“The most important relationship in your life is the relationship you have with yourself. Because no matter what happens, you will always be with yourself.” – Diane von Furstenberg
Unfortunately, we often neglect ourselves and, moreover, gain some biased opinions on things that are supposed to make our living better. Our bodies should express human qualities such as dedication, and not modern beauty standards. I felt motivated to write about this topic since I consider that I gained a wise perspective on it from experience.
Isn’t there something missing in your life? The idolatry for training
People are often preoccupied with their looks. That’s for sure. But is it this, or the mere purpose of doing something for ourselves that should bring us to the gym? Many people feel “dragged” to work out by a desire to look better, not by a passion for the activity. Do you really think that people who work out almost daily come home and say “I made it today as well.”? Sport is about developing a passion, which in addition brings major benefits to you, rather than just a better looks. The psychological change that you will experience is the greatest one of all.
If you become dedicated, you will eventually reach a point when you look at yourself in the mirror while training and realize how far you have gone. You will stop caring about your looks anymore and you will rather start measuring the amplitude and explosion of your movements. Technique is the norm; do not lie to yourself when executing a movement! We often tend to arrange our posture in such a way that our movements become simplified, losing a part of their benefit and, more importantly, hurting ourselves. Repeated workouts that lack good technique or just a mere wrong movement can sometimes lead to problems.
However, even if you get injuries (this is quite common and can happen at any point), you will be amazed about how smart our bodies are in healing themselves. And in the end, there is something to learn from the injuries that you get. I got a torn meniscus in my 3rd year of going to the gym and I learnt that you must have patience and help your body recover. I had to avoid doing what I love for more than half a year. On the other hand, sport has helped me stabilize and ameliorate a scoliosis that I have since childhood due to proper technique.
What happens in the body?
Among its many benefits, exercising activates the lymphatic system, which is engaged in fighting infections in your body. It gives your immunity and is responsible for regenerating tissues, draining stagnant liquids and detoxifying your whole body by eliminating foreign substances. Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump. Muscular movement and intensified breathing sets lymph in motion and helps it flow through the nodes, therefore, cleaning up your whole system.
Developing more muscular fiber can speed up your metabolism and therefore, help you lose weight and get lean easier. If you want to really push your limits in terms of training, speed up your metabolism and go a step further, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the solution. HIIT is a type of training that involves short periods of intense anaerobic exercise together with short periods of recovery in between them. After having done numerous classes and with a year and a half of constant training behind, I jumped into this and I became addicted to it. The main benefit that you get from HIIT is the development of white muscular fiber (fast twitch). This type of fiber is the one which is believed to speed up your metabolism and therefore, make you burn more body fat even you are done with the workout. In general, it is easier to develop our red type of muscular fiber (slow twitch). Red fiber is found in proportion of 80% of our muscles and is characterized by slow sustained movement (there we go with the name of “slow” twitch), whereas white fiber makes up for the rest of muscular spread and is developed through short powerful movements. If your goal is to boost your metabolism, then remember that HIIT is believed to be among the most efficient types of training in developing the fast twitch.
A piece of advice
Do not be discouraged if you do not picture yourself pulling a bar or if you do not feel convinced about HIIT. You can as well opt for group classes. If these do not work for you, running is usually a really good hit. In case you get bored by working out alone and feel the need to be distracted, you can of course choose to go for other sports, such as tennis. You have to find the form of physical activity that makes you smile while you work out. Next time when you work out, remember it should make you happy! Do not forget to smile!
As an additional, more “technical” advice, I would recommend you focusing on whatever you like, but to not forget to practice sports that are at the opposite pole of what you usually do. This is because one of the biggest mistakes we make is that we often insist on training our big groups of muscles and neglect the tiny muscles that cover and support our bones. For this, Yoga and Pilates are considered the most effective. I love classes that involve a great variety of fast ample movements. As I am very energetic, I cannot lie on a mat. However, I often opt for a Yoga class for a change, due to the reason mentioned above.
