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RECOVERY: 3 strategies pro athletes use to recover well

Whether it’s the World Series or Wimbledon, pro athletes seem to have superhuman abilities. This success comes from their habits — the little things they do to consistently recover. Here are pro-athlete habits that you can adopt to recover successfully.

1. They reduce their injury risk.
At the top of any pro’s training priority list is reducing their risk of injury. After all, their career depends on their ability to stay off the bench. They do this by establishing a network of people who can guide them in strength, conditioning, recovery, and nutrition. It’s all about being in tune with what their body is telling them.

Your game plan: Next time you feel a tweak in your knee, don’t try to push through it without assessing what’s really going on. And take ownership of your health by building your own network of supporters and constantly asking questions, whether it’s about movement correction, nutrition, or anything else that can help you.

2. They don’t skimp on sleep.
Sleep is one of the most undervalued aspects of recovery. And it’s something that serious professional athletes don’t skimp on. Top performers like LeBron James, Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Steve Nash, and Venus Williams reportedly get over 10 hours of sleep each night.

Your game plan: The average person should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Create the best sleep environment by buying blackout curtains, using a fan for ambient noise, setting the temperature between 67-71 degrees, and removing pets and illuminated clocks from your room. You’ll notice the difference in your alertness and mood when you’re rested.

3. They use physical therapy, even if they’re healthy.
For pros, physical therapy isn’t just a six-week, 12-visit regimen; it’s part of ongoing maintenance to keep their bodies in top condition. This proactive approach helps them stay ahead of problems and extend the length of their careers.

Your game plan: Use your downtime to balance out any repetitive movements you make, and talk to a physical therapist or coach about strategies to combat the aches and pains of daily life. This might include passive or active recovery, like stretching, foam rolling, or corrective exercises designed for getting a small muscle group stronger and helping the body move more efficiently.

NUTRITION: 5 unexpected hurdles to better eating habits

You likely know a lot about managing your nutrition, but that doesn’t mean you’re perfect all the time. And in fact, your good intentions might just lead to some common nutrition mistakes.

Here’s how to avoid these missteps and get the biggest benefits from what you eat and drink.

1. Never eating late.

Eating before bedtime can actually help if you’re strength training, working out later in the day, or want a little help falling asleep. So while you still shouldn’t save the majority of your calories for late at night, don’t be afraid to get helpful nutrients closer to bedtime.

2. Not balancing your breakfast.

Eating breakfast is good, but a balanced breakfast is best. An abundance of carbs in the morning spikes blood sugar, which can affect your energy and mood, cause headaches, fatigue, and hunger, and lead to weight gain. Including a source of protein and fat, which can be as simple as adding a half cup of Greek yogurt or a couple eggs, will stabilize your blood sugar.

3. Sugar-bombing in pursuit of antioxidants.

Antioxidants can do a lot for your health, and including them in your diet is a smart thing to do. But sweetened juices and other sugary products offset the benefits. Choose anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting whole foods like berries, dark green veggies, and nuts.

4. Avoiding food groups.

If you‘re thinking about a gluten-free, dairy-free, or low-carb diet, there should be a scientific reason for it. Only eliminate what you have a known allergy to. Trial and error can get you on the right track, but if you’re still having issues, see a registered dietitian or medical professional.

5. Believing marketing claims.

Reading food labels on the packaging before gobbling up the contents is a healthy first step. But don’t get bamboozled by all the claims you see. Remind yourself it’s all marketing, and don’t be misled by the bright food labels yelling “natural,” “low fat,” and “detox.”

MOVEMENT: Start your day off right with this quick movement routine

Life can get hectic. Before your day takes off, fit in this morning movement routine. You’ll need a towel or a foam pad.

Glute bridge | 5 reps

Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the ground.

Leg cradle – supine alternating | 5 REPS EACH

Point the foot on the ground toward the ceiling and keep your belly button drawn in.

90/90 stretch – with arm sweep | 5 REPS EACH

Exhale as you stretch and rotate without separating your knees or lifting them off the ground.

Lumbar extension – quadruped | 5 REPS

Always start with proper alignment and return to that position with each repetition.

Quadruped opposites | 5 REPS EACH

Reach long with both your arm and leg during each repetition.

MINDSET: 5 ways to build a resilient mindset to weather tough times

It’s one thing to have a positive mindset when there’s no turmoil and life is chugging along at status quo. But it’s a lot harder when times are tough. And guess what? That’s OK. Give yourself some grace and use these strategies to turn stress into strength.

