Invigorating Stretches to get you through your Midday Slump

By Lindsay Nova

Who doesn’t feel tired after lunch at work? Brain fog and lethargy in the afternoon are common problems many people face in the workplace or even at home. While an afternoon cup of coffee may pick you right up, there are natural alternatives that can be just as invigorating- and they don’t have any side effects! Next time you feel sluggish midday, try stretching your body instead and notice how it makes you feel. Here are some you can try today:

Open Your Heart

Stand up where ever you are with your feet in a parallel position. Place your hands on your hips and draw your elbows closer toward one another. Begin to lean back and lift your gaze upward, expanding your chest. Breathe deeply here as you extend the spine and open the chest. This stretch in the front of the neck stimulates your thyroid gland, which through the secretion of hormones, can help regulate our energy levels.

Ragdoll Forward Fold

Learn to let go of stress in this stretch. With your feet in parallel, fold forward at the hips. Bend your knees as much as you want to. Grab opposite elbows and let your head hang heavy toward the floor. Release any tension. This is also good for stimulating your thyroid to regulate your adrenals during those afternoon slumps, because it stretches the neck in the opposite direction of the first stretch.

Side Stretch

Re-invigorate your body by stretching your lungs- literally. Stand tall on both feet. Reach your arms up to the sky. Clasp your right hand over the left wrist. Pull your left arm over to the right side and feel the stretch in the left side of your body. Think of creating more space between your hips and your rib cage. Breathe deeply into your lungs, filling your body and muscles with fresh stimulating oxygen. Change your grip to stretch to the other side.

High Lunge

If you have been sitting all day, chances are your hip flexors are feeling tight. Start with your right foot forward, knee bent, and step your left foot as far back as you can, keeping the heel lifted. Hips are completely square and the front knee is bent right over the ankle so the leg is at a 90 degree angle. Reach your arms up to the sky to stretch your chest and arms, too. Make sure you do both sides!

Hamstrings + Shoulders

Step your feet wide with your toes pointed forward. Interlace your hands behind your hips, or grab a strap if your shoulders are tight. Fold forward and reach your arms overhead, keeping your hands together with the head pointed downward. Feel the stretch in the back of your legs and shoulders.
Next time you feel fatigued in the afternoon, get up and move around! Use your own body to create the energy you need to stay productive and alert throughout your day.

How to use Running for Stress Relief this Holiday Season

It’s no secret that the holiday season often brings on a downward spiral of stress and fatigue.  You might notice that you feel exhausted or frazzled as you pass by hundreds of Christmas cards and plastic-wrapped gift sets at the mall, or maybe you find yourself a little more easily angered now that the season of pumpkin spice lattes and beautiful fall colors have passed their prime.  To make matters worse, it’s getting harder and harder to fit in your daily run or workout amidst all the hustle and bustle as the new year approaches.  Regardless of how stress rears its ugly head in your own life, this holiday season is a great time to get back on track with your running program.  It’s not just for weight loss and heart health: running has been shown to be a potent stress-buster and mood-lifter and might be just what you need to keep a level head over the winter and beyond.   Here are a few ways to use running as therapy to decrease stress and keep your mental health in check during the tense holiday season.

Little By Little

You’re probably familiar with “runner’s high”, a term used to describe a euphoric feeling that exercisers often experience during periods of moderate- to high-intensity exercise.  While there are several theories as to which neurotransmitters are actually responsible for creating a “runner’s high”, there’s no question that you’ll feel more powerful, optimistic, and full of energy on the days you choose to go for a run.  Stress can wreak havoc on your energy levels and cognitive function, but research has shown that hitting the pavement for as little as ten minutes can kick stress and moodiness to the curb and boost your energy levels for the rest of the day (Hansen, Stevens, & Coast, 2001).  Even if you think you’d rather stay inside wrapped in a blanket than lace up your sneakers for a quick three-miler, remember how you good always feel once your cool-down starts and it’s time to head home: it’s always worth it.    

