REAL-LIFE RUNNERS: EPISODE 258 – WITH ARIANA FOTINAKIS
ANGIE: Hey everybody. Thank you so much for joining us today on episode number 258 of the real-life runners’ podcast. So, what the heck does our nervous system have to do with our running turns out pretty much everything, because our nervous system controls all of the processes that happen in our body and sometimes it gets dysregulated. So today we’re talking about how to regulate your nervous system to improve your running.
KEVIN: This is the real-life runners podcast and we are your hosts Kevin and Angie Brown. Thanks for spending some time with us today. Now let’s get running.
ANGIE: All right you guys, so again we are in for a treat today. We have Ariana Fotinakis on the podcast who is a coach. She’s a breathwork facilitator and she helps people to learn how to regulate their nervous system so they can achieve amazing things in their lives. And today, we really got down and talked about how this affects us as runners. Ariana was a runner herself and experienced some very interesting systems including IT Band syndrome and fatigue and burn out and she was able to heal her body using some of the tools that she is going to talk to us about today. And I just think that this episode is so so important with the culture that we live in today with all of the information that is coming at us on a daily basis and how busy we all are. It is so important to recognize the role that our nervous system plays in the way we feel and the way that our running goes and pretty much everything that we do in our lives and so this is a super important episode for us as runners but really for us as human beings. And you guys will connect with Ariana’s energy and how she uses and share some very very powerful tools with us that we can use to help improve how we feel, how we show up and how our body feels and the results that we get in our running. So, enjoy this episode with Ariana Fotinakis.
ANGIE: All right real-life runners, welcome to today’s episode. I am so excited to have somebody a little bit different on the podcast today. This is not uhm, who we typically talked to and I am definitely wanna be doing certainly more of this expert’s style interviews but we have someone on the podcast today who’s going to help us understand our nervous system better which you might be asking yourself as a runner, why do I need to worry about my nervous system, but you know, it is so important for us to understand our bodies as a whole and as runners we tend to think about our musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system and a lot of us kinda neglect our nervous system, but the nervous system is what is in control of everything that happens in our body. So today we have Ariana Fotinakis on the podcast to help us understand our nervous system, understand how our nervous system might be affecting us as runners, and how we can help to regulate our own nervous system so that we can start getting better result, we can start feeling better, we can start getting better performance results in our training, and so I’m super excited to have her here today.
ANGIE: Welcome Ariana, I’m so glad you are here.
ARIANA: Thanks Angie, I’m so grateful to be here.
ANGIE: So to start out, can you give us a little bit about yourself. Tell us a little bit about yourself, like who are you and what do you do, who do you like to help.
ARIANA: Yeah, totally. So my name is Ariana, I can say right now first and foremost, I’m a mom, it’s a new role that I’m playing, and I’m very very grateful to be a mom.
ANGIE: Congratulations! How old is the baby?
ARIANA: She’s eight months old.
ANGIE: Ohh such a funny age.
ARIANA: Totally, so yeah, outside of being momma, I’m also a coach and a breathwork facilitator and I have too many demographics of folks that I worked with but a really big part of the work that I love is supporting folks with the power of breathwork and using different sematic practices to support their nervous systems, and you know as I said in the beginning Angie, our nervous system governs every aspect of our lives and so what I found is that moving from simply helping folks taking care of their bodies through fitness and nutrition which I used to do as a personal trainer, I’m now taking thing deeper to the role of the nervous system, we’re able to really help folks experience greater results in their lives and their wellness efforts.
ANGIE: That’s really really cool. So how did you kinda get in to it, this area?
ARIANA: So as I mentioned, Im a personal trainer and I did that for eight or nine years, Eight years I think? And in 2018, I unknowingly discovered breathwork, I was at a mastermind retreat with my coach and I saw this breathwork thing on the itinerary and I was like okay cool, were gonna do some breathing exercises. Yeah. And we when its time to do breathwork, we were laying on the ground and they gave us towel to put over our faces in case we started, and I was like I’m not gonna cry, why would I cry and I ended up crying. Had the biggest emotional release I’ve ever had in my entire life and it was one of the most intense and most powerful experiences of my life. So I actually got into breathwork because of the emotional side of things, when I experienced that I was like I have no idea what just happened but I need to do learn more about this and eventually I knew it was gonna be something that come in to my work. And through my process of becoming trained as a breathwork facilitator, I started to notice benefits in my body, so I was dealing with a lot of hormonal imbalances for seven years. My menstrual cycle was like all over the place, painful, uncomfortable, uhm I would have no period for months of the time and after doing breathwork on a daily basis for three months, I suddenly had a four-week cycle that was symptom-free. I was shocked because I’ve done all of the things through you know different herbal remedies with natural pass, traditional Chinese medicine doctors and then the real kicker for me was I decided to go for a run one day and I’d also been dealing with ITBS, so iliotibial band syndrome for the same length of time as I was dealing with those hormonal imbalances, again did everything, all the physio, the chiro, the acupuncture, the injections and all the practitioners we’re like I don’t know, everything should be working.
