Welcome to Week 1 of the PoP challenge! I’m delighted to walk along this journey with you. I still remember the first time I entered UA over a decade ago. It was towards the end of my short (and beyond fun!) “career” as an adult gymnast (a lifelong dream I never thought possible). I just wanted to cross-train once a week. There was no such membership available, but Pamela still opened the door and made it work for me. Not too long after, I hit 40 years old, and my body decided it was time for me to take her less for granted. Her messages were not subtle! My blood sugar spiked, I was too injured to continue gymnastics, I became plagued by chronic fatigue, and quickly got out of shape. It was quite the journey to find ways of reducing stress, identify “movements” that were both healing and strengthening, and not least settle on a nutrition plan that worked for me (sounds familiar? Hint: 3Ms). And there was Pamela, never phased (“modifications” anyone? LOL! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you will soon ;), always encouraging, endlessly determined to walk me towards better health. She has been a rock for me and so many others through all these years–not to mention this past year. The UA community has become a family to me, with its incredibly caring and creative coaches, and beloved fellow members. This PoP course is another beautiful example of just that!
I also happen to be a psychologist, specializing in trauma and social justice. In my professional life, I “preach” only what I practice. I am first and foremost a client and a student. And then I love to share what I learn, as I find nothing more meaningful than seeing folx thrive. So I am delighted to collaborate with Pamela to support your emotional wellness!
While all that I will share here is derived from what (in psychology) we call “evidence-based practices”, as well as my own personal and professional experiences over the last 20 years, remember that no one knows you better than you do. Trust your gut, trust your own wisdom, trust the signals of your body. Integrate only what supports you to become the best you, the one you know you are meant to be. How will you know? Try things out. “Taste” the concepts and practices offered throughout this course, notice the impact they have on you throughout these 6 weeks, and then choose what fits you, which might not be necessarily what fits or makes sense to me–a white, cis-gender woman, born and raised in Italy. No matter how many degrees or how much “experiences” Pamela and I might have, we don’t hold “the” truth. No one size fits all or fits any of us forever. “Modifications” is indeed the name of the game.
Given that this is a habit based course, there is no intention to drop all the blocks on you and expect you to build your own bridge. Rather, taek what we give each week, pull what works for you and commit to sticking to those new habits. Initially for these first six weeks but we do hope these habits stay with you much longer.
Week One, Mindset…(Eleonora)
I thought we would start with the secret of life! At least that’s how I think of it :). For me knowledge is power. The more you know how your mind works, the more you can care for it and assess the “health” of what influences it. I will describe the short version of that here, you can click on the links if you would like to read more (and remember that you can ask us questions as well). So here is all you need to know to support your emotional wellness and resilience! Ready?
Secret Of Life #1
- You have a human body (hang with me 😉 )
- Our bodies were designed for survival (otherwise stated: they love us very much)
- Our nervous systems ensure our safety by using 3 strategies: fight, flight, freeze (please note: you don’t consciously choose them, your nervous system initiates them for you)
- Our nervous systems are quite over-protective of us! And we were not exactly designed for 21st Century living… (Otherwise stated: we tend to fight, flight, freeze A LOT)
- Chronic fight, flight, freezing leads to stress and illnesses
EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE PRACTICE #1: DECREASE REACTIVITY
Secret Of Life #2
- Decreasing reactivity (aka relaxing) is necessary, but not sufficient, for emotional wellness (whaaat??)
- We need to love and be loved, care and be cared for, to be emotionally and physically well
- I’m not just being nice ;), this is our biological inheritance (need more proof? We are the only human species that did not go extinct…let’s make sure we remember why 😉 )
EMOTIONAL RESILIENCE PRACTICE #2: MUTUAL CARE/LOVE
So while this course is about your own wellness and resilience, as you can see we cannot truly be well independently of each other or without caring for each other. There is no true individual wellness without communal wellness, without social wellness. So while it’s an act of self-love to be taking this course and to be on this journey, know that your efforts will have a positive rippling effect on your communities.
You have probably already noticed another key term: practice. Wellness and resilience are not outcomes, they are “relationships”. As such, we need to cultivate them, invest in them. What you will be strengthening in the weeks to come are the very skills you need to decrease reactivity and increase your circle of care. Life will not stop triggering your nervous system, and we’ll continue receiving messages aimed at keeping us separate (I don’t mean socially distant, I mean emotionally distant). Resilience is not about not feeling challenged or about not falling down, it’s about honestly assessing and facing the challenges, and knowing how to get back up. It means training our nervous systems to initiate a fight, flight, freeze response only when and to the extent needed (week 1 & 2); and expanding our circle of care and connections, using our values as fuel (weeks 3 through 6).
So let’s get right to it! We’ll start this first week with simple practices that will help you notice your body’s “protective” reactions and invite them to relax. While we cannot directly control the parts of our nervous systems that initiate fight, flight, freeze reactions, there are a few indirect ways to ease them (no worries, our fight, flight, freeze impulses will continue to be fully operational if needed!).
I’m going to offer 3 practices: pick one a day and try it a few times (you might set up an alarm 3x/day and dedicate 1-2min to the one you picked). No one of these practices is better than the other, it’s just a matter of preference. Once you have tried all three, decide which one you will continue to practice for the rest of the week and make it your own. Remember that it takes about 21 days to build a habit, so stay with it! And enjoy :).
#1 Body scan
Take 1-2min to slowly mentally scan your body, from the top of your head to the tip of your toes: head, neck, shoulders, arms, torso, pelvis, thighs, calves, feet. Simply notice what each part feels like. You don’t have to change anything about it at all. Simply notice whatever sensations might be there, bringing an attitude of curiosity and care to each part. Tell yourself that you have nothing else to do and nowhere else to be, just for those 1-2min. Here is a guided version you might try, should that be helpful.
