How Fitness Is Only One Part of Overall Self-Care

Working out is only part of the equation of taking care of yourself.

Guest post by Ed Carter of Ablefutures.org .

Fitness and exercise are an integral part of our health, but they aren’t the only ways we should look after ourselves. We need to find balance and ensure that we address every aspect of healthy self-care. From My Fitness Reflections, here are some ways you can incorporate looking after yourself in your daily routine.

Focus on Nutrition

What we eat plays a significant role in healthy living. Nutritious meals not only keep our metabolism up, but they also supply the fuel necessary to thrive. However, many of us take shortcuts when our time is limited or when we’re too tired to cook. That’s why it’s important to think ahead and plan your meals weekly to prevent a Wednesday pizza delivery or fast-food hamburger binge. Plot out a meal plan, gather all of your ingredients, and then spend a day prepping for the upcoming week so you have everything at hand and ready to go.

Meditate or Practice Mindfulness

We can feel our blood pressure rising when we experience prolonged stress, yet the effects can last much longer, even after our pulse settles. You might feel tired constantly, and not only from lack of sleep but from the stress itself. Your memory and your body can be affected, and you may see your weight begin to climb. All in all, stress is not a sustainable condition to endure, which is why it’s something we need to overcome. Two excellent tools for doing so are meditation and mindfulness, and while they are functionally different, they have the same goal: letting go of stress. Mindfulness is learning to be aware of your thoughts, choosing how to respond and retraining your brain to think positively, while meditation is the act of clearing out the mind to center oneself and be at peace. If one doesn’t work, then try the other.

Invest in a Wearable Gadget

Thanks to smart technology, you can stay on top of your health and fitness goals by wearing a fitness band or smartwatch. A fitness band isn’t just for exercise; it gathers all kinds of health-related data like how much sleep you get and what your heart rate is. Meanwhile, a smartwatch has the same features but also lets you send text messages and view notifications. Think about the features you’ll likely use on a regular basis, then choose a wearable device and a sturdy band that fit those needs. And of course, your phone can be a great fitness companion, too, so if you don’t want to invest in an additional device, you can always use an armband to comfortably incorporate your phone into your workouts.

Declutter to De-stress

A huge source of stress can occur in your home: clutter. Although it’s easier to accumulate unwanted items than it is to get rid of them, a cluttered space can only do harm to your health—you lose focus when there are too many distractions, it’s more difficult to find what you’re looking for, and you spend more time and energy trying to keep up with chores. Your home should be a sanctuary, and that can be achieved by keeping it tidy and organized. Need help with the tidying part? Search online for a local reputable cleaning service that charges a rate within your budget.

Find a Hobby

Another approach to combat the stress of everyday life and support well-being is by developing or engaging in a hobby. They give us something to do that isn’t work-related, provide us with occasions to look forward to, and give us an opportunity to meet other people with similar interests. Don’t think that because you tried one and didn’t enjoy it that there isn’t a hobby for you. From kayaking to geocaching and wine tasting or cheese making, you can find an activity that appeals to you and fits your lifestyle — it might just take some trial and error.

Get More Sleep

There’s no avoiding the consequences of sleepless nights, but the causes are varied. It could be due to certain foods, stress, or not maintaining a schedule — whatever the reason, self-care involves getting plenty of rest. To do so, start by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, including weekends. Unwind before bed without an alcoholic beverage, a heavy meal, or technology that can stimulate the brain. Lastly, to really improve your slumber, keep your room cool and use an eye mask or noise machine to help stay asleep longer.

Spend Time with Loved Ones

It’s not only fun to see friends and family regularly, but it’s good for you, too. When you have a strong support network, you may laugh more, live longer, get sick less, and have a positive outlook on life. It doesn’t need to be daily, but try to set aside some time each weekend to catch up with someone who brings you joy, whether that’s a parent or your best friend from college.

Self-care is a choice we make each day. Yes, hours are frequently limited, but that doesn’t mean making time for ourselves shouldn’t be a priority. Sit down and plan if you need to, but figure out how to take care of yourself the way you deserve.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Nose Breathing Exercises For Better Workouts and Recovery

(Short read) Yogic breathing exercises to help you get better results

What if I told you there’s something you can use to give you energy before a workout and calm you down after? This tool doesn’t cost a dime. It also won’t put a bunch of caffeine and strange chemicals in your body. This may sound crazy but the tool I’m talking about is your nose. I’ve previously talked about the importance of nose breathing for stress management. I’ve recently starting using some Yogic nose breathing exercises to help me prepare for my workouts and recover after. The exercises are so simple, I’ll share them below.

Pre-Workout

Save your money and ditch the pre-workout supplements. You’re your own source of energy. All you need to do is breathe in and out of your right nose. Doing this puts you in a more alert state of mind. In yogic traditions, the right nostril is related to the masculine energy, the type of energy that makes you want to take action. This is the place you need to be when getting ready to crush some weights or do any intense workout. I do 3 rounds of 6 breaths before my lifting sessions and I always feel energized as a result. This is very useful if you didn’t sleep well the night before.

