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Jillian Murphy Personal Training
Jillian Murphy Personal Training
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Quality Sleep is a Skill.
Quality Sleep is a Skill.
The following is a series on suggestions for improved sleep. Some of the info comes from many years of coaching health behaviors with clients, and my own journey with sleep struggles. The vast majority of the info comes directly from the healthcare professionals at The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM), that is provided to the Health Coaches in the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy Program. This is not medical advice. This is readily available information from professionals that is being compiled in one place. It is merely a means for starting a discussion with yourself and your healthcare provider, if needed. As always, discuss any changes you wish to make or issues that you are having with your healthcare provider.
Light, Noise, Temperature, and Environmental Issues
There is more needed than “the appropriate time and reduction in stressors” that a Sleep Prep Plan should have for ultimate success. Some other areas to take into consideration are ways in which the brain is stimulated to help induce sleep/or awaken it.
The first and most important area is “Light”. Different colors on the light spectrum have different effects on the brain. Light creates more than just a “vision” or “image” in the brain. For example, retinal ganglion cells respond to blue/green wavelengths (lights) by sending signals to the central part of the brain called the hypothalamus, an area separate from the visual cortex (where we make/process images). The hypothalamus sends out several different hormones that are secreted out to specific areas in the body to regulate functions like temperature, sleep, hunger, and circadian rhythms to name a few.
In this case, blue light wavelengths stimulate the hypothalamus to secrete CRH which in turn stimulates an increase in the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that will stimulate and awaken us amongst several other functions. Blue light also inhibits the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and our 24hr clock circadian rhythms. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland when our brains are exposed to the dark.
Blue light serves its purpose in the morning to help us wake up and increase alertness and arousal during the day. However, decreasing our exposure to blue light in the late afternoon onward will help to set the brain on the path towards a gradual shut down at bedtime. Blue lights are found in electronic devices from smart watches, tv’s, laptops, cellphones and even in energy efficient lightbulbs, LED’s, etc. Consider investing in a quality pair of blue light blocking glasses to wear when working on your electronic devices or watching television. Limit how much time you spend a day using these devices..
All light stimulates the brain to a certain degree. So beyond limiting the blue light exposure, here are some other tips for a better night sleep: Noise, Temperature, Environment.
- Turn down your lights in the entire house at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
- Consider dimmer switches in your bedroom and bathrooms. Keep them on the low settings when using those rooms to prepare for bed.
- Investing in a pair of amber glasses and using them at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime to further reduce your light exposure, or if you live with family members that are less agreeable to keeping the lights low.
- Black out window shades and curtains to block out outside light from getting into your bedroom.
- Try using sleep fabric coverings for your eyes when you’re trying to fall asleep, or if you struggle to stay asleep.
- Eliminate accessory noise as much as possible. Close the windows and door in your bedroom. Use earplugs. Consider a white noise generator, HEPA air filter machine, or fan that can block out noise.
- Make sure your temperature is in the correct range. These temps vary based on age. Doctors recommend temps between 60-67 degrees for adults. Read this article for more important information: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/best-temperature-for-sleep
- Keep anything electromagnetic away from your sleeping area by at least 8 feet. This includes electrical outlets, clock/radios, computers, smartwatches, cellphones, etc.
- Avoid sleeping with electric blankets turned on. If using to heat up your bed, turn it off when you retire for the night.
- Use hypoallergenic pillows, mattress cover, and bedding.
- Invest in a side sleeper pillow to help align your hips and shoulders, which in turn stabilizes position of your spine, shoulder, and hip joints
- Sleeping on your side, and backwards at a slight angle (supported by body pillow) can help to reduce the pressure pain associated with hip or shoulder bursitis.
- Consider replacing your mattress if needed.
It’s a lot, I know. Start small with the area that you find the easiest, then continue to build from there. In the last part of this Sleep is a Skill series, we will discuss tips for when we struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep. Until then, turn down those lights in the evening!
Prepping For Sleep
Prepping For Sleep
Sleep Prep Plan
Success is typically credited to having a solid plan and following through with it on a continuous basis. This concept is no different when it comes to practicing good sleep hygiene and benefiting from a good night’s sleep… every night. Good sleep and its benefits do not magically happen. It occurs because a person has developed solid sleep skills that come from a consistent routine that works best for THEM.
Let’s create a plan by following the same guidelines that we used for other plans that we successfully executed.
- Schedule it in as a priority appointment, much like any other important event that occurs in your day. Most of us have a dedicated time during the week that we must wake up to start our day off for work, etc. Working backwards from that scheduled wake-up time, allow for at least 8.5 to 9 hours in bed. Now you have a baseline place to start. For example: if 6am is your wakeup up time, schedule your bedtime appointment for at least 9:30. I know, I know, that is an early time for bed for most of us. More on that later.
- Famous line my clients hear me say frequently: “Saturday is no different from Tuesday when it comes to your sleep schedule.” Continuous means just that, continuous. Having a completely different sleep and wake time Friday night through Sunday night will do you no favors on Monday morning. Or any other day for that matter. Our bodies and brains crave consistency and efficiency. “Every day is the same” will help to regulate your biological clock, which in turn can have profound effects on other systems in your body. Also, we all function from the perspective of survival. That means using the least amount of energy to get through each day. Consistent positive sleep schedules help to give us that daily fill up on recovery fuel and reduces cellular inflammation in the process. Our brains and bodies will happily get behind that.
- Start prepping approximately 30 minutes prior to your bedtime. If you are a nighttime shower person, perhaps an hour is a better amount of time to give yourself. BTW, if you have children, this also works (MUCH earlier start time for them, of course) . So, if 9:30 pm is the time you should BE in bed for that 6 am wake up time, then 9 pm is the time to START prepping.
- A bedtime after 11pm is not as helpful as getting to bed at an earlier time. Studies have shown that late sleep schedules are misaligned with the needs of our biological clocks, and health problems can occur as a result.
