of exercise?

Increase the intensity of your workout by adding speed or difficulty. That could mean boosting your running speed, increasing the weight you're lifting, or walking or hiking at a steeper incline.

Where do muscles get their energy during high intensity exercise?

For quick bursts of energy, your muscles will pull from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stores.  Carbohydrates are most often converted into ATP for moderate and high intensity workouts.

How do you monitor exercise intensity?

You can monitor your exercise intensity by using any of the three main test methods: measuring your heart rate, doing the talk test, or checking your rating of perceived exertion.

 

Benefits Of A Pool Workout



What are the benefits of pool exercises? 

Because water offers heavier resistance than air, working out in the pool can make the same exercises that you’d do on land more challenging in water.

The heavier resistance can engage your muscles more fully and also help you burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. Aquatic exercise allows you to get a great cardio workout, while also increasing your:

  • strength
  • endurance
  • flexibility

The buoyancy of water also provides extra support for your muscles and joints. This allows you to work out harder while putting less impact on your body than you would on land.

Aquatic exercise is especially helpful for people who have joint conditions, such as osteoarthritic and rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s also a gentler form of exercise for pregnant women and people who have:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Balance issues 
  • Joint injuries

Do you need any special equipment? 

If you attend an aquatic class at a fitness center, the facility will likely provide any equipment that you need. Some pools may even have water treadmills, ellipticals, and bikes. Remember to bring:

  • a towel
  • swim cap
  • a pair of goggles

If you’re going to work out on your own, you may want to buy some of the following gear:

  • Wrist or ankle weights. These strap-on weights can increase the resistance of your arm and leg movements in water. 
  • Foam dumbbells. Lightweight when dry, they become heavy when you put them in water. 
  • Hand paddles or resistance gloves. Both types of equipment can boost your strength training in water. 
  • Kickboard. A great tool for many drills, it allows you to hold on and stay afloat while doing core and lower body workouts. 
  • Buoyancy belt. This can keep your head above water so you can do arm exercises without treading water. 

Pool exercises for a full-body workout 

1. Walk in water

Walking in water is a good exercise to start off with as it helps you get a feeling for how you can create resistance. Walking in water can target your arms, core, and lower body. You can increase the intensity by using hand or ankle weights.

1.    Start off walking in shallow water, around waist height.

2.    Lengthen your spine and walk by putting pressure on your heel first and then your toes, instead of walking on your tiptoes.

3.    Keep your arms at your side, in the water, and move them as you walk.

4.    Engage your core and stand tall as you walk.

5.    Continue walking for 5-10 minutes.

2. Water arm lifts

This exercise will help strengthen the muscles in your arms. Using foam dumbbells will help add more resistance.

1.    Stand in water up to your shoulders.

2.    Hold the dumbbells at your side, with your palms facing up.

3.    Draw your elbows in close to your torso as you lift your forearms to the height of the water.

4.    Rotate your wrists to turn your palms facedown.

5.    Lower your arms back to the starting position.

6.    Do 1-3 sets of 10-15 reps for each exercise.

3. Lateral arm lifts

This exercise, which targets your upper body, is also best done with foam dumbbells.

1.    Stand in water up to your shoulders.

2.    Hold the dumbbells at your side.

3.    Raise your arms to the side until they’re level with the water and your shoulders.

4.    Lower your arms back down to your sides.

5.    Do 1-3 sets of 8-14 repetitions.

4. Back wall glide

This exercise helps to activate the muscles in your core and lower body.

1.    Hold onto the pool ledge, tuck your knees into your chest, and press your feet into the wall.

2.    Push off from the wall and float on your back as far as you can.

3.    Draw your knees into your chest, press your feet down to the bottom of the pool, and run back to the wall.

4.    Continue this exercise for 5-10 minutes.

5. Jumping jacks

Jumping jacks work the muscles in both your upper and lower body. You can add resistance with wrist and ankle weights.

1.    Stand in water at chest level.

2.    Start with your feet together and your arms at your side.

3.    Jump by moving your legs outward and, at the same time, bringing your arms over your head.

4.    Jump again to return to the starting position with your feet together and your arms at your side.

5.    Do 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.

6. Leg shoots

This dynamic exercise works your core, low back, and legs.

1.    Keep your feet off the bottom of the pool during this exercise.

2.    Tuck your knees into your chest.

3.    Explosively press your feet and legs out in front and float flat on your back.

4.    Draw your knees back into your chest.

5.    Press your legs out behind you so you’re floating on your stomach.

6.    This is 1 repetition. Do 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions.

7. High-knee lift extensions

This exercise can strengthen the muscles in your core and lower body. Add ankle weights to increase the difficulty.

1.    Stand in water at waist height.

2.    Engage your core as you lift your right leg, bending your knee until your leg is level with the water.

3.    Pause with your leg lifted for a few seconds.

4.    Extend your leg straight out and hold this position for a few seconds.

5.    Slowly lower your leg down, keeping it straight.

6.    Repeat this move with your left leg.

7.    Continue for 5-10 minutes.

8. Leg kicks

This exercise works the muscles in your core and legs. Use ankle weights to make it more challenging.

1.    Hold onto the pool ledge or hold a kickboard.

2.    Flutter-kick your legs.

3.    Scissor-kick your legs open and closed.

4.    Do a breaststroke kick with your legs.

5.    Follow with dolphin kicks.

6.    Do each kick for 1-3 minutes.

Safety tips

  • You may sweat more than you realize when you’re working out in water, so stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids before and after you work out.
  • Use a floatation device if you’re not a strong swimmer, like a buoyancy belt or floatation vest.
  • Avoid working out in a pool that’s heated above 90°F (32°C).

Stop exercising if you feel:

  • lightheaded or dizzy
  • unable to breathe
  • nauseous
  • faint or weak
  • pain or pressure in your chest or upper body

The bottom line 

Water workouts are an effective way to boost your cardio fitness while also strengthening the major muscle groups in your body. Pool exercises are especially helpful for anyone with joint issues or injuries, as well as those who are pregnant or have balance trouble.

 

 

Pre-Workout Nutrition

 




Knowing What to Eat Is Important

Fueling your body with the right nutrients prior to exercise will give you the energy and strength you need to perform better.

Each macronutrient has a specific role before a workout. However, the ratio in which you need to consume them varies by the individual and type of exercise.

Below is a brief look at the role of each macronutrient.

Carbs

Your muscles use the glucose from carbs for fuel.

Glycogen is the way the body processes and stores glucose, mainly in the liver and muscles.

For short- and high-intensity exercise, your glycogen stores are your muscles’ main source of energy.

But for longer exercises, the degree to which carbs are used depends on several factors. These include the intensity, type of training and your overall diet.

Your muscles’ glycogen stores are limited. As these stores become depleted, your output and intensity diminish.

Studies have consistently shown that carbs can increase glycogen stores and utilization while boosting carb oxidation during exercise.

Carb loading, which involves consuming a high-carb diet for 1–7 days, is a well-known method to maximize glycogen stores.

Protein

Many studies have documented the potential of pre-workout protein consumption to improve athletic performance.

Eating protein (alone or with carbs) prior to exercise has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis.

One study showed a positive anabolic response after participants consumed 20 grams of whey protein before exercise.

Other benefits of eating protein before exercise include:

  • A better anabolic response, or muscle growth 
  • Improved muscle recovery 
  • Increased strength and lean body mass 
  • Increased muscle performance 

Fat

While glycogen is used for short- and high-intensity bouts of exercise, fat is the source of fuel for longer and moderate-to-low-intensity exercise.

Some studies have investigated the effects of fat intake on athletic performance. However, these studies looked at high-fat diets over a long period, rather than prior to exercise.

For example, one study showed how a four-week diet consisting of 40% fat increased endurance running times in healthy, trained runners.

The Timing of Your Pre-Workout Meal Is Key

The timing of your meal is also an important aspect of pre-exercise nutrition.

To maximize the results of your training, try to eat a complete meal containing carbs, protein and fat 2–3 hours before you exercise.

However, in some cases, you may not be able to get in a full meal 2–3 hours before working out.

In that case, then you can still eat a decent pre-workout meal. However, keep in mind that the sooner you eat before your workout, the smaller and simpler the meal should be.

If you eat 45–60 minutes prior to your workout, choose foods that are simple to digest and contain mainly carbs and some protein.

This will help prevent any stomach discomfort during exercise.

Some Examples of Pre-Workout Meals

Which foods and how much to eat depends on the type, duration and intensity of the workout.

A good rule of thumb is to eat a mixture of carbs and protein prior to exercise.

If you eat fat with your pre-workout meal, then it should be consumed at least a few hours before your workout.

Here are some examples of balanced pre-workout meals:

If Your Workout Starts Within 2–3 Hours or More

  • Sandwich on whole-grain bread, lean protein and a side salad
  • Egg omelet and whole-grain toast topped with avocado spread and a cup of fruit
  • Lean protein, brown rice and roasted vegetables

If Your Workout Starts Within 2 Hours

  • Protein smoothie made with milk, protein powder, banana and mixed berries
  • Whole-grain cereal and milk
  • A cup of oatmeal topped with banana and sliced almonds
  • Natural almond butter and fruit preserve sandwich on whole-grain bread

If Your Workout Starts Within an Hour or Less

  • Greek yogurt and fruit
  • Nutrition bar with protein and wholesome ingredients
  • A piece of fruit, such as a banana, orange or apple

Keep in mind that you don’t need to eat many pre-workout meals at different times. Just choose one of these.

For best results, experiment with different timings and nutrient compositions.

 

Benefits Of Being Outdoors



Question for you… How do you feel after a long day of staring at your computer, answering phone calls, texts, and emails, or weaving in and out of traffic that’s laden with honking horns? Frazzled? Tense/stiff? Overwhelmed? Disconnected? Exhausted? Yep. We are not surprised.

