This Instagram post by Coach Ben Bergeron is just too good not to share. It just sums up so much in one picture. I really don’t think that I have to add anything to it. Hopefully this will provoke some good head-work, and help you to evaluate your own situation, whether in sports, relationships or work.
“When you blame others, you give up your power to change.”
Are you holding your breath again? It is that time of the year where everyone is trying to wrap up all of those loose ends and finish the year with some amazing accomplishments. At least so that it looks like it on paper, am I right? That together with very busy holiday plans tend to push a lot of people into high stress mode. Staying in this stressed mode, where the sympathetic nervous system is in charge (fight or flight) creates a lot of tension. If you don’t have a method for relieving some of that inner tension, you may feel like the pressure is about to make you explode.
In order to relieve some pressure and get out of the fight and flight mode, we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the rest and digest system. A really easy way to do that is to use your breath. By something as simple as taking 3 deep breaths, you can calm your over active nervous system and get it to relax. Breathe in through your nose, let your lungs fill up completely, and then slowly breathe out through your mouth.
Someone I know uses this technique every time she has to stop at a red light while driving. Instead of getting worked up about “loosing time” she uses it as an opportunity to work on her breath. It is such a simple thing to do, but it really can make a huge change to your day.
If you have a little more time, (maybe you are standing in line waiting to pay for your groceries), try to see if you can make it all the way up to 10 breaths, and then count backwards with each breath until you get back to 0. In my head it would sound something like this “one, I breathe in – one, I breathe out, two…”. You get the picture. Again, it is very simple, but oh so effective. This can be a great technique to try as well if you have problems falling asleep.
If you feel like trying a 2 minute super easy meditation, then check out this video with Andy Puddicombe.
I am also a big fan of meditation and this is one of my favorite apps. You can check out my previous blog about meditation right here.
In terms of nutrition you can help your nervous system by keeping your blood sugar as steady as possible. For example, when you eat sugar, quick carbs and drink caffeine, these things all stimulate your nervous system to be in the fight and flight mode. That makes it so much harder for us to relax. So, if you feel the pressure building up try to stay away from these processed sugary types of foods as much as possible, and focus on whole nutrient dense foods instead.
I know I talk a lot about hydration but it cannot be emphasized enough! Make sure that you properly hydrate, especially between all the extra holiday drinks. Your liver and body will thank you.
Doing some exercise is also a great idea. If you don’t have time for a full session, try to get some simple movement into your day, like walking. It doesn’t always have to be strenuous to be doing you some good.
Do what you can, when you can. Every little piece helps. Have a great weekend! 😉
Photo by Gabriel Matula, Ben White, Afonso Coutinho and Ethan Sykes on Unsplash
Very recently I wrote about the benefits to the Nervous System of using the Sauna. I just came across this podcast with more reasons of why getting into the Sauna is really beneficial for you.
How about improving cardiovascular disease, or positively impacting depression for up to 6 weeks with just one sauna session? Read about that study here.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick Ph.D. who is an expert on nutritional health, brain, cancer and aging has done a podcast on the theme, and I find the information in it very interesting. You can download it and listen to it here or watch it below.
Enjoy your weekend and hopefully a session in the Sauna 😉
If you are living in the Northern Hemisphere, winter has most likely arrived or is just lurking around the corner. The colder it gets outside, the more one tends to think about being warm. Going to the Sauna is a great idea at this time of the year. Actually going to the Sauna is good for us all year round, but in the summer time we tend to do more activities that makes us sweat, and as we do less of this in the winter – going to the Sauna can help us out.
When we are working out we are in action mode and our sympathetic nervous system, the “fight or flight” system, is responsible for keeping us ready for anything. Sweating in this state is good for us as it cools down the body, and it will also help detoxify our bodies.
When we are relaxed and sitting still, it is the parasympathetic nervous system , aka the “rest and digest” system, that keeps us calm and relaxed. Sweating in this state is very different for our body than when we are in action or under stress, and it can help reset our nervous system.
