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Oftentimes, our ancient brains don’t seem well equipped to deal with the speed and complexities of modernity. The landscape bombards us with perceived threats and problems, and we have trouble not ruminating on them. To navigate this environment, while maintaining our composure and sanity, we need to strengthen our resistance to stress. 

My guest today has written a guidebook to how that’s done. Her name is Dr. Mithu Storoni, and she’s a medical doctor who also holds a PhD in Neuro-ophthalmology, as well as the author of Stress-Proof: The Scientific Solution to Protect Your Brain and Body — and Be More Resilient Every Day. Today on the show we discuss the difference between acute stress and chronic stress and why acute stress can actually be good for you, while chronic stress can change your brain so that you get more stressed out when you experience stress. We discuss how both cortisol and inflammation can actually be beneficial in the right amounts, and how to get them in the right doses — including the particular type of exercise that will best help you recover from stress,  and the role diet and even Tetris can play in managing it. We end our conversation discussing how making time for hobbies can prevent you from falling into the stress trap.

Show Highlights
  • What is stress?
  • What’s the typical approach to stress management?
  • The difference between acute stress and chronic stress
  • How chronic stress lowers our ability to deal with more stress 
  • How stress impacts the physical structure of your brain 
  • The dangers of ruminating on things 
  • Learning how to regulate your emotions 
  • Why Tetris can help your stress (and why it’s sometimes good to distract yourself) 
  • Inflammation — its bad rap, but also its occasional benefits
  • The importance of gut bacteria to your stress and overall health 
  • Getting out of a stress-induced slump 
  • The power of agency 
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The post Podcast #525: How to Stress Proof Your Body and Brain appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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This article series is now available as a professionally formatted, distraction free paperback or ebook to read offline at your leisure.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published August 30, 2012. It has since been updated. 

Whenever we look back on the past, our minds have a tendency to cast things in a warm, rosy glow – our memories invariably focus on the good parts and gloss over the bad. Which is why, when those who are removed a few years from their college days reminisce about that time, all they typically remember are the parties, the girls, the spring breaks, and so on.

What they forget . . . is the stress.

The stress of both holding down a job and being a student, the stress of stretching a meager budget each month, the stress of breaking up with someone you thought you’d spend your life with, the stress of fighting with a roommate who was once your best friend and is now your sworn enemy, and of course, the stress of cranking out a 20-page research paper and struggling to remember chemistry formulas on your final exams.

Make no mistake about it: the life of a young man is often quite glorious and free, but there will also be times when you feel utterly overwhelmed. Sure, a lot of adults tend to scoff at a young man’s stress — “You think you’re busy now? Wait until you have a wife, three kids, and a full-time job!” And these men are right, in a way – your total amount of stress will tend to increase as you age and take on more responsibilities, and you’ll probably look back on college and think, “What the heck was I so worried about?” But it’s all relative, isn’t it? The stress of a young man is both unique (I wouldn’t trade the pressure of a real job for being tested on my ability to regurgitate information again) and new – you haven’t yet accumulated the life experiences that will help you see that what feels like the end of the world now, is just another bump in the road.

All of which is to say, the stress you will experience after leaving home is real, and learning how to deal with it is one of the most important skills a young man can master. Since it is true that your stress will likely increase with age, learning how to manage it now will prepare you to live happily and confidently not just into your 20s, but for the rest of your life as well.

With that truth in mind, today we take you through a comprehensive primer designed to help you understand what stress is, how it can negatively affect both body and mind, and how you can easily and effectively manage it.

What is Stress?

Stress is your body’s reaction to circumstances in which it feels it needs more strength, stamina, and alertness in order to survive and thrive. Any perceived challenge or threat to your well-being can induce a stress response. This response signals your nervous system to release the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol into your bloodstream, which gets you revved up and ready for action: your heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and breathing increase, your blood vessels dilate to speed blood flow to your muscles, your pupils dilate to enhance your vision, and your liver releases stored glucose for your body to use as energy. In primitive times, this so-called “fight or flight” response instantly primed your body to deal with danger. 

Thus, while many people view stress as an exclusively bad thing, it can in fact be either positive or negative. In the face of an immediate challenge — a job interview, a big presentation, a difficult test – the stress response puts you on your toes and can improve your performance and ability to handle the pressure. It also lends excitement to life; when you feel nervous butterflies before asking a girl out, or getting on a roller coaster, that’s stress too. It might seem like a 100% stress-free life would be incredible, but after a while, a state of perpetual calm would begin to feel flat, stale, and boring (at least for those of us who have not achieved total Zen!).

Stress only becomes a problem in the face of two main factors:

1. The first is stress overload. The amount of stress you feel given a certain set of circumstances is directly proportional to the degree in which you feel your skills and resources (including time) are adequate in addressing them. This state of competence can be based on either reality or one’s own optimistically or pessimistically rendered self-assessment. A man who enjoys and is talented at public speaking will feel much less stress before making a presentation than a man who is shy and speaks awkwardly; a man who completes an assignment over the course of a week will feel much less stressed than the man who waits to work on it until the night before; a man who is much less confident in dating women and what he has to offer them, will feel much more devastated when a girl dumps him than a man who has little doubt he’ll soon meet someone else. Instead of getting us revved up for action, stress that seems too big to handle can feel crushing, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and too paralyzed to do anything at all.

2. The second instance stress becomes a problem is when the set of circumstances causing it becomes chronic. The stress response was originally designed to help humans deal with immediate threats and challenges – after the adrenaline rush, our nervous systems quickly returned to stand-by mode in preparation for the next challenge. Saber-toothed tiger! Throw spear! Tiger dead! Whoo, relax time. Me go back to making cave paintings. But in modern times, our stressors can go on and on and on. As much as we might like to, we can’t spear our annoying roommate or co-worker. Instead, we have to put up with him day after day. And day after day, this chronic stress causes our bodies to dump out low levels of stress hormones. Unfortunately, a steady of dose of something that was supposed to be rare and fleeting can make us physically and emotionally sick.

The Damaging Effects of Too Much Stress

Too much stress can do a number on both your body and mind, causing everything from diarrhea and constipation, to tension headaches and hair loss. Below we describe more of the deleterious effects of stress:

1. Weight gain. At the height of your stress response, you will likely experience a decreased appetite. But once the stress starts to wane, the cortisol that was released into your bloodstream may spur you to eat sugary, carbohydrate-rich foods. This made sense back in primitive times: the fight or flight response usually preceded a bout of physical exertion (get that mammoth!), and after the stress had passed, it was time to replenish your body. These days, when you may experience the stress response while remaining chained to your desk, gobbling down donuts as you descend from your stress peak will only lead to a primordial-sized gut.

2. Decreased libido and erectile dysfunction. Cortisol also decreases testosterone production, which in turn can depress a man’s libido and cause erectile dysfunction. If you want to enjoy a healthy sex drive in adulthood, you’ll need to get a handle on your stress today.

3. Increased blood pressure. Cortisol, along with the other hormones that are released when we’re stressed, causes our hearts to beat faster and constrict our blood vessels in order to prime our bodies for fight or flight. Fine in the short term, but prolonged stress can lead to hypertension, and all its attending health problems.

4. Insomnia. With cortisol still pumping through your veins, even after the height of a stressful experience has passed, you may find yourself still too revved up to sleep. This inability to get some shuteye is often compounded by other factors that frequently attend stressful times — caffeine consumption, and racing, worried thoughts.

