5 Ways Our Bodies Are Connected to The Earth

Funny thing…an uptick in arguments with my husband every Fall led me to wonder if tension was high just because of football season (sad but true) or if there was more to the story. I did a little digging and learned that our hormones are connected to seasonal changes in surprising ways. I also discovered multiple more ways that our bodies are connected to the earth and how we can improve wellness by forming a relationship with Mother Nature herself.

 

 

Seasonal Hormonal Changes

Apparently, like many mammals, we humans have what some scientists call a “mating season.” August and September hold the highest birth rates of any months in the calendar year, meaning that nine months earlier…people are getting busy. That puts November and December as the months with the highest rates of conception. Some evolutionary theorists believe this is because our bodies are fine-tuned to have babies in months where their survival is best…aka, not in the freezing cold temperatures of our prehistoric cave homes.

This “peak” fertility is thanks to a rise in testosterone in the autumn months. And it’s not just men who experience this (just in time for football season, I add with an eye roll), it’s also a phenomenon in women. While I can’t say that the fertility theory has proven true in my life (both my babies started baking in the spring), I will say that I’ve always wondered how and why my clients always seem to have the most energy for their workouts in the Fall months. I guess now I know why…

 

 

Green Space & Mental Health

There’s a theory in psychology called the hedonic treadmill. The theory assumes that each individual is prone to a certain baseline of happiness, to which they routinely return despite positive and negative changes and life circumstances. This theory has been debunked by one study evaluating people’s overall mental health when relocating to spaces with more nature and green space.

Even after accounting for income, employment, education, and more, the study shows that “people in greener areas showed markedly better mental health scores compared to the two years prior to moving. This is a metric that not only includes stress levels and the ability to concentrate, but also the ability to make good decisions, a person’s level of confidence, overall happiness and other factors.”

I can personally say that I feel more zen with some green around me, for sure. But I don’t think you have to move to the country to accomplish this (if you were born to be a city person). Urban green spaces may have the potential to help combat depression and anxiety.

 

 

The Sun Connection

We’ve long heard of the benefits of sun exposure for our vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is crucial for bone health and appears to play a role in preventing Type 1 & Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), cardiovascular disease, and more (people living at higher latitudes with less sun exposure have greater incidences of these conditions). Many of us have even heard about how sunlight helps us regulate wake/sleep cycles, especially when we get sunlight in the morning and, as a result, our melatonin production kicks in earlier in the evening to help us with sleep. But there are even more benefits of the sun… (!!!)

Sunshine may help autoimmune diseases thanks to immunosuppressive effects following exposure. It also helps limit oxidative DNA damage while increasing gene repair. As if that’s not fascinating enough, get this –  UV Radiation can increase blood levels of natural opiates (aka. endorphins, those feel-good hormones)! Pretty compelling evidence to find a balance between protecting oneself from sun damage and getting enough exposure to it!

 

 

Brain Waves & Nature Sounds

There are many scientists who believe that our brain wave patterns evolved in response to the natural world’s frequencies and electromagnetic fields. In many studies, brain waves respond positively to nature sounds (ex: a babbling brook, ocean waves, rain fall, etc.), demonstrating an increase in waves associated with rest and digestion. In one particular study, researchers found that natural sounds elicited an “outward-directed focus of attention” for people’s brains whereas artificial sounds caused an “inward-directed focus of attention,” similar to a rise of in anxiety/depression or the experience of post-traumatic stress. Perhaps most interesting is that researchers found that people with higher anxiety or depression showed the strongest positive response to nature sounds. In short, if you’re feeling blue, reconnect with the world around you. Pause and listen. Relax and release.

 

 

The Practice of Grounding

Grounding is the practice of letting your body be in touch with nature. This may include sitting on the ground under a tree, walking barefoot through the grass or sand, or sleeping outdoors. There are many examples. Some people even say that walking barefoot on ceramic tile and concrete counts since these are made from natural materials. In short, grounding is connecting ourselves with the earth and its electron flow. Feeling skeptical? Just wait, there’s evidence this helps our health…

People who “ground themselves” often report feelings of well-being, citing that they feel less stressed and more strong. Outside of this subjective feedback, several scientific studies have been conducted to test these “grounding theories.” It has been scientifically proven that grounding can improve circulation, reduce pain, and improve sleep by helping normalize diurnal rhythms of the stress hormone cortisol! Time to ditch the shoes! 

