Did you know you have a superpower? Yep, it's true. We all have it no matter our age or ability. It’s neuroplasticity! Your brains ability to rewire and grow when challenged.
It’s the reason I can confidently say it’s never too late and anything is possible. You can grow, learn new skills, be active & agile at any age.
But, there's a catch. It only happens when you challenge yourself outside your comfort zone and do lots (and lots) of repetition to cement in that new healthy habit or skill.
As a physical therapist working in brain injury rehab these past 20+ years, this was my job. Provide tons and tons of opportunities that challenged the patient who had injured their brain to use their weak side so they could walk and function better.
It's called a "forced use approach" to regaining muscle function (motor control). You're trying to turn on the weak muscles and create new pathways in the brain to help the body move better.
My patients all learned the easy way to move on their own using their strong side. Sometimes on day 1 of their injury. It wasn’t efficient and it limited their ability to reach their full potential functionally, but it was easy for them to pick up on their own.
That’s what your brain will do if you don’t challenge it. It’ll find the easiest way for you to function but most likely will keep you small and limited. And if you don't use it, you LOSE it. This is true whether it's a goal to improve your physical, mental, or emotional health.
Typically, every new habit or goal you want to achieve is outside your comfort zone. It's not something you are used to doing. You've got to learn some new skills to accomplish it. Turn on some new brain cells (neurons) and make new pathways.
And as soon as you decide you’ve got a new goal, whether it’s from fitness to finances, you brain is going to resist with fear and sabotaging behaviors. We all experience this. We always will no matter how healthy, successful or happy we are.
The research shows not even a life-threatening diagnosis of say cancer or heart disease will encourage most people to change their diet or behaviors like smoking. I can’t tell you how many patient’s I saw pushing their IV pole outside of MD Anderson Cancer Center for a cigarette during a chemo break when I worked in the Houston Medical Center.
Your brain is just trying to protect you. Keep you safe (in your comfort zone.)
That’s why I love a good brain hack. It might be from the support of a coach or therapist, a shift in mindset, or adding a new mantra to your bag of tricks. The more tools you have to deal with resistance and limiting beliefs, the better.
It takes practice and repetition, but the good news is that IT IS POSSIBLE to rewire your brain to accomplish any skill, goal or healthy habit you desire.
I've got 3 brain hacks to help you snap out of it when you start sabotaging. #3 is brand new so be sure to test it out.
3 BRAIN HACKS TO HELP YOU PLAY BIG & TAP INTO YOUR SUPERPOWER
Did you figure out your Peak Time to workout yet? If so, did you shift anything around in your schedule and see changes in your energy or performance?
Hope so. I've got another fitness hack to help you plan your workouts.
You can use your monthly cycle to help guide you with exercise.
Cycle check in (for females):
Where are you in your monthly cycle?
Your body needs different activity and has different energy levels based on the changes in hormones you go through each monthly cycle.
Paying attention to and respecting these needs throughout the month will help your body have more energy and perform better with less effort.
In general, you want to be gentle and take it easy while you are bleeding and start to ramp up exercise during the middle of your cycle. You want to ramp down as you approach the end of your cycle.
Beginning of your cycle (Days 1-5): focus on Rest/Reflect/Relax activities (i.e. naps, meditate, gentle stretching/walking).
Middle of your cycle (Days 6-20): you can train harder and increase the intensity (i.e. strength, cardio, interval training).
End of your cycle (Days 21-28): start to taper down training (i.e. yoga, pilates).
To dig deeper into this, check out the:
Not bleeding regularly or at all? You can use the lunar cycle to guide you. Kate's book talks about this in detail but basically:
If you are male, you can do this too. You actually go through all these hormone cycles in a 24 hour period. Every. Single. Day. You've got a few options:
Cycle syncing + working out at your Peak Time will help you get better results with less effort!
If you test it out, you'll see what I mean. Give it a go and let me know your results in the comments below.