1. Schedule both social time and alone time.

You should make a strong effort to connect with people. That being said, if you’re overscheduling yourself, you might be avoiding the feelings that you need to work through to grow. So take some time to yourself. And not with your phone. Meditate or journal instead.

2. Find activities that make you feel optimistic.

While it’s OK to worry (remember we’re facing our feelings, not avoiding them), the idea is to not feel trapped by worry. When you catch yourself worrying, acknowledge it’s there, and then choose to focus on something you’re grateful for — fun, laughter, a specific activity.

3. Think twice before you keep scrolling.

Social media is a great resource of information, entertainment, and connection. But you know the saying you are what you eat? In a lot of ways, you’re also what you consume on social media. What are you feeding yourself? Are you feeding yourself negative stuff or positive stuff?

4. Journal about the positive moments in your life.

Engaging in negative self-talk? If you can recognize it, you can choose to shift. Take five or 10 minutes to journal and reflect on all the positive moments in your life. Think of this as creating a mental trophy room that you can go back to whenever you need to feel uplifted or empowered.

5. Practice gratitude and exercise kindness.

Research shows that practicing gratitude can increase optimism, make you more forgiving, and improve immunity and sleep. So if you’re down, go out and do something good for somebody — a stranger, a neighbor, or write down what you’re grateful when you’re feeling negative.

RECOVERY: 4 Recovery approaches for the whole family

It’s one thing to perform your best once; it’s another to do it repeatedly. And this is exactly what life (and parenting) often requires. The key to rising and grinding again and again is recovery. The best part: It can be a family activity. Not only will you get the recovery you need, but you’ll set your kids up with essential life skills to manage their own recovery. Here’s how.

Fight fatigue.

Sluggish? You’re likely experiencing neural load, the load that influences your nervous system. A sprinter running at top speed or too much screen time (Zoom, anyone?), all lead to neural load. The result: a slow-moving sensation like walking through mud. Use these strategies to fight back: 

1. Breathwork. Intentionally shift your body from a sympathetic (aka fight-or-flight) state to a parasympathetic (aka rest-and-digest) state. Inhale for four seconds, hold for seven seconds, and exhale for eight seconds. Repeat until you feel relaxed. It decreases neural and psychological load, and teaches kids about self-regulation.

2. Move it. Go for a family walk or bike ride. As you move through space and the world passes, you’ll experience optic flow. It helps your body shift toward a parasympathetic state, which also helps with psychological load just like breathwork does.

Ease soreness.

Lifting weights, jogging, or even sitting poorly at your desk lead to mechanical load, or the load you put on joints and tissues. Ease sore muscles with self-massage. Grab a HyperIce Vyper, Sphere mini, or Hypervolt and start massaging. So simple the whole family can use them!

Overcome feeling run down.

Whether you’re hiking hills or working out, your body needs energy. And this costs you in the form of metabolic load. Get your groove back by focusing on fueling. Giving your body the fuel it needs to replenish what you used during your activity will perk you up. Whip up a snack with a balance of carbs and protein like Greek yogurt with mixed berries or hard-boiled eggs with a banana.

Rest your emotions.

Feeling the psychological load of life, career, and everything else? Recoup from an emotionally taxing day with these tips.

1. Play!  Play a game of HORSE in the driveway or gather the family for the Adventure Challenge – Family Edition.

2. Find flow. This optimal state of mind comes when you’re fully immersed in a task, energized, and enjoying the process. In his Ted Talk, Adam Grant referred to flow as the antidote for languishing — that ‘meh’ feeling you get sometimes. And research tells us there are known flow triggers, such as clear goals, risk or challenge, rich environments like nature, moderate to higher intensity movement, and so much more. So take your family on a walk or a bike ride post-dinner, or get into a fun video game.

3. Mindfully meditate. Mindfulness meditation builds inner awareness, which is a prerequisite to emotional regulation. You need to know where you are emotionally before you can shift to where you want to be. Talk to one of our coaches about tools to start your own mindfulness practice.

MOVEMENT: Why you should try group exercise

A healthy heart. Strong muscles. Stability. Mobility. All of these are benefits you’re likely seeing from your workout routine. But if you’re hitting the gym alone, you might be holding yourself back. Sometimes it takes a team to reach your full potential.

From pro athletes to CEOs, high-level performers often don’t reach success alone. And even if you’re not on the field or battling it out in the boardroom, you can create a team to build camaraderie and help push you toward your goals. Here are three ways group exercise can help you.