ANGIE: You kind of want that answer, but it's not!
ARIANA: I went out for a run, I had a pain-free run and I was like okay, what is this wizard doing
ANGIE: Wait a second, wait a second. I just been breathing. And all of a sudden like your body’s like reset itself, sounds.
ARIANA: Totally, and so when I started to notice those physical benefits I was like okay, there is something too, like lets look at whats happening to the body and not just in the emotional and energetic which is important, but I was like fascinated from the physiological standpoint.
ANGIE: Absolutely, so then what happened?
ARIANA: Then, I continue to run like when I got pregnant, it just didn’t feel great, but you know its been really fascinating understanding how our bodies respond to our external stimuli. And we hear so often these days that we need to calm down, we just need to reduce the stressors in our lives, you know our modern world is stressful in of itself, even if you relatively chill life. You know we have the environmental toxins, we brought all the stimulations and then we add on say a busy career, family life, and what happens to our collective over the last two years and folks are dealing with a lot of stress and this suggestion of like just kick stressors away, its not really feasible.
ARIANA: So when I started to look at, how can I help first myself and but then also my clients expand their capacity to deal with the stress that’s here, so that we can become more resilient and bounce back when life knocks us down as it inevitably continues to. So that became really a big part of my work through breathwork and clients who were feeling like lack of motivation to like work out or to get themselves up, you know doing things they said they knew that they should be doing by supporting their bodies through the level of the nervous system, we’re able to get them actually go and do those things. We’re able to get them to calm down and not be in such a deactivated state.
ANGIE: That’s amazing like I think that that is so powerful because like we said there is this just collective state of stress that we are all in right now and just removing stress is not possible like it just, you can’t just start taking stress out of our life. Stress is like a normal part of our human experience, right? And I think that that advice can be so damaging to us also, right, just like, calm down like you said, just calm down or just like remove the stressors from your life, like that’s not realistic advice for most people and I think that’s where a lot of people get very frustrated.
ARIANA: Yeah and you I’ve dealt with anxiety for the majority of my life and I’ve managed to get it more under control and as I mom it’s actually been interesting noticing now I don’t have much time to utilize my tool and things and I’ve noticed a lot of old tendencies coming back in but you know someone’s in a highly anxious state and to tell them just to relax or don’t worry about it or think positive thoughts, that’s really diminishing their experience that their having especially these thing are manifesting in the body we can’t just like positively self-talk our way out of it we actually have to work with the body.
ANGIE: Yeah totally, and like we not kinda get in to the whole idea of like toxic positivity and like just kinda like ignore things and just lay on positive things over the top, we know that just not work.
ARIANA: A hundred percent, and you know I, if any of your readers or listeners listening to this and are, you know their interests getting pits some really great resources, there’s two great books, “When the body says no” by doctor Gabor Mate and “The body keeps the score” by Bessel van de kolk, I think I always butcher his name. but they’re really fascinating book on how our bodies actually internalize all of these cognitive and emotional things that we just push to the side so every time we try to like affirmation ourselves out of a stressful or difficult moment or when we numb ourselves through substances or even running sometimes.
ARIANA: That was an escape mechanism for me for many years that manifest in our bodies as chronic injury, chronic illness, chronic fatigue and so that’s where the other side of breathwork can come into as well as actually creating a safe container for those emotions and those things to come out.
ANGIE: That is yeah, that is I mean so huge, I mean I completely agree with you that the emotional and mental things totally manifest themselves physically in our body, and it’s like I saw it all the time when I was a practicing physical therapist, you know people would come in all sorts of chronic neck pain, back pain you know knee pain, all sorts of things and so much of it like when I just started to kinda get down to the root of it there was so much of an emotional like mishmash like interwoven within that pain story of theirs like it was so powerful just to be someone like listen, like for a lot of these patients you wouldn’t think like listening would help cure peoples pain but it literally did because for a lot of them especially people that are caught in this chronic pain cycle, they go from doctor, to doctor to doctor and they get all of the things that you said you were doing the physio, the chiro, the acupunctural, these things that quote unquote should be helping that isn’t actually getting into the source of what’s going on with them.
