What Every Runner Needs to Know About Inflammation

woman running

Have you experienced inflammation as a runner?

It is a shared human experience, because if you have had a papercut you have seen inflammation first hand. It is a normal part of life and a normal part of endurance training and it’s not all bad.  It naturally occurs to help our body heal from a stressor – maybe a hard training session, a new training plan, or race day. So, here is what every runner needs to know about inflammation before their next race.

We want a certain amount of inflammation, but we don’t want too much or for it to hang around longer than it is making itself useful. An unruly inflammatory response can be a result of poor nutrition, inadequate recovery, ongoing injury, poor sleep, or genetic predisposition.

Why is too much inflammation bad for a runner?

In the short term it negatively impacts performance, compromises the immune system, increases aches and pains, causes hormone dysregulation, and can even result in weight gain.  Long term, chronic inflammation can lead to increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia, skin conditions, and autoimmune disease.

What is unique about inflammation for the endurance athlete?

To perform your training and complete your race, you rely on oxygen use in skeletal muscle.  The oxidative nature of this training increases the production of free radicals and results in an inflammatory response to help protect your bodies tissues. This is a really good thing – temporarily.

In fact, you don’t want to load up on antioxidants or anti-inflammatories during or immediately following training. You want the inflammation to do its jobs so you don’t end up with an injury or tissue damage. But then, you want the inflammation to get out of there ASAP.

Anyone experienced upper respiratory symptoms post-race? It was thought to be an increased susceptibility to infection, but this is only about 5% of cases, 40% are actually caused by inflammation (the other 55% are asthma or allergies which can have connection to inflammation as well).

So we should probably take NSAIDS and knock out that inflammation right?   

NSAIDS like ibuprofen can decrease inflammation & pain, but cause gut damage, impair recovery, and harm performance. If you are a few weeks out from a race, using these medications could be one of the worse things you can do in order to get yourself to the starting line successfully or the finish line with a PR.

What should we do instead to overcome inflammation?

Take care of the main causes of prolonged inflammation. There will be tremendous health benefits long term, but also performance benefits as early as your next race.

1. Sleep

When you are in deep sleep, your body repairs, recovers, and removes excess inflammation.  The harder you train, you more rest you will need to recover.  If you are having trouble sleeping, reach out to our Integrative Health Coach for simple strategies.

2.Remove Inflammatory Foods

Foods can trigger our body to hold onto more inflammation.  The universal culprits are sugar and artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners.  The biggest culprits among runners are energy and hydration drinks.  Be sure yours is clear of the fake stuff.

3.Add Anti Inflammatory Foods

Incorporate real foods like berries, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and cruciferous vegetables to fight inflammation caused by your training.  An anti inflammatory supplement like vitamin C or turmeric should be taken at least 1 hour before or after training so you don’t disrupt the natural healing response.

4. Supplement for Nutritional Gaps

Probiotics, prebiotics, green tea, and omega 3 fish oil are all supplements that will support the inflammatory response and immune system when you are asking your body to work overtime.  Inquire at the link below to learn more our personalized supplementation programs to dial in exactly what your body needs more of.

5. Take Care of Injuries

Don’t let a nagging injury or flare up perpetuate inflammation in your body.  Our doctors of physical therapy can quickly help calm the discomfort and keep you on your training schedule.  In addition to our traditional hands on treatment techniques, we have modalities that help decrease localized inflammation and support lymphatic flush to keep it moving on out.

Expert Tip . . . Know your Genetics

Some of us have a genetic predisposition to increased levels of inflammation.  Knowing where you stand genetically lets you know how much you need to dial in each of these areas to prevent inflammation from limiting your performance.

In addition, not getting enough of what your body needs in terms of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients results in increased stress hormones and decreased energy production making your body unable to fight inflammation. Nutrition genetic testing allows us to dial in exactly what your body needs to thrive, most effectively produce energy, and conquer your race day goals.

