Category Archives: Life Health

Importance of Bedtime Rituals

By Alexa Ferri

 

Sleep… How much sleep did you get last night? Was it less than the recommended 8 hours? If you were asked to name three bedtime rituals that you practice every night, could you? Before we dive into a few things to set ourselves up for success, let’s talk about the importance of it all.

 

When we were young, our parents did something for us. We probably didn’t realize what it was at the time, but they created a bedtime routine for us. “Did you finish all of your homework?” “It’s 7 o’clock, get your jammies on.” “No more sugar, it’s getting close to bed.” “How about you go brush your teeth and floss.” “Can you read to me before bed?” All things we heard or said as a child at some point. As we grow into adulthood the structure our parents put into play, no longer exists. Now, we let life get in the way, school, work, gatherings, thoughts, cell phone screens, iPads, nightcaps, late night caffeine, etc.

 

We neglect ourselves from the importance of a system that is conducive to getting quality sleep. And why is quality sleep so important? Well most of us reading this are probably interested or into some form of exercise. Sleep is when most of your recovery takes place so that you can continue to train and train efficiently. Sleep is when our brain encodes new information, stores memories and allows us to make logical decisions so that we can score well on tomorrow’s test or remember our grandma’s birthday or function in any aspect of life, really.

 

Sleep is also crucial for glucose regulation. The pancreatic cells called beta islet, secrete insulin, and when sleep is low our beta islet cells are less responsive to glucose. This leads to other hunger hormone malfunction i.e. leptin and ghrelin thus, creating a spiraling effect and potentially leading to weight gain. Sleep is needed for a proper functioning metabolic state.

 

Last interesting fact, the brain’s emotional center called the amygdala becomes 60 percent more reactive when sleep levels are scarce. Something to think about when we are acting emotionally irrational with fear and rage, it could be the 2 hours of sleep we got the night before.

 

So, after hearing some of the importance’s of getting a good night’s sleep, let’s talk about some of the rituals we can adopt and things to be mindful of the closer we are to bedtime.

 

 

Bedtime rituals to have in check/things to be mindful of:

 

  • Caffeine

Did you have caffeine 5 hours ago? Maybe less? Caffeine has a half-life of around 5 hours. If you consume 100 mg of caffeine, you will have 50 mg remaining in your system 5 hours later. Be mindful of the time you take the last gulp of the liquid gold.

  • Alcohol

Large amounts of alcohol consumption close to bedtime can have an impact on sleep quality. Particularly, REM sleep. REM is the stage of sleep where we can dream, muscles become paralyzed, eyes move back and forth. REM is also important for our cognitive function. REM is when our brain’s process information and store for long-term memory. So, if you have some important events in life that require some increased cognition, try to make REM a priority.

 

  • Water

I feel this is a no brainer, but often easy to look past. Heavy water consumption 1-2 hours before bed is no good. Getting up multiple times per night is going to impact the quality of your sleep. Try to create a water cut off time 1-2 hours prior to bedtime.

  • Sleep Schedule

We all have 33 alarms set to wake us up in the morning. But, do we have an alarm set to get into bed at night? Setting a routine to wake up and go to bed around the same time every day, if not most days, will help create a healthy circadian rhythm for our body.

  • Exercise Before Bed

Exercising before sleep is not a great idea if you can help it. Our body’s core temperature needs to decrease to sleep optimally. Obviously, training cause our temperature to rise. So, try to limit training 2-3 hours before bed.

  • Bedroom Temperature

Your bedroom should be the coolest room in your house. This is to ensure your body’s core temperature to drop. Set it for around 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Light

Since it is 2019 and cell phones are a hot commodity, I think we have all heard about limiting screen time before bed. The omission of blue light from all the toys causes a decrease in melatonin production. You can have your phone set to shut off all apps 1 hour before bed to eliminate any temptations. Try this, as well as keeping your phone at a distance when sleeping.

Also, it is important to let your body know when it is day and when it is night. What I mean by that is, make sure you get some light exposure during the day and keep your house darker at night. Daylight is great for regulating our body’s circadian rhythm.

