NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Short Sleeps, Big Benefits: What a Power Nap Can Do for You

ThinkstockPhotos-530249969.jpgCan you remember preschool when the teacher would turn down the lights and break out the cots? Nap time! You might not have had that exact experience, but as humans we are prone to napping. In our go-go-go life, time is money. To society, sleeping during the day is seen as a luxury that we cannot provide ourselves, and is usually thought of as a sign of laziness.

Unfortunately, napping doesn’t pay the bills. Even so, many physicians as well as wellness-oriented CEOs have championed the idea that a little afternoon snooze is actually beneficial, and can not only provide enough rest to fight off fatigue, but improves your alertness, improves motor learning skills, boosts memory, and enhances creativity (Soong, 2010). Can napping actually make you a better employee at work, give you better results in the gym, or enable you to have a better social life with your family and friends? Yes, in fact, it can! Here is a closer look at napping and its benefits.

What Is the Optimal Nap Length?

First, I’d like to break down naps into two parts. The duration of nap that you are taking will be specific to you, but there is information that gives a good indication that for optimal power naps, 10 to 20 minutes of sleep will provide the best results. Longer naps can make you groggy; this is known as sleep inertia (Dvorsky, 2013). The longer naps, such as a 60- to 90-minute siesta, can put you in a state of REM (otherwise known as our dream state). There are some links to cognitive function associated with longer naps, but the time frame doesn’t always work with our hectic schedules.

When Is the Best Time to Nap?

The second part deals with necessity. Our naps can be planned, in which you know you are going to need extra rest for a long night, so you take a nap. Another would be an emergency nap, where you take a nap because you otherwise would have put yourself in a dangerous situation (think about getting sleepy behind the wheel and then deciding it’s best to pull over at a rest stop for a nap). Then there is the always popular appetitive napping—in other words, taking a nap for the sheer enjoyment of it (Dvorsky, 2013).

What Are the Benefits?

Your health and wellness can benefit from a simple, short nap. At the right length, your nap can provide much-needed alertness, mental capacity, creativity, energy, reduced stress (in turn reducing the risks of heart disease), and more effective learning abilities for children. With all these positives attached to something that can be done quite simply, it’s hard to understand why anyone would not take more naps. For businesses, your employees would be better workers with higher productivity; for teachers, your students would have a better chance of learning; and for you, your overall well-being would be improved. Don’t wait; take a nap TODAY!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress Thomas' Corner employee health sleep productivity heart disease wellness naps memory

Hawaii 5-0: Five Island Wellness Habits We Should All Practice

ThinkstockPhotos-124816527.jpgBack in March I spent 5 fantastic days in Maui with my wife and her family, and as you can probably imagine, I had the best time of my life there! I have been so lucky these past 9 years to be included on my wife’s family vacations and have had the opportunity to visit some amazing places, each one better than the last. For that, I am extremely thankful!

Having the opportunity to travel is a pretty new concept to me, and the memories that are made and the realignment after some time off are priceless. I am beginning to believe that taking time to travel and explore new places ranks pretty high on the wellness scale, and I would urge anyone to make it happen. Maybe it’s not Maui, but do make it a goal to travel to a new place often and experience what the world has to offer.

Maui provided so many new experiences for me, some very surprising and unexpected and some life-changing. For example, wild chickens run around all over the place and are not that afraid of the human folk. SPAM isn’t discontinued; it thrives in the islands (still scratching my head on that one). And oh, jet lag is truly a thing; I never put much stock in the jet lag phenomenon, but it’s legit.

What I will take with me forever after this amazing, probably once-in-a-lifetime trip, are some of the life habits of the true islanders. Now of course it is still America, and there are those who take the island for granted and act as many do here in the mainland. But those who are native to the island or who are truly captured by the immense spirit of its origins and traditions, these are 5 habits they practice. I think anyone can benefit from them, no matter where they are in the world.

