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Category: Lifestyle Articles

The Science-Based Benefits of Meditation (and How to Get Started)

It seems like nearly everybody is into meditation these days. There are apps, YouTube videos, and experts everywhere. Meditation is no longer just for yoga class and members of the new age movement. Everybody from Katy Perry to Clint Eastwood to Oprah Winfrey to Steve Jobs has mentioned meditation as a tool in their success.

So, what is meditation good for? And why should you consider it when picking the tools to help you reach your goals?

While meditation and mindfulness practices have been around for thousands of years, we’d like to look at some of the modern science and research to help you decide if it’s for you.

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What Is Meditation Good For?

As high performers (both in and out of the gym) many of us deal with pain and injury, the need for proper sleep and recovery, and too much stress. We’re also likely to be interested in decreasing inflammation in our bodies and avoiding disease.

With all that in mind, consider the following:

  • A 2014 meta-analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindfulness meditation programs improved anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • A 2014 study published in Sleep determined meditation to be a viable treatment for chronic insomnia.
  • A 2011 study on IBS sufferers found that meditation “[had] a substantial therapeutic effect on bowel symptom severity, improves health-related quality of life, and reduces distress.”
  • In a 2010 study, not only did participants report an increased sense of well-being due to meditation, but their bloodwork also showed a decreased stress load.
  • A 2016 study published in JAMA found that a regular practice of mindfulness-based stress reduction resulted in “greater improvement in back pain and functional limitations” for people suffering from chronic low-back pain. Which backs up a 2013 meta-study that concluded meditation could decrease pain intensity for chronic sufferers.
  • A 2013 meta-study concluded that meditation-based therapies for smoking cessation appeared to be useful, though they felt more research should be done.
  • A 2012 meta-study reported that meditative therapies were effective for reducing anxiety symptoms.

Currently, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (a U.S. government agency) is also supporting studies investigating the application of meditation for fibromyalgia, stress reduction for multiple sclerosis sufferers, and reduction of post-traumatic stress disorder, headaches, and blood pressure. It is also being further investigated for its potential benefits to the immune system.

As you can see, the application for meditation is large, continues to expand, and is relevant to anyone pursuing health and performance.

How to Get Started with Meditation

Ironically, getting started with meditation can be stressful. How do you know what to do? How long do you do it for? What if you get it “wrong”?

Thankfully, it’s actually very easy to get started with meditation, and there’s literally no way to do it wrong. All you have to do to start is create an awareness of your breathing:

  1. Find a quiet place. Choose somewhere you can remain undisturbed for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position. You can sit in a chair or on the floor, but you don’t need to worry about “posing” in a specific way.
  3. Breathe in and out. Focus on the sensation, sound, feeling, temperature, frequency, depth, or whatever else you want. Make this time simply about breathing.
  4. Keep an open mind. The thing that most frequently stops beginners is self-judgment—thinking that if you get distracted, you are somehow meditating “wrong.” But, in truth, the act of getting distracted and reorienting yourself to your breath is meditation. You are not doing it wrong—you are doing it.

There are, of course, many more formal ways of meditating—from Zazen to Kundalini to Transcendental. We recommend you explore a variety of styles and forms to find what brings you the most benefit. Apps like Headspace and guided meditation videos on YouTube can be useful tools to initiate your exploration.

But if that all feels overwhelming—just breathe.

Is Meditation a Tool for You?

Meditation bridges the gap between our mental and physical selves. Therefore, it can be a valuable tool in everything from managing daily stress to performing under pressure on the competitive stage. Regularly spending time meditating can also help you to determine what matters to you most, be kinder to yourself, and develop compassion for others.

Sounds like some big claims, right? Well, meditation hasn’t been around for thousands of years for no reason.

Sleep Your Way to Optimal Performance

Sleep is the ultimate performance enhancer. When considering factors of optimal performance, we often list off nutrition tips, training schedules and recovery regimens. Sleep usually doesn’t get a mention here, but it should. If we don’t sleep, our nutrition and countless hours of training will go to waste. Our bodies need sleep for performance and for recovery. Without sleep, our bodies break down and our athletic performance suffers. When life gets busy, it is too easy to compromise our sleep schedules. However, the additional hours of consciousness aren’t doing us any favors. While we may get used to sleeping 5-6 hours every night, our bodies don’t like it and we will eventually pay for it. In order to operate at your highest level, you need to prioritize sleep.

Why Do We Actually Need Sleep?

How much sleep did you get last night? Depending on your answer you either feel refreshed today or completely wrecked. We all know that sleep is a powerful determinant of human function. Personal experience has taught most of us that sleep is a non-negotiable component of well-being, yet scientists have yet to figure out exactly why we need sleep. What science has shown us though, is that a lack of sleep is detrimental to our health.

Beyond the obvious side effect of fatigue, a sleep deficit negatively influences almost every one of the body’s physiological processes. When we don’t sleep our bodies break down and we cannot recover well. We are more likely to get sick, our metabolism slows, our concentration wanes and our physical performance suffers. A failure to prioritize sleep will leave us unable to reap the benefits of our otherwise healthy and active lifestyles.

The Sleep Cycle

A sleep cycle is comprised of five stages of sleep. The first four stages of sleep are known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and the fifth stage is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During the four stages of NREM sleep, we progress from light sleep to deep sleep. The fifth stage, REM sleep, is the most active stage of sleep. Our muscles are relaxed, but our brainwaves are highly active and we experience rapid eye movements. Dreaming and memory consolidation occur during REM sleep.

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We spend about 50% of sleeping time in stage two of sleep, 20% in REM sleep and the remaining time in the other stages. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. If we get a full night’s sleep, we experience 4-6 sleep cycles per night.

In order to adequately recover from exercise, we must experience all five stages of sleep. We must also sleep 7-8 hours for our bodies to undergo all of the restorative physiologic processes of sleep. During the first 2-3 sleep cycles, we spend more time in NREM sleep and during the final 2-3 sleep cycles, we spend more time in REM sleep. This means that most of us will experience more NREM sleep earlier in the night and more REM sleep in the early morning hours. So those of us who tend to burn the candle at both ends, going to bed late and waking up early, will miss out on REM sleep and perhaps even the deepest stages of sleep, stages three and four.

Sleep is a Performance Enhancer

By allowing the brain and body to rest and restore, we leave ourselves better prepared for an intense training session. Athletes who sleep more demonstrate improved reaction times, higher speed, less fatigue and better moods. It is also easier to learn a new skill when we are well rested.

The bottom line? There is no substitution for sleep. If we don’t get enough of it, we will not be able to perform the way we want to. Endurance training, weight lifting performance, and motivation to exercise are all negatively influenced by a lack of sleep.

Countless sleep deprivation studies have demonstrated the effects of sleep on athletic performance. Cyclists deprived of sleep demonstrate negative mood changes and worsening reaction times. Weight lifters who were restricted to three hours of sleep for three consecutive nights demonstrated decreased performance on submaximal lifts for a biceps curl, a bench press, a leg press and a deadlift compared to their counterparts who slept a full night. These same weight lifters also experienced less vigor when exercising. Endurance athletes who are sleep deprived have been shown to run shorter distances at a greater perceived effort than their sleep-rich counterparts, who ran longer distances at the same perception of effort. Essentially, when we sleep less we are more likely to quit earlier because exercise feels harder.

Sleep readies our brain for physical activity too. When we train, we are often learning new movements. Additionally, athletic competition requires us to perform cognitive tasks while also expending physical energy. Lack of sleep makes it more difficult to learn movements and perform complex physical skills.

Sleep deprivation can also leave athletes more susceptible to overtraining syndrome. A reduction in sleep results in imbalances in the neuroendocrine system, stimulating overtraining syndrome. When training under a sleep debt, our bodies are more likely to perceive training as overtraining. Our immune system is also impaired when we do not get enough sleep. We are therefore not prepared to take on increased physical demands and are more likely to break down and get sick.

Sleep is a Recovery Aid

In addition to improving our performance, sleep also helps us recover from exercise. When we don’t get enough sleep after training, our bodies cannot properly recover. Therefore, entering a sleep debt while training creates a vicious cycle. We wake up without having recovered from the previous day’s session and we start today’s session without our most important performance enhancer.

Several studies have demonstrated sleep’s powerful influence on recovery by examining athletes after exercise and subsequent sleep deprivation. Cyclists who slept for 3-4 hours after a HIIT session demonstrated a reduction in peak power output the next day, while also reporting more fatigue and less motivation to train. Rugby players who were sleep deprived after a competitive match demonstrated declines in counter movement jump distances and slower reaction times the next morning.

The major lesson here is that sleep is critical after training and competition. If for some reason an athlete is unable to get adequate sleep after exercise, then training demands should be adjusted the following day.

Sleep deprivation also robs us of important physiologic recovery benefits of exercise. When we participate in high intensity training, we experience a 24 hour reduction in systolic blood pressure. However, athletes who are deprived of sleep fail to demonstrate this beneficial change in blood pressure. Individuals who are deprived of sleep after exercise also exhibit higher blood glucose levels than athletes who slept a full night. This effect will negatively influence our metabolism, energy levels, and eating habits.

Maximizing Sleep Potential with Protein

When we sleep, we undergo protein synthesis. The body’s cells demonstrate increased production and decreased breakdown of protein during sleep, setting us up for improvements in strength and endurance. We can capitalize on this benefit by ingesting protein before sleep. A small protein-rich snack allows us to take advantage of the muscle repair processes that happen overnight.

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Remember the movie Million Dollar Baby? Hilary Swank put on 23 pounds of muscle for her role as boxer. She would wake up every few hours during the night to drink protein shakes in order to keep her muscle protein synthesis rates elevated. For almost all of us this approach is much too extreme, but there is something to be learned from Swank’s dietary schedule. When we sleep, our body is relying on the last bit of nutrients we had before bed. Furthermore, our muscles’ ability to use protein is limited by the availability of circulating amino acids and protein. If we take in protein before bed, we can better stimulate overnight protein synthesis rates and enhance the body’s protein stores.

Studies have demonstrated that athletes who drink [casein] protein before bed effectively digest and absorb the protein overnight, resulting in increased circulating amino acid levels and higher protein synthesis rates. The hope here is that this will result in improved gains in muscle mass and strength.

While these studies have effectively linked protein ingestion before bed to improved protein synthesis rates, they have yet to determine the amount of protein needed for these positive effects. Studies have demonstrated benefits using anywhere from 28g to 40g of protein. It has yet to be determined if a smaller amount will show the same effect. We also still need to see studies that demonstrate which type of protein best stimulates overnight protein synthesis.

If eating before bed doesn’t sit well with you, then make sure have some protein with your breakfast. Since we’ve been depriving our bodies of this important nutrient all night, it is important to give our muscles a chance to start rebuilding and provide the body with the tools it needs to recharge.

Sleep Well Tonight

Sleep is a power player in our performance as athletes. It enhances the quality of our training, ensures proper recovery and motivates us to push a little harder. Don’t skip out on this critical element to physical function. Starting making sleep a priority and your body will thank you.

While there are many elements that contribute to sleep, there are several actions we can take to ensure that we experience fully restorative sleep. Here are some helpful tips to make sure you get a good night’s sleep tonight:

●Sleep for 7-9 hours. Even though you may feel used to less sleep, your body will not truly be able to adapt to a sleep deficit.

●Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (yes, this includes weekends). Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule allows us to go to bed and wake up with more ease. An erratic sleep schedule results in impaired performance and function throughout the day.

●Try not to exercise within 4 hours of bedtime. Daily exercise is great for our overall sleep quality, but exercising too close to bedtime makes it difficult to fall asleep because we will experience an increase in body temperature. This four hour window lets our body temperature fall naturally by the time we go to sleep.

●Avoid caffeine after 2pm. Caffeine is a stimulant and it is metabolized slowly. We need to provide enough time to reduce its effects before sleep.

●Avoid nicotine. Nicotine reduces REM sleep because it wakes you up every 3-4 hours due to nicotine withdrawal.

●Avoid alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime. This time frame gives us enough time to metabolize alcohol. Drinking too close to bedtime may let you fall asleep faster, but it prevents us from entering the restorative stages of sleep (stages three, four and REM).

●Keep your bedroom between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme temperatures interfere with sleep quality.

●No screen time 2-3 hours before bed. The blue light from our phones and computers suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. While any light can suppress melatonin, blue light is the most significant in disrupting sleep quality. (Fun fact: caffeine and alcohol also inhibit the production of melatonin).

 

References

Beelen M, Burke LM, Gibala MJ. Nutritional strategies to promote postexercise recovery. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2010 Dec;20(6):515-32.

Breus, M. Thrive Global. Want A Better Night’s Sleep? March 16, 2017. https://journal.thriveglobal.com/5-science-backed-rules-for-a-better-nights-sleep-89cf9493d977

Faraut B, Boudjeltia KZ, Vanhamme L. Immune, inflammatory and cardiovascular consequences of sleep restriction and recovery. Sleep Med Rev. 2012 Apr;16(2):137-49. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2011.05.001

Fullagar HH, Skorski S, Duffield R. Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Med. 2015 Feb;45(2):161-86.

Harvard Health Publications. Blue Light Has a Dark Side. September 2, 2015. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

McMurray RG, Brown CF. The effect of sleep loss on high intensity exercise and recovery. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1984 Nov;55(11):1031-5.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep#for_us

Oliver SJ, Costa RJ, Laing SJ. One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009 Sep;107(2):155-61

Rae DE, Chin T, Dikgomo K, et al. One night of partial sleep deprivation impairs recovery from a single exercise training session. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2017 Apr;117(4):699-712.

Reilly T, Piercy M. The effect of partial sleep deprivation on weight-lifting performance. Ergonomics. 1994 Jan;37(1):107-15.

Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, et al, Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Aug;44(8):1560-9.

Samuels C. Sleep, Recovery, and Performance: The New Frontier in High-Performance Athletics. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2009 Feb;20(1):149-59.

Scott JP, McNaughton LR, Polman RC, et al. Effects of sleep deprivation and exercise on cognitive, motor performance and mood. Physiol Behav. 2006 Feb 28;87(2):396-408.

Skein M, Duffield R, Minett GM. The effect of overnight sleep deprivation after competitive rugby league matches on postmatch physiological and perceptual recovery. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013 Sep;8(5):556-64.

Snijders T, Res PT, Smeets JS, et al. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. J Nutr. 2015 Jun;145(6):1178-84

Trommelen J, van Loon LJ. Pre-Sleep Protein Ingestion to Improve the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise Training. Nutrients. 2016 Nov 28;8(12).

Van Cauter E1, Spiegel K, Tasali E, et al. Metabolic consequences of sleep and sleep loss. Sleep Med. 2008 Sep;9 Suppl 1:S23-8.

Zhong X, Hilton HJ, Gates GJ. Increased sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic cardiovascular modulation in normal humans with acute sleep deprivation. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 Jun;98(6):2024-32.

How to Figure Out What to Quit in Your Life (and Why)

Many of us struggle with knowing when it’s “okay” to quit something and exactly what to quit when our lives get over-full. Quitting is seen (most often by ourselves) as weakness and as failure. We expect ourselves to do “all the things,” and even more than that, we expect ourselves to do all the things well.

But really “quitting” is simply a negative word for a strategy that is highly useful in our learning process and in achieving success in just about anything. That strategy—is prioritization.

When we quit well, we are simply prioritizing and focusing on the things that are important to us.