5. Hyper-emotionality. When you’re stressed and your willpower is depleted, you become more emotional. Hyper-emotionality doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll become a blubbering mess at a drop of the hat, though that is a common response of individuals who are over-stressed. Rather it means that all your emotions — sadness, anger, even happiness — are in overdrive. With the rational part of your brain no longer in control, you’re more susceptible to outbursts of all kinds.

6. Social isolation. A common response to stress is to retreat to our “bunker” and isolate ourselves from other people. As we’ll discuss further down, while it’s certainly okay to get some alone time when you’re feeling stressed, too much isolation can actually contribute to your anxiety.

7. Poor concentration and memory. While some stress can make us more mentally nimble, chronic stress depletes our willpower and turns us into dolts. Studies show that individuals who experience stress over a long period of time demonstrate poorer concentration, decreased memory, and a reduced decision making capacity.

8. Fatigue. According to the American Psychological Association, 25% of men report experiencing physical and mental fatigue several times a week. Stress is one of the biggest contributors to that tuckered out condition. Physical tension and mental worry, along with a diminishment in testosterone, drains our bodies and makes us feel sluggish and tired.

9. Weakened immune system. You may have heard that all stress is bad for your immune system, but recent studies have shown that short bursts of stress can actually boost it. When your mind senses a coming crisis, stress hormones muster immune cells to potential “battlefields” in the body — tissues, organs, and mucous membranes that are particularly sensitive to infection. In primitive times, the fight of flight response was typically triggered in situations like hunting or combat where physical wounds were a likely outcome, and these immunity “soldiers” stood at the ready to stave off infection and heal these wounds as soon as they formed. But, once again, a response that was beneficial a thousand years ago has been hijacked by the ongoing stress of modern life. The constant drilling of your immunity troops in preparation for a non-existent emergency eventually wearies and weakens them, leaving you vulnerable to infections and inflammation.

10. Depression. Chronic stress reduces neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate things like appetite, energy, and sleep, in addition to balancing our moods and contributing to our sense of well-being. A diminishment of these neurotransmitters can cause depression directly, but can lead to it indirectly as well by creating a circular pattern of negative behavior. You have trouble sleeping, so you don’t feel like exercising in the morning, which makes you feel more stressed out, so you eat more, which makes you feel more sluggish, which makes you not want to go out and socialize…and on the circle spirals, potentially into depression.

11. Increased alcohol consumption, smoking, and drug use. Men tend to deal with stress by looking for an escape from it. Oftentimes, that escape is alcohol, smoking, and drugs. While many a well-balanced man won’t experience any ill-effects from a nightcap to take the edge off a stressful day, it becomes a problem when one glass turns to four. Heavy alcohol or drug use can lead to a whole host of relationship and health problems, and does nothing to mitigate the source of the stress — it may actually exacerbate it.

How to Manage Stress Effectively

Reading over all those stress-induced maladies may have left you feeling stressed about being stressed! But don’t worry: most stress is very manageable as long as you commit to doing the small, daily maintenance tasks that will keep your stress from reaching the point where it begins to feel crushing.

As we mentioned above in the “What is Stress?” section, negative stress is generally the result of two factors: 1) Not feeling like our skills, talents, and resources (including time) are adequate to handle a threat or challenge, and 2) Chronic stress-producing circumstances that last for days, weeks, even years.

Thus, when it comes to managing stress, you need to take a double-pronged approach that includes preventing these factors from occurring in the first place, and learning how to mitigate them when prevention is impossible.

1. Develop your resiliency. A huge part of dealing with stress has nothing to do with the actual stressor, but how you handle that stressor.A situation one man navigates with confident ease can cause another man to completely fall apart. Thus, the foundational block in your ability to manage stress is developing the trait of resiliency. Being resilient encompasses the way in which you both act and react in the world — your ability to both quickly bounce back from challenges and trials and to face the world head-on with courage and confidence. Without a resilient attitude and approach to life, all of the stress-reducing methods below amount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The path to developing resilience cannot be explained in just a few sentences. Luckily, a couple of years ago, we wrote a comprehensive, 7-part series on the subject. It includes both a conceptual framework to help you understand the nature of resilience as well as practical methods to develop the trait. I really believe it’s a must-read for a man of any age. You can find the series here, and we also put together the articles in an ebook that includes worksheets as well. When it comes to dealing with stress, the articles on Avoiding Learned Helplessness and Changing Your Explanatory Style, Taking Control of Your Life, and How to Quit Catastrophizing will be most applicable and helpful.

2. Exercise. If you take only one stress-reducing strategy from this list, let it be this: make exercise a regular habit. Researchers have found that exercise is just as effective as antidepressants in treating clinical depression and increases the levels of endocannabinoid molecules in our blood, the same endocannabinoids that are responsible for the calming pleasure produced by the consumption of marijuana.

Exercise not only treats stress, it may also help prevent it as well; preliminary studies are beginning to show that the small amount of physical and mental stress you experience when you exercise acts sort of like an inoculation to high-stress events later, creating brain cells that are better able to deal with anxiety, or in other words, a more stress-resistant brain. If you need help in starting a regular exercise routine, we offered some tips on the subject last week.

To make your exercise doubly-effective, do your workout outside, for the reasons we’ll explain next.

3. Get out in nature. In nature, body and mind get a chance to rejuvenate. In a study done in Japan, researchers found that after a 20-minute walk in the forest, participants had “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity” than subjects who spent time in the city. In layman’s terms? Walking in the woods mellows you out. In a follow-up study, time spent in nature increased feelings of vigor and decreased the feelings of anger, anxiety, and depression.

So instead of spending every Saturday sacked out on the couch watching football, start making time for regular hikes in the woods. Your inner-Thoreau will thank you.

4. Meditate. Numerous studies have shown that simple mindfulness meditation can reduce and even eliminate many of the negative physiological and psychological symptoms of chronic stress. While you’re meditating, blood pressure normalizes, breathing and heart rate slows, and your adrenal glands produce less cortisol. Participants in meditation studies often report lower anxiety, worry, and tension levels. Moreover, regular meditation actually rewires your brain and makes you more resilient in the face of stress.

Never meditated? Just read our quick and handy how-to guide to get started. The beauty of it is that you don’t even have to meditate that long to get the benefits. Just 20 minutes a day will do the trick, and you’ll start noticing the benefits in just a few weeks.

5. Make a list of what’s stressing you out. Sometimes when we have a bunch of things that are worrying us and a long list of things to do, all of these stressors swirl together in a big cloud of restlessness and agitation. We feel overwhelmed, but the cloud makes it hard for us to even articulate exactly why. When this happens, take some time to make a list of everything you’re worried about. Offloading them from your brain to paper will help your cranium to relax. This is, in fact, one of the things Dwight D. Eisenhower did to relieve his stress when the burden of deciding when to launch D-Day grew crushingly heavy.

Now, make an action/to-do list by looking at each item on your worry list. Write down small, specific, immediate things you can do to take care of each stressor.

