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Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Fitness

In Elemental. More on Medium.

Your relationship to stillness affects your experience on the mat

Photo: Ginny Rose Stewart/Unsplash

I’ve had a yoga practice for nearly 20 years. While there’s no readily apparent novelty in a middle-aged, white, female wellness practitioner doing some yoga, if you knew the story of my work, you might find it surprising.

I’m a trauma-informed personal trainer who lifts weights as a healing practice. Trauma-informed strength training is an embodied approach to resistance training that focuses on increasing your capacity for stress and nervous system resiliency. …


Carrying weight for distance — or rucking — is part of the human design and it can keep us fit and healthy

Photo: Sicmanta

Last fall I found myself standing on the Arctic Tundra, about 120 miles from civilization. One hundred pounds of caribou filled my pack. I had to hoof the weight back to camp, which was five miles away. All uphill and across the tundra. And the tundra is a savage landscape comprised of dirt that exists in an ice-cream-like state: spongy layers of dense moss, mucky swamp, and basketball-sized tufts of grass called tundra tussocks. A mile out there is like five on a regular trail.

I was in the Arctic for more than a month on a backcountry hunt while…


My science-based journey to a plant-based lifestyle

Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

“Heart disease? Oh, c’mon, that’s so old school.” So went my thinking as I rode a conveyor belt into a CT scan in one of those dreary medical-imaging facilities I’d managed to avoid for the entirety of my 51 years. I was fairly certain this was just another test that didn’t really apply to me, one of the many my doctor had tacked on to the growing list of exams we Americans find ourselves subjected to as we move through the decades.

And why should it? I’d never smoked, I drank only in moderation — usually red wine. I exercised…


Monday Move

Go back to basics for your body and brain

Illustration: Jaedoo Lee for Elemental

I had a big and difficult decision to make last week, and as the little bubble of anxiety in my gut grew bigger and bubblier as the deadline approached, I could just feel it in every cell: I had to move. I was accomplishing absolutely nothing by refreshing Twitter and checking for new Slack DMs, and my body knew my only option was to expel the nervous energy on a walk.

I downloaded a calming playlist, set off on a brisk pace, and spent a few minutes just moving fast, breathing deeply, and doing a body scan to tap into…


Monday Move

Don’t @ me

Sometimes, you just need to go ahead and do the sucky thing: Tell people the news they don’t want to hear. Make the tough decision. Put that beloved toy that sings the creepy song out on the sidewalk while your toddler is napping.

Blast the death metal and do the goddamn burpees.

Hear me out: Yes, burpees suck, but if you’re physically able to do them (and willing to get sweaty and exhausted), they are also… the best. When you get into a rhythm of slamming yourself down on the floor and getting right back TF up again, the intensity…


Observations from a reluctant exerciser, in a pandemic

Photo: Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

I have always been a sporadic exerciser. And, yes, that’s euphemistic. My periods of regular exercise historically come in fits and starts, then disappear as quickly as they arrive — replaced with dark chocolate and binge-watching.

In fact, years ago, I pitched and was hired to write a “reluctant exerciser” column for a popular women’s magazine, which wound up being a bit more reluctant than the editors had hoped. Sure enough, the stories quickly became about what lipgloss and cute headbands to wear while hiking, instead of about climbing mountains.

Most of the times when I’ve successfully maintained an exercise…


MONDAY MOVE

Sick of the snap, crackle, pop? Try this small but powerful tweak.

A young, Asian woman performing a squat exercise with a resistance band
A young, Asian woman performing a squat exercise with a resistance band
Photo: Kilito Chan/Getty Images

A funny thing happened approximately five minutes after I turned 34: My knees turned into Rice Krispies. I’ve been fit and active for most of my adult life — including plenty of squats, which I maintain everyone who can sit and stand should be doing regularly — so this sudden sign of joint aging took me by surprise. I soon learned that crackling, popping sounds in a joint are called crepitus (I’m choosing to ignore the extremely rude fact that that word sounds kind of like “decrepit”), and thankfully, if they’re not accompanied by actual pain, they’re pretty harmless.

Still…


Why knowing your personal norm can help you keep tabs on your health

A woman stretching while wearing a smartwatch.
A woman stretching while wearing a smartwatch.
Photo: Grace Cary/Getty Images

“According to my Fitbit, I’m probably going to die soon,” I informed my husband.

“Probably from stressing about those numbers,” was his not completely unreasonable response.

“Those numbers” were my resting heart rate (RHR), the number of times a heart beats in a minute while the body is at rest. My Fitbit told me it seemed high, around 85 beats per minute (bpm). “Poor,” the smartwatch declared about my overall cardiorespiratory fitness.

I found that hard to believe considering I regularly log well over 10,000 steps chasing after two little kids all day long. How accurate are the health metrics…


Pandemic Reflections

During the pandemic, I discovered the life-affirming magic of learning mixed martial arts with your family

Young woman stretching on a yoga mat in front of a laptop.
Young woman stretching on a yoga mat in front of a laptop.
Photo: AsiaVision

Shortly after sunrise every Thursday and Sunday morning, I log on to Zoom and learn mixed martial arts for an hour with my retired parents, aunts, and uncles. Tuesdays and Saturdays are slightly softer: We practice hip-hop, jazz, and Latin dance.

We are not a particularly fitness-minded family, and we are not especially good at mixed martial arts or dancing (although my sexagenarian dad’s Brazilan samba footwork is impressive, and my upward elbow strike is rather vicious). Nevertheless, we keep showing up. My 33-year-old cousin Trish, a palliative care doctor on the front lines of the pandemic, participates too. In…


MONDAY MOVE

You’ll be so glad you tried this

Photography: Andi Elloway

I was not an active kid — always picked last for dodgeball teams, terribly uncoordinated, self-conscious about my knobbly knees in gym shorts. In eighth grade, I broke my pinkie finger playing kickball (figure that one out). But in my twenties, a pathetic-sounding reason arose to kickstart me into a regular exercise routine: I kept throwing out my back. A weird stretch after too much time on the couch, a sudden turn of the head, even a sneeze could do it. …

Elemental

Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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