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Doing Hard Stuff

“Whatcha’ gonna write about this week?”, asks my husband.


“What kind of plant is that?

“Ha! It’s not a plant. It’s what kicks in when you use small, deliberate stressors for benefit; to build yourself up.”

Wait, what? Did I just say using stress to build yourself up? Kinda sounds like a contradiction to how I’m usually talking about stress. Excessive amounts of physical, chemical, and mental/emotional stress definitely have detrimental effects on the body. In fact, it’s responsible for literally all dis-ease states. It can literally kill you.💀⚱️😵

However, there’s a sweet spot with stress. Because constant comfort will kill ya too. ‘Netflix and chill’ all day every day leads to muscle loss, brain loss, and let’s face it, life loss. Ok, so getting back to hormesis, or ‘choosing our hard.’ The medical definition, according to Meriam Webster: 💊🌿🩺

A theoretical phenomenon of dose-response relationships in which something that produces harmful biological effects at moderate to high doses may produce beneficial effects at low doses.

In other words, if an otherwise toxic substance or activity can be beneficial to the body in very small amounts, it is considered to be hormetic.❤️👐

Dr. Raymond Berry, who has studied hormesis in animals, explains it this way: "There's a curve to hormesis where the top of the curve represents the benefits, but if you go past that point, it then starts to become detrimental," he says. “The key is hitting the sweet spot.”

How exactly does this work? Dr. Frank Lipman, MD, whose new book is The New Rules of Aging Now, says, “small bursts of intense stress stimulate the body's mitochondria, which convert food and oxygen into energy (adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, if you want to get technical) for cells to use. 🍲😮‍💨

"ATP molecules are especially abundant in the heart, brain, and muscles," Dr. Lipman says. "This is why it's so beneficial to stimulate the body's mitochondria; it plays a key role in these major organs and when they start functioning not as well, that's when you really notice the effects of aging."

Great, so since we’re choosing our hard, what small stressors are we introducing? I have several ideas, but today we’ll focus on 3: cold showers, HIIT workouts, and intermittent fasting. All three methods stimulate the body’s mitochondria, which in turn stops cells from accumulating damage as quickly. 🛀😅⏰COLD SHOWERS

Cold showers are as simple as they sound, taking a shower with only the cold water on. There are two general approaches to this: start out with your regular hot/warm shower and gradually turn warm water down until your shower is cold.

Or go cold turkey (pun intended) by hopping right into the cold water from start to finish. This is my preferred method. Screaming and swearing tends to help. Start out by bargaining, “just 30 secs.” Eventually, you’ll want to work up to 5 minutes. Put on your favorite song and shower while the song is playing. 🦃😱🎵

“Cold showers wake up your skin receptors, which causes increased activity to the brain,” dermatologist Michele Green MD, says. The habit can also increase serotonin levels, leading to a mood boost.

“A lot of people will take a cold shower to feel more energized or focused." It’s true; once finished with a cold shower I feel like a million bucks! 🚿💰HIIT WORKOUTS

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. It takes your cardio workout to another level, as you push your pace out of your comfort zone. See a theme here?

You can use HIIT with any type of cardio workout, whether it's running, swimming, using a stair climbing machine, rowing, jumping rope, or bike riding. Technically, you could even do HIIT with walking.🏊🚴‍♀️📶

You’ll work up a sweat fast, working at a very intense level and then backing off for a slower recovery period, followed by another round of high intensity.

That strategy can save you time: You don't have to work out as long as you would if you were keeping a steady pace.⌛ 🏃‍♀️

You’ll lose weight, build muscle, and boost your metabolism. Plus, there’s a post-workout bonus: Your body will burn calories for about 2 hours after you exercise.

Basically, take any activity and go 100% for 10-40 secs. Recover for a minute or two and repeat. You can do this for 10 sets or so. You will be out of breath! ⏱️😮‍💨

My favorite way to do HIIT these days is to type however long I’d like my workout to be; say 15 minutes or 20 minutes into the Youtube search engine.

For example, “20 minute HIIT”. You’ll see a plethora of options. I go on and off with having left knee issues so sometimes I’ll type, “15 minute HIIT no jumping” into the search engine. You’d be shocked at how many low impact options are available that’ll raise your heart rate! 🧎🦘🤻INTERMITTENT FASTING

Intermittent fasting is all the rage these days. It’s also called time-restricted eating. Eat normally but only within an allotted window of time. The most common form of intermittent fasting tends to be what’s referred to as 16:8. This means 16 hours of the day are fasting and 8 hours of the day are an eating window.

Here’s how it could look: stop eating for the day at 8 p.m. Don’t eat again until noon the next day. So basically, skip breakfast. 🧅🥓🥞

If 16:8 is too hard initially, start with 14:10. If you must eat breakfast try skipping dinner or eating dinner early. Play with what works for you. As you get more advanced, you can change it up to 20:4 or occasionally even OMAD (one meal a day).

There are folks that follow a 5:2 weekly schedule, meaning eat normal for 5 days a week and pick two days a week where you fast for 24 hours. 🗓️🕰️

Please note: women that are menstruating can generally safely fast for most of the month, but should abstain from fasting a week before menses. This is an important time for progesterone building and you don’t want to crash your hormones. It’s also not advised to fast if you’re pregnant or breast feeding.

There are so many benefits to fasting but one of my favorites to talk about is autophagy. Autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out old, damaged cells, in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. So, when we don’t eat food, the body literally eats itself. But it eats the cells and tissues that aren’t useful, like scar tissue and damaged cells. Cool, right?! 🗑️🦠🧹

Other benefits of fasting include weight loss, reduces inflammation, slows down the aging process, increases lean muscle mass, boosts metabolism, improves gut health and resets microbiome, and can reduce stress.

I have several fasting experts that I love to listen and learn from. Two of my favs are Dr. Mindy Pelz and Dr. Eric Berg. They have A TON of videos on youtube about this topic. 🧑‍⚕️🩺

As I’m writing this, I realize that I could EASILY write 3 separate blogs on cold showers, HIIT workouts, and intermittent fasting. The above content is really just introducing the topics as prime examples of hormetic activities.

Stress can kill us, but we also need it and strategic amounts of it allows us to thrive. One of the joys of life is finding the sweet spot of stress and choosing our hard! 😂🍡⚰️

Enjoy this gorgeous weather and get outside and get your Vitamin D!

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