P.S. Want to feel, move, & perform better in 3 minutes or less? Download the free MINI MOVES Daily Planner & Cheat Sheet for simple self-care exercises that’ll help your body feel more energy, ease and flow each day.
Want to get better results with less effort when you exercise?
Here's a cool fitness tip for you to test.
One of the best things I started doing a few years ago was planning my day around my body’s natural rhythms and peak times.
If you pay attention, you can figure out your peak times for exercise, work, and other activities.
Peak Time check in: When are you at your best?
One of the first steps to know your peak time for exercise is figuring out if you’re a lark or a night owl.
In the research, a LARK is defined as an EARLY RISER or what you might refer to as a morning person.
A NIGHT OWL is someone who naturally goes to bed at 1 or 2am.
The summer is a great time to figure out which one you are naturally especially if you’re on vacation.
When you don’t have an alarm clock, when do you naturally wake up or go to bed?
The goal is to exercise, train, or do physical activity when you’re at your peak time.
The best time for LARKS is to exercise is between 7am to midday.
And the best time for NIGHT OWLS to exercise is around 8pm.
Schedule your workouts or training at your peak time to perform better with less effort.
You’ll naturally have more energy during and after exercise plus it’ll be less depleting to your body overall.
I realize work and other commitments can interfere with your ability to do this all the time. Just do your best to block it off.
Be creative and mindful as you plan your workouts to see if you can shift any of your current activities to support your peak times.
Even if you do this 20% of the time, you’ll feel a huge difference in your energy and performance.
P.S. Download this free daily planner to help you pick out a few self-care & mini moves each morning. Your body will love them!
I had the most fascinating thing happen last month. I got a 12-minute treatment for dry eyes that my optometrist recommended and without changing my glasses prescription I was able to see SOOOOO much better.
Driving home, I felt like a kid at Disney World looking around in awe at all the details. Everything was so sharp and clear. Kind of like you feel after getting a new pair of glasses or contacts. Or it feels watching a 3-D movie.
And walking the dogs in the dark that night was dramatically better. The difference before and after treatment really blew me away!
Being in the brain injury rehab world, I had heard some info on dry eyes but now I really get it.
Besides going to the eye doctor each year and eating your carrots, people don’t talk much about what you can do for your eye health.
It’s more important than ever because we all have so much screen time.
Anytime you’re focusing on a screen (any screen), you’re blinking less among other things.
We’ve got some tiny oil glands in our eyelids that help keep the eye lubricated and love it when we blink. Apparently, they also love heat and massage.
The treatment I got a week ago was a heat and massage for my eyelids called LipiFlow. It helps unblock those tiny oil glands that get backed up for various reasons.
I didn’t realize all the things I could do to help them function better. Honestly, I didn’t really know they existed until this past month.
Here’s what I’ve learned you can do to counter screen time and help support the function of these tiny oil glands:
Not sure if you’ve got dry eyes? Here are some symptoms to look out for:
Burning, dryness, irritation, light sensitivity, vision fluctuations, contact lens intolerance, eye fatigue.
MINI MOVEMENT BREAKS
Just like our eyes need breaks when we spend too much time focusing, the body needs to MOVE to feel good and work well.
We preach & teach about mini movement breaks throughout the day because the research shows it all adds up to support your brain and body health whether it’s 3 breaths, 3 reps, or 3 minutes of movement.
Mini Moves, as we call them, done throughout the day can help your body feel more energy, ease and flow each day.
Your brain likes to move especially after long periods of sitting or focusing on a task.
When your brain slows down, or brain fog sets in, it’s time to MOVE.
Ignore these signals and you’ll likely get more easily frustrated, be less focused, and less productive.
Want to feel, move, and perform better?
We’ve got 16 mini moves for you to experiment with and see which ones work best for your body (including another eye massage exercise you can do). They take anywhere from 3 reps to 3 minutes to do.
