Can Exercise Help You Recover From Jet Lag?

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My husband recently returned from a trip to Japan and was understandably exhausted because he was 13 ahead while there. He keeps a very consistent workout schedule at home so he tries to fit exercise in when he needs to travel which fortunately, isn’t very often. He was away for 5 days and worked out twice in the hotel.

He returned on a Wednesday evening and went right back to his usual exercise and work schedule at 3:30am on Thursday even though he was completely wiped out. And so I started thinking “Will exercise help someone recover from jet lag faster?”

The typical recovery time for jet lag is 1 day for every time zone change. That would mean almost two weeks for a trip to Japan. That’s a long time to be battling brain fog!

Research shows that physical activity can help combat the symptoms of jet lag. Of course, you probably aren’t going to have the energy or desire to do a high intensity workout but something is better than nothing. When you feel like you’re in the Twilight Zone a HIIT workout is probably the last thing on your mind but an easy run or walk or even something as simple as a stretching session is helpful. My husband altered the intensity of his normal routine but he still did SOMETHING.

Exercising at your normal workout time is best. For example, if you normally work out at 6am East Coast time and you travel to Paris, you should try to exercise at 6am Paris time. And doing an outdoor workout, if possible, is even better. Bright sunlight tells your body that it’s time to be awake and alert. An outdoor workout will help fight fatigue and insomnia and reset your body clock a little faster.

So the next time you have to travel across time zones plan your workouts in advance. Check the hotel to see if they have a fitness center or access to hiking trails or a local gym. And plan your workouts for your return trip. Being proactive and more importantly, flexible, about your workout routine when traveling will help you feel better and get back to normal that much faster.

Happy exercising!

P.S. Click here for some Done-For-You treadmill workouts you can use to get back on track without having to think too much about your workout!

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The Road “Back” to Fitness isn’t an Easy Commute

 

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The Road Back…

 

I’ve exercised regularly in one form or another since I was 13. I try to eat healthy most of the time. Everything in moderation! I have never smoked and I don’t drink often.

And then in January of this year at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. It was a very early stage and had not spread through my lymph nodes or anywhere else in my body yet so surgery followed by radiation was my treatment plan.

After I got over my initial shock and anger, I tackled this as if it were simply a bump in the road. When my treatment was over I would be done and just get back to life as usual. I was so naïve! This was no bump in the road. It was a major detour or more like a complete change of direction.

After treatment, I was exhausted and didn’t do much, but physical activity and my personal fitness were never far from my mind. I took the time I needed to recover and I didn’t push myself but was anxious to get back to my fitness routine… lifting, running races, etc.

Well, that road back is proving to be much more difficult than I expected. Maybe I wasn’t that fit to begin with…who knows! Logically, when your getting back in shape, you start with lighter weight, walk/run intervals, lots of rest, etc. I’ve done everything “right” so why is it taking so long?! Why am I not fit? I know this makes me sound like I’m having a little temper tantrum, but this is new territory for me.

And then, it dawned on me, this is just another “level” of fitness in my life. I need to stop looking at myself as being out of shape and start looking at it as just my current fitness level. And move forward from there.

This is no different than when I took the summers off during high school and did absolutely nothing or the time I (stupidly) ran a marathon with bronchitis and it layed me up for months afterward. Whenever I started up again I never felt “out of shape” I just knew I was starting at a different fitness level. I’ve used this realization to adjust my workout plans and goals for the rest of the year. I usually run a number of road races but I’ve set my sights on just one in particular that I run every year. I’ve relaxed my expectations and decided to focus on new areas. Nutrition for one! And flexibility.

Don’t get me wrong…cancer is HARD. It’s hard to accept. It’s hard to understand. It’s hard to treat. It’s hard to live with. But, maybe, just maybe, this IS just a bump in the road.

Stay tuned for new workout plans and updates on my progress. Let me know if I can help you on your journey, whatever it may be!

Ditch Your Store-Bought Sports Drink

Do you drink a commercial sports drink after a workout? There are quite a few on the grocery store shelves in too many flavors and colors to count. They certainly serve their purpose and there is plenty of research to indicate their usefulness in replenishing your body after a tough, sweaty workout.

Research also says that sports drinks are useful for workouts that last longer than an hour. You generally don’t need anything more than plain water for shorter workouts.

I prefer to avoid the added sugar and artificial flavors and colors of commercial drinks even when I do need more than just water.

Enter…the homemade sports drink!

