To say that the conversation on how we take care of ourselves has shifted over the past two years in a pandemic would be an understatement. We’re more aware of the necessity for prioritizing self-care in order to safeguard immunity to the best of our ability, myself included. As an active New Yorker and runner, I’ve reflected on what was my regular draining hustle, and subsequently taken this time to slow down a bit more than ever before–prioritizing self-care and recovery as I progress toward some of my big health and wellness goals (namely, marathon No. 11 come October).
This is exactly why I was elated, as a longtime fan of the WHOOP brand, to check out their Optimal Wellbeing Program partnership with Sensei Lanaʻi, a Four Seasons Resort.
Here’s the gist of the program: A dreamy 5-day experience that integrates intention, health metrics, lifestyle, and long-term wellbeing vision set against the unique landscape of Koʻele, Lanaʻi’s traditionally spiritual uplands. The offering consists of custom, evidence-led practices supported by technology to seamlessly connect each guest with their health information. This digital platform provides personal data and insights from Sensei and WHOOP, which I’ve been wearing consistently since April 2019.
I was blown away by the team of Sensei Guides that I worked with on-site, including an exercise physiologist, physician assistant, and mindset coach. And while a majority of the takeaways from my experience were extremely personalized to me and my body — including detailed analysis of my V02 max and what meditation and breathwork styles work best for my mental state — some can certainly assist you on your wellness journey too.
In my day-to-day diet, I’m a fruit fiend. Both fruits and vegetables provide a variety of vitamins and nutrients, and can even reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. While they’re certainly a healthier pick than some other processed alternatives, reaching for berries, apples, melons, and more regularly can result in a blood sugar spike (and then crash), especially post-sweat.
“Fruit is a carbohydrate, and a fast energy source,” says Sensei Nutrition Guide Lydia Moran, MS, PA. “When we consume fruit, the carbohydrates break down relatively quickly in our system, and then that raises your blood sugar. When your blood sugar goes up, the way that our body combats that is by releasing insulin from your pancreas.”
While you may want that quick fuel source before a run or high-intensity workout, it won’t be as beneficial on its own sans sweat. The goal: Pair fruits with a fat or protein (think all-natural nut butter or greek yogurt) to slow down that digestion, and you’ll lower any inevitable sugar spike. Plus, you’ll stay fuller for longer!
I went to Sensei with an aggravated case of plantar fasciitis. If you’ve also struggled with this uncomfortable foot inflammation of the plantar tendon, then you know how frustrating it can be. However, Kyle Silvey, PhD, CSCS and my Sensei Movement Guide, put me at ease when we spoke about minimum effective dose.
The concept: The smallest amount of an input required to achieve a desired outcome. Dr. Silvey explained to me that when you’re someone who trains regularly, a few weeks away from training won’t dramatically impact your progress for the worse. “The deload can feel frustrating, but backing off when you have an injury allows your body to heal,” he says. “Cardiovascular gains especially are lasting, so there are training residuals that stick.”
Silvey notes that the same doesn’t really hold true for strength gains, like maximal speed, agility, or power.
When busy days ensue, it’s possible that the sympathetic system is activated for the majority of the day. This leads to increased heart rate, potentially a racing mind, and a barrier to being present. To combat this, you can begin exploring tools to help shift the mind and body into what we call a coherent state.
Within a coherent state, our mind and body (breathing rhythm and heart rhythm) become in sync with one another. When this happens you give yourself the opportunity to be more present, to better balance and navigate emotions, and to slide back into a restful sleeping state.
I went through three different types of breathwork with my Sensei Mindset Guide Trevor Tellin, MA, including what he called “three little waves,” (three identical breaths in a row), heart-focused breathing (thinking of breath flowing directly in and out of the heart), and a moment of appreciation (imagine something you’re appreciative of and focus on that for the duration of the exercise).
“Just like with our fitness, you want to work smarter not harder with your breathwork,” says Tellin. “Different types of breathwork can impact different people differently. So really, it’s just understanding questions like how do I operate? What are my preferences? Then, once we kind of bring that to the surface, you can choose a technique that leverages different qualities.”
For me, for instance, I most resonated with the three little waves technique. The conscious, active breathing worked well for me as an analytical person with an active mind, and enabled me to get into that goal coherent state.
LEARN MORE: Benefits of Mindfulness & How to Practice It
Again, I’m a huge vegetable fan. But, tweaking when we eat them can make a major difference in how your body digests and ultimately better your gut health, according to Moran.
The goal: Greens come first. Not only will this make sure that you get in the vegetables (as well as their essential vitamins and nutrients including fiber), but it can also keep your bowel movements more regular as a result.
This could be as simple as adding a small salad before dinner and lunch, and avoid going from 0 to 100. “The last thing you want to do is start loading up on plants and tons of beans out of nowhere, completely shocking your stomach,” says Moran. “Just like with any good habit, start small and work your way up so that you can upkeep a routine.”
As part of the testing, I did body composition and bone density testing that included a BMI readout. Before we even broached that topic, Silvey wanted me to know that for many athletes, “obese” as outlined by the U.S. Department of Health, is actually quite healthy. Active individuals have stronger bones and more-developed muscles, both of which weigh more than fat.
“BMI is a simple math formula, but it doesn’t take into account how much water or muscle mass is in the body, or sex or age for that matter,” says Silvey. “You’re better off working one-on-one with an expert, like a physician or a trainer, to get insight into where you are with your body.”
Overall, the Optimal Wellbeing Program is an impactful experience to consider for people with a variety of wellness goals. Sensei offers this program at both their Lanaʻi and soon-to-open Palm Springs locations.