The Cave

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Posts Tagged ‘healthy’

Let’s Talk About Goals!

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Amanda getting the HSPU done

Amanda getting the HSPU done

Goals tend to be very personal to the individual who sets them. Whether you want to squat more, or decrease body fat percentage or achieve a new tumbling pass, every one of us will benefit from setting a goal based on what we wish to accomplish.
Setting a goal for your workout or nutrition program is vital to  success! Setting goals is a great way to analyze your training program, see if it’s working or if you need a course adjustment.  Any one of the coaches here at The Cave are happy to help you set personal goals.
There are a few goals that would benefit just about every single one of us. By making sure you keep these in mind along with your specific goals tailored to you, you can get the absolute most beneficial results from your workout and diet program this year.


The first goal you should set is to make an effort to drink more water each and every day, especially with the hotter weather approaching. We hear this specific advice over and over again but very few of us actually take it to heart.
Did you know drinking enough water impacts everything from the amount of energy we have on a daily basis, to hunger, our ability to concentrate, and how quickly we recover from workout sessions?  Make it part of your daily routine; carry a water bottle, even two; fill them up every time you see a water fountain and don’t leave home before they’re full again!


You should also be absolutely sure you are resting enough. It’s very easy, especially for the highly motivated to underestimate how much recovery is necessary for optimal progress and to push through fatigue with the thought process that working harder will only make you stronger. This isn’t so. Working harder, when the body can’t keep up, will actually only make you weaker, because when you’re doing additional exercise before recovery has taken place, you’re just further breaking down tissues rather than building them up.
Do this over too long of a time period and you’ll really be facing some dire consequences such as lean muscle mass loss, a slowed metabolic rate, a lowered immune system, and over-training in general.  Trust me, it isn’t pretty.  Make a conscious effort this year to listen to your body more often. This is the toughest goal for me, one that I constantly struggle with.  If there was an “Over Trainers  Anonymous” group, I would be first in line for it !


Third, the next important goal that you should set and make a priority during your workouts is:  Listen to your coaches.  It’s essential that you’re always using proper form and your coaches are there to help you.  Listen to them.
If you aren’t using proper form as you execute your lifts, or skill work, there is a much higher chance that you’re not going to work the correct muscles and could very well end up sidelined with an injury.  Once again, trust me– this isn’t pretty. Even if it means you’re lifting lighter weights, using proper form is a must. Listen to your coaches.  They have the wisdom and experience necessary to help.


Finally, you should choose at least one overall health goal. While it’s great to set aesthetic goals that you will be able to see on the outside, it’s also critical to remember the impact of regular workouts and a good diet for the inside.
The big issue for some people who have set an extrinsic, aesthetic goal is that once you achieve that goal, the motivation to keep working out starts to fade. If you set a goal to make  living healthy a lifestyle, you’ll achieve a greater, long-term reward from your effort, which can also help maintain motivation.
If you’ve ever suffered from, or someone close to you has suffered from, a serious health concern or illness, you will likely find that the health rewards really hit home and serve to keep you going when you’d rather not.  If you haven’t suffered from a health concern yet, it would be wise to make a list of all the health benefits that you know you’ll receive from your workouts and look over this list frequently. This will remind you of what you can achieve by sticking with the lifestyle goal.
So, as you plan your training program for the coming months, be sure you keep these goals in mind. Goal setting is one of the most critical things you can do to make sure you see success…and it shouldn’t only happen at New Years!

How Does Exercise Make Us Happier?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

ropesFor many years, physical exercise has been touted to be a cure for nearly any ailment, from depression to Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s and more.  What would you think if I told you it may even be possible to exercise to happiness?!  Physically active people recover from mild depression more quickly, and physical activity is strongly correlated with good mental health as people age ¹. You have probably heard this before, but in order to truly understand, I felt it was time to get specific and even a little scientific about how exercise affects our brains.

It’s fairly simple to recognize how exercise affects our bodies.  As we exercise, we build more muscle and/or stamina, two elements that are measurable and obvious.  Better fitting pants and heavier weights are clear indicators to understand how effective exercise is for a body.  But, recognizing the benefits of exercise to our brains is not as clear to identify.

What triggers happiness in our brains when we exercise? The short answer is based on the release of endorphins.  But what exactly does that mean?  First, a shallow dive into the science pool…

When we begin exercising, our brains recognize it as stress.  As the heart pressure increases, our brains think we are either fighting an enemy or fleeing from it, commonly identified as the fight-or-flight response.  To protect ourselves and our brains from stress, a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) is released.  BDNF is both protective and reparative to our memory neurons and acts as a reset switch. This is why after exercising, we often think more clearly and feel so at ease, even yes, happy.  This experience is by far my favorite part about working out.  That moment when the weight of the world has lifted off my shoulders and I know I can get through anything — even whatever crazy WOD Bo had programmed that day.  Endorphins, another chemical to fight stress, is also released in our brains at this time.  The endorphins’ job is to minimize the discomfort of exercise, blocking any sensations of pain that are even associated with a feeling of euphoria. Overall, during physical activity, our brains are considerably more active than when we are just sitting down or even concentrating mentally.

The important piece to understand is  how we can trigger these processes in an optimal and longer lasting way. Now this is where it all gets very interesting. A recent study from Penn State University found that the level of productivity and happiness on a given work day is based more on if you exercise regularly, and not just on that particular day.

“Those who had exercised during the preceding month but not on the day of testing generally did better on the memory test than those who had been sedentary, but did not perform nearly as well as those who had worked out that morning.”

To get the highest level of happiness and benefits for health, the key is not to become a professional athlete. On the contrary, a much smaller amount of daily exercise is needed to reach the level where happiness and productivity for every day life can peak. New York Times best-selling author Gretchen Reynolds has written a whole book about this subject matter, titled The First 20 Minutes. In the book she states, “The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in in the first 20-40 minutes of being active.”  So really, you can relax and don’t have to be on the look-out for the next killer work-out.  (Although I do love them.)  All you have to do is get focused and get moving to gain the full happiness boost every day!

“On exercise days, people’s moods significantly improved after exercising.  Mood stayed about the same on days they didn’t, with the exception of people’s sense of calm which deteriorated.” (University of Bristol)

As a quick last fact, exercise and the subsequent increase of the BDNF proteins in our brains act as a mood enhancer.  So, at the beginning of exercise, the feeling of euphoria is the highest. This means that if you have never exercised before, or not for a long time, your happiness gains will be the highest if you start now.

Exercise and happiness are 2 immensely important things to me.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions too.