Saturday, January 12, 2013

Evolve: Sleep and Why You Need It

It is crazy to think that if you would like to live to be 100, you will sleep for approximately 30 years! This is significant. Almost a third of your life is spent in the bed catching some Zzz'z.
So what is so wonderful about sleep and why does our body need so much of it?

Sleep what is it and why 8 hours of it? 
Sleep:"A natural periodic state of rest for the mind and body... there is a decrease in bodily movement and responsiveness to external stimuli..." according to Human sleep consists of two main types: REM (rapid eye movement), and NREM (non-rapid eye movement). Throughout the night, the body goes in and out of each type. Adults spend about 20% in REM and 80% in NREM. REM is the dreamy sleep and NREM is the repair and growth "deep" sleep (Washington Faculty).

Sleep is a time of recovery: 
The sleep cycle (NREM and REM) can be further broken down into 5 stages, which your body cycles through about 4 times per night (see diagram- left). If sleep time is too short, your body will be unable to rotate through each stage, leaving you sleep deprived.  This results in feeling irritable, anxious, and lethargic. NREM sleep is the type of sleep the body needs in order to fully repair and restore itself for the next day. According to the LA Times contributor, Dr. Harold Lancer " the body settles into the fourth and deepest stage of rest -- often called Delta Sleep (which precedes REM, the last stage of sleep) -- growth hormones peak and initiate cell and tissue repair. Limited or restless sleep can cut into this crucial restorative process..." which is beneficial not only to internal body repair (muscles, bone, cell), but also to good skin health. So in essence, research is correct when they tell us that we need 7-8 hours of sleep to achieve full rest as a human. This time interval allows the body to go in and our of REM and NREM in adequate cycles to achieve full rest (Washington Faculty). 

Sleep More, Weigh Less: 
We have all heard it, "sleep more to weigh less", but why? What is the magic of sleep? Hormones play a huge role in the size of your waist line. Hormones are your body's chemicals that make things happen. Hormones tell the body to turn systems on and off. It is their primary job to keep us in homeostasis so we feel, look, and function optimally.  One organ of the endocrine system that is essential to producing and releasing hormones is called the pituitary gland. It secretes hormones that regulate various cycles, such as growth, appetite, sleep and reproductive (Wikipedia). To focus our discussion and answer the question, we are going to learn about four of the hormones this brilliant organ controls: 
  1. Leptin- appetite suppressant 
  2. Ghrelin- appetite stimulant 
  3. Growth hormone- repairs tissues and cells 
  4. Cortisol- keeps heart rate and blood sugar elevated during times of stress.
Sleep and Cortisol: 
I want to make it clear that NO hormone is "bad" each is present for evolutionary purpose. However, since hormones are like traffic lights that inhibit or cause reactions to occur in the body, if there is too much of one hormone versus the other homeostasis is thrown off, thus the signals go array. For example, the hormone, Cortisol, although in its definition seems "bad", it actually plays a critical function for survival during stressful times, such as making a big play in a football game. Cortisol is excellent at keeping a person's heart rate and blood sugar elevated, which keeps them alert and able to react and respond as needed in stressful times (Your Amazing Brain). This being said, Cortisol is only meant to be present in large amounts for short period's of time. Unfortunately, in the modern workforce, stress is common place. Consequently, the majority of us in this type of environment have elevated levels of cortisol, which eventually, raises blood pressure, lowers the immune system, and causes excess fat storage (Medscape). Likewise, living in an environment that causes constant stress, lack of sleep has a similar affect on the body. Sleep deprivation places the body in a state of stress, which elevates cortisol levels (Medscape). Again, cortisol has its benefits, but in abundance it can really be trouble to our anatomy. Exercise and sleep keep cortisol levels at bay and your body feeling happy. 

Sleep and your appetite: 
Another hormone that is altered from lack of sleep is leptin and ghrelin. The same study mentioned above, indicates that those who do not catch enough sleep have lowered levels of leptin and elevated levels of gherlin (Medscape). This distorted ratio causes the body to be constantly hungry, which leads to consuming too much and gaining excess weight. Again, both grehlin and leptin are necessary hormones to survival, but only in the right balance. One keeps your satiated and the other encourages you to eat, which keeps you alive. 

Sleep and your back: 
According to the book Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance, Stuart McGill, PhD the "Spine needs bed rest...". Those who slept for at least eight hours each night indicated an increase flow of nutrients to the tissue in between your discs of their spine. Throughout the day, the stress of gravity and your activities, squeeze the fluid out of this area, which prevents nutrients from getting to these key spots. Sustained pressure like this will eventually cause backache. During sleep, the spine is able to relax and nutrients are able to get into these areas and reduce back discomfort and maintain back health. 

