Keeping Your Body Happy in the New Year

Many of us use the New Year as a clean slate and vow to lose weight.  I’ll admit, I am in this category myself. The gym clothes are packed, water bottle filled, and the freezer stocked with veggies and prepped meals. Gyms are packed and personal trainers have full schedules.

While exercising is one of the keys to lose weight, it is important to treat our bodies well between work outs. Here is a list of ways to keep your body in great condition and to ease the soreness of new workouts.

1.       Cool Down: 3-5 minutes of cool down after cardio

Cool down from cardio keeps circulation going, which will help to increase blood flow to your muscles.  This blood flow will carry nutrients to your muscles to help them recover and carry away metabolic wastes that cause muscle achiness. It also prevents blood pooling, which is when blood is not pumped out of the muscles by muscular contraction.

2.       Stretching: Stretch every morning and after exercise

While exercising, muscles are repetitively being contracted. This constant contraction and stress on muscles causes localized swelling (”being swole”), which causes muscles to tighten. When muscles are chronically tightened, the body assumes this is how it is supposed to be and will actually cause muscles to become shorter (think foot binding and bonsai kittens). These adaptively shorten muscles are unable to fully extend and allow full range of motion (ROM). Stretching after exercise and after periods of inactivity reminds the body of the full ROM of the joint and discourages your body from shortening muscles. As well, when trying to improve flexibility, muscles can be lengthened to a certain extent with regular stretching.

3.       Getting enough sleep: Sleep 7-9 hours per night

During sleep, our body essentially does a systems check and reboot.  Our bodies use this time to repair damage caused by any number of things, including microtears to muscles that can occur during exercise. As well, during sleep is the only time cerebrospinal fluid can reach down into all of the folds in the brain and clean out wastes and supply nutrients.  Lack of sleep is linked to weight gain and lowering of will power.

4.       Hydration:

Water is used in the body to act as a medium in many, many, many chemical reactions that happen in the body.  When we are dehydrated, the body’s ability to excrete wastes and perform everyday bodily processes is decreased. Our body knows it needs water, but when the body is dehydrated, it assumes there is no water to drink and reserves it, leading to water weight. Intense exercising (bootcamp, hot yoga) will lead to further dehydration if we do not keep up with intaking as much water as we lose in sweat. Lastly, as smart as our body can be, very often our body confuses thirst and hunger.  If you find yourself hungry when it’s not time to eat, the recommendation is to drink a glass of water and see if you are still hungry in a half hour.

5.       Massage:

Of course I would say massage. But massage can help in some surprising ways.

Massage helps with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) by increasing circulation to sore muscles.  As well, a massage therapist can work with a client to come up with a stretching plan to increase ROM and help to correct incorrect posture. New exercise programs can also bring attention to old injuries that are affecting the ability to exercise. Massage therapists trained in Sports or Medical massage have specialized knowledge of how to deal with common injuries that can arise from a new exercise program.

Stress is also tied to weight gain. Mental or physical stress both result in an increase in cortisol levels, which cause an increase in appetite and/or trigger emotional eating. Massage can affect blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and cortisol levels. As well, massage is a good non-food treat or reward for doing well in your weight loss plan.