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Mindset & Meditation: Meditation & Hormones

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Meditation is a practice that if done regularly can greatly assist in reducing stress, but you probably knew that already. What you may not know is that by reducing stress with the diaphragmatic breath during meditation it can also have a positive impact on your hormones. When we are stressed our bodies produce cortisol, which increases blood sugar, reduces immune function, and can decrease testosterone.

 

In this study, 4 months of meditation increased both testosterone and HGH in the subjects while simultaneously reducing cortisol. So if you are struggling with low-T and have a stressful lifestyle, you may want to consider a meditation practice before diving into any type of hormone replacement.

 

In addition to testosterone and HGH, meditation has been shown to increase the release of serotonin and oxytocin, which are key hormones that improve mood and empathy.  Dopamine is another hormone that has shown to be stimulated by meditation, which improves memory, attention, and problem solving.

 

So you see, taking  a few minutes each morning and evening to relax, breathe, and meditate not only starts and ends your day on the right mental track, it can have pretty profound affects on your body on a much deeper level than you once thought.

Mindset & Meditation: Sneaky Ways to Meditate

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One of the biggest aversions to meditation that I hear is that it is too hard to stay focused on the breath.  That thought seems to be synonymous around the globe.  People attempting to meditate simply give up, or worse, never even try it out of fear of not being able to calm their mind and focus on just their breath. What if I told you there was an easier way than sitting cross-legged in a quiet room? What if there were some sneakier ways to begin to meditate.

 

Meditation is having the ability to focus on one singular thing/task. One Buddhist monk once said, “Eating an orange can be a meditation”.  You simply focus on every aspect of eating the orange. From peeling it to how it feels in your hands to how it tastes each bite. Let me give you a few more examples. Prayer is meditation when you are focused solely on your words. Walking in outside is meditation when you are focused on one sound, then another, then another. Similar to the orange example above, eating any food can be meditation when you’re focused on that specific food. I could continue but I think you get the point. ANYTHING you do with a relaxed breath and intentional focus can be meditation, and don’t worry, when your mind begins to wander, simply follow it to the next thing you can focus on all while maintaining that same relaxed breath.

 

Now it’s time for you to give meditation another try, or start for the first time, with a bit of a different mindset and focus going into it. Get creative and have some fun!

Mindset & Meditation: Awareness

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Awareness

 

In my journey and study of the human mind, our behavioral patterns, our thoughts, & meditation, one word  always comes up.  That word is awareness.  One of the many reasons we meditate is to reduce stress. Meditation can help us be present and aware of how we think, breathe, and react to stressful triggers. Triggers can be anything from traffic, to someone at the office that gets on your nerves, to something that may have happened in your past. Once you become aware that you are being triggered, the hope/goal is to use your breath and meditation in favor of a more positive “response” vs. a negative “reaction”.   However, even when you DO become aware that you are being triggered, that doesn’t mean that you will not react in a negative manor…. Just yet…

 

Let me give you an example. I have a pretty bad temper that presents itself sometimes while driving, like a lot of others, but since I have been working on meditation, breathing, and awareness, my temper and negative reactions have gotten much better.  That doesn’t mean I don’t still get angry or sometimes yell at someone while driving. Side note, I yell to myself, I never drive next to someone in a negative/confrontational manor.  Thinking that I will never lose my temper again isn’t realistic… yet.  What I have been able to do however is become aware as soon as I yell at a driver or begin to get mad at another driver on the road that I am reacting negatively. Before I let my thoughts, words, and actions spiral into a litany of negativity, I immediately recognize my temper and am then able to reset, breathe, and recover to a calm mindset.  Then I apologize to the driver, even if it’s just to myself, and wish them a safe trip wherever they are going.  Awareness is about progress not perfection, so if you don’t get it right the first few times BUT you recognize that you could have done better in that situation THAT is the awareness you need to become less reactive in the future and on your way to a happier more peaceful you J.