Sleep and your happiness: 
Most of you have probably heard about seratonin- the happy chemical. Seratonin is a neurotransmitter or chemical released by your brain that controls your mood, sexual functions, and sleep cycles (ehow health). During the day, it is present and when you sleep it is absent. At night a chemical called melatonin takes its place, which helps you achieve deep sleep (ehow health). As the morning approaches, the presence of light spurs the production of seratonin and eliminates the production of melatonin (ehow health). Hence, a healthy sleep cycle ensures that proper levels of these hormones are circulating at all times. So lack of sleep disrupts these natural processes, which can leave you with too little seratonin, which in turn can leaving you feeling uneasy and depressed (ehow health). Contrastingly, disrupting your sleep patterns can can also lead to too little melatonin, which results in insommina.   Other ways to help regulate your seratonin and melatonine levels are a healthy diet and exercise. 

As you can see sleep is a behavior that is an integral part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It is easy, today, to put sleep at the bottom of the priority list when it should be at the top. A better night sleep with make your body look good inside and out.

Tactful Steps to Getting on Track with your Sleep

  • Pencil it in: Put your sleep time into your planner, just like a very important appointment
  • No caffeine: Stray away from stimulants 4 hours prior to bedtime
  • Routine: Devise a pre-bed time routine to help your body get ready for its date with the bed
  • Remove Stress: Anything in your life that is bringing you down, find ways to mitigate the stress it causes you. Ensure the space you are in prior to going to sleep is free of anything that triggers stress (computers, bright lights, work, etc)
  • Supplement: If you struggle with going to sleep and staying asleep, supplement with melatonine. This can be purchased at any drug store and comes in different amounts. It is an all natural supplement and simply works with your body to aid in your sleep process. 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Evolve: Patience

Patience is the essential companion to success. Patience and hard work allow personal growth and the ability to overcome adversity.  Without patience, we grow anxious and impulsive with the current result and cease moving forward.  Without patience, baby-steps seem like no steps at all and minor hurdles derail us far too easily from our pursuits. Without patience, we resort to making rash and miscalculated choices. However, with patience, proper forethought has taken place resulting in a far more likely successful outcome. Patience also allows us to take the time to reflect on past experiences, learn from them, and determine a better solution to continue moving forward towards success.

Patience is Nothing New Patience is a human quality that has paid off handsomely for us in the course of history. Our ancestors displayed great patience as they hunted wild game. With the right tools, training, and due diligence, they knew a big kill would result if patience was practiced. Other examples of great human works throughout history that encapsulate the importance of patience are the following: The Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China and Magellan’s voyage around the world. Another example of patience can be embodied by an Olympic gymnast. Gymnasts of this caliber place over ten years into learning skills and conditioning their minds and bodies to perform at this level. Through countless practices, devastating injuries, at times, and sacrifices, gymnasts understand that all this patience and work demonstrated will pay off for their long term goal. So whether it be one more brick on the Great Wall of China or one more repetition on the balance beam for an Olympic gymnast, these human successes were not birthed without patience observed. As John Wooden quotes, “Success comes slowly.  Expect change to happen slowly and to have patience along the way....Whatever you’re doing, you must have patience...” and “...there is no progress without change, so you must have patience”.

An Olympian in Everyone, Everyday Just as an Olympic athlete must display patience to reach their goals, everyone can benefit from this skill to better their life. One dimension of life is your health. The quest and journey to have lifelong health and fitness requires great patience and hardwork. It requires constant learning and practice of healthy habits. Each day you awaken, cook breakfast, and decide how to allot your precious minutes of the day, you are practicing the baby steps that will get you to your long term success. Many might think to reach their goals, such as to lose 15 pounds, to maintain their current weight, to lower their cholesterol, or to start eating better, hard work and sacrifice are all that are necessary, but that is not the case. Again, patience is the companion of hard work. These goals will not be met if one is not willing to be patient, make a solid sustainable plan, and work hard at it everyday. Your goals will also fall short if you are not willing to persevere through the highs and lows. Inevitably, mistakes are sure to be had when starting a new regimen or exercise routine. We are only human and our tendencies to revert to what is known or comfortable will soon bring back those poor habits. However, with patience and a process of learning from these mistakes, one can pinpoint how the pitfall occurred and will be willing to fill the hole with cement so that, once again, they can get back on the bandwagon and cruise smoothly to their success.  Without this patience, many loose site of their long term goal and either reach to a quick fix-- AKA a trendy diet or exercise plan, or give up altogether and revert back to their old habits. This is what we call the yo-yo effect. This is detrimental to your health and teaches those who practice this nothing about creating the sustainable lifelong plan for fitness.

