Exercise

Maximise your workouts by tailoring it to your menstrual cycle

Your menstrual cycle plus exercise can often equal misery, right? Everything your body is going through is enough on its own, who wants to add exercise to that equation? We’ve all been there at one time or another but there are definitely some perks to exercising while you’re on your period. 

Now, this isn’t going to be one of those blogs that tells you to put the chocolate down and make sure you workout every day of your menstrual cycle. We completely understand that a little bit of indulgence and rest can be the best thing for you during your time of the month. But if you still want to exercise and get your endorphins flowing, then keep reading! We are diving into everything you should know about exercising while on your period.  

A little bit about menstrual cycles

Before we get into it, let’s briefly discuss menstrual cycles.  

Generally, a full menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days, with a little bit of wiggle room. Some cycles can range from 23 to 35 days. The first day of your period is the start of your menstrual cycle followed by the next 27 days until you begin your next period counting as a complete cycle.

Every menstrual cycle is unique but they all have the same phases – the menstrual phase, follicular phase, ovulation and the luteal phase. 

These phases make up each complete month of your menstrual cycle and they can make you feel differently throughout the month. 

The menstrual phase is from when your period starts to when it ends and your estrogen and progesterone hormone levels decrease during this time. It usually lasts for about 3-7 days but it can vary. This begins the follicular phase which starts on day one of your period and continues until ovulation and it’s usually about 16 days. During this phase, the follicle-stimulating hormone is released. 

During ovulation, the luteinizing hormone is released in response to the follicular phase’s rise in estrogen levels. You may notice your body temperature increase during this phase. 

And then lastly you’ll enter the luteal phase where there is a rise in progesterone and a slight increase in estrogen levels and then as this phase ends, these hormones will decrease. This is when you’ll experience all those fun PMS symptoms like bloating, headaches and cravings (large Cadbury bar anyone?).  

How does working out affect your period (and vice versa)?  

While you’re on your period, your body and hormones often feel like they’re going through the most! 

Any form of exercise can have subtle or extreme influences on your menstrual cycle depending on how your body reacts to physical activity. Your body is controlled by your hormones and physical activity can impact your hormone levels which is why your period can affect the way you workout. 

Want to know a secret though? You can maximise your workouts by simply going with your flow. According to Women’s Health advisory board member Stacy T. Sims, PhD, you can tailor your exercise routine to your cycle and you can find a way to perform at your best throughout the month.

 

Exercise

How to maximise my workouts 

Firstly, high-five for even thinking of hitting a workout while on your period because it can be tough. 

Your menstrual cycle causes your hormone levels to change throughout the month which in turn makes you feel stronger, more tired or moody depending on the time of your cycle. 

In the beginning

During the beginning stages of your cycle (this is when you’re on your period), your progesterone and estrogen are at their lowest which can cause a dip in energy levels and cause your emotions to go a little haywire. This is a great time to really listen to your body and see what it feels like doing. 

If you’re really struggling then do a slower form of workouts like going for a walk, doing yoga or even just hopping on the treadmill. This will keep your body moving, increase your endorphins and you should be feeling a lot better once you’re done. 

If you’re up to it though, you should try and include some strength training in your workouts. Research has shown that strength training during the follicular phase (days 1-14 of your cycle) results in increases in muscle strength compared to training in the luteal phase (days 15-28 of your cycle).

The sweet middle spot

During the middle of your menstrual cycle (this is usually during ovulation), you might find your energy levels increasing as your estrogen and testosterone levels increase again. This is the best time for high-intensity workouts and possibly even some heavyweight training. It’s time to take full advantage of your power! 

The end is near

And then finally you’ll move into the luteal phase. This is when your progesterone levels rise and your estrogen decreases. To be quite honest, this is the most problematic time of the month and this is when you begin experiencing the majority of your PMS symptoms.   

This is probably when you’re going to feel like sitting on the couch working through your watch list on Netflix rather than working out at the gym. But don’t give up on your physical health! 

Try to go for shorter workouts or keep your workouts the same but use lighter weights and less intensity. Be realistic about what your body is going through and don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re not performing at your best. 

Menstrual cycles can be frustrating but equally wonderful. They give you the opportunity to fully embrace yourself and all that you’re capable of. It’s just about making your flow work for you. 

Mindfulness

Be Ever Present: The Art of Mindfulness

We often get consumed by the hustle and bustle of daily life. We find ourselves going through the motions every day without being too conscious of it. This often leads to feelings of burnout or unfulfillment which is why mindfulness has become such an important art to master. 

When people say the word ‘mindfulness’, a variety of thoughts may cross your mind; “has this got to do with spirituality?” “Do I now have to start meditating?” “I really don’t have time to add another task to my day”. And most importantly, “what does mindfulness do and does it work?”

We’re highlighting the importance of mindfulness and showcasing how easy it is to add it to your daily ‘To-Do List”.  This blog is going to take you through the journey of mindfulness – from what it is, all the way to how you can practice it. 

What is mindfulness?

Simply speaking, mindfulness is being 100% present in every moment. 

The Mindful Blog describes it as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”.

