What is Heart Rate Variability Training?

If you’ve been eavesdropping in the gym shower recently, you’ve probably heard a thing or two about HRV. One of the latest trends making big waves in training arenas around the globe, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) analysis is a useful tool for professional athletes, seasoned gym bros, and recreation fans looking to get a reliable assessment of their overall shape, recovery, and training. But how exactly do you monitor HRV and how can you use it to put your fitness quest on the right track?

HRV Analysis: What is it and What Does it Measure?

Just like muscles need time to recover after training and other types of physical stress, the nervous system needs to rest and replenish, so it can take on the next plateau. If pushed too far too soon, the neurological system may not be able to cope with the stress, which could lead to injury or illness. That’s where HRV analysis comes in: by tracking heart rate variations between inhalation and exhalation when resting, HRV can help athletes track their nervous system activity, optimize recovery, and dial-up long-term athletic performance. So, how exactly can you measure HRV and how do you interpret the results?

photo credit: https://www.joachimstraining.com

How HRV Impacts Performance: What’s in a Heart Beat?

When you breathe in, your heart rate goes up because that’s when the sympathetic part of the nervous system gets behind the wheel, raising your blood pressure and heart rate and stepping up muscle power and speed, which are required for survival in fight-or-flight situations. When you breathe out, your heart rate drops as the parasympathetic part of your nervous system comes into play, lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, relaxing the muscles, and promoting digestive functions. The difference between the two rates is a reliable indicator of stress levels and recovery efficiency: the higher your HRV is, the better rested your body is and the calmer you will be both in the gym and in everyday situations. Low HRV, on the other hand, is a telltale sign of chronic stress and less than optimal recovery, which can lead to an increased risk of injury, fatigue, illness, and overtraining.

Hi-Tech Gear after Your Heart: How to Track Your HRV

HRV was developed by Soviet scientists as part of their space program back in the ’60s, and it has since been used in various aspects of cardiac medicine and sports performance tracking. In its early stages, HRV was measured by means of an electrocardiogram (ECG) but nowadays it can be tracked by means of health and fitness apps such as HRV4Training, TrainingPeaks, ithlete, Welltory, and Elite HRV, allowing professional and recreational sportsmen to keep tabs on their performance and recovery without major hi-tech investments. In addition to the smartphone app, you’ll also need a heart rate strap or finger-wave pulse sensor to take your HRV readings.

Make Your Heartbeats Work: Exercise after Your Heart

To put workout intensity and recovery on the HRV-suitable track, you’ll need to take your heart rate readings in the morning over the course of a few months and review the data on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. To get an accurate insight into your performance, physical shape, and recovery, you should set up a training log and track key workout and lifestyle basics, such as exercise sets, reps, weight lifted, rest periods, nutrition, and sleep duration and quality. Based on the weekly training log review, you’ll get a grip on the meaning of each daily measurement and the correlation between your workout intensity, recovery, overall HRV trends, your body’s response to stress, and the best ways to optimize your recovery. Still, you should be aware that HRV readings might not reflect the previous day’s training load accurately if you throw low-intensity workouts and increased non-fitness related stress load into the mix.

Beyond Muscle: Track Your Heart to Tweak Your Life

Apart from recovery tracking, HRV can be used to monitor the body’s adaptation to training load changes and make workout adjustments. On top of that, HRV analysis can help athletes prevent injury, overtraining, and illness, such as respiratory and pulmonary disease, and predict the days when their performance may be better or worse. As a rule, athletes who normally record high HRV values achieve better results in endurance tests, while those who are continually exposed to high stress levels usually make smaller strength gains in the long run.

A Workout to Warm Your Heart: Final Notes on HRV

As against pre-planned training programs, HRV-based workouts usually lead to quick yet steady performance improvement and maximum fitness effects, because of the optimal use of recovery. Nevertheless, before you slap on the heart rate strap and head out, try to pick most comfortable gym outfits and footwear to get the most accurate readings of each workout. What you wear during training impacts your psychological shape, and your mind affects your performance, stress levels, and neurological function. Based on HRV analysis, you will get a clear image as to whether you should cut yourself some slack in the gym, increase total sleep time, or add more protein-rich foods to your plate. Each of these simple lifestyle and fitness cues will help you take your endurance and/or strength training to the next level, and you will also be able to slice the risk of sports injury and disease down the road.

