In today’s podcast, I decided to do a very basic overview on some of the buckets of health including breath work, movement, nutrition, community and purpose, sleep, stress, sex, and pain. It felt like an important time to invite you to do an internal check in on all of these areas in your life as I am doing in my life. Are there shifts we can make in any of these areas? We don’t have to let the holiday season kick our ass so let’s see if we can challenge ourselves to start making the New Year’s changes before the new year.
Listen to the episode here:
- A Philosophical Take on Health and the Holidays [00:00:10]
- Breathing [00:01:14]
- Movement [00:04:40]
- Nutrition [00:09:47]
- Purpose [00:14:46]
- Sleep and Rest [00:20:22]
- Stress [00:22:44]
- Sex [00:26:46]
- Pain [00:30:25]
Reconnecting with Your Why, Taking Inventory of Our Buckets of Health & Reinvigorating Commitments
Hi, everyone. Given that it is the holidays, I thought maybe it was a good time to do a solo podcast. I don’t want to say to be philosophical about health because we try to talk a lot about the science of things to convince people why they should take care of themselves. I’ve realized that you do have to have a philosophical approach to it because when the science isn’t landing, it’s connecting with your why or why not. It’s going to be a combination as we’re in this time during the holidays. In between, it’s colder and the days are shorter but we’re moving into the new year so the hope of possible changes or reinvigorated commitments.
I thought we move through the different buckets of health and maybe look at them separately and how they function together. Starting with the breath and breath work, I am going to be the first person to admit that I’m guilty of not practicing enough breathing. I probably breathe relatively properly throughout my day, which simply means I’m nasal breathing. Unlike Laird, for example, who will do breathing sessions and dynamic breathing, I oftentimes don’t get to that.
When it comes to breathing, let’s say you’re new to a practice, I would try to experiment and practice with breathing and different types of breathing, using breathing to down-regulate so longer exhale and inhale, box breathing, and breath holds. Even see how you can do it during your physical practices and offload your CO2. A lot of times, the pool training has taught me that the first thing I do when I come out from a lot of drills is a big giant. Laird uses the back of his throat.
Anyone who’s ever worked with me in the pool knows I put my mouth together and push from the back of my teeth to get rid of the CO2. It has a “shh” sound. If we just blow out, we can’t get it out from that deep way. Let’s say you’re in a sport where you have quick bursts and sprints, you can do a quick “shh.” Laird will blow from the back of his throat. Get that CO2 out and then get nice and long deep breaths in. If you’re sprinting, you’re going to mouth breathe. Pretty much everywhere else, for the most part, if we can, it’s keeping the jaw and the mouth closed and getting those long, full, and deep inhales and exhales.
I read something, maybe it was in James Nestor’s book or Patrick McKeown, where people are taking anywhere from 10 to 13 breaths per minute. If we can get to 3 to 5, long and slow so we’re not stressed out either. I’m not going to belabor. There’s so much science around breathing. A lot of people love Wim Hof for a real breakdown of what’s going on. Patrick McKeown does a beautiful job. James Nestor’s book, Breathe, is entertaining and informative.
There’s a lot of information out there but it’s those simple things. Long exhales, maybe 6 seconds in and 8 seconds out. If you can get to that, that seems to help. I’m guilty of holding my breath and I’m guilty of not using my breath sometimes as a tool. I’m not being over selly, XPT does have an app. If you say, “I can’t get to it myself.” We have guided breathing sessions for whatever amount of time you have and also, who you’re in the mood for.
If you want to listen to PJ Nestler, Laird, or myself, if you have a lot of time or if you have little time, they’ve done an excellent job of putting together a curriculum and they can lead you through it. You can have a group of your friends, pop it on, and let us do the work. Breathing, what I love about it is it’s the essence of life, it’s free, and you can do it anywhere. If we can do that right, that’s a win for the day.
Moving on to movement. With all of these buckets, one is we have to have a sense of humor because it’s ridiculous in a certain way that we have to talk about it. Maybe that shows we are living in a way that is so far from our natural selves that we’re having to relearn some things that were either intuitive or built into our lifestyles or other but it is what it is. I’m not going to approach any of this anymore, like, “We have to do this. Everyone’s sick.” It is what it is.
