7 Ways To Boost Your Immune System

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Life can feel super scary.

It is filled with times and periods where it feels like you need to wear a suit of armor to make it through in one piece — illnesses, stress, environmental toxins, global pandemics — it can be a shock to your system.

At any given moment, you could find yourself in the middle of a stress-ridden situation. If you are not prepared and taking care of yourself, you can easily find yourself coming down with the sniffles or caught up in bed quicker than you can say the word Kleenex. 

It all comes down to that one little system within you that can make or break how you physically respond to these life invaders. Well, it’s not so little…

The immune system. 

Your immune system is a beautiful array of complexities and intertwining functions. And as miraculous as the innate functioning of your immune system is, it can be tricky to fully understand if you are keeping it strong. 

Lucky for you, you are an amazing being just like your immune system — Physical barriers such as your skin, mucous membranes, nasal cavities, and lungs work with an internal army that determines how strong, or not your immune system is. Working together, they keep us safe. 

When you were a little baby, you entered this world with an immature immune system. As you were provided the means to build up that immune system, you began to encounter natural bacterias and viruses, gradually maturing and strengthening your response. Super cool, right? It’s like a workout for your immunity. 

And as you were getting stronger, a complex range of immune cells put on their little army hats and stand guard, waiting to attack foreign organisms and allowing antibodies to create an immune response. This builds up your immunity and protects you — just in case you encounter the same virus in the future. 

With all this building and strengthening going on, you got your own little internal immune highway being built, creating hubs of activity at your lymph nodes and glands, such as the thymus, spleen, and tonsils. 

You are probably wondering what you can do to boost your immune system and keep you at your healthiest. Here are 7 ways you can protect and support this amazing system:

1. Get a little dirty. Our immune system develops when when we are exposed to bugs and bacterias. Play in the dirt, get your hands into the garden, or allow yourself to get a little grubby outside. And, if you pull a vegetable straight out of your garden, don’t freak out totally if there is a little dirt on it when you bite into it. 

2. Strengthen your gut flora. About 70% of your immune cells live in your gut. The stronger the gut bacteria that you have built up, the more it can crowd out the unhealthy bacteria and not allow it to hang out on your gut lining and populate. That is crowd control at it’s finest. To encourage good bacteria in your gut, you need a balance between prebiotic and probiotic foods. Eat plenty of fibrous and prebiotic foods such as bananas, chicory, Jerusalem artichokes, and flax seeds. Make sure to have fermented foods in your diet to help build up the good bacteria — sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, etc. You can also take a high quality, live probiotic to help repopulate the gut flora. 

3. Put down the sugar. It has been connected that sugar can significantly reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy pathogens. Not only does this greatly impair your immune system functioning, but glucose also is so structurally similar to vitamin C that it can compete with vitamin C uptake in the body. Bad news for your immune system! 

4. Stay strong in immune boosting nutrients. 

  • Vitamin A enhances white blood cell function, antibody response, and thymus function. It is also essential for the health of the skin and mucosal barriers. Try foods such as eggs, cod liver oil, orange and yellow veggies and fruits, broccoli, spinach, dark leafy greens.
  • B6, B12, and folic acid helps to decrease stress response and they help to boost immune function and immune response. Try foods such as peas, bananas, nuts, whole grains, liver, eggs, beef, legumes, salmon, leafy greens.
  • Vitamin C enhances white blood cell response. Try foods such as oranges, peppers, strawberries, broccoli, brussel sprouts.
  • Vitamin E is important for cell-mediated and antibody related immunity. Try foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, broccoli. 
  • Zinc helps to destroy foreign particles. Try foods such as oysters, red meat, nuts, beans, whole grains, seeds, legumes, eggs, shellfish. 

5. Enjoy some moderate exercise. Moving your body is awesome for the lymphatic system, but too much can actually depress your immunity. Don’t overdo it and allow your body to balance out play and rest. 

