Catching some Z’s: Why Sleep is Important

iStock_000000479476XSmallI don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a lot of my nights seem to be getting shorter and shorter as time goes by. It seems like as soon as I fall asleep, it’s time to get back up and start a brand new day.

Most days, I’m excited to get up! But some days, it doesn’t feel like I’ve gotten enough rest. Sometimes I hit that snooze button to catch just a few more minutes of sleep before headed out.

Sound familiar? If you’re like nearly half of the US population, it might. A study by Gallup recently discovered that around 40% of all Americans aren’t getting a healthy amount of sleep. This means there’s a lot of drowsy people out there.

Sleep is VERY important when it comes to your health. Without it, we run out of energy, and our brains just can’t keep up with the world around us. Check out a few reasons why you need your beauty sleep:

Sleeping recharges your Brain – Have you ever had one of those days were you just can’t seem to focus? Or maybe you are presented with a problem, and you just can’t fathom how to even begin finding a solution. Sleep deprevation directly affects cognitive processing and decision making, meaning your brain is going to have to work extra hard just to keep up the more sleep you lose.

Sleep Helps your Emotions – Just like brainpower, your emotional well being is directly affected by the amount of sleep you get. You may notice that the more tired you are, the less patient and more irritable you become. Getting a good nights sleep allows your brain to reset and prepare for the coming day.

Sleeping fights Heart Disease – Your sleep is directly involved with repairs constantly being made to your heart and blood vessels. This means that the more time you have counting sheep, the more time your body has to make repairs. The less sleep you get, the higher risk you are to heart disease.

Sleep helps the Immune System – Your immune system responds to foreign dangers that your body encounters on a daily basis, keeping you free from the common cold and other ailments. When your sleep pattern changes, your immune system will start to react differently, making you more susceptible to these ailments.

Sleepiness makes you Hungry – Your sleep pattern helps maintain the hormones found in your body, which includes the hormones that tell your brain whether you’re hungry or full. The more sleep you get, the better blanced these hormones are, which means you’re going to be less hungry the more you sleep.

Do yourself a favor tonight: Go to bed an hour earlier than usual! Your body will thank you for it, and you will feel much better rested when morning comes!

Aches and Pains – What do they mean?

10394567_822127597835919_2048834069246516979_nIf you managed to come to our Charity Boot Camp this last weekend, you might notice that you’re a little more sore than usual. Getting out of bed might seem like more of a chore, the stairs seem a little steeper than usual, or it might seem a little more difficult to raise your arm to brush your teeth. When you’re sore, you suddenly realize how many muscles you use in your daily life.

So why do we get sore? It’s happened our whole lives, but it might seem like the older we get, the less it takes for our muscles to ache after a workout. Especially after we do a completely new set of exercises at the gym. Our arms ache, our legs ache, our shoulders ache… What is our body trying to tell us?

Even though it might not seem like it, sore muscles are telling us that we are making progress in our personal fitness. Take a look at some of the science behind your Aches and Pains:

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Those aches and pains you feel after a workout is referred to by physiologists as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and is completely normal for anyone who does strenuous activity. From those just starting their workout regimen to body builders who spend hours lifting weights, everybody feels sore at some point after a workout.

When you’re exercising, your putting your muscles through strenuous activity they haven’t had to endure before. Your muscles are going through some minor stress, which causes some microscopic tears to occur. Exercise physiologists believe these tears, paired with the minor inflammation that accompanies it, cause the minor aches you feel.

But despite how you feel when you wake up and struggle to get out of bed the next morning, these pains are actually a good thing! As your muscles endure your exercise regimen, they adjust to better accommodate your strenuous fitness activity. The next time you do deadlifts, squats, lunges, or bicep curls, you may notice you ache a little bit less… at least until you increase the resistance you’re using.

How do I ease these aches?

One thing I always recommend to my clients is stretch, stretch, stretch! Stretching your muscles better prepares them for strenuous activity, lessening the sudden shock of jumping off the couch and into your gym shoes. It also allows your muscles to limber up, providing less of a chance for injury.

Once you’re done working out, be sure to spend some extra time doing some easier, aerobic activity. This allows your muscles to cool down, again lessening the sudden shock of strenuous movement to less strenuous activity.

Another way to ease your sore muscles is to pace yourself while you work out. Spend one day doing a solid workout, pushing yourself to the limit. Maybe take part in on of our charity Boot Camps! But after pushing your limits, spend the next day or two working on something less strenuous, such as cardio. Your muscles need time to recover from the activity you just put them through.

Believe it or not, one of the best ways of easing muscle aches is to keep on exercising. In order to get the proper nutrients into your muscles, such as Vitamin C or those antioxidants in those blueberries you had for breakfast, your muscles have to move. Exercising allows your muscles to get the nutrients they need to prepare for the next bout of strenuous activity you throw at them.

So instead of waiting out sore muscles on the couch, give your muscles the attention they need! And remember that despite how they might feel at the time, the good kind of aches you feel after a good workout is the feeling of progress.

Taking Fitness Outdoors: Be Prepared!

Photo by Chris Elias
Photo by Chris Elias

This last Tuesday, I wrote a little about places to explore when you get an urge to get outdoors during one of our sunny days. It’s all well and good to talk about exploring in good weather, but the elements have to cooperate if we want to go outside.

If I’ve learned anything about the weather in the Pacific Northwest, its that the only thing certain is rain. Case in point, the beginning of this last Tuesday was beautiful! But by the end of the day, it was gray, wet, and not quite hiking or cycling weather.

But that’s one of the great things about life isn’t it? We can learn from our challenges. Even though we might plan for blue skies and warm weather, there could be anything in the forecast for tomorrow. You never know what life is going to throw your way.