Mindfulness is something innate in us that we are all fully capable of doing but due to our busy lives and the allure of social media, we easily forgot to be present in the moment. This makes mindfulness something we need to practice daily.

If you ever catch yourself really noticing what your senses are experiencing or you’re deeply aware of your emotions and your thoughts, you’re being mindful. The art of mindfulness includes learning breathing methods, using guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind. In the long run, these practices will help calm your mind, body and soul. 

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

The art of mindfulness is not merely focusing on the benefits of it. The goal is to practice it daily and slowly begin to notice the changes your mind and body will experience. 

When we solely focus on the benefits something can have for us, we often forget to completely immerse ourselves in the journey. That being said, there definitely are a variety of benefits to mindfulness. 

When you’re mindful, you are able to reduce your stress levels, gain insight and awareness of not only yourself but the world around you and enhance your performance in everyday life. You are able to gain a completely different perspective into your life and the lives of those closest to you. A perspective that is free of judgement, prejudice and full of positivity

According to the Mayo Clinic, mindful meditations have shown to minimise: 

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

Mindfulness has also proven to: 

  • Improve attention
  • Decrease burnout
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve diabetes control

Mindfulness

How to practice mindfulness 

Now that we’ve explained the beauty mindfulness has to offer, it’s time to dig into how you can practice being mindful every day. There are a variety of simple techniques to use so we’ve listed a few. 

1. Pay attention

This sounds slightly obvious, if I’m living and doing tasks then, of course, I’m paying attention. 

Well, not necessarily. 

Paying attention means more than just being there and doing something. It’s about slowing down and actively noticing the world around you through all 5 of your senses and really thinking about how it makes you feel. 

2. Live in the moment

This means putting your phone away and being present. Don’t think about how cool this would look on Instagram and snapping a selfie as a result. Instead, be intentional with what you’re doing. Be open and accepting of all that is around you while being completely aware of your thoughts and feelings. 

Living in the moment also means being truly appreciative of what you have and those around you. 

Of course, you are going to be battling with fighting off plaguing thoughts that naturally enter your mind. But the trick is to accept and acknowledge those thoughts, and then let them go as you release them. 

A good way to look at your thoughts is as though you are sitting on the side of a busy road, watching the cars pass you by. Your thoughts are the cars. And you can either choose to pick a car to travel in – aka – a specific thought – or you can simply sit and watch them go by. This is the practice of peace and being present. It is the art of not allowing your thoughts to control and take over your mind. It is giving you the ability to control which thoughts you focus on and which ones do not deserve your attention. 

3. Accept yourself

If you don’t accept yourself, you will feel less inclined to be mindful because mindfulness opens you up to being vulnerable and taking a deeper look into yourself. You need to practice self-love and self-acceptance and truly love yourself like you would a close friend. 

4. Focus on your breathing

If you are feeling negative or anxious, you need to take a step back and fully focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath in and close your eyes, focus on your breath as you breathe out and pay attention to how the air moves through your body. Carry on breathing in and out focusing on the feeling of your breath. 

There are more advanced ways of practising mindfulness like through meditation where your breathing and your thoughts come together but for now, we’ve left you with the basics to get started. 

Some facts about mindfulness

  1. Mindfulness is not something that’s unfamiliar to you, it’s something we all know how to do. Life just has a way of taking over in some moments. 
  2. You don’t need to change who you are to be mindful but it requires you to use simple practices to open yourself up completely.
  3. Anyone can do it. From children to the elderly, this is something that is so easy to master and will truly transform your life.
  4. Mindfulness is something you need to be conscious of as often as possible. You need to train your brain to actively be mindful. 
  5. Being mindful can assist you at your job as well as in your personal life. When you’re mindful, you have a higher chance of being innovative and finding effective solutions to difficult problems. 

Take a moment now to truly be mindful. Sit back, breathe in and focus on your senses. In a short amount of time and with practice, you will truly transform your life.

Let’s be positive

Set yourself up for a positive day, everyday

Do you feel like everyday is a struggle to find the motivation to do anything? Well then it’s time to make some serious changes! Adding some positive daily habits into your life can definitely help with creating a bullet proof routine that will ultimately encourage you to have a great day, everyday.

Being positive is a choice. I truly believe that if we have our mind in a positive space we can become unstoppable in all aspects of our life. But finding a way to keep ourselves motivated and positive takes work and conscious effort. You need to create a morning routine to get your mind into a positive space. This way you will feel motivated to tackle everything in your day!


7 Tips to get onto the positive train

 

Get up and get going

You know when that first alarm goes off? Don’t press snooze! Get up right away and get going. Trust me, I know it’s much easier said than done but it really makes a difference in helping you feel less groggy and more motivated! 

What am I grateful for

Waking up and thinking about or writing down what you are grateful for will really help you focus on the positive things you have in your life. It doesn’t need to be more than 5 minutes every morning, but make this a priority! This will set you out in a positive direction and will put you in a good mood.

healthy and happy

Drink water

Even though it may sound obvious, drinking a big glass of room temperature water first thing in the morning BEFORE you grab your coffee will make your body feel good and revitalized. Drinking water will hydrate you and wake you right up!

