Are You Bored From Success?

By: Ben S. Fogel

Are You Bored From Success?

Being in the fitness industry now for 15 years and seeing hundreds, if not thousands, of fitness “trends” and health “hacks” come and go, I am going to make a bold statement and say the greatest threat to your success in health and wellness is not failure, but boredom.

Boredom from Success

Boredom from those workouts your coaches keep putting you through – push, pull, hinge, squat, carry and all of the things we know work.  You keep asking “Isn’t there something more sexy than this?”

Boredom from that nutritional plan that actually WORKED.  Eating protein, vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy sources of fats.  You aren’t sure if it will work long term, so you want to try something else.

Here is my theory – We get bored from these habits because they literally stop delighting us.  The outcome becomes more expected while our habits become ordinary and mundane.  We lose the weight, we get our jeans to fit, and we reach our goals but then we start derailing our progress by seeking novelty.

Novelty may be the biggest hinderance to achieving long-term, sustainable results.  It is also known as “shiny new object” syndrome, and it is literally killing our progress.  Perhaps this is why we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, or one diet to the next.

As soon as we experience the slightest dip in motivation, we begin seeking a new strategy, even if the old one was working!  As the old Italian Philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli noted:

“Men desire novelty to such an extent that those who are doing well wish for a change as much as those who are doing badly.”

 Companies are turning these “novel” ideas into multimillion-dollar ideas.  I never knew that our muscles needed to be “confused” until Beach Body came out with P-90X!  Who would have known that the Paleo diet was going to be all the craze in the 21st century – like eating animal protein, fat and vegetables was some new nutritional strategy – when it was really popularized with our ancestors thousands of years ago!

What is the best solution to the problem we find ourselves facing then?  How do we get rid of all the clutter around us, all of these new “novel” ideas that are being thrown down our throats by the marketing machines of the 21st century?  Honestly, I don’t think I have a solution to this. We are going to be constantly bombarded by crazy ideas that so-called “professionals” throw out there every day, just to try and make a buck.

The best advice I can give you is to form your own wellness principles based on ordinary habits that you can actually do 80-90% of the time.  These principles will act more like your “north star” directing you towards long term, sustainable health and wellness practices – and when practiced daily can lead to some pretty dramatic results over the long term!

To come up with these principles, I would suggest asking yourself the following question as you come up with your own unique principles:

Will I be able to replicate this principle daily in my life and make it a sustainable habit over the long term?

 If the answer to this question is “Yes”, then you are well on your way to building some pretty amazing principles to guide your daily habits.  Strength Coach Dan John likes to call these principles “Pirate Maps.”  A pirate map would look like this:

 “Fly to St. Johns Island.  Drive 2.5 miles south until you see a large coconut tree.  Walk 7 paces east of the tree and start digging.”

Think of a pirate map as all of the daily repeatable habits that you can do to get you closer and closer to your own defined goal or finding your “buried treasure.”  Some ideas of principles that you can add to your own “pirate map” may include:

  • A sleep hygiene strategy – something you can repeat each night to get yourself ready for the next day (like having a “to-do” list!)
  • Carving out time in your day for taking care of your own health and fitness
  • Committing to eating certain food groups (like more vegetables)
  • Having time built into your day for mindfulness

It really depends on where you are at in your journey, but what we suggest are habits that you can also “stack” onto other things you are already doing.  For example, since you are already brushing your teeth at night, why not place your time of being mindful (meditation, writing your gratitude for the day in a journal, etc.) and stack it with that habit that you are already performing.  This will help the new habit “stick” and become a daily part of your routine.

Remember, the hardest thing that will happen once you start to apply many of these new habits is you will get bored.  You will want to try something “new and shiny.”  DON’T DO IT!  Stick with your plan, stick with the pirate map that you have created, and before you know it you will be achieving things in your life that you once never thought possible! 