#2 “Parasympathetic” practices
Try two or three of the following (whichever you prefer) for about 20-30sec each:
- Focus right in front of you and then allow your peripheral vision to take over, by focusing on what you can see on your sides while still looking forward
- Go to a window, or outside, and look up at the sky, top of trees, or far away at the horizon
Place your attention on your body as a whole, while sitting upright or standing tall in a relaxed fashion
- Picture in your mind’s eye your favorite nature scene (real or imagined) and let your mind rest on it
You will know that your parasympathetic system (responsible for feeling calm and grounded) is kicking in when you feel your mouth watering, or a yawn coming up, or a deeper breath emerging spontaneously
#3 Belly breathing
Put one hand on your belly, and notice how your hand moves as your belly expands with air. Inhale and exhale slowly, but easefully (anywhere from 3-6sec each), making the exhale 1-2sec longer than the inhale. Try to breathe mostly with your belly. Repeat for 1-2min. Here is a guided version you might try, should that be helpful.
Week One, Movement…(Pamela)
One could argue that any movement is better than no movement. To some degree I cannot argue. There are however better movement patterns (this is how the body is moving while doing an exercise or sport) and better movement options based on goals (this is more about doing the right type of exercise, based on science for the desired outcome.) Ultimately there are ideal movement patterns to focus on in order to better your exercise experience and to reach goals faster.
Over the next six weeks, I’ll want you to have a movement goal to work toward. That goal needs to be one that sits well with you and that you are able to direct energy toward, something that really means something to you. Something where, six weeks from now, when you accomplish it – you, say out loud with significant pride, “LOOK AT ME!” You and I need to establish that goal together to make sure that it is realistic and attainable in six weeks. As you start to explore what that goal might be consider the entire concept of this course: Progress OVER Perfection. The goal is to see the needle move not to set a world record.
So… Let’s get you moving the way you need to be. Where do we need to take this goal, in order for you to shout out loud, “Look at ME!”
Always remember, this is about you.
It is not about what the person next to you is doing. It is not about what you’ve read you should be able to do. It’s not about what we think you should do. It’s only about what feels right and good to you. And, even more importantly, what works for you, right now at this point in time. This week we will focus on two areas.
- Set a goal
This can always feel loaded. The first step with goal setting is to be sure the goal is realistic and attainable within the desired time frame. Setting the goal is only intended so you have a desired outcome to walk toward.
For some, the goal might be to dedicate 7 minutes a day to mobility work. Perhaps you want to increase how long you can hold a plank by :01 a day. You might say you want to always use the next heaviest weight from what you would usually pick, one workout a week. The point is, the goal will be yours. It will be driven by you. It will be achieved by you.
- Schedule time with Pamela to start a dialogue on what your realistic and attainable goal is.
2. Move as well as you can right now
Do you remember Presidential Fitness Testing in elementary school? I’m not sure if they still do this or not but for me it’s a constant reminder about two things.
a) Fitness for the general population cannot and should not be categorized into expectations of being or not being able to complete certain physical demands, especially without dedicated training.
b) Modified exercises should not only be presented as options for women.
To be honest, the end goal of all exercise, unless at competition level, should be to enjoy the time you spend exercising and to feel good about the effort you put forth. Otherwise, literally, what is the point?!
Focus on what your physical body can do. Recognize as well, some days your mind and your body will conflict in their dedication or desire. As you allow those conflicts to resolve themselves, be strong in not always giving in to what is easiest, rather challenge yourself to do what is best. What is best can range from sticking to your exercise/movement plan, taking a rest day, decreasing the intensity of your exercise, or even ramping up the intensity of your exercise.
Week One, Mess…(Pamela)
There are literally thousands of ways to tackle nutrition. All the ways do not work for all the people. It’s important to consider what you are willing and not willing to do with your nutrition while taking into consideration how much of an impact nutrition will have on reaching your goals.
I say all of that because as with most things consistency is key! Rather than jumping in with both feet and feeling like you need to do everything perfectly, which can add more stress than positive impact, start by doing just one thing this week to be supportive of your nutrition quest.
Examples of this can look like:
-eat a vegetable with every meal
-for each beverage consumed with calories, consume that much water before having another beverage with calories
-reduce processed food consumption by a certain number of servings or times a day
-begin tracking all the
These are just a few examples and I will certainly be a resource for you to determine what your first step can be toward building new and supportive habits with your nutrition.
- Schedule time with Pamela to start a dialogue on what your first nutrition goal is.
On weeks 1, 3, and 5 you’ll receive a recipe pack – there are 15 recipes and a suggested meal plan to follow. Use these recipes and meal plans as they fit toward your goals. If following a specific plan works really well for you then use them. If you need them for ideas and meal time inspiration that works too.
You’ve already received weeks 1 and 2 in email. I’m a big fan of the avocado toast, the turkey salad, and the beef and carrot stew. Always remember that recipes are great to follow, they are also great to modify to your tastes and needs. Experimenting with food can be fun! More on that later.
Similar to food, everyone benefits differently from supplements. I do however, believe there are two foundational supplements that are a good place for most of us to start.
Multi-Vitamin – Multi-Vitamin Elite’s complementary AM and PM formulas are designed to support athletic performance.* The AM formula promotes energy production, while the PM formula enhances recovery.
Super EPA – Omega 3 fish oil helps maintain the body’s normal inflammatory response in muscles and joints, enhances mood, supports a healthy heart and brain, and promotes a healthy insulin response.