fitness, health, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Stress Management

That work deadline on Friday.

Working out four days a week.

Planning out healthy meals for the week.

Personal projects.

Trying to have a social life.

MONEY.

Life is damn stressful these days! Sometimes, the shear amount of shenanigans we have to do, even daily, is enough to make your head spin. As we all know, stress sucks. When stress is prevalent, and for too long, there are plenty of negative health consequences that you will notice. Some of these effects include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, increased muscle tension, lack of sleep, and an increase of bad habits to combat that stress.

Stress releases tons of hormones into your body that help with all of this negativity. The fight or flight hormones come out, causing that increase in muscle tension and blood pressure, and the stress hormones come out, causing that lack of sleep and recovery, as well as increasing your appetite. Ok, So now that you’re terrified of stress, what the hell do we do about it?

Enter: stress management, the main soldier in the war against chronic stress.

Stress management is huuuuuuuuuge. Stress management are techniques that you can employ to help prevent stresses from forming or becoming bigger, and also to help squash that stress once it does show up. Stress management requires some trial and error, as finding the right option is very personal to you and how you work. However, I’m here to give you a whole bunch of ideas to start with.

1.Exercise. Physically exercising and moving your body can be very beneficial in releasing stress. Many people, including myself, find that exercising helps to relieve any anxiety you are feeling, along with giving you a physical outlet to get out that muscle tension. Exercise also releases anti stress hormones. These are called endorphins, and as the famous Elle Woods says, “Exercise releases endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people don’t shoot their husbands.” She’s right. Endorphins are hormones that help to improve your mood, which is the main reason why exercise is such a beneficial stress reliever.

2. Self Discovery. Self discovery, including journaling and meditation, can help you to find the root cause of your stress. Journaling is a great way to release your true thoughts and emotions, without actually needing to talk to anybody. As well, the more you keep writing and releasing, the more likely you are to discover something you wouldn’t have otherwise. Whenever I just start writing, by the time I’m done, I’ve figured out a new piece of the puzzle without even realizing it. Meditation is another great tool for stress management. I’m sure a lot of you reading this has a vision of someone sitting there, cross legged with their hands on their knees saying “ommmmmmm,” but that’s not exclusively what meditation is. Meditation is being aware of your mindset, clearing out negative thoughts and focusing on your body. It takes plenty of practice, but being able to turn off those thoughts is such a helpful tool, especially in an era where we never really turn off.

1.To journal: grab a piece of paper and just start writing. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling and just keep writing. Let the words just flow. (If you’re the type of person who needs a prompt, google “journal prompts”. You’ll find plenty to help you get started!)

2.To meditate: find a quiet and comfortable place. You can be seated or laying down, but turn off all outside noise, shut your eyes, and relax. Focus on your breath, acknowledge any thoughts that pop up, but try to let them go too. Doing this daily can help to increase the time you can meditate.

3. Self Care. This is the most personalized approach that we have to stress management. Self care is so individualized and personal to you. Self care is really anything that makes you happy. My self care involves a face mask, a yummy snack, and a funny movie. I know of a friend’s self care that is being creative and using an outlet to express himself. There is no wrong way to perform self care, it’s really just making time for anything that brings you joy. This is our biggest preventative stress management technique, where the other two are more reactive to stresses already. Be sure to give yourself some time every week just for you, it can make a huge difference in your stress levels.

Just like stress itself, stress management is very personal to you. There can be a period of trial and error when trying to figure out which technique works best for you, but give them a shot. It’s better than staying a huge ball of stress all the time. Let me know which techniques you’ve tried, or have worked for you!

Exercise, fitness, health, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Gym Anxiety

A huge component of getting your health on track is exercising consistently. This usually requires you to get out of the house, and most likely your comfort zone, and head to a gym or health club.

If only exercise was as easy as walking into a gym.

Once you get there, there are so many options.

Do I start with cardio or weights?

If cardio, do I use the elliptical, treadmill, stair stepper, rower, or bike?

How long should I be doing this for?

Should I still lift weights afterwards?

If weights, how do I do this?

