Is Your Body Ready?

Is Your Body Ready?

It’s that time of year when we set new fitness and wellness goals for the new year. We put a lot of emotion and energy in setting these goals and picture ourselves succeeding. When you are confident in how your body moves and feels, you’ll have the best chance at not only meeting your goals, but exceeding them.

Starting or increasing a fitness routine with an ill-prepared body means a greater likelihood of injury and a greater likelihood that the injury will derail you. You deserve the best change to be successful.

Here are a few ways adding stretch protocols into your daily life will allow your body to feel restored and at its best to make sure your goals stick for the long run.

Areas that often have more stress placed upon them when starting a new fitness routine include the low back, knees, and hips.  If your starting point is a mostly sedentary lifestyle, sitting and lack of movement for an extended period of time stiffens and shortens the muscles.  When a new fitness regimen is initiated, the involved areas will be going through greater ranges of motion they may not be used to, leaving them more prone to injury.

Our active method of stretching allows the muscles to be properly warmed up and lengthened before starting an activity.  Blood flow and oxygen to the muscles is increased, providing protection to the joints.  Muscle imbalances are lessened when stretching as well, allowing the body to have better mobility and alignment to properly grasp the technique of the activity.  Active stretching combined with a light warm-up prior to exercise will minimize the risk of getting injured when starting a new routine.

Stretching helps to correct any muscle imbalances in your posture. Soon after starting a new fitness routine, you may notice a shift in your posture.  You may find your posture improving, as you are strengthening muscle groups to help you stand taller and straighter.  On the contrary, new fitness routines may also negatively impact posture. If you are beginning a new routine with less than ideal posture, chances are you will have improper form in your workouts and increase the likelihood of pain and soreness.  For example, if you start with shoulders that are rounded and elevated, your range of motion and body positioning will be unnatural and compromised. Stretching the upper body will help lower the shoulders and lengthen the spine reducing compensations and allowing you to perform your activity properly.  Stretching aims to restore the muscles to their optimal length and position.

Similar to posture, new fitness routines will affect the body’s alignment.  A properly aligned body will have the head, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles all in line. Keeping all of these joints linear will place less stress on the spine to help better your posture.

If you are a regularly active person, you will find that incorporating stretching routines into your daily life will enhance your workouts. The increase in range of motion associated with stretching will allow you to perform your best.  For example, stretching the hip flexors and quads will allow more range of motion to help squat deeper and put more power into spinning.  Stretching the upper body, like the pecs and shoulders, will allow greater mobility to be put into those boxing workouts.  The lengthening and lightness felt throughout the body from implementing these stretch routines will aim to increase performance.

Any soreness post-workout is not problematic: it is your body letting you know it is adapting to the new stresses placed upon it. Excess soreness, however, can leave you feeling tight, fatigued, and unmotivated to keep up with your routine.

Stretching after a workout, whether it be directly after or the following day, will alleviate sore muscles.  Even a few minutes of stretching will increase blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to those tender areas.  This will not only reduce soreness after a workout; it will properly prepare you for your next one.

Whether you are a fitness novice or looking for new ways to maximize those workout gains, prepare your body now. Get a head start now and make 2023 the year you crush your fitness goals.  Incorporating stretching into your daily life before you begin your new fitness routine will leave your body feeling ready to take on any workout you set your mind to. Keeping stretching in your routine will keep you on track way past the time most people drop their new year routine. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and restored body in the new year.