Maybe the first question would be as you’re sitting here in the transition and the craziness of the holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, why isn’t it important? Why can’t we collectively and individually get to a place that is built into our lives not perfectly but it’s there? What has happened to us individually and in our world of everything else is so much more important that we’re not getting it done? For me, that’s the biggest question.
I’m not sure why this was something that was important to me early in my life. It had something to do with connecting it to being able to make good decisions and trying to function in my life. I don’t know that I equated it to longevity. The other part of it is, and I’ve said this many times, when you are in athletics, you get injured. That taste of, “I can’t do that,” can connect you to appreciating how basic health. Could you take this time right now?
[bctt tweet=”Whether we like it or not, we’re connected to the sun.”]
Let’s say you’ve got it dialed in. You’re moving, you’re eating pretty good, and all these things. How is your relationship with that stuff? The flipside is, how do we not get crazy or obsessive? In the movement part, for me, we should work hard. Out of breath at least couple of times a week. I don’t think every training session has to be death-defying. In fact, mine are not. I do train hard but there are sessions where I’m just moving my body. I don’t even necessarily want to but I know if I spend 30, 45, or 15 minutes, if that’s what I have, to move.
Let’s start with a conviction or our own self-definition of, why is it important? What are your reasons? Once you can establish that, you do have to have a strategy. If you wake up each day and fall into movement, that’s probably not going to happen. If you can have an overview of your week and say, “I need to have time under tension, which means a weight of some kind.” It could be your body weight but you have to be talented and strong to move your own body weight.
Get some type of cardio. It doesn’t mean every day Peloton or every day treadmill for an hour. There has been no science that leads to the fact that this is the way that benefits us in the maximum way. If you are on a treadmill, do 20 minutes. Maybe 90 seconds or every minute, sprint for 15 or 20 seconds. Change it up, have a strategy, and say, “I’m going to try to get something done or I will get something done 5 to 6 days a week.”
This is the baseline. If you’re in high performance, it looks different. Time under tension and lifting weights. If you’re a female, it’s even more important. Don’t be afraid of weights. For cardio, it’s getting outside because there’s something reorienting and recentering when people talk about meditation. If you can get outside, the return is three-fold. Do what you like. If you’re like, “I like yoga. I like Pilates. I like classes. I don’t like classes. I like to hike in the mountains.” I don’t think it matters. Having a strategy or having something you can do consistently but mixing it up is important.
I’m not going to get into types of training, fast twitch, slow twitch, cycled training, or stack training. It goes on and on. Let’s get back to the basics for a second because if you’re reading this, most likely you are in the midst of the chaos that is the holidays. The other part of this is we make it also sometimes too complicated, imagine that.
Nutrition. I had a work appearance and there was a woman. I eat high-quality animal protein, not a ton of it. She was a vegan or vegetarian. It was interesting how quickly people can all jump on these wagons about how we’re supposed to do it. We should change it up. We should eat more seasonally. I remember one time calling Paul Chek. At that time, he was going vegan because his body said that was what he needed. If you talk to him a year or two later, he might be integrating certain forms of protein into his diet.
Who are you? Know who you are. What feels good to you? Eat real food. This is having this sense of humor. The fact that I had Benjamin Bikman on the podcast talking about if it fits in a bag or a box or it has a barcode, it’s probably not the best. We know this. I was talking to this woman and her husband was there and you can feel the resistance. People don’t want to change their lifestyles. It is a hassle right to cut your own vegetables and make your own food. It takes more work and it does cost more.
There’s a way to do it and I’m sensitive to it. You can make it feasible but it takes more effort. This circles me back to what’s holding us back from making that investment in time. Sometimes we’re busy shopping around the outside of the grocery store and here are all the tricks and all these things. Within ourselves, a lot of us know but we haven’t come to the place where it’s more important.