Does physical activity make us better learners? A healthy mind in a healthy body
“The minute you get away from fundamentals – whether its proper technique, work ethic or mental preparation – the bottom can fall out of your game, your schoolwork, your job, whatever you’re doing.” ― Michael Jordan
“Chasing deadlines and running late to lectures are the most strenuous forms of exercise students engage in.” Leaving jokes behind, there is quite some evidence brought by research about the fact that athletes make better students. Although you might think that sport occupies a part of your time, which could have been used for things that you need to accomplish, the benefits you get from dedicating that time to physical activity are greater. Physical activity puts you in a competition with yourself, encouraging you to push your limits in different aspects of your life. The desire to succeed in a sport or to improve yourself physically can translate into a desire to succeed in other aspects of your life, including academics. Sport is a great relief for the mind, keeping it distracted from any other issues that surround one’s life. It represents a perfect break if you feel stuck when working on something. After an exercising session, you come back to work with your mind fresh and you are able to see things from a more objective perspective. On top of that, a sustained affinity for exercising can make us become self-disciplined and develop an ability to dedicate to something. These traits can help us in our daily life, making us more organized and focused.
The importance of nutrition
People refer more to diet rather than nutrition. Not everybody probably knows that the words “diet” and “nutrition” are synonyms. The concept of nutrition nowadays seems to be perceived really different from the one of diet. Dieting often turns into something negative, because of the fact that people tend to adopt hunger, not a healthier way of eating. This actually backfires as our smart bodies go into an “emergency mode” and preserve fat in order to prepare itself for a longer period without nutrients. In addition, counting calories can be seen as irrelevant, since we all have different metabolisms and therefore, very different ways of burning calories. But going back to an earlier point that I made, should we eat clean strictly for our looks when there are indeed far way more important reasons for it?
Let’s picture ourselves for a second the shelves in the supermarket. They are full of different products and probably we will never even get to try all of them. Now imagine how the supermarkets looked like at the beginning of the last century: they were far simpler, selling aliments that nowadays we consider “basic”. It is quite scary if we start thinking about the fact that we are actually part of the first generation, which has been raised in the spirit of an industrial production of food. We should check the label of any product that we put in our shopping cart, since even the most “harmless” products nowadays actually contain harmful chemicals. The best way to go is to choose aliments which are as close as possible to their natural source. I find this video very useful in explaining more about the reasons behind this and I would recommend you watching it.
In addition to this, it is very important to be aware of the fact that our bodies need to maintain an electrolyte balance. Electrolytes are important nutrients for our bodies as they play key roles in sending electrical impulses that influence our heart, muscles and nerves. They also play an important role in fluid balance and hydration in our cells, tissues, and our muscles. In severe cases, people even die of an electrolyte misbalance. These electrolytes are represented by a number of chemicals: sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium. Some of them, such as sodium, are found in nearly any product. However, it is in our responsibility to make sure we get just enough of the rest. You can find a list with aliments rich in electrolytes here.
In a nutshell, we should not perceive food as a mere response to hunger or start under-nourishing ourselves in order to lose weight. We must go beyond this perception and understand that having healthy eating habits should constitute our overall goal.
Sleep & Hydration
“College students are the most sleep deprived.” We hear this quite often. Many students complain that they have so much to do or that they leave things on the last moment, that they sometimes convict themselves to sleeping 2 hours a night. In some cases it might be necessary to cut off our sleeping hours in order to meet deadlines. However, the reason why some of us need those hours is, perhaps, actually that they are not actually working efficiently. What should motivate you to become more efficient or in any case, get those 8 hours of sleep, lies in the idea that the brain is actually cleaning itself from toxins during our sleep. If we do not allow it to have enough time for the cleaning, chemicals will remain in our brain and impede us from being productive. Cleaning our bodies is also the reason for drinking water. Drinking liquids is the main way through which we can cleanse our organs. Your liver is working hard the whole day detoxifying harmful substances and it needs the help of liquids in order to function at its best.
We are too often giving rather than taking energy from our activities…
The last point I want to make is about mindfulness. Many people are not intrinsically healthy. The worst part is that they abstain from exposing this to the people around them. It is very hard to fight with our own thoughts as it is the case that we always agree with ourselves. Mental disorders are a serious issue and can prevail at any point in one’s life. It is crucial that we do not neglect our unhappiness and frustrations and start changing something. These can turn into mental diseases, which will require you to “work a lot with yourself” and seek the advice of an expert. If you got into this phase, it is first important to admit that you do have a problem. The next step is to talk to your close ones and to avoid keeping your negative thoughts and emotions inside. This can only make things worse. You must get out of your life the people/activities/places that actually bring you in bad mental states before you can further move on. In the end, everything is solvable. The most important thing is to become dedicated to finding your balance, before being dedicated to anything else.