The fitness industry is no longer what it used to be – things are changing at a rapid pace, and if you want to be a part of the evolving trends, you should take full advantage of the advancements offered. HRV is just one of the ways you can use tech to become an even better version of yourself, dig deeper, and climb your very own version of Mt. Everest.

Mathews McGarry is passionate about many forms of strength training, and spent years lifting, dragging and flipping all manner of heavy objects. After graduating from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney, he started writing about his experiences, and sharing tips for better life. Follow him on Twitter.

Advertisements

New, Free TuneUpDocs Medical Program Introduces New Paradigm for Medical ‘Checkups’

Having a regular health checkup may be a good idea, but it’s tied to an outmoded approach to wellness. Looking to see if you have “IT” yet—“it” being some deadly disease. In reality, checkups rarely offer anything that actually helps a person feel better. Research published over the last 2 years has even suggested that most health care screening tests, with the exception of checking blood and eye pressure, diabetes and colonoscopy, may cause more harm than good. In this light, it’s the perfect time to evolve from doing “check-ups” to “TuneUps.”

TuneUpDocs®, developed by board certified internist Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, was launched this week at the opening of Natural Products Expo East in the Baltimore Convention Center (September 13-16).

“TuneUpDocs revolutionizes the standard approach to healthcare by expanding the medical toolkit and providing scientifically proven, effective ways to optimize and maintain health, improving quality of life and longevity,” says Dr. Teitelbaum, author of seven books including the perennial bestsellersFrom Fatigued to Fantastic! and the Beat Sugar Addiction NOW! series.“Comprehensive Medicine is the cornerstone of our program—which means incorporating the best of conventional and alternative medicine to optimize health. So people can die very young—but very late in life.”

TuneUpDocs starts with a free, simple, 5-10 minute online health quiz, which is used to create a personalized, comprehensive roadmap for overall health. TuneUpDocs provides individualized recommendations and health tips that will leave people feeling young and healthy, at any age. People can incorporate most of these recommendations on their own.  The program will also provide the names of TuneUpDocs-trained health care practitioners nationwide.

“Although our modern world creates many health challenges—with new research showing a marked increase in the prevalence of fatigue, pain, arthritis and diabetes—it also offers new tools that can help people to thrive as never before,” says Dr. Teitelbaum. “From a Comprehensive Medical point of view, this is the best time ever to be alive.”

He adds, “My car has 100,000 miles on it but feels like a new car simply because I give it regular tune-ups. Yet most people have never had a tune-up.  Which is why they feel old.”

Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is a board certified internist and author of the popular free iPhone and Android application “Cures A-Z,” which was ranked in the top 10 of all health/wellness downloads on iTunes. Dr. Teitelbaum is the author of the perennial bestseller From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery Penguin), which has sold over half a million copies; Pain Free 1-2-3 (McGraw-Hill); the Beat Sugar Addiction Now! series (Fair Winds Press); Real Cause, Real Cure—The 9 root causes of the most common health problems and how to solve them (Rodale Press); The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution (Penguin/Avery); and his latest, The Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction (Fair Winds Press, May 14, 2015).

Dr. Teitelbaum is the lead author of four groundbreaking research studies on effective treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia using an integrative treatment approach called S.H.I.N.E.™ (Sleep, Hormones, Infections/Immunity, Nutrition, Exercise) which showed an average 90% increase in quality of life (p<.0001 vs. placebo). His research on ribose, a unique 5-carbon sugar, showed an average 60% increase in energy at 3 weeks. His work was editorialized in the American Academy of Pain Management, where his S.H.I.N.E. protocol was recognized as standard of practice for fibromyalgia and chronic pain conditions. He is also lead author on a study looking at treating food sensitivities in autism using a desensitization technique called NAET in which 23 of 30 autistic children in the treatment group were able to return to regular school after 1 year vs. 0/30 in the control group.

Dr. Teitelbaum knows CFS/Fibromyalgia as an insider, as he contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when he was in medical school and had to drop out for a year to recover. His web site (www.vitality101.com) contains a sophisticated computer program that can analyze symptoms and labs to determine the main causes of fatigue and pain, and create a protocol for optimizing energy tailored to the individual.

