Your most important tool in an emergency crisis is your brain –is yours prepped?

According to a 2004 Harris Poll, 96 percent of Americans feel it is important to prepare for emergencies, but less than 20 percent describe themselves as totally prepared. It is an odd disconnect when you think about it, and makes you wonder why people don’t prepare more if they believe it is so important. Perhaps it’s because no matter how much you do prepare for emergencies, the unpredictable nature of an emergency means that you can never be 100% prepared. Therefore, many people would like to avoid the feeling of futility that comes with trying to fight randomness. But you can and should try as much as possible, especially when it comes to mental preparedness.

Emergency preparedness can help you physically if there is ever an emergency (see the newsletter for more details on the kits and materials you should invest in), but there are mental and emotional elements as well. By thinking through disaster scenarios and what you would need in each, you are training your brain ahead of time how to react in those scenarios. If you trace out an escape route in your mind you are, in a sense, practicing that route. Another example is: let’s say your stove catches on fire. If you haven’t really thought through the scenario or a house fire, your thoughts may look something like this:

“My stove is on fire, what do I do?”

“Do I have a fire extinguisher?”

“Where is my fire extinguisher?”

“Once I found my extinguisher, how do I use it?”

By this point of frantic panic, the fire may have spread and you are up a creek with no paddle. If you had prepped and mentally or physically practiced for a fire, however, these thoughts wouldn’t need to slow you down and it would be more of an instinct of “event happens-here’s how I react to it.” You’d grab the fire extinguisher from where you put it and use it quickly. The less panic in an emergency, the less damage is done. “Everybody hates the idea that we practice for emergency events. Fire drills… ugh. But it’s practice, and practice helps you understand what to do or how to react when you don’t have a lot of time,” said Jerzell Black, Operation Coordinator, CDC Office of Safety, Security, and Asset Management in his blog post. “Not only can practice save your life, but if you know how to save yourself, emergency responders on the scene can use their time and effort to save others. You’re one less person who needs saving, and that saves lives.”

You can’t think through every emergency situation (and it probably isn’t healthy to dwell on every bad situation either), but preparing yourself mentally and physically for certain emergencies can help you adapt those skills and resources for the ones you didn’t think of. “Remember, if you depend on everyone else to take care of you, you’re leaving the most important person out,” said Black, “Don’t wait to make a plan. Know yourself, know your situation, and be prepared to save your own life.”

Recovery recover recovery

I think we have all fallen into the cycle of thinking we can’t miss a day in the gym. Lately have have been really pushing my body to the limit mentally and physically. As I was getting stretched out by my chiropractor the other day, “yea you are really tight.” From head to toe my body was just telling me take a break.

Recovery is something that many people often times neglect. My excuse is “I just don’t have time,” but really can’t you always make time? Doing things after your workout like stretching, foam rolling and joint mobility can make huge difference in your body’s recovery process. When you don’t allow your body and muscles to recover you are doing more harm than good not only to your body but to your mentality. Sometimes the stretching and the rolling is hard to do than the strength training part of things. Stretching after weight training helps elongate the muscles to reduce fatigue and promote recovery. Stretching can also improve flexibility and mobility. This allows your joints and supporting muscles to move more freely with less tightness. Recovery can be stretching, mobility, walking, foam rolling and one of the most important of them all is rest days! So make it a point to not only work your muscles but to repair and take care of them after the fact!

Boundaries Part I - A Different Perspective

I recently held a coaching session with a client about her continued effort to set boundaries with her colleagues at work. She is a competent, energetic, and personable woman; ready to take on any task that furthers the important work that she does everyday. Folks that she directly works with, as well, as the many folks she has mentored, the national committees that she chairs, and formal and informal relationships that she has nurtured...these all compete for her time and energy. She wants to, and often does, say ‘yes’ to it all, including time for her husband, family and friends, pets, exercise, etc. Through our sessions together, we’ve talked a lot about how time can feel infinite and how energy is not. How, at the end of the day, what is most important tends to get the least amount of time and for sure, the last remaining remnants of her energy.

We acknowledged how often we hear the word ‘boundaries’...setting boundaries, distinction between emotional, physical, and social boundaries, boundaries at work, etc. However, there was a shift in the conversation when we started talking about boundaries being made up of what we feel is most important. Boundaries made up of what we will say ‘yes’ to; the people, places, activities that feed our souls and contribute to our big over-the-top ideals. This felt different than the negative connotations that seem to surround the discussion of boundaries which is, things you’ll say ‘no’ to; activities you won’t participate in; people you won’t engage with; or eliminating certain time sucking tasks.

So, what if we started thinking about boundaries differently; more pro than con? To be honest, I don’t have this entirely worked out in my head yet. I know that it ‘feels’ different to think about boundaries in this way. It feels more positive, forward moving, energetic. It feels like ‘yes’ and possibilities. I’m a visual thinker and learner so I want to spend time thinking about what comes to mind for me when I think about my boundaries being made up of what I want to do and who I want to spend my time with. I’m also very pragmatic and am feeling compelled to include those things that we have to do; those people and activities that may not be ‘feeding our souls’ but that move us towards our most important values.

