Monday, February 4, 2013

5 Things You Can Do To Enhance Your Wellness in 2013

“Those who think they have no time for exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”  ~Edward Stanley

I get asked frequently what I think of "New Year Resolutions."   I don't think they're a bad thing, if used as a motivating tool, however they can be what I like to call a "Get Out Of Jail Free Card."  Our culture has a "feast or famine" mentality.  In regards to lifestyle choices and changes, this can be a "road block." 

In other words, I hear people say a lot "I'm just going to eat poorly through the holidays.  Then I'll start all over on Jan. 1st, and eat better, and exercise more."  Unfortunately, your metabolism isn't governed by a calender.  It doesn't quite work that way.  Your body likes consistency for overall longevity.  Consistency is what we all live by...the sun comes up everyday, the moon comes up every night.  We know the night will follow the day, and vice versa.  We live by a constant flow and rhythm of harmonious cycles.  It is up to us to align our body with these cycles, and this means consistent effort.  If you look at nature, it is a mirage of effort and cycles.  The bees are constantly working.  Ants are building ant hills.  Jaguars are ever on the hunt.  The only time rest is given, is when the job is done...when rest has been earned.  Humans are no different (though we would like to think we are).

Your body is a masterpiece.  A work of art.  It's a true temple of epic proportions.  Like tending to a hive, this temple is in constant need of restoration.  There is no rest, until it is earned.  The earning comes from a daily consistency of fueling it properly, exercising it in a variety of ways, and overall positive mental attitude.  These 3 things are the tools to constantly rebuild, restore, and renew your beautiful masterpiece.

The following question then ensues from my clients and patients:  "Where do I start?  Its all so overwhelming!"  Baby steps, and small efforts lead to bigger ones.  I would make a list of 5 things you can do (small things) to enhance your wellness, and start there.  There are 5 things that stand out in my mind that everyone can do more of to enhance their well-being (myself included).  If you need to start somewhere, start with these things.  You will notice an increased sense of well being in about 3-4 weeks.  Remember:  statistics show it takes, approximately, 21 days to make a habit.  I always give myself that "trial period" for anything.  I usually say to myself "If you still don't like it after 21 days, Almine, you can quit."  That rarely happens, however.  There is something odd that seems to "click" in your brain around that time, where your mind says "Actually, I really can do this," or "Wow, I think I can keep going."  Just give yourself 3 +/- weeks, and you'll see a change.  That encompasses adding a new exercise in, changing the way you eat, a new way of thinking, or forming any new habit. 

It takes about that long to tell your body and mind to re-train itself to a new pattern.  That's what happened to me with running.  I kept telling myself "Give it 3 weeks, Almine.  Just 3 weeks..."  And you know what?  It worked.  Around 3 1/2 weeks I experienced, what they describe as "runner's high."  I thought "Where has this been all my life?"  I realized I could experience the beauty around me, on the beautiful trails, in a way I never had before.  I could exercise my own body, and my pups, in a surrounding oasis of nature...quiet, alone with my own thoughts...to a cadence of my breath and footsteps...  It was a wonderful discovery.  Mind you, the first 2 weeks were not that enjoyable, but I just kept telling myself  "Give it 3 weeks."  I would invite you to do the same with the following 5 wellness suggestions:

1.)  Drink More Water:    How many times have we all heard this?  This is my "weak link" in my own lifestyle habits.  2013 is about changing that.  I now carry around a gallon jug of water with me everyday.  People laugh because they say "That's a lot of water you're carrying around with you!"  Do you want to carry around a heavy gallon of water with you all day?  I didn't think so.  Hence, the motivation to make it lighter.  So, you drink up.  The more you sweat, the more water you need.  It is that simple.  Since I've started to carry around a gallon of water with me everywhere, its made me realize a few things:  I'll actually drink water if I have it around.  If I don't carry water around with me (or I forget my water bottle somewhere) I don't drink.  The key, then?  Have it around.  And have around more than you think you'll need.  You'll surprise yourself, when you realize you drank both quarts of water, vs. 1, when you have 2 sitting in front of you.  We're all more dehydrated than we know.

2.)  Stretch:  Another one you hear all the time, but seem to never do?  Stretching gets shoved by the wayside by the vast majority of active people.  If you don't seem to have time for something, it tends to be stretching.  Unfortunately, its what the athlete needs most.  There have been alternating, oscillating studies on stretching:  when to do it, when not to do it, when its most efficient, how long, etc., etc.   At this point, I'd be happy to get some of my clients/patients to stretch 2x per wk.  I get you want to do the activities you love most:  run, "CrossFit," climb, surf, mtn. bike, whatever.  These things are only able to be done for the long-haul if stretching is included in your exercise regime.  Recently, at a "CrossFit" Powerlifting cert., I attended, I heard one of the head coaches say "Mobility IS longevity."  This couldn't be more accurate.  Want to do what you love to do, for as long as you can do it?  Stretch.  "Bikram Yoga" is my recovery Rx. of choice.  The "magical" combination of heat & stretching cannot be beat.  Your muscles will go from tight, achey and sore to supple, pain-free, relaxed and pliable.  This equates to better everything...and injury prevention.  I understand there is a price to playing hard.  Good food and "Bikram Yoga" are my dues.  I like to climb, lift heavy, do "CrossFit," trail-run, swim, ride my bike, etc.  All of these are wonderful for other aspects of my physical/mental/emotional health, but they do take a toll on the body too.  As Bikram Choudry says "Every other physical activity robs the body of energy.  Yoga gives it.  Its like the 'gas station' for the body to fuel up, so it can keep going."  This is true in my life.  Its what makes everything I do keep getting better.  Its the hub of the wheel, and all the other activities I do are like the spokes coming out of that hub.