6. Look at your medications. Medications for autoimmune disorders, cancer, HIV or disorders with chronic inflammation like asthma, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis can also depress the immune system and weaken the body’s ability to fight against invaders.

7. Laugh it up (and other stress relieving activities). There is something called natural killer cells that live within you. Don’t worry — they are a good thing! There has been much connection between laughter and the activation of the natural killer cells. Stress depresses the immune system. Engaging in laughter or any other stress relieving activity will help to strength your immune system and keep those sniffles away. 

Your immune system is like your home — when you keep it clean and you fix the problems that could cause a breakdown in the foundation and walls of your home, you are better protected from the outdoor exposure. 

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5 Exercises To Boost Your Outdoor Activities Performance

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Ahh, the great outdoors.

Nothing soothes the soul like being in nature. And there is nothing like a good nature activity to help remind you of all the muscles you forgot you had.

There is good reason for this — outdoor adventures are an effective way to cross-train the body and get the heart pumping. But, one thing needs to be kept in mind…

When the body is not ready for the muscle upgrade, the body may tighten up and rebel. In other words, you may just hurt yourself. This happens if the body is too tight or too weak or unbalanced. It can happen if you have achy joints or a lot of inflammation in the body. It can happen if you are out of shape or are a weekend fitness warrior.

Like that time I hadn’t prepared before giving an outdoor bootcamp class and I severely pulled my hamstring and could hardly walk for 3 days — it was painful. And it happens to all of us.

But, don’t let that stop you from exploring the great outdoors and finding yourself stuck in the middle of an exciting adventure. Get yourself prepared!

It is all about setting yourself up with the right mobility for the right exercises. Check out these 5 exercises below to help get you started in training your body with versatility for many activities or for getting strong in a specific activity. They are also great if you just want an awesome workout!

Swimming

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Plank Row

The plank row helps to build your stroke power and gives you a super strong core. Make sure that you are hitting this right and paying attention to your form and body position. If you can only do two reps with perfect form, take a 20–30-second break, then try two more.

  • The How: Grab a dumbbell in each hand in a plank position. Keep knees or feet hip-width apart for balance and stability. Lean body weight onto left arm and lift the right dumbbell off the floor. Use a “row” motion to pull dumbbell up to the side of your body. Do not rotate torso; keep chest facing the floor. Slowly lower dumbbell, transfer body weight, and repeat with the left arm.
  • BeginnerLegs bent, balance on knees
  • AdvancedLegs straight, balance on toes
  • Reps10 rows each arm for 2-3 sets. Adjust weights as necessary to complete set with proper form

Biking

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Deadlift

Training the back and the legs are key to powering through safely and with more ease while cycling. Regardless if you are cycling more competitively or out for a leisurely ride in the countryside, keeping your core and lower body functionally strong will keep you riding longer and with less pain.

  • The How: Bend at your hips and knees and grab the bar or dumbbells using an overhand grip. Slightly arch your lower back while keeping your arms straight. Make sure that your abdominals and core muscles are tight throughout the entire movement. Without allowing your lower back to round, stand up very slowly with the weight. Hold for a second, then lower the weight, again slowly (using a controlled motion), to the floor.
  • Reps: 20 times for 2-3 sets.

Hiking

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Weighted Glute Bridge

Strong hikers aren’t born, they do exercises to get that way! By focusing on exercises that strengthen the legs (especially the hamstrings and the glutes), core muscles, and balance, you will be able to push through some of the more challenging terrain and be able to have more energy and endurance to complete the hike. The weighted glute bridge strengthens your butt and hamstrings, the two big leg muscles that put power into a hiker’s stride.

