Often overlooked ESSENTIALS of health

When it comes to health, everyone knows that exercise and proper nutrition are of paramount importance. But there are several other areas that are essential but often overlooked resulting in difficulty reaching your weight loss and overall wellness goals.

SLEEP:

Many people are aware that a good night’s sleep helps us to face our day feeling well rested and with greater mental acuity. But did you know that there are a multitude of bodily functions that occur when we are sleeping? Fat burning, hormone regulation, and overall cellular recovery just to name a few. Despite the many benefits of sleep, very few of us get the proper amount at the proper time. Yes, timing matters! Your most important window of sleep occurs between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. which is the time when the majority of your bodily recovery is occuring. In an ideal world one should get to bed by 10 p.m. and wake sometime around 6 a.m. Hectic schedules, shift work, improper nutrition, and hormone imbalances can all wreak havoc on our sleep.

Developing an evening routine is essential for a successful bedtime for children and as it turns out, it is quite effective in adults as well. Limiting screen time for at least an hour before bedtime can help you to relax and get to sleep more easily when you finally decide to close your eyes. The blue light that is emitted from screens such as TVs, phones, tablets and computers can suppress your bodies natural production of melatonin (the hormone that helps regulate your circadian rhythm) thus making it more difficult for you to fall asleep. While you will never hear us recommending sleeping pills due to the laundry list of side effects and risk of dependence, there are a few natural remedies to get that melatonin flowing naturally. Although you can purchase melatonin at most health stores, it is not necesarilly a good option either. Melatonin is a hormone, so taking it in pill form is considered a type of hormone therapy and is not without risk. You can also boost melatonin by eating foods that are rich in magnesium such as avocados, almonds, and spinach. But the number one food for boosting melatonin is tart cherries. They are packed with antioxidants which also aid in the fight against premature aging. An easy way to consume these little beauties is to drink your apothecherry each night before bedtime. We have recently replaced our nightly serving of red wine with a wineglass full of apothecherry. Trust me, drinking it out of your favorite wine glass makes all the difference. Sometimes it’s all about the ritual..so create new healthy ones!

Another way we combat sleep issues in our family and with our clients is to use certain essential oils both topically and in a diffuser. Lavender oil is one of our favorites. Others include Bergamont, Cedarwood, Ylang ylang, and Roman chamomile. Simply dilute a few drops of the essential oil with a carrier oil of your choice and apply to wrists, neck and/or behind the ears before bed. You could also choose to add a few drops of the oils to a hot bath and soak until you feel your body begin to relax. Add a cup of herbal tea to the mix and you have the perfect combination to slip off into slumber. Another option is to fill your environment with an essential oil mist using a diffuser; just breath deep and drift off to sleep…zzz.

STRESS RELIEF:

Stress in life is inevitable. Failure to manage stress properly can lead to many negative effects on the body and our overall wellness. Increased risk for heart disease and stroke, gastrointestinal upset and ulceration, adrenal fatigue and dysfunction, increased cortisol levels leading to weight gain, insomnia, and a weakened immune system are just a few of the ways that stress can manifest itself in our bodies.

Learning to manage your stress can literally be a life saver. Yoga is a beautiful way to activate the muscles and blood-flow as well as lower your stress hormones. Since it’s not always realistic to drop what you are doing and strike a yoga pose, you can always pause for some deep abdominal breathing. Just the act of taking deep abdominal breaths can activate the parasympathetic nervous system which tells your body to relax. Take a deep breath, filling your lungs to maximun capacity; now pause a hold that breath for a few seconds before exhaling. Repeat this cycle slowly 5-10 times or for a full minute. Try inhaling deeply through your nose and exhaling slowly through pursed lips for each breath. This action signals the parasympathetic nervous system to slow things down.

Essential oils such as frankincense, bergomot, chamomile, vetiver, and lavender are all amazing ways to to calm your mind and relax your body. You will notice that many of these are the same oils that are listed above to aid sleep. Apply topically diluted in a carrier oil behind the ears and along the spine. Or add to the palms of your hands and inhale deeply through your nose. Diffusing into your environment is also a great option if the situation allows.

Next is time management. We all fall into the trap of heaping way to much onto our daily schedules. There are only 24 hours in a day and a multitude of responsibilities vying for our attention. Learning to say no on occasion can be an important weapon in your arsenal. If you are overbooked, you will be over-stressed and incapable of being your best self. Say yes to the necessities and learn to politely decline those activities or responsibilities that will overextend you and cause burn out. One way to do this is to take an assessment of your daily activities and decide are these adding value to my life in some way, or are they robbing me of my joy? You will find that you do not always need to have your week packed with activity in order to feel productive. Sometimes what you really need is to slow down, rest, and enjoy time with family or friends (or even some me time).