Aloha the One You’re With

Easily the most recognizable Hawaiian term, aloha has a lot more meaning than simply “hi” and “bye.” Hawaii is not the Hi and Bye state! Aloha means love and affection, as well as hello and goodbye. I think it’s a very good thing that when you see someone you let them know you care about them, and when they must go, you remind them that you love them. Make it a point to tell the ones who mean the most that you love them the most. And while you’re at it, share a little love with a stranger by simply holding the door for them, or buying that cup of coffee for the next person in line. Saying Mahalo, or thank you, for everything to everybody can go a long way toward making someone’s day. Bottom line: share the love!

Pau Hana: Make Time for Recovery

Work is done (pau hana); it is time to chill! Hawaiians work hard so they can relax even harder, and how can you not find relaxation in a place like that? But we usually don’t find time to relax and recover; instead we find more things to do, work out even harder, and not get a good night’s sleep of 7–8 hours a night. Taking time off, in this case from exercise, should be viewed as part of your training. When you find times throughout your day to relax, even for a few minutes, it can add productivity to your work day and help keep you fresh for family time when you get home as well as help lower stress levels. Now we may not be able to stretch out on the beach for a nice long nap every day, but we can find ways to chill out and retool that work for us.

Ono Grinds: Good Nutrition That’s Delicious

Good food (ono grinds) can be found all over Maui and includes items you may not find anywhere else. Have you ever had eggfruit? Neither had I until I visited Maui, and it is delicious. You can find fresh local fruits and vegetables as well as lean meats that are native to Hawaii all over the place there. Hawaiians take their food very seriously, I found. And I can argue that you can find the same quality of foods near you. You may have to skip out on the eggfruit for now, but there are plenty of markets, even year round, that can supply you with fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t think I need to reiterate the importance of choosing foods that are close to their source; we’ve covered that many times in the past. Find a market and go shop there! While you’re there, pick up something you’ve never tried before and go for it. You never know; you might find your new favorite food. Hawaiians take pride in their food and how they enjoy it, as should we.

Hoike ia & Nani: Adventure and Beauty

Search for hoike ia (adventure) and find nani (beauty) whenever you can! Some of my fondest memories of my trip were long, relaxing walks along the ocean to soak up and be mesmerized by the beauty that surrounded me. Breathtaking views of sunrises and sunsets, whales breaching, and turtles swimming were served up in abundance. It was impossible not to become entranced with it all and find yourself searching your soul and losing yourself in the moment. So many opportunities for adventure and being surrounded by nature were available to me daily, and I took advantage of every minute. From snorkeling and whale watching, to watching the sunrise at the top of the largest volcano on the island and then riding a bike down the side of it, there were so many adventures and so much beauty to be had.

You may not have a volcano right outside your back door, but there is beauty and adventure to be had anywhere, you just have to take time to act on it and then appreciate it. This beauty and adventure will not be found in the television or on Facebook, you have to get out there and seize it.

Ohana and Moolelo: Family and Tradition

I learned the Hawaiian translation for family (ohana) early in the trip and found that ohana means a great deal to the people who live there. I couldn’t help but feel the overpowering sense of family and moolelo (tradition) with the people who live on the island. I truly felt as if I was part of the large Hawaiian ohana by the way I was treated by most. We attended a luau during our time there and the tradition that was on display was captivating. We were treated as if we had lived there for years, and they truly felt that we were a part of the family, even if it was just for that night. That’s a feeling that is pretty rare in most places, but it doesn’t have to be. I was pretty jealous that they make such a huge deal about their heritage, traditions, and ohana that we here in the mainland just don’t do.

If you take anything from this post, please make your ohana the most important thing in your life. Don’t let a day go by without telling those people that make up your ohana how much they mean to you. These most important people in your life may not always be here; cherish and celebrate them with your own ohana mau moolelo (family traditions) as much as you can.

***

My trip to Maui has left me with long-lasting changes to the way I view the world and treat each day. And although I am describing takeaways from the islands, you can find inspiration and meaning anywhere. It will all be determined by the way your eyes perceive what you are looking at. Find the beauty, search for some adventure with your ohana, take time to relax and recover while enjoying some ono grinds, and spread the love!

