Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin Z

Comment

Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin Z

Sleep is positively correlated with everything  - mental clarity, hormonal balance, fat loss, muscle gain, and more.  It is free and, barring some unfortunate living and medical conditions, universally available to all.  Yet it is often a low priority for many athletes.  And they suffer for it.

City living can be a challenge to reasonable bed times.  Late night events such as concerts and dinners might keep us out late.  Living in an urban area often means traffic late into the evening. And in our homes, we have our TVs, tablets, and smartphones buzzing late into the evening with business and social notifications.

Optimally, we want our sleep pattern to mirror the sun.  As the sun goes down, we wind down. Sun comes up, we get up!  Not too difficult.  If you have to wake up exceptionally early, then guess what?  You get to go to bed early!

Optimum sleep times for most individuals is 9/10pm sleep time and 5:30/6:30 am wake time. This is going to vary from individual to individual.  Some people do great on 6 hours of sleep per night.  Others need 10-11.  Most people thrive on 8.5 hours.  You are going to have to find out what works for you.  But generally, if you (1) wake up and completely hate life and want NOTHING but to go back to bed or (2) feel tired ALL THE TIME you need to sleep more.  If you wake up every day, kill it all day and feeling great, you’re probably sleeping right for you.

So what can we do to help normalize our sleep patterns?

Photo Credit : www.unsplash.com

Photo Credit : www.unsplash.com

1. First thing is first – you need to prioritize your sleep!  

If you were working out to improve your physique, would you go down the street and eat a big fat ice cream sundae after each training session?  Probably not.  So WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU STAY UP UNTIL 1 AM BROWSING Facebook/Reddit/NYTimes/whatever.  Staying up late is going to increase your stress hormones, and make it literally harder to do EVERYTHING.  Do you want to negatively impact your sex drive? Your ability to lose fat and retain muscle?  Do you want less patience and reduced mental clarity?  Prioritize a better you.

Photo Credit : www.unsplash.com

Photo Credit : www.unsplash.com

2. Put down the smartphone!

Many of our athletes claim they cannot sleep, but they are on their electronic devices literally up until the minute they close their eyes.  This is not optimal.  You can put it on silent and set your alarm 15 minutes before you intend to sleep, and the world won’t explode.  The first thing tomorrow morning, you will be able to resume the rat race.  Give yourself 15 minutes.  After you graduate from the 15-minute program, try 30.  I promise you will thank yourself!

Photo Credit : www.unsplash.com

Photo Credit : www.unsplash.com

3. Minimize light exposure.

As the evening begins, try to reduce the lighting accordingly.  There are really awesome features built into Android and Apple iOS that allow you to reduce the brightness of the phones and tablets in the evening.  For the computer, you can download f.lux.  It will reduce the brightness of your laptop screen in the evening.  As for house lighting – less is more!  Try using a lower watt light bulbs in a lamp that gives more indirect light (versus using an overhead light).  Personally, I use a Himalayan salt lamp by my bed.  They are about $25 online and they give off a soothing warm light that is much less rich in the blue light that our body associates with day time.  You can read more on the dangers of blue light in this Harvard Health letter

Photo Cr

Photo Cr

4. It takes time, but it's worth it.

Don’t try to start going to bed tonight at 10 pm if you go to bed at 1 am.  I wouldn’t expect someone eating Twinkies for breakfast to immediately start cooking for themselves – I’d probably switch them from Twinkies to Pop Tarts, Pop Tarts to Lucky Charms, and maybe Lucky Charms to actual food.  Likewise, we do not do interval training on our first day out of knee surgery.  What time do you go to bed, on average?  Write that time down!  Good job!  Is that time 10 pm?  If not, then proceed to next step: take that time and subtract 30 minutes.  Congrats!  You have your new sleeping assignment!  Go get em!


Comment

Gains on the Go Series : Guide to Maximizing Muscle

Comment

Gains on the Go Series : Guide to Maximizing Muscle

Consistency is one of the keys to a successful exercise program. No matter what your goals are, you need to subject your body to repeated stress to see the desired adaptation. Unfortunately, things like travel, unpredictable work conflicts, injuries, and plenty of other things we deal with regularly can make consistency a challenge. I'm here to share some information that you can use to maintain healthy habits in the face of life's hurdles.


