Play With A Purpose, Relax With Intention

Unwinding, A Master Class–Part 2How to Play With Purpose Relax With Intention

Sharpen your saw
When a saw blade becomes dull, you put way more work into it than necessary. So it is with you. We’ve talked on this space before about relaxation, and how important it is to practice it as a skill, but it’s high time to revive the topic with some reflections on how to improve your relaxation practice in every area of your life.

The most important work
Unstring your bow, sharpen your saw, whatever analogy you like to use, these metaphors are trying to teach us something about relaxation, and it’s this: relaxation is a form of work–the kind of work that helps you work better. It’s time we start treating it as such. Don’t believe me? Work means change! If you’re doing relaxation well, there should be some change from the beginning of it to the end.

Further, you put yourself to the task for a specific purpose. Unwinding helps you get perspective on your life in a holistic way. True, you need to relax to work most efficiently, but you’re not just a cog in some machine–you’re a multifaceted, complex creature. Sometimes just the right kind of relaxation can help you remember that.

You can pace yourself. Small and incremental change is still change, and it has a sort of compound interest effect as the days add up. The results may be small at first, but they can accumulate over time. Long vacations give you the advantage of being able to go deep in your self-care, but don’t dismiss the benefits of doing a little every day. Establishing habits of self care and relaxation can enrich your life in ways you can’t yet know.

Just as not all stress is the same, so not all relaxation is the same. You need to take that into account before you choose what kind of relaxation you pursue.

Rest the body

This is where regular massage comes in and can be of most benefit to you. The body is put through it’s own stresses, regardless of your activity level, and you need to care for it.

Relax by … moving?
Exercise can be immensely relaxing–not because of how you feel while doing it, necessarily, but how you feel afterwards. Yoga practitioners will talk your ear off about how soothing it is on the nerves, and how good it is for stabilizing both your body and your mood. What any kind of exercise does for you is that it puts your body through stress in small, tolerable portions. When your body goes through this regularly, it grows stronger in order to adapt to this regular, tolerable stress. When something big hits, like a major stressful event, your body is better able to cope with what’s happening, and recovers from the shock of it more quickly.

That aside, a there’s no body more relaxed than a body that’s been thoroughly worked out. If you don’t feel as weak as a kitten coming out of the gym, you might not be getting as much out of the experience as you could.

Regular massage can also play a key role in helping your body recover from exercise and help you get the most out of your workouts. Not to mention that it feels great.

Nom nom
Have you thought of eating as relaxation? It really can be! But it’s not about eating for entertainment–that’s a different thing. Sweets and comfort foods may feed the soul, but a good, nutritious meal can be truly relaxing to your body in the sense that it can prepare your body to do its work better.

A meal that’s truly relaxing to your system

  • tastes good
  • is well-balanced, both in terms of portions and nutrition
  • is light enough to not stress your digestive system

Foodies all over the world are discovering that not only can this kind of eating be good for you, it can be an amazing sensory experience, and an adventure that’s well worth having. What’s more, they’re eager to share what they’ve tasted and how to make it.

Go ahead and add some novelty to the foods you choose when it’s time to party, keeping in mind that what your body really wants is a balance of flavors incorporating whole grains, green vegetables, and lean meat or proteins. Your body will thank you.

Breathing
Close your eyes and take a deep breath right now. Doesn’t that feel good? Taking care of your breath, and learning to breathe deeply is key to helping your body stay relaxed and help you cope with stress as it comes. Activities like aerobic exercise, massage, and meditation can all help you improve your breathing. Pursue improving your breath with intention, and every day will begin to feel like a gift.

The bottom line with relaxing the body is that your body is after balance. You can’t just live on wheat grass and water all the time, and you can’t expect to stay healthy if your body is under constant strain with no rest or variation. The opposite is also true. Always eating the same things and always doing the same things with your body creates stress and wear over time. Remember that your body is that of an animal–it needs a natural balance of rest and activity, feast and fasting to truly thrive.

Rest the mind

Exorcise
Expel the demons! It can be helpful to feed your mind with something other than the worries of the day. There’s something about humans that makes us crave stories. We want our heart strings pulled and our senses shocked. But make your catharsis meaningful. Whether it’s video games, movies, or a long-form television drama, use with moderation, and make sure the morals, meanings, and messages reflect your values. Entertainment can be a test drive for your emotions. What are you preparing your emotions to do? What kinds of reactions are you training your brain to have to different situations?

