Do Stress, Sleep, and Water Play a Role in Fitness?

Do factors like stress, sleep and water really play a role in my fitness? The short answer is, “yes.” Let’s look at the physiological factors surrounding these three key areas in fitness.

Stress. The Silent Killer.

Exercise causes physiological stress no different from a job, a relationship, or your kids.  If you train too much, stressing your body over and over again without allowing that stress to lower, your insulin and cortisol levels may rise and that puts your body in a state where you’ll crave sugar.

When you are under a lot of stress – from work, kids, your relationship, not getting enough sleep or WHATEVER life is throwing at you – cortisol raises.  Cortisol is the “fight or flight” hormone that was originally designed to help us flee dangerous situations (think running away from a tiger). Cortisol’s job is to give you a huge uptick in blood sugar by releasing stored glucose into the bloodstream. This surge in blood sugar is meant to give you the energy you needed for that dangerous predicament. Once the stressful situation is over – insulin is released as its job is to lower elevated blood sugar. Here’s the problem with this – we aren’t being chased by tigers – so we don’t actually USE the blood sugar when we are at work – which means it’s still there when cortisol is gone. So insulin comes in. And it comes in OVER and OVER again throughout our stressful day.

Sleep and Water. Crucial for Recovery.

When we are sleep deprived, our body NEEDS energy from SOMEWHERE. Our brain and body KNOW that sugar is the most easily accessible source of sugar. This is why we crave it. However, when we eat a sugary meal and aren’t active immediately after, once again we have a huge surge in blood sugar – followed by a massive dump of insulin. This can lead to the development of insulin resistance and chronically elevated insulin levels.  It may also simply lead to us over consuming our daily calories – as foods high in sugar are the easiest ones to over consume.

When you have chronically elevated insulin levels in your blood it is next to impossible for your body to burn fat as fuel. So, if your body is stressed all the time from LIFE or from working out too much, trying to just do MORE, it can make it harder for you to burn fat. All that extra work and NO results. Your focus should be to drink more water so your body can function properly, get more sleep, spend more time with family, do some journaling, work on any relationship problems you may have, find time to chill. Lower the stress. The return on that investment is so much more valuable than what just training MORE would do.

We need to remember when seeking results that we can’t expect our body is going to just flip a switch after a couple weeks of stress relief, healthy eating, consistency and intensity, and show us results. You need to give your body and hormones time to regulate and reverse any prior damage. You didn’t get the body that you have right now in two weeks so you’re not going to achieve the body and results that you do want in two weeks. We need to give ourselves time. We need to do less, go harder, be consistent, and be patient.

Healthy Eating Habits
By Lisa Coleman

When it comes to healthy eating, it is definitely a family affair! The foods and beverages that you consume can affect your current and future health. Did you know that 1 in every 3 children is considered overweight or obese? Research has shown that an obese 2-year-old has a 75% chance of being obese at the age of 35 and that an obese 19 year old has a 88% chance of being obese at the age of 35. What does this mean? It means that starting healthy habits at a young age is more important than you realize.

Understanding nutrition, choosing whole foods, and establishing healthy habits can create a good foundation for health.

Here are 5 strategies to implement for healthy families:

1. Practice what you preach! Adults and caregivers serve as role models for the kids. If you are telling a child, “Eat your vegetables!”, but not eating them yourself or eating fast food while telling your child that it is unhealthy – you are just going to cause confusion and resentment. When you lead by example it makes it easier for others to follow, especially those little ones looking up to you.

2. Create a “try day”! Pick a day that works for your family. Plan out what new foods or food preparation methods you will try. It takes between 12-15 times of tasting something to know if you really like it or not. So don’t give up on getting your kids to eat those nutritious fruits and veggies. Try roasting, grilling, or air-frying preparation methods. Use fresh herbs, citrus, and vegetables as seasonings or marinades.

3. Get the kids involved in the kitchen! Let them measure out ingredients using measuring cups and scales. Ask them how much they would measure if they doubled the recipe or cut the recipe in half. Have them help with food preparation. They could wash, peel, tear (herbs or greens) or chop when age appropriate. Ask them to assist with the cooking. They could assemble, stir, season, create (make a dressing or design a garnish), taste and plate.

4. the trans-fat-laden and sugar-loaded processed foods from the house. Watch out for kids’ items marketed as healthy – such as juice, cereal, and convenience foods. Instead try whole fruit and balanced homemade meals/snacks. Learn how to read nutrition labels and teach your kids about sugar content (4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar).

5. Incorporate a vegetable with every lunch and dinner. Vegetables provide nutrients that most of us, especially kids, do not get enough of. Some kid- approved veggie options are cucumber slices, bell pepper rings, carrot sticks and roasted broccoli.

Training for Seniors
By Lisa Coleman

I often get inquiries about CrossFit for seniors and I always respond with a resounding, “yes”.
CrossFit truly is for everyone. While it may look different for someone who is 18 and someone who is 72, the basic movement patterns remain the same, creating a very accessible and functional exercise program for everyone.

As we age, in the simplest terms, exercise becomes a case of “use your fitness or lose your fitness.”

Did you know we begin to lose muscle mass every year after THE AGE OF 30 (!) if we don’t do anything to prevent it. Think about that, age 30. That isn’t old. Think about the ramifications of not participating in a well-rounded exercise program that places demands on your muscles, your lungs, and your joints. As you age, you’ll potentially be at risk for osteoporosis (listen up ladies), injuries, falling into a sedentary lifestyle, falling prey to disease- the list goes on and on.

The great part is you can do something about it, whatever your age. Fitness is not something that is gone forever. One of the biggest parts of successfully aging is to continue to be active.