But that’s gets us to the bigger question, right? How do we quit well? How do we know what’s truly important to us? What things are we doing that are contributing to our future and what things are a detriment to our lives? Sometimes it can be surprisingly hard to decipher.

So, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of quitting and how we can figure out what to quit in our lives—and why.

Make Sure You’re Barking Up the Right Tree

Much has been made in recent years of “grit” and how it’s required for long-term success. But it’s also possible to mistakenly label “stubbornness” and/or “denial” as grit. Sticking to something simply because you’ve invested time, effort, and money (a “sunk cost” in economic terms) is not a reason to stay that course in the long run.

Just because you’ve been training with the same coach for the last five years, doesn’t mean that person is the right coach if you’re not reaching your goals. Just because you’ve followed a certain diet and broadcast it all over social media, doesn’t mean it’s the right diet if your body isn’t feeling its best. Just because you’ve always dreamed of being a basketball player, doesn’t mean you should ignore how well you do every time you play beach volleyball.

Tip: Take some time to read Seth Godin’s “The Dip” for more discussion on how to determine what to quit—and when to stick through the hard parts.

Put Your Oxygen Mask on First

Many of us get involved with charities, volunteerism, children’s programs, clubs, and local government to improve the lives of people around us. But before we can truly make the world a better place for others, we must first take care of ourselves. We cannot continue to give in the long run, if we are racing against our own depleting health and energy stores.

It can be particularly hard to quit these types of activities because we feel a deeper sense of obligation and they may be an expression of our personal values. But it may sometimes be necessary to at least dial back on these commitments or to take leave of these responsibilities for a short time until you have the rest of your priorities in order. You’ll only be able to keep helping others if you put your own oxygen mask on first, right?

Tip: Don’t make it mean anything that you’re quitting a volunteer position. You are not a bad person. You’ve been giving everything you have—and you can always volunteer again in the future.

Who Are You Doing It For?

Don’t answer that one too quickly. Get yourself a journal and pull out your calendar or appointment book. Look through your schedule and ask yourself the question for every commitment you have scheduled this week: “Who am I doing this for?”

If you’re doing it for you, that’s great. You might be doing it for your health, for your family, or in support of one of your core values. That’s all great. But if you have obligations that aren’t for you or aren’t in support of you in a direct way, then those are items you should label as having quitting potential.

Tip: Doing things in an attempt to make others happy, make others proud, or spite others is a sure-fire path to your own unhappiness and frustration in the long haul. Make sure “you do you.”

Imagine Yourself a Lotto Winner

Sometimes we reveal our innermost secrets in the way we joke about what we would do “if we won the Lotto.” We’d spend a year traveling in Europe. We’d tell our boss what we really think. We’d read more books. We’d train for a marathon. We’d eat grass-fed rib-eyes every day for lunch. We’d never spend another minute stuck in traffic.

So, ask yourself, what would you do if you won the Lotto? What would stay in your life and what would go? Now, consider that again on a smaller scale. Maybe you should finally use some vacation days and spend time hiking around Europe. Maybe you can quit the lattes and spend that money on higher quality groceries. Maybe you can sell one of your cars, use public transportation to avoid the traffic, and read those books on your daily commute.

Tip: Don’t reserve your imagination for flights of fancy. Get imaginative about your everyday life. Take the nuggets from your fantasies that are really your soul speaking and figure out what it’s telling you about what to quit.

So, What’s Your Answer on What to Quit?

Knowing what to quit and when to stick to something for the long haul can be a substantial challenge. The best and most important thing you can do is get real with what you want and need—being honest with yourself will get you on the right path toward health, fitness, and happiness.

6 Research-Backed Benefits to Sauna for the Athlete

While many of us instinctively gravitate to the sauna as a way to relax, recover from hard work (physical and/or mental), or otherwise indulge ourselves in something that simply feels good, it turns out that it makes complete sense for both our bodies and our minds to crave a bit of sauna time.

Here are six ways spending time in the sauna is a good thing for us—and the science to back up each of these sauna benefits.

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1. Sauna Time Can Improve Our Longevity

Research published in 2015 in JAMA Internal Medicine tracked 2,315 Finnish men, their heart health, and their sauna habits over twenty years. The group of men with the lowest mortality rate were those who got time in the sauna four to seven times per week. The men who frequented the sauna more often saw a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. Researchers believe this heart-protecting benefits comes from the increased heart rate we experience while the sauna, which correlates to performing low- to moderate-intensity exercise.

2. Sauna Can Improve Our Endurance and Aerobic Capacity

There are two ways in which the sauna can help us when it comes to our endurance. First, a 2007 study done on male distance runners showed that regular sauna bathing increased time to exhaustion by 32%, and that plasma and red blood cell volumes increased. So, basically, sauna can help us perform better by increasing our blood volume.

Additionally, it is believed that spending time in the sauna can help us improve our tolerance to heat. This means we’ll be better able to handle the natural increase in body temperature that comes with prolonged physical efforts and exposure to heat while competing or performing.

3. Sauna Can Stimulate Our Muscle Growth

Heat therapy or “hyperthermia” has been shown to increase the production of “heat shock proteins.” Heat shock proteins repair damaged proteins in our bodies. They also protect us against oxidative damage. The same study also showed an improvement in muscle growth. So, essentially, this sort of therapy can help reduce muscle breakdown and increase muscle building.

On top of that, a 1988 study showed an increase in growth hormone after exposure to the sauna and a 2007 study showed exposure to heat can increase insulin sensitivity and therefore help you build and maintain lean body mass and regulate sugar.

4. Sauna Can Be Good for Our Brain, Too

Spending time in the sauna causes our body to release more norepinephrine. Proper norepinephrine levels are believed to help protect us from everything from Alzheimer’s to migraines.

Alongside, norepinephrine our level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (also known as BDNF) also increases with both exercise and heat exposure. This is important as BDNF has been shown in research to be associated with the birth of new neurons and an increase in cognitive function.

5. Sauna Can Cleanse Our Skin

It’s important for our skin to be healthy not just for aesthetic reasons, but because it protects us from the environment and microbes, and also helps regulate our body temperature. Getting in a good sauna allows your skin to clean itself and remove dead skin cells. Not only will your skin “breathe” better and protect you better, but it will look better, too.

P.S. On a related note, the heat of a sauna can trigger our sebaceous glands, which are located on our scalp. The sebaceous glands release compounds that make our hair appear shiny and healthy.

6. Sauna Can Boost Our Immune System

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics examined the impact of traditional Finnish sauna bathing on the immune system. Research subjects included nine trained runners and nine non-athletes. After just one sessions of fifteen minutes in the sauna, subjects showed increased white blood cells. And, interestingly, the athletes showed more improvement to their white blood cell count than the non-athletes.

The Conclusion on Sauna Time for the Athlete

Whether you have access to a traditional (or “Finnish”) sauna or a modern infrared sauna, you can experience all these benefits and more. It’s certainly worth a try—and given the near guarantee that the sauna will relieve stress, you’ll feel better in some way, no matter what! And there may also be social benefits to sauna bathing if you are spending that time with others.

If you’re new to the sauna, just take it slowly. Don’t amp up the heat too high or too quickly, stand up slowly when your time is up, and stay hydrated. If you have a history of health or heart troubles, check in with your doctor first before prescribing yourself time in the sauna

How a Workout Partner Can Help You Reach Your Goals

Many of us have a natural instinct to exercise alongside other people, whether that’s in a group fitness class or with a dedicated workout partner. What we may not be as aware of is the many ways science has determined our workout partner is actually benefitting us.

And for those of you who aren’t as inclined to exercise with others, it may interest you to learn more about the benefits of a workout partner—it could make the difference in reaching your next goal.

There’s a Name for It: The Kohler Effect

There is a name for the fact most of us tend to work harder in the presence of others. This is known as the Kohler effect and was named after German psychologist Otto Kohler.

The Kohler effect tends to be stronger in women than men, which may explain why group exercise tends to be more popular with women. But, in contrast to that, when men are paired with highly capable women, men are more impacted by the Kohler effect—meaning, men are highly motivated in the presence of high-performing women.

The Kohler effect isn’t necessarily about not looking “bad” around other people, by the way. It can simply be that a person becomes aware of what is possible by observing others. And, additionally, if the work being done by a group requires the participation of every member of the group, each member may feel more important and therefore work harder.

So, with this in mind, let’s look at three of the research-backed ways that a workout partner could help each of us get closer to our goals.

1. You’re More Likely to Show Up

Most people are aware of this one, and it’s probably the number one reason people will say they enjoy having a workout partner. Knowing you have someone waiting for you at the track, the gym, or the park is what gets you out of bed, into your exercise clothes, and to your workout.

We find it far easier to skip out on ourselves than other people. Because when we rely on ourselves, we rely on the mythical “willpower” we’re all supposed to have. But willpower is, in fact, fleeting. Whereas a good workout partner will do right by you for a long, long time.

2. You’re More Likely to Enjoy It

Research presented in 2013 at the annual meeting of the American Public Health association reported that people enjoyed exercise more when it was performed with coworkers, significant others, or friends. And a 2001 study published in the International Journal of Stress Management demonstrated that working out with others increased the stress-reducing benefits of exercise.

3. You’re More Likely to Work Hard

Interestingly, the subjects in that 2001 study also reported feeling more tired after working out with others, perhaps due to increased motivation and working harder. And this is, in fact, one of the biggest potential benefits of a workout partner—especially if you pick one who is at least a little bit “better” than you.

A 2012 Kansas State University study found that “those who exercised with a teammate whom they perceived to be better increased their workout time and intensity by as much as 200 percent.” 200 percent!

(And, really, who of us hasn’t tried to sneak a peak at somebody else’s spin bike monitor or mentally calculated the weight on their barbell and then adjusted our own performance accordingly?)

How to Find the Right Workout Partner

If you’ve decided that having a workout partner is a good way to accelerate you toward your fitness and performance goals, the next logical question is, “How do I find a good workout partner?” That’s where things can get tricky, and it might take a little time for you to find the right person or the right group.

Here are some things to consider along the way:

  1. What motivates you? Competition, learning new skills, community?
  2. What are you interested in? Which exercise modalities or activities light you up?
  3. Do you like to talk while working out? (This one can get ugly quickly if partners don’t agree or have an understanding!)
  4. Are there non-negotiables in your life that may get in the way of your schedule sometimes, i.e. kids?
  5. Do you prefer to be indoors or outdoors?
  6. Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening exerciser?

Work through that list of questions and answer it for yourself. Then consider how any potential workout partner or exercise group might answer those questions. The more similar you are to your workout partner—or at least how much you’ve discussed and strategized your differences—the more likely you’ll have a long, successful, and motivating relationship.

Consider a Virtual Workout Partner

If you’re still not sure about working out with “real” people or your lifestyle makes finding a workout partner difficult, don’t worry. It’s possible to find a workout partner even if you live somewhere remote or just haven’t been able to find the right buddy “in real life.”

A 2012 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that people were highly motivated by a workout partner even when that workout partner was “virtual.” So, find somebody online and workout at the same time, do live online workouts with a group, or even just have agreed-upon daily check-in times with a buddy anywhere in the world.

Do You Have or Need a Workout Partner?

If you’re finding yourself plateauing in your training progress or unmotivated to get out there and get working, consider adding a workout partner to your training equipment arsenal. Your workout partner could end up being one of the most important elements in your training success.

What Is Kombucha and Why Is It Good for You?

While kombucha used to be something relegated to health-food stores, it has become an increasingly popular and mainstream beverage in the last couple years. Many tout both its health benefits as well as its flavor (many even find it to be a satisfying substitute for alcoholic beverages).

So, what is kombucha? Where does its unique tart and effervescent flavor come from? And why should you consider trying it?

Read on for the answers to all of that and more.

First, What Is Kombucha?

Simply put, kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is typically fermented from sweetened green or black tea. The fermentation process produces vinegar, trace amounts of alcohol, and carbonation—all of which combine to form kombucha’s signature tangy flavor. This fermentation process—as with foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi—also produces probiotics.

Kombucha may have originally been created as recently as two hundred years ago or as long ago as two thousand years. Regardless of its history and origin, kombucha has been considered to have health benefits for a long time (and by a variety of cultures).

Probiotics are probably the biggest reason most people consume kombucha, and what it is best known for. Probiotics can help restore balance to the flora in your gut, and therefore aid in everything from digestion, to inflammation, to weight loss, and more.

But kombucha isn’t just good for us for this sole reason; there’s a lot more to this unique drink. So, let’s talk through four reasons besides probiotics that you might try kombucha, and the science behind these claims.

1. Improved Liver Health

Kombucha is rich in antioxidants and appears to have a powerful (and positive) impact on our livers. Studies done on rats appear to show that kombucha consumption REDUCES THE TOXICITY OF KNOWN LIVER STRESSORS. This may be due to kombucha’s antioxidant properties or because it increases the body’s ability to METABOLIZE CERTAIN SUBSTANCES.

This means drinking kombucha can be a double whammy when it comes to alcohol consumption. In part, because many people use kombucha as a substitute for alcohol and, therefore, reduce their alcohol consumption. And also, in part, because of the way kombucha powers up our livers.

2. Empowered Immune System

The “vinegar” flavor of kombucha actually comes from acetic acid. Kombucha can also be high in polyphenols, since it comes from tea. Both acetic acid and polyphenols have been shown to KILL BACTERIAthat are harmful to us. So, kombucha offers a one-two punch of providing you with “good’ bacteria through its probiotic dose, while also eliminating the “bad” bacteria.

3. Fighting Diabetes

2012 STUDY examined the impact of kombucha on diabetic rats. The researchers discovered that feeding these rats kombucha slowed the digestion of carbs and, therefore, reduced the rats’ blood sugar levels. It also seems to have boosted the function of their livers and kidneys.

4. Fighting Cancer

Multiple studies have shown that the administration of kombucha could prevent the growth of cancerous cells. A 2013 STUDY published in Biomedicine & Preventative Nutrition even stated “that kombucha may be useful for the prostate cancer treatment/prevention.”

Although not completely proven, kombucha is believed the polyphenols it contains are able to block the growth of cancer cells. This may relate back to the fact that tea drinkers in general are LESS LIKELY TO DEVELOP CERTAIN CANCERS.

Conclusion on Kombucha

If you’ve never tried kombucha before, keep an open mind. Remember, it can be very tangy and is also effervescent. This is also what can make it an enjoyable way to hydrate, though, if you are giving up carbonated drinks or alcohol. Many people find kombucha to be a healthy and satisfying alternative for “happy hour.”

Unlike in the past, kombucha is widely available in almost every grocery store and in a wide range of flavors. Look for varieties that are lower in sugar if you plan to consume kombucha regularly. If you make your own kombucha, please do so carefully—always sanitize your equipment and closely observe your fermentation process.

4 Tips for Staying Healthy Despite Sitting at a Desk All Day

The vast majority of us spend the vast majority of our day sitting. Even if we don’t work at a desk, we spend time in the car, on the couch, on the train, in the coffee shop—the places in life where we sit are virtually endless. It’s simply the way modern life is primarily designed.

But it is possible to be healthy despite sitting all day. And while our workdays may already feel over-full, it’s surprisingly simple to work in some healthy movement habits that can make a world of difference not only in how our bodies feel, but also in how effective our thinking is.

Curious how not sitting could be a benefit to your body and your brain? Read on.