Any royalties earned on products for which he consults in the natural products industry are contributed to various charities, including Vitamin Angels, the American Botanical Council, and the Jacob Teitelbaum Family Foundation for ending world hunger and poverty, creating joy, and empowering people at the forefront of natural therapies.

Metabolism and the Science of Healthy Living

For better or for worse, our daily choices have a huge a impact on who we are. If you’re reading this post, chances are that you want your own daily choices to leave you better off than the day before. Luckily for us, this graphic from our friends over at Elysium Health aims to do just that—help us better ourselves. As you can see from my recent post on improving your mind, body and spirit, there are a number of ways in which you can achieve this. Elysium takes more of a scientific approach when it comes to self-improvement, shown through their focus on metabolic factors (which makes sense, considering their main research is in NAD+ supplements). However, Elysium also takes the human factor into account by showcasing tips from real people in the health and fitness community. Whether it’s physical, mental, or nutritional, there are small changes that you can make everyday that result in a big gain. What’s your #SmallChangeBigGain?

Injuries in Fitness and How to Prevent it

Injuries suck! They really do! Even if you just get injured or maybe nursing an irritating injury for a while now, it can be so disheartening and depressing that you can no longer work out as much as you would love to. Injury prevention has now become a must for any fitness enthusiast who wishes to stay healthy enough to achieve their fitness goal. But this cannot be achieved without the right knowledge, practices, and preparations.

Do you want to learn about injuries in fitness and how to prevent it? This article might be able to help. Stay tuned as we discuss some common fitness injuries and how you can prevent them.

Fitness Injuries

Injuries fall into two main categories – cumulative and traumatic. Traumatic injuries are used to describe those injuries that are sustained by accident during sporting or physical activities like dropping a dumbbell on your leg by mistake during a workout session. Cumulative injuries, on the other hand, refer to those tissue damages that develop with time as a result of repetitive strain. These kinds of injuries occur when the tissues are stressed beyond their limits and could be as a result of improper training techniques, poor posture, wrong training gears and inadequate rest. This article will focus more on cumulative injuries, some common fitness injuries are discussed below:

#1.       Muscle pull and strain: This occurs when the muscle is torn or overstretched due to overuse, fatigue or abnormal use of the muscle. It leads to pain, soreness, swelling, stiffness, weakness or discoloration of the affected area. Mild to moderate strain often goes away within a few weeks while severe muscle strain may linger for months before it finally goes away.

#2.       Sprained ankle: This occurs when the ligaments in your ankle are torn or overstretched when there’s too much movement or when the ligaments are stressed or stretched beyond their limits. It is characterized by pain and stiffness in the affected parts but usually goes away on its own, mostly between 2 to 12 weeks after you sustained the injury.

Photo Credit: http://iwalk-free.com/injury-resource-center/sprained-ankle/

#3.       Shoulder injury: Shoulder injury ranges from soreness and muscle aches that develop through daily wear and tear, to shoulder dislocation which can be as a result of lifting weights or inadequate warm-up before carrying out an intense physical exercise.

Photo Credit: http://blog.affinityhealth.org/shoulder-injuries-common-problems

#4.       Knee injuries: Knee injuries are associated with the damages to the knee ligaments. There are four knee ligaments that prone to damages, thereby causing knee injury. These are:

  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  • Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)
Photo Credit: http://www.coolhealthtips.com/types-of-knee-injuries.html

#5.       Tendonitis: This is also known as tendonitis. It is the soreness or inflammation of the tendon as a result of stress or repetitive impact on the affected area. One of the most common and dreaded forms of this injury is the Achilles tendonitis. Poor stretching before exercise, incorrect techniques and posture, and overuse or performing too much exercise can give rise to this injury condition.

Shin splint, Plantar Fasciitis, metatarsalgia, and Achilles tendonitis are often experienced by runners or people who practice high impact physical exercise. They are caused by overuse, too much exercise, poor techniques, wrong choice of foot wears, and overpronation or flat feet to mention a few. These injury conditions should be promptly treated as they could result in more severe conditions.

Injury Prevention

Anyone can get injured irrespective of their experience or fitness level. The good news is that these fitness injuries can be avoided by having a good preparation and following the right precautions. As a general rule, you have to be properly tested and also have your doctor’s recommendations before embarking on any new fitness routine. Below are some guidelines to avoiding fitness injuries.