 

How about this…

 

Remember how you’d feel as a kid after a long day of playing tag, hide and seek, climbing trees, or catching fireflies? Calm, relaxed, and content? We all know that feeling, even if it seems so far away in your distant memory. What if we told you that you could feel that way now? 

 

Spoiler alert: YOU CAN.

 

Who is this ecotherapy for? Everyone. 

 

Let’s dive deeper into the WHY you should spend more time outside…

  • Calming and relaxing effects - Being outside is a true mindfulness practice because it’s so much easier to stay in the present moment. Whether you are walking trails while listening to the birds, playing in the sand with your kids, gardening, or eating dinner on the back porch, the act of just being outside helps us to become absorbed in our environment. This is really good for your brain to take a break from the past, present, or future stresses that you can get caught dwelling on throughout the day.


Healthy distractions from unpleasant thoughts and pain can help to reduce cortisol, alleviating symptoms like anxiety, depression, PTSD, racing thoughts, muscle tension, and fast heartbeat. The sounds of birds, water, and rain, as well as looking at colorful scenery filled with various greens and all of the colors of the rainbow can positively impact your nervous system. 


  • Reduces symptoms of depression - There is proof that adults and children who regularly spend time outside throughout the week experience elevated moods and a better ability to handle change and the stresses of life.  A study in the journal “Mind” reported that 95 percent of participants interviewed after spending time outside noticed mental changes from depressed and anxious to a calmer and more balanced state. After time outside, people are often more motivated and take on a higher sense of self-worth.

 

  • Increase your energy and prevent burnout - When you are staring at screens all day indoors, while also trying to multitask, it can be extremely draining and exhausting for your mind and body. Even if you take a few minutes to go outside, feel the sun on your skin, or simply sit in nature and listen to the sounds, you can feel the benefits of a natural energy boost.


If you are partaking in outdoor exercise like walking/running, gardening, biking, swimming, riding horses, farming, yoga, or whatever else you love to do, these activities can increase energy and motivation, as well as positively impact sleep and immune function, which can benefit your energy levels as well.


  • Improved connection to others - Even when I was in medical school in Portland, amongst the bright lights, honking horns, asphalt, and traffic jams - all of the things that Tanda’s hate, I was able to find tranquility and connection when I walked the quiet trails outside of the city. When people walked by and we exchanged a hello or a headnod, there was an instant sense of belonging and camaraderie even when I didn’t know them. Why? Because we were all out there seeking the same thing… connection to the earth and the peace that it gives. And I think everyone that consciously spends time outside in nature has that collective understanding.

 

The point is, you can find connections with others through nature no matter where you live. You can find it in the big cities or you can find it when completely immersed on a 40 acre farm in the middle of nowhere, doing chores and eating dinner with loved ones daily, like I am today. Mother Earth wants to be found by all. And she knows how important it is for us to find her together.


  • Brings you back to your childhood - When we connect to our playful inner child and the joys that we experienced before the major stresses of life hit us, it’s extremely therapeutic and healing for all that we have endured over the years. Take time to think back to the outdoor activities that brought you joy, calm, excitement, and feelings of safety and security as a child… What were they? And then, implement them.


I am sure this all sounds great, but I also know it could also sound a little daunting. Getting back to the basics of life and reconnecting to earth in ways that feel so unfamiliar at this point may seem hard. Well, that’s why I am here. I have some really great options for ecotherapy so that you can get started as soon as possible and rekindle that long-lost love affair you had with mother nature years ago.

 

How to connect with the earth…

  • Hike some trails
  • Do yoga in the yard
  • Eat dinner on the back porch
  • Walk at a local park or in your neighborhood
  • Spend time with your animals
  • Visit a farm… or start a farm
  • Create a garden
  • Rake leaves… and don’t forget to jump in them
  • Spend time at the beach…build a sandcastle
  • Tie-dye t-shirts in the yard
  • Go camping
  • Kayak or canoe the river
  • Have a bonfire and a cookout
  • Workout outside instead of inside the gym
  • Shop at the outdoor farmers market
  • Read on the porch
  • Try mountain or rock climbing
  • Ride a horse
  • Plant flowers
  • Climb sturdy trees
  • Play a game of kickball or tag with family or the neighbors
  • Go swimming
  • Play outdoor sports
  • If it’s cold, build a snowman, go sledding, and make a snow angel
  • Get chickens…you can have them anywhere these days
  • Catch fireflies in a mason jar…and then let them go 


The list is endless. Even just starting with a little time outside will show you how much good it does for your soul.  We want to know your favorite things to do outside, so report back. Enjoy this earth that we get to live on!

 

 

Create A Solid Night Time Routine For Better Sleep

 




1. Make it a routine and set your bedtime

Having a regular bedtime is just as important for adults as it is for children. Set your bedtime, whether it’s 9 pm or 1 am and stick to it. A consistent sleep schedule can get you more and better quality rest and may lower your risk for heart disease. Additionally, a set bedtime will ensure you’re getting enough sleep. Adults generally need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but the amount you need is highly individualized. 

 

WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK BEFORE BED

2. Snacking: Eating some simple carbs after dinner may help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. Foods like potatoes, toast with peanut butter, low-fat cheese and crackers, almonds, bananas, or yogurt are easy to digest and may be sleep inducing. Avoid sugary or high-fat foods (sorry, no ice cream). Some spicy foods are also difficult to digest and may cause you to wake up throughout the night.

 

3. Stop eating early: Speaking of snacking, avoid eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. Beyond eating early, sticking to a regular dinner time regulates your circadiam rhythm and improves your sleep efficiency. 

 

4. Have a hot beverage: Warm milk is a traditional bedtime routine in some cultures. It may be that the sleep-inducing compounds that milk contains, such as tryptophan, can promote sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid found in proteins (such as turkey) and plays a role in the production of serotonin, which boosts mood, promotes relaxation, and functions as a precursor in the production of melatonin.

If you don’t like milk, or you’re on a plant-based diet, you can try chamomile tea, which in addition to reducing anxiety and depression may also boost your immune system. Chamomile tea contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in your brain that can promote sleepiness and reduce insomnia.

5. Avoid caffeine: Coffee drinkers should stay away from consuming it in the afternoon. Some people are so sensitive to caffeine that they should stop before noon

 

6. Avoid alcohol: We’ve said it before. Alcohol may make you feel sleepy, but it is detrimental to a good night’s sleep. Sleep is an active process and alcohol inhibits those processes. Alcohol prevents you from getting enough REM sleep and deep sleep as your body metabolizes it.

 

TIPS FOR WINDING DOWN

Not every tip will work for every person, so experiment with different wind-down activities to see which ones work better for you.

7. Separate work from bed: The ability to work from anywhere means you can also work at any time. Working remotely often means you have less separation between home and the office, and potentially less separation between work and sleep. This was an issue during the coronavirus pandemic when people who were used to going into work suddenly had to work from home. Nearly one-third of American employees worked remotely during the pandemic, and about 40% of Americans polled reported new sleeping problems. 

Avoid working in your bedroom if possible. Maintaining a separate space for sleep lets you mentally associate your bedroom with relaxation and sleep. Additionally, try to stick to a schedule. You are in your work area for a specific time that is separated by at least a couple of hours from bedtime. This gives you a chance to have work, family and wind-down times, and spaces that encroach less on each other.

8. Tech-free time: Plan some technology-free time before you go to bed. Blue lights from most televisions, computers, and phones inhibit the production of melatonin. It also affects your circadian rhythm, which is one reason blue light and sunlight wake you up in the morning. Some electronics have settings that alter screen temperatures to a warmer color in the evening, but electronics can have other negative effects. Social media can create feelings of anxiety and depression, emotions you don’t necessarily want to feel when you’re trying to sleep.

 

WIND-DOWN ACTIVITIES

9. Pre-bed yoga routine: A gentle activity such as yoga can calm your mind and heart rate as you prepare for bed.  One survey found that most adults reported improved sleep after practicing yoga and 85% said it reduces stress. Try relaxing positions such as child pose, reclined butterfly, or simply sitting cross-legged on the floor (or your bed) in the easy pose and breathing for five minutes to activate the parasympathetic system.

 

10. Music, white or pink noise: A sound machine for white or pink noise frequencies that generate a steady background hum can drown out noises that may keep you awake or jolt you out of sleep. Turn on the sound machine as part of your nightly routine to teach your brain that these sounds mean its bedtime.

 

11. Journaling: Writing in a diary the old-fashioned way lets you organize your mind, decrease overthinking and worry, and allows you to fall asleep faster. If you’re prone to staying awake with anxiety, organizing your thoughts on paper may help calm you enough to be able to rest. You can also use journaling to write about positive experiences to redirect your mind as you prepare for sleep.

 

12. Meditation: Like yoga and journaling, meditation decreases resting heart rate and improves heart rate variability. Meditation also promotes neuroplasticity.  

 

13. Supplements like magnesium or melatonin: Magnesium can help your body relax by inhibiting the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system.  Magnesium deficiencies have been connected to sleep disorders and poor sleep. If you’re not getting enough of it in your diet a magnesium supplement may aid your sleep.   

 

Meditation For Weight Loss

 



What is meditation?

Meditation is a practice that helps to connect the mind and body to achieve a sense of calm. People have been meditating for thousands of years as a spiritual practice. Today, many people use meditation to reduce stress and become more aware of their thoughts.

There are many types of meditation. Some are based on the use of specific phrases called mantras. Others focus on breathing or keeping the mind in the present moment.

All of these methods can help you develop a better understanding of yourself, including how your mind and body works.

This increased awareness makes meditation a useful tool for better understanding your eating habits, which could result in weight loss.

What are the benefits of meditation for weight loss?

Meditation won’t make you lose weight overnight. But with a little practice, it can potentially have lasting effects on not only your weight, but also your thought patterns.

Sustainable weight loss

Meditation is linked to a variety of benefits. In terms of weight loss, mindfulness meditation seems to be the most helpful. A 2017 review of existing studies found that mindfulness meditation was an effective method for losing weight and changing eating habits.