You’re probably thinking “It’s just easier to buy them.” “I don’t have time to mix drinks.” I have a super simple recipe below that only has 3 ingredients and you probably already have 2 of them in your kitchen.

The benefits to making your own sports drink:

  • Usually, it’s cheaper. Ok, sometimes you can hit great sales at grocery or big box stores but in the long run, I have found it cheaper to make my own.
  • General health reasons. I personally try to avoid chemicals, added sugar and processed foods in general. Even though sports drinks are associated with exercise and health, they are still highly processed. By making your own you can avoid unwanted ingredients and allergens.
  • Reliability. By making your own drink, you can tweak it to your exact preferences/needs and know what your getting every time.
  • Less wasteful. You can mix when and how much you need in your own containers and not have to worry about the added waste of plastic bottles or the concern of questionable chemicals in the plastic.

 

So, to create my own drink, I wanted simple, common ingredients that didn’t need a lot of prep. I did an hour or so of research and created a recipe using watermelon, plain water or coconut water and a little salt. I told you it was simple!

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed that watermelon juice helped reduce recovery heart rate and muscle soreness after 24 hours. A naturally occurring chemical in watermelon accelerates lactic acid removal. This means you can recover faster and perform better.

Plain water is always a good choice and I don’t think that needs anymore explaining!

Coconut water is the clear liquid from young, green coconuts and contains easily digested carbs and electrolytes. It has less sodium and calories and more potassium than most commercial sports drinks. Various studies have shown that coconut water helps hydrate just as well as plain water or sports drinks. Make sure, when buying that you get plain coconut water. It will defeat the point of making your own drink if you purchase products with added sugar or juice.

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Watermelon Sports Drink: 3 Easy ingredients…water, salt and watermelon

The Super Simple Recipe…

1 c. cubed, seeded watermelon
1/2 c. plain water
1/2 c. coconut water
pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!

A couple of notes about the recipe:

* cubed watermelon can be frozen for those times of year when it’s not readily available (I have not personally had good success with this but I’ve heard other people have!)
* you can adjust the ratio of plain water and coconut water to your own taste. Some people don’t like the taste of coconut water or can’t easily find it at the store.
* I add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice sometimes to cut some of the sweetness of ripe watermelon

If you have your own homemade concoctions, please share in the comments!

Do You Need Compression Gear?

First of all, what is compression gear, you ask? It’s specially designed clothing items that are engineered to conform around specific muscles or body parts and provide a certain level of pressure. It can be t-shirts, tights, arm or calf sleeves. You’ve probably seen pro athletes wearing them during competition or weekend warriors wearing them for all kinds of events. They can come in bright colors or sometimes have distinct design patterns criss-crossing the fabric.

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Calf sleeves were probably the first of these products and they were originally for people with circulatory issues in their lower legs. It didn’t take athletes and fitness-minded people long to decide these products could be helpful for training.

One of the claims is that compression garments improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to muscles. Hopefully, I don’t have to explain how that can be good for athletes! An active.com* article describes how compression garments MAY reduce vibration in skeletal muscle during training which could improve muscle contraction and reduce muscle trauma. Again, pretty good potential benefits for any exerciser!

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence from athletes that these sleeves, tights and shirts provide a training benefit and aid in recovery. Some athletes say the compression adds a level of pressure that provides a feeling of stability and support during strenuous or lengthy exercise. This feeling can help them go longer and stronger in their workout.

Abigail Stickford, a post doctoral researcher at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas did a small study to determine if there was any measurable beneficial training effect from wearing calf sleeves during running**. The study concluded that there was no positive effect while wearing the sleeves during training. Some larger studies have backed this up, however, there is evidence from a number of studies that there is a positive effect on muscle RECOVERY from wearing sleeves during and after training. The compression helps keep swelling down that occurs from blood flow during training which helps limit muscle soreness and speeds recovery.

While the majority of studies show little to no evidence of improved performance benefit there is evidence that these products help with recovery. For many people, improved recovery can be almost as valuable, if not more, as improved performance. And, there’s certainly no evidence of harm so if you want to spend the money, compression gear might be worth it.

Consider them just one more piece of equipment in your fitness arsenal. Like anything else, overuse will diminish benefits or have unintentional consequences. As always, do your own research and be an informed consumer.

Here are a few companies that sell compression gear but I’m sure you can find it almost anywhere athletic clothing is sold:

Eastbay

Under Armour

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Source: * Is Compression Gear Really Effective?

Source: ** Compression Clothing Not the Magic Bullet for PerformanceNational Institute of Health