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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.

NUTRITION: Up your snack game with mini-meals

What drives you to reach for a snack? It might be to satisfy a sweet or salty craving, boredom, to relieve hunger, availability of food, or even to help cope with emotions. Why you want a snack can heavily influence what you choose to snack on.

Well-balanced, nutrient-dense snacks help stabilize energy, reduce feelings of fatigue, and improve mood. Here’s how to optimize these fueling opportunities with great choices, so you can reap the benefits of snacks.

Reframe snacking

Your eating habits between standard meal times may be directly influenced by how you perceive these informal eating occasions. Recent research has identified that the word snack is associated with overeating in terms of the amount of food, sweets, and calories. By mentally reframing snacks as mini-meals, you might find it more natural for you to reach for better fueling options.

Balancing your mini-meals

A mini-meal should have four key components: carbs, protein, fat, and produce. The main goal: combine fiber with food that will keep you satiated and your energy stable.

  • Quality carbohydrates are critical for providing energy to your body and brain. Opt for oats, granola, air-popped popcorn, wheat crackers, or minimally processed energy bars.
  • Lean proteins build muscle tissue, support your immune system, and help you feel satiated. Grab tuna, hard-boiled eggs, jerky, Greek yogurt, beans and nuts, or cottage cheese.
  • Healthy fats stabilize energy, create the feeling of fullness, support the inflammatory process, and boost brain health. Choose nuts, seeds, avocado, or nut butter.
  • Colorful fruits and veggies provide nutrients that help repair the body and prevent illness. Try celery, carrots, broccoli, snap peas, whole fruit, berries, or herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, and garlic.

Mini-meal strategies

How you fuel throughout the day is influenced by a number of factors. So it’s no surprise that your mini-meals may vary. Take a moment to think through what affects your habits.

  • Preferences: Nutritious mini-meals can still include foods that are enjoyable to you.
  • Schedule: Set aside time during the day to prep and eat your mini-meal.
  • Ability: Whether you’re a home chef or a novice in the kitchen, stick to what you’re comfortable with.
  • Family: Make the same snack for everyone in your family and pack for school, work, or home.
  • Exercise: Think about how you need to plan your mini-meals around exercise to ensure you have enough energy to get through your workouts and nutrients to recover.

MINDSET: 5 Principles of mindfulness

Mindfulness is about both being reflective and fully experiencing the fluctuation of mental states.  It evolved from Buddhist tradition and was once widely practiced, but it’s given way to busy schedules, long workdays, and social obligations. 

The good news: Being present is natural to humans. We’ve simply gotten away from practicing it. You can reclaim that power with these 5 steps to mindfulness.

1. Pause and listen

Pausing and listening are the initial steps to awareness. In a fast-paced world where quantity is valued over quality, we’re forced to be ahead of the game. While we might be leading the pack in our jobs or socially, we’re being limited in our ability to be present and listen to the meaning behind our actions and words. The problem: We bypass the ability to truly connect with people and situations. As you build awareness of yourself and others, you’ll become more sensitive, which is essential for connection.

2. Find your center

Life can feel like a hurricane. Instead of getting swept up in the chaos, centering yourself can help you remain calm and in control of yourself, especially in times of challenge. Think of it as your anchor, your place to find peace and comfort.

3. Set your intention

When you’re a fast-acting multitasker, your mind can become invaded by the thoughts and responsibilities you’re trying to keep track of. While these goals are important to keep organized, you can deal with the onslaught of to-dos by zoning in on a point of focus. Do this by setting your intention each morning and staying mindful of what matters most that day.

4. Think, speak, and act with purpose

Mindfulness doesn’t do you any good if you’re only practicing it behind closed doors. What matters is how you apply these practices to your daily life. Ingraining these principles into your life will help you face unexpected stress with more ease. So put it into action.

5. Take time to reflect and assimilate

Self-reflection is critical to mindfulness. That’s why the final principle of mindfulness is to reflect and assimilate. If you don’t take the time to reflect and assimilate, your brain won’t absorb the new information and can easily divert back to old habits, and you’ll miss out on the opportunity to truly experience transformation in your life.

Exos leads “new” functional performance focus

Exos recently made the news for its forward-thinking functional performance leadership within the fitness industry. Bloomberg published this article focusing on the benefits of “prehab,” movements that warm the body to prevent injury and support functional movement.

A Functional Movement “Aha” Moment

The Bloomberg article addressed the sudden influx of movement-related injuries and strain that the pandemic brought about. As more people worked from home and worked out at home, they found themselves battling pain and movement issues.

Now the idea of preventing those issues through a whole-person approach to performance is not only an Exos focus.