**PRO TIP**  Here is a little secret about habits sticking.  They will ONLY stick if they become repetitive, have a stable context, and elicit positive emotions.  As James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits” has said the 3 things that help habits stick are:

1) Repetition.  Habits form based on frequency, not time.

2) Stable context.  If the context is always changing, so is the behavior. You need a reliable environment.

3) Positive emotions.  If it feels good, you’ll want to repeat it.

Looking for some expert help on how to make each of these things a true, sustainable habit?  We are here to help!  Check out our 21 Day Epic Challenge below to get started to take control of your body and mind.

Learn More about the Epic 21 Day Challenge!

The “Secret” To Motivation

 

Today, we wanted to share a little message about motivation. Yes, right now getting motivated for just about anything can be SO hard. But that is even more of a reason to get fired up, and “control the controllables!” – Your mindset.

Here are a couple tips on motivation:

To make a new habit or behavior stick – Make it SO EASY that you can’t get it wrong (like the story I tell in the video above), but not so hard that you can’t get it right.

I know so many people that have the “all or nothing” mindset, but motivation will start to dwindle, and you are left with the nothing part, and back to your old ways.  Remember, willpower is not unlimited.  There are ways, however to keep motivation and willpower at a high level – especially during times like these.

So here is the quick formula to help with motivation:

CONSISTENCY + DISCIPLINE + DESIRE = RESULTS!

Consistency –  It is important to mention that what you do consistently matters.  It is also important that it is performed in the same context (done the same time each and every day).

Discipline  – Make sure the thing you want to do is repeatable.  Remember, Make the thing you want to do consistently SO EASY that you can’t get it wrong, but not so hard that you can’t get it right!

Desire – Make sure the thing you are doing elicits a very positive emotional response from you, and you actually have the desire to follow through with yourself! Otherwise, you won’t want to do it everyday.

This formula has worked for me for over 20 years of competing at the highest level of competitive athletics, to owning a business now for over 12 years.  It is these 3 things that constitute and make up our daily habits, and it is our daily habits that decide our future.  I LOVE this quote:

“People do not decide their future.  They decide their habits.  And it’s their habits that decide their future.”   – F.M. Alexander

Now, ask yourself – What is the ONE change you can make in your life that will draw you 1% closer to your goals!?

Ready for a jumpstart to your motivation?  We have the perfect solution for you!  Our 21 Day Epic Challenge starts up on Saturday, August 1st and we only have 5 spots available!  Also, if you sign up before July 31st, we will extend your dates thru August 31st to work with us (an additional 10 days on us!)  Check out more information below and to reserve your spot.  The next month could change your habits, and change your future for good!

Learn More about the Epic 21 Day Challenge!

Pandemic of Obesity

Pandemic of Obesity – The Facts

We are currently living through a Pandemic.  Yes, that is nothing new.  The last 6 months have radically changed our lives, and we have had to start rethinking how we navigate our lives and lifestyles during times like these. 
But today, I want to talk about another Pandemic – the Pandemic of Obesity.  You see, since 1962 Obesity has been increasing each and every year.  It has continued to push forward for more than 50 years, and not much has been done to slow down this medical disease.  Yes, I called Obesity pure and simply a “Medical Disease” because that is what it is.  This is a medical problem, and as a society we should start looking at it as such.  

We should also stop stigmatizing Obesity.  Stigmatizing the individuals that are suffering from this medical disease is unacceptable, and only discriminates against those that are overweight and obese.  Studies already suggest that those who are obese have a much lower quality of healthcare than those not obese.  This type of discrimination needs to stop, and it will only stop if we start to give the best healthcare (preventative and otherwise) to all individuals suffering from Obesity and Obesity related diseases (which we will be going over in great detail below). 

People are not born Obese, and one day don’t just wake up and “decide” to be Obese.  It is true – there is a combination of factors that come into play when you look at the high prevalence of Obesity – from the combined interaction between physical, social, and environmental factors.  All of these factors play a huge role.  I won’t be getting too much into that in this post, but more into how being Obese places you at such a greater risk of being hospitalized from COVID -19. 

