Healthy Living Thanksgiving! Thank Your Body This Thanksgiving.

On this day of Thanksgiving … Remember your body! Give it the thanks it deserves by eating well, sleeping well, and moving today. Practice care and acceptance for yourself and for others. Most of all enjoy your family, friends, neighbors, or the dude sitting next to you at the bar (could be coffee or beauty 🙂 – with love and grace.

Today let go and relax. Allow yourself to find ease in your doing and be present in the work that surrounds today. You deserve the balance and joy that comes with being present to your experience and fully engaged – this is living life on fire – vibrant and alive.

I am so grateful for all of you. Those of you out there focused on your health, your wellness, and building healthy relationships are what make my work so enjoyable. Those of you brave enough to reach deep inside and find those parts of you that are wounded – then work hard to heal those wounds are what make my work so rewarding. Life isn’t always easy and I know many of you work hard to balance your life. It takes work to make your life work, and I am grateful to be on that journey with you. Thank you for giving me the honor of being part of your story.

Make today one of reverence and gratitude for all the hard work you do to maintain all the things you’ve got going on in your life. Balance takes effort and ease. Make today’s efforts easy.

Read more on healthy living thanksgiving: Thanksgiving Day Plan – to stay on track for your health goals, that is. Or try: How will you give thanks this season?

 

Why Warm up and Cool Down?

 

When beginning a workout it is important to begin with a warm up and end with a cool down. In both cases the gentle movements allow the body to begin preparing the systems (musculature, circulatory, and neuro-muscular junctions) to work together. As the systems begin working together your muscles “warm up”. The blood begins flowing to smaller areas and the tissues become more playable.

Begin by performing some of the same movement patterns you are planning in your workout without the overload of weight or speed. This helps your brain get ready for the more complicated work of compensating for overload. Once the workout is over it is important to let your body “cool down”. This means you are allowing those worked muscles to slow down, blood flow to gradually decrease, and the tissues to settle.

Check out this cool down and stretching routine. I really like this website and the workouts these two create. It’s a great resource for those of us working out at home.

When when we stop moving abruptly the blood can pool in our larger muscle groups and make us feel dizzy, in addition, performing flexibility training after a workout is important because the muscles are “warm” and the stretch reflectors and proprioceptors are able to more easily stretch. They still need a gentleness to perform at their best, but it will be much easier with less potential for injury if your muscles have good blood flow. The job of these proprioceptors is to make sure you do not harm your tissues.

Try foam rollers to help you obtain a deeper stretch when you are ready for your flexibility training.

When getting ready to cool down, begin moving in similar movement patterns to your workout but slower speeds and less to no overload. To complete your workout plan to spend 10-15 minutes stretching all muscles of the body a few times each (compound movement stretches save time and are great here). Allow your breathing to become deep to take benefit from your increased endorphin flow and set an intention for what’s left of your day.

If you like this article, try these: How to stretch effectively or  What is flexibility training?

80/20 Diet Rule: Staying on Track – Exercise is only ½ the battle, you’ve got to keep focused on healthy eating, too:

Remember – the nutritional part of maintaining a healthy weight is about 80% of the battle. While exercise matters for quality of life, ability to live well into our older years, and feeling alive, it’s only about 20% of losing/gaining weight. This is because exercise is good at helping us use up calories (aka stored fat) but only if we aren’t putting more into storage.

In addition, exercise often creates more hunger – because you are using more calories you need more fuel. If you are eating your fuel via junk food you are only filling your tank with junk. The body then struggles to help you rebuild tissue and have what it needs to make sure you are strong and ready for your next workout.

Planning your meals and making sure to follow the 80/20 rule when choosing foods is important. Here 80% of the time you are on track for your goals (weight loss, maintenance, or gain) and 20% of the time you eat what you want. This can be looked at according to the hour, day, week, etc.

Check out E-Meals for help making healthy meal planning easy!

If you are following the 80/20 rule on food and making good, healthy, whole food, nutrient dense choices, you can be pretty sure your also following the 80/20 rule when it comes to the way diet and exercise work together to create a healthy weight for you.

This video goes over a case study of someone who works a lot, isn’t able to find the time to exercise, and is starting to have physical problems as a result of being about 100lbs overweight. He outlines where to start and how to stick with it.

