CAN EXERCISE BE A FORM OF MEDITATION?

A couple years ago I was riding my bike down 101 into a head wind and a friend drove by.  I did not see him at the time, but later he said to me “you looked so serious”. I have actually have heard this comment a few times in my life and I had to give it some thought. What my friend had seen was in fact just a face void of emotion. To tell you the truth, often when I am running or riding or weight lifting (if I am in the “zone”); I am not really present at the surface and somewhat absent. I am meditating! As a long time educator of fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyles,  my goal has always been to help my clients and friends and anyone else that will listen, understand the spirituality of training and fitness. The experience one has, no matter what sport or action you choose is so much more than purely a physical event. There are elements to training that go far beyond that.  And there lies the hook. I will admit of course there are times when I go for a run or workout in the gym when it just does not sync and the pistons are not firing. I call those times utility workouts. These are dues that must be paid because I know there are the payoff days.  This part of the discipline, which in itself is a form of mediation- the ever existing balance in life and in training, the Ying and the Yang.

The beginning is difficult. We tend to mostly experience fitness in the left brain and the body seems uncomfortable. I want to convey to you the need to allow that experience, and move through it. Allow yourself to be a beginner, knowing that with the consistency of the discipline you will begin to reap rewards. And it can happen very quickly. When you begin your training it is important to let go of some of the images  you have in your mind of what your body “should” look like or the mind chatter of how “out of shape you are” and so on. Training is more than vanity and more than looking good. Yes you are there to improve your health by becoming more fit but the real catch is the sense of self and well-being. A transformation occurs through training that leads you to discover who you are and a time to commune with yourself, a time to self-reflect.

TRAINING

I personally love strength/weight training and have been hooked since I was 17 years old. For me, it’s something I enjoy doing for its own sake apart from the results it gives me.

  • Weight training allows you to communicate precisely with every muscle in your body, to send blood and vitality to every space.
  • Weight training lets you lose track of time. You go into a flow where you become absorbed in the moment-by-moment process.
  • Weight training develops physical intuition. You get a gut-level sense, an instinct of what your body needs.
  • Weight training is ever changing and you learn to be flexible and receptive. You learn to let go of preconceptions of how you think you will train on any certain day. You go with plans but they do not always happen.

Another love of mine is running. It allows me to experience myself like nothing else. I do not see running as a social event.  Usually I run alone. I don’t like to talk and breathe at the same time when I run. Personally I like to focus on breathing, and natural awareness that puts the world on hold. Thoughts come and go from my mind and all I can really do is breath and tune into the effort and surroundings. I love running trails and I don’t mind if they are uphill, (that just means I go slower and think of breathing even more). Nature and running go together like peanut butter and jelly, another one of my favorite things.  But that’s for another article about nutrition.

Whether you are a runner or a walker, the solitarily aspect of that event allows each of us a uniqueness. It is what Ralph Waldo Emerson called our "individual genius," our special way of being in the world. George Sheehan the famous running guru phrased it nicely when he said, “I know of no better way to find my own genius than running with no companion except the rhythm of my breathing.”

STARTING YOUR PRACTICE

I suggest that you mix it up, use different forms of fitness so you get to experience a variety of feelings and environments. Strive to do something that involves you being in nature. Something outdoors that you love to do and that can lead to a need to do other physical things that support that. Let’s call that the “physical domino affect”!  Stay positive, I know that sounds cliché but try and let go of negative thoughts and chose to simply stay aware of your physical experience, with practice and with the physiological changes that will occur it gets easier!

Training is not a destination it is a place that you can find in within yourself and spirit!

Are You a Frog in the Water?

By Janice B Gaines BS LMT

Everybody knows that proper diet and nutrition is good for the body, but are you aware of how important eating right is for mental and emotional health? The mind is integrated into the body’s system as much as any organ and must not been seen as a separate entity. You feel better when you eat right!

When we neglect to feed our bodies good food and proper nutrition it affects us in many ways; fatigue, weariness, lack of clarity, malaise and the list goes on… Often these symptoms are not noticed in and of themselves because we adapt and it becomes normal over time.  If left alone for too long, these states of existence can lead to more serious conditions. This is a slow progression, similar to the story of the Boiling Frog. If a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that is slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. This applies to us; the inability to react to significant changes that occur gradually.

