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March 19, 2021 Fitness0

After over a year of lockdowns and “staying home to stay safe,” we are collectively feeling the need to regain our strength, fitness and to shed those extra quarantine-induced pounds. With that mindset, it is easy to push ourselves to and past our physical limits. Let’s just call it “damage control.” The problem is, so-called “damage control” can actually be very, well… damaging. You see, if you are constantly pushing yourself to your maximum capacity without any room for muscle and joint recovery, you are going to cause your body severe harm over time. Exercise breaks down your muscle fibers, and when they naturally rebuild, they come back stronger. But if you never allow the process of rebuilding to occur, you are going to deplete your muscle tissue, and your joints will be over-compensating. This is in addition to the potential damage to your tendons and connective tissue. Remember this: exercise is not a form of punishment. It is not meant to be penance for eating a donut or for an all-day couch-centric Netflix binge, or even for a year of “falling off the wagon.” (Don’t worry, you are not alone. We are all feeling the same way.) 

Instead, exercise should be an essential and consistent part of your lifestyle. It should be a way to maintain your body and keep your mind and body connected. Holistically, this will yield better lifestyle habits overall. When you are in tune with your physical self, your diet and sleep patterns will improve. You will be less stressed. Your focus will likely shift from mindless consumption (spanning everything from food, to alcohol, to garbage television) to a self-care regimen. No, we are not saying you shouldn’t challenge yourself. We are saying that after intense workouts (i.e., heavy weightlifting or HIIT training), you should also plan for workout recovery. Learn how to speed up muscle recovery with restorative fitness techniques and exercises. Keep reading to learn more.

WHAT IS RESTORATIVE FITNESS?

Simply put, restorative fitness is exactly what it sounds like. It intentionally focuses on letting oxygen flow to muscles and joints after an intense workout to let them heal and recover. This can be done in several ways (via stretching, breathing techniques, and relaxation exercises – more on that later). 

Oxygen is what helps muscle recovery the most. It helps to cleanse the body by flushing out toxins and bringing new cells to targeted areas. Restorative fitness also allows you to access your parasympathetic system (AKA the rest and digest system). This is the same system activated during Savasana in yoga, meditation, or when you get a massage or float in a sensory deprivation tank. It encourages the regeneration of cells and promotes workout recovery.

HOW TO RECOVER POST-WORKOUT:

If you are wondering how to speed up muscle recovery, there are two main components to restorative fitness. They are active recovery workouts and relaxation for muscle recovery. Ideally, both should be incorporated into your restorative fitness plan.

Active Recovery Workouts:

Active recovery workouts involve positioning your joints and muscles in ways that allow stretching and releasing and promote blood and oxygen flow to targeted areas. One of the most popular forms of this is gentle yoga. (If you are new to the Yoga scene and aren’t sure where to begin, try attending a Hatha Yoga class – virtual or in person, whatever makes you feel comfortable.) LCG Boston offers Yoga Physical Therapy (which can be scheduled in your own home, one on one.) If you are not ready for in-person contact and proximity, check out our Virtual Physical Therapy program.

If yoga isn’t your thing, but you are wondering how to recover post-workout, it is still entirely possible to achieve this simply by stretching. Try to include both active stretches and passive stretches. It is extremely important to bridge the gap between your passive and active flexibility ranges to prevent injury. You will also be able to target your joints’ inner workings to send blood flow to those areas. All too often, those are the areas that are neglected and weak (sometimes without us realizing it), ultimately leading to injury.

Related:
Four Tips to Improve Flexibility

Relaxation for Muscle Recovery:

Another means of muscle recovery is by intentionally relaxing the body and its muscles, joints, and connective tissue. This can be done in many ways. Massage is usually a crowd favorite. Who doesn’t love a good rub down, wherein your muscles just melt into putty? Given the contagious nature of the Coronavirus, we totally understand if massage therapy is outside your comfort zone at the moment. But, if you are up for it, Percussion Massage is one of our favorite alternative therapies here at LCG.

Another favorite method is to float in a flotation therapy tank. If this concept is new to you, flotation therapy involves a solo trip inside of a single-person-sized flotation tank. The tank is filled with a foot or less of very salty water that is maintained at perfect body temperature. It is completely dark inside and also soundproof. The idea is that while inside, you will have basically no sensations. Your experience while in the tank should be free of sounds, smells, touch, and vision. This allows you to tune entirely into your own body and mind. They call this “REST,” which is an acronym for restricted environmental stimulation therapy. The sensation of being weightless and in dark silence is very therapeutic and induces profound states of relaxation.

If you aren’t too sure about flotation therapy, another easy and more accessible way to achieve muscle recovery is simply to take a hot bath, which can be done in the comfort and safety of your own home. Feel free to add in Epsom salts and essential oils. Light some candles for ambiance, and relax!


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 You are doing it! You are getting yourself in the best shape of your life. Summer 2021 is going to be the year that your beach bod is cut, chiseled, and at its best. You are unstoppable. You thoughtfully and carefully pack everything into your gym bag the night before. You have your water bottle, shaker bottle with protein powder already in it, your towel, and your change of clothes for after. You are locked and loaded with everything in your car. At 6:00 am, you almost hit the snooze button on your alarm, but no! You get yourself up, caffeinated, and ready! It is time to own the day! You make it to the gym (great job!) and get through your cardio warm-up. You make your way to the free weights for a lifting session, and it hits you… your back. Almost out of nowhere, your back feels like it got hit by a ton of bricks, and you can’t, simply can NOT continue working out. What gives?

Back Pain While Exercising

To be completely honest, your back is comprised of a whole lot of muscles layered on top of your spine, rib cage, sacrum, and all your connective tissue. While it appears like a flat surface, there is actually a great deal of anatomy up in there. The cause of back pain while lifting weights could be from any number of things. For example, your lower back pain while exercising is probably a completely different issue and cause than your upper back pain while exercising. We have outlined four common causes of lower (and upper) back pain while exercising below. 