ARIANA: And what I learned through that journey was that if we do experience the injury so, yes, I did have an issue with my IT band in the beginning, but I also continue to push myself to run, like that quest to figure it out. And I did half marathons, I did triathlons, and I figured out my walk-run ratio and how long I could do that for so I can still do these races and not be in a ton of pain or how much Advil I should take before, there was very much ago and not wanting to listen to my body through that. And so my body then continued to associate running with pain even when the injury was no longer there. My nervous system went into high alert because it was like, this is usually something that causes pain and discomfort. So that's why those pain neurons continue to fire even when the inflammation wasn't there. My glute strength had been addressed, my alignment was restored. All of those things.
ANGIE: That is so interesting. So can we just back up for a second? Can you kind of give since you are an expert in the nervous system and regulating the nervous system, can you kind of give our listeners kind of an overview of how this all works? Because this is all sounding like-kind of like a miracle, right? Like right now it's like the way that you’re explaining it is kind of like well, you can do all these other things or you can just breathe and have all your pain go away. Which sounds amazing. So how does all of this work? From a scientific background.
ARIANA: For sure. And you know what I'll say it's a both and situation, right? I don't think that breathwork is like the magical pill for all of the things, right? It's just one piece ballistic puzzle. Yes. And so I'll give a really brief overview of the nervous system. So within our bodies, we have our nervous system and our central nervous system is our brain and our spinal cord. And then we have our peripheral nervous system and that's where all of the nerves come from the spinal cord and they go out into all of the limbs and the organs and all of the different parts of our bodies. In our peripheral nervous system, one branch of that is the autonomic nervous system. And so the autonomic we could think of it as the automatic nervous system. It is the part of our nervous system that is responsible for all of the things that happen in our bodies that we don't have to think about. And if you take a moment to just think of everything that's going on in your body right now without you even having to consciously think about it, like your digestive system is working, our heart rates are adjusting based on our stimuli. I'm talking right now, I'm doing an interview. I'm not wanting to mess up. Right now. So my heart is a little bit going a little bit faster. Our breathing rate, we can control it, but it does happen automatically as well. And then when we take this autonomic branch of the nervous system, we have the sympathetic branch and we have the parasympathetic branch. The sympathetic branch is what's often labeled our fight or flight response. So this is the part of our body that maybe sympathetic towards something that requires a stress response from us and helping our bodies get ready for that. It's often one that is kind of villainized in the world. We say that we spend too much time in fight or flight and we need to get out of it. But the reality is that we want our sympathetic nervous system to work because that's what's working when you're going for a run. That's what's working if you are driving and you almost get T boned by someone and you move your car out of the way. Like the sympathetic nervous system is really important. The other side of that is our parasympathetic nervous system and this is like the slowdown portion of the nervous system. So this is what gets us into a state of restoration and repair. This is what allows us to digest our food efficiently. This is what helps us just kind of be a little bit more chill. And again, the conversation around the nervous system is often grossly oversimplified because we kind of put the parasympathetic nervous system on a pedestal. But we can also have too much parasympathetic activation and that can show up as being stuck in a freeze state. Some things that are often just like blanketly diagnosed as depression can actually be a sign of too much parasympathetic activation. So what we want in a healthy, well-regulated nervous system is the ability to go back and forth between these two states, to go up into a sympathetic state when the stressor is there and come down into parasympathetic when the stressor is no longer present. What tends to happen is that in our busy world, as we talked about, we have so much stress and there's so much going on that we go up into parasympathetic and then we get stuck up there. We have all of these stress hormones. So the cortisol, the adrenaline and norepinephrine, all of those are coursing through our bodies. And because stressors rarely go away and because our bodies are used to looking for the next stressor, especially if we dealt with a lot of different experiences in our childhood, we stay in that activated state. Our bodies can only stay in that state for so long. And for some folks it's days. For some it's weeks. For some, it's months. For some, it's years. Different bodies can tolerate this for different lengths of time, but then eventually we crash. And that's when we experience burnout. That's when we might start to notice different chronic health issues, different injuries, pains, things that we can't seem to get to the root of. And that's also when we tend to get into that kind of like immobile I can't get myself up to do things I'm feeling. When I experienced burnout as a runner, I was like, I know I should go for a run. I know it makes me feel better, but I just can't seem to get myself up and doing it.
ANGIE: Yeah, I have no energy for it.