- Naps are not completely on the “no” list but avoid them in the late afternoon or early evening. 10-20 minutes work best, no longer than 30 minutes if you need to be alert following the nap. Longer naps run the risk of interfering with your nighttime sleep schedule. If you are sick or significantly sleep deprived, nap and sleep as much as you need to or can, to recover.
- Try to finish all eating 3 hours prior to falling asleep. Avoid large meals or spicy foods before bed.
- My personal favorite: soaking in a hot tub filled with Epsom salts and aromatherapy oils specific for helping to induce sleep. Why? Raising your body temperature prior to sleep helps to induce sleep. Ever notice how being outside in hot weather leaves you feeling lethargic? The heat and salts also help to relax and reduce tension in your muscles. If pain is an issue that affects your sleep, then this step can really help to improve your chances of getting comfortable and falling asleep. A recipe that some find helpful is 1-2 cups of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate is relaxing once it is absorbed through the skin) ½ to 1 cup baking sodium (sodium bicarbonate helps a stressed-out acidic body environment by making it more alkaline) and several drops of a calming essential oils such as Lavender, Bergamot, Chamomile, Cedarwood, Clove, Ylang Ylang, and Clary Sage for example. Bringing our body and mind to a calmer state allows for our cortisol (a stress hormone) level to drop down. Cortisol levels can have profound effects on our sleep.
- Thanks for continuing this journey for improving your sleep hygiene! So far, we have discussed how stimulants, nighttime tension and anxiety, and a sleep time prep plan are all important areas for established quality sleep. Next up in the series: LNTE issues. See ya soon😊
Nighttime Tensions and Anxiety
Nighttime Tensions and Anxiety
Don’t Provoke your Mind at Night!
• Anxiety provoking activities should be left to the morning hours, or better yet, avoided all together through reduction and elimination techniques.
• DO NOT watch the NEWS. Seriously, is there ever anything uplifting or relaxing reported in the news? This includes talk shows (particularly of the political nature…).
• I love a good book as much as the next worm, but it is wise to avoid reading interesting, exciting, or stimulating materials in bed or before bed. Anyone else out there hide a flashlight, and use it under the blanket to keep reading that book after bedtime as a kid? Yep. Me too. The next school day was always rough.
• Video Games…. Just, no. The very nature of video games is to stimulate, hello?
• Pay your bills or work on finances during the day. Particularly in this economic time of uncertainty, nothing good will come of stressing over bills at night. That bill or those stocks/crypto will still be there in the morning. Greet them with a refreshed brain that is more capable of strategizing and problem solving.
• Avoid arguments at bedtime. With your spouse, family, kids, the dog. Again, we don’t reason well when we are tired. Bedtime is not the moment to hash out a compromise or treaty. That issue, just like those bills and the stock market, will still be there in the morning. Great Resolutions come from Great Minds. A tired mind is a tired mind. Period.
• Set a time during the “day” that is the least stressful for all parties involved in the discussion. Sketch out an action plan that all feel comfortable agreeing to as a next step. Go about the rest of your day.
• You are what you think. This holds true for the type of judgement and self-talk you use when you do struggle with falling or staying asleep. Be as kind to yourself as you would to a child that is upset because they awoke from a scary dream. Soothe yourself back to sleep with confident thoughts such as “I can fall asleep” “I can relax” “I am safe” “I am comfortable”.
• If repetitive negative thoughts ARE running on loop in your mind, try getting them “out”. Physically write in a journal whatever disturbing thoughts are protesting loudly at the gates of your mind. Read it aloud. Be the Devils Advocate to the thoughts. Advocate for Yourself. Pick one positive thing or trait that you align with. Calmly repeat that to yourself. Counter protest for your right to sleep.
• Schedule a time during the daylight hours within the next few days to approach and possibly create an action plan for whatever is troubling you. If this has been an ongoing mental issue, consider seeking out help by setting up a time to see your healthcare provider for a referral to counseling or therapy. The strongest and most resilient folks are those that know when to ask for help.
• There are a number of activities and even apps that are specific for relaxation and stress reduction. I have several clients that use the “Calm” app and swear by it. Guided meditation, breath work, evening CARs routines, stretching, yoga, soaking in hot tub or shower, are all stress reduction techniques. The key is to find what works for you. Don’t give up if the first few things aren’t your jam. Some of these techniques require practice and skill. It’s also part of the reason why they work. If you are focused on learning a calming activity, then you are not focused on all the life stressors that might be keeping you awake. Which is, ya know, the point 😉
Are You Stimulating your Brain
with Chemical or Physical Stimulants?
• Avoid all forms of Alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime
• Avoid caffeine-containing beverages or foods after 2pm. If you are sensitive to caffeine avoid it after noon or eliminate all together. Caffeine is found in both food and beverages so be sure to READ LABELS!!!
• Avoid Sudafed or other decongestant cold medicines at night. Talk to your pharmacist about the best option to take for when decongestants are needed.
• Some medications may have stimulating effects. Particularly “psychiatric meds”. Consult your pharmacist or doctor to determine whether any of them might be contributing to sleep problems. NEVER discontinue any medication without permission from your doctor!
• Complete any aerobic exercise before 6pm or at least 3 hours prior to bedtime. Physical activity is stimulating to the nervous system. (pg. 9-11) If your schedule allows for no other time of day to be moderately to intensely physically active other than the evening, be sure to follow it up with an activity that cools you down and calms your nervous system to a restful state.
Cleoisms and ramblings...
Cleoisms and ramblings...
For those that like to know.....?
For those that like to know.....?
