Todays post is about our regen habits. Like we've said before, work without any rest doesn't allow our body to properly recover and adapt to all the stressors we are placing on our body. Hopefully- everyone used the last regen post to figure out what works for them in terms of helping them relax and bring the body/head back to neutral.
I'd like to add something to that list for you. Anyone who knows my coaching knows I am a big fan of this and nerd out over its benefits (probably a little too much). It's something you already do (albeit probably not as efficiently as we'd like) about 20k times a day! It's gotten a lot of attention over the last few years and rightfully so as it is an extremely powerful and effective tool in helping people regulate the nervous system and allowing them to stay calm and focused.
Let's jump right in and show you what I am talking about. You don't even need to get up out of your seat. Follow these steps...
1. Sit up nice and tall, feet flat on the floor, and close your eyes
2. Take a big BREATHE through your nose (shoot for about 3-4 sec inhale) filling up your belly
3. Hold for a 3-4 sec count
4. Exhale gently through your mouth for a 6-8 sec count.
5. Repeat 4 or 5 times
Feel relaxed? Did your heart slow down? Are you more at peace in the middle of a possibly stressful day?
That's right- BREATHING is one of the most effective things we can do to down regulate our usually overactive nervous system and stressful lives. It is one of the only links between our more evolved, logical brain and our more prehistoric, emotional brain. Think about it. What kind of breathing do you do watching a scary movie or getting anxious over something? Very shallow, rapid, chest breathing. How about after Thanksgiving dinner- well fed, tired, and probably a little sleepy? You push back from the table and take a nice, deep, belly breathe.
This is a direct reflection on your current emotional state. For all my science people out there- your "fight or flight" state or "rest and digest" state. One being your stressed emotional and physical state, the other being your safe, relaxed state.
When we exercise- we are naturally in that fight or flight response. This is quite naturally- heart rate is elevated, blood is shunted to the working muscles- not allowing any non- imperative bodily functions to occur, breaking down and mobilizing different tissues in the body, hormones, and nutrients the body desperately needs, and mentally your probably in an uncomfortable place. This is a necessity for us to go through though- if we want our bodies to adapt (bigger muscles, stronger heart, etc) we have to push outside our comfort zone.
However, if we stay in this fight or flight state for too long- our bodies never get to rest and digest (aka adapt, grow, evolve, etc) as the body is only concerned with being able to get through the stressful situation. This is an extremely useful adaptation we evolved with. Think if you were on the Savana- a lion sees you and decides your dinner. Your body goes into the fight or flight response- making sure your muscles are saturated with blood so you can sprint and fight your way out of a bad situation. As soon as you are away from the danger- back to rest and digest, aka chilling out.
In modern society- many of us have lost the ability to seamlessly shift in and out of these states and get locked into the fight or flight due to the psychological stresses we go through daily. Your body doesn't know the difference between an actual danger or a perceived one (getting yelled at by the boss for being late) and has the same response.
Like I said before though- if you are constantly stuck in the fight or flight response, you can relax and allow your body to grow and be healthy. You are swiping a credit card every time you use that response, and eventually you are going to pay the debt you accrued. This can be in the form of getting sick, losing sleep, hypertension, insulin resistant, stroke, sexual disfunction, etc.
So- use some different breathing techniques after completion of your workout (or in the middle of stressful situation) to help shift you back to the rest and digest state.
After completion of your next workout- put your feet up on a bench or even up on a wall and take about 5 mins to help shift back to rest and digest and cool down. You can use the count above, or any variation of it. Just try to follow a few simple rules-
1. Belly Breathing > Chest breathing
- Using the diaphragm helps stimulate this shift. Fill up your belly, sides, and low back, and exhale fully.
2. In through the nose, out through the mouth
- Your nose actually contains much more cranial nerves that register the fact you are inhaling, vs your mouth which has more nerves related to eating/digesting. Breathing in through the nose will allow your body to know to slow the heart down, being to relax, etc.
3. Exhale twice as long as you inhale
- Back to the watching the scary movie example- when you perform that shallow breathing, you are taking in a lot of air without expelling any. Your body sees this and actually starts to become more acidic, another sign of danger to your body. Get rid of that used air and only take in half, forcing your heart rate to slow down.
Check out a quick example of weird breathing vs controlled diaphragmatic breathing!