Can I just use machines? Are there directions?

Will the machines be enough?

How many of each do I do?

Do I do cardio after this?

Should I have eaten beforehand? How long before? What should I have eaten?

For me, all of these questions are easy. I’ve spent the past nine years of my life studying the science behind these questions and figuring it out myself. I’m guessing you don’t have that same experience, and that’s totally fine. As a fitness professional, even I get gym anxiety. I don’t like being around so many people, and sometimes, it’s just too much for me to handle. I also feel the eyes of everyone in the gym, and I also feel the pressure to look and perform a certain way, especially given my background. Most days, I’m cool as a cucumber, and the gym is my safe zone. Some days, I full on panic walking in there and seeing all of the other bodies getting their workout in.

The gym is a place for everyone to work on their health. If you feel uncomfortable in a certain gym, there’s nothing wrong in switching to one that is more your type of environment. There are gyms that cater to elite athletes, ones that cater to crossfit, ones that cater to bros who like to scream and slam weights, and ones that cater to those who are not so comfortable in all of those previous scenarios. You just have to find the right one for you.

Not only is the right environment step one to feeling comfortable in the gym, but knowledge is too. Obviously, I’m not suggesting you head out and get your personal training certification in order to feel somewhat comfortable in the gym, but a little research goes a long way. Before you head into the gym, reading some articles on the basics of fitness (may I recommend the foundations of fitness posts I wrote HERE and HERE), can make you feel much more comfortable. Having a concrete plan of what exercises you are doing, what machines you are heading for, and how long to do all of them is huge. This gives you a set program for yourself to follow, taking the guesswork out of this crazy place. There are plenty of free, generic programs out there for you to follow until you feel comfortable enough to put your own spin on it.

Use the resources that the gym provides. Many gyms offer complimentary personal training assessments as part of the membership. Yes, this can be scary to sit down with a professional when you feel less than an amateur, but remember: their job, above all else, is to improve your health. Don’t allow them to sell you on random shenanigans you don’t need, but don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Ask them to show you a machine, ask for a quick form check, ask them how many reps they thing you should do, the worst they can do is say no. Many gyms also offer exercise classes. This can be a great way to learn a thing or two, without drawing too much attention to yourself. Just be careful with new movements, and don’t push yourself too hard until you know you’re doing it right (this is actually great advice for any new exerciser. Don’t be afraid to start light until you get the hang of it)

If all else fails, put on your headphones, hop on a treadmill, and observe. Tune out all the craziness and hubbub of the gym by putting on your music that you like, and hop on the treadmill, even at a walk. Once you’re on the treadmill, look around you. Watch people at the gym and watch the exercises they’re doing. Watch how they do them, watch the personal trainers and the exercises they give clients. It’s a great way to get yourself familiar with some things you maybe have only seen online.

One of my favorite quotes is “don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” It’s totally fine to be scared as hell of the gym, but don’t let that stop you from getting healthy. It is a large, confusing place, full of lots of other people who seem like they know what they’re doing, and you just missed the memo. Everyone was once a beginner. I promise you, most of those people don’t know much more than you do, they just hide it better. There was a time when I was just wandering around the gym, lost and confused. Now, I’m more comfortable there than pretty much anywhere else. Just like anything else, it takes time. Everyone is there for the same reason, you got this.

Exercise, Nutrition, Opinion, Other, wellness

The Holy Trinity

Health is defined by Miriam Webster as “the condition of being sound in body, mind, and spirit.”

Notice that there is nothing in that definition that relates to your weight, body fat percentage, or the amount that you exercise. Health is so much more than your physical body.

I was discussing this with a good friend of mine, telling him that once I let go of my body hang ups, my body fell into line. He then brought up this concept of the “holy trinity of health.” This is the idea that your physical, mental, and spiritual health are all interconnected, so when they are all being nourished, they all thrive. However, when one aspect of the trinity is off, any of them, this throws you off, and makes it that much harder to nourish the other two. This is a concept I’ve seen to be true, and one I can get behind.