1. Go Pomodoro

The “POMODORO TECHNIQUE” is a method of time management created by Francesco Cirillo. The simplest version of it is that you work for twenty minutes and then take a five-minute break. Cirillo named the technique after his kitchen timer, which was shaped like a tomato (“Pomodoro” is the Italian word for “tomato”).

You, of course, are free to use any timer device you like (probably something on your phone will be the easiest), but the idea is that you take a “break” every twenty minutes throughout your entire day. And, if we are focusing on optimizing our physical and mental health despite sitting, that means when your timer goes off:

  • Stand up and stretch (especially your upper back and hamstrings)
  • Walk once around the block
  • Do twenty squats
  • Do twenty push-ups
  • Spend five minutes practicing deep breathing
  • Do walking lunges to the water cooler and back
  • Put on your headphones, close your eyes, and follow a guided meditation

Pick an activity you feel would be beneficial to you—physically or mentally—and do it on these five-minute breaks. Every couple of hours, take a longer break.

This may sound like a lot of “down” time from the real work you have at the office, and your inner voice might tell you this Pomodoro thing is going to get in the way of your productivity. But just give it a try—you may be surprised just how much more productive you become when you take more “timeouts” over the course of your day.

2. Don’t Buy a Water Bottle

Common advice when it comes to staying hydrated is to buy a big water bottle, keep it at your desk, and slowly drink its contents over the course of the day. There’s nothing wrong with that advice, but we suggest you experiment with completely ignoring it.

Instead, get yourself an 8-ounce glass and a pad of sticky notes. Make a commitment to a certain number of ounces of water you’re going to drink each day. We recommend 1/3 to 1/2 your weight in ounces. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to drink 50-75 ounces of water each day. You might begin by aiming for 64 ounces per day. That means you are committing yourself to filling that 8-ounce glass eight times per day. The point of which is—you therefore have to get up to walk to the water cooler or dispenser eight times per day.

So, don’t buy a big jug. Keep a reasonably sized glass or bottle at your desk. Jot down a hash mark each time you go to fill it, and don’t stop talking “water walks” until you’ve hit your daily goal.

3. Eat at Your Desk and Walk at Lunch

Chances are, if you’re generally working on making healthier choices, you may already be packing your lunch every day. If you can swing it, eat your lunch at your desk during your work hours and save your lunch time for walking. Or, if that makes eating feel stressful (which we don’t want), reserve thirty minutes of your lunch time for eating and thirty minutes for walking. Just walk fifteen minutes away from the office, turn around and come back.

However long you walk, don’t worry about walking at a fast pace. If you have fresh clothes to change into and want to turn this time into a “workout,” that’s fine. But you can also walk at an easier pace and just let your mind wander. Try not to bring your cell phone, or at least keep it out of sight in your pocket or purse. This walk break is for both your mind and your body. Being free of the restrictions of your office and desk will get your blood flowing, and possibly your problem-solving brain juices, as well. We find some of our best and most creative thoughts come when we’re walking (also in the shower, but that’s a different article).

4. Don’t Sit—Stand

Standing desks were all the rage for a while, but not without reason. Sitting (and most of us sit “badly,” at that) disrupts everything from our posture to our digestive system to our nervous system. Switching to a standing desk can help with a lot of these issues.

That said, transitioning from sitting for eight hours per day to standing for eight hours is not something you should do all at once. It’s actually possible to hurt yourself by standing still given that your muscles and tendons will not be used to this. And, even in the long run, standing for eight hours a day is not something great to aspire to, either. It still represents a stationary lifestyle, as opposed to one filled with a variety of movement. Given that, the healthiest thing may be to alternate between the sitting and standing (and also integrate the frequent movement breaks we’ve been talking about).

So, yes, investigate replacing your traditional desk with a standing desk, but make sure it’s one you can easily adjust between sitting and standing heights. When you first start standing, do it for small periods at a time (you’ll be surprised how tired it may make you or how cranky your feet or calves may become), and then slowly increase your standing time. If your body does feel tight in certain areas, use your Pomodoro breaks to walk out the tension or do appropriate stretches.

Which Tip Are You Going to Try?

While each of these four tips is a little different, there is a common theme—break up your day with healthy habits. Don’t spend all day sitting in one place or one position. Move around, change your breathing, change your position and posture, change your thoughts. See if you can combine healthy habits into bite-sized chunks of activity: hydration and movement by going to the water dispenser, deep breathing and movement by going for walks outside, etc.

By “resetting” yourself in all these different ways, you will have a more productive and creative workday—and your body will reward you with increased health, mobility, and energy.

 

How to Re-spark Inspiration When Your New Year’s Resolution Has Fizzled

If you’re like most people, approximately three months ago you set a goal for 2018. You probably called it a “resolution” and you also told yourself this year would be different from every one previous. This year, you would stick to your goal until it came to fruition.

So, how’s that working out? 

If you’re like most people, it’s not working out so great—and we’re here to tell you that’s perfectly okay.

Over the course of your life, many goals will come and go. Some will be achieved, and some won’t. What’s more important in the long run is that your motivation and commitment stay true despite all the ups and downs that life throws at you.

So, if this sounds like you—if you’re here in March thinking, “How do I get my health and fitness commitment back on track?”—we’re here to help. Here are two things to consider in evaluating your New Year’s resolution and moving forward with your new “March resolution.”

 1. Pick a New Goal

It’s entirely possible the goal you picked at the end of December or first week of January wasn’t actually a great goal for you. What the past two months of struggle might have been trying to tell you is that this resolution was never a good fit.

Look back and see if you can determine if this is the case. Why did you pick this resolution? How excited were you about it? Will sticking to this resolution help in your long-term, big-picture goals? Is it possible you could scale back on this resolution a little and find success?

Or, maybe, you’ve learned something from this “failure.” Maybe you don’t like swimming. Maybe you’ve tried to go to art galleries and museums and they’re just not fun for you. Maybe Brazilian jiu jitsu just doesn’t feel great on your body.

Okay, so now you know those things. What can you choose as your new “March resolution” that builds on this knowledge and still propels you toward your long-term goal? Maybe you try a cycling club instead of swimming. Maybe you take an architecture class instead of suffering through museums. Maybe you study Tai Chi.

The takeaway: What can you learn from your “failed” New Year’s Resolution that could propel you toward a future “win”?

 2. Don’t Let Yourself Off the Hook

On the flip side of that, maybe you shouldn’t pick a new goal. Maybe what you need to do is give yourself a little kick in the pants and have a serious talk with yourself in the bathroom mirror.

How often do you set news goals? How many of these goals have you achieved before moving on to a new one? What do you tell yourself when thing get difficult and it’s time to dig in and do the hard work?

Life is hard. Goals are hard. We don’t blame anyone for feeling discouraged or overwhelmed when it comes to forging new ground in any part of your life. Whether it’s running further, lifting heavier, or eating healthier—choosing to optimize your life is never the easiest path.

But to get extraordinary results, you have to do extraordinary things. Ordinary people quit when things get hard, when the way gets rocky. That’s not you. You’re not ordinary. (Really, nobody is ordinary—we’re all incredibly unique, talented, and full of amazing potential. The question is: do you see that in yourself and what are you doing to honor it?)

We think you’re worth not letting yourself off the hook. If your New Year’s resolution was a goal that meant something to you and that you feel is worth achieving, then recommit yourself right now and get back to work.

The takeaway: You’re worth it and you can do this.

Remember Where Your Motivation Comes From

You’re the only one who can know whether the best thing to do is stick with your New Year’s resolution or create a new March resolution. But success on either path will depend on you remembering where your motivation comes from.

Whatever your goal is, you have to be capable of getting up each morning—when it’s raining, when you’re tired, when a work deadline is looming—and taking care of you first. Health and happiness are not separate things. You cannot put off one for the other and live a long, fulfilled life. Why did you pick this goal and what does it mean for your life? Spend some time on that.

Then, incorporate some of these tips to help you re-kindle and maintain your motivation:

  • Schedule a workout date with a buddy
  • Dedicate times in your weekly calendar for yourself (and refuse to reschedule them)
  • Tell your spouse, friends, children, and/or co-workers what your goals are
  • Rewrite your resolutions and goals every day in a journal
  • Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror with a positive reminder
  • Create a series of smaller milestones that lead to your big goal
  • Celebrate each time you achieve something and forgive yourself each time you stumble

So, what’s your March resolution? And what are you doing today to achieve it?

How to Re-spark Inspiration When Your NY’s Resolution Has Fizzled

If you’re like most people, approximately three months ago you set a goal for 2018. You probably called it a “resolution” and you also told yourself this year would be different from every one previous. This year, you would stick to your goal until it came to fruition.

So, how’s that working out? 

If you’re like most people, it’s not working out so great—and we’re here to tell you that’s perfectly okay.

Over the course of your life, many goals will come and go. Some will be achieved, and some won’t. What’s more important in the long run is that your motivation and commitment stay true despite all the ups and downs that life throws at you.

So, if this sounds like you—if you’re here in March thinking, “How do I get my health and fitness commitment back on track?”—we’re here to help. Here are two things to consider in evaluating your New Year’s resolution and moving forward with your new “March resolution.”

1. Pick a New Goal

It’s entirely possible the goal you picked at the end of December or first week of January wasn’t actually a great goal for you. What the past two months of struggle might have been trying to tell you is that this resolution was never a good fit.

Look back and see if you can determine if this is the case. Why did you pick this resolution? How excited were you about it? Will sticking to this resolution help in your long-term, big-picture goals? Is it possible you could scale back on this resolution a little and find success?

Or, maybe, you’ve learned something from this “failure.” Maybe you don’t like swimming. Maybe you’ve tried to go to art galleries and museums and they’re just not fun for you. Maybe Brazilian jiu jitsu just doesn’t feel great on your body.

Okay, so now you know those things. What can you choose as your new “March resolution” that builds on this knowledge and still propels you toward your long-term goal? Maybe you try a cycling club instead of swimming. Maybe you take an architecture class instead of suffering through museums. Maybe you study Tai Chi.

The takeaway: What can you learn from your “failed” New Year’s Resolution that could propel you toward a future “win”?

2. Don’t Let Yourself Off the Hook

On the flip side of that, maybe you shouldn’t pick a new goal. Maybe what you need to do is give yourself a little kick in the pants and have a serious talk with yourself in the bathroom mirror.

How often do you set news goals? How many of these goals have you achieved before moving on to a new one? What do you tell yourself when thing get difficult and it’s time to dig in and do the hard work?

Life is hard. Goals are hard. We don’t blame anyone for feeling discouraged or overwhelmed when it comes to forging new ground in any part of your life. Whether it’s running further, lifting heavier, or eating healthier—choosing to optimize your life is never the easiest path.

But to get extraordinary results, you have to do extraordinary things. Ordinary people quit when things get hard, when the way gets rocky. That’s not you. You’re not ordinary. (Really, nobody is ordinary—we’re all incredibly unique, talented, and full of amazing potential. The question is: do you see that in yourself and what are you doing to honor it?)

We think you’re worth not letting yourself off the hook. If your New Year’s resolution was a goal that meant something to you and that you feel is worth achieving, then recommit yourself right now and get back to work.

The takeaway: You’re worth it and you can do this.

Remember Where Your Motivation Comes From

You’re the only one who can know whether the best thing to do is stick with your New Year’s resolution or create a new March resolution. But success on either path will depend on you remembering where your motivation comes from.

Whatever your goal is, you have to be capable of getting up each morning—when it’s raining, when you’re tired, when a work deadline is looming—and taking care of you first. Health and happiness are not separate things. You cannot put off one for the other and live a long, fulfilled life. Why did you pick this goal and what does it mean for your life? Spend some time on that.

Then, incorporate some of these tips to help you re-kindle and maintain your motivation:

  • Schedule a workout date with a buddy
  • Dedicate times in your weekly calendar for yourself (and refuse to reschedule them)
  • Tell your spouse, friends, children, and/or co-workers what your goals are
  • Rewrite your resolutions and goals every day in a journal
  • Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror with a positive reminder
  • Create a series of smaller milestones that lead to your big goal
  • Celebrate each time you achieve something and forgive yourself each time you stumble

So, what’s your March resolution? And what are you doing today to achieve it?

How to Re-spark Inspiration When Your New Year’s Resolution Has Fizzled

If you’re like most people, approximately three months ago you set a goal for 2018. You probably called it a “resolution” and you also told yourself this year would be different from every one previous. This year, you would stick to your goal until it came to fruition.

So, how’s that working out?

If you’re like most people, it’s not working out so great—and we’re here to tell you that’s perfectly okay.

Over the course of your life, many goals will come and go. Some will be achieved, and some won’t. What’s more important in the long run is that your motivation and commitment stay true despite all the ups and downs that life throws at you.

So, if this sounds like you—if you’re here in March thinking, “How do I get my health and fitness commitment back on track?”—we’re here to help. Here are two things to consider in evaluating your New Year’s resolution and moving forward with your new “March resolution.”

1. Pick a New Goal

It’s entirely possible the goal you picked at the end of December or first week of January wasn’t actually a great goal for you. What the past two months of struggle might have been trying to tell you is that this resolution was never a good fit.

Look back and see if you can determine if this is the case. Why did you pick this resolution? How excited were you about it? Will sticking to this resolution help in your long-term, big-picture goals? Is it possible you could scale back on this resolution a little and find success?

Or, maybe, you’ve learned something from this “failure.” Maybe you don’t like swimming. Maybe you’ve tried to go to art galleries and museums and they’re just not fun for you. Maybe Brazilian jiu jitsu just doesn’t feel great on your body.

Okay, so now you know those things. What can you choose as your new “March resolution” that builds on this knowledge and still propels you toward your long-term goal? Maybe you try a cycling club instead of swimming. Maybe you take an architecture class instead of suffering through museums. Maybe you study Tai Chi.

The takeaway: What can you learn from your “failed” New Year’s Resolution that could propel you toward a future “win”?

2. Don’t Let Yourself Off the Hook

On the flip side of that, maybe you shouldn’t pick a new goal. Maybe what you need to do is give yourself a little kick in the pants and have a serious talk with yourself in the bathroom mirror.

How often do you set news goals? How many of these goals have you achieved before moving on to a new one? What do you tell yourself when thing get difficult and it’s time to dig in and do the hard work?

Life is hard. Goals are hard. We don’t blame anyone for feeling discouraged or overwhelmed when it comes to forging new ground in any part of your life. Whether it’s running further, lifting heavier, or eating healthier—choosing to optimize your life is never the easiest path.

But to get extraordinary results, you have to do extraordinary things. Ordinary people quit when things get hard, when the way gets rocky. That’s not you. You’re not ordinary. (Really, nobody is ordinary—we’re all incredibly unique, talented, and full of amazing potential. The question is: do you see that in yourself and what are you doing to honor it?)

We think you’re worth not letting yourself off the hook. If your New Year’s resolution was a goal that meant something to you and that you feel is worth achieving, then recommit yourself right now and get back to work.

The takeaway: You’re worth it and you can do this.

Remember Where Your Motivation Comes From

You’re the only one who can know whether the best thing to do is stick with your New Year’s resolution or create a new March resolution. But success on either path will depend on you remembering where your motivation comes from.

Whatever your goal is, you have to be capable of getting up each morning—when it’s raining, when you’re tired, when a work deadline is looming—and taking care of you first. Health and happiness are not separate things. You cannot put off one for the other and live a long, fulfilled life. Why did you pick this goal and what does it mean for your life? Spend some time on that.