 

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The point is simple: We are bound to this earth in more ways than one. When we embrace these connections we can achieve higher wellness.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

 

 

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Mistakes to Avoid in the Gym

You’d think that January is the busiest time of year in the gym but I’ve found that it’s the fall. Approximately two weeks after Labor Day, to be exact. That’s when the momentum rises and gyms get packed. Everyone’s eager to kick-start the school year with a bang, tackle their fitness goals before the holidays, and shake the lazy feeling of summer. To help ensure you make the most of this season (or any, for that matter), I’m here to offer up some professional suggestions for mistakes to avoid in the gym. No one likes to look foolish…or get hurt!

 

 

Lack of Awareness of One’s Surroundings

The most surefire way to get injured in the gym is to be a space cadet and walk around in a daze. Heavy metal is being hoisted and dropped, people – pay attention!  I know this sounds so “duh,” but you’d be surprised at how many people walk directly into the path of someone who is doing reps. For example, I’ve had people saunter right into the space where I’m doing lunges, kettlebell swings, leg lifts and more, all while I’m exercising and at risk for hitting them! Most recently, I had a personal trainer and her client step directly into where I was working out. It was a major “for shame” moment in my book. She’s supposed to protect her client! 

 

Avoiding the Free Weights

It’s easy to get stuck in our comfort zones, especially if that’s on a piece of cardio equipment. But it’s of the utmost importance for our bodies that we move them functionally. That means putting your feet directly on the ground and moving! Free weights are a great add-on for functional exercises because they take up the intensity and allow you to get your upper body and core more activated. Full body workout in less time. What’s not to like?

 

 

Forgetting to Wipe and Wash

I’m a crazy person about personal hygiene in gyms. (I’ve seen people sneeze into their hands and then continue using equipment…gross.) Even in the most state-of-the-art facilities with full-time housekeeping staff there just isn’t any way to clean as quickly as equipment gets contaminated with microscopic germs. So, not only is it important to wipe off the equipment that you’ve used after you’re done, but it’s also imperative to wash and/or sanitize your hands upon leaving. If you want to go to the next level of paranoid (ahem, which I do), then switch out the water bottle or container you’ve used while working out with one that’s clean and use a phone-friendly cleaner or sanitary cloth to gently wipe down your phone since chances are that you were using it during your workout.

 

Improper Use of Momentum

Momentum is one of those things that’s tempting to rely on when working out but that ultimately takes away from pure strength. If you’re doing a plyometric or power workout then sure – use momentum per your training. But if we’re talking about gym equipment like lat pull downs and leg presses then it’s a different story. People using momentum to power through these exercises aren’t demonstrating proper control over the weight being lifted and are more prone to getting injured in addition to getting less bang for the buck for their muscular strength. It’s my personal theory that this is the issue at the core of many CrossFit injuries [over-reliance on momentum].  

 

 

Not sharing equipment

Remember the personal trainer I mentioned who dangerously stepped into my workout space with her client? Yea, I’m not done with her. She could have properly communicated with me and asked me to share the open/free space, to which I should agree. Alas, she made two mistakes; putting her client in physical harm’s way and not following one of the unspoken rules of the gym (taking turns between sets). It’s important to acknowledge that just because you have three sets to do on a shoulder press machine does not mean that it’s yours until you’re done. Gym etiquette 101 is to let people “work in” on machines. Aka preschool manners 101: SHARING IS GOOD!

 

Sticking to the Same Equipment

Changing up your routine is important for growth and accelerating results. If you’re a free weight person then try switching things up and seeing if one day a week of treadmill sprint intervals feels good. Or, you could change your workout game from 10-12 reps per set with free weights to working towards 3-5 rep max sets with heavier weights on machines where you’re stable and less likely to get injured. If you’re a cardio person then please, see the section above; “Avoiding the Free Weights.” Change is your friend.

 

Rounded Posture on Cardio Equipment

We’ve all seen it – those people slumping forward on cardio equipment, expressions of strain as though they’re working extra hard by leaning on the handrails. But that’s simply not the case. In the majority of these situations a person is working less hard, burning fewer calories, and hurting their necks and backs in the process. So, don’t be tempted to mimic this foolish posture. There’s not much good that can come of it.

 

 

Holding Your Breath

Holding your breath can be dangerous. Period. Especially if you’re doing an overhead maneuver or working at a hard pace. It may cause you to become dizzy! Nausea and lightheaded issues aside, holding your breath should be reserved for underwater swimming and athletes who have been properly trained in how to do this for power lifting maneuvers. The rest of us need the exhale breath to help get through the “sticking point” of an exercise and to help us engage our core. We need the inhale breath for…you know…oxygen.

 

Skimping on Core

It’s easy for a lot of people to skip out on core work or to hastily add it in at the end of a workout. But skimping on core work can hurt you in a number of ways. For example, did you know that runners who are prone to plantar fasciitis often have very weak cores? Did you know that a strong core can help you reduce back discomfort while also making you look taller and leaner? There are so many benefits that come with keeping our body’s center stable and strong. Finding creative ways to add core exercises into the beginning, middle and end of your routine will always be worth it.