I don’t want to do it, I’m not going to lie. There’s no alternative. For me, that’s it. It’s like you put your kid in the car and they’re in the car seat and buckling them is a pain in the ass but you’re not going to not do it. We have to buckle ourselves up a little better sometimes with our nutrition and our movement. I’m not saying what you have to do. It doesn’t seem to work the other way. With nutrition, it’s understanding who you are. You’re in the thick of it right now so every dessert is coming at you, every finger food. Overeating and drinking, I get it.
For me, personally, during this time, if you can survive it. It’s like alcohol. I’m never popular for talking about alcohol. I don’t care if people want to drink or not. Does it serve your health? It doesn’t. It also leads to a lot of weird eating. You’re like, “That looks good.” If somehow you could stack it out a little bit during the holidays, like, “That party is going to be fun,” do it then. It doesn’t have to be on all the days that we’re drinking. If you can have a strategy also about this holiday season and not wait until the new year.
Say no when you can. Sometimes we eat things because it’s like a habit. On the days that you can be like, “I don’t need to eat that,” try and eat the real stuff first. If you’re eating animal protein, eat that second. Always eat your fiber first if you can. Try to fill up. Start to fill up on the good stuff so by the time you get around to some of the more questionable things on your plate, you’re already starting to get full. I do think that helps. If you’re eating animal protein, animal protein, and then a carbohydrate of sorts.
If you want to experiment with foregoing eating certain foods, try for a couple of weeks, you will find that you not only crave them less but you will be able to easily resist them later. I know it’s hard to believe it. It’s true. There’s no big mystery. There are a million people out there talking about food and how to do it right. I like many people and I like Simon Hill. He talks about the ways to eat and there’s an intelligent performance element to it. Listen to your own body. No one can know but you what feels good. People get dogmatic about it. That sometimes can be a tricky place.
Community and purpose, is this more important than movement and food? Maybe. Purpose. This idea of connecting with ourselves, with the people around us takes effort, but also figuring out how we want to contribute to the world. It doesn’t have to be on a big scale. It could be at this moment in your life you’re serving your family. Guess what? That’s huge.
I’m not talking about all these things that take meetings, scheduling, websites, or apps. It can be that you’re of service to your neighborhood or you have a way that you would like to express yourself or you have a skillset that is helpful or purposeful. This is important. Arthur C. Brooks wrote From Strength to Strength.
I have a podcast about somebody who runs the Harvard study. Over and over, connection brings meaning and a sense of satisfaction. Also, it’s giving up yourself and who you are. All of us feel like it’s never good enough and I’m in the same boat. Honestly, I go to places or show up for work and I think, “I don’t even know why these people hire me. What is it that I’m doing that they’re hiring me?” Imposter syndrome and all those things, that’s normal.
I’ll even confess that there have been times when, for example, my career was more dynamic and active when I was younger and I was playing volleyball and then it shifted into many different things. You think, “That time is over,” or, “I’m not relevant.” Whatever the stuff is. I’ve had these thoughts. You realize it’s baloney. These are all seasons and phases of our life but we need to contribute and show up because all of us have something to offer.
I want to encourage you to ask yourself what you want to bring to the table. If you’re older, you have a lot to give and you have the opportunity to mentor people even though it is a changing world. It’s an interesting time when we also have to be open-minded to learning back on how things are in certain ways now, especially with technology. Absolutely, you will be able to mentor people and help other people. That’s part of our responsibility.
That’s why I bring up Arthur’s book because he does talk about different types of intelligence and times in our lives to be doing certain things and other times to be doing other things. It doesn’t mean that as your mentoring, you can’t be striving yourself. I’m not suggesting that. I feel so strongly about striving but there are so many opportunities to be there for somebody to help them or to support them or boost them and it makes you feel good. It’s quiet. It’s not that sexy. It’s the only real stuff that makes us feel deeply satisfied within.
I was doing an interview saying, “Why is it that we have to hear over and over about how we’d feel happier that our life would feel like it had a body to it and not just getting money and attention?” How can we not hear that? There are millions of books that have been written. The person I was talking to said, “Gabby, that’s how we gain wisdom.” I don’t think it’s about knowing it before you know it. It’s about learning it for yourself and then putting it into play.