It seemed that when my mind was right, when I was stress free (or as close to that as I can be) and happy, I was much more inclined to take care of myself physically. When you actually want to take care of your physical health, meaning exercising for health and eating more fruits and vegetables, it becomes much easier and more enjoyable to do so. On the other side of the spectrum, when I was very stressed a few weeks ago, the last thing I wanted to do was go to the gym and eat veggies. My body wanted it, but boy did my mind want a Netflix marathon and some cookies. Since my mental aspect was off, it basically gave me permission to neglect my physical health.

Mental and spiritual health are not things that are usually discussed in the realm of health and fitness, but they are just as important as your physical health. Your mental state dictates your physical journey. I’ve discussed the power of positivity before, meaning if you start your journey from a place of love and wanting to improve your health and wellness, this will be a fun and fulfilling journey, with the difficulties being worth it because you want this. If you begin from a place of hatred and wanting to change only the parts of you you hate, this will be a hard journey. It will be a chore, and lead to a temporary fix, rather than a long term lifestyle change.

Think about your why for this journey. If there are inherently negative reasons (“I hate my chubby tummy” or “I want to get rid of these thunder thighs”), flip the script. Change those reasons to “I want to eat more Whole Foods to nourish my body and power through my workouts” or “I want to strengthen my leg muscles”. These reasons say the same thing, but in entirely different ways. Rewriting some of the script in your head is step one to improving your mental and spiritual health, and step one in improving your physical health.

Exercise, fitness, Progress, wellness

Strength Training For Runners

One of the concepts that I repeat over and over is that resistance training will improve (almost) every aspect of your life. Heavy resistance training will increase your overall strength, body composition, bone density, and metabolic rate. But what if you are an endurance athlete? Even if you are a marathon runner, and nothing else (yet), don’t count my teachings out just yet. Supplementing your distance running, or cycling, with heavy resistance training will do nothing but improve your performance in your sport.

Heavy strength training and endurance training could not be more opposite. They are both physical activity that contribute to your overall activity level, but that’s about it. Endurance training and strength training tax two completely different energy systems and muscle types. Endurance training taxes your aerobic energy system, while strength training taxes the anaerobic energy system, either the creatine phosphate (CP) system or the glycolytic energy system. The aerobic energy system kicks in after you have been exercising consistently for over 90 seconds, and allows you to continuously produce energy to be able to fuel the duration of your workout without rest. Anaerobic systems produce powerful energy in short bursts, up to 15 seconds for CP and 15 seconds up to 90 seconds for glycolytic, and require rest to be able to replenish energy sources. As well, endurance training exercises mainly type I muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are full of mitochondria, meaning they are able to continuously supply energy and oxygen, allowing for longer periods of work without fatigue. Strength training mainly works type II muscle fibers. Type II muscle fibers are those most associated with strength and power, and are beneficial for quick bursts of energy before needing to recover. To be a well rounded athlete, whether you are a distance runner or a strength athlete, both energy sources and muscle types should be trained. Sprinters can absolutely benefit from heavy strength training, as both types of training require heavy use of the anaerobic energy systems and type II muscle fibers.

Specifically for endurance athletes, strength training can have many benefits. Heavy resistance training, specifically for the lower body, can help to improve overall running mechanics, as well as muscular balance and strength. Unilateral training, which means training one limb at a time, is one of the best things that you can incorporate into your routine. Training one leg a time can help to improve any muscular imbalances that you have between legs, which helps to improve proper movement patterns. The better you move in general, the less likely you are to encounter an injury during a run. As well, training single legs will improve tendon and ligament strength. This strength will translate into more stable joints, continuing to improve muscular balance, while also helping to reduce your risk of sprains and strains. As well, heavy strength training incorporating both limbs, such as a barbell back or front squat, will help to build up muscle strength, tendon and ligament strength, and bone density. Your bones build up against resistance, so movements where your body is working against gravity, will help to build up the vertical bone density. This newfound muscular strength and bone density, combined with regular endurance training, will help to improve leg strength and elasticity, which will reduce the energy you expend to take a step. You will also be a much lower risk of multiple injuries, include strains and sprains, and shin splints.