Find the Joy in What you Do

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When was the last time you did something just for the fun of it?  Not for time, not to win, not to get promoted, not because it’s what your “supposed to do”, not for pride, not for betterment of yourself.  You did it simply because it makes you feel happy and joyful. If you can’t remember a time lately that you have done this then I encourage you to rediscover your joy.  It can be anything from reading a book, going to the movies, visiting with old friends, throwing a Frisbee, climbing a tree, and beyond.  The sky is the limit; as long as it brings you joy.

 

Now hear me, I’m not saying you can’t have fun at work or in sport, quiet the contrary, you can certainly find joy in one or both of those… If you look for it J.  As one of several quotes on the topic – this one by Arthur Ash – reads, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome”. So while you are “doing”, learn to enjoy some part or all of it. Don’t just run a marathon so you can say you did it; run a marathon for the joy of running and learning how to push your physical and mental limits. Don’t just take on a new client or assignment at work for a paycheck; find the joy in testing your professional limits and learning how to be better at your business.  If you find that hard or nearly impossible to accomplish in your professional life find SOMETHING that brings you joy, do it, and do it often. At the end of the day, you should be able to look back on your journey, whatever it was, and say, “wow, that was awesome and I am a happier and more fulfilled person because of it.  Find your joy.

5 Must’s to Improve Your Recovery Time

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5 Must’s to Improve Your Recovery Time

Whether you’re a hard charging athlete, outdoor adventurer or a full time working parent, the last thing you want is to be sidelined from being too sore or injured from training, a race, an expedition or simply doing life.  When we train hard or race we create tiny micro tears in our muscle tissue. These tears produce a slight inflammatory response, which starts a process of healing and repair. This is how we grow bigger, stronger, faster, etc. However, too much intense training, or after a long/hard race our bodies are riddled with inflammation which require adequate recovery. Without proper recovery, the inflammation in our bodies begins to cause negative affects like excessive soreness, muscular weakness, tight/stiff muscles and joints, and more.  Inflammation left unattended will likely result in reduced performance and injury. What I have compiled for you below are my guidelines that I give to every athlete/client of mine to help reduce inflammation and speed recovery.  This protocol has helped my Ironman, Ultra-marathon, and Obstacle Course clients recover in record time.

Eat anti-inflammatory foods:

The foods you eat have a profound impact on your ability to recover from hard training sessions, adventures or races. Eating highly acidic foods, such as processed refined grains, poor quality grain-fed meats, artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, and excess sugar (anything over 7g/serving) can actually increase inflammation and impede recovery time.  Instead of reaching for one or more of the aforementioned foods, choose foods that will reduce acidity in your body, reduce inflammation and speed recovery. My “go to” anti-inflammatory foods are:

  • Coconut Oil.  This super food has many health benefits, one being fighting inflammation.  Use it to sauté vegetables, as a substitute for butter as a spread or you can even put it on your skin as a “lotion.”
  • Green Vegetables. I have a saying, “If it’s green and it grows from the ground it’s good for you.” Not only are green vegetables a great source of vitamins and nutrients, the nutrients in greens help mitigate inflammation and lower our body’s ph level (Read: makes us less acidic). Sauté them in a little coconut oil and you’ve got a double whammy of goodness to help you heal quickly.  The most nutrient dense greens are collards, kale, and spinach.  The darker the green, the more nutrient dense. If you are one that really doesn’t like to eat vegetables you can supplement with GreenVibrance and get the nutrients and anti-inflammatory benefits you need.
  • Wild Caught Fish and Grass-Fed/Finished Meats. The amino acids you get from eating meat is incomparable, in my opinion, and critical to rebuilding damaged muscles. Wild caught fish like salmon are very high in omega-3 fatty acids and therefore not only give you the protein you need to repair, but the omega’s to fight inflammation. Grass-fed meats, although a bit more acidic, have a much higher omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Too many omega-6 fats are very inflammatory.  If eaten with greens sautéed in coconut oil, you see what I’m doing here 🙂  — you minimize the acidity and increase recovery benefits.