I want to encourage you that you can have more impact than you think. By the way, even if it’s in your home or on your block, for your neighbor, that’s valuable. Take the threads up when you can. If somebody needs an ear or you have an opportunity to be kind to somebody. Sometimes with my kids, sometimes I’m busy and I’m trying to slow down and make sure they feel heard and I’m connecting with them.
Life is overwhelming. Stuff has to get done. We have to get places. In that, sometimes I feel like we’re losing those small opportunities. Remember, this is an overview for you to go back into yourself and your life and move the pieces around the way that it works for you. This is me not telling you what to do, that doesn’t work.
You’re definitely not getting enough sleep. I’m not getting enough sleep. It’s everything. We used to romanticize not getting sleep and that we didn’t need sleep. We need to get to bed. Whether we like it or not, we’re connected to the sun. I know we’re all so smart and we’re on our devices but it’s true. If you feel silly wearing blue-blocking lenses at night, you want to have light but it does impact your ability to sleep and such.
We have to find a way to get off of our screens, I’m guilty, sometimes it’s the only time I have to be entertained at night, the 30-minute window. Get sleep. If you can start to get to bed around the same time every night, your body will get ready and be ready. This is one of the things that’s helpful. Try to not eat. I know this is a hard one. Dr. Robynne Chutkan discussed that even your stomach has a circadian rhythm. If you can try to eat earlier, it will help you have a better night’s sleep. Go to bed around the same time if you can. This is for most of the time.
If you go out and have a great dinner with a friend and you’re up late, so be it. I’m saying when the times that you can control it. Food, earlier. Go to bed around the same time. See if you can avoid some of the screens. Make sure your room is nice and cool. Most of us get woken up because we overheat. If you have annoying lights of any kind, make your room a dark cave. We talk about it and we’re interested in it but we’re not doing it enough. Let’s see if we can get to bed. If you’re playing Santa Claus, I get it, it’s hard. Still, that’s only a certain time of the year.
Stress is the one. You can be doing everything else perfectly. If you’re completely stressed out all the time, it’s not a wash but it’s the one thing that can bypass all the great habits and do wreak havoc on our system. The breathing practice, that’s why I move. I’m a much nicer person. It’s a funny thing how it works. If our nutrition is a little better, we get less of these spikes and we have more sustained energy.
People ask me, “You’ve done this for so long. How do you keep doing it?” I’m doing it so that I can manage to be a human being. I’m not trying to be uber high performance anymore or hit anything hard or be able to compete and never be tired. This is about trying to show up in my life because I couldn’t manage the stress internally without the support of eating while getting some rest and moving my body and having some people that I connect with around me.
I feel intense about everything. I want everything to get done. I could burn myself out from the inside out. I use breathing as a technique. I use all those other things to help me have stress. It’s the learning. It’s getting that input. You hear me talk about Byron Katie all the time. Having that ability to have that 30,000-foot view instantly. You know you’re diving into the stress pool and you’re ready to tear someone a new one. You think, “This is the time. I got to pull the ripcord and get that perspective.” That’s all it is.
It’s silly, most times I think about my problems, myself, all the urgency, and I’m like, “That’s amazing. You’re 1 of 7 billion people.” This is important. Having a little bit of experience helps. even being on the third kid and they go through stuff. Most times my reaction is less. There are days where I can bite the hook as good as anybody.
I will share with you a parental story. Pretty emphatically, I wanted one of my kids to shut the F up. It’s not a moment I’m proud of. I’m confessing. It was the first time I’d done that in over 27 years of being a parent. Was I more stressed out? I don’t know. It’s possible. It’s possible that I had heard enough. I want you to know that I blow it continuously but these are the things that helped me. Most of it’s not worth it if I could say that. Most of it doesn’t matter.
The stress that we generate is so often put on by us. The real stress is somebody who’s a single mom and she’s working 2 or 3 jobs. That’s real and that’s real life. It’s me having to get somewhere on time. I have such a busy schedule. It’s all BS put on there by me. Maybe it’s encouraging you to say, “What could I do at the moment that I feel the stress coming? What go-to plan do I have?”
