Tree Pose

Why Balance Training Matters

We don’t necessarily think about it, but balance training is of primordial importance. Working on our balance is recommended as we are getting older to help prevent falls which can further lead to things such as hip fractures. Working on our balance is also helpful when we practice a sport like running, swimming, or cycling. And if this isn’t enough to convince you how beneficial balance training can be, it turns out that balance training can help improve memory too!

What Helps You Maintain Your Balance

Three sensory systems allow you to control your balance (along with the cognitive system and the musculoskeletal system): the vestibular system, the somatosensory system, and the visual system.

In Beyond Training, Ben Greenfield defines these three sensory systems:

  • Vestibular system – the sense organs in your head, primarily your ears, which regulate equilibrium and give you directional information as it relates to your head position.
  • Somatosensory system – the nerves called proprioceptors in your joints, along with the pressure and vibratory sense information in both your skin and your joints.
  • Visual system – the ability of your eyes to figure out where your head and body are in space, and also where you are relative to other objects.

9 Training Strategies to Work on Your Balance

The following are different strategies suggested in the same book listed above. 

To help better your vestibular balance, you can:

  • Go barefoot as much as possible, or use minimalist footwear. Neuroscientist Dr. Michael Merzenich said: “I have invested in shoes that help me feel the ground beneath my feet better. I don’t want every step I take to be predictable.”
  • Balance on one leg while keeping your gaze on something stationary. You can practice the one-leg standing exercise for 30 seconds as a first goal (“without having to put your other foot down for balance”), then aim at 60 seconds. Then try with the eyes closed. In that case, it is helpful to mentally picture something stationary. I like to stand on one leg with my eyes closed for 60 seconds on a regular basis. It’s important to keep practicing. Every day may be needed at first. Also, make sure you engage the core muscles and the glutes, and grip with the toes. Have something nearby you can hold on to at the beginning, just in case. This exercise is beneficial to the brain cells in your cerebellum and inner ear-vestibular system. Yoga is also great to work on your balance skills – try the tree pose!
  • Look for things to stand on wherever you are, like narrow ridges, sidewalks, or posts.

To help better your somatosensory balance, you can:

  • Stand one-legged or two-legged on unstable surfaces like wobble boards, thick balance mats, or balance disc pillows.
  • Use an unstable mat under your desk. I like to use a thick balance mat, engaging the core muscles and glutes. 
  • Use a mini-trampoline, great for practicing single-leg stances.
  • Stand on one leg on a raised height, like a balance beam or a plyometric jump box.

To help better your visual balance, you can:

  • Play a sport that requires eye tracking, like soccer, golf, tennis, basketball, and ping-pong.
  • Do vision drills – exercises to help strengthen the 6 eye muscles and boost your visual-acuity skills, using, for instance, the Z-Health Vision Gym. I do those regularly too, as mentioned in a previous post.

In Summary

These are 9 balance training strategies that can help make a big difference over time. Being that I am now 50 years old, I see working on my balance as something essential to do for the rest of my life. Which strategy will you pick first?

Until next time!

References

Chiu, Titus. BrainSave : The 6-Week Plan to Heal Your Brain from Concussion, Brain Injuries & Trauma without Drugs or Surgery. Middletown, De, The Modern Brain, 2018, pp. 105–6.

Dunsky, Ayelet. “The Effect of Balance and Coordination Exercises on Quality of Life in Older Adults: A Mini-Review.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 11:318. 15 Nov. 2019, http://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2019.00318/full. Accessed 23 Aug. 2020.

Greenfield, Ben. Beyond Training : Mastering Endurance, Health and Life. Victory Belt, Las Vegas, 2014, pp. 137–45.

Merzenich, Michael M. Soft-Wired : How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life. San Francisco, Parnassus Publishing, Ltd, 2013, p. 228.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Home Cooking

In Cooked, Michael Pollan states, ”The decline of everyday home cooking doesn’t only damage the health of our bodies and our land but also our families, our communities and our sense of how our eating connects us to the world.” It doesn’t have to be this way. 