YOUR BACK IS COMPENSATING FOR A WEAK CORE

The simplest explanation for back pain while lifting weights (usually lower back pain) is that your back muscles are compensating for a weak core. This means your abdominal muscles are not pulling their weight (literally), so your lower back is stuck doing all of the extra work, quickly resulting in lower back pain while exercising.

Luckily, the solution to this problem is quite simple. You need to strengthen your core. This is both a long-term and short-term strategy. For the long-term, you will need to make a conscious effort to target and exercise the abdominal muscles. For the immediate and short-term, you will need to do some ab work before lifting any weights. For example, holding a plank position (with your wrists stacked directly under your shoulders) will fire up your abs and prepare them to be an active part of any lifting or exercise you may be doing.

YOUR BACK MUSCLES ARE STRAINED OR INJURED

Another reason that you may be experiencing upper (or lower) back pain while lifting weights or exercising is that you are simply overdoing it. You may have strained or injured back muscles. If this is the case, you need to listen to your body and give yourself a break. When you exercise to the point of soreness, what you are actually experiencing is your muscle fibers tearing. (Even though it sounds scary, this is totally normal). When your muscles recover, the fibers heal back together (usually stronger than they were before). If you don’t allow ample time for recovery before working out, you will experience back pain while lifting weights. If the soreness doesn’t dissipate within a few days, you may be dealing with an injury. If this is the case, you should contact your doctor or a health care professional for further advice.

YOU MAY HAVE AN INJURED SPINAL DISC

Your spine is your central structural element in your entire body. It is comprised of bones, also known as vertebrae (24 of them to be exact). In between the bones are discs, with are softer and more flexible than bone matter. These discs allow your spine to move freely in all directions.

If you move too fast, in the wrong way, or apply force with contact to one of your discs, it can be bumped out of place or injured. If this happens, you will definitely experience lower or upper back pain while exercising. Sometimes injuries of this nature will self-resolve, but if you are still in pain after a couple of days, contact your provider.

YOU MAY BE EXPERIENCING SCIATICA

Your sciatic nerve is a massive nerve that runs from your lower back all the way down the backs of your legs, ending at the tops of each of your feet. When pressure is applied to your sciatic nerve (which can occur from a bulging disc, impact, or other natural causes – hello, pregnancy, we are looking at you), you are going to feel excruciating, pinching sensations that may momentarily cripple you from being able to stand or walk.

Sometimes the solution is to invest in better footwear or spend more time warming up before hitting the weights. Remember that impact is a major cause of sciatic nerve pain, so you want to think about providing a softer cushion for your joints. (This can be accomplished with new and better-quality footwear and knee braces.)

You also may find that heat and cold therapy help treat and prevent sciatic nerve pain. You can take a long, hot bath, followed by a cold shower (or ice bath, if you are feeling ballsy). This will increase the blood flow to that nerve and help prevent it from getting pinched or impacted. Another way to keep sciatica in check is to be more conscious of your posture throughout the day. Make sure you sit up straight while working at a computer all day, and try to keep your spine well-aligned when you are lying down to sleep at night. If you are a side sleeper, place a pillow between your knees.


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February 26, 2021 Fitness0

As we head into spring, get ready to take your workout outdoors! The pandemic has rendered many gyms and athletic facilities closed or open with restrictions, such as limited capacity and equipment. Most gyms require masks at all times (which can be challenging when you are breathing heavily), and some have shuttered their locker rooms and showers. With all things considered, outdoor workouts are extremely appealing these days. Plus, who doesn’t love a good mood-boosting dose of sunshine? Vitamin D and fresh air are what the doctor ordered! So, read on for our favorite workouts and exercises to do outside. 

1. Bodyweight Park Calisthenics 

If you want to break a sweat outdoors, workout equipment isn’t even necessary. Most of what you need to get a solid calisthenics-derived burn session can be found at any park. You can get really creative, but even the basics should keep your physique in check. Calisthenics utilizes your body weight for resistance. With these types of movements, you will burn fat, build muscle, and increase your endurance at a rapid pace.

A children’s playground can actually function as the ultimate outdoor workout park! You can use the monkey bars (or any overhead bar) to complete pull-ups. Find a park bench and use it for doing triceps dips as well as push-ups. For a lower body burn, you can use the same bench for box jumps, lunges, and lateral step-ups (with hip abductions). If you want to work your core, you can find a swing (or tire swing) and use it to prop up your legs and feet. Position your body in plank with your wrists stacked beneath your shoulders and move your feet up toward your wrists in repetitive inchworm motions. 

2. Walking 

It sounds basic, but walking is fantastic for your mental and physical health. It can be really helpful when you are anxious, stressed, or have a lot on your mind. Walking is also great exercise because it is low impact on your joints and can be good cardio. If you live in an urban area, try to walk as much as possible instead of relying on transportation. By making it a consistent part of your routine, you will be setting yourself up for a long-term lifestyle change. That can be one of the most rewarding and impactful choices you can make for your health.

3. Stand Up Paddleboarding

Okay, we are transitioning from our most basic pick (number 2, walking) to one of our more unique choices. Stand-up paddleboarding (or SUP) is a terrific way to get out and enjoy a body of water while also getting a total body workout. This outdoor workout involves standing on an oversized surfboard (SUP boards are specific to the sport, we don’t recommend trying this on any random board) and paddling in water with an ore (also specific to this sport). If you live near water and enjoy outdoor recreation, you are going to love this! You can beat the crowded beaches by paddling out from the shore and relaxing away from populated areas. Just be sure you don’t forget sunscreen (we are serious, lather up and pack extra). With the water reflecting the sun’s rays as you paddle around, you could be in for a serious burn if you aren’t diligent about reapplying.

