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!
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.
Looking for a quick workout because you're short on time, want to maintain your fitness level while on vacation, or need to restart your workouts after a break?
You'll want to try this band workout.
In just 10 minutes (1 minute hard exercise), you can get the benefits of 50 minutes of traditional endurance training and build strength with these whole body exercises.
We've combined strength training with resistance bands and interval training to give you a full body workout that benefits your brain health (mood) and body (strength + heart health) with less wear and tear on your joints. The bands also travel easily so you can do this workout anywhere.
Get ready to mix it up and challenge yourself with this routine.
** The strength of your band should be enough resistance that you can move through the exercise with good form but not easily.
** Always take a day off in between interval training workouts to rest or do another form of exercise so your body has time to recover fully.
** Make sure you've got the all clear from your physician to do interval training if you have any health issues or are new to it.
** Always use good form when doing the exercises. Do the moves in front of a mirror or window where you can see your reflection if you can't feel how your posture is with each movement. If you notice you are getting sloppy, stop or regroup to avoid injury.
Duration: 10 minutes with just 1 minute of hard exercise
Workout Plan Overview:
1. Warm up with some light physical activity for 3 minutes at an easy pace.
2. Band exercise: do squat press exercise as in picture #1 for 20 seconds or until your legs burn.
3. Rest for 1-2 minutes.
4. Band exercise: do overhead press exercise as in picture #2 for 20 seconds or until your arms burn.
5. Rest for 1-2 minutes.
6. Band exercise: do chest press exercise as in picture #3 for 20 seconds or until your chest/arms burn.
7. End with a 2 minute cool- down.
** If you want a longer workout, warm up then repeat steps 2-6 for one to two more rounds before cooling down (i.e. each band exercises repeated 2-3 times).
** Aim to repeat this 1 minute workout 3 times in a week with days off between interval days to boost both your endurance and strength.
** Engage your lower abdominals and pelvic floor muscles: pull your belly muscles up, in and back. Think pubic bone to your lower back (where your belt would sit in the middle of your low back). It's a diagonal pull up, in and back that you're aiming for.
** Keep your head in line with your spine, chest lifted, and shoulder blades pulled down and in toward your back pockets (think arm pits to hips) and lower ribs pulled in even when pressing overhead.
** Breathe: don't hold your breath during the exercises.
** Don't lock out your elbows or knees during the movements. Keep a slight bend at end range.
** Stop if you feel pain. You can feel a burn but sharp pain is not OK. If you have pain, modify with possibly lighter band or less movement or check your form. If that helps, keep going. If it doesn't, STOP.
1. SQUAT PRESS WITH BAND:
2. OVERHEAD PRESS WITH BAND:
3. CHEST PRESS WITH BAND:
Now you’ve got a summer fitness hack to keep your mind and body healthy while you’re having fun in the sun.
Team Core Power
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 ever wish you had more energy to train?
Learning how to balance training with rest will not only boost your energy but improve your performance.
We grow at rest NOT by pushing harder. This includes growth in the areas of your strength, healing and energy both mentally and physically.
There are 3 easy steps to follow to make your own Recovery Training Plan that will increase your strength and energy while decreasing your overall stress level and your risk for injury.
If you missed our previous blog that shared the benefits of recovery plan, which types of recovery are best to improve performance, and how important it is to plan your training around a recovery day each week, you can find it here.
Which recovery techniques work best to help you recover faster from training? It depends!
You have to know your body, your sport, your work load, and emotional stress level to decide what’s most beneficial for you.
PRO TIP: The challenge is to feel good while getting stronger and more flexible!
Although there are a variety of tests used in research and some training facilities (i.e. jump test, blood tests- high levels of muscle enzyme creatinine kinase- delayed onset muscle soreness, questionnaires) to monitor recovery and post exercise fatigue, you don't need fancy tests or equipment to figure out what your body needs.