First, let’s define Obesity how the CDC does in the United States.  Obesity refers to an individual with a BMI (Body Mass Index) greater than 30 (Calculate your BMI here). Although this is not the most accurate way to say whether or not a person is truly obese (this only factors in height and weight, and not body composition) it is one of the most reliable ways to track Obesity in our country. 

Below is some of the latest data about the Obesity Pandemic from 2017-18 and shows the following percentage of Americans that are Obese, Overweight (BMI between 25 – 29.9) or normal weight (BMI of 18.5 – 24.9):

Obese: 42.4%

Overweight: 32.5%

Normal weight: 25%

This data is truly staggering!  Only ¼ of the US population is within a “normal” weight.  The other 75% of us, or ¾ of the population is considered overweight or obese.  Does anyone else besides me get a little sick to your stomach seeing this data? 

Even worse, from from 1999–2000 through 2017–2018, the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4%, and the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2% (Severe Obesity is a BMI of over 40).

You are probably wondering what percentage of the population is Obese based on their age.  Here you go:

20-39 years old: 40% Obese

40-59 years old: 44.8% Obese

60+ years old: 43% Obese

More information on the most recent data of the current Obesity Pandemic can be found here.  All of this data comes from the CDC, and the latest data is from 2017-18.  I am only going to guess that these numbers have risen over the past 2-3 years.  

We continue to see the numbers rise, but we are not doing enough as a society about it. 

But now, we may be forced to.  Coronavirus is taking its toll on the 42.4% of Obese Americans as we speak, and it is so sad to see what is happening right now.  I have spent the last 15 years of my life trying to come up with the “cure” for Obesity.  Reasonable exercise, reasonable nutrition (eating many colors of the rainbow), stress reduction techniques, etc.  But this is clearly not enough. 

We already know Obesity related illnesses include:

Heart Disease, Stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.  But now, we can put Coronavirus on as an Obesity related illness. 

Here are the facts.  People who are obese are at a MUCH GREATER risk of more severe symptoms and ending up in the hospital on a ventilator, even if they are younger. 

Many studies are showing that people that developed critical COVID and died had a higher average BMI than people developing a more mild disease

Now, if we could take one thing away from all of this data, it is this:  Out of data taken from 3.9 MILLION people (From the COVID Symptom Tracker) which included height, weight, medical condition and daily health report, people who are obese are 20% more likely to be hospitalized with COVID symptoms.  That is 1 out of every 5 people who are Obese in our country are ending up in the hospital (and are more likely to need respirator support/ventilation). 

What all of this data is telling me is that we, as a society, need to start a movement to improve global immunity.  Where do we start, though?  Here are my recommendations for Obese individuals during this Pandemic:

  1. Socially Distance and wear a mask (many of us are still not doing these 2 basic things)
  2. Follow all Hygiene guidelines (handwashing for at least 20 seconds, keep hands out of your face, etc.)
  3. Eat Nutrient Dense foods (think of eating the least you can get out of a box or a bag, and as much as you can get from the produce Isle, as well as fresh foods that need to be refrigerated).
  4. Consider Vitamin D. Most people who are Obese have a Vitamin D Deficiency.
  5. Regular Physical Exercise (Do something every day that is repeatable).
  6. Consider your mental health. Positive mental attitude transfers over to every area of your life. 

If we just start with those 6 things, TODAY, we can become a much healthier society.  But, alas, here is the problem, you are going to say to me, “6 things!  I can’t do all of these things all at once!”

I understand.  So, what I recommend is the first 2 are non-negotiable.  Then, from items 3-6 pick the ONE thing that you are 90% confident you could do for the next 7 days IN A ROW!  The secret about habits sticking is they will ONLY stick if they become repetitive.  As James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits” has said the 3 things that help habits stick are:

1) Repetition.  Habits form based on frequency, not time.

2) Stable context.  If the context is always changing, so is the behavior. You need a reliable environment.