6. Get plenty of sleep. Sleep and stress create somewhat of a Catch-22 problem. Our bodies and minds need sleep to help manage and cope with stress, but stress can oftentimes prevent us from getting the sleep we need! While we could devote an entire post to how to improve your slumber, here are a few quick things you can do to get the best night’s sleep possible, even when you’re feeling tense:

  • Meditate twenty minutes before hitting the sack to calm and relax your mind and body.
  • Write down all your worries before getting into bed so you’re not thinking about them while you’re trying to get to sleep. As we just mentioned, this is an effective stress-reducing tactic anytime, but it’s particularly effective right before bed.
  • Turn off the computer and TV an hour before going to bed. The light from electronic screens suppresses the body’s natural melatonin production, a hormone which helps lull you into sleep.
  • Speaking of melatonin, consider taking a melatonin supplement right before going to bed. It can help you relax and get to sleep quicker (and based on my experience, have crazy dreams).
  • Make sure your room is nice and cool. Studies show the optimal temperature for sleep is somewhere between 60 to 68 degrees (brrrr!). If you don’t want to run the A/C that low all night, get a fan, keep your sleepwear light (or nonexistent), and don’t use heavy blankets or comforters.
  • Play some white noise. White noise blocks distracting sounds as well as provides a relaxing sound that will soothe you into sleep. This can particularly help if you have night owl roommates who stay up and make noise after you’ve turned in, or if you live in the heart of a noisy city. A desktop fan is a great white noise source. Or you can download white noise soundtracks to play while you’re sleeping. I used this free white noise generator while in law school for my power naps, speaking of which…

6. Take a nap. The simple nap is a powerful thing that offers a whole host of amazing benefits, including increased alertness, a boost in your learning and working memory, and greater creativity. It’s also a potent stress-fighter: napping releases growth hormones and serotonin, which balances your cortisol, soothes your stabbiness, and leaves you feeling content and rejuvenated.

8. Reduce caffeine consumption.  Caffeine increases cortisol and adrenaline production in your body, which may make you feel better in the short-term, but will increase your jagged, stressed-out feeling in the long-term. Cut back on caffeine and try to avoid it after 2PM to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.

9. Stick to a routine. The more out of control you feel, the more stressed out you’ll be. While we can’t control everything that happens to us during the day, by taking charge of the things we can control, we can greatly reduce our anxiety. One way to feel more in control of your life is by establishing and sticking to routines: exercise routines, morning and evening routines, work routines. Anything you do frequently, try to make it routine. The more your mind knows what to expect next, the more calm and confident it will feel.

10. Plan your week. Much of the stress I experienced in college was created because I didn’t manage my time well. I’d forget due dates,..

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This article series is now available as a professionally formatted, distraction free paperback or ebook to read offline at your leisure.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on August 25, 2012. It has since been updated. 

When I was in high school, I didn’t have to worry about creating and sticking to a fitness routine. I had football coaches who took care of that for me. I just had to show up at the weight room at the designated time with the rest of my teammates and do the scheduled workout. Because of that consistency, along with a lot of hard work, I was in really good shape when I graduated and headed off to college.

With my football days behind me, I pretty much stopped working out once I arrived on campus. I’d play the occasional pick-up basketball game, but I didn’t have a set fitness routine to maintain the strength and conditioning I achieved while in high school. Boy, did things deteriorate quickly for me. I started to get soft and pudgy and my strength was nowhere near the levels I was used to. I remember one night during my freshman year in college I decided to go to the gym in an attempt to get back on track. I slapped 225 lbs on the bench barbell to start off. It was a weight I had easily lifted in high school. I lifted the barbell off the rack and began to slowly lower it to my chest…where it stayed until my cries of help were heard. Thankfully, only my ego was bruised. But that moment really spurred me to get back on the fitness bandwagon.

I’ve noticed that a lot of young men heading out on their own fall into the same trap I did. Sometimes they were physically active in high school because of sports, but as soon as they head off to college they stop exercising completely and quickly become the stereotypical fat ex-jock. Don’t let this happen to you! It’s harder to get back into shape once you’ve gotten flabby than it is to maintain the shape you’re already in. That’s why it’s so important you keep a regular exercise routine when you head out on your own.

If you didn’t exercise regularly in high school, without working out (and a healthy diet) you won’t become a fat ex-jock, you’ll just become fat. Plenty of guys who maintained an average weight in college find themselves growing a belly as they move into their mid and late 20s — a diet of fast food and plenty of beer takes its toll.

When I went with Kate to her ten year high school reunion, I was struck by the fact that while most of the women seemed to have maintained their figures (despite some of them having children), the dudes looked pretty out of shape and overweight.

The first few years living out on your own will a build a foundation for the rest of your life, so unless you want to become the middle-aged guy who gets all wheezy when playing with his kids, now is the time to establish a fitness routine for yourself.

Why You Need a Fitness Routine

1. Increases testosterone. Testosterone is what makes men, men. Unfortunately, most young men have lower testosterone than their grandfathers did because of changes in diet, activity levels, and chemicals in our environment, water, and food supply. The benefits of optimal testosterone levels are numerous. Besides increasing your libido, testosterone does the following:

  • increases mental and physical energy
  • boosts happiness (men with low-T often suffer depression)
  • increases competitive drive
  • helps prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • increases muscle size and strength

Compound weight lifting exercises like squats, bench press, cleans, and deadlifts are great testosterone boosters. High intensity exercises, like sprinting, have been shown to boost testosterone levels as well.

2. Good for your brain. If you want to be a stellar college student, you need to hit the treadmill in addition to hitting the books. Studies show that regular exercise speeds learning, improves memory, and promotes clearer thinking. 

3. Increases your willpower. We’ve talked about the importance of willpower in our success as men. One way to strengthen it is to make regular exercise a habit. Working out will increase your discipline in all areas of your life.

4. Reduced health costs. Health costs are ballooning here in the U.S. because of the rise of obesity and obesity-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. While proper diet plays the biggest role in preventing obesity, regular exercise can help stave off weight gain and improve how your body uses insulin so you don’t get diabetes. A regular fitness routine has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve heart health. If you don’t want to spend a small fortune treating these ailments in the future, get in the gym today. Not only will you reduce your own health care costs by being physically fit, you can take some manly pride knowing you’re not increasing costs for your neighbors and fellow citizens.

5. Relieves stress and depression. We’re going to go into more detail about managing stress next week, but one thing you can start doing today that will go a long way to keeping you chill like The Dude is to exercise. It releases endorphins in your brain, improves sleep, and can relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. Exercising regularly is truly one of the most important things you can do to stay sane during college.

6. Makes you physically attractive. Your physical attractiveness can play a big role in your personal and professional success. Women are more attracted to men who are fit and in shape. Men who are physically attractive often report higher incomes and more job promotions than men who are less attractive. Exercise can help mold a physique that will make you attractive to others, and even more importantly, boost your confidence in yourself.

Establishing an Exercise Routine

A lot of men know it’s important to exercise, but end up feeling lost as to what to do for their workout. There are so many opinions out there as to what the “best” workout is that you can end up feeling overwhelmed and not doing anything at all. When I’d go to the gym at OU, I’d often see guys just kind of wandering around aimlessly, half-hardheartedly doing a few bicep curls and tricep extensions.

In truth, at least in my opinion, unless your fitness goal is to get super shredded or have a bodybuilder’s physique, you shouldn’t stress about finding the “perfect” workout. Instead, focus on improving your overall strength and fitness with a routine that’s as simple as possible – one you will enjoy and do consistently. The most important thing is to do something, anything, to move your body every day!

Below I suggest two exercise routines that are perfect for a young man who is busy, but is looking to maximize results. One requires access to a gym and free-weights, while the other consists solely of bodyweight exercises.

1. Starting Strength

My favorite workout routine is the Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. It’s fast (workouts take about 40 minutes), you don’t need much equipment, it produces great results, and it’s very doable for a beginner who’s new to lifting. I also like it because it’s similar to the strength training program I did as a high school football player. I’m stronger and leaner than I’ve ever been since starting Starting Strength.