15 Reasons Sleep Deprivation Kills Longevity, And 5 Ways To Fix It

15 Reasons Sleep Deprivation Kills Longevity, And 5 Ways To Fix It

If you don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably been hearing the word “longevity” work itself into conversations around health more and more. Longevity can come in many forms and has a different definition for everyone. The way that we view longevity at LYMBR is not just how long you are able to do something; rather how long you are able to do that thing well and without pain. If you have been playing golf for 45 years and have had hip pain for 40 of those years, that is not longevity, that is playing injured. Those are very different things. Now, it’s important to note that we’re at a period in history where our population has, quite literally, never been this injured, sleep impaired, and nutrient deficient. So, is this whole longevity thing a ‘pie in the sky’ type of goal, or is it actually achievable? That’s probably too subjective of a question to answer without applying it to a specific person. Furthermore, there’s a lot we still don’t know about longevity, and more specifically newer longevity practices. In a microcosm it seems to be highly effective, but we have yet to see how many of these fads perform at a macro level and how they’ll do over the next couple of decades. 

All I’m trying to say is there is quite a bit of riff raff when it comes to the actual meaning of longevity and how to promote it in your day-to-day life. Having said that, there are really three key pieces of health that, if you focus on, will bring the idea of longevity into reality. In this series we’re going to cover those three topics in depth, beginning with the most important: SLEEP. 

Sleep is one of the most important facets of our health and long-term wellness. It is also one that is widely overlooked and under-appreciated. I often talk to clients about taking more accountability for their sleep the same way they would take accountability for their food and their exercise. People tend to get the exercise part fairly quickly, the food takes a bit longer, but sleep always seems to be put on the back burner. This is a very backwards approach. If anything (and this is coming from a seasoned strength and conditioning coach) your exercise should probably come last out of these three. Without optimal sleep, emphasis on the word optimal, your food and exercise will not make up for the deficits and health affects you face from a lack of sleep. The age-old adage of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is an antiquated, and irresponsible approach to rest and recovery. Make no mistake, sleep is the most important thing we can do for the continued health of our body and mind. Here are some of the hard truths about sleep, what happens to you if you’re in a sleeping deficit, and some of the things we can do to improve our sleep. 

  1. People who sleep shorter, live shorter. There is a direct correlation to the amount you sleep to the number of years you live. Optimal sleep, for optimal time, will directly increase your lifespan. 

  2. You can never “sleep back” the hours you have lost. However, napping can help bolster your sleep score. Most underdeveloped societies untouched by electricity sleep this way. A full night of sleep, followed by a 30–60-minute nap the following day. In places such as Greece, where siestas still exist (periods of the day where people go home to rest and nap), men are four times more likely to reach the age of 90 than American males. However, taking naps due to poor sleep the night before is not a fix, but a rather ineffective Band-Aid. 

  3. REM sleep recalibrates the emotional centers of the brain and is mainly responsible for creativity or lack thereof. REM sleep, meaning rapid eye movement sleep, starts about 90 minutes after you fall asleep. This is where most of your dreaming happens, and is extremely important for learning, memory, as well as many other things. 

  4. Deep sleep may be a sign of brain maturation. This is due, largely, to the role that deep sleep plays in cognitive and psychosocial function especially in a maturing brain.  Remember that deep sleep assists with things like learning, stress, memory, all of which needs to be managed effectively as they mature. 

  5. Any individual, no matter what age, will exhibit physical ailments, mental health instability, reduced alertness, and impaired memory if their sleep is chronically disrupted.

  6. Sleep has proven itself time and again as a memory aid: both before learning, to prepare your brain for initially making new memories, and after learning, to cement those memories and prevent forgetting.

  7. Anything less than eight hours of sleep a night, especially less than six hours a night, the following starts to happen: time to physical exhaustion drops by 10 – 30% significantly reducing aerobic output. Impairments are also observed in performance metrics such as limb extension force (think straightening your knee or extending your elbow), vertical jump height, as well as decreases in peak and sustained muscle strength. Add to this, a decrease in cardiovascular, metabolic, and respiratory capabilities that impede a tired body. This includes faster rates of lactic acid buildup, reductions in oxygen in the blood, and therefore an increase in carbon dioxide in the blood. This can lead to soreness, dysfunctional movement, and therefore increasing the risk and likelihood of injury. Even the ability of the body to cool itself during physical exertion through sweating – a critical part of peak performance – is impaired by a lack of sleep. 