3) Positive emotions.  If it feels good, you’ll want to repeat it.

What ONE thing will you start doing TOMORROW to back your future a much, much better one?

Would you like some expert help on how to make each of these things a true, sustainable habit?  We are here to help!  Check out our 21 Day VIP experience below to get started to take control of your body and mind.

Learn More about the Epic 21 Day Challenge!

Yours in Health and Strength,
Ben S. Fogel

 

Age Is Just A Number

Age Is Just A Number

During this global pandemic, we have all witnessed the overwhelming tragedy and death across our country.  Reaching the grim milestone of over 120,000 deaths in the US has been a very hard pill to swallow for all of us that feel like we are in the business of helping people become the healthiest version of themselves and fight diseases like this.

We at Epic Fitness are literally on the front lines of being able to help make lasting change for people and their health right now.

But we aren’t doing very well her in America, and the numbers are showing it.  A disproportionate number of Americans are losing their battle to this virus that are over the age of 60 and also have co-morbidities (the presence of two or more chronic diseases or conditions).  High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Heart Disease – while most of these conditions are preventable with diet and exercise intervention, we are at a place right now where the average American is not getting enough exercise and are not eating food that is nutritious and nourishing for the body.

The latest statistics show that over 40%  of Americans over the age of 51 are considered overweight or obese.  This is a staggering number that we all need to take seriously right now.

We have been getting a lot of recommendations lately with the Coronavirus pandemic based on our age range.  Some experts are saying that if we merely fall into a certain age range, then we should consider changing our lives and lifestyles for the foreseeable future.  All that this takes into consideration is ONE thing – the year you were born – that’s it!  I have to disagree with this assessment.  I honestly feel that our chronological age alone isn’t the only marker on how this virus is affecting us – I feel our physiological age (also called “biological age”) has 100% to do with how this virus is affecting us, and whether or not you are at a higher risk of getting sick, and even worse, dying from this virus.

(Can you guess how many Epic Rockstars in this photo are over the age of 50??)

First, let us clearly define what “Physiological Age” is.  Physiological age can be broken down into three categories:

  1. Physical Health
  2. Emotional Health
  3. Mental Health

Before we break down these 3 categories, I want to share some of the research on physiological aging (this will get a little “sciency” but it’s important to understand as well).

How Physiological Age is Determined 

Research suggests that telomeres and DNA methylation play big parts in the aging process.  Telomeres are the nucleotides on the ends of chromosomes.  They keep the ends of chromosomes from deteriorating and fusing with a nearby chromosome.  An easier way to think of it is like this – at each end of a chromosome is a telomere which you could compare to the plastic tips at the end of a shoelace.  Telomeres are important because they prevent chromosomes from unraveling.  Essentially, telomeres dictate how quickly cells age and die.[1] 

Scientists have discovered that the higher a person’s chronological age, the shorter their telomeres.  One study found that people with shorter telomeres were more likely to have an early death or develop a disease or neurodegenerative disorder.  [2] But Another study suggests that maintaining a healthy lifestyle can actually reverse aging by lengthening telomeres! This is good news for us as health and fitness professionals to continue to preach and teach living healthy lifestyles.

Three Ways to Improve Your Physiological Age

  1. Physical Health – Everything from exercise, nutrition and sleep habits play a critical role in your overall physical health. If you have gone in for a routine physical, the question of “How often do you exercise?” comes up now because doctors are very aware of how this one factor can positively affect your life.

We work with many clients in their 60’s and even 70’s, and most new members can never guess their age, or when they find out how old the person “really is” they are amazed!  We know the reason is because of how well these individuals take care of their bodies physically day in and day out.  Physical health is made up of daily habits that take time and need to be mastered. 

  1. Emotional Health – Emotional healthis your ability to accept and manage feelings through challenge and change.   Someone who is emotionally healthy can allow their emotions to be digestible.  The mundane hassles of daily life offers opportunities to practice positive responses, rather than negative reactions, to allow emotional health to flourish.

