Food for Thought: 4 Surprising Ways Other People Affect Your Health

The following is an oldie but goodie from Mark's Daily Apple.

Jean-Paul Sartre in one of his famous plays said, “Hell is—other people.” I think most of us might sympathize with that claim depending on the day and the person we’re dealing with. On the flip side, people can be the source of our greatest joys. His sentiment, regardless, speaks to the strong impact others can have on us. Whether we like it or not, we all live (and need to live) in some relation to others. None of us exist in a vacuum, and research on extreme isolationsuggests the real hell on earth might be exactly that. So make no mistake—how people make us feel is not just the stuff of poetry and philosophy. Other people can and do influence our immediate physiology as well as our ongoing health. What does this process look like though? How does it play out in our lives? Let’s examine a few examples.

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Evolution shaped us to be intricately social creatures. From the time of infancy, we’re innately directed to be highly attuned to those around us—first to our mothers and/or primary caregivers and later to our peers and larger community. Complex neurological patterns guide our instinctual process of observation and emulation. Researchers have long studied “mirroring,” the subconscious mechanism that moves us to adopt the subtle behavioral signals of someone whom with we’re likely to establish rapport, trust and empathy—the cornerstones of human connection. Interdependence and the social tools to support it are written into our DNA.

But the effects go even deeper than observational behaviors.

Studies show that people’s brain waves begin to oscillate in the same rhythms during verbal exchanges they deem as positive. This goes for group settings and even with strangers.

Likewise, our heart rates synchronize with loved ones during personal exchanges or when we see them experiencing stress.

Communal rituals may hold the same sway. Participants in choir performance, for example, have been shown to synchronize heart variability.

So it shouldn’t surprise us to know that the company we keep has the power to influence our daily choices and, by extension, our overall well-being. This isn’t to let us off the hook. None of us is operating from a pure monkey see, monkey do mentality. But we can understand (and at times harness) the latent proclivity to go with the flow, whether its leading where we want to go or not.

Here are just a few ways the company we keep can affect our bodies and minds.

Weight/Body Composition

For better or worse, studies have shown that the kinds of folks you associate with can affect your waistline. A New England Journal of Medicine study found that having one friend who was obese raised the risk of obesity by 57% over the course of 30 years. Friends, the study showed, were more influential (even long-distance) than family members. This is enough to make anyone sit up and listen.

In fact, some research suggests that the social network model can be exploited to actually prevent or dial back the onset of obesity across groups. Offering weight management support for random members of a social cluster may have reverberating effects.

In other words, if one person (or several people) take charge of their body composition, the effects can effectively spread to other members of the social group.

Be the change, as they say, seems to apply here. Wearing a Grok shirt to family picnics or gifting a Primal book to your neighborhood’s Little Library may not hurt either. Share the message and connect with others who reflect the healthy “norm” you want to embody in your life. The effects can spread wider than you may know.

Mood Disorders

Some years ago there were headlines claiming that depression was contagious. As most sensationalist headlines do, it got big attention at the time, but it only told part of the story. Indeed, some research does indicate a social clustering of depressive symptoms, particularly among women. Oddly, the study above found that the onset of depression in a spouse didn’t impose the same heightened risk of depression in his/her partner to the same degree as having a friend with depression did. This contradicts other research that revealed 40% of those living with a diagnosed depressed person met clinical criteria for depression as well.

Other findings, however, demonstrated the flip side of this phenomenon, showing the “spread” of happiness. The closer you live to, and the more you interact with, happy people, the findings suggest, the more potent the effect. Having a sibling or friend who experienced happiness and lived within one mile raised the probability of being happy by 25%. Living with a spouse who was happy showed a similar effect. Other research on adolescents also affirmed the spread of happiness, showing that having happy friends raised the probability of recovery from depression.

What we can take from this? Above all, we can understand the need to actively and selectively attach and detach from others’ feelings. When the mood is high, and people around us are happy, we can let ourselves soak it in. When it’s low, offer empathy and support, but stay vigilant to maintain your own emotional independence.

When it comes to depression, given our human propensity to be influenced by others’ behaviors, we must take charge of our own feelings. Meditation techniques around detachment can help fortify our own emotional boundaries. Likewise, taking responsibility for our lives (being selfish) means ensuring we don’t become fixated on another’s situation. The more problems there are around us long-term, the bigger life we need to live.

