Overcoming Fear

Overcoming Fear
By Ben S. Fogel

Right now, this is a time in our lives we have never seen the likes of. We have never had to self-isolate and had this much fear as a society of what will happen next to us physically, psychologically, socially, or economically.

We honestly have so many unknowns out there, and with the addition of the media’s 24-hour news cycle on the Coronavirus, we should be pretty fearful, right? I don’t necessarily agree that we should. I am going to explain why fear could make you even more susceptible to lower immune function, therefore placing you at a potentially even higher risk for getting sick.

To explain this, we will cover two of the bodies main systems that keep us running strong – the Immune System and the Endocrine System (specifically the adrenal glands).

The immune system you can think of as a host defense system comprising many biological structures and processes within an organism that protects against disease. I know we have been hearing that many people that have been infected with this disease have already been “immunocompromised”, which basically means they already had an underlying immune system issue – which much of the time is a controllable health condition such as:

– Diabetes
– Obesity
– High Blood Pressure
– Sleep Apnea
– Cancer

Now, the last one on the list I want to talk about a little bit. As a Leukemia cancer survivor, I know this was not a “controllable health condition” that I had. I had no control over being diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. What I did have total control over was how I could respond to my condition and do everything in my power to strengthen my immune system while diagnosed and now in remission. An example of a “controllable” cancer would be lung cancer if you were a smoker for 30 years, then got lung cancer – we all know these types of cancers can be preventable.

Think of your immune system as being built for internal protection of the body. All of the things that protect your immunity, and that we have control of include, but are not limited to:

– The food we eat
– The exercise we get
– The sleep we get
– The stress our bodies are under

This last one is where it can get a little tricky, especially in times like these. This is where that second system can help, but can also hamper our ability to fight of infection and disease. This is the endocrine system, and more specifically the role of the adrenal glands. Think of the adrenal glands as our “fight or flight” system. We understand the importance of having this system in the body for when we actually sense an emergency and either need to fight or flee the situation (think of our ancestors running from the Sabretooth Tiger!).

But just think of this example for a moment. Let’s say you have a bacterial infection and your immune system is working overtime to fight the infection. But, at the same time, you are literally being chased by a Tiger! Yep, not the best timing here. What percent of your energy would you use to now fight the infection, and what percent of your energy would you use to run away from that darn Tiger?! I hope your answer is that at least 99% of your energy would go towards running from the Tiger.

This is a good thing, and this is what has kept our ancestors alive. But here is the part we should also consider. High levels of cortisol and stress hormones running through the body more than necessary (being afraid about this pandemic all of the time) is shutting down our immune system that is supposed to be maintaining the body’s protection.

Think now of what percent of “fight or flight” mode you are in right now? Were you the first one in line at the grocery store to get more toilet paper that you may not even need right now? Are you watching hours and hours a day of the news that may be stoking this fire of fear?

Check out the video where I go into even more detail of how to respond to these bouts of fear, and how to control the controllable in your life, and how to protect your immune system for the long haul.

Looking for some support from a community dedicated to your overall well-being and supporting you in all of the things you can currently control in your life? We would love to invite you to check out our LIVE Epic “At-Home” Coaching Program below, where you can give it a try for 21 days! 

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Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating

By Abbey Bronzati, BS, CPT

You eat every single day, but how often do you actually pay attention to what you are eating while you are eating it? Do you ever eat while watching TV? While reading a book? Do you usually eat while scrolling through Instagram? Can you scarf down a three-course meal in 12-minutes or less? It’s safe to say that we are all guilty of eating mindlessly some of the time.

Before we jump into the details of mindful eating let’s back up to the underlying concept of mindfulness. If you want more background information on mindfulness practices click here. To be mindful is to maintain a present-moment awareness by fully opening to what is happening in your present experience without judging or resisting it. Mindfulness allows us to cultivate a deep awareness and ability to relax more fully in the present moment. We tend to spend most of our headspace living in the future or the past; regretting a previous encounter, thinking about our task list, or what’s for dinner. Our minds can easily start to control our internal environment if we don’t take over the reins.