Low Level Cardio
Low Level Cardio
December 8, 2018
A fantastic way to get recovery cardio into your exercise routine, is to go on an easy hike in the great outdoors. Spend about an hour of your time enjoying the beauty that nature has to offer. If you own a dog, all the more reason to get out there! If you don't have a dog, but have friends that do, encourage them to go along with you. Everybody wins! Low intensity cardio hikes improve your basic endurance and your body's ability to burn fat during exercise. Your goal would be to maintain a range of 60-70% of your HR Max for at least an hour. If you are using it as a recovery session only, keep your effort to a level of 50-60% of your HR Max. Easy hikes and trail walks help to improve joint movement and range of motion, balance, and proprioception. Improved movement capacity can translate into a decrease in pain. It provides mental stimulation while reducing stress. If you live in the Morgantown area, I encourage you to visit one of the many easy hiking areas that we have available to us. This particular spot is a view of the reservoir loop at the WV Botanic Gardens, located off of Tyrone Road. Be adventurous like Nunu, get fit mentally and physically by enjoying nature!
Why personal training with Symmetry Fitness?
Why personal training with Symmetry Fitness?
Personal Trainers are specialists in exercise and fitness. A reputable trainer can help you to safely navigate the world of fitness if you are unfamiliar with the "Why's" behind training.
It is well known that many of our current health problems can be attributed to poor nutrition and a lack of exercise. It use to be that personal training was a luxury for those that could afford it, so accessing a knowledgeable person to help you get healthier was significantly limited by income. Physicians will tell you that you need to lose weight and exercise more, but they stop short of being able to tell you HOW to do that.
Fast forward to the world we live in now, whereby, we have the wonderful world of social media and electronics that can bring the same training to you in an affordable manner. But, buyer beware! Not all trainers or training plans are created equal. The truth is, it is not difficult to become certified in training. There are a number of disreputable companies that offer certifications that require little to no proof of understanding and knowledge of the field, before handing over a certification. There are thousands of people online that set-up shop, with no training, certifications or experience, and sell packages to people to make a quick buck, with little regard for the safety and well being of the client.
Research a trainers type of certifications, training style, education, and most importantly, their real time experience working one to one with clients.
Although it is easy to get certified , it is difficult to make a career out of it. Trainers that are in it for the long haul, can do so because they have an incredible work ethic, have spent years honing their craft, and continue to expand their education and stay updated on the latest research. They are willing to learn, and are willing to change and adapt as they move forward with their career. They also have hands on clientele with results and testimonials that showcase their abilities. Be wary of an individual that only sells online programming, but has no experience actually working with people 1-1.
It is in the 1-1 environment where a trainer truly begins to learn about safe training practices and what day to day people are truly capable of doing, and the best way to progress exercises. Experience from a wide variety of clientele is the most valuable learning process for a trainer to hone their craft and be able to produce results. Its all about real time experience. A personal trainers job is to improve the health and wellness of their clients for the long term. It also takes time, patience, and commitment on the part of the client.
My training programs have been built upon years of experience working directly with clients from backgrounds and age groups that cover a wide spectrum. That experience has allowed me to discover what works, and what doesn't. Hands on experience lends to learning the best techniques and exercises to progress people with from the beginning. The best way to explain movements so that even the most novice or exercise challenged individual can understand. I do not offer quick fixes. I expect the client to be realistic about the amount of work, time, and effort it takes to make long lasting changes.
I was hesitant for a long time to offer up online training because of how particular I am about assessing and working with clients. My clients joke about how particular I am about movements, but I say to that, "why do it, unless you are going to do it right?". Results are a reflection of the execution of a task, so how you choose to do anything in life matters. I want to be able to offer my services and experience to more people, but I want to make sure it is done right.
The Symmetry Fitness app provides a way for me to provide quality programming, with explanations and videos, so that the user can see and understand how to perform the movements. Although it is not the same as working with me in person, I feel confident that it offers the next best option.
What is the deal with all this stability nonsense?
What is the deal with all this stability nonsense?
December 17, 2018
What does stabilization training look like?
Stabilization endurance training's primary focus or goals are for improving:
- • Muscular imbalances that could be compromising joint stability or range of motion (ROM)
- • Stabilization of your midline/trunk musculature commonly referred to as your “core”.
- • Proper preparation and progression of the load placed on your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints. It’s important to prepare and maintain the integrity of your body tissues before you increase the demands of your training with heavier weight, increased speed, or power.
- • Improve the fitness of your heart and vascular system to be able to handle the increased demands of higher-level exercising
- • Learn and establish proper movement patterns and exercise techniques
- • And of course, my motto, “Train the Brain to Train the Body. Move with Intent.” We want to prepare and condition your neuromuscular system.
How do we do this?
These goals are accomplished through low-intensity, high repetition training that is properly progressed over the course of 4-6 weeks to challenge the body’s proprioception, joint stabilization system, midline stability, and cardiovascular system. Every workout begins with a warmup, moves on to midline and balance work, transitions into the resistance or “weight training” portion of the workout, followed by specific cardio training (that could be potentially completed on another day if necessary), and finishing up with a cool down.
We want to increase muscular endurance and stability while simultaneously developing optimal neuromuscular efficiency. We increase the difficulty by challenging your balance and stabilization systems, rather than the typical route of increasing the load.
We begin with an exercise that slightly challenges your stability system. Once you can perform that well, it is progressed the movement in a way that challenges your stability system further, and continue to increase with the difficulty in this manner. Once we have built a nice stable base, we can begin to build on top of it, keeping in mind that we perform maintenance on the base from time to time so that it can continue to safely hold the weight that comes from other types of training.
Why do we do it this way?
Progressing the same movement by challenging the stability, requires increased activation and input from both your nervous system, and the muscular systems surrounding the joints and structures that are involved with the movement. Everything must work together at a higher level to maintain optimal posture to produce efficient and powerful results. When you are unstable, you are weak.
- • It will improve muscular endurance
- • Create optimal joint stability and mobility through the ability to actively control your range of motion. Flexibility without control is dangerous and an avenue for injuries.