If this all sounds great, but you are concerned about the hassle factor of obtaining, storing, and transporting a board, we have a great solution. Since stand-up paddleboarding has really made a splash in recent years (see what we did there?), lots of innovative products have hit the market. Check out this inflatable board by Hydro-Force. It is completely inflatable and folds up into a backpack (which is included). You may be thinking that because it is inflatable, it isn’t durable or sturdy. Think again! This board fills up to a rock-hard 15 PSIs. 

Pro tip: if you don’t want your arms to be tired before you even begin paddling, ditch the manual pump that comes with the board and purchase this electric pump that hooks up to your car outlet. In about twelve minutes, your board will be ready to roll.

4. Hiking

Speaking of outdoor recreation, who doesn’t love a workout with a view – especially in beautiful New England? Hiking is an amazing way to get a great workout and to enjoy the day. Anything with some challenging uphill terrain will get your heart beating and blood pumping. Plus, being out in nature can be very therapeutic and beneficial for your mental health. If your anxiety has been more prevalent than usual this past year, we can’t blame you! We have been living through groundbreaking and unprecedented historical events. Cortisol and adrenaline levels are through the roof for most. Getting exercise outside, especially some that involves being in nature, away from the hustle and bustle, will be incredibly beneficial.

5. Outdoor HIIT Workout

In case you have been living under a rock, HIIT workouts are at the forefront of every fitness magazine, blog, article, and even celebrity tabloids. What is a HIIT workout? HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. You do extremely challenging (high intensity) exercises for short intervals. The idea is that when you train in intervals, you train your metabolism to rev in this pattern throughout the day. HIIT is an amazing way to burn fat and get your cardio in without having to spend a lot of time.

Why not take it outside? One of the coolest things about HIIT is that there is no exercise equipment necessary. You will be doing spurts of exercises (such as burpees, squats, variations of jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc.), so all you really need is a flat surface. Your outdoor HIIT workout may actually be ideal in a grassy field because it may offer a softer impact for your knees and other joints.

 


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We live in stressful times. In the past twelve months, anxiety levels have been collectively on the rise. This year, we have lived through many historical moments, from the pandemic and the election to protests and natural disasters. What if we told you that there is a free way to escape and mitigate it all that is accessible to any and every person? Would you be relieved? Luckily, there is a way that you can interrupt negative thought patterns, calm anxiety, and release stress. It is called meditation! Read on to learn more about what it is, the benefits, and how to get started!

WHAT IS MEDITATION?

To understand the many benefits of meditation, we must first have an understanding of what it is. Most people have a mental image of someone sitting cross-legged with their thumb and forefingers adjoined and palms facing up on their knees. But what is going on in that mental image? (And by the way, there are many, many ways to meditate in that position.)

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, meditation can be defined as an intransitive verb, meaning, “1: to engage in contemplation or reflection. He meditated long and hard before announcing his decision. 2: to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” 

While the definition uses the term “mental exercise,” we would argue that meditation is quite the contrary. Meditation is more so a means to relax, quiet the mind and allow the many layers of chatter that are part of our existence to come to rest. In our day-to-day lives, we live through the details, the constant hustle and bustle, and the systematic crossing off of our daily to-do lists. While it is essential to be pro-active, productive, and efficient in our lives, it is easy to be caught up in the drama of the details. We can get so wrapped up in being task-driven that we almost become servants to external forces.

With meditation, you can consciously silence the external layers of yourself and your thoughts, carefully and one by one. You can focus your awareness from the exterior inward to the many layers of yourself. Yoga teaches us that there are five layers of self in every person. These are known as sheaths, or “kosas.” They range from our body (where we experience physical sensations) to our innermost spiritual beings (where we may experience inner joy and peace and connectivity to a greater power or life force.) If you are interested in developing a yoga practice, consider booking a Yoga Physical Therapy session with one of our Yoga Physical Therapists.

Related:
Yoga Physical Therapy: Healing From Within

While a meditative state is typically achieved by relaxation and silencing of the mind, that is not to say that it is easy. AT ALL. In this day in age, turning off the chatter is possibly more complicated than it ever has been. On top of our responsibilities, we (as a species) are addicted to our devices, social networking, and the notion that we need to broadcast our lives to validate them. (Hello millennials, we see you.) When you pair all of that with having jobs, careers, families, and social lives, the chatter is LOUD. So, while the definition uses the words “mental exercise,” we believe it implies mental discipline. It takes a lot of practice and discipline to let go of everything going on in your life and allow your awareness to turn to the spiritual core of your being. Even more so, it takes a whole lot of discipline to stay in that state.

THE BENEFITS OF MEDITATION

Because meditation allows you to connect with the most spiritual and sacred layer of yourself, the benefits transcend the moments you spend in a meditative state. Having that self-awareness will positively impact every aspect of your life. First and foremost, meditation is a fantastic way to mitigate stress. The more time you spend being fully present in the moment, wherever and whenever you are, the less time and energy you will devote to dwelling on issues or stewing in anxiety around, “what ifs?”

You may also find that meditation is potent in boosting your imagination and creativity. When you are in touch with your true self and purpose, you are more equipped to see the potential in all that is around you. When you liberate yourself from negative emotions (which meditation will undoubtedly do), your perspective will shift to seeing what is possible. Most forms of meditation involve controlling your breath in rhythmic patterns. This has many health benefits for your lungs and heart and can lower your cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

HOW TO MEDITATE PROPERLY

There are many forms of meditation. It is an ancient practice that has been around for thousands of years. Almost every ancient culture practiced one form or another. In today’s society, people practice mindfulness meditation, guided meditation, and sleep meditation, all of which have unique benefits.

