Jennifer Hanway

Helping You Live Your Best Life Through Nutrition, Fitness and Wellbeing

Jennifer Hanway is a Holistic Nutritionist, Bio Signature Modulation Practitioner and Certified Personal Trainer, originally from London but now living in Newton Centre and working in Back Bay, Boston.

Filtering by Tag: cortisol

What To Do When You Have Lost Your Fitness Mojo

I met with a friend of mine yesterday who needed some advice - an avid runner (a couple of marathons in the last few years), group fitness class lover, yogi and lifter in the gym, she had lost her 'fitness mojo'. The appeal of the couch and TV were far outweighing her desire to exercise, and she was not enjoying her favorite classes and workouts when she did go. 

Perfect timing for me to advise, as I am just coming out of this funk myself. Only this last week have I found my love for working out again, the last two months have been a struggle for me to feel motivated and enjoy my workouts. This is especially hard for me as in my industry it is expected that trainers love to train, and I believe that we should practice what we preach. The flip side of this is that we are human, and it can be just as hard for us to haul ass to the gym, or to strap on our sneaks and go for a run. 

So I gave my friend the same advice I gave myself: stop being so hard on yourself. Energy levels will ebb and flow, and its what you over the course of weeks, months and years that is important and will impact your health, not what happens over the course of a few days. Also, there may be a biochemical reason for needing the downtime: in my case I had followed a diet regime and workout plan designed by a trainer/dietitian colleague of mine in the UK over the summer that had totally kicked my butt, and the dental surgery I had in November was way more intense with a longer, harder recovery than I had expected. In my friends case she had run two marathons in the last two years, coupled with some stressful family events, and a super challenging job. 

All of these things will effect our physical and mental health, and at this point 'pushing yourself' is the last thing you should be doing and no amount of positive self talk or beating yourself up is going to help. Prolonged stress is going to raise your cortisol levels (stress hormones), which has a cascade effect on your adrenal function, possibly resulting in adrenal fatigue (when your adrenal glands function sub optimally). If this is the case then it is time to back off, and give yourself time to rest and recover, and implement nutrition, wellbeing and supplement strategies that will help you heal the body and get back on track. I suffered with severe cortisol disregulation and adrenal fatigue 3.5 years ago, following the unexpected death of my mother, and my move to the U.S. and recovered by using the above strategies. 

So back to the advice I gave my friend: give yourself permission to take time off (this was the most important part), nourish yourself with great food and more sleep (now is the time to up your good carbs and get your 9.5 hours), workout only if you feel like it, and prioritize lifting over cardio, and add in some great supplements such as Vitamin D (everyone should be taking this at this time of year), magnesium (to help deal with stress), and adaptogens which help the body deal with stress and fatigue. And be kind to yourself. 

If you would like any more information on dealing with high cortisol levels or adrenal fatigue please feel free to comment below of email me at jenniferhanway@icloud.com. 

 

 

 

Rest and Reset: The Importance of Less Stress, More Sleep

The holidays are a wonderful time, but they can often mean self care and sleep get a little neglected. With this in mind I wanted to draw attention to an old post that rings true especially at this time of the year...Isn't sleep a blessing?  Not only does sleep make you feel wonderful, it has some pretty amazing health benefits too: 

  • It helps to control weight and improves body composition (ration of body fat to lean muscle) in two ways. Sleep regulates the hormones that effect appetite, and when we don't get enough sleep our bodies produce more of the hormone ghrelin which in turn leads us to make poor food choices and consume more calories. Research studies have also shown that lack of sleep leads to less energy output, i.e. we are less likely to exercise (or even walk around the block) due to tiredness and lack of motivation.
  • It increases your ability to handle both mental and physical stress. Not only this but sleep lowers both blood pressure levels and the stress hormone cortisol.
  • It has a beneficial effect on our mood and our thinking. Not only does it make us feel happier and less worried (studies show a long term sleep deficit can lead to depression and anxiety) good sleep increases cognitive function, leading to better judgement, improved focus and less tendency to takes risks.
  • It enables cell repair throughout the body, important for both repairing muscles post workout (we are at our weakest state post workout due to the breaking down of muscle fibers, they will repair and get stronger whilst we sleep) and beautiful skin (repair at the cellular level results in less fine lines and wrinkles, and gives us a glowing, even complexion).
  • It decreases inflammation: chronic inflammation is the source of many diseases, including cancer, obesity, and heart disease. We all need some level of inflammation in the body to help heal and fight off infections, but when too much inflammation is present (this can be caused by a myriad of things, from stress to bad food choices and poor gut health) it can cause the immune system to malfunction, relating in auto immune conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and arthritis.