Breathe:

Diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing, has been used for many years to calm our bodies down from the sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system and engage our parasympathetic “calm relaxed” nervous system state.  Mindful relaxed breathing has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress/anxiety, and if done daily, before or after a stressful situation, with the proper mindset can actually aid in reducing inflammation and speeding recovery. If you can calm your breath and calm your mind, you will calm your body.

Move:

A common misconception, especially when we are really sore from a workout or race, is that we should rest and not move at all.  Allow our bodies to rest and recover, not unlike the old R.I.C.E. Rest Ice Compression Elevation protocol after an injury.  What if I told you that following those theories actually lengthens the recovery process and can create stiffness and tightness in your connective tissue and joints? Even after racing a full Ironman distance triathlon I, and my clients, will go through an easy recovery movement protocol the following day. The more you sit still the less circulation, blood flow, and therefore nutrients used to heal your tissue, get to sore muscles. Incorporating non-impact movements i.e. an easy swim, an easy spin on a bike, or MOGA for 15-20 minutes a day can greatly improve recovery time.

To begin incorporating MOGA into your recovery protocol – follow us on Instagram for weekly movement posts – @themogamovement

Cold contrast shower:

The benefits of cold therapy are well documented in aiding in reduction of inflammation, improving immune function, and hormonal balance to name a few.  For the purpose of this article, when combined with heat, hot/warm water, it can greatly improve your recovery time.  When you are in a cold shower your blood vessels & muscles constrict and blood is shunted to your core/vital organs, then when warm/hot water is introduced, your blood vessels open up and fresh blood & oxygen are re-introduced.  In the latter process you are delivering nutrients and oxygen to damaged tissue that help to reduce recovery time.  A typical protocol is to take a shower as normal.  At the end of your shower go through the following protocol 10 times: 20 seconds of cold water followed by 10 seconds of warm water.  Be sure to end on cold water.  This again, is something I prescribe to all of my athletes with great success.

Supplementation:

There seems to be a bazillion supplements on the market that tout recovery benefits, and there are some legitimate ones out there, but to avoid any confusion and to keep your bank account from busting by buying multiple products here are my top 3:

  1. Omega-3 fish oil in the form of  Krill Oil
  2. Bioastin 12mg
  3. Solgar Curcumin

These 3 supplements have been tested and proven to help reduce inflammation and aid significantly with recovery from hard training sessions, races, injury, and more.

There you have it – my five, must-do, go-to’s for faster recovery! I am certain there are other methods you can implement, and/or may have implemented in your own recovery plan that have worked. If so, keep doing it! If not, give my suggestions a try and let me know how it works for you.  If you have any questions or need help creating a custom recovery protocol for your needs please contact me at mo@linkendurance.com.  Until then, train hard & recover smart my friends.

 

Life’s Detours are not Dead Ends

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Life’s Detours are not Dead Ends

 

Have you ever been driving and hit a road detour? Sure you have, we all have. Sometimes we encounter the detour just a few blocks or miles from our destination.  Sometimes you can even see where you need to get to, but instead of driving straight there you now have to take a turn, weave through some neighborhood streets, take another turn or two, until you are eventually guided back to your original path and onward to your destination.  No one likes hitting a detour. It cuts into our time, our plan, our ——. But you know what? You still get to your destination.

 

We get hit with detours throughout our fitness journey and our life journey. We get injured, we don’t hit the goal for a race, we get fired from our job, we lose motivation personally and professionally, and the list goes on.  In each of these instances in sport and/or life, and more often than not when this happens our mind turns negative. We think things like “why is this happening to me”, “I’m not good enough”, etc.  We think our “road” has come to an end, but it hasn’t, we have just hit a detour.