Find A Rhythm

Creating a new positive habit or reinforcing an old one can work wonders on your mental health by helping you mark each day as a success.  Making a point of sticking to regularly scheduled runs during your week, even if they’re short, will help you feel a sense of accomplishment as you go to bed each night.  That sense of accomplishment will encourage and motivate you each day and soon you’ll have a healthy habit to keep you on the move and feeling optimistic even through stressful moments this holiday season.  Plus, it’s a few minutes that you can take for yourself, with no phone calls and no emails, during a time usually crammed full of caring for family, friends, and co-workers. Write your scheduled runs in your daybook or calendar so you have a solid reminder to take care of yourself and your needs, and let friends and family know how important it is that you stick to your plan.

Have A Sense Of Purpose

Setting and achieving goals can be therapeutic too.  A good goal doesn’t have to be lofty; its purpose here is to give you a focal point when the season around you seems blurry and unfocused.  Is there an area of town you haven’t explored yet?  Your goal could be to do at least one new running route each week.  Are you skimping out on speed work?  Make a point of scheduling fartlek sessions into your plan.  As you pass these small milestones you’ve made for yourself, your sense of success and accomplishment will soar.    

Sprint To The Finish

If you’re finding it hard to fit your runs into your busy holiday schedule, sprint training might be an option for you.   Adding some high-intensity sprints to your running program allows you to shorten your running time, plus get an added boost in cardiovascular and muscular endurance.  In addition, sprint training has been linked to an increase in memory and cognitive function (Praag, 2008), two qualities that tend to fall by the wayside while juggling the holiday season’s demands.  When you feel pressed for time, try implementing a session of interval, or fartlek, training: periods of light jogging interspersed with short, all-out sprints.  A typical session might consist of two minutes of light jogging with thirty seconds of sprinting and repeating five to ten times.  What used to be a light hour-long run can be easily shortened to 15 or 20 minutes while still keeping your heart and lungs fit and strong and your head clear and focused.  Even adding just one sprint session a week will make you feel like you have more time to accomplish your holiday chores.

Get Some Fresh Air

As the new year approaches, the days get shorter and shorter until it seems like the sun has completely disappeared!  You might find yourself getting a little bummed out from all the darkness, and there’s a reason: no exposure to sunshine means you produce a lot less vitamin D,  a micronutrient that’s been connected to seasonal affective disorder and winter moodiness (Kerr, et al., 2015).  Getting a run in during a sunrise or sunset can boost your vitamin D production and fend off those seasonal mental funks you might find yourself in.  If you’re cooped up in your home or office building all day, getting a blast of fresh air, even if it’s cold, can help you recharge and stay productive through your work day.  If you can fit a run in over your lunch break when the sun is at its highest, you’ll find yourself ready to take on the rest of the day with a whole new outlook.  You might even be able to convince a few co-workers to go for a dash with you for a casual, stress-free social event.

Get A Running Buddy

Ask a friend, family member, or co-worker if they’d like to do a few runs with you.  Our interactions with others during the holiday season tend to be task-oriented and attached to demands or requests.  Getting a running buddy gives you a chance to have some social interaction in a casual, friendly setting while still fitting your run into your day.  Talking together about the things you are looking forward to over the holidays this year can revive your positive mindset, plus the added company gives you some accountability to keep your running habit in high gear when things get stressful.  You might even be able to find a local running club to run with a larger group for the same benefits.

Even though the holidays bring stress and frustration on each year, it’s easy to use your running habit to your advantage as a way to lower your stress levels and elevate your mental health.  Implementing just one of these tips can make drastic changes in your productivity and will add a sense of accomplishment and relief to boost you forward into another successful training season.