Have questions about your inflammatory response, maximizing recovery, or fitness and nutrition genetic test? Click HERE to visit our website or just send an email directly to amanda@peakpotentialpt.com

 

10 Strategies for Increased Energy this Summer

revitalize your summer energy

Did you start the summer excited about all the things you would do in the warm, sunny weather? Or perhaps you have travel planned or are busy with a house full of kids out of school. The problem I am hearing now that we are about half way through the season, is that summer things take so much energy and many of us have run out.  So, let me give you some strategies to revitalize your summer with increased energy.

Is it even possible? Absolutely. We just need to regroup and refocus on our needs so we have the ability to do all the other things.  Consider these 10 strategies to attain and maintain increased energy so you can make the most of your summer with family and friends.

1. Take Care of Your Emotional Needs

Physical Energy will flow when you satisfy your emotional needs. You are the only person who knows exactly what you require for this, so plan time to do what is necessary to ensure you are feeling contentment. It’s easy to let these things slide when making summer fun for everyone else.

2. Up Your Antioxidant Intake

Antioxidants help the body create energy at the cellular level. Including antioxidant rich foods like berries, cherries, artichoke, asparagus, and dark leafy greens can give you increased energy, allow your muscles to perform better, and may even improve your mood.

3. Get More B Vitamins

Like antioxidants, B vitamins (primarily found in meat, fish, poultry, and dairy) are necessary for the body to produce energy. You may need a B vitamin supplement if you eat a vegan diet, are depleted due to certain medications (like hormonal birth control), or have an increased genetic requirement.

4. Avoid Heavy Foods

Eating especially rich foods prepares you well for a Netflix marathon, but not for hiking with friends or running through the sprinkler with your kids. Fill most of your plate this season with lean meats and fiber rich vegetables. You will be fueled and ready with increased energy when adventure calls.

5. Use Caffeine to Your Advantage

Caffeine increases alertness, so having a coffee can sharpen your mind. However, to get the energizing effects, you have to get just enough but not too much. It can cause insomnia, when consumed in excess or too late in the day. Knowing your genetic response to caffeine can be a game changer.

6. Sleep Well

Getting restful, deep sleep is necessary for your physical and mental health. In order to have plenty of energy during these active summer days, you’ll need plenty of deep sleep to give your body time to rejuvenate. Aim for 7-8 hours and work on improving the quality, not just quantity.

7. Plan Ahead

To keep yourself from feeling stressed out, have an idea of what you want to do over the next 3 or 4 days. Making a note of what you both have to do and hope to do means you can also plan to achieve balance regarding your activity, rest, and rejuvenation.

8. Be Active

Sit less and move more. Whether you’re at the park with kids, working from home, or on vacation, get up and move.  Take a walk, jump on your bike, push kids on the swing, toss around the football – the active doesn’t matter, but the movement does.

9. Vary Your Activities

Even if you love playing golf, a change of pace can revitalize you. Try something new like pickleball, join the kids in their backyard soccer game, swim laps, or take advantage of a guest pass at a local gym.  Challenging your body and mind can bring about a renewed spirit.

10. Pace Yourself

Allow blocks of time to rest, read, stretch, or listen to your favorite music.  Recovering sufficiently from summer activities will give you more energy to keep up with the activities you love most.

There’s no big secret to revitalization. Try the tips above to stay engaged both physically and mentally and energy will be more available to you.

If you need help identifying if you have nutrient deficiencies leaving you sluggish or need strategies to get more sleep or destress from work so you can enjoy your family time more, I would love to help you strategize a plan for more energy.

As a Functional Nutrition Specialist and Integrative Health Coach, I help those at midlife feeling fatigued and frustrated with their health discover vibrant energy and confidence in their body again.  Schedule a Free Discovery Call to Discover your next best step toward optimal health.

Get started today and pump up your vitality this summer!

Simple Steps Toward Lifelong Brain Health

Brain Health

Just as our physical body changes over time, it’s natural to see changes in our brain as well. Fortunately, it’s also true that we can maintain our cognitive fitness in similar ways that we maintain physical fitness.  At any age, lifestyle choices play a major role in how well we think, feel, learn, react, and remember. Each day, we can take simple steps toward lifelong brain health.