Download the MINI MOVES Daily Planner & Cheat Sheet to help your body feel more energy, ease and flow each day.
Enjoy & don’t forget to blink!
P.S. Download this free daily planner to help you pick out a few self-care & mini moves each morning. Your body will love them!
Do you wake up feeling well-rested and pain-free on most days?
Did you know that’s even possible?
Lots of clients tell us they’ve always been tight, are living with aches and pains, and assume they always will be.
Because that’s what happens when you get older, right?
You’re not destined to a life of stiff or sore muscles, slowing down, and eventually falling and breaking your hip.
Stiff joints, sore muscles, and fatigue are all signs of over-training (or over-doing) and not giving your body enough rest or recovery time between your workouts and activities.
Your body needs time to work its magic…to heal and repair itself.
Stiff, sore muscles are also signs you need to work on your mobility or flexibility.
The truth is…
You can win the battle against gravity, sitting, adhesions from old injuries, and the impact exercise has on your body’s flexibility as you age.
It’s possible even if you’ve never touched your toes.
It’s about technique and knowing what to target.
Once you know the fundamentals, you can see how easy they are to sprinkle into your day.
The pill-free way…
So, how can you stop struggling with stiff, sore muscles and fatigue?
You can stretch.
You know that thing you skip when you're trying to squeeze in a quick workout.
But, here's the deal.
Healthy tissue isn’t stiff. It’s elastic. Bungee cord like versus rope like.
Is that how you feel when you move right now?
If not, it’s OK because it’s never too late to improve your flexibility.
The first step…
Stretching is the first step to bringing the spring back into your tissue (after having good hydration and sleep habits).
And it doesn't take a lot of time when you know what to target and what to do before and after you stretch.
Just like we’ve evolved from flip phones to smart phones, we’ve made advances in stretching that’ll make a lasting impact on your flexibility and posture.
If you feel pain with stretching, you’ve gone too far…
There’s nothing more annoying than seeing an athlete on the sidelines getting his hamstring cranked on by a trainer. There is such a thing as over-stretching.
Bottom line: if you have pain with stretching, your body will tighten up more. The body’s response to pain is to protect, tighten up, guard.
And since you’re the best judge of what’s painful or not, you’re the one who should be the stretch “super star” of your body.
You can help your body stay active, agile, & pain-free at any age when you know # 1 thing to target with your stretching and how to stop over-stretching.
We’ll show you how in our FREE training, MINI MOVES: How to have more energy, ease, and flow in your workouts (& life).
In this free mini training series, you’ll learn:
READY TO BE ACTIVE & AGILE AT ANY AGE?
The technique we’ll share with you can benefit everyone. We’ve used it on clients with chronic neck or back pain to professional athletes.
Our pros always seem to achieve their personal best after a treatment (i.e. no hitter, new race time).
Are we promising you’ll become as flexible as a prima ballerina if you stretch daily? No, anatomy and genetics does play a role.
But it’s never too late to improve your flexibility…
if you’re willing to spend 10 minutes a day on simple self-care stretches and moves.
Let's get you stretching with (lasting) benefits!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. Sign up before 6/10/19 to get the free Mini Moves training – it's in 3 short parts (just like your stretch self-care can be) to help you feel better, move better, and ultimately live better.
Whenever you set a new fitness goal, its completely normal to get off track while it’s becoming a habit. You’ll most likely go too hard, too fast and burn yourself out. It’s human nature.
The research tells us this will happen to ALL of us. 80% of New Year’s Resolutions are abandoned in the first two weeks of January!
What’s more important is how fast you bounce back. How resilient you are. Not that you got off track.
You can build your resilience muscle. It just takes practice picking yourself up. In order to do that you have to become mindful of when you get off track. The faster you realize it, the faster you can start up again.
You’ve also got to learn to let go of the guilt of eating that cookie or not going to the gym. Before you go beating yourself up, focus on the fact you caught yourself or noticed that sneaky habit of procrastination and commit to starting over.