References
Hansen, Cheryl J., Larry C. Stevens, and J. Richard Coast. “Exercise Duration and Mood State: How Much Is Enough to Feel Better?” Health Psychology 20.4 (2001): 267-75. Web.
Kerr, David C.r., David T. Zava, Walter T. Piper, Sarina R. Saturn, Balz Frei, and Adrian F. Gombart. “Associations between Vitamin D Levels and Depressive Symptoms in Healthy Young Adult Women.” Psychiatry Research 227.1 (2015): 46-51. Web.

van Praag, H. Neuromol Med (2008) 10: 128. doi:10.1007/s12017-008-8028-z

20 Ways to Stay Fit and Healthy This Thanksgiving

This article was published on The Greatist. You can view the original here.

Here’s some serious food for thought: People probably consume 3,000 to 5,000 calories around the Thanksgiving table. Yikes. While eating often takes center stage during the holidays, that doesn’t we have to give up on good health. Check out these tips for a fit and healthy holiday, without sacrificing any flavor or fun.

Fitness

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade doesn’t air all day. Skip crowding around the TV and try to fit in some fitness in (the more the merrier!).

1. Get outside.

Up early? Go for a walk or run to enjoy some pre-festivities alone time, or grab your favorite second cousin to catch up. For something a bit more competitive, round up a group of family or friends and hit the backyard or local park for some flag football.

2. Do it fast.

Don’t have an hour to hit the gym? Don’t worry. Try an at-home circuit workout or Tabata training.  All take 20 minutes (or less!) to get in a good workout.

3. Split up the chores.

Everyday activities (like tidying up the family room) can burn more calories than you’d think. So offer to do the dishes or swiffer the floor—not only does it lend a hand, it gets you moving too!

4. Bust a move.

Nothing says family bonding more than a dance party. Gather a group, turn up the tunes, and get the blood flowing. It may help you digest all that stuffing too.

5. Find a turkey trot.

If up for the challenge, run a race Thanksgiving morning! Find a Turkey trot in your town (they range from a totally doable one-mile to 10K), sign up, and add crossing the finish line to your holiday to-do list.

Health

Before heading to the kitchen, keep these healthy tips in mind to enjoy the festive food without going overboard.

6. Eat in the a.m.

Skipping breakfast in order to “save your appetite” for dinner probably isn’t the best idea. Not breaking the fast ‘til the afternoon may lead to binging later on (read: four servings of mashed potatoes).

7. Hydrate.

Make sure to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Not drinking enough H2O could spark hunger pangs, which may actually be thirst.

8. Go easy on the apps.

Cheese and crackers can happen any day of the year. Save your appetite (and calorie consumption!) for dinnertime.

9. Use a smaller plate.

Stick all those Thanksgiving sides on a smaller plate. Research showsit’ll help you eat 22 percent fewer calories, while a bigger plate of food may be licked clean, even if we’re not hungry.

10. Dim the lights.

Studies suggest that eating in softer light may lead to consuming less food. So create a nice intimate ambiance that everyone will love.

11. Chew slowly.

How quickly we eat really does matter, research shows. In one study, fast eaters consumed around three ounces of food per minute, while slowpokes only ate about two ounces. Chewing slowly could mean less calories consumed, so take a chill pill when digging into the dinner plate.

12. Beware of dangerfoods.

Be careful with foods that aren’t as healthy as they seem. (Green bean casserole, anyone?) Gratins, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce may hide some sneaky ingredients high in fat and sugar.

13. Watch out for liquid calories.

Unfortunately, calories from alcohol can sneak up on us during the holidays. Go easy on the booze and stick to healthier cocktails like a vodka soda or Bloody Mary to avoid excess sugar.

14. Skip the seconds.

Wait 20 minutes (the amount of time it probably takes to feel full) before filling up the dinner plate again. Unless you’re really hungry, save some food for leftovers—the best part about Thanksgiving, right?

15. Don’t deny dessert.

The holidays shouldn’t be about restricting certain foods—just try to enjoy them in moderation! Stick to one slice of pie (or try one of these healthy dessert recipes) instead of going cold turkey at the dessert table.