Prescription for Muscle Growth

Muscle growth is something that many folks are seeking when embarking upon an exercise program. The benefits are many: whether you want to look better, perform better, reduce injury risk, or generally improve health and well-being, packing on a few pounds of muscle can help a lot. The reality is that muscle growth occurs slowly compared to the fat loss. It takes several months of consistent resistance training to see a marked change for the majority of people, and most of us have trouble sailing through the day, let alone months at a time without an obstacle presenting itself. Don't worry, I promise there's hope!

Open up any personal training certification text from the last several decades, and you will find a table describing the “hypertrophy rep range” as about 5-12 repetitions per set. Although this may be a good suggestion, it isn't the only way to accomplish your goals. If you look at the body of research on hypertrophy as a whole, heavier loads (anything you couldn't lift more than about 15 times) show only a slightly more favorable outcome with respect to muscle growth compared to lifting lighter loads. This is valuable information you can use to adapt your program to your life.

The reality is: hotel gyms suck. Although the intentions are good, often times the equipment is extremely limited, and it doesn't allow you to follow your routine as written. That's okay because there are plenty of options to ensure that you stay on track, even if you have to modify your plan. Use your own bodyweight, dumbbells, or even machines that mimic the typical exercises you do as closely as possible. If the weights offered are insufficient, then simply perform higher repetition sets instead. The variation in loading, and thus the type of demand placed on the muscle (greater metabolic stress vs high mechanical tension) may even be a useful variation for you to continue making progress.

Another situation where this type of training can prove useful is working around injuries and joint pain. Sometimes heavy loading is not well tolerated by a bout of tendonitis or an achy joint. However, lighter load training might be better tolerated. I love heavy lifting, but I definitely am not someone who interprets the phrase “no pain, no gain” to the extreme that I train through injuries. At the same time, I definitely recommend finding alternatives that cause too little to no pain instead, and this technique can be helpful in that regard.

There is one caveat associated with this method: training with lighter loads needs to be taken to muscular failure for it to be similarly effective to heavier loading for hypertrophy. Training to failure with lighter loads also creates greater discomfort because of the change in muscle acidity. So, if you're prepared to do some high rep pump and burn work, then you've added another tool to your arsenal to work around some of life's challenges.


Getting Creative

Exercise guidelines for cardiovascular fitness often suggest pretty lengthy bouts to maximize the health and performance benefits. Although that might work sometimes, we often have trouble carving out enough time to meet these guidelines. Fortunately, research shows that you don’t need to perform all this exercise in a single bout to reap the benefits. I have seen research showing the benefits of bouts as short as 10 minutes in duration, assuming enough total exercise volume is accumulated through the day. That is to say, 3 x 10-minute bouts of cardiovascular exercise is similarly effective to a single 30-minute bout. As well, resistance training bouts don’t have to be done all at once either. Although I have not come across much scientific literature on this matter (there is a small amount), there is a lot of empirical evidence to suggest that splitting your weight workouts into AM and PM sessions, or performing several shorter workouts a week instead of 2-3 longer ones, is totally viable. Thus, if short and frequent exercise bouts fit your life better, use them!

Another viable strategy for those strapped for time, or who simply don't enjoy traditional cardio training, is to try circuit training. The idea is that you perform resistance exercises that stress different muscle groups in a circuit, for moderate to high reps, with limited rest periods, and you get some of the benefits of cardiovascular training and resistance training all at once. It's not quite as effective as either activity for the respective goal, but may be a good strategy for those who want a little of everything on a time budget.

Don't be afraid to get creative. If you have a short attention span, try performing alternate 10-15 minute bouts of resistance and cardio exercise. Try group classes at your gym that involve bodyweight exercises and light resistance in circuits to keep up your heart rate. Try jogging or riding your bike to work each day. All of this adds up, and you need to make it fun, enjoyable, flexible, and sustainable.

 


Can't Stop, Won't Stop

Don't let normal occurrences in life become excuses - instead, find solutions. Try new ways to stick to your goals and be healthy. If you read this blog, then you're on the right track. You're taking the time to make sure your exercise routine is flexible and adaptable enough to keep making progress. Where there's a will, there's a way.

For more guidance on making a healthy lifestyle work for you, come check out our facility on Market Street. We have a lot of well-educated coaches at the ready to help you reach your goals. Until then, stay healthy, happy, and active!