It’s OK if you over complicate it, overwhelm yourself, or get distracted by the new shiny object. We want it all NOW. New things excite us. They turn on our brain’s happy hormones. How many books have you started that you haven’t finished?
Whether it’s the holidays, a vacation, or a busy schedule that throws you off track, having the mindset of expecting to get distracted will make it much easier to get focused again on your goal.
Besides working on your mindset around goals, you can try these tips to help you stay and get back on track with them. Take 5-10 minute to reflect on the following when setting a new goal:
Download your Mindful Athlete Goal Setting Worksheet to help you avoid burning yourself out with your new fitness goal.
Keep in mind that fitness goals are really the steps that make up a larger lifestyle journey. It's about deep breaths and baby steps. It’s about progress not perfection. You're training for a marathon not a sprint. Building your resilience muscle will help you stay on course.
You’ve got this!
Mollie & Ender
P.S. Avoid burnout & overwhelm with the Mindful Athlete Goal Setting Worksheet - it's free! Download here.
Want to knock out some of those projects piling up on your to do list? You’ve got to try this time management tool/brain hack.
Your feel-good neurotransmitters, Serotonin and Dopamine, will be flowing to help you push past procrastination and avoid the burnout of trying to do too much at once.
I used it to go through our garage (in 100 degree summer heat) and 2 closets quickly without ending up exhausted or overwhelmed.
It’s called the Pomodoro Technique™. It’ll help you better estimate the time and energy it takes to do a task.
You can use it to:
Focusing your attention on ONE thing, breaking it down, and building in breaks allows you to keep going without getting over fatigued and to finish the task quickly.
The next time you look at your to do list with dread or feel the weight of an unfinished project, train yourself to say, “I’ve got this. I’m gonna do just one Pomodoro Round.”
You won’t believe how much you get done and how great you’ll feel. Want to dive deeper, go to www.pomodorotechnique.com to learn more.
Let me know what you got done using this technique in the comments.
P.S. Not sure what to do after a run or on your recovery day? Download and test out this 3 minute Active Recovery Yoga Routine for Runners.
Do you stretch before or after you run? If not, is it because of time constraints or confusion over which stretches are best?
Since 53-90% of active runners get injured each year, it’s worth taking a moment to consider your running warm up and recovery routine.
Running is a contact sport. It’s a series of controlled falls with rotation and the force generated on your knee and foot can be 3-12 times your body weight.
Stretching with proper breathing prepares your nervous system for your next activity.
If you’re going to run, you need to turn on your nervous system. If you’re going to relax, you need to calm it down.
A boxer isn’t going to throw a punch in the ring without warming up on the mitts. If you run, you need to warm up your hips and prepare your legs for the contact.
How you spend your day effects your play.
Your connective tissue (“fascia”) takes the shape of what you do most. If you sit most of the day, your hips are going to be tight in the front (your hip flexors).
Are you going from sitting in a chair most of the day to running? How long do you sit in the car before you run?
What about after your typical run. Do you plop back into a chair or sofa as soon as you’re done?
Tight hip flexors can cause your gluteal (buttock) muscles to not fire properly. The glutes give you power, speed and stability when running. If they aren’t working properly, the hamstrings have to work harder which can lead to hamstring injuries or cramping.
Opening up the hips before you run will help turn on your gluteal muscles as well as improve your posture, speed and stride.
If you run/jog typically on flat surface long distance (versus a sprinter), we recommend you target the hip flexors (front of hip) before and after you run.
The runner’s lunge stretch will help activate, open up and reset your hips. In the video, Ender shows you how simple it is to modify it before and after you run.
When stretching always:
Runner’s stretch sequence (shown in the video):
PRO TIP: Stretch with a 2 to 1 ratio- start and end stretching on your tight side to give those areas a little more attention and create more balance in your body.