 

In the documentary 180 Degrees South Yvon Chouinard , founder of Patagonia Clothing  makes a profound statement when the main character in the film has to call off his almost 12 month long journey a mere 200 meters from his goal of summiting a mountain in Patagonia that he has dreamed about since he was a child. Yvon says, “If you get to the edge of cliff and can’t take another step further or you’ll fall off the edge what do you do? You don’t go backwards. You turn 180 degrees and take a forward step towards a new path, a new direction”.

 

If or when you get injured in training, lose your job, or whatever your “detour” may be, don’t lose hope. Don’t allow your mind to go to that negative space. Instead, reroute your journey to a new direction. If you are injured in sport, this is a great time to focus and learn about foods and supplements to heal quickly, or it can be time to focus on other areas of your fitness that may have been lacking.  This would be a great time to focus on mindset and meditation. The same goes for your professional and personal life. If something happens at work, instead of blaming someone else, look within yourself and see what you could have done better/different and learn for the next time. The aforementioned have all happened to me, more than once, and each time I have had to redirect my path. It has made me wiser, more patient, and given me the ability to not lose hope, rather, I see these detours as a chance to take a few right turns and weave through a neighborhood or two.  Each time this happens I learn something new, and each time I still reach my destination, even if it took a little longer to get there.

Find Your Community Find Your Tribe

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The Power of the Tribe

 

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

 

As an endurance athlete I have spent years training alone.  Bike, run, swim, weights workouts all designed with specific metrics of power, pace, heart rate, etc. to hit made these training sessions a “party of one” activity.  To be honest I didn’t mind it, I got to be by myself, focused only on me, and my goals for the training session.  Outside of a few weekly group master’s swim workouts, I would say about 95% of my training for an 8 year span was done alone, and I will admit that even though I actually enjoyed 6 hour solo bike sessions, it was much more fun and motivating when I had a training partner, or partners, with like minded goals and abilities with me.  That’s where the tribe comes in.

 

Some call it a community, some call it a tribe, you can call it whatever you like, the point that I am trying to make is on the importance of linking up with like minded individuals, with like minded goals, that “get” what you are trying to accomplish and are there to support, encourage, and constructively critique you when needed.  The power of the “tribe” as one of my good friend’s says is that “the is the collective work of everyone for the good/growth of the community. At any given point the weakest member can become the leader and visa versa, but the tribe always works together to make sure everyone involved is successful”.  After years of training alone I found myself unmotivated and honestly a bit lonely, which was a rare feeling for me. I began to search for groups, Cross-Fit gyms, anyone that I could connect with on both a physical and mental level that would be able to push, encourage, and critique me. I NEEDED community, I needed a tribe, and so do you.  Here’s why.

 

  1. Support & Accountability:

You know those days when you’re tired, sore, etc. and just don’t want to go workout? Those are the days your tribe gives you strength.  You walk through the door and learn that many others may feel the same way, but they showed up and so did you. That may be the day you learn a new trick to overcome the soreness and/or mental and physical fatigue. If you know you have a tendency to slack off on your own, knowing that others are depending on you to show up holds you accountable for being there, even if it is just to offer moral support.  Just showing up and encouraging your tribe mates could have a huge positive impact on their performance that day, and this is a good example of when you are feeling weak, you show up to for moral support, and you end up becoming the “leader” by emotionally encouraging your friend(s).

 

  1. Motivation:

I can’t tell you the number of times, if left to my own decision, I would have skipped a training session because I was too tired, too sore, or just didn’t want to do the workout, but because I had training partners counting on me to show up – there’s that accountability piece again – I showed up and got after it. Often times, to my surprise, I would end up having a really great training session because we would challenge each other, tell jokes, and make the “hard work” fun.