Then, incorporate some of these tips to help you re-kindle and maintain your motivation:

  • Schedule a workout date with a buddy
  • Dedicate times in your weekly calendar for yourself (and refuse to reschedule them)
  • Tell your spouse, friends, children, and/or co-workers what your goals are
  • Rewrite your resolutions and goals every day in a journal
  • Put a sticky note on your bathroom mirror with a positive reminder
  • Create a series of smaller milestones that lead to your big goal
  • Celebrate each time you achieve something and forgive yourself each time you stumble

So, what’s your March resolution? And what are you doing today to achieve it?

4 Tips for Staying Healthy Despite Sitting at a Desk All Day

The vast majority of us spend the vast majority of our day sitting. Even if we don’t work at a desk, we spend time in the car, on the couch, on the train, in the coffee shop—the places in life where we sit are virtually endless. It’s simply the way modern life is primarily designed.

But it is possible to be healthy despite sitting all day. And while our workdays may already feel over-full, it’s surprisingly simple to work in some healthy movement habits that can make a world of difference not only in how our bodies feel, but also in how effective our thinking is.

Curious how not sitting could be a benefit to your body and your brain? Read on.

1. Go Pomodoro

The “Pomodoro Technique” is a method of time management created by Francesco Cirillo. The simplest version of it is that you work for twenty minutes and then take a five-minute break. Cirillo named the technique after his kitchen timer, which was shaped like a tomato (“Pomodoro” is the Italian word for “tomato”).

You, of course, are free to use any timer device you like (probably something on your phone will be the easiest), but the idea is that you take a “break” every twenty minutes throughout your entire day. And, if we are focusing on optimizing our physical and mental health despite sitting, that means when your timer goes off:

  • Stand up and stretch (especially your upper back and hamstrings)
  • Walk once around the block
  • Do twenty squats
  • Do twenty push-ups
  • Spend five minutes practicing deep breathing
  • Do walking lunges to the water cooler and back
  • Put on your headphones, close your eyes, and follow a guided meditation

Pick an activity you feel would be beneficial to you—physically or mentally—and do it on these five-minute breaks. Every couple of hours, take a longer break.

This may sound like a lot of “down” time from the real work you have at the office, and your inner voice might tell you this Pomodoro thing is going to get in the way of your productivity. But just give it a try—you may be surprised just how much more productive you become when you take more “timeouts” over the course of your day.

2. Don’t Buy a Water Bottle

Common advice when it comes to staying hydrated is to buy a big water bottle, keep it at your desk, and slowly drink its contents over the course of the day. There’s nothing wrong with that advice, but we suggest you experiment with completely ignoring it.

Instead, get yourself an 8-ounce glass and a pad of sticky notes. Make a commitment to a certain number of ounces of water you’re going to drink each day. We recommend 1/3 to 1/2 your weight in ounces. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim to drink 50-75 ounces of water each day. You might begin by aiming for 64 ounces per day. That means you are committing yourself to filling that 8-ounce glass eight times per day. The point of which is—you therefore have to get up to walk to the water cooler or dispenser eight times per day.

So, don’t buy a big jug. Keep a reasonably sized glass or bottle at your desk. Jot down a hash mark each time you go to fill it, and don’t stop talking “water walks” until you’ve hit your daily goal.

3. Eat at Your Desk and Walk at Lunch

Chances are, if you’re generally working on making healthier choices, you may already be packing your lunch every day. If you can swing it, eat your lunch at your desk during your work hours and save your lunch time for walking. Or, if that makes eating feel stressful (which we don’t want), reserve thirty minutes of your lunch time for eating and thirty minutes for walking. Just walk fifteen minutes away from the office, turn around and come back.                                                                                               

However long you walk, don’t worry about walking at a fast pace. If you have fresh clothes to change into and want to turn this time into a “workout,” that’s fine. But you can also walk at an easier pace and just let your mind wander. Try not to bring your cell phone, or at least keep it out of sight in your pocket or purse. This walk break is for both your mind and your body. Being free of the restrictions of your office and desk will get your blood flowing, and possibly your problem-solving brain juices, as well. We find some of our best and most creative thoughts come when we’re walking (also in the shower, but that’s a different article).

4. Don’t Sit—Stand

Standing desks were all the rage for a while, but not without reason. Sitting (and most of us sit “badly,” at that) disrupts everything from our posture to our digestive system to our nervous system. Switching to a standing desk can help with a lot of these issues.

That said, transitioning from sitting for eight hours per day to standing for eight hours is not something you should do all at once. It’s actually possible to hurt yourself by standing still given that your muscles and tendons will not be used to this. And, even in the long run, standing for eight hours a day is not something great to aspire to, either. It still represents a stationary lifestyle, as opposed to one filled with a variety of movement. Given that, the healthiest thing may be to alternate between the sitting and standing (and also integrate the frequent movement breaks we’ve been talking about).

So, yes, investigate replacing your traditional desk with a standing desk, but make sure it’s one you can easily adjust between sitting and standing heights. When you first start standing, do it for small periods at a time (you’ll be surprised how tired it may make you or how cranky your feet or calves may become), and then slowly increase your standing time. If your body does feel tight in certain areas, use your Pomodoro breaks to walk out the tension or do appropriate stretches.

Which Tip Are You Going to Try?

While each of these four tips is a little different, there is a common theme—break up your day with healthy habits. Don’t spend all day sitting in one place or one position. Move around, change your breathing, change your position and posture, change your thoughts. See if you can combine healthy habits into bite-sized chunks of activity: hydration and movement by going to the water dispenser, deep breathing and movement by going for walks outside, etc.

By “resetting” yourself in all these different ways, you will have a more productive and creative workday—and your body will reward you with increased health, mobility, and energy.

What Is Kombucha and Why Is It Good for You?

While kombucha used to be something relegated to health-food stores, it has become an increasingly popular and mainstream beverage in the last couple years. Many tout both its health benefits as well as its flavor (many even find it to be a satisfying substitute for alcoholic beverages).

So, what is kombucha? Where does its unique tart and effervescent flavor come from? And why should you consider trying it?

Read on for the answers to all of that and more.

First, What Is Kombucha?

Simply put, kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It is typically fermented from sweetened green or black tea. The fermentation process produces vinegar, trace amounts of alcohol, and carbonation—all of which combine to form kombucha’s signature tangy flavor. This fermentation process—as with foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi—also produces probiotics.

Kombucha may have originally been created as recently as two hundred years ago or as long ago as two thousand years. Regardless of its history and origin, kombucha has been considered to have health benefits for a long time (and by a variety of cultures).

Probiotics are probably the biggest reason most people consume kombucha, and what it is best known for. Probiotics can help restore balance to the flora in your gut, and therefore aid in everything from digestion, to inflammation, to weight loss, and more.

But kombucha isn’t just good for us for this sole reason; there’s a lot more to this unique drink. So, let’s talk through four reasons besides probiotics that you might try kombucha, and the science behind these claims.

1. Improved Liver Health

Kombucha is rich in antioxidants and appears to have a powerful (and positive) impact on our livers. Studies done on rats appear to show that kombucha consumption reduces the toxicity of known liver stressors. This may be due to kombucha’s antioxidant properties or because it increases the body’s ability to metabolize certain substances.

This means drinking kombucha can be a double whammy when it comes to alcohol consumption. In part, because many people use kombucha as a substitute for alcohol and, therefore, reduce their alcohol consumption. And also, in part, because of the way kombucha powers up our livers.

2. Empowered Immune System

The “vinegar” flavor of kombucha actually comes from acetic acid. Kombucha can also be high in polyphenols, since it comes from tea. Both acetic acid and polyphenols have been shown to kill bacteria that are harmful to us. So, kombucha offers a one-two punch of providing you with “good’ bacteria through its probiotic dose, while also eliminating the “bad” bacteria.

3. Fighting Diabetes

A 2012 study examined the impact of kombucha on diabetic rats. The researchers discovered that feeding these rats kombucha slowed the digestion of carbs and, therefore, reduced the rats’ blood sugar levels. It also seems to have boosted the function of their livers and kidneys.

4. Fighting Cancer

Multiple studies have shown that the administration of kombucha could prevent the growth of cancerous cells. A 2013 study published in Biomedicine & Preventative Nutrition even stated “that kombucha may be useful for the prostate cancer treatment/prevention.”

Although not completely proven, kombucha is believed the polyphenols it contains are able to block the growth of cancer cells. This may relate back to the fact that tea drinkers in general are less likely to develop certain cancers.

Conclusion on Kombucha

If you’ve never tried kombucha before, keep an open mind. Remember, it can be very tangy and is also effervescent. This is also what can make it an enjoyable way to hydrate, though, if you are giving up carbonated drinks or alcohol. Many people find kombucha to be a healthy and satisfying alternative for “happy hour.”

Unlike in the past, kombucha is widely available in almost every grocery store and in a wide range of flavors. Look for varieties that are lower in sugar if you plan to consume kombucha regularly. If you make your own kombucha, please do so carefully—always sanitize your equipment and closely observe your fermentation process.

How a Workout Partner Can Help You Reach Your Goals

Many of us have a natural instinct to exercise alongside other people, whether that’s in a group fitness class or with a dedicated workout partner. What we may not be as aware of is the many ways science has determined our workout partner is actually benefitting us.

And for those of you who aren’t as inclined to exercise with others, it may interest you to learn more about the benefits of a workout partner—it could make the difference in reaching your next goal.

There’s a Name for It: The Kohler Effect

There is a name for the fact most of us tend to work harder in the presence of others. This is known as the Kohler effect and was named after German psychologist Otto Kohler.

The Kohler effect tends to be stronger in women than men, which may explain why group exercise tends to be more popular with women. But, in contrast to that, when men are paired with highly capable women, men are more impacted by the Kohler effect—meaning, men are highly motivated in the presence of high-performing women.

The Kohler effect isn’t necessarily about not looking “bad” around other people, by the way. It can simply be that a person becomes aware of what is possible by observing others. And, additionally, if the work being done by a group requires the participation of every member of the group, each member may feel more important and therefore work harder.

So, with this in mind, let’s look at three of the research-backed ways that a workout partner could help each of us get closer to our goals.

1. You’re More Likely to Show Up

Most people are aware of this one, and it’s probably the number one reason people will say they enjoy having a workout partner. Knowing you have someone waiting for you at the track, the gym, or the park is what gets you out of bed, into your exercise clothes, and to your workout.

We find it far easier to skip out on ourselves than other people. Because when we rely on ourselves, we rely on the mythical “willpower” we’re all supposed to have. But willpower is, in fact, fleeting. Whereas a good workout partner will do right by you for a long, long time.

2. You’re More Likely to Enjoy It

Research presented in 2013 at the annual meeting of the American Public Health association reported that people enjoyed exercise more when it was performed with coworkers, significant others, or friends. And a 2001 study published in the International Journal of Stress Management demonstrated that working out with others increased the stress-reducing benefits of exercise.

3. You’re More Likely to Work Hard

Interestingly, the subjects in that 2001 study also reported feeling more tired after working out with others, perhaps due to increased motivation and working harder. And this is, in fact, one of the biggest potential benefits of a workout partner—especially if you pick one who is at least a little bit “better” than you.

A 2012 Kansas State University study found that “those who exercised with a teammate whom they perceived to be better increased their workout time and intensity by as much as 200 percent.” 200 percent!

(And, really, who of us hasn’t tried to sneak a peak at somebody else’s spin bike monitor or mentally calculated the weight on their barbell and then adjusted our own performance accordingly?)

How to Find the Right Workout Partner

If you’ve decided that having a workout partner is a good way to accelerate you toward your fitness and performance goals, the next logical question is, “How do I find a good workout partner?” That’s where things can get tricky, and it might take a little time for you to find the right person or the right group.

Here are some things to consider along the way:

  1. What motivates you? Competition, learning new skills, community?
  2. What are you interested in? Which exercise modalities or activities light you up?
  3. Do you like to talk while working out? (This one can get ugly quickly if partners don’t agree or have an understanding!)
  4. Are there non-negotiables in your life that may get in the way of your schedule sometimes, i.e. kids?
  5. Do you prefer to be indoors or outdoors?
  6. Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening exerciser?

Work through that list of questions and answer it for yourself. Then consider how any potential workout partner or exercise group might answer those questions. The more similar you are to your workout partner—or at least how much you’ve discussed and strategized your differences—the more likely you’ll have a long, successful, and motivating relationship.

Consider a Virtual Workout Partner

If you’re still not sure about working out with “real” people or your lifestyle makes finding a workout partner difficult, don’t worry. It’s possible to find a workout partner even if you live somewhere remote or just haven’t been able to find the right buddy “in real life.”

A 2012 study published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that people were highly motivated by a workout partner even when that workout partner was “virtual.” So, find somebody online and workout at the same time, do live online workouts with a group, or even just have agreed-upon daily check-in times with a buddy anywhere in the world.

Do You Have or Need a Workout Partner?

If you’re finding yourself plateauing in your training progress or unmotivated to get out there and get working, consider adding a workout partner to your training equipment arsenal. Your workout partner could end up being one of the most important elements in your training success.

6 Research-Backed Benefits to Sauna for the Athlete

While many of us instinctively gravitate to the sauna as a way to relax, recover from hard work (physical and/or mental), or otherwise indulge ourselves in something that simply feels good, it turns out that it makes complete sense for both our bodies and our minds to crave a bit of sauna time.

Here are six ways spending time in the sauna is a good thing for us—and the science to back up each of these sauna benefits.

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1. Sauna Time Can Improve Our Longevity

Research published in 2015 in JAMA Internal Medicine tracked 2,315 Finnish men, their heart health, and their sauna habits over twenty years. The group of men with the lowest mortality rate were those who got time in the sauna four to seven times per week. The men who frequented the sauna more often saw a reduced risk of sudden cardiac death, fatal coronary heart disease, fatal cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. Researchers believe this heart-protecting benefits comes from the increased heart rate we experience while the sauna, which correlates to performing low- to moderate-intensity exercise.

2. Sauna Can Improve Our Endurance and Aerobic Capacity

There are two ways in which the sauna can help us when it comes to our endurance. First, a 2007 study done on male distance runners showed that regular sauna bathing increased time to exhaustion by 32%, and that plasma and red blood cell volumes increased. So, basically, sauna can help us perform better by increasing our blood volume.

Additionally, it is believed that spending time in the sauna can help us improve our tolerance to heat. This means we’ll be better able to handle the natural increase in body temperature that comes with prolonged physical efforts and exposure to heat while competing or performing.

3. Sauna Can Stimulate Our Muscle Growth

Heat therapy or “hyperthermia” has been shown to increase the production of “heat shock proteins.” Heat shock proteins repair damaged proteins in our bodies. They also protect us against oxidative damage. The same study also showed an improvement in muscle growth. So, essentially, this sort of therapy can help reduce muscle breakdown and increase muscle building.

On top of that, a 1988 study showed an increase in growth hormone after exposure to the sauna and a 2007 study showed exposure to heat can increase insulin sensitivity and therefore help you build and maintain lean body mass and regulate sugar.

4. Sauna Can Be Good for Our Brain, Too

Spending time in the sauna causes our body to release more norepinephrine. Proper norepinephrine levels are believed to help protect us from everything from Alzheimer’s to migraines.

Alongside, norepinephrine our level of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (also known as BDNF) also increases with both exercise and heat exposure. This is important as BDNF has been shown in research to be associated with the birth of new neurons and an increase in cognitive function.