  1. Get a personal trainer or coach: A personal trainer or coach will put you through the right training techniques, movements, and the rule of your new fitness program which is very important in injury prevention.
  2. Warm up: A proper stretch or warm up before an exercise help to supply blood and essential nutrient to the muscle tissues. It also warms the muscle fiber, prevent muscle tear and prepares you mentally for the actual workout exercise.
  3. Start slowly and develop gradually: When starting a new fitness program, it is important to start slowly and gradually increase the frequency and intensity to avoid injury.
  4. Cross train: Stop overusing a particular part of your muscles. Engage in different physical activities and vary your workout exercises, this will help engage other parts of your body and prevent strain and overuse injuries.
  5. Be smart, set realistic goals: It is important to be smart and not push yourself above your fitness level. Setting realistic fitness goals and following a training plan is a good way to achieve this.
  6. Use the right training gears: Your training gears are as important as the workout itself since they help to prevent injuries both cumulative and traumatic. Seek expert advice to get yourself the right training shoes and clothes
  7. Eat a balanced diet: Eating right and hydrating properly is an important aspect of injury prevention. Your body needs enough energy fuel your physical activity as much as its needs enough proteins and vitamins to repair the tissues that are worn out during your workout.
  8. Pay attention to your body and rest properly: When you listen to your body, you will easily; know your fitness level and limit, figure out when to proceed and when to stop, spot injuries earlier, and know when your body needs a rest. Rest is an essential recovery ingredient and should not be neglected if you really want to remain injury free.
  9. Get treated on time: This is very important in order to avoid further injuries or prevent the injury condition from getting worse. Use the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevation) method of treatment immediately you detect an injury. If the injury condition does not improve after two to three days, you will need to see your therapist for further examination and treatment.

Conclusion

Now that you have known about injuries, their causes, and prevention, it is time for you to be careful during your workouts and training. Getting injured is no joke, as it could frustrate your fitness goals if you always work out yourself and neglect these preventive measures.

Gregory is a chief editor at ConstructMuscles.com. He spends half of my time on his blog while the other half on being a physical fitness trainer. Believing in the great benefits of bodybuilding and fitness to the body, he has been motivated to become a fitness enthusiast. Stay Connected to him on Twitter.

The Top 5 Benefits of Sublingual Vitamins vs. the Pill Form

Ongoing medical science and research continually open our eyes to so many opportunities for improving our health, maximizing our quality of life and even adding years to it through proper nutrition. Unfortunately for many of us, keeping pace with the evolving science about what’s best for our health can be extremely overwhelming as we are constantly faced with new information and decisions regarding what is best for our individual bodies. Each person has different nutritional needs based on genetics, body analysis, eating habits and exercise patterns (or lack thereof). Some of us suffer from vitamin or mineral deficiencies as well, which can negatively affect their health.

I remember back as a kid when my daily vitamin regiment consisted of a chewable multi and maybe a vitamin C pill when inflicted with a flu or cold. Today I see people roaming the lengthy aisle of vitamins, supplements, minerals and herbs, not only contemplating the abundant options to add to their daily intake, but also the dosage and which of the extensive number of brands to choose from. But wait! What about which form of vitamin to take: pill…or sublingual?

Newer to the vitamin world, sublingual supplements, in either liquid or tablet form, are made to be consumed by placing them under your tongue for absorption through the mucosal membrane that lines your mouth. In my years as a pharmacist, I’ve learned two important truths—people cant’s stand taking pills and they often don’t realize there may be a simple alternative available. With that in mind, here are five reasons why you should be taking a serious look ant replacing your pill form vitamins, medications and supplements with the sublingual form:

Better absorbency – We now know that there are different factors that affect vitamin and mineral absorbency. Some minerals are best absorbed when accompanied by other vitamins such as calcium aided by vitamins A and D. Some supplements are best absorbed when taken with food. But sublingual vitamins are altogether more effective than those that come in pill form due to a superior absorption rate into the body in terms of both speed and efficacy. The Mayo Clinic reports that an inability to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract can cause a type of anemia called pernicious anemia.

