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Mental Health


Give It A Rest

Cardinal rule of exercise – you have to allow your body to rest and repair. Although this is widely known, I often talk to people who never rest and exercise 7 days a week.

Why Rest Is Important:

  • The body repairs and strengthens itself in-between workouts. Continuous training can actually weaken the strongest athlete.stock-footage-woman-drinks-coffee
  • During recovery, the body adapts to the stress of exercise and the real training effect takes place – meaning, this is where you build muscle.
    • Conditioning requires a balance between overload (pushing the muscles) and recovery. Too much overload or too little recovery result in both physical and psychological symptoms.
  • Rest helps maintain a better balance between home, work &  fitness goals.
  • Sleep is key to keeping hormone levels steady which aid in stress and muscle recovery, as well as a stable mood.  Sleep deprivation can also affect aerobic endurance.
  • Too  few rest and recovery days can lead to overtraining syndrome : when you train beyond the body’s ability to recover.

Common Warning Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining Syndrome 

  • Washed-out feeling, tired, drained, lack of energy
  • Mild leg soreness, general aches and pains
  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • Sudden drop in performance
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Decreased immunity (increased number of colds, and sore throats)
  • Decrease in training capacity / intensity
  • Moodiness, irritability or depression
  • Loss of enthusiasm for working out
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased incidence of injuries
  • A compulsive need to exercise 

Principal of Adaptation & How It Applies To Recovery

When we undergo the stress of physical exercise, our body adapts and becomes more efficient – Principal of Adaptation (also discussed in our “The Power of Your Heart” blog entry). When you do not properly rest from the stress of physical exercise, your body cannot adapt as easily to the changes.

The body can only tolerate so much stress before it breaks down and risks injury. Doing too much, too quickly will result in muscle damage and have adverse effects (too many days of exercise). Likewise, doing too little, too slowly will not result in improvement (going through the motions).

The other key component of building your fitness level is to vary your workouts between cardio and strength conditioning. All too often, people will focus on one or the other and constantly work the same muscles without rest. Ever try a new class and couldn’t move the next morning? Excellent example of muscles you are not training in your normal workout. Varying your workouts allows the muscles you typically use to rest and helps your body adapt to change (improve your fitness level).

My Take

People always ask me what I do for my workouts. I am a pretty scheduled kinda girl who likes to plan my week. I work out 5 days/wk with 2 days rest.

3 days I vary my workout with high intensity interval and strength training at K2 fitness. In between those days, I do 2 days/wk of interval sprints for 30 minutes on my treadmill (5 min running/2 min sprint circuits).

I believe in those 2 days of rest (as hard as it is sometimes to mentally convince myself to not workout). I feel so refreshed when I  go back to my workouts.

When I workout, I workout hard and make every minute count. It’s better to maximize your time at the gym and work hard the days you go then going through the motions every day and not improving your fitness level. Workout, repair and workout again.

And think of all the time you will save with less days at the gym.

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It’s Not Just a Luxury

Last week I had the pleasure of meeting a woman named Helga. She was my masseuse. She was in her 70’s and one of the strongest, healthiest, wisest women I have ever met.

In a matter of an hour, she taught me life philosophies, including not taking things so seriously and taking care of your body as a top priority. She believes women take too much time taking care of others, and not enough time taking care of themselves.  And guilt is over-rated.

Working for many spas in my marketing career, I knew the importance of rejuvenating your body and healing, but I always looked at treatments as a luxury and felt massage2so guilty when I did indulge. Helga reiterated to me the importance of massage and how many cultures require family members to massage themselves daily to ensure their bodies functions optimally.

For the first time, it really resonated with me that massage may not just be a luxury, but a necessity. Massage has been a healing technique since ancient civilizations.

What does massage do for you?