If you are new to the practice, we recommend beginning in either a seated position with your legs crossed and your palms facing upward or laying down on your back with your palms facing upward. If you are opting to be seated, be sure to sit with your spine fully elongated. (Feel free to prop your hips forward by sitting on a pillow or a bolster.)

Allow your mind to quiet and begin to focus inward on your breath. Inhale for four seconds, exhale for eight seconds. Repeat this several times until you are entranced in the rhythm. Thoughts will arise. This is normal, especially if you are new to the practice. Acknowledge them and let them drift by as you bring your focus back to your breath.

Once you are in the rhythm of breathing, shift your focus to your body. You will begin with your toes. Without moving, see if you can feel them. Notice any sensations that are there. Acknowledge the sensations, and then non-verbally (in your mind), say, “toes, relax.” Continue this up through your entire body until you reach the crown of your head.


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February 12, 2021 Fitness0

The year is 2021, and we are rapidly approaching our twelfth month of the pandemic. For some, getting to the gym is out of the question. Heck, for some, getting off of the couch is out of the question at this point! It has been a long (Covid-laden) run, and the finish line’s location is vague. Some days, it even feels like it might be a mirage. That being said, it can be exceedingly difficult these days to find motivation for maintaining fitness, health, and nutrition. So, what is one to do?

If you have noticed that your waistline has… well… changed, or that your pre-pandemic fitness routine has been pushed to the wayside, perhaps it is time to consider the use of technology to help you get motivated and help you to reach your goals. You can track your fitness progress and health stats with wearable technology. This is super helpful in achieving your goals because most fitness trackers will send you reminders if you fall behind and help hold you accountable. They also may give you a sense of accomplishment by showing progress over time.

You can also explore and partake in various fitness classes, workouts, and the like with fitness apps. The best part is that these can be done at the gym or in your living room, so there are no excuses! Some of the best fitness apps on the market are literally at your fingertips, making your health and well-being pandemic-proof. Read on to learn more.

BEST FITNESS TRACKERS:

1. Fitbit Inspire 2

If you are reading this article, chances are you have wondered, what is the best fitness tracker? The market is saturated with a wide range of options that have a wide variety of features and price points. We have landed on the Fitbit Inspire 2 as our top pick because it covers a lot of ground without breaking the bank. For under $100 ($68.95, to be exact), you get all of the essentials, such as tracking heart rate variability, sleeping respiration, and activity. It is also super sleek and attractive. You can easily change the band from silicone to something fancier and get this – the battery can last as long as TEN DAYS. Yes, you read that correctly. The only thing the Inspire 2 appears to be missing from its competitors is GPS, but who doesn’t already have that on their cell phone?

2. Garmin Vivoactive 4

Okay, so if you can’t live without the GPS feature and have a bit bigger of a budget, maybe the GPS device pioneer is more your speed. The Garmin Vivoactive 4 rings in at $349. So, you could buy nearly five Fitbit Inspire 2 fitness trackers for the price of a single Vivoactive 4. What gives? Well, it does come with a ton of fancy features. To say that this device is made to track fitness is kind of like saying your iPhone is made to make phone calls. It doesn’t really tell the entire story.

The Vivoactive 4 also has music functionality (including Spotify, Amazon Music, and Deezer) and a color touchscreen display. You can (manually) track your hydration and liquid intake. In conjunction, the device automatically estimates your sweat loss post-workout (cool!). Like the Inspire 2, the Vivoactive 4 includes tracking your respiration rate for the day and sleep metrics. Additionally, it has breathwork exercises, workout animation functionality, built-in Yoga and Pilates workouts, blood oxygen tracking, and of course, GPS. The battery life averages about eight days. Not bad!

3. ŌURA

For some, no matter how great the features are, wearing a watch (especially while working out) is just too much. We are about to blow your mind with this one. Did you know that health tracker rings are now a thing? How cool is that?! If you are intrigued, you need to check out the Ōura. This sleek and custom-sized titanium ring looks like any other ring band on the outside. The inside, where it makes contact with your finger, is equipped with advanced sensors to capture your resting heart rate, HRV (heart rate variability), body temperature, and calorie burn. The price point is $299, and it comes in silver, black, or diamond. All finishes are scratch-resistant and water-resistant.

BEST FITNESS APPS:

Fitness trackers are awesome, and can easily be used in conjunction with workout apps. Below are three of our favorites.

1. Alo Moves 

Alo Moves gets our votes because for $20 per month (which is about the cost of just one yoga class at a studio), you will get unlimited access to yoga, fitness, and meditation classes led by pro instructors. The fitness classes are actually pretty diverse and include strength, barre, Pilates, HIIT, and more. You are given enough content to never be bored and always try something new. That ought to help with fitness motivation!

2. Obé

If you came into the pandemic as a group exercise enthusiast, Obé might be just what you need to keep up your workout routine. This fitness app is awesome because it offers live and on-demand classes so that you will be working out with actual people and actual instructors in real-time. Class offerings include Pilates, yoga, barre, cardio dance, cardio boxing, HIIT, and strength training. The price point is a bit higher ($27 per month) but still less than most gym memberships or the cost of dropping into in-person classes at a studio.

3. Seven

If you are “too busy” to exercise, we have got some great news for you! The Seven app was designed to make every minute count. Every workout included in the app is just seven minutes long and requires no equipment. The exercises are all rooted in HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which has been proven to be extremely effective, as it trains your metabolism to be revving all day long. The price point is great! (Only $9.99 per month, with an option to purchase for the year at just $59.99).