 

 

Skipping a Warm-up

Please don’t give warm-ups the short end of the stick. They are an integral part of the workout, just as much as the “meat and potatoes” are your exercises. In fact, think of a warm-up kind of like the time when the meat and potatoes get warm and cooked so that they’re ready for you to eat! Weird analogy? I digress. The times when people are most tempted to skip the warm-up are when they’re pressed for time or running late, but even 3-5 minutes of limbering exercises and dynamic stretching is better than none.

 

Releasing too Quickly Through Eccentric Phase

The eccentric phase of a workout is when the muscle is lengthening. And it’s often rushed even though it has a lot of potential to benefit your strength gains when it’s approached with just as much attention as the shortening phase of the exercise. For example, many people take their time pressing dumbbells over their heads for a shoulder press but then allow them to quickly drop back down to shoulder level. Taking your time for both parts of the exercise is important for optimal strength and muscle building. The best way to ensure you’re doing this is simply to pay attention to what you’re doing and take your time in every part of the movement.

 

Happy Fall Y’all! 🙂

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

Exercise Tips for the Flat-Footed

This may seem like a strange topic, especially if you aren’t sure whether or not you’re flat-footed. Unfortunately, statistics point to there being a strong chance that you fall into the flat-footed crowd, also called individuals who “overpronate.” Running Warehouse claims that between 50-60% of people overpronate and 20-30% do so severely. So forgive me for nerding out on you today…this science is important.

 

Pronation (also called eversion) is a desirable movement of the foot as it strikes the ground. The foot’s arch “collapses” in a controlled manner towards the ground and helps the body absorb shock and send the force up through the muscles of the body. This is an integral part of anyone’s gait cycle in both walking and running.

When someone overpronates their foot’s arch flattens excessively and their tibia (lower leg bone) is driven into unnecessary rotation that leads to torque on the knee, stress on the hips, poor utilization of the gluteal muscles and more (see diagram below). There’s a classic chain of muscular compensations that occur up through the body in response to overpronation. Unfortunately, this places excessive stress on the joints and causes some muscles to be overly tight and others to be inappropriately weak. Hence, overpronators are highly susceptible to running injuries, the formation of bunions, medial ankle sprains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, MCL and meniscus tears, hamstring and hip flexor tightness, IT-band syndrome, lower back pain and more.

 

Image Source: http://healthlifemedia.com/healthy/what-foot-ankle-over-or-underpronation/

(Note: This is a basic diagram for a complex foot movement and does not accurately reflect what’s happening at the forefoot in addition to rearfoot.)

 

Traditional remedies for overpronation include getting custom orthotics, wearing supportive athletic shoes and kinesio taping of the foot to control pronation. These are all great and generally effective but I notice that they don’t solve the issue entirely. A lot of regaining comfort and function in the body comes down to awareness of how to intentionally correct misalignments and gait patterns, and how to appropriately strengthen and release muscles that are negatively impacted by this pattern.

I’ve taken people in their 60s and 70s and helped them correct overpronation simply by focusing on how they walk – and I’ve got to say, I feel confident that these corrections are going to keep them walking longer and without the use of aids like a cane. I’ve helped strengthen weakened muscles in young athletes who are overpronators and seen them take their performance to the next level – qualifying for the Boston marathon, passing military physical assessments with flying colors, and entering athletic competitions free of injuries for the first time in seasons. This stuff is powerful. It can mean the difference between daily comfort and function or pain and diminished performance.

 

Read on for how to correct overpronation and strengthen/stretch affected muscles in the body.

 

 

Gait Control

It’s very common for people who overpronate to walk with their feet “pigeon-toed” out, almost like a dancer in plie (though not quite so dramatic). Some people are only flat-footed/overpronators on one foot and thus, one foot finds a way to turn out while walking, running and even standing still. The problem with this is the asymmetry it creates throughout the whole body, leading to the aforementioned cascade of injuries, aches and pains. The nice thing is that it’s quite easy to correct for this turning out of the foot through active awareness. In other words, watch your feet while you move throughout your day and/or workout and make sure that both toes are pointing straight so that the feet are both in a neutral stance. You’ll be shocked at how unnatural it feels to walk with both feet straight at first but with some increased awareness and effort over time, this can do wonders for injury prevention and balanced strength.

(Fun fact – I’ve helped fix shoulder pain by teaching someone how to walk without turning out the feet. That’s how connected the muscles in our bodies are – that an issue at the foot can affect all the way up to the shoulder and neck!)