There are many simple ways to improve the quality of our sleep, below are five easy to implement health habits:

  • Introduce a caffeine curfew: for me this time is 3.30pm, for others it may be later or earlier, depending on your tolerance for caffeine. If you find your mind racing the minute you close your eyes start moving your caffeine curfew back by half an hour to see if it helps. One of my favorite alternatives is the caffeine free Turmeric tea from Numi Organics:

Numi Organic Turmeric Tea Amber Sun

  • Get outside in daylight: as the days become shorter we can find ourselves not seeing the daylight hours. By taking just a 10-15 minute walk outside at lunchtime you can normalize your circadian rhythm, letting your body know it is time to ‘wind down’ when the sun goes down.
  • Ensure adequate magnesium levels: due to our modern diets and extra environmental stresses the majority of us are magnesium deficient. Magnesium is needed in over 300 metabolic processes in the body, and is vital for ensuring a restful nights sleep .
  • Do not take the phone into the bedroom! Use an old fashioned alarm clock, or if you must use your phone turn the wifi off and switch to airplane mode for good measure. The electrical signals will have a negative impact on quality of sleep, even if you do not wake up. I love to use a daylight alarm clock for the most gentle, natural way to wake up:

Philips HF3500/60 Wake-Up Light

  • Consider supplements for sleep: they are many natural supplements available that can help aid sleep, my favorite is a product called RestoREM from the Poliquin Group. RestoREM contains the nutrients 5-HTP, Phenibut and melatonin and to improves serotonin levels, resulting in better sleep patterns to leave you feeling refreshed and energised when you wake up.

The Poliquin Store

Sweet dreams everyone!

The information and materials provided in this blog are to support and assist people who are looking to improve their health and wellbeing I understand that all new dietary/supplements/ exercise programs should be undertaken after consultation with a medical doctor. Jennifer Hanway is not responsible for any injury or illness sustained whilst following the information in this blog.

Stop, Drop and Meditate: Post Workout Meditation

Every Friday I am going to be helping you to 'Stop, Drop and Meditate' with the help of Meditation Expert (and wonderful friend) Charity Collier. This week's guided meditation is perfect for when you have just finished your workout. Training can cause a raise in cortisol (the stress hormone) which is great for giving you that push when you are sprinting on the treadmill, hitting that punchbag, or PR'ing your Deadlift, but for both our health and our body composition we want to bring cortisol levels down as quickly as possible once we have finished our session.

So what are you waiting for, lets 'Stop, Drop and Meditate' with Charity!

[embed]http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFmDVUb2JG4[/embed]

For more information on Charity and Meditating Together check out her daily meditation affirmations, inspirations and education posts on:

Facebook: Meditating Together

Instagram: @meditatingtogether

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meditating2ther

Email: meditatingtogether@gmail.com

YouTube: Meditating Together

Periscope: @meditating2ther (Every Wednesday I do a live meditation on Periscope at 9pm EST)

 

 

Meditation 101: Scheduling Meditation into Your Busy Day

I chatted with Charity Collier, a Boston based Meditation teacher who is currently enrolled in the pioneering Master's program of Mindfulness Studies at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She is also a substance abuse counselor and uses meditation as a tool in her counseling practice. She currently facilitates meditation groups three times a week in the addiction recovery community. Charity's mission is to change the stigma of meditation and make it accessible  to all who are looking to stress less and feel more happiness in their day to day lives.

Case Study: Me, female, 35, Personal Training and Holistic Health and Nutrition Consultant. Understands the importance of meditation for stress relief and all round health and well being, but struggles to find the time and motivation. Has an ‘all or nothing’ approach, I feel I should meditate for 30 mins a day twice a day every day, but of course this does not happen….

 I understand on a basic level the importance of meditation, but can you elaborate?