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Did you know that ice baths actually have an ancient lineage? That’s right! Monks have been cold plunging for thousands of years. This is because the benefits of ice baths are hard to ignore. Cold plunging, AKA cold water immersion, cold therapy, cryotherapy, or ice bathing is amazing for your mental and physical health. If you are wondering, “What does an ice bath do?” you are not alone. Clearly, this practice is not for the faint of heart. Monks and cold plunging enthusiasts alike agree that ice baths induce positive stress, which requires a total Zen mindset to navigate. Beyond that, strained and inflamed muscles will experience immediate relief.

Wait, you mean to tell me you would like me to fill my bathtub full of cold water and ice and jump on in? Voluntarily??

Well, hey, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Perhaps one of the most accessible ways to polar plunge in an ice bath is in the comfort of your own tub. Filling the tub with cold water (and adding some ice for an extra kick) is certainly one way of reaching cryo-nirvana. Another way is to take a dip in the ocean or a nearby lake in the winter. Obviously, be sure to take appropriate precautions. Your body will likely go numb after a few seconds, so you don’t want to be too deep that you can’t make your way out of the water safely.

If you want to try cold plunging, but you aren’t ready to commit to such an extreme version, you can test the waters (see what we did there?) by turning your shower to the coldest possible temperature when you are done bathing. Let the cold water run over your entire body for as long as you can possibly stand it. The ancient monks practiced cold plunging in a similar way, by standing under waterfalls for extended periods of time.

“What is the point? What does an ice bath do for me?”

Read on for three ice bath benefits.

1. Stress Relief

We are living in some stressful times, folks! With a historical event occurring literally every 6 days, this past year has been one for the books! Collectively, this has done quite a number on our anxiety and stress levels. Our adrenal glands are working overtime as we constantly react to the world around us. But, we have got some great news for you! One of the many benefits of ice baths is that they provide substantial stress relief.

When you submerge yourself in an ice bath, you activate your sympathetic nervous system. While the cold temperature may shock you, it will also send blood to your brain and your core, which helps to flush out the neurotoxins that cause anxiety and depression.

Cryotherapy also helps stimulate a more awakened state (literally). The initial shock brings immediate attention and awareness to sensations in your body, which demands your total presence. This is one of the goals of meditation. Consider ice plunging to be somewhat of a shortcut. From that moment of total awareness, your mentality will actually shift to a focus on endurance.

This means, your goal (in your mind’s eye) shifts from, “Can I do it? Can I submerge into that icy tub??” to “I did it! Now how long can I stand it?”

This internal conversation takes awareness, mindfulness, and presence. These are all of the same thought processes involved with meditation. Thus, the outcome is very much the same. A regular cold plunging routine will provide you with stress relief and a better mindset.

2. Improved Circulation

Ice baths are a potent way to improve your circulation. Submerging your body in ice-cold water will increase your heart rate and your blood pressure, which, temporarily, is a very good thing.

The sudden drop in temperature is going to constrict your outer blood vessels, which forces your blood to flow away from the surface of your body. Instead, the blood will flow deeper toward your body’s core, which will increase circulation to all of your major organs. When you stabilize your temperature back to normal, the blood will flow again to your body’s surface. This manipulation of your overall circulation is extremely beneficial for your health.

3. Improved Immune Function

Another ice bath benefit is improved immune function. Stress has been deemed, “the silent killer.” Collectively, we have experienced a whole lot of it this past year. Thankfully, cold plunging has the amazing ability to lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol is your “fight or flight” hormone, and it is caused and released by stress.

Excess levels of cortisol in your body can cause a whole myriad of issues including, but not limited to, rapid weight gain, muscle deterioration, diabetes, and even skin that bruises easily. No thanks! Cortisol also weakens your immune system. With the pandemic still in full effect and with it being cold and flu season, it is important to keep your body’s first line of defense in optimal condition. Cryotherapy can help you to keep cortisol, that nasty hormone, in check!

Another benefit of ice bathing is increased metabolism. (Hello, weight loss!) Who doesn’t love a simple hack for a smaller waistline, especially after the many shelter in place orders we have all endured?! Ice baths also increase your dopamine levels, AKA the reward hormone. When your dopamine levels are low, you will experience fatigue, moodiness, lack of focus, and low libido. This may lead to procrastination, feelings of hopelessness, and mood swings. Thankfully you can turn all of that around within minutes, simply by taking an ice bath. Plunging into cold water will flood your brain with dopamine, leaving you in a much better mood.


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January 29, 2021 FitnessHealth & Wellness0

Making a human is hard work! Your body is going to change dramatically over the course of your pregnancy, and most likely thereafter as well. (Hello, mom bod!) You have probably heard stories (or even know women personally) who became pregnant and never, “snapped back.” If you are expecting, you may be wondering can you exercise while pregnant. Getting fit while expecting a baby is not only entirely possible but also a great idea! The healthier a mother-to-be, most likely, the healthier her baby will be. Exercising while pregnant is also a great way to prepare for the marathon that is labor and delivery. Plus, if you maintain your fitness routine while pregnant, chances are that you will have an easier time with the postpartum fitness journey and losing the weight gained over those long nine months. Read on to learn more.

Of course, the most important advice around anything involved with your pregnancy will come from your doctor or OBGYN. Always check with a qualified professional before partaking in anything strenuous or new while pregnant. In general, if your pregnancy is healthy and exercise was part of your routine before you became pregnant, you should continue (within reason) the same workouts as you were doing. As you get further along with your pregnancy, you will likely need to make modifications for safety. Especially because your body is going to drastically change. As your belly grows, it will become increasingly difficult to execute certain movements, which will yield exercises to avoid while pregnant.

For example, bending forward will become more challenging and less comfortable. As you gain weight, anything that involves jumping, bouncing, or the sudden impact of gravity is going to be not only uncomfortable because of the pressure of the baby on all of your organs, but it may also lead to unintended urination. Gross, we know. (But try having 30 extra pounds pushing on your bladder.)