It is common for people to experience feelings of stress or anxiety surrounding food in one way or another. Culture and society often put pressure on both ends of the spectrum; if you don’t eat “well” enough it’s shameful, and if you don’t eat dessert at the dinner party you’re an obsessive prude. The stress response can also result in overeating, which can easily turn into a negative feedback loop of shame and stress. Taming your relationship with food can feel daunting and near impossible at times because it can seem hard to maintain control of. The act of eating is a basic instinct of survival and is deeply connected to our most primordial selves. Eating mindfully can help to ground our eating habits and reduce the stress response by redeeming, even elevating the more base qualities of our own nature.

Most of us believe that if we eat what we want, when we want it, we would eat dessert for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, the research tells us that when we eat mindfully that is not true. You have an innate desire to eat health-supportive foods that will nourish your body and support your wellbeing long term. Your body is on your team!

Think about what your eating habits were like as an infant. We all come into this world a mindful eater, only eating when hungry and stopping when full. The studies show that individuals who practice mindful eating have an increased preference for healthful foods and decreased preference for less health-supportive foods. Mindful eaters are also less likely to overeat as a response to negative emotions or stress. Taking control of your psychological relationship with food by becoming fully present to it as you eat is an accessible and powerfully healing practice that will change every aspect of your life for the better.

For a deeper dive into mindful eating as well as a short guided practice, grab something to eat and view the supplemental video below.

Mindful Eating

 

Are you ready for support with mindful eating, and also get into a regular exercise routine? You are in luck! We would love to invite you to check out our LIVE Epic “At-Home” Coaching Program below, where you can give it a try for 21 days! 

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Sources: “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by Dr. Martha Davis and Dr. Matthew McKay. Photos taken from Pinterest. The brilliantly zen mind of Thomas McConkie, founder at Lower Lights School of Wisdom.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

By Abbey Bronzati, BS, CPT

 

The number one sign of stress is muscle tension. This is because bracing is a major result of the fight-or-flight response, otherwise known as the stress response. Bracing prepares our body for action and protects our vital organs from damage. Unfortunately, people are often unaware of excess muscle tension until they have muscle pain, back pain, tension headaches, migraines, or physical dysfunction. When you practice progressive muscle relaxation (PMR), you focus on the sensations of tension in one particular muscle at a time. Then, you release the tension and focus on the sensations of relaxation in the same muscle group. It is generally well-liked as it can provide relief from muscle tension, symptoms of anxiety and fear, as well as increase focus and alertness.

Why Target Muscle Tension?

Maintained bracing and muscle contraction for long periods of time can result in inefficient energy expenditure, backaches, headaches, pain in the neck and shoulders, and other pains and illnesses. Muscle contraction is under voluntary control, meaning that we can consciously alter muscle tension as a means of interacting with the body’s nervous system. When we are able to consciously interact with the nervous system we are able to manipulate the stress and relaxation responses for a more peaceful life experience.

Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

While PMR targets muscle tension directly, the benefits go beyond the muscle. PMR has shown improvements in tension headaches, migraines, and backaches. It has also been shown to reduce the side effects of insomnia, pain, high blood pressure, cancer, and cancer treatment. Research has also shown that PMR can reduce anxiety and relieve mild to moderate levels of depression. Additionally, a benefit of practicing PMR is improved awareness of stress and levels of muscle tension. The more often you practice this technique, the better familiar you become with how the muscle feels when it is relaxed and when it is holding onto tension.

Practice

As you practice PMR you will learn to better identify tension. Pay attention to the contracted and relaxed muscle so that you start to recognize muscle tension. This will also help you to be mindful during your practice.

Progressive muscle relaxation is best performed in a distraction-free environment where you can be completely comfortable. Lying down is best, but PMR can be done in a seated position as well. Finally, maintain a passive attitude. Don’t force relaxation, which can result in frustration and even more muscle tension. Just allow the muscles to relax.