There are substantial benefits to living the life of an active adult. Older active adults with a history of training live longer. They also have a higher quality of life in later years. I love following a CrossFit athlete on Instagram, named Roy (“Ole Roy” he calls himself). He started CrossFit at 75! He journals his experiences daily and while his commentary is hilarious, his progress is astonishing. In fact, I showed my husband a video of him working out and he couldn’t believe ‘Ole’ Roy was 75 years old.

As humans we make false assumptions about the inevitable decline as we age. However, we must be scientific and look past the effects of a poor, sedentary lifestyle. We will all age, that’s a given. But that doesn’t mean we are helpless. We can all push back the effects of aging by staying active.

My husband and I are prime examples of regular people, closing in on our 50’s, who can still outwork lots of 20-year olds. But here’s the deal – we work at it, every single day, in the choices we make in our exercise program and in our nutrition. We don’t do any of this for vanity (if you’ve met us, that’s abundantly clear). We could care less about our appearance. We do care about being examples to our kids, being healthy in order to live active lives after retirement, and being disease-free. Heck, my little son still thinks I’m 29 years old because he doesn’t look at me as old.

Of course, I’m a huge advocate of the CrossFit methodology because it encompasses mobility, strength, cardio, bodyweight work, balance, power, coordination and speed all in 1 hour a day, but even taking baby steps to get moving again can improve your life dramatically. So, please, make a choice to live a healthy, active, strong life.

Work-Life Balance – Is That Really a Thing?
By Lisa Coleman

What if I told you that Amazon’s CEO is not a fan of the phrase “work-life balance”? Don’t laugh at me. It’s true. A simple Google search can tell you about the April 2018 Awards Event he spoke at where he revealed his unique perspective.

Bezos believes that people should stop attempting to achieve “balance” with their professional and personal lives; he believes it implies a strict trade-off between the two. Instead, Bezos envisions a more holistic relationship between work and life outside the office. He even goes on to say that we should get rid of the word balance and aim for “work-life harmony” instead. You do not have to stay up late every single night or wake up at 4 a.m. to be successful at everything.

And as it turns out, the world’s richest man has a much different approach to work than you might imagine: He makes time for breakfast every morning with his family, doesn’t set his alarm before going to bed, schedules few meetings, and still washes his own dishes.
Yet we hear the word “balance” thrown around daily. We often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to be successful at our job, fit, and still have time to be great partners and/or parents. 

When I hear the word “balance” I imagine the Cat in the Hat. He’s balancing on the beach ball with the umbrella and the books and the teacup while trying not to kill the fish.
And doesn’t that sound stressful? The idea that one misstep will send your perfectly balanced world down Alice’s rabbit hole.

So often, in an effort to achieve the much sought after “work-life balance”, we end up trying to multi-task to make the most of every minute and end up doing a whole lot of nothing. Trying to send an email while talking to your co-worker – suddenly your email is full of typos and sent to the wrong person and you’ve forgotten whatever it was you agreed to help your co-worker with.

Slow down. Breathe. Give each task at hand your full attention and try to let go of the things that are out of your control. Believe me, I know this is much easier said than done. But hopefully, in an effort to slow down and focus on “harmony” rather than “balance” you’ll find yourself feeling a lot more productive and a lot less worried about falling off the ball and killing the fish.

Prepping, or at least going into each week with a plan for the majority of meals will make it a lot easier to stay on track 80% of the time. Not only that, but it will help save money in the long run, reduce stress, and help you reach your goals faster. While all of the following are different approaches to meal prep, the thing they have in common is that you are creating a plan and not just winging it day to day. Not planning generally leads to eating out 1 or 2 times a day and I don’t care how awesome the choices you make when you’re going out are… preparing and eating food that you have purchased and that was made in your kitchen is ALWAYS your best bet.

This is the most common approach people think of when they hear the words, “meal prep”. It involves going to the grocery on Saturday or Sunday (with a plan) and bulk cooking for the week on Sunday. Those who are really efficient will not just prepare lunches for the week, but also snacks and breakfast. Sounds like work? It is when you start. But the more thought you put into it beforehand, the easier it is once you start. And if you can handle multi-tasking and chopping while knowing what’s going on in the oven, then this is for you. AND if making a week’s worth of food sounds boring, then do 2 mini-preps a week, one on Sundays and one on Wednesdays.

This is my own personal approach and I love it. It has worked the best for me because I got overwhelmed with planning a week in advance. And even when I managed to get my meals for the week prepped in 1-2 hours after going to the store, I felt like my Sundays were gone. So I started planning dinners throughout the week and then just getting a little extra of everything. Then, after dinner every night, I have leftovers for the next day. I used to hate eating leftovers, and then I started making meals I truly enjoyed, and suddenly I was looking forward to eating it again for lunch. So after dinner, before putting everything away, I take 15 minutes to put my leftovers in my fancy, adult glass Tupperware and set aside snacks and whatnots for the next day. It’s 15 minutes. Without fail. And it always leaves me feeling prepared and ready for the next day.

I’m always on the lookout for protein deals. I scored 136 pounds of chicken recently at an amazing price! I do have 4 freezers, but you don’t have to go as crazy as I do. So what does one do with a whole lotta chicken? Freeze it! This is more of a dinner trick, BUT if you get home from a long day with not much food in the house and no leftovers, you can always count on having a healthy option. And if you have an instant pot, there’s really no excuse.

I have only heard of this recently (and would love to try it at CFM). It sounds great if you like and trust your friends’ cooking. Find a handful of friends that are also interested in meal prep. On Sundays, or whatever day you choose, you each make a dish and make enough to feed 5 or so of you. Then save one for yourself and give the rest to your friends, they’ll do the same. Suddenly you have a variety of meals and it was probably a lot less work on your end.