Reading, writing, learning
Similar to the exercise you put your body through, reading, writing and learning are necessary ways to exercise the powers of the mind. Is it stressful to the mind to learn something new, or to concentrate the powers of expression and reason? Absolutely. But it’s stressful in the mild, strengthening way exercise is helpful to the body.

Journaling or other creative writing has been shown to benefit health in surprising ways. University of Texas Austin psychologist and researcher contends that journaling actually strengthens the immune cells known as T-lymphocytes. It can also just help you cope with the challenges you’re facing, giving you insights about yourself you might not otherwise discover. It can also help you set aside unproductive worrying and focus your work time more effectively.

Relaxation is a skill you can spend your life improving on and enjoying. Pursue it with gusto and intention rather just going through the motions.

Choose the good life.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and Marketing Director for The Good Life Massage. You can reach him to help you develop your brand with content marketing by reaching out to him at tomgunn@gmail.com

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How Massage Can Boost Your Workout

How Massage Can Give Your Workout a Boost

Massage has long been known as a great way to relax and soothe aching muscles, but the proof is in: massage is truly therapeutic to sore muscles, accelerating healing in muscle and connective tissue.

A recent study at McMaster university showed that not only did sore muscles have fewer signs of inflammation. It also showed that massaged muscles were better able to produce new mitochondria, which accelerate healing after intense exercise.

Why you hurt the next day
Muscles feel sore after an intense workout because exercise puts your body through stress–stress that can actually do some damage to muscle tissue. You’d think this would make exercise bad for you, but the theory is that exercise puts your body through relatively mild stress consistently so that it can better handle short periods of more intense physical stress from time to time. The point is, exercise is very hard on your body! This is known as micro-level fiber damage.

Although you’ve done your body some good by working out in the long term, you’ve actually done some damage in the short-term. You can reduce some of this damage and shorten your recovery time by giving your muscles a little TLC after your workouts.

Performance like you’ve never seen before
It’s not just about feeling better. Massage can help your performance and ensure an injury-free journey to the results you want.

As you put your body through the intense stress of a workout, the connective tissue can scar and gather in adhesions–stubbornly sticky masses that reduce flexibility and inflict unnecessary pain as you recover. Adhesions can also hinder your performance, throwing off your form and making it that much more difficult for your muscles to function smoothly.

Massage breaks down these adhesions, stretching the muscle fibers gently. By the time you’re back in action, not only are your muscles stronger, they’re ready to perform at an optimal level without painful adhesions holding them back.

Massage can also help you maintain your posture–a vital factor in keeping your form even and consistent. This is a particular concern in weight lifting, where form and balance can make a significant difference in results. Have you ever noticed that big bench-pressers can sometimes have a slight hunch forward? That’s because their pectoral muscles aren’t releasing the tension as easily as the opposing back muscles–both of which work together to complete that particular motion.

As they persist without stretching or getting regular massage, the effect compounds on itself. As a result, they’re over-taxing the pectorals, causing their form to suffer over time. You may not be a bench presser, or maybe weights just aren’t your thing, but this kind of imbalance can manifest in any number of activities. And you may not be fully aware of the imbalance until it results in a strange posture, uneven results in your workout, or even injury.

Regular massage after intense workouts will help keep your form consistent and allow your muscles to perform at an optimal level.

Book your next massage to coincide with your workout recovery. (Whatever you do, don’t schedule your massage BEFORE your workout! This could result in injury!)

Choose the good life!

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help build your brand and reach your customers by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

The Enemy Within – Hidden Muscle Tension That’s Making You Miserable

The Enemy Within

What is muscle rigidity?
Your body is a miraculous machine for coping with stress. But, like any machine, it occasionally manifests a bug–a bug that can turn into a serious problem.

When you face stress, your trusty allies, your muscles, contract and tense. They become rigid as your body prepares to fight or flee whatever stressor you’re facing. In this way, your body is trying to keep you alive. You may not be facing a threat to your life when a client or your boss yells at you, but your body doesn’t know the difference. When that stressor passes, your muscles are supposed to relax, because everything is fine.

But what if everything isn’t fine? Suppose, after being yelled at by a client, you start to drive home and almost get into an accident? Or find that you’re overdrawn in your bank account? Suddenly, your muscles are tensing up yet again. If this level of stress keeps up, your body will get the message to always be ready to defend itself, keeping your muscles rigid and tense. While many of your muscles may relax as the stressor passes, some of them may stay rigid in an effort to keep you alive.