What I like the most about cooking my own meals (with well-sourced ingredients) is that I can better control what fuels my body every day. As mentioned in Why Home-Cooked Meals Sustain Health and Wellness, you don’t have to cook every single day in order to obtain an optimal level of health and wellness. Most of us have busy schedules and aren’t able to set that time aside each day. Instead, you can implement a few different strategies into your weekly routine to achieve the same goal. One strategy you can implement is to set some time aside on the weekend to prep several dishes for the week. Prepping meals ahead of time lets you enjoy those meals at the end of busy weekdays with even more pleasure!   

What Prepping Meals Ahead of Time Looks Like

Home-cooked meals imply cooking with whole foods, which means using nutrient-dense ingredients that have not been tampered with. Once you have selected a few recipes to make for the week ahead (also called “batch cooking”) make sure you have all the ingredients written down on your shopping list. If you buy certain items online, order early enough so you have all the needed ingredients delivered in time. This does require some organizational skills that can progressively be learned and improved. If you keep your pantry stocked with the basic primal/paleo staples, that helps too.

Then, you can pick a couple of hours or so to prepare your meals. The weekend is usually the best time to do that. Cooking in batches gives you big enough quantities of ready-to-eat food that you can store in the fridge and/or the freezer for the upcoming days.

You can even make salads ahead of time! In The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy, Dr. Steven Gundry explains how to use a jar to cleverly layer the different ingredients of your salad: “dressing on the bottom, dense/heavy ingredients next […], then extras like cheese or nuts, topped off with veggies and greens. Since the greens won’t touch anything wet, they won’t wilt, and the whole jar will last in your fridge at least three days. To serve, just invert the whole thing into a bowl and toss.”

In Summary

There you have it! There is no better way than making our own meals to help maintain our health and wellness. Preparing meals ahead of time allows us to achieve this goal without any big fuss. Eating healthy is possible, even on hectic days. And to rediscover where real food comes from, how it grows and thrives, can lead to moments of true amazement!

Until next time!

References

Gundry, Steven R. The Plant Paradox Quick and Easy : The 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Feel Great, and Live Lectin-Free. New York, Ny, Harper Wave, An Imprint Of Harpercollinspublishers, 2019, pp. 112-15.

Hyman, Mark. Eat Fat, Get Thin : Why the Fat We Eat Is the Key to Sustained Weight Loss and Vibrant Health. First Edition. New York, Little, Brown And Company, 2016, pp. 190–91.

You can also find me on Instagram.

What about Carbs?

When I eat, I do not count calories and I do not count macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). Strictly focusing on primal/paleo foods, I minimize carb intake while optimizing fat intake. When it comes to protein intake, Mark Sisson said, “Your appetite will guide you effectively to meet your protein requirements, just as your thirst does for hydration requirements.” This intuitive approach to eating feels just right to me. 

If one wants to lose weight, it is important to keep in mind that too many carbs will trigger a high insulin production and this will put one’s body into fat-storing mode. The Primal Blueprint Carbohydrate Curve highlights what may be the best daily carb intake, in most cases, whether we have a few pounds to lose or for “effortless weight maintenance.” So here’s the suggested carbohydrates’ consumption range:

0 to 50 Grams of Carbs Per Day  

So few carbs a day will put one in ketosis and usually allow for quick fat loss. This might be alright for a day or two (like when doing Intermittent Fasting), but it is definitively not recommended for long periods of time for the majority of people.

50 to 100 Grams of Carbs Per Day

This amount of carbs is the “weight loss sweet spot.” Insulin production is still fairly low, so the body will be able to tap into its fat stores and produce ketones. At the same time, it is alright to eat from the whole selection of primal nutrient-dense whole foods (meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and low-glycemic fruits).

100 to 150 Grams of Carbs Per Day

This amount of carbs is what works for most people for “effortless weight maintenance,” after reaching ideal body composition goals. I would say that this is when intuitive eating is king, provided there are no grains or processed foods eaten.

150 to 300 Grams of Carbs Per Day

Eating that many carbs each day will likely trigger “insidious weight gain” as insulin will have to be produced in greater quantities throughout the day. This amount of carbs can easily be reached when one eats grains and sugary snacks.

