Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Paleo Mattress: A Pain In The Tookus?

I came across an article, and thereby a series of them, about the ergonomics of sleeping which I found intriguing. The originating question is, when did we adopt mattresses as we know them today? Mattresses have evolved greatly since sleeping on sacks stuffed with horsehair. But still, who is the regulating body that says that they can improve our quality of life or our health as the manufacturers claim they do?

Today mattresses are bigger, fatter, fluffier and gimmickier than ever. Mattresses move and bend at the touch of a button. They are made of space material, or inflate to your "ideal" firmness, or come with pad covers to improve softness or to improve circulation while you sleep.

So I guess the underlying question is, have these so-called improvements actually improved our health? Or have they harmed us: is that possible? After reading Patrick Clark's article on The Ergonomics Of Sleep, I thought I too might try sleeping on the floor and see what would happen.

Now first off, I have been camping plenty in my lifetime. I have laid on soft forest floors, packed desert sand, soft desert sand, frozen tundra, hard linoleum floors and uneven dirt speckled with roots. But I had never slept on my back on the ground and thought about how I felt in the morning. So I had to redo the experiment :)

So on Friday I decided that I would take my afternoon nap on the floor, pseudo-futon style. I took the fluffiest comforter I have and folded it once and laid it on the floor, it was about 3" thick. I laid down under another comforter and first found it comfortable. But just like Clark points out in his article, I felt not physical discomfort but mental discomfort due to lack of familiarity. I usually crawl into bed and immediately curl up on my side, but the floor is not so forgiving as the mattress, making side sleeping less desirable.

An hour later I woke up still on my back. I was refreshed and completely cozy and comfortable. So much so that I repeated the experiment that night. Even with the extended time I was on the floor this second time I again woke up refreshed and comfortable without so much as a single kink.

The real comparison came LAST night when I went back to sleep again on my mattress. It's a pretty average mattress, more firm than soft without any gimmicks. Even still, I laid down on my back under the covers and immediately noticed how my hips had sunk into the mattress and I could feel a slight muscular tension in my low back as my body absorbed the misalignment. This morning I woke up, not with the immediate *ta-da! that I had when I slept on the floor but with the same slow and bleary wake-up I'm accustomed to.

Okay, so one nap and two nights sleep does not a conclusive scientific study make, but it does make an interesting point wouldn't you say? So what I'm thinking is that sleeping on the floor just may be beneficial for those of us that are front-loaded from sitting all day long and then want to exacerbate the postural problem by curling up at night. Now that I know that sleeping on the floor is not an uncomfortable thing to do, I am certainly going to take advantage of that. Bonus that it may have substantial health benefits including improved spinal alignment and circulation! I don't know about you but I could use a bit more of both!

Everyone's favorite part of a yoga practice is doing Savasana at the end. The favorite part is letting your muscles melting into the floor, the difficult part is staying awake and present and focused. So sleeping on the floor is the ultimate way to get the structural benefits of Savasana (Corpse pose) without needing to stay awake. Just let go and let your muscles melt off your bones into the floor for eight whole hours!

Sounds pretty, pretty sweet to me! Try floor sleeping as a nap first to see what you think, and then email me and let me know how it went!

With Fittest Intentions,


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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

GPS says We're At the End of the Road!

"Living each day in a similar way can have its benefits, but sometimes an escape is exactly what you need! Having a rhythm, a routine, can be comforting and can be an effective way to make sure you’re getting all your bills paid and chores done. Unfortunately, lines can blur, edges get soft and after too long without a self-review and we can find ourselves in a rut. Here’s where a temporary escape can be a life line!"

Read the rest of the post here.

With fittest intentions,

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Braised Cucumbers...Who Knew?

Ever seen the film Julie & Julia? I was intrigued by one line, "braised cucumbers, who knew?" Now for someone that prefers slightly grilled lettuce to completely cold, the concept of cooked cucumbers definitely piqued my interest.

Let me remove the mystery. These are essentially cucumbers sautéed in butter. Sounds weird but promising doesn't it? Once I looked up the recipe and saw how simple it was I had to try it.

Braised Cucumber

1 huge cucumber (or 2 regular sized)

1 tablespoon butter

1 dash salt

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 pinch dried mint

Peel cucumber. Cut into quarters and remove seeds. Cut into 1 inch pieces.

Melt butter in a pan and add cucumber. Cover and cook about 5 minutes on medium heat.

Stir in salt, lemon, and mint. Cover and cook another 2 minutes.

The recipe is Julia Child's, so how bad could it be?! She knows a few things about cooking. So next time I'll try this out with coconut oil just to see what happens, but as I happen to love butter as much as our dearest Julia, I can't see that it'd come out any better by substituting OUT the butter. I mean, that's crazy talk!

Recipe Review

First off, it is delicious. However, if you are one that doesn't like avocados, bananas or melon due to textural issues this is NOT for you. Stick to raw cukes in that case.

The cooking softens the cucumbers just slightly, so be careful not to over cook or this could get ugly. The sweetness is certainly highlighted, the lemon & salt brighten the flavors so that this dish can stand alone. I dare say that it makes the cucumber taste almost complicated!

Typically cucumbers are relegated to the supporting role of just adding crunch & bulk to a salad. It's amazing how this simple little recipe will remind me to grab these at the farmers stand more often. I just may be more inclined now to buy a cucumber to cook! Weird :)

With fittest intentions,



Friday, September 7, 2012

Avoid Overload

I posted on my Chalk & Chi Facebook page today an image of an article I grabbed from a magazine (sorry mag, can't recall which one you were). The article is entitled "This Is Your Brain On Nature." It reminds us to get outdoors, not just for exercise but because our brains and hormone levels depend on nature's ability to regulate them.

This goes along well with the message I received in a newsletter this morning that addresses overload. Now, I'm not talking overload as in "overload the muscles or body to elicit positive gains." I'm talking overload as in being over worked, over stressed, over taxed, over tired, under nourished, and yes, even over trained.

"If you overload a circuit, it blows.

If you overload a boat, it will sink.

If you overload a truck, it won't roll.

If you overload a plane, it won't fly.

If you overload a train, it won't stop.

If you overload a bridge it will

If you overload a flash drive, you get
an error.

These simple laws of physics are easy
enough for children to understand.
What's not so easy to understand is
why -- as grown adults -- we think our
bodies and minds are any different.

Your personal overload is increasing
your risk of getting sick, whether you
feel the weight or not.

A 2011 report from the Chartered
Institute of Personnel and Development
found that "stress has become the most
common reason for a worker being signed
off long-term sick."

The "21st century equivalent of the
Black Death" they said.

So today, it might be a good idea to
put some distance between you and the
Black Death.

Take a breath.

Take a break.

Take a walk.

When you do, please remind yourself
that when you do feel the pressure,
you have the right to say no, hit
delete, or hang up -- guilt-free.

You're the only one who can lighten
your own load." -Kevin Gianni of Renegade Health

So do what you can today to release a bit of the stress and mania. If you can at some point, get outside and go for a walk. Even if it's simply around the parking lot at the office. Even if it's hot out, feel the warmth on your body without being grossed out. Just feel it for a moment. Look up at the sky and notice the color. Take a deep breath and release it with an audible, "ah."

Like Kevin rightly said, only you have the ability to lighten your load. You can start right now.


With fittest intentions,