Self-care series: exercise your whole-person

Exercise as

Self-care series:  As we enter the season of giving and a time of year when many people struggle not only with getting enough exercise, but also with keeping up with self-care, let’s take a deeper dive into how to make exercise a form of self-care. This blog series will build on my last one about finding the right way to exercise for your body and your life right now. Both of these series serve as a guide to help you use exercise as a way to recharge your whole person, so you can be well now.  

Let’s face it, when we talk about exercising to be healthy and well, it is a vague goal. Being healthy is a bit easier to define than being well, but there are still so many facets and factors, it is not always enough to keep us motivated to exercise regularly.   

Have you ever considered when health happens? You might affirm you are healthy in a visit with your doctor, but that is not when health happens. Health happens moment by moment. More specifically, it happens in the moments you are well.  

When you are in a stress response or alarm mode, your body down-regulates healing and repair. Your energy is needed to handle the stressor. It does that by preparing to move. Heart rate, blood pressure, blood fats, blood sugars, muscle tension all increase so you are ready to fight or flee. When you finally get back to the relaxed state of recharge mode, that is when every cell in your body is able to get back to the work of making health happen. When you are in alarm mode, you could say you are ‘not well’, and when in recharge mode, you could say you are well.  

So if health happens in the moments you are well, to be healthy we need to ramp up more ways to get back to being in recharge mode or well.  Since you can only be well now, being healthy means noticing when you are in alarm mode, and having instantaneous ways to shift back into recharge mode.  

If exercise is part of your plan for being healthy, you are one smart cookie!  When your body has prepared to move in that alarm mode, the way out of alarm mode is to give it what it needs. Exercise, when it is not stress-producing, puts you back in the state where health happens. With all the complicated and conflicting information about the right way to exercise to be healthy, it all comes down to simply moving in a way that calms the alarm.  The sooner you are able to do that, the more time you get to spend in that health-creating state we call well-being. 

So exercise needs to be convenient enough to do when you need it most as well as calming, not stress-producing, for your whole person. That will take some rethinking: 

  • From exercise as something you need a lot of time, energy, and equipment to accomplish, to simply moving in any way that leaves you feeling better. 
  • From another task on your to-do list, to a form of self-care.
  • From training your body, to taking care of your whole person, your emotional, mental, and spiritual, as well as physical, self.  

This shift to exercise as a form of self-care for your whole person is what we can create during this time of year we need it most. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a closer look at how to exercise for your mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical self in the ways that can restore well being instantly. As we do, share with me your thoughts, insights, and questions by emailing me at Janet@ExercisingWELL.com.  

Be Well Now,

Janet

PS: You could put off exercise until January, have the ‘I should exercise’ adding to the stress of the season, and then join the millions of people who rush to ‘get back in shape’ in the new year.    You could resist that dead-end trend and choose to give yourself a way to shed stress all season long so the new year is simply one more day you are confident you know how to be well now.  Exercising WELL ™ is the approach to exercise that is smart to do now.  Learn how to make exercise a form of self-care with personalized telephone coaching and an easy-to-use online program.   Enrollment for 2019 ends this week!  Click here now to get started with your FREE call. 

 

Solving the mystery: what’s the right way to exercise? Part 3

Solving the mystery_ what’s the right way to exercise for your body and the real results you want, Part 1 (2)

Good detectives know that asking the questions who, what, where, when, and why can lead to solving a mystery. Knowing the right way to exercise can seem like a huge mystery can’t it?  Everywhere you look, you see exercises and programs that claim to be the answer to the ‘problems’ of your body. How do you know what is worth the investment of your time and energy? In this three-blog series, we’ll use these five sleuth questions to know if an exercise is science-based, right for your body, and likely to lead to feeling better and staying motivated.

In part 1 we uncovered how to find exercise that is science based. In part two we explored finding exercise for the results you want.  In this last part, we solve the mystery of knowing if an exercise is right for your body right now.  

Who is telling you it is right for your body?

Since we are flooded with information about how exercise is good for us, we can often think of exercise like a child eating their vegetables so they can have dessert. The problem with that ‘just do it’ approach is your brain believes what your body feels much more than what you tell yourself. Exercising because you have to in order to get to a goal is an athletic mindset. For most people, exercising because you have to will only last for so long. Eventually, your motivation will fade because something more important you have to do will come along.  

Instead, let you body tell your brain that it wants to keep coming back for more. How? By being present to how you feel when you think about exercising, are exercising, and have finished exercising. If your feelings are negative, it is time to change what you are doing or expecting of your body right now. When exercise is a positive experience in both your brain and body from the moment you think about it, you have found the way to exercise for well-being and health.    

What are you doing for exercise?  

In our calorie-focused society, exercise has become just a way to burn calories.  But exercise literally means ‘to practice’. So ask yourself, what are you practicing and is that what you want.  Exercise is not to burn calories, it is to help your body and brain feel better now and function better later. If you are doing exercises to burn calories, you may be moving in ways that don’t leave you feeling better now and that will drain motivation to keep doing it . If you are doing movements that are are practicing how you want to function better in daily life, at just the right level for your body right now, you will both feel better now and function better later.  Look closely at the movements you are doing and ask yourself if those are moments you want to improve for daily life.  