300 or More Grams of Carbs Per Day

So many carbs undoubtedly puts someone in a situation where measures have to be taken in order to head back in the right direction. Processed foods have to go!

In Summary

This carbohydrate curve is a nice help when we try to figure out what may be the next best step to reach optimal body composition. It takes time to be attuned to one’s body, especially after years of eating the Standard American Diet. But after switching to primal/paleo nutrient-dense foods, intuitive eating comes much more easily. See how your body responds to the changes you introduce. We are all unique individuals so you will have to decide for yourself what to eat depending on your daily activity levels. And of course, always consult your primary physician before starting anything new!

Until next time!

Reference

Sisson, Mark. The New Primal Blueprint : Reprogram Your Genes for Effortless Weight Loss, Vibrant Health, and Boundless Energy. Oxnard, Ca, Primal Blueprint Publishing, 2017, pp. 414–26, 448-50.

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The Unavoidable Daily Stress

Stress is ubiquitous nowadays, even more so this year with this pandemic that came upon us. And some days can certainly feel “heavier” than others. Dr. Steve Maraboli said, “Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.” As the years go by, we can definitively become stronger and more resilient. But it is not just one thing that can help us handle stress better (and life-changing events at times). Rather it is a set of tools, such as daily meditation, exercise, and better nutrition. As mentioned in 10 Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat, by Dr. Frank Lipman, what follows is a list of some of the things we can do that can help us unwind and better handle whatever we have to deal with every day:

Strategies to Manage Stress

  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Use guided visualization
  • Do a breathing exercise
  • Listen to some music
  • Take up tai chi, yoga, or some other type of “moving meditation”
  • Set some limits when it comes to engagements; learn to say “no” at times
  • Set time for yourself (like two hours a week) to do something that brings you calm and fulfillment
  • Get enough sleep to strengthen your mitochondria, among other things
  • Try to limit your exposure to toxins in your food, water, and personal-care products the best you can
  • Avoid sweets and too many starches; see which foods work for you and buy accordingly

In Summary

Being equipped with the right tools like the ones listed above to handle stress better and to tackle life’s never-ending ups and downs can help in more than one way. Choose the strategies that resonate the most with your present mindset as a starting point, and then add a few more whenever it feels right to do so. Building new habits takes time. Be patient and persevere!

Until next time!

Reference

Lipman, Frank. 10 Reasons You Feel Old And Get Fat : — And How You Can Stay Young, Slim, And Happy!. Carlsbad, California, Hay House, Inc, 2016, pp. 86–7.

You can also find me on Instagram.

Why Foam Rolling

When it comes to working on improving your flexibility and mobility, there are a plethora of options to try: pilates, yoga, tai chi, gymnastics, dancing, and dynamic rolling/stretching/therapy work (as mentioned in The Primal Blueprint Fitness Pyramid post). Having a foam roller handy is helpful in order to massage muscles and break up knots, those tender spots in your muscles. It has a restorative effect on the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds the bones, muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and organs. Foam rolling helps increase blood flow, which means more oxygen and nutrients delivered to the tissues, along with “waste removal.” As stated in How to Be Well, body alignment expert Lauren Roxburgh “calls foam rolling an essential self-care tool in a world where we are ‘overworked, overstressed, overfed, and overstimulated.’”

When to Foam Roll

Just five to ten minutes at a time is fine. It can be in the morning as part of your morning routine. It can also be before a workout, after exercising, and/or in the evening.

Before a workout, you would foam roll at a fast/rapid rate, targeting a light to moderate depth. This gets your muscles ready to work hard and it up-regulates the nervous system.

After a workout, you should foam roll at a slow rate, targeting a moderate to deep depth. This is a nice way to recover and calm the nervous system.

In Summary

Foam rolling can become part of your life as an easy and affordable option for better health and wellness. You don’t have to feel any pain anywhere to foam roll. It can just be another enjoyable way to relax and unwind from each day’s ups and downs.

Until next time!

References

Goodman, Eric, et al. Foundation : Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence. New York, Ny, Rodale, 2011, pp. 226–29.

Lipman, Frank M D. How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life. Houghton Mifflin, 2019, pp. 137-39.

You can also find me on Instagram.