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Toxic Load

spray_2Unfortunately, we live in a toxic world.

Your toxic load is the overall amount of toxins you are exposed to daily. In previous emails I talked about the importance of buying organic foods to help reduce our exposure to fungicides, herbicides and pesticides that can damage our beneficial gut bacteria. I also mentioned eating meat and consuming dairy that is hormone and antibiotic free.

By doing these two things we can reduce a lot of extra toxins that inundate our body. But what about other toxins? We can’t control all of them, of course, but the cleaner we can live and reduce toxins we can reduce stress on our body—especially the liver which has to filter all of the toxins.

You skin is your biggest organ.

Your skin is exposed to toxins all day long and will absorb much of what is put on it. So an easy way to reduce your toxic load is to be careful of what you put on your skin! In a typical day someone will use body wash, shampoo, conditioner, facial lotion, deodorant, sunscreen and moisturizer, not to mention makeup. Each of these products is likely to contain some ingredients that are not great to have on or in your body.

Yes, your body can filter toxins quite well and, if there were just a few things to process, it could do wonders at keeping toxins at bay. But you are inundating yourself and your body’s filtration system can’t keep up! So each of those products I listed above, that we all use daily without even thinking, may have harmful ingredients, albeit in a small quantity, that have been tested and found “safe” for consumption. But if you look at the cumulative total amount of that chemical from all the different products—that cumulative amount is much higher and this level is not safe. Many people have health problems from high levels of some of these ingredients.

Parabens are an example.

Parabens are added to many body care products as a cheap way to prevent bacterial growth. In the product list above, most will contain parabens. But what’s the big deal? Parabens are deemed xenoestrogens—agents that mimic estrogen in the body.

Estrogen dominance leads to a host of health problems and weight gain. We are exposed to xenoestrogens in many places. And of the ingredients added to our beauty products, parabens seem relatively harmless. The US uses ingredients in our food and beauty products that most other countries ban. Some US companies actually use the cheap, harmful ingredients in US food and beauty products but change the formulation in order for the product to be sellable in other countries that don’t allow the suspect ingredients. It’s a very manipulative way to be more profitable. More information can be found in this article.

So clean up your skin care products!

Here are some products to check out. Some have cleaner ingredients than others but all are a step in the right direction, and I wanted to list some that are fairly easy to find.

If you go to a local health store you are likely to find brands of products that use fewer or no chemical ingredients. I find that many “healthier” products work better than the commercial alternative.

Household Cleaners

We all know that household cleaners are chock full of chemicals. By changing over to homemade alternatives that work just as well, if not better, we can reduce our toxic load significantly. Many of the chemicals can be replaced by natural ingredients that perform the same way. Remember, a company can’t make money off of plant oil but if they can create a chemical that can perform the same way they can patent and market that. For instance, essential oils like peppermint or eucalyptus are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. They make a much safer counter top cleaner than something Dow Chemical concocts—and they smell wonderful! With vinegar, lemon juice, castile soap, baking soda and essential oils you can make household cleaners that aren’t toxic. Check out these websites for recipes:

Pest Control

Personally, this was a big find for me. Where we live we have lots of ants and spiders. It’s just how it is. During hot or dry times ants will start to come in the house. I have tried everything to get rid of them—both chemical treatments and the cayenne pepper type natural treatments. Nothing worked. Then somewhere I learned about diatomaceous earth. This is a fine talc-like powder that is the fossilized remains of marine phytoplankton. It is harmless to swallow, in fact some people use it to rid themselves or their animals of parasites . For bugs with exoskeletons it dries out their outer shell and they die. It can be used to kill fleas, ants and spiders. It is inexpensive, too. Here is more info on it.

Note: Be sure you get it at a health food store and not at a hardware store. The hardware store diatomaceous earth is used for pool treatments and does contain harmful chemicals!

Laundry Detergent

Though it gets a bit less contact with our skin, making your own laundry detergent is fairly simple and again, it is more cost effective. Many people have recipes on line and use natural oils for scent.Here is one site that has a simple way to make your own.

I have heard countless stories of people who have suffered a myriad of ailments from fatigue, to auto
immune conditions, to skin conditions, who have cleaned up their diet and alleviated their symptoms but couldn’t rid themselves of their condition entirely. They then cleaned up their household and beauty products and felt amazing. It might be worth a try—and nothing smells better than an essential oil freshly sprayed on a counter top!

Stressed??

stressedMost of us feel stressed out some of the time. Some of us feel stressed out most of the time. Over the years this constant stress can have negative consequences for our health.

To gain fitness we must manage and manipulate stress.