 

There it is! I hope this helps put into perspective the importance of sleep and how we function as human beings when we don’t get enough. Create a routine that works best for you. Happy sleeping everyone!

Ryan Mcumber, Signing Off…

Here is the last UF blog post I will ever write. As dramatic as it may sound, I am just going from full time to part time at Union Fitness. But it has been amazing to get the support that I have received from everyone before leaving.

 

I have decided to go back to school (CCAC) to redo some prerequisites to make myself more competitive to apply to Physical Therapy schools in a year. Physical Therapy schools become more and more competitive each year but I am very excited to go for it to see if I can get in. 

 

After working for Union Fitness full time for about a year and half, I have learned a lot about being coach. I believe every coach should strive for these three things. 

 

  1. Constantly try to learn more  
  2. Stay humble
  3. Make people feel welcome 

 

Striving to learn more:

Every coach should be actively trying to learn more. This may seem obvious but you would be surprised how complacent some coaches get. This doesn’t mean that a coach should bring a new exercise to every workout- the basic’s work. But I always love to learn new ways to teach the basics. This allows the coach to be prepared when his/her favorite cue doesn’t work. Learning different cues, set-ups and warm-ups can be beneficial when people are coming to your classes with all sorts of health and injury backgrounds. If I have a football player and a professional speed walker, there is a strong possibility that I need two methods to teach the squat. I have been fortunate to steal a lot of ideas from my fellow coaches at UF.

 

Staying humble:

This is one of the harder things for any coach, especially me coming  straight  out of college. Of course with my degree and only 6 months of experience I was the best coach of all the land. Even though I was willing to learn, I wanted to show everyone how much I knew. 

 

Now things are much different. It takes a few coaches to show you really how little you know. After this realization I made sure to ask every coach numerous question’s. I wanted to see how they set-up class, how they taught a certain exercise, how do they approach a large class size vs a small one, how they structured their programs and a lot more. It benefited me drastically to ask every coach I can find questions. Union is fortunate to have some knowledgeable and experienced coaches that I have annoyed with my questions. 

 

Making people feel welcome:

After my experience at UF, I now believe that this is the most important part of being a coach. 

 

At one point of working full time I had the opportunity to hire someone new. I was thinking about the criteria that I wanted and questions I was ready to ask. The first things that came to mind were: did they have an exercise science degree, years of experience, and what type of weightlifting background they had. As important as these are, if you are unable to convey the information or even worse not be very welcoming in the gym then none of the credentials matter. If the coach is not a nice person then this knowledge is wasted. 

 

A coach must help people feel like the gym is a place where they can try all new things without any sort of embarrassment. A coach must create an environment that not only people wanted to come back to but are looking forward to coming to class. Maybe  not  the Cardio Lab, since that class is rough, but most classes. If anything else I hope that I created this environment for everybody. I hope that people felt excited to take my classes and more importantly come to Union. 

 

I believe after spending the last couple weeks coaching and working hands on with Curtis that he has all of these qualities and I am excited to have him take over my position at UF. I will help by working on the weekends and doing a little personal training here and there. If you start to miss me, come see me on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday!

Lindsey Hits a Milestone

Things I’ve learned from our #powerful (women)

 

I’m about a week away from a big milestone birthday and it’s got me feeling pretty reflective. 

 

Union Fitness has been a huge part of my life for almost three years now, and in that time I’ve both learned and change a hell of a lot. Taking this job was a huge career and life change, and I’ve done it all with a singular focus in mind – to introduce as many women to the power of strength training as I possibly could. I brought it up on my very first interview with Casey, and it continues to be my “one thing.”

 

I found lifting in my early 20s and figured it out largely on my own (with the help of the internet, naturally). It taught me how to find my own strength, and that in turn helped me build the courage to get myself out of some messy life situations and put me on the path to where I am now. Since our opening in 2016, we’ve seen our women’s class grow from 3 or 4 solid regulars to two BIG classes twice per week. We also have some former regulars who have moved on to their own programs, and a few who even come to class just to hang out and help out. I am proud of each and every woman who has come through this class – especially those who gave it a shot having absolutely no strength training experience. 

