Tag Archives: health

Healthy living through gratitude

The Executive Edge Challenge is over for 2014.  I didn’t hit my goals – yet – but it was a just push for me!  I’m about mid-way through the Metabolic Meltdown Challenge I mentioned and wow, I’m definitely melting and building tone & muscle.  Today though, I thought I’d switch gears a bit.

I have always loved November.  First of all .. the first is my birthday.  Second, I prefer cool weather to hot and I adore snuggling in soft, cozy clothes.  Third, having a reason to have a fire going is awesome.   Fourth, it is a month that begins with me saying “Thank You” for gifts and best wishes and ends in thankfulness.   I am thankful for memories & gratitude.

By nature, I’m a pretty positive person who looks for the silver lining in every cloud.  Sometimes I really, really have to squint to see it, but I nearly always find it.  I’ve been told I have a “sweet spirit” because I see the best in people and find it difficult (and not a little distasteful) to speak ill of people.  Before I’d heard of karma, I had the sense talking negatively about others would bounce back to me in some way.   One of the really good things my Mom always used to say was, “If they will talk badly to you about someone else, know they are very probably talking badly about you to the next person.”  I’ve always tried to keep those words in mind and not gossip about others.  I tried to pass it on to my children.  Time will tell how I did as well.

As part of my overall positive nature, I try to live with an “attitude of gratitude,” as I think it makes me feel happier.  Research supports that sense. One study from the University of Pennsylvania found that people who wrote and delivered a heartfelt thank-you letter actually felt happier for a full month after, and the same researchers discovered that writing down three positive events each day for a week kept happiness levels high for up to six months.

According to researchers at Eastern Washington University, there are four primary characteristics of grateful people, and these are the ones that thank-you notes and a gratitude journal can help tap, strengthen, and invigorate. People who experience the most gratitude (and therefore the positive effects) tend to:

  • Feel a sense of abundance in their lives
  • Appreciate the contributions of others to their well-being
  • Recognize and enjoy life’s small pleasures
  • Acknowledge the importance of experiencing and expressing gratitude

And, according to “The Greater Good” at Berkeley University, there are physical, psychological and social benefits as well:

Physical
• Stronger immune systems
• Less bothered by aches and pains
• Lower blood pressure
• Exercise more and take better care of their health
• Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking

Psychological
• Higher levels of positive emotions
• More alert, alive, and awake
• More joy and pleasure
• More optimism and happiness

Social
• More helpful, generous, and compassionate
• More forgiving
• More outgoing
• Feel less lonely and isolated.

As part of #NaBloPoMo month, I’ve started a 21 days of gratitude challenge.  The bloggers I’ve seen doing it started on November 1st, but I started it the 7th so my 21st day is on Thanksgiving.  For as long as my daughter can remember, at Thanksgiving dinner we have always gone around the table taking turns saying what we are grateful for.  They have always rolled their eyes at me and both my son and son-in-law each year say they hope I will forget about it, but I secretly think they like it too.  Join me if you’d like!  The challenge I’m doing is from a Facebook page challenge in May that I saw, but I found the author’s website as well.  I didn’t do it then because I wanted it for now!  Week one I’ll look to ordinary things in my life and find the magic in them. Week two, I’ll focus on past and present experiences and I’ll spend the final week being grateful for the people in my life.

I found another one if you want to do the challenge as a family or as more of a parent perspective.   Here are the prompts for the one I’m doing:

Gratitude Challenge

You can blog about these, put them on social media, keep a journal or just stop and think about them for yourself.  There is no magic formula, just do it!
Day 1: Notice the things that bring you JOY
Day 2: Take a moment to think about the things that make your life easier
Day 3: Be grateful for something beautiful in your life.
Day 4:  Today is all about food! Treat yourself to something delicious today. Be present in the moment and grateful for that experience.
Day 5:  Today’s gratitude challenge is all about your favorite color
Day 6: Today we’ll focus our gratitude on something we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) want to live without
Day 7: Fill in the …  “Today I am Grateful For …”
Day 8: A place you are grateful for.
Day 9- Focus your gratitude on stories that you have read or seen. (i.e. can book film or play)
Day 10: The calming experience or serenity in you day
Day 11: Your mom or mother-figure
Day 12: A first experience that you were/are grateful for
Day 13: Today’s gratitude is for those moments that make you laugh until your stomach hurts
Day 14: No, not algebra, no need to solve, just fill in the “x” and “y” – “I am grateful for (x) because (x)”
Day 15: Say thank you to someone. And really mean it!!
Day 16: The people/person in your life who inspire(s) you.
Day 17: Friendships, both near and far, new and old.
Day 18: The teachers you have had
Day 19: Your miraculous body
Day 20: All the love in your life. All the people you love and who love you in return.
Day 21:  Fill in the … “Today I am grateful for …”

