Archives for January 2018

January 23, 2018 - 6 comments

The Power of Breath

Pause. Pay attention to your breathing. Don’t change anything. Just really pay attention. Close your eyes.

Are you holding your abdomen in and breathing strictly from you chest? Or is your stomach moving with the inhalation and exhalation? Are your breaths short, shallow, and hurried? Or long, rich, and relaxed?  

Your breathing is your life force, but how often do you think about it? Your breathing provides oxygen to your entire body. If you are breathing short and quick, there is far less oxygen entering your system and far more carbon dioxide than if you took long, deep, cleansing breaths. Bringing intention to something so simple and second natured as breathing can enhance your athletic performance, increase energy levels and help with recovery and relaxation.

By using proper breathing techniques, you will increase your lung capacity and flood your muscles with more oxygen, enhancing your performance during physical activities and sports.

How do you become a stronger breather? Just like how you become a stronger swimmer or runner or football player...you practice. Below are breathing exercises for you to use.

The basic breathing pattern is as follows:

  • Take an in breath (through your nose) which fills your abdomen
  • Continue to inhale and fill your lungs and chest
  • Exhale (through your mouth) first from your lungs,
  • Continue to exhale from your abdomen.  

Hint:It can help to lay down with one hand on your chest and one on your belly. This allows you to feel where you are expanding in your body and what area you are inhaling to first.  Try it out.

 

 

 

Once you have that wave like rhythm down, progress to count and hold variations. These counts and holds ratios will support different effects: relaxing, balancing, energizing. Play with the different ratios until you find one that you are comfortable with and will consistently do.

Inhalation Hold Exhalation Hold Effect
4 counts 1 count 8 counts 4 counts Relaxing
4 counts 1 count 12 counts 1 count Relaxing
6 counts 1 count 10 counts 1 count Relaxing
6 counts 1 count 8 counts 4 counts Relaxing
8 counts 1 count 8 counts 1 count Balancing
6 counts 2 counts 6 counts 2 counts Balancing
6 counts 4 counts 6 counts 1 count Energizing
6 counts 6 counts 6 counts 1 count Energizing

Although you may feel a bit rough and choppy at first, stick with these breathing exercise and you will see the results.  Start by just trying to do it for a few minutes, then ten minutes, thirty…  Practice these breathing exercises when you aren't in motion.  As you conquer them, try to include them in your athletic pursuits. You can match inhalation counts to strides or weight lifting. When you do, you will be able to run further, faster, and with more ease than you could previously.

Your power can be uncovered in your breath.

 

January 10, 2018 - 4 comments

New Year’s Resolution: Sleep!

As you begin a new year and commit to resolutions, don't forget to think about your sleep habits!

Most would agree that Americans work too hard, relax too little, stress too much and don’t get adequate sleep.  Most would also agree that this is an unhealthy lifestyle.  However, most do not understand why sleep deprivation is such a “big deal” for the health of our bodies and emotions. 

A study done by the Harvard Women’s Health Watch found that 75% of people have difficulty sleeping at least a few nights per week.  They suggest that a short bout of insomnia is nothing to worry about; it is the chronic sleep loss that is of bigger concern.  It can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure, decreased immune system function and weight gain.  The average amount of sleep suggested is eight hours, however, the normal range is between six to 10 hours.

We know you’re busy, so take a look at our “Cliff Notes” on the importance of getting enough sleep:

LEARNING and MEMORY

While we’re sleeping, the brain is working to transfer all new information to memory by creating new neuronal connections. So, if you learn something new before bed, you are more likely to remember and perform better later on.

METABOLISM and WEIGHT

This may sound strange, but sleep deprivation affects the way that our bodies store carbohydrates (energy and calories).  

It also alters the levels of hormones in our bodies, which are produced during sleep, like energy levels, digestion, appetite and sex drive. Without exception, these hormone deficiencies can cause disease and lead to endocrine system disorders.

SAFETY

If we don’t get enough sleep at night, we may be more apt to “falling asleep at the wheel.”

MOOD

Sleep loss often results in irritability, impatience, decreased concentration and more mood swings, all of which affects our lives and the people around us.

CARDIO HEALTH

More severe insomnia has been linked to high blood pressure, increased stress hormones and an irregular heartbeat.

DISEASE

Sleep deprivation harms the immune system’s ability to function including, the body’s killer T cells which ward off disease.

GROWTH

Sleep is the time when the body grows, rejuvenates and builds muscle. The REM stage of sleep is associated with learning and creating new memories as well as most of the metabolic rebuilding that takes place in our bodies.

Now that you understand how important sleeping is, you may be wondering how to you ensure you get the right  amount of shut-eye each night? 

  • Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages late in the afternoon or evening can also affect our sleep cycles.
  • You may feel exhausted after you exercise at night, but in reality it actually revs up our bodies and makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep.  
  • Try not to perform mental exercise or stressful activities such as studying, doing taxes, paperwork, etc. right before bed often leads to tossing and turning at night.  
  • Environmental factors, like temperature, noise, light, loft of your pillow, size and firmness of your bed.

Try taking a few short minutes to yourself before you turn in for the night.  Plug your phone in to he charger, leave it there and do five minutes of meditation, yoga or deep breathing (the challenge is to not pick up your phone until the morning). Clear your mind and prepare yourself to rest.

Make it a habit to wind-down at night, and soon your body will learn to recognize these cues by shutting your body down and a good night’s sleep will become habit, not just a fleeting dream.

Interested in the stages of sleep? See chart below.

STAGES OF SLEEP
Sleep stage Features
Stage 1 non-REM

Light sleep

  • - Transition between sleep and waking
  • - Easily roused
  • - Fleeting thoughts
  • - Eyes move slowly
  • - Reduced muscle activity
Stage 2 non-REM

Light sleep

  • - Eye movements stop
  • - Brief dreams
Stage 3 non-REM

Deep sleep

  • - Body temperature falls
  • - Person is hard to awaken
Stage 4 non-REM

Deep sleep

  • - Body temperature falls further
  • - Brain’s use of energy decreases
  • - Muscle tone decreases slightly
  • - May sleepwalk in this stage
REM

(REM = rapid eye movement)

  • - Eyes move rapidly to and from
  • - Most dreaming occurs
  • - Heart rate and blood pressure increase
  • - Limb muscles are paralyzed
  • - Brain is very active and uses a lot of energy