IMMUNE SUPPORT/ DETOXIFICATION:

Last but not least…our old friend the Immune System. We tell our kids all the time that our immune system is like an army. It is called in to defend our body from an onslaught of bacteria, viruses and environmental toxins. But like any soldier in the armed forces, our army needs support to keep fighting the good fight. It needs nutrients, clean water and a good scrubbing every once and a while. The nutrients should come from healthy fats such as coconut oil, avocados, free-range eggs, and organic nuts and seeds. A wide variety of organic vegetables is also essential. Aim to “eat the rainbow” everyday by eating a fruit or vegetable of every color. Supplements such as vitamin C and elderberry syrup provide a nice boost to the immune system during cold/flu season or times of increased stress or illness. Be sure that your vitamin C supplement is derived from natural sources such as Acerola or Amla berries and not just ascorbic acid which is only one component of vitamin C.

body defense

Clean water is a given. Dehydrated bodies break down…It’s that simple. Adequate amounts of fresh clean water supports just about every function in the human body including the immune system, so you can see why this is so important. Drink fresh clean spring water (with a squeeze of lemon for an added boost) or water that has been filtered through a system that removes chlorine as well as fluoride such as the Berkey filter. I would never recommend drinking tap water, but that is a topic for a later post…

Now for the scrubbing…Detoxification! While detoxification is a heavy subject that is also worthy of it’s own post, there are a few things you can do to support your natural detoxification pathways. Taking a nice hot bath in water as hot as you can comfortably tolerate with 2 cups epsom salts, 1/2 cup baking soda and 5 drops of lavender essential oils is an excellent way to assist in the detox process. Increasing your water intake as well as consuming 1 Tbsp of quality apple cider vinegar diluted in 8oz. of water can provide a gentle kidney flush and aid detox pathways. Lemon, Tea Tree, Rosemary, Clove, and Myrrh essential oils can all aid the body in detoxification.

Wow..that was a lot of information! Don’t get overwhelmed..take baby steps to incorporate new lifestyle changes that will lead to long-term habits. And look for more information in future posts to guide you in the “how and why” of using essential oils to obtain optimal health.

How to Use the Winter Season for Gains in the Gym

We as human beings are creatures of habit. Earning gains in the gym by adding muscle and weight are typically seasonal. Another way of saying it is that they are a phase in your training protocol. I don’t care if you are someone who just started working out or if you have been at it for years, periodization of your workout protocol is critical. Many people use this time of year to increase their gains in the gym because we typically eat more, spend more time inside, and because of the cold weather we aren’t typically in bathing suits and similar apparel. These along with other factors create a great environment to hit the gym hard, train heavier than normal, and add 10, 15, 20 pounds or more during this season!

Let’s start with the training aspect: Gains in the gym for the majority of people are not easy to come by. Genetics play an obvious role in this but our training protocol is absolutely critical to create the catabolic effect needed to ultimately recover in a way that stretches your body to grow to be able to handle the type of weight you are attempting to push day in and day out. For example in a gain phase during a leg day I may do 6-7 sets of Squats ultimately finishing with a rep count of around 6. Keep in mind this would be before 4-6 more exercises would be accomplished each attempting in the neighborhood of 4-5 sets a piece. The goal must be to absolutely annihilate a specific muscle group in order for the rest, recovery, and repair process to take effect. ***I will include a sample workout split at the end of this post.


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Next let’s look at the nutrition component: It can be argued that the nutrition component could be ranked as the top priority (and I am not dismissing the vital nature of a sound nutrition protocol) but without the necessary training to specifically achieve massive gains in the gym you will not get the body prepared to begin the rest, recovery, and repair process. Nutrition provides the fuel necessary to complete these very difficult workouts along with the vital nutrients (both macro and micro) to recover and get you ready to go back into the gym fresh for your next workout. Now let’s look at some of my top bodybuilding foods. My favorite proteins that I use for gains in the gym are free range eggs, grass fed beef, wild caught fatty fish (like salmon), and an amino acid complex known as Master Amino Pattern. My favorite carbs that I use for gains in the gym are organic sweet potatoes, organic gluten free oat meal, wild rice along with other complex carbohydrates like barley (properly sourced). My favorite fats come from coconut oil, avocados, almonds, omega 3 oils (outside of things like fish I highly recommend a high quality fish oil). ***I will include a sample daily meal regiment at the end of the post.

Finally rest and recovery: To maximize your gains in the gym you must provide your body adequate rest/recovery along with hydration (I will explain why I added the hydration component in this section). First let’s look at sleep. Our bodies need a great night’s sleep to allow for the production of human growth hormone which happens primarily during early sleep. During REM sleep the body is able to: restore organs, bones, and tissue. HGH circulates during this stage of sleep along with the ability to replenish immune cells. Sleep has a profound effect on muscle growth and overall physical well being. I recommend to get about 8 hours of sleep a night to maximize these effects. Hydration through non-tap water is critical for flushing toxins such as lactic acid produced during strenuous workouts. Drinking plenty of water will help with your energy levels and reduce cramping that many people experience due to heavy workouts.