To workout or not to workout – that is the question

Never fear, I will not be launching into the soliloquy in the “nunnery” scene of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  Today is a more mundane, though still important and hopefully far less complicated topic!  Flu season is coming quickly and folks already seem to be passing around various maladies.  Our newsletter editor has had a head cold, I had a stomach yuck a few weeks ago (I think my son shared it with me) and when I went to bed last night, my head was feeling stuffy.  I took some Airborne and have taken it twice today.  *handwaving the validity of it* Then, when I woke this morning, my throat felt sore, so I’ve been gargling with warm salt weather and drinking Throat Comfort Tea.  I’m trying to take as good of care of myself as I can.  However, I’m not *well*.  I’m not sick, but not well. I have week 3 of my Metabolic Meltdown class tonight and I’m going to go, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the “should I or shouldn’t I” thoughts have been crossing my mind.

My general rule of thumb is unless I’m uber-uber-sore (see last week’s post on rest days), nauseous (or vomiting) or running a fever, it is off to workout for me.  I was thinking about it though (political commercials notwithstanding, I believe in truth in advertising and all …) so I did some research.  Here is what I found on WebMD (hint, I was right!):

  • Fever is the limiting factor, says Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a New York City-based sports medicine expert. “The danger is exercising and raising your body temperature internally if you already have a fever, because that can make you even sicker,” he tells WebMD. If you have a fever greater than 101 degrees Fahrenheit, sit this one out.
  • “Do what you can do, and if you can’t do it, then don’t,” he says. “Most people who are fit tend to feel worse if they stop their exercise, but if you have got a bad case of the flu and can’t lift your head off the pillow, then chances are you won’t want to go run around the block.”
  • “The general rule is that if it is just a little sniffle and you take some medications and don’t feel so sick, it’s OK to work out. But if you have any bronchial tightness, it’s not advisable to be working out.”
  • As always, common sense applies folks and know your limits: “If you are feeling kind of bad, you may want to consider a walk instead of a run. Take the intensity down or do a regenerative activity like yoga or Pilates because if you don’t feel great, it may not be the best day to do your sprints,”
  • “A neck check is a way to determine your level of activity during a respiratory illness,” adds Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. “If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and tearing eyes, then it’s OK to exercise,” he says. “If your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever, and fatigue, then it’s time to hang up the running shoes until these symptoms subside.”

Here is the good news if you are a regular exerciser:

Exercise in general can help boost your body’s natural defenses against illness and infection, Schachter says. “Thirty minutes of regular exercise three to four times a week has been shown to raise immunity by raising levels of T cells, which are one of the body’s first defenses against infection. However, intense 90-minute training sessions like those done by elite athletes can actually lower immunity.”

A final note of caution and a plea, please:

It’s one thing if you decide to exercise when sick, but how do you keep from spreading it to others in the gym? And what about you if they are the ones exercising with a cold?

“Be careful that you are not blowing your nose constantly. And you should be using a towel and putting it down on every surface you touch and wiping it off when you are done,” says Equinox’s Coopersmith.  (Most gyms have wipes to clean off equipment when you are done or have towels and spray cleaner.  You use them to wipe off sweat … use them to wipe off germs!)

“The value of hand washing cannot be overstated,” Schachter says. “I recommend washing hands before and after using the restroom, before meals, after using public transportation, and after returning home from school or work.”

Also carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel in your gym bag to use when you realize that you have come into contact with someone who is sneezing or coughing.