Meditation or deep breaths

Taking 5 minutes in the morning to meditate or even do breathing exercises is a great way to clear your mind before your day starts. It doesn’t need to be anything formal, you could literally just sit down while doing your gratitude exercise or drinking your water and take a few deep breaths!

Have a healthy wholesome breakfast

Instead of skipping breakfast completely, eat something healthy and nutritious. If you don’t have too much time you could throw together a smoothie that is jam packed with wholesome goodness! Eating healthily goes hand in hand with feeling good about yourself and your day. 

Put together a playlist

Put together a playlist of your favourite happy songs! That way you can just press play and that positive feeling will come your way. Music really can bring in those feel good vibes into your life, so try to incorporate that into your morning (whether it may be when you are getting ready for work or when your commuting to work).

Move your body

Finding time to move your body and get a great workout in definitely has a massive positive impact on the body and mind. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but exercise helps release endorphins (happy hormones) into your body which make you feel happy and positive! I suggest trying to fit in your workout in the morning but if not set a time that works for you everyday.

Let’s be positive!

Ultimately, you have the control on how you live your life and how you decide to look at things. Using the above tips will really help set you up for success and get those positive vibes flowing throughout your day, everyday! 

“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible!”

 

Running

BREATHING WHILE YOU RUN: THE EXPERT GUIDE TO BREATHING RIGHT AND RUNNING BETTER

Proper breathing can make the world of difference when running. Whether you are just starting out or you’ve been running for years, chances are, you’ve often struggled with your breathing. 

Now, we get that our hamstrings, quads and calves are the driving force that propel us forward, but the power of your breath is more important than you realise. In fact, getting your breathing right will not only make your running more enjoyable but it will make you a stronger, better runner. Meaning you can run harder for longer. 

The science behind breathing

Many runners start out not knowing the importance of breathing correctly. The right breathing technique is vital as a runner. It differentiates rookies from experts. But far too few runners are actually aware of how their breathing impacts their running, not to mention how the body works when we breathe. 

When we breathe in, our diaphragm will contract and the lungs will expand – basic science. Breathing in allows oxygen into the body, an important gas that our muscles need to generate energy. We thus inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. When carbon dioxide accumulates in the body, it can lead to breathlessness and anxiety, making any run feel incredibly strenuous and hard. 

How to breathe right to run better

The first thing you need to pay attention to so that you can properly examine the efficacy of your breathing technique (apart from gasping for air like a fish out of water), is assessing whether or not you are using your diaphragm effectively. Some signs include: 

  • Pain or tightness in your upper body while running 
  • Flared ribs or an arched back 
  • Paradoxical breathing – your stomach rises when exhaling and compresses when inhaling

All of the above signs indicate an issue with your breathing efficacy. When you bring awareness to your breathing technique, this will enable you to create a calmer mind, steadier pace and help you to endure high-pressure race scenarios. Focusing on a good breathing technique will give you the power you need to fight any fatigue you might experience and maintain a proper form. 

Did you know that the common reason why we gasp for air when we run is because we have not regulated our body’s response to running and our heightened state of breathing? Instead of reacting in a ‘fight or flight’ manner, we need to adapt our way of thinking to be ‘rest and remain calm’. 

When we react in a stressful manner to running (i.e. heavy breathing, gasping for air, feeling light-headed), this will impact your lungs and heart, which in turn, means you cannot run without reaching your ventilatory threshold, this is the point at which you cannot breathe in oxygen quickly or deeply enough to meet your body’s demand. When nearing this point, our body’s stress response will kick in and result in struggle and panic. It’s a vicious cycle. 

 

Breathing with your belly and not your chest

Deep belly breathing is the correct breathing technique to use when running, also known as diaphragmatic breathing. This will result in a maximum oxygen intake compared to shallow chest breathing.  Your maximum oxygen intake is known as your VO2 max – this is the maximum rate of oxygen your body can use when exercising. The higher this value is, the more oxygen your body is able to consume and the more effectively the body can use oxygen to generate energy. 

The air we breathe in will remain in our lungs for a short period of time, which will prevent the complete exchange of air, thus reducing the oxygen intake. When our breathing technique is poor, it can not only result in unnecessary fatigue but also the common side stitch so many runners experience. Deep belly breathing allows for increased oxygen intake and prevents side stitches. 

Here’s how to do it…

For a few minutes before your run (you can also practise this at random during the day), lie down on a comfortable surface, placing your hand on your belly. Take a few slow, deep breaths, ensuring your belly naturally lifts your hand when inhaling and your hand sinks when exhaling. Once you are comfortable with this technique, you can practise it when moving around and running at a comfortable pace. 

Pay attention to your form 

Make sure you also pay attention to your posture when running. Your upper body should be straight, shoulders relaxed (not hunched forward) and your head should be in line with your body, not pushed forward. 