ARIANA: Totally no energy, no motivation. The things that you enjoy just don't seem appealing. And that's because the nervous system, it goes into all of those organs. It goes into all of our tissues, into all of our limbs, and it can cause tension. It can cause holding patterns in different ways. It can cause some organs to not work in an optimal manner. And so not just through breath work, because breathwork isn't right for every single person at every stage of their journey. But if we can begin to support the body on the level of the nervous system, we can start to ease some of those stress hormones that are constantly flooding the body and to essentially let the system just settle again so that it's not holding on and waiting for the next shoe to drop or being prepared for the next thing that's going to happen, which inevitably is going to lead to pain and injury and discomfort within the body.
ANGIE: And it's so funny because I feel like our world, the way that it's set up right now, is just so setup for us to be in that constant state, right? Because of the constant news that's hitting our phone and the notifications that are hitting our phone. Like, all of these things always happen. Like our body is constantly in this state of alert, right, because of everything that's coming at us on any given day.
ARIANA: A 100%. I remember when the pandemic first started, I was still doing personal training. I was working in person, and I was constantly checking the news, like, refreshing, refreshing to find out, am I going to have to close the gym? Am I going to have to what am I going to have to do? And fortunately, I was able to recognize what my body was going into. And I was like, okay, I just need to step back. I told my mom, I was like, you let me know if there's anything I need to know because I know you're watching all of this, but so many people aren't even able to recognize that response in their bodies because we haven't been taught how. It's not language that we've been utilizing. And the people who are teaching us about our bodies are also in a very highly activated state. So we're not learning how to recognize when we're getting into this like fight or flight mode, but when we can start to recognize that it can allow us to take a step back for a moment and to perhaps change some behaviors or to reach out for support or to just take a deep breath. But having that awareness to recognize when we're getting into that is a really big first step.
ANGIE: So what kind of thing should we look for? Like, how can we recognize if we are in that heightened state?
ARIANA: Yeah, it manifests different for everybody. But some examples of some of the clients that I've worked with that I'll give if one of them is like constantly busy, cannot sit still. And of course, there are people who do have greater energy capacities or little energizer bunnies, but when it's like go, go from the moment they wake up at 05:00 a.m. until when they go to bed at 10:00 p.m. at night and the thought of sitting still creates a sensation of discomfort or restlessness in the body, that's something to look at.
ANGIE: Okay, guilty. Guilty. Like I'm one of those people for sure that if I'm sitting still, I feel like I should be doing something.
ARIANA: A 100%. And I totally resonate with you too. And it's been interesting to be able to witness the difference. And we can't always from an outsider looking in, we don't always know. Right. Because I've had states where I've been really well regulated, but I've been so passionate about what I'm doing and so there is a lot of output and I am on the go, but it feels really grounded inside and when I need to pause and take a break for lunch, that's fine. Whereas Ariana, like five or six years ago, like, I did not want to be alone with myself, alone with my thoughts, if I wasn't doing anything. What does this mean about me? All of that kind of stuff.
ANGIE: Right? Yeah. Especially if when you're running your own business, like when you're running your own business, there's something that you can always be doing. Right? And that's what our brain wants to tell us. It's like, well, you should be doing this or you should be doing that, or you should be checking on your clients, or there's always something.
ARIANA: Literally always something. That's a really tangible one. But other things that we can look out for are like persistent injuries, persistent pain. So again, these kind of inexplicable things that are happening in the body, if you've gone to see the different practitioners and they're like, well, everything looks good, or if you're dealing with like chronic digestive issues, if you are constantly tired and you're always just fueling with more caffeine or just dragging yourself through it, there's an indicator that there may be something going on with your nervous system. And again, it's not always, but it's something worth looking at. If you're not finding solutions in the first means that you're going through.
ANGIE: Yeah, it's just like one of those flags that will kind of alert you. Maybe you should take a look in this area.
ANGIE: Yeah. All right, cool. So if we then decide that, okay, there's a possibility that I could be in a heightened state now, what do we do about it?
ARIANA: Good question. This is one of the things, and I know we love like, a six step process in our…
ANGIE: I know especially as runners, right? We're used to like a training plan. Like, I have a goal and I have to hit my mileage. And this, this and this and these are the exercises I need to do. It's, like, all laid out. It's very step by step and very methodical.
ARIANA: Week one, we're doing this, right. And unfortunately, with the nervous system, we don't have that. And I believe, too, that even with runners, it's beneficial to take that plan and then have it fit you and your unique lifestyle.