Mindfulness meditation involves paying close attention to:

  • where you are
  • what you’re doing
  • how you’re feeling in the present moment

During mindfulness meditation, you’ll acknowledge all of these aspects without judgment. Try to treat your actions and thoughts as just those — nothing else. Take stock of what you’re feeling and doing, but try not to classify anything as being good or bad. This becomes easier with regular practice.

Practicing mindfulness meditation can lead to long-term benefits, too. Compared to other dieters, those practicing mindfulness are more likely to keep the weight off, according to the 2017 review.

Less guilt and shame

Mindfulness meditation can be particularly helpful in curbing emotional and stress-related eating. By becoming more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can recognize those times when you eat because you’re stressed, rather than hungry.

It’s also a good tool to prevent you from falling into the harmful spiral of shame and guilt that some people fall into when trying to change their eating habits. Mindfulness meditation involves recognizing your feelings and behaviors for what they are, without judging yourself.

This encourages you to forgive yourself for making mistakes, such as stress-eating a bag of potato chips. That forgiveness can also prevent you from catastrophizing, which is a fancy term for what happens when you decide to order a pizza since you already “screwed up” by eating a bag of chips.

How can I start meditating for weight loss?

Anyone with a mind and body can practice meditation. There’s no need for any special equipment or expensive classes. For many, the hardest part is simply finding the time. Try to start with something reasonable, such as 10 minutes a day or even every other day.

Make sure you have access to a quiet place during these 10 minutes. If you have children, you may want to squeeze it in before they wake up or after they go to bed to minimize distraction. You can even try doing it in the shower.

Once you’re in a quiet place, make yourself comfortable. You can sit or lie down in any position that feels easy.

Start by focusing on your breath, watching your chest or stomach as it rises and falls. Feel the air as it moves in and out of your mouth or nose. Listen to the sounds the air makes. Do this for a minute or two, until you start to feel more relaxed.

Next, with your eyes open or closed, follow these steps:

1.    Take a deep breath in. Hold it for several seconds.

2.    Slowly exhale and repeat.

3.    Breathe naturally.

4.    Observe your breath as it enters your nostrils, raises your chest, or moves your belly, but don’t alter it in any way.

5.    Continue focusing on your breath for 5 to 10 minutes.

6.    You’ll find your mind wandering, which is completely normal. Just acknowledge that your mind has wandered and return your attention to your breath.

7.    As you start to wrap up, reflect on how easily your mind wandered. Then, acknowledge how easy it was to bring your attention back to your breath.

Try to do this more days of the week than not. Keep in mind that it might not feel very effective the first few times you do it. But with regular practice, it’ll get easier and start to feel more natural.

If you’re curious about trying other types of meditation or just want some guidance, you can find a variety of guided meditations online.  Two popular meditation apps are Headspace and Calm.  

When choosing a guided meditation online, try to stay away from those promising overnight results or offering hypnosis.

Other mindfulness techniques

Here are a few other tips to help you take a mindfulness-based approach to weight loss:

  • Slow down your meals. Focus on chewing slowly and recognizing the taste of each bite.
  • Find the right time to eat. Avoid eating on the go or while multitasking.
  • Learn to recognize hunger and fullness. If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat. If you’re full, don’t keep going. Try to listen to what your body is telling you.
  • Recognize how certain foods make you feel. Try to pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods. Which ones make you feel tired? Which ones make you feel energized?
  • Forgive yourself. You thought that pint of ice cream would make you feel better, but it didn’t. That’s OK. Learn from it and move on.

What Is The Difference Between Salt & Sodium

 




What is Sodium?

With it’s bad rap, you may be surprised to learn that you can’t live without sodium. It's an essential mineral you must get from the food you eat in order for your body to function. Sodium not only helps your body keep fluids in all the right places, but also aids in nerve conduction and helps your muscles work. The kicker is, you only need about 200 milligrams of sodium a day for normal body functions, and most Americans consume closer to 3,400 milligrams.


Salt: Sodium and Chloride

You may know salt best as the white crystals that bring out the flavor in your roasted potatoes. But those crystals are actually minerals made up of the two compounds sodium and chloride, with 40 percent from sodium and 60 percent from chloride. While salt is made up of mostly chloride, it’s still considered a high-sodium item. One teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium.


Why You Need to Watch Sodium

When it comes to diet and nutrition, the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend you limit your daily intake of sodium to 2,300 milligrams a day. The American Heart Association goes even further, and says you'd be better off limiting your intake to 1,500 milligrams a day. When your blood has too much sodium, your body shifts more fluid into the bloodstream to dilute it. This increases blood volume and, in turn, increases blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.


Tips for Keeping Low Sodium

While salt is high in sodium, it’s probably not the primary source in your diet. For most people, packaged foods, fast food and ready-to-go meals constitute more than 75 percent of their sodium intake. To keep a lid on sodium, fill your diet with more freshly-prepared foods that are naturally low in sodium such as fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and proteins without added salt. At the grocery store, keep an eye out for foods labeled "low sodium." When dining out, ask for your food to be made without salt.

Protein For Muscle Recovery



1. How does protein repair and rebuild muscle?

Protein is made up of amino acids, which act like building blocks for the body. When you eat protein after an activity, it gives your muscles the amino acids necessary to repair and rebuild.

And why is this important? Well, repetitive muscle contractions from jumping, running, and other forms of exercise can break down muscle cells and cause damage to the muscles in your arms, legs, and the rest of your body.

Taking in adequate protein after exercise helps reverse damage, build muscle, and get you ready for the next tough workout


2. How much protein do you need for muscle recovery?

“Protein synthesis” is the scientific way of saying “repairing and growing muscle.” Post-exercise intake of about 0.2–0.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) has been shown to increase this muscle protein synthesis.1 That’s somewhere around 10–30 g of protein depending on your body weight, and the intensity and duration of your workout. The longer and more intense the exercise, the more protein is needed to optimize recovery. Over the course of the day, active individuals should aim to eat about 10–20 percent of their total daily energy intake from protein (or about 50–100 g, based on a 2,000-calorie diet). Athletes may need even more protein and should aim for 1.2–2 g/kg each day.1

While protein gets most of the glory when it comes to post-exercise fuel, carbohydrates have a role to play, too. In fact, carbohydrates and protein in a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio have been found to help maximize recovery by replenishing energy stores.


3. Why is it important to have protein right after a workout?

Intense or prolonged activity causes an increase in muscle protein breakdown. This is followed by an increase in muscle protein synthesis over the next 24 hours. For that reason, it’s important to consider both the amount of protein you eat and when you eat it.

Ideally, protein should be eaten within 30 minutes of finishing a workout. Combined with simple carbohydrates (i.e., sugar), your post-exercise snack can help both replenish energy stores and rebuild muscle. Miss the 30-minute window? While less effective, fueling any time after activity is still important and can be beneficial.


4. What type of protein is best after a workout?

From whole foods to supplements and animal- to plant-based proteins, there are many ways to meet your protein needs, and it can be confusing to navigate. Also known as complete proteins, high-quality proteins (those which are highly digestible and provide an adequate amount of essential amino acids, which our bodies can’t make) are most effective for building, repairing, and maintaining muscle.

High-quality food sources of protein include dairy, fish, meat, eggs, and soy. However, that’s not the only type of protein that’s useful. You’ve likely seen whey (from dairy) and plant-based protein powders, concentrates, and isolates on the market, too.

Like soy, pea protein is a plant-based protein that has been found to be effective for post-workout recovery and can be used by all athletes — even those who follow a vegan diet. Just keep in mind, pea protein is an incomplete protein, meaning it delivers fewer essential amino acids, so you may have to eat more to have the same recovery impact as whey or soy.

With that said, for most people, eating enough calories during the day and including a variety of plant-based foods in the diet can ensure adequate protein and amino acid intake. You don’t need to eat animal protein to support post-workout recovery; all types of protein can work.


5. What foods can help repair and rebuild muscle?

Whole foods are the foundation to a healthy diet, but a big, homecooked meal isn’t always convenient when on the move. Below are a few examples of nutritious, post-workout foods that can help promote recovery without slowing you down:

 

Quick At-Home Recipes:

  • Yogurt Parfait: 6 oz plant-based yogurt + half cup mixed berries + walnuts
  • Nut Butter Roll Up: 1 flour tortilla + 2 tablespoons nut butter + half sliced banana + drizzle of honey
  • Egg + Avocado Toast: 1 poached egg + 1 slice whole grain toast + half avocado
  • Open-Faced Turkey Sandwich: 2 slices of deli turkey (about 2 oz) + 1 slice whole grain bread + 1 slice of cheese (about 1 oz)
  • Recovery Smoothie: 2 tablespoons plant-based protein powder + half banana + 1 cup water or milk + ice (add 1 tablespoon nut butter for an extra protein punch!)

Recovery Cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup nut butter
  • 6 dates, pitted, soaked in hot water, and mashed into a paste
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions: Mix together, bake at 350 for 10 min. Allow to cool before enjoying!

 


 

How To Set Realistic Fitness Goals

 




1. Focus on one goal at a time.

When it comes to setting a fitness goal, one of the biggest mistakes is that people try to do too much at one time. Perhaps you want to hit the gym every day, cut out added sugar, and get at least eight hours of sleep a night. Trying to tackle that much at once is essentially just setting yourself up for failure. With so many things to achieve, people get anxious, and if they didn’t do one thing, they feel like a failure. This can lead to negative self-talk that lowers your chances of achieving any of the goals.

Instead, pick one thing you want to crush—like, doing a pull-up, or completing your first-ever 5K—and channel your efforts into achieving that before exploring another goal.


2. Make it your own.

It can be easy to scroll through the Instagram or look at others in the gym and feel inspired-yet-envious of those who seem fitter. Yet basing your own goals off of what you see others achieving is neither productive nor practical.