Applying deep belly breathing to your running: Rhythmic breathing

Experienced runners know about rhythmic breathing. This is breathing in a pattern which allows you to increase your oxygen intake and result in your body being in a more relaxed state. Remember, every time your foot hits the ground, your body experiences stress associated with this impact. It’s your job to control how your body reacts to this stress. 

An expert trick is to alternate exhales between your left and right foot. This form of rhythmic breathing will allow for less pressure to be placed on your diaphragm and balance the impact between both sides of the body. 

Following a 3:2 pattern allows you to focus on your breathing and lessen the stress your body experiences. This means you will inhale for three strides and exhale for two. If you increase your pace, you can change the pattern to be 2:1 – Allowing your body to take in more oxygen and quickly expel the carbon dioxide. 

The final stride

Following these expert tips will improve your running, lessen the stressful impact of running on your body and help make your running more enjoyable. 

A word from RunMalibu

This blog was written by WellBe&Co in collaboration with RunMalibu. WellBe&Co is a personal and corporate wellness company specializing in easy-to-implement, lifestyle-focused nutrition, training and health solutions.

Yoga & self love

The Link Between Yoga & Self-Love

When I talk to other people about yoga, more often than not I get a response similar to this – ‘I would love to try it but I’m just SO inflexible!’. And while I try my best trying to explain that this truly doesn’t matter, it doesn’t help that every picture we see online or in social media of ‘the modern yogi’ is someone doing the splits, or folding themselves like a pretzel.

There are enough ways we all judge ourselves and compare against others. And yoga isn’t another form of exercise we do to hopefully, one day, feel better about ourselves. Doing the perfect headstand, or a perfect backbend is not the end goal. And even if it was, it wouldn’t guarantee that we love ourselves anymore. 

As Judith Lasatar so aptly says – ‘Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what we learn on the way down’. 

But what exactly are we learning when we show up on our mat to practice?

Yoga is an inward journey

Let’s take a step back and remember that the practice of yoga is believed to date back over 5,000 years. It truly is an ancient discipline, that was practiced to cultivate a strong and supple body so that one could be able to sit still in meditation for long periods. Having a strong core, supple spine and open hips was necessary to ensure the body stayed relaxed and comfortable, without being a disturbance or distraction.

The ultimate goal for the Yogi was to be still. To be able to master their mind, achieve inner peace, and ultimately – enlightenment. 

Western culture has glorified the physical practice, yet the heart of yoga remains – as a tool to guide us on an inward journey so we can find true harmony within ourselves.

In our fast-paced, distracted modern lives, wouldn’t it be a joy to interact with people who are calm, centered, and present? Who can navigate all changes and challenges from a place of grounding?

yoga self love

Lessons from the mat

Each time you step onto your mat, you show up for yourself. Although yoga is often practiced among a group of people, it is very much an individual practice. The focus is within your four corners of your mat. As you move silently, you are guided to tune into the sensations of your body and to move with intention. Where the body goes, the mind follows, and so by focusing and controlling the physical self, we, in turn, can experience calm and ease in our thinking mind.

Yoga means to ‘yoke or unite’. What are we uniting? Our body and our mind, through a focus on our breath. 

Every moment on your mat is a time to tune in and connect. In building strength through movement, we cultivate a stronger sense of self. As we stretch and lengthen our bodies, we also learn to expand our mindfulness and awareness. It is an all-encompassing practice that leads us on a path to our true self. 

And while we may not achieve enlightenment like few of those ancient yogis, with a real commitment to our practice, the lessons we learn on our mat impact who we become off our mat, and we begin to show up in our lives with greater compassion, empathy, self-acceptance, and joy!

A journey begins with a single step

If touching your toes is no longer a reason to hold you back, the only next step is to decide to start. I have a range of pre-recorded videos to follow along, for free, in the comfort of your own home. There’s something for everyone including beginner classes, guided meditations, yin, vinyasa, and more.

Whatever you decide, the joy is in the journey. You can start yours today.

 

www.joyfulyogi.co.za

Run Run

HOW TO BREAK THROUGH MENTAL BARRIERS WHILE RUNNING

Written by Oliver Brinsford – WellBe&Co Trainer & Sports Psychologist

Mental barriers in sport or other recreational sport events are something that many people experience and struggle with. A big factor for many individuals is the feelings of performance anxiety before taking part in an event – that overthinking, mental negative self talk we so often find ourselves succumbing too – can be completely crippling and can result in a bad performance if left unchecked. However there are a few simple  coping techniques that can be used to your advantage.

But first things first.

What is Performance Anxiety?

Performance anxiety manifests and stems from various stressors for that particular individual in that particular scenario. For example, in the case of a running event, someone might have thoughts of not finishing the race. This then can quickly spiral and feed other more ingrained and personal fears like the fear of letting yourself and potentially other people down in the process.

Others may have worries about not feeling their best during an event, not beating a previous best time or setting too high targets for oneself. All these stressors can add up and become extremely overwhelming prior to performance, so much so that your on-the-day performance actually becomes hindered. 

4 Simple ways to help you overcome these mental barriers

  1. Switch from negative to positive self-talk

Negative thoughts won’t get you anywhere, and certainly won’t get you anywhere faster. Worrying about what might happen is mentally and emotionally taxing and doesn’t serve your end goal – which is to run the best race you can on the day. 