ARIANA: And it's the same thing with regulating your nervous system. You know, we are all going to respond differently to different things because our nervous system has had its own journey with us throughout its life. Some really basic things that we can start with, though, first, just cultivating that awareness. Like I said, something else that can be really beneficial if this doesn't cause discomfort in the body sometimes for folks, like focusing on the breath, like when we talk about meditating and stuff, that can cause more anxiety and more overwhelming the body. So this may not be for everyone, but if we can take some long, slow, deep breaths where essentially our exhale is longer than our inhale, that's really great at bringing the nervous system down within the moment. It's not going to fully regulate us and heal our nervous systems, but maybe you almost get into a car accident and you're like, everything was fine, but you're feeling that if we can take, say, like a three or four second inhale and a seven to an eight-second exhale and do that for a few times, that's going to start to bring the body down.
ARIANA: And that's a great in-the-moment practice. Something else that we can do, which is often just labeled as mindfulness, but in the nervous system world, we refer to it as orienting. And you're essentially orienting yourself to your environment. So for me here, like, I'm looking out my window, I see some trees, I can see something hanging on my wall, and I can see something hanging on my wall, I can see some shadows that are being cast by it. Really just taking time to fully take in what is in your surroundings and you can do this for a minute or two. Take a look behind you, let your nervous system know that you're safe and there's no danger. Because our bodies are still very primitive. We know there's no tigers chasing us, but our bodies don't know that yet. And if you look at an animal, if they hear a noise, they're going to look up and they're going to look around, scan their environment, and then they'll see that there's nothing going on, and then they'll go back to eating grass or whatever. So we need to let our bodies do the same thing.
ANGIE: Is that similar to a technique that's called grounding as well? Kind of like getting yourself more into the present moment and activating your senses?
ARIANA: Yeah, definitely. There's so many different ways that you can do this. There's one, and I always butcher it, but I think it's like look for five things, hear five things and touch five things.
ANGIE: That's so funny that you mentioned that one. That's one that I've used with my kids at night. I learned this through some sort of like it was forget where I learned it, but it was like when you're lying in bed, especially if they're like that's always when kids want to talk, it's always when they're like they have a million things that they want to tell you. Right. That was one of the practices. It was 54321, I think it was five things you saw, four things you heard. I forget which one is which. And then you go down and you activate one for every single sense. Three things that you can feel, two things you smell, one thing you can taste, and have them just activate their senses and become aware of that. And it was always very helpful for my girls.
ARIANA: I love it. Yeah, it's a really great practice. So that's something that you can use. And then on the topic of grounding, there's a point in between our big toe and our little toe on the bottom of our foot.
ARIANA: And when you're standing, if you can draw your attention down to that point between big toe and little toe, it starts to draw the energy down in your body. So if you're like really spiraling up in your head, taking some time to just connect to that point on the feet is really great for grounding as well.
ANGIE: That's interesting. It just made me kind of think of too, like sometimes I have runners that have pain in that spot that seemingly popped out of nowhere. Is that connected to higher levels of stress in some way?
ARIANA: Interesting. It would definitely be worth exploring for sure.
ANGIE: That's very interesting because common site for like neuromas and those types of things as well. Right there, but underneath at the base of the second and third toe, right on the ball of the foot there.
ARIANA: Okay. So this is really interesting. And what I will say is sometimes the pain really is a pain. Sometimes we do have something going on with the muscle and the bone. But whenever I have a client who, when I was doing personal training and they're like, oh, the spot is uncomfortable, or in a brothel work session, if they experience tension in say, like the lower left side of their back? Well, I know that the left side of the body is associated with the feminine side of the body and the right side associated with the masculine side, the lower back area, that's going to be close to our arutin or sacral chakras. So if there's something going on the left side, could it be connected to receiving? Are you having difficulties receiving the help that maybe you're wanting around the house or things like that? For me, my right side of the body is all jacked up. That's masculine. But like go, go, go do all the things. How I lived for the majority of my life was I'm going to make it happen and I'm going to work hard.
ANGIE: So interesting.
ARIANA: And so it's really fascinating to see how these things can play out. And again, there's not always something, but it is definitely for those of us who work as coaches, but even for individuals themselves who have an understanding of this, to be able to just be curious and to ask some questions and to see where they might lead us.
