Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sweat It Out

This morning I was at the gym early and I had the entire locker room to myself. I figured why not take 10 minutes post-workout to sit in the steam room and enjoy a good sweat.

I turned on my meditation music, rinsed off quickly in the shower and relaxed with a towel draped over my head. Have you ever done the same?

I always enjoy the feeling after a good steam - even just 5-6 minutes is enough to make me feel cleansed and relaxed.  Certainly this must be good for us, but how so?

The “sweat benefit” of the steam room is different than that of cardio exercise. You may lose a pound or 2, but it is not because of caloric burn, only water loss – which is replenished as soon as you drink water (which you should do immediately prior to and immediately after a sauna session).

Translation: There is no long-term weight loss effect because you are not burning calories; you are just sweating A LOT!

If the steam room isn't your thing, or isn't available to you, try the sauna or whirlpool. All 3 have amazing health effects:
  • Muscle recovery – the heat from the sauna increases circulation in the body. Sparing you the scientific details, here’s how it works: the increased circulation helps remove waste products and increase the flow of oxygen and other nutrients necessary to repair the muscle tissue that is broken down during exercise. 
  • Relaxation – sometimes even 5 minutes in a dark room with no distractions can help clear your mind and relax your body – especially following a strenuous workout. 
  • Skin health – the heat stimulates blood flow and opens the pores, allowing dead skin and impurities to escape. 
  • One study actually revealed that sitting in a sauna can have positive effects on the symptoms of sinusitis, bronchitis and allergies. 
There are also some rules and guidelines to keep in mind before stepping inside:
  • Rinse off in a cool shower prior to stepping in. If you are using the sauna following a workout, be sure to drink 16 – 32 oz of water also. (note: probably a good idea even if you are not working out prior) 
  • 15 – 20 minutes MAXIMUM. Remember they are HOT – most run somewhere in the 160-194 (F) degrees or higher. (drop that time to 6-12 minutes for the steam room)
  • If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous leave the sauna immediately. 
  • Drink cool water afterwards to help cool the body down and replenish lost fluids (16 - 32 oz.) 
  • Rinse in a cool shower if available (also helps cool the body). 
  • Avoid the sauna/steam room/whirlpool if you are pregnant or nursing, have high blood pressure, have suffered a recent heart attack or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol 
  • If you are under the direct care of a physician you should check with them before any use. 

Original post appeared: 4/17/2015
Updated and reposted: 7/6/2017

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Use Exercise to lower cholesterol

Bi-weekly I run a support group for those who are interested in and working towards building and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Our discussions mainly revolve around problem solving and mental hurdles, but we also discuss stress, nutrition and exercise.

Last week was our final group before the summer break and we got into a big discussion about Trans Fat. Specifically, do we ever eliminate the manufactured Trans Fats that we take in, or is our destiny to forever carry them around, stuck to the walls of our arteries?

I walked away with a self-elected task of creating an in-depth explanation of exercise and the role it plays in lowering LDL, which elevates as a result of ingesting too much manufactured Trans Fat. I also discuss the role exercise plays in the function of HDL, which lowers as a result of too much Trans Fat in our diet.

What are Trans Fats, exactly?
Trans Fats are hydrogenated plant oils used by the food industry to help food stay fresh longer. They were first introduced into the market in 1911 by Crisco and used primarily in butter, margarine and shortening. They were initially believed to be safe and healthy, especially healthier than the animal fats they were replacing. They are also versatile, long-lasting and cheap!

Preliminarily studies conducted as early as the 1980s suggested that Trans Fats could promote heart diseases but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that we definitively knew via clear-cut evidence that industrially manufactured Trans Fats caused heart disease.

How does Trans Fat affect my health, specifically?
Dietary fats, including saturated fat and Trans Fats increase cholesterol levels. Specifically, these fats lower your HDL (good) cholesterol levels and raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels as well as increase your risk of stroke and heart disease.

LDL’s primary role is to transport cholesterol to various body cells and deposit excess in the artery walls, increasing the risk of heart disease. Maintaining healthy HDL levels is important because it’s primary function is to helps remove the LDL from your blood vessels and transport them back to the liver for excretion.

The lower the levels of HDL, the less efficiently it can carry out this task. Imagine the LDL are the garbage collectors of your body. Without appropriate staffing the “garbage” continues to pile up and it’s not transported quickly enough.

