Sleep

Sleep is so important in every function of our bodies.  Mood, memory, mental acuity, fitness; all run optimally on adequate good sleep.

Sleep is when our bodies and systems rest, restore, and recuperate.  Americans in general deprive themselves of sleep with their long work weeks (40 hours is long on average in the world, and a lot of people work 50-60 hours), long commutes, late-night television, and general negligence in maintaining proper sleep schedules.   Everyone, of course, needs a different amount of sleep depending on a number of factors including age, fitness, stress, and general health, among others.  Eight hours of sleep seems to be a good rule for starters, and if you develop a routine, your body will tell you if you need more or less.

It is imperative to get good sleep for optimal health and fitness.  If your brain and body do not get the rest it needs it cannot function properly, and eventually will start to malfunction.  One must develop a routine that fits with their lives and their circadian rhythm in order operate on all cylinders.  There are so many distractions and external stimuli that can wreak havoc on these circadian rhythms that can affect everything from sleep quality, digestion, immune system function, and the list goes on and on.

In future posts I will try to go into everything that sleep affects and what sleep deprivation can do to you.  There are tons of books written in relation to sleep and I could not hope to even mention everything in one post.  Consider this an introduction post, like the Stress post, that will lead to many more.

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Walnuts Reduce Stress

 

Since I just did a post on Stress, I figured I should share this as well.

Walnuts Reduce Stress.

 

via Walnuts Reduce Stress.

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Stress

This will be one of likely many posts on the topic of stress.  Everyone goes through various amounts and intensities of stress, so we all have a vague recognition of what stress is.  It is good for one to know more in-depth how stress works, from where it arises, how it affects you, and how to help relieve it.  This post will just be a general discussion but look forward to future posts going into more depth later on.

The two most often causes of stress for typical Americans are work and financial issues.  I have received plenty of stress from both sources over the years, and currently have an overabundance of stress due to my continued unemployment.

Stress from work seems to be most common, especially if the person has been careful with their finances and have no issues with debt or purchasing power.  How often do you, or a family member, or friend complain about something at work?  They can’t stand their boss, they can’t stand the customers, they feel undervalued, underpaid, under appreciated.  These feeling are all pent-up and can cause severe stress.

Anyone who has ever had financial debt or trouble finding a well-paying job knows how potent financial stress can be.  Having to worry constantly about paying your bills and credit scores is enough to drive a person insane with stress.  I’m sure it becomes even more devastating when you have dependents, such as children.  I only have myself to account for and financial stress can be overwhelming.

For some people just venting to someone is enough for them to reduce their stress enough to get by, but others have to turn to other avenues.  Some people turn to alcohol or drugs (including prescription) to help them, but these are not effective remedies and often lead to severe health and addiction issues that can take many years to fix, if they ever do.

Exercise is recently becoming known as the defacto way to reduce stress.  The studies being done are proving that exercise, most specifically aerobic exercise, has a profound affect on the brain, including reducing stress dramatically.  This will be a central topic of a future combination of posts after I re-read a book written by a doctor at Harvard that extrapolates the effects of exercise on the brain in detail.

Where does your stress come from?  How do you deal with it and are your methods effective and productive?

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Couch to 5k

As I mentioned in my first introductory post, I recently started running with the Couch to 5k (C25K) program with a friend of mine.  I first heard of the program several years ago from the same friend, who showed me this site, though I had never given it a go until now.

The C25K program is essentially a beginner’s running schedule, or guideline, created by a guy named Josh Clark (read here for a little interview) in 1996.  It has since then became insanely popular and seemingly the go-to program for inexperienced runners and out-of-shape people everywhere looking to get into the game.  There are even apps for iPhone (and I think some others) for the program, that allow you to listen to music and time the runs and tell you when to walk or run.  They even allow you to share your run with Facebook and Twitter!

C25K is a 9-week schedule designed to take you from being a couch potato, to being able to run a 5k (or 30 minutes).  The program is set up with a new schedule each week with progressively longer runs with shorter breaks.  You run three times a week, for around 30 minutes each run.

The program is of course flexible and you can fit it into your lifestyle any way you like.  Some more fit people do it straight through in 9 weeks, where as some less fit people, such as myself, need to repeat some weeks to progress to the next more difficult week.  Previously I had repeated almost indiscriminately just to allow for the next change of pace to be more comfortable.  I think, however, that I will switch to a different system of repetition, that I recently read about, where you only repeat an exercise when you fail to complete it, until you can complete it, and then you move on.

We just started week 5 yesterday, which I failed.  There are two reasons for my failure in my estimation.  First, I slacked off last week and didn’t run since last Monday, so I had gone a whole week without running at all.  Secondly, week 5 seems to be where it gets harder through what appears to be week 7.  If you look at the program, you can see weeks 1-4 ease you into it, though they can still be difficult.  Week 5 is the first week that has three different workouts for the workouts that week.  Then after week 7,  it is just a matter of adding on a few minutes of time for your established longer run to finish out the program.

Tomorrow I will attempt Week 5 Day 1 again, and suspect I’ll succeed.  Then I think with the new repetition guidelines, I’ll move to Day 2 on Friday, until I can complete that one (hopefully on Friday!).

I urge anyone who is not currently active to give this program a shot to jump-start their fitness levels to get to where they need and want to be.  Just because you may be skinny doesn’t mean you’re also fit.  I also think that a 5k is a minimum benchmark distance that every adult should be able to run.