Intertwining Patience into your Plan:

  • Lay the foundation to your sustainable plan: Do you research, evaluate what has worked for you/ not worked for you and why? Once you have highlighted this, start to shape your new approach, new goals, and a new road map about how you are going to accomplish your long term success.
  • Fill those potholes, now: Determine what those trigger are from the past that have caused your plans to fail. For these triggers, decide how you will overcome these obstacles so that you stay on track.
  • Bring patience into the equation: Any long term goal is going to take time. Hold yourself accountable by writing out checkpoints. These can be short term goals that you will revisit through the course of your journey that are pivotal to your success. Revise and make new ones every month. Not only will these small accomplishments motivate you, but they are also proof of your patience and hard work paying off that will keep you on track.

Success is not mere goodluck bestowed onto individuals, nor is it magically created. There are no magicians, here. Success is created from those who possess the ability to practice patience, work really hard, and view life’s obstacles not as bad luck or a force pushing them off course, but as an opportunity to tackle a challenge and push through the storm so that the success is far greater than they could ever imagine. I will leave you on one last quote that is one of my favorites from John Wooden, "intentness is the ability to resist temptation and stay the course, to concentrate on your objective with determination and resolve".

Go, now, and make those dreams a reality :)


Monday, November 26, 2012

Evolve: 90% Rule

This is what I live by-- the 90% rule, what does that mean? This concept can be understood easily by using a suit as a metaphor. Our daily routines are framed by daily templates most of the time- the alarm goes off-- maybe a couple? and we get up, take a shower- wash with the same soap, brush our teeth in the same particular way, put on all our special moisturizers and hair products, then we dress ourselves, sip on the morning coffee and read the daily paper, then we grab our things and run out the door to work... It is the same cycle played out every morning. Good routines and rituals are great and can yield a very productive, efficient, and balanced person. Take babies for example, we strive to put them on routines so they stay happy and eat on time and sleep well. Another key comparison is to look to our past ancestors and how they lived. Daily life back then was driven by routines-- however, special rituals and life events gave way to spontaneity in life routine and the diet.  Today, a life with too much ritual- too much rigidity and not enough variety and spontaneity can lead to boredom and burn out, which will, in fact, do just the opposite that the good old routine has set out to do.

This is where the 90% rule and my metaphor come into play. Look at your daily routines like wearing a  beautifully tailored suit.  90% of the time your fitted suit is worn and 10% of the time the suit is put into the closet and your most comfortable outfit is put on and enjoyed. While wearing your suit, good routines are established and practiced. This includes getting plenty of rest, eating only the best foods, exercising, working really hard, and staying focused on you, your career, and your family. Now, this is all fine and dandy, but what is this 10% all about? 10% is the time during each day, week, month, year that should be spent doing the opposite of the 90%. Now, I don't mean take off all your clothes and run down the street like a crazy person while eating a whole bag of Oreos. What I mean is that 10% of your time should be spent resting your mind and your body and allowing yourself to indulge. Each person's definition of indulging is different. For some, this means sleeping in until 12PM, watching trashy TV, and eating a pizza. For others 10% means going to the beach and relaxing all day and reading a book. 10% is the time to re-charge your batteries, decompress from the template routine, and live a little. 10% should be practiced everyday. Like a pie, take a sliver of each day to do what every you want-- FB surf, eat a piece of chocolate, listen to music, etc.

This type of mentality can be ideal during the holidays when it comes to your diet and exercise. There will be belly busting temptations all around. The best thing you can do is stick to your routines, but then allow yourself 10% to enjoy anything you want. This 10% will keep you balanced and allow you to stick to your good habits for life and not feel deprived or burned out.

This type of mentality can help you work harder at your job so you can give more to your friends and family. Knowing that you maintained your focused for 90% of the week and now have 10% of "you time" you will be more apt to keep your mind motivated and focused. After your 10% recharge spurts your will be back in top gear ready to tackle any task.

Resolutions 2013:
Lastly, this type of mentality can be valuable when it comes to setting your 2013 New Year's Resolutions and sticking to them. 90% of the time stay focused on these goals, but 10% relax and take some time for yourself to do what makes you happy and what sets your mind and body at ease.