If you liked this article – check out these:

More on food choices: Eat Well, Feel Well or making sure your workouts are fun and interesting: Cycling Your Workouts.

Photo Credit: Diet Quotes

Workouts on the Trail – A Workout for Your Next Walk.

For many, working out is as easy as walking out our backdoor. Here’s a walking workout you can do during your next walk around the block, up the mountain, or around the park. Just find your favorite trail and GO.

Interested in packing your own exercise bands for an even easier way to workout while you hike? – check out Thera Bands – they are easy to pack. I have a set with handles I’ll bring when I know I can use trees or want the ease of a handle and I have a set without handles I’ve cut to the length I want and can tie/wrap around anything. I  tie these around my waist during a run for less to carry.

In addition to hiking a great trail for cardiovascular exercise, you can add strength training to your routine with a few simple movements. First focus on your lower body. As you move forward make your step wider. Lower your back knee towards the ground (be careful not to hit your knee on the ground – this hurts) and be sure to maintain alignment with your front foot out over your front ankle. This helps make sure you do not have too much force on the knee joint as you overload the body. Do 20 alternating lunges then continue your walk as normal.

After 2 minutes stop and do 10 push-ups. You can choose a rock or tree branch to elevate upper or lower body or just remain as level as you can, choosing to complete full body push ups on your toes or perform the movement from your knees.

Return to the hike. 2 minutes later, stop and begin to squat. Pretend you are sitting in a porta potty at the end of a long music festival. If you’ve never experienced this – you don’t want to touch anything with any part of your body. With your feet firmly on the ground, sit back and hover as though you didn’t want to touch anything and you don’t want to soil yourself either, but pretend you really have to go to the bathroom, so you’re going to have to figure this out. Pull your belly button towards your spine and length through your lower back. Again make sure your knees are not pushing out over your toes and focus on a nice diagonal line from the top of your head through your tailbone. Try to keep from resting your belly on your thighs. Again resume walking.


Next, it’s time for back work. You can choose a tree branch at a good height and grip circumference for you to do pull ups or find a rock you can grip to do rows. When doing rows I like to alternate between high and low rows to target the entire back. Take a lunge stance, support yourself with a hand on your thigh, and place the rock in the opposite (to front foot) hand. Using the rock as weight begin to pull your elbow up close to the body until it is behind you. Squeeze your scapula toward your spine and focus on the small muscles between them and along your spine. Next movement is the high row. This time move your arm straight out from your shoulder – same lower body position. Bend the elbow at 90 degrees and pull up, again focusing on the small muscles between the scapula and spine. Do 10 of each on each arm and return to walking. There are a few options in the video below that target your back. Get creative and see what you can add into your hike based on your environment.

At this point your could choose to be done or add in an “Arnold”. This move is a combination move targeting the biceps and deltoids. Begin with rocks in both hands. Make sure they are heavy enough to provide overload for you in both the shoulder press and a bicep curl but not too heavy that you can’t complete both with good form. Start with your hands down by your sides arms fully extended. Curl the hands toward the shoulders and then continue the movement by lifting the hands above the head.

To complete my arms, I like to add in a tricep move at the top of my arnold. If you feel comfortable with your weights in each hand go for it. If not do this as a separate move after 2 more minutes of hiking. Squeeze your elbows to your ears and drop the rock behind your head (be careful not to hit yourself in the head as this really hurts when you misjudge placement). Extend the arms back above the head, lower hands to the shoulders and extend the arms once again returning to the starting position. Complete 10 and then return to walking.

Now you can choose to add a few plank holds, back extensions, and quadruped curls (on all fours, wrists under shoulders, knees under hips, lift one leg and the opposite arm, curl the knee and elbow together and hold for a 3 second count.


Return to the starting point and repeat on the other side). Again return to walking.

Congratulations!! You have done a full body strength training session and created a walking workout on your favorite trail! Now you have the choice to continue walking without interruption or complete another set or two. Your choice will depend on the difficulty of your trail, your allotted time, and your current fitness level. Here’s to making every workout count!

If you liked this article, please leave a comment below and let me know how your workout went. You can check out more on Exercise on the Cheap and look at how to get creative on your vacation and find workouts all around you.