“It’s an idea whose time has come for the industry, but it’s not a new approach for Exos,” explained Jeff DiBiaso, Exos Vice President for Community Operations. “Our clients appreciate our focus on a holistic approach to movement. We move all day, every day, and our bodies need to be able to perform those movements efficiently.”

“That’s the essence of human performance, and it’s what we provide for everyone.”

Functional Performance for Everyone

In addition to providing training for elite professional athletes and teams, Exos manages sports performance training centers, community fitness centers, and physical therapy practices across the U.S. At every site, the focus on functional movement and injury prevention informs the movement plans Exos coaches and trainers provide for their clients.

Exos has developed a proven approach to improving human performance through four holistic pillars: mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery. By starting every training or therapy relationship with an individual assessment that addresses the four pillars and several functional movement screenings, Exos coaches and therapists are able to identify disordered movement patterns that contribute to current and potential issues with pain and injury.

Welcome to What Works

Using this approach has helped Exos clients break cycles of chronic pain and reoccuring injury by solving the movement problem at its root cause. What’s even better is that Exos has been treating and preventing injuries this way for more than two decades.

Learn more about this iterative approach to holistic human performance and see why Exos best practices are becoming fitness industry best practices.

Making athletic performance an accessible goal for all

The Exos athletic performance focus is all about removing barriers to fitness self-actualization. For everyone.

Monument Health Sports Performance Institute in Rapid City, South Dakota, serves as a model for the future of human athletic performance training. Senior General Manager Sam Linart says the facility’s Launch Program is changing lives for the better – for good.

“Our Launch members may never have considered themselves athletes before,” Linart explained. “Or maybe they’re people who loved the gym at one time, but felt like they had to get in shape to get back to the gym.”

“Launch is for everyone, and the community response has been incredible.”

Launch makes fitness training accessible

Mike Latour, System Director of Musculoskeletal Services and Sports Medicine for Monument Health, said the initial goal with Launch was to provide a vehicle for integrating lifestyle medicine for Monument Health patients referred by their doctors and therapists.

“Launch members are coming back to the gym after a long time, or they may not have any fitness training experience,” Latour said. “They enter the program after being referred by physical therapists, physicians, or other members.”

“They stay because they can see and feel the results.”

With a huge and growing adult training population, Monument Health SPI has built a successful retention program focusing on providing a continuum of care that’s fully integrated with Monument Health medical care.

It’s more than personal training

“Launch is there for anyone,” Linart explained. “A typical workout incorporates body weight and light-weight movements for about 30 minutes in a small-group, coach-led session. It feels like personal training, but there’s an element of community camaraderie that’s essential to keeping members engaged.”

Launch participants are introduced to the full complement of Exos methodology, a little at a time. Coaches focus on teaching mindset, nutrition, movement, and recovery pillars in a way that’s immediately applicable to members.

“The classes focus on movement quality while building strength and cardiovascular health,” Linart continued. “While all four pillars play a role in the Launch program, the biggest take-away for most members is the mindset part. Their mindset shifts, they find their confidence, and believe in themselves, and they begin to see that they are capable of so much more than what they originally set out to accomplish walking through the doors.”

That’s why the Monument Health SPI program continues to grow.

Launching a Revolution at Monument Health

Monument members are able to take advantage of personal health coaching at any time during their Launch experience by signing up for Revolution.

The Revolution Program began as a 12-week virtual “conversation” about topics such as meal prep and building healthy habits. It’s now an in-person lifestyle discussion centered around building healthy habits.

Linart explained that a member might spend 3 months to a year in the Launch program, while Revolution is 3 months focused on behavior change. It can be combined with a training program to incorporate the movement pillar and, gradually, more challenging athletic performance training classes.

Both offerings are designed to remove barriers to entry for anyone interested in better overall health.

“Members move through Launch at their own pace,” Linart explained. “They work on building confidence and fitness, then move to Bridge or Return to Play, then adult performance training classes.”

Launch and Revolution membership continue to grow. With many people looking to re-engage in healthy habits they started – then lost – during the pandemic lock-downs, Linart says she doesn’t expect the hybrid introductory programs to be a passing phase. In fact, they’ve become a model for building community and engagement at similar Exos managed performance training sites.

“We currently serve 270 active adult performance members, and more than 45 youth and high school members,” she continued. “This is such a unique community, and the coaches really enjoy helping members achieve small victories and daily progress.”

“That’s what human performance is all about – getting better every day.”

About Monument Health Sports Performance

The Monument Health Sports Performance Institute teaches athletes, first responders, and community members behavioral health and lifestyle medicine. Exos Coaches and a Performance Dietitian offer individual and group training for members of all ages and physical abilities. Exos provides business consulting, staffing, membership, maintenance, community outreach, and ad hoc marketing support for the Monument Health System.

Learn more about Exos facility management and consulting services to see what a welcoming, accessible sports performance training program can do for your fitness facility and community.