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Pearls of Wisdom

By Michael Crespo

Last Saturday I had an amazing experience. I attended my first daylong meditation at Spirit Rock Meditation center in Woodacre, CA. Attending a daylong has been on my bucket list for awhile because I believe in meditation/mindfulness as a potent skill to cultivate a deeper knowledge of yourself. I am somewhat of a super spiritual person, but I perceive myself as being very practical/rational at the same time. I say all that to say that what attracted me to this particular day long meditation was the title of the event. “True Nourishment From Mind, Heart, to Cell”. As a practicing health coach looking for tools to better serve my clients, this had my name written all over it. If there was ever a time to attend a daylong, the time was now.

Saturday finally came. Armed with a good pen and notebook, I left my cell phone in my truck and prepared to immerse myself in this new and exciting experience.

Our speakers for the day were three amazing ladies. One speaker was a buddhist monk of the Gelugpa Tradition (The same order as the Dalai Lama). The second speaker was an amazing meditation teacher and mindful eating nutrition coach. I gained something from each speaker but the one that spoke to me the most was the third speaker, Dr. Elissa Epel, PhD. Dr. Epel is a Professor in Psychiatry at The University of California San Francisco and she is one heck of an amazing human being. Dr. Epel leads many research studies on stress and the effects it has on our health and longevity. It was from Dr. Epel that I gained many pearls of wisdom.

I know many people who don’t believe that meditation works for them. The cool thing about meditation is that there are about a million different practices. Also for the purposes of this article I will use the terms mindfulness and meditation interchangeably. Mindfulness equates to being fully in the present moment. Practices can range from sitting alone in silence for extended periods of time, to going for a walk in nature, or even playing sports (entering the zone). People practice mindfulness in many different forms sometimes without realization.

What was amazing about Dr. Epel is she was very thorough in explaining the science behind mindfulness. The how and the why. By definition the mind is the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences moment to moment, which includes their environment, their bodies, and thoughts. It is everything that we feel from the temperature outside to the self criticism inside.

I often discuss with my colleagues the connection between the mind and the body. Much like the chicken and the egg one of the questions I wrestle with is what comes first, the feelings of the body or the emotions of the mind? According to Dr. Epel the feelings of the body shape the mind. The mind is also something that is not easily measured. We can measure pieces such as blood flow, attention, and even compassion but these are all parts of the sum. My intent going into going into the daylong was to walk away with something to share, the following bullets are key takeaways I learned from Dr. Epel;

    • “Context shapes cognition” we are easily influenced by our environment (people, places, and things) this perhaps explains why the community aspect of CrossFit is so integral
    • Our natural state of being (default mode network) exists in the midline prefrontal cortex of our brain. With regular mindfulness practice (about 7 months) our thinking shifts to being more aware of actual reality you can see all of this via brain signatures (neuroscans)
    • “Selfing” one of Dr. Epel’s terms creates the illusion that we are separate and leads to feelings of depression and ruminant thoughts (a wandering mind) in the mind which leads to loneliness which she stated is a “sickness of the mind and body”
    • Stress in the body = unconscious stress. We can trick our minds into thinking everything is okay but our bodies hold onto that stress and elicit a stress response
    • When we sleep at night our stress response is supposed to “dip” but if our bodies still feel stressed and do not dip. This has been associated with more occurence of chronic disease.
    • Positive stress (exercise), breathing, and meditation, are ways that you can activate your parasympathetic nervous system to to control your physiology in a better way and lower the stress response.
    • Situations that we know have an end and that we are in control of are positive stressors that add to our lifespan (Hour long CrossFit class anyone?)
    • You can remind yourself you are safe by giving yourself safety cues, it is as simple as being in an environment that you feel safe in and actually telling yourself you are safe and trying to feel it in the body
    • We need more self-compassion in the west. Unique to our western culture is our vulnerability of social stress and our inner critic. Social stress is our common condition
    • Overcoming social stress is about finding emotional independence and not being attached to conditions
  • Loneliness is as dangerous as smoking and causes inflammatory responses in the body

Dr. Epel has a book “The Telomere Effect” which I purchased and am currently reading. In it she discusses her work on telomeres which are parts of our cell whose lengthening and shortening are associated with aging. Behaviors that are detrimental to our health = shorter telomeres and in effect, shorter healthspan and quicker entry into chronic disease. On the other hand behaviors that are beneficial to our health can stall the shortening of our telomeres and in some cases even lengthen them. Now more than ever the reasons for living a healthy life are backed by science. So why don’t we do it?