Failing brain health is a public health epidemic. Research shows that 3 out of 5 Americans will develop a brain disease in their lifetime. If we add emotional well being and mental focus to the brain health equation, I’d say we are close to 100% of individuals that will at some point have concern about how efficiently their brain is working.

Right now you may have no concerns and this is where the problem starts – we take our brain for granted.  Now is the time to start implementing strategies to keep it in tip top shape.

Already have concerns? Then these tips can help you as well.  The goal is to achieve your best brain at the stage of life you are in. The result, to have more success in relationships and business, overcome obstacles and be resilient to tough life circumstances, and continue to complete your daily activities independently for as long as the rest of your body will keep up.

Try these suggestions for taking care of your brain starting today.

 

1. Exercise Regularly

Physical activity delivers more oxygen to your brain and helps form new neural connections. Exercise boosts happy hormones as well as helps to relieve physical and emotional effects of stress. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week.

2. Eat Healthy Fats

About 60% of the brain is made of fat.  That means fatty acids from foods like fish, nuts, olives, and avocado are needed for optimal functioning.  Specifically omega 3 fats have been shown to decrease cognitive decline, improve focus, and reduce rates of depression.

3. Sleep Well

We all know the feeling of brain fog when we don’t sleep well, but did you know your memory and learning capacity actually grow stronger while you sleep. Go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule and talk with a healthcare provider if you are having trouble getting quality sleep.

4. Address Chronic Conditions

Many physical health issues like obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and high blood pressure can impact your brain.  Schedule regular screenings for these health markers and seek solutions to move back in the right direction when those numbers creep up.

5. Stay Connected

Block out time to spend with family and friends. Social ties help to slow the rate of memory decline and enhance mental and emotional health outcomes. Add some laughter to the situation and the brain boosting effects become even more powerful.

6. Express Creativity

Making art raises serotonin levels, while music enhances brain function. Experiment with different hobbies to find something you enjoy. The good news is that you don’t have to have artistic talent, you will see benefits regardless of your skill level.

7. Relax and Reflect

Relaxation reduces inflammation in the brain and helps it work more efficiently.  Forms of reflection could include prayer, mediation, a walk in nature, deep breathing, yoga, or listening to music.  Find what works best for you and savor the present moment.

8. Change Your Self Talk

Don’t speak to yourself in a way that you wouldn’t speak to a close friend.  Make your inner dialogue compassionate and encouraging. Don’t forget to give yourself credit for the small steps you take toward a better you.

This list might appear overwhelming, but addressing just one area can begin to reduce your risk of cognitive decline. And the investment is definitely worth it – keeping your brain healthy will help you to lead a longer and more rewarding life.

If chronic pain, injuries, or illness are keeping you from being able to any of the above, we have experts to help you overcome these obstacles.  Let’s work together to make summer 2023 YOUR TIME to TAKE BACK the health of your mind & body.  Click HERE to learn more about how we can help, or go directly to our Schedule to Book a Virtual Strategy Session. 

 

Natural Relief for Arthritis Pain

Natural Relief for Arthritis Pain

For the millions of adults who struggle with arthritis, new and natural relief for arthritis pain is always welcome news.  While traditional treatments such as pain medication and injections tend to be temporary and long term use result in unwanted side effects, natural treatments remain safe and effective for long term use.

We could provide you story after story of people who are traveling Europe with arthritis in their knees and toting grandbabies through Disney World with hip arthritis because they have cracked this code of arthritis pain relief – naturally.

To be clear, osteoarthritis is a condition of degeneration or breaking down of cartilage. This means that none of the treatments we are going to discuss will be a “cure” for arthritis.  However, most of the patients we talk to see surgery as a last resort and avoid the side effects of medication when at all possible.  They are also generally very happy when a natural solution decreases their discomfort and improves their quality of life.

Here are treatments that require no prescription, are non invasive, and have been shown in research to provide relief for arthritis pain.

1. Increase Anti inflammatory Foods

Choosing meals that include fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, leafy greens, and berries will help the body decrease inflammation in the joints and surrounding tissues.