Happiness

An overdose of family and food can be stressful. Here are some ways to feel rested, calm, and in control.

16. Inhale, exhale.

17. Write it down.

If choosing to count calories over the holidays, track your food in a journal so you know how much you’re consuming. (Wait, I did have a hearty breakfast!) This will keep you in control of what and how much you’re actually eating.

18. Meditate.

Whether enduring too much family time or unable to resist eating a whole pumpkin pie (we get it), meditation can help lower stress levels. All you need is a few minutes and a quiet corner. (Need some guidance? Check out this video on how to meditate while your mind is racing.)

19. Get enough sleep.

Make sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep the night before Thanksgiving. Not getting enough sleep could amp up appetite levels the following day. (Can’t sleep? Try these tips to catch some ZZZ’s.)

20. Give yourself some wiggle-room.

At the end of the day, Thanksgiving should be enjoyed with loved ones. Don’t stress about enjoying some good food with even better company!

Originally published November 2012. Updated November 2015.

Lumo Run Success Story: How Lumo Run has helped this user shave 30 seconds off his mile time

Guest post by Lumo Run user Jose S.

I love my new Lumo Run. It is completely unnoticeable attached to the back of my shorts. I wondered about the clip, but I forget it is there – usually until well after the run is over and I’m taking the shorts off. I’ve had zero problems with the app or syncing with my iPhone. The appearance of the app is sharp and easy to navigate. The videos and text on what the data are measuring are clear and easy to understand.

Most important though is the data it provides. I love numbers and collecting data on my runs, so I’ve purchased lots of gadgets searching for that extra bit of data that will help me improve my running. GPS, heart rate monitors, power meters, cadence, etc. With everything else, it was always initially interesting to get the data, but then what do you do with it? How do you use it to get better? This is where the Lumo Run is the best! It coaches you on which measurement needs the most work, and gives you specific drills to improve on that. The drills are short, simple, and the videos in the app make them easy to learn, but the best part is that they actually work! The first measurement it had me work on based upon my own running form was cadence. Using the drills and the voice over coaching I’m definitely getting closer to my goal, sometimes even exceeding it.

Best of all is that it’s not just the measurement that is improving. I really do think my form is improving. It still feels a little uncomfortable to get my cadence up to 180, but as I continue to do so I am seeing various improvements in my running. First off, my pace has increased. On a normal steady-state runs I’ve seen 20-30 second per mile improvement. On speed workouts it has been a little less, but still a definite improvement. In addition, this improvement has come without having to increase my heart rate. Second, I notice that my legs (upper hamstrings) and lower back are no longer sore after my runs. I am guessing that is a result of there being less pounding on the ground as my form improves. Another interesting benefit is that during my runs I seem to notice my fatigue less. I think some of that is psychological as I am not focusing on how I feel at the moment, but rather on getting that fast turnover in my training. I find I really have to concentrate on cadence to increase it, and that takes my mind off of feeling tired. In addition, instead of telling myself to “run faster” which of course you then hear yourself say “I’m going as fast as I can already!” I’m telling myself to speed up my cadence/leg turnover – this seems to be much more easily accepted by my brain at least.

I’ve only been using it for a month, so to see this much improvement already really has me excited. I hope the gains continue, and maybe even less injury as I continue to work on the other aspects of my form.

5 Really Great Reasons Why Good Posture Is Super Important

This article was originally featured on Huffington Post by Ann Brenoff. Read the original here

So it turns out, your mother was right after all: Good posture really matters ― even in your older years.

Slouching impacts you in ways you wouldn’t have imagined, says Dr. Charles Wang, the COO and co-founder of Lumo Bodytech, a company that has brought tech to the quest for good posture. The Lumo Lift gives you a vibrating reminder when you start to slouch. Kind of like Mom, but in the form of a wearable device.