5. Sauna Can Cleanse Our Skin

It’s important for our skin to be healthy not just for aesthetic reasons, but because it protects us from the environment and microbes, and also helps regulate our body temperature. Getting in a good sauna allows your skin to clean itself and remove dead skin cells. Not only will your skin “breathe” better and protect you better, but it will look better, too.

P.S. On a related note, the heat of a sauna can trigger our sebaceous glands, which are located on our scalp. The sebaceous glands release compounds that make our hair appear shiny and healthy.

6. Sauna Can Boost Our Immune System

A 2013 study published in the Journal of Human Kinetics examined the impact of traditional Finnish sauna bathing on the immune system. Research subjects included nine trained runners and nine non-athletes. After just one sessions of fifteen minutes in the sauna, subjects showed increased white blood cells. And, interestingly, the athletes showed more improvement to their white blood cell count than the non-athletes.

The Conclusion on Sauna Time for the Athlete

Whether you have access to a traditional (or “Finnish”) sauna or a modern infrared sauna, you can experience all these benefits and more. It’s certainly worth a try—and given the near guarantee that the sauna will relieve stress, you’ll feel better in some way, no matter what! And there may also be social benefits to sauna bathing if you are spending that time with others.

If you’re new to the sauna, just take it slowly. Don’t amp up the heat too high or too quickly, stand up slowly when your time is up, and stay hydrated. If you have a history of health or heart troubles, check in with your doctor first before prescribing yourself time in the sauna

What Time of Day Is the Best Time for Training?

Perhaps the question about training that’s nearly as common as “how should I exercise” is “when should I exercise.” The question of the best time for training is something every trainee ponders at some point in their training life.

And while you’re probably learning that “it depends” is a common answer to your training questions (and a reasonable one, at that), we’re going to provide you with a little more detail (and some science) so you can decide what the best time for training is for you.

It’s All About the Circadian Rhythm

Whether we are naturally “night owls” or “early birds,” one thing we all have in common is that our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle known as the circadian rhythm.

The circadian rhythm is controlled by our hypothalamus, but also impacted by things like darkness and daylight. In turn, our body’s circadian rhythm influences our blood pressure, hormones, heart rate, oxygen consumption, and body temperature. And, things like not getting enough sleep, jet lag, and stress can throw your circadian rhythm out of whack.

All of this is important because the things our circadian rhythm influences also influence our training and the effectiveness of our training. So, let’s look at the different times of day and how our body’s natural cycle coincides with the different forms of exercise we may be pursuing.

Pros and Cons of Training in the Morning

Morning may be better for weight loss, but not because we workout before eating. In fact, both a 2013 study and a 2014 study demonstrated no difference between fasted and non-fasted morning workouts when it came to making a change in body composition.

But it has been shown that those who exercise in the morning have lower blood pressure and experience improved sleep. This better-quality sleep leads to lower stress levels and more balanced hormone levels, which is all likely linked to better weight control.

But perhaps more than anything, exercising in the morning can set a mental tone for your day that begins a cascade of good choices. A 2012 study conducted at Brigham Young University found that 45 minutes of morning exercise caused women to have a lower response to food cues and to be more active throughout the rest of the day.

If you decide to switch to morning exercise, keep in mind that because of where you are in your circadian rhythm, your body temperature will be lower in the morning, which means you may need more time to properly warm up.

Pros and Cons of Training in the Afternoon

One big thing you have going for you in the afternoon is that this is when we tend to have our lowest cortisol levels, and therefore, our testosterone (in both men and women) has the best shot at doing us some good. Yes, our testosterone is actually highest in the morning, but it has to compete with our highest cortisol then, too. Research shows we have a higher “exercise-induced T response” in the afternoons. Meaning, we produce more testosterone during afternoon exercise than morning exercise.

Other things to consider when it comes to afternoon workouts:

  • Perceived exertion, or how hard you feel like you are working, is typically lowest in the afternoon, so you may be able to work harder than you could in the morning.
  • Our body temperature typically peaks in the late afternoon, and therefore so does flexibility.
  • Our ability to synthesize protein is highest in the late afternoon, and the impact our exercise will have on our glucose levels is the greatest.
  • Some research has shown our lungs also work the best in the later part of the day, so it may be an excellent time for endurance training.
  • Finally, our reaction times tend to be quicker in the afternoon.

All this to say, if you’re hitting big weights, working on skill development, or doing your best to avoid injury, afternoon might be prime time for you.

One important benefit to a late-afternoon, after-work workout is the potential stress relief. If your workouts help you let off steam and allow you to reset for the remainder of your evening and sleep time, then an evening training session can be a great idea.

Exercise Times to Avoid

One thing to avoid, if you plan to compete, is training at a completely different time of day then when you expect to compete. Your body will organize its cycle around your consistent training times. So, while afternoon might be the best time for strength training, if you plan on participating in a morning weightlifting meet, then you’ll want to consistently train in the mornings.

According to research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, very early or very late workouts should be avoided by most people. That said, research shows the notion of working out late and disrupting your sleep is likely to be a myth. This belief is based on the fact exercise can raise your body temperature at a time it should be naturally cooling. But one study found that resistance exercise improved sleep no matter what time the subjects trained, and evening exercisers in the study actually experienced the best sleep.

So, What Is the Best Time for Training?

If you’re already exercising regularly, and you want to squeeze more out of your training and elevate your performance, then optimizing your schedule for the best training results may be something to examine. That optimization may be based on whether you have endurance or strength goals, or if you’re trying to train for a specific event start time.

But, for most people, the short answer to the question of when to work out is “when you actually will.” And if you’re new to regular training, then scheduling your exercise at the same time every day, no matter what time that is, will help you create and stick to your new habit. So, if you’re a night owl or an early bird naturally, let that help you decide when to exercise.

And if you are trying to boost your performance, and feeling a little sad about afternoons being so prime for training, you should know the research also shows morning exercisers tend to be the most consistent, and that consistency could still put you ahead of those athletes working out at the “ideal” afternoon times.

Sleep Your Way to Optimal Performance

Sleep is the ultimate performance enhancer. When considering factors of optimal performance, we often list off nutrition tips, training schedules and recovery regimens. Sleep usually doesn’t get a mention here, but it should. If we don’t sleep, our nutrition and countless hours of training will go to waste. Our bodies need sleep for performance and for recovery. Without sleep, our bodies break down and our athletic performance suffers. When life gets busy, it is too easy to compromise our sleep schedules. However, the additional hours of consciousness aren’t doing us any favors. While we may get used to sleeping 5-6 hours every night, our bodies don’t like it and we will eventually pay for it. In order to operate at your highest level, you need to prioritize sleep.

Why Do We Actually Need Sleep?

How much sleep did you get last night? Depending on your answer you either feel refreshed today or completely wrecked. We all know that sleep is a powerful determinant of human function. Personal experience has taught most of us that sleep is a non-negotiable component of well-being, yet scientists have yet to figure out exactly why we need sleep. What science has shown us though, is that a lack of sleep is detrimental to our health.

Beyond the obvious side effect of fatigue, a sleep deficit negatively influences almost every one of the body’s physiological processes. When we don’t sleep our bodies break down and we cannot recover well. We are more likely to get sick, our metabolism slows, our concentration wanes and our physical performance suffers. A failure to prioritize sleep will leave us unable to reap the benefits of our otherwise healthy and active lifestyles.

The Sleep Cycle

A sleep cycle is comprised of five stages of sleep. The first four stages of sleep are known as non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and the fifth stage is known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During the four stages of NREM sleep, we progress from light sleep to deep sleep. The fifth stage, REM sleep, is the most active stage of sleep. Our muscles are relaxed, but our brainwaves are highly active and we experience rapid eye movements. Dreaming and memory consolidation occur during REM sleep.

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We spend about 50% of sleeping time in stage two of sleep, 20% in REM sleep and the remaining time in the other stages. Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes. If we get a full night’s sleep, we experience 4-6 sleep cycles per night.

In order to adequately recover from exercise, we must experience all five stages of sleep. We must also sleep 7-8 hours for our bodies to undergo all of the restorative physiologic processes of sleep. During the first 2-3 sleep cycles, we spend more time in NREM sleep and during the final 2-3 sleep cycles, we spend more time in REM sleep. This means that most of us will experience more NREM sleep earlier in the night and more REM sleep in the early morning hours. So those of us who tend to burn the candle at both ends, going to bed late and waking up early, will miss out on REM sleep and perhaps even the deepest stages of sleep, stages three and four.

Sleep is a Performance Enhancer

By allowing the brain and body to rest and restore, we leave ourselves better prepared for an intense training session. Athletes who sleep more demonstrate improved reaction times, higher speed, less fatigue and better moods. It is also easier to learn a new skill when we are well rested.

The bottom line? There is no substitution for sleep. If we don’t get enough of it, we will not be able to perform the way we want to. Endurance training, weight lifting performance, and motivation to exercise are all negatively influenced by a lack of sleep.

Countless sleep deprivation studies have demonstrated the effects of sleep on athletic performance. Cyclists deprived of sleep demonstrate negative mood changes and worsening reaction times. Weight lifters who were restricted to three hours of sleep for three consecutive nights demonstrated decreased performance on submaximal lifts for a biceps curl, a bench press, a leg press and a deadlift compared to their counterparts who slept a full night. These same weight lifters also experienced less vigor when exercising. Endurance athletes who are sleep deprived have been shown to run shorter distances at a greater perceived effort than their sleep-rich counterparts, who ran longer distances at the same perception of effort. Essentially, when we sleep less we are more likely to quit earlier because exercise feels harder.

Sleep readies our brain for physical activity too. When we train, we are often learning new movements. Additionally, athletic competition requires us to perform cognitive tasks while also expending physical energy. Lack of sleep makes it more difficult to learn movements and perform complex physical skills.

Sleep deprivation can also leave athletes more susceptible to overtraining syndrome. A reduction in sleep results in imbalances in the neuroendocrine system, stimulating overtraining syndrome. When training under a sleep debt, our bodies are more likely to perceive training as overtraining. Our immune system is also impaired when we do not get enough sleep. We are therefore not prepared to take on increased physical demands and are more likely to break down and get sick.

Sleep is a Recovery Aid

In addition to improving our performance, sleep also helps us recover from exercise. When we don’t get enough sleep after training, our bodies cannot properly recover. Therefore, entering a sleep debt while training creates a vicious cycle. We wake up without having recovered from the previous day’s session and we start today’s session without our most important performance enhancer.

Several studies have demonstrated sleep’s powerful influence on recovery by examining athletes after exercise and subsequent sleep deprivation. Cyclists who slept for 3-4 hours after a HIIT session demonstrated a reduction in peak power output the next day, while also reporting more fatigue and less motivation to train. Rugby players who were sleep deprived after a competitive match demonstrated declines in counter movement jump distances and slower reaction times the next morning.

The major lesson here is that sleep is critical after training and competition. If for some reason an athlete is unable to get adequate sleep after exercise, then training demands should be adjusted the following day.

Sleep deprivation also robs us of important physiologic recovery benefits of exercise. When we participate in high intensity training, we experience a 24 hour reduction in systolic blood pressure. However, athletes who are deprived of sleep fail to demonstrate this beneficial change in blood pressure. Individuals who are deprived of sleep after exercise also exhibit higher blood glucose levels than athletes who slept a full night. This effect will negatively influence our metabolism, energy levels, and eating habits.

Maximizing Sleep Potential with Protein

When we sleep, we undergo protein synthesis. The body’s cells demonstrate increased production and decreased breakdown of protein during sleep, setting us up for improvements in strength and endurance. We can capitalize on this benefit by ingesting protein before sleep. A small protein-rich snack allows us to take advantage of the muscle repair processes that happen overnight.

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Remember the movie Million Dollar Baby? Hilary Swank put on 23 pounds of muscle for her role as boxer. She would wake up every few hours during the night to drink protein shakes in order to keep her muscle protein synthesis rates elevated. For almost all of us this approach is much too extreme, but there is something to be learned from Swank’s dietary schedule. When we sleep, our body is relying on the last bit of nutrients we had before bed. Furthermore, our muscles’ ability to use protein is limited by the availability of circulating amino acids and protein. If we take in protein before bed, we can better stimulate overnight protein synthesis rates and enhance the body’s protein stores.

Studies have demonstrated that athletes who drink [casein] protein before bed effectively digest and absorb the protein overnight, resulting in increased circulating amino acid levels and higher protein synthesis rates. The hope here is that this will result in improved gains in muscle mass and strength.

While these studies have effectively linked protein ingestion before bed to improved protein synthesis rates, they have yet to determine the amount of protein needed for these positive effects. Studies have demonstrated benefits using anywhere from 28g to 40g of protein. It has yet to be determined if a smaller amount will show the same effect. We also still need to see studies that demonstrate which type of protein best stimulates overnight protein synthesis.

If eating before bed doesn’t sit well with you, then make sure have some protein with your breakfast. Since we’ve been depriving our bodies of this important nutrient all night, it is important to give our muscles a chance to start rebuilding and provide the body with the tools it needs to recharge.

Sleep Well Tonight

Sleep is a power player in our performance as athletes. It enhances the quality of our training, ensures proper recovery and motivates us to push a little harder. Don’t skip out on this critical element to physical function. Starting making sleep a priority and your body will thank you.

While there are many elements that contribute to sleep, there are several actions we can take to ensure that we experience fully restorative sleep. Here are some helpful tips to make sure you get a good night’s sleep tonight:

●Sleep for 7-9 hours. Even though you may feel used to less sleep, your body will not truly be able to adapt to a sleep deficit.

●Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (yes, this includes weekends). Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule allows us to go to bed and wake up with more ease. An erratic sleep schedule results in impaired performance and function throughout the day.

●Try not to exercise within 4 hours of bedtime. Daily exercise is great for our overall sleep quality, but exercising too close to bedtime makes it difficult to fall asleep because we will experience an increase in body temperature. This four hour window lets our body temperature fall naturally by the time we go to sleep.

●Avoid caffeine after 2pm. Caffeine is a stimulant and it is metabolized slowly. We need to provide enough time to reduce its effects before sleep.

●Avoid nicotine. Nicotine reduces REM sleep because it wakes you up every 3-4 hours due to nicotine withdrawal.

●Avoid alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime. This time frame gives us enough time to metabolize alcohol. Drinking too close to bedtime may let you fall asleep faster, but it prevents us from entering the restorative stages of sleep (stages three, four and REM).

●Keep your bedroom between 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme temperatures interfere with sleep quality.

●No screen time 2-3 hours before bed. The blue light from our phones and computers suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness. While any light can suppress melatonin, blue light is the most significant in disrupting sleep quality. (Fun fact: caffeine and alcohol also inhibit the production of melatonin).

References

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Breus, M. Thrive Global. Want A Better Night’s Sleep? March 16, 2017. https://journal.thriveglobal.com/5-science-backed-rules-for-a-better-nights-sleep-89cf9493d977

Faraut B, Boudjeltia KZ, Vanhamme L. Immune, inflammatory and cardiovascular consequences of sleep restriction and recovery. Sleep Med Rev. 2012 Apr;16(2):137-49. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2011.05.001

Fullagar HH, Skorski S, Duffield R. Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Med. 2015 Feb;45(2):161-86.

Harvard Health Publications. Blue Light Has a Dark Side. September 2, 2015. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

McMurray RG, Brown CF. The effect of sleep loss on high intensity exercise and recovery. Aviat Space Environ Med. 1984 Nov;55(11):1031-5.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Understanding-Sleep#for_us

Oliver SJ, Costa RJ, Laing SJ. One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2009 Sep;107(2):155-61

Rae DE, Chin T, Dikgomo K, et al. One night of partial sleep deprivation impairs recovery from a single exercise training session. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2017 Apr;117(4):699-712.