When we are bombarded by images of what fitness should look like and how we should do XYZ, it can be hard to identify what’s good for you. Certain things that top athletes can do—run a marathon, do 100 push-ups, master the most challenging yoga poses—may be great for them, but it’s not metric that everyone should be measured by. In other words, your goal should be your goal—something that you personally are excited about and realistically able to achieve—not someone else’s.

3. Make it measurable, specific, and time-bound.

Having a measurable goal allows your to track your progress, says Vidal, and the more specific your goal, the clearer the path to achieving it becomes.

Wanting to “be stronger,” for example, is a great place to start, but what does that mean to you? Saying you want to increase the number of push-ups you can do makes the goal measurable, and saying you want to be able to do 20 push-ups in one minute makes it specific. On top of that, the goal should be time-bound, as this helps you focus your efforts, develop a more structured plan for actually achieving the goal, and creates a sense of urgency that can be motivating. Examples of measurable, specific, and time-bound goals include being able to deadlift 10 repetitions with 50 pounds in three months, running a 5K nonstop by the end of the year, and correctly performing a pull-up by the start of summer.

A great way to remember this is through the SMART method, which helps you make sure your goal is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. 

4. Set the bar low—at least, at first.

Speaking of attainable: Your goal should seem relatively easy or within reach of what you are doing. Why? If you think it’s easy, you have likely already worked through any mental obstacles that could thwart your progress. On the confidence scale, you should be at a 9 out of 10 when it comes to your belief that you’ll actually achieve your goal. The less confident you are, the less likely you will adhere to the steps needed to make it happen.

Plus, attainable goals help ensure that you start out with some all-important wins. The more success you have in your fitness journey, the more you will stay with it. Having this success early on is especially important as it builds confidence that can snowball into long-term results.

5. Play the long game.

We all want instant gratification, but it’s important to be realistic with the time frame you develop for achieving your goal. Lasting changes take a while.

Know that you are never going to make an overhaul in one week. Instead, pick a goal that can be achieved over the course of several months or even a year. A long-term mentality will help you see your goal as a lifestyle change, rather than quick fix, and you’ll be much more likely to adhere to it.

6. Understand what’s driving your goal.

Sometimes fitness goals are driven by underlying fears, insecurities, or body image issues—like wanting to run a marathon because you were bullied in middle school gym class, or signing up for a CrossFit class because an ex once commented on your weight—and it’s important to address these issues rather than assuming achieving your goal will assuage them.

Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, it can stir up a lot of emotions. If thinking about your goal brings anxiety and/or triggers past mental struggles, consider talking with a mental health professional. 

7. Be flexible in your definition of success.

Though it is important to make your goal specific, it’s also important to give yourself permission to alter it as you progress with your fitness journey. Perhaps a goal that seemed appropriately challenging at first is actually way too tough to maintain, or vice versa.

If your definition of success is rigid, it will be hard to maintain that. Set goals you think you can achieve and then modify them as you understand more what you are capable of. There's nothing wrong with moving the goal posts as you get more comfortable with your body's abilities.

8. Develop micro goals on the way to your big goal.

Within your larger goal you should schedule in smaller, confidence-building goals that are achievable in a shorter time period. For example, say you want to run a nine-minute mile. During your training, you should make a smaller goal, like running a half mile in five minutes, to both show yourself how much you've accomplished and assess where you currently are. It’s all about those little victories. You want to be able to reward yourself mentally. Having to wait too long to feel like you’ve accomplished anything can diminish your motivation and pull you off track entirely.

In general, it’s good to set micro goals that can be achieved every two to three weeks. That amount of time can help you determine if you’re macro goal is realistic and provide the chance to scale things back if needed.

9. Consider a professional’s input.

If you’re having a hard time evaluating your current fitness level, determining what would be a realistic goal, and/or just feeling overwhelmed about the process, it can be helpful to consult an expert, like a certified personal trainer. A professional can help give you guidance on how realistic your goal is and can help you set markers along the way, so you can check in and confirm you are on the right track over time.

A personal trainer should ask clients about various factors influencing their lifestyle, including their prior history with fitness (e.g. Have they trained before? Are they a former athlete? Do they have experience lifting weights?), their nutrition, their work and social history (e.g. Do they have a demanding, high-stress job? Do they go out frequently?, etc.). These questions aren’t to judge; they’re to understand. Once the trainer understand their life, they can create a program around that works for them.

On top of that the trainer can conduct several athletic tests—like endurance tests and strength tests—to assess someone’s baseline level of fitness. Though you can ask yourself these questions and conduct fitness tests on yourself, if you’re new to fitness, it may be helpful to get an expert’s input.

10. Be honest about your prior and current habits.

Asking yourself the tough questions can help you honestly evaluate what’s most appropriate for you. Have you been somebody who in the past has crushed several fitness goals and just wants to take it to the next level? If that’s the case, you could likely tackle a more complex goal, like running a long distance race at a certain pace.

But if you’re new to fitness, which of course is totally okay, you may want to focus on more simple behavior modifications, like going to the gym a certain number of days a week.

If you want to see measurable progression, you have to be realistic with what you are currently doing. If your routine doesn’t involve any form of exercise, suddenly getting yourself to the gym five days a week—while certainly possible—may not be the most practical or realistic goal.

On top of that, it’s helpful to consider what has stopped you from achieving goals in the past. If you have a chronically hard time getting up the morning, for example, sign up for evening workout classes rather than aiming for those 6 a.m. sessions. Being honest with yourself will help you identify and eliminate barriers before you get started.


11. Plan for a support system.

When thinking about your goal, you should also think about who in your life could encourage, motivate, and hold you accountable to it. Then recruit them whenever you're in need of support. If people you spend the most time with are supportive of your goals, it will make a huge difference.


Steps To Natural Hormone Balance

 




The dance of the endocrine system is complex, intricate, tightly regulated, and we are still in the midst of learning about it. 

 

The key players are estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, adrenaline, insulin, and cortisol. All of these hormones have the ability to upregulate, down regulate, and turn each other on and off, all the while trying to keep YOU in homeostasis. When we are overwhelmed with stress, poor food choices, toxicity, pollution, contaminated water, and emotional traumas, it becomes very challenging to balance YOU.

 

The good news? There are a lot of things you can implement to help your hormones thrive. 

 

But first…

 

What IS the endocrine system?

 

All of your organs have a relationship with your hormones. This is what the endocrine system is in charge of. Your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, testicles, and pancreas secrete hormones into your bloodstream and the entire endocrine system works to create a healthy balance between them all. If just ONE hormone is out of whack, it can create a cascade of hormonal imbalance amongst the other hormones as well.

 

Symptoms of hormone imbalance can show up as anxiety, depression, mood swings, inability to sleep, weight gain, trouble losing weight, weight loss, digestive issues, constipation, fatigue, afternoon energy crashes, painful periods, heavy periods, missed periods, acne, headaches, PMS, low libido, changes in appetite, thinning hair, dry skin, and brittle nails.

 

Some common hormonal imbalance problems and symptoms include:

 

Estrogen dominance - sleep issues, changes in weight, heavy appetite, higher perceived stress, constipation, mood swings, swollen and tender breasts, headaches

 

PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) - fibrocystic breasts, acne, abnormal hair growth, mood swings, weight gain, infertility, blood sugar imbalance, and higher risk for diabetes

 

Low estrogen - decreased sex drive, irregular periods, brain fog, fine lines and wrinkles, fatigue, depression, mood swings

 

Low progesterone - breast tenderness, anxiety, irritability, menstrual cramps, mid-cycle spotting, headaches, fibrocystic breasts

 

Low testosterone - erectile dysfunction, muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, mood swings

 

Hypothyroidism - weight gain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability, irregular periods, constipation

 

Hyperthyroidism - anxiety, thinning hair, weight loss, heart palpitations, IBS, trouble sleeping

 

Diabetes - weight gain, nerve damage, vision loss, trouble breathing, dry mouth, skin problems

 

Adrenal fatigue from cortisol imbalance - fatigue, muscle aches and pains, anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, brain fog, and fertility issues

 

How does hormonal imbalance become an issue?

 

There are a wide range of hormonal disturbances that can cause imbalance. Things like diet, stress, medical history, genetics, AND exposure to toxins from the environment, household cleaners, and skin care regimens can all play a role in causing endocrine disruption. 

 

Specific causes of hormone imbalance:

 

  • Food allergies
  • Leaky gut
  • Consuming things like gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, and excessive caffeine and alcohol
  • High levels of inflammation
  • Chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, some medications
  • High amounts of stress
  • Lack of sleep and rest

 

What can YOU do about it?

 

The awesome news? There are A LOT of simple steps you can implement into your life to naturally balance your hormones. 

 

1. Eat whole foods - No shocker that our first piece of advice is to eat a whole foods diet. Swapping processed carbs and sugar for healthy fats is crucial for hormone balance because your body needs a variety of fats to produce hormones optimally. Healthy fats are also important for lowering inflammation and promoting weight loss. Ditching the refined carbs, gluten, dairy, and sugar for healthy fats like butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, pasture-raised meats, as well as organically grown produce are all super important for hormone balance.

Favorite foods for hormone balance: Farm fresh eggs, pasture-raised meat and poultry, avocados, wild-caught salmon, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, apple cider vinegar, dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, homemade mayonnaise made with farm fresh eggs and avocado oil, olive oil, microgreens, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, herbs of all sorts, spices, berries when in season, and fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut

 

2. Exercise - Moving your body is super important for detoxification and hormone balance. Movement and sweating helps to regulate hormonal imbalances and lower inflammation. Whether you choose to go for a brisk walk, do a yoga class, or a short HIIT workout, it’s important to remember a few things.

  • Be consistent
  • Be mindful of duration and intensity - don’t overdo it
  • Progress steadily
  • Listen to your body


3. Supplements - Most humans are deficient in vitamins and minerals, requiring supplementation in order to properly fuel their body. It is difficult to get everything that we need from food, so supplementing becomes essential. Our hormones can’t maintain balance if our bodies aren’t getting the nutrients we need. 

