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How Not to Work Out

The late Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson was once quoted as saying “You can never be too rich or too thin.”  Those of you familiar with the positive psychology movement might know that money’s effect on happiness is not as clear cut as we once thought.  After taking care of basic needs and a bit beyond, more does not necessarily mean better.

The same might be said for intense exercise.  If you subscribe to Wallis Simpson’s approach and decide what doesn’t kill you will make you thinner stronger , you might be equally mislead.  Turns out too much high intensity exercise (no matter what the motivation) can undermine health rather than restore it..

If there is one paradigm shift I’ve had in my time working in the wellness industry it’s that including less vigorous forms of movement is just as (if not more so) important than performing vigorous workouts.  In fact, once you reach a certain level of fitness and are physically able to push quite hard, rest periods are more crucial since you increase your capacity to stimulate cortisol (stress hormone) secretion.  Not necessarily a bad thing in moderation, but too much and your health might suffer over time.

Just this past week the New York Times put out an article that being sedentary all day long may negate the benefits of working out all together.  An intense training session in the morning may not negate the effects of a sedentary day, but rather a sedentary day might negate the effects of an intense training session.

Ok, so now that we have that out of the way , let’s get to the good stuff (after all, this is The Joyful Gym Rat, not The Depressing Gym Rat…).  So we know that more is not necessarily better when it comes to intense exercise.  And we know that workout intensity matters less than overall daily movement.  All things considered, maybe a nourishing exercise routine is less daunting and more sustainable than we’ve been lead to believe?

I’m not saying we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  That Metabolic training session still has oodles of value.  But so does that walk through the park.  And that delicious restorative yoga class.  And that dance class that is so fun you completely forget you are working out.

There is no need to ditch “Joyful Movement” in favor of “Grueling Workouts”.  Or vice versa.  To quote the late Biggie Smalls, “It’s all good baby, baby”.   Your body appreciates any positive attention you give it.  Pigeon-holing yourself into a specific exercise category is not only completely boring, but also completely unnecessary.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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They may not be HIIT training, but they look pretty happy to me……..
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Nurture Yourself with Nature

Health, like life itself, seems to be a series of constant refinements.  Subtle shifts, a bit of reflection, and lots of recognizing blindspots.  I spend a good deal of time helping others recognize blindspots but somehow still manage to have lots of my own.

Since we’ve lived in our current neighborhood for almost 7 years now, my walking/running routes have been pretty mapped out.  A creature of habit, a daily walk or run is part of my own health routine (and Dee’s much to her chagrin….).  Though walking and running are good habits in and of themselves, I was missing a major piece of the puzzle: the nature in my own backyard.

Since we moved across the street to our current home (a mere 1 digit difference in our house number, friends and family continue to be confused…) there is an entrance to a trail literally in our backyard.  Though I would go down there with T to splash in the stream and such, I seldom included the trail in my own daily route.  I guess the sidewalk just seemed more straight forward and predictable (foiled again by the path of least resistance…)?

However, in listening to a podcast and remembering how good being in nature is for the microbiome, I realized it doesn’t make sense to take probiotics and ignore the multitude of microbes available in my own backyard.  I’ve since shifted my routine to include walking though the forest.

So, for today’s PSA, a few reasons why you too might consider spending more time in nature:

It May Improve Your Immune System: Breathing in chemical compounds know as phytoncides released by trees may enhance the number of natural killer cells in the body.  Natural killer cells are believed to combat disease and even be helpful in the prevention of certain kinds of cancer.

It May Make You Happier:  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is believed to be related to a lack of natural light and low vitamin D levels.  Though it can be tough to get all the vitamin D you need from light exposure, increased time outside has been shown to be help mitigate the effects of SAD.

-It May Ease Your Stress:  Getting outdoors in nature has been shown to reduce levels of salivary cortisol, a physiological marker of stress.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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Get it, T!
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The Easy and Fun Way to Healthy

We humans are pretty miraculous creatures.  Since inception, we’ve been wired to take the road of least resistance.  This serves us well in many aspects of life and is one of the major reasons our species still exists.  We’ve made it almost effortless to do things that used to take a lot of physical energy.  We can obtain food, maintain a home (I’m not gonna lie, Roomba is the best….DJ Roomba is better!), and even make a living from the comfort of our own couch.

