Your Neurological System is a Diva
When it comes to how we feel, our experience of pain and our performance, it’s about more than muscles and exercise. You have the power to manipulate any variable in the pillars of health to take charge of your energy, decrease your pain and just feel better!
What are the pillars of health?
Movement & Exercise
Rest & Recovery
If our backs hurt, we might first look at our activity and think, “What caused this?” You might think of a movement at the gym or a really hard run you went on that seems like it could have started the cascade of issues. Generally, we start stretching, rehab-type exercises or rest to address these issues. But what happens when that doesn’t help? Or it keeps recurring?
Can this be explained by muscles and joints alone? Probably not.
Movement & Exercise
Physical activity and movement throughout the day is helpful for wakefulness and clarity of the mind. Taking the stairs at work, getting up to go to the water cooler and walking the dog can have a larger impact than you might think. Of course, most of us could benefit from daily exercise (fitness regimen of some sort). This is great for our muscles and bones but also mental wellbeing for stress relief! This pillar ties in closely with nutrition (fuel!) and mental wellbeing. But we talk about this a lot…. Moving on!
Many folks report that they want to lose some fat, fit in their clothes better or have more energy. Often times this will result in more exercise, less recovery and rest and then sometimes nagging pain. While it might seem like more fitness is always the answer, true changes come in body composition and energy when you dial in nutrition.
It can be easy to get into the habit of a glass (or two) of wine each night or a beer when then kids go to bed. While this does stack on extra calories, it may also be increasing inflammation and affecting your sleep more than you realize.
I once had a patient that had chronic back pain. We started addressing his pain with mobilization and movement but he was seeing little change. A deeper dive into the pillars revealed that he was drinking a scotch each night before bed while finishing up work on his laptop. He decreased this to 2x/week and within a few weeks his back pain was significantly decreased. He had also dropped 8 pounds!
Was his back pain CAUSED by drinking? Probably not. But was it a contributing factor? It sure seemed that way!
Rest & Recovery
This is one of the pillars that I find most people struggle with in many ways. Number one, we are all SO BUSY. If you are like most people, you probably hit the ground running at 5am, getting kids to school, maybe going to the gym and rushing to work. Then the day is over, make dinner, get kids ready for bed, maybe finish up some work from the day and then crash.
Do you get 7 hours of sleep per night? Many people benefit from a MINIMUM of 7 hours of sleep each night. When I interview patients, the most common answer of how many hours folks are actually sleeping is 4-5. That’s it!
Sleep is when our body recovers and gets the brain ready for the next day. Research has linked the amount of sleep (or lack of sleep!) to brain disease like Alzheimer's Disease. That’s huge. Sleep and save your brain!
Now, recovery is a hot topic these days. Some might picture recovery as ice baths or massages but it can also be old fashioned rest. I am frequently hearing from everyday athletes that they take zero or maybe one day off per week from their sport/fitness. Similar to sleep, rest days are important for our muscles and neurological systems to recover from the intensity of training and get prepped for the next day. Gains are made on the off day! Train smarter not harder, my friends.
This pillar is woven into all of the others. Movement and exercise are fabulous for mental health. Healthy nutrition helps our bodies feel good which can lead to a happier disposition. Rest and recovery is just as important (if not more) for our minds as it is for our bodies.
If our job is stressful and home life is busy as hell and we are eating fast food because BUSY, then do you see how the spiral begins? Finally your body thinks “this is no state to be lifting weights in or running miles, so here’s some knee pain to slow you down.”
Ok, so that’s not 100% scientific, but you catch my drift? Fuel your body and allow it to rest and recover enough that it can perform the way you desire!
All of this to say, don’t think of your body as JUST muscles, bones and ligaments. Our neurological system controls the whole show and she’s kind of a diva. The neurological system needs stressors (exercise), down time (R&R) and proper fuel (nutrition) to orchestrate movement and plan then execute tasks. Manipulate a few of these factors and get closer to your goals!
The Pillars of Health are Movement & Exercise, Nutrition, Rest & Recovery, and Mental Wellbeing
The body is not just a bunch of bones and muscles.
Adequate nutrition may be the missing factor to helping you reach yours goals and feel better.
Rest and recovery are powerful factors to decrease stress, improve performance and address pain.
Our neurological system is a diva and she needs to be stressed, rested and fueled appropriately to make you a high functioning human.
Having trouble making a plan to address pain and performance issues? Send an email to info@SpectrumPerformance.fit and let’s schedule some time to chat about your goals!
Thanks for reading!
Dr. Jackie, DPT