Credit: http://lovetoknow.com

Faster results – The effects of sublingual vitamins are felt more quickly and more completely due to the liquid being absorbed immediately into the bloodstream through the mucus in the mouth rather than having to be processed through digestion first. In fact, due to a decreased absorption rate, the critical vitamins contained in pill-form supplements are often flushed out of the body through urine.

More desirable consumption – Sublingual supplements offer a pleasant alternative to pill-form vitamins both in terms of taste and ease of consumption. The most common question I have been asked as a pharmacist has been related to the size of the pills the patients are taking—not their side effects, instructions for when or how to take them, the length of time they are to take the pills, or anything else that might be deemed more medically relevant.

Save time and money – Many who simply cannot swallow or digest pill-form vitamins properly turn to intramuscular shots, such as B-12 injections, at a clinic. This can be time-consuming and costly. Sublingual vitamins come with a significant time and money savings in comparison. Furthermore, many brands of pill supplements can be extremely expensive with sublingual versions offering a more affordable alternative.

Pure ingredients – Sublingual vitamin ingredients, such as those contained in NutraGlow’s Super B, which includes Hydroxycobalamin, the most active naturally occurring form of vitamin B-12, and Super Lean, are both purer than those in pill form. Many pills contain harmful preservatives and synthetic ingredients, which our bodies do not recognize as easily as natural ingredients. With so many supplements available on the market, it can be difficult to choose which to take, how much to take and which form to take it in. A blood workup ordered by your doctor can determine if you are deficient of essential vitamins and minerals. Prevention Magazine listed vitamin B-12 as the most needed vitamin after age 40, and there are a variety of vitamins and minerals millions of us are lacking in that are vital to our health regardless of age. Considering a sublingual vitamin supplement to help offset a deficiency could lead to a significant improvement in your overall health. Speaking with a health care professional can help lead you in the right direction for your body.

Sherry Kelishadi, Pharm.D, is vice president at NutraGlow, Inc, a provider of premium sublingual vitamin supplements developed to help people maximize the benefits of vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. She earned a Doctorate of Pharmacy from the prestigious University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in 2011. Kelishadi worked as a chief pharmacist at Rite Aid for three years before joining the team at a compounding pharmacy in Orange County and, ultimately, cofounding NutraGlow. Her passion lies in nutrition, dermatology, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and wound care. Her hobbies include traveling, dancing, sports, and spending time with her family.

15 Must Read Health, Exercise, Nutrition & Coaching Books from Fitness Expert Michael Wood

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” – Henry David Thoreau

We all understand the value of reading good books especially when they come from the industry that we work in. For me that world is the health and fitness industry. Over the past thirty years I have read and have had the good fortune of reviewing hundreds of books.

Before we get to my book recommendations, I first wanted to share two articles that I read this week, the first is an article that talks about the reading habits of a few big name entrepreneurs. The second article also appeared this week on Business Insider regarding the one book college professors from some of our elite schools would recommend to others.

The following list includes some of the best health/fitness/nutrition/coaching books I have read. For a review and more information on any of the books, simply click the title of the book and to find out more about the author click on their respective name. Finally, if you’re interested, you can find my complete suggested reading list here.

Exercise

The One-Minute Exercise, Martin Gibala, PhD, Avery, 2017

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Michael Otto, PhD,  Jasper Smits, PhD, Oxford Press, 2011

Nutrition

Deep NutritionCate Shanahan, MD, Flatiron, 2017

Always Hungry?, David Ludwig, MD, Life & Style, 2016

The Diet Fix, Yoni Freedhoff, MD, Harmony, 2014

Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink, Ph.D, Bantom Books, 2006

Health

The Story of the Human Body, Daniel Lieberman, PhD, Pantheon, 2013

How Fat Works, Philip Wood, PhD, Harvard University Press, 2006

Coaching

Supple Leopard, Kelly Starrett, DPT, Victory Belt Publishing, 2013

Conscious Coaching, Brett Bartholomew, MS, CSCS, Create Space, 2017

Functional Training for Sport, Michael Boyle, MS, ATC, Human Kinetics, 2003

Athletic Development, Vern Gambetta, MA, Human Kinetics, 2006

Core Performance, Mark Verstegen, Rodale Books, 2005

Can You Go?, Dan John, MS, On Target, 2015

All-Encompassing

Challenging Beliefs, (and the Lore of Running), Tim Noakes, MD, Zebra Press, 2012

For the Love of Books: From Health to Hemingway

“What are you reading?”