Comment

6 Ways to Choose Living Over Existing

Comment

6 Ways to Choose Living Over Existing

Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress - retail therapy, binging on junk food, drinking tequila, etc. - but there are countless avenues to explore for a healthier and happier lifestyle. Now, when I say “stress” I’m not talking about the short bursts of stress that can actually have a positive impact on our lives by motivating us and helping us perform under pressure. I’m talking about the long-term, toxic stress in our lives that result in mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. Burn-out. If we constantly run in “emergency” mode, our bodies and minds will pay the price. Whether there’s an illness in your family, a mountain of bills, or that overbearing boss, it’s time to take action and bring your nervous system back into balance. If you haven’t guessed already, learning how to cope with stress is one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves. We just so happen to live in a city that is chock-full of adventures for us to explore, and it has something to offer for everyone!

Naturally, most people like routine and I do as well, to an extent. However, if I have too much of a routine and no wiggle room for a spontaneous day then I will go crazy. Some of my favorite memories have resulted from stepping out of my comfort zone and not knowing what was 30 minutes ahead of me: “It feels good to be lost in the right direction.” Sure, we have work and responsibilities that we need to keep up with… but isn’t that what the weekends are for? Climb a mountain, drive with no destination, take a new bus not knowing where it’s going. Simply get lost. I decided to rattle off just a few, simply solutions to add a little flare to your life while reducing stress at the same time!


Photo Credit : unsplash.com

Photo Credit : unsplash.com

FOR THE ADVENTURER: 

FunCheapSF - Here’s a website that makes finding an adventure effortless! They keep up with posting events going on in the Bay Area that day, week, and month. This will give you the chance to explore a new hobby or activity without breaking the bank. And as always, if you’re unsure about something, Yelp is your best friend. You’ll find yourself trying things that have never crossed your mind and maybe you’ll even find a new hobby! Corgi races? I didn’t know that existed but I’m sure happy that it does!

TIP: Try something new each week! Exploration is good for the soul.

Find a Good View! - I don’t know about you, but there’s something about being on top of the world that gives me a rush. When you take a step back from the chaos that is San Francisco, and step into a place without car horns and your daily routine, you’ll find a wave of tranquility wash over you. And a view doesn’t necessarily translate to being up high in the clouds. One of my favorite views in the Bay Area is just across the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands. It’s sea level and has a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate and ocean. Kirby Cove can be reached by car (when the campground is open) or foot which requires a little hike down to the beach, but you won’t regret it. It can change your mood right around just by seeing it.

TIP: I bring my Eno hammock wherever I go because you can hang it up just about anywhere with trees! Some wine doesn’t hurt either.

Photo Credit : pixabay.com

Photo Credit : pixabay.com

FOR THE FOODIE : 

Make it an Event! - For those of you who like to eat, drink, and be merry,  Eventbrite has plenty of options for de-stressing! Instead of binge watching West World with a bag of chips and a beer, you’ll find that attending an event centered on food and/or drink will distract you from the actual eating and drinking part! You’ll still get the comfort that food and/or drink provides you, but the social aspect will cause you to eat slower, and therefore, feel full faster. Boom. Plus, it’s typical for these types of events to either provide samplers or smaller portions of food instead of an entire dish. Who doesn’t like to try a little bit of everything? 

TIP: Classes are offered too, so whilst you’re satisfying your stress by eating and/or drinking, you can learn a little something to take home with you too.

 


Photo Credit : unspash.com

Photo Credit : unspash.com

FOR THE SHOPPER : 

People deal with stress in a variety of ways - retail therapy - so instead of relieving stress by only spending money, make something out of it! When you’re stressed out and feeling a loss of control, shopping sometimes helps restore that sense of control again and alleviates some stress. Here’s some food for thought: become a mystery shopper and get reimbursed for your spendings by helping measure a business’ quality of service. Getting paid to shop? Sounds like a double stress reducer to me! Although, it’s not for everyone so read up on these tips before you decide to take part. If you’re not into mystery shopping, SF is full of Farmer's Markets, Flea Markets, and Street Fairs for you to explore! Indulge your senses with different smells, sights, and sounds.


Photo Credit : rawpixel.com

Photo Credit : rawpixel.com

FOR THE EXPLORER : 

Go On a Roadtrip! - Find your inner Lewis and Clark and set out on a road-trip for the weekend… and even walk the same trails as them at The Columbia River Gorge (only 600 miles!). Lucky for us here in San Francisco, we’re not too far from both the Oregon border and Southern California! If you’re feeling real adventurous, set off with no destination the first night and see where the roads take you! You’ll end up driving through towns you never would have known existed and meeting new people with all kinds of stories to tell.