 

  1. Community:

Surrounding yourself with like-minded people that share your same interests and goals is paramount to you becoming the best version of yourself possible.  This, or any of the aforementioned points don’t have to be sport related. It could be any type of group, club, or community – it doesn’t matter -find YOUR tribe. A lot of people like to give Cross-Fitters a hard time saying they are a cult, and “look at them, they all eat Paleo and talk about WOD times, etc. etc.”.  Here’s the deal. Cross-Fit athletes could give a shit about your opinion and/or what you think of them.  THEY are excited about what they are doing and THEY are excited about life and about motivating the members of their tribe to be the best they can be. The same can be said for triathletes, OCR athletes, speed walkers, or people who REALLY dig a good book club. As long as it’s feeding your soul and helping you become better and returning the favor, keep doing it.  No one else needs to understand and you surely don’t have to defend or justify yourself or your goals to anyone that doesn’t understand.

 

In closing I will tell you this: in all my years as an athlete I have never ran, biked, or swam faster, nor have I lifted more weight, done a few more reps, and therefore pushed beyond my perceived “limits” than I have than when I have been surrounded by my tribe on that day.  As such I have become stronger. I have been able to lift up and encourage my friends to do the same. We have all grown stronger mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially, and THAT my friends is the power and the importance of the tribe.

 

If you live in the Dallas/Ft Worth area and need a tribe to train, and do life with, check out www.linkendurance.comand join us for one or more of our group sessions.

 

Mindset & Meditation: Create Your Power Phrase

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What’s Your Power Phrase

 

At the time of this post I am listening to the e-book “Unbeatable Mind” by Navy SEAL Commander Mark Divine for the 3rdtime. I like to revisit this every year to refresh my memory on the lessons it teaches.  A few weeks ago I was talking to a good friend and he was telling me that a buddy told him DO NOT collapse at the finish line after your race no matter how hard you ran or how bad it hurts. Doing so can signal to your brain/muscles/etc. that you just gave 100% and couldn’t possibly go any harder and that isn’t true, you’ve got more to give.  Commander Divine calls this your 20X factor, or the 40% rule, meaning that you are capable of 20 times more than you think you are, or when you think you’ve reached your limit, you’re really only 40% maxed out.  Your “central governor” aka your brain is telling your muscles to shut down, but you have the power to override that “need”/desire to shut down and keep pushing, or in this case standing.  Therein lies your Power Phrase.

 

Every Monday I run 800-meter speed intervals at a local track.  If you have ever ran 800’s you know how bad they suck. This last Monday I was physically & mentally tired from a hard training week and still sore from a brutal workout the Friday before. My body hurt, my legs felt heavy, and I had accepted the fact that this session probably wasn’t going to be “stellar”. After a 1 mile warm-up run followed by the first 2 of 4×800’s I was coming back to life. I don’t listen to music when I run these sessions because I want to be 100% connected with my body, mind, and breath.  If I take myself out of the present moment with music and don’t learn to deal with the pain and discomfort in training, how the hell do I expect myself to push my hardest during a race? So I am right in the middle of my 3rd800m interval when it hit me.  I had my mental anchor set, I was focused on my breath, I looked down at my watch to see my pace and my mantra “power phrase” immediately became “I’ve got more, I’ve got more”.   I continue to repeat this phrase as I run and I see my pace get faster.. 6:04 pace – 6:00 pace – 5:55 pace – 5:50 pace. Then immediately after crossing the 800m line, instead of stopping and putting my hands on my knees/head, or dropping to the ground, I turn around, pull my shoulders back, lift my chin, and start declaring out loud “I’ve got more! I’ve got more” as I walk back to the start line with confidence.  I still have one more interval to run.