2. Decrease Inflammatory Foods in the Diet

In the same way that we increase anti inflammatory foods, we want to decrease foods that cause more inflammation (and thus pain) in the body. This includes highly processed foods – especially those with added sugar and hydrogenated oils.

3. Drink Herbal Teas

The polyphenols in tea can reduce symptoms of arthritis and are a simple addition to your routine.  Smart choices include ginger, chamomile, and green tea. We know these top 3 nutrition strategies can be “easier said than done” so we have a Functional Nutrition Specialist on our team to support you in implementing an anti inflammatory diet.

4. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Carrying around extra body fat adds extra stress to your joints.  For example, losing 10 pounds can take up to 30 pounds of pressure off of the knee joints.  If this is a concern for you, reach out to our Integrative Health Coach for guidance.

5. Exercise Regularly

When it hurts to move, we tend to move less. Unfortunately, that makes our muscles weaker and our joints weaker.  Frequent movement or any form of exercise is shown to improve function and mobility in patient’s with osteoarthritis. Low impact activities like walking, biking, weight lifting, or Pilates for example do not cause more damage.

6. Incorporate More Relaxation

Stress is inflammatory, so any way that we can increase relaxation and decrease the stress hormones our body produces will be beneficial.  Research shows relaxation techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness practices, or even laughing with friends improve current symptoms and outlook for patients with both arthritis and other chronic pain conditions.

7. Add in Anti Inflammatory Supplements

The most exciting research that has emerged recently is the use of natural supplements in significantly decreasing arthritis pain and improving mobility in patients.  The two that stand out among the rest are turmeric and fish oil. In fact, research shows that these supplements when taken regularly were as effective as the anti inflammatory medication that patient’s were taking without the negative side effects.

The take away . . .

The overarching theme of all these natural remedies is decreasing inflammation in the body.  We must dial down the inflammatory factors that are weighing on our joints – processed food, stress, extra body weight. In addition, well within our control is dialing up choices that flight inflammation – healthy fats, quality supplements, adequate sleep, and strong social connections.

If you have tried everything you know to do for your arthritis concerns – or you just want to prevent mild aches and stiffness from getting worse – contact us for a Free Discovery Visit with one of our Doctor’s of Physical Therapy.  They can review what has and has not worked for you and help you take the next best step in living your most active life free of pain.

We don’t want you to survive with arthritis, we want to see you THRIVE!

 

10 Ways to Make Healthy Food Fun

Ways to Make Healthy Food Fun

Preparing your own food at home is a great way to take control of your food choices, eat healthier, and feel your best in your body. If you love to cook, that’s an added bonus. Conversely, if you’re uncomfortable in the kitchen, you may rely too much on take out. The good news is, there are ways to make healthy food fun to make and eat. 

I was blessed to grow up in a home with strong culinary role models.  I’m not talking about gourmet meals every night, but my mom was a home economics teacher so I saw balanced meals planned for and carried out each and every week.  Maybe you didn’t grow up in the kitchen, but it’s not too late to learn. On the other hand, you might be eager to bake cookies and fry bacon, but you draw a blank about what to do with asparagus or dread cooking another chicken dinner.

It’s natural to feel frustration if you have to look up half the words in a recipe or run to the store for trendy super food ingredients. You’ll be happy to hear that there are many quick and simple ways to make healthy cooking faster and even fun.

Ready to discover 10 ways to make healthy food fun? Try these suggestions to change the way you eat and enjoy the process.

1. Organize your kitchen

You don’t need an expensive renovation. Simply put your essentials within easy reach or install some racks to expand your cabinet storage.  

2. Invest in some basic tools

Ensure that your knives are sharp and cutting boards are in good shape (I replace these often).  If the budget allows, invest in a slow cooker, instant pot, air fryer, or food processor to speed up prep and cooking times. 

3. Stock up on staples

I like to fill my pantry and freezer with our favorite healthy ingredients.  That may include olive oil or diced tomatoes. I have coconut aminos and avocado oil in the pantry at all times. 