You an find the breakdown of the program at Starting Strength.

2. Bodyweight Workout

This bodyweight program is one I do sometimes when I can’t or don’t want to go to the gym. It works your entire body and can be done anywhere. The only equipment this routine requires is an Iron Gym Pull-Up Bar that you can place in any doorframe and which doesn’t require you to drill any holes. Even if you plan on going to the gym regularly, buying an Iron Gym Pull-Up Bar is a great investment for any young man. Make it a policy to crank out a few pull-ups each time you pass through the doorframe from which it hangs.

Even if you can’t swing an Iron Gym bar, I’m sure you could find a tree branch or another bar that could be used for pull-ups. Or you can sub in a bodyweight row. Let Steve Kamb from Nerd Fitness show you how (he’s got great beginner and advanced bodyweight workouts on his site for more ideas too):

How to Do a Bodyweight Row | Nerd Fitness - YouTube

This is a circuit program, meaning you do each of the exercises back-to-back without any rest. When you’ve completed all the exercises, you’ve completed one circuit. The exercises link to how-to videos for those who haven’t done them before.

Do a ten minute warm-up first (jumping jacks, jump rope, jogging), and then complete each exercise back-to-back without resting. That’s a circuit. Rest for two minutes after completing a circuit and then start another one.

Start with one circuit, and then add a circuit once you’re able to perform all the reps for all the exercises. Keep adding circuits until you can complete all the reps for all the exercises for five circuits. After that, start adding 1 rep to each exercise at each workout.

Perform this workout every other day, three times a week. Here’s a suggested schedule:

  • Monday: Bodyweight workout
  • Tuesday: Sprints or plyometrics
  • Wednesday: Bodyweight workout
  • Thursday: 5K run
  • Friday: Bodyweight workout
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

Whatever workout program you choose, the key is to be consistent with it. Treat your workouts like an important doctor’s appointment. When you plan your week, block off a time each day for exercise.

You should also look for ways to incorporate exercise into your everyday life – walk and bike to campus when you can, join an intramural team, play some pick-up games of ultimate Frisbee with your buds, and take a date on a bike ride. Establishing a habit of regular exercise – both at the gym and throughout your day — will reap enormous benefits for the rest of your life.

The post How to Establish an Exercise Routine appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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Teddy Atlas was born to a well-respected doctor in a wealthy part of Staten Island. Most kids like him end up going to an Ivy League school to become some sort of white collar professional. Teddy? Teddy dropped out of high school, went to jail, and ended up becoming a trainer to 18 world champion boxers, including heavyweight champion Michael Moore, who defeated Evander Holyfield for the title in 1994.

Today on the show I talk to Teddy about how and why he took the path he did in life. Teddy explains how he ended up boxing under legendary trainer Cus D’Amato, and how Cus guided Teddy towards becoming a trainer himself. Teddy then shares stories of training kids in the Catskills, taking them to unsanctioned amateur fights in the Bronx, and the lessons he learned from boxing and his father about personal responsibility, managing fear, overcoming resistance, and what is means to be a man.

Show Highlights
  • Teddy’s early relationship with his father 
  • How Teddy ended up on the streets as a dropout 
  • How Teddy found boxing
  • The brilliance of Cus D’Amato 
  • The “smokers” of the tough streets of NYC 
  • The importance of a father figure to a troubled young man 
  • What is a champion?
  • Why every man needs to meet resistance 
  • Why it’s harder to quit than it is to fight 
  • How Teddy learned to be a man 
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast Connect With Teddy

Teddy’s podcast, The Fight

Teddy on Twitter

Teddy on Instagram

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The post Podcast #524: Boxing Trainer Teddy Atlas on What It Means to Be a Man appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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We typically associate body image issues with women. But my guest today says that a quarter of people with eating disorders are male and that there are millions of men in America silently struggling with and obsessing over how they look — even to the detriment of their health, careers, and relationships. His name is Dr. Roberto Olivardia. He’s a professor of clinical psychology at Harvard and the co-author of the book The Adonis Complex: How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Body Obsession in Men and Boys. We begin our conversation discussing how the “Adonis Complex” manifests itself in men and why male body image disorders are a fairly recent phenomenon. Roberto and I then dig into how the ideal male body has changed over the past few decades and how we’ve seen these inflated standards of male attractiveness show up in advertising, movies, and even action figures. Roberto then shares possible causes of male body image issues, which include, interestingly enough, increasing gender egalitarianism in the West. 

We then dig into specific ways body image issues appear in men, including “bigorexia” or muscle dysmorphia, in which super jacked dudes think they’re still too scrawny. Roberto then explains how eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia manifest themselves differently in men compared to women. 

We end our conversation discussing the line between caring about how you look in a healthy way, and having a disorder, what to do if you’re having problems with body image issues, and what parents can do to inoculate their sons from the Adonis Complex.

Show Highlights
  • What is the Adonis Complex?
  • How Roberto got started studying eating disorders in men 
  • How many men are affected by various body image and eating disorders?
  • What has changed in our culture to cause the uptick in men experiencing these problems?
  • Body image and men in other cultures 
  • The reality about guys who look jacked in movies, underwear ads, etc. 
  • The negative influence of social media 
  • How action figures have changed in the last handful of decades 
  • What do men and women see as the ideal male body?
  • Muscle dysmorphia 
  • How are these body image problems treated?
  • How eating disorders manifest differently in men and women 
  • The problems caused by steroids
  • Why every man should indeed care about how they look, and finding the right balance
  • What parents can do to help boys who might be struggling with body image 
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Last week we discussed the nature of sleep and why it’s so important that you get enough of it.

If you’ve had trouble falling asleep for years, the information may have made you feel more frustrated than inspired. Fear not! Today we’ll take a look at a wide range of tips for slumbering soundly, night after night.

If you’ve been getting okay sleep, my goal is that you’ll find a tip that can help you make it much better.

Before we begin, the important thing to understand is that getting a good night’s sleep is an all-day affair. How you wake up, what you do during the day, and your nightly routine can all affect the quality and quantity of your sleep. Below are some research-backed tips that you can employ from dawn to dusk to prepare your body and mind for sleep. Make sure to experiment; what works for someone else might not work for you. You might consider investing in a sleep tracker or downloading a sleep-tracking app so you can measure the effects of your sleep experimentation.

Preparing For Good Sleep

1. Invest in a good mattress. Remember, you’ll spend an average of 24 years – 24 years! – of your life sleeping. So there’s no investment that yields a better ROI than a mattress that helps you slumber soundly (and that’s not always the most expensive one, either). Pick the mattress that’s right for you. If the manufacturer lets you test it out for a trial period, all the better.

While you’re at it, change your sheets once a week. Nothing feels better than getting into a bed with nice, clean linen.

2. Find your ideal sleeping schedule by going camping for a week. If you want to find the ideal amount of sleep your unique body craves, as well as its ideal wake time, go camping for a week. Researchers at the University of Colorado found that participants who roughed it in the great outdoors shifted their sleeping schedule to one that lined up more with the earth’s natural solar day and night. In the absence of artificial light, they returned to their primeval pattern. On average, the participants went to bed earlier, woke up earlier, and slept longer. Even self-proclaimed night owls shifted to a sleep/wake cycle that lined up with the natural solar day and night and started going to sleep well before their “normal” bedtime back home. (This suggests that their night owl-ness may be driven more by preference and habit than their biological makeup.)