How does exercise* help improve my cholesterol?
Great news! You can reduce and eliminate Trans Fat that has built up in your body by reducing LDL levels in your body. And exercise helps you do that!

Exercise stimulates HDL and other enzymes that work together to remove LDL from the blood vessels and transport it to the liver. From there it is disassembled and eliminated from the body.

Studies show that all forms of aerobic exercise have more of an effect on cholesterol levels than resistance training. Resistance training is still important, though, to maintain muscle strength and proper body mechanics as well as for the prevention of osteoporosis.

How much exercise do I need?
Most public health organizations recommend 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise daily to lower cholesterol levels. Walking, jogging, biking or gardening are all examples of appropriate activity.

The American College of Sports Medicine agrees stating that “the key to controlling cholesterol is abundant physical activity – at least 30 minutes five days per week – along with a diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber”.

Research studies have found that exercise has effectively decreased or maintained Total Cholesterol while decreasing LDL.  These studies also showed an 8% decrease in Total Cholesterol in 4 weeks with 20 total sessions. The subjects were engaged in moderate intensity jogging 5 times per week for 30 minutes per session.

Important dietary note: your body doesn’t NEED Trans Fat.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are where it’s at. A diet comprised of these healthy fats are important to provide structure to membranes, to create hormones and to absorb vitamins.

Keep in mind that while necessary, you should also moderate your intake of these fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 20-35 percent of your total caloric intake come from these fats. All fat has 9 calories a gram, which means if you adhere to an 1800 calorie per day diet you can have 360 to 630 calories from fat, or 40 to 70 grams, every day.

Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can be found in: nuts and nut butters, fish, seeds, tofu, avocado, olives, vegetable oil (olive, canola, avocado).   

Sometimes avoiding all Trans Fat isn’t possible, therefore The American Heart Association recommends less than 1% of your diet come from Trans Fat.

My final piece of advice: Be realistic in your goals so you can achieve them. Begin with easy changes, like incorporating a 10-minute walk into your day.

*Before beginning any exercise program, you should consult your health care provider.

Sources:
American College of Sports Medicine, October 7, 2016, “Cholesterol Facts: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”; Thomas S. Altena, Ed.D.
American Council on Exercise, 2015, Medical Exercise Specialist Manual.
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2017, 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
WebMD.com, 2005-2017,Exercise to Lower Cholesterol”; Susan Davis.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

5 Steps to Better Time Management

The most consistent complaint I hear is “I don’t have time.”

Many people just don’t seem to have enough hours in the day to accomplish their tasks or their goals. Add in the necessities like sleep, food, exercise and hobbies and time gets even more stretched – and stress level ratchet up.
Whether self-imposed or work–related, we are simply trying to accomplish too much, too fast, too soon.

So how do we fit it all in and still get it all done?
Sometimes it’s becoming less of a “yes” person. Sometimes it’s putting a system in place & learning to prioritize. Sometimes it’s asking for help. All of these things take practice and dedication.

I can spend an entire day on the intricacies of time management and discussing approaches to use time more effectively. I did that once, in fact, about 10 years ago when the company I worked for sent me out to an intensive day-long Franklin Covey Time Management course. I walked away with tips and habits I still use today.

In the interest of time - see what I did there - I am going to give you 5 basic steps to help you manage your time and start checking those tasks off of your to-do list.

Step 1.   Find the time killers. Many people do not know how they spend each part of the day. Keep a 2-3 day log and record at half-hour intervals the activities you do. You might be shocked by the amount of time you spend on the phone, chatting with co-workers, surfing the internet, or watching TV.
Step 2.   Set long- and short-term goals. Setting goals requires in-depth thinking and helps put your life into perspective. When you review your log from Step 1 ask yourself, “Am I doing things that are helping me work towards my goals?”, “Are there things that I am spending my time on that are actively blocking me from achieving my goals?”
Step 3.   Identify your immediate goals/tasks and prioritize them for today and this week. At the beginning of each day sit down and determine what you need to accomplish that day and that week. This should take between 10 – 30 minutes. A lot of people think this is wasted time, but it can pay off in hours saved through the week.  You do need to be realistic with your goals. Find what works for YOU.
Step 4.   Use a daily planner. A daily planner can help you organize and simplify your day. Whether paper or electronic, having a place to track it all saves time and helps you lay out the big picture easily. You don’t have to schedule every minute, but setting up chunks of time can help you stay focused and on task.
Step 5.   Do a nightly audit. Take 10 minutes each night to reflect on your day. Did you accomplish your goals? Did something unplanned come up and take time away from other tasks? This can help you re-prioritize for the following day and find additional gaps in your schedule.