 

Go Barefoot

Walking and exercising barefoot (when safe and sanitary) can actually help overpronators. That’s because it forces people to avoid a heavy heel strike, which is something many flat-footed folks do without realizing it. You see, there’s not much soft cushioning in our heels but we can’t feel how much discomfort this causes when we wear heavy running shoes. By ditching the sneakers we can suddenly acknowledge that striking the ground heavy with our heels doesn’t feel so great. We naturally adjust our foot strike so that ground force is absorbed through the arch (which was “built” for just this purpose) and the muscles of the foot and leg.

Note: If a physical therapist determines that you have a bony alignment problem in your foot then going barefoot won’t help anything. So if barefoot work feels like it’s worsening the problem then go see a professional to get an accurate diagnosis.

 

 

Lace Up Those Shoes

This tip is pretty straightforward. To help correct overpronation you can lace your shoes all the way to the top eyelet and make sure the fit is snug. Many shoes come out of the box without being laced all the way to the top because it’s easier to try them on this way but don’t be afraid to lace farther up. You may decide you need to swap the shoe laces for a longer pair or you can try a few workouts with the current laces and tug on them to help them stretch out (which most do).

 

Roll Out the Foot & Lower Leg

Foam rolling or using a firm tennis or lacrosse ball can be very useful in helping tight muscles release. The flat-footed crowd is notorious for tight calf muscles and for shin splints, so applying gentle pressure (pressing upwards – not downwards – to avoid varicose veins) will help release fascial tissue and prevent/help heal shin splints. I also recommend rolling out the arches because as someone works to correct overpronation they are strengthening through the arch and causing new tightness that we want to be sure doesn’t become plantar fasciitis (again, this is all assuming the pronation isn’t caused by a mechanical/bony alignment issue that can’t be corrected via exercise).

 

Roll Out IT Band

Foam rolling the IT band in a combination of long and short/pinpointed strokes (like near the top of the hip) can help release this long band of fascial tissue. When the IT band is tight (which it often is due to the excessive rotation that’s happening with overpronation) then the knee is placed under undue stress and the glutes can’t function optimally. It’s common for foam rolling to be very uncomfortable due to extreme tightness of the IT band so it may help to start by having someone else move the roller up and down the sides of your legs while applying the amount of pressure you can handle.

 

Calf Raises

Although the calf muscles are generally tight for overpronators, they are often tight due to weakness, not strength. In my professional opinion, it’s important to work on calf raises and other exercises (such as practicing running on the balls of the feet while sprinting) to increase strength and thereby decrease tightness associated with weak muscles. It’s kind of a paradox, I know. But this is how muscles work – they can be tight from being over-utilized OR underutilized. *Pause for confused head scratch.* 

 

 

Balance Exercises

Something that’s highly interesting to the exercise science nerds in the world (ahem, like myself) is that overpronators overuse their big and second toes for balance instead of all the toes. While it’s true that the big toe’s primary role is to aid in balance, it’s detrimental to muscular balance to only or heavily rely on that for balance aid and “pushing off” the ground while walking and running. So, exercises focusing on using all the toes evenly for balance is a great start for strengthening neglected body parts.

 

Strengthen Quads (& VMO)

Many flat-footed individuals run with a tiny bit more flexion in their knees than their counterparts. Often there is also medial stress added to the knee thanks to the excessive rotation happening in the lower leg that drives rotation of the upper leg (femur). Thus, it’s important to strengthen the quads through isolated quad extensions and other functional movements such as squats and lunges. To help correct the medial knee stress, strengthen the most medial compartment of your quads (the vastus medialus oblique – VMO) by doing quad extensions with the feet turned out. This targets that medial muscle and allows it to activate. You can even try pulsing up and down gently to get this muscle to burn – which in this case, will be a very positive thing for your body.

 

 

Stretch Hamstrings and Hip Flexors

Tight hamstrings and hip flexors are routinely the result of glute (aka booty) muscles that aren’t working at full steam. Holding 60-120 second stretches will help release these tight muscles and any associated pressure they’ve created on the lower back and glutes. These long sustained stretches should be done at the end of a workout but you can do shorter stretches of 15 seconds or less to help them limber before a workout.

 

Glute Med Exercises

Think clam shells, side lunges and side lying leg lift series from Pilates. These exercises will help strengthen the “outer thigh” muscles located at the top and side of your legs. This area is a part of your glute muscle group and it helps decelerate rotation of the leg when walking and running. As mentioned, with overpronation there is excessive rotation and thus, these muscles are often stretched out and weak. When they’re strong we can better control overpronation and also decrease IT band tightness. Woo! 

