The best training secret an athlete can give you is that in their most successful moments, they have absolutely no control over their body. Their body is simply following through on the training they have gone through, strengthening their quick twitch muscle fibers. They let their emotions take over and their body simply follows suit. So one of the best things you can do is training is to practice
Ever wonder why you can’t change certain parts of your body when you exercise? It may be a lack of body awareness. Research shows that lack of body awareness creates an inability to engage muscle, and this awareness is an important tool in progress changes in your body. If there’s a certain part of your body that is especially challenging and just won’t budge, it may be because you are not activating the muscles that encompass it properly.
1) Start With Pressure; Notice where your body contacts the earth. For example, in this bow pose, my foot is in contact and is supporting my entire (5’10!) frame. That’s a lot of strength in that little foots. It’s all because I am applying pressure evenly across the four corners of my foot, and I am able to do this because I am cognizant of the muscular contractions in my foot.
2) Change Your Posture; Until you feel the proper activation, keep moving your body to a different position. For example, on my body, my left abdominal wall is weaker than my right, so I need a different angle to properly engage all my obliques and anterior abs. If I change the angle I am working in while engaging my left side, I get the same work done as my right.
3) Engage Your Multifidus; Remember those tiny muscles that support your spine I spoke of so lovingly last week? Yep, they’re integral in allowing you to engage all your muscles eloquently. Instead of over using the major muscle groups and getting bigger and bulkier because you lack the foundational strength of the multifidus, try working on pelvic tiles and engagement FIRST before you do any other exercise. I start my day with my multifidus pelvic tilts and ab exercises, then move on to other exercises that engage the larger muscle groups.
I know, I know… Apps are the next “It” thing if you are in business. But I am proposing that you NOT carry your cell phone everywhere you go. And hey, especially when you are exercising. Because, if anything, exercise is your hour to yourself everyday. And it should be peaceful and quiet and you shouldn’t have emails buzzing and text messages being sent and you shouldn’t be looking at yet another florescent screen just to follow an exercise routine. No, I’m thinking all you need is your eyes, your ears, your heart, your arms and legs to carry out the most physical part of your day. Forget technology, get in touch with something even more intelligent and complex–your body.
So I’m developing a CoreFit Deck that you can take with you. Get the first of these workouts here and print out so you can just grab them and go to the gym. In fact, why not just take a few in your gym back so all you have to do is follow the pictures and do the routine. Simple. And it won’t even show up on your data usage.
Sleep is an essential functional part of being and staying healthy. For athletes, it is a strong factor in performance. Most of the repair and strengthening in your body occurs during stage 4 of the sleep cycle–your deepest sleep. But if you don’t go through all the cycles appropriately, you won’t get to the 4th stage, inhibiting many vital functions needed to repair, restore and strengthen your body.
Stage 1: In the first stage, your muscles relax as you fall asleep.
Stage 2: Five to ten minutes after falling asleep, you enter a deeper slumber and your brain starts to produce chemicals that release hormones.
Stage 3 & 4: These are the deepest and most reparative stages. The body releases growth hormone, which helps repair bone and muscle.
REM Stage: The 5th stage of sleep is vital for pain tolerance and motor skills. It strengthens cognitive and nervous system function.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 75% of Americans have problems sleeping and are not getting the recommended 7-9 hours per night our bodies need to recuperate from the daily grind.
Repair for the daily wear and tear on the body is correlated with how much deep sleep you get. If you don’t have a regulated night cycle, you won’t get to the deepest stage of sleep that is required for release of growth hormone. These hormones shift the body’s process to anabolic–where it is able to initiate muscular repair, break down fat and stimulate cell division to replace old or malfunctioning cells.
Digestion and Weight Regulation
It is a digestion regulator, releasing hormones that break down fat to supply energy for tissue repair. Adequate sleep is required for weight management. Sleep deprivation causes hormones like leptin–a hormone that regulates a feeling of fullness–to decrease. You end up feeling hungrier without being satisfied by what you eat, causing you to eat more and gain weight.
During the night muscles can take a break and relax. Respiratory muscles also relax, resulting in the breathing rate slowing down. During REM sleep, muscles become so relaxed that they actually become temporarily paralyzed, called muscle atonia. When muscles are relaxed, there are less metabolites formed, allowing for additional cellular repair and replenishing.
It keeps the immune system in check by releasing hormones that act as messengers, telling the immune system to produce antibodies, kill potentially cancerous cells and decrease inflammation.
It also enhances cognitive function by consolidating memory. Storing short term memory to long term memory occurs during sleep through the strengthening of neuronal connections.