Does anyone have any experience with the C25K program that they would like to share?  Perhaps just some thoughts on running and fitness in general?

Some links to more information:

Cool Running – The Couch-to-5k Running Plan – This is the main site for the plan, as well as the first one I had ever seen.

No Pain, No Pain: The “Couch to 5k” and Humane Design – The interview with creator Josh Clark detailing the creation of the program.

Couch to 5k – C25k Running Program – This site is setting up to be the go-to site for C25K and has an active forum, as well as links for conversions and translations.

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First Steps

I’ve started this blog in the interest of sharing and promoting discussion on the latest health and fitness news and discoveries.  Quite often new research leads to facts and strong theories that are major upgrades to the Conventional Wisdom espoused throughout the years by government and health agencies, but these extremely important discoveries do not get the recognition they deserve, if any at all.

Please note this will be an ongoing project.  I currently have the blog set to private as I figure out what I’m doing and learn the ropes.  You should be able to share it with any friends and family you would like to, I think the blog is just not appearing on search engines for now.  Please do not hesitate to offer suggestions or contributions of any type including content and the blog in general.

To provide a little background about me, I’ve been interested in health and fitness steadily more over the last few years, as I’ve been overweight and out of shape most of my life.  I’ve tried a number of diets and exercise regimens over the years, and never really stuck with any of them longer than a few weeks.  This is due to a number of factors including laziness, apathy, ambivalence on my part, as well as factors such as injury, environment, and living situations.  Essentially, most the time I made excuses or ignored the problems, and when I did try to do something, other situations would interrupt me and I’d start the cycle over again.

This past year I resolved to change this, and it has been a slow process with ups and downs, but relatively successful.  I feel progress reflected in my personal resolve, as well as actions such as creating this blog, and making regular conscious decisions in my day-to-day life.

Earlier this year I was living at home with my mom, which as any who have eaten with us know, is a double-edged sword.  My mom is an excellent cook, and uses almost all fresh and clean foods, especially vegetables.   However, she is southern, and it reflects in the meals.  The main problem was I enjoyed most of the food so much, that my portions added calories far beyond my expenditure to my diet.  This was soon to change.  In February I was topping out somewhere around 320lbs and getting little if any exercise.  I immediately made strides in my food choices, bringing healthier lunches to work and working with my mom to have healthier dinners and also trying to control portion sizes.  I noticed some small results in body composition but started feeling better nearly instantly.  Then I started p90x.

I’m sure all of you have heard of p90x by now, if you haven’t tried it yourself, or at least seen the infomercials.  For those rare few who haven’t, in a nutshell, it’s a program created by super celeb trainer Tony Horton all but guaranteed to get you ripped in 90 days.  That did not happen to me because you’re supposed to be in pretty good shape before you start the program.  It’s a program for strength, conditioning, and toning, not for weight loss.  The program is a schedule of workouts implementing muscle confusion and intense exercises in three phases.  A typical week is 3 days of strength training, and 3 days of supplemental workouts of things like plyometrics, yoga, kenpo karate, and stretching.  Then after 3 weeks of that you have a cool down week featuring core and the aforementioned supplementary workouts, then a new phase with some new and different exercises for the muscle confusion.

Anyways, the program comes with the DVDs, but also a recommended nutrition guide to follow with the program for optimal effects.  I ignored this for the first two phases but decided to try the phase one diet when I started phase three.  This was probably a bad idea for a number of reasons:

1) Phase three is when you’re normally supposed to step up your game, which I did, and push through the end of the program with maximum effect.  (I ended up having to quit a week or two before the end due to a severely pinched nerve in my back.)

2)I also started doing doubles with phase three, which is adding 45 minutes of cardio workouts 3-4 times a week in the mornings, on TOP of the already established schedule.

3)What really made this a bad idea, I think, is that the phase one diet is a low-carb diet.  So without any warning or phasing, I started a low-carb diet cutting out a large part of my energy source as I was ramping up my energy expenditures to levels I’ve never sustained at any point in my life.  Needless to say, I crashed at least once, but slept it off and continued in any case until my injury.

In any case, I made great gains with that experiment losing approximately 30-35lbs.  It was, and still is, reassuring and motivating to see that.  Even more important was how good I felt in general with the better diet and with regular exercise.   Since then I’ve moved to the Los Angeles, California area and lost some more weight.  I’m hovering around 270lbs these days, which is a loss of 50lbs so far this year.

The really shocking and encouraging part for me is how much better that number could be!  I’ve had little control over my diet since I moved here in May, and have managed my weight, and even lost a little, despite excessive carbohydrate consumption.  Around two months ago I also started the Couch 2 5k program with a friend which is helping as well, and creating a whole new set of challenges (I’ve never been a runner in even my most fit moments in life.)

With that brief recent history of my health and fitness, I can say that I’m more resolute than ever to get in shape, primarily, and stay there while improving my health and fitness as much as possible.  I’ve developed a serious interest in living a primal lifestyle, which I will do a post on soon, and also tackling p90x again, and possibly Insanity, another 60day program.  Most important and exciting, I want to be active outdoors with sports and other activities, which I will hopefully be able to highlight on here as well, with help from others.

So you know more about my history, and the purpose of the blog if you’ve read this far.  I hope you are still interested and even better if you are interested in contributing your views and histories, or discussion with myself and others on the various topics introduced.

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