Always remember, time management is an ongoing process and ever changing according to your needs and schedule.

If you are looking for a little more guidance, here are some additional ways to make better use of your time.
  1.       Delegate
  2.       Say “no”
  3.       Protect against boredom by bringing along easy tasks or books
  4.       Plan ahead for disruptions and build time into your day for catching up
  5.       Get it done - don't wait until "later"
  6.       Eliminate distractions by turning off automatic email notifications, hiding your cell phone or closing your office door
  7.       Plan time for you each week or at a minimum each month
  8.       Reward yourself with something meaninful

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Is it OK that I ran when I was sick?

On May 7th, I woke up feeling like I was swallowing nails around 1:00 a.m. Normally I wouldn't worry too much. But this wasn't any other day. This was race day. In 6 short hours the gun would go off and the Pittsburgh Marathon would begin.

Despite the achey throat I laced up and consulted a fellow runner friend, who advised me to grab some menthol cough drops (which ended up being a life saver). Mentally I was precisely where I needed to be - a little sore throat wasn't going to stop me.

I woke up Monday morning with a head cold and some aches, but ultimately I know I made the right decision. For that day, anyways.

If you ever find yourself unsure if your too sick to work out, I've put together some easy guidelines to help you make the decision to rest or to go for it.

Tackling the Common Cold and Allergies
Dr. Edward Laskowski, M.D., a Sports Medicine Specialist at the Mayo Clinic suggests that  "Exercise is usually OK if your signs and symptoms are all 'above the neck' --- symptoms you may have with a common cold, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat."

If it is allergy season that has your head congested and you prefer outdoor workouts consider moving your exercise session to the late afternoon, when pollen counts are lower.

What if it is more serious than a sneeze?
If you have fever, nausea, vomiting or respiratory distress – stay home and choose rest. Exercise while battling a more serious illness can be dangerous and may compromise recovery time.

When you have a fever, your body temperature is already too high and avoiding additional stresses is advised. Exercise raises your core body temperature and your heart rate. Physical exertion can intensify the effects of fever and leave you dehydrated or cause dizziness and fainting.

Additionally, coughing, body aches and fatigues are reason to take a break. Any sickness involving your lungs is a no-no when it comes to hitting the gym. Exercise can aggravate your lungs and lead to an infection, like bronchitis or pneumonia, which is harder to bounce back from.

Gym Etiquette with a Cold
You’ve determined that it’s safe to proceed with your scheduled exercise. If you are headed to the gym instead of outdoors you will want to follow a few simple rules for proper gym etiquette.

Avoid blowing your nose constantly and carry a towel with you at all times. Place it on any surface you come in contact with and be sure to wipe those areas down when you are done using them.

Also, be sure you are washing your hands often and consider carrying alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your gym bag. These help cut down the germs you may spread to others.

When is it safe to exercise again?
In general, any flu, even if uncomplicated, is going to knock you out for anywhere from 10 days to 2 weeks. When battling these types of illness, you should wait until you have recovered fully before resuming your exercise program.

You won’t be able to jump right back in where you left off after an extended absence. Start slowly, by lowering the intensity and duration of exercise until you feel comfortable. Starting back too soon, or too intense, puts you at risk of weakening your immune system or hurting yourself.

When your worried about a relapse
Sometimes a day of missing the gym triggers fears of a relapse. In this case it’s important to know your own limits. If missing a day of exercise will make you feel worse (which is sometimes the case with regular exercisers) consider scaling it back a notch. Try a walk instead of a run or substitute yoga in place of your regular conditioning class.

Start slow and progress to a moderate intensity – but only if you are feeling up to it. Do what you can do; if you can’t do, don’t.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Running High - It's Marathon Week!

It's that time again. When my alarm goes off on May 7th I'll be in downtown Pittsburgh and it will be race morning. That's just 6 more sleeps. Well, definitely 5 more sleeps and likely 1 night of tossing and turning.