Even if your “real life” schedule can’t accommodate the natural sleeping schedule you uncover while slumbering in the wild, it can provide you ideals to shoot for. And the experiment should at least give you an idea of how much sleep your body needs to feel fully rested. Shoot for that number, whatever your schedule may be.

And if you’re suffering massive sleep debt, a week of camping away from artificial light and the stresses of modern life is a great way to catch up on some much-needed Zs.

When You Wake Up and During the Day

3. Stick to a consistent schedule. Our bodies are evolved to sleep at a regular schedule. Ideally, that schedule would align with the earth’s natural day and night cycle. In our modern 24/7 society, that sort of schedule is not possible for most of us. But we can do our best to be consistent with the sleep schedule that we do have. Experiment, find the schedule that works for you, and then stick to it like clockwork — that means going to bed and waking up at the same time every day – even on weekends!

4. Wake up at the same time every morning. If for any reason you have to go to bed later than usual, try to still wake up at the same time. This is particularly important if you’re trying to establish a new, healthier sleep schedule. The time of your waking seems to set the schedule of when you’ll start feeling sleepy later in the day. Thus, if you go to bed late, and then wake up late, it’ll start a cycle that messes up your whole rhythm. If you instead get up early even after going to bed late, you’re more likely to feel tired at the desired time.

5. Never hit the snooze button. In hitting the snooze button you may think you’re giving your body and mind the bit of extra sleep that it needs, but you’re actually just setting yourself up to feel groggier than you would have if you’d just gotten right out of bed. You see, when you hit snooze and drift back to sleep, rather than returning to the lighter sleep stage you were just in (in which your body may have already been preparing to wake up), you may begin a new sleep cycle altogether. Then, when the alarm goes off the second time, it’ll likely catch you in a deeper stage of sleep, leaving you feeling groggy, ill-rested, and looking for a mallet to smash your alarm clock. To help rid yourself of this habit, try placing your alarm (be it a phone or a clock) in a place where you’ll have to physically get out of bed to turn it off.

6. Expose yourself to bright light as soon as you get up. Bright light, particularly blue light, sends a signal to our brain to stop releasing melatonin and to start raising cortisol levels to help wake us up. Research suggests that morning exposure to bright light not only helps wake you up, but can also help you get to sleep later that night. Early morning light may even help regulate your metabolism; one study showed a correlation between exposure to light in the morning and a healthy BMI. The author of that study, Dr. Phyllis C. Zee, explains: “Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulates energy balance. The message is that you should get more bright light between 8 a.m. and noon.”

If you wake up after the sun rises, take a 20-minute walk in the morning to let your eyes bask in its dawning rays. But exposure to bright light is particularly helpful if you rise when it’s still dark. In such a case, you’ll have to bring in an artificial source of light. One thing that I’ve had a lot of success with is Philips goLITE BLU. I turn it on and sit in front of it for 20 minutes while I’m doing my morning routine.

While the blue light emitted from your electronic devices isn’t as strong, taking a look at your laptop as soon as you get out of bed can help wake you up too; however, checking your email first thing in the morning can also induce crankiness and doesn’t get your morning off to the right, focused start.

7. Exercise every day. Dimes to donuts your hard-toiling great-grandpa didn’t have any trouble getting to sleep at night. Manual labor is truly the best sleeping aid of all.

In our techno-industrial economy where most of us sit at a desk all day, the next best thing to pushing a plow is doing a daily bout of exercise. The research suggests that regular exercisers sleep better than those who don’t. If possible, you may consider exercising in the morning to help wake you up. If nighttime exercise is the only thing you can do, that’s fine as well. Just not too close to bedtime.

8. Try intermittent fasting. Research suggests that intermittent fasting can help you get better sleep at night. A simple way to implement intermittent fasting is to begin your fast at 7 or 8PM and then skip breakfast the next morning and don’t eat until lunch. From 12PM until 7PM you can eat. If you want to incorporate a bedtime snack into your routine (see below), you’ll need to use a different schedule, shifting your feeding window until later in the day.

9. Avoid caffeine late in the day. Caffeine is a stimulant that will keep you awake if you take it too late in the day. Keep in mind that the half-life (how long it lingers in your body) of caffeine is three to five hours, meaning that that cup of Joe you drank at 4PM could still be having a stimulating effect on you at 9PM. If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider cutting the caffeine at around mid-day or early afternoon.

Before Bedtime

If you must use electronic devices in bed, be sure to use an app that filters out the blue light. Or don a pair of yellow-tinted safety glasses when watching TV!

10. Avoid blue light in the evening. In fact, dim all the lights. When the sun goes down, your body will naturally start releasing melatonin to help you get sleepy. Bright lights, specifically blue light, can disrupt that process, leaving you wide awake when it’s finally time to hit the hay. Increased exposure to blue light from our digital screens at nighttime is partly to blame for the increased sleeping problems modern humans are reporting. Ideally, you’d turn off all TV and computer screens two hours before bed to ensure optimum sleep. But we know most people can’t (or won’t) do that. Luckily, there are programs that you can install on your digital devices that eliminate the blue light emanating from your screen. Here are a couple that I’ve used:

  • f.lux. As you get closer to nighttime, the blue light from the screen is reduced. It makes your screen look sort of orange at first, but then your eyes adjust so that it looks normal. Works across desktop operating systems.
  • Twilight. This is an Android app that does the same thing as f.lux. It gradually eliminates the blue light from your smartphone and tablet screen as it gets closer to nighttime. I have it both on my HTC One and Samsung Tablet. (I’m not aware of any apps that do this on iOS. You can install f.lux on your iPhone or iPad, but you have to jailbreak it in order to do so.)

If you really want to ensure that you’re reducing and eliminating your exposure to blue light at nighttime, consider putting on a pair of yellow-tinted safety glasses at night. Yes, everything will look yellow and your wife will laugh at you, but it will help reduce your exposure to blue light from the TV while you’re watching Shark Tank, ensuring a better night’s sleep.

And be sure to dim the lights around the house too, so it’s not as bright as the noonday sun in your living room. Even regular white light can mess with your circadian rhythm.

11. Take a melatonin and/or ZMA supplement before bed. You can take melatonin supplements 30 minutes before going to bed to help you get to sleep faster. ZMA may also help in getting a deeper, more restorative sleep so you get those testosterone and human growth hormone-boosting benefits. I’ve had good success in combining these supplements, and taking a dose of both before hitting the hay.

12. Have a bedtime routine. A consistent bedtime routine can act as a cue to your body and mind to start getting sleepy. Shut off all the devices, put on your PJs (real men wear real pajamas), brush your teeth, and then read a paperback book or write in your journal until your eyes get really heavy.

Likewise, have a set morning routine that helps you get up and get going. Do some push-ups as soon as you get out of bed, plan out your week, have a good breakfast, and so on. Here are 6 things I often do to make my mornings something worth getting out of the covers for.

13. Take a James Bond shower one hour before bed. Here’s something you might consider adding to your bedtime routine: the James Bond shower. Research suggests that exposing yourself to fluctuating temperatures can speed up your body’s thermogenic effect, which can help you experience a deeper sleep. So one hour before bed, take a shower that starts out hot, and then ends with a few minutes of cold water.

In response to my video on the benefits of cold showers, folks have asked me how it can be true that cold showers both wake you up and help you get better sleep. This appears to be the answer – a strictly cold shower will invigorate you, while a hot-to-cold shower will induce sleepiness.