This can happen whether the stress is unexpected, or if you intentionally inflict stress on your body through exercise.

Mindfulness
Suddenly the friendly muscles that have been trying to keep you alive have become your enemy. Not only are they not really helping you survive, they’re making everything worse. As the stress continues, more and more of your muscles become tense and rigid. This can develop into debilitating chronic pain. It can affect your posture and create a chain reaction of tension as your body twists itself into a knot trying to stay ready for whatever fresh hell you might be in for.

What’s even more insidious is that you may not even notice this happening until it manifests as a persistent pain. This rigidity and tension can build up in your body, filling your senses with a kind of tense “noise” you eventually stop noticing. After all, you’re too busy pleasing your boss, avoiding car accidents, and balancing the checkbook, right? The busyness of life can easily make you ignore the stress and tension that’s mounting in your body until it manifests as some pain or disease that won’t be ignored. Unless you do something about it.

Those of you who have received massages before may understand this from personal experience. As your massage therapist releases tension throughout your body, may help you discover mucles you didn’t even know were there. As rigid muscles are gently encouraged to become soft and smooth, little pains that have become like background noise are suddenly, blessedly silenced.

Book your next massage when you’re done reading this.

The cure
There are several ways to prevent a build up of muscle rigidity caused by stress. Our favorite, of course, is regular massage, but even that isn’t a complete solution. In any case, not everyone can afford regular massage (though it might not be as out-of-reach as you might think).

Mindfulness is key. Do things that will strengthen your mind-body connection. You can start with something as simple as turning off all distractions during your meals. The point is to help yourself become more aware of your body and what messages it’s sending you, to tune in enough so that you can detect persistent tension and small pain signals coming from your muscles and connective tissues.

Exercise, however moderate, can dramatically reduce muscle rigidity and tension. Yes, exercise can be stressful on your body. It’s supposed to be! Inflicting moderate stress on your joints, muscles, and heart in this way helps your body be more agile in coping with the every-day stressors and hassles that come your way. Remember, though, to consciously and deliberately relax your muscles after tensing them in that systematic way. Stretching is a great way to do this, but there are other methods you can do any time.

Progressive relaxation
Progressive relaxation is a guided meditation practice that helps you turn your attention to each muscle group in turn, breathing deeply. Your guide talks you through putting each muscle group through a slight tension and then relaxation, literally from head to toe. Many of these exercises can be found for free on YouTube. There are several excellent recordings done by psychiatrists and other professionals available for sale at a very reasonable price. It usually only takes 10 to 30 minutes, and is well worth the effort. It’s almost as good as getting a massage, and can even be a great way to help you sleep better.

Massage, exercise, and progressive relaxation are the primary ways to cope with stress-induced muscle rigidity, but more important than these is to try to manage the amount of stress in your life. This might entail some dramatic lifestyle changes as you try to slow your pace and live your more deliberately and with a stronger mind-body connection. If you’ve recently experienced a series of dramatic or traumatic life events, the psychological component may also need to be addressed with the help of mental health professionals.

But why bother? You feel fine, right? Do you, though? Check in with your body regularly. What does it need? What do you feel from day to day? Nobody lives in bliss all the time, but you’re not supposed to be totally miserable all the time, either. Emotional pain, like physical pain, is sending you signals to make a change in order to help you survive. Listen to that, and take to heart some of the suggestions above.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers and editor of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

Note: stress is not the only cause of muscle rigidity. It can be a symptom of a number of diseases including Parkinson’s, tetanus, multiple sclerosis, and many more. This post refers only to muscle rigidity caused by stress. You may need to consult your doctor for chronic pain or stress that won’t go away through some of the means described in this post.

Tom Gunn is the marketing director and blog editor for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to help develop your brand, logo, and content marketing strategy by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com

What’s Your Hydration IQ?

What's Your Hydration IQ-

What do you know about staying hydrated? You might not know as much as you think.

 

1. True or False: It’s recommended that everyone should have at least 8 glasses of water every day.

 

False: This common benchmark is completely arbitrary. A number of factors go into how much water a person needs, including size, gender, activity level, age, and even weather conditions. The best rule of thumb is to drink when you’re thirsty, or when temperatures or activity levels increase.