Fitness

One study of 3000 students from the U.S. Air Force Academy showed that a student was three times more likely to fail basic fitness requirements if more than half of his/her friends fell out of shape. (PDF)

On the other side of the coin, direct support from others can spur us to exercise more consistently and to make more of our workouts. A study of 1000 women commissioned by Virgin Active found that over 30% of respondents called their friends their “main motivation” for staying fit. Sixty-four percent of participants said they train harder with others than if they go it alone. The study found subjects worked out longer and went to the gym more often if they went with a friend. Other research found that people benefit from others’ fitness only when they perceive support for their own exercise efforts as well.

Here’s where community might just be essential. Even if you’re an introverted exerciser who’d rather hit the gym or the trail alone, you’ll benefit from a supportive set of friends. Accountability and encouragement might come over social media for some of us as well as it does in paired workouts for others. Choose the support you want for your fitness, and go get it.

Immunity and Heart Health

Have you been seeing red lately? Maybe it’s the times, but this one’s been on my mind lately. Anger, as anyone can imagine, doesn’t do our health any favors, and research confirms that assumption. Just recalling an angering experience suppresses immunity for six hours.

Not surprisingly, the effects can be much more deleterious. Angry outbursts can triple your risk for stroke within the next two hours. And if anger is a chronic problem for you, research suggests you’ll earn yourself double the risk for cardiovascular disease.

What does anger have to do with other people? (I can hear the snickers through the screen.) There’s a post unto itself, but let me just highlight the impact of anger on social media. A team from Cornell University cycled through 70 million tweets, observing user interaction and assigning each tweet one of four emotional labels (sadness, joy, disgust and anger). Of all the emotions, anger, they found, was more contagious than any other response. Anger had the widest span as well, lasting through three degrees of separation.

What’s the take-home here? It may not be a bad season to cull your social media feeds or take an outright break if you find the collective fury is disturbing your peace. Keeping yourself on an even keel isn’t selfish. It constitutes good self-care—and just may be a wise act of public service that keeps immune systems and tickers strong.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the influence of others on your daily health, well-being and peace of mind. Have a great end to the week.

IMPORTANT SCHEDULE ANNOUNCEMENT: 9/18, 9/20 & 9/21

Attention to the UB Community! 

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Central Subway construction team will be redoing the sidewalks on our side 4th street on Monday 9/18, Wednesday 9/20, & Thursday 9/21.  Due to noise, dust, and limited access we will need to cancel the following classes:

Monday: 6:30PM (SWOD) & 7PM (All Levels Classes)

Wednesday: 7PM (All Levels Classes)

Thursday: 6:30PM (Oly) & 7PM (All Levels Classes)

We apologize for this inconvenience.  Thank you for your understanding.  

Join us at OUTWOD!

If you haven't heard, OUTWOD is a fitness initiative founded in 2011 to bring together the LGBTQ community and their allies to sweat together in an inclusive group fitness environment and to raise funds for local LGBTQ charities.

On October 14th, they hosting an event in San Francisco and we would love to have you join us in attendance!

"But wait - I'm not gay?!?" you may be saying to yourself - that's GREAT! OUTWOD is for LGBTQ athletes AND allies! OUTWOD events are family-friendly and fun for all walks of life!

Here is what you need to know:

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EVENT DETAILS:

WHAT: OUT//San Francisco

WHERE: CF Potrero Hill, 175 De Haro St, San Francisco, CA 94107

DATE: Saturday, October 14th, 2017

  • 9:30AM - Doors Open
  • 10:00AM - Workout Begins
  • 11:30AM - Event End / Announcements

WORKOUT: Team-style, high-intensity interval training incorporating functional movements.

Want more info? Check out OUTWOD's Facebook event page.  

Ready to play?

Weekly Dose of Awesome

Some people are just like a ray of sunshine when they're in class. They arrive smiling and keep that smile on their face through the whole WOD. Sometimes they are the only ones to giggle at the coaches' jokes, but their entertainment is contagious. Positivity is so great to be around, it makes class more fun for both the athletes and the coach. Maybe she knows a secret, or maybe she's just a robot, but either way - she's got our attention!