Reilly T, Piercy M. The effect of partial sleep deprivation on weight-lifting performance. Ergonomics. 1994 Jan;37(1):107-15.

Res PT, Groen B, Pennings B, et al, Protein ingestion before sleep improves postexercise overnight recovery. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Aug;44(8):1560-9.

Samuels C. Sleep, Recovery, and Performance: The New Frontier in High-Performance Athletics. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2009 Feb;20(1):149-59.

Scott JP, McNaughton LR, Polman RC, et al. Effects of sleep deprivation and exercise on cognitive, motor performance and mood. Physiol Behav. 2006 Feb 28;87(2):396-408.

Skein M, Duffield R, Minett GM. The effect of overnight sleep deprivation after competitive rugby league matches on postmatch physiological and perceptual recovery. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013 Sep;8(5):556-64.

Snijders T, Res PT, Smeets JS, et al. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. J Nutr. 2015 Jun;145(6):1178-84

Trommelen J, van Loon LJ. Pre-Sleep Protein Ingestion to Improve the Skeletal Muscle Adaptive Response to Exercise Training. Nutrients. 2016 Nov 28;8(12).

Van Cauter E1, Spiegel K, Tasali E, et al. Metabolic consequences of sleep and sleep loss. Sleep Med. 2008 Sep;9 Suppl 1:S23-8.

Zhong X, Hilton HJ, Gates GJ. Increased sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic cardiovascular modulation in normal humans with acute sleep deprivation. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2005 Jun;98(6):2024-32.

How to Use Simple Visualization to Better Achieve Your Goals

When you think about losing weight, achieving an athletic goal, or becoming healthier, you probably don’t immediately think of visualization. But the practice of visualization can help you in all these areas and more.

And while visualization might seem like something that belongs in the more metaphysical realms of health and happiness, there is a lot of biological and psychological science behind it, too—especially when it comes to physical performance, training, and sport.

Because the real power in visualization lies in its ability to build confidence, improve skills, and help you get yourself into the best possible mindset for the task at hand (whether that’s facing down a deadlift, a handspring, a marathon, or a cold tub full of ice).

The Simple Key to Why Visualization Works

The key to understanding the real-life powers of visualization resides in the simple fact that the human brain is connected to our endocrine system. The endocrine system controls the hormones and chemicals in our bodies.

We all know that these hormones and chemicals can impact both our emotions and our physical state. When we become frightened, nervous, or angry, we shake because of the increase of adrenalin and related substances coursing through our bodies. This mental and physical state certainly doesn’t help our performance, confidence, and ability to think clearly.

But what if it could work the other way?

What if we could use our mental and physical state to influence the chemicals in our body? This is exactly what Russian sport scientists spent a fair amount of time researching in the 1970s and 80s as they pursued better performances from their elite athletes. And visualization is a practice continued by Olympic athletes from all over the world today.

The Facts About Visualization as Shown in Research

Here are some interesting facts gleaned from the research on visualization:

  • According to a 2009 study, the patterns of brain activity that occur when we execute a movement are the same patterns of brain activity that occur when we simply visualize a movement.
  • A 2003 study compared a group doing mental visualizations of finger exercises versus a group who was actually doing the finger strength exercises. While the group doing the physical exercises increased their strength by 53%, the visualizers gained an amazing 35% without (wait for it) lifting a finger.
  • A 2014 study of two groups who all had a cast immobilizing one arm from elbow to fingers. One group performed visualization exercises for four weeks, while the other did not. At the end of four weeks, the visualizers had lost 50% less strength.
  • A case study published in Psychiatric Annals shared that a young gymnast was able to overcome her performance anxiety and better enjoy competition through the use of relaxation and visualization techniques,
  • Researchers at New Mexico State University demonstrated that female basketball players who imagined free throw success prior to a game experienced a significant increase in real success during their games.

Based on all this information, visualization may be especially key for building new skills, honing technique, and reducing anxiety around performance or learning. In addition, it can be a powerful tool for anyone who is working through an injury and may not be able to train.

How You Can Practice Visualization

Quick instructions for a simple visualization practice:

  1. Relax: Find a quiet place where you can sit or lie down comfortably. Breathe deeply and imagine your whole body relaxing, imagining one muscle at a time letting go of any tensions.
  2. Picture a specific goal: This could be becoming fluent in a physical skill, an achievement like finishing a marathon, or reaching a body composition goal.
  3. Create a picture of achieving that goal: What does it look like when you deadlift two-times your bodyweight? Or cross the marathon finish line? Or swim a mile?
  4. Go further with that picture: What are the details? What time of day is it? What temperature is it? What do you smell? Who else is there? What are you wearing? What does your face look like at the moment of achievement? What does your body feel like?
  5. Face your doubts: If doubts arise as you draw the picture and keep playing the scene in your mind, work through and eliminate them. What will you do if an obstacle arises? Okay, and what if a different obstacle arises? Keep solving any problems you imagine. In fact, work to imagine all possible obstacles and how you will solve them.
  6. Keep playing the movie of your success: See yourself achieving your goal. Keep your picture positive and successful.

You don’t have to have all the details at first. Just schedule the time to sit down in a quiet place and draw your picture of success once a day. Add more details each time.

And, of course, be sure to keep up your actual physical practice, as well, whether it’s making healthy food choices, remaining consistent with your exercise, or making the time to practice recovery techniques. Each time you make a positive choice, you are laying another stone in the road to your goal—so keep building that road both in your mind and in the physical world.

Nature Calls

If you’d rather listen to the sounds of waves crashing and wind rustling than the whir of a treadmill, and look at the blue sky or grass underfoot instead of a weight rack or the back of some sweaty guys’ head while you workout, well…there’s science behind how you’re feeling.

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 A few studies over the past years have proven the benefits of exercising in a natural environment versus inside a gym or studio. A 2011 study published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal honed in improvement in both mental and physical wellbeing from exercise outdoors:

“…compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. Participants also reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.”

 And a 2013 study in Extreme Physiology and Medical Journal pointed to exercising in green spaces actually lowering levels of perceived exertion, stress reduction, resorting mental fatigue and improving moods, self-esteem and overall perceived health.

That study even stated that, “…exercise within green spaces and the great outdoors may be a useful natural medicine…”

We draw a lot of rejuvenation, balance, and joy from exercising in natural environments. Most of the time, after a run or workout on the beach, an outdoor pool session or any time in the ocean, we feel like we’ve had a giant dose of that medicine. These studies confirm all that mental and physical positivity.

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The next time you’re craving some “natural medicine,” “increased energy,” “greater enjoyment” or “decrease in tension, confusion and anger” (and who doesn’t crave all of that?), head outside for a workout.

 Consider a run on a trail instead of a treadmill. Climb some stairs in a stadium instead of on a machine. Head to your local park and do your core workout on the grass. Or come join us for an XPT workout where we hit the beach and outdoor pool.

Whatever workout you do in a natural environment, be sure to really breathe in that fresh air and take a look around you while you sweat. Your mind and your body will thank you for it.

XPT Book Club Review: Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss

XPT is a constant exploration. All our founders read a variety of inspiring works written by their friends, idols, co-workers and fellow celebrities out in the industry.  While they are always striving to be at the top of their games personally when it comes to training in XPT, they couldn’t do so without the inspiration and motivation of others.  As a result, we are highlighting some of the best books our XPT Team has read lately and spreading word through our XPT Book Club.  This week we review our friend Tim Ferriss’s new release, Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World.

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Author of three #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers: The 4-Hour WorkweekThe 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef, podcaster and friend of the XPT Team, Tim Ferriss has just released his latest masterpiece.  His newest book, Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice From the Best in the World, is aptly named, as it is truly a collection of thoughts and life-advice from some of the most famous, recognizable and inspirational figures in modern culture.

Sparked by his own personal struggle with turning 40 and setting out to establish his path moving forward in life, Ferriss assembled a throng of celebrity contributors ranging from a WIDE variety of professions.  If you don’t believe us, just look at a list of just a few of the individuals Ferriss spoke with: Country music superstar, Tim McGraw, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, actor Ben Stiller, comedian Patton Oswalt, Dropbox co-founder Drew Houston, Late Night TV host, actor and comedian, Jimmy Fallon, athletes such as Maria Sharapova, Kelly Slater, Dara Torres, Tony Hawk, Dan Gable and so many more.

Ferriss and his guest’s advice columns are inspiring and to the point and touch on a long list of common life struggles.  Together the author and his impactful friends guide us through life’s mysteries one story at a time and provide their first-hand advice for happiness and success.  With a such wide variety of contributors, comes a wide variety of issues being discussed, so no matter what life has thrown at you, somewhere in this book, you will connect with what these men and women have to say.  This book is packed with all the advice you could ever ask for in life from some of the most qualified and experienced people to provide it for you.  You won’t regret spending some time buried in this 600-page work of art.

 To get a copy yourself, you can visit Ferriss’s website to find out where to purchase: https://tim.blog/tim-ferriss-books/

 Let us know what you thought of the book when you’ve had a chance to check it out!

Why Exercise Is Good for Your Brain Health

Did you know it’s possible your brain is bigger because you exercise regularly?

You may currently be exercising because you’re seeking stronger muscles, a more powerful cardiovascular system, or a long and activity-filled life. But it’s entirely possible you’re racking up brain health benefits in the process, even if you don’t realize it (although we’re willing to bet you’d notice if your brain was not as sharp).

This includes brain health benefits like:

  • Increased memory
  • Improved focus
  • Improved mood
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved decision-making
  • Decreased stress and anxiety

So, let’s take a few minutes to look at why this happens, and then how you can plan your exercise to not only build muscles and endurance, but a bigger, stronger brain, too.

How Does Exercise Help Brain Health?

According to Heidi Godman, executive editor at the Harvard Health Letter, “Many studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex) have greater volume in people who exercise versus people who don’t.”

Additionally, a 2014 study conducted at the University of British Columbia showed that aerobic exercise increased the size of the hippocampus. The hippocampus plays a vital role in our memory, in particular the transfer of short-term memory to long-term memory and also the kind of spacial memory that allows us to successfully move around (which is important for both our training and our everyday life).

Researchers believe the increase in blood flow to our brain is one of the keys to exercise being beneficial to brain health. In addition, many of us experience that when we exercise regularly we sleep better. And when we sleep better, we recover better—and that goes for all parts of our body, including our brain.

Additionally, a 2016 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise demonstrated that as little as a twenty-minute session of moderate-intensity cycling improved brain health by alleviating the symptoms of ADHD. And a 2015 study found that higher levels of physical activity correlated with lower levels of depressive symptoms.

A particular protein known as BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) is important to know about when it comes to this discussion of brain health. BDNF helps repair and protect brain cells, and it also triggers the growth of new neurons. While why and how BDNF works is not completely understood, we do know it’s released when we exercise. This is one of the reasons you’ll find that children’s fitness coaches often suggest kids get out their homework right after an exercise session. (This is also why those precious minutes of recess in school were actually far more beneficial for us than we realized.)

And if you have someone in your life who thinks they’re too old to start exercising, science says it’s never too late to exercise for the brain health benefits. Numerous studies have shown the positive impact of exercise on Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other degenerative brain conditions.

What Kind of Exercise Is Best for Brain Health?

A meta-analysis (a study of a collection of existing studies on a certain topic) conducted by the  British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at 39 different studies that examined the relationship between brain health and exercise. The researchers found aerobic exercise improved cognitive function while resistance training improved memory and executive function (things like impulse control, attentional control, and the ability to focus). Exercises like tai chi were also found to be beneficial. Additionally, a 2006 study found that aerobic fitness played a strong role in “maintaining and enhancing central nervous system health and cognitive functioning.”

While the science seems to favor aerobic exercise, it’s probably smart to include a variety of modes of training to achieve the most robust brain health. Do your best to achieve a combination of intensity levels in addition to performing both strength and endurance training. Because what we can say for sure is that regular exercise yields the best brain health results.

Build a Bigger Brain with Regular Exercise

Exercise isn’t just about strength, endurance, health, and longevity when it comes to the function of our bodies—it’s also vital to both the short-term and long-term function of our brains. And we can start earning these benefits at any age.

So, go have a great workout today—your mind will thank you for it.

XPT CHALLENGE: TAKE A LOOK AROUND

For roughly two thirds of the day, our eyes are open.  There’s no denying that.  But the real question is, are our eyes REALLY open?  Life can be busy at times.  Regardless of life’s challenges, it is key for us as humans to stop what we’re doing every so often and take a look around.

As an XPT Team, we find ourselves in some of the most beautiful locations in the world, like Malibu and Kauai.  We’re there to put in the hard work for ourselves, our bodies, our minds and ultimately to help you achieve your goals through extreme performance training.  And while the sandy beaches and clear blue water may be all around us, we often realize when we’re done with the day that because of our busy schedules, we never took a chance to actually enjoy life’s beauties all around us.

This week’s challenge is to take a moment, or five, or thirty, or whatever your schedule, your job, your responsibilities will allow.  But make sure it is free from distraction and in a place where you can simply look around.  Notice things you have never noticed before.  Take joy in the small things around you.  Don’t reach for your phone.  Don’t take a picture.  Don’t think about what happened before you stumbled upon this place.  And don't rush back to the world you briefly put on hold, just a few moments ago.  Check out.  Be in the moment. Reflect on the positive.  Breathe deep.  Be inspired.  And take a look around.

Be sure to leave us a note below and tell us a story of how you take a look around and become inspired by your surroundings each day.

Our Top 8 Healthy Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

No matter how much we enjoy the final months of each year, this time is also inevitably packed with holiday stress. Stress about the food we eat, the lack of time for exercise, the money spent on gifts, and the double-edged sword of time with family.

And in all our hustle and bustle to show our love and gratitude for others (and perhaps complete year-end projects at work), we often forget we can take time out to show love and gratitude for ourselves. We can do this through self-care, by making intentional choices around our food, and by setting aside time for our physical and emotional needs.

To help you navigate the season with more joy (and a lot less anxiety), here are our top eight healthy ways to reduce holiday stress.

Our Top 8 Healthy Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

1. Eat when you’re hungry, not just because.

Often, when we are feeling stressed, we look for something to keep us busy. When we’re at a work party or dealing with family, this potentially means we dive into the appetizers or try every dessert. This season, when you find yourself reaching for goodies, try asking yourself if you’re hungry before you take a serving. If you’re not, look for something else to keep you busy or a friendly face to chat with.

2. Choose your indulgences wisely.

On a related note, don’t eat every holiday cookie just because it’s a holiday cookie—or cake, or drink, or side dish…you get the idea. Consider which items are true holiday treats or family specialties that you want to partake in versus those that are junk you could get any time (maybe in a different color) and that hold no special meaning. Make the holidays special by choosing to indulge in the truly special things.

3. Get enough sleep.

Food, alcohol, and socializing can negatively impact our sleep schedule, which then negatively impacts our ability to recover and our mood. If you’re already finding your family hard to handle, then don’t even try to deal with them when you’re also short on sleep.

Pro-Tip: Book a room at a local motel rather than staying with family. This will provide you with quiet, alone time, personal space, and a guaranteed comfortable place to get adequate sleep.