Favorite supplements for hormone balance: Probiotics, Vitamin D, evening primrose oil, B Vitamins, liver supplements, Vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, fish oils, bone broth, adaptogens like ashwagandha and holy basil, digestive enzymes, mushrooms like reishi, chaga, and lion’s mane

 

4. Address emotional imbalances - If you are stressed out about your relationship, finances, your job, your health, or whatever it may be, your hormones cannot and will not flourish. It is so important to address stress, worries, fears, frustration, anger, and unforgiveness because all of these emotions can wreak havoc on your endocrine system. 

 

Go-to’s for addressing emotional imbalance:

  • Meditation
  • Self-reflection
  • Gratitude
  • Prayer
  • Deep breathing
  • Active forgiveness, even if the other person doesn’t know or care
  • Being in nature every day
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Warm bath


5. Play - Enjoying life is a must for optimal hormone health. Elevated stress, an unhealthy need for control, and the perfectionist mentality does nothing but deteriorate health. But play? It brings vibrancy and joy to your life, which will naturally encourage hormone balance. 

 

Some great forms of play:

  • Start a garden
  • Plant flowers or trees
  • Paint or color
  • Work a puzzle
  • Try a new recipe
  • Play with animals
  • Laugh with friends over dinner
  • Ride bikes… or your horse
  • Go on a trip to the beach
  • Watch a funny movie
  • Read a fantasy book
  • Dance 


6. Sleep - To set your body up to win, shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep every night in total darkness. Our stress hormones, like cortisol, are regulated at night - especially before midnight. Proper sleep helps our bodies to build energy and prepare for the day ahead. Try to be in bed before 10 p.m. Your body will thank you.

 

7. Hydration - Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Proper hormone production and regulation has a lot to do with staying hydrated. When we are dehydrated, it stresses our bodies and knocks hormones out of whack. Drink AT LEAST half of your body weight in ounces every day.

 

Great ways to hydrate:

  • Drink water - with or without ice
  • Add things like fresh lemon, lime, or cucumber to enhance flavor and add nutrients
  • Drink sparkling water WITHOUT added “natural flavors” - Spindrift uses real fruit
  • Herbal teas without caffeine


8. Essential oils - Majority of body care and household cleaning products have harmful toxins and chemicals in them that are very disruptive to our hormonal systems. Thankfully, there are essential oils that are great for cleaning and smelling good, all while adding health benefits to our bodies (AKA our endocrine system). There are endless oil brands and scents out there, but some of our favorites to diffuse and add to baths are:

  • Brands - Doterra or Young Living
  • Clary sage for treating PMS, PCOS, and infertility
  • Fennel for gut and thyroid health
  • Lavender for anxiety, depression, and emotional balance
  • Sandalwood to relieve stress and promote relaxation
  • Thyme to improve progesterone production and increase fertility


9. Detoxification - In order for your hormones to maintain a beautiful rhythm of balance, it is also important to focus on elimination. The liver is a major organ involved in regulating hormones, so setting it up to function properly is a must. A build of excess hormones, like estrogen, can cause imbalance if they aren’t passing through the liver and leaving the body through feces on a daily basis - and preferably more than once a day. 

 

How to detox your liver:

  • Rub castor oil on your stomach at night before bed
  • Drink detox teas with dandelion root, milk thistle, burdock root, and licorice root
  • Drink matcha or green tea
  • Eat dark and leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, herbs, and citrus fruits
  • Move your body
  • Deep breathing
  • Drink water


10. Seed cycling - Eating seeds throughout different times of the month can help to naturally balance hormones in a very gentle, but effective way. You will need sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

 

On days 1-14 of the follicular phase, eat 1-2 tablespoons of fresh, raw flax seeds and/or pumpkin seeds for estrogen balance leading to ovulation.

 

On days 15-28 of the luteal phase, eat 1-2 tablespoons of fresh, raw sunflower or sesame seeds for progesterone balance leading to menses.

 

If you have irregular cycles, are pre-menopausal, or post-menopausal, no worries! You can start by following the moon phases. You can eat the flax seeds and pumpkin seeds from the new moon to the full moon. Eat the sunflower or sesame seeds from the full moon to the new moon.

 

Yawning While Exercising? Here is Why



A yawn, which is usually associated with being tired or bored, is an innate reflex by the central nervous system — namely, the brain. That means you can't control when and where you yawn.  So just because you yawn a couple of times during a workout, it doesn't mean you should try to make it stop.

 

But here's why you might find yourself yawning during a workout.

 

1. You're Stressed or Anxious

The idea that yawning increases the amount of oxygen you take in — you're gulping a big breath of air, right? — has been debunked, according to a November 1987 study published in Behavioral and Neural Biology.  A yawn can, however, increase blood flow to the brain, which can improve focus and concentration.

Perhaps you're about to start a workout or a big athletic event, or you're a few minutes into it, you might start yawning as a way to improve your focus and concentration. That's because yawning can cool your brain temperature.

 

Before a workout, game or event, you might have anxiety and stress — but the good kind of stress — and that might elicit a yawn.  Your body's fight-or-flight response kicks in, and a yawn opens the jaw, which increases blood flow for the working muscles. A runner, for example, might yawn in the moments leading up to a race due to anxiety. That yawning should stop once she or he is moving because running is a steady-state exercise. When you're in a steady-state of aerobic exercise your brain knows you need to breathe consistently. A yawn disrupts that consistent breathing. In other words, your body prioritizes breathing over increasing blood flow or cooling down your body temperature — another reason you might be yawning during a workout.

2. You're Too Hot

Perhaps the biggest reason you might yawn during a workout is to bring your core body temperature down. This is called thermoregulation.

When you inhale a large amount of ambient air that's cooler than your body temperature, it helps lower your core temperature and brain temperature.

This happens because when you yawn, your jaw musculature contracts, increasing blood flow to those muscles. When you gulp in cool air, it cools the blood in the jaw muscles, which is then delivered to the brain and other parts of the body. This is a type of insensible perspiration — perspiration that does not involve a loss of pure water or associated loss of solute.

 

A major way we cool is by breathing.

Case in point: Researchers in a May 2014 study in Physiology & Behavior recruited 120 pedestrians to walk during the winter (December to March) and summer (June to October) and found that the participants who walked in the summer reported more yawning than those in the winter. This study supports evidence that yawning is used as a means of thermoregulation.

But when the ambient temperature is hotter than your core temperature, yawning will subside, according to a January 2013 review published in the International Journal of Applied and Basic Medical Research.

 

3. You're Doing High-Intensity Work

Whether you yawn during a workout depends on what you're actually doing. The exercises that most commonly cause yawning include high-intensity interval training (during the rest interval) and those that target large muscle groups, like heavy lifting for the lower body. You're using more musculature, which increases the core temperature. When you yawn during a HIIT workout, it will be during the rest or lighter interval. 

 

Tip

If you really feel that you must reduce your yawn frequency, you can try methods to better thermoregulate. Methods that have worked are drinking cold water/liquids, doing an ice water mouth rinse (shown to be very effective for disease populations, such as multiple sclerosis), wearing moisture-wicking clothing and using appropriate ventilation to lower environmental temperatures.

 

When to See a Doctor

Because yawning is a reflex, there usually isn't any reason to try to stop it from happening. But if you're experiencing excessive yawning during a workout, it might indicate something more serious.

If you're yawning excessively during moderate to vigorous activity, that yawning can lead to lightheadedness or dizziness. It could mean very low blood pressure or a hyperactive vagus nerve.

Low blood pressure is associated with a host of underlying medical conditions, according to the American Heart Association.  Some of those include pregnancy, bed rest, medications, allergic reactions and problems with hormone-producing glands.

A hyperactive vagus nerve can be caused by extreme stress. The nerve works overtime to decrease heart rate and blood pressure, but in some cases, it brings down blood pressure too much, causing severe low blood pressure, according to an article from Society for Science and The Public. 

If you're yawning during exercise but not experiencing any negative side effects, don't worry too much. But if you're dizzy or lightheaded, that warrants a conversation with your doctor.

 

 

Mobility Training Benefits

 





What is Mobility?

Most people know what flexibility is. But often, people confuse this with mobility. There is a difference between the two. Flexibility refers to the ability of your joints to move pain-free and without stiffness through a range of motion. For example, flexibility is when you are able to lift your leg further with the assistance of your arms.

However, with mobility, you are able to control the whole range of motion with just the muscles. Mobility refers to the strength of the muscle in this range of motion. For example, you would be able to control the entire movement of the leg with just the leg muscles. Unlike flexibility, there is no requirement for any assistance to perform the move.

Now we’ve covered what it is, let’s look at how mobility training benefits your workout.

 

The Importance of Mobility

Mobility is essential because it prepares our bodies for the stress of training. It is a vital contributor to reducing the risk of injuries as well as improving technique and range of movement. It is important to note that strength alone isn’t enough to have good mobility.

Commonly, an individual will walk into the gym, go straight to the resistance area and begin lifting. At best, they may do a quick 5 minute warm-up on an exercise bike or elliptical trainer. The warm-should not be neglected. This being said, it is the bit in between that warm up and hitting the weights room that is important. This is where mobility training comes in. We will now discuss the mobility training benefits that all gym users should take advantage of.

 

How Mobility Training Benefits Your Workout

 

1. A More Effective Warmup

Mobility training benefits your workout in ways that a quick warm-up cannot. During mobility training, blood is being moved to the surrounding tissues. Synovial fluid, the fluid in our joints that helps them to glide freely, is carried into the working joints. An example of this would be to perform hip circles to warm up the hips. The blood is transported to the hip flexors, glutes and external rotators, which are the muscles that move the leg. Synovial fluid lubricates the hip in preparation for exercise.