As you settle in, you may find that taking several deep breaths can help you to feel calm and get into the right headspace to start. When you are performing PMR, bring your attention to the specific muscle or muscle group. The rest of your body should be relaxed. As you begin to inhale, maximally tense the chosen muscle for 5 to 7 seconds and then relax for 20 to 30 seconds. These lengths of time are rules of thumb and you should experiment to find what works well for you. It’s important to notice how the muscle feels once relaxed in contrast to how it feels when it was tensed.

If the muscle is in pain or injured, avoid maximal contractions. You can also do a passive contraction where you bring your awareness to the muscle tension and just allow it to melt away. You can generally find relief from muscle tension with one contraction-relaxation cycle, but performing more cycles can be beneficial. A common and relaxing system involves a 3 cycle progression of maximal contraction, 50% contraction, followed by 5% contraction. When you hold maximal contraction your muscles are likely to shake, and some discomfort is normal, but it should never be painful.

See the short video above for a guided full body progressive muscle relaxation as well as other ideas and tips for a deeper relaxation response.

Are you ready to not only relax, but also get into a regular exercise routine now that you are stuck at home, with no gym to go to? You are in luck! We would love to invite you to check out our LIVE Epic “At-Home” Coaching Program below, where you can give it a try for 21 days with ZERO risk!  

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Sources: Guided technique from “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by Dr. Martha Davis and Dr. Matthew McKay. Photos taken from Pinterest.

Stress Management & Relaxation Techniques

By Abbey Bronzati, BS, CPT

Intro to Relaxation Practice

5-minute Gratitude Practice to Relax & Reboot Your Brain

Why is it important to talk about relaxation?

We talk regularly about various ways to prevent or minimize stress in our lives. If we were perfect at managing our thoughts, time, exercise, finances, sleep, emotions and mother nature, we would always be capable of keeping our stress and anxiety at bay. However, we’re not perfect at these things, and many of them are often out of our control completely. We live in a hectic, fast-paced, go-go-go world, global pandemic or not. Due to the inevitability of experiencing stress,  especially during uncertain times such as now, it’s important to have techniques to turn off, or at least tone down, the stress response.

Let’s talk about the word “relaxation.” People often misunderstand or misuse this word. Relaxation is defined as “the state of being free from tension and anxiety.” It’s the restoration of equilibrium following a disturbance.

The relaxation response is the exact opposite of the stress response (AKA fight-or-flight response). There’s a lot of physiology surrounding the stress and relaxation responses I could talk about here that I’ll spare you the details. If you’re interested in learning more about the physiology of what’s going on inside the mind-body connection response to stress and relaxation connect with me and I would be happy to do another post or video.

The relaxation response facilitates an increase in alpha brain waves, which allow us to focus, and, contrary to popular belief, there is actually an increase in physical and mental energy. This is always beneficial to our lives, but especially right now.

4 basic sources of stress

Generally, there are 4 basic sources of stress from which we might currently be experiencing at a heightened level. These sources are taken from “The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” by Dr. Martha Davis and Dr. Matthew McKay. This is an excellent workbook I highly recommend having as a resource for anyone interested.

  1. Your environment bombards you with demands to adjust. You’re required to endure weather, traffic, noise, a global pandemic or other natural disaster.
  2. You must cope with social stressors such as demands for your time and attention, job interviews, deadlines and competing priorities, work presentations, interpersonal conflicts, financial problems, and the loss of loved ones.
  3. A third source of stress is physiological. The rapid growth of adolescence; the changes menopause causes in women; lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and inadequate sleep; illness, injuries, and aging. All these things tax the body! Your physiological reaction to environmental and social threats and changes can also result in stressful symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, an upset stomach, anxiety, and depression.
  4. The fourth source of stress is your thoughts. Your brain interprets these complex changes in your environment and body and determines when to turn on the stress response. How you interpret and label your present experience as well as what you predict for your future can serve either to relax you or stress you out more. For example, interpreting a sour look from your boss to mean that you are doing a poor job is likely to be very anxiety-provoking. Interpreting the same look as tiredness or preoccupation with personal problems will not be as frightening. Remember that how you think is how you feel.

Where does stress begin?