Mahalo and Aloha!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition stress recovery inspiration wellness

5 Ways to Keep Up with Workouts When College Stress Hits

ThinkstockPhotos-135551982.jpgWhen it comes to settling back into school, adjusting to the crazy schedule can become one of the biggest tasks. From classes each day, to group project meetings, to homework due dates and the dreaded semester exams, how are we supposed to find the time to keep ourselves healthy and fit?

In the summer you may have had no classes or potentially just one, leaving you with a hefty amount of extra free time to spend how you like. Getting back into those fitness goals that you wanted to accomplish wasn’t such a hard task. However, when school stress sets in, students find that that time gets cut short and they tend to give up on focusing on their own health.

Tips for Fitness in College

Here are a few tips to help you stay focused and driven to keep exercise in your daily schedule, without falling off the wagon, all while being successful in school:

Drink water throughout the day. We all know about the strategically placed dorm and community food/drink venues that are available at our fingertips when we are moving from class to class on campus. However, a lot of them tend to be full of extra sugar and unnatural ingredients. Simply remember to pack a bottle of water. There are many places across campus to refill it, and I would even challenge you to see how many times you can do that in one day! Drinking enough water will keep you hydrated and healthier. It will also assist in brain function to keep you focused during those long lectures and tedious late-night homework assignments you need to finish.

Keep a daily agenda. Whether it be just a few reminders on your phone or a hand-held planner, having something that tells you what you are doing throughout the day can only help keep you more organized. It can also help to keep you more accountable. If you have your workout scheduled and written down as a reminder, you are more prone to complete it. Find what works for you: a set time each day like after your last class, meeting a friend at the gym to work out together, or an alarm on your phone can be the secret to success.

Plan out your workouts. Knowing what you are going to be doing for your workouts is essential when it comes to saving time and being efficient in the gym. Take some time at the end of the week to plan out what you will be doing for the week to come. This not only saves you from walking around the gym wondering which exercise to do next, but it keeps you on task with something that you can build from and see more results. If you need help planning your workouts or some extra guidance, NIFS has qualified trainers who can sit down with you and help you plan out specific goals and personal training. They can also assess your movement through personal fitness testing and a functional movement screen, and then create a personal workout program that works for you. Click here to learn more about setting up your free fitness sessions with a NIFS trainer!

Incorporate HIIT into your busy days. High-Intensity Training (HIT) is a GREAT tool to use for those jam-packed school days where you don’t have much time. Days like that can elevate your stress level, which can have an effect on your blood pressure and fat retention. Workouts in the form of HIT training are shorter, with bouts of high heart rate and little rest in-between. They get the job done in less time, and are a great pick-me-up to burn calories and relieve some stress during your busy day. Click here to check out our HIT schedule and to try a class for free!

Find an accountability partner. If you feel like you are one who tends to start on something and not always complete it, an accountability partner is an awesome thing to have to keep you on track. An accountability partner can be anyone in your life who can commit to help keep you responsible for staying on track with your goals. For example, your best friend, roommate, classmate, family member, and even a coworker are all great options! This needs to be a person you converse with or see on a regular basis, so they can make sure to ask you regularly whether you trained that day or stayed on whatever new eating plan you may have started. This person can even have similar goals as you and work out with you, so you both can cheer each other on. This strategy will help increase adherence and get you closer to success with your goals.

Stay Focused on Fitness

So, while there are plenty of things that can distract you from staying on track, you can use these simple tips to keep focused! If you simply adopt a few new habits like the ones above, you will be more likely to keep on top of your fitness goals.

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This blog was written by Rebecca Newbrough, Lifestyle Program Coordinator and Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness stress workouts accountability HIT personal training college high intensity functional movement school

How Stress Affects the Body and Your Health

ThinkstockPhotos-164471602.jpgThere are so many things in life that can affect different aspects of the human body, and stress is one of the biggest! During a stressful time in life, the body can undergo several physiological changes that can be detrimental to your overall health. Though sometimes we cannot avoid certain stressors that fall into our path of life, there are some things that can be done to help you cope during those times.