Being able to positively influence our nervous system is something that is very beneficial to us. Typically we spend way too much of our time in the “fight and flight” mode, from stress, sugary foods and stimulants such as caffeine. The Adrenal Glands have many different functions, with one of them being the production of “adrenaline and noradrenaline, which function to produce a rapid response throughout the body in stress situations”. When we are in this “fight and flight” mode for long periods of time it starts to wear out the Adrenal Glands, and other systems get over burdened as well. We commonly know this as being “burned out”.
Sweating in the Sauna while relaxing can help reset the nervous system, and give our bodies and especially the Adrenal glands a much needed break. And, we also get the beneficial detox happening at the same time. What’s not to like?
Make sure that you are properly hydrated before going to the Sauna, as well as during. You will put an enormous burden on your body if you start out slightly dehydrated, and it will likely do you more damage than good. If you haven’t been for a while, remember to start out gently, and slowly increase your efforts to give the body time to adapt.
Enjoy the Sauna and a nervous system reset! 😉
 Melmed, S; Polonsky, KS; Larsen, PR; Kronenberg, HM (2011). Williams Textbook of Endocrinology (12th ed.). Saunders.
I have been asked to hold a presentation by “Friskis and Svettis” here in Luxembourg, and the good news is that it is open to everyone! So save the date and come on over! What is it all about? Check out below and look here for more information.
“The Walk of Health”
Are you frustrated because you are doing everything right from training to diet, but you don’t get the results that you want, and/or you are still in pain?
There is a huge orange zone between being healthy and being diagnosed with disease.
Join Nathalie in this active talk where we will go through “the walk of health” to find out how improper digestion impacts every aspect of your health, from fatty acid deficiency to shoulder pain.
Simply put, you cannot out-train a shitty diet or a poor digestion. Learn to recognize the clues that tells us when something is wrong, and what to do about it.
Day: Tuesday the 28th of November
Where: in Limpertsberg Language: English
Address: École Français (EF), 188 av de la Faîencerie, L-1511 Luxembourg
Cost: €10.- which also includes the Flex class starting at 20.00.
You have probably read about the importance of core values, both for business and in your personal life. Maybe you have even done a workshop on the topic. Identifying your core values is one thing. But, what are you doing on a daily basis to put them into action, so that your core values will truly become a part of you?
“What are you doing on a daily basis to put them into action, so that your core values will truly become a part of you?”
For most people I think we get stuck at the slogan version, “have integrity” “be kind” “work hard” and so on. The slogan version both sounds and looks good. But, it doesn’t say anything about how to implementthat value on a daily basis. If you don’t have a clear daily map to guide you, how will you ever get to where you want to go? The difference is thinking that the top of the mountain probably looks good, compared to making it all the way up the mountain and enjoying the actual view. I think this key component is missed by most of us.
-Are you stuck at the “Slogan version”?
Excellent coaches are hard to come by, and I am always very happy when I find one that I think is worth listening to. Ben Bergeron belongs in that group, and I hope that this podcast will make you think about your core values and most importantly – how to implement them into daily actions. Even a small action put on rinse, wash, repeat will make a big impact given enough time.
Last weekend I had the great pleasure to run the half marathon “halvevanhaarlem” in the Netherlands. Haarlem is situated in between Amsterdam and the ocean, and it is a very nice and laid back city. The running route was really fun, going through narrow city streets, cute neighborhoods, through the sand dunes on smaller trails, and we even ran on some gravel roads next to the canals.
The Plan and Preparation
I had never ran a half marathon before, and I knew I needed a plan to follow when I made up my mind to go for it. I decided to try the Nike+ Running app, NRC. With people like Ryan Flaherty behind the app, who is a brilliant coach and really knows what he is talking about, I wanted to see if the app could get me prepared. I went to the “coach” in the app, set the date for my half marathon, and put in the details of my running at the time. The app then set up a plan for me to follow, making sure that I did not increase the kilometers too soon. So far, so good.
Most common mistakes
Often people are so motivated, that they increase the mileage way too soon, only to get injured, and not being able to run at all. A second fault I see most people do is that they don’t change up their training with intervals, or any kind of strength training. For half marathons and beyond people typically just try to collect a lot of kilometers. This will not really make you a lot faster or stronger. It’s more of a surviving the grind kind of a thing. I think that it is neither fun nor smart training.