 

 

Glute Max Exercises

The powerhouse muscle in the body (aka booty muscle) needs to be strong and in control at all times. The musculoskeletal system’s chain of command gets thrown off for the flat-footed crew so it’s important to place strength back where it belongs. Exercises can include hip bridges (see above pic with the modification of adding a leg lift – which makes it harder), squats, lunges, plie squats, side lunges, leg press, hip extensions, dead lifts, single leg dead lifts, incline work on cardio machines, and more. Don’t forget to do these with the toes pointing straight – not turned out!

 

Back Extensions

Last but not least, maintaining flexibility and strength in the lower back is important for preventing lower back pain that may result from excessive strain and ground-force impact associated with flat-footedness. Try back extension exercises on the mat such as supermans, roman chair back exercises, yoga extensions and chest openers, and more.

 

Cheers to moving better and feeling great!

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

 

Europe’s Eco-friendly Fitness Phenomenon

If your workouts are feeling stale or you’re in need of something to shake up the end of the season, might I suggest the latest exercise phenomenon spreading overseas? It’s a great way to stay active AND do right by Mother Nature. Curious? The workout is called plogging.

That’s right, I said plogging.

(Sounds kind of like jogging, doesn’t it?)

What on earth is plogging?!?

 

 

If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about then your time has come. You’ve gotta check out this eco-friendly form of exercise that involves exercise and recycling. Here are my thoughts and safety tips for plogging shared with the Aaptiv team (link below). Aaptiv is a workout app that connects you with trainers who guide you through music-led workouts. (Think Peloton for yoga, running, boxing, weight loss and more!)

 

The inside scoop on plogging:

Plogging Is the Latest Workout Trend to

Benefit You and the Earth

 

PS – Here’s a fun, not-so-fun fact: Cigarette butts are the #1 littered item. (Ew.) And it can take up to 10 years for the plastics in cigarettes to degrade. So think about that before you flick yours to the ground. Or better yet, don’t light up at all. Cool. Thanks. 

 

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

Authenticity in an Image-Focused World

Authenticity is a word that has been tossed around a lot in the media. Probably because we live in a world where we have to discern between fake and real news. Where air brushing apps are within everyone’s reach, not just professional photographers’. And where Instagram and Facebook algorithms dig their hooks in and glue us to devices. Ever heard the saying “If there isn’t a picture, it didn’t happen”…? Sometimes I wonder if people remember that I’m an exercise professional since I don’t take very many photos while working out like some fitness pros and exercise fans do. *Sigh.*

 

 

Summer is the second-most photographed time of year to the holidays. It’s natural to want pictures to hold on to memories, to tell a story, and to capture the feeling of the moment. After all, holidays and summer vacations are special times of the year. But what about when picture-taking becomes more about being seen and fitting a mold than about embracing who you are and enjoying life? This is where we come into problems. And it’s not a problem exclusive to frequent picture-taking, it’s also a challenge for many people who embark on fitness goals. People come into exercise with an idea of what they want to look like and try hard to force their bodies to change shape. Like if they don’t look a certain way by a designated point in time then they’ve failed.

I get really disappointed when I see personal training clients struggle. There are so many positives to be gained from exercise, even if your results don’t make you feel like snapping selfies in your bikini left and right. (Many of those who do are feeling proud for fitting into a mold – a toned physique, chiseled abs, plump booty, etc.) In my opinion, exercise isn’t supposed to make us all look alike. It’s about helping us live our individual, unique lives to the fullest.

 

 

The definition of authenticity is “made to be or look like an original.” Blogger on PsychCentral, Margartia Tartakovsky, explains how she lost touch with her own voice and originality when she struggled with body image and exercise:

“Sure, it may seem obvious but when you’re deeply entrenched in a negative body image and someone – a weight loss or diet company, women’s magazine – offers you a solution, you hold onto it with all your might. You grip the rope tighter and tighter, hoping that your hips being smaller will give you something you’re seriously missing. Hoping that happiness will come through the door.”

I see what Margartia describes happen a lot. People exercise rigorously thinking it will build up their confidence and fill the void of whatever troubles them. The second that results slip or they get sick or injured, that entire facade comes crashing down. They realize their worth wasn’t all that secure after all. They pinned it on something temporary and fleeting – physical achievement.

 

 

So how does one chase after their fitness goals (and even snap and post pictures) while remaining authentic? 

Psychology Today explains the following qualities of inauthentic people:

  1. Are self-deceptive and unrealistic in their perceptions of reality.
  2. Look to others for approval and to feel valued.
  3. Are judgmental of other people.
  4. Do not think things through clearly.
  5. Have a hostile sense of humor.
  6. Are unable to express their emotions freely and clearly.
  7. Are not open to learning from their mistakes.
  8. Do not understand their motivations.

