Week 12 Spark Insight: Rest and Repair

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Critical Concept:  Your body requires and expects periods of rest, repair and rejuvenation.

The jury is back and the results are in:  the fastest way to promote heart disease and an early death is to combine a high-fat/high-sugar diet with a high-stress life and a low-activity lifestyle.  The greatest minds in science could not design a better mix of behavior patterns that would best promote sickness and disease if they tried.  Most people are living a life that predictably destroys their health and creates disease.  Increased social stress has been identified as the straw that breaks the physiological camel’s back.

A major contributor to this mess is the general lack of rest and repair.  As a society, we have bought into the idea that rest and rejuvenation is a luxury, not a requirement.  This is fundamentally untrue, physically damaging, emotionally crippling and psychologically devastating.  We must take back our rest.

Sleep is an incredibly important part of health and wellness.  In fact, experts say that sleep actually rivals nutrition and exercise for promoting health.

Sleep expert Mark Stibich, Ph.D. teaches that when your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress.  The body’s functions are put on high alert, which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones (like Cortisol).  Higher blood pressure increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes.  The stress hormones also, unfortunately, make it harder for you to sleep.

Sleep reduces inflammation.  The increase in stress hormones raises the level of inflammation in your body, also creating more risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes.  Low grade, systemic inflammation is widely considered one key factor in the deterioration of your body as you age.  Sleeping can actually slow aging.

Dr. John Madina, author of Brain Rules, says that 90% of Americans are chronically overtired.  Although this has noticeable implications in our day-to-day lives, such as midday head bobbing and black circles under your eyes, the silent damage you’ll experience with sleep deprivation is a real killer – literally.

Our body uses sleep to rest and repair our tissues.  Our brain requires sleep to process the information from the day.  Critical sleep cycles involve hormone balancing that affects everything from your energy and moods to your metabolism and ability to regulate your body weight.  Sleep deprivation is actually a predictor of obesity.

Healthy sleep patterns promote complete sleep cycles.  Your brain goes through different sleep phases when you rest.  REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) involves dreaming; non-REM sleep is the deepest and most critical phase of sleep.  This is the time that your most vital repair and recharge takes place.  The more complete sleep cycles you experience, the better.  Tallying seven hours or more of quality sleep has been shown to increase longevity.  And, low and behold, the afternoon nap turns out to be one of the most effective and productive methods for increasing energy, improving cognitive skills and focus, while mitigating the adverse effects of chronic stress by lowering circulating stress hormones like Cortisol.

Rest comes in many forms - our daily sleep patterns, including nighttime sleep for most of us, as well as napping or “siestas” during the day. But more broadly, rest includes our morning rituals, meditation, breathing exercises, mealtimes and evening rituals.  Rejuvenation patterns include our “time-offs,” breaks and vacations.  Most people are severely “vacation deficient.”

Well People are deliberate in their rest and repair patterns.  Design your daily and weekly schedules, as well as your monthly and yearly calendar, to reflect your commitment to this critical essential element.  There are several Bonfire vital behaviors to adopt that will ensure greater rest.  Claim ownership of your time and schedule.  Set your bedtimes and waking times, and stick to them.  Make a standing “napping appointment” in your daily schedule if at all possible.  Even presidents of the United States have made this a priority – and they have a demanding schedule, too.

Design your yearly calendar to include a rejuvenation strategy.  Every month schedule a “Sanity Weekend” where the only plans made are for rest and repair.  Challenge yourself to do nothing – it’s free.  Once a quarter take a long weekend – a “Long-evity Weekend.”  At least twice a year, take a week off.  We recommend one adventure vacation where you break routine and go experience a new place or activity.  A compelling nudge to ensure this trip and prevent “life” from persuading you to procrastinate away another break is to pre-pay for the trip (be sure to take out travel insurance, just in case).  We also recommend a “stay-cation,” where you stay home and keep it simple.  This is a great way to cut down on complexity, stress and cost.  Fight the urge to “catch-up” on everything and simply “be.”

These may be the easiest recommendations to do, yet the hardest to implement.  Start today.

At this point in the program you should be….

  • Establishing your Peace of Mind Account (PMA) using Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
  • Getting to bed earlier: working toward sleep before 11 p.m.
  • Getting up earlier: working toward 30 minute morning rituals
  • Remaining focused on creating the life that you want
  • Choosing to develop more influence in your life
  • Recognizing challenges as opportunities to grow
  • Seeking Alignment between behaviors and Innate Values
  • Choosing an attitude of Thankfulness and Gratitude
  • Seeking opportunities to get connected with supportive people
  • Choosing to extend Unconditional Love and Acceptance to others
  • Finding balance by managing your Limited Resources (Time, Energy, Focus, & Money)
  • Scheduling your Rest and Repair Strategies

Week 12 Air Insight: Consistency

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Consistent Exercise Over Time

Critical Concept:  The Compounding Effect
Your health is your most valuable physical asset.  You get to manage this asset over your lifetime.  Think of your wellbeing as if it were a financial account – like a checking account or an investment portfolio.  You will make deposits and withdrawals regularly with the decisions that you make every day in your lifestyle.  Some lifestyle choices build wealth (health) and some choices build debt (sickness).

Healthy lifestyle patterns make deposits into your health and well-being account.

In the financial world, you either benefit from or suffer under a mathematical function known as “interest.”  The rich get richer and the poor get poorer over time, largely due to interest.  The same applies to health.  Healthy lifestyle choices add to our “wellness account” and our balance grows.  This “balance” is subject to the same multiplying effect of interest over time.  Healthy habits combine to increase their immediate impact and then multiply over time when done consistently.  In other words, it’s not just Eat + Move + Think…it’s Eat x Move x Think, over time = Compounding Wellness.

