Ways to cope in the midst of uncertain times

LIVING WITH HEART & HOPE-“It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.” — Richard Evans

The world as we know it has undergone quite a lot of change and it can be challenging to navigate the stress that often accompanies uncertain times. During this month that’s so focused on love, we want to focus on the most impact-full thing you can do to diffuse stress and keep hope alive: self-care.

Here’s the paradox—when you’re stressed, it makes sense that taking care of yourself falls to the bottom of your to-do list; after all, there are so many other people and priorities that are more important, right? Well, no. Self-care is actually MOST important to help buffer you against the health-eroding effects of stress and it’s also a way to keep what’s going on around you in perspective. You can only change yourself and how you show up in the world—and you can only do that when you are healthy and nourished. So avoid the temptation to brush it aside.

To that end, here are three ideas for how you can remain grounded and cared for during the month of February and beyond.

Find community

In stressful times, it’s even more important to reach out to your community—to become engaged with other people, and build human connections. This can be as simple as finding time to spend with friends or family. Kids, in particular, are fantastic supporters of living in the moment and building connections. (Try obsessing about politics around a two-year-old—they will not let you!)

Simplify

Our smartphones have our go-to for staying connected, but spending all of your waking hours glued to a screen is bad for your soul. Balance out the need to stay informed with some simple time-outs:

  • Go for a walk in nature.
  • Make time for exercise—sweaty exertion is GREAT for clearing the head and harmlessly channeling any feelings of anger or frustration.
  • Read a book: Nothing can help you gain perspective like reading about how others have overcome obstacles.
  • Take care of your basic physical health: practice good sleep hygiene, eat well by focusing on whole foods, and remember to stop and breathe when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Simplifying is not an excuse to tune out. It’s a necessary step to keep yourself from burning out and lapsing into apathy.

Give Back

The best cure for an anxious, blue mood? Giving back to those who are truly less fortunate.

It’s tempting to hide away and remain overwhelmed. But using your skills to give back is not only beneficial to the world—but also beneficial to your well-being! Giving back to others is a great way to feel proud, motivated, and strong. It allows you to really define, prioritize, and fight for your values: What’s most important to you? What good can you do in the world? How can your skills help others? Start thinking of small steps you can take to help others:

  • Can you volunteer some time to help a local charity?
  • Can you mentor someone in need?
  • Can you forego that daily Starbucks run and commit to a small donation to a non-profit?

Seemingly tiny acts add up mightily if you can start a real habit.

To your good health,

Karen

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March is National Athletic Training Month

YOUR PROTECTION IS OUR PRIORITY

March is National Athletic Training Month (NATM). NATM is a great time to talk about the profession of Athletic Training. Throughout the month of March, all across the country, communities will be exposed to what it involves to be an Athletic Trainer. Certified Athletic Trainers are healthcare professionals, and there are approximately 50,000 collaborating with physicians to provide care to physically active people.

Services provided by Athletic Trainers encompass prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries. You can find Athletic Trainers in a variety of settings from, professional and collegiate sports, secondary and intermediate schools, hospitals and rehab clinics, to physician offices. Athletic Training is recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) as a health care profession.

About NATA

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) is the professional membershipnatm association for certified athletic trainers and others who support the athletic training profession. Founded in 1950, the NATA has grown to more than 43,000 members worldwide today. The majority of certified athletic trainers choose to be members of NATA to support their profession and to receive a broad array of membership benefits. By joining forces as a group, NATA members can accomplish more for the athletic training profession than they can individually. The NATA national office currently has more than 40 full-time staff members who work to support NATA’s mission.

Vision

Athletic trainers will be globally recognized as vital practitioners in the delivery and advancement of health care. Through passionate provision of unique services, athletic trainers will be an integral part of the inter-professional health care team.

Mission

The mission of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association is to represent, engage and foster the continued growth and development of the athletic training profession and athletic trainers as unique health care providers.