 

2. True or False: If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

 

True: Well, sort of anyway. It’s not as dire as you might think, though. Thirst is triggered by a 2-4% reduction in body fluid. Unless you have kidney problems, this is well within what your body can tolerate.

The kind of dehydration most people worry about, the kind with dizziness and fatigue, isn’t triggered until you’ve lost 5-8% of your body fluids. At that point, you passed thirsty long ago. In short, under normal conditions you can trust your body to tell you what it needs.

One caveat here: you do need to be aware of changes in your conditons. If you’re living your life in the climate you’re used to, doing the things you normally do, your thirst is pretty reliable. If those conditions change, either because you’re traveling, being much more active than usual, or find yourself in weather that’s much hotter than normal, you need to stay ahead of your thirst and be conscious of your hydration.

 

3. True or False: Staying hydrated can prevent heat stroke.

 

False: Hydration is just one factor in the on-set of heat stroke, but it isn’t the only factor. No doubt, water lowers your body temperature, but that doesn’t mean it will inoculate you from ever getting heat stroke. Again, listening to your body is important here, but don’t kid yourself that because you’re drinking enough fluids you can’t get heat stroke.

 

4. True or False: If your urine isn’t crystal clear, you’re dehydrated.

 

False: If your urine is crystal clear, that indicates that you’re more than fully hydrated, since everything you drink is just running right through you. It’s your body’s way of refusing delivery of whatever fluid you’re trying to put into it. Still, this isn’t a perfect system. Over-hydration is a real thing, and it’s very dangerous, though it’s not a major risk for most people.

If your urine is a particularly dark color or has a strong odor, that can be an indicator that you’re not drinking nearly enough.

 

5. True or False: Drinking water after a massage helps flush out the toxins released during the massage.

 

False: Water isn’t a magical elixer that flushes icky negativity or imaginary “toxins”, and neither is massage. You may have heard or read some massage therapists claiming that massage flushes toxins, but there’s no persuasive science behind the claim. Regular massage can accomplish many things, but this isn’t one of them.

Drinking water, however, does help your liver function more effectively, and improves your blood’s ability to flush waste from your system.

So why does your massage therapist tell you to drink lots of water after your session? Massage can dehydrate you slightly because it moves fluids from the soft tissues to your kidneys, which is why it’s not uncommon to need to use the bathroom after a session. That water needs to be replaced.

Also, loosening up tight muscles releases metabolic waste and brings circulation back to that area. It’s a good idea to give that healing circulation a little extra boost with a cool cup of water afterwards.

The best analogy for how staying hydrated helps your body function is like oil in a car–it helps everything run smoothly, including your body’s ability to dispose of waste and distribute nutrients.

 

6. True or False: Drinking coffee or soda is worse than drinking nothing at all because caffeine is a diuretic and it dehydrates you.

 

False: Yes, caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it causes an increase in the passing of urine. But at the doses you get in even highly caffeinated coffee or soda, you’re taking on far more water than the caffeine would cause you to lose. That said, sugary drinks, while hydrating, also include large numbers of empty calories, making simple water a preferable alternative.

 

7. True or False: Drinking water is the only reliable way to stay hydrated.

 

False: Of course, water is best. But it’s not the only source of hydration. Many foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain water, and any other drink you may consume mainly consists of water, so these all factor into your hydration. Don’t count those out just because it’s not crystal clear nectar-of-the-gods flowing from a pure mountain spring.

 

8. True or False: Ice water is harder for your body to absorb, so cool or tepid water is the best way to hydrate.

 

True: Very warm or very cold water diverts your body’s heat and circulation to moderate the temperature. That said, you don’t need to be drinking body-temperature water. You want water at a temperature that will gently cool you, ideally around 50 -59 degrees, which is slightly cooler than most tap water.

So, how did you do? Did anything here surprise you? Let us know in the comments below.

As with everything on this blog, none of this information should be construed as medical advice or care. The employees of The Good Life Massage, including the writers of this blog, are not medical doctors. Consult with your physician before making any changes to improve your health.

At The Good Life Massage, we’re committed to helping our clients build healthy habits for the best life possible through regular therapeutic massage. Book your next massage with us today.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to assist with social media marketing and brand development by emailing him at tomgunn@gmail.com

 

How to Start a Workout Routine–One That Sticks This Time

How to start a workout routine

Mark Twain said “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”

His point is as well taken now as it was more than a hundred years ago: change is hard! The same can be said of breaking a bad habit or picking up a good one. As of this posting, we’re at that point in the year where New Years resolutions to be more active are a distant memory. Now that the weather is improving, many of us are starting to think about getting taking another crack at it.