Be on the lookout for “Boundaries Part II” and in the meantime, what comes up for you when you think about setting boundaries based on who you want to spend time with; activities you love to do; places that draw you in; relationships that you want to nurture? And, is there an image that comes to mind?

Lace them UP

Back in my younger days (a long time ago!) I would tell my training partners that “if you can’t go out and run for an hour, it is not worth lacing up the shoes!” How wrong can one be! There are a lot of benefits in the first 5-10 minutes of exercise that you may not be even aware of.

During the first 5-10 minutes, the warm-up if you will, the body prepares itself for the anticipated upcoming exercise;

  • Vascular dilation, arteries opening up to accommodate the increase in blood flow.
  • Secretion of enzymes that increase glucose absorption in expectation of more energy needed.

Why is this important? Vascular dilation means more room for the blood in the arteries; more room with the same blood volume, so BLOOD PRESSURE is lowered. There is increase in glucose absorption, means lower BLOOD Sugar levels.

Here is the best part: this all happens in the first 5-10 minutes and lasts long after the exercise bout is complete. So, even if you don’t do the recommend 30 minutes, you still are getting benefits.

Bottom line, it is worth lacing them up even for just 10 minutes!

Red Meat, Processed Meats, Nitrates and Cancer

It’s grilling season! Among the favorites to grill are heavily processed, red meats such as hotdogs, smoked ham and bacon wrapped burgers. Red and processed meats have routinely been criticized for causing cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Since there are many aspects of red meats and processed meats that may be to blame for these conditions, let’s put our focus on, nitrates and nitrites.

Nitrates and nitrites are the preservatives often found in cured meats; they’re added to enhance color, provide flavor and prevent deadly bacterial growth (clostridium botulinum)!

Once consumed, nitrates take various forms in the body. First, nitrates are reduced to nitrites, by the bacteria in our mouth. Nitrites may convert to nitric oxide (via the acid in our stomachs), then are absorbed by our small intestine and finally excreted by our kidneys via urine. Some research shows that nitrates that convert to nitric oxide may benefit cardiovascular health. For those of you “gym-goers”, nitric oxide may sound familiar because it’s used as a pre-workout supplement. That’s because it acts on our blood vessels as a vasodilator, which relaxes the blood vessels and makes them more efficient at pumping more blood (and therefore more oxygen) per beat. This has been shown to improve athletic performance, among other benefits. On the other hand, nitrites can take a different path and may form nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are the combination of nitrites and amines (the breakdown product of amino acids – the building blocks of protein). Nitrosamines were shown in some research to cause tumors in lab animals.

Well that’s confusing! On one hand nitrates may cause cancer, but on the other they may benefit cardiovascular health. Furthermore, did you know that more nitrates are found naturally in foods such as turnips, rhubarb, beets and celery, than those chemically added to processed meats (like potassium nitrate)? That’s because nitrates and nitrites are part of the earth’s nitrogen cycle; therefore anything that grows in the ground will contain some level of nitrates. Like so many other divisive nutrition topics, it’s important to consider the context.

Although some research shows nitrites can form cancer causing nitrosamines, this pathway is less likely when antioxidants (in the form of vegetables) are consumed. Since meats do not contain these antioxidants, there is a potential correlation with the meat preservatives, nitrates and nitrites, and an increased risk of stomach and colon cancer.

If it’s the nitrates that are the issue let’s just omit them, right? That’s what some companies are doing, I’m sure you’ve seen the new food claims that state “No nitrates/nitrites added except for those naturally occurring…”? The statement is regulated by the USDA (United States Dept. of Agriculture), but does it really mean anything, and is it better?

For example; a “naturally” cured turkey bacon ingredient list may look like this: [Turkey, Water, Vinegar, Sea Salt, Raw Sugar, Celery Powder]. Although this bacon is indeed preserved without the use of nitrates or nitrites, it is not nitrate- or nitrite-free since there are naturally occurring nitrates in celery. This packaging may lead the consumer to believe it is superior to conventional (chemically preserved) meat. However, the body sees natural nitrates and chemically derived nitrates the same. Unfortunately, labeling meats as uncured is misleading.

To add to the confusion, “processed” meat is multifaceted; cured and processed meat is often red meat of lesser quality and likely fattier cuts; often containing preservatives, sugar, breading and more sodium than likely achieved via home preparation. Additionally, the nutrition of a plant or animal is also dependent on how it is raised, prepared, seasoned and ultimately cooked.

So what is a nutrition conscious person to do? Choose a variety of proteins instead which include seafood, poultry, red meat and vegetable proteins. Limit your use of all processed meats including those that are smoked and cured and consider sodium content; choose products that contain less than 250 or 300 milligrams per serving. While you’re at it, vary your preparation methods as well; roast, slow cook, sauté and grill your meats - just because it’s tasty!