ANGIE: I love that so much. Like it's so true. Like you said, a lot of times when we learn new things like this, we can go off the deep end and be like, oh my gosh, this is like a deep rooted thing. Meaning that I'm not getting the help I receive or whatever that I need. But like you said, sometimes the pain is just a pain. But I love how you said earlier how breath work is just another tool, right? Because that's really what all of this is. That's really how we are going to be. The healthiest versions of ourselves is just taking all of these tools and figuring out how they work for us. And when something doesn't seem to make sense, when it doesn't seem to respond to kind of the typical treatment or the first couple of stages of treatment, having that ability to look at it a little bit differently and getting a little bit more curious and saying, okay, is there something deeper going on here? It's such a powerful tool for us to use, but just as runners and as human beings
ARIANA: 100%.And what I want to say about these tools as well, that breath that I shared with the long exhale, as I said, that's a great in-the-moment kind of thing. But we can look at our training or our regulating of the nervous system as we would train for a marathon. So we don't just do our long run on marathon day. We do our runs and we do our strength training and our recovery exercises on the time leading up to our marathon. And so we want to treat our tools that we use to support our nervous systems in the same way. It's almost like we're training ourselves for when those big stressful moments do happen and we don't get as activated, there's slightly less of a fight or flight response. And then over time, as well as we're consistent with it, any of that stored survival stress that is in the body, it will start to dissipate it and to allow our bodies to come back to a state of balance.
ANGIE: That's so cool. Okay, so step one would be bringing awareness to it, right? Kind of like anything like you were saying, and I love what you were talking about, like, customizing this right to every single individual. Because that's totally how we look at training plans again, as well, we don't believe in generic plans. We believe in giving you some tools and kind of a structure and a skeleton and then helping our athletes figure out, okay, what's best for me? How do I assemble a training plan in the way that's best for my body, my goals, my experience? Same thing with what you're saying. At least that's what I'm hearing, right? It's like, here are the tools of breath work. Okay, so first, let's bring some awareness to the situation. Second, let's practice some deeper breathing, right, like learning how to exhale for longer than we inhale. That would be like, a really good first step to go. What are some other things besides those two things? I think that those are two very good places for us to all start, right? Even if we have been exposed to this before, I think it's one of those things that we can always just, again, come back to over and over again and kind of see having those check-ins with ourselves, like on a daily basis, that, okay, my life is different today than it was three weeks ago. Right? Like, am I still responding in a way that I'm conditioned to, or am I being consciously aware of how I'm responding to my daily life?
ARIANA: A 100%. And within that check in, there's a great tool called the window of tolerance. It's something that's often used in therapeutic settings, and it's a scale from zero to ten and between the three and the four. So essentially from three to seven, if we can identify that we're sort of in there, that's like a pretty balanced, well regulated state. But if we're in, like, the one, two, three, that's usually when we're in a state of hypo arousal. So we're in kind of that like shutdown or freeze mode.
ARIANA: And then the ten is when I'm in, like, a highly activated state, so I'm in that fight or flight. And if we can make a point of just checking in with ourselves each day, where in my window of tolerance am I?
ANGIE: How do we tell that?
ARIANA: I would just say that it's like a check-in with yourself and your body. So again, if we're feeling that, like, really jittery, anxious, can't sit still kind of thing, we're likely going to be on that higher end.
ARIANA: If I am feeling really sluggish, if I'm feeling like really heavy tired and not like I had a bad sleep, kind of tired, but it's really hard to get my body up and moving or it's hard to get myself to do things like I'm not feeling motivated. That's going to be on the lower end of that.
ARIANA: That's a great part of that daily check in that you've mentioned there. So if that's our step one is having that awareness, step two is bringing in some deeper breaths. Step three can be that orienting that I talked about. So take time every single day and maybe for some folks, like having it at a set time. So in the morning I do my orienting. I take five minutes, familiarize myself with my surroundings, let my system settle even just for those five minutes in the day. That's a really great third step. To go from there. If we were to take a fourth step, or it could be like a 3.5 step. Another really great body practice, especially for runners because running we do release a lot of cortisol when we run and our cortisol is released by our adrenal glands
ARIANA: So if you think of the kind of the mid to lower back area of your body, we have these two little glands, or we have these two organs, our kidneys, and they look like a little bean. And then on top of our kidney sits our adrenal gland. So it's like a little bean wearing a hat.
ANGIE: That's a fun visual, right?