A note from Cheryl … this week ends the 2014 Executive Edge.  I joined and set a goal to win it this time.  I’m competitive that way!  I didn’t win (the scores aren’t in yet, but I know my own so I know), but I feel really good.  I’m “back in the saddle” and getting stronger, more fit and more healthy all the time.  For me, that is the real goal.  To feel better this year than last.  Most importantly, to reassert my healthy lifestyle.  Those goals I hit!  Thanks for the words and thoughts of encouragement.  6 more weeks of Metabolic Meltdown and I’m excited to see my results from it!

Days of rest

Today is a day of rest for me.  I usually take rest days on Friday and Sunday, but sometimes Wednesday and Sunday.  This week today is definitely a day of rest.  A much needed one.  While I wasn’t in the gym over the weekend,  I did some tabatas at home as part of the Metabolic Meltdown session I’m doing and I raked/did yard work for 8 hours between Saturday and Sunday.  I burned 893 calories during Sunday’s activity alone!  Sunday was NOT a rest day for me.  Today, I woke and knew I needed the rest.  I felt a tiny little niggle of guilt at the back of my mind, but I know rest days are critical when training or staying with any workout lifestyle.

We count steps, active minutes, and calories burned/consumed. These are all important pieces of data that help us live healthier, more active lives. But we often don’t stress the important of rest and why your body needs days off.

From Dean Karnazes, ultra-marathon man:

1.Rest Prevents Injury – It’s common sense that resting is beneficial for injury reduction, but why? Well for starters, rest days prevent overuse. That extends from running to lifting and even walking. If you’re a regular runner, you know how much your legs and feet can take until you just need a day off. If you push it too hard without a break, your muscles and joints suffer from overuse and that’s where injuries can happen.

2. Your Muscles Need Rest – This is likely the first thing you learned about strength training. When you lift weights, you’re essentially tearing muscle fibers. But without a proper period of rest for your immune system to repair and grow the muscle, you’re not going to get the benefit of your training. That’s why you need to vary the muscle groups you engage on staggered days.

3. Your Performance Won’t Dip – In general, it takes your body almost two weeks of non-activity before you start losing a noticeable amount of your progress or performance level. So don’t think that taking a day or two off from training will set you back all that hard work you’ve put in.

4. Over-training Affects Sleep – Is your sleep data all over the place? Over-training could be the culprit. Too much exercise can put your body in a constant state of restlessness or on high alert making a good night’s sleep tough to achieve. A telltale sign is an increase in your resting heart rate. Taking those rest day can help bring down your alertness and heart rate, which can help get you a night of sound sleep.

5. Your Immune System Can Overheat – During periods of heavy activity, our immune systems are constantly activating to repair muscles and joints. Without proper rest, your immune system can’t catch up to all the repairs your body needs. And then? You guessed it: injuries.

6. Mental Edge – From a psychological standpoint, taking a rest period can rekindle your hunger for exercise and help prevent burnout. Mental fatigue can be every bit as detrimental as physical fatigue and taking a rest day helps to recharge the psyche.

 

So, rest!  Rest when you need it.  Sometimes rest when your mind thinks no but your body says yes!

Rest is as important as fueling your body correctly to working out effectively and having good health.  Slow down, fuel up and hit it again the next day  (or maybe the day after that … it is your body – listen to it!).

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Of comfort zones and jumping out of them!

I’m not a super adventurous kind of athlete.  I actually *really*, *really*, *really* hesitate to use the word “athlete” to describe me at all.

Full Definition of ATHLETE

:  a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina

Examples of ATHLETE

  1. Athletes from around the world will be competing at the Olympics.
  2. She was quite an athlete as a child.

Origin of ATHLETE

Middle English, from Latin athleta, from Greek athlētēs, fromathlein to contend for a prize, from athlon prize, contest