Think of the last time something didn’t happen the way you would have liked it to in your life.  How did you respond?  Did you react negatively, allowing that stress response to take over your entire day?  Could you instead merely start to practice a better response when these things invariably come up? (Try this 5 minute meditation practice here!)  Think of what happens to your body every time it has a stress response.  Your body gets flooded with cortisol, a stress hormone that limits the body’s ability to recover and heal quickly.  This “fight or flight” response should occur more rarely in our lives, and when we really need it – like when we are truly in danger and need to “fight or flight.”

  1. Mental Health – The Journal of World Psychiatry has given a great definition for mental health here:

“Mental health is a dynamic state of internal equilibrium which enables individuals to use their abilities in harmony with universal values of society. Basic cognitive and social skills; ability to recognize, express and modulate one’s own emotions, as well as empathize with others; flexibility and ability to cope with adverse life events and function in social roles; and harmonious relationship between body and mind represent important components of mental health which contribute, to varying degrees, to the state of internal equilibrium.” [3]

This definition was given back in 2015 and couldn’t be truer for the world that we live in today.  What is meant in the definition by the expression “universal values” is deemed necessary, in the light of the misleading use of this expression in certain political and social circumstances.  The values we are referring to are respect and care for oneself and other living beings; recognition of connectedness between people; respect for the environment; respect for one’s own and others’ freedom.

Here is the truth – people in good mental health are still often sad, unwell, angry or unhappy – and this is all part of a fully lived life for a human being.  But in spite of this, mental health has been conceived as a purely positive affect, marked by feelings of mainly happiness.  Once we accept that negative emotions are normal in life, and that these emotions actually contribute positively to our mental health, we will be able to have a more positive relationship with ourselves and with those around us.

Like the quote on mental health states above – what we are truly looking for is a state of “internal equilibrium.”  Finding a state of internal equilibrium in our physical, emotional and mental health is what can contribute most to decreasing our physiological age.  Doing “little and often over the long haul” is what will always prepare us for these moments of challenge in our lives.

The Good News!

We are all dealing with this “new normal” together.  We also have many ways to take our health into our own hands and quite literally change our own physiology to become stronger, more resilient and healthier.  I truly feel this pandemic will make a massive change in the way we all as humans look at our health and wellness.  It will get us to realize we DO have a say in how we feel, look and act.  WE ARE IN CHARGE of these things, and all we have to do now is make the decision that we are going to make a change for the better.

I challenge you to look at one of these areas of your life to start – physical, emotional and mental – and choose one thing you will start with TODAY to make a 1% improvement in that area.  For example, if you want to make a 1% improvement on your physical health maybe that means you will walk 3 nights a week, after dinner, around the block.

Remember, we are all in this together.  Don’t let your (chronological) age be a factor that gets in the way of how you can and will live your life!  After all, age is just a number.

Ready to take your health back into your own hands?  We are here to help!  Check out our 21 Day VIP experience below to get started to take control of your Physiological age again.

Learn More about the Epic 21 Day Challenge!

References:

  1. Shammas MA.Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and agingCurr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011;14(1):28-34. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e32834121b1
  2. Anitha A, Thanseem I, Vasu MM, Viswambharan V, Poovathinal SA.Telomeres in neurological disordersAdv Clin Chem. 2019;90:81-132. doi:10.1016/bs.acc.2019.01.003
  3. World Psychiatry. 2015 Jun; 14(2): 231–233.Published online 2015 Jun 4. doi: 1002/wps.20231

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! 

Learn More about the Epic 21 Day Challenge!

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! 

Learn More about the Epic 21 Day Challenge!

 

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 Challenge!

 

 

 

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!

 

Are you ready to get the support and coaching to ensure you are doing things correctly inside the gym?  Our “Epic 21 Day VIP Experience” is the perfect solution for you!  Click below to reserve your spot for our next session, as we only have 10 spots remaining!!

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