ARIANA: What I like to invite my clients to do is to place their hands on the areas where their kidneys are so like the kind of mid to lower back area on either side of the body. And you know this will be easier for some folks than others but if you do have a stronger kinesthetic awareness, if you can just start to imagine that little bean wearing a hat inside your body there where your hands are placed. Like we're kind of applying our hands right onto that organ. And now oftentimes when we are in a really stressed state or we're really activated, our kidneys can hold some tension they're almost tightened and lifted up higher within the back. So if we can bring our awareness to these kidneys and if we can maybe direct some breath into there, if that feels right, if that feels available, if that doesn't feel right, maybe we can just start to envision them softening a little bit. Those kidneys. If we think of like a tightened and shortened muscle and what it's like when a muscle relaxes and elongates. It's kind of what we want to think about with our kidneys here, just letting them soften, they don't have to hold on to so much anymore and let them get a little bit heavier and perhaps drop a little bit lower into our back. Maybe we can notice the sensation of our hands on our back of the body here and just notice what comes up for this, how this feels to be placing our hands in our bodies in this way, and then if it feels available now, maybe taking some longer breaths and holding that conscious awareness of the breath and then also the contact between hands and body maybe on those softer and heavier kit. Then when you feel complete from this, you can bring your hands away from your body. Maybe thank your body for all that it does for you.
ANGIE: That's cool. Thank you for leading us through that.
ARIANA: Yeah. Kind of impromptu.
ANGIE: That's cool.
ARIANA: You'll be driving while you're doing that.
ANGIE: Yeah, we should put a disclaimer on that before when I go back and edit this. Like make sure you're not running or driving as you're doing this activity. And if you are running or driving so I know that a lot of our listeners do listen on their runs. Go back to this point and just try that exercise when you are in a place of rest and you can actually close your eyes and get into because that's a really cool thing. I sat here and did it. I don't know if I'm going to post this video recording or not. I might, but that was cool. Like a kidney with a little hat on it. I've never had that visual before.
ARIANA: yeah, the more you do it as well. There's a lot of talk about embodiment these days. Like it's a very trendy word. And embodiment really, at its core is about being in your body. And even for folks who are as connected to their bodies as runners, as professional athletes, as weekend warriors, you know we can still be disconnected from our bodies. And so taking time to feel that physical boundary of your body, like, here are my arms, here's where I begin and end and the world begins and ends, that in itself can be really powerful. And then if we can begin to take that awareness inside and actually visualize like where those organs are, visualize where your heart is feeling your lungs and your ribcage and your diaphragm moving as you breathe, that's really going to help to increase your spatial awareness when you're running, but also increase your capacity for more running and for your recovery.
ANGIE: That's really cool. I like that idea a lot too, because sometimes I know that when I've tried meditation in the past, my brain does not want to shut off. Right. You try to put your thought on a cloud and let it fly away or put your thought do these other things or just notice your thoughts and don't judge them in this. But I feel like and sometimes my brain is on board and sometimes it is totally not right. But having that technique where you kind of like, okay, I'm just going to envision my heart right now. I'm just going to envision my lungs right now. I'm kind of like doing a body scan as you're breathing. That can be like a really powerful tool and visual as well, especially if you're someone like me that has a hard time kind of shutting your brain off during meditation.
ARIANA: Totally. It gives you something to focus on. Even the orienting of like eyes being open, that still is a type of meditation. A meditation purist might disagree, but we really are giving ourselves the chance to slow down, but we're giving our mind something to anchor into and to do essentially so that we don't get stuck in our thoughts or disassociate.
ANGIE: Yeah, I like to meditate a lot of times too. And like you said, meditation purists might not agree that this is meditation, but just going on a walk, right? And when I'm on a walk, just being able to notice the sun, the clouds, the trees, just like noticing different aspects and elements that are around me or the sounds that I'm hearing, like the cars driving by or the dog that's barking in that yard and just trying to become present in whatever environment I'm in while I'm on the walk. And I think that moving also helps my brain a little bit too. Like, it feels like I'm actually doing something, which I know I'll work on more of being able to sit still. But just bringing yourself into that present moment I found myself, it's opened up my brain to receive more information, like that intuition that we talk about, like being able to connect to ourselves or to God or to the universe or to whatever higher power you believe in. It's meditation and kind of the breath work and all of this becoming more present and embodied like you were saying, does kind of open you up to receive more of that. And that's one of the things I've found when I've tried to practice this as well.