The truth is it is not as simple as it seems.Turn on the television and within half an hour you’ll see 5-6 different fast food ads. Exercise can be a very vulnerable activity. Without support, a person that comes from a family that suffers from chronic disease may not be able to make the necessary changes to live a longer more quality life. Why should they? Their family and friends likely struggle with making healthy choices themselves and thus the cycle continues.

Health Coaching is one of the newest and fastest growing professional fields. One in two americans has a chronic disease, one in four have multiple chronic diseases. The need for a collaborative health model that is client centered is needed now more than ever. What do I mean by client centered? I mean that the client needs to take charge of their own health. Intrinsic motivation (or self motivation) is the key to reversing this most vexing problem that we face in the US. Were everyone to have enough will power to make the changes necessary to lead healthy lives there would be no need for the health coach. This however is not the case, and as it turns out willpower is a finite resource.

After Saturday the fire in my heart grew tenfold and a lot of pieces came together. The journey to better health is not easy but it is possible. “Many hands make light work”  this is where the health coach comes in. The client holds the keys within. It is our job to help evoke the person that our clients truly are and wish to be for themselves, and their loved ones. Their best self. Through, accountability, support, and compassion. I believe we are in the middle of a health revolution and not only is the future fit, but the future is one that is full of health, self-love, and compassion.

By Julie Shepherd

We talk a lot about the importance of building strength in our athletes.  The benefits are vast and include increasing speed, power, endurance, explosiveness, and reducing the risk of injuries.  But there are many aspects to building a strong athlete outside of just strength they do not get enough attention. Today we are going to start a four part series on building the whole athlete.  Our topics will include, nutrition, sleep, mindset, and strength. We will dive a little deeper into each of these topics and discuss the importance they all hold and how if one is “off” it can affect all.  Our focus today will be on the topic of nutrition.

 

As coaches, we know what an important role nutrition plays in how our athletes perform in training and games.  Not only do we need to think about what the athletes eat and drink before and after games, but also leading up to competition and training days. In today’s article we will tackle the topic of what to eat and when.  First, let’s go over the macronutrients and what role they play in athletic performance.

 

Proteins:  Responsible for building, maintenance, and recovery of the muscles.  

 

Carbohydrates: Provide energy for the body.

 

Fats:  Energy source for longer duration activity, assists in keeping hormones in balance, and helps regulate the level of inflammation in the body.

 

Eating a well balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins,and fats is important for overall performance.  Eating whole foods and limiting the amount of processed and high sugar foods is always the best option.  Your athletes should try and eat a variety of foods to help ensure you get all your essential vitamins and minerals.  If you have an athlete that is a vegetarian they can get protein by eating beans, lentils, and nut butters, to name a few.  

 

Nutrition Before Trainings:

 

Athletes are busy with school and activities and I know it can be hard to get a snack in before training, but it is important.  If they go into practice hungry their risk of injury increases. Their muscles may not be supplied with enough energy and they can be distracted by their hunger.  There are many small snacks they can choose from such as a small sandwich with chicken or lunch meat, a piece of fruit with cheese, or a low sugar energy bar.

 

It is important that athletes allow enough time for digestion as 60-80% of your blood supply goes to the muscles in use during physical activity.  This decreases the available blood supply to your stomach that is needed for digestion. Without enough time alloted to digestion the athlete can feel uncomfortable during training experiencing cramps, or gassy feelings, which can distract  

Them. In addition to these uncomfortable feelings the athlete will not be able to access this fuel during physical activity.  Eating 30-60 minutes before training may allow enough time for proper digestion.

 

Game Day Nutrition:

 

What your athlete eats on game day will depend on the time of their first game.  If they have a mid-morning or early afternoon game, they can eat a full meal for breakfast and a small snack for lunch.  Some good options include:

-eggs, toast/bagel, with fresh fruit,

-yogurt and granola

-fruit smoothie

-sandwich with protein such as chicken or lunchmeat,

-pasta with protein and a salad.  