 

And while I go into each class with the aim of teaching and empowering the women who trust me with that task, I finish each class having learned something from all of them. Now, as I leave my 20s behind (gooooood riddance), I’d like to acknowledge some of the things I’ve learned from this community of strong ladies that I’m grateful to hang out with each week.

 

Lifting looks different on everybody. 

 

We have a huge variety of women that show up to class each week – all ages, shapes, and experience levels. Working with so many different people has reinforced how important it is to know that there is no universal “correct form” with regards to most exercises. Every body is going to look and function a little different from one another, so every individual will have to approach each lift differently. A particular example that always sticks with me – I LOVE programming zercher squats. Maybe too much. And I’ve learned that doing zerchers with a big chest means you’ve really gotta do some wedging if you want to be comfortable. I’d never had to think about it, and now I know how to prepare new people who are better endowed than I am!

 

No one likes zerchers as much as I do. 

Too bad ladies! They’re making you better!

 

You don’t need to wreck yourself every workout to make great progress.

 

I’ve been playing with the structure of the women’s class over the last two years, and I think we’ve finally settled on a layout that works for everyone. Programming works in three week cycles, doing a variation of the main movement (eg. A slow eccentric deadlift week 1, a speed variation week 2, a heavy deadlift week 3) and the SAME assistance work over all three weeks, with a goal of PRing in volume or weight on those movements each week. We do maybe 7 movements in total, and unless there’s a finisher, rarely do ladies leave class feeling like they’re dead or dying. And yet, they’re still all making progress towards their strength goals! There’s a time and place for going so hard you want to puke, and it’s certainly not multiple times per week.

 

Many women that are new to benching like to pick their feet up and flail them around when the weight gets heavy. 

 

I still don’t really get this one, but we’re all working on it! 

 

Doing hard things is better when you’re doing it with friends. 

 

I’ve seen so many close friendships blossom in this class. It can be incredibly difficult to establish new friendships with other women once we’re out of high school and college, and I truly feel that some of the best relationships are built when everyone involved is trying to better themselves individually. 

 

As UF grows into our new space, the women’s program will grow along with it. Keep an eye out for some time and teacher expansions in the new year!

 

To all of the women I’ve been privileged to work with this past year: thank you. From the bottom of my heart, you’ve all made me a better coach, athlete, and person. I look forward to making this program even bigger with your help. 

Reading for knowledge or pleasure- which is better?

Truthfully, I have been struggling with what to write about. I have ideas, but I don’t feel like I have enough resources yet to put out information. I have a few I am excited about that will come alive soon enough. 

 

So for now I am writing about something that has been acting on my soul lately. For the past six years or so I have read an exorbitant amount of self-help, self-improvement, personal development, non-fictional-real-life-learn something from the latest guru type of book. Sure, I made my way through the cornucopia of personal development land, learned new things, new skills, and new strategies for sifting through life’s whirls and winds. I was utilizing reading more to learn than to feel and this was an issue.

 

Maybe I used the Dr. Seuss quote too literal- “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

 

Literary fiction provides something that no fact driven, non-fictional book could give or even sometimes, what real life can give us. The range of emotions literature brings out in us, we may never experience throughout life otherwise. It puts us in more situations than we could probably ever simulate in a life time and some of the situations we might not want to be in however, fiction provides perspective and can create some to develop empathy. And these novels, stories, and dramas give us situations to help us reflect and understand life’s intricacies.

 

The creative side of our brain needs this. This is termed “Theory of Mind.” This lights up a part of our brain that allows for de-construction of the character at hand, giving us the ability to identify with the character and all their desires, cravings, grievances, etc. Think abstract whereas non-fiction is more cut and dry. Fiction can also speed up time, go back, or even go into another dimension of time. We envision what it is like to go through a marriage and divorce, how murderers think, the atmosphere of the ultimate party at the Gatsby Mansion, or the exhilarating trip through the back of a wardrobe and into an imaginary land of winter ruled by a White Witch. Our brains like stories, to find meaning and go through the mental motions of what we are reading…as if we are there.