When training for an athletic event we manipulate stress to make us fast and fitter. The idea behind pushing different paces or distances is to stress our muscles and cardiovascular system just enough so that when we rest, our body repairs to make us fitter. This process is called hormetic stress. This would be how “training” is different than just going out and moving—you are managing how and when to stress you system in order to get fitter/faster/stronger. I am sure you know of people who exercise regularly but don’t really change their fitness levels. Their body has become adapted to their routine and they maintain a certain level of ability but don’t stress their system in order to get fitter. So adding the appropriate stressors of exercise at the right times and doses is good stress.

But there are other stressors that aren’t healthy.

The stressors we are all aware of because we feel them often—work, relationships, finance are among the many things that cause us stress everyday and we need to manage this stress just as an athlete would manage training stress.  For many people, indulging in high sugar foods, alcohol, shopping or even watching TV are common ways to cope with stress. There are some people that over exercise to cope with stress. The problem is that these methods—as good as they might feel in the moment—don’t work long term and can cause more harm than good.

So what are good ways to manage stress?

This question alone could fill many pages and, as always, different things work for different people. But here are a few places to start.

Breathing

If you were suddenly startled by someone think of your reaction. More specifically, how you react with your breathing. You take in a sudden, short, shallow breath of air into your chest. This short sudden breath helps put your body into high alert. It helps to get your cortisol pumping and fight or flee if needed. I’d bet that if you feel how you breathe most of your day, you are taking shallow short breaths and not breathing deeply from your diaphragm. Deep breathing uses muscles that get “turned off” if we don’t practice using them. Breathing deeply helps relax us and counter balance the shallow breathing associated with a “high alert” state.

Try “box breathing”—the idea is simple. Breathe in deeply through your nose into your stomach feeling your chest and belly expand for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 2 and slowly exhale for a count of 4. Hold for a count of 2 and then inhale deeply for a count of 4.  Try doing this for a minute or two each day—once in the morning, once in the afternoon and again in the evening OR anytime you feel stressed. Personally, I try to do it once an hour when I am aware of my breathing becoming shallow. It is amazing how well it works to settle your system. There is an app to help you with this, too. Check outboxbreathing.org

Practice Gratitude

This had been in the news a lot lately. There is research showing that creating a gratitude practice helps with stress and happiness. It helps to refocus our attention on things that matter most that are positive forces rather than negative ones. Though there are a myriad of ways to do this, simply try thinking of 5 things (big or small) that your are grateful for. Do this first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Here are links to more in depth ways to practice gratitude – Huffington Post or Happify

Meditation

We’ve all heard of this method for relieving stress. And personally I find some of the methods intimidating or hard. But the truth is that meditation works. There are many ways to do it and the benefits of it can be gleaned from only 5 minutes a day. You don’t have to meditate like a monk for years and years to reap the rewards. Personally I haven’t sustained a meditation practice but I know many, many people who have and swear by it to cope with anxiety and stress. Since I am by no means an expert in this area, here is a link to a site that gives an overview on different types of meditation – meditation

Pick one of the de-stress methods I have listed above and try it for 5 days. What do you have to lose?

What do you tell yourself?

voicesinheadIn sport and in life getting beyond the stories we tell ourselves is a huge part of the battle.

The mental side of sport is more powerful in helping us succeed (or not) that you can imagine. Not just in sport but in life. If I have to do something I don’t want to do I will make up hundreds of excuses of why it can wait until later or I don’t have time for it yet. If I am doing something I love – racing, swimming or cycling with people that push me – I can crack like a nut mentally. I’ll tell myself all sorts of things that will allow me to back out, slow down or want to give up. We have to listen carefully to the stories we tell ourselves and make sure they embolden us and not hold us back. Easier said than done!

I raced today.

I have taken a long break (9 months) away from structured triathlon training. I was happy with my decision to step away for a while and just do what felt fun. Just as I made peace with this decision, a few of my sponsors asked about my race schedule this year (on the heels of me accepting lots of nice free gear etc.) Feeling a little guilty about not racing at all, I decided to ramp up again and start training for a few races. And I feel like I am starting from scratch.

My first rides back on the bike were slower and harder than anything I remember. How will I ever reach a level of bike fitness like I did before? Maybe I’m too old. Then I raced in a trail race today after putting 200+ miles in on the bike in the last 10 days. My quads felt every mile from the bike as I lumbered up and over the coastal hills in Laguna Beach – minutes behind the people I should be keeping pace with.

And you should have heard the conversation I had in my head. Even though I knew it was a training run for me and I wasn’t “racing” (nor should I be), all I thought about was how slow it felt and how I don’t think I’ll ever get back to being able to run hills like this ever again. And, “What will my sponsors think?! They don’t give me free gear so I can walk and come in last. They will drop me for sure.”