 

2. Reduced Risk of Injury

One of the biggest mobility training benefits is the reduced risk of injury. If there is any restriction to a moving joint, then there is a high risk of injury, especially if you like to lift heavy.

 

3. Improved Technique and Range of Movement

Mobility training benefits your form. When muscles and joints are more flexible, we get an increased range of motion. This allows us to perform exercises with better technique. For example, if we have tight leg muscles, then we will struggle to lower in a squat or perform a deadlift with correct posture. Having a better technique, especially in such a compound movement, can further reduce injury risk. 

Many people believe that merely performing static stretches can achieve the above. However, there’s a difference between the effect of static stretching, and how mobility training benefits your workout.

 

Static Stretching Versus Dynamic Mobility Stretching

Stretching prevents injury, decrease soreness, and improve performance. Many people incorporate static stretching into their routine. However, dynamic stretches – part of mobility training – are not so widely used.

This being said, research shows that dynamic stretching, or stretching while moving, appears to be more effective than static stretching as part of your warm-up. Below we discuss the mobility training benefits of dynamic stretching in comparison to static.

 

Static Stretches

Static stretching usually consists of holding positions with no movement. They tend to only focus on the main muscle groups, such as quads, hamstrings, calf and arm muscles. While they are useful in increasing range of motion if performed correctly and for long enough, they can, in fact, be detrimental as part of a warm-up.  For example, static stretches are linked to a decrease in leg press performance and knee extensor concentric torque.

static stretches appear to actually decrease muscle-force production capacity. This loss of strength and performance has been named “stretch-induced strength loss.”  Static stretches, therefore, shouldn’t be part of a warm-up. Instead, they should be and performed in the cool-down. They also need to be held for long enough (30+ seconds) to be beneficial. However, it is easy to rush through static stretching without proper form. This is not so much the case for dynamic stretching.

 

Dynamic Stretches

Dynamic stretches, on the other hand, are often a static stretch performed with movement. Doing these results in many mobility training benefits. For example, dynamic stretches keep your heart rate higher than static ones. This is important during and after a warm-up, and better suited to sports that require running or jumping. An example of a dynamic stretch would be a set of walking lunges, instead of a static lunge forward. This being said, you need to ensure that you perform enough dynamic stretches, with the right quality.

Now we have discussed the numerous ways mobility training benefits you, let’s look at how to do it.

 

Types of Mobility Training Exercise

There are many ways to reap the mobility training benefits above. Mobility exercises take many forms. For example, some require only your bodyweight, whereas others use various types of equipment. This can include resistance bands, foam rollers, barbells or poles.

 

Body Weight

There are many different exercises that can be used to increase mobility. Using your bodyweight is a wise place to start. Most exercises have regressions for those just beginning. There are also progressions if you are more advanced. If you’re just beginning, these mobility drills will get easier with practice and patience.

 

Foam Rolling

Many mobility training benefits can come from foam rolling. However, some people shy away from foam rolling because it can hurt. Unfortunately, if it is painful, this is probably a sign that you need to do more of it. Also, it is common to spend too little time foam rolling. The foam roller needs to move slowly over the muscles, while you use as much of your body weight as possible to increase the tension.

 

Resistance Bands, Poles and Barbells

Resistance bands, as well as poles and barbells, are a fantastic way to get the mobility training benefits that bodyweight stretching cannot achieve. If performed correctly, this equipment will allow you to take the muscles to a much greater stretch.

As mentioned, for those just starting out, try bodyweight drills first. Below are some exercises to get you started.

 

Body Weight Mobility Exercises

Below are some bodyweight and floor drills that are easily performed, in a gym or at home.

 

1. Thoracic Spine Windmills

The thoracic spin runs from the base of your neck to the area between your shoulder blades. Good mobility in this area allows you to move your arms freely over your head and turn side to side. If you have reduced mobility you can get shoulder problems and pain, develop poor posture and upper back pain.

To perform the windmills, first, lie on your side, and bend your knees and hips to just past 90 degrees. Rest your knees beside you on the floor. Then, straighten the bottom leg and rest the top leg on a foam roller or towel. Extend both arms together straight out in front of you, keeping your palms together. Lift and rotate your top arm away from you, opening up your chest to the ceiling. Hold for about 3 seconds and then slowly return it to the starting position. Repeat a few times on each side.

 

2. Shoulder Pass Throughs

If you are a sufferer of poor posture, you are likely to be tight through your chest and the front of your shoulders.
To perform the shoulder pass through, hold a broomstick or pipe in the overhand grip, as wide as you need to. Maintain straight arms and begin to lift the stick in front of you to above your head. Avoid hyperextending your back. Once you have taken it as far back as possible, hold in the end position for a couple of seconds before returning to the start position. Then repeat a few more times.

 

3. Hip Openers

It’s vital to warm up the hip joints as they contribute significantly to balance and stability. Hip mobility training benefits all types of workout.

To perform the hip openers, lift one knee up to your chest and make a circle with your knee. Bring the knee across your body and then out to the side. Repeat on the other side. You can perform these static or walking.

 

4. Spiderman Walks

One of the best exercises for mobility training benefits is the spiderman walk. This is because it hits multiple joints. To perform the spiderman walk, start with a forward lunge with an extended range of motion to stretch out the hip flexor. Stay there for a few seconds and push the hips down to increase the stretch. From there, bring your pelvis back, straightening the front leg and stretching the back of your hamstring. After this, return to the starting lunge and take your hand closest to your forward foot and twist it to the sky, with your head following your hand. Swap sides, and repeat a few times.

 

5. Deep Squat

This exercise as part of mobility training benefits the hips and ankles. To perform the deep squat, start with your feet shoulder width apart. From there, lower your hips down towards your ankles. Ensure that your feet stay flat on the ground. If this is difficult, work your way up to where you can sit with your chest up for several minutes. Feel free to support yourself a little at first to allow you to get lower.

 

 

 

The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise

 


People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives. And it’s also a powerful medicine for many common mental health challenges.

Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood. And you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to reap the benefits. Research indicates that modest amounts of exercise can make a real difference. No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn to use exercise as a powerful tool to deal with mental health problems, improve your energy and outlook, and get more out of life.

Exercise and depression

Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication—but without the side-effects, of course. As one example, a recent study done by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.

Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.


Exercise and anxiety

Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you’ll get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of zoning out.

Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this mindfulness element—really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise—you’ll not only improve your physical condition faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head.


Exercise and stress

Ever noticed how your body feels when you’re under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or painful headaches. You may feel a tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or muscle cramps. You may also experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomachache, diarrhea, or frequent urination. The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead to even more stress, creating a vicious cycle between your mind and body.

Exercising is an effective way to break this cycle. As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body. Since the body and mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so, too, will your mind.


Exercise and ADHD

Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and improve concentration, motivation, memory, and mood. Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels—all of which affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall.


Exercise and PTSD and trauma

Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma. Instead of allowing your mind to wander, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints and muscles, even your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movement and that engage both arms and legs—such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing—are some of your best choices.

Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD.


Other mental health benefits of exercise


Even if you’re not suffering from a mental health problem, regular physical activity can still offer a welcome boost to your mood, outlook, and mental well-being.

Exercise can help provide:

Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline. 

Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can help promote sleep.

More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise per day, and increase your workout as you feel more energized.

Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you build resilience and cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

Getting started with exercise when you have a mental health issue


Many of us find it hard enough to motivate ourselves to exercise at the best of times. But when you feel depressed, anxious, stressed or have another mental health problem, it can seem doubly difficult. This is especially true of depression and anxiety, which can leave you feeling trapped in a catch-22 situation. You know exercise will make you feel better, but depression has robbed you of the energy and motivation you need to work out, or your social anxiety means you can’t bear the thought of being seen at an exercise class or running through the park.

Start small. When you’re under the cloud of anxiety or depression and haven’t exercised for a long time, setting extravagant goals like completing a marathon or working out for an hour every morning will only leave you more despondent if you fall short. Better to set achievable goals and build up from there.

Schedule workouts when your energy is highest. Perhaps you have most energy first thing in the morning before work or school or at lunchtime before the mid-afternoon lull hits? Or maybe you do better exercising for longer at the weekends. If depression or anxiety has you feeling tired and unmotivated all day long, try dancing to some music or simply going for a walk. Even a short, 15-minute walk can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and boost your energy level. As you move and start to feel a little better, you’ll often boost your energy enough to exercise more vigorously—by walking further, breaking into a run, or adding a bike ride, for example.

Focus on activities you enjoy. Any activity that gets you moving counts. That could include throwing a Frisbee with a dog or friend, walking laps of a mall window shopping, or cycling to the grocery store. If you’ve never exercised before or don’t know what you might enjoy, try a few different things. Activities such as gardening or tackling a home improvement project can be great ways to start moving more when you have a mood disorder—as well as helping you become more active, they can also leave you with a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Be comfortable. Wear clothing that’s comfortable and choose a setting that you find calming or energizing. That may be a quiet corner of your home, a scenic path, or your favorite city park.

Reward yourself. Part of the reward of completing an activity is how much better you’ll feel afterwards, but it always helps your motivation to promise yourself an extra treat for exercising. Reward yourself with a hot bubble bath after a workout, a delicious smoothie, or with an extra episode of your favorite TV show, for example.

Make exercise a social activity. Exercising with a friend or loved one, or even your kids, will not only make exercising more fun and enjoyable, it can also help motivate you to stick to a workout routine. You’ll also feel better than if you were exercising alone. In fact, when you’re suffering from a mood disorder such as depression, the companionship can be just as important as the exercise.

Make exercise a fun part of your everyday life

You don’t have to spend hours in a gym or force yourself into long, monotonous workouts to experience the many benefits of exercise. These tips can help you find activities you enjoy and start to feel better, look better, and get more out of life.