Kate S. may only be in SF part time, but when she is here she is dedicated as the best of them. Since CrossFitting, she has consistently chipped away at the performance ladder, making gains in both speed and strength.  She is always willing to put in the effort, and does her best to do it right (Kate's two class modes are twinkling or fierce focus).  With every class, she lets her inner beast a little further out of its cage.  A great role model for our newer athletes, Kate's attitude and zeal are first-class!  Thanks for being you, Kate!  You're an absolute delight!

Her shirt says it all...

Her shirt says it all...

WorkOut Drunk

The clock is running, you have 15 more power cleans to finish so you can move on to double Unders. Jason, your secret WOD arch nemesis, is catching up to you and let's face it - he has got you on jump rope any day of the week. You flip your into go-go-gadget hyperdrive and start power cleaning like it's the cure for the zombie apocalypse. You finish your last one and victoriously throw the bar down a little too hard and turn to get your rope.  Meanwhile, the bar rolls away, hitting poor Susie Q (its only her 3rd official WOD) mid box jump, causing her to fall, face first, into her kettlebell......

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We get it. It is easy to get swept up into the intensity of the moment during a WOD.  And although the above scenario may seem a bit over-dramatized to you, we coaches see oblivious WODing happen to the best. The term for this behavior is WorkOut Drunk. When you are so swept up in your movement/workout/score that you get tunnel vision and lose all sight of the world around you, you have reached WorkOut Drunk. Other side affects are uncoachability and forgetfulness. We appreciate your intensity, but please avoid reaching this state. Just like mom always says - safety first.

So when you are setting up your workout, be mindful of others and equipment around you.  Once the workout has started, stay focused, but make sure you don't turn the on the tunnel vision (e.g. every time you drop a bar, reset to the same start position... do NOT just set up wherever the bar falls and travel the space around you). We all want to get better and beat (insert arch nemesis' name) - but it is possible to do it while still playing well with others. WOD hard, but WOD safe.

Food for Thought: What's Going On in Your Body While You're Recovering from Injury

The following is a to the point read from puori.

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At some point in our lives, we will likely suffer an exercise-induced injury. Runners, for example, are incredibly prone to muscle or bone-related injuries. In fact, it’s reported that as many as 70% of regular recreational runners have at least one overuse injury per year (1).

Contributing to the problem is poor movement mechanics. Poor movement often stems from our modern, Western-type lifestyles. But it wasn’t always like that. A few months after birth, for instance, we began to explore the world by rolling over and crawling, followed by walking, squatting and eventually running, jumping and climbing.

However, then we went to school and sat for hours at desks listening to our teachers. Consequently, the basic “primal” movement patterns that we learned in infancy were often lost by the time we became teenagers. Alas, this pattern of body misuse invariably continues into later life, whether that involves slumping at home watching TV or sitting in front of a computer screen at work.

To counteract this sedentarism we’re told to build exercise into our daily routines. It’s good advice. Without a doubt, we definitely need to exercise in order to live happier, healthier, longer lives. But inevitably, the combination of poor movement mechanics and vigorous exercise can lead to injury.

So, if you do suffer an injury, what’s happening in your body? Furthermore, what can be done to prevent injuries?

The Science of Recovering From Injury

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Interestingly, most of the body’s repair processes occurs during sleep — therefore, lack of sleep or the experience of poor quality sleep are often related to poor health. Those who regularly sleep less than six hours a night have, on average, a poorer life expectancy than those who are well rested (2).

If you’ve suffered a muscular injury during your workout, whether that may be a slight strain or a more serious injury, you will know from experience that such injuries are typically associated with swelling, bruising and pain. During sleep, your muscles are mostly relaxed (though there are also periods of contraction when we move around). This gives your muscles (and your brain) a period of downtime to repair.

Additionally, during sleep, there are changes in growth hormone release and blood flow in the body. Growth hormone, as the name suggests, stimulates growth as well as repair programs, which play a role in cellular regeneration.

Similarly, there is an increase in blood flow to the area or areas in need of repair. This involves the deployment of inflammatory mediators which (in the right doses) have the effect of increasing the activity of the immune system in the affected or damaged body parts.

So the lesson is: plenty of shut-eye should be a high priority when recovering from any injury.