For more information on Athletic Training go to https://www.nata.org/

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4 Best Exercises You Can Do For Strong Bones

Warrior II

If you want to stay healthy as you get older, you already know that exercise is key. And when it comes to bone health, this is particularly true. However, what you may not realize is that sticking strictly to low-impact workouts isn’t helping your bone strength, says Vijay Jotwani, MD, a primary care sports medicine physician at Houston Methodist hospital in Texas.”The key for bone health exercises is that they must be weight-bearing,” says Jotwani. “Weight-bearing exercises stimulate osteoblasts, the bone cells that are responsible for bone growth.” So, while activities such as swimming and cycling are excellent aerobic exercises, they are less beneficial for bone health than, say, walking, running, or Zumba, because they don’t involve weight-bearing moves, Jotwani explains.
Holly Perkins, a Los Angeles-based personal trainer agrees, stressing the importance of mixing in some higher-impact exercises for the health of your bones. “Most of my clients still believe impact is bad, but that’s just not true,” says Perkins. “However, if you don’t want to run or have an injury that prevents you from playing tennis or jumping rope, there are plenty of other options,” she says.
Here are the 5 best exercises you can do for the health of your bones, plus alternatives that might work better based on your age, injuries, or other factors.

Running… or squat jumps

Squat jumps

Bone cells respond to impact by forming bone, says Joanne Halbrecht, MD, an orthopedic surgeon trained in sports medicine. That’s why running is often cited as a great, bone-building exercise: Every time your heel strikes the ground, it creates an impact on your bones that prompts more bone growth. Not a fan of jogging? Walking has a similar effect, though to a lesser degree, which is why Perkins recommends adding a few squat jumps to your next walking workout.

“On your next 30-minute walk, stop and do 10 squat jumps when you’re 5 to 10 minutes in,” says Perkins. “You’ll get the same benefits of running without actually running.” To do a squat jump, place your feet shoulder distance apart and drop down into a quarter of a squat. Then jump up as high as you can, land, re-set, and repeat. “You can do this as aggressively or gently as you like,” says Perkins. “It’s the landing that gives you the impact, which provides the bone-building benefit.”

High intensity interval training… or jumping jacks

Jumping jacks

Research shows that incorporating high-intensity resistance exercises followed by periods of brief rest can positively impact bone health, says Barry Sears, MD, a physician and president of the Inflammation Research Foundation. “This style of training puts stress on the bone and releases growth hormone from the pituitary gland, which stimulates bone synthesis,” he says. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to sign up for that boot camp class at the gym or hit a WOD at your local CrossFit, says Perkins. “Simply doing 20 jumping jacks, three times a day, can go a long way toward boosting your bone health,” she says. Do 20 in the morning, 20 after lunch, and then 20 before dinner, or do all 60 as three sets of 20 jumping jacks with just a little rest in between.

Weight training… or simply doing a dead lift

Deadlift
Getting into a regular strength training routine at least twice a week is something most doctors agree is a good move for healthy bones. “Resistance training has been shown to be necessary for preventing bone loss and maintaining strong bones, says Emilia Ravski, DO, a sports medicine physician with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in Southern California. Falling short of your twice-weekly weight-room goal? Simply incorporate one move—the dead lift—into your exercise routine twice a week, says Perkins.
“The dead lift incorporates nearly every muscle in your entire body, making it good for fitness and strength overall, and also a great stimulus for testosterone production, which is good for bone health,” says Perkins. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a barbell with your hands placed wider than your knees. Stand with a long, tall spine (which automatically makes you engage your core), then bend your knees, reach your hips back, and slowly lower the barbell down to your mid shins, keeping it close to your legs as you do. Pause here, then focus your energy into your heels and pull yourself upward. Start with 3 sets of 12 reps, and use a heavy enough weight that the last two reps of each set are very challenging.
Yoga… or simply practicing Warrior 2
Warrior II

The ancient practice of yoga has been linked to many health benefits, and bone health is certainly one of them. One small-yet-groundbreaking study found that yoga increased bone density in practitioners’ spine and hips; another bigger, more recent study produced similar findings. While making it to your favorite yoga class two or three times a week is ideal, Perkins says you can also simply incorporate Warrior 2 into your exercise routine. (Looking for more ways to live a happy, healthy life?