There is one bookstore that I have not yet been to that is high on my bucket list that can be found in beautiful Oregon called Powell’s Bookstore. It is considered one of the best bookstores in the country by many publications. I was reading an article one day featured on my Flipboard app that talked about the best bookstores found in each state and of course when I looked at the list under Oregon….you guessed it. That list included one book recommendation from an employee from each of the bookstores mentioned. The name of the book recommended by Powell’s was Books for Living by New York Author Will Schwalbe.  After checking it out online I knew it was a book that I had to get my hands on and read. Mr. Schwalbe mentions the importance of keeping track of what you’re reading by making reading lists and becoming in a sense your own book curator which I have done on several occasions.

Photo Credit: Will Schwalbe

As someone who has been working in the fitness industry for thirty years, I have made a number of recommendations over the years regarding numerous health/fitness/nutrition books. So much so, that as of late it developed into a “suggested reading” list here on this blog. I have also developed a personal reading list (a work in progress) of one of my favorite authors, Ernest Hemingway, that can be found on my SunAlsoRises blog. Hemingway himself was also a master at developing such reading lists. I have a list on my blog of the books that he personally liked to recommend to others. There is also a full list on the blog of all the books that Hemingway actually read from 1910-1940. His books were kept in his libraries in Key West, the Finca Vigia in Cuba and possibly his home in Ketchum, Idaho and they can all be found in this document, that lists nearly 8,000 volumes.

“In order to write about life first you must live it.” – Ernest Hemingway

Here are a few additional book lists that I have found over the years that you may find interesting:

Getting back to Will Schwalbe’s book, Books for Living, is his own list of 26 books that have made a powerful impact over the course of his life. He talks about each of the books by way of a short essay that turns into a fun, educational ride along the way. His book will have that same impact on your life…after it makes your reading “list.”

Four of the Best Health and Fitness Apps for 2017

We all love a good app. But does the old saying (that Apple actually trademarked) “there’s an app for that” – still apply today? Well it seems so, even though the average person may not keep as many apps on their phone as in previous years, they are still being downloaded in record number. About 75 percent of U.S. users download at least one app monthly while teenagers download 6.3 apps per month based on measured installs from 50 million Americans. According to analysis done in 2016 from the app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, the App Store is expected to more than double its size over the next four years, reaching 5 million apps by the year 2020.

Here are what I consider to be the best apps for 2017. I look for an app that is free/low-cost, educational, intuitive in terms of use and can hopefully help myself and clients change mindset and create new habits. The following apps have done just that.

Welltory. This is a great app that helps you become aware and manage your stress and energy levels. It reminds me of another app that made my list, Headspace. I understand the importance of stress and energy but now I have a tool that can help me manage it. The app is free and you can upgrade to the Pro service for a small fee. “The idea is to work out the effect of how, for instance, morning meditation, working from home or a diet change might affect stress and energy levels. You then keep what works for you and discard what doesn’t” (TechCrunch).

Credit: http://welltory.com

2. Human Anatomy Atlas: Complete 3D Human Body. Personally, I can never seem to learn enough when it comes to human anatomy and physiology. Even after many undergrad/graduate level courses, I still find myself learning new things about the body – and now I’m able to do it right from my phone. This app typically costs $25 to download but now you can get it for only $1. This is an amazing 3D app, it feels like you’re in a human anatomy or cadaver course – seeing in amazement for the first time – the organs, nerves and actions of every muscle, bone etc. I enjoy picking one body part and learning something new and then have the ability to quiz myself. This is ideal for any type of student. My daughter is taking an EMT course and studying human anatomy in coming weeks and guess what app I recommended to her?

Credit: Human Anatomy Atlas

3.  Headpace. This is a mediation app develop and founded by Andy Puddicombe. You’ll love everything about this free app (also has upgrades for a cost) from how seamless it is to the look and feel. They refer to themselves as “bite-sized meditation for busy schedules” which in today’s fast-paced, over scheduled world – is quick enough to fit right in. There is a great deal of research coming out on the value of daily meditation on both mind and body. It’s worth your time to take a look and give it a try!