1. Peer accountability

Hitting snooze instead of the gym? An accountability partner can do wonders for you. If you’re already committed to a class time, a friend, or even a coach, you’ve got more skin in the game. So now canceling isn’t just about letting yourself down, it’s also about not being there for others. This might be just the external motivation you need to jump out of bed.

2. Guidance and support

No shrinking wallflowers here. While group fitness classes may feel intimidating at first, you’ll quickly realize that everyone is there for a common purpose — self-improvement. Not only will you get that support from your peers, you’ve also got a coach cheering you on, correcting your form, and pushing you beyond what you thought was possible.

3. Better quality of life

Aside from accountability and enjoyment, group training environments are also good for your overall health. Exercise is a scientifically proven mood booster, decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression. It may even help with improving sleep, focus, confidence, and self-efficacy. The result of all of these benefits: a better, healthier life.

Science snapshot

According to a study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, group exercise participants saw mental, physical, and emotional improvements in half the time compared to individual fitness participants as well as a reduction in perceived stress levels.

NUTRITION: 3 Reasons why you should dine with others

Frequently eating at a table for one? Whether it’s joining your family for dinner, or pulling up a chair next to a co-worker in the breakroom, eating your meals with others has positive benefits.

Columbia University researchers found that kids who share family dinners three or more times per week are more likely to eat healthier, perform higher academically, and have better relationships with their parents. And it’s not just for families. Employees who share communal lunches tend to have higher productivity, according to Cornell University.

1. Connections Strengthen.

It’s not all macronutrients, micronutrients, calories, and nutrition labels. Feeding your soul is part of a healthy lifestyle, and that means eating delicious food with people you care for.

Food brings people together, and that’s healthy. Dining together establishes a feeling of community and connectedness, which research shows is good for your overall well-being. Sure, this may also occasionally lead to eating more than you planned or eating unbalanced meals, but it’s worth it.

2. Eating becomes purposeful and personal.

Skipped lunch? Cup of Joe on the go? If this is your regular routine, you’re missing out. Eating with purpose is about coming to the table and nourishing your mind, body, and spirit.

When you spend your meals with others, you’re encouraged to be intentional with your food choices and savor every morsel and moment you share with others. It’s also a great chance to share your favorite foods and explore new avenues of flavor recommended by others.

3. Life tastes (and smells) sweeter.

From the smell of something delicious baking in the oven to the satisfying crunch of crisp vegetables, food reminds us to reflect, look forward, and relish the here and now. Don’t stress about eating perfectly all the time. Instead, choose foods that celebrate memories, enhance experiences, and bring people together.

The sooner you get away from the idea that dieting is about perfection or requires depriving your body, the more equipped you’ll be to make healthy eating a natural part of your life — and look at it as a chance to sit down and have a meaningful conversation with someone you care about.

Three keys to success:

1. Try new things. Go on food adventures. Explore, experiment, and discover.

2. Raise a glass (wine or fruit juice, your choice!). There’s always a reason to celebrate. Find yours.

3. Savor good times. Let food remind you of special occasions, people, or places.

MINDSET: Play on! It’s good for your mindset.

Picture this: a football flying as a kid dives in the mud for a touchdown — score! Kids crawling up and down the jungle gym, flinging themselves from bar to bar, hanging upside down, or whatever else pops into their heads. They move with creativity and ease.

This integral part of childhood is what we often lose as recess and neighborhood kickball games give way to quarterly sales meetings, commutes, and responsibilities at home. Here’s how you can recapture your carefree days (and why your brain will thank you for it).

The power of play

Whether it’s your workout or your daily life, you need the unstructured fun of play.

When you’re laughing and playing, your body releases endorphins, or feel-good hormones, which can help relieve stress. And it’s not just horsing around. Research has shown that completing puzzles, playing chess, or doing other brain-bending, playful activities can improve brain function and memory.

These playful interactions with family and friends can also help overall mindset. A study in the journal Leisure Sciences found that highly playful young adults (those who rated themselves as being spontaneous or energetic) reported less stress and better coping skills.

How to fit play into your day

Our body, along with our mind, craves novelty. Variety could be key when it comes to overall enjoyment and satisfaction of physical activity. Play is one way to do that. Try adding these activities to your week for some fun.

  • Bring a ball or frisbee to a playground as a family with a picnic lunch and enjoy an afternoon of fun.
  • Play a game of two-hand touch football with the parents and kids in your neighborhood.
  • Take a dance class with a group of friends.
  • Take the entire family to a ninja warrior training gym and learn some new ways to overcome obstacles.
  • Sign up for a mud-run with the whole family and give your training and exercise some variety.