You just need to listen to your secret weapon- your body's signals- to help guide you.
We've created a Spring Training Recovery Guide (free download) to help walk you through a 3 step process to learn how to tune into the signals your body gives you each day to make your own recovery plan.
Take the pressure off of yourself and think of this as: a journey and an experiment. Fitness is about progress not perfection.
3 STEPS TO SET UP YOUR PERSONALIZED RECOVERY PLAN
*Get recommendations for managing symptoms in the free Recovery Guide and Planner.
3. TUNE IN:
BEFORE YOU BEGIN TESTING: GET TO KNOW YOUR BODY FIRST!
We recommend a Pre-Test to find your baselines for your resting heart rate, sleep, hydration, nutrition, fatigue and pain. This will give you something to compare to each day.
The Recovery Guide with Planner will walk you through getting your baselines. Once you’ve got your baselines, you can start testing recovery techniques.
WHERE SHOULD YOU START TESTING?
Sleep is #1 place for everyone to start no matter what sport, type of exercise you do, your age, or gender.
Sleep is when we produce the most growth hormone and when new information we’ve learned and memories are saved. It’s when we filter out the garbage as well.
Are you getting 7-9 hours of sleep consistently? If so, is it quality sleep? Do you feel rested when you wake up?
If not, this is where you should focus your energy initially.
PRO TIP: If you are experiencing frequent injuries or not making progress despite your best efforts, you may want to have your physician check your thyroid function. Also consider decreasing inflammation using recovery tools and diet modifications, increasing rest, and/or consulting with someone on your rehab/medical team.
OVER TO YOU:
Ready to get started? Download the Spring Training Recovery Guide with Planner and Daily Tracker to help you get stronger & have more energy without injury and overwhelm – it’s FREE!
Go Test, Train & Tune In!
Team Core Power
What would you say is the most important training day? Do you think it’s the day you push it to your max?
Nope. It’s the opposite- your recovery day.
Do you even have one?
You stretch after running. That counts right?
No, but close. You need a day of rest from your normal training activities each week.
This day will look different for everyone since work (job/school) and training activities (exercise/workouts) vary between people.
Does the icing or massage you do to get rid of and decrease your muscle soreness count?
It's a good start, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Having a day off from training each week is necessary to perform your best, learn new skills and to build strength or stamina.
Planning your training around your recovery day is ideal.
It’s normal for this to stir up some anxiety. Here’s the good news.
This doesn’t mean you have to lie around on the sofa unless you feel that’s what your body needs that day.
You can stay active on your recovery day by doing something different than your normal workouts or training. For example, the runner who does yoga on her rest day.
Finding a healthy balance between training and rest is important for both optimal brain function and to build muscle strength.
Your body needs to be in a relaxed state to self-repair. Workouts cause muscle damage. Whenever you’re training or learning a new skill/information, your brain and body need rest to grow.
An athlete who doesn’t make recovery part of their fitness plan is at high risk for burn out and even depression.
It’s no different than the workaholic that never takes a vacation. Stress is stress. It can be emotional, mental or physical in nature. Work is stress whether it’s for your job or training for your sport.
Your body needs a regular time out each week. Rest will re-build energy and re-balance your mind and body.
Rest can be done in short spurts throughout the day, post workout and by taking a recovery day off from training for your sport.
BENEFITS OF RECOVERY TECHNIQUES
RECOVERY TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES
Download and test out this free 3 minute Active Recovery Yoga Routine for Runners.
Here’s the tricky part to recovery:
There isn't a MIRACLE recovery technique for everyone or every sport.
Everybody is different. It’s not just what you are putting your body through physically during training. It’s also what is going on emotionally and mentally during training and in the rest of your life.
It’s also impacted by what you believe is helping you. What we believe is true for us. That applies to everything not just whether you believe that ice pack is helping your muscle soreness go away faster.
WHICH TECHNIQUES ARE BEST?