Stretching/Yoga is my recovery Rx. of choice.  Here I am doing "Fixed Firm Pose" in "Bikram Yoga" (note the gallon water bottle)  :)

3.)  Sitting Practice:   It doesn't matter what your beliefs are.  To sit, in silence, with a quiet mind, doesn't require any belief.  It just gives relief.  Breath is non-denominational.  Anyone can sit and watch their breathing.  There are so many new wonderful studies on the benefits of doing this.  I suggest starting with a goal of 15 mins. a day, and working your way up in 5-10 min. increments.  It gives peace to a mind that doesn't stop all day long.  Your mind is even going when you sleep.  We call it dreaming.  Active meditation is allowing the mind to become still.  It's harder than you think.  It's a practice which gives coolness to an aggravated, over-used brain that is on demand the vast majority of our lives: relationships, children, family, life decisions, work, etc.  All of these things require calculated thought, and action.  Rarely, is silence allowed in our heads.  People think I don't sit still.  This couldn't be further than the truth.  I learned in India to sit in meditation for up to 10 hrs. a day in some monastaries.  It requires the same discipline, effort and determination as anything else.  Whether its mastering a good pull-up, or running a race.  Discipline is discipline.  But, the mind is the driver of the chariot.  If you have a driver, not in control, then the chariot is allowed to run wild.  Control the mind, the body becomes easier to discipline...and vice versa.  This is the premise of martial arts, and its accurate.  I jokingly tell people I exercise to get my "Ya Ya's" and "wiggles" out, so that I can sit quietly, before bed at night.  If I exercise, I know I will not only sleep well that night, but I know my body will be able to be still for a long period of time, before bed too.  I wake up refreshed the next day, excited to do it all over again.


Breath is non-denominational.  Everyone breathes.  Watch your breath.  It will still your mind.

4.)   Sleep:   There are too many studies on the benefits of good, quality sleep to ignore.  "Good" and "quality" are the key words here.  There are a few small things you can do to enhance better quality sleep, thereby waking up more rested each morning.  A good night's sleep equals more energy for your day.  #1) Make sure no artificial light is coming into the bedroom.  This goes for night lights in the room, televisions being left on, street lights, lights from signs outside, etc.  Studies show that even though your eyelids are closed, they still detect artificial light, even while you're asleep.  This, thereby, never really allows your nervous system to rest.  #2)  See above suggestion ("Sitting Practice").  A quiet mind before bed, equals a less active, busy mind during sleep.  #3)  Find a bed that really works for you.  We spend a large majority of our lives in our bed.  If, for any reason, your bed is not allowing your body to rest, then its time to invest in a new one.  If you're waking up each morning with a stiff back, neck, shoulders, etc. its hard to feel motivated to want to go and workout.  You're tired and sore, when you should be rested and energized.  A good bed is worth paying for.  Quality sleep is a priceless commodity, as the result will affect your whole day.  Many beds "off-gas."  Often mattresses are made with toxic chemicals, that you're inhaling all night.  Look into organic or natural bed mattresses.  They're readily available now, and can be found just about at any mattress store.

Na Night...  :)

5.)  Good Footwear:  Sound basic?  It is.  But its importance cannot be underestimated.  Our feet do so much for us.  They rarely get rest.   I currently treat a number of people for injuries that could've been prevented, had they changed out their footwear often.  In addition, finding the proper footwear for your specific activities is key.  Example:  I don't wear the same footwear for distance running as I do in "CrossFit."  When I start putting miles on my feet, they require different things, than they do for run-sprints.  Also, what terrain you're doing your activity on is important.  Are you running on road, trail, sand, grass, dirt or a combination?  I have trail-running shoes.  I have road-running shoes.  I have "hybrid" shoes for runs/courses that are a combination of the two.  I hear people say "Well, that can be expensive."  Perhaps.  If you look at the investment of either changing your running shoes out, when its time to retire them, or getting the proper footwear vs. treatment of a foot injury or chronic foot pain, the cost is nill. 

Bend is known as a capitol for endurance athletes:  ultra-runners, triathletes, cyclists, skate skiers, etc.  Because of this, we have a demographic of people here that are conscious of the footwear they use, for the most part, but I still treat issues around this.  Because of the nature of how important I think good footwear is,  I've set up a partnership with a local footwear store, "Fleet Feet Sports Bend," where ultra-runner/owner, Rod Bien, and his knowledgeable staff do "medical footwear fits," to make sure the footwear you're currently wearing is right for your given sport.  They go through extensive training to learn this procedure, and have assisted my patients and training clients with helping to reduce symptoms of "Plantar Fascitis," "Achilles Tendonitis," bone spurs, "Seismoiditis," shin splints, etc.  You eat soup with a spoon.  Not with a fork.  You eat salad with a fork.  Not with a spoon.  Your footwear should be like this.  You should have the proper footwear for the given activity.  Don't use one pair of shoes for everything.  You will wear them down, quicker than you realize, and your feet will pay the price.  That can hinder further activity for you down the road.  No fun.  And we're all about having fun.  :)

"HOKA" Evo Stinson's (Hybrid shoe for road/trail terrain)

I even have different pairs of shoes for different types of climbing  :)
Going more minimalist for my "CrossFit" shoes