4. Drink your water.

Not only do we tend to drink more alcohol during the holidays, but as a result we also drink less water. Dehydration may trigger hunger pangs when it’s not actually more food that our body needs, and therefore, we consume unnecessary calories (which at the holidays are most likely to be sugar laden, too).

And, according to researchers, it takes less than 2% dehydration to negatively impact our mood and cause us to perceive challenging situations as even more difficult. Do we really need to make the holidays harder? We didn’t think so—so, let’s just drink some more water.

5. Cook and bake your own healthy options, and make enough to share.

Many of us have healthier daily habits than our co-workers or family members. Rather than trying to pick your way through the holiday meal offerings, bring your own dish and, most importantly, make enough to pass. Your friends and family might not even realize how tasty healthier foods can be.

Pro-Tip: Make a spicy dish. Hot foods that contain capsaicin (like hot peppers) trigger our body to release feel-good endorphins. So, if you’re feeling holiday stress, that bacon-wrapped jalapeno appetizer might indeed offer you some brief relief.

6. Take ten breaths.

Not sure how you’re going to get all the gifts purchased, your work done before the holiday, and the dinner prepared in the time you have allotted? Well, regardless of what the clock says, you do have time to take ten breaths. Breathe deeply and slowly with your eyes closed and consciously dedicate each breath to yourself. You’ll be surprised how much this can release anxiety and allow you to move forward with a clearer mind.

7. Stick to your exercise routine in whatever way you can.

Go for a run, find a local gym, do bodyweight exercises in the yard, do burpees in the garage, find a yoga video online. Or simply go for a walk. The sunlight, fresh air, and break from your environment will do wonders for your holiday stress.

8. Express gratitude.

Remember the real intention of the season—it’s not about money, gifts, baked ham, and shopping malls. It’s really not. It’s about taking time to connect, to think about what actually matters in this life, and to express that gratitude.

Pro-Tip: If it feels to overwhelming to thank people in person, keep a gratitude list. Every day between now and January 1, take a few minutes to sit down and list three to five things you are grateful for.

And don’t forget to acknowledge and thank yourself. Happy healthy holidays!

XPT Weekly Challenge: Front Load Your Nutrition

For most of us the mornings are a fire drill and there is limited time to put together a well thought out, nutritious breakfast. Lunch is usually sandwiched between appointments and meetings and snacks are grab-n-go, if at all.  Then dinner is usually the biggest meal of the day as we are finally able to sit down for a proper and hearty meal after we’ve wrapped up most of the day’s responsibilities.

However, an end-of-the-day feast might work against your best wellness intentions. Food is energy and providing the biggest energy push in the evening can wind us up when we should be winding down near bedtime. The GI tract fatigues just like the rest of the body and giving your system the most work when least able to manage poses difficultly for your digestion.

Current research suggests that large, late meals are less effective for your metabolism and that calorie for calorie early eaters achieve greater weight loss results.  With that being said, this week we challenge you to move your fuel forward. Rather than back-loading our nutrition into the latter half of the day, we are front-loading, eating earlier, or simply spreading our intake more evenly.

Have a strategy that works well for you?  Share in a comment below. 

 

XPT Weekly Challenge: Go Raw

There is never a better time to fill up on fruits and vegetables than in the summertime.  They’re brightly colored, refreshing, and abundant.  But the season won’t last much longer, so we’re taking advantage of the nature-made goodness while we can and inviting you to get fresh with us.

This week, make one meal of each day – breakfast, lunch or dinner – completely raw.  Fill it with fruit, veggies, herbs, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. Chop, peel, dehydrate, toss, soak, sprout, and blend to your heart’s content.  But opt out of the stovetop, the grill, the microwave, and the oven.  Heat-free prep will preserve more of the ingredients temperature-sensitive enzymes, antioxidants, and micronutrients while giving you a cool, refreshing nutritional boost during these last warm-weather months.

Share your favorite quick and easy raw meal idea in a comment below and get un-cooking!  To explore our recipes click here.

Power Down Early

What’s the last thing you do everyday?

Not too long ago, ‘turning out the lights’ might have been the expected answer.  But nowadays, bedside lamps don’t hold a candle to PED’s (personal electronic devices).  Many of us have televisions in our bedrooms – not to mention smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and laptops in our beds.  We shut down our screens just before shutting our eyes.

So, this week at XPT we are powering down early and leaving at least 15 minutes of screen-free non-electronic time before calling it a night.  Do a bit of light stretching, practice your breathing techniques, meditate – any relaxing activity that doesn’t require an on/off switch.  You’ll give your eyes and your mind a much-needed end-of-the-day hiatus.  You might even fall asleep faster and rest more soundly, too.

Let us know how you plan to fill the tech-free space in a comment and enjoy the unplug!

XPT Weekly Challenge: Check Your Back

We often start the day with proper posture.  But as we move through our daily activities and the hours roll by, our shoulders begin to hunch and our standing and sitting slip into a slouch.

Just as with any exercise or sport, when form fades, discomfort tends to develop.  So this week, we’re paying attention to alignment with our day-to-day tasks. Here are some tips:

1. Use a lumbar support pillow to remind you of how your back should feel for the first few days and then remove it for the last few days to gauge the gap between where you are and where you need to be.

2. Set a mid-morning or mid-afternoon reminder on your mobile or your computer to check your positioning.

3. Ask a work-station neighbor, family member or partner to keep an eye on the straightness (or curvature) of your back.

4. Try a few our XPT’s daily training exercises for back- or core muscles to help you solidify the correct form.  Click here for XPT Daily Trainings.

Have a favorite move or a lifestyle adjustment that’s brought your spine back in line?  Share with us in a comment…

This Week’s Challenge: Sit Down

Yes, we like everything about stand-up, but this week we’re planning to sit down – at least when it’s time to eat. 

When life gets busy, meals and snacks blend in with the other tasks on our to-do list.  Often, we grab nibbles standing at the kitchen counter, in the office break room, the sidelines of our kids sporting events, and even the supermarket check-out.  Under these rushed circumstances, it’s easy to eat when we aren’t even hungry, grab more indulgent foods, or consume more than required to feel politely satisfied. 

And guess what?  It’s also more difficult for the GI tract to process the nutrition it receives. 

So, for all other parts of your day, please stand, walk, and move.  But for eating opportunities, set a few extra minutes asid.  Find a chair and table (in a dining setting – rather than a desk or a car)  or even a spot on the floor (the yogic asana position is understood to support digestion).  Then sit yourself down and dedicate your time and attention to your meal.  Taste, chew, swallow, pay attention to hunger and fullness cues, and enjoy.

#takeaseatwhenyoueat #singletask #feelyourmeal

I Realize I Am Still Chicken

This morning I got the great pleasure of hooking up with Laird for a nice little one hour bike ride.  I thought we would do this usual loop that is about 70% up hill and on pavement.  We leave the house as usual and, of course, I follow my adventurous husband.  I let Laird take the lead and we go for a few miles, and then just as we are about to turn and go down a familiar path he gives me the nod of his head “follow me”.  And I think to myself, here we go!  This is what I love about Laird, why would you take the same path twice; whereas I am trying to memorize every hole and every stone.  Needless to say, he takes me along this private ranch owned by the town that is so beautiful, quiet, and full or horses and roads I have not pedaled.  At one point we leave the gravel and he heads towards a rocky dirt road that then begins to get steep right away.  So, what do I do?  Start assessing.  I realize I am up for just about anything (to a point), but I never just jump right in.  I like to study the situation, observe, and then do the activity at my own pace.  This is another way of saying that when things get hairy I have an initial CHICKEN response.  I can get over it, but it is my first reaction.  “Wait a minute, where are we going”?

I mean it’s already funny enough doing something with your partner, but then Laird comes back up the hill asking me if I had fallen and what was I doing.  I had unclipped and began looking at the road.  For him this is an alien action and even stranger concept.  Once I found my groove I made it up, down, and back up again, and everything was fine.  I was uncomfortable because–here it is—“I wasn’t in control”.  Something new, something different.

As we went racing home there in front of my house was one of my daughters working on her biking to show her Dad and I when we got home that she could ride on two wheels.  I was watching her pedal and realized that the only time she got into trouble was when she slowed down too much.  I guess I could point that finger at myself.

Get out of your comfort zone.  Try something new.  The chicken response is part of my personality, and that’s OK as long as I don’t let it take over to the point that I won’t try new and uncomfortable things.  When I came home from my ride it was not only so much more fun, but also more rewarding.  I never let the pace of someone else pressure me out, but I try really hard to not get in my own way for too long.

–Gabby Reece

Gabby’s Holiday Weekend Survival Tips

All right, it's time to blow off some steam and hit some summer parties.  Hey, parties are a good thing if you can just manage them and not get beaten up by late nights, crappie food, and too much booze.  It's a drag to roll into the following week feeling "fat," and hung over.  Not exactly the energized, go get em' attitude to tackle the fresh start we were looking for.  You have to be a party master and come out the other side feeling like you just danced your butt off, laughed, and got to hang with people you don't normally get to see.  Here are a few survival tips for this year's 4th of July Holiday Festivities:


1.  Eat before you go out. Not only will you not get as drunk, but this will keep you from eating 12 mini burgers or little fried finger food wonders.  Make a point of eating something healthy to give yourself a head start.  You're already going to a party so be diligent before you go let it loose.


2.  Go to parties where you know you're going to have fun, and like the people. Don't be afraid to say "NO" to an invitation.  You will do more talking, laughing and dancing then drinking to escape the people you are trying to avoid.  Unless it's work, try to remember that a party is supposed to be fun.  Not another Holiday "obligation."


3.  Don't stand near the bar or buffet table. Avoid creating a situation where you are mindlessly eating or drinking.  If you're that bored go hang with someone you enjoy or leave.  Don't force the fun.


4.    Drink water in-between each drink. You will get less drunk, and since you are staying hydrated you may avoid the headache in the morning.


5.     Go cut a rug.  Let it fly.  Even if you don't love dancing go get your groove on.  Keeps you away from the food, hard to drink when you're busting a move, and you can blow off some steam.  The dancer who has the most fun wins, not who looks the best.  Believe me no one cares how anyone else dances.


6.    Don't stay too late. Nothing good happens late.  Get in, have some fun, and know when it's time to go home. Believe me, you won't be missing anything.


7.     Use the party to reconnect with you. We play so many roles in our lives (Moms, wives, executives, Dads).  Forget that.  Just go be your hot self without all the labels.  It's important to take advantage of situations that we can remind ourselves who we are. 


8.    Ladies, dress in a fitted outfit.  That's right, this will encourage you not to grab every little morsel that passes your way.


9.     Drink water before bed. Even though you have been drinking water all night make sure you get some more in before you hit the hay.  I even take my vitamins before I go to sleep.  You never know where you get a little extra help from.

Have fun and enjoy the journey.

-Gabby

Wake Up To Water

Very cold mineral water with ice in a misted glass bottles, dark background, selective focus[/caption]Between SUP, surfing, swimming, and thermal contrast therapies – at XPT we love to get our bodies in the water. But with this week's XPT Challenge, we’re focused on getting the water in our bodies. 

Most of us aren’t getting enough to meet our baseline needs and account for sweat losses with exercise.  Nearly every physiological and biochemical process requires it and our athletic performance depends on it.  So, before breakfast or leaving the house, start every day of this upcoming week by drinking ½ to 1 full liter of room-temperature or warm water. 

Fluid requirements vary from person to person, but but this morning dose will help move you closer to your own unique daily volume goals.  XPT advisor Darin Olien even suggests adding a pinch of Himalayan sea salt for an electrolyte and absorption boost. 

So, wake up, drink up, and let us know if you notice changes in digestion, energy or performance (physical or mental) in a comment.   #hydrotherapy #aquaweek #wakeupdrinkup #sipallday #waterworld #xptlife

Gabby’s Top 7 Health Tips

 

Let’s face it there is no reinventing the wheel when it comes to some new top secret health tips.  But I do have some solid reminders to get you through the week. I have 7 on my BEST list. I could write 20 but if you concentrate on these seven I think you will reap great rewards!  Here we go:

1. WATCH THE SUGAR

Forget alcoholic how about sugarholic?  This white devil can kick our butts.  We get sugar crashes, inflammation in your body, and can create a frenzy where we end up eating more sugar once we start.  Of course I’m not suggesting NO sugar that's not feasible, but try to control it. 

Do you find yourself sitting around watching TV or having screen time and find yourself snacking on unhealthy grabs? Here are a couple of quick and easy sweet suggestions:

Get Some Fruit! Strawberries, Blueberries, Apples, Bananas, and Grapes
Put these on your shopping list each week and keep them washed and sliced in your fridge. Set them out when you watch tv or have company over.

Flavored Water! Yes water.
Don’t get your sugar fix with your liquids. Just add a sweet flavor to your water to get a quick sweet fix. Plus water will help with your hydration for dry weather and summer social occasions.

2. RELAX
We live in an imperfect world so why do we try to be perfect?  Especially you women out there, stop trying to be superwoman.  Do what you can do, but stay focused on what really matters.  As Martin Luther King Jr. said "We need to not be a thing focused society, but a people focused society."  Amen.  Baking cookies for all 49 of your neighbors on the block can wait.

3.  DON’T CHANGE YOUR DAYS
The kids are home and things are crazy, but try to stick to your routine as best you can.  If you go to a special boot camp class then don't abandon your regular schedule.  Having said that, slow down enough to enjoy your family and friends and take in the moment.  We all have a tendency to just power through our weeks and the summer will be gone before we know it.  Take time to breathe it all in.

4.  GET TO BED
Many of us have a tendency to get our work done when everyone else is asleep.  It's always better to go to sleep and then arise a little earlier than usual.  It's not worth it to wear yourself out.  Lends itself to the downward cycle, too tired to train, too much caffeine, too jacked up too sleep, irritable during an already stressful time.  Rest.

5. DON'T OVERINDULGE IN THE BUFFET

When it comes to summer parties, eat smartly.  There is no need to have an eight course meal.  Keep it focused.  Either do a brunch or dinner but not a large meal that stretches out throughout the day. 

6.  TAKE A MOMENT FOR YOURSELF
In the time of "giving" we can empty out the tank and walk around running on fumes.  Steal a bath, grab a yoga class or just indulge in your favorite sappy film.  

7.  SAY NO
Keep the schedule calm, and don't agree to go to every single summer party and gathering.  You will only resent it.  Go to a few of the parties you really want to, and only a handful of the ‘have-to's. Oh, and don't make excuses just say you won't be able to make it.  Honesty and not having to over explain yourself are two wonderful things about being an adult.

Enjoy the summer,

Gabby

Make Passion Your Motivation to Change

Love sign, Selective focus close up blue sport shoes on gray floor.

by Gabrielle Reece

I raise my hand and admit that I get sucked into how things "look" as a huge part of my motivation. Is my house organized, the car clean, my rear-end looking OK, my skin clear, hair shiny, teeth white? Do I look happy? What is everyone thinking about me?

I have to stop and back that bus up. Being concerned with what others think, and how things appear to them, is completely human. However, there comes a time when we have to ask ourselves, "What makes me happy?"

I think the same goes for exercising and trying to eat healthy. We shouldn't be striving to do these things just to be thin or look good. How about striving to have more energy and emotional happiness, which are increased by eating well, stabilizing blood levels, and exercising? Why not be a lifestyle role model to your kids and friends? Or focus on treasuring and taking care of the gift of good health? These sound like reasons one can believe in.