We felt it yesterday afternoon. That urge to high five the guy sitting next to you as the Bears defeated the Vikings. That chemical reaction in our brain–that Oxytocin surge–is responsible for feeling the bond between teammates, players and even fans. Now imagine a draft pick based on Oxytocin production–a team with higher production levels is going to be a better performing team…?
Oxytocin is a unique chemical produced by our pituitary and released in our brain. It evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around the mate. Many studies have already shown a correlation of oxytocin with human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear. It is no wonder that more and more health professionals have begun to acknowledge the correlation between Oxytocin production and performance in athletes.
In a small study published in Radioloy mild brain trauma was found to have long term symptoms in default brain functions like memory encoding, consolidation, and environmental monitoring. Also affected was the medial prefrontal cortex associated with self relevance, rapid error identification and social functions. Problems with this network have been seen in Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and schizophrenia.
If you spend an hour a day at the gym and 23 hours dedicated to undoing all that good, you haven’t really made any leeway in the general direction of health. Consider this, the more you indulge your body in the little healthy maneuvers, the easier it will be at the gym. Check out The Perfect Fit Day and try your hand at a little clock work.
8am: Get 8 hours of sleep! Seriously. No I am not kidding. Sleep is one of the most under-utilized methods in training, mostly because you think you are some kind of robot that doesn’t need it. But guess what? Sleep is integral to reducing stress, losing weight and recuperating from the beating you gave your bod the day before.
8:30am: Have breakfast! A big one. Your diet should actually flow the opposite way you are probably used to; biggest meal is brekkie, lunch is second, dinner should be an afterthought. It preps your body for optimal calorie expenditure. Along with breakfast have a cup of coffee–the caffeine jolt amps up your metabolism.
9am: Don’t hang out by the coffee maker chatting, head over to the H20. Ideally you should be drinking half your body weight in ounces of water. Water flushes your system of toxins and hydrates you so you have more energy and as a bonus, you’ll feel more full.
11am: Get up and stretch for a minute. Stretching increases circulation in your body, allowing it to repair itself. Also, drink more H20!
12pm: Lunch! Make sure it’s healthy–something full of good fats (grilled salmon) and antioxidants (spinach). Your midday meal is when you should be taking in lots of leafy greens and bright colored veggies. And don’t wash it down with an alcoholic drink–opt for more H20.
3pm: More stretching and physical activity. Most people are the most productive during the stretch from lunch to 3pm, but this is prime time for your body to digest and utilize those cals. If you are on a roll with whatever you are doing, be a good example to those around you and make sure to get up every 30 minutes or so and stretch/move around a bit.
6pm: If you haven’t already worked out in the morning, this is your last opportunity to get a good 30-60min of physical activity in. I suggest working out in the morning is probably the best time to burn some energy, but anytime you can find the time to be physically active is the right way to judge what’s best for you. Try sprinting on the treadmill, pushups, crunches, planks, lunges, step ups, presses, and squats. These are all exercises that will keep your whole body injury-free.
This weekend I was over at my friend John’s condo and he was showing me The Man Who Can Fly–Dean Potter. Dean potter is a phenomenal athlete, mostly known for his free ascents, base jumps and slack lining all over Yosemite National Park and Patagonia. In the video Potter base jumps in a bird like suit off a plank suspended probably thousands of feet into the air without knowing whether or not the flight suit will allow him to descend into a clearing far below. He does not hesitate at the end of the plank, he simply jumps.
What I loved about this video is that Dean Potter is so capable physically of allowing his mind to clearly focus on shutting his intuitive muscles down and allowing for the natural process of movement to occur. He is able to quiet his mind of what he should or should not be doing.
Fast forward today and I am reading an article in the NYTimes called Rethinking Sleep. The author talks about the importance of shutting down our mind in order to get a restful nights sleep. It’s not the hours you get, but the quality. Most people do not get the 8hrs their body requires in order to allow the body to recuperate physically and mentally.
“It seemed that, given a chance to be free of modern life, the body would naturally settle into a split sleep schedule. Subjects grew to like experiencing nighttime in a new way. Once they broke their conception of what form sleep should come in, they looked forward to the time in the middle of the night as a chance for deep thinking of all kinds, whether in the form of self-reflection, getting a jump on the next day or amorous activity.”
Dean Potter has the ability to shut down his intuitive active mind. We should all take this as a cue as to why exercise and conscious physical challenges are important to our sleep cycle which allows our brain to do more deep thinking, self reflection and the important rest it needs to recuperate our body for tomorrow.