Is it I go to breathe? Is it I separate myself from people? I go up and I take a look and I go, “Everybody’s healthy. It’s okay. It’s not a big deal.” Have a strategy, have a go-to so that you’re not just walking around reacting. How do you get that distance, especially with your loved ones? You don’t want to be saying mean stuff to your loved ones. Occasionally, your kids.
[bctt tweet=”Taking care of yourself is also important if you’re going to be the best for yourself, the people around you, or your community.”]
Sex. These are personal things. Let’s talk about your sex hormones and your hormone system. Getting your bloodwork done once a year and maybe as you get older even twice a year can help us. What I have found even for myself is when my hormones are more imbalanced, I feel better. I function better and I sleep better. It’s all these things.
You might be going through things and thinking, “What the hell’s wrong with me?” It could be that your hormones are off. I want to encourage you from one side and not just the women, it’s all of us. See what’s going on. Sometimes that gets us some nice relief that all these other practices can’t get us like mindfulness and breathing, trying to be a good person, and eating gluten-free. Sometimes if we’re out of whack, a lot of that isn’t going to help.
If I could encourage you to get things checked out, support yourself fully and holy, and see what’s going on. Beyond that, real sex, the act of sex, people are always so afraid to talk about it. If we’re in relationships, how do we find a way to connect with our partners? We want to act like it’s not part of the thing but it is. How much you have, how often, where you have it, and who you have it with, that’s on you.
As a female, in my 20s and early 30s, I always thought I wanted to have sex when I felt like it, which often was not often because I was tired, I was training, and I was a professional athlete. You then start adding kids and you don’t feel sexy. It’s all these things. I have learned from Laird that we can practice sex. We’re basic. We’re not exotic people. There have been moments too where I can say, “I didn’t feel like it.” I always feel like connecting with him or I always feel like giving him things that I know are important to him.
I have learned through time that if you can make these windows consistently, it weirdly gets easier. It becomes difficult when it becomes that big gap and nobody’s talking about it or one person wants it and one person doesn’t know how and one person feels chased. This is a tough dynamic to get into. Can you have an open dialogue about it? It’s not sexy but having a strategy around connecting. However it works for you in your relationship. It’s a tricky one.
I wrote a book once and talked about having sex on a regular basis and people are like, “You said that you have sex every week in your book.” I was like, “Yeah.” I don’t know why it gets so weird. I used to do a podcast with Neil Strauss and I realized what a bore I was compared to some of the things that people are into. Get naked and connect.
The last bucket is pain. This has so many other meanings. Pain has so many mental and emotional pain. We’ve been in a painful time. Also, physical pain. People are walking around in a lot of discomforts. This is a hard one. I often don’t know where to start because I sometimes feel my mental and emotional pain, I manage it better by feeling, having energy, and having perspective and all these things. The more brutish or primal way that I approach it is I tend to intellectualize things after I’ve taken care of them and I’ve checked the boxes.
If I have this practice of trying to eat foods that support me, my energy, my homeostasis, my health, and my cellular function, I am trying to get rest and I’m moving my body so I’m getting those right hits of hormones. I am properly tired at the end of the day to enhance that sleep. I do a personal check-in. How are my relationships? How are my practices? What things do I need to tweak? Who do I need to apologize to? Who do I need to confront? What things do I need to tighten up?
If we go back to food, there’s a lot of data showing that for women, fasting is not as beneficial as for men. However, if we get loosey-goosey with our eating, maybe fasting is a great tool to pull the reins in. Let’s talk about pain. I use those personal check-ins to see where I’m at. I’m honest with myself. Even if I’m irritated with a person, I’m honest about myself if it’s more about something about me.
Do I not want to be friends with this person? Whatever it is, I’m honest. That even means my own bad behavior. Whether it’s like, “I got to tighten this up,” or I haven’t been getting to bed early enough. Whatever it is, do those check-ins. Where do you think that pain comes from? If it’s mental and emotional, do I need to go talk to somebody? Is this something that I can take accountability for first? We’re also at a time where we’re happy to farm it out. This triggers me.
