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 […]
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,
Would you consider yourself more of an organized planner or a last-minute, go-with-the-flow type of person? I am definitely an organized planner and like to be prepared for the things I can. One reason why I like to be prepared is because I really dislike being hangry! I always have staple foods in my freezer, fridge, pantry, vehicle, work drawer, and purse. Yes, purse. I get hungry frequently and am prepared to combat the low blood sugar and hanger with a quick snack. Meal prepping is another thing my husband and I do to be prepared. With meal prep, our breakfasts and lunches are ready to go for the work day and dinner is either prepped and ready to heat up or cut up and ready to throw on the grill or in the oven. This saves us so much time and we are able to enjoy other things during the week.
Here are some meal prep hacks to help you feel more prepared for the work week/weekend and maximize your time doing the things you enjoy.
- Make a grocery list and look up a couple recipes if you are craving a specific type of meal
- Cook foods in bulk. Think protein sources, rice, potatoes, roasted veggies, egg bakes, oatmeal, etc.
- Invest in a crock pot or instant pot if you don’t already have one or the other. Prepping made easy and fast
- Get some good storage containers that fit in your fridge and in your lunch bag
- Prep for ~3-4 days at a time. Food will stay fresh and you will have more time to relax and enjoy other things around meal times
- Always have staples in your pantry, fridge, and freezer (jasmine rice, eggs, whole grain pasta, frozen veggies, nut butters, olive oil, potatoes, canned tuna, frozen chicken breast or sausage, oatmeal, frozen fruit, protein bars)
- Keep plenty of spices and healthier sauces on hand to add some flavor to your meals
- Balance your meals. Think a protein source, carbohydrate source, veggie, and healthy fat source. This will keep your blood sugar stable and your meals tasty
- Put a few days worth of meals together in containers and label them. Ready to grab and go
- Make it a date. Schedule your meal prep time and put it in your calendar. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes and sometimes 2 hours. Regardless, it will save you more time during the week
With these hacks, meal prep will be easy and a huge time saver. Your mornings will go smooth and you won’t have to think about what to have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner because you will be prepared. Throw on your favorite tunes or tv show in the background and get cooking!
Carbohydrates: Good or Bad?
“Oh I can’t eat that, it has carbs in it.” Really? Is that how people view carbs? The evil macronutrient you are to avoid at all costs? Don’t vegetables have a carbohydrate content!? Sure, excess carbohydrates, which require water for storage, can lead to weight gain. However, excess of any macronutrient can lead to weight gain! The basic idea of a diet builds around energy balance. In the case of a lower carb diet, the restriction typically leads to less energy in. If coupled with exercise and proper energy out, someone loses weight. It should be that simple.
But we do need carbs, especially athletes and active people. Why do we need carbs and what are they good for?
For starters, we all need carbohydrates as energy transfer depends on it. Our brain and red blood cells also need a continuously available supply of it. We should get these complex carbs from high fiber sources including vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. This leaves us feeling full longer. Highly processed carbs digest quickly and lead to spikes in blood sugar and typically coming along with high amounts of sodium and preservatives. (HINT: Eat real food!)
Now that you know you need carbs, you could be strategic about when you eat them if you want to dive deep in to your nutrition. Build your carb intake higher around your workout times to help fuel energy! Carb intake will vary per each athlete. Many endurance athletes have an ectomorph build. They are often tall, lean, have trouble putting on mass and they tolerate carbs very well. A power lifter in a strong man competition may need far less carbs to fuel their body and rely more on protein and fat. The most important factor of carb intake is not to avoid it, but rather to work with your coach to understand how much you need and where to get useful carbs from.
Move well. Eat well. Be Well.
Dane Schneider, Pn1