I never know what to expect on race morning; I'm a bundle of nerves and questions. What is the weather doing? Did I train enough? Did I eat right this week? Did I hydrate enough? Did I remember my Body Glide, Blister Shield and Tylenol Arthritis? Where's the coffee? Is my Garmin charged? What about my iPod?

When I was the the recent Arts & Science of Health Promotion Conference a facilitator asked if anyone in the room had ever experienced the  "runner's high". I raised my hand, along with about 50% of the people in the room. We tend to be an active bunch. Then he asked when we experience it - and that's when I realized my answer was really it depends.

A few weeks ago I went out on a 10 mile run and never got there - something in my body just wasn't feeling it. I averaged over 11 minutes a mile; slower than even my worst marathon time. I couldn't get out of my own head. Side note: I realize I'm not elite runner but geez - that was a hard day for me!

Last week I went out for a 15 miler and I was hitting on all cylinders. My high came around the halfway point, which is about normal on longer training runs. Whether it's 8 miles or 15 miles, I fall into my rhythm around the halfway point - my confidence soars, my heart races a little faster (in a good way!) and I get a little pep in my step. "I can do this, and nothing can stop me" I think to myself.

On race morning, though, it's different. My high starts the moment the gun goes off. The beating heart, the questions and buzz in my brain, the knot in my stomach and the shaky legs - it's all in anticipation of the big event! All the training, all the anticipation comes to a head.

But then something amazing happens...I hear the pop of the gun, my legs start to move, my mind clears and I feel like I'm ready to conquer the world.

Other posts related to what I am doing this week:
Dairy, Soy & Gluten Free Race Week (PS: Last time I followed this plan I missed a PR by 2 minutes)

Steel City Greyhounds - #RunForAReason ($755 of $1,000 raised)


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Powering Through Plateaus

It's that time of year. Those who started, and have stuck with, their new year's resolution are starting to get frustrated - they are hitting what's commonly referred to as the plateau and are on the verge of giving up. 

We all know that seeing results can be motivating, but if your progress has come to a halt but you haven't quite hit your goal yet don't quit. Getting back on track can be as easy as making a tiny tweak to your routine. 

Ask yourself the following questions and get back on road to success.

Are you getting enough rest?

Recovery and adequate rest is just as important as exercise and fitness. If you aren’t getting the rest you need your body simply can’t function properly. 7-8 hours of rest per night and at least one full day of rest from exercise is recommended to see the most improvement in reaching your fitness-related goals.

Adequate rest also reduces the risk of injury or overtraining.

Are you stuck in a routine?

Change happens outside of your comfort zone. Your body needs a challenging stimulus to improve. When you do the same class, route, pace or activity every day your body is going to adapt.   

Weight lifters – You might be resistant, but add a walk on an inclined treadmill for 15-20 minutes before your lifting session or on off days. Moderate cardiovascular activity is good for your heart, can increase metabolism and may improve recovery ability. It can also lead to an increase in lean muscle mass. Other change agents:  Use dumbbells for your bench press instead of barbell or change your repetition count and weight.

These small changes can make a big difference in training.

Cardio addicts – You’ve found, and relish, that “runners high” or you breeze through your 50-mile bike ride with ease. Use a timer to incorporate intervals, changing between sprints and your standard pace. Reevaluating and adjusting your cardio can be simple, but the most important thing to remember is to be sure you are adding in strength training. 

Strength training will build lean muscle mass so your body becomes even more of a calorie-burning machine. If you don't like to hit the weight floor, hop in a group fitness class or press play on a strength training video at home.

Class regulars – try something new ! We know you love your regular schedule and your accountability partners, but change might be in order – at least for a short period. If you are taking two body sculpting classes each week maybe you swap one out for a bootcamp or yoga class.
It’s all about comradery, right? Invite one of your fitness friends to make the change with you – sometimes it’s easier in pairs.

Are you eating the right amount of healthy foods?
You may think you eat perfect, but when we increase exercise frequency or intensity two things tend to happen: 1) hunger increases and 2) we overestimate calorie burn.

It is important to look at your nutrition habits and caloric intake to make sure they are appropriate for your body weight and activity level. You can find out your caloric needs by using this calculator: http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/healthy_living_tools_content.aspx?id=4
{HINT: Most people with a sedentary job and planned exercise should use the 2nd Activity Level from the Left}

If you aren’t logging your food, start now. You may find that you are right on track. But you might also realize that you are grazing more than you thought or that you aren’t getting enough vegetables or whole grains.