I do think we have too many excuses. I’m not going to lie, I know I come from the generation of suck-it-up so there’s a place in between. Also, understand that sometimes having shitty feelings is a part of being a human being. They can pass and we can feel anxious. We can not feel good about ourselves or we can feel overwhelmed.
It’s more about checking in. If it keeps coming up, can you go talk to somebody? Also, are you doing everything you can to support yourself simultaneously? This is where it’s tricky because if you don’t feel good, you don’t have the energy, and you don’t have the wherewithal to make those best decisions. This for me is always the place that I’m interested in. Where do I have to be responsible? Where do I get to delegate this out and say, “I need help.”
Pain is personal. Physical pain is also personal. I do want to encourage you, first, what can you do? These other things, “This is not working out for me.” It’s going back to having a strategy. We can sit around and talk about it and complain, “My back hurts. My knee hurts.” What are you doing about it? Also, who can help you? There are many smart people out there. Is it traditional therapy? Is it actual physical therapy? There are a lot of talented people and resources.
We don’t have to live in pain. Is suffering and being uncomfortable a part of life? 100%. I do think that if you feel like you’re overwhelmed by things either physically, emotionally, or both, could you ask for help? That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about that throughout our day, there’s worry and stress. I always physically have something going on because I move my body a lot and that’s part of it.
Also, can you grab hold of it? Can you feel like you’re in charge of it, even the stuff that you’re not that you can’t control or don’t understand? You feel like, “I’m doing something. I’m asking questions. I’m looking for help. I’m making changes in my habits.” The other thing is there are many people that want to talk about all the suffering and the pain and they don’t change one thing and it’s confusing. I don’t think we can get out of it if we don’t participate.
I’ll wrap it up by saying that you’re important. Taking care of yourself is also important if you’re going to be the best for yourself, the people around you, or your community. Complaining is fine but it doesn’t change too much. For example, if there are things in your world that you don’t like, if you want to change them, it first starts with you realizing that you’re important. Your well-being is important physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Also, participate in the solution and contribute. It feels a little bit like a lot of people are unhappy about the way certain things are but there’s more complaining than saying, “I’m important so let me get my shit together so I can also do some of the liftings to support the people in my house or my community and be a part of making it different the way that I think it should be.”
I want to encourage you. Maybe it’s been hard. COVID has kicked a lot of people’s asses, isolated people, and created teams that it’s so weird to me. It’s become like a zero-sum game, we have to agree on everything or we agree on nothing. It’s part of the overcorrection. I’m hopeful that we’re going to move back to a more nuanced world a little. Start with yourself. Laird always says, “If you can figure out how to make yourself happy, that’s a feat in itself.”
I want to encourage you, that’s what I want to do. I want to encourage you to remind you that you are important enough and valuable enough to take care of. It’s like that brand-new car. Paul Chek used to say, “People drive a Mercedes and then they go through the drive-thru.” Your house is clean, your nails are done, and your laundry is folded but you don’t treat yourself as well. I want to tell you that you’re important. Can you take better care of yourself and use these buckets?
Most of us have the answer inside of us. We’re either too lazy or we don’t want to deal with it. Making change is hard. I’m right there with you. I battle every single day and I fail all the time. There are certain things that I swear I think I’ve been saying I would work on for twenty years and I do a little bit but probably not as much as I can.
I want to wish you a happy holiday season. Don’t wait for the new year. Start now. Start making those tiny little changes now. When it seems overwhelming, it’s the absurdity of it all. Family is crazy, it’s absurd. When you go to the grocery store, the stuff that they sell us is food. It is ridiculous. You got to give yourself a break too. There are some things worth fighting. We have a computer in our pocket that has everything in the world to distract us so it’s funny. I know you can do it. Change is always possible. I’m going to go with that. I send you all love and power. Thank you for spending time with me on this one. Remember to stay hopeful.
Thank you so much for reading this episode. Stay tuned for a bonus episode where I go deeper into one of the topics that resonated with me. If you have any questions for my guests or even myself, please send them to @GabbyReece on Instagram. If you feel inspired, please hit the Follow button, and leave a rating and a comment, it not only helps me but it helps the show grow and reach new readers.
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