There I was, running on a postcard perfect day in beautiful green hills overlooking the ocean feeling sorry for myself, worried about people seeing how slow I had become, blah, blah, blah. I worked at quieting down that voice and enjoying the run and knowing why I was there. It was an important training run on tired legs to build towards the fitness I want to have come June. It was my husband’s second race ever and its great to see him doing well and enjoying it.

One of the 5k Challenge participants voiced worry about running the 5k since he hadn’t been keeping to the schedule and he’d be the slowest person out there (you know the story.) I reminded him that it was a charity event for animals and 99% of people would be walking and socializing. Its just a fun time and you don’t even have to finish if you don’t want to. Just show up and see what happens.

Think of all the things we opt out of, put off or ignore because we think we can’t do it, aren’t good enough, we’ll look bad or we won’t meet our expectations or other’s expectations of us. I can make a good story for just about anything, but I try and force myself to just show up and see what happens.

This weeks challenge.

I did this challenge with a client and it turned out to have great results. Think of something you have been putting off for whatever reason, but something you really want to get done. It’s that thing you don’t even want to think about because you have put it off or avoided it for so long. It could be getting exercise in your day (which would be fitting for the theme of the 5K Challenge) but it can be ANYTHING – cleaning out a desk or closet,  starting a project you have – you get the idea.

Tomorrow spend 10 min. and only 10 min. on this task. Then walk away and share what you did with someone. The next day you do 10 more min. On day three you can add 5 more minutes for a total of 15minutes only if you want to. Day 4 can go for 10 to 20 min. Commit to a minimum of 10 minutes but no more than 20 for days 5 and 6.

If your task is around exercise—commit to ignoring the voice that tells you how tired you are, how cold it is, how slow you are or that it isn’t worth the effort to go do it for just 10 min. Just show up and see what happens. Heck, if you get only 5 min. done, start there.

energy

How’s your energy?


My goal for my clients is for them to feel superhuman.

What would it look like to feel superhuman? You would have all the energy needed throughout the day to accomplish all your goals.  ALL goals – big/small, personal/business, important/frivolous. You’d get out of bed with the sun (no alarm needed) and feel ready to go. You’d have the energy to tend to your family, your job and yourself (no afternoon coffee needed) and by the end of the day you’d feel tired but not spent and be able to fall asleep easily. Throughout the day you’d get sudden moments of feeling excited to just be alive. Sound crazy? In this day and age when people are over-busy, gulping coffee and energy drinks around the clock and generally stressed out about everything, to feel superhuman may sound impossible but it’s not. It’s attainable, but it does take consistent work and investigation.

Small hinges open big doors.

It can be a daunting task to try to figure out how to regain your energy and stamina. Many of us are either wired and tired or feel sluggish and foggy. There are many things in our lives that sap us of energy but experimenting with small changes in lifestyle can often bring about big results. Sometimes a small change will take a while to produce results but sometimes it can be almost immediate. Experiment with various things to see what changes are big movers for you. Everyone is different but if you don’t try you won’t find what holds you back from feeling better than you thought possible. Try making small changes over time—don’t make 10 huge changes in your habits in one day—most people won’t find that sustainable for the long term. This could be a multiple year journey for you but it is worth it in the long run. There is also much too much information on each area I will mention to go into in an email, but this will be a guideline to investigate some key places that will get you on the path to feeling superhuman.

Prioritize sleep.

Arguably more important than diet and exercise, getting good sleep is a must. If you don’t have good sleep your body can’t be ready for the day. Sleeping is the time your body rebuilds and restores. Don’t compromise your sleep at all costs. Your body is set to become alert as the sun rises by releasing cortisol and then shut down as the day gets darker. Most of us are out of whack with our circadian rhythm. One culprit is that we are exposed to blue light well into the night because of artificial lights from electronics and indoor lights. Here is an article on the negative effects of this. One fix to blue light exposure in the evenings is using blue light blocking glasses. Here is a link to some. Gunnar’s are a bit more expensive than some but they look a bit more normal. There are cheaper ones for around $20 that work well, too. You may look funny but some people have found wearing these types of glasses hugely helpful.

Make sure your sleep space is as dark as possible and cool in temperature. Shut down any wifi connections at night and put your phone on airplane mode if you have to keep it on.

There are also apps that track your sleep quality. Here is one -though I haven’t personally used any of them, I know people who do and find them interesting and helpful.