But how do you break out of the start-and-stop cycle with your workout routine? What can you do to really make it stick this time?

You may want to begin by thinking about the common obstacles that break your routine and bring your efforts to a silent halt. All these obstacles can be described with the blanket term Resistance. Resistance comes in many forms, and appears whenever you’re trying to make a significant personal change. It swallows your initial burst of enthusiasm with unforeseen circumstances or feelings that can easily derail your efforts and leave you frustrated. Its appearance is inevitable. But if you know it’s coming, you can be ready.

You know the drill
Routine can be key in maintaining an exercise habit long term. This can work really well if most of your days have a steady rhythm. Do you leave work at pretty much the same time each day? Make that unwinding period your gym time. If before work is better for you, then do that. The key to this strategy is consistency and predictability. If your lifestyle isn’t so steady, it might be very difficult to make this strategy work for you.

Your workout won’t take much will power if it’s all part of the plan. If it’s built into your day in a way that’s almost automatic, it will be much easier to punch through the resistance phase and just do it because it’s what’s next on your schedule.

Who’s got your six?
One of the many forms the Resistance takes is the people who are closest to you. Ever try to cut back on your fat intake, only to have your spouse or significant other bring home some form of temptation along with the milk you had them pick up? Ever set a date to hit the gym only to have to cross if off the calendar to do a favor for a friend? Your loved ones aren’t intentionally trying to sabotage you (usually), but when you live with and around people with different needs, their interests inevitably clash with whatever change you’re trying to make in your life. It’s like trying to go the bathroom in an airplane: chances are, meeting your needs is going to mean someone else is going to be inconvenienced.

How do you get past this? It may not be realistic or helpful to announce to everyone in your circle the changes you’re trying to make and ask for everyone’s support. Sure, the bigger the cheering section you have, the better, but not everyone is comfortable with that. Pick at least one person who’s willing to help you be accountable. Tell them when you plan to go exercise and have them check in with you every week or every few days to see how things are going. You’re not asking a lot, and a best friend or romantic partner will probably be happy to help. Better yet, if you have a friend with similar goals, support each other! Keep each other accountable and committed.

If you’re not having fun . . .
You’re doing it wrong! If working out is a miserable experience you dread every time, you’re simply not going to be able to keep it up. Even if you’re just bored and you’re doing it just to do it, you could be in trouble. Sure, you won’t ‘feel like it’ every time, but go anyway. That’s good! The Resistance hates when you do that. But the motivation has to be there. You have to want it, not just for the promised results, but for the experience itself. Try different things! Sign up for various lessons. Find a sport or a class you truly enjoy and make it a part of your who you are. Routines come and go: passion is forever.

Practice makes perfect? No!
Actually, perfect practice makes perfect. Go into each workout with a problem solving mentality, or with a goal to improve. In weight training, that might mean improving your form or raising the amount of weight. In basketball it might mean perfecting your jump shot. Engage with the activity, not just with your body, but with your mind as well. You will see better results from what you’re doing, and skipping out or giving up will be the farthest thing from your mind.

Payoff
Make sure you’re rewarding yourself for sticking with it. Keep track and reward yourself for reaching milestones. (Wherever possible, make sure these rewards don’t involve calories, so as not to compromise your goals.) Massage, it turns out, is both a fantastic non-food reward you can treat yourself to, and a great way to take care of your body. You can even purchase the reward ahead of time as a gift card or in a prepaid package and use it whenever you’ve earned it. It’s easy to place buy a package or gift card online or by phone (425-243-7705). You can also book your appointment online.

A final thought on the Resistance …
If you’re still struggling after trying all these strategies, maybe it’s time to look in the mirror. Is there some underlying issue, some lurking thought error or negative belief about yourself that’s quietly undermining your motivation? A great first step in that direction is to look the Resistance in the eye and recognize it for what it is, no matter what form it takes. If you can name it, you can get around it.

So get out there and stay with it! This time, things are going to be different.

Tom Gunn is the blog editor and marketing director for The Good Life Massage. You can hire him to handle your content and social media marketing needs by contacting him at tomgunn@gmail.com