If you are serious about making gains in the gym then give these tips a try. Now stop reading and get to work!

Coach Steve

Steve’s bio: Steve Lynch has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. Through his career he has owned multiple personal training and lifestyle coaching companies. He has worked with thousands of clients and helped them with designing workout programs and healthy nutrition and lifestyle guidelines to live by. Steve is a contributor for the Lehigh Valley’s largest local television news station WFMZ and conducts live segments as a fitness expert and nutrition coach.

Daily Nutrition Layout
Gains Protocol (Days 1, 3, & 5)
Gains Protocol (Days 2, 4, & 6)
Core Protocol (3 days a week)

Make Your Resolutions Your Resolve!

Are you ready to make your resolutions your resolve this year? First let’s take a look at the definition of RESOLVE: To decide firmly on a course of action; a firm determination to do something. I believe people set out with great intentions and a strong desire to truly make a change in their lives. Throughout my career where I have seen the greatest level of failure is due to the lack of follow through. It is easy to get excited to start something new. It is like a new gift that you are totally enamored with. Eventually over time it loses it’s luster and you are ready to move onto something new. The problem with this mindset when it comes to healthy living is it does not work! Sadly our society breeds this kind of mindset along with quick fixes. It is not about the short term, it is about the process that over time creates lasting results. Goals are great and accomplishing them is even greater. Where most people miss out when it comes to goal setting is that they forget to enjoy the process. Let’s take a look at how you can make this year the year you make your resolutions your resolve:

Set Appropriate Goals: When looking at a map you don’t just start driving and allow the roads to dictate your destination. You have a set destination and then you layout the fastest, most efficient route possible. Why is your life any different when it comes to fitness and wellness goals. What I teach my clients is how to set appropriate short and long term goals. Let me give you an example: Let’s say you want to lose 80 pounds. To top it off let’s say this is not your first go-around trying to get this weight off. So your emotional state is one of skepticism, and doubt. Sound familiar? If so let’s discuss how to break this down so that you set yourself up for success. First you must take one look at the 80 pound goal and give it a timeframe (let’s say 1 year). Now that this is set forget about it. 80 pounds for most people is like climbing Mt Everest; an insurmountable obstacle. This long term goal is used to reverse engineer your short term goal (say monthly). So every month you need to average about 6 1/2 pounds of weight loss over a 12 month period. Do you think you can manage that? Much easier to wrap your mind around and puts you in a mental position of strength rather than weakness.

Work With a Professional: This is not a pitch on my services. I do what I do because people need the help, coaching, and guidance to live well and be fit. Most people quit because they have no idea what they are doing (no fault of their own, it is not something they spend time researching). If you wanted to learn golf you could buy clubs, go swing them, and play with a homemade swing. You would have no idea about the fundamentals of the swing but you could do it. Now imagine you decided to spend 3 months, 2-3 days a week with a golf professional. He/she would build a solid foundation for you so that you could understand the intricacies of the golf swing such as the grip, alignment, and stance. Along with the correct planes, angles, and pivots you need to operate from to create a repeatable swing and consistently strike the golf ball pure. A well rounded fitness professional and nutrition coach will give you the same priceless information that will never leave you. Money is spent on all types of frivolous things that have no value. Don’t let this year pass you by using the money excuse. Reallocate resources to the things that matter most. Your health should be top priority.

MAKE YOUR RESOLUTIONS YOUR RESOLVE!

Follow Through with Action! Make your resolutions your resolve. Do this by understanding if what you have been doing isn’t working you must change, PERIOD! If someone is telling you that minor tweaks are all you need they are either knowingly or unknowlingly lying to you. Nothing in life that is worth anything comes easy. Well laid plans are rendered absolutely useless without hard work and continued follow through. This is not a once and done program. What makes victory so sweet is that you get challenged and stretched in ways you didn’t know you could handle. The life that you desire and deserve is yours for the taking. Don’t let it elude you because you are not willing to put the work in. You are worth it and you can do this! Surround yourself with people that will lift you up and keep you accountable. Do these things and you will acheive your goals. You were created for amazing purpose. Make every day count!

In health,
Coach Steve

Steve’s bio: Steve Lynch has been working in the health and fitness industry since 2002. Through his career he has owned multiple personal training and lifestyle coaching companies. He has worked with thousands of clients and helped them with designing workout programs and healthy nutrition and lifestyle guidelines to live by. Steve is a contributor for the Lehigh Valley’s largest local television news station WFMZ and conducts live segments as a fitness expert and nutrition coach.