As you evaluate your current process use the above to identify areas of change. Best of luck as you continue on your successful fitness journey!


Friday, April 7, 2017

A Healthy Lifestyle is More than a 45-day Challenge

I'm at the Arts & Sciences of Health Promotion Conference this week in Colorado Springs. I'm here specifically to understand what makes employees tick and what will motivate them to not just participate in programs but what will help them develop healthy habits. 

The past day and a half I have been participating in an Intensive Workshop based on behavior changes via habit design. I have many takeaways I will be able to share later, but during our discussion yesterday the presenters spoke about the ever-popular challenges and why they rarely result in sustained habits or behavior changes. 



In today’s world of social media and instant gratification health and fitness challenges seem to be popping up all over. Clients are talking about them constantly. They carry catchy names like The 30 Day Push-Up Challenge, 4 weeks to 200 Squats, and The 21-Day Sugar Detox.

These challenges seem to be most popular in the first months of the year and are usually targeted to The Resolution Crowd. This crowd is usually made up of folks looking to jump-start a healthy lifestyle.

The problem with using a challenge like those listed above is that they generally don’t teach us anything. The simply force us to eliminate a certain ingredient or master one movement.

What’s the issue with that, though? Something is better than nothing, right? Not when it comes to long-term change or instilling new habits.

One exercise will not make a significant impact. Unless you are doing additional forms of exercise and monitoring your nutrition intake simply doing squats or push-ups will not aggressively change your body or improve your fitness level.

Expectations are generally not SAFE. Few people can do 50 (or 100!) push-ups with good form – even experienced exercisers. You’ll see more benefit from 10 push-ups with proper form than 50 with poor form. Poor form often leads to injury.

The focus is on discipline, not making healthy choices. This is true especially of nutrition challenges. Success is a usually a force of will as opposed to an exercise in habit control or flexibility – 2 of the most important elements of a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.

Results are often short-lived. Most challenges are designed to be a specific length of time (5, 7, 10 or 30 days) but offer no follow up plan. Once you are done and go back to your normal habits any progress you might have made is lost quickly.

Do I think all challenges are bad? No!

The most effective, however, are usually done in conjunction with an already established routine and provide a sustainable path for a lifetime of implementation.

My suggestion? Create your own challenge. Choose one behavior at a time to work on, like walking for 30 minutes 3-5 days a week. After 30 days, add another, like incorporating a salad at lunch. This allows you to master one healthy habit at a time and will cut down on the risk of failure or burnout.
Focus on incorporating a healthy behavior instead of completely eliminating any one thing.

Think big picture. Good nutrition and physical activity must become a part of who you are. Work to become more mindful of your daily habits and how they effect your health.

One thing I know for certain is that developing new habits and making healthier choices will be hard, especially at first. But the good news is that once you accept that challenge it suddenly becomes just a little bit easier.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How I got started - for real

When I was in my mid-20's I was in cycle of lean and what I refer to as "soft". Not too heavy, but not toned up either. I'd hit the gym super hard, hit my goal and then quit. A few months later my jeans would feel too tight so I'd hit the gym super hard, hit my goal, then quit. Rinse, repeat. My diet was sketchy.

An old high school friend of mine sent me an email the other day asking me how I got started and looking for a little advice. Specifically they were asking about the Whole 30 and my thoughts/experiences.

Instead of researching and giving them platitudes I decided to be real. I mean, this is someone I've know over 20 years, what did I have to lose? 