Stress researchers argue that stress begins with your appraisal of a situation, meaning that first you ask yourself how dangerous or difficult the situation is. Then, you assess what resources you perceive to have to help you cope with it. More anxious, stressed people tend to decide that (1) an event is dangerous, difficult, or painful, and (2) they don’t have the resources to cope.

Now that we have a better understanding of why and how the stress response is triggered for us, let’s dive deeper into the resources available to create a true relaxation response both mentally and physically.

Over the coming weeks we will review different relaxation techniques and how to practice them whenever and wherever you are. Please know that as you practice your relaxation techniques, you’ll become familiar with how it feels to be truly and deeply relaxed.

Right now, if I were to ask you what you do to relax, you might say that you watch TV, daydream, read a book, apply a face mask, or any other list of activities that are enjoyable and don’t elicit a stress response. However, this is not relaxation. While most of these activities are distractions, they don’t directly target the parts of our nervous system that trigger a relaxation response.

Relaxation is more than just doing something you enjoy, even though as you learn different techniques, you will learn to enjoy them.

Considerations for starting relaxation practice

  • A good place to start is to practice in short increments of 10-20 minutes per day.
  • It’s best to seclude yourself to minimize interruptions and background noise. Anything that you can do to minimize distractions will help you stay in the moment and focus on the activity. That said, relaxation practice is a skillful and valuable technique for kids from age 1 to 92. I hope you will consider sharing the various techniques you’ll be testing out with your loved ones at home. I know you will notice a difference in the lives and relationships around you.
  • Whatever relaxation technique you are testing out, it’s important to keep an open mind. Strip yourself of any expectations and allow the experience to happen. If you don’t think it’s going to work, it probably won’t. If you think it will work, it likely will.
  • Please know that every technique we’re going to talk about has been proven to elicit a relaxation response. Some of the techniques can seem odd to some people, but if you keep an open mind and allow for the possibility that these practices will help you relax, I promise you will find that there is great power in these activities.
  • Your attitude plays an important role in maintaining a high degree of mindfulness. This means that you’re engaged in the moment without judging it to be good or bad. Rather than forcing an experience, you’re just allowing it to happen. In other words, you have a passive attitude. Allow and accept. Don’t get frustrated with yourself or the experience.
  • Not everyone will have the same experience with relaxation practice. Take time to experiment and find what works best for you. For example, different times of day might work for different people. You may find that you get the best relaxation response in the morning so you can calm your mind and get yourself focused for the rest of your day. You might find that the afternoon works better as you start to feel tired and run-down. You may even find it’s best when you’re already in bed to help you fall asleep and get deeper, higher quality rest. Like I said, take time to experiment and find what works best for you.

The goal of stress management and relaxation practice is not merely stress reduction. After all, life would be pretty boring without stress. There is a common tendency to think of stressors or stressful events as negative, but stressors are often positive. The physical exertion of a good workout or the challenge of doing something new for the first time are great examples of good stress.

Performance and efficiency both improve with increased stress as long as the stress level doesn’t become too great. Stress management involves finding the right types and amounts of stress, given your individual tendencies, priorities, personality, and situation, so that you can maximize your performance and enrich your life experience. You can learn how to cope with stress more effectively while including more positive stress, challenge, excitement, and pleasure to your life.

Are you ready to not only relax, but also get into a regular exercise routine now that you are stuck at home, with no gym to go to? You are in luck! We would love to invite you to check out our LIVE Epic “At-Home” Coaching Program below, where you can give it a try for 21 days with ZERO risk!  

Learn More about the Epic 21 Day Experience!

 

 

 

Create a pain free Plank!

What’s up, Epic Fitness Rockstars! Ben here at Epic Fitness, and today I wanted to go over not only how to progress just a basic plank into a “harder” plank by using TENSION, but also how to make sure you are doing them perfect and without any back pain.

We love to use the cue “from the toes to the nose” when we teach planks, making sure the body is braced all the way through, not just the abs only. So give this a try next time you hold a plank:

Step #1 – SQUEEZE your heels together (ensures feet are together and connected).

Step #2 – SQUEEZE your knees together – (ensures your hips and butt are working too!)