- • Stabilization training increases your ability to be able to control the wide range of postures that are needed for everyday movement in life.
- • Increase your ability to “Train the Brain to Train the Body”. Our neuromuscular systems ability to communicate messages throughout our body dictates our balance, how well our muscles coordinate, and system wide stabilization.
- • The more efficient our neuromuscular system is, the more control we have over these variables. More control in turn produces better movement. It’s not just a use or lose it situation, but also how we use it. Intent matters.
For these reasons, it is important for you as a consumer to carefully consider how you train your body, and the way you progress that training. All training is not created equal. The “What, How and Why?” cannot be emphasized enough. This, is why I choose to work with clients in the manner that I do. This, is what dictates my training philosophy.
Exercise and Mental Health: The Connection
Exercise and Mental Health: The Connection
May 25, 2019
What we do at Symmetry Fitness: utilize personal training + health/behavioral coaching programs specific to the mental health population to work with and enhance the traditional therapy process. Thank goodness Dr. Wakim from GRW Health was on board and agreed with my dream to pair health coaching, nutrition and fitness with the traditional model of mental health treatment. He is very progressive that way.
The realization of the importance of this combination really hit home for me back in 2001 as an undergrad in Psychology while simultaneously attempting to recover and rehabilitate from a motor cycle accident. No stranger to struggling through years of major depression and panic attacks as a teenager, my physical limitations and chronic pain caused a regression. The additional stress of working full time and going to school full time was snuffing out my fire. Life had become dark again.
WVU's Rec Center became the place that kept me from suffocating and put me back on track. When I was a teen I used running and lifting as a way to keep me afloat, because meds did not work for me. I remembered that and invested my time in fully rehabilitating myself from my accident. I had been working on my rehabilitation for 10 months at that point, but a final surgery a month before I began school set me back to almost square one. It can be very mentally daunting when you spent so much time trying to become functional again, only to have it taken away with no guarantee that the results will end up how you want them to be. Or even where they were. Luckily, I am stubbornly independent, so that played to my favor. I just needed to navigate being alone in a new town, college, and working at the same time.
The daily rec center exercise early in the morning helped me to able to study more efficiently for my classes. It started my day out in the best way possible. It boosted my brain chemicals and reduced my pain. Life and its stressors became much more manageable. Darkness began to fade into dawn with those early morning sessions. Just keep your eye on the prize, Carly.
My self esteem was boosted when I had to have an functional capacity examination for insurance reasons. The physical therapist that was in charge of the exam asked me where/who I had received physical therapy from after we finished up the exam. When I told him that I did it all myself, he about fell over. He proceeded to tell me that when he reviewed my history prior to meeting him, he expected my left side of my body to be very dysfunctional, especially my arm and ankle. He was astounded at the amount ROM, function, strength, and endurance I had. "You, are not what I expected." I told him I was too poor for PT, but I despise needing help, so I focused on natural everyday movement to rehab myself. What can I use in my environment to fix myself? What doesn't work on me and why? Use the why to create a plan.
I explained I blackmailed my surgeon into letting me go back to work relatively early after my release from the hospital. I had bills to pay, so I told him I had to. I had no choice. If he didn't okay it and give me a note for light duty, I would be going back regardless but at full duty. Hahaha... I got my note. When I had to get the last surgery on my arm and start over, I just followed what I did the first time around, and then added in additional work for the rest of my body. The physical therapist asked me what my discipline at WVU was, and I replied psychology. He said I should consider switching degrees to exercise physiology and to go to grad school for physical therapy. "You have an understanding and a natural ability that many people in our program will never be able to attain. We can't teach what you have innately." I replied thank you, but my goal was to attend grad school for neuropsychology... lol, neither of those things happened. Maybe I should have listened to him, but then, I wouldn't be where I am today. Armed with knowledge and experience from the realms of physical therapy, exercise, psychology, inpatient mental health, and classroom coaching behavioral modification.
After graduating I started bugging Program Managers and Attending Physicians about the need for physical activity when I worked at an inpatient psychiatric hospital setting in 2005. My pleas fell on deaf ears. It was so frustrating because I knew from a personal level how important it was to just move. I believed that the brain and body changes that occurred with addiction, could be helped with exercising. I believed they could recover faster and possibly be less likely to relapse. They needed to heal their whole self! Drugs and alcohol ravaged their brains and their bodies. These people had system wide inflammation, nerve damage, and pain. All things that would make it hard to stay clean and sober. It wasn't enough to attend meetings, take drugs that helped to decrease cravings and blocked the ability to get high (meds that cause systemic issues and damage as well), and go to traditional therapy. Proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise needs to be added in. The mind and the body needs to be healthy to be successful. There is no other way. The same goes for the other units I worked on in the hospital. This idea should not just be applied to addictions, but to all mental health. If you keep your body and your mind in the same state that it became unwell in, it will not heal. Why are they so resistant to people exercising? It made no sense to me. I understood why I saw the same people being admitted over and over again. There needed to be a different approach. The established approach did not work. People stayed broken. I grew frustrated and looked for work elsewhere that would actually be positive for myself and the clients. WVU Medicine had an opening for a behavioral health educator for a medically supervised weight loss program. I applied and got the job.
A year later the program was moved to a private practice location that housed both a fitness center and a physical medicine rehabilitation practice. I started as the health educator and eventually became the program director. I veered from the standards set for the program by placing the emphasis on behaviors revolving around physical activity, time related activities spent on putting oneself first to decrease stress, proper hydration and sleep. Physical activity was a part of the original program, but its importance and type was moved farther down the hierarchy of need. I knew this was wrong. We need to move to have a healthy mind. A healthy mind that is less stressed will make better decisions regarding their health. A healthier body will house a healthier mind to make healthier decisions. See how the circle works?