Where is my attention when I exercise? 

Exercises are often named by the muscles they are working, like triceps, abs, and glutes.  However, muscles do not work in isolation. Movements are a symphony of many muscles working together, orchestrated by your nervous system. The conductor is your central nervous system, brain, and spinal cord. When you focus on muscles, you are likely to miss the fact that other parts of your body are being strained, not strengthened. Consider how an exercise feels for your whole body to know if it is right for your body.  

Often our attention is not on our body at all. If you use distraction, like watching TV or talking on the phone, to get through an exercise, your nervous system cannot help your muscles coordinate the movement well and the quality of your practice has just been lowered. You are not teaching your body to function better while teaching your brain not to focus. This is the number one way we waste time with exercise.    

To exercise in the right way for your body, keep your attention on your whole body in the present moment. Only you know how your body feels and that is your best, most personalized guide. In doing this, you raise the quality of your exercise, thus making it more time-efficient.  

When do I get the results? 

In our athletic-minded exercise culture, feeling good when you exercise is not valued, it is considered ‘wimping out’. This mindset is helpful when you are competing, because the reward comes in the future. But when your reasons for exercise are to be well and healthy, the reward is in feeling better now. If you are a former athlete, but now are exercising for health and well-being, pay attention to this inclination to follow athletic approaches. Remind yourself that now your reasons for exercising are different, so the way you exercise needs to be different too.  

You may have long term goals for exercising, but if they are related to being healthy and well, the way to get there is to be right here, right now. Your body is in a constant state of change.  Every day it needs something slightly different from exercise. What felt good last week may not feel good this week. The path to your goal won’t be linear, because that is not how the body changes. The only way to know how to exercise right is to stay present. Listening to and trusting your body moment by moment is the way to make exercise work for you.  

Why is this exercise right for me right now?  

Connect your Why for exercise with what you are passionate about in life because this is the way to know how to exercise the right way for your body and your life right now and sustain motivation. The stronger you make the connection, the more you will be exercising the right way to get what you really want and the more motivated you will be to stick with it. Your core Why for exercise is not to lose weight or be healthy, it is the reasons why you want those things. Take the time to get to your core Why and finding the right exercise will be easier and more time-efficient.  

Bottom line: When exercise is based on how the body moves well, designed specifically for the real results you want from it, and leaves you feeling better instantly, you are exercising right. This is the most time- and energy-efficient way to exercise and the most motivating too.  When you know how to exercise right, body and your brain will be working together to keep you well and healthy. In the next blog series, we’ll look at how to exercise so you feel better mentally, emotionally and physically.  

Be WELL,

Janet

Learn More:

Want to know the right way to exercise for your body right now? 

If your body has spiraled downward, it is not easy to spiral up again. Typical approaches to exercise can be too much and you can easily end up feeling worse.  Exercising WELL™ is for people who want to feel better but their body and life keep getting in the way.  You get science-based exercise, step by step personalized guidance and the confidence you know how to stay self motivated to continue on your own.

Enrollment closes soon!

Click here to learn more and get started today!  

 

How to shift exercise from a ‘should’ to pure self-care

Is your body keeping you stuck_ Use your mind to move forward! (2)

Rethink:  Before we enter the time of year that often involves extra ‘giving’, do you have enough to give? I don’t mean money or time, I mean of yourself. When exercise is another thing on your to do list it drains energy, whether you do it or not  Let’s look at what turns exercise into a source of self-care that you enjoy giving to yourself, so you can enjoy giving to others.  

The other day, I was chatting with a client about why she wants to lose weight. She simply said “my family needs me”. She went on to say how tired and stiff she feels, and how it is stressful to not be able to help her family. She finally said, “I need to feel better so I am able to care for them”.  

This is essentially what I hear from nearly everyone I talk to about their Why for exercise. Whether it is to lose weight or reduce back pain or have more energy, the core Why for exercise is most often connected to the ability to enjoy time with and/or care for others. 

Whether you care for a pet,  a friend, a cause, a child, a spouse, or customers at your work, you are a caregiver. As a caregiver, you may have heard the analogy to put your own oxygen mask on first. It’s a great analogy, but what counts as oxygen? What does self-care really mean?

I was telling my colleague Jennifer Lauretti, PhD, a wise and curious psychologist, how I want people to think of exercise as self-care. I shared how often I hear of people using exercise as a form of punishment so they can someday feel better.  She said “I struggle with the word self-care. I find that people don’t really know what that means.” As we chatted, I understood what she was saying and it tied right into this challenge with the concept of exercise as self care.  

Superficial self-care is the use of a treat, some external reward, in order to soothe the stress and strains of daily life. Getting a pedicure or facial or taking yourself out for a late can be a lovely gift you give yourself. However, it’s not oxygen. It’s not what you really need. It is a shortcut to feeling better temporarily.  