Instead of flooding your mind with negative thinking like: “What if I burnout halfway”, “Everyone else is fitter than I am” or “I should just give up now”, rather put a positive and constructive spin on your thoughts like, “I’m ready for this challenge”, “I’ve trained hard for this race’” and “I’ve got this”.

  1. Use visualization before a race

Visualization is a very powerful tool that is used by many athletes all over the world. It works by helping you focus your mind on all the positive aspects of the race. For example,you may picture yourself crossing the finish line or even something simple like the feeling of the road on your shoes or the sound of your breathing. Visualization is all based around your senses – hearing, touch, sight, smell and taste – and using them to rehearse your specific sport or race before partaking.

Try it right now! 

Close your eyes and picture yourself running your favorite outdoor route. Imagine the sound of your feet as they hit the ground; the feeling of the sun as it warms your skin, the distinct scent of earth and fresh air, and the cooling sensation of a big gulp of water at the halfway point.

1. Incorporate a pre-performance routine

Having a pre-performance routine helps use systematic series of mental and physical cues to help you get focused on the task or event at hand. For running this could include:

  • Having a standard pre-run breakfast meal
  • Taking a few minutes to be quiet and visualize the run ahead or practice some mindful breathing
  • Doing a dynamic warm-up routine

These pre-performance routines and habits can be key in helping you feel mentally calm and physically primed for any run or race.

  1. Stay focused with specific self-instructions

Anxiety as mentioned is very unhelpful when it comes to performance as it makes us focus on what might go wrong rather than what we actually have to do (the challenge ahead). A useful tool to help counteract this is to ask yourself: “what is it that I actually have to do right now?”. Giving yourself specific and actionable commands aids in hindering any unwanted anxiety-provoking interpretations of the situation. 

For instance, next time during a race try using actionable commands like: “deep breaths”, “don’t forget to use your arms”, “relax your shoulders“ and “we are halfway there, so let’s pick up the pace slightly”. These small cues help to avoid the trap of confusing the facts of the situation and keeps you focused on the task ahead.

It doesn’t need to be an uphill battle

Incorporating these expert mental tips and tools will not only help you improve your running, but also free up more mental space so you can actually enjoy the running experience the way you should.

A word from RunMalibu

This blog was written by Oliver Brinsford, a WellBe&Co trainer and sports psychologist, in collaboration with RunMalibu. WellBe&Co is a personal and corporate wellness company specializing in easy-to-implement, lifestyle-focused nutrition, training and health solutions.

Running

UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN BENEFITS OF THE ‘RUNNER’S HIGH’

Written by Sarah Braithwaite, a WellBe&Co Neuroscience-based Life & Health Coach

We have all had that same message drummed into our heads since we were young – ‘eat plenty vegetables, exercise often and get enough sleep’ , and while we are all familiar with the physical benefits these have on our body, most are not aware of the incredible impacts had on our brains – particularly when it comes to exercise. Our brain and body is intrinsically connected and while neurology is flowing downwards, physiology is flowing upwards and to separate the dual effects on one another would be impossible.

The love-hate relationship of endurance running is real – time, commitment, pain, and pressure, versus that insane ‘runners high’ that keeps us coming back for more and more. Let us unpack the latest science on brain health in relation to exercise – after all knowledge is power, and these juicy facts may give you a whole new appreciation for those long arduous training sessions.

How exercise actually rewires your brain

More than a mood boost

The latest buzz word in the neuroscience world, ‘neuroplasticity’, means our brains are able to change and rewire depending on many factors, one being physical movement. Beside the mental health benefits of reducing anxiety and depression, regular physical exercise is actually rewiring your brain for better cognitive function as well as improvement of emotional regulation. Exercise also allows the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, from the body which is hugely beneficial and explains why we experience mood changes after a workout.

It’s all biochemistry

During exercise, the body begins to produce endorphins which are our ‘feel good’ hormones. The effects of these endorphins plus the release of important neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, means that you are getting all the right kinds of ‘highs’ while you are running. Dopamine affects the reward pathways in the brain while serotonin stabilizes our moods – both are essential to mental health and well-being. While physical exercise is best, studies have also shown the mind boggling benefits to the brain from simply visualising a detailed exercise session in your head – what better evidence to prove the brain’s role in physical movement?

 

Run

4 Ways to maximize your training for better brain health

Okay so now that we have indisputable evidence of just how great movement is for our minds, here are a few easily implementable training hacks to help you get the most out of it:

  1. Incorporate HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

HIIT-style training has been shown to help prompt new cellular growth in the brain as well as increasing activity between neurons and prompting neuroplasticity. 

  1. Keep consistent

Regular exercise improves memory function in the brain. The hippocampus is responsible for memory and learning, and studies have shown that exercise improves these functions and causes neurogenesis (new cellular growth).

  1. Sweat out the stress

Use exercise as a stress release tool to rid your body of excessive levels of toxic cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone that we produce, and it can become toxic when chronic. Stress can quite literally cause the physical release of cortisol.

