Stress, the silent enemy Part 1

Stress.  We all have it in one way or another.  Some create it themselves, others were born into it through no fault of their own, and many don’t even know that they have it.  Stress comes in many forms.  Today we are going to talk about physical and mental stress.  Both create the same hormonal response in the body.  Elevated cortisol (known as the stress hormone) and adrenaline levels.  Stress is something that isn’t considered enough in the health and fitness journey for most people.  When someone decides that they want to lose some body fat they usually start to exercise, and/or work on their diet.  Both of these are good places to start.  But they are not the only pieces to the puzzle.

Lets talk about chronic stress a bit.  First, what is chronic stress?  To define that we need to quickly talk about the sympathetic and para-sympathetic nervous systems.  Your sympathetic nervous system is what kicks in when you are running away from or towards something.  It’s your “fight or flight” nervous system.  Your para-sympathetic nervous system is what kicks in (hopefully) when you go to sleep, or get a massage, or go for a relaxing walk.  Part of the problem these days is we have a lot of sympathetic going on.  Long work days, emails coming in at all hours, credit card bills, late nights and early mornings, etc.  Slowing down and relaxing just isn’t sexy right now.

When we are in chronic stress mode we have chronically elevate cortisol and adrenaline levels.  Now cortisol and adrenaline are not bad hormones in and of themselves.  If you are getting chased by a hungry bear, these hormones will speed up your heart rate, increase blood flow to all of your muscles which will literally make you stronger and faster, heighten your senses, and shut down all unnecessary bodily functions.  All that matters in that moment is your “fight and/or flight.”  But in chronic stress these hormones are leaking into your system all the time.  So now you have chronically elevated levels of these hormones which leads to slower metabolism, increased inflammation, muscle loss, poor sleep quality, high blood pressure, more body fat, hair loss,  and much, much more.  If you look at those qualities separately, it sounds a lot like what most of us think is the natural down side of “getting old.”  Weird…..

How many people do you know that say,” When I was younger I could eat whatever I wanted!”  Or,”I used to be shredded!”, or even,” I used to sleep like a rock.”  A statement like that is usually followed by ,”and thegood morning stressn I turned (insert age here), sigh.”  So, is it the fact that we got older, or is it the fact that we acquired more stress in our life?  More responsibilities, more bills, more expectations, and less down time, less “play dates” with our friends, and usually less sleep.  Those of you with kids will certainly know what I am talking about.  I’m not saying that those of you without kids don’t have stress,  but I honestly don’t think anyone will get it more then the mother and father of a new born baby.  Not that I have one, mind you, but I’ve trained many people that have, and have seen the consequences. Never sleeping through the night, yet still having all of the responsibilities of new parents.

At this point you might be thinking ,”So you’re saying if I lower my stress levels I’ll get a faster metabolism, lower inflammation levels, gain muscle, sleep better, have lower blood pressure, less body fat, and even more hair?!”

Yes, that is what I’m saying. How do you do that?  Well, I’ve been told that blogs need to stay below 750 words, and unfortunately I’m already at 625, and I don’t want to rob you of a well worded answer. 😉  So my next blog will be a list of several things that you can do to lower your stress levels.  Some you may have heard of before, and some might be a surprise.

Stay tuned….

 

Something to think about: Do you remember when you slept the best?  Or when you were your leanest and/or most muscular?  When did that change?  What else was going on in your life around that same time? Any new stresses?  More responsibilities?  Later nights?

 

Feel free to comment below, I would love to hear from you guys.

 

 

So it begins….

Here we go.  I’ve been dragging my feet on starting a blog for some time now.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing/typing, it’s me being hesitant to take on the responsibility of putting out valuable content on a regular basis.  I am now ready for the commitment. Primal Strength New York has been open for about 3 years now.  Needless to say there are a lot of balls in the air when you are owning and running a business.  But everyone has excuses, so it’s time to get this party started.

What drives me to do what I do is the state of our species at the moment.  We conquered the world by being the best movers in the jungle and yet, many of us are now stuck in a seated position for 60-80% of our week.  It’s crazy when you think about it. We have created this world where we can do almost everything while seated.  I’m 36 years old now, and the changes in just the few decades that I’ve been around are astounding.  When I was a child we used to walk everywhere.  Riding my bicycle an hour to get somewhere was no big deal. These days, not so much. Moving is fading in popularity all too quickly.  It is sad, really.

So why am I so passionate about movement?  I guess it has to do with my path to get where I am now.  I spent my childhood as a pudgy, nonathletic kid.  Pillsbury dough boy, butterball, etc.  Much of who we are today is 100% reactionary to our experiences growing up, and who I am now is certainly that, a response to what I didn’t like about myself as an adolescent.  Anyway, when I was 20 years old I found Kung fu.  It lit me up in a way that nothing ever had before.  I dove in head first, and full steam ahead.  I spent 10 years practicing and teaching Choi Lei Faht Kung fu.  I lived immersed in a world of movement without really paying attention to the movement aspects of the art form that I was practicing.  Spending as much time and energy teaching people how to move as I did teaches you a lot. There is a lot more to this part of my story, but I will save that for a later date.

In 2008 kettlebells came into my life.  Through learning how to use these round hunks of metal I realized that what I had thought was a love of kung fu was in fact a love of movement.  Kung fu was just my first taste of it. The kettlebell was merely another tool to help me learn how to use my body more effectively.  From that realization came a hunger to see what else was out there.  I learned about the barbell, dumbbells,  Indian clubs, sandbags, and good old school calisthenics.  Each tool added to my repertoire and grew my passion for movement.

In my humble opinion, movement is the missing link for most people today. It seems to be the best kept secret, and yet it doesn’t matter what your goals are, moving better will help you get there.  Do you want to lose some body fat?  Move better, move more, and clean up your diet.  Do you want to get stronger?  Move better, then lift some heavy stuff.  Do you want to build muscle?  Move better, lift heavy stuff, eat a lot, and sleep a lot as well.  Do you want to have a higher functioning brain?  Yes, move better.  There is plenty of science demonstrating that your brain functions better in a movement rich environment.

So there is my introduction for The Primal Movement.  Bear with me as I learn the ins and outs of blogging.  I have a lot to say.  Sometimes it is hard to get started, and other times it is hard to stop. I’ll try to keep the grammatical errors to a minimum.  I make no promises with effect/affect, though. I just never know which one is appropriate. 🙂

Something to think about.  For the next week or 2 pay attention to how often you sit, and how you feel after getting up after a prolonged sitting spell.  Do your hips feel “sticky?”  Are you a bit slow to get moving?  Does your back feel stiff? What do you think happens after years and years of this?

For more information about what I do and where I do it, check out www.primalstrengthny.com