When I look at most successful people who are fulfilled, they are doing something because they are passionate about it. As a by product, they may have stumbled upon recognition, money, or other opportunities. I've found that if you are going just for the mighty dollar, bragging rights, or power, you will either fall short or get it and be miserable. Why? Because isn't so much of life about intention?

I can be in a heated discussion with my husband, and if he isn't trying to go out of his way to make me angry or hurt I don't get that upset. When I see he is deliberately pushing my buttons, I react so strongly to his intention. If the kids spill something on accident? No problem. If they do it on purpose? Don't you get mad?

How about finding something you enjoy (or can bear to do) in the exercise arena that makes you feel good? Start here: Don't eat food that tastes like cardboard to you, but find something that you enjoy eating that is doing something good for you and your health. Will you ever enjoy it as much as cheese pizza or ice cream? Do I need to say it?

In the end, and overall, you will feel so much better; and, as a byproduct, your waist will become smaller, skin clear, and smile wider. If we only focus on the drag idea of "I have to lose weight," who can sustain that as a motivation for a lifestyle change? Love yourself and learn enough about the importance of good health to become passionate about the continual pursuit of improvement. Oh, and on the days you can't get out of bed to do your workout, then sure, think about how great your butt is going to look. Hey, on certain days it's just about getting the work done.

XPT Challenge: Take Away Less

Plastic scrap in recycling center prior segration

This week let’s do our part to take away less.

When ordering meals for delivery or “to go” – we often get far more than just food.  Restaurants also provide napkins, containers, utensils, condiments, bags, wrapping, tape, staples, and rubber bands.  Helpful for transport and recreating a dining experience? Yes. Helpful for the planet? Not so much.

Styrofoam and plastic outlive us in landfills or wind up in our water. Biodegradables won’t degrade outside of composting centers.  Even recycled or recyclable products require energy to recycle, and all require energy to manufacture  Instead, opt out of these extras.  Request less packaging.  Bring your own bags.  Decline disposable utensils and napkins and use silverware and table linens from home.

Have another eco-friendly trick?  Share it with us!  Comment below…

Let’s clean up our take out.

 

Make a Sweeping Change for 14 Days

time for change concept with related words cloud on blackboard 

By Gabby Reece

OK, my fellow brothers and sisters, let's make a move. We all talk about wanting to make a change, but we get lost in the wishy-washy way we approach the area we desire to change. "I need to eat better." Or "I really should start making time to exercise." What does that mean? What are you doing about it? It can't be a change if we don't do anything different.

I have a wonderful friend named Don Wildman who told me we are crazy when we do the same thing over and over expecting a different result. As if somehow this time will be different…come on! No handholding. Let's do it.

I train hard, eat healthy, and am in good shape, but I am tighter than all get-out, and it's starting to affect my body. For example, I believe I could have improved the health of my knee if my hips, feet, and IT bands were not so tight. I hate stretching and it hurts like a mother. I love chocolate. I have gotten into the habit of eating it all the time. I limit my coffee and I don't drink alcohol, but chocolate is my pacifier.  Time for a change!

Small changes done in a radical way can make for healthy habits for the long term.  So, from time to time I will dedicate two weeks to making a sweeping change.  Why?  Because I can't always pull it off just going along day after day in my life. So, I commit this time to redirect my ship. It's not always easy, sometimes it makes me grumpy, hungry or sore, but in the long run it's always worth it.  When I'm in the thick of it, I just keep telling myself that it's only for 14 days and I will have moved closer to better habits. 

Now it's your turn.  Go ahead and pick an area or areas in your life and commit 14 days to do or die doing it better:

  1. Create the goal. Really see where the need is.
  2. There is no perfect time, but start in a window that is somewhat realistic to your life.
  3. If you can, do it with a friend. Support is key. If you have someone you can go through it with, that makes it so much easier.
  4. When you are in the thick of it, see what changes are occurring and focus on all the good that you are doing for yourself.
  5. Commit. Don't quit!!!!!

If you need to get some exercise in your life, make a workout calendar. Write it all down and do not break that date. If you say you want to eat better, then suck it up for 14 days. This is not a diet, this is boot camp. This is you and me changing our day-to-day habits with a sledgehammer. It's just 14 days.

I'm of the belief that once you see that you can do it on an extreme level, you will be able to pick and choose so much easier in your day-to-day life. You will be able to implement better habits. Do something drastic, and let's rewrite the ending to our same old stories. Why not? What do you have to lose?

-Gabby

This Week’s XPT Challenge: Stand up

ergonomic. Height adjustable desk or table sitting and standing pose of a man. Saddle chair

We love SUP on the water (obviously). But this week we’re aiming to stand-up more – on solid ground. 

Endless hours at a desk, on the couch or in the car do little for your overall health.  In fact, prolonged sitting stagnates circulation and shifts our internal biochemistry toward weight gain and blood sugar dysregulation. 

The seated position compresses the GI tract, slowing digestion.  It also alters overall postural alignment and biomechanics – weakening your abs and glutes and tightening your hip muscles and shortening their range of motion.

So this week, get out of your chair whenever possible and as much as possible. It will support your XPT training and your body – inside and out – with thank you.  Let us know how you work-in your dry-land stand-up and unwind your body from the sit-down position in the comments below.  #standupeverywhere #switchpositions #unwind #stretchyourlegs

Top 10 Tips to Stay on Top of Stress

erasing stress, hand written word on blackboard being erased concept 

12 Ways to Stay on Top of Stress

By Gabby Reece
You know how you have those weeks (or maybe months or years) that just seem to be loaded with stress?  I know it's all relative — one person's stress is another's holiday. People with two children think having just one child is a piece of cake, and so on. I've had one of those weeks — I've been on the road a lot and dealing with an injury, work hasn't been going my way, and my three-year-old has been possessed by an alien. And I'm not talking about a friendly alien that wants to know what this planet is all about — no, I am talking about someone who wants to launch a full-scale assault, but only in public places. To be honest, this stress has even made it more challenging to relate to my husband in a free-and-easy "girlie" way. I've had more tones of "wife" in my voice during this past week than I've had in my entire relationship.

It takes a million years for one gene to change in our bodies. One million years!  I'm bringing this up because, physiologically, we're the same humans we were 300 years ago. But look at how things have changed in that short time. Some things make life easier now: washers and dryers, transportation, abundance of food, electricity, etc. But some things make life today more insane: cell phones, traffic, increased population, fake food, TV, busy schedules. I heard a statistic from a doctor-friend that we make more decisions in one day than people used to make in a year. No wonder we're stressed out and reaching for doughnuts or alcohol to cope.

All this craziness and high-speed living isn't going away. Since we can't change our genes, we have to create a map to navigate this crazy life. What can you do to try and stay on top of the stress so it doesn't affect your health, happiness, or waistline?

  1. Exercise. Amen for endorphins. Believe me, they've helped me many days with my perspective. If you have to work out, then go take a brisk walk and get that blood flowing. It isn't about working out to lose weight — it's about being healthy and staying sane.
  2. Eat the real stuff. Crappy food (fast, processed, and loaded with sugar) doesn't help your chemical brain and body handle stress. Living food, real food, helps support your mind and body while it's trying to deal with the million things coming its way. Every time I reach for the chocolate, I'm looking to feel something from it. Don't get me wrong — if it's just a little here and there because I enjoy the taste of it, great. But if I'm using it the minute I feel overwhelmed, then that's when that food is no longer OK to eat. It doesn't make the problem go away, and then I just feel bad about eating the food to pacify myself. Grab green food instead. Put things in your mouth that are going to support your immune function and keep you levelheaded.
  3. Notice. Try not to let the stress overtake you. Recognize the situations that cause the stress and notice them coming your way. You have a better shot at fending off the full effects of the stress when you can anticipate it.
  4. Get it off your chest. Talk to a friend or partner about the stress. Sometimes just getting it off your chest can help unload some of the burden.
  5. Keep your sense of humor. If you do have the chance to talk about it, try to see the irony and humor in the wacky bits. I think someone is dead in the water once they lose their sense of humor.
  6. Stay grateful. My daughter has large lungs and verbal skills she likes to display. Just when I start to wishfully think about her being quiet, I remind myself to be grateful that she can talk to me at all. In almost all of our problems are boatloads of blessings. "Oh, I don't feel like going to the gym."  Well, Amen that you have the means and the health to even be able to wrestle with the idea of going to work out. Make a habit of saying thank you. You will notice the sunny spots a lot more often, and not just the gray skies and storms.
  7. Ask, "What's the hurry?"  Have some fun. We're always so busy going somewhere, we miss just enjoying the moment. If an opportunity comes your way to do something fun, take it.
  8. Take a deep breath. When you feel the stress getting to you, take a moment. Get away, even if it's just for an hour, to be with yourself and your thoughts. Some people like to take a walk, meditate, lock themselves away in a beautiful bath, or go to church. Find the peace and the silence.
  9. Keep it simple. Simplify where you can. Does Junior really need to be in 78 activities at the age of 5?  Do you have to go to every little party or gathering you're invited to?
  10. Turn of the TV. A lot of it is bad news anyway, and it robs us of hours that we could use to be getting other things done. Since everyone complains that they have no time, get some by unplugging from the tube.
  11. Sleep. If you're rested, you have a better shot at handling things. Not to mention, you may not stress out as easily if you have a chance to recover at night.
  12. Drink water. I have said it before: Americans consume 21 percent of their calories through liquid consumption. Hydrate with water. Help you entire system function better just by drinking enough water. Oh, and by the way, if you don't think that weight loss and proper hydration have a relationship, think again. Shift the paradigm on its side — don't think about exercise and nutritional eating just as something you have to suffer through to get into those jeans. Instead, think of them as armor that will protect you in this crazy world, with all of the bazillion details you deal with every day.

-Gabby Reece

 

Eat Your Sunblock

Overhead horizontal of fresh orange toned vegetables and fruit raw produce on white rustic background, pumpkin butternut carrot papaya pawpaw capsicum pepper sweet potato cherry tomatoes chilli orange

Time to eat your sunblock.

No, you don’t need to swallow a squeeze from your tube of topical sun lotion. But you can choose foods that offer internal skin protection from UVA and UVB rays.

Vitamin-A rich foods offer photo-protective benefits by increasing the thickness of the deeper epidermal layers of skin. This can actually cut large percentages of inflammation and redness from sunburn reactions as well as reduce risk of skin cancer.

Which foods to choose? Here are a few options potent animal sources of vitamin A:

Pasture-raised free-range eggs

Milks and butters from organic grass-fed cows

Cold-water fish

Then try some plant-based foods with carotenoid pigments

1. Orange betacarotenes:carrot, sweet potato, pumpkin

2. Light-green luteins: kale, spinach, avocado

3. Bright red lycopenes: tomato or watermelon

Share your ideas on how you plan to SPF your diet in the comments below & enjoy the sunshine.

Get Creative

Close up of engraved stones

I was thinking today as I was having a “groundhog day” moment, how incredibly uninspired I can feel some times. Then I always manage to do the self talk thing where I do inventory of all of the things I am grateful for (my kids, my health, their health, great husband, wonderful job etc.). That normally makes me feel ashamed enough to snap out of it.

Isn’t feeling blah part of the human condition? I believe it really is, but I think it can get exaggerated by our civilized world. Sit in traffic, answer phone calls and e-mails, do laundry, pack school lunches, punch a clock, and hold our breath for the weekend. Granted a certain amount of monotony and routine is essential for living, but do we have to be completely non creative in order to be “responsible” individuals?

I was thinking of all the ways I could take a more creative approach to living, and I realized maybe I could start to make changes in a few subtle ways. For example every morning I get up, take a shower, go in my kitchen and make the kids their food and check emails. What if I got up a few minutes earlier and did something with my kids? Take a walk, play outside for a few moments or even just read a book. At the end of the day instead of having dinner and then watching a bit of TV what if I guided my family on a tiny adventure one night of the week? Sit outside and look at the stars, have the kids put on a play from one of their favorite stories, or grab a sitter and surprise your partner with a picnic dinner alone.

Hey, the same goes for working out. BORING if it’s always the same old same old, gotta switch it up now and again. Go for a hike, take the stairs, jump in the ocean, lake or pool, take a class with a friend or jump on a bike with one of your children. XPT’s daily training encourages you to get out of the gym for some of your fitness and provides some ideas like these.

Don’t get stuck in a rut and don’t be afraid to try something new. I am becoming increasingly aware of how short life is, and that it is not made up of a few BIG moments, but a day in day out collage of small experiences. Adding a little color to your rainbow takes some effort, but it’s so well worth it.

-Gabby-

Healthy Habits, One Day at a Time

More often than not, changing a habit or creating a lifestyle change doesn’t start with a list, a day at the gym or bowl of healthy veggies. The real beginning to the change starts inside your head. 

I’ll admit back to school can be a stressful time- getting back a on a schedule, packing lunches, baths, bedtimes, etc. (contemplating another school year down and the new one in front of us, family craziness, trying to find time to exercise, etc) but I get a little blue.

I get that ever so self indulgent “what’s it all about” attitude, and have just enough time to really bathe in all of my questions.

Why am I not automatically grateful? How come things become a burden vs. an opportunity? I know it’s cliche, but it’s for a reason. Because it’s true. When out of whack or under stress, I see more of an opening to not take a perspective that is the high road or positive. Listen, even down to: “I have to make dinner tonight.”

So, this is where I’m going to slip in the exercise and eat healthy bit. I see that when I’m exercising regularly and eating well, it is easier for me to maintain my good perspective. That having a healthy body, that gets a chance to release endorphins, and not go up and down with sugar or caffeine highs and lows does help my mind function better. My emotions come from my brain, and my mind is a part of my body.

Same goes for working out. Are you fortunate enough to have an able body to move? Well, then let’s not complain about how boring it is, or that there is no time; let’s get fired up that we can. Food? How wonderful that we have so many choices.

Why not make some good choices that will serve us, our lives, and our bodies? No victims please. So, today there is no list. I want you to see if for one week you can see the upside in everything, and does this not help you with all things in your life?

By Gabby Reece

 

You Don’t Appreciate What You Have Until It’s Gone

We talk a lot about appreciating and valuing your health while you are healthy, and not just when you get sick or injured. I had to get a hernia fixed and have had to chill for a few days. I got the hernia from my second pregnancy and just waited awhile to get it fixed. Can I tell you how bored I was of relaxing? And even though I mentally knew I would have to lay low; I was already over it. This goes back to taking care of your health and realizing that a mobile body is a GIFT that should be treasured.

Looking cute in your jeans and bikini is all well and good, but how about the release one gets from exercise? I can’t imagine how people live day in and day out without some kind of regular exercise? No wonder so many of us are ready to blow a gasket. Exercise is not just about “Oh, I have to go torture myself in the gym to lose weight”. Exercise is about keeping emotionally balanced and actually creating more energy through movement. We all live such stressful lives that are jam packed with things that need to get done. Everyone is exhausted, and, most likely, not sleeping well. Over time this compounds itself and everything else in our system goes haywire. Drink water, move, eat well, get plenty of rest, chill when you can, and keep your stress low. This is a code we all need to stick to.

Another thing I have noticed, is how stiff I get from not moving. There is nothing harder on your body than being sedentary. Blood flow and oxygen are key. So don’t wait until you can’t move to realize how much you could enjoy moving. Get out there and use that body for one of the things it was made for. You will see my cranky self on the other side. Even I know when it’s time to rest it’s time to rest, and there is never a good reason to force the time on healing.

Best, Gabby

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