First Known Use: 15th century
Not me.  I am more like the Energizer Bunny … I just keep going but not anything remotely resembling “elegant” or “graceful” or looking good during or afterward.  In fact, this is me:
Stilllookpretty
So, for me to get out of my comfort zone with what I’m doing for my workouts is pretty hard.  I’m thinking most of you who are working through the process of lifestyle change are the same, right?
Well, beginning this week and for the next 8 weeks,  I am not only stepping out of my comfort zone but am leaping about 3 counties out of my comfort zone.  Led by the amazing Kari Merrill,  Group Fitness Director at Western Racquet , 25 amazing women (and, well, me)  are taking part in the “Metabolic Meltdown AMPED UP” program.  It is 8 weeks of hard core fitness, fun, sweat, support and HOMEWORK.  Holy.Bears. the homework is intense.  Like scary intense.
But, I need a change.  A push.  My Fitness Energizer Bunny batteries, after nearly 3 full years, are running down and they need to be changed out.  I know this will be so hard, but it is what I need.  So, if  like me:
  • you are feeling stuck …
  • feeling like you are no longer making progress …
  • feeling like your get-up-and-go for fitness has gotten-up-and-left …

 

then I encourage you – no I challenge you to jump out of your comfort zone!  There are a zillion different things you can try … add weights, use the Arc Trainer instead of the Treadmill, do a class, try heated yoga, play racquetball, meet with a personal trainer.  Whatever you have been doing, just do something different and new and scary. You can only get better and more healthy.  And if you hate it, you will have other choices to try.

Here is the motto for the rest of 2014:
traininsane
Let me know what you do!

Balance – Not just for gymnasts and yogis

healthy-balance

I struggle with maintaining balance, also known as sanity, when it comes to my fitness and nutrition.

I really get in the zone sometimes and am on track with eating clean and working out dirty (don’t take that wrong, I mean getting sweaty and really getting it done!).  Other times, not so much.  And then?  GUILT SETS IN.  I don’t give up, but I definitely don’t feel good about myself and I beat myself up over it.

However, living healthy means living a life that is in balance.  Maybe for you balance is being very ordered and always eating healthy foods, working out and doing all of the prescribed things for being healthy each and every day. That is perfect for you and I congratulate you.   For me, not so much.  For me being in balance means I have to regularly remind myself that life is, well, life.  And life means my schedule won’t always allow for me to workout as I’d like to and that I don’t always take the time (carve out the time) to prep and plan so I have healthy, filling foods at the ready in order to eat as well as I know I want to.

It also means sometimes I just go ahead and have chocolate and wine for dinner with a handful or two of Lay’s Kettle Cooked Salt & Vinegar chips.  I acknowledge it, log in and know the next day is a new day for me to do the right things.    More often it means I have a few bites of dessert or snacks or a glass or two of wine and include it into my daily log.  I can do so and not go over my allowances for the day so I feel good about my bottom line.  Now, yes, I know.  Doing so isn’t the best choice for good training and optimal health, but it is fine to do so now and then.  Balance for me means I don’t live a life of denial and discontent because I’m not enjoying things I like.  I don’t do it every day.  But I do it.  And that is part of living a healthy lifestyle and as well as a balanced one.

I don’t want to be old and in ill-health and unhappy about it; but I also don’t want to be young, in good health and making everyone around me miserable because I am such a nag about my choices … and theirs … while also making myself manic with guilt.

So, balance means finding a middle ground between doing everything like you are supposed to and doing ALL the WRONG things all the time.  Let me know your progress and how you find *your* balance.

 

Short attention span

I am a tremendous multi-tasker.  I am doing more than one thing at a time, most of the time.  I also have a very short attention span.  Which means I get bored pretty quickly.  I have talked to lots of people who do as well and they tell me that is why they don’t stick to an exercise program.  I completely understand!  *hand up* me too!  I don’t even take the dogs on the same route each day for their walk!

I’ve been pretty successful over the last 3 1/2 years at keeping boredom at bay by doing the following:

