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STRONG BODY, STRONG MIND: Let’s Go Streaking

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I completed my 96th consecutive day of running today. In the past three months, I’ve logged about 185 miles.

This may or may not sound impressive to you. But for me, the part of this story that is the most bewildering is that for 96 days straight — no matter the weather (it’s been a hot and steamy summer; it’s August as I write) and no matter my mood (overwhelmingly anxious) — I have run at least one mile every day.

As someone who doesn’t identify as a “runner,” this is just wild.

The idea came to me last May. I’d spent the previous two months going on long daily walks, which was one way I coped with the early days of the pandemic. Turning one mile out of my four-mile loop into a run seemed like a good way to pick up the pace while increasing the difficulty.

This commitment lasted a couple of weeks, until a stormy day gave me an excuse to skip running and walking altogether. After 16 days of running, I patted myself on the back, lay back on the couch, and opened Instagram.

That’s when I saw one of a series of articles by my friend (and Experience Life contributor) Elizabeth Millard about the Runner’s World Run Streak, for which she profiled people who ran daily for weeks, months, even years! I was blown away. It turned out my little running experiment was nothing novel — and it even had a name.

A “run streak,” I discovered, refers to the number of consecutive days you go for a run. According to the United States Running Streak Association, all it takes is one mile per calendar day. As I dug deeper, I was inspired by seasoned streakers, including one woman who was working toward a 1,000-day streak.

On May 18, after my single day off, I recommenced with Day 1.

In doing so, I didn’t have a plan. I still just wanted to aim for a mile a day, at whatever pace felt right. I didn’t have an end date in mind: I figured my body would let me know when it was done. I promised myself that I’d listen.

Through the rest of May, June, and July, I ran my mile. At the beginning of August, on a whim, I signed up for the Twin Cities in Motion’s Looniacs Challenge to run 100 miles that month.

Now I was upping the ante by committing to increasing my daily distance from one mile to about three. It seemed like a big jump, but I was tempted — and still committed to listening to my body and stopping when it said enough.

Recovery — through proper nutrition, sleep, stress management, mobility work, and true rest — is always critical, no matter my activity. But over the years I’ve learned that recovering from runs is more challenging for me than recovering from other workouts. Although my mind loves running, my body isn’t always a fan.

So I doubled down on my recovery routine and focused on varying my running routes, distances, and intensity as much as I could.

I continued to cross-train, strength-training three times a week and doing brief yoga sessions almost daily. I’m convinced that my long history of strength, conditioning, and mobility work has supported me in my run-streak experience.

As occasional discomfort cropped up, I paid attention and took action. I invested in new running shoes and professional bodywork that I could maintain on my own. I listened to my body, yes, but I heeded my mind, too. My mind wanted to run. It wanted to know how far and how long I could go.

To date, the answer is 96 days and 185 miles. A part of me hopes that when you read this, I’ll still be streaking and feeling amazing. Perhaps I’ll be running my miles through snowdrifts, perhaps on a treadmill. Or perhaps my mind and body will have agreed to stop well before the season turned.

Either way, I’m grateful for the consistency that streaking has given me these last few months.

Each day, I’m guaranteed a workout, even if it’s just a 12-minute jog around my neighborhood. Each day, I find success by completing something hard, no matter how small or insignificant a mile might seem in the grand scheme.

And each day has been a reminder that small, hard things done consistently can amount to something huge — something that once might have been impossible.

This originally appeared as “Let’s Go Streaking” in the January/February 2021 print issue of Experience Life.

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Buff Bombshell Show Special Guest: Rachel Daniels

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In this week’s episode, the ladies – Emma Hyndman, The Posing Pro and Bikini Amateur Lauren Lotter – talk to the incredible Rachel Daniels. In a short but well-earned competitive career, Rachel has gone from IFBB Bikini amateur to Women's Physique pro and also made her Olympia debut in 2020. We have no doubt that Rachel is here to conquer all her goals, one being The New Era Poser.

We will be catching up with Rachel later this year to find out how she has progressed in her bodybuilding career and hear more about her continuing passion for the sport.

–Lauren & Emma

#FitnessRXforWomen #Olympia #WomensBodyBuilding #RachelDaniels

 

The post Buff Bombshell Show Special Guest: Rachel Daniels first appeared on FitnessRX for Women.

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In Training, Consistency Is the Key to Your Fitness Goals

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Consistency is arguably the most important component when working to accomplish goals, in or out of the gym. Without consistency, programs are unorganized, the body has a harder time adapting, and forming habits may be more challenging.