In today’s modern society, it’s easy to forget that our bodies are movement machines.  Or that physical adaptation has not yet caught with the technological advances created via the human mind.  Though most of us aren’t running from saber tooth tigers anymore, our bodies still have the power to do so.  Though most of us don’t have to forage in the wild for food to eat, our bodies have yet to adapt to the artificially flavored and chemically altered options available at the grocery store.

Caught somewhere in between the old world and the new, is it possible to support our bodies in ways that align with our predetermined wiring to travel the path of least resistance?  Can we navigate the current world skillfully and maintain healthy bodies in the process?

One of the benefits to knowing a little bit about how the brain works is that we can use it to our advantage.  If we are truly wired to take the path of least resistance, why not set ourselves up to make that path a healthy one?  The easier it is to make the healthier choice, the more apt we are to do it.  If we can make it easy and enjoyable, we might just be unstoppable.

The following are a few goals I get asked about often and some ideas on how to achieve them with ease and enjoyment:

1.) Goal: A Daily Walk

Easy: Keep everything you need by the door (sneakers, headphones, dog’s leash, etc…).  Alternatively and if your lifestyle allows, embrace athlesiure on the days you plan to walk and you won’t have to change a thing!  (Never having to wear pants with a fly is one of the main reasons I continue to work in the industry I do….)

Enjoyable: Download a favorite book or podcast to entice you out the door.

2.) Goal: Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Easy: Keep some prepped and ready to go.  Whether you do it yourself of buy them pre-washed and cut, preparation is key!  No one wants to peel or chop when hangry.

Even easier, choose fruits and veggies that require little to no prep like apples, berries, or cherry tomatoes.  Color is also key so keep that beautiful produce on full display using clear fridge containers or an old fashioned fruit bowl on the counter.  Just like we are wired to choose the path of least resistance, we are also naturally attracted to more colorful foods since their antioxidant content is higher (when it comes to produce…unfortunately colorful candy still has minimal to no nutritional value……)

Enjoyable:  Invest or make your own delicious dips and dressings.  No matter how boring the veggie (celery, I am talking to you…) a delicious dip or dressing will positively increase produce intake.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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No matter what we plant, T will eat it dipped in BBQ sauce and/or guacamole…..
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Health Hacking

Every once in a while the stars and my cycle and who-knows-what-else align and I feel like I have it all together.  For a few hours anyway.  Then T goes down for a nap like the amicable Dr. Jekyll and wakes up like the maniacal Mr. Hyde and I am left to question my togetherness, life choices, and sheer existence.

The concept of biohacking has simultaneously intrigued and frustrated me for years now.  Though I am not totally on board with all of it (and not for lack of trying, just ask J about the l-theanine incident of 2018….) I would love to figure out a way to live life a la Bradley Copper in Limitless (damn you l-theanine supplements and your false promises of calm focus….).

In my own experience and in observing those I work with, furiously trying to control the body does not usually end well.  It’s a jungle in there, not a computer system.  Like any ecosphere, the body seems to respond better to supportive cultivation rather than forceful coercion.

As American Tibetan Buddhist Pema Chodron says “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that.”

The following are some health “hacks” you can do whether you have it all together, are falling apart, or your son takes on the personality of a villain in a classic book.  They may not reboot your computer system, but they will support your ecosystem:

-Water:  Drink water first thing in the morning before your feet hit the floor.  Keep it by your bedside and chug, sip, or savor with lemon.  However you consume it, your lubricated muscles and joints will thank you.

-Feed:  Vary your fruits and veggies.  Switch up the ingredients in your to-go salad, grab a different piece of produce at the grocery store, or grow your own in your backyard.  Variety of fruits and veggies, more than any other factor, has been shown to improve the gut microbiome.

-Grow:  Novelty ignites neuroplasticity.  Drive a different route to work, listen to a new song (bonus points for dancing to it), or embark on a trip to foreign lands.  New experiences help keep the brain supple.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!

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And he looks so innocent…..