 

I used the self-development books to think they would fix me or the more I read the more I would be healed, find the link to happiness, know all the secrets and feel ready to take on life. And that could not be entirely further from the truth. These books are an aid, and they are just that. The self-improvement books are like sitting down with a therapist and leaving; not actually processing and practicing. Just simply negating all we had talked about.

 

How do we get stronger in the gym or change our body composition? Through consistency and patience. Through sticking to a program, eating well, knowing when your body is stressed, knowing when you did not get a good night of sleep and knowing to make adjustments the next day to accommodate. I should know this, but I did not realize it then. Sometimes life creates a lovely tunnel vision for weeks, months, or years and you can’t see it until you are on the other side *dramatic chest rising sigh*… finally. 

 

I would feel a sense of guilt for reading too many pleasurable fictional books and this would guilt me into picking up more educational or fact driven books. My time now is different. Less about myself and more about others. Connections. Research has shown that reading literature helps humans develop empathy and that is just one way to connect and feel for someone else’s story. Reading is a timeless way to explore the world. Or gloat on the feeling of warmth and innocence as you are re-reading some of the Harry Potter novels or The Chronicles of Narnia. Fiction also has a way of making us think in faint yet powerful and dynamic ways.

 

I am still reading every day. I am rotating between fiction and non-fiction however; I am allowing the wonder and creativity to take the reign. Both are necessary and coming from a science degree I can’t ignore my lunatic love for research, facts, new discoveries, etc. As a matter of fact, my next book will be a non-fiction for purposes of learning about new research and how this can hopefully impact our future in a specific area in our lives, but I can’t talk about it yet because it I will be in one of my blogs soon! 

 

All books serve a purpose in some way. This blog was not to be one-sided, it was to show there are more sides that we often leave behind and sometimes we need time to immerse ourselves in a story and take on another experience.

 

A book I am diving into as of recently is Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of The Wild Woman Archetype. This is probably one of the most empowering books I have held in my hands. The author is incredible at story-telling and analyzing the myths and folk tales of the “Wild Woman” and the psyche of her. This book engages with Carl Jung and his theory of the archetype. I am ending this blog with a quote that I love from this book:

 

“When we accept our own beauty, it is put into perspective, and we are no longer poignantly aware of it anymore, but neither would we forsake it or disclaim it either. Does a wolf know how beautiful she is when she sleeps? Does a feline know what beautiful shapes she makes when she sits? Is a bird awed by the sound it hears when it snaps open its wings? Learning from them, we just act in our own true way and do not draw back from or hide our natural beauty. Like creatures, we just are, and it is right.”

 

By Alexa Ferri

Self-efficacy…got it? Want it?

What Is Self-Efficacy and Why You Need It In the Gym

 

When you walk up to a heavy barbell, attempting to squat a new PR do you feel like you can rise up and crush that lift or do you place it on your back, feel the heaviness you’ve never felt before and re-rack, deciding to give up in defeat? When you’re faced with a new movement or a new class or a new challenge are you the little engine that could or do you doubt your abilities? If you are the type of person to view challenges as a task to be mastered instead of feared, or the type to recover quickly from disappointments and setbacks then chances are you have a strong sense of self-efficacy.  

 

Self-efficacy is the belief in your own innate ability to succeed and achieve goals. It is a central concept in Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory, which examines how we learn from one another through observation, imitation and modeling.  Self-efficacy plays a role in how we determine what goals to pursue, how we go about accomplishing them and how we reflect upon our performance. Our belief in our ability to succeed is important to how we behave, how we feel about ourselves and how we feel about our place in the world (or gym).  

 

So what happens if you’re the type to re-rack your barbell when it gets too heavy or shy away from taking that class you’ve secretly wanted to take?  Have no fear; there are ways to build self-efficacy.  According to Bandura, there are four major sources of self-efficacy: 

 

  1. Mastery Experiences

Bandura describe this as the most effective way to build a strong sense of self-efficacy and it’s simple—perform a task successfully.  Want a new squat PR? Then squat lighter weight with confidence, and repeat. And don’t forget to celebrate your successes, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. Write it on the PR board, gloat on social media or simply just gush to your coach about your new success or goal accomplished. 