In order for your body to repair itself efficiently, it also requires high-quality nutrition. For example, micronutrients — B vitamins and trace elements, such as copper, iron and zinc — are essential co-factors for body repair. In addition, you need adequate protein intake.

So another essential lesson if suffering from injury is: ensure your diet is well-balanced so that it contains a good variety of vegetables and some fruits, adequate protein and plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.

Preventing Injuries

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Whether you want to avoid injury in the first place or have just recovered and want to prevent other injuries going forward, I am going to suggest a few small changes to your routine which can help greatly in preventing further injuries.

Firstly, it’s all too easy to take time off from exercise after injury and then when you’re feeling slightly better go straight back to try to hit the same goals you were achieving pre-injury. The truth is this is a very sure way to sustain more injuries. But the 10% rule is a good way to prevent this. Used frequently by the world’s top runners, the 10% rule says you should aim to increase your pace or work rate by no more than 10% each time you exercise. Slowly does it, in other words.

A warm-up before you exercise is a great way to increase your body temperature and also improve the circulation of blood to your muscles. By gently warming the muscles, you increase their degree of stretch and flexibility while also improving the body’s usage of nutrients and energy — something which is incredibly useful if you want to make the most of your workout.

Your warm-up should be comprised of a combination of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercises — for example jogging, skipping or rowing. Following on from this, consider some simple static muscle stretches and then continue with some more dynamic stretches, such as lunges, glute bridges or push-ups. In addition, it’s crucial to incorporate some kind of sports-specific warm-up. The aim is to prepare your body for the demands of your sport of choice, so exercises in this part of the warm-up should reflect the type of movements or motor patterns you are about to utilize, be it climbing, weightlifting, running or anything in between.

Finally, consider stretching routines outside of your main training days. For example, perform ROMWOD or join a yoga class to improve your range of motionand limit your risk of developing muscle and joint injuries. Happy exercising!

References

  1. “Evaluation of lower extremity overuse injury potential in runners.” Hreljac, et al. (2000)
  2. “Sleep duration and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies.” Cappuccio, Francesco P., et al. (2010)

Ultimately Awesome

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For all of you who participated in Saturday's Ultimate Lift-Off -- thank you for making the day a fun and PR-filled success!  Thank you to our sponsors: Bodywork by Jay and Tender Greens! A special thank you to our staff and volunteers: Brandi, Mom Werba and Coaches Sam, Jack, and Jon - our star setup team; Coach Jason - Colorful commentary & MC extraordinaire, Manu - master photographer; Anita, Brandi, Chris C., Kim, Sean, Sunli, and Coach Nikki - our solid judging team; Coach Max - tech support!  You made the day run like a well oiled machine! 

For those of you who missed it, you missed out! The day was a great demonstration of mental fortitude from every athlete, while also being a great show of camaraderie.  Everyone was in high spirits and had their fiercest game face ready!  And icing on the cake: look at all those PRs (highlighted in yellow) above!  How could you ask for a better day?!  You came and gave it your all -- that is all we could ever ask of you.  It's days like Saturday that make me feel like one lucky lady!

For those of you who missed out, or for those of you wanting to check out some of the beastly moments of the day, check out all the photos here!

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The Weekly Dose of Awesome

This week I want to talk about hunger.  The hunger to try new things, to push yourself, and to just plain be at your best.  This week's dose has all of the above with extra awesome to top it off.  Austin W. is willing to put herself out there and try something new - often while throwing you a well timed sassy joke in the process.  She came to us having dipped her toe in the CrossFit pool, but it wasn't until she found UB that it really stuck. 

Austin's will-try/can-do attitude is always a joy to have in class, but what impressed me is her fearless determination to remain active through her pregnancy, and her relentless commitment to nurturing her inner-athlete postpartum.  To know her is to see this is one motivated woman! Watch out for and her awesome, she's a force to be reckoned with!

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Name: Austin W.

Nickname / Alter Ego: Being a girl called "Austin" is usually interesting enough that nicknames are not necessary. As far as Alter Ego goes, you can find me most mornings in 6:30 class searching for my inner Sasha Fierce.