To do Warrior 2 Pose, stand with your feet about four feet apart with your right toes facing the wall in front of you and your left foot turned to about a 45-degree angle away from the back wall. Bend your right knee deeply, so your right thigh is parallel to the ground; as you do this, keep your back leg and glutes firm. Raise your arms up so they’re parallel to the ground and turn your head to gaze over your right fingertips. Stay here for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then switch sides. “In this pose, you’re dropping into such a low position in your front leg that your pelvis, legs, and core are getting a big workout,” says Perkins. “When done properly, Warrior 2 is an intense strength- and bone-building exercise.”

MEGHAN RABBITT for prevention.com

THE KETOGENIC DIET MADE EASY

If you’re a body builder, you may have followed a ketogenic diet in order to lean out and look ripped right before an upcoming show.

When you eat a diet with few carbs, lots of fat, and adequate protein, your body responds to the lower levels of blood sugar by switching to an alternative power source. It converts fatty acids to ketones, which become your main energy source.

Translation: Instead of burning carbs, your body burns FAT.

Feel the burn. Not the pain. 

According to recent studies, a ketogenic diet is an optimal method for shedding body fat and exposing toned muscles. Here are some specific benefits of a ketogenic diet:

  • If adequate amounts of protein are consumed while in a state of ketosis, your body will spare protein and preserve muscle.
  • Many beneficial hormones (GH, testosterone, and IGF-I) are released, which leads to more fat breakdown and lean muscle growth.
  • You may experience decreased appetite and fewer carb cravings, making dieting easier to accomplish.

Here’s the problem: Preparing meals and adhering to the strict guidelines of a ketogenic diet can be extremely difficult for many as it involves a very rigid ratios of carbs, proteins, and fat.

Fortunately, simply combining MCT Lean MCT Oil with a reduced carbohydrate diet can generate therapeutic blood ketone levels and deliver all the benefits of following a ketogenic diet—without the struggle.

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How Exercise Shapes You, Far Beyond the Gym

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When I first started training for marathons a little over ten years ago, my coach told me something I’ve never forgotten: that I would need to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I didn’t know it at the time, but that skill, cultivated through running, would help me as much, if not more, off the road as it would on it.

It’s not just me, and it’s not just running. Ask anyone whose day regularly includes a hard bike ride, sprints in the pool, a complex problem on the climbing wall, or a progressive powerlifting circuit, and they’ll likely tell you the same: A difficult conversation just doesn’t seem so difficult anymore. A tight deadline not so intimidating. Relationship problems not so problematic.

Maybe it’s that if you’re regularly working out, you’re simply too tired to care. But that’s probably not the case. Research shows that, if anything, physical activity boosts short-term brain function and heightens awareness. And even on days they don’t train — which rules out fatigue as a factor — those who habitually push their bodies tend to confront daily stressors with a stoic demeanor. While the traditional benefits of vigorous exercise — like prevention and treatment of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and osteoporosis — are well known and often reported, the most powerful benefit might be the lesson that my coach imparted to me: In a world where comfort is king, arduous physical activity provides a rare opportunity to practice suffering.

Few hone this skill better than professional endurance and adventure athletes, who make a living withstanding conditions others cannot. For my column with Outside Magazine, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing the world’s top endurance and adventure athletes on the practices underlying their success. Regardless of sport, the most resounding theme, by far, is that they’ve all learned how to embrace uncomfortable situations:

• Olympic marathoner Des Linden told me that at mile 20 of 26.2, when the inevitable suffering kicks in, through years of practice she’s learned to stay relaxed and in the moment. She repeats the mantra: “calm, calm, calm; relax, relax, relax.”