Keep in mind (pun intended), that depression and anxiety are caused by imbalances in chemical messengers in the brain - neurotransmitters. Remember neurotransmitters are chemicals that are produced in the brain and they are the information network for our body and mind.

Three to Avoid

  1. Caffeine: Why do so many people (yours truly included), consume so much caffeine?  How does it work? It’s easy to understand. There is a chemical called adenosine created in the brain and it binds to its receptor.  This normal binding action causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. Caffeine looks like adenosine. It therefore binds to the receptor blocking out the real adenosine, but instead of slowing down nerve cell activity it does the opposite and speeds it up. Caffeine also increases dopamine levels. This seems cool at first because dopamine is a neurotransmitter that activates our pleasure centers. Heroin and cocaine do that too, obviously to a higher degree but same mechanism.  There are a number of problems with this over the long run. Deep-sleep is a real issue and without it many unwanted symptoms come about such as depression. Caffeine causes stress on our system the affects of which cause the body a state of exhaustion that can seriously weaken emotional health.
  2. Refined sugar: The reasons to avoid sugar are numerous. Sugar acts on the same brain receptors that alcohol and heroin do. Along with this comes the addiction. Like caffeine the long term affect is bad, causing brain chemical imbalances. In addition excess sugar creates unstable blood sugar levels that leave us irritable, moody and craving more sugar. That leads to weight gain and you know how “good’ that feels.
  3. Junk Food: I think the name says it all! Junk food according to Wikipedia: “is an informal term applied to some foods which are perceived to have little or no nutritional value, or to products with nutritional value but which also have ingredients considered unhealthy when regularly eaten, or to those considered unhealthy to consume at all.” Recent research: Scripps Research Study Shows Compulsive Eating Shares Same Addictive Biochemical Mechanism with Cocaine, Heroin Abuse. The study showed that rats on junk food would rather starve than eat healthy. This says quite a bit about the effects on brain chemistry and imbalances that occur. By the way this category includes sugar, salt and saturated fats.

Three to Eat

  1. 1. Rice, oats and other whole grains: these foods are rich in vitamin B and folic acid. They are low-glycemic foods, which mean they release glucose into the bloodstream gradually, thus preventing sugar lows and mood swings. They are rich in the trace minerals which we need to function properly, as well as being a high-fiber food that can keep the digestive system healthy and lower cholesterol levels. Stay away from instant varieties. In fact anytime you see “instant” on a food label, “just say no”.
  2. 2. Proteins: choose organic, low fat proteins. Eggs, fish, chicken and beef are all good choices. Protein should be part of every meal; your body does not store it. You need it to maintain healthy metabolic rates and feed your body the fuel it needs to regenerate muscle, bone, blood cells and brain cells.
  3. 3. Fruits and vegetables: my theory is mix up the colors. Different colors indicate that you’re getting different nutrients and vitamins, plus it’s a fun way to put the meal together. Choose organic and fresh!  Mom was right vegetables are good for you and you will feel better for eating them.

Don’t be the frog in the water, jump out now!

Manzanita Pace Setters

A NEW CLUB STARTING THIS JANUARY!!!

MANZANITA PACE SETTERS (MPS)

A walk-jog-run club that meets every Saturday morning at 7:30am in the parking lot behind spa manzanita

Fight the winter blues, winter weight gain and enjoy the camaraderie of other fitness enthusiasts of all levels on a weekly commitment to better health, weight loss, outdoor exposure and fun!

We will go rain, wind or shine, its all good!

No charge and all active club members get 10% off on massages at spa manzanita.

Janice B. Gaines BS LMT(owner of spa manzanita and fitness/wellness expert), will lead, teach, encourage and share with you her experience and knowledge.

We will do a self-paced (approximately) one hour course that starts and ends at the parking lot with a new course each week.

A couple requirements:
You need to show up!
Bring a can of food; spa manzanita will collect the food and take to North County Food Bank.

So this is a double "mitzvah" (charitable act), good for you and good for someone needy.

First day is Saturday January 10th 2009

Any questions feel free to call

Janice B Gaines

503 368-4777

Or email

janice@spamanzanita.com