4. Play music

Research shows that music can make any task seem more effortless.  Turn on the radio or make your own amazon prime music cooking play list. A dance party in the kitchen is good for your health as well. 

5. Get your kids involved

Healthy cooking is one of the most important life skills you can nurture in your children.  You will be teaching them habits that support a higher quality of life.  I know the more my children cook, the more foods they venture to try.

Is it time to take those skills to the next level?

6. Take a class

Check the calendar at a local specialty cooking shop or cooking school.  There are online options for courses on Udemy or nearly unlimited content on You Tube. Make it more fun by having a friend join you!

7. Make a family cookbook

Assemble your favorite recipes along with pictures and stories.  First, give old favorites a healthy makeover (it usually takes just swapping a few ingredients).  You can literally pass down healthy eating habits to the next generation. 

8. Plan theme nights

Keep the weeknights fun by having theme nights each week. Try a Meatless Monday (try these Avocado Pesto Zoodles), Taco Tuesday (how about Shrimp Taco Bowls), or Wacky Wednesday.  

9. Batch Cook

It is no fun to spend every evening in the kitchen, so be sure to make extra servings when you do cook.  I reuse the extras for lunches, another dinner, or freeze them for a future night when I don’t feel like cooking. 

10. Post Your Creations

Take photos of your meal and share on social media to inspire your friends – tag us @peakpotentialpt so we can applaud your efforts as well. 

Lastly, you might just need a little practice and creativity. Before you know it, you will enjoy making nutritious meals and snacks at home. In addition to eating healthier, you’ll save money and create more opportunities to spend quality time with your loved ones.

Interested in learning more about how to prepare those “well balanced” meals and what a “healthy” plate should look like? We have a Nutrition Workshop coming up soon – options to watch virtually or attend with us live in Collierville. You will discover how to finish the year strong with a personalized nutrition strategy.  

For details about the Next Complimentary Workshop visit us on Facebook, call the office at 901-316-5456 or email amanda@peakpotentialpt.com.  Seats must be reserved in advanced due to limited class sizes. 

10 Tips to Easily Maximize Exercise Recovery

What you do after the gym matters just as much as what you did during your workout. That’s because the post workout recovery period is a time when your body builds lean muscle mass and repairs any damage.

If you shortchange yourself, you could wind up decreasing performance, increasing injury risk, or even gaining body fat. And all these things are counterproductive to the reason you exercise in the first place.

The good news it, you can ensure your workouts deliver the results you want without causing any collateral damage. Add in a few of these suggestions after you exercise to encourage maximum recovery and restoration.

Continue reading

How to Enjoy Exercise More This Year

Women at Gym on Exercise Bikes

Some of us love a tough workout, and others dread any activity that will keep them from heading directly to the couch after work. Unfortunately, new guidelines indicate most of us fall into the second category. Research shows that 80% of Americans fail to meet the government recommended minimum for weekly exercise.
Whether you are making a new years goal to get fit or are just continuing your long time fitness routine, I think it would be easier to get done consistently if we found a way to make it more enjoyable.
Good news . . . a new study out of Germany suggests that just 2 changes can make you enjoy exercise more. The participants with similar fitness levels were asked to ride a stationary bicycle for the same amount of time – a pretty boring exercise in my opinion. Those who considered themselves to be athletic and knew how they were benefiting from the activity said it was more enjoyable, and even required less effort.
The researchers concluded that personal expectations made the difference.
The secret is to believe in your athletic abilities and the benefits of exercising.
Think how much easier it would be for you to stick to a workout program if you really enjoyed doing it. Try these tips for building up confidence in your athletic abilities and knowledge of it’s benefits.

Continue reading

14 Ways to Be Kind to Your Body this Valentines Day

Woman Hugging Heart Balloon

When you think about your body, do you spend more time focusing on the negative or the positive?

It is easy to complain about the inches we would like to lose, or limitations that came with an injury, or how our body moves slower than it did a few years ago.

Or maybe you are focused on other areas of your life and don’t even notice your physical condition until you get the flu or throw your back out.

