Self-care is not a trend; it requires continual practice and will evolve as the stressors in our lives shift. To be mentally and physically stronger, we need to care for both the mind and body. In September we posted about self-care for the mind. Let’s switch gears and talk about our top tips for caring for our physical health.
Here at Ascend, we’ve been talking a lot about self-care lately because it’s an important component in becoming the best versions of ourselves. Our bodies and minds are in constant communication with one another, receiving signals that impact how we feel. We’ve explored ways to relax and recharge our minds, but to fully nourish ourselves we must care for our bodies, too.
Learning how to recognize signs of potential burnout and making necessary adjustments before things go awry (we’ve all been there!) is important. The more we’re in tune with how our bodies react to different stressors, the better we can adjust and apply restorative self-care tactics that bring us back into balance.
Our bodies were designed for movement. The key is to do this in a way that is both beneficial and enjoyable. For our Ascend clients, it can mean supplementing your Ascend Cycle rides with an Underground Strength class. Or if you’re crushing tough workouts on the regular, maybe you sign up for our monthly Roll & Restore workshop (the next one is November 3rd) or check out one of the yoga studios on “The Ave,” like Mind the Mat.
Consider what inspires you to move — is it sweating with your tribe, pushing further with the beat of the music, lifting heavy, or the post-workout energy boost? Whatever it may be, remind yourself of what makes this time enjoyable.
It’s no secret that spending time in nature can be healing. The fall season is the perfect time to get outside for a hike or long walk. Even sitting outside and breathing fresh air during a lunch break can help you refocus and feel refreshed.
Allowing time to recoup and recover is just as important as movement. Rest may look different for each of us — building in a set number of days off per week or taking a break if sore, tired, or feeling under the weather. Recovery time actually helps us adhere to a consistent exercise regimen while decreasing our risk of injury and burnout.
Speaking of restoration, quality sleep is vital for good health. A solid 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night can do wonders. Quality sleep creates a ripple effect; it improves workouts and dietary choices and causes overall clearer thought and better decision-making. Hack your sleep hygiene by sticking to a consistent bedtime, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, creating a calm environment in the bedroom, and setting boundaries with technology and screen time.
A healthy diet is an essential way to care for our bodies. Whether you meal prep or cook on the fly, if you stock your fridge and pantry with good options, it automatically reduces your ability to reach for sugary, processed foods. A little planning can go a long way – don’t go shopping while hungry and be prepared with a list. It sounds almost too simple, but these tactics can make a big impact.
Our physical and mental health is directly tied to the health of our gut, which is far more than diet. This inner ecosystem is the cornerstone of our health, as it influences our immune system, hormone levels, brain health, mood, digestion, and inflammation. We do have control over lifestyle changes that can improve our gut health — reducing intake of processed, inflammatory foods and reaching for more healthy fats, fermented foods, quality protein, and prebiotic fiber.
Dry brushing removes dead skin cells, leading to brighter looking skin and improving blood circulation and lymphatic drainage, which is important to help our bodies eliminate waste. (It may also help reduce the appearance of cellulite, though possibly just temporarily.) Either way, it feels good! Dry brushing only requires a few minutes and can easily be added to your morning routine.
Scent elicits a relaxation response from the body. Calming essential oils can help take our stress meter down a notch, which helps our body processes and keeps stress hormones in check. Use your favorite essential oils in a diffuser, try an aromatherapy mist, or spritz a few drops of lavender on your pillow. At Ascend, we end each class with a cool, peppermint towel!
While we consider what junk we put in our bodies, products we’re exposed to in our environment deserve attention as well. Chemicals can be absorbed through our skin and enter the bloodstream in a process called dermal absorption. Many personal care products contain harmful ingredients that have been linked to cancer or nervous system damage — and sometimes they are not clearly defined on the label! For example, companies are protected from listing trade-secret ingredients in their fragrance, which can include harsh chemicals.
Complementary, integrative methods of healing can be relaxing and restorative for both the mind and body. These practices include massage therapy, reiki, qi gong, cupping, acupuncture, or chiropractic medicine. Certain practices focus on improving muscle function and recovery or relieving pain, while other techniques are centered around unblocking or balancing energy in the body.
The take-home message is that small practices can have a profound impact on our well-being over time. Pick one at a time, and work it into your daily or weekly routine. Or, keep these tactics in your pocket for when sh*t hits the fan. Either way, give yourself permission to take care of you in a way that works for you.
Climb higher, sprint faster, Ascend.
Our classes are crafted with one goal in mind: to help you reach peak performance: We help you unleash your inner power with intentional rides, you leave the studio a stronger version of yourself. Our instructors know how to push you beyond perceived limitations, empowering you build physical and mental stamina. It comes full circle for us when you bring that newfound confidence into every aspect of your life.
2413 Mt Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, Virginia 22301