  • I’m very fortunate with my fitness club.  Western Racquet has a set class schedule but the content of the classes are always different.  (Other than Step class for which the choreography is the same for the month and it just takes a while to learn it … fortunately for me!)  They also add/drop classes depending on demand/response. But, finding classes that aren’t the same over and over is helpful.
  • When I can’t get to a scheduled class, or when I’m out of town, I have found MyFitStation on Facebook as well as mydreamshape.com.  They post a monthly workout calendar and each day is a different workout.  They are all planned out so I don’t have to do so, but they are varied without me having to figure out my own plan so I don’t get bored or frustrated.  Pinterest is also a great source for workouts you can do on your own.
  • I occasionally throw in something completely different to change it up.  Like Belly Dancing or a bike ride or something.  Just a curve ball to make it feel new.  I am thinking of going back to racquetball again and I haven’t tried that in well over 20 years!
  • While I, in general, like it better when I work out with other people (a friend or in a class), sometimes I just like to put the ear buds in and tune out the world. I hop on the elliptical or the Stairmaster and read while I work out on the machine.  That also takes my mind off how hard the workout is since I’m without the encouragement of a class instructor.
  • I have had a few personal training sessions and while I’ve enjoyed those workouts; I’m just not sure that is something worth it for me for either the workout value or for the cost value.  I sort of feel, well, a little picked on with most trainers!  The two I’ve worked with recently haven’t made me feel like that at all and I’ve benefited from their coaching in how to do some exercises correctly that I hadn’t been.  I think that will prevent me from injury and also give me the best benefit from the work.  So … jury out for me on personal training but if you need a push or a jump or a little snazz it up … maybe try it!

If you have trouble sticking to a workout schedule, it may not be you or even the specific workouts – you just may need some change up.  I know I would never have last 3 months let alone 3 years if I did the same 3 or 4 workouts all the time.  *ick* You know what they say about variety?  Well, it is the spice of your fitness life too.

Have a great week!

The other side of the keep moving equation

I remember a few years ago when I started the Executive Edge program and I had my health assessment completed.  I was ready for weight (too high), waist/hip ratio (ewww) body fat percentage (don’t even get me started) and the look when I revealed how little I worked out.  I was NOT prepared for them to ask me how much I sleep.  I thought for a moment or two and then said, 5-6 hours a night.  The nurse doing my intake raised her eyebrows and said, “that needs to be 8-9 hours if you want to lose weight and gain health.”

Wait.  Really?  Take 3-ish hours OUT of my already far-t0o-full day and just sleep?  When on earth did she think I was going to get anything done as well as add 5-7 hours per week of exercise??  ummm.. right.  I’d get right on that.

I’m not much of a sleeper.  I’m rather like the Energizer Bunny, I keep going and going until someone ranks my batteries and then I simply … S.T.O.P.  I don’t run down.  I crash.  And then when I wake, be in 20 minutes, 2 hours or whatever, I’m wide awake and running again.  I’m infamous for emailing folks at 3am with an “I’ve been thinking …”  I just never needed much sleep, nor was I good at doing it for any length of time (unless I’m sick); so the idea of just sleeping 3 extra hours a DAY … like 21 less hours of my life available each week … suuuurreee.  But, I was committed to this whole living healthy thing, so I said, “okay.  I’ll see what I can do.”  And, like I do anything, off I went to research.

The sleep-diet connection is regular fodder for diet books and magazine articles. Maybe you have even heard about the sleep diet, which suggests you can lose weight while you catch your ZZZs.

And it’s true, sort of.

“It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly,” explains Michael Breus, PhD, author of Beauty Sleep and the clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, Ariz.

On average, we need about 7.5 hours of quality sleep per night, he says. “If you are getting this already, another half hour will not help you lose 10 pounds, but if you are a five-hour sleeper and start to sleep for seven hours a night, you will start dropping weight.”

I found information, lots of it.

If you’re looking for a fairly painless way to lose weight (or at least not gain) researchers at Brigham Young University have a new solution for you: Put yourself on a regular sleep schedule.

People who maintain an unvarying sleep routine have a lower percentage of body fat than those who keep irregular sleep hours, says a new study, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Led by Bruce Bailey, professor of exercise science at Brigham Young, researchers followed 300 female college students, ages 19 to 26, who were given activity trackers to monitor their movements and activities, including waking and sleeping times. The study participants were assessed for body composition before and after the one-week study period.

What the researchers found:

  • Getting less than 6.5 hours of sleep and more than 8.5 hours of sleep was linked to higher body fat

  • High quality sleep was associated with lower body fat while poor sleep correlated with higher body fat

  • Waking and going to sleep at the same time every day (particularly a consistent wake time) was most strongly linked with lower body fat

And even recently,

Insufficient sleep affects appetite and satiety hormones as well as fat cells, according to the nation’s top sleep experts.