Stretching is one of the best ways to keep your tissue healthy and elastic - bungee cord like not rope like.
REMEMBER: Breath and stretch faster before you run. Breath and stretch slower after you run. Always stretch with control and good form. Never force your tissue to release.
Do you stretch before or after running? If so, leave a comment and let us know your favorite stretch.
Mollie & Ender
The mind-body connection is powerful. Studies show our movements and thoughts impact our health significantly.
Did you know you can shift your mood or boost your immune system with something as simple as sitting up straight in a chair?
A study found that those who had good posture during a mock job interview reported less stress, more confidence and better moods versus those that slumped. Better posture equals better blood flow and less stress on the heart.
Most of us exercise regularly because of the known health benefits and for stress relief. When we can’t get to the gym, any guilt we feel over missing a workout can put extra stress on us.
It’s time to stop those self-sabotaging thoughts. There are many activities you do daily that give you the same health benefits of exercise that you may not be aware of.
Here are 4 ways to experience less stress and the benefits of a workout without breaking a sweat.
Research shows standing in a Power Pose for 2 minutes boosts your confidence and mood.
A Power Pose is when you have your arms and chest open such as in Wonder Woman pose (hands on hips and feet apart) or arms open in a Victory position like you just won a race.
Start doing power poses before you try something new, before your next big meeting, or just as a pick me up when you are feeling low energy.
You’ll feel more confident, focused, and energized similar to what you experience after a strength training workout.
POWER OF BELIEF
Do you believe you exercise enough? Studies show that if you believe you are exercising enough, your body will show the health benefits and vice versa.
A 4 week study found that when participants were told their work of cleaning hotel rooms was good exercise and met the requirement of an active lifestyle, they all showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index compared to the control group.
It’s the placebo effect in action as nothing else had changed except their belief that their work was a form of exercise.
If you believe you aren't exercising enough compared to others, then it creates mental stress which can impact your health and body mass index. The key is to think positively daily that you are and have done enough in terms of exercise and taking care of your body.
It helps to re-frame how you see exercise and realize your daily activities and work tasks do count as part of your daily exercise requirements. All movement counts. Shoot, I guess that means dusting counts as a workout.
POWER OF LAUGHTER
Laughing boosts your mood and your immune system but it also gives you some of the same health benefits of exercise. It increases blood flow to your tissue as well as increases your blood pressure and heart rate.
Everyone knows how a good belly laugh is a great abdominal workout. It can also help with pain.
Norman Cousins shared in his book, Anatomy of an Illness, that 10 minutes of watching a comedy gave him 2 hours of pain free sleep.
If you can’t get to the gym, watch a comedy or hang out with that friend who makes you laugh. You can also try a Laughter Yoga class. Yes, it exists.
POWER OF A SMILE
Smile more even if you have to fake it because the act of smiling improves your mood by producing endorphins like exercise.
You’re going for a smile that makes your eyes crinkle to get the most benefits. Smiling in the mirror is an even more powerful exercise.
Which one of these techniques are you going to try the next time you don’t have time for a traditional workout?
Shifting how you think about exercise can play a huge role in your overall health and how long you live.
You’re worth it!
P.S. Grab your FREE Download of the Head to Toe Posture Checklist to help you strike your best Power Pose!
Never underestimate the power of the human spirit. It’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout the years of working in brain injury rehab.
My motto while working on the brain injury unit at TIRR Hospital in Houston Medical Center was “you never know” what someone’s full recovery will look like. I always tried not to focus on the damage but instead on the strengths the patient had at the time I was meeting them and how to build on that.
The brain is able to rewire due to neuroplasticity with the right stimulation, rest, challenge and attitude.
When you go through something traumatic like a brain injury, it’s the things we take for granted that become important goals: walking, talking, eating, or spending time with your loved ones. In order to stay motivated to achieve those goals, it’s your attitude that plays a huge role in staying the course.