Distance running and strength training are not mutually exclusive. When combined for a distance runner, these two forms of training can keep you running longer with a lower risk of injury. Strength training can also help to decrease muscular imbalances that can be exasperated by running. Running can cause overactive quads and hip flexors, while decreasing activation of hamstrings and glutes. Strength training can actively help to even out these imbalances. Though you’re a distance runner, and probably pretty tied to it, don’t count out strength training. It can help improve your running from good to great.

Sample workout for runners:

-Glute activation 2 sets 10 reps

(Lateral walks, Glute kickbacks, donkey kicks)

-Barbell Back Squat (or heavy goblet squat) 4 sets 6 reps

-Weighted Stationary Lunge 4 sets 6 reps

-Single Leg RDL (DB in opposite hand) 3 sets 8 reps/leg

-Single leg calf raises 3 sets 8 reps/leg

Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Keep Calm and Drink Ya Water

As Derek Zoolander says, “Water is the essence of wetness. Wetness is the essence of beauty.”

Drinking enough water is probably the easiest, and single most important, thing you can do to improve your health. Why? Well just to begin:

1. Your body is up to 65% water.

2. Your blood is around 90% water.

3. Your brain is around 75% water.

4. Your lungs are around 85% water.

When you see just how much of your body consists of water, it’s much easier to understand why proper hydration is that important. That water keeps everything running smoothly in your body, from dissolving vitamins in your blood for easier absorption to lubrication joints to aiding in muscle recovery. If that’s not enough to convince you to up your water intake, there’s more.

Proper hydration can also be crucial to weight loss and management.

First, keeping yourself properly hydrated means that your body is running at it’s best, allowing you to have the best performance in workouts that you can. It also means that your brain is functioning well, keeping irrational thoughts at bay (hello, “i had one cookie so this means I’ve failed and I’m going to eat the whole package and be a failure forever.” That’s much harder to think when you aren’t dehydrated.) Even dehydration of just 2% leads to decrease in physical and mental performance, leading to you feeling lethargic and a bit irrational.

Second, the cue for thirst is most often mistaken for hunger. This means that when you are actually thirsty, you may be reaching for snacks that you don’t actually need. Staying hydrated means you most likely get that thirst signal in the first place, so if you get a hunger pang, you’re most likely in need of some calories.

Third, water keeps you full! You can’t abuse this one, but when you have a belly full of water, it’s hard to overeat. I tell clients to start each meal with a big glass of water. Not only does this help them reach their hydration goals, but it helps to prevent overeating.

Last, water has zero calories. Replacing a soda or juice with a water of the same size can save a ton of sugar and between 100-200 calories. Add all of those calories up throughout the day, and water can be the difference between you hitting your goal or not.

Now that the reasons for drinking water are laid out, the question is now “How Much?” There is actually no universal standard for how much water to consume. It used to be 8 8oz glasses, which is still better than nothing, but water intake is also based on your size, how active you are, how much you sweat, etc. The best rule of thumb there is right now is to drink .5-1 ounce of water for each pound of bodyweight. This means that the intake for a 150lb person would be between 75 and 150oz.

The best tips i can give you for water consumption, especially if you haven’t been drinking nearly enough is just to start.

• Drink an extra glass of water daily

• Buy a refillable (BPA Free!) water bottle to refill all day long

• Drink a glass of water before each meal

• Drink a glass right after you wake up

• Replace one sugary drink with a glass of water

• Use crystal light or MIO drops to flavor water if you need to

Exercise, fitness, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Ready, Set, Goal

Today is the last day of 2018 (we made it, woo!), and tomorrow is the day. The day that you have decided will be the day that you become the person you want to be, and do the things you want to do. Goodbye you of yesteryear, and hello new and improved 2019 you!

I don’t know about you, but I have some HUGE goals for 2019, most that are too big to work towards right off the bat. Why do I say that? Because I like to feel like I’m accomplishing things, as I’m sure you do too. Only working towards my overall goal, and not accomplishing even close to all of it by the end of the month? That’s pretty discouraging. But it’s not my fault, and not yours either if that happens to you. The fault was in your goal, not in yourself. The first step to success, in any journey, is to make sure that your goals set you up for success. These goals need to be as helpful as possible, and they need to be SMART.