If you want to lose weight, be sure to get enough sleep.

Most people know they should cut calories and exercise more to trim down, but there’s now significant scientific evidence that another critical component to weight control is avoiding sleep deprivation, sleep scientists say.

“There is no doubt that insufficient sleep promotes hunger and appetite, which can cause excessive food intake resulting in weight gain,” says Eve Van Cauter, director of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center at the University of Chicago. She has spent 15 years studying the topic.

Sleep deprivation probably affects every process in the body, she says. “Our body is not wired for sleep deprivation. The human is the only mammal that does this.”

This would be a pretty story with a bow on it, if I could say it was that easy.  It wasn’t … it isn’t.  I struggled and I still do.  Here is what I found helps me:

  • When I’m tired, I go right to bed.  If I get home and I’m feeling tired or sleepy (not a common occurrence, but still), I get to bed.  ASAP.  If I don’t, I get wired and I’m off to the races and probably will be up even later than I would have normally.  I know, I know, I’m odd!
  • I love love love Sleepytime Extra Tea by Celestial Seasonings.  Sounds silly, but I swear by it. Yes, yes, I know.  It has probably become a Pavlovian trigger for me, but I don’t care.  It helps.
  • If I find that I’m tired, but wired, I do some easy yoga.  No, not the pretzel-y, twist-y, gumby kind you may be thinking of, but like this, Yoga for Better Sleep, just 14 minutes long and very relaxing.  That site, DoYouYoga.com, has some great workouts for all the non-yogis in the crowd.  Good, good stuff.
  • If I’m still tired, but wired, I meditate.  You are now picturing me on a mountain top, sitting in a lotus position, chanting “Ohhhmmm” aren’t you?  Yeah, right.  Not so much me!  What I do is either find a comfortable seated, kneeling or laying on my back position, then I don’t “clear my mind and think of nothing.”  That just does not work for me!  But I focus.  Either on a series of thoughts that relax me or music (I really like Omvana. It is an app as well as a website.  Some tracks are free, some are for purchase.  I really like them).  If you have a mantra, focus on that.  Mine has changed many times over the years.  Find something positive and relaxing that works for you to close your day out.  Just something like, “Today was a full day.  I am thankful for what I accomplished and those I spent time with.  I forgive myself for anything I didn’t get done and I commit to start tomorrow on new, fresh ground.  Today was a gift. Tomorrow is a promise.”  Then, while thinking that (over and over), I focus on relaxing each part of my body from my feet up then I focus on breathing.  Just breathing in and out. Feeling my tummy rise and expand, then my ribs and finally my chest up under my collar bones. Slight pause while full of air.  Then, slowly emptying out, releasing any residual stress.  Then I repeat.  I have to be honest, often it takes me a good long while to stop the mental chatter.  But it works.  Stick with it.
  • If I get into bed and my mind starts to go again or I just need something else, I love Dormio.  It is both an app as well as a website. For me, their Urban Rain & Thunder is amazing.  It works nearly every time.  I set the timer for 20 minutes in the program and only for a handful of times have I still be awake at the end of the timer cycle.

Long story short?  Sleep and I have a twisted, difficult relationship.  However, in my journey to health and wellness, it is one I am learning to manage well!

Sleep well, y’all!

This post brought to you by the letter “V”

“V” for vacation!  After my post on 8/27 about getting back in the healthy lifestyle saddle, I headed off to vacation with great plans for exercise.

However, I first spent 5 days with lots of girlfriends (6 of us in one condo) “Fangirling” at Dragon*Con 2014 (why, yes.  I am a geek, why do you ask?) and other than 15,000+ steps per day walking around downtown Atlanta plus standing in place and in line for hours on end and dancing (LOTS of dancing)?  Well, I didn’t workout.  I did take an intro belly dancing class and found some very enticing Belly Dancing clothing to incentivize me to actually take classes though, so that was something.   My eating was actually pretty good.  A few extra drinks those days (*ahem* “few”), but overall good.

