Archive | October, 2010

How Does Exercise Increase Energy?

1 Oct

School is back in session and so is your frantic non-stop pace of life!  While your daily schedule may leave you fatigued, usually the real culprit for decreased energy is our daily habits.  For example, the foods we eat, the amount sleep we get, and (SHOCKER) the amount of physical activity we get all affect how tired we feel.

One of the best antidotes to beating fatigue and increasing energy is to exercise more, not less.
“Contrary to popular belief, exercising doesn’t make you tired — it literally creates energy in your body.  Your body rises up to meet the challenge for more energy by becoming stronger,” says nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS, RD, a nutrition adviser for the Journey for Control diabetes program.

How Does Exercise Increase Energy:
As your heartbeat increases with a vigorous workout, more blood surges through the brain, more oxygen is absorbed by your brain cells, and you feel more mentally alert and energetic.  Better-conditioned muscles also make daily tasks that much easier. When you exercise, your ability to recruit and use muscle fibers are increased so you require less effort to perform any physical task.  And as you become stronger through exercise, so does your immune system.  Being sick drains us of energy.  Exercise  boosts immunity, which helps averts illness, or at least reduces its length and intensity.

What can I do with limited time?
Moderate intensity movement is all you need to increase energy levels.  Even a 10 or 15 minute walk has the primary effect of increased energy.  If taking a short walk doesn’t feel like enough of a workout, try an intense 30 minute bout of interval training.  While intense exercise may initially tire you out, it reduces tension, so that after an hour or so, when your muscles begin to recover, you will see a surge of energy but without tension.  If you can’t make it to FIT for even a 30 minute session, try a 10 – 20 minute interval training workout at home.  Exercise equipment is not necessary to deliver a good workout.  For on the road or at home workout suggestions, email me at jimmy@focusedtrainers.com.

Better Sleep and Increased Productivity

1 Oct

Eight hours of sleep.  That is the mantra that has been ingrained into all of our heads since we were little kids.  Remember those days?  No small child ever wants to go to sleep when mom or dad tells them to – there are just too many exciting things that might be missed.  Well, that feeling seems to have hung around long into adulthood; there is always something else that could be done before bed.  Not only does this postpone the time that you fall asleep, but can actually impair your quality of sleep.  I’m not hear to preach about getting enough sleep – everyone knows they should get 7-9 hours of sleep – what I hope to do is convey some methods to help you get BETTER sleep, and increase productivity through the day.

One of the potential time stealer in a person’s morning is meal planning and preparing for the day’s events.  While this might seem pretty straight-forward, getting everything ready the night before – when you probably have a little bit more energy and are more alert – will decrease the time it takes to get ready in the morning (not to mention decreasing the likelihood of forgetting to pack something).  This includes your food for the day.  What makes a better lunch than that delicious dinner you had?  It takes no more time when preparing dinner to throw a couple extra pieces of chicken onto the grill, or roast another broccoli floret so that you can have lunch the next day already prepared.  Casseroles and stews also make great pack lunches, as they are easy to make, take little preparation as leftovers, and can actually taste better after a day of resting.

Another way to increase productivity is the almighty to-do list.  I’m not talking about the grocery list length itinerary of tasks to complete each day, but a simple, concise list of 2-4 “big ticket” items for the day.  By focusing on these larger tasks, more will get done in the long run, as well as completing the tasks with the most significance.  Make these count!  Leo Babauta (author of the books “The Power of Less” and “Zen to Done”) recommends just One Thing.  By focusing on completing fewer large tasks, friction and inertia don’t get in the way of your efficiency.  All the smaller routine tasks will fall in line, but only AFTER the big goals for the day are completed.

Finally, the best way to improve productivity and energy is to limit time-suck activities (TV, web-surfing), especially late at night when they not only cause you to go to sleep later, but also affect the quality of your sleep.  Mark Sisson (marksdailyapple.com) recommends eliminating anything that emits blue light after dark (TVs, laptop computers, etc.)  If this can’t be done, there are applications such as f.lux (http://www.stereopsis.com/flux/) that can be installed for free to cut blue light emissions.  Other things that may affect sleep are late night exercise, eating, or caffeine.  Exercise and eating can suppress melatonin, altering sleep cycles, and the late night effects of caffeine are pretty straightforward – nobody wants the alert jitters right before bed.

So, if quality sleep, energy, and productivity are hot topics in your household, try these five tips:

•    Decrease the morning madness by preparing lunches for the next day at dinnertime.
•    Maximize your time and energy during the day by focusing on only 2 to 4 big tasks a day.
•    Exercise regularly and earlier in the day.
•    Minimize caffeine intake and late night snacking.
•    Participate in pre-bed relaxation activities that do not involve watching television or computers.

When Things Slow Down…

1 Oct

“When things slow down, I’ll be able to get into a routine and focus on me.”
“After the next deadline, I’ll go back to eating right.”
“Once the kids are back in school, I’ll start exercising regularly.”
“I can’t get enough sleep; I don’t have time to prepare my own food; I’m lucky to squeeze in two sessions at FIT a week, BUT when things slow down….”