Massage is the manipulation of layers of muscle and connective tissue using various techniques. It enhances muscle function, aids in healing, decreases muscle reflex activity and promotes relaxation and well-being. Specifically it can help:

  • Alleviate low-back pain and improve range of motion.
  • Enhance immunity by activating the body’s natural defense system.
  • Exercise and stretch weak, tight or atrophied muscles.
  • Improve circulation by pumping oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.
  • Help athletes prepare for or recover from strenuous activity.
  • Increase joint flexibility.
  • Lessen depression and anxiety.
  • Relieve pain and migraines by releasing endorphins – the body’s natural painkiller.
  • Promote tissue regeneration to reduce scar tissue and stretch marks.
  • Assist with shorter, easier labor for expectant mothers.

My advice? Make an appointment for your next massage and consider scheduling them monthly. Dare I say I have appointments for 3 this month?? That’s a first.

Just a reminder…Skin Deep Salon & Spa is one of our discounted favorites. You receive a 10% discount when you show your Heels to Laces VIP discount card.  Another favorite masseuse is Sharon Priore – she works out of the Summit Y: slpriore@yahoo.com.

If you have other recommendations, please share them by adding a comment to this post.

To leave a comment on this article or any other blog entry, please fill in the “Leave a Comment” box under each blog entry on our site: Heels to Laces

  • lisa

    Love a good massage.

  • Lisa

    Thanks for the great tips!

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Boost Your Mood With Food

imagesMost of us are aware, at least on some level, that what we eat can affect our mood.  However, we generally don’t understand why or how.  There are many different avenues in which our food consumption can affect our mental health, but the primary physiological explanation is neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are the chemicals in our brain that regulate mood and behavior, and they are affected by our food intake.  Some of the most important neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine and endorphins.

  • When the brain makes serotonin, we tend to feel happier and more relaxed and are less likely to suffer from mood swings and depression.  Serotonin is also linked to feelings of satiety and satisfaction – which is very important when trying to avoid overeating or emotional eating.
  • High levels of dopamine are related to feelings of pleasure.  And, dopamine also helps with appetite control, focus and muscle coordination.
  • Endorphins, possibly the most well known neurotransmitter, are associated with euphoria and can act as natural painkillers.

Below are some of the foods that aid in the production of these and other neurotransmitters and have been shown to boost mood and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. 

Dark Chocolate:  There are scientific reasons why you feel happy after eating chocolate and one is called anandamide.  This is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression.  It is also believed that other chemicals in chocolate slow down the breakdown of this chemical, so it stays in your system longer allowing the ‘happy’ feelings to last.

Additionally, serotonin and endorphins are released when chocolate is eaten.  And, if all of this is not enough, chocolate also contains magnesium, which helps the body manufacture serotonin, that all-important calming brain chemical.

Bananas:  Bananas are rich in tyrosine, which is needed by your body to make dopamine, a natural chemical that boosts your mood.  They are also rich is B vitamins, especially B6, which helps sooth your nervous system.  And they are a good source of magnesium, another nutrient associated with positive moods.

Complex carbohydrates:  Foods such as whole-wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal and brown rice are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin in the brain. Other nutrient-rich carbohydrate choices include starchy root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes and corn) and legumes.

Foods Rich in Omega-3:  Coldwater fish, (such as wild salmon and mackerel) walnuts and sunflower seeds, support healthy function of the brain and nervous system and have been shown to elevate mood and reduce anxiety and depression.  Some studies have shown that omega-3 fats can be as effective as anti-depressant medication in treating depression.

Dark Green Vegetables:  Vegetables like spinach, asparagus and broccoli are all high in folate, a B vitamin, that is needed in the brain for the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine. One Harvard Medical study found that raising the level of folates in the diets of depressed patients helped improve their mood. 

Avocados:  Healthy fat like that those found in avocados helps raise dopamine levels and increase endorphins.

Purple Berries:  Anthocyanins are the pigments that give berries like blueberries and blackberries their deep color. These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine.

Probiotics:  These have been shown to improve mood.  Our bodies have serotonin receptors in our gut, and an imbalance in good and bad bacteria can disrupt the production/reception of serotonin. Probiotics keep levels of bad bacteria down. You can find probiotics in yogurt, cottage cheese and some cereals.

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