14. Avoid alcohol before bed. A nightcap might seem like just the thing to help you drift off to lala-land, but the quality of that sleep will be diminished. You’ll spend more time in Stages 1 and 2 of the sleep cycle and less time in the restorative Stages 3 and 4, and likely wake up feeling less than fully rested.

Eating something before bed can help you sleep soundly, but keep it to a light snack, rather than a full on meal. Pie OR sammy, buddy.

15. Have a midnight (or earlier!) snack. Scientists are just recently beginning to discover the connection between hunger/food and sleep. While studies point to differing reasons, most agree that a carby snack before you hit the hay may help you doze off quicker and stay asleep through the night. One study points to the insulin production of carb-laden foods as an aid in regulating our circadian rhythm. Another study notes that carby foods can increase the tryptophan in our blood, which induces sleep.

Either way, a snack of toast, whole grain crackers, a granola bar, a bowl of cereal, etc., could be exactly what you need for a night of restful slumber. Just make sure it’s not a full meal — don’t go more than 30g of carbs (a piece of whole-grain toast is about 12g, for frame of reference). Note that proteins, particularly meats, won’t help you sleep soundly as they’re harder to digest, and may interfere with tryptophan’s affect on your brain (which is why the idea that turkey alone causes sleepiness is a myth). A dab of peanut butter on toast, however, is just fine. (And might actually be ideal – PB contains a good dose of niacin which helps create calming, sleep-regulating serotonin.) There’s something to that old wives tale about a glass of warm milk before bed too – it contains tryptophan and calcium, which both help regulate the production of sleep-inducing melatonin.

A Note to Middle-of-the-Night Wakers

One of the most troubling sleep “disorders” is awakening in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. But this wasn’t always seen as a problem. In times past, people slept in a variety of schedules, sometimes slumbering for part of the night, waking up for a period, and then going back to sleep until the morning. They’d pad their total daily sleep totals with a nap or two during the day. Some argue that this kind of “polyphasic” sleep is quite natural, but was eradicated by the Industrial Revolution, which required everyone to get up for their jobs (and school) at the same time, and work the same universal shifts. The regimentation of school and work necessitated the normalizing of the consolidated 8-hour nighttime sleep schedule. Thus the idea that waking up in the middle of the night is a disorder has its roots not in biology, but in social and economic expectations.

That being said, the modern world is how it is. Unfortunately, very few of us can sleep in and take a nap every afternoon, and must rely on the convenience of the consolidated sleep schedule. Most have taken to this schedule well, but a few have not. If you’re among the ranks of the night wakers, don’t panic. Realize it can be quite normal, rather than a malady that needs to be handled with drugs. If you’d like to become a consolidated sleeper, try out the tips in this post. If you’d like to stick with polyphasic sleep, instead of stressfully tossing and turning during your nighttime wakenings, just embrace it. Get up and hang out until you get sleepy again, and then return to bed. If you can, schedule the start time for your classes or job later in the day so you can be more flexible with your wake time. Even if you can’t do that, try to get to bed earlier so that your total hours of sleep over the course of the whole night, including your wakeful period, adds up to a healthy 7-8 hours.

Getting To Sleep

16. If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up. Sleep experts recommend that if you can’t fall asleep quickly — like in 20 minutes — that you should get up, go to another room, and read until you get sleepy. You don’t want to associate the anxiety and frustration of not being able to fall asleep with your bed. Keep your bed an oasis of calm, relaxing, restful feelings.

17. Keep things chilly. Your core body temperature decreases just a tad as you get deeper and deeper into sleep. This may explain why cooler room temps both help you get to sleep faster and contribute to a deeper sleep; you’re just getting that core temp down more quickly. Research has shown that the optimal room temperature for a good night’s rest is a surprisingly chilly 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit, so dial the thermostat down and turn on a fan when you hit the sack.

If you sleep with someone who likes things toasty, there are few things you can do to keep your side of the bed cool. On the cheap end is the Chillow. You fill it with water and place it on top of your pillow to give your noggin that “cooler than the other side of the pillow” feeling all night. I’ve used the Chillow with some success. Just watch out for leaks. For a more expensive, full-body option, check out the ChilliPad.

18. Make sure everything is pitch black in your bedroom. Even though your eyes are closed, light still has a way of getting to the ol’ retinas and disrupting your sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, make sure your room is pitch black. Install blackout drapes so light from the outside can’t get into your room. Also, keep devices that have flashing lights and glowing screens away from your face.

19. Add white noise while you sleep. Some people simply sleep better when there’s the sound of a fan running or even radio static. That type of noise is called white noise. Why does it help us fall asleep? Well, one theory is that it simulates the sound environment that we were exposed to while in the womb. The more likely reason is that the white noise masks sudden noise changes that otherwise would have woken you up or startled your attention while you were drifting off to sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, try adding some white noise at night. Turning on a fan often does the trick for most people. You can also invest in a bedside white noise maker that puts out sounds of static, heartbeats, or the soothing sound of falling rain.

20. Try progressive muscle relaxation. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night, instead of counting sheep, try progressive muscle relaxation. It calms the mind and releases tension in the muscles, leaving you feeling nice and relaxed. While lying down, start at your feet and tense and relax the muscles and tendons there. Just focus on the sensation of tensing and relaxing. Then move up to your calves, then to your thighs, and then quads, etc., etc. until you get up to your head.

21. Use the Nightwave Sleep AssistantIt’s a little device you put on your nightstand that projects a pulsing blue light on your ceiling. You sync up your breathing with the light pulse, and in a few minutes you’re drifting off to dreamland. I’ll bust this out every now and then when my mind is particularly racing, and I’m having a hard time falling to sleep.

22. Don’t take sleeping pills. Just like alcohol, sleeping pills (both over-the-counter and prescription) may help you get to sleep a bit faster, but they diminish the quality of your sleep. Not only do they cause you to spend more time in the less restorative stages of your sleep cycle, research suggests that you’ll only get, on average, 11 minutes more sleep with the pills than you would have without them. 11 extra minutes of crappier sleep, with the risk of grogginess and even more serious side effects? Usually not worth it.

Don’t turn to medications until you’ve tried everything else on this list – separately or together (the good night’s rest full-court press!). Here’s a checklist of the tips for you to experiment with, and mark off.

Check out our other resources on sleep:

______________

Sources:

Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep

The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s..

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As a kid, I was a big James Bond fan. Saw all the movies and read all the books. One thing I noticed about the book version of James Bond was that every time he took a shower, he would start off with the water nice and hot, and then turn it down to cold for the last few minutes. Perhaps this little detail of Bond’s personal bathing regimen was a subtle way for Ian Fleming to illustrate Bond’s Scottish ancestry, as this type of shower is commonly known as a “Scottish Shower.” Who knows.

Being an impressionable kid, I started doing it too. I didn’t know the proper name for this type of shower, so I just called it the “James Bond Shower.” Taking a shower that started hot and ended cold proved to be quite invigorating. It woke me up and added a bit of pep to my step throughout the day. I’ve continued the practice of the James Bond Shower into adulthood. Along the way, I’ve discovered that cold water baths have been used for centuries as a way to treat various ailments and that modern studies lend credence to the health claims associated with this age old treatment.

Below we give a brief rundown on the benefits of the James Bond Shower.