Conversely, these are the qualities of authentic people:

  1. Have realistic perceptions of reality.
  2. Are accepting of themselves and of other people.
  3. Are thoughtful.
  4. Have a non-hostile sense of humor.
  5. Are able to express their emotions freely and clearly.
  6. Are open to learning from their mistakes.
  7. Understand their motivations.

 

While we may not identify with every quality on each list, there’s a strong chance we identify with some on both. For example, I’ve gone through periods in my life when I looked to others for approval, was less apt to learn from my mistakes, and made quick, emotionally-charged decisions that weren’t well thought through. We all live, learn and grow. But what’s important is not that we’re perfectly authentic each and every day but that we’re self-aware enough to move our lives in that direction. To understand the heart of what motivates us and to ensure it aligns with our original selves. To be careful that we don’t lose ourselves to false, image-driven virtual realities or to working hard to fit into a mold.

Everything changes when the motivation behind exercise and fitness goals shifts. For example, someone who wants to get skinny because they want “revenge” on an ex, to prove how special they are, to attract more outside attention, or to look more like their friends, isn’t exercising from a place of motivation that can last. (And it if does endure then they’re likely setting themselves up for other personal obstacles.) Someone who exercises because they want to feel their best, stay healthy, be more energized, etc. is going to better handle the ups and downs that life and shifting exercise schedules dole out.

 

 

Inauthentic Reasons to Exercise:

  • Desire for more outside attention
  • Desire to look better for pictures and social media approval
  • Seeking “revenge” on an ex; “look how great I look now that we’re not together”
  • To look better than one’s friends
  • To look similar to one’s friends
  • To fit the mold of a particular body type or physique
  • To look good for the opposite sex
  • To gain followers or fans
  • Self-inflicted punishment for shame and guilt
  • Because someone said “you have to exercise”

Authentic Reasons to Exercise:  

  • To improve quality of life
  • To better enjoy one’s body
  • To improve both internal and external health
  • To see what one is capable of
  • To improve the body’s quality of movement
  • To look one’s personal best
  • To improve posture and body language
  • Desire to gain confidence and improve body image
  • Desire to prevent and improve injuries
  • Desire to improve at and enjoy a sport

If you can think of more examples for either list I would love to hear them!

 

Being authentic can change your health and elevate your fitness results thanks to giving you a solid platform from which to jump. One you can return to when you need a breather and to feel reassured before jumping forward again. And again. And again. Being inauthentic will simply leave you treading water. What motivates you to exercise?

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

 

8 Bad Health Habits I’ve Had to Shake

No one’s perfect and health professionals are no different – I’m certainly not perfect! Far from it. But through the years I’ve awakened to my bad health habits and have refined them through trial and error. In the spirit of keeping things real, here are the habits I’ve had to shake. Maybe they’ll make you feel less guilty for having a few of your own. 

 

 

To Do Lists

Alas, I’m ashamed to admit that my obsession with daily “To Do Lists” wasn’t given a firm kick in the pants until I became a mom. I’m not saying it’s bad to have daily goals and lists but what I would do is obsess over every last detail, staying up way too late to ensure every single little thing was checked off my list. I would run errands even though I was dizzy with fatigue. I would wake up in the middle of the night running through the things I needed to get done the next day. I’m telling ya: CRAY CRAY. Yet I’m astonished at how common this behavior is. 

When my son was born, I was due for a startling realization: I can’t do it all. There were lots of tears. I slowly relinquished control and loosened my grip on life’s minute details. As a result, I can now complete a mere fraction of my lofty “To Do” lists without freaking out. I can officially handle living “imperfectly.” I put my sanity over my task lists. (It feels good.) 

 

Overeating

I never thought that I overate until it hit me like a brick wall one day. I was fresh out of college and working to earn a commission-based living at the height of the recession. I was sitting in a side chair in my dining room stuffing my face with handfuls from a bag of Chex Mix even though I wasn’t hungry. I realized in that moment that I was emotionally eating and that it wasn’t all that different from overeating at dinnertime and finding it soothing.

I was able to “get away” with eating a lot while growing up (probably thanks to having a teenager’s metabolism and playing lots of sports). Even as a kid I didn’t feel like dinner was over until I was overstuffed. I ignorantly equated that overstuffed feeling to being full, even though it was overeating. Fast-forward to my 20s, when I got stressed about the responsibilities of the real world, and I craved to have that familiar feeling of fullness from my childhood. As though it made me feel more centered in life’s whirlwind. But I was wrong. I soon discovered that when I stopped overeating and started eating more intuitively that I had loads more energy and far less inflammation in my body.