What Stress Can Do to You

Let’s take a look first at how stress affects the body.

  • Sleep: Stress disturbs sleep routines, typically making it hard to fall asleep as the mind wanders, tossing and turning, and constant interrupted rest.
  • Upset stomach: Another effect is having a constant feeling of being queasy or nervous.
  • Loss of appetite: Along with having an upset stomach, loss of appetite comes with either consistent or high levels of stress.
  • Rash: Stress can cause hives, which are a type of skin rash. Be sure during stressful times to take care of your skin by washing and moisturizing.
  • Change in eye pressure: When under high amounts of stress, the pressure of your eyes can change, causing something called ocular hypertension, which affects your vision.
  • Increase in blood pressure: Whether it’s short-term or long-term stress, spikes in your blood pressure can be detrimental to your overall heart health.
  • Increase in resting heart rate: The number of times your heart beats per minute can increase with stress levels and cause your heart to work harder than it normally would.
  • Weight loss: Excessive weight loss can come with stress as your body loses its desire to eat.
  • Chronic headaches: Anxiety and stress can increase the amount of headaches you get, as well as the intensity.
  • Back pain: Each person holds stress in their body in different places, oftentimes residing in the back and neck muscles, making it painful to move.
  • Sweating: Stress triggers sweat glands to become more active, causing you to break out in cold sweats (like you are nervous).
  • Tremors: Sudden twitches or tremors can be caused by stress, resulting in the contraction or continuous spasm of the muscles.
  • Bowel issues: One way or the other, bowel issues can happen when under stress.

Overcoming Stress

Now, I know that sometimes stress is out of our control, but when those times come there is something we can do about it. Exercise is one of the proven ways to keep stress levels low. If you are feeling stressed out, try coming to the gym or fitness center to workout, run or walk, do yoga, or whatever you like to do to help you decompress. 

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise fitness center stress health

Wakey Wakey: Why Waking Up Right Is Just as Important as Sleeping

Since the dawn of time (I’ve always wanted to start a sentence like that), humans have slept for a little while, and then were awakened by something or someone that told them it was time to start the day. We know now the huge roles that sleep plays in so many aspects of our health:ThinkstockPhotos-453226511waking

  • Physical recovery
  • Healthy hormonal environment
  • Stress regulator
  • Cognitive retention and memory
  • Appetite regulation
The list can go on and on. (For more reasons why sleep is essential to your overall health, check out this article from Precision Nutrition.) Bottom line is that we need ample and quality sleep to be at our best every day; I don’t think anyone can argue against that. But there is a pretty important aspect of our daily ritual of rest and recovery that is not always worthy of the front page, and that is how you WAKE UP. 

The Science Behind Sleeping and Waking

We have circadian rhythms that act as an internal clock of sorts, which usually run on roughly a 24-hour cycle. Researchers have identified that circadian rhythms can influence our sleep-wake cycle, and abnormal circadian rhythms have been associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, and other disorders. 

Why am I telling you all this? Well, your circadian rhythms are produced by natural factors in your body, but can also be influenced by the environment. Light is the major cue influencing the rhythms that turn on or turn off genes that control your internal master clock. Having a normal, healthy circadian rhythm can be the difference between waking up ready to conquer the day or having to hit the snooze button a hundred times. 

Using Light to Wake Up

So if light is one of our biggest cues to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, use it! My beautiful wife gave me a gift on my birthday recently that I have found to be so helpful in waking up and feeling rested and ready to go. It’s a Phillips Wake-up Light, and it allows you to wake up naturally with the warm glow of the sun-like light that radiates from this futuristic-looking alarm clock. I absolutely love it! 

