Newsletter - May 2008
Written by Neil Hansen, Owner, MAT Specialist, RTS, CTA Life Coach

Stress and Cortisol

If you watch TV then at some point you've probably heard something, whether from a commercial or the news, about the hormone cortisol and how it relates to storing fat in the body, especially in the abdomen. Under normal conditions cortisol, which is released by the adrenal glands, works to help regulate blood pressure, metabolize glucose properly, release insulin for proper blood sugar maintenance, works as an immune function, and works in response to inflammation. Cortisol levels are also normally higher in the morning and lower at night. Cortisol is released in greater amounts when the body is under high levels of stress - both physiologically and emotionally - and is helpful in "fight or flight" situations. When under increased amounts of stress (beyond the tolerance level of the individual) the adrenal glands will pump more adrenal cortical hormone (cortisol) into the bloodstream to help suppress the immune system, arrest the self-healing mechanism in the body, and mobilize blood sugar stores from the liver and muscles for energy production - all of which are survival mechanisms designed to help you through your ordeal - whether real or imagined.

Since your adrenal glands don't know the difference between environmental/physical stress (including chemical) and imagined/psychological stress, it will increase cortisol production any time the body's tolerance to stress is breached. The more cortisol you produce the more blood sugar your body will produce from storage. The more blood sugar is converted from liver and muscle storage the less you burn from fat stores. So, if your intent to work out is to burn off fat then working out when you are stressed, physically or emotionally, may actually nullify or drastically reduce the results you were hoping for.

From a mechanical standpoint, any muscular imbalance that causes stress and/or pain will lower your body's tolerance to stress. Working out with weights or cardio at high levels when your body has an already lowered tolerance may increase the level of stress your body is under, thus increasing levels of cortisol in the bloodstream. It's from this perspective that all exercise is not the same for everyone. Working harder is not always working smarter. This is one large reason why we use MAT as a way to activate and reinforce muscles. Balancing the body will reduce the amount of stress and increase the tolerance to outside forces (weights and cardio) allowing us to do more in your sessions.

From an emotional standpoint, working out when you are stressed may initially help to reduce the feeling of stress but may not provide any extra calorie burn as more stress (exercise) to an already stressed body (emotional stress) will only provide calorie expenditure from blood sugar released due to the increased amounts of cortisol. You may initially feel like working out reduces stress but it may very well be the adaptation phase of the increased stress/cortisol process. Remember, cortisol is working to help you manage like normal under stressful situations by suppressing many of the negative reactions felt in the body when you are stressed - this is a survival technique of the body. When your body is trying to survive it is not concerned with weight loss or muscle gain. The same goes for choosing to do exercises you dislike. Doing any exercise you dislike may nullify the initial purpose for doing the exercise. This is one large reason why we have included coaching here at FW. Having the ability to reduce stress in your life as well as learning how to align your self with desired actions to get desired results allows the body to work under the most advantageous conditions.

All in all, a high level of stress is nothing more than an indicator that something is out of alignment - either mentally or physically. Since your brain doesn't know the difference between what's "out there" over-stress and what's "in here" over-stress, the body will respond the same towards either. Managing both is an essential part of getting to your goals.

Life Coaching/Goal Strategizing

As I venture further into the world of coaching I have come to realize that many people have different interpretations of what Life Coaching is. Some think it is like a psychotherapy session. Others think it is spiritual mumbo-jumbo. Others see it as an opportunity to clean up hidden things standing in their way of progress. Some use it to get clear on goals. And of course, others just don't know what it is. What I can say is that coaching can be all of the above but it all depends upon the wants, needs, and expectations of the client. Many of the sessions I have done could be filed in some of the aforementioned perspectives but all of my sessions are guided by the client, which means we work at the level the client wants to - the client sets the agenda and the tone of the session, no exceptions.

Not being a licensed therapist I certainly have a hard time calling my coaching "therapy" but I can say that I do occasionally help people sift through some major stress and limiting perspectives they have in their life in order to lead more powerful lives. Being a somewhat spiritual individual I have had many sessions where that avenue is explored in an in-depth manner - whether it being self-awareness type or spirituality or plugging things into their religious beliefs. But most often my coaching sessions have been a way for people to co-creatively become more clear about their wants, desires, and how to create a successful path to achieving those. The sessions are a way to turn ones don't wants into inspiring desires by way of simply shifting ones focus and realigning with the opposite, which is what they do want.

What I do may be better labeled Goal Strategizing. I often help people clean up how they feel about themselves (hard to make changes in something that you look at in a negative way) by creating a new context in which they are looking at things, get clear on what they really want and why (the inspiring reasons for change), and help them organize their action plan for getting to their goals so they don't waste precious time and energy doing something that will work against them (cortisol). Basically, I help them create a new context in which to view their goals, needs, wants, beliefs, and things of the such relating to their body, exercise, nutrition and even the stresses in their life. I call this a co-creative effort in the sense that I just help the client figure out what they already know but just forgot.

Lastly, the word coach could easily be replaced with trainer, teacher, instructor, or tutor. So if you think about life coaching from that perspective then it might be easier to see that it is very similar to what we do when we personal train (teach or instruct). Often, we learn things that may not work for us that we took as an absolute truth. Working with someone who can help you determine your own specific truth as well as expand your thought process on things you may not have known, to me, is what coaching is.

The Thought Diet

On May 12th my first book, The Thought Diet, goes into publication. The book explores the mental side to acquiring goals in relation to your body and health. The book is a culmination of information that I have gathered over the past two years from my coaching sessions, seminars, educational classes, books, other coaches, mentors, as well as my own life experiences. The book will be sold here as well as on-line.

New Flooring and Cardio Pieces

As you may have already noticed, we have replaced the carpet that was in the cardio area with rubber matting designed for health clubs. It was this year's focus to improve both the cardio area and the bathroom. Last year we added two new cardio pieces, the treadmill and arc trainer (among the many other machines), and our next addition will be a new stair stepper and then eventually a new stationary bike.

Our Mission - Exercise Professionals

As we learn more about neuro-science, exercise and human mechanics, mental and emotional factors, chemical reactions, force tolerance, and cellular adaptation we realize that there is so much more to exercising than just pushing your self. Doing more is not guaranteed to get you results. With that, our mission as an exercise facility is to create, and live into, a new standard for personal trainers that takes all those aforementioned areas of study as being just as important as pushing our clients with different exercises. To me, the term exercise professional signifies this perfectly. As many fitness clubs work to differentiate their rankings of trainers within an organization (going from base level trainers up to highly experienced trainers), our aim is to continue to differentiate ourselves in the industry as a whole with a facility of all highly educated trainers - a club entirely staffed with nothing but exercise professionals.

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154 Burlington Avenue • Clarendon Hills, IL 60514
Phone: 630.455.1453

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