This question has many layers. Going back to the foundations of meditation in the Buddhist practice, meditation was a form of mindfulness. It was how a person could be enlightened from their suffering mind. Meditation has worked its way into Western culture and is becoming popularized in a secular manner. 

Meditation allows a person to view their thoughts in the present moment. Whatever those thoughts are, the goal is to not judge, or cling to the goals is just to be aware of the thoughts, or of the fact you are thinking. 

By being aware of ones thoughts you can see where our mind is going to, ‘we befriend our mind’. We begin to see what emotions and feeling arise, and in these moments better understand ourselves, realize that we can let go of thoughts, and slow down the physically reaction stress and anxiety cause. The tool of meditation can help heal the stress filled mind. Once stress is lower then the physical benefits can be reaped.

Who can benefit from meditation? 

Every single human being. As a student of the first graduate program in the US for Mindfulness Studies I am seeing my colleagues apply mindfulness meditation to children in schools, children and adolescents with mental health issues such as ADHD and Autism, CEO’s  and employees of companies and elderly people with Alzheimer's. I myself facilitate meditation with people in addiction recovery.

What are the common myths about meditation? 

There are so many. I think the most common one is that people believe they have to shut off their mind, that the mind should not be thinking. That is impossible! Meditation is about being aware that your mind is wandering and just being aware of those thoughts.

Another myth is about people sitting around saying OM - this does not happen in a secular meditation practice. There are mantra meditations that I often do, but that is to help keep me in the present moment. 

 A big myth is that to benefit from a meditation practice you have to meditate for 30 minutes or even an hour. A five minute meditation can be just as beneficial for someone as 30 minutes. Life happens and I can not always get in 30 minutes, some days it is 10 or 15. I have a practice I recommend to beginners for doing meditation while at a red light. That is only a few moments and could change your whole commute.

A common myth is people believe they need to be in an exact environment. While being on a cushion sitting upright is the ideal position, it does not have to be the only position. There are body scan meditations which are done more successfully laying down. Also someone could meditate in bed. Some days when I wake up and have time I either sit right up and meditate or continue laying there and meditate.  

How would you help someone like myself create an achievable, sustainable meditation practice? 

First I would propose a realistic goal of time. Having a goal of 30 minutes 2 times a day is hard to sustain. Then when you do not achieve it you end up feeling bad, guilty and start judging yourself (ie the ‘Suffering Mind as mentioned above). 

I would recommend looking at your schedule. On busy days having the goal of 15 minutes, on quieter days or at the weekend aim for up to 30 minutes. I believe people can benefit from any amount of time in meditation.

Finding the time in the day would be the next step. Perhaps setting your alarm 30 minutes earlier than you have to and getting in a meditation practice before you start your day. Remember you can still lay in bed and meditate! Have videos for meditation in the office; come back to your office 15 minutes earlier from lunch, put on your ‘Do not Disturb’, and meditate for 15 minutes. 

If you find that your day has gotten away from you and you haven't found time to meditate, as get into bed for a night time meditation. It is a great way to ensure a wonderful nights sleep, as well as to let go of the stresses from the day.  

Just like fitness, the best way to start is to not think about it, just get started! Once you do you have already tackled the hardest part. Our ego minds are fearful of us doing something good for ourselves and it will talk us out of anything. It is being aware of that ego mind (which becomes clear with a consistent meditation practice), and when the ego mind starts talking you know not to cling and follow it.

Let go of the idea of a perfect meditation practice!

Please find below a 5 minute stress relief meditation that Charity was kind enough to create especially for us!

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For more information on Charity and Meditating Together check out her daily meditation affirmations, inspirations and education posts on:

Facebook: Meditating Together

Instagram: @meditatingtogether

Twitter: https://twitter.com/meditating2ther

Periscope: @meditating2ther (Every Wednesday I do a live meditation on Periscope at 9pm EST)

Email: meditatingtogether@gmail.com

YouTube: Meditating Together

Charity will be joining me for the Wellness Talk next Tuesday to discuss how meditation can relief stress and aid a restful nights sleep. For tickets please click the link below:

https://www.movewith.com/events/rest-and-reset-with-jennifer-hanway

Contact: jenny@jenniferhanway.com