  8. Post-performance sleep accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen.
  1. Sleep loss inflicts devastating effects on the psychology and physiology of the human body. Sleep loss is directly linked to the following conditions: Alzheimer’s disease, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, suicide, stroke, chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, infertility, weight gain, obesity, and immune deficiency. 

  2. Power naps may increase basic concentration under conditions of sleep deprivation, as well as caffeine depending on the dose. Neither naps nor caffeine can salvage more complex functions of the brain, including learning, memory, emotional stability, complex reasoning, or decision-making.

  3. Many emotional and psychiatric problems can occur under sleep deprivation. Conversely, treating some of these issues with sleep has shown success.

  4. The leading causes of disease and death in developed nations—diseases that are crippling health-care systems, such as heart disease, obesity, dementia, diabetes, and cancer—all have recognized causal links to a lack of sleep.

  5. Up here in the north, the switch to daylight savings in March means we are losing an hour of sleep. If you look at the millions of daily hospital records, you will find that this seemingly trivial amount of sleep loss comes with a harrowing increase in heart attacks the following day. However, when the clocks move forward again, we see a drastic reduction in heart attacks as well as the number of traffic accidents. This speaks to the large impact that small variabilities in sleep can have. 

  6. Decreased sleep, which many first-world adults commonly report, will increase hunger and appetite. It will also compromise impulse control, therefore increasing food consumption, decreasing feelings of fullness, and prevent effective weight loss when dieting. 

  7. Do not take sleeping pills. These do not induce natural sleep. No one would argue you are not sleeping on weapons-grade Ambien, but to say that sleep is natural is just as much of a misnomer. 

“…Wait, but all you did was point out all the bad stuff about not sleeping well. You didn’t give me any tools to help me out.” Patience young grasshopper, I’m getting there. 

  1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even if it sucks. It is perhaps the single most effective way of helping improve your sleep, even though it involves the use of an alarm clock. This natural method shows a significant trend toward increasingly better sleep with increasing levels of physical activity, and a strong influence of sleep on daytime physical activity. Participants also feel more alert and energetic because of the sleep improvement, and signs of depression proportionally decrease.

  2. Going to bed only when sleepy and avoid sleeping on the couch early/mid-evenings. Never lie awake in bed for a significant time period; rather, get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing until the urge to sleep returns. Avoid daytime napping if you are having difficulty sleeping at night. Reduce anxiety-provoking thoughts and worries by learning to mentally decelerate before bed.

  3. There are some more obvious methods for improving sleep such as reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, removing phones, laptops, and TV’s from the bedroom, and having a cool bedroom.

  4. Instead of sleeping pills or sleeping technology, try more natural methods. Currently, the most effective of these methods is called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I. It is rapidly being embraced by the medical community as the first-line treatment. You can learn more about CBT-I here.   

  5. Working with a therapist for several weeks, patients are provided with a personalized set of techniques intended to break bad sleep habits and address anxieties that have been inhibiting sleep. 

Longevity implies that it’s lasting. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re hoping to go the distance, then your habits must work to sustain you, which means you must work to sustain your habits. I hope this helps demystify some of the ideas and preconceptions surrounding our sleep. It is the single most important step towards longevity and the practice of long-term health and wellness. If you can get your sleep right, you are stacking the deck in your favor. A principle we have come to know very well at LYMBR. Remember, self-preservation is not a right, nor a privilege, it is an art form. Sleep, my dear friend, is the canvas and the brush.

Most, if not all, of the information I found for this article can be found in Matthew Walker’s book “Why We Sleep”. If you are looking to learn more about how sleep can promote longevity and improve your quality of life, I highly recommend checking this book out. It’s extremely informative, engaging, and will give you years of your life back. 

Written by Conner Fritchley, LYMBR Master Trainer, Darien Stretch Therapist.