At a certain point in the 40 weeks, you may also feel discomfort in positions that require you to lay on your back. Again, this is because of all of the extra weight crushing your organs. So, no bending forward, no jumping, bouncing, running, and nothing involving laying on the back. You are probably thinking, “what kind of exercise can I do while pregnant?” Keep reading for some of our favorite suggestions for getting fit and maintaining your health while pregnant.

  1. SWIMMING

Swimming is the perfect pregnancy exercise. Trust us, when you are heavy, bloated, and as big as a house (okay fine, as big as a skyscraper sideways), you are going to love the weightless sensation and buoyancy of being in the water. Water can be therapeutic, especially for those who experience swelling of the legs and ankles during pregnancy.

Swimming is also amazing because it is a low-impact form of cardio. You can really raise your heart rate and get your blood flowing while gliding through the water. This poses very little strain or impact on your joints, which are already working overtime to carry the sudden increase of weight in your body. Anything that increases your heart rate is going to increase your circulation, which will increase your blood flow and oxygen to your fetus. This is extremely beneficial for both your health and the health of your baby.

Water-resistance is a great way to get in shape. If swimming laps isn’t your thing, try taking a water aerobics class. We are sure you are going to find great comfort and strength in moving in the water.

  1. YOGA

Not only does Yoga require that you move and stretch, but you will also be practicing rhythmic breathing. This is going to help you navigate the waves of pain that are part of labor. Yoga can help you to be very in touch and in tune with your body, which will give you great confidence and serenity during the birthing process. Many studios offer pre-natal specific yoga. This is ideal because all of the Asanas (yoga postures) in the class will already be modified and suitable for your pregnant body. It may be a fun way to connect with other soon-to-be-mommies in your community as well.

If prenatal yoga isn’t offered where you practice, consider arriving early enough to inform your teacher that you are pregnant and may need guidance on how to modify some of the postures in class. There are also many resources available online if you are more comfortable practicing at home. Just be aware that during the later stages of pregnancy, your body will release higher levels of relaxin. This is a hormone that helps to relax the uterine wall and prepare the body for labor and delivery. Your hips may therefore be more flexible than you are used to. Just be careful not to push yourself too far, so as to avoid injury.

  1. WALKING

It sounds simple, but don’t underestimate the many health benefits of walking. Walking is a very gentle form of cardio. If done outside, the fresh air may be a great way to counter the hot flashes often experienced during pregnancy. Sometimes pregnancy brain can feel foggy or it can feel overwhelmingly chaotic and fast-paced. Going for a long walk is not only good for your body, but it has tremendous benefits for your mental health as well. You can sort through your thoughts or ease your stress and anxiety.

  1. ELLIPTICAL & SPIN BIKE

If you were a gym-goer prior to pregnancy, chances are that you started your workouts with some form of cardio warm-up. For many, this typically involves a fast-paced walk or run on a treadmill. When you have a giant belly that weighs 20-30lbs, nothing about running is going to feel good. All of the bouncing up and down and the impact is going to cause a great amount of discomfort.

Luckily, the elliptical machine and spin bikes offer worthy alternatives. The gliding motion is continuous, so you never have the abrupt impact of your foot hitting the track. Plus, most machines have many resistance settings so you can really up the challenge. This is perfect if the weather outside isn’t ideal for a walk, or if you are looking to break a sweat.

What is your favorite way to stay in shape while pregnant?


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January 22, 2021 FitnessHealth & Wellness0

Are you seeking the ultimate total body workout that can be done at home? Are you searching for the one piece of exercise equipment that does it all without breaking the bank? Do you need something effective but also low impact on your joints? Look no further – the search is over! You need to invest in a stability ball. Stability ball exercises offer the whole shebang! You can tone, strengthen, and stretch every muscle group in the comfort of your own home. The best part is that the cost for one is about twenty bucks. That is less than a monthly gym membership! In this article, you will learn about the benefits of using a stability ball, and we will even give you a starting point for a home stability ball workout. Read on for more! 

WHAT IS A STABILITY BALL?

Before we get into the many benefits of using a stability ball, as well as our favorite stability ball workouts, let’s review the equipment. You may have also heard of this very same exercise apparatus referred to as a fit ball, exercise ball, or Swiss ball. A stability ball is the same as any one of these. It is simply an oversized, inflatable vinyl ball that can be used to condition, exercise, and stretch your body.

Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, in this case, stability ball exercises are super spicy. Whether you slam it to the left or shake it to the right (yes, we went there. That was indeed a Spice Girls reference), you can strengthen and reshape your physique with this dynamic yet straightforward piece of equipment. The stability workout ball is extremely versatile and can be used in hundreds of ways. Workout balls also come in many sizes, which adds even more variety to your exercise regimen. When deciding what size stability ball is right for you, you will need to consider which exercises you plan to do the most. Perhaps investing in a set with a few options is a great way to go. After all, stability balls are relatively inexpensive compared to many other exercise equipment on the market.

THE BENEFITS OF USING A STABILITY BALL

As we mentioned above, the stability ball is a fundamentally simple object. It is a ball, plain and simple. Don’t be fooled, though; simple does not necessarily mean easy. Because the stability ball is round, it inherently “wants” to roll away. When you activate your body’s muscles to prevent this from happening, you target a particular (and seldom used) group of muscles, known as your stabilizers. Your stabilizer muscles are essential tools that your body uses to keep your joints correctly aligned. Injury occurs when your joints are forced out of alignment. The stronger the surrounding muscles (stabilizers) are, the less likely this is to occur and the better your balance will be. Therefore, stability ball workouts are excellent cross-training for any other sport.