It is much better for the body to change things up, and do different things. The app does this very well, and I can tell you that on my own I would not have run so many different intervals as I did with this program. Sure, intervals are hard work, but it is also fun and the training sessions goes by a lot faster. And, it is really cool when you notice that your speed is improving.
The Nike+ Running Club App is also connected to the Nike+ Training Club app. I think it is a brilliant concept to put these two together, to build a more well rounded athlete. Because of this some of my scheduled training sessions were flexibility and strength training, and no running. It’s a great way to keep the fitness up, but letting the body adapt to more running step by step.
My goal for the half marathon was to be as well prepared as I could, so that I could enjoy the day. I did not want to have to worry about injuring myself. I really think that all the interval work I did was key, because I only had 2 longer runs in the whole program at 14.5km and 16.5km. On the day of the race I felt really great and was able to enjoy the event. My goal was achieved! Two days after the event I was out with my friend playing catch with her dogs, and she said “you don’t move like someone who just ran a half marathon!” Trust me, I am no natural gazelle so I contribute that to the good programming and not increasing the kilometers to soon.
Running with the phone
Practically, I really do not like to run with my phone though. I don’t like the arm wrap from Nike, and the best solution so far that I have found is a sports bra from Lululemon that has an extra pocket for the phone on your back. If you have any other good suggestions do let me know. Instead I used my Garmin watch to get the length and time of my run, and then I just added it manually in the app. I would only run with my phone on the days where I had to do a “bench mark” to see how I had improved. This worked well enough for me. However, I believe that you will get the most out of the app if you always use the phone.
A really good running coach is of course never obsolete. But most people are probably looking for more general guidance. As these apps are free and will help you to be smart with your training, there really is no reason not to use them. It would also be smart to work on your running technique for your long-term plan. Maybe there is a workshop somewhere close to you?
For your next running goal, whether it’s just for you getting off the sofa or taking part in a race, I would say you have two good options. 1. Get the app and follow the instructions as best as you can. 2. Find a real knowledgeable running coach who can help you.
Having a plan behind the training will make you better, less prone to injury and the training will be a lot more fun – what’s not to like?
“Failing to plan, is planning to fail”
Enjoy your weekend! 😉
Completing a task is easy, right? You set out a goal, and line up some intermediate steps to get you there. It’s just like walking up the stairs, taking one step at a time, and –voila– you are there. Mission completed. Well, if it is that easy, how come so many of us are still procrastinating? Did you start the new hydration plan yet? Did you go out running, or go to the gym like you had planned? Did you do your mobility exercises? And so on…so what gets in the way?
Wanting, planning or actually doing?
Wanting to do something, and even planning for it is very different to actually getting it done. Too often the instant gratification monkey takes over, and the rational decision maker is no longer in control of where we are going. It is not until the Panic Monster has been activated that we are able to deactivate the monkey.
What am I talking about?!
Tim Urban explains in his humorous and enlightening TED talk how a procrastinators brain work, and what all of these characters has to do with it. And, since we are all procrastinators on one level or another this means that he is talking about you and me…
Ok, so I recognize myself in this. Now what?
Be sure to set a deadline for your goal, this allows the Panic Monster to keep the instant gratification monkey quiet. Tell a friend about it, or even better, get a friend to join you, because this keeps you accountable. Then make the task not seem too daunting by dividing it into smaller pieces. Tim has written about it here in his blog as well.
Here is an easy example. Goal: To drink 3 Liters of water, with added salt, per day, in 3 weeks.
If you are currently only drinking 1 Liter, 3 Liter a day will seem almost unimaginable. But, can you start your day with 1 big glass of water? Sure!
That is a very attainable step, and to remind yourself to get it done in the early morning, place the cup somewhere where you cannot miss it the night before. Easy!
After a couple of days, maybe your next step is to add drinking a big glass of water as soon as you get home. Again, no big deal, and this is an easy habit to adopt. Well, if you are using a large cup, or glass by now you have almost added a Liter of water to your day, and it was easy, right? Just continue down that path, and you will reach your goal swiftly without even having to activate the Panic Monster.