  • The How: Position yourself so that your shoulder blades and neck are supported on the bench and your feet are on the floor. Keep your feet flat on the floor at shoulder width and with knees in line with toes throughout this exercise. Place the weight onto your hip bones. Slowly lift your hips towards the ceiling. Squeeze your buttocks at the top of the motion, holding for a few seconds before you lower your hips between reps. Keep the weight light and focus on having an explosive hip thrust on the way up, the squeeze in the middle, and then an easy release.
  • Reps: 10-15 reps for 2-3 sets
  • Modify: If you don’t have a barbell or dumbbells, you can get the same benefit using a medicine ball or a bag of flour as long as you hold them in the same position at the top of your legs

Kayaking

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Seated Weighted Paddle Figure 8’s

Kayaking is all about the core and the upper body, particularly the shoulders. Develop them and you will be leading the kayaking pack- or at least able to paddle up the creek without cramping up!

The core is the key link between the upper and lower body. When paddling, it is critical for the transfer of power and stability. It is even more critical to strengthen and develop the deep abdominal muscles to develop strength and stability. Here is a perfect functional exercise that will strengthen the smaller muscles in the shoulders, your entire trunk, and your forearms.

  • The How: Sit on a box or bench with legs together or extended out in front of you. Hold onto a Bodybar (5-10 pounds) or very light barbell for a little added resistance. Sit up tall, pull your belly button towards your spine, and lean back to approximately 45-60 degrees (without rounding the upper back and shoulders). Begin “rowing” or drawing a figure 8 pattern alternating from side to side. Keep core tight throughout the entire motion.
  • Reps: Build up to being able to “air row” for 2-3 minutes per set
  • Modify: Use a medicine ball or light dumbbell if you do not have a barbell or Bodybar.

Running

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Half-Scorpion With Leg Extensions

Runners need a different strength-training program than your standard gym rat. Any runner newbie who is already active can attest to that. Instead of pushing weight away from the body with bicep curls, leg extensions, and bench presses, runners should focus on targeting the muscles that will keep them balanced and their hips, core, and lower body strong. Quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles all need some love when it comes to running.

  • The How: Get into a pushup position. Raise your right knee toward your left shoulder as you rotate your hips up and to the left as far as you can. Then reverse directions, rotating your hips up and to the right, and doing a straight leg extension (a straight leg raise to the ceiling). That’s one repetition.
  • Modifications: To make it easier, do step one of the exercise, twisting in just one direction. To make it harder, put your feet on a bench or a stability ball.
  • Reps: As many as you can in 30 seconds. Then switch to the other leg. Do 2-3 sets on each leg.

How Often?

Strength-train two or three times a week. Pick one or many of these exercises and add them into your weekly strength training routine. But don’t stop there! Stretching is super important to create length in the muscle fibers and to take pressure off the joints. Start by doing 10-15 minutes of full body stretches 3-4 times a week and working, ideally, up to daily stretch and mobility work.

Being active and committed to one activity for the majority of the year can create muscle imbalances or accentuate ones you already have. Weak calf muscles, for example, can put too much stress on the Achilles tendon and break down the fibers that make up the tendon, causes foot and ankle problems. Or, unstable hip and core muscles hurt your biomechanics and overload your shins, which can lead to shin splints and stress fractures and knee pain.

Remember, it is all about mobility — keeping our bodies strong and flexible will give us a lifetime of enjoying outdoor adventures with less pain and less days of recovery!

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Simple, Effective Workout To Reduce Stress

The in between. That’s a hard place to live when you got places to go.

And by places to go, I mean to-do lists to cross off and goals to achieve. To go for your goals, but to be totally fine and love yourself just as you are. To want to lose weight and still be confident in your own skin. To be an active go-getter but know that sometimes, you have to slow yourself down. 

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Photo by Anny Patterson on Pexels.com

It’s that space in between that can feel like it is just out of reach — like swinging between the two extremes on a balance board. Yet, it is the in between that is often the most healthiest of places to visit. What your body needs. What your mind needs. What your wellness is craving. 