Build and Follow Workout Programming

Whatever your goals may be, they require a consistent level of training for you to reach them. One way to ensure consistency within the scope of your goals is to build a program. Programs make it much easier to stay on track because you won’t have to think about what you’re going to do at the gym today—it’s already written out. Most programs are designed to be followed for a set amount of time, typically about 4 weeks. Depending on the desired goal, the program will have a different focus—hypertrophy, endurance, strength, and so on. Each day is designed with the goal in mind, while ensuring that you are training in a way that minimizes imbalances within the body. If you aren’t following the program consistently, the chance of it working is reduced.

Theoretically, if you have a program and you don’t follow it, the body is not going to be able to adapt to the program because there isn’t an opportunity for progressive overload, which is when the amount of stress on the body is gradually increased over time, leading to increased strength and performance.

Work Toward Adaptations

Biologically, a lot of things happen in the body during exercise. Over time these reactions change the body to become stronger, grow, or run more efficiently. Different factors affect adaptations in everyone, so it’s impossible to predict when these changes will occur. But being consistent with training will increase the likelihood of seeing adaptations sooner.

Different modes of exercise elicit different adaptations. Endurance training will produce different changes than resistance training. While there are far too many adaptations to discuss in this blog, a few examples reported by the CDC include the following:

Improved ability of muscles to use fat as energy Stronger ligaments and tendons Increased VO2 max and lactate threshold Increased number of capillaries in muscles Cardiac muscle hypertrophy Increased force production

Each of these changes is beneficial for different scenarios. The body is either becoming more efficient or stronger, or performance is enhanced. However, these long-term benefits are seen only after consistent training over a period of time.

Create Habits

We are creatures of habit. The more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. We experience this when we learn to walk as babies, when we learn to drive, and when we exercise. It’s normal to feel out of your element when you try something new, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel.

Current research suggests that to make a habit stick it must be performed for 68 consecutive days. The idea of sticking with something brand new for 68 days may feel overwhelming for some people. When taking on a new challenge, focusing on taking it day by day might be a helpful mindset. Yes, we might be aiming to create a lifelong habit; however, thinking about just starting a habit to last for years could seem daunting. Start by doing it for one day, and then two, and then three, and so on.

Once you feel comfortable with one small change, add another small change, and so on. Small changes are more sustainable over the long term and add up to form new habits. There will likely be days that your plan doesn’t work out how it was supposed to, but that doesn’t mean all progress is lost.

The Takeaway

Our bodies adapt gradually to exercise. In the end, consistency will help you reach your goals. Without it, you might not have enough structure to allow for growth. Work first on figuring out your goals, determine the best route to achieve them, and get started with one step. If you’re not sure how to get started, the trainers at NIFS can help you set goals and develop programs tailored to those goals.

This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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Sleep Deficiency Hinders Weight Loss, So Try Better Sleep Habits

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Do you wake up feeling tired? Well, you’re not alone. One in every three Americans does not get the recommended sleep needed for optimal health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sleep deficiency is known to cause weight gain, but also contributes to a whole list of more serious health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes, just to name a few.

Why Sleeping Is So Important for Weight Loss

Believe it or not, each and every day the most important thing that you do all day is sleep. Yes, you heard right! Sleep quality and duration are so important that they directly affect everything else you do in life.

“We are nothing but slaves to chemical processes,” says W. Christopher Winter, MD, in an article for Livestrong.

Nearly one third of our lives are spent asleep. During sleep, it is peak time for our bodies to repair muscle and release hormones that control natural processes, including appetite. All this is being done without any conscious energy being consumed.

Consequently, a deficiency in the sleep column affects everything; more specifically, it cuts weight loss and exercise performance by nearly 20%. This spirals into a decrease in hormone production, (which occurs when we sleep), and ultimately affects our daily eating pattern. Popular studies show that weight gain occurs because more calories are consumed on the following day, because of lack of hormone release. Therefore, a continued deficit during the night will only lead to months and years of unnecessary weight gain. On the flip side, if you aren’t already experiencing weight gain, you may just be unable to lose weight at all. So you don’t have weight gain, but no weight loss occurs, either.

Practice Better Sleep Habits

The best advice is to practice better sleep habits, getting optimal rest and avoiding insomnia.

Start with controlling your sleep environment by setting it at the appropriate temperature. Experts suggest trying between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Try eliminating all computers and television sets from your room as well, since any source of light tends to disrupt sleep patterns. Aim for consistency rather than trying to catch up on hours you might have missed the preceding day. Don’t be afraid to take short naps when feeling fatigued. These should be anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes long to help improve alertness, performance, and mood. Lastly, never consume caffeine in the afternoon because it has the ability to stay in your system and interrupt the natural onset of sleep several hours later (See our blog on giving up caffeine).

The final verdict is in. A poor amount of sleep greatly hinders weight loss and sets you up for other health problems. So do yourself a favor: turn out the light, tuck yourself in, and get some much-needed Zzzs.

This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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