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The Benefits of Cold Showers | The Art of Manliness - YouTube
A Brief History of Cold Water Therapy

“Nothing like sitting in an ice cold bath with nothing but my bare bum in it while reading the latest Dickens novel to invigorate and enliven the senses. Tally ho!”

James Bond wasn’t the first to enjoy the benefits of a shot of cold water. In ancient times, hot water was a luxury. People had to live near a hot springs in order to enjoy the comfort of a hot bath, so for most of human history people bathed in cold water. But even when the Ancient Greeks developed heating systems for their public baths, they continued bathing in cold water for the health benefits.

The Spartans, hard-asses that they were, felt hot water was for the weak and unmanly. When they did take baths (which was, like, once a year) they used only cold water because they thought it tempered the body and made it vigorous for ass kicking.

During the first century, Finnish folks would sweat it out in saunas and then jump into an ice cold lake or stream, a pastime which is referred to as “avantouinti” or “ice hole swimming” and is still enjoyed by modern Finns and others wild and woolly Scandinavians.

Many cultures incorporated a cold water dousing into their religious ceremonies. Some Native American tribes would alternate between sitting in a sweat lodge and jumping into an icy river or snow bank. Ancient Russians also took frequent plunges into ice cold rivers for health and spiritual cleansing. Japanese practitioners of Shinto, both in ancient and modern times, would stand under an icy waterfall as part of a ritual known as Misogi, which was believed to cleanse the spirit.

In the 1820s, a German farmer named Vincenz Priessnitz started touting a new medical treatment called “hydrotherapy,” which used cold water to cure everything from broken bones to erectile dysfunction. He turned his family’s homestead into a sanitarium, and patients flocked to it in the hope that his cold water cure could help them. Among his clientele were dukes, duchesses, counts, countesses, and a few princesses to boot.

Priessnitz’s hydrotherapy soon spread to the rest of Europe and eventually to the United States. Celebrities and other famous folks took to it, like, well, a duck to water and helped popularize the cold water cure with the masses. For example, Charles Darwin (a chronically sick guy and owner of an awesomely manly beard) was a huge proponent of hydrotherapy. The first hydrotherapy facility opened up in the U.S in 1843, right when the sanitarium craze hit America. By the the end of the 19th century, over 200 hydrotherapy/sanitarium resorts existed in the U.S., the most famous being the Battle Creek Sanitarium founded by John Harvey Kellogg. You know. The guy who invented corn flakes. And believed in the awesome power of enemas and a “squeaky clean colon.”

The popularity of hydrotherapy began to decline in the 20th century as many in the medical field moved to drugs to treat illnesses. As doctors concentrated on conventional medicine, more holistic methods began to be seen as quackery. While hydrotherapy was prescribed less and less to cure illnesses, doctors continued to use it to treat injuries such as strained muscles and broken bones. You’ll find athletes today taking ice baths to speed their recovery from injuries and intense workouts.

Benefits of Cold Water Showers

While doctors may no longer instruct their patients to take a cold bath and call them in the morning, a shot of cold water can still impart real health benefits:

1. Improves circulation.

Good blood circulation is vital for overall cardiovascular health. Healthy blood circulation also speeds up recovery time from strenuous exercises and work. Alternating between hot and cold water while you shower is an easy way to improve your circulation. Cold water causes your blood to move to your organs to keep them warm. Warm water reverses the effect by causing the blood to move towards the surface of the skin. Cold shower proponents argue that stimulating the circulatory system in this way keeps them healthier and younger looking than their hot water-loving counterparts.

2. Relieves depression.

Lots of great men from history suffered bouts of depression.  Henry David Thoreau is one such man. But perhaps Thoreau’s baths in chilly Walden Pond helped keep his black dog at bay. Research at the Department of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine indicates that short cold showers may stimulate the brain’s “blue spot”– the brain’s primary source of noradrenaline — a chemical that could help mitigate depression. I guess a bout of the blues isn’t so bad after all.

3. Keeps skin and hair healthy.

Hot water dries out skin and hair. If you want to avoid an irritating itch and ashy elbows, turn down the temperature of your showers. Also, cold water can make your manly mane look shinier and your skin look healthier by closing up your cuticles and pores.

4. Strengthens immunity.

According to a study done in 1993 by the Thrombosis Research Institute in England, individuals who took daily cold showers saw an increase in the number of virus fighting white blood cells compared to individuals who took hot showers. Researchers believe that the increased metabolic rate, which results from the body’s attempt to warm itself up, activates the immune system and releases more white blood cells in response.

5. Increases testosterone.

During the 19th century, many doctors and ministers recommended that young men take baths in cold water to reduce the sin of “self-pollution,” i.e. whacking off. Cold water was thought to extinguish a man’s flaming carnal desires. There was even a ghastly device invented on this principle.

How wrong they were! The same study by the Thrombosis Research Institute cited above showed that cold water showers actually increase testosterone production in men. Increased testosterone levels not only boost a man’s libido, but also his overall strength and energy level. If you’re looking to increase your testosterone, instead of juicing up like Mark McGwire, hop into a cold shower.

6. Increases fertility.

Trying to become a dad? Cold showers are good for your little swimmers. Your testes aren’t meant to get too hot; that’s why they hang outside your body. Sperm counts decrease when the temperature of a man’s testes increases. Experiments done in the 1950s showed that hot baths were an effective contraceptive. Men who took a 30 minute hot bath every other day for 3 weeks were infertile for the next six months. More recently, the University of California at San Francisco did a study with men who were exposed to 30 minutes of “wet heat” (hot baths and such) a week. When the men cut this exposure out, their sperm count went up by 491%, and their sperm’s motility improved as well. While switching from a hot to cold shower may not have as dramatic an effect, if you’re trying to create some progeny, it surely won’t hurt.

7. Increases energy and well-being.

Every time I end a shower with cold water, I leave feeling invigorated and energized. Your heart starts pumping, and the rush of blood through your body helps shake off the lethargy of the previous night’s sleep. For me, the spike in energy lasts several hours. It’s almost like drinking a can of Diet Mountain Dew, minus the aspartame. And while it hasn’t been studied, many people swear that cold showers are a surefire stress reducer. I’m a believer.

Getting Started with Cold Water Showers

If you’ve spent most of your life taking hot showers, suddenly turning the dial in the other direction can be a big shock to the system. I took a break from the James Bond Showers for a few months. When I decided to get started again with them, my heart almost jumped out of my chest, and I nearly passed out from hyperventilating when the cold water hit my body. Too much, too soon.

My suggestion (based on personal experience) is to gradually decrease the temp of the water so your body can adjust.

Which reminds me, some people with certain conditions should avoid cold showers because of the shock to the body’s system. If you have the following conditions, you’ll have to harness your inner 007 another way:

  • Heart disease. If my normal, healthy heart felt like it was about to explode, imagine how a diseased heart will feel.
  • High blood pressure. The contraction in your blood vessels caused by cold water could cause a stroke. Apparently.
  • Overheated or feverish. Your blood vessels need to dilate in order to release heat. Cold water causes them to constrict.

Okay. If you’re healthy enough for a James Bond Shower, here’s how it’s done.

1. Start off with the hot water.

2. Wash your hair with some Pinaud Elixir shampoo, just like 007.

3. When you’re ready to rinse, just turn it down to cold. Bond would spend a few minutes under the cold water, meditating about a lost love or on how awesome his job is.

4. As you walk out the shower, kill the hitman that’s been hiding in the closet using nothing but a towel and a Scotch tumbler.