  1. Be mindful

Combine exercise with some mindful or visualisation practices to encourage neuroplasticity. The mind battles to distinguish reality from imagination, and the power of visualization is helpful in ingraining those neural pathways that are used when performing the activity. 

  1. Eat the right brain food

The brain thrives off of slow release carbohydrates as well as healthy fats. Dr Tara Swart, a remound Neuroscientist, recommends food such as: eggs, nuts, avos, coconut oil and salmon. Other foods such as sweet potatoes and healthy grains can also be beneficial. 

Movement for the mind 

Regular exercise, like running, really has profound benefits for both the brain and body, and that ‘high’ is there as a reminder to keep coming back for more. And with that in mind, I’m putting on my trainers and hitting the road…

A word from WellBe

This blog was written by Sarah Braithwaite, of MindSight, is a WellBe&Co Neuroscience-based Health & Life Coach, in collaboration with RunMalibu.

DEBUNKING 7 COMMON MYTHS AND MISNOMERS OF RUNNING

Written by WellBe&Co

When it comes to running wisdom, numerous myths and misconceptions have been generated over time, and some of these more popular theories have turned out to be a lot more fiction than fact.

Recent research has debunked some of the most widely-known rules and beliefs. From stretching before a run to adopting extreme fad diets, here are some of the most common running myths that you should kick to the curb.

Myth busters: running facts vs fiction

Myth 1: Running trail is harder than road

Road runners thinking about trying their hand at trail running are often hesitant to tackle more technical routes due to the unfamiliar terrain. But is trail running really harder than road running? 

It’s true that trail running requires a lot more attention than running on local roads. This is largely due to the uneven terrain, steeper grades and winding switchback, while road running provides smoother and harder surfaces which often correlate to faster times. 

Because of this, people tend to think that road running has a lower level of difficulty, while the slower and more technical nature of trail running tends to get a bad reputation. 

Often we want to categorize trail running and road running as two completely different activities but, at the end of the day, they are both just running. According to most athletes, if you are already an avid runner, then you already have all the skills you need to run on the trails. 

In fact, trying your hand at trial running could benefit you in the long run since many health professionals actually report seeing less injuries in runners that mix their training with some trail running and road running than those who prefer to stick just to the roads.

Myth 2: Runners don’t need strength training 

Most people tend to think that if they want to improve their running, all they should focus on is running. In actual fact, if you want to perform at your full potential, you should try to adopt a more comprehensive approach to your training. 

Strength training is a key part of boosting performance and preventing injury. Strategically targeting different body parts on different days will also help you to better strengthen your muscles, improve your power output, give you a stronger, better push on the roads and improve your overall race time. 

That’s why it’s important to supplement regular roadwork with occasional training to strengthen muscles and joints, as well as to target areas of fitness that you may not normally pay attention to – such as flexibility, balance, mobility, and strength.

Myth 3: Taking a few days off will hurt your fitness

The benefits of rest days shouldn’t be underestimated. Most people tend to forget that one of the most important parts of exercising effectively is giving our bodies time to recover.

Often, being stuck in an “I must work out everyday” mindset will do more harm than good. A lot of the time we tend to feel like taking a day or two off for rest and recovery, or sometimes even for illness, means that we have immediately lost the miles that we’ve logged during the week.

The truth is that cardiovascular fitness doesn’t just disappear overnight. Studies show that there is little decrease in general fitness over the first 10 days of inactivity in trained athletes. So if you need a rest day, take it. There’s no real need to ‘make up’ for the lost time.

Myth 4: Running is bad for your knees 

Running will mess up your knees completely. It’s only a matter of time, right? Wrong. Research shows that running is in fact really healthy for your joints and plays a significant role in preventing bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

A recent study even found that 80 marathon athletes reported that their bones and joints around the knee actually became stronger after training! And while 45% of running injuries do involve knee pain, it’s not the running itself that is inherently strenuous on your body, but rather the related issues which result from weak hips, tight muscles and overuse.

The only time you should really be cautious about injuring your knees when running is if you’ve had a recent knee surgery or if you’re significantly overweight. If that’s the case, it’s always better to start with a more gradual fitness routine before jumping right into an intensive running routine. 

Myth 5: You don’t have the right body shape to be a runner 

Often people are told that they are too tall, too heavy, too big or too short to be a good runner.

While it’s true that most elite trail or roadrunners have a specific shape and build, we’re not all born elite gold-medalists who are predisposed to a smaller frame and leaner body fat percentage. In reality, most of us don’t have single-digit body fat, and there is no ideal body type for someone looking to get into the sport. 

While an individual’s body weight is undoubtedly important when it comes to distance running (since being lighter generally makes running a little easier), runners of all shapes and sizes are capable of beating times and breaking personal records.

Simply put: anyone can become a runner. At any big race, whether it’s a 5km or marathon, you’ll see athletes with varying body types cross the finish line. All it takes is a good level of aerobic fitness and the right training program.