 

How To Take A Break From Work & Why We Need It

 



Risks of Chronic Stress


The body is designed to respond to short bursts of stress. When stress is prolonged and the stress response is triggered repeatedly and regularly—as can happen in a stressful job or a conflict – ridden relationship - the situation turns into one of chronic stress, and real health problems can set in.

Chronic stress may make you more susceptible to conditions ranging from frequent headaches and gastrointestinal issues to high blood pressure, which brings an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. When your "allostatic load," or overall level of stress, accumulates to a certain level, stress can snowball because you're constantly in a state of reactivity.


At this point, even positive events can feel overwhelming if they take energy to enjoy. You're not able to respond from a place of strength and wisdom, but rather from a place of anxiety, or you work on auto-pilot.


Signs That You Need a Break


Sometimes, it's obvious that you need a vacation. In other cases, stress can sneak up on you. You may not necessarily recognize when you're at risk of being overwhelmed and burned out. 

Everyone responds to stress in unique ways, which means that the signs of being overwhelmed are also highly individual. However, there are some general warning signs that apply in most cases.

If you're experiencing one or more of the following, start planning some downtime. This might mean a real vacation or even just a weekend staycation to recharge your batteries.

Key signs you need a break include:

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Cynicism about work
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Low mood
  • Frustration
  • Feeling unfocused or fuzzy-headed
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches
  • Poor performance at work
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, or co-workers

In fact, unless you already feel energized, motivated, excited, creative, and fully engaged at work and in your relationships, you'd likely benefit from a vacation, because it's a good idea to manage stress before it feels overwhelming. Vacations, mental health days, and regular self-care can keep you functioning at your best.


Think of these breaks as preventative care. We need to participate in them on a regular basis in order to be able to manage our stress and prevent burnout. The key is to prevent ourselves from getting to the point that we absolutely need the break.


Benefits of Taking a Break

Vacations and even shorter breaks (take an afternoon off) where you get some physical and psychological space from the demands of life can bring many rewards. Some of the benefits you may enjoy when you take a break include:

  • Reduced stress: Obviously, you feel less stress when you're not in a stressful environment. But taking breaks bring more than that. They interrupt the cycle of stress that can lead to being overwhelmed.
  • Rest: By breaking out of the cycle of chronic stress, you can restore yourself physically and mentally to a healthier place.
  • Clearer thinking: Because a chronically triggered stress response can lead to decreased creativity, memory problems, and other issues, this break in the stress cycle can lead to sharper thinking and increased creativity in all areas of your life.
  • Increased productivity: All of this can make you better at your job, more available in your relationships, more energetic with your families, and more able to enjoy life after you return.

How to Take a Break

If you need a break, there are several different options for getting one. You can go for a long and luxurious break, a relaxing and simple one, or something short and sweet. You can even have minutes-long breaks that you take throughout the day to keep productivity higher and to keep from feeling overwhelmed.

Vacation

A vacation is a real break, in the classic sense of the word, and taking a vacation is more important than many people realize. That's why many vacation days go unused when they should be enjoyed to the fullest.

The key to a restful vacation is to prioritize rest and fun when you go; don't overbook yourself with tourist activities or bring so much work with you that by the time you return you feel you need a vacation from your vacation.

Staycation

The staycation is becoming more and more en vogue, especially as people have a greater need to take a break, but with fewer means to pull off an exotic trip. The staycation is all about rest and relaxation, and enjoying home sweet home—a place you are often too stressed and busy to really enjoy.

The key to a refreshing staycation is the same as the key to a restful vacation, though somewhat trickier to pull off: Don't overdo it, and don't let work creep in. That means no cleaning, office work, or dealing with regular responsibilities. You can either turn off the phones, ignore email, and make it a point to both rest and play at home, or go to a nearby hotel to make it easier.

It's important to still put your "out of office" up on your email and try to resist checking your email regularly.  You can still check it occasionally as this sometimes helps decrease stress and anxiety while "on vacation," but just because you are home on a staycation, does not mean you are supposed to work.

Playcation

Few people talk about having a playcation, but it's a great idea: Stay home, but make it fun! The difference between a staycation and a playcation is that staycations tend to focus more on resting and relaxing, while playcations are for—you guessed it—fun!

With the hard work and stressful routines that characterize many people's lifestyles, it's important to have some fun (like Billy Crystal did to "get his smile back" in the classic movie City Slickers) as a way to recharge your batteries and be sure you're enjoying life. You can devote several days to taking a playcation, or just be sure you pepper in some fun on a regular basis.


Short Breaks

Sometimes you just need to take a break from stress long enough to disrupt the body's stress response cycle, and then get back into action. If you just need a quick break, take a hike or a bike ride, enjoy a movie, or even have a five-minute meditation session.

Spending time outdoors in the fresh air and physical activity can also be great stress relievers. Incorporating these into your short break, such as going for a walk outside around the block, can help you get more bang for your buck from your short break.

Final Thoughts

Everyone needs a break from time to time in order to relieve stress. Even if you can't take a big vacation, a staycation or short break can be a valuable way to feel restored and refreshed.


Parasympathetic vs. Sympathetic: The Nervous System And How It Works

 



The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is also called the involuntary nervous system. It regulates important bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, temperature, pupil dilation, and digestion. The system allows us to react and adjust these functions without consciously thinking about them.

The ANS is further divided into two components: The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These two systems work in conjunction to provide input to your body at all times, acting to decrease or increase activities.

In a healthy system, when it’s time to act or there is a perceived threat, the sympathetic will dominate, when there are no threats, the parasympathetic dominates.

SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM: FIGHT OR FLIGHT

The ANS directs your body’s rapid and involuntary response to strain, such as danger, disease, and exercise. It sends messages to organs, muscles, and glands to increase heart rate, dilate the bronchial tubes to your lungs, increase perspiration, and cause pupil dilation.

This “fight or flight” response is an evolutionary survival mechanism, enabling humans and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations such as an oncoming car or a buffalo speeding towards them. But your body may also react during non  life threatening stress too, like traffic jams, making a presentation at work, or family arguments.

While your body is busy responding to stressors, the SNS inhibits non-vital functions such as digestion and salivation to stop energy from going to those organs and focus it on saving your life or nailing that presentation.

The SNS does not calm you down after it’s wound you up though, that role is performed by the parasympathetic system.

PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM: REST AND DIGEST

The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) works in opposition to the sympathetic system, controlling the body’s ability to relax. It mainly function to downregulate the body using the vagus nerve, which sends impulses from the brain to the body and back. The PSNS works to tell your brain what’s happening within your body, instead of your brain telling your body what to do. It usually activates when you are feeling relaxed or in a mundane situation.

The PSNS slows your heart and respiratory rates, narrows pupils, and increases digestion. It’s called the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” system as it conserves the body’s natural activities until after a stressful situation has passed. Once the danger is over, the PSNS returns the body to homeostasis.




AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM AND HEART RATE VARIABILITY

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of how the SNS and PSNS affect your heart beat. When your nervous system is balanced, your heart is constantly being told to beat slower by your parasympathetic system, and to beat faster by your sympathetic system. These mixed messages result in a constant state of variation in your heart rate. HRV is the variance in time between beats.

For example, if your heart beat is 60 bpm, the time between beats is likely not exactly 1 second. It may be 0.9 seconds between two beats and 1.1 seconds between two others.

When you have high heart rate variability, it means that your body is responsive to input from both the SNS and PSNS. This is a sign that your nervous system is balanced, and that your body is capable of performing at its best.  

Conversely, a low HRV means that one branch is dominating and sending stronger signals to your heart than the other. This may occur during a race for example, when the SNS is focused on allocating resources to your legs (sympathetic activity) as opposed to digesting food (parasympathetic activity). But it may also occur when you’re tired or sick, leaving fewer resources available for tasks like exercising or giving a work presentation.

Essentially, if one system is dominating, it means the SNS has less ability to take over when it needs to, such as when you’re facing down a bear.  


How to restore balance

Once we understand the difference between SNS and PSNS we can actively try to stimulate our PSNS. Here are 7 fixes to restore the balance between your SNS and PSNS.


1. Reduce Stress - Stress is ubiquitous. Good health depends on removing or reducing whatever stressors we can control, and reduce our reactions to those we can’t.


2. Meditation - We can’t remove all external stress. Meditation is the best way to decrease our reactivity to stress we can’t control. It teaches us to ignore triggers. It reduces our breathing, slows our heart, and decreases our blood pressure: all signs of PSNS activation. Meditations reduces lactic acid in our muscles, promoting recovery.

3. Massage - Regular massage has been shown to restore balance between SNS and PSNS. Massage makes us stronger, calmer, and more able to fight infection. By activating the PSNS, massage promotes recovery. It retrains the body to move more readily into PSNS even when we’re stressed.

4. Breathing - Breathing straddles the peripheral nervous system and the autonomic system. It happens automatically but we can also control it. We can hold our breathe for example, but we cannot stop our heart. Slowed breathing is a hallmark of PSNS. But it’s not just a symptom, it’s a signal. Slowing your breathing intentionally tells your SNS than things are okay. This activates the PSNS.

Daily breathing exercises will strengthen your lungs, improve your immune system, and decrease your resting heart rate. Here’s a simple way to activate your PSNS. Inhale for a count of 2. Hold that breathe for a count of 5. Exhale for a count of 7. Repeat.


5. Yoga - Like meditation, yoga will bring you into PSNS, It also bolsters your ability to decrease SNS activation when you are stressed.

Daily or weekly yoga classes, or even a quick yoga video at home, will improve your strength, flexibility and breathing.

6. Nutrition - Can what you eat affect your SNS/PSNS balance? Yes. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and sugar will facilitate PSNS. An anti-stress diet brings the right mix of protein, minerals and other nutrients to support PSNS.

7. Exercise - Yes, intense exercise, even the idea of it, stimulates our SNS. But regular aerobic exercise such as light jogging can actually decrease SNS activity and activate our PSNS. The key is moderation and measurement.