Wang helped us compile this list of five reasons why good posture matters.

1. Bad posture can adversely impact your sex life.

Research shows that slouching ― the opposite of “power posing,” meaning standing up tall and straight ― results in low energy and low self-esteem. Standing straight up with your shoulders back and neck aligned with the rest of your spine is considered a “power pose” that can boost your energy and confidence levels. By regularly practicing good posture, you’ll feel more confident and energized in and out of the bedroom.

2.  Slouching makes you look older. 

If you’ve spent years sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer, you may be more likely to develop that unnatural hump in your neck or back resulting from “text neck.” For women, the forward slouching motion and rounding of the shoulders can cause breast sagging. To avoid your slouching from developing into skeletal or spinal issues, stay mindful of your posture in any position you’re in, whether you’re seated, standing, or walking, said Wang.

3. Bad posture can damage your back.

Yes, of course you knew that. Did you know that back pain is the second most common reason people visit the doctor every year, and poor posture is directly correlated to the increase in back pain in people who spend a great deal of their time sitting. Lumo Bodytech’s posture database research found that during an average workday, people spend as much as 38 minutes per hour slouching.

4. Poor posture can cause irregular bowel movements.

We kid you not. It’s not just your back that will feel the affects of your slouching ― your intestines will take a hit, too. Having good posture means your stomach and intestines can easily push food through ― but poor posture can cause your gastrointestinal system to lock up or function poorly. Research has also shown that people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome who suffer from bloating and gas can ease their symptoms by standing up straight.

5. Bad posture makes you more selfish.

Research shows that sitting upright helps reduce self-focus, allowing you to tune in more on the needs and emotions of the people around you.

How to fall in love with running

Guest post from Harry Wilson, the author of GoodHealthPlanning

Running is the easiest and cheapest way to get fit fast and it’s unbelievably therapeutic too! But what if running just isn’t your thing? Growing up I was always much happier playing in a field with a ball or on a court with a racket than going on a run. Until I signed up for my first marathon in 2013, and after that I kept on running. It just clicked and now I can’t stop! Here are my tips on how you too can fall in love with running:

  1. Don’t time yourself or worry about pacing. It’s all well and good if you are a professional runner or training for a specific race, but if you’re spending your run thinking about how far you have still to go or how fast (or slow) you’re going, you won’t be able to enjoy it.
  1. Go somewhere new. 18 months ago I moved to South London to an area I barely knew. The way I got to find all the great places around was by running. Just put your trainers on and go and see where you end up. It’s a great way to explore if you’re on holiday or bored of your usual lap of the park.
  1. Music or silence. It’s one or the other for me. Either you want to be romping along to your favourite tunes (I recommend a classic 90’s girl-power playlist), or in silence, taking in what’s around you. A random shuffle of your iPod won’t do it, you’ll get distracted skipping through all those songs that you’ve heard 1000 times already.
  1. Run in the rain. Trust me on this one. When it’s wet and miserable and you’ve had a disastrous day at work the last thing you want to do is go out into the cold. But instead of stuffing your face and wallowing, force yourself to go out, even if just for 20 minutes! Letting go of all your stress and anxiety and getting soaked with rain and sweat is the best therapy. This is tried and tested, believe me.
  1. Run with other people. As with any experience, it’s all the more fun to share it with other people. Local running clubs, meet-ups or friends. Feed off that group energy and just see how much easier it becomes.

And, finally…

  1. Start calling yourself a runner. Being a ‘runner’ isn’t like calling yourself a Doctor, it’s just a mindset. I run an OK 5k, a sloppy 10k, an average half marathon and I barely made it through my first marathon on two legs! I’m no Paula Radcliffe but I call myself a runner because I love to run. Follow these steps and you might too!

 

Lumo Lift Success Story: This Dental Hygienist uses Lumo Lift to prevent back pain

Guest post from Lumo Lift user, Christine B. 