 

  1. Social Modeling

Or an easier way to put it is: watch others perform a task successfully. Cue group classes—they’re a great way to get in some social modeling.  Or if the whole group fitness thing isn’t your jam, then simply look around while you’re at the gym, watch some YouTube videos or take a peak at our Instagram for some inspiration. Witnessing others similar to you succeed at something raises our belief that we possess the capability to succeed as well. 

 

  1. Social Persuasion

This is just a fancy way of saying, “ask for some verbal encouragement”.  Seek positive affirmations. Ask your coach for some feedback. Accepting positivity and encouragement can lead to overcoming self-doubt.

 

  1. Psychological Responses 

Building a strong sense of self-efficacy isn’t just about doing or performing either. It is also about how we think, feel and act towards ourselves. Our own emotional responses and reactions are important.  Learn how to minimize stress and increase positive mindsets/moods. Practice looking inwards.

 

Goals, if you haven’t noticed yet, are an integral part of Union Fitness.  As a staff, we regularly sit down to talk about our personal and work-related goals.  We often discuss with our members the importance of setting (and achieving) realistic targets, plans and objectives.  You see, the thing is–we don’t want to just build strong bodies at Union Fitness, we want to build strong minds and a strong sense of self too. We want you to be successful inside the gym and out too.  We want you to be able to crush goals here, but also enable you to feel like you could tackle any obstacle that comes your way outside of a squat rack too.  Your own belief in your abilities is a good predictor for how motivated you feel to continue onwards with your goals.  Self-efficacy is also important for how you feel about yourself and when push comes to shove, we want you to feel great here, there and everywhere.

The Dark Side of Fitness Trackers

The Dark Side of Fitness Trackers 

-Alison Yee-

 

There are so many tools in our fitness toolboxes that we can use on our quests to healthier lives.  In this technology driven age, it is only natural that we rely heavily upon some automated tools like smart phones, apps and fitness trackers.  There’s no doubt that these devices have the ability to make certain things about our health & wellness goals more attainable, quantifiable and, at times, more enjoyable.  Keeping track of numerous variables about us are things that fitness trackers, like a Fitbit or an Apple Watch, are designed to do.  It takes the guesswork out of aspects in our workouts and often many features of our lives.  And this all sounds great, right? So what’s the problem? 

 

There are thousands of articles, blogs and research studies touting the myriad benefits of fitness trackers.  And they’re not wrong.  Fitness trackers are kinda great.  They can monitor your steps, heart rate, sleep patterns, nutrition/diet and water intake all while giving you some personal accountability and motivation. All this tracking, according to some studies, tends to lead to increased activity and productivity levels, more/better sleep, and better overall health & nutrition.  These are all great things! So, again what’s the problem here?

 

In the 1930’s there was a philosopher named Lewis Mumford.  Throughout his life, Mumford articulated that there was a fine line with technology, as it can be both liberating and oppressive.  He said, “Western society has accepted as unquestionable a technological imperative that is quite as arbitrary as the most primitive taboo: not merely the duty to foster invention and constantly to create technological novelties, but equally the duty to surrender to these novelties unconditionally, just because they are offered, without respect to their human consequences.”  And an Apple Watch or Fitbit is just that—a novelty. Yet so many people who wear tracking devices report that they feel naked without it or that their workout “didn’t count” if they weren’t wearing their device.  Still others report that they feel guilty if they didn’t meet their daily goals and others report that they feel controlled by their device.  Alarmingly, this does sound a bit like “surrendering to novelties” that Mumford warned about, doesn’t it? 

 

Personally as a Fitbit user, I can attest to some of these feelings as well.  One of the biggest obstacles in my health & wellness journey right now is lack of sleep.  My goal is to get over six hours of sleep every night.  I bet you can guess the first thing I do when I wake up?  Yep, check my Fitbit app to look at my sleep cycles.   If it is under my goal, I feel defeated. A strange thing often happens too—even if I woke up feeling relatively rested, I will feel instantly tired the moment my app tells me I was under my goal.  In my case, I let an app dictate my mood and my feelings.  Yet, if you asked me to try not wearing my Fitbit at night I would look at you like you just asked me to give away my first-born child.  If you want me to take off my Fitbit, you’re gonna have to pry it off my cold, dead wrist. So, um, Mumford you may have a point here…