Exercise is superficial self-care when you think of it as a means to an end. Sure you can feel better because you ‘got through’ a workout or reached your step goal or an app said you burned more calories than you ate today. Like the pedicure or facial, though, this is not oxygen—it is a superficial and temporary source of feeling better. You feel good when you accomplish something and bad when you don’t. Exercise becomes a ‘should’ rather than self-care, adding to the stress and strain of daily life, rather than reducing it.  

Sustaining self-care is when you recognize the root of the stress or anxiety or exhaustion and give yourself what you really need. You might need to de-stress because you are in a high-pressure job. You might need to recharge your energy because you are drained from taking care of a child all day. This takes pausing and noticing what is really going on inside rather than just distracting yourself by watching Netflix or having a glass of wine to relax.  

Exercise for health and well-being is when you move for the sole purpose of taking care of your own body and mind. When you know how to exercise right, you can move in a way that truly relieves stress and restores energy.  The trick is knowing how to make exercise what you need, not another task on your to do list. When done well, movement sustains your body and mind. It calms your mind and strengthens your immune system. The side effects of exercising right are feeling calmer, happier, more focused, and energized all at the same time.  

Bottom Line: Take care of yourself so you can care for others. Know what you really need to restore and recharge by learning to listen to and trust your body. Make exercise a source of sustaining self-care by learning how to exercise right so it is not a should, but the source of sustenance it is meant to be.  

Be WELL,

Janet

P.S. In the Exercising WELL program, you learn how to exercise right, so your body and mind feel better right away. Enrollment is open now, but is closing soon for the holidays.  Prepare for the season of giving by taking the next four weeks to learn how to make exercise your own personalized ‘oxygen mask’. You will be ready to enjoy giving because you know how to restore yourself all year long.  

How strength training activates your well-being

Humble honey (1).png

In the last blog, I highlighted how your strength is not from your muscles, but from your brain and nerves that connect it to your muscles.  It turns out, that ‘waking up’ of nerve fibers activates your whole body and your well-being in very unique ways.   Let’s take a look.

Your muscles. Your muscles are made up of lots of muscle fibers. Imagine each of those fibers like rowers on a boat; the more people rowing, the more strength and power the boat has. If the exercise is with light resistance, only a small amount of muscle fibers is activated. If the weight is heavy, more muscle fibers are called into action. As your muscles get fatigued during an exercise, your nervous system will call upon more muscle fibers to help out.

Your bones. Every day your body is both making and losing bone cells. Around age thirty we seem to start losing more bone cells than we are making. The rate at which that happens depends on how often you are telling your bones to make new cells. When muscles contract, they tug on your bones. When that tug happens, it’s like your muscles are tapping on the shoulder of your bones, saying, ‘hey, stay strong, I need you!’ This sets in motion the immediate signal to your bones telling them to make new cells. Your muscle contraction is what slows the loss of bone. The stronger the contraction, the greater the trigger for new bone cells.

The catalyst:  How often do you hear advice to get enough calcium for your bones and protein for muscles? Well, if you put all the ingredients for a cake into a bowl, but never put it into the oven, would you end up with a cake? No. Those ingredients need a catalyst, heat, to make them work together to produce a cake. Getting enough of the right nutrients is only part of building strong muscles and bones. Strength training is the catalyst that makes the nutrients work for your bones and muscles! 

Your metabolism. When you challenge your muscle fibers, they go through changes like tiny tears in the fibers and use of the fuel stored right in muscles. It takes them about 24-48 hours to repair and refuel after that use. As they repair from those small tears, they gain strength. While they are refueling and repairing, they are more ‘metabolically active’. That means they are burning more calories for a day or two after you do strength training—up to about 15% more!

Your blood sugars. When your muscles contract, they use fuel stored in your muscle fibers and in your blood system. The fuel is glucose (sugar) and fats from your blood system. Each time you contract your muscles, they are ‘soaking up’ blood sugar and using it. That means that sugar is not hanging out in your blood, affecting every other cell in your body. Because strength training causes the longer-term repairs I mentioned, it also causes longer-term use of blood sugars for hours after you finish. This is why strength training is one of the best ways to manage high blood sugar levels.

And more… There are many more cascades of real-time changes that happen each time you perform strength-training exercises that are similar to those that happen with cardio. For example, brain chemicals are released that improve a sense of optimism, focus, and calm. Nitric oxide is released which helps keep blood vessels relaxed, regulating blood pressure and reducing strain on blood vessel walls that could lead to cardiovascular disease.

Unique benefits, unique barriers. These are just the highlights of the unique and powerful Real-time Results of strength training. So why are 80% of people not doing it regularly? If you are one of them, stay tuned.  Next week we will look at the specific road blocks to motivation to strength train.

Bottom Line: Your brain signals your muscles to contract, pulling on bones, and creating movement.  This simple progression of events, when done in a way that is challenging for each one of the steps in the process, creates the catalyst for strengthening and maintaining your bone, muscle, and metabolism.

How can you start this domino effect of health and well-being for yourself today? 

B-WELL

Janet