Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic of our attitudes and beliefs about our physical health. Two questions need to be addressed. “What are my attitudes and beliefs currently?” and “ What should they be?” For many, the answer to the first question is “The most important thing is that I look good.” Not that they don’t want the other benefits of being physically healthy like more energy, lower blood pressure, less pain, and better mood. But “looks” always seems to make its way to the top of the list. There are plenty of reasons for this, some completely understandable. We are always looking for ways to quantify success. Whether the number of letters after our names, the balance in our checking accounts, or our zip codes, we all look for some external feedback to let us know how we are doing. To some, how they look externally fills that role in how they judge their physical success. Size 6=healthy. Size 16=not healthy. To others, their self-worth is wrapped up in the amount of attention they receive. Six-pack abs=ladies. Big belly=being alone. Still others have formulated a worldview based on popular magazines, big-screen personalities, and fleeting internet sensations. Looking good=popular=purpose. Or yours may be as simple as “I’m embarrassed with how I look” or “All my friends are super skinny.” While some of these examples are a little extreme, they still illustrate the core truth that image reigns supreme.
This brings us to question #2, “What should my attitudes and beliefs be?” I’m not saying that it is wrong to want to look good. What is wrong is placing an unhealthy priority on it. Looking good is a welcome by-product of being physically healthy, but it is not physical health in and of itself. Just like a paycheck every two weeks is a much-needed reward for a job well done, it is not the job itself. Your “job” of being physically healthy has more far-reaching implications than just serving your own self-interest. You were created for a purpose that goes well beyond checking yourself out in the mirror any chance you get. “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20. Your physical health plays a crucial role in that greater purpose. Let the focus of your goals be on serving God, not yourself.
Exercise of the Week #3: Cat/Cow Stretch
Yes, you read that right. This week’s featured exercise is a STRETCH! I can hear it now. Mature adults in the voices of whiny, spoiled 6-year-olds. “Stretching. I hate stretching! Do I have to?” Well, just like eating your vegetables, yes, you have to. So I thought I would start with a stretch that addresses an area of need that many people struggle with. THE BACK. The typical American work life that involves a lot of sitting leaves the body with tight hip flexors, weak abdominals and glutes, and of course tight back muscles. Especially the paraspinal muscles that run down the back and stabilize the spine. Maintaining flexibility in the back, along with strengthening the abdominal muscles, is of crucial importance to avoiding major, debilitating back problems. As the cliche says, “the best defense is a good offense”. So be proactive and avoid a back problem before it starts by keeping those back muscles loose. Here’s what you do:
Starting in a quadruped position (on hands and knees) with a neutral spine, knees directly below the hips and hands directly below the shoulders, drop the chin to the chest and round out the spine, reaching the middle of the back towards the sky and feeling a stretch in the back muscles. Hold for 2-4 seconds. Then, keeping the back rounded, slowly drop the hips to the heels, feeling the stretch move to the lower back as well as the lats (below the armpits). Hold for 2-4 seconds. Slowly return to the starting position, releasing the stretch in the back as you raise the hips off of the heels. Exhale as you go into each portion of the stretch, and inhale as you come back to the starting position. Repeat the movement.
(Note: If you currently are having back pain that may be the sign of a more serious condition, you should talk to your doctor before performing this stretch as it may be contraindicated in certain situations)
Feel free to perform this stretch every day, especially when you first wake up. If you have chronic back tightness and pain, it’s time to get pain-free. If you don’t have a back issue, then let’s keep it that way!
Nutrition Challenge #1: Drink 80oz of water today (5 16oz water bottles)
Let’s start with a relatively easy challenge, but something most of us don’t do consistently enough. DRINK MORE WATER! Water represents up to 70% of our body weight. It is essential for all of our body’s functions, including transport of nutrients and hormones, energy utilization, and detoxification. The Food and Nutrition Board sets the Adequate Intake for water at 3.7L and 2.7L per day for men and women ages 19-30 years respectively, with 3.0L and 2.2L coming from beverages respectively (the rest is found in the food we eat). OK, give it to me in English! That is approximately 13 cups (104oz) and 9 cups (72oz) for men and women respectively. So men should be drinking between 6-7 average size, 16oz water bottles, while women need to be drinking 4-5 bottles.
Why don’t most of us get enough water? Planning. We either forget to bring water with us wherever we go, or we just get so wrapped up in what we are doing (work, family, school, etc) that we simply forget to drink, failing to recognize how much more productive we would be in our daily tasks if we were well hydrated. How much more alert we would be and how much more energy we would have. Now that I have hopefully convinced you, here is my nutrition challenge for you today: Drink 5 bottles of water today. If planning is the issue, set your alarm. Half a bottle every hour on the hour from 8am to 6pm should do the trick. It only takes a few seconds per hour out of your day. In addition to visiting the bathroom a few hundred more times, I guarantee that you will feel better throughout the day. It’s a great start on your road to consistently staying hydrated and being healthy!
Here’s a summer-inspired cardio workout for you water-loving folks!
Swim the length of the pool
Tread water for 1 minute
Swim back to the start
Rest for 30 seconds to 1 min
(Repeat for 5-10 laps total)
Obviously make some adjustments for the pool size, but you get the basic idea. This workout should take you about 20 minutes. It should get your heart thumping! Great aerobic/anaerobic combo workout. Enjoy!
Pull-ups x max reps
Chair Squats x 25 with 25 sec hold on last rep
Hill run x 1-2 min
(Perform each exercise back to back, then repeat twice for 3 sets total)
This is an exercise circuit combining upper back strength, lower body strength, and cardiovascular conditioning. It should take you no more than about 15 minutes to perform, but it represents a great total body workout. Substitute another upper back exercise like a dumbbell row, assisted pull-up, cable or tube row, or lat pulldown if you can’t do a pull-up. The 25-second hold comes on the last rep of the chair squats, where you hover just above the chair holding a squat in the air for as long as you can up to 25 seconds. (You can find instructions for the chair squat exercise in the “Exercises” blog file). Substitute stairs, alternating step-ups, or another form of cardiovascular exercise for a quick 1-2 minutes if you are not near a hill.
Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself a little, but always pay attention to your body and don’t exercise beyond your current level of fitness. Enjoy!