Then, I went off to decompress for an additional 7 days (12 total days gone is a first EVER for me as an adult – I highly recommend it).  Those days I did better with 3 very solid workouts, lots of stretching, good food and sleep plus stress-be-gone.  Did I say I highly recommend it?

The workouts I did I gathered from fitstation.com– home of the monthly complete workout calendar that is my fall-back plan if I’m not taking a class at Western.  I like that the workouts are all planned and they keep track of what has been completed recently and upcoming so you don’t end up doing 3 straight upper body workouts. Plus, though they are challenging, you can scale them to whatever level you are.  Here is the Fit 4 Fall:  September Fitness Challenge calendar.

(I’ve been trying to add a pretty picture of it here, but Benny, a/k/a WordPress 4.0, is currently throwing a tantrum and resisting all of my standard remedies:  Mom-glares, counting to 3’s  and sending it to timeout … so, link it is!  Don’t make me stop this car!)

Summary statement:  I didn’t work the “plan” I had in mind when I left, but I did stay active and kept up with my healthy eating without depriving myself of some indulgences.

I’ve spent some time thinking about my summary and I am very comfortable with it.  I’m not on a diet, I’m on a long-term sustained journey to maintain wellness, continue improvements in flexibility and strength and feel better and better about my health and fitness.  “Missing” a week or so is not a end-all for me.  I didn’t “fall off the wagon,” I just parked the wagon and hopped on the horse for a bit for a different view.   Yes, I am in the midst of the Executive Edge 2014 Challenge so I’m pushing harder right now as I seek to win; but it isn’t a “be all” for me.  It is what any date-certain event should be when it comes to a health & fitness journey, an awesome push toward my goal that I am determined to reach and a great motivator.

In other words, I’m just moving along … and my best advice this week?  Just keep moving – you WILL get where you want to go.  Don’t quit and don’t give up.  You are worth it.

See you next week!

 

Back to it – do you ever really leave your habits?

Back to it – do you ever really leave your habits beyond or do they just get put in a drawer to rear their head when you get lazy or life gets in the way?

For me, they have been in a drawer.  (if you have come to this post from the newsletter, this is the video from the newsletter, so if you watched it there … skip down!)

3 1/2 years ago, I made a decision to get healthy.  I was pushing 50 pretty hard and knew that  if I didn’t get healthy very soon, it was going to be more and more difficult if not impossible to do so.  In January of 2011, I started a program hosted and ran by  Prevea Health and Western Racquet & Fitness Club called Executive Edge.   It is a 12 week program designed to encourage corporate and community leaders to LeadWell by setting a positive example of health and wellness within their workplace. Each participant achieves a baseline score by undergoing a fitness and biometric health assessment.They then have 12 weeks to improve both both fitness and health scores. Winners are awarded for Best Overall Score and Most Improved in both Men’s and Women’s Divisions.  My first year I was very very very close to getting “Most Improved,” but I missed … though that wasn’t why I joined the program.

By the end of year one, I’d lost 12 pounds and whole mess of inches.  When I had my annual physical that summer, my biometrics were off-the-charts improved, so much so that my doctor asked me what I had done to make such a change. I told her she wouldn’t like it– no pill, no patch, no fad. I counted every calorie that went into my mouth and I moved into Western Racquet Club.  My cholesterol had dropped over 50 points, my resting heart rate had dropped, my BMI dropped from obese to just .1 above the  healthy range and I had gotten physically stronger than I had been in my whole life.  But I wasn’t done.

Since my goal weight was to lose 40 pounds and to get my bodyfat down into a very healthy lean range, I decided to join Executive Edge for the 2012 year as well.  It went well and I had great gains in strength, flexibility, endurance and in all of my health criteria. By the end of 2012 had lost a total of 30 pounds. I was working out regularly, not like I did during the Executive Edge program of course, but working out regularly at least 6-7 workouts per week.  Sometimes, when I worked out I did 2 workouts in a day, say yoga and then a strength or cardio class, but I was working out very consistently.  I would see people I hadn’t seen in a while and they would literally stop in their tracks (often with their mouth hanging open in shock) because of the difference they saw in me.  I had lost over 50 inches overall – I still wasn’t at my goal weight, but I really didn’t know if my goal weight was even correct or not.  I was seeing & feeling muscles I never had before. I can actually touch my body and feel my hip bones,  my pelvic bones and my ribs without pushing in.  Sometimes, when I wrap my arms around myself, I expect to have them stop, but they keep going because I am smaller.  A lot smaller.  It still surprises me.