The light will begin to glow anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes prior to your set time to wake up (how hard you sleep will determine how much time you should have the light begin glowing). The light begins a reddish color to simulate the sun rising, and gradually becomes brighter and brighter until you wake up and turn it off. And if you were to sleep through the 20-minute light glow, you would be awakened by birds chirping. 

I have definitely noticed a difference in my energy level when I wake up these days, as well as my attitude and mindset heading into a tough day. I was experiencing some not-so-positive reactions to my alarm clock, which really set me up for rough start to the day, which in turn affected me throughout the entire day. Now that I am waking up naturally, and not shot out of a cannon to the sound of the buzzer, the morning is much more pleasant and meaningful.

Other Benefits of Waking Up Naturally

Some other fantastic benefits of waking up naturally include the following:

  • Improved insulin regulation. This is important in managing body weight and body composition.
  • Improved parasympathetic response. Instead of waking up in a “fight or flight” sympathetic response, which will result in elevated resting heart rates affecting many other aspects of health, we stay in a calmer state, allowing the internal environment to adjust appropriately to stress.
  • Decreased muscle tone. I am not talking about losing muscle tissue. I am referring to “turning down” the tone of certain muscle groups that can be putting you into less-than-optimal body positions. For example (and one of the most common), toned-up lats will cause you to be in extension, which can lead to lower back pain. When we are calmer, and not so jacked up, we can allow the body to tone down when needed to improve positioning and movement patterns.
  • Better mood! Life is way too short to be miffed all the time, and it just causes problems in so many facets of our lives. Most of this bad mood is communicated nonverbally, which in most cases is so much stronger than anything you could say. Take my word for it, be happy in both your message and how you deliver it. This can be greatly improved if you feel good and not groggy, which started hours earlier with the whack of the snooze button. 

I highly recommend implementing some sort of a natural wake-up process that works for you. Most of us have smartphones. There are plenty of apps out there that can do the same thing as the wake-up light I describe above. Many of the newer fitness trackers such as a FitBit can also be set to gradually wake you up. Give it a try and let me know what you think, but have a back-up just in case it doesn’t work for you right away—don’t be late to work on my account!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress attitude sleep technology energy

Overcoming Stress, Exhaustion, and Overtraining

Kris-1Are you having one of those days (or weeks, or months) where you feel like the gerbil on the wheel? You are going along just fine, and then a stressful situation crops up and you to need to spin the wheel faster. Soon, that’s not fast enough. When you finally realize you are going to be thrown off the wheel if you stop, it hits you: you’re exhausted. I get this way every few months.

It doesn’t take much, as you look back, to see how all the mess got started. But we are here for solutions, so let’s find a plan to get us out of the wheel safely.

Take a Break or Try Relaxation Techniques

A weeks’ vacation would be great at this time, but most of us cannot just get up and go. What we can do is plan a short vacation or “staycation” for a long weekend or one day of the week. For me, it helps if I can involve my family, as we seem to be together less and less during these stressful times.

If a vacation week, weekend, or day off is not possible, you need to find time each day for meditation, reflection, and relaxation. Now, I am not about legs crossed and chants, but finding a quiet time and place where you can just STOP is a good place to begin your unwinding.

Deep breathing will help you get to a calmer place. I am not setting a time limit on this, so do as much as you can. Sit quietly and listen to your breath: good, long inhales and longer exhales. Fill your lungs and diaphragm, feeling your belly rise and fall with the breath. Do not think of anything, and try to block out your distractions. Music, it has been said, can calm the savage beast; well, you and I are that beast and we need calm, so that may help.

Here’s another blog about deep-breathing exercises for stress relief.

We cannot determine how stress adds to our weight gain or failure to lose, but it does factor in. If you can find a calm place to take yourself, to get rid of this stress, you will feel better, and thus your body will react better.

Overtraining, Stress and Your Heart Rate

“I’m not overtrained; I’m just not fit.” No, you probably are overtrained and need a break. One good way to tell is to take your heart rate first thing in the morning. (Make sure you don’t have full bladder, or it will raise your heart rate.) When you are rested, recovered, and feeling good, that’s the best time to figure out your rate. If your rate is up three to five beats, you need a break. So if you start now when you know you are stressed, try to take your rate a few days in a row, as you are taking it easy. See whether the morning rate drops.