Step #3 – SQUEEZE and pull your elbows towards your ribs! This is what we call a “hardstyle” plank, and we love to use this variation because it teaches how you can control TENSION to make an exercise harder, without having to just hold a plank for longer!

Looking for a customized experience where you can learn how to do movements like this one correctly, and where you will always have someone watching and coaching you?!  We are opening up our “21 Day Epic Experience” to just 7 more motivated individuals!  Apply below, and see what kind of a difference you can make in 21 short days!

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Create a pain free Push-Up!

What’s up Epic Fitness Rockstars, Ben here! I just wanted to take a quick 3 minutes to give you 2 great tips for fixing your push-ups! What we see more often than not is the “elbow flare” – or where your elbows drive outward and not towards the body which can cause shoulder and neck pain. We also see this create a poor position of the head and neck, so this video addresses those 2 common faults.

Here are the 2 fixes you can give a try today to make your push-up awesome:

Fix #1 – Use small plates to put your thumbs on. What this actually does is forces you to use your hands more and to drive your thumbs and fingers into the ground more! This will in-turn keep your elbows more “tucked in” and in a strong position to perform a push-up!

Fix #2 – Have a focal point in front of your head 1-2 feet to create a little extension in your neck so your head and neck don’t lead during your push-up. What this will do is keep your neck in alignment with the rest of your spine and create great integrity through your entire back during a push-up!

Watch this very short video and give these 2 tips a try next time you perform your push- ups, and let us know how they go!

 

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Create a pain free Deadlift!

What’s up, Epic Fitness Rockstars!!  Ben here over at Epic Fitness. I wanted to share 3 tips to perfect your deadlift, and how to not hurt your back from a deadlift again!

This is something that our entire team is super passionate about – we know the reason you workout is to get stronger in this game of life, and to avoid injury, and the deadlift is probably one of the “biggest bang for your buck” exercises that will help keep your back healthy and strong!

Here are the 3 tips we use at the gym to make your technique feel great when you deadlift!

TIP #1 – Elevate your toes – This small change can make a big impact in finding those “hamstrings” and muscles you want to find when you first start to deadlift. Also, elevating your toes will also give you great feedback to push your hips “back” and not just “down” like a squat.

TIP #2 – Use a dowel to find a neutral spine – The dowel will give you instant feedback on if you are keeping a neutral spine and to keep from flexing your back. The goal is to keep the dowel on your butt, upper back and head during the entire movement.

TIP #3 – Use a Sandbag and load your deadlift in front of your body to start. This really makes you focus on bracing, keeping a great spine position, and pushing your hips back to create a “maximal hip bend, minimal knee bend” position that is so important to create before trying to lift heavy weights!

Check out the short video below and give these 3 tips a try, and let us know which one works best for you!

 

Tenille U. Shares her Epic Transformation!

Epic Fitness Rockstar, Tenille U. recently completed our last 8 week challenge and we wanted to share her amazing journey! Tenille was able to really connect with her body and her mind during this challenge.  Besides being able to zip up her jeans and Drop 2 Sizes, Tenille also describes the power of having community support and people that are there and who are just like you!

Here is some of what Tenille shared with us:

“I have enjoyed the journey over the past eight weeks and it has helped me feel more connected to my body and mind.  Reconnecting with myself through the love letter we wrote and also with my community (Epic teammates).  I enjoyed hearing others share their experiences along their journeys.  Watching and listening to us talk about our jeans at try on day was also eye-opening.


I felt great being able to zip up my own jeans and also felt such excitement for my fellow teammates.  Seeing them working so hard and achieving their own goals was awesome!  This journey felt much more emotional than I thought it would be.  I really noticed a change in my moods with the different foods I was putting into my body.  I feel I didn’t take the time before to realize and write down all my emotions.  I started journaling again after our Destress Techniques class and it’s helped me to notice all my mood swings and how much I needed to focus more on destressing for myself and my family.

Kindness is simply helping some feel less alone and the kindness Madison and my fellow teammates have shown has been priceless.  I have read a few quotes on this journey that have really stuck with me:

“if you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”

“Many have an image of me, few get the picture.”