I created the Horizons Program and paired my weekly classes and the medically supervised program with a group fitness program with a trainer. I worked with the trainer to direct the programming for what my goals were for my clients. Their success in the classroom and life increased substantially with the combination. People that really hated to exercise before, were now looking forward to their classes. In the meantime, I was working towards my certifications in training under the encouragement of the gym manager. With my science background and experience it was a perfect fit.
I blended specific ideas regarding movement and exercise assignments, behavioral coaching with stress and anxiety reduction techniques with the existing nutritional component and behavioral modification portion of the program. The truth with nutrition is that the issue is not with knowing what foods are healthier choices to consume, but rather the how. How do I fit good choices into my packed and stressful schedule. How to cook and prepare good choices. When is the best time to eat relative to my schedule? What types of food will work the best with my schedule, and how do I plan out my days and week to set myself up for success.
You would be amazed at the number of adults walking around that cannot execute these skills. They simply don't know how, because they've never learned how. They didn't need to because in our society food is not scarce and the ability to obtain said food is not difficult. The problem is that the common choices at the tips of our fingers are not the good choices. We have to create good choices being available to us. So, in class we talk, we teach, we problem solve, create a plan, execute the plan and see what happens. All scenarios that result from the plan are useful information. We learn. We adapt as needed. We repeat. We create habits that are more conducive to health. We learn a new skill. Then we work on that skill. The same process occurs for all of the other variables of resilience.
Resilience is needed for a healthy mind. Becoming resilient is a learned process that is obtained by repeatedly working on behaviors revolving around sleep, nutrition, daily water intake, breathing techniques, state of mind awareness, appropriate exercise training for both the heart and the other muscles, reduction of systemic inflammation, stability and mobility training. It also involves appropriate medical intervention and therapy as needed for the specific problem at hand. It all needs to work together.
Please click on the following link to read an article that discusses Exercise as a new primary prescription for those with mental health problems.
Series: Power of the "I Am" Statement
Series: Power of the "I Am" Statement
June 25th, 2019
Part 1. What type of tenants do you rent your brain space to?
When working with my clients, I frequently come across negative self talk and mindsets that significantly hinder their ability to be able to progress relative to their goals. If you follow my Facebook page, I will be posting and discussing on the topic of how treatment resistant depression is related to a number of variables including the internal conversations that we have within our own minds, and the impact is has on our mental and physical health. Check it out and give a comment if you're interested. We are what we think. We become what we think. Sort of a twist on Rene Descartes "I think therefore I am".
The general gist of the post will be regarding the need to be mindful of how we speak to ourselves on a daily basis. We have more conversations with ourselves, than we do with others. Our brains learn and function via repetition. It’s a "use or lose it" world in that dome of untapped greatness.
However, it is probably not a "lose it", in the way you think. Yes, the tissue can atrophy, etc, but there is something else that also occurs. Think of your brain as being valuable real estate that you own. Now, you can't sell the real estate, but you can rent it out to whomever you want. The lessee will use that property to conduct their business. For your brain, the currency used to lease space is exposure in the form of repetition.
So, what does this mean? What you choose to expose your brain the most frequently to (or in some cases forced exposure), becomes the business that rents out the space. Practice in any form makes "possibility" because of the repeated exposure to whatever the stimulus is. As long as the rent continues to be paid (currency = exposure), the lease remains intact. Also, its important to note that the available space for rent is not set in stone like a typical lease. The business can expand the square footage dependent upon how much currency (exposure) they are paying to you the owner. Think of it as a rolling lease for space, that goes to the highest bidder. This means, of course, that the square footage of the leased space can also decrease at any time.
So, you can lease out space for all things that make up YOUR existence. In general, we do start out with a basic area map in our brains for all of the different senses and functions, but throughout our development the landscape of that map changes based on what we are exposed to, mostly due to the reason above. We are, unfortunately, beholden to exposure in early development based on the decisions of whoever is in charge of raising us at that time. But even that exposure is leased out, so changes can be made later on to a certain degree. Leasing our brain space is how we develop. It's how we've learn how to do everything we are capable of currently doing; and how we develop refined skills for different areas whether it be: playing music, kicking a ball, planning an event, problem solving, speaking in public, fixing cars or fixing a diseased heart or broken bone.
People do not typically have a hard time relating this to motor movement activities. They can easily see how movement is a skill developed through repetitions. What is often not recognized, is that "thinking" and internal and external auditory input is also a skill developed through repetitions. For the same reason: exposure. Skill is developed through exposure. Skill can be positive or negative. This is why we are what we think, why we become what we think. Exposure. I know some folks that are very skilled at being depressed, anxious, negative, or mean. I know some folks that are very skilled at being happy, calm, positive, or kind. Some who are skilled at being enabled and cannot problem solve around even the most simple road blocks. And others that skillfully produce creative solutions with ease. Each of these examples are skills that exist due to repeated exposure to the necessary components to develop in that area.
This doesn’t mean that a person wants to be depressed or anxious. It just means that they have become skilled in that area due to repeated exposure to all the different areas that combine to manifest and maintain depression, anxiety, etc. The disease and disorder is leasing and maintaining all the space via the currency of repeated exposure. This includes areas such as availability and functioning of neurotransmitters, systemic inflammation and immune system, social interaction, sleep habits, nutrition, movement, water intake, etc. Space is eventually rented out to businesses that inexplicably allow and encourage squatters (habits) of the nastiest type to foul up the very property the business is leasing.
The good news, is that if you remember from above, leases are rolling. Change the exposure and you can change who the space is leased to. YOU own the real estate. YOU lease out the space by choosing what you are and are not exposed to. When we want to develop new skills, we seek out people that can teach us how to develop the desired skill. YOU will need to seek out help in order to create change.
