Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re driving down the road, radio blaring, sending a text message with one hand (don’t lie!), cup of coffee in the other, when you’re suddenly distracted by yet another sight: a person, or people, hurriedly propelling themselves on the sidewalk, utilizing nothing but their own two feet. Their pace is too quick to be walking, yet too smooth and even to be skipping. On top of that, many seem to be wincing in pain, sweat pouring down their faces, yet they remain undeterred from continuing their forward progression. The audacity of these folks to shun the use of motorized, or even pedaled, means of transportation! Are they crazy!? Who are these rebels?
These people are called “runners.”
And, yes, they’re (we’re) a little nutty.
Running is an ancient sport, probably one of the oldest known to our primate species. Once upon a time, homo sapiens (that’s us) used running as a means of obtaining sustenance, tracking hard-to-catch prey across the plains or through wooded forests. These days, it seems runners are only on the trail of catching their next PR (personal record), or swag goodie bag at the end of a race.
But running remains one of the most effective and gratifying forms of exercise or leisure. Running aids in weight loss and weight management, relieves stress, can be a great social activity, is a form of meditation (on those long runs, one’s mind becomes quite clear), offers a great challenge to oneself, and induces a great natural high (really, the only kind of high we endorse). And, believe it or not, even in the coldest of climates, running can be a four season outdoor sport, though treadmills and indoor tracks do make for tempting alternatives in times of inclement weather.
From time to time our Everspring team will be presenting blog entries on the subject of running, covering everything you need to know: from selecting gear and body mechanics, to staying injury free and preparing for races. We’ll even delve into the running lexicon, demystifying such terms as gradual pickups, aerobic intervals, splits, yassos and Fartleks, and how to not snicker when speaking them aloud.
So, whether you are a running novice or a gifted marathoner, there will be a little something for everyone. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments you may have, and we can try to incorporate those into upcoming blogs.
"Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders."
-Andrew Weil, M.D.
What could be more natural than breathing? Most people don't realize that breathing, something each of us experiences around 20,000 times each day, can deeply influence our health and happiness on many levels. Our daily lifestyles can be very chaotic and a fast paced life leaves many of us feeling fatigued, anxious and depressed about our daily experience. At times this can leave us unable to cope with the many stresses of daily life. While these symptoms may be negative they are also our body’s way of telling us to slow down and to take a few deep breaths. A daily breathing ‘recharge’ or ‘reboot’ is something we can all benefit from.
Building self awareness is very beneficial when we seek to enhance the quality of our daily life. Before we discuss specific breathing techniques, let’s try to build our awareness of ourselves when we breathe. What kind of ‘breather’ are you- chest or belly- nose or mouth? By changing the way we breath can reduce stress, benefit our immune response thus improving our quality of life.
Try a simple breath awareness exercise: Place one hand on your chest and one hand on you abdomen. Take a normal breath while looking down. Now, if the hand on your chest rises first, then you tend to breathe from your chest. If the hand on your abdomen rises first, you are more of a belly breather. To find out whether you are a nose or mouth breather, unless you already know, just ask a friend or your partner or some in your family. Chances are they’ve noticed if you’re a mouth-breather.
We may also notice that we breathe from the chest and neck when we experience times of stress. When we experience long-term low grade stress shallow chest breathing can become our normal mode of breathing over time which reenforces the cycle. Yet, in as little as two minutes, our bodies will respond positively if we take the time to consciously observe the way we breathe. Deep breathing into the belly, through the nose provides the greatest benefit for calming mind, relaxing the body and helps us to increase our energy during the day. When we breath in this manner we know that science suggests we have improved nitric oxide levels just one of the many supporting constituents of our body's ability to repair from stress.
Let’s practice a very simple deep breathing exercise. We will do away with fancy names and complicated exercises. This is just basic daily deep breathing and with practice you may find that you are letting yourself breathe a little deeper each day while your body and mind are reaping all the health benefits!
Simple deep breathing
The most basic thing to remember is that your breath begins with a full exhalation. We can’t fully inhale until we empty our lungs completely. It is also important to breathe in through your nose as we fill the lungs with fresh air.
Sit in a comfortable position with your hands on your knees. Relax your shoulders and close your eyes slightly so that we are more aware of our body. On your first exhalation, breathe out slowly through your nose, counting to five. Contract your abdominal muscles while drawing in your diaphragm to help your lungs fully deflate. At the bottom of your breath, pause for two counts; now inhale slowly to the count of five. Expand your belly as you breathe all the way in. Notice how your belly is expanding instead of your chest. Now close your eyes and repeat 5–10 times. Think of your diaphragm as the pump and imagine your belly as a flexible balloon filling with air, as if your lungs expand down into your abdomen.
Focus on listening to the sound of your breath. It’s very common that your mind wanders during this practice, but don’t worry. Just let that thought be and refocus on your counting. If you can count 24 deep breaths you are making great progress. As your awareness of your breath increases, you’ll find that it becomes easier to breathe deeply.
Give yourself the opportunity a few minutes each day to calmly be with yourself, to relax your mind for a moment and allow yourself to just simply breathe.
Green tea by itself is a potent source of healthy antioxidants known as catechins. But a new study indicates that adding citrus juice or vitamin C can significantly boost the bioavailability of those compounds, which have been linked to lowered cancer risk as well as improved heart and brain health.
The study by Purdue University researchers, published in the November 2007 Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, involved putting green tea alone and with various additives through a model simulating gastric and small-intestinal digestion. They found that catechins are unstable in non-acidic environments such as the intestines and less than 20 percent of the total remains after digestion. But adding vitamin C (which is done in ready-to-drink products to increase shelf life) increased recovered levels of the two most abundant catechins by sixfold and 13-fold, respectively.
Adding citrus juice to plain green tea was also beneficial. The study found that lemon juice caused a roughly four-fold boost in the recovered levels of catechins; in order, the next most effective juice additions were orange, lime and grapefruit. And one should not be stingy with the juice - while adding 10 percent juice was helpful, the best catechin preservation happened at levels of 20 to 50 percent juice. This suggests that while adding a squeeze of lemon to tea is an excellent idea, it also makes sense to think in terms of 20 to 50 percent blends using orange and grapefruit juices.
Studies have shown catechins from the green tea plant, Camellia sinensis, can inhibit cancer cell activity and stimulate production of immune-strengthening enzymes.The researchers believe that other types of tea, such as black or oolong, would likely also benefit from the addition of juice or vitamin C, because these types also contain catechins, though in smaller amounts than in green tea.
Dr. Weil's take: This is an interesting study, full of important implications. First, I am not surprised that adding lemon juice to tea - a popular combination for centuries - appears to be the best practice for health, confirming that time-honored culinary traditions are often ahead of laboratory research. Second, this appears to be one of the rare cases in which a prepared food product such as a bottled or canned tea preserved with vitamin C can compete for health benefits with a fresh, homemade one. Finally, if you like citrus in your home-brewed tea, by all means, squeeze away!