Myth 6: Stretch before you run 

While many people swear by a regular stretch routine before a run or race, static stretching is not actually the optimal way to warm up before a run. 

In general, the rule is to never stretch a cold muscle. Certified running coaches tend to agree that you should never engage in static stretching before a run as lengthening your muscles could actually over-strain your muscles, and a simple stretch might even end up slowing you down instead.

Your primary focus should instead be to get enough oxygen into your muscles before you partake in any type of physical exertion. A good idea is to start it by warming up with a slow walk. Swing your arms back  and forth to get the blood moving or do a few shoulder shrugs. The idea is to slowly elevate your heart rate for a few minutes before you pick up your pace. 

Myth 7: There is a perfect diet for running

These days, athletes are always always looking for a new fad diet that will make them leaner and faster. 

In reality, there is no specific diet for athletes looking to build stamina and better their performance. The bottom line is that proper nutrition and a balanced diet is all that matters when it comes to keeping your body fit and strong – and research has shown that we are able to thrive equally well on a variety of diets. 

The key is trying different diets to find out what works best for you and to create a sustainable lifestyle centre around holistic, healthy living. Essentially, it is all about experimenting with a range of meals and eating plans to see what combination of foods will help you feel good while also enabling you to reach your peak athletic performance. 

Whether it’s a vegan lifestyle, a ketogenic diet or a plant-based way of living, once you’ve figured out your best diet, it will undoubtedly give you more energy and stamina when you head out on the roads or the trails. 

A final word 

Don’t let any myths or misconceptions keep you from hitting the road – or the trail, or the track. At the end of the day, running is an ever-evolving sport, and new studies, better research and different theories are always showing up in the running community. 

The trick is to use these opportunities to learn something new so that you can better develop your running wisdom and put your best foot forward every time you hit the roads.  

A word from WellBe&Co

This blog was written by WellBe&Co in collaboration with RunMalibu. RunMalibu is taking virtual running to the next level with their US-based virtual races hosted between 7th and 8th November 2021. 

TRAINING FOR RUNNING

CALLING ALL RUNNERS! THE BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING FOR RUNNING

Have you ever started running and then a few weeks later you find your body being consistently sore with niggles and possibly a potential injury? If you shouted ‘hell yes’ in your mind right now then this one’s for you!

Check this out: THE POWER OF MOVEMENT: INCORPORATING EXERCISE INTO YOUR LIFESTYLE

Whether you are getting into running or you have been running for years, it’s very important to incorporate strengthening exercises into your routine. Strengthening your glutes, hamstrings and core will help you prevent injury and set you up for success. Many of us are naturally more quad dominant when we run due to weak hamstrings and glutes from sitting all day at work. You may feel like when you run your glutes or hamstrings struggle to activate leaving your quads with most of the work. This will cause injury in the long run if you don’t give it some time and attention.

When it comes to strength training there are many benefits you can gain:

Running 101

Reduced risk of injury

A strong core and lower body will set you up for success. If you strengthen these parts of your body, you will be able to maintain a correct running form throughout your runs, reducing your risk of injury to your hips, knees, lower back and so on.

Many injuries form from muscle imbalances or weaknesses. Using strength training, you can treat theses imbalances or weaknesses and therefore avoid injuries altogether. Not only will you avoid the pain from injury but you will also avoid having to stop running because of an injury. This will leave you more motivated to continue running and it’ll help you form a consistent running habit.

Running becomes easier

Like anything else, if you run consistently it will become easier. Adding strength training to the mix will help speed up the process because if you strengthen the parts of your body that you are using when running your runs will feel easier and more doable.

Reduced fatigue

Strength training helps prepare your body for the stress it endures on a run. It will help your muscles perform for longer without getting tired. You will be more prepared to fight off those tough moments when you are running than before – avoiding cramping up or muscle fatigue.

Keen to get started with some strength training? Here is a gentle strengthening workout that you can do absolutely anywhere. 

Here’s a great read: 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR BRAIN FITNESS AND BOOST MOTIVATION

Runner’s workout

Workout:
• 1 min single leg glute bridge (each side)
• 1 min lying lateral raises (each side)
• 1 min bird dog (each side)
• 1 min lying clams (each side)
• 1 min plank hip dips
• 1 min single leg deadlift (each side)
*Complete each exercise back to back with little to no break. 1-minute rest between rounds*
3/4 ROUNDS

Happy Running!

Let’s keep in touch:
Instagram and Facebook: @thelivelyfitnessgirl

Website: www.livelyfitness.co.za

Email: jessica@livelyfitness.co.za

MASTERING MEDITATION

MASTERING MEDITATION: HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR EMOTIONAL AWARENESS AND CULTIVATE MENTAL CLARITY

Between trying to balance a busy home life with the never-ending demands of the world of work, it can be hard to find time in the day to take care of your own mental health and well-being. 

That’s why, in this week’s blog, we go over our top tips for embracing self-awareness through regular meditation and developing better emotional wellness by taking time to practice mindfulness every day.

We also give you a go over a quick and simple, five-minute meditation session that is perfect for stress relief where you’re short on time.

What is meditation? 

