Highlights!

I know, I haven’t posted in a week… I’ve been too crazy this week to even breathe. Catching up after a conference can be difficult- I’m not looking forward to March when I travel almost back-to-back.  I’ll just catch up with week highlights:

Monday

Got rear-ended- Happy Monday to me!  The Nissan was just scratched up a bit, but the 4-runner that hit me wasn’t in great shape.

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Tuesday:

Was a sickly girl.  Did end up booking my plane tickets to Portland for January. Found out if I want to have a “comfort seat” in economy (i.e. a seat in the first 3 rows), it’ll cost me an extra $80.  Really, Delta? Really.

It was also the only day I skipped my #RWRunStreak 1-mile.  I just couldn’t get myself out the door with the way I felt. Luckily my coordinator picked up my slack, so I counted it!

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Wednesday:

Felt so much better Wednesday morning, and wanted to make up for missing my mile the day before.  I rocked out 5 like a champ, and set a new PR:

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At work, one of my staffers brought me a soy latte- Jordan, you’re the best!! 

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That night, my “work wife” and I had our weekly wife date (for the first time in 3 weeks…).  We made great friends with the bartender too, which definitely has its perks!

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Thursday:

I broke into my new flavor of Spark- Mango strawberry.  Delicousness in powder-form.

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At work: Present from my doggie-sitter:  cookie butter!  My extreme weakness

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Lunch was outstanding- Syd and I went to Salad Creations- they make amazing chopped salads.  

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That night, we had a dinner with the construction crew that built our building.  It was so much fun, and we enjoyed conversation, wine, and great food at Mozaik.  Highly recommend this restaurant- it does have veggie and vegan options too!

Friday: 

By far my busiest work day.  I barely had time to squeeze in my mile and a quick TRX circuit in between meetings. 

After work, some of the staff headed out to check out one of my Building Supervisors’ art work. Demi is very talented and I’m so proud that they put her piece on display during the First Friday event.  The pro staff all met at Fermentation Lounge for a quick drink before we went to check out the art.  Kellie brought angel paws with:

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Afterwards, Demi with her artwork:

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Saturday:

Kellie and I met for a distance run.  We started off with the two of us and the two Lauren’s, but they were both going to a class at 11 and only did the first few miles with us.  Kellie and I knocked out 9- it was a PR for me, but with the hills, the pace, and a few other elements like my left quad hurting and the onset of congestion, the run was one of the worst ones I’ve done in awhile.  Kellie too- she rubbed her ankle so raw she was bleeding when we were done.  

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Now I’m just being lazy, sitting on my couch, really not moving- yet.  I need to bake my green beans and get into an ugly sweater before my staff holiday party tonight.  I’m sure that’ll happen- eventually.  🙂

Book Review: My Top 4 of Spark

I love my job as Assistant Director of the Fitness & Movement Clinic at FSU- it is exactly what I want to be doing, I have a wonderful group of colleagues and students to work with, and it’s just challenging enough to keep me interested and engaged.

Another reason I enjoy working there- all of my colleagues are focused on the impact physical activity has on both short and long term health.  We were encouraged to read the book Spark– and it has brought a whole new meaning as to why exercise is SO important in our daily lives.

(Fun Fact: This book is also one of the reasons I named my blog “Sparking Health”)

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The author- Ratey- uses evidence-based research and ongoing studies to 1)show that aerobic exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants, 2) prove that women who exercise lower their chances of developing dementia by 50%, 3) that exercise actually sparks new brain-cell growth, and so much more.

I’ve selected my “top 4” impressions from this book:

1. “If you’re in good shape, you may be able to learn and function more efficiently” (pg 45)

During a 2007 study on humans, German researchers found that people learn vocabulary words 20% faster following exercise than they did before exercise (pg. 45)

You know that saying: “once you kill your brain cells, they never grow back”? In 1998, researchers found that that is in fact false.  We grow new brain cells everyday- just like the rest of the cells in our body. (pg. 48). Neurons are born as bland-slate stem cells, and need to develop into brain cells that actually have a function in order to survive.  In order for a cell to survive and integrate, it has to fire its axon.  Exercise spawns this process, and the environment exercise creates helps those new brain cells to survive and function instead of die off (pg 49).

You can’t learn difficult material while you’re exercising at high intensity because blood is shunted away from the prefontal cortex (to power your legs, arms, whatever you’re using for exercise) (pg 53).  However, blood flow shifts back almost immediately after you finish exercising. In 2007, an experiment had 20 adults watch a movie and 20 adults go for a 35 minute run. All 40 adults were given a vocabulary test before the their activity, immediately after their activity, and 20 minutes after their activity. The movie watchers showed no change, but the 20 runners improved processing speed and cognitive flexibility after just one workout (pg. 54)

2) “The way you choose to cope with stress can change not only how you feel, but also how it transforms the brain” (pg 60).

Humans are unique among animals in that the danger doesn’t have to be clear and present to elicit a response- we can anticipate it, we can remember it, and we can conceptualize it.  The mind is so powerful we can set off stress just by imagining ourselves in a stressful situation (pg 63).

Exercise is good stress: the stress exercise produces is predictable and controllable  because you are initiating the action.  With exercise, you develop an ability to manage your own stress instead of relying on negative coping mechanisms (drinking, over-eating, etc).

In 2004, researchers in London had 210 participants during their lunch hour take aerobics, lift weights, or do yoga.  They filled out questionnaires  at the end of every workday about how well they interacted with their colleagues, managed their time, and met deadlines.  65% fared better in all three categories on the days they exercised.

3) In Britain, doctors now use exercise as a first-line treatment for depression, but it’s vastly underused in the United States, and that’s a shame.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability in the US and Canada, ahead of coronary heart disease, any given cancer, and AIDS.

Benefits of exercise on depression: In addition to the natural good feeling from endorphins, you feel good about yourself, and that has a positive effect that can’t be traced to a particular chemical or area of the brain. If you’ve been feeling down and you start to exercise to feel better, the sense that you’re going to be ok and that you can count on yourself for that feeling shifts your entire attitude (pg 118).

4)Scientists consider addiction a chronic disease because of the way it is wired in the brain to trigger reflexive behavior.  The same changes occur regardless of whether the addiction is to drugs, gambling, eating, etc. Typically, when we learn something, the connections stabilize and the levels of dopamine trail off over time. With addiction (especially drug addiction), dopamine floods the system with each drug use, reinforcing the memory and pushing other stimuli further into the background. Drug-induced type of learned behavior can remain for months or even years after the drugs are stopped, which is why it can be easy to relapse (pg 172)

Exercise effect on addicts = exercise works from the top down in the brain, forcing addicts to adapt to a new stimulus (natural dopamine instead of the drug-induced dopamine) and thereby allowing them to learn and appreciate healthy scenarios.  It’s activity-dependent training, and while it may not provide the immediate rush like a snort of cocaine does, it instills a more diffuse sense of well-being that, over time, will become a craving in its own right. The inoculation works from the bottom-up, physically blunting the urge to act by engaging the more primitive elements of the brain (pg 171).

Spark also addresses the topics of ADHD, Hormonal Changes, and Aging.  It describes the effects exercise has through the many issues of our lives and throughout the aging process.  I highly recommend this book- especially if you are interested in how exercise affects and changes your actual brain chemistry.

Check it out!