Remember, always be real with yourself. If your 10% is eating a pizza everyday... your plan, as far as health goes, will be set up for failure. Use your 10% wisely. This 10% will only enhance your life and make you that much more balanced and centered. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Evolve: Grab a Buddy

We got the ipods on and head phones in... is the gym a place to peace out to the world or could it be an opportunity to network and be with friends? In my opinion it can be a combination. Bringing a friend to the gym can be so rewarding and fun at the same time- DO IT!

Power of 2 or 3 to Motivate: Solo workouts are great, but humans are competitive by nature, bring out the inner competitor in you by working out with a group or friend. Invite a friend and design circuits to do together. By having a person to push you to keep you going or to hold you accountable to your reps and to your workout will make you that much more successful. Also, most gyms offer group exercise classes in a wide array of styles. From dance classes to strength and boot camp style classes, there is one that will fit you and your companion(s). Classes are a great way to network with individuals from all different walks of life. They bring people together from all different types of backgrounds to de-stress and revel in a fun workout. For me it's mobility on Mondays with some friends, IFT (group X class) Tuesday and Thursdays, and Aloha Friday (Friday workout with friends). Workout with friends never get stale.

Cheap: Fitness is relatively cheap, if not free :) Although health is priceless, a gym membership will not break the bank and there are so many things you can do outside a gym that are free. Check out the posts below for workouts you can incorporate into your repertoire without a gym.

Healthy together- That makes two of us: We all know it is easier to do anything when others around us are doing it too. Everyone abstains from wearing red, you will most likely follow and not wear red and feel no qualms about it. Same goes for working out. If your friends are working out, it will be easier to join forces and workout too. John Wooden's quote, "What ever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who will argue with you..." can be applied here..."surround yourself with healthy people, who will get you off your ass..."Sundays, are workout days from my roommate Lisa and me. We plan it the night before, set our alarms, and push ourselves out the door and cram and jam an hour workout session in before 12 noon. Together we design the workouts and make sure everything get accomplished. Without this partner motivation on Sundays, I know I would snooze the day away. Together we motivate and know we are healthier for it! 

Alright, so I encourage you to take the ear-buds off, get some friends, hook your ipod up to the stereo and workout together :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Evolve: Wake Up. Breathe. Move to Success

Waking up early in the AM can be one of the secrets to some of the most successful people. Although I would contend that not all of them have the most balanced lives- AKA workaholics... there is something to be said to waking up early and getting the day going on the right foot. From early morning workouts to reading the news paper, getting a head start to the day can give you an edge.

Check out the article: 23 successful people who wake up really early

Disclaimer! Ha! Waking up early doesn't mean to skimp on sleep!  Be sure, no matter what, to at least get 7-8 hours of sleep per night!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Evolve: Perfect Squatting

It is true... we were born to squat well! My nephew started playing in the tan-bark and as he reached for the small pieces of bark, without any instruction, he practiced perfect squatting. Perfect squatting is innate! The following is observed:

  • Feet about shoulder with apart
  • Toes slightly turned out
Decent to the bottom of the squat:
  • Straight back and big chest
Bottom of the squat:
  • Straight back/Big chest through entire movement
  • Knees slightly behind toes
  • Slight forward angle of the shin
  • Feet planted firmly on the ground
Rise of the squat to stand:
  • Push the floor away with your feet and extend hips to neutral stance

Happy squatting!

PS. I apologize for the vertical video! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Evolve: Hawaii Workout #2

WOD #2

It must be the swimming and warm weather, but I was sore for a couple days proceeding Sunday's workout... Ha!

Set your timer for 10 minutes and perform as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) of the following:
  • Mountain Climbers x10 reps
  • 1 min. of forward and backward shuttle run (approx. 20 yards)
  • Medicine ball chops x 5 each side

Explanations of movements:

  1. Mountain Climber: Start in the push-up position, drive your right knee up to your belly button. Keep your toes pointing forward. Drive your right leg back to plank, simultaneously driving your left knee up to your belly button. Repeat!
  2. Medicine Ball Chop: Pick up the medicine ball. Position your feet so they are slighting outside your shoulders and your toes angled outwards. Bend your knees slightly. With the ball at hip level and arms slightly bent, rotate your torso to the right. As you do this, pivot on your toes so that they stay in line with the medicine ball. Move the ball diagonally across your body above your opposite shoulder. Repeat!
  3. Forward shuttle: Run forwards leading with your hips
  4. Backward shuttle: Run backwards, staying light on your toes.