4. Myfitnesspal. It has been said that “you can’t manage it if you don’t measure it.” This free nutrition app, in addition to Welltory, does just that. It offers valuable insight and helps you monitor what you’re eating on a daily basis. It has some really cool features like the ability to take pictures of the barcode of any food and in turn instantly downloads the micro/macro-nutrient composition of the food. I love this app for helping me monitor my daily added sugar. You can upgrade to get more bells and whistles for a nominal fee.

Reference

Perez, S. (2016). App Store to reach 5 million apps by 2020, with games leading the way. Tech Crunch.

5 Tips to Improve Your Mind, Body and Spirit

Let’s face it, there are plenty of ideas circulating around that you could try to use in your everyday life that may potentially help you become more healthy. But what are the best things to try and how should you implement each into your lifestyle so they eventually take hold and become a habit? Here are a few ideas that I have tested that may be just what you need in order to become a healthier 2.0 version of yourself!

 

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be”
John Wooden, former UCLA Basketball Coach

 

  • Try a yoga class. Keep in mind, that it may take time to find the right class and instructor that ends up working for you and your body. Personally, I have not found any activity that hits on all three areas of mind, body and spirit better than yoga. It’s simple, you will continue to lose joint range of motion, mobility and flexibility as you age and yoga can help bridge the gap between health and disability. After you leave a class – all three (mind/body/spirit) feel like they have been re-energized. Research continues to demonstrate that a regular yoga practice can improve everything from back pain to depression.
  • Focus on both mobility and strength training.  The majority of people focus on one or none. They are both critical in the aging process. If you want to maintain functionality as you age you must do both on a regular basis. Think “mobility and strength for life.” Make it a priority adding in mobility work before and/or after – each strength training session. Individuals continue to load their joints and muscles without spending the necessary time on improving mobility. Ever wonder why chiropractors, orthopedic docs and PT’s are continually taking on new patients? Work on mobility to prevent disability.
  • Let technology help. It seems everyday there are new apps coming out that can help make us more aware of our current health status. I actually came across one such app called Welltory that does just that. It basically documents how well your body is handling stress each day and what your energy level looks like. Take a look at this free app for a week or two and see how well you’re doing in those areas. When your body releases too much cortisol (known as the stress hormone), from lack of sleep, too much stress, etc. – you’ll have trouble in other areas, like trying to build muscle. Another cool meditation app that can help reduce stress and improve mood is Headspace. I have previously written about it here and here.
  • Don’t neglect sleep. In my opinion, sleep is one of the key missing pieces of the human puzzle.  Have a few bad nights with inadequate amounts of sleep and you’ll (always) pay the price.  We have become a sleep-deprived society and the evidence supports this; showing that we sleep on an average 6.8 hours as opposed to 9 hours a century ago. About 30 percent of adults report sleeping less than 6 hours per night. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that individuals who got less than 5.5 hours of sleep each night lost 60 percent more lean muscle that those who got adequate sleep. Another study from the University of Colorado showed subjects that got minimal sleep on consecutive nights gained two pounds on average over the course of the study. A third study from the University of Pennsylvania Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory looked at the sleeping and eating behavior of 225 people. They reported in the journal Sleep, when you’re awake between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., you’re more likely to consume extra calories. The group ate an average of 553 more calories, typically choosing foods higher in fat, when they were kept awake until the early morning hours. Make sure you get or catch up on your ZZZZZ’s.
  • Cut back on added sugar. This one tip that hopefully turns into a habit can significantly improve many different facets of your life, including sleep, energy, oral health, body weight and body fat, to name a few. The average American consumes about 40 teaspoons of sugar each day (about 600 calories) and this far exceeds what your body needs. The American Heart Association recommends the amount be cut to a maximum of six teaspoons (100 calories or 25 grams) a day for women and nine teaspoons (150 calories or 38 grams) for men. One study that was completed at the University of California at Davis, found adults who consumed 25 percent of their daily calories from HFCS for two weeks had increase levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, indicators of increased risk for heart disease. And in 2011, researchers at Georgia Health Sciences University concluded that high fructose consumption by teenagers could potentially put them at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

References

Webb WB and Agnew HW (1975). Are we chronically sleep deprived? Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, vol. 6, p. 47. (82)

National Sleep Foundation, Sleep in America Poll (2003). National Sleep Foundation, Washington, DC, USA.