And then, I thought, why not be real here, too. So here is my response, raw and unedited:
So - my diet pretty much sucked until I was 30 and actually left southwestern pa. Let's face it - I grew up near Pittsburgh, the land of pierogies, hot sausage sandwiches and beer. I just really got into the veggies in the past couple of years.
I started small & I don't know if any vegetables were really involved in the first few years now that I look back on it. They took me a long time to get used to....I had a protein shake for breakfast every morning, yogurt and fruit or a peanut butter and egg sandwich mid morning for a snack (it's good, don't knock it) and a pretty "normal" dinner like rice or potatoes with pork roast, chicken or fish, tacos with lean (90/10) ground meat.  I probably also ate too much processed stuff - like protein powders, ready to drink shakes and protein bars but that is what worked for me and it was a good start. 
For lunch I had leftovers from the night before or would eat something like a protein bar and yogurt or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a can of tuna & brown rice mixed together with salt and pepper. I ate nothing fried, drank absolutely nothing but water and had absolutely no fast food for about a year with the exception of pizza almost every Friday night and a 6-pack of beer. It was a major cheat night. (some of the never eating out had to do with the fact that I couldn't afford it at that point in my life but it helped tremendously)
I worked out 4-5 mornings a week and I leaned out pretty significantly. It took about 6 months to see a significant change in my body shape and to get used to always feeling at least a little hungry. I used gum and water a lot to keep myself from reaching for snacks. My weight didn't change but I went down 3 sizes in my clothes. (From a 10/12 to a 6, which might not mean anything to a man).
The Whole30 wouldn't have worked for me back then AT ALL. It took me 7 years of eating well to be able to do that successfully. Even now I struggle with veggies. I eat A LOT of eggs. A couple a day, sometimes more. I usually have one salad so it takes care of it all.
I relied heavily on EAS products. You can get them on Amazon or at Target. Or Walmart. Or you don't have to go with them at all; I just happen to like them!  I did a post on protein powders on the blog a while back that you might have seen - but if not it's here: http://kristenlippencott.blogspot.com/2015/12/are-you-getting-enough-protein.html
To sum it all up in menu form, this was my life for about a year. I took comfort in the monotony of it; it made it easy for me to stay in control. This is really just an example to give you an idea of how I cut out calories and unnecessary evils and leaned up. I can try to give you more options if you'd like.
Breakfast (5 a.m. - pre-workout): protein shake - 2 servings of protein powder, 1 banana, 1 cup strawberries, 8 oz 2% milk.Snack (9 a.m.): sandwich - 1 scrambled egg, 2 pieces whole grain toast, 2 TB peanut butter OR ready-to-drink shake + fruit OR yogurt + fruit Lunch (1 p.m.): leftovers OR 1 can tuna + 1 cup brown rice with salt & pepper OR peanut butter & jelly on whole grain bread OR a protein bar + fruit or yogurt Dinner (6 p.m.): white or sweet potatoes with chicken, fish or pork OR pasta with lean ground meat and minimal pasta sauce OR rice with chicken, fish or pork
I feel like this is no where near specific enough in regards to lunch and especially dinner but I hope it helps a little.
And like I told him, if you have more questions or need some advice, let me know. You can always reach me at KristenLippencott@gmail.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kmlippencott

My diet now looks very different than it did when I buckled down in 2009. But it's grown as I have and balanced out as I understand the importance of flexibility when it comes to nutrition, exercise and specific goals as related to those. 


Friday, February 10, 2017

Yoga & Stress Relief - Part 4 of 4

If you are just joining in, you may want to take a few minutes to review parts one, two and three of my four-part series on managing stress.

Quickly recapping, this series started when I unveiled my stress management workshop for a company I work with. Word spread quickly and I ended up conducting twenty-five (25) of these 30-minutes workshops throughout the company.

The feedback was so great I thought I would share it here with you in a four-part series.

Yoga, as opposed to meditation and mindfulness, can take a bit more planning and generally a designated time and space. If you are one of few people I’ve known who are willing to move into child’s pose during a stressful meeting, however, have at it!

Some see yoga as a religion, which is not accurate. Yoga is a practical aid, an ancient art based on the harmonizing of the mind, body and spirit. The goal is self-development and self-realization. Studies have shown that practicing yoga has a direct impact on improving and maintaining physical and emotional health.

Yoga triggers the production of gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical made in the brain. The main role of GABA is to have a calming effect on you and your nervous system. Its function is to shut off the brain and it does this by blocking brain signals.

An increase in GABA levels is generally tied to a decrease in cortisol. This process, which can be triggered by a consistent yoga practice, is similar to that experienced by Zoloft, Prozac and other anti-depressants prescribed by doctors to treat mood and anxiety disorders.

In addition to lower stress levels and higher GABA levels, yoga practice has been linked to:
  • lower diastolic blood pressure,
  • reduced intensity and frequency of headaches,
  • greater impulse control,
  • greater physical strength, stamina and flexibility,
  • improved blood circulation,
  • enhanced mental clarity,
  • peace of mind and a more positive outlook to life.
If you are interested in yoga but not sure which class might be right for you, look for these key words: 
  • Yin
  • Hatha
  • Restorative
  • Gentle
  • Renew
  • Beginner
  • Fundamentals
For at home practice, Yoga Journal suggests these 16 Yoga Poses to Find Instant Calm and Peace. Let me know if you try them!