 

 

Veggies, What Veggies?

I always ate veggies growing up (thanks mom!) but in college it was all too easy to forget about them. And then life as a recent graduate was a lot of buying veggies with the intention of cooking them before ultimately tossing them in the trash after they spoiled. It took me a solid few years to slowly integrate veggies into every lunch and dinner, but I soon found that it was worth the effort (and pretty darn yummy). Filling up my plate most lunches and dinners with a solid heap of veggies keeps me full for longer, doesn’t over-stuff me, and packs in nutrients that energize me and keep my immune system trucking along. I strongly encourage everyone out there to get creative with veggies and find options they can stay motivated to eat and enjoy on a regular basis.

 

No Time to Snooze

I’ve always valued sleep. Even my former college roommates can attest to this. And so can my husband. I’m pretty grumpy and blah without it. Even armed with this knowledge, I tried to convince myself that I could get by on 7 hours of sleep a night; 7-9 hours is the healthy range so I should be good on 7, right? One would think…but my body disagreed.

I spent a few years getting between 6-7.5 hours of sleep most nights and it just about killed me. I’ve never had a more bleary-eyed, exhausted, mentally unstable period of my life. When I finally respected my body’s screams for more rest, everything fell into order. I felt WAY better and acted like a human again. I’m officially an 8-hour girl. And 9 feels like a slice of heaven.

 

 

‘Twas a Nail Biter 

After my Junior year in college I traveled to Sedona, AZ for the summer to work as a fitness instructor and personal trainer at Mii Amo Spa. (Sedona is known for its positive energy and healing qualities.) When I ended the summer there, I noticed with surprise that I hadn’t bitten my nails all summer, something I had done my entire life! It made me realize that I would bite my nails out of nervous anxiety over nothing in particular, and that the habit never made me feel better – only served to kind of reinforce the stress. So, I don’t bite them anymore. Yay! Small victories are everything. 

 

Sit Up Straight

Mom – this one’s for you! Remember how you always told me to sit up straight as girl? “Don’t slouch!” was the exact wording, I believe. Well, you were right. Sitting and standing with better posture helps my whole body feel better. And I’ve noticed that slouching doesn’t just happen during the daytime – it happens at night, too! I notice that I feel better when I sleep straight instead of tucked into a ball. Give it a try!

 

 

Color Me Cardio

Once upon a time I was the cardio exercise queen. It was my mojo. I did cardio all the time. And I loved it. But to be honest, only doing cardio was kiiiinda a bad habit. It might not sound like it initially but constant endurance exercise can deplete your muscle mass and make certain parts of your body weaker. When I first became a personal trainer I had to adjust my mentality. I couldn’t only do cardio and coach other people to lift weights, could I? I had to start cross-training and weight training more regularly and let me tell you, it wasn’t easy at first. I can still remember the day when foam rolling felt difficult because I lacked upper body strength. I can still remember feeling like planks must be the devil’s favorite form of torture. And I can still remember the time when doing anything other than cardio felt forced. But that all slowly changed in an epic way. I’m pretty darn strong now and I love doing a huge variety of exercises. So, it’s okay if getting started with cross-training or weights feels like a chore. You may feel differently one day. Stick to it.

 

Sunday Fun Day 

This phrase is so common that it’s even a little sticker for Instagram stories! There’s something to be said about taking one day a week to truly relax – and I mean no chores, no work emails, no obligations, and for me, no exercise. I used to push myself hard all seven days a week and wondered why I never felt rejuvenated. Isn’t that just so ridiculous? I’ve really come to embrace the concept of “the sabbath” being a day of rest and encourage you to do the same, even if you’re not religious. We aren’t meant to go-go-go, ever pressing life’s accelerator down harder. What’s the point? Why are you doing it? Ask yourself these questions and the consequences of them. And then ask yourself the consequences of NOT resting. If you value your health, you’ll find that the consequences of not resting far outweigh anything else. We’ve all got one body to get through this life in. Let’s learn to honor it.

 

Life’s not about perfection. It’s about progress.

 

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie

 

 

The Shocking Risks of Being Skinny

As a culture, we fall into a pattern of focusing on the dangers of being overweight. Supplement companies and exercise brands play on heartstrings as they dangle images of lean, fit individuals in trendy fitness apparel racing down the street or pleasantly sipping a shake. Many people (women AND men) quest after that “fit” look and think the skinnier, the better. But this is a delusion. There are some major pitfalls of being really skinny, both for people who have achieved this through diet and exercise and for people who are naturally slender.

