It's getting to be that time on Mother Nature's watch. Indian summer winds down and the winds kick up. Just realized right now that wind (like a clock) and wind (like blowing in a storm) are spelled the same way. Which is tripping me up and making me lose my train of thought.
I flew home through a thunder and lightening storm last week. Thunder and Lightening in California. In L.A., if you can imagine. It was awesome, once I was no longer flying through it. I haven't noticed a large population of sick people yet, but as winter weather starts to develop, colds tends to go hand in hand with the season. That's why I thought it would be fun to talk about your immune system today.
What is this Immune System, anyway? If I had about thirty hours and the ability to type ten thousand words I could tell you, but frankly, I have to do laundry. So, to simplify, your immune system is all of the organs and actions that go into protecting you from the super-tiny, almost invisible things in your environment. There are a lot of things you can do to weaken these systems, which include:
- Poor sleeping habits
- Alcohol consumption
- High-intensity exercise
- and Poor nutrition.
There is also one major mechanical component to a well-functioning immunity. No, it's not wearing that necklace from Survivor. The Super-Hero of Health this season is your Lymphatic System. The fluid in this system, lymph, is the worker bee of your immune response. When this fluid fails to circulate, the body has a decreased ability to fight off various ailments.
"Circulate" is the keyword here. The word implies movement, and a lot of it.
Here's the deal with lymph. It doesn't move very well on its own. It doesn't have a great pump like your heart, so the less you move your muscles, the more your lymph resembles scuzzy pond water.
Another deal with circulation is you have to move All of your muscles in their ranges of motion to get the lymph to move. When your muscles are tight, limiting the motion of a joint, the lymph tends to back up in that area. Some not-so-great news: Your largest lymph node clusters are at located at the areas we tend to be tightest -- the neck, the armpits and chest, the groin, and in the ribs.
No, just kidding. The good news is this month's Martha Stewart's WHOLE LIVING magazine has a feature with eight (EIGHT!) of my exercises, designed to improve the mechanics of your lymphatic system. The magazine looks like this:
The article is fantastic, thanks to Kate Hanley, health writer for the Gods. Or at least for all the health magazines. The photos are great and are easy to follow. Go get your copy, they're flying off the shelves. I know this because I bought two copies and I dropped one, hence the flying.
My favorite creation for this piece was my Active Breathing exercise.
Using an old pair or nylons or elastic exercise tubing, tie firmly (but not so tight you cause your torso to fall off) around your ribcage approximately where a bra strap or heart rate monitor would go. Standing, breathe deeply, feeling your ribcage expand into the resistance. Take 10-15 breaths, and repeat 3-4 times. You WILL take in more oxygen than normal, which is a good thing, but oxygen monitors in your brain will take a while to adjust. Start with one set and slowly increase as you feel more comfortable.
This exercise increases the strength of your intercostal muscles (muscles that live between the ribs), which actually help you take in more oxygen and expel out more waste, increasing the effectiveness of a cough. Perfect for those with allergies, a cold, or chronic respiratory issues like asthma.
Oh, and P.S. Since you're out buying magazines already (aren't you?), check out the November issue of Fitness Magazine:
Not only did they use me for the cover (see the word 35 in the bottom left-hand corner? That's me!) there is also a great chart I developed for dealing with common irritations while walking/running like swelling fingers, achy knees, tingly feet, and low back pain. Of course, if you read this blog, you'll already know about most of those...
And, thanks all of you, for being so great! If you happened to get a thousand katysays emails over the weekend, I apologize. Evidently this blog has become too popular for WordPress -- it cannot handle the amount of subscribers we have (1743 billion.) It is now fixed and I am no longer being considered a Spam Machine.
Which makes me feel better about myself.