In addition to strengthening your stabilizers, stability ball exercises target hard-to-reach areas (ahem, hello lower abs, mommy pouch, and saddlebags, we are looking at you). Because you are always fighting (and hopefully winning) a battle with gravity, you are partaking in the remarkably effective form of exercise known as plyometrics. According to Collins Dictionary, plyometrics are defined as “a system of exercise in which the muscles are repeatedly stretched and suddenly contracted.”

In many cases, when athletes or workout enthusiasts practice plyometrics, there is a substantial degree of impact. (We are referring to force on the joints in the body.) As mentioned above, this can easily cause injury. Consider jumping rope as an example. Every time your feet hit the ground, your ankles and knees are hit with force. Over time, this can be damaging. If any of the joints are out of alignment upon impact, the damage or injury can occur immediately.

With the stability ball, you make contact with the ball as it rolls, so you are basically gliding through the motions. While you are targeting and working your muscle groups effectively, you are doing so in a way that is very low impact on your joints.

STABILITY BALL EXERCISES

  1. Stability Ball Plank: For this exercise, you will begin in a high plank, with your palms on the floor. Be sure to press evenly into all of your fingers. You want to visualize hollowing out your palms so that all of the weight is taken off of your wrists. Make sure your wrists are stacked directly underneath your shoulders. Rest your shins and feet on top of the stability ball. You may find that holding the plank position is enough of a workout for you. If you would like more of a challenge, you can practice a plank to jackknife motion. (You will bend your knees, rolling the ball forward toward your hands. Then return to plank.) Repeat 10-12 times for one set.
  2. Stability Ball V-Ups: Sit-ups have long been in the mix for working out. With the workout ball added in, you can really amp up the challenge and efficacy. You will want to lay on your back with the ball between your legs and your arms stretched out overhead. Squeeze the ball isometrically between your legs (hello stabilizers!). Lift the ball up with your legs and lift your arms to meet them (no bending, keep them straight). From the profile view, your body should make a V shape. Repeat this motion several times.
  3. Stability Ball Squats: For the ultimate lower body workout, squats have been on the agenda for all eternity. Ramp up the burn by doing them near a wall, with the stability ball between your back and the wall. When you are standing up, you will want the ball against the exact middle of your back. As you squat down, the ball will roll up higher toward your shoulders. Pressing into the ball will not only create resistance but will also help you to maintain proper form. Repeat several times.

 


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Cold and flu season is upon us, and oh yeah, let’s not forget the elephant in the room, the PANDEMIC. With all of these seasonal and circumstantial immune system “villains,” it is essential to remember that there are plenty of simple steps we can take to improve our health and wellbeing. Health does not need to be reactionary. Quite on the contrary. If you can learn how to boost your immune system, you may stay ahead of any ailments that come your way. In this article, you will learn about our favorite immune-boosting foods, as well as other immune-boosting supplements and habits. 

With the current state of affairs, vocabulary words, such as “vaccinations,” have become extremely common. The ICU bed counts in every city are being blasted everywhere and are hard to avoid. Culturally, we are experiencing tragedy, anxiety, and mourning like never before. While science and the medical field at large are of the utmost importance in times like these, we must not forget that we were born with an incredible and sophisticated system to combat many things that may attack our health. Our immune systems are, by design, our body’s first line of defense. We each have the ability to strengthen our personal health with these top five immune-boosting tips.

1. Trade happy hour for a session at the gym.

Let’s face it. Alcohol has a way of taking the edge off some of the panic and anxiety we all may feel. Beyond that, it has a prominent place in our social structure. During the holidays, we drink. During birthdays, we drink. During social or work outings, we drink. The thing is, alcohol suppresses your immune functions. According to the US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health), alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex ways. “These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage, and impede recovery from tissue injury.”

So, the key to this immune-boosting tip is to drink in moderation. Make sure you stay hydrated, especially when drinking. Make a conscious effort to consume a full glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you drink.

2. Exercise often and maintain a healthy weight. 

Another way to boost your immune system is to exercise and stay active. When you increase your heart rate, you also increase blood flow to your organs, connective tissue, and lymph nodes. All of this helps your body to rid itself of toxins, flushing them out of your system and allowing new nutrients and oxygen to take their place. 

When you let your weight get out of hand, more goes downhill than your existing wardrobe. Your immune system will also take a hit. According to the National Library of Medicine (National Center for Biotechnology Information), obesity (like other states of malnutrition) alters your leucocyte counts, as well as cell-mediated immune responses. Also, evidence has arisen that an altered immune function contributes to the pathogenesis of obesity. This may be a “chicken or the egg” scenario. The bottom line is, do your best to stay in shape so that your immune system stays healthy. 

3. Commit to getting enough sleep every night. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that sleep has a powerful effect on immune system functionality. In fact, restricted sleep can lead to various disorders, including but not limited to inflammatory cytokines and a higher risk for infection. No thanks! 

In these crazy times (and every year during cold and flu season), it is vital to let your body rest and recharge. Create a bedtime routine to promote a restful night of sleep. This can be done in several ways, but firstly, minimize screen time before bed. That blue light emitted from your cell phone can make it much harder for you to fall asleep and can also cause interruptions throughout the night. 

Related:
The Importance of a Strong Immune System

Perhaps before bed, set aside some time (even 20 or 30 minutes) to meditate or reflect in a journal. Let your mind unwind in preparation for rest and relaxation. Perhaps use essential oils in a diffuser to help create a peaceful environment in your bedroom. Lavender is an excellent choice for promoting sleep.

4. May thy food be thy medicine. 

One of the most important and powerful immune boosters is the food you eat. Historically, humans (and all creatures in nature) ate to fuel their bodies and as a means of survival. The development of eating for pleasure or entertainment is a relatively new phenomenon in the grand scheme of the world’s history. While it is fun and convenient, our bodies may pay the price. 