#fitnesspsychologist, #healthy, #walkingworkouts

Finding Healthy Rewards

Often rewards are one of the reasons people stay focused on workout goals. However if your workout goal is also focused on giving into your favorite “sweet foods” because you deserved it, you may find that you are over-indulging and sabotaging yourself along the way. As we begin a workout program we tend to increase our hunger because our body is requiring more calories (aka fuel) to do what’s asked of it. If we are filling those extra calories with junk because “we worked hard” we aren’t keeping our ‘eyes on the prize’, which has been found to help us reach our goals, and instead we are shooting ourselves in the foot. Smart pre and post workout snacking can help balance out those extra cravings and make sure the fuel you are choosing is the right kind for your needs in this part of your training cycle.

Keeping Your Eye On The Prize Matters. Check Out Why ~

If you aren’t going to reward yourself with food … then just what will you get for all that hard work? Answering a few simple questions can really help you define what’s important to you and keep you motivated to reach your goals. Think about:

  • What you really like do?
  • What do you value?
  • What do you usually forgo?
    • a mani/pedi, facial, expensive razor, a day at the driving range, time to read, a Netflix binge episode, sleep, a different/new food (that’s healthy for you), a new fitness tracker, etc.

These are all ways you can help yourself stay focused and excited to reach your goals, without blowing your long term health vision.

There are a few rules to the above answers. First, make sure you stick within your budget. If you end up healthier but then strapped for time to pay it off, you are apt to return to your old behaviors and lose your gains. Second, consider timing. I am a mother of 3, I might like a binge watching episode of Netflix, but if it interrupts my family time, it might not be sustainable or as enjoyable, leaving me demotivated. Third, plan for a variety of rewards. This way you won’t get bored doing the same activities over and over, get stuck in a rut and you are likely to resort to old unhealthy coping to beat the boredom. That’s a no-win.

Finally, remember the reward should be fun and shouldn’t be so far off and unavailable that it seems impossible to get. Once I gave myself a new pair of workout shoes, however the price tag on the ones I wanted was so much on my salary I had months of saving before me. That reward was too far out for me to stick with it. One time, I also gave myself a facial appointment if I met my goals, problem with this reward –  it seemed so unlike me and too pampering. I wasn’t motivated to reach my goals to get it. It felt too uncomfortable at the time. I backed that goal down to something that felt better for me and had a massage instead.

Once I was able to switch the way I thought about “what I deserve” after apply hard work and big effort, finding unique and motivating rewards got a lot more fun. See what you come up with to give yourself today.

Here’s some other ideas:

If this article was helpful you might like these older posts I wrote: 10 Rules of Motivational Rewards  or look at how you might honor your hard work and get ready to crush your next goal in Harvesting Your Fitness Garden

Sticking with your workouts when they get boring & mundane

Here’s where inspiration and motivation become key. The first few weeks of a workout are great. You are excited, you are feeling the changes of more energy, sleeping better, focusing on good food which increases your sense of balance, groundedness, and energy … and then things don’t seem as rosy. You’ve hit the mundane and boring part of reaching a goal.

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The time when the excitement of having it is no longer more than the work and focus it takes to get it accomplished. In this time it is critical to have inspiration to drive your motivation. This is where you have to really keep your focus going and where having a routine that you stick too (even when it’s boring or seems like it won’t matter if you sleep in or eat this instead) becomes critical for getting you over the hump.

Placed together with cycling your workouts and beating plateaus this extra effort sticking to your routine will take you a long, long way.

Exercise and Household Chores

Working out doesn’t have to happen at a special time or in the gym. It can happen in the midst of daily chores! Again, another way to add fitness in without adding more to your to-do list. Some simple things can help you focus more on the movement and exercise rather than chores being categorized as daily living activities.

First, to be exercise we’ve got to have some overload. That could be as simple as making sure you carry in more groceries at one time or more complicated like scrubbing the kitchen floor on your hands and knees while making sure to reach one arm and the opposite leg out for more intense core work.

Second, the key is to get creative and follow proper lifting techniques so you don’t hurt yourself while vacuuming. The injury could be the same, but the story won’t be as cool if you have to say you were cleaning house rather than performing your biggest lift to date!

