I get it, after yesterday’s post (you can read HERE if you missed it) you might be thinking, “why is Josh being so wishy washy? Is he going to start wearing robes, grow a long beard, and go live in a cave?” I don’t blame you, what I have been sharing is VERY different than what you will often find as popular topics in fitness. Like…
-You need caloric deficits
-This lift gets more EMG muscle activity than this lift
-I have the best diet that gets you leaner
-Fix your sleep already
-Don’t you want to do the same program world champion “x” does?
Fitness in many ways isn’t wrong from a technical stand point. However, what we miss is more meaningful. What do I mean? If I asked you if you would like to be a millionaire I’m guessing there is a VERY high chance you would say yes! If I then asked why aren’t you a millionaire, you would probably have a good number of reasons. Imagine though if I just said you were undisciplined and lazy because I’m a millionaire and the people I hang out with are millionaires so you are just not doing the work.
That probably wouldn’t feel helpful even if there was SOME truth to it. This is very much how fitness treats the people we say we want to help. I get it, how does what I am sharing about mindfulness, moving meditation, and so forth relate to many people’s goals of losing weight, becoming leaner, having more energy, and on?
Let’s start with the fact that the BIGGEST challenge to helping anyone reach their fitness goals rarely has to do with what is done IN the gym, but their lifestyle away from the gym. How many times have we heard or even said, “you can’t outwork a bad diet?” or the like? Pretty often right? So, why is it the people that want to be “millionaires” won’t listen to those that have become “millionaires”? Are they just being stubborn, lazy, you name it?
The reality is most people live way too much and respond too much to their limbic system. What is that? The limbic system is the part of the brain involved in our behavioral and emotional responses. When you hear people being “stuck” in fight or flight, that is them using and relying too much on their limbic system. So, when a rather small stressor occurs, if we are overly reliant on this part of our brain (we all use it and have it) then we look for outlets to manage that fight or flight reaction.
This is actually how many addictions start and hard to break. We instinctively look for a dopamine boost and we can get it from some rather unhealthy and destructive tendencies. Let me give a personal example. When I was pretty young my mother passed from cancer, I was a terribly shy kid and found lots of social setting (especially school) very stressful and I grew up in a very stressful house. Every day when I would come home from school I would quickly grab a box of cookies and go up to my room and play on my very old school computer. This was my dopamine boost and of course led to a very poor relationship with food and other things.
My point in sharing this story is that many people you might be working with, or even yourself, may be having the same struggles. It may not be food, it could be social media (they built in systems to give you a dopamine boost), binging too much tv, impulsive shopping, and so forth are all based on the same premise. This is why even though I think things like cold plunges are fine in a vacuum, such activities don’t help us with moving our reactions more from the limbic system of our brain to our prefrontal cortex.
Why is that important? The prefrontal cortex (PFC) intelligently regulates our thoughts, actions and emotions through extensive connections with other brain regions. Just looking for quick dopamine boosts doesn’t actually help with this change per se as it can lead to making healthy habits unhealthy compulsions. Is exercise good for you? Well, assuming you don’t become compulsive about it and start making it an unhealthy activity in your brain. Same can be largely said about nutrition. How do I mean?
From the National Eating Disorder Association signs would include…
-Exercise that significantly interferes with important activities, occurs at inappropriate times or in inappropriate settings, or when the individual continues to exercise despite injury or other medical complications
-Intense anxiety, depression, irritability, feelings of guilt, and/or distress if unable to exercise
-Maintains excessive, rigid exercise regimen – despite weather, fatigue, illness, or injury
-Discomfort with rest or inactivity
-Exercise used to manage emotions
-Exercise as a means of purging (needing to “get rid of” or “burn off” calories)
-Exercise as permission to eat
-Exercise that is secretive or hidden
-Feeling as though you are not good enough, fast enough or not pushing hard enough during a period of exercise; overtraining
Oh I know, there will be SOMEONE that wants to say this is just being “dedicated” but this is well researched as disordered, sorry. Will you get ripped if you ignore such recommendations? Sure, possibly, but not only can you develop physical ailments as well, but many mental too. I don’t think this is what people are signing up for when they want to start an exercise program, especially if they aren’t educated on this and are being told this is what is actually required to achieve their goals. You see where fitness if not used with the right intention and understanding can be a problem.
That really isn’t my point (although it is probably an important one), the fact is that strategies like we share in our Myofascial Integrated Movement program and many of our blogs are about helping the person learn to transfer from living in their limbic system and spending more time in the PFC. This isn’t just something I am saying to convince you to spend time on these activities, but is well researched by science…
“The prefrontal cortex covers the frontal lobe, which is the front part of the brain responsible for rational decision-making. Research shows that meditation increases grey matter in the prefrontal cortex––having extra brain cells in this region can boost our ability to make rational decisions.”
Doing such work (as we describe in our MIM program) can help achieve these results which in turns makes achieving fitness goals more possible because it will help with our ability to sleep, the relationship we have with food, and even our social interactions as well. It doesn’t magically solve all your life problems (only you can do that), but it does help us approach them from a much better place and make better decisions about them.
If you think I am still being a bit “touchy, feely” about things I wanted to bring on someone to talk about this topic who has had great success with some of the MOST intense individuals, U.S. Marines. Faith Martin has been an instructor/coordinator for the U.S. Marine High Intensity Tactical Training programs and has used yoga too to help with these VERY qualities with the Marines. Listen to part 1 of what she has accomplished and how you can use these strategies to improve your fitness goals as well as improve your understanding of what practices like yoga and DVRT are REALLY about in building mindfulness and much more.
You can check out more with our Myofascial Integrated Movement Program and all our courses and workout programs (along with Ultimate Sandbags) for 30% off with code “sale30” HERE
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