Unless you bike to work like me, or are one of the few that drive and park, it is likely that you are taking the GO Train and, or, TTC. For all that we complain about Toronto transit, from the rants of the sobriety-challenged, to sardine-can like conditions of the 504 King car, or someone talking loudly on their cell phone, I think that we could have it a lot worse. Nonetheless, it is a stress park of your day and not a day passes that I wish I could get "beamed up" to my destination.
They see me rolling, they hating. Even on the worst, coldest day, this is still an absolute pleasure
The commute adds more physical and emotional stress to your day than it needs to. Furthermore, it often feels like "lost time" that could be used for more advantageous ventures like exercising, preparing good nutritious food or spending time with loved ones. Like any stressor, it is how we adapt and react to it that defines how it affects us and I want to provide some suggestions.
Even when you are on the sunless Yonge line, moving impossibly slow on College Street car or dodging massive potholes on Dufferin, there is still the opportunity to do positive things to improve your wellbeing. Learning how to better care for yourself or actively working on your health is a possibility on the go. If something makes you better than you were the day before, that is a health improvement. Here is my list that I revert to on snowy days or whenever I need to Ride the Rocket
MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING IN TRANSIT
You wouldn't think it, but the TTC / GO is an amazing place to get some quality meditation in. People will just think you are sleeping with your headphones in while you are blocking out all the negative energy that can be abundant on your commute. There is no need to feel intimidated by the idea of meditation or think that it is just for yogis and buddhist monks - it is an essential component of living optimally and wellness.
The Calm app, which is available as a free download from iTunes provides a 7-day guided meditation course that is easy, fun and a great way to get started. One of the unifying thing amongst some of the most famous entrepreneurs and athletes around the world is the practice of meditation - be like them.
Whether a self-development book or some fiction to calm the mind, reading will reduce your stress, make your time more productive and maybe help you learn a thing or two. Audio books are another amazing option and I have heard they can be found for free on the interwebs but I personally would not know anything about that
When you are lucky enough to get a seat, taking 10 minutes to journal your feelings, thoughts, anxieties, triumphs and challenges is one of the best ways to learn more about yourself, compose your thoughts, set great goals and blow off some stress induced by a bad day or mean boss. Buying an amazing Moleskin was the impetus I need to get me started.
As nice it is to mindlessly listen to music or watch Netflix, your commute is a wonderful chance to explore one of the infinite number of enriching podcasts that are available. No matter what your interests, there is a podcast! I would rather listen to a podcast because it provides the opportunity to learn something new, introduce myself to new skills and on most days, learn something that helps my patients.
If you are reading this, health is likely one of your highest values, and there are no shortage of podcasts available to you. Australia's The Wellness Couch provides an assortment of podcasts that cater to almost every field of health; food, spine health, mindfulness, parenting, self-development is all covered and FREE.
I cannot recommended Inside the Champions Mind podcast enough to help improve and refine your mindset to start off each day. There are about 90 episodes to date that focus on improving how you think and the lens through which you view the world. They provide awesome strategies and inspiration to manage stress better, improve efficiency and time management, and build a better life, while still being incredibly fun to listen to.
Other great health and wellness podcasts to check-out
- The Tim Ferris Show - sometimes health related
- Ted Talks
- Life by Design
- The School of Greatness
PHYSICAL HEALTH IN TRANSIT
Making your commute by bike or foot is one of the best strategies that anyone can employ to improve their weight, mental wellness, energy and performance at work. Period.
Mobilize and Stretch
But if walking or cycling not an option, take full advantage of the jungle gym that is the subway and bus, and use the time to stretch or focus on your posture.
Perfect time to work on a tall straight posture - it will boost your energy!
If you are stuck like a sardine during the morning rush, puff up your chest, get your shoulder blades back-and-down into your back pockets and tuck your chin back. Perfect practice makes perfect, and practicing better posture on your daily commute can make it more of a habit. Better posture can also boost your energy.
All those bars and steps make for a wonderful gym space to stretch any muscle you desire.
A stair ledge provides the perfect opportunity to stretch your calves
Hanging handles are a great tool to stretch your lats, mobilize your shoulder-blade and help to separate all the tight pecs, and arm pit muscles. You know those poles that save your life when the driver is in a rush, perfect for opening up the chest and stretching your pecs
Pec Stretch Option
Latissimus dorsi stretch if lots of room or self-confidence
Lat stretch alternative
If you are heading into work on a day that you have an interview, a meeting, or you know is going to be particularly stressful, you have an amazing opportunity to change your physiology; make stress work to your benefit - hack your nervous system - Take full advantage of your physiology and use your posture to boost your testosterone and confidence and lower the stress and inflammation inducing hormone cortisol. Specifically use a Power Pose or at the very least, try to stand on your commute, and have one or both arms overhead hanging onto the supports even when there are seats available.
Shoulders back and down like trying to put them in your back-pockets, chin tucked, core tight
Countdown to 10,000
Make it a challenge on your commute to get in as many steps, and as much work as possible. Every extra step is one closer to the daily 10,000-20,000 steps that we should all be getting. These small steps are not life changing in one day. However, the cumulative effect they will have over the weeks, months, years and decades of a career are incredible. The key is mindset; how can I give myself more work to do!
- Use the stairs instead of an escalator.
- Get off on the opposite corner of your subway destination so that you have to walk across the street.
- Ride in the subway / Go Train cars farthest from the stairwell.
- Get off your TTC bus or subway one stop early
- Walk instead of taking a bus or streetcar transfer
- Do not lick the pole-handles no matter how double-dog dared you are
- Blow by that McDonald's
- Pack nutritious food specifically for your commute for when you inevitably get hungry
- Dr Alex
If you think that your health is holding you back or want to feel and perform even better, Dr Alex can help.
Dr Alex is a chiropractor and neurofunctional acupuncture provider practicing at Park Road Healing Arts near Yonge and Bloor. He helps people to achieve more from their bodies by restoring and optimization function of the nervous system. If you are looking to improve your health in general or have specific concerns like neck or back pain, headaches, poor posture, numbness and tingling or chronic sports injuries, he looks forward to helping with compassionate care.