A little playfulness goes a long way to figuring out how many steps you can take, how to get more overload (maybe ankle weights or a weighted vest. Also helps to use longer levers – stretch your arm all the way out to lift the gallon of milk). I have found that the challenge of getting a step, calorie, or muscle strength goal makes cleaning MUCH more fun. See how playful you can get with the idea over the next week and see if you have more fun completing repetitive chores, too.

Overcoming Plateaus:

Plateaus happen. Most of us get pretty frustrated when we’ve been moving toward our goals, making progress, rewarding ourselves, and feeling good about our choices. Then all the sudden it stops and we feel stuck. Know that this is a normal process in change.

The body is made to adapt and become efficient. As animals we are designed to conserve energy when possible just in case we’ll need it down the road, not expend it because we want to look differently. This is where cycling your workouts becomes important. We want the body to adapt and to become more efficient however we don’t want it to become too comfortable. A great tracker can help make sure you are working out … not just working.

See the last fitness posting on ideas about cycling your workouts, know that plateaus happen, they are showing positive change in the systems of the body, and that your job is to shake them up again!

Cycling your workouts

Cycling your workouts helps on two fronts. First it helps you get over plateaus (which we’ll discuss in a few days) and second it allows you to make sure you don’t get too efficient in your workouts.

An easy way to look at cycling workouts is to start with your time frame – say you have 3 months to complete your goal. This is 12 weeks. You can begin with a conditioning phase for 3 weeks, move to a strength phase for 3 weeks, a speed/strength (aka plyometric phase) for 3 weeks, and finally a combination phase for 3 weeks. Or you could do an easy phase for 3 weeks (here think building your endurance and conditioning for the work to come), a medium phase for 3 weeks (more strength, harder movement patterns, maybe some speed), and a difficult phase for 3 weeks (hypertrophy focus or speed, agility, sports specific conditioning, etc). This gets followed by a week of active rest and then you can move back to a medium phase of easy phase if you are learning new movement patterns.

Looking to track your workouts? Try a FitBit.
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The choice of program is only the frame. The basic components need to be introduction to the work and building endurance, followed by overload – this could be building muscle, longer cardio work, or speed drills. The body is made to adapt and thus becomes good at finding the easiest way to accomplish a task.

By cycling your workouts you can easily help yourself continue to progress in your goals without the frustration of hitting a plateau you didn’t expect.

Photo Credit: BodyBuilding.com

Thank You UWS Students! 

Thank you to UWS Counseling Students for a great evening of exploration regarding the mental health field. In this post I also outline and more in-depth explanation of treating and healing from early trauma. A list of somatic psychology resources is also included.

Thank you for letting me come speak about our profession! I enjoyed the exploration and interest areas. There are some many possibilities and avenues for careers in behavioral health. I am grateful to be able to share my experience and hope for the next generation of LPCs. I wish you well, and please feel free to contact me if more questions/thoughts arise.

As I reflected on the questions I believe I didn’t answer the question about early trauma fully – to heal from psychological trauma we do not need the story/details of the event. Trauma happens in the body, even when it is verbal in nature, the physiology of the fear disrupts the endocrine system and dysregulates the brain processes. As a result we see dysfunctional behaviors and coping skills. To treat this we can use a number of therapies that target body sensations, as early trauma is stored in brain centers as sensations – not as words/symbols. We can then use the body sensations to track and allow neuropathways to develop while using the present moment therapist to client regulation. This allows the person to process through the trauma in the brain via the body with safety, then make meaning of the event(s) using words, art, music, etc. I tend to use somatic therapies most of the time along with cognitive work to help make meaning and keep the process moving – help clients understand what’s happening when that’s what’s needed for safety. And Dialectical Behavior Therapy to teach regulations skills prior to trauma protocols. Many somatic modalities teach them along the way, however some struggle with the mindfulness and/or aren’t used to being in the body, tracking sensation for long periods of time. Cognitive work can help balance the fears and safety while building endurance. 
Some resources for the somatic work:

  • USABP – United States Association for Body Psychotherapies
  • SE – Somatic Experiencing, Peter Levin has a good book on trauma in the body
  • Hakomi – Hakomi Institute 
  • Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – check out Pat Ogden’s book on trauma and the body 
  • EMDRIA – Eye movement densitization and reprocessing therapy main association website.