Because the Zombies Will Eat the Weak Ones First

OK, although I’m really not a zombie fan (at all) and I’ve never even seen The Walking Dead, I thought the title for this post was appropriate…when talking about MOTIVATION to exercise.

Benefits of Exercise are Endless (here are just a few)

  • Exercise releases endorphins which are your body’s natural pain medication, reducing your perception of pain…I heart burpees…I heart burpees… Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.
  • So, it’s time to squash any excuses about not having the energy to exercise…because exercise will GIVE you energy.  It may seem counter-intuitive, but researchers say expending energy by engaging in regular exercise may pay off with increased energy in the long run.
  • Exercise also boosts serotonin for a couple of hours (up to a day) which helps to improve your mood. By releasing serotonin and other endorphins, exercise can be useful in treating depression. Stress?? What stress?
  • Exercise helps to keep sickness away. Since exercise elevates your level of immunoglobulins, which are proteins that help bolster your immune system, every sweat session you do can ward off infection.
  • Exercises turbo-charges your metabolism ( particularly those workouts that are high intensity and involve weight training). Metabolism is determined by a few things that are out of our control (gender, genes and age), but exercise is one thing that IS in our control.
  •  Exercise lowers blood pressure, increases bone density, improves sex-life, improves memory and focus, decreases chance for diabetes, slows the aging process and SO MUCH MORE!!!

What is your motivation to exercise? 

I have a long list of reasons I exercise – but one of the main reasons I do is to get stronger, faster and more efficient with my workouts as I prepare for upcoming CrossFit competitions.

Another reason is the endorphin rush I get immediately after a workout. With 4-year old twins, a good workout really gives me the energy and mindset I need to be a better mommy and tackle my work.

 

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REST Shouldn’t Be a Four-Letter Word

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Most of us know that rest & recovery after exercise is essential for our minds and our bodies, but many of us still over-train and feel guilty when we take a day off. The body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts, (continuous training can actually weaken us). Rest is physically necessary so that the muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. Rest days can also help us to maintain a better BALANCE between home, work and our fitness goals.

What Happens During Recovery?

Incorporating recovery time is important because this is the time that our bodies adapt to the stress of exercise; and allows our body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Exercise or any other physical work causes changes in the body such as muscle tissue breakdown and the depletion of energy stores (muscle glycogen) as well as fluid loss. Recovery time allows these stores to be replenished and allows tissue repair to occur. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, our body will continue to breakdown from intensive exercise. Symptoms of overtraining often occur from a lack of recovery time. Signs of overtraining include a feeling of fatigue (more than usual), decreased motivation to exercise, decreased performance and seeing the first stages of a nagging injury, among others. Another major focus of recovery immediately following exercise has to do with replenishing energy stores and fluids lost during exercise by eating the right (whole & unprocessed) foods in the post-exercise meal.

Adaptation to Exercise
The Principle of Adaptation states that when we undergo the stress of physical exercise, our body adapts and becomes more efficient. It’s just like learning any new skill; at first it’s difficult, but over time it becomes second-nature. Once you adapt to a given stress, you require additional stress to continue to make progress.
There are limits to how much stress the body can tolerate before it breaks down and risks injury. Doing too much work too quickly will result in injury or muscle damage, but doing too little, too slowly will not result in any improvement. This is why we have set up specific training programs (there’s a reason for that de-load week) that increase time and intensity at a planned rate and allow active recovery throughout the program.

Sleep Deprivation Can Hinder Performance
In general, one or two nights of poor or little sleep won’t have much impact on performance, but consistently getting inadequate sleep (less than 7-9 hours) can result in subtle changes in hormone levels, particularly those related to stress, muscle recovery and mood. Everyone’s needs are a little different, but some research indicates that sleep deprivation (less than those 7 hours) can lead to increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), decreased activity of human growth hormone (which is active during tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis. Other studies link sleep deprivation with decreased aerobic endurance and increased ratings of perceived exertion. So, GET TO SLEEP EARLY TONIGHT!

Balance Exercise with Rest and Recovery.
It is this balance that takes us to a higher level of fitness. The greater the training intensity and effort, the greater the need for active recovery. Paying attention to how your body feels and how motivated you are is extremely helpful in determining your recovery needs and modifying your training program accordingly.

What to do?

Active recovery refers to engaging in low-intensity exercise during the days following the workout. Incorporating mobility and light activity during your “off days” is important. Take time to work on mobility for injury prevention, go for a bike ride, head out for an easy jog, incorporate mobility, practice yoga, roll, smash, mobilize, mobilize, mobilize!

So, plan your active recovery with your specific goals in mind and enjoy your day “off”.

Sleep Sweet Spot

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Answering emails, eating late, finishing the laundry, checking facebook, laying in bed thinking about tomorrow’s to-do’s because maybe you had a late afternoon coffee…all of this and more affects what time we go to bed and how much sleep we’ll get.