Post-Workout

For post workout recovery you’ll do the breathing exercise through your left nose. In yogic traditions, the left nostril is related to feminine energy. This is the type of energy you should tap into post-workout to help you cool down. I speak from experience when I say this works. Just like with the right nostril, I usually do 3 rounds of 6 breaths but you can do more or less as you see necessary.

Nervous System Health

Everything you do is possible because of the nervous system. If you want to be more efficient in any activity you do, you’ll need to strengthen your nervous system. This next breathing exercise does that by getting the two hemispheres of your brain working together. It’s called alternative nostril breathing.

The way to do this breathing exercise is to breathe in through one nose and out the other and vice versa. Do three rounds of six and you’ll feel your head feel a lot more clear. In terms of timing, I like to do this at night or after a yoga session.

There you have it. You can tap into different levels of energy as you see necessary just by using your nose. These are useful for fitness purposes but can be used in other areas of your life. If you’ve been on your fitness journey long enough, you’ll know that fitness is an analogy to life.

Right and Left Nostril Breathing- http://total-yoga.org/right-vs-left-nostril-breathing/

Alternative Nostril Breathing Benefits- https://chopra.com/articles/nadi-shodhana-how-to-practice-alternate-nostril-breathing

Photo by Kelvin Valerio from Pexels

Better Gains and Less Stress Lies in The Power of The Tongue

How the position of your tongue can reduce stress and boost your overall fitness

When it comes to getting great results in fitness the things we normally focus on are exercise, food, and sleep. These are all very important in order to achieve any fitness goal. One thing that’s often overlooked is stress management. Nowadays, a lot of people are dealing with daily stress, not aware of how it is holding their bodies back.

Stress can be a good thing and a bad thing depending on how it’s experienced. The good stress comes from doing a tough workout or just doing anything that challenges you. This type of stress can lead to growth whether it’s mental, physical, spiritual, or financial. Even the good stress can be damaging if you get too much of it.

The Effects of Too Much Stress

The bad stress is the one that drains you of energy. It’s the type that has you fearing the future or stuck in the past. You may wonder how this stress stops you from achieving your fitness goals. Where do I start?

Stress leads to increased cortisol in your body. Excess cortisol has a negative effect on sleep. The more cortisol you have the less melatonin you produce at night. Melatonin is crucial to sleep.If you’re someone who’s trying to make progress in their fitness, you’ll know that sleep is the biggest key to recovery.

Cortisol also has an inverse relationship with testosterone. The more cortisol you have the less testosterone you produce at that moment. Testosterone is one of the most important hormones when trying to build muscle and/or burn fat. To add to the fat loss aspect, high levels of cortisol is associated with weight gain in the form of fat.

For anyone that’s trying to gain strength, think about how stressful lifting heavy is on your body. Your body can only handle so much stress. How well do you think you’d be able to handle the stress of your workouts if you’re constantly dealing with stress throughout your day?

On the flip side, breathing deeply reduces stress. It’s also great for workout recovery because deep breathing means better digestion of food. Better digestion of food means more nutrients absorbed from the food you eat. For the people who are trying to lose fat, your body has to burn calories in order to digest your food.

Solution

One of the simplest things you can do to reduce stress is to place your tongue at the roof of your mouth. When doing this, make sure your tongue isn’t touching your upper teeth. It sounds weird but by holding this tongue position, you’ll automatically breathe through your nose and into your diaphragm. This allows you to breathe deeply without any conscious effort. Deep breathing puts you in the rest and digest mode compared to the fight or flight mode when you’re stressed.

It’s been six months since I’ve relearned how to properly breathe.I’ve definitely noticed the benefits. I feel more relaxed in general, my digestion is better, and I sleep more deeply. At first it’ll feel weird breathing like this if it’s new to you. After a month, it’ll feel so normal that breathing any other way feels strange. One of the things that helped me the most is doing this while going for walks.

I could go on about the benefits of nose breathing with proper tongue posture but I recommend you test it out for yourself. See how you feel once you make nose breathing a natural part of your life. See how you perform in your workouts, how you deal with daily stressors, and how your body looks as a result. You’ll be amazed!

How Cortisol affects sleep: https://thrivenfunctionalmedicine.com/melatonin-and-cortisol/

Cortisol and testosterone: https://news.utexas.edu/2010/09/27/stress-hormone-blocks-testosterones-effects-study-shows/

Cortisol and weight management: https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/stress-weight-gain

Nose Breathing vs. Mouth Breathing: https://www.oralhealthgroup.com/features/mouth-breathing-physical-mental-emotional-consequences/

Photo Courtesy of: https://www.pexels.com/@snapwire

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