TIP: Talk to the locals and get the inside scoop. New scenery is great for opening the mind and getting the creative juices flowing.

Go Camping! - We all know nature has been proven to help soothe the soul, so obviously, camping is a great de-stressor. And you don’t have to go far to get it! Our Bay Area backyard is filled with amazing spots for a card game to break out under the redwoods or stick your toes in the sand with a good book.

TIP: Half Moon Bay has a great campground right on the bay! If you reserve early enough, you can even grab a spot along the beach and wake up to a view of the Pacific Ocean! Hard to beat.

 


Long story short - de-stressing and happiness don’t have to break the bank or even require long and stressful planning, even in a city as costly as San Francisco. When we find outlets that work for us, it’s easy to flip those negative ways of coping with stress into positive ones that can create lifelong memories. Grab a friend and an open mind to unlock everything our beautiful world has to offer. What are you waiting for? Get out there!


Comment

Gains on the Go Series: Fueling the Metabolic Fire

Comment

Gains on the Go Series: Fueling the Metabolic Fire

Greetings P4L family! My name is Michael Phillips, and I'm a new addition to the P4L team. I'm introducing a blog series called Gains on the Go. It's all about learning new information, upending fallacies, and using that knowledge to make healthy eating and exercise more sustainable and adaptable to a busy lifestyle. I want everyone to find a way to overcome the obstacles that life likes to put in the way of your fitness goals. I've been in the industry a long time, and fads are more rampant in fitness than just about anywhere else. Thankfully, geeks like me love to sift through the data to separate fact from fad, so you don't have to. Without further ado, let's kick things off by talking about something that is very status quo in the fitness industry: meal frequency.

If you’ve been given advice on a diet for fat loss in recent years, you’ve likely been told that you need to eat every 3 hours to keep your metabolism revved up and burning calories all day long. It sounds good, but I’m not even sure where this information originates. The body of literature that exists on the subject of TEF (Thermic Effect of Food) does not support this suggestion in the slightest. It is true that some portion of the calories you consume is used to power the digestion and absorption of the food itself, but the impact of meal frequency on that is virtually non-existent. If you eat 5 slices of bread in one sitting, or spread those feedings evenly throughout the day, the energy required by your digestive system to process this food is the same. This should be very empowering for you folks out there that find eating so often is incompatible with your lifestyle.

Besides constraints that work may place on your eating habits, food is also an important part of socializing. You can eat dinner with your family, have lunch with a coworker, or try the dishes at your company holiday party without sabotaging your gains (or losses). That is to say, you can eat like a normal person! If you transgress, just adjust the amount of food you consume in the subsequent meals; it's really that simple.

Similarly, you don’t have to force yourself to eat breakfast in the morning if you aren’t hungry. Again, the idea that breakfast stokes the metabolic fire is pretty pervasive, but the support for this idea simply doesn’t exist. The research surrounding the consumption of breakfast is very correlative in nature. It merely shows that those who regularly eat breakfast tend to have lower body weights. However, there are tons of confounding factors: people who are generally hungry in the morning may just regulate their appetite better, or they may eat breakfast because they consider it an important component of health, thus making them more concerned with health in general, or many other possible co-factors. How can you adjust this to help you? Well, a lot of people don't have a big appetite in the morning, have trouble getting up in the morning, or simply just want to wait until they can eat breakfast at the office. If that's you, then you can redistribute the calories to later meals (e.g. dinner with your friend from your hometown), wait a couple hours after waking up, or just have a very quick and easy snack. Make it work for your life and schedule.

The pendulum has even begun to swing the other way, with intermittent fasting diets becoming increasingly popular. Although there is some promising research to support this strategy, I still feel that more research needs to be done on humans, and it needs to be done in a more realistic way. Right now, most of the research showing the positive impact this eating pattern has on health is based on research done on rats, and using an alternating day fasting protocol where you literally skip eating every other day. However, I suggest you keep an eye out for emerging information on this topic, as it certainly shows some potential. If nothing else, this strategy seems viable; I'm just not sold on it being superior yet. A lot of people love this dietary routine because of how well it jives with social eating. If you don't eat anything for 16 hours, then you can cram a lot of food in the remaining 8 hours, relatively speaking. It's not a free pass to clean out an entire buffet, but it's easier to eat like a normal person if you have the flexibility to eat a large meal if you want or need.