*Specific – Make sure your goal is actually specific. Losing weight is a good goal, but losing 15lbs of body fat is an even better goal. This sets us up for an actual number goal, to ensure we’re making progress towards it, and also includes that we want to lose body fat, not just any mass (including muscle).

*Measurable – We want to make sure we can actually measure our goal. A specific goal is usually one that can be measured and tracked. Seeing the physical evidence of progress towards an overall goal can help with both motivation and adherence to the goal.

*Attainable – Make sure your goal is something that can actually be achieved. A goal to lose 50lbs and 10% body fat is a great goal, it is both specific and measurable. However, if we decide the deadline is four weeks to achieve this goal goal, it now becomes unattainable. (Or if you can attain it, it won’t be sustainable). An unattainable goal sets you up for failure before you even start.

*Realistic – This also can be “results based”. Make sure your goal is realistic. This goes hand in hand with attainable. A goal that gives you no chance to reach from the beginning will not help you reach it. It is much better to make multiple, smaller milestone type goals. This will keep your motivation elevated, as you reach smaller goals more often, on your way to the overall goal.

*Time Sensitive – Give yourself a deadline! This goes along with each of the previous attributes of a successful goal, but give yourself a time table to reach your goal, as long as that deadline is realistic. This will again keep that motivation high, as you strive to hit the goal by your deadline. Again, smaller goals with deadlines that approach more quickly, with deadlines every couple of weeks or months, can help keep that drive. This allows you continuously hit goals, rather than feeling like you might never hit your overall goal.

If you write down your goals, and they don’t hit all of the SMART points, there’s no problem with reworking them a bit. The most common goal mistake I come across is too much too soon. This means that your goal is your overall goal, making it not so attainable. All you have to do is take a step back. Think about what steps you need to accomplish to hit that overall goal. What’s the first step? Boom. There’s your goal. I find it most helpful to take my overall goal and work backwards, in there I find my actual, SMART goals.

Set yourself up for success, make sure your 2019 goals are SMART.

Exercise, fitness, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Holiday Wellness

Wellness Tips for the Holiday Season:

1: Do what you want to do. If you love your family and want to spend the season with them, do so. If your family stresses you out, and being with them isn’t what’s best for you, don’t feel pressured to. Your mental health is more important, so do what’s best for you.

2: Enjoy your holiday. (Close to Tip One, but slightly different.) The holiday season is the end of your year, and you should enjoy it. Of course, keep your physical and mental health in mind, but feel free to indulge a bit. Go out for drinks with friends, share a dessert you’ve been meaning to try, blow off your friends and look at Christmas decorations, whatever you want to do, do it.

3: Don’t worry about your diet. Enjoy the food of the season! Don’t go nuts, but make sure that you aren’t neglecting your life in the name of “health”. Remember: veggies are full of vitamins and minerals, not just “low cal options” and exercise is there to enhance your health, not to punish you for eating and drinking too much the night before.

4: Try to stick to your routine. This can be a hard one, depending on your holiday plans, but do your best to stick to what you do daily. Just because you’re on vacation and relaxing doesn’t mean you should neglect all of the habits you’ve worked so hard to form! If your schedule allows, try to get the same amount of exercise in, even if it means three 20 minute walks around the neighborhood instead of three days in the gym. Staying active will only help translate into your new year.

5: Reflect on your year. This time of year can be hard for us, whether financially or emotionally. Make sure, even if you feel like you’re struggling, that you give yourself credit where credit is due. Reflect back on your year, and on your accomplishments and successes. Reflect on your not so big successes, but the lessons learned from them and not the negative feelings. No matter how your year went, let’s focus on the positives, and the lessons we can implement in the next year.

Enjoy your holidays, wherever you decide to and with whomever you decide to. This was all around a rough year for a lot of us, so be sure to give yourself a chance to relax, reflect, and get a game plan for next year. Happy holidays everyone!