As a culture, we (voluntarily) consume more chemicals and preservatives than the human body was ever designed to handle. We also overconsume calories because eating is as easy as a walk to the fridge, or at worst, a trip to the store. These habits are a detriment to your immune system. Instead, it would be best if you focused on eating as many whole foods as possible, with a particular focus on produce. Produce is loaded with vitamins and minerals (especially leafy greens – the darker, the better). Also, add as many immune-boosting foods (such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, and citrus) to your diet as possible. 

5. Stop smoking. 

One of the worst things you can do for your immune system (and health in general) is to smoke cigarettes. These nasty, cancer-causing little devils greatly suppress your immune system. They make it difficult for your lungs to do their extremely important job. On top of that, they suppress your appetite and may induce cravings for junk foods. If these reasons are not enough to convince you, cigarettes also cause a greater susceptibility to infections (like the flu and pneumonia) and lower your levels of antioxidants (such as vitamin C) in your bloodstream. 

And finally, don’t forget to wear your mask! While mask-wearing is not technically “immune-boosting,” it will help decrease your risk of being exposed to germs that may lead to sickness. In times like this, play it safe!


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December 18, 2020 FitnessInjury Recovery0

While an injury may bench you from certain athletic activities, there are many low impact workouts and exercises that can keep you in shape and help speed up your recovery. If you are wondering how to speed up your ACL or hamstring injury recovery time, we are here to tell you that many of the exercises you likely already enjoy fall into the category of low impact exercises! Also, make no mistake, low impact does NOT mean easy. 

Suffering an injury can be an athlete’s worst nightmare. Training in the COVID-19 era, after several months of lockdowns and interruptions to our everyday lives, has left many with a higher propensity to get hurt. The more we stay put and the more we sit, the less we elevate our heart rate. The less blood flow we have to our joints, the more likely we are to get injured. No matter what level of pandemic restrictions are in place where you reside, make sure you dedicate time every day (and every hour, if possible) to move your body around. This will not only help you to stay in shape but will also help keep your joints healthy.

WHAT IS A LOW IMPACT WORKOUT?

To understand the benefits of low impact exercises, you must first know what they are. Low impact neither refers to how little your waistline is impacted nor how much muscle mass is gained. Phew! What a relief! So, where, then, is impact minimized?

Your joints! You can see all of the results that you usually see from exercising without the abuse and wear and tear on your body. Let’s face it, without healthy and fully functioning joints, you are going to be warming that bench indefinitely!

Joints get worn out both by overuse and as a natural part of aging. In ideal circumstances, all of the tissue that is damaged within a joint will naturally regenerate. Suppose you are an avid athlete with a training focus geared toward one sport (for example, a pitcher for a baseball team). In that case, you may experience pain, injury, or deterioration in your elbow joint. If you continue to train, even when the tissue has depleted, it will not have proper time to regenerate. Similarly, as we age, that very same tissue begins to wear down naturally and takes longer to heal and replenish. This is why you should cross-train with low impact exercises and give your joints a break so that they can recover.

So, without further adieu, our top three low impact workouts to help keep you in shape and for injury recovery and rehabilitation are yoga, swimming, and cycling. All three are excellent exercises to get your blood pumping without exerting much force on any of your joints. Read on to learn why we chose each of the three and how they can aid your road to injury recovery.

YOGA

Yoga is at the top of the list because who, especially in 2020, doesn’t love an exercise that also eases your anxiety? #amirite?? With yoga, you can improve both your physical and your mental well-being. By intentionally pairing your breath with your movement, you will increase your blood flow to your joints, which will help in the healing effort of any injury you may have.

Yoga is also a great way to target, activate, and workout your stabilizer muscle groups, which don’t typically get a ton of use otherwise. Your stabilizers offer a tremendous amount of support to all of your joints, so this may help you avoid injury in high impact sports.

You may also find that yoga can improve your flexibility and overall sense of well-being. While it may seem a bit “woo woo” for some, we are willing to bet that most serious athletes would find yoga to be far more challenging than expected. It is a great, low-impact way to stay in shape while you are rehabilitating any injury. An hour of yoga burns roughly 400 calories. If you are into hot yoga, that number can increase or even double.

Related: 

Yoga Physical Therapy: Healing From Within

SWIMMING

Another tremendous low-impact cardio workout is swimming. Exercising in water is fantastic because it not only provides resistance, helping you to build up muscle mass, but it also allows your motions to be fluid and weightless. This helps remove the impact from your joints. Imagine running on pavement. When your foot hits the ground with force, that sends a pressure shockwave through your foot, ankle, knee, and hip joints. That source of pressure can be damaging over time and can worsen an existing injury.

Now imagine swimming laps. You are kicking both legs repeatedly while your arms fluidly glide through the resistance that water provides. You are breathing heavily, in rhythm from side to side. All of this is increasing your heart rate, building muscle mass, and burning fat. Swimming is an excellent low impact workout to get yourself in shape! It is a full-body workout and can burn up to 700 calories in an hour.

CYCLING

While we are on the topic of gliding, cycling offers a similar low-impact exercise experience. Because the pedals move continuously on a circular track, your ankle, knee, and hip joints will experience a fluid range of motion. There is no forceful interruption of movement.

If you have ever ridden a bicycle uphill, you already know that cycling can be one of the most challenging cardio exercises out there. Propelling your entire body’s weight forward, plus the weight of your bicycle, will have you winded in no time. Plus, with the many resistance levels that bikes can offer, you will likely find that cycling builds muscle mass in the booty and legs very quickly. Unlike doing squats, which may strain your ankle, knee, and hip joints, cycling will keep the pressure off so that you can see results without experiencing pain. An hour of cycling can burn anywhere from 600 to 750 calories.


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