It depends. Some research shows that active recovery or ice baths boost performance for some athletes.
It’s usually a combo of techniques and is dependent on many factors: hormones, age, gender, stress level, your sport, your beliefs, etc. What works at age 25 may not work at 40.
If you’re female, your hormones change daily but on a monthly cycle. Every day is slightly different.
If you’re male, your hormones go through a daily cycle. Every day is more or less the same.
WHEN SHOULD YOU DO THEM?
It depends. Recovery can be done throughout the day, post workout and by taking a day off from training.
You have to know your body, your sport, your work load, and emotional stress level to decide what’s most beneficial for you.
It depends. :) You need to test different techniques by listening to your body before, during and after you train.-ultimately evaluating your overall performance.
It’s ideal to test new techniques between seasons or before competitions to see how your body responds.
WHERE DO I START?
It's complicated so...
In order to learn how to balance fitness and fatigue, you have to test, train, then tune in to your body to see how it responds.
Your body knows best!
Here are a few examples of how you can easily add rest and recovery to your training plan:
Want more help getting started?
Our next blog post will go through the 3 steps to help you make a recovery plan that increases your strength and energy while decreasing stress and risk for injury.
In the meantime, you can download and test out this 3 minute Active Recovery Yoga Routine for Runners.
It's just in time for Spring Training Season!
Your body knows best. What you believe matters. We grow when at rest. Not by pushing harder.
OVER TO YOU:
What's your favorite recovery tool? If you haven't tried any, which one are you going to test out this week? Tell us in the comments.
Team Core Power
A strong foundation or “core” helps decrease your risk for injury, promotes good posture, and improves coordination and power during sports. It’ll help you walk, run, bike, row, and move better.
There are 3 key exercises you can add before or after a run to help you build a strong core and turn on your hip muscles:
THE BRIDGE, FRONT PLANK AND SIDE PLANK
Runner’s Core Sequence
BRIDGE AND MARCH:
Lay on your back with feet in line with hips. Lift hips evenly off floor into a bridge position. Press hands into floor, pull belly up and in as you lift a foot a few inches off the floor. Shoulders and neck relaxed. Keep hips level as you alternate lifting one leg off floor into a table top position like you are marching. Do 5-10 reps each leg.
FRONT PLANK ON ELBOWS:
Press your forearms down into the floor as you lift your hips and knees off the floor until they are lined up with your spine. Slide shoulders down toward your hips. Pull belly up and in and tuck your booty. Gaze at floor slightly in front of your hands. Feet are in line with your hips. Hold 10 seconds and breathe or alternate bending knees slightly while keeping spine/hips steady.
Lay on your right side with left leg slightly in front of right leg and inner thighs squeezing together. Press down through right forearm as you lift hips off floor a few inches. Your head, shoulders, spine and hips should be lined up once you lift off floor. Place your left hand on your hip. Pull your belly up and in. Squeeze your inner thighs. Hold 10 seconds and breathe. Repeat other side.
REPEAT THE ENTIRE CORE SEQUENCE 2 MORE TIMES
New to these exercises? Remember to:
1. MODIFY AS NEEDED
Bridge: you can start by just lifting your hips up and down and progress to foot off then to marching.
Planks: you can start them on the floor with your knees down and progress to knees off.
You shouldn’t begin these exercises if you are pregnant and new to them or have a recent injury. Consult your health care provider for guidance.
2. FOCUS ON FORM
During all movements, you want to:
3. THE GOAL
Add these 3 core exercises before or after your Running workouts 3 days a week. Overtime build your endurance to holding planks 30 seconds and 15 reps of bridge for 3 sets.
Got a running or workout buddy you think would enjoy these exercises? Please share this blog post with them.
Get Stronger, Run Longer!
Team Core Power
P.S. GO PRO TIP: Add the runner’s lunge stretch to open up, activate and reset your hips before or after your run.
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
Mollie Miller, PT