Sometimes it is easy to just pick the extremes. That is the advice they give you. Push harder. Hustle more. Take less breaks. Be extreme and aggressive. 

Or maybe it’s to sit back and relax. Give your body a break. Chill out because you deserve it.

But these extremes don’t seem to sit well for the long haul. They are unsustainable and can cause more stress and more anxiety and less wellness. Living in the in between can be a hard place to navigate. 

Sometimes it is knowing when you need to be in the in between that feels the most foreign. All you have ever known is the extremes. And each time they have failed you (or, you tell yourself that you have failed them!). 

Body movement and living in the in between can be just as mind-boggling. Yet, the most expert of experty-ness would agree that for longevity and anti-aging, there are key factors that must exist.

Hint: The in between is one of them.

With a beautiful dance between strength, flexibility, cardio, and mind-body connectedness, longevity and anti-aging are within your grasp. And that dance consists of choreography involving both extremes, but also the in between. The down time with body movement. The less intense, yet still challenging your day to day norm. This gives the body a chance to move and flex and build functional strength. It gives the mind a chance to connect in and lower your stress. It gives your wellness a boost by allowing your adrenals to not be obliterated with yet one more exhausting workout. It lowers stress but also deepens the quality of your health.

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Photo by Roman Davayposmotrim on Pexels.com

If you feel like you: 

  • Are tired all the time and you are not sure why
  • Have aches and pains that just will not go away
  • Are bored with your workouts and need to experiment
  • Work out all the time, but can not seem to lose the weight
  • Have a racing heart or an elevated resting pulse rate
  • Have minor injuries that will not heal
  • Are stressed out and need to dial it back
  • Just need to start moving again but don’t know where to start
  • Are peri-menopausal, menopausal, post-menopausal or are dealing with hormonal imbalances

Here is a workout designed for the in between. Try this 2-3 times a week to shake your body, mind, and spirit up —

  1. Plank alternating knee to chest (Pilates): 10x each leg
  2. Kneeling side kick/leg sweep (Pilates): 10x each leg
  3. One-legged downward dog (Yoga): 10 times each leg
  4. Extended triangle pose (Yoga): Hold for 5 deep breathes, repeat 3 times. Switch to the other side

Repeat sequence for a total of 2 times

  1. Bob and weave with squat (Kickboxing): 30 seconds
  2. Alternating front punches in squat (Kickboxing): 30 seconds
  3. Warrior 3 INTO Front kick INTO torso twist cross punch (Yoga/Kickboxing Combo): 10x each side

Repeat sequence for a total of 2 times

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It is time to start doing, but doing with purpose. Are you going to be an in betweener?

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7 Lower Body Exercises For Energy, Balance, And Strength

My body is my greatest communicator. It is also who I tell to back off and stop talking the most (sorry, girlfriend!).

Our bodies are constantly reeling us in and trying to let us know what we are lacking or what we are overusing. Sometimes it just feels like nagging. Like that pain in your neck that will not stop screaming every time you turn your head. Or that blasted knee pain that feels the need to scream with every pound on the pavement.

But without it, we would be lost. Unfortunately, not everybody listens to her body and, even more unfortunate, most of us squash the messages quicker than they come in.

Did you know that balanced lower body strength is actually a sign of balanced core energy?

Yep, it’s an energy thing!

Our physical body is a direct communicator of our energy and what is going on inside ourselves. The body is quite complex with complex issues – exercise (aka body movement) does not fix everything. Your issues could be related to mental, emotional, hormonal, or nutritional imbalances, just to name a few.

But, body movement is a foundational piece and it is typically an appropriate place for most people to begin.

Does this sound familiar?

  • You have constipation, bloating, or digestive issues?
  • You have chronic back pain or back problems?
  • You are quick to lower body injuries?
  • You often feel restless?
  • You feel quick to become angry or aggressive?
  • You easily gain weight or deal with eating disorders?
  • You deal with sexual dysfunction?
  • You feel unstable and can easily be knocked off balance?