Unfortunately, the same can be said for our unhealthy choices.  Sickness and disease is as much a “holistic” issue as health and wellness.  If we consistently make toxic and deficient choices over time, we create deficit – our wellness account gets overdrawn – and we get sick.

Our consistent lifestyle behaviors will compound over time to determine our health experience.

This is true in each aspect of our lives, but nowhere is it more easily observable than in our movement patterns.  In the Air Domain of our lifestyle, we get to readily observe the effects of regular exercise – or lack thereof.  When we are active, activities become easier.  When we work out regularly, exercise becomes easier.  When we move regularly, life becomes easier.

Exercises add together – one workout adds to the last.  And when they are done consistently over time, their effects begin to multiply.  As you become fitter, your workouts become easier.  As your cardiovascular fitness improves, your train longer.  As your strength increases, you work harder.  As your core strengthens, you stay injury-free.  As you progress in your fitness, you look better, feel better, and function better.

Your fitness, like your overall health, is progressive.  The consistency with which you are able to exercise will determine the trajectory of your progression.  The more consistently active you remain, the faster and greater your improvement.

Recruiting a buddy, hiring a personal trainer or coach, joining a gym or following a program like Bonfire are all vital behaviors that promote consistency in your exercise regimen.  Setting goals with compelling rewards and penalties in place is a Bonfire best practice.  Another best practice is the habit of journaling or keeping a workout log.  The simple act of writing down your goals, timelines, performance and progress is an effective nudge to keep your head – and heart – in the game, and your body in motion.

Keep your goals simple:  a ‘Bonfire Approved Day’ in the Air Domain calls for you to “Move, Sweat and Pant” for 30 minutes or more.  Do this 5 – 6 days per week, and you’re on your way to enjoying the benefits of Compounding Wellness.  How you choose to move is up to you.  The mode is secondary – “do what moves you.”  And remember, it’s about progression not perfection.

The power of the Bonfire lifestyle is found in its truly holistic approach to health – and to living.  It is comprehensive and inclusive.  All elements of your lifestyle converge and create your health experience.  Each domain of your life contributes, or subtracts from the whole.  The complete picture of health and wellness must account for each and every lifestyle pattern.

Your choices are either deposits or withdrawals from your wellness account.  Make deposits with every choice, every day.

Summary Checklist:

  • Add activity every day in every way
  • Calculate Energy Balance
  • Add Functional Training
  • Use variety in your workouts
  • Focus on the Intensity of your workouts
  • Gradually progress to a higher intensity
  • Adopt the Buddy System
  • Get your spine checked by a chiropractor
  • Do what moves you – have fun
  • Employ goal setting and clear standards
  • Increase your flexibility
  • Commit to consistency in your exercise

Week 12 Fuel Insight: Intermittent Fasting

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ESSENTIAL ELEMENT:  Intermittent Fasting

Critical Concept:  It’s Good to Go Without
The fact that you are sitting here reading this document is proof positive that you have descended from a long line of great hunters.  But even the best hunters come up short some days.  Although game was usually readily available, there were times of drought or severe weather – and probably just some days with bad luck – when the hunters came home empty-handed.  Maybe the fish weren’t biting, the big one got away, or maybe there was a noisy guy in the bunch that scared away the game.  Regardless, food was always at a premium and some days our ancestors had to go without.  And so should you.

A powerful technique to reverse metabolic derangement and normalize insulin sensitivity, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood lipids and energy levels is to practice intermittent fasting.

Your body was not designed to have a constant food supply at arm’s reach.  The ready supply of calorie-dense foods and its resulting consequence (a generally sedentary lifestyle) has led to an over-fed and under-active, over-weight and under-muscled population that is riddled with sickness and disease.  One effective step towards righting this unnatural lifestyle is to skip a meal or two.

We are not promoting calorie deprivation or hunger pains, but the human body has been shaped over thousands of generation to expect periods without food.  In these times of fasting, the digestive track empties and gets a chance to rest and repair.  The liver and lymphatic system has the opportunity to catch up and cleanse the body of toxicity.  Your metabolism recalibrates and blood profiles begin to normalize.  You become a more efficient fat burner.  And when done properly, your body can reduce systemic inflammation.

Observation of this Paleolithic Rhythm of rest and rejuvenation can be done in many ways.  Each person will respond to fasting uniquely, based on a host of physical traits, conditions and lifestyle factors.  Considerations include age, weight, activity level, how often and hard you exercise, your diet-style, stress level and sleep patterns.

Intermittent Fasting implies that you choose to have predetermined periods of time that you go without food.

Conventional “wisdom” would suggest that going without food for any considerable period of time would simply slow your metabolism and promote fat storage and cannibalization of lean muscle tissue for energy.  This can happen with prolonged caloric restriction diets.  This will not happen if intermittent fasting is done properly.

Consider these Bonfire best practices for cycling your Digestive Rhythm:

1.  Choose 1 or 2 days per week to have a shorter window for food consumption.  For example: Mondays and Thursdays, only eat between Noon and 6 PM (an 18 hour fast).

2.  Or try 1 day per week to go food-free (24 hour fast).

3.  Or try to have a day with only vegetable juice or raw food.

You can get creative – as your ancestors did.  The big idea is to give your system a rest.  Some general vital behaviors to complement your fasting include only consuming healthy foods when you do eat.  Eating periods around fasting are not times to “cheat” and fill yourself with toxic and/or deficient foods.  Be sure to stay active, exercise and rest well.  You will find that your energy level is better when you are fasting because your body is burning fat for fuel and your blood sugar is normalizing.  Diabetics and people with heart disease or cancer should have their blood chemistry monitored during these periods because the effects can be profound – and very encouraging.