Hometown: Scottsdale, Arizona

Occupation: Data Product Manager @ Slack

When did you first start CrossFitting? September 2010 for about 18 months, and then took a long break from CrossFit before finding UB

When did you first start CrossFitting at UB? July 2015

Favorite WOD: 8/21/17 - The day Jenny programmed 2 rounds of 100ft KB walking lunges, 75ft handstand walk, 50cal row, 25 pvc sit-ups. Epic and fabulous.

Least favorite WOD: I loathe anything with repeated calls for 1 min max effort because it's so painful. Or maybe I love it. It's hard to tell.

How did you first get exposed to CrossFit? I love to try different workout options for variety. I loved CrossFit when I tried it in 2010 and was eager to get back into it when I joined UB.

What is an unexpected way CrossFit has affected your life? Way too much YouTube on CrossFit Games weekends. Also, I was pretty nervous about what having a baby would do to my body. CrossFit and UB guided me through pregnancy and postpartum with workout modifications, maternity leave open gym with my baby, BIRTHFIT classes, and lots and lots of encouragement -- and helped turn a thing I was pretty scared of it into an experience that was fun and empowering.

What’s your secret talent? Juggling. Preferably fire.

What is your biggest phobia? At the gym it's failing a lift. I'm working on being a little less apprehensive about that, maybe. I really don't like it. If you have any advice on how to be ok with it I'm all ears. In life my biggest phobia is spiders.

How has becoming a parent changed your view/relationship with CrossFit? Becoming a parent has, surprisingly, gotten me to class more consistently. I used to feel too busy and come sporadically, whenever I felt I could find the time. Now my workout is the thing I do for myself every day to feel good, and I know if I don't get out of bed and go to class I lose the opportunity to sweat and be energized for my day.

What inspires you? I'm inspired in every context by seeing people push themselves and get uncomfortable in order to grow. At 6:30am class that inspiration comes from Chelsea and Amy -- they work harder than I do, lift heavier, and smile while they're doing it.

What’s your next goal in fitness? In life? My next fitness goal is to do a dead hang pull-up by the end of the year. In life it's to finish unpacking.

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Ultimate Lift Off - Heats & Details

It's almost Lift Off Day!  We have lots of info for you, so buckle in!

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The Day

We are running things a little differently this year.  We think these changes will lead to an even better event for everyone involved!

  • 8:30 - Athlete Briefing for ALL athletes
  • 8:50 - Athlete Weigh-Ins for ALL athletes
  • 9:20 - First Heat Begins
  • 12:40 - Last Heat Ends
  • 12:50 - Winners Announced
  • 1:00 - Enjoy the Sunshine!

Scoring & Standards

Scoring will be calculated using the Sinclair Coefficient for oly lifts and the Wilks Coefficient for power lifts. Standard Olympic and Power Lifting rules apply. Download all of the movement standards here.

Heats

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How to Approach the Day

Your Opener

So you get 3 attempts per lift... what do you open with?   Open with 200 when you have hit 195 in training.  Go big or go home... right?? WRONG!  Your opener should be something that you know you can hit.  That means maybe it's a weight you've done it for a triple.  Or maybe it's a weight you know is your last "safe" weight before the nervy mental stuff starts to kick in.  Either way, it’s there to build confidence.  It sets the tone for the rest of your lifts, and even the rest of the competition.  If you set the bar too high, the rest of the meet will seem like a chore... and nobody wants to walk away with a "0" because they over shot it.

Your Second Attempt

Presuming your opening went well, this is where you’ll find yourself getting close to PR territory. This is normally a middle ground to the final attempt where you go for broke.  Think that this is where you want to aim 95-97% of your end target and typically somewhere around 98% of your max.   Think of it as your launching point into the glory you should visualize as your final attempt. 

Didn't make that first attempt?  Don't stress.  Take one moment longer than you think you need to stop, relax, visualize yourself coming back and making the attempt and give yourself the cue you need to hit your weight and move on.

Your Third Attempt

Finally!  The third attempt!  Go for gold! Take a second to be present with how #2 felt, and choose your jump from there.  Once you made up your mind, don't touch the bar until you've made the lift in your head.  Whatever you do - NEVER MATCH your PR.  If you aren't 100% on competition day, hit what you are going to hit, but if you are near the magic number, throw the .5 kilo plates on.  Matching a PR is settling.  NEVER SETTLE.