5. Say a pithy one liner; proceed to put on tux.

You’ll start seeing the benefits right after the first shower, and it only gets better as you continue. While cold water showers won’t give you the charm or skills of 007, you’ll feel like a new man.

Listen to our podcast on the benefits of cold exposure: 

The post The James Bond Shower: A Shot of Cold Water for Health and Vitality appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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The human body is capable of doing a wide variety of movements, in a variety of environments. But my guest today argues that most modern people only do a few movements each day, commonly find themselves stuck in sterile surroundings, and that these confinements are sapping our physical and psychological health.

His name is Erwan Le Corre and he’s the founder of the MovNat physical fitness system and the author of the book The Practice of Natural Movement: Reclaim Power, Health, and Freedom. Today on the show Erwan explains what natural movement is, and our amazing human potential for walking, running, balancing, jumping, crawling, climbing, swimming, lifting, carrying, throwing, catching, and self-defense. We then discuss the cultural forces that have disconnected us and our children from our ability to perform these natural movements, and have turned us into “zoo humans.” Erwan and I then dig into the benefits of engaging with natural movements, from improved mental and physical health to a greater sense of freedom. We end our conversation with Erwan’s actionable advice on how you can easily incorporate more natural movement into your daily life.

Show Highlights
  • What is “natural movement”? How does it fit in with MovNat?
  • The “zoo human” predicament
  • Movement poverty, and how it’s come about 
  • Why you should work on these movements, even if you don’t “need” them
  • The psychological problems that come with movement poverty 
  • What are the cultural forces that have prevented people from developing natural movements?
  • The physical and aesthetic benefits of natural movement exercises 
  • Specialization vs. general fitness 
  • Overcoming the “weirdo” factor of practicing natural movements 
  • How our over-parenting culture is hurting kids’ physical development 
  • What you can do today to start incorporating natural movement into your life
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast Connect With Erwan and MovNat

MovNat website

Erwan on Twitter

Erwan on Instagram

Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)

Listen to the episode on a separate page.

Download this episode.

Subscribe to the podcast in the media player of your choice.

Recorded on ClearCast.io

Podcast Sponsors

Brilliant Earth is the global leader in ethically sourced fine jewelry, and THE destination for creating your own custom engagement ring. Get free shipping and shop all of Brilliant Earth’s selections by going to BrilliantEarth.com/manliness.

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The post Podcast #508: Break Out of Your Cage and Stop Being a Human Zoo Animal appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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Many people today are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by life. The typical approach to treating these issues is to learn how to manage one’s symptoms through things like mindfulness or meditation. My guest today argues that mere management is insufficient. Instead, we need to tackle the root of what’s causing us to feel anxious, stuck, and generally lost — a decreasing sense of agency. 

His name is Dr. Paul Napper and he’s a psychologist and the co-author of the book The Power of Agency: The 7 Principles to Conquer Obstacles, Make Effective Decisions, and Create a Life on Your Own Terms. Today on the show, Paul makes the case that the reason more and more people feel like they’re floundering, is that they don’t have a strong sense of personal agency. Paul explains what he means by agency, and why learning how to get better at thinking, acting, and making choices for yourself can be the real key to feeling less stuck in life. Paul and I then discuss the seven overarching principles of increasing your agency, as well tactics to put them into practice.

Show Highlights
  • The rise of anxiety and “overwhelm” among the patients of the authors
  • Why stress reduction is the wrong approach/fix 
  • What is “agency”? 
  • Why structured childhoods make for overwhelmed adulthoods
  • The 7 principles to increase your sense of agency 
  • What are the stimuli we need to manage to increase our agency?
  • Why you need to ditch multi-tasking and take up mono-tasking
  • The influence of the people we spend time with 
  • The role of exercise/movement in agency 
  • Why getting outside is so beneficial to our sense of agency 
  • What it means to position yourself as a learner
  • Managing emotions 
  • How to get better at making important decisions 
  • What impedes our taking action?
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With Dr. Napper

Book website

Paul’s website

Paul on Twitter

Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)

Listen to the episode on a separate page.

Download this episode.

Subscribe to the podcast in the media player of your choice.

Recorded on ClearCast.io

Podcast Sponsors

Brilliant Earth is the global leader in ethically sourced fine jewelry, and THE destination for creating your own custom engagement ring. Get free shipping and shop all of Brilliant Earth’s selections by going to BrilliantEarth.com/manliness.

Indochino. Every man needs at least one great suit in their closet. Indochino offers custom, made-to-measure suits for department store prices. Use code “manliness” at checkout to get a premium suit for just $379. Plus, shipping is free. 

Policygenius. Compare life insurance quotes in minutes, and let us handle the red tape. If insurance has frustrated you in the past, visit policygenius.com.

Click here to see a full list of our podcast sponsors.

Read the Transcript

Coming soon!

The post Podcast #507: How to Increase Your Personal Agency appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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The marathon race is one of sport’s most physically demanding events. To not just complete a marathon to but to compete in the race at its highest levels takes an incredible amount of dedication to training, recovery, diet, and mindset.

My guest today gives us a firsthand look at what that kind of dedication and strategy look like. His name is Jared Ward, and he placed 6th in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and 8th in this year’s Boston Marathon. But Jared is more than just a runner — he’s also a coach, a statistics professor at BYU, a husband, and a father of four.

Today I talk to Jared about he balances all those aspects of his life, even as he trains for the 2020 Olympics, and about exactly how he eats, recovers, and programs his workouts. We also discuss how he deals with nerves before big races and stays in a positive mindset while he runs them. We end our conversation with Jared’s advice for amateur runners.

Show Highlights
  • Jared’s entrance into competitive running and marathoning 
  • How Jared balances running, his work as a professor, and being a husband/dad
  • Habits and routines that have helped him keep that balance
  • Jared’s philosophy towards training (and an inside look at his own training) 
  • His cycles of training 
  • Jared’s weightlifting regimen 
  • How Jared recovers, and how that recovery has changed as he’s gotten older 
  • What it really feels like the morning after a marathon 
  • Jared’s diet, and how it fluctuates with his training cycles 
  • Jared’s take on carbs 
  • The mental game  
  • Tips for beginner runners
  • How long does it take to go from beginner runner to marathoner?
  • Is there a common cause to runner’s injuries?
  • The statistics project that Jared turned running times into  
Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast Connect With Jared 

Jared on Twitter

Jared on Instagram

Jared’s website

Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)

Listen to the episode on a separate page.

Download this episode.

Subscribe to the podcast in the media player of your choice.

Recorded on ClearCast.io

Podcast Sponsors

Art of Manliness Store. From t-shirts, to mugs, to posters, and other unique items, the Art of Manliness store has something for everyone. Use code “aompodcast” for 10% off your first purchase. 

Brilliant Earth is the global leader in ethically sourced fine jewelry, and THE destination for creating your own custom engagement ring. For a limited time, you’ll receive a complimentary pair of diamond stud earrings with the purchase an engagement ring. To see terms for this special offer and to shop all of Brilliant Earth’s selections, just go to BrilliantEarth.com/manliness.

Saxx Underwear. Everything you didn’t know you needed in a pair of underwear. Visit saxxunderwear.com and get $5 off plus FREE shipping on your first purchase when you use the code “AOM” at checkout.

Click here to see a full list of our podcast sponsors.

Read the Transcript

Coming soon!

The post Podcast #504: How an Olympic Marathoner Trains, Eats, Recovers, and Stays Mentally Strong appeared first on The Art of Manliness.

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