Usually we don’t need to do the heart rate test very often (one time every two weeks or so), but in the beginning take it for a few days (three to five if possible) to get an idea where you are at.

Overtraining can cause injuries. See what the NIFS experts say about some of these types of injuries here.

A Plan for Resting on “Taper Weeks”

Most runners will tell you that taper week is the toughest week to train. Basically, this week you rest and cut down your running to be ready for race day. There is a great quote about this: “It is better to be over-rested than under-recovered.” Your body is calling (perhaps screaming) for a break, and you are going to have to learn to back down the exercise for a good week and possibly more.

In my mind, two weeks would be crazy, lazy, fattening, and maddening, but this is the bargain I have made with myself (thanks to my training partners for playing along): one week of easy, short workouts; the next will be more challenging and fun. All intense work will be very short, 15 to 20 seconds with long breaks (up to three times as long).

After my hiatus I would like to get on a race training plan or a strength plan and start at it full bore. For now I am going to nap, eat well, go as hard as I can, OR LESS, and enjoy the freedom from any strenuous workouts. If you are feeling the same, I hope you will join me!

This blog was written by Kris Simpson, NIFS Personal Trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

When your ready to start your race planning for 2015 cross the finish line with us! The 25th Annual Mini Marathon & 5K Training Program starts January 21–May 6, 2015. Training is Wednesdays at 6pm at NIFS downtown.

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Topics: stress marathon training injury prevention overtraining

The Prime Priorities for Health and Fitness Goals


It takes great commitment to set your mind on a goal and work toward it with gusto and perseverance! I love a particular quote that goes, “Everyone has the will to be a warrior, but only a warrior has the will to prepare.” The commitment it takes to train and not simply exercise is a virtue that we should all be striving for.
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Your pursuit of fitness goals should be a part of your daily life and not simply once you step into the gym. That commitment and discipline it takes to make your fitness and training a priority is what will lead to the results you seek. Don't confuse motion with progress. Blindly going through the steps of a workout and not committing oneself fully to the philosophy and training method as well as “staying in the fight” with your team is motion, and not progress. You must work to train this commitment level every day!

Following are my “Prime Priorities” that I hope will help you be successful in your individual life journeys. I feel these are the top three aspects of “you” that will not only help guide your path, but help you traverse it successfully.

Prime Priority #1: Get and Keep Your Head Right

Mental toughness is a key aspect of training. This toughness should not be exclusive to fitness, but also in daily life. If this Prime is not met, you will find yourself in a defeating cycle that will eventually lead you back down the dark and unhealthy path.

  • Awake each morning with a purpose and the notion that this day will be better than the last and work to make it as such.
  • List the things that are most important to you and make them your top priorities.
  • Surround yourself with likeminded people and remove those who are “toxic.” Create an inner circle of success, and not self-defeating nutritionindividuals who only want to bring you back down to their level of unhappiness.
  • Make time for you: at least 10 minutes a day with no distractions.
  • Identify your “stressors” and fill your toolbox to help you be aware and combat them.
  • Spend time, the most time, with those you love.
  • Laugh out loud as much as possible!

Prime Priority #2: Nutrition

This aspect of your daily life is easily tied with the #1 Prime Priority. But if you don’t nail #1, the other two Primes will eventually let you down.

  • Eat often, not a lot, mainly plants and animals (with thanks to author Michael Pollan).
  • Protein feeds growth, and good fats are not the enemy.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Follow the 90/10 rule: 90 percent of the time you are adhering to the above; 10 percent of the time you are not. This 10 percent should be guilt free and part of a healthy, balanced life.

Prime Priority #3: ExerciseWorkout partner

With perfect harmony between the top two Prime Priorities, this aspect of your life should be a breeze to balance, and the most fun!