Sleep Deprivation

When we don’t get enough sleep, it leads to a nasty sleep deprivation: which gives us a shorter attention span, slower reaction time (stubbed your toe again?), diminished motor skills (say goodbye to setting your next PR), poor concentration & memory and reduced decision-making skills (say hello to that donut). Not fun.

Lacking the right amount of sleep also affects our mood and appetite – a nasty mix I like to call, “HANGRY“. The American Cancer Association has found higher incidences of cancer in individuals who consistently slept six hours or less or more than nine hours nightly. New research recently reported that people who regularly sleep 7½ hours per night live longer. When you’re sleep deprived, your cortisol and hunger hormones both surge, causing a corresponding increase in insulin. You also experience decreases in leptin, melatonin, growth hormone, testosterone, and serotonin, all of which lead to weight gain.

It also increases the chances for us to get sick. When you get enough deep sleep, it allows the body to repair and regenerate tissue and to strengthen the immune system. When you miss out on that precious recovery time, your body starts to break down.

Sleep Sweet Spot

Unfortunately, last night I had a hard time falling asleep thinking too much about what I have to do today and feeling more sore than usual. According to my sleep tracker, I was in bed for 7:38 hours, but only 76% (5:33 hours) was deep sleep and I was awake 11% of of time (:45 minutes) restlessly moving around and getting up for a bathroom break and 1 hour was considered light sleep. No wonder I’m already ready for second breakfast at 9:30am. Knowing my body’s rhythm, I’ve experienced that my sleep sweet spot (deep sleep…not time laying in bed) is about 7 hours. That means I have to shut off electronics and get myself organized early.

A national panel of sleep experts just released new recommendations that call for more hours of sleep.

  • Newborns (0-3 months ): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category)

Whether you’re looking to improve athletic performance, think faster on your feet, lose weight, or just get in a better mood, the right amount of sleep can do the trick – take it a little more seriously and you might just reach your goals faster. What can you do right now to make sleep more of a priority in your life?

Do you know your sleep sweet spot?

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What Time of the Day Do You Workout?

Want to know the truth about what time of the day is best to workout?

The answer: It doesn’t really matter. It’s what time works best for YOU and your schedule. Choose a time that you’ll be consistent with and not procrastinate (and stop hitting the snooze button 10 times).

If you were looking for a scientific answer, it’s not really clear cut. Research shows benefits to working out at various times throughout the day. 

As a busy working mom, every evening after my toddler twins go to bed consists of endless laundry and cleaning from the day’s festivities, and prepping for the next… which means my mornings are usually a bit of a blur. I wake up at 5 a.m., sneak in to give Max and Joshy a kiss, and then it’s either into the car to commute to New York City or coaching classes at my CrossFit gym. I’ve found that if I fit in exercise first thing, it sets my whole day (week, month, year, life!) up for success, because it makes me feel happier (hello, endorphins!) and I’m much more productive. I also see it as a powerful symbol for my children that I’ve chosen to make my health a priority in my life. When I do that, my whole family and everyone else around me benefits (believe me, I feel sorry for my husband on the days I miss my workout).

So, I make a commitment to get it done morning, noon or night.

I shared some of my tricks with Redbook Magazine that I’ve devised to make the process a little easier. (Hint: It all starts the night before by setting an alarm to go to bed!) Check it out here!

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Dear Diary…

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Do you keep a fitness journal?

You should.

Keeping a fitness journal holds you accountable to your goals, helps you see what works and what doesn’t work, tracks your progress and keeps you motivated. I have kept a fitness journal since I can remember – it helps me stay motivated as I work toward goals. I used to use a good ol’ fashioned paper/pen on my calendar so I could flip through it and visually see my progress, but I now use my smartphone calendar and an app to keep me on track. Yup, there’s an app (many of them) for that! Some of my favorites I’ve used in the past are: Xercise, CardioTrainer, MyFitnessPal,  Runkeeper and now I use Wodify, which is a CrossFit membership based app. What are some of your favorites?

Use a journal to write down (in detail) your goals, your plan and what you actually do for your workout including your warm-up, your workout (including repetitions, time, how much weight you used), any modifications to the workout, the results of the workout, and be sure to jot down any thoughts or feelings you had in regards to the day (how much sleep you got, your energy level, sex drive, work productivity, moods, any of it…and all of it).

When you journal, it’s a lot of fun to be able to look back and see how far you’ve progressed. And if you have a day that you’re being hard on yourself (we ALL have those days now and then), it’s encouraging to see you’ve really have come a long way already and it’s a reminder that journeys are full of peaks and valleys. Remember to accept the challenges that you may be facing (embrace them) because you need to know that these challenges will. make. you. stronger.

So, grab a pen and paper or fire up your smartphone and get journaling!