Now, negative squatters (destructive habits) can be difficult to deal with when you are trying to get rid of them. Stubborn bastards that in many cases we have become very comfortable with. Familiarity can breed both complacency, and a sense of comfort. Even when you want to make changes, it makes it very difficult to do so. Best way is to bring in the cavalry. Continue to hire more enforcement to stay and pay them well. Build a personal army to protect your property, and choose to rent out the space to businesses that encourage positive squatters (positive and regenerative habits) that will have you consistently exposing yourself to all the different areas that you need, in order to become who you want to be.
Given enough exposure continuously, you can crowd out the negative squatters. Build yourself a nice little town up there that you enjoy living in, and provides you with what you need to live in peace. You have to keep up with the positive exposure to keep good tenants. It is a never ending process. Use the space by renting it out to who you want to be or Lose the space by renting it out to something else.
My next post will discuss the ways we can attract and maintain good tenants in our brain real estate, until then, be mindful of what you are exposing yourself to.
Series: Effective Goal Setting: Why?
Series: Effective Goal Setting: Why?
December 11, 2019
Setting a Goal does NOT ensure reaching that Goal…
In order to be able to achieve and receive the benefits of goals, one must approach goal setting in a particular manner.
Goals are important because they have the capability of boosting personal growth, they can aid in changing behavior and establishing the new behavior for the long haul, and they can potentially enhance both performance and productivity in profound ways.
One of the ways that setting appropriate goals can benefit you, includes influencing your performance on certain tasks or life in general, by helping you to develop new learning strategies. These newly developed strategies are specific to what works best for YOU and YOUR life to achieve and maintain the positive habits that will allow you to reach your goals.
Some people specifically hire trainers for the accountability to begin working out if they have fitness or weight loss related goals. They have learned from previous attempts on this journey, that if they are left to be their own source of accountability, the odds are high that they will not consistently work out. Consistency is paramount to success regarding goals. They have now learned this, and now must develop new strategies to make them consistent. They discovered that if they committed to another person verbally and monetarily, the likelihood of maintaining a consistent workout schedule increases substantially, which may in turn have them reach their weight loss or fitness related goals.
Some people recognize that self-accountability is not the blocking issue, but rather the time of day is the issue. These folks may need to make working out a priority in the morning, and they must treat it as a scheduled event, just like all their other required morning routine actions. They know that they are the type of person that will not workout consistently if they leave the workout to the evening hours after a long workday. Just not going to happen for them. They have learned that about themselves over time from multiple attempts at evening workouts that never materialized. Again, consistency with positive habits is paramount to success. Making time in the morning at home or in a gym allows them to consistently workout.
Some people need a combination. They need a specific time of day AND someone to hold them accountable. The point of these examples is to illustrate that appropriate goal setting influences you to learn what strategies are needed for you to be able to consistently work in a manner that supports YOU reaching YOUR goals. You also learn valuable information about your personality that can in turn help you in other areas in your life.
Setting goals in an appropriate manner will provide you with valuable feedback. Why is feedback important? Well, feedback will create an atmosphere that allows you to increase your effort and persistence towards reaching your goals. It also provides information about whether you have strayed from your goals, or if your goals have changed over time. Where does the feedback come from?
Feedback arises from goal setting with short-term goals that are specific for helping to obtain your long-term goals. This feedback provides valuable motivation to stay on course. How does it do that, and why are both needed? Short-term goals will allow you to see your progress towards long term goals. So, short-term goals provide the necessary feedback that keep you motoring along with a continued desire to achieve your long-term goals.
It is a continued way to track your progress.
In other words: long term goals provide you with the needed destination direction towards what you are ultimately trying to accomplish. I always like to say these are the “eyes on the horizon” goals. They keep the focus on where you ultimately want to end up or what you want to achieve.
Short-term goals provide you with the continual feedback that you need concerning the type of progress that you are making towards your long-term goals.
And finally, appropriate goal setting will allow you to focus your attention on the task at hand, arguably the most important reason why people set goals in the first place, and how they then successfully obtain those goals.
1.Appropriate goal setting works because it will direct your attention and action to the task at hand.
2. Focused attention will allow you to mobilize the necessary efforts for short- and long-term goals and enhance your persistence towards achieving those goals through valuable feedback regarding progress.
3. Throughout the goal setting process, you will begin to gain a considerable amount of self-awareness and in turn develop new valuable learning strategies to not only reach your specific goals, but also to apply to other areas in your life.
Creating positive change in your life via healthy habits begins with appropriate goal setting. The rest of this series will outline the different types of goals and how you will be able to begin to outline or map out appropriate goal setting behavior for whatever you need to set goals for in life. In the new year, I will be offering small group classes that focus on wellness and fitness goals, combining both an accountability and educational session, followed up with a specific progression of joint mobility and midline related workout that meets once per week. If you are interested, drop me a line via the contact info page and let me know.
Series: Effective Goal Setting: Part II, the 3 Types of Goals
Series: Effective Goal Setting: Part II, the 3 Types of Goals
December 12, 2019
So, what kind of goals can you set that would enhance motivation and adaptive learning strategies, while simultaneously direct and maintain your attention towards goal completion?
Research has shown that in order to reach goals regarding improvement in areas such as productivity, behavior, and/or performance; the right “type” or “kind” of goal needs to be set. Goals that specifically enhance your motivation and are focused directly on the parameters needed for completion are the best way toward goal completion.
The last post we talked a little bit about the “Why’s” of goal setting. So, the focus for this entry is to be more specific about what a goal is defined as historically and the different types of goals that we can utilize to begin setting specific types of goals for ourselves.
In general, a GOAL is something that you are attempting to accomplish through various means with specifically directed actions. In most cases we are trying to achieve something, or become better at something, typically within a certain time frame or limit. There are both objective and subjective aspects to goal setting.
When something is OBJECTIVE, it is based on facts. Goals for the most part should be objective. Objective goals can be quantitatively measured, and that becomes extremely important for reasons we will delve into.
When something is SUBJECTIVE, it is based in opinions, so you cannot quantitatively measure it. Lack of quantitative measurements make it difficult to track progression towards your goals.