• World-champion big-wave surfer Nic Lamb says being uncomfortable, and even afraid, is a prerequisite to riding four-story waves. But he also knows it’s “the path to personal development.” He’s learned that while you can pull back, you can almost always push through. “Pushing through is courage. Pulling back is regret,” he says.

• Free-soloist Alex Honnold explains that, “The only way to deal with [pain] is practice. [I] get used to it during training so that when it happens on big climbs, it feels normal.”

• Evelyn Stevens, the women’s record holder for most miles cycled in an hour (29.81 – yes, that’s nuts), says that during her hardest training intervals, “instead of thinking I want these to be over, I try to feel and sit with the pain. Heck, I even try to embrace it.”

• Big-mountain climber Jimmy Chin, the first American to climb up — and then ski down — Mt. Everest’s South Pillar Route, told me an element of fear is there in everything he does, but he’s learned how to manage it: “It’s about sorting out perceived risk from real risk, and then being as rational as possible with what’s left.”

But you don’t need to scale massive vertical pitches or run five-minute miles to reap the benefits. Simply training for your first half marathon or CrossFit competition can also yield huge dividends that carry over into other areas of life. In the words of Kelly Starrett, one of the founding fathers of the CrossFit movement, “Anyone can benefit from cultivating a physical practice.” Science backs him up.

A study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that college students who went from not exercising at all to even a modest program (just two to three gym visits per week) reported a decrease in stress, smoking, alcohol and caffeine consumption, an increase in healthy eating and maintenance of household chores, and better spending and study habits. In addition to these real-life improvements, after two months of regular exercise, the students also performed better on laboratory tests of self-control. This led the researchers to speculate that exercise had a powerful impact on the students’ “capacity for self-regulation.” In laypeople’s terms, pushing through the discomfort associated with exercise — saying “yes” when their bodies and minds were telling them to say “no” — taught the students to stay cool, calm, and collected in the face of difficulty, whether that meant better managing stress, drinking less, or studying more.

For this reason, the author Charles Duhigg, in his 2012 bestseller The Power of Habit, calls exercise a “keystone habit,” or a change in one area life that brings about positive effects in other areas. Duhigg says keystone habits are powerful because “they change our sense of self and our sense of what is possible.” This explains why the charity Back on My Feet uses running to help individuals who are experiencing homelessness improve their situations. Since launching in 2009, Back on My Feet has had over 5,500 runners, 40 percent of whom have gained employment after starting to run with the group and 25 percent of whom have found permanent housing. This is also likely why it’s so common to hear about people who started training for a marathon to help them get over a divorce or even the death of a loved one.

Another study, this one published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, evaluated how exercise changes our physiological response to stress. Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, in Germany, divided students into two groups at the beginning of the semester and instructed half to run twice a week for 20 weeks. At the end of the 20 weeks, which coincided with a particularly stressful time for the students — exams — the researchers had the students wear heart-rate monitors to measure their heart-rate variability, which is a common indicator of physiological stress (the more variability, the less stress). As you might guess by now, the students who were enrolled in the running program showed significantly greater heart-rate variability. Their bodies literally were not as stressed during exams: They were more comfortable during a generally uncomfortable time.

What’s remarkable and encouraging about these studies is that the subjects weren’t exercising at heroic intensities or volumes. They were simply doing something that was physically challenging for them – going from no exercise to some exercise; one need not be an elite athlete or fitness nerd to reap the bulletproofing benefits of exercise.

Why does any of this matter? For one, articles that claim prioritizing big fitness goals is a waste of time (exhibit A: “Don’t Run a Marathon) are downright wrong. But far more important than internet banter, perhaps a broader reframing of exercise is in order. Exercise isn’t just about helping out your health down the road, and it’s certainly not just about vanity. What you do in the gym (or on the roads, in the ocean, etc.) makes you a better, higher-performing person outside of it. The truth, cliché as it may sound, is this: When you develop physical fitness, you’re developing life fitness, too.

Brad Stulberg is a columnist for Outside Magazine, where he writes about health and the science of human performance. Follow him on Twitter @Bstulberg.