Minute 1: Save your sleep cycle this winter
Many of us did a celebratory sun salutation as we passed the winter solstice (December 21) last month. That means every day until next June will provide a little more daylight for us to pursue our favorite outdoor activities. The Old Farmer’s Almanac reminds us that “as the days get longer, the cold gets stronger,” meaning we still have to survive a lot more winter weather and limited daylight. The lack of sunlight can really throw off your circadian rhythm which can be bad for endurance athletes: “Study: how does lack of sleep affect running performance?” Researchers compared runners who got 2.5 extra hours of sleep to those who got 2.5 hours less, and not only did the runners who slept more perform better, they also had a lower rate of perceived exertion. The findings suggest addressing any sleep issues before increasing the intensity of your workouts for optimum results. That’s easier said than done when you’re unable to get adequate sunlight through the winter months. One tool that can help is a sunrise alarm clock. Here are “The 6 Best Sunrise Alarm Clocks to Help You Wake Up Energized.” Light exposure is the most significant cue for our sleep-wake schedules. Sunrise alarm clocks take advantage of this by gently introducing brightness at the start of your day, rather than relying on loud, jarring sounds to force you awake. They’re great for nighttime, too, as they can be dimmed and used to read before bed. That’s a whole lot better than reading off your phone, which emits a lot of stimulating blue light: “Why It’s Time to Ditch the Phone Before Bed.”
Minute 2: The hormone that protects your mind and body
If you keep working out, will you live forever? Sady, no. You may not even live that much longer than your couch-bound peers, but you will probably live better: “A new study reveals physical activity may be more about improving the quality of your life, rather than the length.” Maintaining physical and mental health as you age is no easy task, but luckily, endurance exercise does support both. In fact, research has shown that exercise is one of the strongest protectors against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Take a look at “Your Brain on Exercise” from Harvard Magazine. Researchers have identified a key hormone produced during endurance training that is central to maintaining cognitive function. Named after the Greek messenger god Iris, irisin limits neuroinflammation and promotes the growth of neural pathways in the brain. As if that isn’t amazing enough, irisin is believed to reduce the formation of excess fat cells in the body. See the details in “Irisin: The ‘Exercise Hormone’ Is a Fat-Fighting Phenomenon.” Essentially, irisin signals your body to burn fat as energy, during and after exercise, rather than storing it in the form of fatty tissue. The positive effects from exercise aren’t always as tangible as we’d like them to be. If you’re ever discouraged at your rate of fitness progress, remember that the work you’re putting in alters your hormones and chemistry for the better. #MindBodyBalance
Minute 3: Break in and lace your running shoes the right way
If you were a good boy or girl last year, Santa’s sleigh may have delivered you a new pair of running shoes. Or maybe, if you’re like us, you treated yourself to new kicks while you were gift shopping for family and friends. Either way, you should exercise some caution when you go out with the old shoes and in with the new. We like this new piece on “How To Break In New Running Shoes - UPDATED 2022.” The excessive stiffness of a new pair of shoes can cause blisters, or even injury in some cases. The first step you can take to loosen them up safely is by wearing them around the house for a few days. Next, consider using the new shoes for your warm up or cool down only, and hold onto your original pair for the bulk of your running. After you’ve put about 3 or 4 hours of wear on the new pair, they’ll be ready for longer runs. Let's say you’ve tried the new pair out, but you’re getting blisters from excess movement. Don’t ditch them right away, you may be able to solve the problem by tying your laces the proper way. It turns out, most of us have been doing it wrong, as you can see in “TikToker baffles viewers after sharing the ‘actual’ way to wear running shoes: ‘Why are we just learning this now?’” Ever notice those extra lace holes near your ankle? They’re called “heel locks,” and they can add quite a bit of stability to your kicks. Watch the video to see how they’re used.
Minute 4: Avoid these New Year’s resolution pitfalls
If you failed to uphold your New Year's resolutions over the past 2 years, we don’t blame you. It's hard to keep your promise of going to the gym more often when a global pandemic is forcing you to stay home. We’re optimistic that this year – once Omicron peaks – we’ll be worrying less about where we go in the world, but that means no more excuses. Recently, we brought you some tips about breaking down your goals into smaller, more attainable pieces. We’ve got another chunk of advice to show you how to make every goal count: “This is how long most people stick to their new year's resolutions (and how to beat it).” January 17th has become known as “Quitters Day,” partly because we set our sights on targets that are too abstract. Just saying “I want to lose weight” this year provides you with no solid plan of action. According to this piece in the New York Times: “How to Make (and Keep) a New Year's Resolution,” a good goal is a SMART goal, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Instead of the “lose weight” goal, fine tune your resolution with something like: “I will eat less junk food so I lose 5 pounds by June.” Don't be discouraged if you set a goal that turns out to be too ambitious. There is still value in writing down a goal that sets you into action.
Minute 5: Quick Intervals
It's no secret if you’re trying to get lean, you’re going to want plenty of protein in your diet. It contributes to muscle growth, and leaves you feeling full and satisfied so you aren't tempted to snack between meals. High protein diets don’t have to taste boring, though. Here’s a list of “9 High-Protein Meal Ideas To Build Muscle & Feel Stronger.”
Overcrowded cities have a paradoxical effect on socialization: you can be surrounded by people, yet still feel exceptionally lonely. The problem is, when cities are packed tight, there’s limited space for social gatherings. The effect of loneliness can increase a person’s risk of death more than air pollution or obesity, according to research. That’s why it's so important we design cities with ample green space, and use that space as much as possible. See the details in “Contact with nature in cities reduces loneliness, study shows.”
You were probably having too much fun to realize it, but all the time you spent playing at recess as a kid was filled with sprinting exercise. As an adult, running sprints can take a lot out of you, and you’ll certainly notice all the pain it brings. Maybe that’s because we aren’t focusing on the positive aspects of fast running. It was fun as a kid, so what’s changed? Take a look at these tips from Podium Runner so you can “Make Running Fast Fun Again.”
Minute 6: Daily Inspiration
For most of your life, gym teachers and coaches probably instructed you to gently stretch, rather than bounce to loosen your muscles. While that’s generally sound advice, the unintended consequence has been that dynamic stretches are too often lumped into spazzy toe touch bounces that do more harm than good. This video from @runnersaesthetic demonstrates a variety of movements designed to open up your hips and engage your body to keep you loose and injury-free before every workout. Take a look at the short video below to recharge your warmup routine. We can’t do much to help erase the image of your high school gym teacher in a poorly-fitting tracksuit, but we can at least clarify their muddled advice.