My suggestion for using this information is to avoid getting caught up in adjusting your whole life to accommodate a different meal schedule. Eating is too important to our social lives and emotional well being to try and adjust it to fit an unrealistic schedule. Try to make your eating schedule as sustainable as possible. Do you like to sit down and eat a larger dinner with your friends or family in the evening? Do it! Just make sure the calorie consumption throughout the rest of the day is a bit lower to compensate for a larger dinner. Are you the type of person who wakes up starving in the morning? Then have a big ol’ breakfast and let calorie consumption taper off later in the day. Do you want to take advantage of the catered meals your company provides? Go for it. The key is to make your diet work for you.

Dieting requires enough sacrifice and behavior change already; don’t make it harder than it needs to be.

There is also a caveat to keep in mind with this piece of advice. Frequent feedings have some support for improving satiety. That is, smaller, more frequent meals may help you feel more satisfied (i.e. less hungry) than an equivalent amount of food consumed in larger and less frequent feedings. Thus, if you find through experimentation that this describes you, then it may be worth trying. As well, if you simply enjoy more frequent meals and it's not a hassle for you, then by all means go for it. I'm not suggesting it's a bad practice; I'm merely suggesting that eating every 3 hours is not a requirement for you to reach your goals. Meet your calorie requirements in the way you see fit. I promise you that finding a diet you can adhere to consistently is the most important thing you can do to set yourself up to succeed.

---

Photo Credit : LUM3N


Comment

The Positive Effects of Overcoming Judgment

Comment

The Positive Effects of Overcoming Judgment

It is natural for human beings to make judgments: on things, people, situations, and themselves. Judgments allow us to distinguish our opinion on nearly every aspect of our life, but it is all too often that these judgments hold us back.

As a trainer, I see this all too often: people judge themselves and the extent of their capabilities much too harshly. “I’m fat”, “I can’t do that”, and the list of conclusions too quickly jumped to goes on.

Their own sense of inadequacy discourages them, and it makes them untrusting of their own abilities. As a trainer, it is my job to push my clients both in the gym and out to accomplish things they didn’t think possible. This may well be a fitness goal, but almost just as often, the goals set with clients can pertain to their nutrition, hydration, sleep, pain reduction, overall lifestyle, or mental health. By setting these types of goals, I aim to boost my clients’ confidence in themselves and their capabilities. I believe that this is perhaps the single most important aspect of my job: to allow them to defy their own judgments of themselves. This is why I enjoy working at P4L as much as I do: my coworkers and I aim to not only achieve our clients’ fitness goals but to help them surpass their own perceived limitations and achieve things they didn’t think possible.

Not only do people’s judgments of themselves seem to be a detriment to their personal growth, but I have seen in my own life that being quick to judge others can indirectly lead to being overly-critical of myself. Earlier in my life, I was quick to pass judgment on others and had no problem dismissing someone based on these judgments. I would catch myself jumping to conclusions about the type of person I believed these people to be. I didn’t think much of my overly-critical tendencies, but I was also constantly worried about what others thought of me. With time, I realized that by being so quick to judge others, I came to assume that others did the same of me. This preoccupation with how others thought of me made me self-conscious and, at times, quite paranoid. I felt isolated from those around me simply because I had such trouble trusting them - how could I trust them if I couldn’t know what they were thinking, and what they thought of me specifically? It took me a majority of my life to realize that my concern with what people thought of me and my tendency to hastily pass judgments on others were inextricably linked.

By the time I was around 19 years old, I made a conscious effort to have an open mind towards others and the type of person they were, their personal stories, what brought them to this point, etc. Overly-critical judgments would still form in my head, but I had to learn to disregard them. With time, my paranoia began to subside, and the less I considered my harsh judgments of others, the less concerned I was of potential judgments others made of me. I felt happier, the ever-present sense of isolation diminished, and I felt more connected to the present moment and the world around me.

Judgments are an innate part of the human psyche and allow us to understand and categorize the world around us. However, it seems that giving too much credence to these judgments, especially those concerning yourself and others, can hold you back from your true potential. Everyone can make judgments about their own abilities, and some of these may very well be true. However, it is important to remember that these are most likely not all true - the person holding us back the most is, more often than not, ourselves. Have an open mind, and if you are quick to judge like so many people are, try for a while - at least until you have a more complete understanding of the person or situation - to disregard these judgments. It can truly make a world of difference.

 

Comment