  • Keep it simple.
  • Keep it intense.
  • Lift heavy things.
  • Have FUN.

Trust me, implement these Prime Priorities and you will immediately see a difference in how your day goes, and most importantly in how you view the world around you. If you concentrate on #1, the other two will follow!

Ready to make your health and fitness a priority? Start today by scheduling a fitness assessment with Tony!

Free Fitness Assessment

This blog was written by Tony Maloney, NIFS Fitness Center Manager. He leads group training Sunday through Thursday. Follow Tony on Facebook at ELITE.

Topics: exercise nutrition stress goal setting attitude

A Deep-Breathing Exercise for Stress Management

Do you ever stop to pay attention to your breath? Observe it now. Is it shallow? Is your inhale longer than your exhale? When we are stressed, we breathe more shallowly. When we relax, our breath deepens. What follows is a simple breathing technique that can help you lower your heart rate and manage your stress.

breathing for relaxation

Get into Position

Before you begin, check your posture. Often a slumped posture makes it more difficult to breathe deeply. Sit at the edge of a chair so that you can tilt your pelvis forward to bring the natural curve into your low back. Place both feet on the floor about five or six inches apart. Bring your head back so that it is in line with your spinal column.

Doing the Deep-Breathing Exercise

This exercise is a three-part breath used often in yoga classes. Follow these steps:

  1. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your ribcage. Observe your breath and state of mind.
  2. Now, begin to deepen your breath so that you feel your belly pushing out.
  3. Next, feel your ribcage expand.
  4. Finally, feel your collar bone lift up toward your chin. As you exhale, your collar bone lowers, your rib cage compresses, and your belly flattens.
  5. Try counting the inhale and exhale to make sure they are the same length. We tend to breathe more deeply on the inhale than the exhale.
  6. Breathe like this for a few minutes.
  7. Now, rest your hands on your lap. Again check in with your state of mind and your breath.

 Other Benefits of Deep Breathing

According to scientific research, deep breathing not only lowers stress and blood pressure but can also affect the brain, the immune system, and digestion. You should be able to feel the effects of this practice as it triggers your parasympathetic nervous system or relaxation response. To learn more about how breathing affects your mind, body, and spirit, click here.

Practice this breathing technique at one of our many Yoga classes at NIFS! Try a class for free today by requesting a Free Class Pass here!

Blog written by Laura Haehl, Yoga Instructor at NIFS. Meet our NIFS bloggers.

 

Topics: stress yoga health

Stress: It All Depends on How Long You Hold It

stress and fitness

Stress is something we all deal with daily. It can come at you in many different forms and intensities, times of the day or year, and places. Stress can be positive or negative. But any way you shake it, it still is stress and it still affects the body.

I recently faced a major stressor: my wife’s surgical procedure. I was sleep deprived, which resulted in even more stress. Cue the dominoes falling! Now that was a pretty substantial stressor, but what about the smaller things that can lead to being “stressed out”?

The Weight of Stress

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half-empty or half-full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired, “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed―incapable of doing anything.”

The moral of this story: Remember to let go of your stresses and put the glass down!

Identify the Stressor

This concept hits home with me personally because I do tend to carry stress with me well after the stressor is gone. Think of a time when someone cut you off on the highway. Did you rage out? And if so, did you carry that throughout the morning or even the entire day? Who really “won” in that situation? The person who cut you off probably didn’t give it any more thought, whereas you are steamed and remain steamed. This more than likely resulted in a less than enjoyable day.

Through our mental-toughness training, we learn to deal with stress in different ways. I am not here today to give you a comprehensive list of strategies to fill your toolbox to overcome stress. We’ll save that for another time. What I would like to do is encourage you to identify the stressor immediately, and when you do, put the glass down so you can face your day like a Warrior, like a CHAMPION!

Contact Tony to find out more about Group Training classes today!

Tony Maloney is the NIFS Fitness Center Manager and leads group training Sunday through Thursday. You can also follow Tony on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NifsEliteTonyMaloney

Topics: NIFS fitness center stress