Wishing you a great weekend – where the instant gratification monkey won’t take over too much of your valuable time 😉
Photo credit to Sander Smeekes, Ethan Sykes and Benjamin Dada on Unsplash
Last week we talked about looking at calories in vs calories out compared to what foods you actually eat, and how that affects your weight. Now let’s take this one step further. What if the food you are feeding yourself and your family is either creating a healthy brain or an unhealthy brain? Did you know that it could be as easy as changing what you eat? That’s some very powerful stuff. Wouldn’t you like to know more about that?
“To me the message is clear, that a well nourished body and brain is better able to withstand ongoing stress and recover from illness” – Julia Rucklidge 
And what about the people who are suffering from depression and are on anti-depressant medication? At present it is way too common that people are taking anti-depressants, and talking to your doctor about your nutrition is not standard practice prior to getting medication. What about kids with autism and ADHD, could nutrition help them as well? There are studies showing that kids with ADHD are worse off long term, than kids that never got any medication in the first place. Scary! This TED talk is very inspiring and shines the light on the very important role that nutrition plays in a happy and healthy brain.
We need to think about how our food does not simply makes us shrink or go fat, but how the food we choose, our cellular building blocks so to speak, also helps create a healthy or unhealthy brain. DocCheck also writes an article on the subject, check it out here.
In a nutshell, eat lots of veggies, healthy fats, lean meats and cut out all sugars and processed foods.
Check out the video and help spread the word, as this is a very important message and it cannot be shared too often. You are able to influence your brain and wellth* long term by the food choices that you make today and everyday.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” -Hippocrates
 The surprisingly dramatic role of nutrition in mental health with Julia Rucklidge at TEDxChristchurch https://youtu.be/3dqXHHCc5lA
Can standing properly really make you happier? Can sitting in a lousy position make you feel more sad and depressed? And how can Wonder Woman really help you land your next job?
First off, think of someone who is really, really sad. In what kind of posture are they? There might be some small variables, but I am confident that the picture that you have in your mind looks something like the following. They are hunched over and are making themselves small, and the head is bent down. We all know this posture because we have all been feeling sad at one time or another.
Now I would like you to think of someone who is happy and feeling great. What do they look like? I am sure that they will stand tall with an open chest, maybe even have their arms raised above their head in a winning position. We all know this feeling too, and how good it feels.
So the questions is then, if when I feel sad I curl up into a little ball, and when I feel great I stand really tall, is the opposite also true? Meaning, if I curl up into a little ball, will that make me feel more sad, and if I stand really tall will that make me feel happier?
Amy Cuddy, a social psychology professor from Princeton  did a study on exactly this topic and this is what she found.
Your posture enforces chemical balance or imbalance of the hormones cortisol and testosterone in the body. Cortisol is known as our stress-hormone and too much of it makes us really nervous and stress-reactive. Testosterone is the dominance hormone which makes us more confident, and yes women have it too. The ideal combination is high testosterone and low cortisol, because that makes a strong, calm, confident leader that makes decisions without being stress-reactive.
Your body language will really change who you are and how other people view you. The two poses that were used in the research study  was the low power-pose and the high power-pose. Sitting in a slouched, small (sad) position for just 2 minutes made an increase in cortisol, and a decrease in testosterone. Standing in a high power-pose aka the Wonder Woman pose for just 2 minutes made the levels of testosterone increase and the cortisol levels decrease.
When our levels of cortisol is lower in combination of higher levels of testosterone we come across as calm, confident, comfortable and authentic, which makes us more hire-able.
“Expanding your body language—through posture, movement, and speech—makes you feel more confident and powerful, less anxious and self-absorbed, and generally more positive.” ― Amy Cuddy, 
Ok, sounds good to me, so how do I do this? Simple, use a high power-pose like the Wonder Woman for 2 minutes before an important meeting or exam and try to add times during the day when you are power-posing without thinking about it, like when you are using a stand up desk. If you do have to sit, sit as tall as possible with an open chest and don’t slouch.
Think about it, if only 2 minutes of power-posing was enough to measure a hormonal change in your body, what do you think happens when you sit in a slouched (sad) position for hours and hours on end? I think that it is really worth thinking about as our daily habits have a huge effect over a long period of time. I don’t know about you but I am definitely power-posing before my next meeting! Put the odds in your favor before your next big thing and watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk below, and why not try a power-pose at the same time?