Meditation is the habitual practice of training your mind to build better focus, redirect your thoughts and improve your own emotional awareness. This ancient wellness practise focuses on training awareness, attention, and compassion while trying to achieve a state of mental clarity and emotional calmness.

What most people don’t know is that there are actually many different styles of meditation, and each practice requires a different skillset and mindset. The two major styles of mediations include:

  1. Focused-attention meditation: 

This style of meditation aims to focus your attention on a single thought, object or visualization in order to clear your mind of any disturbances or distractions. This could involve repeating a particular mantra or focusing on a specific breathing pattern. 

  1. Open-monitoring meditation:

This type of meditation is all about broadening your awareness as a whole while taking in every aspect of your environment. The idea is to become more aware of the thoughts, feelings and sensations around you which you may usually try to suppress or skip over in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The benefits of meditation

Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health, and the practice has been successfully used for many years to help people increase awareness of both their inner selves and their surroundings. 

Individuals who are able to effectively enter a meditative stage are able to use this practice to develop a more outlook on life, elevate their mood and improve their self-discipline – but research shows that the benefits of meditation extend past just basic self-awareness and a better sense of clarity.

Here are just a few of the ways in which developing a daily meditation routine will benefit you:

  1. It will reduce your stress and anxiety 
  2. It will calm your nervous system (since meditation has been proven to be a very effective way to bring your brain waves into a deeply calm and relaxed state)
  3. It will promote better emotional health and self-awareness 
  4. It will improve your attention span and concentration
  5. It will help reduce any memory loss 
  6. According to some research, it will help you manage symptoms of all kinds of conditions such as asthma, chronic pain, depression, high blood pressure, sleep problems and tension headaches.

MASTERING MEDITATION

Meditation basics 

How to manage your breathing 

Most people think that there must be a certain technique to breathing right when it comes to meditation but, in actual fact,  most meditation experts recommend that you allow your body to breathe naturally. After all, the whole point of mindfulness and meditation is to cultivate awareness and find a sense of peace.

That being said, there are a few tips and tricks that will help you hone your focus and really immerse yourself in that meditative stage. Experts recommend that you take several deep breaths before you start, as well as to focus on breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth until you find a comfortable rhythm.

Keeping a clear head 

It’s completely normal to feel your mind wondering when you first start your meditation journey. The important thing to remember is that it will always take a bit of time to get comfortable with being alone with your thoughts when you first get started, and there’s no rush to achieve a certain level of clarity and stillness immediately. 

The reality is that meditation is not about stopping your thoughts completely. Instead, it’s about learning how to observe your thinking while managing feelings of restlessness and anxiety in order to find some stillness in the moment. 

Remember, there might be some setbacks along the way, but it’s important to recognize that this is just a part of your meditation journey. 

A quick 5-minute meditation routine for stress relief  

Gaining a new perspective when it comes to stressful situations can be as simple as dedicating just five minutes a day to sitting down and taking some time to improve your mindfulness through meditation.

The great thing about meditation is that it really can be done anywhere, and it doesn’t require any specialized equipment or space. 

How to get started:

  1. Find a place on the floor or at your desk chair to sit upright in a relaxed, comfortable position. 
  2. Take time to notice how you’re feeling and acknowledge any emotions or sensations that you may be experiencing at the time.
  3. Actively relax your body and feel the weight of it sink into the floor or your chair. 
  4. Take a second to notice your own breathing pattern and slowly breathe deeply in and out through your nose and mouth until you are comfortable.
  5. Now, take five minutes to sit in stillness and reflect. Remember to be kind to your wandering mind as you take on this new practice. 

While five minutes can feel like a short amount of time, taking a moment to separate yourself from the constant busyness and distraction of the world we live in today can dramatically improve your ability to cope with stress, increase your focus and improve your productivity — as well as enable you to be more fully present during the rest of your activities throughout the day.

Some other handy tips: 

If your work or home environment has too many distractions to allow for a peaceful, quiet surrounding, consider participating in a group meditation class over the weekend. This can improve your chance of successfully mastering meditation as you’ll have the guidance of a seasoned instructor to assist you during your learning journey, as well as the additional support of an entirely new community.

Alternatively, consider setting your alarm a few minutes early to take advantage of some quiet time in the morning. This may help you develop a more consistent habit and allow you to set the tone for the day so that you can tackle every task further with a more positive attitude.

Holistic, healthy living with WellBe

This November, we’re zoning-in on the theme of focus, mental wellness and mindfulness. 

Here at WellBe, we want to give you the right tools to strengthen your mind and your body and to start building a healthy balanced lifestyle for yourself.

That’s why we’ve developed our two new 12-week nutrition and training guides to help you live every day with a clear intention to get closer to achieving your goals and living a life that is centred around healing, health and happiness. 

Our easy-to-implement, lifestyle-focused nutrition, training and health solutions are fun, simple and the perfect way to improve your mental focus and renew your motivation for the week ahead with a variety of healthy, balanced meal plans and killer workout routines.

 

Want to know more? Check out our Instagram page or contact one of our friendly WellBe team members for more information today.