Posted on May 27, 2021 by Kate Halsall
So, most our gym members and clients know that I (Emily) live bit of an alternative/hippie/spiritual/holistic lifestyle outside of the gym. And most of my clients will tell you how I incorporate a holistic approach to training sessions and how it benefits them. Here at motive8 we are also interested in good health. Good health incorporates more than just eating and exercising. Today I wanted to share some of these alternative tips with you which might just give you a little bit extra towards good health.
Most of you should be aware of the importance of a decent night’s sleep. In case you weren’t sure, sleep is essential for repair and regeneration. Not getting enough sleep and blasting it in the gym is a recipe for injury. It is also likely that you will not achieve your desired results as you aren’t getting that regeneration phase in. Lack of sleep can also leave us demotivated, low on energy and less likely to exercise. A poor night’s sleep can affect hunger hormones; for example, ghrelin can increase and leptin decrease, which means increased appetite and hunger. These are my tips for catching some extra zzz’s:
- get a regular sleep pattern, try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Set up a pre-bed routine, our bodies are very habitual, having a pre-bed routine can help trigger our “it’s time to sleep” response. Something soothing and relaxing is best; hot shower, reading a book, meditation and essential oils like lavender can help. Have a dark, cool room, free from electrical devices. No screens (definitely) an hour before bed but earlier if possible. The blue-light from screens can wreak havoc with our sleep hormone production. Really resist that urge for that last quick scroll before bed. And if you must, must use a screen I’d get some (super-cool) blue-filter glasses (think U2 Bono).
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. I try to not drink caffeine after 12pm but my cut-off is 2pm. Caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours. This means if you have 200mg of caffeine, in 5 hours you would still have 100mg in your system. A flat white coffee has on average 120mg of caffeine, if you have one at 4pm you could still have 60mg in your system at 9pm. Watch out for tea (including green), coffee (all, even decaf has very small amounts, chocolate (especially dark), energy drinks and pre-workout!
Many people will use exercise as a stress buster but how else could stress be affecting your health? High stress can leave us with a busy mind which can affect our sleep (see above). Sometimes, we don’t use exercise as a stress-reliever but instead reach for that beer/wine/cake/cigarette which can impact our health negatively. Continuous, chronic stress can affect our nervous system. We stay in an activated, fight or fight response (sympathetic nervous system). Repair and regeneration can only happen in our rest and digest phase (parasympathetic nervous system). So, when we are able to manage our stress, we have an increased ability to make better choices. Tips to de-stress:
- one thing I want to mention is that exercise is actually a stress on our system. Although, it is usually good stress, if we are over-exercising when we are already chronically stressed this good be doing more harm than good. Start listening to your body, tweaking your sessions to get periods of rest or include some easier exercises like gentle yoga/walking/swimming.
- Sleep! (See above).
- Doing activities that bring some fun into your life and take you out of your head; dancing, drawing, seeing friends Etc. With many of us still working from home, create a bridging ritual to separate your work day from home life. Put on a song and dance it out, a shower/bath, cup of tea and quiet sit-down.
- Meditate. Most people think they can’t meditate or think they are doing it wrong. The process of mediation isn’t about becoming thoughtless but rather becoming aware of thoughts arising and not getting pulled away on the journey of that thought. Apps like Calm or Headspace are a good intro to meditation. Or try asking yourself ‘I wonder what my next thought will be’ then sit and watch, you’ll find the space between the thoughts this way. Using our breath as a point of focus. Simply watch the breath. Notice all the little details on each breath. Don’t change it in any way. You can have a narrow focus, pin pointing your awareness, like where the breath enters and exits the nostrils. Or a broad awareness, noticing how your breath moves your body as you breathe.
I could go on and on about lots of things to help you (maybe get booked in for a PT with me to hear the rest haha). But the key point is that nothing can change if we have no awareness to what is happening. Everything is a spiral. Negative behaviours spiral and feed into each other. Lack of sleep decreases motivation to exercise and increases appetite. This might lead to a Netflix binge and take-away and you know how it can carry on! But equally, positive behaviours can spiral and feed into each other. Getting a good night’s sleep might equal motivation to go to the gym and make healthier food choices. Feeling good about those food choices will lead to more positive choices. Meditation can improve sleep and so on.
Start to slow down and bring more awareness into your life. Where could you start to make some tweaks which could bring in some more positivity into your life and wellbeing?