So to make sure we’re ready for whatever weather might be headed our way, we have to prepare for the challenges at hand.

This is especially important when we head outdoors for our fitness. If something happens at the gym, you’re surrounded by fitness professionals who can help you out, and know when you’re pushing yourself too far. But if you run into an issue on a hike to see Multnomah falls? There may be others on the trail. but you’ve got to take care of yourself and know when you’re pushing yourself too far.

Here are a few tips you can remember before headed to the trailhead:

Plan ahead – I like to say “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.” It might sound pessimistic, but think about it this way: When you’re a mile away from your car dressed for a warm day in the sun and it starts to drizzle, it’s going to get cold and wet awfully fast.

So make sure you are prepared for the trail before you set out. I highly recommend you take proper clothing for the occasion when you head out. If you’re going hiking, wear hiking boots, light, breathable clothing, and take some light rain gear in a backpack. Don’t forget to prepare for sun, either, so wear sunscreen and a hat.

Calories and Water – Always, always, always take water with you if you’re going to be spending some time outdoors! As you go hiking or biking, your body is going to be using a lot more fluids, which means you’re going to need more water than you might for a day in the office. The last thing you want to experience when you’re on a trail is dehydration.

Another thing many people tend to overlook while headed outdoors is trail mix. Like water, your body is going to be burning quite a few more calories than normal. Trail mix will provide your body with the energy it needs to keep going, so you don’t burn out halfway through the hike.

Know where you’re going – Even if you’re headed to a well defined path, it’s very important that you know exactly where you’re starting, where you’re headed, and how long the trail is. On a map, trails may look very easy to navigate, but sometimes maps don’t always include forks in the road, or unmarked trails. Know where you’re going, so you at least have a fair idea of what to expect on the trail.

Stretch – I cannot stress this enough for anyone who is planning on travelling outdoors. Unlike spending some time on a treadmill or an elliptical, outdoor trails are going to vary in exertion with every step. Some portions will be level, others will be fairly steep, and some might shift both uphill and downhill.

Make sure you’re doing your stretches for your legs, so your body is prepared for a little extra exertion than normal. The last place you want a cramp is on the trail.

Don’t overexert yourself – If this is one of the first times you’ve gone on a trek, remember to take it easy, and don’t feel compelled to go too far. Just because there’s something to see at the end of the path doesn’t mean you have to get there in record time. Pushing yourself at the gym is one thing, but remember that you still have to make it back to the trailhead once you get to your destination.

Grab a camera – Maybe not an essential, but you’re going outdoors to enjoy the view in addition to your fitness. So grab a camera and take some shots so you can share! I love to hear about where everyone is going on the weekends, and would love to see pictures of your latest experience!

When you do get a great shot, be sure to share it with Boomer Fitness on Facebook, and tell us about what you’re doing outdoors!

The Relationship Between the Gym and Your Health

Progress in Action - Road Barricade Improvement and Change for FLast week I wrote about the dangers of not working out. It might have sounded a little harsh, but I meant every word. Too few people know the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, especially when paired with the unhealthy foods so many of us find on grocery shelves.

With an unhealthy lifestyle comes heart disease, plaque in the arteries, a proneness to diabetes… the list can go on and on. It’s scary to think about what can happen if we choose to do nothing. But like I wrote last Tuesday, I would much rather you hear the truth than hiding behind a set of lies.

Sometimes, we all need a kick in the pants to get started on our long journey. But on the other hand, we always hear about the doom and gloom surrounding an unhealthy lifestyle. What about the positive effects of a mobile lifestyle? And not just the long term effects, either.

Believe it or not, your body starts changing the exact moment you start working out at the gym. Big results take a long time, but that doesn’t mean you’re accomplishing nothing when you start doing lunges for the first time. Take a look at what’s happening to your body when you first start working out:

Metabolism Boost – Minutes after you start working your body, your metabolism is going to get a huge boost in energy. As your body starts to recognize that it’s using more energy than normal, it’s going to start producing neurochemicals responsible for metabolism to compensate for this new motion. This boost can last anywhere between a few hours and a few days. To get the best results, you will have to continue exercise so your body continues to boost.

Improvement in Mood -After a workout, you might notice that you’re having a better day now compared to when you walked in. It’s not just in your head; those same neurochemicals I talked about boosting your metabolism are also responsible for boosting your mood. Working out at the gym will produce these neurochemicals, and you will feel more relaxed, more confident, and have more energy to hit the day.

Regulate Blood Sugar – Blood sugar, or glucose, is used as an energy source throughout our body, but we can’t have too much of it floating around in us. Your body produces insulin to control the amount of glucose found in our blood stream, but having too much glucose can lead to Type II diabetes. So how do we balance it? Exercising goes a long way to combating excessive blood sugar, burning it as you move more. As your body burns more energy, it will compensate less.

Lowering Blood Pressure – You might be thinking “how does making my heart work more cause blood pressure to drop?” As we get older, our blood vessels start to get stiff, causing more pressure throughout our system. While it’s true that your heart might be beating more frequently during your time in the gym, you’re also flexing and moving your blood vessels, which loosens them up and allows blood to move freely. You might not notice a difference in how you feel, but your blood pressure monitor sure will.

These improvements don’t take months to acquire. Your body is designed to move, and doing so means it will react positively! The first day at the gym is always tough, but just showing up and doing something is better than sitting in front of the TV. I like to think that no matter how slow you’re moving, you’re still lapping the version of yourself on the couch!

But don’t think you can get away with minimal time at the gym. While small improvements are a good stepping stone, ramping up your effort at the gym is an important aspect of winning back your health. As we like to say at Boomer Fitness, you only have your health once!

Email me when you’re ready to start getting your body in motion! We will start getting you on track to a healthier tomorrow.