World Cup Fever

Liverpool1

Me and my pal, Tom Werner

Liverpool2

Liverpool 5, Arsenal 1

Liverpool3

Liverpool!

As an American-Irish Immigrant (that’s right America to Ireland,) I am relatively new to the football/soccer life.  But I have to say I am enjoying it!

In February, thanks to my friend, former client in LA and benefactor, Tom Werner, I got to see Liverpool route Arsenal; it was the spark that fueled a fire that almost led to first place  It was an amazing run, nonetheless!

Thanks Tom, for getting me hooked!

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REST IS UNDERRATED

 

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Cyclo-cross

“So during your season, you’re in constant training as a road cyclist.”

“Correct.”

“What do you do in the off-season?”

“Cyclo-cross.”

“And each season is about six months?”

“Yeah, about that”

“…You realize that you’re still doing the same sport?”

“No it’s road racing and cross.”

“…But you’re still on a bike.”

“So? That counts as cross-training?”

“…Right…”

Happy Sleep

Happy Sleep

This is a conversation I had with one of my clients on the topic of cross-training to improve race performance.  I use it as an example, of how insidious the ego can be when it comes to the topic of Rest.  R-E-S-T is seriously underrated.

drunk at work

Impaired Cognitive Ability

People don’t realize that sustained MILD sleep deprivation can result in your cognitive function (ability to do basic stuff, plus reaction time and accuracy) being the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.05%.  In the workplace, we drive ourselves towards the 60 hour mark and think it’s a good thing, a sign of good effort & productivity.  But in fact, most offices would likely fire an employee that showed up repeatedly intoxicated at the above level.  We have a disconnect from “perceived effort” – what it takes to get work and get the job done right and what is actual reality! http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1739867/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK19958/

vacation

Vacation

How many of us don’t take proper vacation days until it becomes a “use it or lose it” situation?  You don’t think you are tired; but then you get on the beach and three days later you realize how dire your state, mental and physical actually have been! I once had a client who was a NYC partner in a financial research company.  She decided to dedicate three hours out of the 168 in a week to herself and regaining her physical health.  Her partners put pressure on her and implied that she wasn’t taking her job seriously.  But luckily, she ignored them and stuck with the priority of her own self-care.  Over the next year, she shared with me that she had started charting her productivity and the better care she took of herself, the more productive she was.  She lost twenty pounds, began running marathons and her work, contrary to popular belief excelled.  And her partners, who sat around the table audibly wheezing, began to respect her because they saw the positive change.

happy brain

Happy Brain

Your brain thrives when it is properly rested.  The NIH recommends 7-8 hours/night for adults. So too does your body thrive when you just give it some time off.  If you play a sport, do something completely different even if it’s just for 6-8 weeks.  As we head into summer, I hear panicked clients saying, “What should I do on my two weeks off?”  I always say, “Relax. Do Nothing.  If you want to go on a stroll or a hike or even a bike ride with loved ones, then do so. But if you want to sit in the lawn chair and just breathe that would be perfect too!”  http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/howmuch.html

equestrianAs a teenager I was a nationally ranked Equestrian; I rode all year long and was always working on performance and technique.  When I went to college, I was forced to stop for three months.  But when I came back to ride my trainer of ten years said, “Have you been riding while you’ve been at school? All the things you were struggling with seemed to sink in while you were gone.  You’re looking fabulous!”  This is one reason why cross training or just pure rest are good for the body; it allows time for the learning to sink in and for the overused parts to rest.

Twenty years ago when I was in secondary school/high school, kids played different sports each season.  Nowadays, kids play one sport year round and they play it hard; everyone has their eye on college athletic scholarships or awards.  Disturbingly, doctors and physical therapists are seeing more and more pelvic fractures, repeat fractures and other dangerous injuries in youth simply due to the overtraining!  As my conversation with the cyclist above illustrates, the body likes rest and that includes doing different movement patterns and sometimes just the one pattern of couch potato. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00247-009-1191-z#page-1

We must let go of this unhealthy “driven superhero” attitude.  How many of us want to drive hard for the first 65 years and then arrive as a wreck in your retirement?  If you are rested, sleep 7-8 hours/night most nights, vary your workout routine, break up the schedule with short bouts of complete physical vacation your work productivity will increase and so too will your enjoyment of your life.  When you get to the golden goal, you will be able to fully enjoy it!  Hallelujah! Say it with me now, “R-E-S-T!”

Rest

R-E-S-T!

How To Quit Anything!

coffeeOk, Ok, I know you’re thinking “She’s a trainer and fit, what does she know about quitting?”  And I would say to that, every single individual has stuff they’ve worked on, are working on and will work on, myself included.  So today I wanted to talk about my own addiction to coffee.  I managed to make it all the way until my senior year in college without touching the stuff, but then Black Gold and I started a life-long love affair.