RECOVERY: Discover the power of napping

Let’s be honest. Getting the recommended amount of sleep every night is difficult. Between tackling late-night emails, trying to finish our to-do list, or scrolling through social media, we’re often too distracted at night to hit the sack.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost half of all Americans say they feel sleepy during the day between three and seven days per week. And 35.2% of all adults in the U.S. report sleeping on average for less than seven hours per night. All those nights of missed sleep have a negative effect over time. So what can you do?

One solution: The power nap.

While you can’t totally make up for lost sleep with a nap, it’s an excellent way to quickly decrease the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Research has shown that the restorative effects of a short nap apply after a normal night’s sleep, after a restricted night’s sleep, and even during 64 hours of continuous work. So everyone can benefit, no matter how you slept last night. What’s more, taking a brief break and clearing your mind has been shown to greatly enhance your creativity later in the day.

Nap strategies

Now that you know naps aren’t just for toddlers, use these seven tips to get a better power nap:

1. Limit your nap to 20 minutes or less. 

Longer naps tend to create sleep inertia (a period of lethargy, poor mood, and decreased alertness following the nap) and to reduce the effectiveness of evening sleeping, where the deeper stages of sleep occur.

2. Choose the right time. 

The effectiveness of napping is increased when it is performed during the time of the lowest dips in your circadian rhythms. Although everyone is different, this is usually between 2-3 p.m.

3. Avoid getting in bed. 

Snuggling up in your cozy bed will make it harder for you to limit your nap to the recommended 20 minutes, plus you may start to associate your bed with napping instead of sleeping at night.

4. Relax. 

Don’t worry if you don’t fall asleep. Just closing your eyes and relaxing will be refreshing. Practice clearing your thoughts and focusing on your breathing.

5. Make a pit stop. 

Urinate before you settle in. Sounds crazy, but it helps you get comfortable and avoid distractions while you rest.

6. Find a quiet place. 

Find a quiet, dark place and close the door so you won’t be disturbed. Listen to some quiet, relaxing music or white noise to drown out the outside world.

7. Limit distractions. 

Put a meeting on your calendar so you won’t be bothered and silence your phone. And set a timer so you don’t stress about oversleeping.

MOVEMENT: 5 Perks of embracing the great outdoors

Taking full advantage of available nature options is a great way to rejuvenate your mind and get moving in a new environment. You might find a sense of adventure, or just engage your mind by providing new stimuli. The biggest benefit of getting outside might just be a break from the four walls of your house. Even if that’s true, here are six other perks.

1. New challenges

An outdoor workout provides a tangible goal for some new motivation. If you were only able to make it a quarter of the way up a steep hike, for example, make a goal to try again next month after stepping up your training. Keeping that hike in mind might help you get up earlier to train, make the right food choice, or just be more excited about your workout.

2. Improved focus

Doing the same workout in the same surroundings makes it easy for your brain to tune out and run on autopilot. Outdoor exercise can present your mind with new challenges. For example, on a trail run or hike, you have to keep watch on your footing and meter your breathing. That leaves little room for your mind to wander and forces you to stay in the present moment.

3. Disconnecting from a busy world

If you’re looking for mental recovery, being outdoors has proven rejuvenating benefits. The Japanese concept of “forest bathing” has been shown to help people disconnect from the busy world and reconnect with nature.

Distancing from man-made bustle naturally calms the body — slowing your heart rate and decreasing oxidative stress, which in turn helps improve inflammation and improve immunity. As little as 20 minutes with less noise and more plants and wildlife can help you reap the benefits.

4. Fresh workouts

Getting outside can help you break out of your at-home workout rut. Try to create balance with a variety of activities. For something new, try some of these suggestions:

  • Explore your neighborhood on foot.
  • Create an obstacle course in your backyard.
  • Try some sports performance drills at your local park.
  • Pull your bike out of the garage and see where the road takes you.
  • Find a local trail and meet up to hike with friends.

5. Workday breaks

Feeling burned out by your workload? The answer may be just outside your door. One study found that a short bout of low-intensity exercise, like a walk or climbing some stairs, is more effective than a shot of espresso. So consider that the next time you’re fighting the afternoon fog.

Or if your schedule is too packed to fit in an outdoor break, call into your next meeting on your phone instead of your computer and take a walk around the block. The change of environment might be just the breakthrough you need.