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.

 

 

Rebuild From The Ground Up

A few weekends ago I taught a movement restoration workshop at my facility, Primal Strength New York. It’s called “From the Ground Up,” and it’s an overview of the Original Strength movement restoration system. This workshop, and this system is all about restoring your/our lost functional abilities. We were made to move, move well, and move often. These days that is not exactly the case, though.  Through this system I have learned a lot.  I have helped a lot of people, as well as personally

baby crawling
baby crawling

come back from a torn labrum and a denervated teres minor. That is an interesting story in and of itself, and one that I will gladly tell in later blog posts.

The workshop took 2 hours.  There was a good turnout.  Even better, it was a varied assortment of demographics. Some young, some middle aged, and some older.  Some were athletic, looking to be more so, and some were just looking to alleviate some of the common ailments of living in today’s sedentary society.  You know the ones; achy joints, poor flexibility, balance issues, etc.  The wonderful thing about this system is that it works for everyone.  Many of the same movements that will help a young athlete run faster, jump higher, and lift more weight will help a 70 year old move more easily, more confidently, and exhibit better balance.

What did the workshop consist of?  We covered each of the Big 5 movements in Original Strength.  Breathing, head control, rocking, rolling, and crawling.  For each of the Big 5, we covered a progression and a regression.  So after all was said and done, we covered 15 techniques. Actually, I finished a little early so I had time to go over some extra-curricular resets that I personally enjoy. Before and after each reset we tested and retested a movement to see if we made some improvement.  The movements that we tested were a body weight squat, a toe touch, and single leg balance.  What is really cool to see is over the course of the two hours everyone’s movements tested better and better.  Some movements were better for some then others, but all improved.  Everyone came into this workshop with a different movement history.  And different movement histories require different solutions. But improving your diaphragm function, stimulating your vestibular system, and crossing mid-line through various resets will help everyone to some degree or another.

Within the Original Strength system we adhere to a good, better, best principle.  This means that all of the resets are good for you, some are better, and then others are the best for what you need right now.  What is “best” today might not be “best” tomorrow, but the more you understand the system the easier it becomes for you to find what your own personal “best” reset will be.  That being said, once you find your “best,” it doesn’t mean to ignore the rest.  It just means that the “best” reset is addressing a particular weak link in your chain, one that will help all of the other resets that much more. Peppering your day with that reset will have a cumulative effect.  Same as all of the intermittent sitting that we are forced to do all day  has a negative cumulative effect on your mobility, balance, and strength.

I’ve learned that the quality of one’s life is directly related to how well they move.  So progressively getting tighter and less agile as we age is literally stripping away the quality of our lives.  What if I told you that with just a few minutes a day you can begin to turn back the hands of time?  Learning and performing some of these movement “resets” every day will improve the quality of your life.  And that increased quality becomes cumulative.  The better you move, the more you want to move.  The more you want to move, the more of life you can enjoy.  At the end of the road, what we regret is the things that we didn’t do.  No one says, “Man, I wish I sat on my butt and watched more TV.”  Or ,”I really wish I had more joint pain in my life.”

It’s not too late.  If you would like to learn more, check out one of Original Strength’s books.  Their most recent release and the most updated is Original Strength Reloaded.  If you would like more personal instruction feel free to contact me at Tristan@primalstrengthny.com or go to my website www.primalstrengthny.com.

Something to think about…  How many people do you know that have a nagging pain or ache that came out of nowhere?  They didn’t fall out of a tree or anything.  One day their knee just began to hurt, or it was their back, or hip.  Where did that pain come from? Why is it so common these days?