After college I moved to NYC, where the caffeine might as well come out of the pipes instead of water.  Then it was on to Vancouver, BC, where Pacific Northwest, X-Files type climate sends everyone running for the nearest cafe and tanning salon.  Next it was Los Angeles, which can hold it’s own to any big city in terms of excellent gourmet coffee!  Twenty years ago when I began my career as a personal trainer, I had to adapt to the odd work hours.  I am on when everyone else is off.  That means I was hitting up the local corner bodega at 6 or 6:30 am every day just to forcibly rev myself up to be able to cheerily whoop ass.  Lunchtime would roll around and I’d like to indulge in a second cup,  this time, for the ritual, that is to sip the bitter, chocolately goodness with my feet up, enjoying my moment of peace.  But then it would be time to head back to work around 5 pm and a third dose to keep me going for a few more hours, was often in my hand.  Once while hanging on the couch watching an old western in which there was a scene where the cowboys were boiling coffee over a campfire and pouring it out into tin cups, I almost wanted to lick the screen the coffee looked so enticing. I know what you’re thinking, and you’d be right, “Addict!”  That was my first whisper to myself.sugar

But I justified to myself, “I have so few vices, what does this little one hurt?” It wasn’t until I returned to my cardio workout after being sick for a week, where the coffee had been replaced with chicken soup and orange juice.  When I put my heart rate monitor on, I realized my resting heart rate was 10 beats lower than normal.  That is SIGNIFICANT!  And I thought, “Whoa, I don’t want to be a slave to anything and certainly not to something that’s affecting my adrenal and thyroid glands or my heart and lungs to such an extent!”

The first thing I did was give myself six months to kick the habit.  Even though I was thinking about it daily, I was kind to myself as I realized, I was going to fall off the wagon…repeatedly.  Next I set myself the goal of trying to go every other day with just one cup in the morning.  The plan being to skip the second cup at lunch.  The first few weeks were spotty.  Three days in and I’d have a long schedule and I would cave to the craving.  BUT I didn’t throw out the game plan because I wasn’t completely successful in those first few weeks.  I would average maybe, two days a week where I had just one a day.  And I considered each of those days, a major victory.  In a couple weeks I was definitely able to go one a day every other day and manage 7 days a week.

CigarettesSo then, it became “Can I go two days in a row with only one a day?”  And the same struggle as before happened.  But eventually I went from one successful round per week to the whole week being a perfect match.  Suddenly, I got to a point where I would be just a few sips in to my allocated lunchtime coffee and it would taste bad to me and I would’t want it.  And it would sit there smooth and cold until I would just dump it out.

Why was this strategy successful? First, I gave myself a realistic and generous amount of time to accomplish what I wanted.  If I had tried to go cold turkey or even in a month, after almost twenty years fueling a “two-a-day+” habit I would have failed.  Psychologically I needed to give myself the best shot to feel successful. Secondly, I knew at the outset that I would fall off the bandwagon and I gave myself permission for there to be short lapses.  But I never lost sight that the daily game plan was taking me to where I wanted to go.

BrainSecondly, addictions have a chemical foundation as well as a psychological one.  When a substance floods the system, be it nicotine, sugar, caffeine or cocaine, the body responds by sending receptors to bond with the incoming substance.  Ironically, your brain realizes after the fact, that there was too much of the incoming substance, so in an effort to protect you it reduces the number of receptors.  In the hopes, that the next time if the system is flooded there just won’t be as many bondings and the excess will not be absorbed.  Of course, dopamine, the resultant “reward based mood boosting hormone” is connected to the receptors.  If I want to achieve the same temporary euphoria I have to flood the system even more  in order to get the same number of receptor response as I did the first time.  This becomes a vicious cycle, where you have to keep consuming more and more to get the same effect; meanwhile your body is chemically changing itself to try to cope. Hence, while I could drink three cups of coffee, counting one right before bed and still sleep just fine.Coworkers

Most addictions have a social “friendly” component to them, and I was just as susceptible as everyone else.  When co-workers would want to go get coffee I wanted to go with my friends, but I knew that if I did, I’d end up binging on black!  Consciously, knowing it was only until the cravings were curbed, I would not go to the shop with the gang.  Instead I would go sit in the sunshine, call a long-distance friend for a few minutes or catch up on personal emails.  In a few weeks, especially, when I also began to calculate how much money I was saving by not having a deluxe drink every day, I knew I was ready to try to go with the gang again.  This time, I didn’t want the coffee or some other replacement beverage.  I was content to just hang with the crew; that was enough reward.

imagesThe social ritual was indeed part of my day that I found relaxing.  So there were some moments that I kept and still do.  On Saturdays and Sundays, while living in California, I would swing in around 7am to my favorite cafe, get a regular latte and head to a long beach walk with my dog.  I recognized that this ritual was in fact something good for myself.  If I had removed it I would have felt completely restricted.  The body does NOT like restriction.  Psychological studies on the elusive subject of “willpower” have proven that it is a substance that exists in extremely small proportions for the majority of people.  In other words, if you love eating cookies all day but you decide to starkly clean up your eating habits and suddenly cut out all cookies from your day, what tends to happen is that if you are successful in that extreme rigid goal, you are likely to binge elsewhere, like going on a shopping spree, or boozing at the bar.  A balanced approach is more gentle and the body has time to mentally and physically adapt. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/willpower-limited-resource.pdf

If you have a monkey on your back, you can absolutely do something about it. If done with consideration and kindness to yourself and practicality in your approach, you will be successful…guaranteed!

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