Belly Laughs Can Improve Your Life

 



Stressed? No worries. We have a really good remedy for that. And it’s super easy, we promise. If you want more joy in your life, all you have to do is laugh. Invite the chuckles, giggles, and downright cackles into your life and watch your world shift.

 

Laughing feels SO good. It’s a natural medicine that improves your mental and physical health, helps you build stronger relationships, and makes you more fun and attractive to be around.

 

What does laughing mean in biological terms?

 

It means that when you are laughing, you are showing emotion with a vocal sound. Laughter is contagious from person to person. And I mean contagious in a really good way. Laughing is a form of communication between humans. It can mean that we are having a great time, are bonding and showing understanding, or even that we are uncomfortable or embarrassed. 

 

It’s not too surprising that laughing occurs more often in people that are already happy. Laughing gives the stress hormone cortisol the boot and replaces it with feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins. All of these awesome chemical reactions happening from laughter can help to increase social bonds, boost motivation, reduce pain, cause stress to plummet, and draw others closer to you.  

 

There are many benefits to laughing. A study from 2016 that you can find right here on pubmed.com found that people with a strong sense of humor had a long life expectancy, while those who didn’t, had a higher risk of health issues. 

 

So what exactly are all of the benefits of laughing?

 

Improves mood disorders like anxiety, depression, and anger

Boosts immunity

Relaxes muscles and tension

Increases blood flow and circulation

Decreases pain

Boosts social bonds and attractiveness

Encourages forgiveness

Forms new perspectives with challenges

Increases alertness, productivity, and memory

More positive and optimistic outlook on life

 

Studies have also shown that true laughter is more about connections and relationships, rather than individuals laughing at things happening on electronics. When we laugh together, it invites more opportunities for other funny things to show up in the conversation. And remember what we said about it being contagious? Keep it rolling together!

 

We are going to invite you to take some steps to set yourself up to catch more humorous moments in your life so that you can enjoy the fullness of a good laugh more often.

 

-    Laugh together. Bring up certain things that you know the other people with you are going to find funny.


-    Put your phone away to avoid distractions and actually catch each other's jokes. I feel like so much humor has been lost because we are missing it. And when it continues to be missed, those who are trying to deliver it are eventually going to give up trying.


-   Spend time with funny, playful, and happy people.


-   Set up game nights with friends5.


-   Tell jokes and funny stories.


-   Watch/listen to funny movies, books, podcasts.


-   Smile more. Smiling is the precursor to laughter.


-   Practice gratitude.


-   Try laugh yoga or laugh therapy.


-   Be silly and spontaneous. Don’t take yourself so seriously.


 

Laughter is one of the greatest medicines available to us because it literally pummels stress in every fight. Chronic stress is the root of so much disease and unhappiness, so if we can knock out stress with a 1-2 punch, we will experience the happiness that we were created to enjoy.


Why You Should Document Your Fitness Journey

 



How many times have you been on the verge of quitting your workout? Everyone hits a training plateau now and then, but this isn't a hint that you should stop working out. You only need a little prodding to get back into your training shoes, and chronicling your fitness journey may be beneficial in these cases. Documenting your fitness journey may appear to be an amateur habit to have when on a training regimen, but you will be surprised at the benefits of doing so. Whether you prefer selfies or journals, everything that aids you in this instance is beneficial.

Here are five reasons why you should keep track of your fitness progress.


1. Plan

This is one of the most compelling reasons to keep track of your fitness progress. The majority of people abandon their exercise program because they lack a clear fitness plan. You'll need a firm plan of action if you want to enjoy a blistering training session. To be successful in your fitness journey, you must have a fitness plan. Documenting your progress also encourages you to make a fitness plan and assists you in achieving your fitness goals.


2. Progress

Your mind might sometimes fool you into believing you haven't made any progress. This can demotivate you and perhaps cause you to stop exercising. Thus, you should keep track of your progress by keeping a fitness journal. If you track your progress, you can readily see where you are in your journey and how much further you need to go to attain your objective. Set a goal for yourself and keep track of important statistics like weight, stamina, and other factors that might help you track your progress.


3. Accountability

Work and time are not valid excuses for skipping workouts. Stop creating excuses for not working out and start doing it. To stick to your exercise routine, you must retain personal accountability. While having a long-term plan may motivate you to achieve your goal, recording your fitness journey forces you to be accountable to yourself and keeps you on track.


4. Suitability

Every workout isn't suitable for everyone. A training program's success is determined by your lifestyle and physical conditioning. Maintaining a fitness blog or diary to track your progress is similar to keeping a database that allows you to compare workout plans. You may easily refer to your database and change your routines if you reach a training plateau.


5. Motivation

It's difficult to find the motivation to stick to a fitness routine these days, and it's all too easy to lose the stamina to keep going. Keeping track of your fitness progress will provide you with the incentive you require to stay on a fitness plan. It provides you with something to concentrate on and helps you stay on track to achieve your objective. Furthermore, the documentation of your health or fitness journey may be useful to others. When someone sees your paperwork and learns about your incredible trip, they will be inspired, and that is one life you have touched for the better.

Documenting your fitness progress motivates you to keep going with your fitness routine. When you look back on your achievements, the path you've charted will serve as a blueprint for your next triumph. So, start keeping track of your fitness progress and reap the rewards.

 



Winter Wellness: Tips To Get Through The Winter Months

 


1. Get Outside Often

It's easy to avoid going outside in winter. A covered garage can make it easy to go from your car to your office then back to your car again to arrive back home without ever feeling that icy sharpness on your face.

But staying inside for days on end, with nothing but artificial warmth and sniffing companions for company, can increase your chances of getting sick over winter.

Choose a day when the sky is blue and clear or it's not raining. Dress warmly, and step out and feel that winter sunshine. Admire how beautiful and clean your world looks when there is snow on the ground. You'll feel much better for it.

2. Keep Up the Exercise

Thumbs up if you have made it your goal to exercise more. How's that going for you?

Don't begrudge yourself if things haven't gone as well as planned. We know that it can be harder to stay motivated when it's cold outside and the days are shorter.

Choose a gym that is close to your home or work, or find a local fitness group or yoga class that fits in with your life. Buy something appropriate to wear and schedule in workouts as you would an appointment. Download a mobile app such as Fitness Buddy to chart your fitness. Make the most of a beautiful sunny winter's day, dress warmly, and run in the cold.

3. Make the Most of Nutritious Winter Fruits and Vegetables

Eating during winter doesn't have to be boring and vitamin deficient. Keep carbohydrate-laden foods such as white bread and pasta to a minimum and fill your plate with dark leafy greens, winter squash, citrus and pomegranate, which thrive in the chill of winter.

These fruits and vegetables are laden with nutrients, antioxidants and fiber which increase your energy and help keep that winter-weight at bay. They may help reduce your risk of cancer too.

4. Protect Your Skin From the Inside-Out and Outside-In

Cold, dry air quickly sucks moisture from our skin. Combine that with a blasting of hot air from a central heating unit and some nice scratchy winter fabric and your skin can end up being one dry, itchy, scaly mess.

Keep moisture locked into your skin with a heavy, oil-based moisturizer. Lather it on every time you bath or shower or whenever your skin feels dry. Drink plenty of water and eat foods like berries which are high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, walnuts, or take omega-3 supplements), and consider using a humidifier to help add moisture to the air.

5. Watch Your Vitamin D Levels

Do you seem to succumb to every cold, flu, or stomach bug doing the rounds? Perhaps you are just generally feeling a bit blue. Both our immune system and our mood rely on vitamin D. Because vitamin D is made in our bodies after exposure to the sun, it is not uncommon for people to become vitamin D deficient during the winter months. Vitamin D also helps ensure that our bodies absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus for building bone.

Ask you doctor for a blood test to determine where your vitamin D levels fall. If yours are low, you may benefit from a daily vitamin D supplement of 400–800 IU/day (10–20 micrograms).

6. Try to Keep a Regular Sleep Schedule

Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by the hormone melatonin, which is released in response to light. Exposing yourself to too much light at night - such as that emitted from computer screens, TV screens or electronic devices - inhibits the release of melatonin which decreases sleep quality and quantity. This makes us feel sluggish and tired the next day.

Get up and go to bed at the same time of day regardless of the season. Restrict computer use and TV watching at night. Consider a melatonin and magnesium supplement if you also have trouble sleeping.

7. Thwart That Cold or Flu In Its Tracks

Maybe your throat has become a bit sore or scratchy. Perhaps your nose or eyes are starting to feel a bit congested. You can feel a change in your health but it's still in the early stages.

Keep some natural remedies at home to take at the first sign of a cold or flu. Olive leaf, garlic, echinacea, elderberry, vitamin C, and zinc may help to boost your immunity and increase our resistance to those nasty winter viruses.

8. Be Mindful of Your Heart

Extreme cold coupled with unaccustomed exertion is bad for your heart. Studies have shown that heart attack rates increase as temperatures decrease, and normally sedentary people who subject themselves to intense bursts of activity are more at risk.

So be careful if you have to go out on a freezing cold day and shovel snow. Use a small shovel and just move small amounts of snow at a time. Take any chest pain seriously. Seek medical help immediately if you feel discomfort, chest tightening, or pain in the chest, upper arm or neck area. Most heart attacks start with mild symptoms initially so it is important to get any symptoms of chest pain checked out.

9. Stay in Control of Your Asthma

Winter can be a challenging time for people with asthma. Cold and flu viruses can trigger asthma attacks; dry air or smoke from the fireplace can irritate airways; and the Christmas tree may harbor invisible mold spores that exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Try to avoid known triggers if you can. Buy an artificial Christmas tree and cover your mouth with a scarf when going outside. Keep taking your asthma medications, even if you are feeling well. See your doctor in the winter months if you feel your  asthma is not under good control.

10. Shine Some Light on Those Winter Blues

Thirty percent of people in the northern U.S. states struggle with the winter blues each year. A few of them suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that happens around the same time each year.