When I slack on my workouts or I become obsessed with a restrictive way of training, I quickly notice how my body starts to communicate more; My knees and back hurt (bummer), I feel a restless energy (that’s only satisfied by movement), I have more digestive problems (serious bummer), I start to lose interest in any kind of intimacy (not good for anyone), and I get super irritated quickly (really not good for anyone).

But when I reintroduce my foundational lower body exercises to balance out that energy and build strength to support my demanding days, I start to feel better!

Movement therapy for the lower body

These exercise focus on activity that is grounding and forces you to put pressure into the Earth. This is super important. It isn’t just about weight-bearing exercises, it is also about creating pressure into the ground.

I also focus specifically on balance – super helpful because it increases proprioception, awareness, and stability.The key is being aware of your movements and your position in space.

These exercises create deep balance for your energy, core, and lower body and should be supplemental to other lower body strengthening exercises. Here are some of my favorites (and ones that I use)!

Tree pose

Standing tall and erect, shift your weight onto your right foot so that you are doing a single leg stand. Draw your left foot up and place the sole against the inner right thigh, if possible, press the right heel into the inner left groin, toes pointing toward the floor. The center of your pelvis should be directly over the right foot. Press arms up and overhead with palms facing each other and drawing body as tall as you can. Hold this for 10-30 seconds, depending on ability. Change legs.

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Squat with floorboard push aparts

Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart. Allow your tailbone to extend downwards. Lightly, flex and straighten your knees to warm your legs up. After a few repetitions, your legs should be warmed up. Next, slowly lower into a squatting position with your hips pressed back and your knees behind toes. As you lower down, lift both arms upward and overhead. Hold for 5-10 seconds. As you return to standing, take both feet and press down and out into the floor, like you are trying to push the floorboards apart. Do NOT straighten knees completely. This stops the flow of energy. Do this 5-10 times.

Bridges

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Raise your hips off the floor so that your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Pause at the top for 5 seconds then slowly lower your body back to the floor. Perform 10 times.

Ceiling pushes

Lying on the floor, straighten your right leg completely. Bend your left knee towards your chest and take a strap, putting it around the arch of your left foot. Extend your left foot towards the ceiling with your foot flexed towards you. Take the strap and slide it side to side on your foot, feeling the warmth stimulate the sole of the foot. Inhale. Exhale as you push your foot into the strap and towards the ceiling, straightening it as straight as you can. Pause. Inhale as your bend your left knee back towards your chest. Perform this 5-10 times on each side. If your leg begins to tremble, that is the energy flowing and opening up. This is a good thing!

Single leg squats

Shift weight to right leg and balance on the right leg while left leg is extended slightly forward. Squat down until you have about a 45 degree knee bend, all while keeping the left leg elevated off the floor. Keep back straight and right knee aligned with right toe. Hold for 5 seconds. Slowly raise back to start position, Perform 5-10 on each leg.

Wide leg forward bend

Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and arms at side. Place your feet three to four feet apart depending on your height (taller people should take a wider stance) and rest your hands on your hips. Turn your toes parallel with each other. Engage your core muscles and lean forward as you exhale. Once your torso is about parallel to the floor, extend your arms straight and press your fingertips into the floor directly below your shoulders for support.  Fingertips should be pointing forward. Push your pelvis upward and with support from your arms, slowly lower your torso to the floor. If you can bend far enough that your forearms can rest on the floor and the crown of your head can touch, that is even better! Hold for 10-15 seconds and return to start. Perform 5 times.

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Walking

Getting out for a good walk is one of the most basic, healing, energy supporting exercises you can do. Not only are you strengthening the lower body, but you are also strengthening the core, improving your balance, and increasing your overall energy levels. It doesn’t matter how far you can walk or how fast you can go, just get moving!

What can you focus on to create more energy, balance, and strength? Tell me in the comments below!


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