Because of that, subjective aspects are more difficult to consistently set goals around. Subjective thought processing limits your ability to maintain specified, controlled, and focused attention to detail regarding the goals. However, that doesn’t mean that subjective goals shouldn’t be placed in the overall map. Subjective goals can still be utilized.
There are 3 main “Types” of goals:
1. OUTCOME based goals are the results of some type of behavior and can be thought of as a type of winning or losing scenario in most cases. Outcome goals are not under the complete control of the individual, so when goal setting, they should not be the main focus. For example: a weight loss challenge at work to encourage employees to adopt a more positive behavioral approach regarding their health, which will in turn reduce healthcare related costs for the company. The Outcome goal is for an individual employee to win the weight loss challenge.
2. PERFORMANCE based goals can be thought of as the end product of performance but are typically expressed in terms of personal achievement. The performance goal can be tracked quantitatively and are typically found in the short-term goal scenarios. Employees participating have a long-term outcome goal to win the weight loss challenge.
Say, Carly the employee wants to win the challenge so she sets a personal goal to lose 50 pounds by June 1st deadline and she wants to achieve that by using both exercise and nutrition (great idea!) So, her performance goal would be to personally achieve a 50-pound weight loss by exercising a predetermined number of times each week and by reducing her current intake of calories by a specified amount every day. The performance numbers she uses would be based on realistic goals that would help create the results she is looking for long term. Maybe she wins the outcome goal of the weight loss challenge, maybe she doesn’t. She cannot control the variables of that.
What Carly can do, however, is set personal performance goals that she does have control over, that can make the likelihood of reaching the outcome goal more achievable. The point of the performance goal(s) is to be specific about actions needed to reach the goal. For Carly the specific actions are to lose 50 lbs by exercising X amount of times per week and by reducing her current calorie intake by X amount per day.
3. PROCESS based goals will outline the specific processes that the person needs to follow or adhere to perform the above performance goals in an appropriate way to reach their goals. For example: If Carly were my client, she would receive a very specific cardio routine from me. The routine would be to complete X amount of cardio X amount of times per week (performance goals). If you have read any of my other pages, you would know that I do heart rate-based training specific to the client. I also require that my clients check in to their app to track their assignments and workouts to see if they have been completed.
So, Carly wants to lose 50lbs by June 1st. I give her performance goals for specified number of times to workout, and I give her process goals related to where and for how long I want her heart rate to be during the workouts. I also want her to track and check off in the app if she attempted and accomplished the goals: Both maintaining the heart rate and the daily tracking in the app are process goals.
So, to wrap up this part of the series, the 3 types of Goals we will focus on are OUTCOME, PERFORMANCE, and PROCESS.
You need to pick goals that are predominately objective and capable of being measured, some subjective goals can also be included to help provide a different means of motivation.
While OUTCOME goals can be a good idea, from a wellness and fitness perspective, OUTCOME goals should not be the main focus. Remember, OUTCOME goals are NOT within the CONTROL of the individual. Winning and losing can be affected by numerous variables well outside of the control of one person. Due to this, solid effective goal setting should mostly revolve around focusing on variables that ARE within control of the individual: PERFORMANCE and PROCESS goals.
Performance and Process goals can be objectively quantified. This provides valuable feedback to the individual and the coach (if utilizing one) as they progress on the journey to achieve their goals. These two types of goals ARE under the control of individuals and as such, make it more likely for someone to reach their OUTCOME goals.
The next part of this series on effective goal setting will delve further into setting specific goals within specified parameters considering the 3 types of goals listed above. Hope you come back to check it out. See ya soon!!!
Series: Effective Goal Setting: Part III, Goal Setting Principles
Series: Effective Goal Setting: Part III, Goal Setting Principles
December 13, 2019
Goal Setting Principles: there are several so we will start by picking just 2 for this entry of the series 😊
For wellness and fitness related goals, being objectively specific (with regards to a quantified amount that can be measured) will produce higher levels of task performance than having no goals (duh, right?) or having subjective goals (goals that rely on personal opinion, "I want to feel good"). So, one important goal setting principle is Goal Specificity.
Remember from the previous post that when there is actual concrete feedback to measure your progress, you will be more likely to perform well and reach your goal. Feedback is an important part of the process. It allows us to focus our attention on what needs work so we can progress accordingly. Goal Specificity will give you that.
From a "wellness/behavior change, nutrition, and/or physical fitness perspective", goal specificity examples could look like the following:
You establish a long-term Outcome Goal of losing weight and getting healthier physically and mentally.
So, let’s begin with picking specific goals in the area of "wellness/behavior change, nutrition, and physical fitness."
1. Wellness/Behavior Change Discovery Task: What are your baseline behaviors? Begin by tracking your current daily vegetable and fruit intake and maintain consistent tracking for a week. Do not change your behavior regarding how you eat. Eat as you normally would so that you can get a good idea about your baseline behavior. The only thing you are doing is accurately tracking what you are eating. You must track every day.
2. Nutrition Goal: After tracking for a normal week, you take that information and discover that your current average daily intake for fruit and vegetables is 1 serving of each, so you will create a specific nutrition goal to increase each by 1 serving per day so that the goal is to get 2 servings of veggies and 2 servings of fruit everyday for the next week. A total of 4 servings per day.
3. Wellness/Behavior Change Nutrition Tracking Goal: You will continue to track every day, creating a consistent habit with staying accountable to your intake. You should log whether you met the goal, what type of veggies and fruit (including the serving size amount), and how you prepared it.
4. Wellness/Behavior Change Discovery Task: track your current baseline amount of weekly intentional fitness workouts, and the total amount of daily activities (typically found in the form of “steps”). After a typical week of tracking, you establish that your intentional work out time for the week is 20 minutes for only 1 day, and your daily average step total is 6000.