Working with and helping people is a two way street. I always learn a lesson or two (or three) from those I have the privilege to guide through their recovery as a Physical Therapist.
From Steve Lawton, I learned the power of positivity in the healing process. I was thrilled to hear in January that Steve was sharing his story of recovery from a ski accident through his new book, “Head First- a crash course in positivity”.
You CAN build your capacity to be positive just like you can build strength in a muscle.
Steve’s new book is a great way to learn how to strengthen your positivity muscle. His book launch at Book People happened to be the week prior to my dad’s colon cancer surgery.
Hearing Steve share his story reminded me to take one day at a time and focus on what I can control. My thoughts and attitude were really all I could control.
I’ve been through two cancer journeys with my mom and brother that showed me the difference between catching it early versus catching it late. Deep down I felt that we had found my dad’s cancer early but it’s so easy to get worked up about the what if’s when your waiting for a diagnosis. I didn’t want dad to spend the next several years battling this disease into his late 70’s.
I needed to trust the physician and nurses to do their best and that we could handle whatever they found during the surgery. I also chose to focus on all the things that had led up to us finding this tumor and the timing of it.
There is never a good time to go through a cancer diagnosis/treatment but if it had been a year ago, my dad wouldn’t have been a surgical candidate. And we wouldn’t have found it if he hadn’t been on blood thinners to decrease his risk for another stroke.
Ironically, I heard Steve speak again two weeks after my dad’s colon surgery. We’d gotten excellent news. We’d found the cancer early and no further treatment was needed.
That was a huge relief but due to my dad’s age he was recovering slowly from the anesthesia which meant a week in the hospital plus 10 days in inpatient rehab.
My goal after his surgery was to get him out of the hospital environment as fast as possible. The longer you’re in the medical system, the more medications you can end up on and the higher your risk for infection. It’s also stressful and disruptive to not only the patient but the family to be in that world.
It just wasn’t safe to bring dad home yet. He needed more time to heal.
This second time I heard Steve speak, I was struggling with balancing all the demands from my dad’s medical needs, the delay home and trying to get myself out of survival mode.
Steve’s message was perfectly timed as he shared with us how he shifted from survival to recovery mode during his amazing journey back to life. He emphasized the importance of making the shift from “why me” to “what now” to get out of overwhelm and victim mode after a traumatic event.
To make the shift, you can begin by looking at what went right, finding the gratitude for those things and refocusing on your next goal.
Even though I was very grateful for the good news from the surgeon and all the things that caused us to find my dad’s cancer early, the delay in getting my dad home was making it difficult to calm myself and my life back down.
I recognized I needed to take advantage and get myself back on track with my daily routines to be ready for the next phase in dad’s recovery.
I didn’t have total control of my time yet but I could focus on the small moments I did have available to do breathing exercises, make healthier food choices, do some type of exercise, spend time with my dogs and get outside as much as possible. I also made an acupuncture appointment to help reset my nervous system.
All of these choices added up to help me get out of feeling overwhelmed and refueled me just in time to help my dad transition home.
Another way to build your positivity muscle and ability to reset your attitude throughout the day is to have a daily practice from 10 minutes to an hour where you focus on things that calm, center and refocus you.
You have to find what works for you but doing some form of meditation, journaling, and/or exercise is usually a good place to start. Steve’s book has some practical tips on how to begin a morning routine as well.
I had been doing this kind of a practice most mornings prior to my dad’s surgery so I was able to tap back into the routines to help me get out of survival mode much faster than if I hadn't developed one.
Steve’s story of recovery is powerful- fighting for his life after hitting a tree head first while skiing at Breckenridge, CO in 2014 to writing and launching a book about it in 2017!
I encourage you to check out his book that covers 8 steps to increase your positivity, watch his Ted Talk and/or take the Positivity Quiz on his website: stevehlawton.com to learn more about building your positivity muscle. It’s been a great resource for me.
Remember -Anything is Possible!
Mollie Miller, PT