Steer them clear of high fat/greasy foods as these take longer to digest and can make them feel sluggish.  

 

Following a game, it is important for them to eat something within two hours.  Encourage your athletes to eat carbohydrates to refuel the muscles and protein for repair and growth.  If they will have a second game, make sure they eat a light meal no more than 60 minutes before the game.  

 

As coaches, we want to make sure athletes are properly fueled to be able to perform to their best ability, play to the final whistle, and reduce the risk of injury.  It is important for us to be a good example and practice what we preach. If we are snacking on sugary, heavy/greasy food, it will be hard for them to listen to our suggestion.  Show them how fueling your body with the highest quality whole foods will allow them to put their best foot forward when they step onto the court, field, etc.

 

Our Specialty is Not Specializing

By Michael Crespo

One of the things about the CrossFit methodology that has always appealed to me is our definition of fitness. CrossFit defines fitness as “a physical capacity that would lend itself well to any and all contingencies”. The idea of preparing for the “unknown and the unknowable” has appealed to my soul ever since I first read about it in the CrossFit Journal.

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A Broader Light

By Michael Crespo

This month instead of our usual client spotlight piece we wanted to cast a broader light on the many new faces who have recently joined our Community. You might have noticed that class sizes feel a little bigger, and by now there is no doubt that some of these new faces are new gym friends.

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Game Ball

By Julie Shepherd

 

When I was in high school I was a cheerleader and ran track.  Although I absolutely loved my experiences with these two sports, I never played a team sport and as an adult it is definitely something I feel like I missed out on.  The camaraderie of a team is something special. Your teammates cheer you on when you achieve good things and they rally around you when you feel like you made a mistake.  You grab the trophy as a team and walk off the field as a team talking about how you can do better next time. It’s a thing of beauty to watch and more often than not, it brings tears to my eyes when I witness this team mentality.  

 

We were fortunate to be a part of this team mentality over the last nine weeks while working with four teams (10u, 11u, 12u and 13u) from the BStings Baseball Club.   Each team had a unique personality, but they all exhibited that special team camaraderie.

What was great about our time with the BStings was that I believe we learned just as much from them as they did from us.  

 

Today, I want to share with you three things I learned from the BStings over the last nine weeks:

1.Be Flexible.  We go into each and every class with a plan on what we will teach.  It is a progression from the previous training session to build on the skills we want them to “master” by the end of their nine week program.  Admittedly, I like things to go as planned, but we quickly learned some days we had to change things on the fly. Some days we needed structure and others needed to be a little more free flowing.  I think it is important to take cues from your athletes on what they need on any particular day, and when we did this the classes were successful.

2.Have Fun.  We only have 45 minutes with each team, which is not a lot of time.  We wanted to make sure they left each class learning something new. On occasion, we might have gotten a little too serious trying to get it all done.  There were a few boys on the team that always seemed to remind us in a subtle way that having fun is part of the learning process. From the dancing, to the infamous yell one of the boys would do about every 5 minutes, it always put a smile on my face and kept me in check.

3.Confidence breeds Engagement.  The first few weeks most of the work we did was new to everyone.  We needed more time to explain the movements and this sometimes turned into less engagement and attentiveness from the teams.  I believe the cause of this was because they were not confident with what they were doing, and thus they reverted to making jokes or not paying attention.  As the weeks went on and they gained confidence with the program, there paid more attention to what they were doing. Adding a little weight to a movement or more reps of push ups (they loved doing the push ups) kept them engaged.  By the final week I was proud there was less instruction and more doing.

 

I hope in the future we can work with them again.  I could not be more proud of them and the effort they gave during the nine weeks with us.  I will conclude with an anecdote on my final day with the 13U team. We had a great session and as I was about to start cleaning up, one of the boys called me over to the team.  He handed me a ball they had all signed and said, “thank you” from the whole team. On that day, at that moment, I felt like I was part of a team. I will cherish that “game ball” forever!

 

Thank you BStings!

 

 

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