Nedeltcheva AV, et al., (2010). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals Internal Medicine 153, 435-441.

Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH (2013). The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. PLoS ONE 8(2): e57873

Stanhope KL, Bremer AA, Medici V, Nakajima K, Ito Y, Nakano T, Chen G et al. (2011). Consumption of Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup Increase Postprandial Triglycerides, LDL-Cholesterol, and Apolipoprotein-B in Young Men and Women. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 96(10); DOI: 10.1210/jc.2011-1251

Pollock NK, Bundy V, Kanto W, Davis CL, Bernard PJ et al., (2011). Greater Fructose Consumption is Associated with Cardiometabolic Risk Markers and Visceral Adiposity in Adolescents. Journal of Nutrition, 2011; 142 (2): 251 DOI: 10.3945/jn.111.150219

The Zen of Water Running

I didn’t really ‘learn to run’ until I was a junior at San Diego State University, running the streets around the University.  I started running with a pair of Reebok High tops, running just a block or two. Then I would walk or run when I felt like it. No one was telling me what to where, how far to run, or what pace to run; none of that. I began listening to my body, letting the stresses of a packed school and work schedule drift to the recesses of my mind, and over the spring term of 1987 I was running for hours without even thinking about it. I would be enjoying my surroundings, the architecture of the homes, the birds, landscapes, my breathing – all of it…. And no, there wasn’t any music (this was way before iPods).  I found my “zen” and I didn’t even know that term.

What happened? I spent years trying to run on someone else’s terms (my true first running experience was in junior high. I was the person who would hide in the tule fog during the mile run just to avoid running two of the four laps of a mile). When I finally took time to do the sport on my terms, I started having fun. I learned to take the training in my own direction as well, and this direction took me back to the water.

Now, I know we all look for the “next big thing” in fitness, but maybe we have been walking by it every time we go into the gym or drop the kids at the pool so you can get your land based workout.  Possibly, in this world of trying to pound out the troubles, stresses and all things life hands us, we instead need to dive in, unplug, and find zen in a whole other way.

Why Water?

Because water is a great neutralizer.  What I mean is that the training environment is more receptive to any type of athlete, from the novice to an ultra-distance athlete like me.  We can all work out at the same time together if we choose.  The reason for this is that neither can truly tell how hard each are working.  With only your head above water (bodies submerged), we cannot look at each other for some type of comparison. Effort isn’t determined by the speed of which individuals are traveling through the water, rather it is based on how hard they work against the water. In some cases, the harder you work the slower you actually travel. Therefore, only the coach (and the individual) knows how hard they are working.

Without any judgemental comparison, the activity becomes a completely internalized fitness program lending itself to a zen-like feeling. When I train in the water, I am not distracted by other people’s movements. Rather, I’m focused on my body and how I’m moving. In turn, my mind opens up for greater clarity and focus. This is where the zen comes into play.  I talk about this hyper focused attention in my book, as I see my athletes ‘lock in’ when I’m taking them through an intense workout. It is the same place athletes go on a long distance run when they get their “second wind.”

When I feel good on the trail, time elapses and great things happen. The same thing occurs in a water training session; it is my panacea. I find that running through a routine which is an hour-long can feel like I only just started. Whether I run in a group or go solo, that same zen is achieved. Currently, my regular summer routine is to hit the pool on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I wake up excited about having an hour totally for myself.  Even when others join me, we chat for a bit, but then fall into our personal space. We enjoy the camaraderie of being there together – but we enjoy doing our own workouts as if we were running at different points on a trail.

So, rather than hitting the trails or pounding the pavement every day, consider going to your local pool (or use your backyard pool) and jump into the deep end to give water training a try.   Maybe you too will find a new opportunity to unplug from the outside and plug into YOU.

Melis Edwards has over 30 years of experience as a running and triathlon coach, personal trainer, fitness instructor and athlete, having participated in Ironman distance triathlons, and the Western States 100 mile endurance run. Ms. Edwards holds a Master’s Degree in Health Promotion, a Bachelor’s in Health Education, and several teaching and training certifications. Her newly released book, Deep End of the Pool Workouts: No-Impact Interval Training and Strength Exercises is available wherever books are sold. Check out www.hitmethodfitness.com for more info.