5. Physical Fitness Goal: increase daily average step count from 6000 to 8000 and bump up the number of times you intentionally workout out from once per week for 20 minutes, to twice per week for 30 minutes.
6. Wellness Behavior Fitness Tracking Goal: track your daily steps and your workouts including the duration, and type of workout, what day you did the workout, and what time. Track everyday. Remain consistent.
Specific, measurable goals = Goal Specificity. This is made easy for my clients because it is all set up in the app for them to track on a daily basis. Whatever system you use, it needs to be simple and quick.
Effective Goal Specificity requires the next principle: "how to determine the “amount” with regards to the specific goals". This is a great question and another important principle in goal setting. The art of setting the appropriate challenge level for your goals.
The appropriate level needs to be considered a "realistic but challenging goal" for each individual person. Establishing baselines is helpful to understand the needed starting point and for the end point. What is considered challenging to one person, could be relatively easy for another. The goal you are trying to reach needs to be enough of a stimulus that it pushes a person to stretch out into a moderately uncomfortable zone, that requires effort.
But it cannot be so difficult, that it is impossible to not only attain, but to repeat. Most behavior goals require consistent successfully completed attempts. So, the challenge level has to be able to be maintained with consistency. So, can you do it more than once?
At the other end of the spectrum, goals that are set at levels that are too easy to reach, will provide no stimulus to motivate you, and would not require any adaptive learning strategies on your part. Real change is hard, right? It takes work. If we want change to occur, then we need to stretch out and challenge ourselves to find new ways to adapt to complete the task. We must evolve.
It is within that need to adapt, that real change occurs. Once you are capable of repeatedly performing a task at a new level, the change is capable of solidifying to become a new habit or baseline set point.
To recap, one principle of effective goal setting is that “specific measurable goals” need to be set: goal specificity.
Goal Specificity allows for focused attention and the feedback to assess progression and direction towards the goals.
Another principle is related to the challenge level of the goal. How many vegetables do I choose? The number/amount/weight/time spent/etc., should encourage the goal setter to find ways to be forced to adapt to the goal and likewise set it at an attainable level. Not so hard that it is impossible, or that you can’t sustain it. Not so easy that no change is required to attain it.
There are still several other principles for effective goal setting to discuss, so I hope you come back again to continue on this journey with me. See ya soon! As always, thanks for reading my ramblings...
December 20, 2019
Now I'm fairly certain I will catch some flack from professional mental health workers that will say, " but that one study showed that people had more positive outcomes with journaling 3 times a week instead of every day...." Yea, I hear ya. However, I would counter that with questioning the brain functioning and plasticity level of the population in the study.
I recommend daily gratitude journaling in the beginning for my wellness clients that struggle significantly with depression and anxiety. I recommend they do it at night, right before they go to sleep. Why? Because want to begin training the brain to be in a positive place before drifting off to sleep. It increases the likelihood of establishing improved sleep hygiene. Bedtime, in most cases, is the time period that my clients are stuck laying in bed, trying to go to sleep, but their ruminative thoughts are extra loud, so they can't fall asleep. They are listing and going over all of the "negative" things about their day. Their worries, the things they didn't get done, things they think others are thinking about them, etc. Its also the last thing they are thinking before they do fall asleep. Ya think maybe the subconscious is on repeat and storing away and focusing on the last few things it was working on before sleepy sleepy time? Yea. Not the kind of repetition exposure we should want for our brain.
Many clients are currently in professional therapy, and have been for a significant amount of time. It takes a lot more to create appreciable change in their life compared to others. After all, those behaviors, thoughts, and actions that make up their life, are at a negative volume that is much higher than folks that do not struggle in the same way. The premise for only journaling 3 times per week is based in part on the thought that the individuals in the study found that to be more positive than everyday journaling. One possible assumption given for that was based on how quickly we pick up new positive habits and thoughts, and so if it is too repetitive, we become numb to its effects.
On the other hand, other studies have noted that those of us that have MDD and TRD have been shown to have brains that are less plastic compared to those from "normed" population. Whatever "normed" is, lol. That could translate into taking longer for new synapses to be formed. New patterns to be formed. For learning to take place and hold. For new habits to be formed and to stick around., etc. I have thoughts on why that could be the case, but that is not really important for this post. The point is, if depressed brains are indeed less plastic, then it would take more repetitions to get the same effect. Potentially. I'm not a scientist or a professional mental health worker, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. All I know is what I have seen over the years with one to one interactions, and personal struggles with anxiety and depression from a young age. I've learned some things over the years.
Again, we need to look at the big picture of what is going on, what the root cause is, and what an individual is currently doing to maintain their current level of functioning. MDD, TRD, and anxiety is much larger than a persons mood or thoughts. I challenge all of the providers and the therapists out there to dig deep and go beyond medication assisted treatment and therapy including CBT, and try to pinpoint what collective dysfunctions are allowing this disease to continue to manifest.
A cardiac or diabetic patient would be asked to change a number of things about their life beyond medication and maybe diet. Hopefully, anyways. The same approach should be taken with those that live with depression and anxiety. Treat the disease from all directions.
Psychosocially, biologically, physiologically, etc. Attempt to discover the root cause. Is it physiological? Trauma? Is it anxiety that manifested over time into depression? If so, what approach needs to be taken to deal with what causes increases in anxiety for your patient that may now just look like negative coping techniques for their depression? What can they do with their behaviors to help decrease their anxiety? They will most likely need to be taught skill development in this area. Create well devised plans for them, with a back up. TEACH them. Skills have to be developed, but first, they need to be taught.
Be honest with your patients. Let them know that unless they are willing to make considerable changes in all areas of their life over time, then sustainable change is unlikely to occur. They will probably struggle significantly for life. Like it or not.
What needs to change? What is contributing to maintaining the current status quo?
Man, haha, this little rant was long! Any who, that's my 2 cents. Sprinkle some salt.