ARIANA: So beautifully said. And in that connection to that, something greater, whatever word resonates with you. Even just being here in these bodies, living this lifelike this in and of itself is super wild. When you can really feel into like, wow, my body does all of these things, and there are millions and trillions of cells, each with their own little universes inside of them. I get emotional thinking about it. If you're out for a run and you're maybe in your favorite neighborhood or you're out in nature and you're connecting to the trees around you and you're connecting to the ground beneath you, and you can really tap into everything that's happening within your body to make that possible. Like, what a miracle that is and what a gift to ourselves to be able to drop into such a deep state of presence, to be able to experience that without needing to go to India and go on a yoga retreat or anything like that, right? Like, these powerful experiences are available to us at all times if we allow ourselves to speak, to slow down and really drop into it.
ANGIE: God, I love that. It's so true. And I would like to extend a little challenge to our listeners too. Maybe when you finish this podcast episode, instead of just letting it go on to the next one or putting on some music, maybe take that time if you have a few minutes left in your run, taking time to just check in with yourself, right? And if it's not on this run, maybe it's on one of your other runs this week is taking time without the earphones in to just tap into your body, feel what's going on, notice your surroundings, allow your brain to freak out that you're not listening to something right now. Like, I know mine does sometimes, right? Because I'm always like, well, I should be learning something or I should be using this time more productively. But understanding that checking in and taking this time is one of the most productive things that we can do, especially with what you've taught us in this episode, is that being able to slow down and check in with ourself can literally take us from a heightened state of sympathetic nervous system activation back down into a more regulated state, which can help to decrease our injury risk. It can help to decrease chronic pain in the body, it can help us feel better as runners. It can help us perform better. And like Ariana said, it's not a miracle, but it's definitely something that if we can use this very simple thing to improve the way we feel and improve our ability to perform and achieve our goals, why wouldn't we?
ARIANA: Well said.
ANGIE: This has been so good. Thank you so much for all the amazing things you have shared with us today. So if you were to leave our listeners with one thing that you want them to kind of take away from this episode, or there's one thing that you wanted to add in that we haven't had a chance to talk about yet, what would that be?
ARIANA: Yeah, I think what I just want to say is that your body has the ability to heal itself . Your body wants to be in a state of balance. And I can see from experience that sometimes when we're dealing with these persistent injuries, it can feel as though our bodies are working against us and that we're kind of at war with our bodies. But the reality is that if we can slow down and really listen to what our bodies are trying to communicate to us, we can actually see that they're trying to help us. They want us to be able to do the things that we want to do. They want to support us, they want to carry us through these things. Sometimes we just need to give them some help. And it's really great to have practitioners and things and tools. And I've seen like, those alter g treadmills, like all of the cool tools and technologies that you can use. And your body holds so much healing capacity within itself. So I don't want you to discredit the power that you hold to be able to support yourself in reaching your goals and feeling really great while you do it.
ANGIE: Yeah, it's all about giving ourselves that power back, right? And not thinking that the answer is outside of ourselves. Always. Like, sometimes it is, right? Sometimes we need some help. And it's fantastic when we can recognize that there are times that we do need help, but understanding how much power we actually do have within us is so important as well.
ANGIE: I love that so much. So, Ariana, how can our listeners connect with you if they want to learn more about you and what you do, or maybe even work with you? Because you help people to do this, right, to regulate their nervous system? You're a coach. I do, yes. So how can they connect? Sorry, go ahead.
ARIANA: I said I'm a coach and a breathwork facilitator. So lots of tools within.
ANGIE: That very cool. So how can they connect with you if they want to learn more or work with you?
ARIANA: Yeah, I would say either my website or Instagram would probably be the main hubs. I'm definitely super active on Instagram. I have a very uninstagramable name, Ariana Fotinakis, but I don't know if they'll put the links in the show notes. My website is the same Arianafotinakis.com, and I do have a few videos on my YouTube channel talking about nervous system health and I have some more than I'm in the process of getting ready to upload. So if you want to just nerd out and learn a little bit, you can check me out on YouTube as well. Again under Ariana Fotinakis.
ANGIE: Fantastic. And I will definitely you guys will see her name in the title of this episode as well, if you are curious of the spelling. But we will of course have all those links on the show notes page for you to connect with her as well. So thank you so much this was amazing and I’m so happy that we had you on and yeah I hope that we can maybe figure out a way to do it again sometime.
ARIANA: Yeah it was super fun. Thank you so much for having me.
ANGIE: All right, so that was awesome. And I'm sure you guys got a ton of value from this episode with Ariana. Reach out to her if you guys are interested in any of the stuff that she shared with us today or possibly working with her will have all of her information in the show notes today. So, as always, guys, thank you for joining us. This has been the Real Life Runners podcast, episode number 258.Share this episode with a friend. Share it on your social media, leave us a review and a rating, and get out there and run your life.