In the chaotic rat race called life, the majority of us are over-booked, over-worked and over-committed making it very difficult to find time for the basics: sleeping, eating healthy, exercise, water intake, etc.  Regardless of whether you are a full time mom, working and parenting, or retired, the majority of us fill our plates until they are over-flowing.  On a daily basis, I hear clients, friends, family, etc. say “I’m just so busy.”  For some of you that means, traveling non-stop for work, and running from deadline to deadline all while juggling family life.  For others it involves driving to and from school, from one appointment to the next, and finishing the day with kids at three to four different locations for practices followed by homework.  And then there are some who have a very busy day of bed, bath & beyond, home depot, and Costco followed by a hair appointment, nails, etc.  Everyone’s definition of being “busy” is different, but what seems consistent is that as life gets hectic, the first things pushed to the bottom of the list are the things that keep us running and energized: sleep, nutrition, exercise, water intake, etc.  But when things slow down, you’ll address those again, right?

When things slow down you’ll have time to sleep for more than 4-5 hours, you’ll have time to prepare food for the next day, you’ll have time for that hour-long workout, right?  The reality is, in some way, shape or form you will probably always be busy: as soon as next week’s deadline is met, you will take on another one.  While it is inevitable that there will be weeks where everything does slip because of one task, deadline, or project that takes precedent, in general we have to stop using “I’m just so busy” as an excuse for neglecting the important components of our health and wellness.  These components actually energize us and enable us to perform our jobs and daily tasks more effective and efficiently.  Below are a few tips for addressing these neglected components in the midst of the crazy, hectic times:
1.    Something is Better than Nothing: can’t squeeze in a hour workout, how about 7 minutes of squats, push ups, and sit ups?  Or Tabata squats for 4 minutes?  That burst of “something” may help you reach your weight loss goals faster than that longer slow run you had planned to squeeze in anyway.
2.    Control what you Can and Move on: your company is serving a ‘bad’ meal, the school function is all junk food, etc. etc.  You can’t always control what is put in front of you but you can control how much goes into your mouth.
3.   Take 10: how much can you get done in 10 minutes?  Set a timer and for 10 minutes and do what you didn’t think you had time for:  workout, cut up veggies/prepare a quick meal for the next day, a quick cat nap.  All it takes is 10.
4.    Can’t Sleep?  Don’t stress it. It’s only one night.  Chances are you will not be affected that day and will crash the following night (the key is allowing this crash to happen!).  See Matt’s tips for getting a better nights sleep.
5.    Evaluate your “stresses: understand and appreciate the good stress and learn how to manage the bad stress.
6.   Learn how to say NO: did you just say “yes” to yet another project?  Evaluate and prioritize what is piled on your plate, establish healthy boundaries, and know that it is okay not to do it all.

Balance in a Hectic Life

1 Oct

We are back from summer holiday, back to school and heading right into the holiday season.  I couldn’t believe it when I walked into a store over Labor Day weekend to see Halloween decorations hitting the shelves.  It did make me think about the cycles our clients go through during the year.  August is always a bit quieter around FIT as clients squeeze the last drops of summer out before the fall schedule begins.  Then there’s much excitement in September as the kids start back at school and life gets back into its ‘normal’ rhythm- until end of quarter PTA meetings, carpools, a sick child, and the like disrupt it.  I once heard a professional clown give an inspirational talk about the rigors of adulthood.  Her central theme was that life is a lot like juggling and there are certain tricks that we can all learn to help us keep all our balls in the air.

Intellectually we all know that we need to take care of ourselves and have heard the statement ‘you can’t take care of anybody else until you take care of yourself.’  Still, there are an alarming number of us who continue to promise that we’ll take care of ourselves once ‘things’ settle down and we’ll just do our best in the meantime.  Like most endeavors, the ‘taking care’ probably sounds like a lot more work than it actually is… when most people hear about Serena doing an ironman (or two as the case may be), the response is, and rightly so, something awestruck like, “Wow, I could never do that!”  But, the fact is Serena had never done a triathlon prior to 3 years ago, hadn’t swam competitively, and was only a recreational runner.  I’m certainly not saying that any one could do the same, but I am pointing out that with commitment, anything is possible.

First step?  Prioritize.  All of us have lots of things that we ‘should’ or feel we need to do, so what’s the easiest way to get started?  For some, the best starting point will be the thing that will have the greatest impact. For others, the first step will be the thing that seems least disruptive to their current routine.  This may sound silly but my first step was to get rid of my instant espresso machine that required little more than a push of a button first thing in the morning and switch to a french press with freshly ground delicious coffee.  Seriously, that was my first step toward taking care of myself when I made the commitment – what it translated to was that first thing in the morning I was taking 4 minutes to do something for myself, and that small act in and of itself made a big difference in my mindset during the early morning chaos that is our life.  For those old enough to remember, I refer to this as my “Calgon, take me away,” moment of the day.

If I could recommend the one thing that I felt would have the greatest impact on the large majority of clients, as well as friends, it would be sleep.  What would it mean to go to bed 1 hour earlier?  30 mins?  Next would be the quality of food choices, followed closely by physical activity.  Having said that, leading up to and in between the Big 3, there are the little steps, like making and enjoying a cup of freshly pressed coffee.