 

The question is can we observe these things without obsessing over them? Tracking, whether it is your heart rate during a workout or your food for the day, can be a powerful tool.  It’s a tool that I often recommend to my clients in order to meet their goals faster.  Tracking is an amazing way to gain a sense of empowerment and awareness as well. But remember, as Mumford would say, to respect the consequences.  Fitness trackers can have a positive impact in our lives by creating insights for us and letting us interact with those insights in constructive and meaningful ways. Yet, be cautious and remember that these devices are sometimes not as pure and unproblematic as we’d like to believe.  Use your device for a sense of empowerment or education, but do not let it control you. Remember that tracking is a tool, not the end-all-be-all.  

What you NEED

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

-Lindsey Pogson

 

You need to take care of the basics before you can reach your full potential.

 

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that we really preach “the basics” – sleep, nutrition, hydration, and stress management. If you don’t get these things in check, your athletic goals will be considerably harder, and maybe even impossible, to reach. In this blog, I’d like to reiterate the importance of the basics, but also give you a broader breakdown of WHY they are so important. This goes way beyond your fitness and weight loss goals – this is about your whole life. We want you to thrive, not just survive, and it all starts with your base.

 

Yes, I said base, because we’re looking at a pyramid. My fellow undergraduate psychology majors, now’s our time to shine, because we’re talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

 

 

Abraham Maslow was a mid-20th century psychologist, and this pyramid is his best known contribution to the field. In his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation,” he spelled out the steps needed for humans to reach true “self-actualization” – their full potential as a creative individual. Before we can climb to our peak, we need to handle the base and the basics. 

 

Our physiological and safety needs come first, always. Without enough to eat and drink, enough sleep, and a safe place to live, there is no room to focus on anything (or anyone) else. Once those are met, we get to move on to our psychological needs – loving relationships and success in meeting our goals, be they in our careers, with our families, or in the gym. With all of these levels locked down, we can ascend to our peak. Meeting all of our needs – taking care of ourselves in these essential ways – means we’ve given ourselves the time and space needed to be creative, in whatever way that means to each of us. 

 

The idea is this: each level of the pyramid must be built before moving to the next level. You’ll never be fully “finished” with any of these levels (you need to focus on meeting your basic physiological needs every single day; you need to put work into your relationships throughout the span of those relationships if you want them to last), but you CANNOT skip levels. 

 

So what does this all mean?

 

It’s pretty simple really: you need to attend to your base before you attend to your relationships or your personal goals. 

 

Does that seem impossible? I can totally relate. There’s some comfort in focusing just on the higher level stuff. But in reality, those things are a privilege afforded only to those who build the necessary base to get there. And the tricky part is that we CAN try to surpass the process and put those relationships and bigger goals first. It works for awhile, but then we hit a wall. We break down and have no base to pull from! 

 

I’ve hit this point more times than I care to admit, both as someone who tends to try to take care of others before myself and as someone who might be considered a workaholic, both in my career and in training. Just a few weeks ago, I tried convincing a coworker that it would be a great idea for me to train 6-7 days a week. I got shut down immediately, and for good reason.

 

Training that hard is something that needs to be earned, and I hadn’t earned it.

It’s earned with proper sleep, nutrition, hydration, and stress management, all things I’ve neglected while putting work and training and my relationships ahead of myself. And the worst part? I may have been pouring myself into those bigger things, but I wasn’t really doing them justice, because the reservoir I was pouring from was almost empty. 

 

How good could I be if I’d attended to those basic needs first? How good could you be?

I’m challenging myself – and every one of you reading this – to take this opportunity to build the base of your Needs pyramid. Understand that while many aspects of your life will seem more important than your sleep and nutrition, if you don’t take care of those first, you’re doing those higher level things a disservice. It’s basic airplane safety logic – you need to put your own air mask on before anyone else around you, no matter how much you love and value them. So for the sake of your bigger goals, protect your bed time, eat the most nutritious food you can find in just the right amounts, and drink some damn water. Then you’re on the vertical path to reaching your true potential.