 

Two weeks prior to this session my fastest 800m interval was at a 6:17 pace.  I had just beaten that by 27 seconds with a 5:50 average and now, armed with my new power phrase I am determined to go harder.  Time to go!! I try not to look at my watch pace too early during an interval because I want to learn to “feel” my pace.  So with 300m left to go in my last set I look down at my watch… 5:55 pace – 5:50 pace – 5:45 pace – 5:40 pace.. I crossed the line, my lungs were on fire, my legs were jell-o, and I immediately turned around, lifted my chin, pulled back my shoulders and began to declare out loud again “I’ve got more, I’ve got more”.  Last 800m pace was 5:47.  I had just beat my time from two weeks prior by 30 seconds! However my session wasn’t over, I still had a 1-mile tempo run to go.  The last session my mile pace was 6:57, so armed once again with my mental anchor and my power phrase I take off, every 100m repeating to myself “I’ve got more, I’ve got more”.  Time to beat 6:57… My time for this mile, 6:37, a 20 second improvement!  Side note: I don’t know what the hell is up with all the 7’s in my times J, kinda cool though…

 

 

The lesson in my story is that you do, in fact, always have more to give.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t hard, or the pain goes away, you simply shift your mindset to being powerful and strong with your own unique power phrase. It can be anything that speaks to you. It can be one word, or it can be 10+ words.  You can apply your power phrase to any physical activity. You can apply the same, similar, or different power phrase to any stressful/hard/challenging situation in life, work, or relationships.  Regardless of the scenario create a mantra or “power phrase” that will give you the confidence and mental resilience to not collapse at your own physical or personal finish line, rather you will stand tall and lift your chin, because just like me YOU’ve got more…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mindset & Meditation: Pre-Workout Meditation

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To get the most out of your body you MUST prepare your mind.  Taking just a few minutes prior to your training session to focus on your breath and get your head in the right space, can make a huge difference in your performance, strength, & endurance for that session.  Practicing a pre-workout meditation prior to every training session no matter how challenging or how easy it may be will take you to the next level of self-awareness and performance.

Give this pre-workout meditation a try before your next session.

The Health Episodes #11: How to take Ownership of Your Performance, Nutrition, & Life

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Take Ownership of your training, nutrition, & life.  In this episode Alix and Mo help you understand how you can stop letting outside forces/people/situations dictate your day/life.

  • Do you go through workouts with your trainer, buddy, or alone blind?
  • Do you just eat food without paying attention or putting in effort to fuel properly?
  • Is everything someone else’s fault, do you let other people, situations dictate your attitude daily?

Ownership of your training:

  • learn a new movement or learn understand the movements that you are doing
    • whats the “why” behind the session/particular exercise
    • ask your coach trainer to help you learn
    • start with ONE movement
  • Taking ownership in this realm can give you confidence to take on other tasks you may have been intimidated by

 Ownership of your nutrition:

  • you don’t need to become a food scientist
  • learn the health benefits of one food each day or each week, then incorporate into your nutrition
  • Learn how the foods/supplements you eat affect your body, performance, recovery, etc
  • Learn how to prepare a meal for yourself
  • Learn how to order healthy at a restaurant and/or stick to healthier options when eating for business
  • ENJOY yourself when eating out and own it!

Ownership of your life:

  • Do you wake up and watch the news or check social media and realize how that dictates your attitude, response/reaction to others for the day?
  • Do you allow situations at work or home “put you in a mood” for the day?
  • Wake up each morning and start by owning the first 10-15 minutes 
    • box breathe, meditate, smile
    • repeat this mantra “today I take ownership of my thoughts and emotions. Today I take ownership of my body and food”
  • If you make a mistake OWN IT, don’t dwell on it, learn from it and make it a positive 
    • “I realize I could have done xxx better”  or  “In looking back I see where I could have done/said xxx for a better outcome/response/etc”
  • At the end of each day write in a journal what you took ownership of that day.  Whether its one thing or 10 things, write it down.  Review it the next morning after breathing, meditation, and while saying your mantra to start your day/mind off on the right track  Review your wins.. 
  • At the end of each week/month/year you can go back and look at all of your ownership WINS and see how you have progressed

CLICK HERE to listen or download from iTunes or Stitcher