With so many responsibilities at home and work, it’s easy to overlook our body’s most basic needs. Despite the distractions, let’s not forget to be grateful for the amazing things our body does for us each day.

Valentines Day seems like the perfect time to show your body some love.

It’s important to take care of your body if you want to be able to rely on it – to be sure its keeps showing up for your for decades to come.

Continue reading

8 Hobbies to Support Your Physical Health & Wellbeing

Woman Gardening

Many of us in midlife find ourselves without a hobby outside of our career, relationships, and parenting. Who has time for scrapbooking or bowling?
The truth is, the right hobby can contribute to our physical health and fitness, mental stability, and general wellbeing. They can contribute to more energy, better sleep, optimized metabolism, more patience, decreased stress, and even decreased risk of depression or heart disease. With those kind of benefits, it may be worth our time to find a heathy hobby.
If you feel like your body or mind could use a boost, one of these hobbies might be the answer!

Continue reading

How Managing Stress Can Ease Aches and Pains

Woman Rubbing Forehead

 

Most of us are so used to living in a state of stress, we often don’t realize the negative effects it is having on our body. In fact, small infrequent doses of stress are not bad.  It can help you accomplish tasks and avoid getting hurt.

Stress is the body’s reaction to a real or perceived harmful situation called “fight or flight”.  If you were a caveman, running from a bear, stress hormones would allow you to run faster and harder. When a stress hits, your body’s critical systems for survival rev up and less urgent needs are set aside.

Immediate physical symptoms of stress can include a headache, muscle tension, rapid heart rate, insomnia, dry mouth, clenched jaw, and nervousness. While stressed, your nervous system keeps the body on alert.

But, what happens when traffic jams, work deadlines, no WiFi, or a long line at the coffee shop gets our blood boiling on a daily basis? 

The Effects of Chronic Stress

With chronic stress, your body remains in a prolonged state of muscle tension and produces high levels of stress hormones.  This type of stress can cause or worsen many health problems including mental illness like depression or anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, digestive problems, and skin conditions like acne or eczema.

You might think of stress being a problem only for your mind or psychology. However, your brain and body work together and cannot be separated.

Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system and signals the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol that slows digestion (because this isn’t really the top priority if you are running from a bear) but also increases inflammation in your body.  The hormones constrict blood vessels and reduce blood flow to soft tissues including muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves.

As you would imagine, this results in muscle spasm, slowed healing, and frequently pain symptoms. Please remember though that stress and emotional factors that lead to pain result in real physical symptoms and are not imagined or made up.

Stress and Pain are Linked

The bodies experience of stress and pain each have an impact on the other creating a vicious cycle. Pain is regulated by the nervous system so the brain is a key player in how we perceive pain.  To maintain balance in our body and help us function, the brain works hard to try to minimize pain signals.  When you are stressed, your brain is unable to filter the pain (or inhibit) signals so pain intensity will increase.

Whether your pain or stress came first doesn’t really matter, both negatively affect your quality of life.

A change as small as lack or disruption of sleep caused by pain and/or stress limits your body’s ability to heal and recover. For many people, learning how to avoid or cope with stress can lead to significant pain relief.

Where to Start?

Sometimes stress relief can be as easy as taking three long deep breaths.  To be most effective breathe in through your nose and let the air fill your belly.  Hold for a few seconds and then slowly blow out through your mouth.  In the moment, this can decrease the production of stress hormones and start to relax your muscles. 

Other times stress builds up to a point that we need help teaching the body to let go and relax again.  As physical therapists, we are experts at retraining the nervous and muscular systems.  Using hands on techniques we can help your muscles relax, release the knots and tension, and relieve the pain that is keeping you from the sleep you need and activities you love.  Click the link below learn more about us and request to speak with a doctor of physical therapy today for free. 

In the meantime, head over to Facebook where we invite you to our private group Peak Wellness Tribe.  You will find tips, tricks, conversation, and Live chats on these and other health topics.  You are welcome to post any questions you have on that page as well.