Sleep What Does All This Sleep Mean? Sleep plays a role in many of our bodies functions, such as our long-term memory, cognitive function, alertness and reaction time, hormone regulation and tissue regeneration to name a few. It also accounts for roughly a third of […]
Tag: stress relief
Auditory Acuity of self.
I’ve been around the health and fitness industry a long time, which means I’m getting old, but it has allowed me to personally commit all the mistakes I see patients come into the clinic with. For the purposes of this article, let’s call the health, fitness, and food industries the wellness industry. The only constant about the wellness industry is that it’s always changing. Information evolves, trends come and go, and maybe something we thought was “healthy” turns out to be false. Your circumstances play a significant role in how you apply the information and methods available, which like the topic itself, is in a constant state of flux.
So how do we navigate this chaos? Start by understanding that it’s a journey. Be ready to try various methods of self-care, nutrition, and exercise knowing that you’re going to fail and frustrate yourself with things that have worked so well for others. You’re not everyone and you have to find what works with for you AND your circumstances with wherever you are in your life at that time. Don’t give up, keep trying new things, keep learning, keep discovering, and push on.
Now I could write a novel covering each of these industry topics, but I want to focus on exercise for this post and more specifically listening to your body. I have been SO bad at this the past few years and it has been costly. Low back pain, rib pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, waking up every day with some sort of ache or pain and continuing to mindlessly train and push my body past its limits. This affects how comfortable I am when I work, when I do recreational activity, and when I’m spending time with my kids.
Why? Unless you’re a professional athlete, isn’t the purpose of exercise and training to better your life outside the gym? Aren’t we supposed to train to build ourselves up not break ourselves down? Sure, there are going to be workouts and training sessions that push you to your limits and you’re going to be sore and beat up but that should be the exception, not the rule. I wouldn’t want to see that go away and I don’t think it has to for you to still maintain an effective fitness routine, improve and push yourself to be a better version of your current self. Intensity and pushing the limits is a critical part of any successful training program. However, in my opinion, depending on your circumstances (sleep, stress, nutrition, self-care, age, recovery, etc) we must pick and choose our battles.
All too often I have a patient present after starting a new training program that they’ve been going 100mph at since day 1 and their body finally hits the brakes and things start to deteriorate. Learning to decipher when your body is telling you to slow down because of mental fatigue vs physical fatigue can be tricky. But if you’ve gone into training 4 days in a row, maxed out your heart rate every session, lifted as heavy as possible, ran as far and as hard as possible, done zero mobility, had no body work done, ate horribly, slept poorly, then chances are that is your nervous system telling you to take it easy. The reason this warning is so critical is as the window of fatigue widens, so does the vulnerability for injury. When it’s broken down it sounds like common sense, but when we are in the heat of the moment surrounded by peers and coaches we tend to push it all aside and go through the motions.
One approach that I’ve really been gravitating towards lately is identifying an intended stimulus prior to working out. Before beginning I take stock on how I’m feeling and try to match my training stimulus to that. How recovered do I feel? Do I have any pain or stiffness? How did I eat this week/weekend? How much did or didn’t I sleep? If the grading on all those questions are positive, then I may attack that workout with full intensity and really push it. If I feel like I’m falling short on a few or all those topics, then I’ll scrap what was planned and reprogram for what I can handle. If the scaling or changes you need to make is going to significantly change the workout in a class setting, then you may need to attend an open gym or workout from home that day. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re going to succumb to peer pressure and put yourself at risk for injury or burnout. But if you can make a few small modifications and still be in your class or group setting then go for it, you’re not going to be letting anyone down!
Start practicing this week. Take stock of your overall wellness that day or week and come up with an intended stimulus for your training. Quality movement is going to be the foundation for longevity and nothing derails a training program faster than injury. I’m still learning from my mistakes and I’m looking forward to continuing my journey, now with more acuity to what my 33-year-old body is telling me.
Yours in Health,
Coming off one of the busiest “busy” seasons of my career, I have been thinking a lot about stress. Stress IS a normal part of life. We all have it in some form and it comes from a variety of sources, external and internal. Typically, our bodies respond to stress by activating our nervous system and outputting hormones. However, there are times when stress is increased or we operate in a stressful environment for a prolonged period. This heightened period of stress can impact our health in an extremely negative way. A prolonged period of high stress can alter our mental state, impair our sleep, cause cravings for certain foods and ultimately directly influence unwanted body changes.
In the midst of my tax busy season I found as I continued to push harder and say yes to more and more my mental state deteriorated. I became more irritable and at times abnormally emotional. My sleep was profoundly impacted. I would often feel pure exhaustion but have a complete inability to either fall or remain asleep. My weight crept uncomfortably up, my muscles were not recovering and I continued to become more stressed and overwhelmed. I knew I had to make a change but I also felt a desperate need to keep the wheels of the bus in motion. I feared if I took my foot off the gas pedal everything would fall apart.
It may not be the exact same story for everyone but I can imagine we have all experienced a period of heightened stress. Chances are there was little we could do to avoid the stress. We have jobs and responsibilities and commitments to many people and situations. It is likely that at times our lives are busier than normal. While we cannot just shut down and decide we no longer want to show up to work or keep our other commitments, it is important to manage our lives so we do not reach the point of burnout.
Once I came out of my busy season fog I made a promise to myself that I was not going to allow the overwhelming feelings to happen again by prescribing to the following:
- Sleep before everything else. If I cannot fit in something without sacrificing sleep then I need to re-examine my commitments. I am no good to others OR myself and my body without 7-8 of rest each night.
- I can say no and it is ok. Less really is more.
- Walking and low impact moving is sometimes more important for our body than a high impact workout.
- Meal planning and feeding my body whole, well-rounded meals is good for my brain. Relying on sugar-laden foods makes me feel sluggish.
- Caffeine can be a bandage if we begin to rely on it to get us through the day. Limiting my intake allows me to function on a more balanced plane.
- Recognizing the impact stress was having on my body allowed me to begin to undo the negative impact. I had to be kind to myself to start the recovery process.
The weight has started to come back off, I am sleeping through the nights and my emotional and mental well-being are operating at my normal levels. I am much happier which really the ultimate goal is. We all will have stress on a daily basis, how we manage it will impact our nutrition and wellness infinitely.
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