How much sleep? That depends. You will need fewer hours if the quality of the sleep is high. Some people feel great with 7, others need closer to 9. It also depends on activity level. If you get a sleep routine and become aware of  how you feel and perform the next day, you will become in tune with how much sleep you require to feel your best. When you are in sync you will naturally get tired in the evening and wake up at a similar time each day without thinking about it. Your sleep routine shouldn’t change on the weekends much. Late night movie binging, though fun, isn’t helpful!

Food/Diet

I have talked about this before and there is much too much to talk about but try a few of these ideas.

  • No packaged food
    Or more specifically, nothing with an ingredient list (frozen broccoli is technically packaged but shouldn’t have an ingredient list beyond broccoli) Some people have had amazing results in their health by ridding their diet of the long list of chemicals put in packaged foods. Try 30 days packaged food free. If that sounds too daunting – there are lots of products at health food stores that are technically packaged but the ingredient list is only 5 or 6 items all of which you have heard of and are really ingredients – you don’t have to give up your sweet tooth completely. Also, you can use spaghetti squash for a pasta substitute. Poke holes in the squash, put it in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour. Cut it in half when done, remove seeds and scrape the squash into a bowl. For a sauce you can do a simple tomato base with added herbs and veggies of your choice. With enough determination you can make workarounds for any packaged/processed food!
  • Lots of organic leafy greens.
    If you go organic you reduce a lot of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. This is healthier for your gut micro-biome. Organic produce will also be more nutrient dense because of how the soil is treated. Many people have had their lives changed by eliminating the chemicals found on foods and in foods that are processed.
  • Drink good quality water.
    Avoid water that has sat in plastic (even if its BPA free). Bottled water in plastic has been sitting in the container for a long time and has been exposed to heat which leaches the plastic chemicals into the water. Filter your main faucet at home. Reverse osmosis is great but there are more affordable filtering methods, too. I buy reverse osmosis water in town by the 5 gallon container and have a water dispenser in the kitchen.
  • Eat only High quality meats
    If you eat meat pay for quality. Meaning grass fed and hormone free. Make sure it is not only grass fed but grass finished. Some companies feed the animals grass for a while but finish them on grains which alters the fatty acid of the meat. You want grass fed/grass finished meat that will have more omega 3’s and vitamin K.  Make sure its free of antibiotic and hormones. You aren’t what you eat, you are what you eat ate. Chickens should be free to eat outdoors – not fed corn and soy! We are fortunate to have a great local option. Watkin’s beef has a butcher shop that you can go to and purchase healthy, humanely treated beef and chicken. Check out their website or directions to their butcher shop. If you eat fish, which is great, eat wild caught – NOT farmed! For similar reasons as above.
  • Eliminate
    For 30 days take gluten, dairy, grains and legumes out of your diet completely. This is probably the most daunting for people and certainly the most controversial. Try it – even for two weeks (though 30 days is better) Then reintroduce one of the items back into your diet one at at a time. If you feel no ill consequences – great! But you may find that you don’t feel as great when you eat them. I know people who have revolutionized how they feel by simply removing one or more of those items from their diet.
  • Eat Fat
    Give your body the healthy fat it craves. First cold-pressed, unfiltered olive oil, avocados, raw seeds and nuts, healthy meats (if it isn’t good quality meat as described above, cut the fat off!) I was a slow adopter to this one. But our bodies need fat for lots of reasons. Avoid the low fat/fat free craze.
  • No vegetable oils ever
    Canola, corn, soy etc. This is one of the reasons to avoid processed food but restaurants cook with them. They are horrible for you. If you do nothing else on this list but remove these from your diet you will be healthier! Check out more about them here.

I could go on and on but it may already be too much! Pick one or two things and start with that.
Start to feel superhuman!

 

Preventing Running Injuries

readytorunSo many people I talk to have stopped running because they couldn’t stay injury free or they are pushing through miles taped up and trying to stave off injuries.

I have recommended Kelly Starrett’s book, Ready to Run, to anyone who will listen to me long enough. I find that most people don’t want to run out buy a book and sit and read it. I find my clients don’t want to do the soft tissue and mobility work I prescribe them because, lets face it, with a busy busy schedule and a race to prepare for miles trump body and mobility work for most of us. But I’d argue that it shouldn’t. Cutting back miles if needed and adding in time doing a program like the one in Ready to Run will reap more rewards on race day and the years beyond!

Here’s a link to the book if you want to get it – http://www.readytorunbook.com/

But for those of you that would rather listen to a podcast, listen to Kelly Starrett interviewed here – http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2014/12/keep-running-destroying-body/

or here – https://www.bulletproofexec.com/podcast-43-bulletproof-your-mobility-and-performance-with-kelly-starrett/