 

 

When a woman’s BMI is less than 18.5 she is at a heightened risk for numerous ailments and chronic conditions…we’re even talking death. Skinny isn’t always healthy! So think again the next time you’re feeling envy monsters growling and baring their teeth inside you when your super skinny friend constantly eats junk food or skips the gym “without consequence.” I’m telling you, there’s more to the story underneath. It will eventually show up.

Oh – another kind-of-crazy note is that those friends of yours who can eat a ton and never exercise (while staying rail thin) might have a genetic deviation from the general population that makes it harder for them to absorb nutrients. In other words, they’re eating a ton and their body isn’t gleaning the stuff it needs from all that food, putting them in a position of greater susceptibility to internal health problems. Suddenly, those friends aren’t as enviable. Am I right?

 

Here are the top (very serious) risks of being too thin:

 

Osteoporosis

Low-calorie diets are associated with bone loss because of a lack of nutrients to support estrogen. When estrogen takes a major dive, bones can become brittle and experience density loss. Also, if someone is on a low-calorie diet because of the desire to be skinny then they’re less likely to be incorporating healthy weight training out of the misplaced fear of being “bulky.” Weight training can help prevent some bone less plus it won’t make women bulky.

 

 

Fertility

Women at a low BMI are more prone to amenorrhea or irregular cycles which means they’re either not ovulating regularly or may have trouble with their uterine lining. Additionally, they may be more likely to experience miscarriage. Science Daily says, “Women who have a low body mass index before they become pregnant are 72 percent more likely to suffer a miscarriage in the first three months of pregnancy, but can reduce their risk significantly by taking supplements and eating fresh fruit and vegetables.”

This is pretty upsetting stuff. As a woman who has one child and in the process of trying for a second has suffered a miscarriage, I wouldn’t wish this loss on anyone. It’s extremely devastating even though the vast majority of cases of early pregnancy loss are for reasons that can’t be identified. One doctor explains, “The majority of the time miscarriage is a random, isolated event and we can’t pinpoint a cause.” That said, if you know that you have a risk factor while TTC (including low BMI, an immunologic disorder, uterine or cervix abnormalities, current smoker and/or PCOS, to name a few), it’s worth speaking to a health professional about how you can help your body and reduce your risks.

If you think fertility at a low BMI is only a female challenge then you’re mistaken – men with low BMIs are 22x more likely to have a sexual dysfuntion than their healthy-weight peers. Eeerr…you can read here about more of those details.

 

Anemia

When someone isn’t consuming enough nutrients they become more susceptible to anemia, a condition of red blood cell and/or hemoglobin deficiency. When the red blood cells don’t have enough iron, B-12 and folate to do their thing (i.e., support oxygen transport throughout the body and carbon dioxide transport to the lungs), a person’s entire body suffers. For obvious reasons. Anemia is marked by low energy and fatigue and routinely goes hand in hand with amenhorrea. Making sure your body is getting REAL nutrition is key no matter what weight you are.

 

Lowered Immune System

A lack of nutrients due to low-calorie diets and/or inadequate absorption means that a person is more likely to become immune compromised. A steady, strong supply of nutrients helps support gut health and immune function. People with lowered immune systems are more likely to contract seasonal viruses and bacteria and may also be at a heightened risk for serious illnesses such as cancer.

NOTE: People can also overeat but still have poor nutrient density in their diets – so lowered immune function isn’t just a consequence for people who are too skinny. This applies to everyone making poor dietary choices. Our bodies need fresh, nutritious, quality foods to thrive!

 

 

Heart Disease & Diabetes

Kind of surprising that the risk for heart disease and diabetes is high for really skinny people in addition to obese individuals, right? The tricky thing about being thin is that it can give people a false sense of confidence in their health, especially in cases where they’re not taking care of themselves through a healthy lifestyle. Some skinny people may assume they’re healthy thanks to their weight and continue to eat unhealthy foods, skip medical checkups and opt out of the gym. All of this can make for a silent, raging storm under the surface.

Also, there’s a genetic variant that causes some lean people to store more fat directly around their organs, giving them the appearance of being healthy while hiding their heightened risk for heart and organ issues:

“A new study hints that being lean doesn’t get you entirely off the health hook either. In a genetic analysis involving more than 75,000 people, an international group of scientists led by Ruth Loos at the Medical Research Council in the U.K. found that lean people with a specific genetic variant were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease despite their lower body fat.”

 

As you can see, being too skinny can carry some risks with it. What’s important is that we’re tuned into our internal health instead of relying on our external health as the only indicator of what’s going on in our bodies. Our weight is only a piece of the puzzle. Only a fraction of what makes us truly healthy.

Yours in health and wellness,

Maggie