As I mentioned the first week the key difference between meditation, mindfulness and yoga and traditional stress relief methods (reading, watching TV, or cocktails with a good friend) is that meditation, yoga and mindfulness encourage the mind-body connection.

Don't believe me? In a recent study  scientists found that brain GABA levels increased increase by 27% after a 60-minute yoga session compared to no increase after a 60-minute reading session.

Instead of focusing on someone else’s story these methods shift your focus inward, eliciting a relaxation response and teaching your body what it feels like to release any stress-triggered tension.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Do you take better care of your car than you do your body?


Sure cars are a necessity in today's society - we need them to get to work, to transport the kids to school and activities, run errands....but we often put them ahead of our own health and wellness.

Let's look at 3 important components of overall wellness and start seeing our bodies as our primary vehicle.

️ Nutrition: Don't have time to eat? Would you leave the house on an empty tank and expect it to last thru an entire day of errands?

️Sleep: Are you often groggy, complaining about how difficult it is for you to fall asleep or stay asleep? Do you reach for your iPad or switch on the TV before bed or during the night? Our bodies need darkness to signal sleep; switching on devices & engaging is like letting your car run in the driveway all night & then being surprised when your car is out of gas in the morning. 

️ Exercise: Cars need to run regularly to run efficiently. Ever try to start up an old truck that hasn't run in awhile? Without regular movement parts get rusty, start to corrode and dry-rot sets in. Important fluids and fuels no longer get around this well-oiled machine. Similarly when we are sedentary we start to get stiff, bones start to get brittle and our organs don't get the blood flow and nutrients they need to function properly.

Try to integrate a few basic requirements into your day and start making YOU your top priority:

     ✔️ 7-8 hours of sleep per night 
     ✔️ A clean, nutrient-rich diet 
     ✔️ 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week 
     ✔️ Smiles 
     ✔️ Sunshine



Thursday, February 2, 2017

Mindfulness & Stress Relief - Part 3 of 4


Welcome to part three of my four part series on managing stress using meditation, mindfulness and yoga.

Last week we tackled meditation; this week, we move on to mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is often used as a therapeutic technique.

In other words, we pay attention - to our thoughts, our feelings and our actions. Much like meditation, being mindful allows all of the background noise and distractions to fall away and it turns the focus inward, on one simple task or feeling.

You might remember the inspiration for this series was a workshop I recently conducted to several work groups on relieving stress and tension.

In one of my first sessions a woman raised her hand during our mindfulness discussion and admitted: “believe it or not, washing dishes is the most relaxing part of my day.” When I asked why, she answered: “because I only wash the dishes.”

She continued, “I pick up the glass, I was the glass, I rinse the glass, I set the glass in the drying rack. I pick up the bowl, I wash the bowl, I rinse the bowl, I set the bowl in the drying rack……”

It's really that simple. I tried it that night.

I had read the dish washing example before this, but this is the first time I had heard a real life example. Washing dishes, my friends, is mindfulness in its most perfect form. Other examples of mindful actions include:
  • breathing in and focusing on the smell of your fresh coffee before you take the first sip in the morning,
  • standing or sitting in the hot shower and feeling the warm water as it hits your skin,
  • focusing your attention on a flower or insect that is nearby, visually examining the color, shape or unique characteristics,
  • taking two mindful bites when eating,focusing on the scent, flavor and texture of your food,
  • focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale fully.
The opportunities for mindfulness are everywhere, and you can practice by finding:
  • A quiet environment. Choose a secluded place in your home, office, or outdoors where you can relax without distractions or interruptions.  
  • A comfortable position. Get comfortable: sit up with your spine straight, either in a chair or on the floor. You can also try a cross-legged or lotus position.  
  • A point of focus. You can practice mindfulness with your eyes closed or open. This point can be internal (a feeling or imaginary scene) or external (an object or meaningful word/phrase). 
  • A noncritical attitude. Don’t worry about any distracting thoughts that go through your mind or about how well you’re doing. If outside thoughts intrude gently turn your attention back to your point of focus. 
  • Patience. Remember, all of these things take practice and patience to master.

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