“The vibes you put out into the world is a reflection of who you are inside.  Make them kind.  Make them loving.  Make them bright and filled with rainbows.”

“If you quit now, you’ll end up right back where you first began.  And when you first began, you were desperate to be where you are right now.  Keep going!!”

Thank you to the Epic Team for all of the love and dedication to us getting 1% better every day!”

With New Years right around the corner, we wanted to give you a special offer for 2020! Are you are ready to make consistent changes in your life both mentally and physically and do you want the opportunity to start with us and get 1/2 off for the month of January, 2020?!
If so, click below to learn more about our upcoming “New Year New You” Challenge! It is a 42 day fully immersive experience that will challenge you to become your best self for 2020! We only have 6 spaces left for this EPIC DEAL!!

Tasha G. Shares her Epic Transformation!

Epic Fitness Rockstar Member, Tasha G. recently completed our last 8 week challenge and we wanted to share her amazing journey! Tasha’s journey was as much mental and emotional as it was physical. She realized in the first week how much weighing herself every day was mentally holding her back from long term, sustainable results. Once she turned in her scale to us, she found it to be one of the most freeing things she could do to get her mind right!

Here is some of what Tasha shared with us:

“I learned that the scale did not determine my weight loss journey.  I was completely focused on what the scale number was and not on how I was feeling.  I was allowing the numbers on the scale to determine how I was feeling for the rest of my day.  I can’t begin to tell you how freeing it was to turn in my scale.  After turning in my scale, I started to focus more on my food and my program.  I then started to notice my clothes were getting looser and my body started to get stronger.  I started to realize that the numbers on the scale didn’t define who I am.


Another huge turning point for me in this challenge was when we had to write a positive letter to ourselves. Whoa, what a huge eye-opening experience that was!  I didn’t realize how negative I was being to myself.  Once I started replacing my negative thoughts with some of my positive thoughts from my letter everything started to shift for me.  I was able to catch myself from saying and thinking negative things about myself.  I started to believe in myself again!”

Tasha is a perfect example of taking something as simple as the scale out of the equation for measuring progress, and instead using how she feels and how her clothes fit as a true indicator of success!

Are you are ready to make consistent changes in your life both mentally and physically and do you want the opportunity to train for FREE in 2019, and 1/2 off for the month of January, 2020??

If so, click below to learn more about our upcoming “New Year New You” Challenge! It is a 42 day fully immersive experience that will challenge you to become your best self for 2020! We only have 10 spaces left for this EPIC DEAL!!

Whitney T. Shares her Physical and Mental Transformation!

Epic Fitness Rockstar Member, Whitney T. recently completed our last 8 week challenge and we wanted to share her amazing journey! Not only is Whitney one of our most consistent members physically (she also hit 100 workouts in the last 6 months!) she also found that in order to get sustainable results she had to dig deep mentally as well.
Here is Whitney’s story:
“Wow!  What a journey!  The last 8 weeks were great, and I feel like I could’ve accomplished more – but I am proud of what I accomplished.  I feel that it kicked me into a mental and physical state that I have not been in in a while. The last 8 weeks have made me more accountable with my food choices.  I feel like because I had a goal in mind it was easy to stay on track.  Although that may be the case, I feel like it helped me create good habits and kick bad habits.I feel like it helped me create a habit of consistency in the gym.  Because of that consistency it led me to see results, which made me want to keep going harder.Of course, the physical changes and nutritional accountability was helpful, but over the last 8 weeks I have been able to mentally dig deeper.  Sometimes there are so many mental barriers that stop me from being my best self and I have learned the importance of de-stressing and being nicer to myself. All of this combined are habits that will help me going forward on my transformation journey to being a better me!”
We are so grateful to have members like Whitney who share such amazing stories! Ready to make 2020 your year of sustainable change?! We would love to be in your corner!

Click below to learn more about our 6th annual “New Year New You” program starting on January 25th, 2020!  Space is limited (we only have 10 spaces available, and they will sell out before January 1st!) and you can learn more about the program below.  

New Year New You 2020!