I have been working as a Registered Dental Hygienist for eight years. One of the symptoms known to my profession is back problems. It is difficult to have patients lay in the proper position, which causes me to do a lot of hunching over and leaning. I found myself exploring options to prevent future back problems as I am still fairly young. I came across Lumo lift on one of my professional dental hygiene pages that I belong to and decided to purchase one for myself.

One of the big selling points was the price.  I began to use the lumo lift daily at work and as expected, I was doing a lot of slouching and needed to correct my posture. The gentle buzzing reminder often corrects me. I’ve found that the longer I used it, the more I could anticipate when it would correct me and found I was already correcting myself.

I like that it has different options for me to wear it It came with two different colors to wear outside my shirt so I can have it blend with my scrubs and be discreet if I do choose. I’ve had a lot of coworkers and friends ask me about it and I love to spread the word. Not only to colleagues but also to friends because it seems bad posture is a problem for a lot of people.

I’m now noticing more and more that my back pain has become less and less. I don’t ever leave for work without my lumo lift. I’m also impressed with the many features it includes. The lumo lift doesn’t need to be charged every day and also charges quickly. So there is an option on the super helpful app that lets me know how much battery life is left so that I know when I need to charge.

Overall I think that this was an incredible investment in myself, my career and my health. I find myself feeling better and happier and posture is extremely important in my life. I recommend this product every time someone asks me about it or mentions any type of back pain or posture products. I’m sure this product is very helpful for everyday life and other careers and jobs as well, but for dental professionals it’s pretty much a necessity. Lumo lift has changed my life and I will continue to wear and use it every day.

Lumo Run Guest Post: Getting il-LUMO-nated! Part 1

Guest post from Lumo Run user, Susan Oyler. You can read the original post on her blog ESSENTIAL OYL.

Last month, I was awarded a Lumo.Run smart running sensor as a runner-up prize from the #ThisIsMyCoach contest.  Upon delivery, I quickly tore into the box and started getting acquainted with my new gadget.  You clip this powerful little device on the back of your shorts and it analyzes your run form based on several metrics:
•    Cadence (how frequently your foot contacts the ground, per minute)
•    Bounce (also known as vertical oscillation, is the up and down movement that your body experiences while you run)
•    Braking (the change in forward speed experienced by your body during a step)
•    Drop (the side to side motion of the pelvis)
•    Rotation (the twisting motion of the pelvis)

As an engineer, I believe the more gadgets, the better!  I LOVE data and digging into numbers.  Also, as an engineer, I know that no patterns can be established from a single data point.  In order to properly identify patterns in my run form, I decided to put in a month of running with my sensor and reviewing the data.  As a busy mom who frequently forgets things, I LOVE that this device is waterproof and will survive the wash cycle (I’ve been guilty of leaving it clipped on the back of my shorts)!

After my first run with the sensor, I was REALLY nervous to look at the analysis.  I was worried it was going to tell me I was a MESS!  I was happy to see that my form reflects my running background.  For the five different criteria, my numbers were pretty much at, or near, the threshold values.  Phew!

It was really interesting looking at the data from this past month.  Especially comparing my slow, easy runs to my fast, interval runs.  The two run types produced different areas for improvement.  For my slower runs, my cadence was a bit below the lower threshold of 180 spm.   For my faster runs, my bounce moderately exceeded the threshold value of 3.30 inches.  The criteria that was frequently exceeded for both the slow and fast runs was braking (threshold value of 1.31 ft/s).

With solid data collected and trends established, I have now identified the areas that need improvement.  That’s the other great thing about the Lumo.Run sensor.  It does more than just provide you analysis.  It provides you exercises and drills to work on to improve your specific issues with your run form.  And now that I’ve completed my last race for the season, I have more time to work on improving swim/bike/run efficiency and strength.

 Over the next month or two, I am going to focus on the drills and exercises recommended by the app and follow up with a second post to detail my progress to improve my run form.

 

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