You might have thought I had the whole habit change thing down, I know I did!

Unfortunately, life has a way of being – well – life.  So between stress and life, and life and, well, stress, I put back on 9 pounds from my low in November of 2012 and that was in addition to the 8 pounds I still wanted to lose.

Some people, when they get under lots of stress, lose weight.  NOT ME.  I would make it great through the initial stages of some major crisis or Ice Age or something because my body releases lots of cortisol and decides to not burn many calories!  Truth in advertising though, I do have to admit in addition to my workout schedule changing from 5-9 workouts a week to  3 or 4 workouts a week; I wasn’t eating as I needed to and had been doing.  As in:  I didn’t always eat breakfast and I didn’t eat a real dinner, I would just snack and have a couple of glasses of wine most days.  So my food choices changed which of course changed the mix of what I had going on with my metabolism.

I also wasn’t sleeping well.  Sleep is one of those funny things that you don’t think would make a difference to your health, but it does in a major way. What I’ve discovered is that when I sleep well, my entire system works better.  I know you experts out there aren’t at all surprised, but for those of us layman, that doesn’t always make sense.

So, I got to just a few weeks ago and seeing my 52nd birthday coming really soon – in November.  That has always been a goal point for me.  Don’t ask me why “52” is a big deal.  50 wasn’t, but 52 just seems like … I don’t know … less ahead than behind?  I can’t explain it, it is just a big deal for me and I decided I really wanted another push.  About that time, I was having a meeting with the marketing team at Prevea since they are the title sponsor for our upcoming Live Healthy Brown County Health, Fitness, and Lifestyle Expo, September 27th & 28th at the KI Center in Green Bay. I mentioned Executive Edge during the meeting.  On the way out of the meeting, Brian Lani, VP of Marketing for Prevea, asked if I wanted to be in Executive Edge again, it was starting the next week (last week!). I told him yes, he got me in contact with Brenda and within an hour I was scheduled to begin the 2014 session.  This is an unusual one in the timing as they are normally  the first four months of the year. But this is good timing for me – great timing in fact!

Last Tuesday, I did my initial assessment.  The initial assessment was, shall I say, not a happy time. But!  It really showed me where I am right now.  More than just knowing the scale number is higher (which I knew) and that my new smaller clothes are tight (which I knew), but what is happening inside my body.  My cholesterol is up, not into the unhealthy range – my ratios are still good but my bad cholesterol is higher than it should be; my resting heart rate is up as is my blood pressure, again neither of them are in the unhealthy range but they are up for me and that is unacceptable.  My body fat percentage is also up – which is an indicator of not just the weight increase but also the loss of lean muscle mass I had built up.  All of the things that I wanted to fix – and did fix – have gone the other way.  Those annoyingly patient and tenacious bad habits!

My goal this time  through Executive Edge is to win.  It isn’t like a race where I can see my competitors on the track, so it is really just a massive push and commitment to myself and if I get to my goals and still don’t win, I will be beyond thrilled.  But, I am a bit competitive.

Now all that said, I’m still in the healthy ranges on everything so the gains I made through changing my bad habits for better ones and creating a new lifestyle over nearly 3 years weren’t lost or for naught. I have nothing going on that would cause any medical professional concern. Well, other then my BMI and my body fat percentage.  Even those are very close to the healthy range. I am in a much better physical place than I was before I started this four years ago. The physical condition I am in now is miles ahead of where I was all through the first part of this century. In fact better than it was through most of my life back to my teen years.  But the fact remains, this it is not where I wanted to be – or where I want to be.   I don’t particularly care about BMI per se, it misses everything about body frame size, which of course plays a huge part in calculating healthy weight for a person; but, even if I ignore that number, I’m still not where I need to be and I know it.

I know I am going into my heavy health care years and the time in my life where things may start to go wrong.  Well, let’s face it, will start to  go wrong.  The body is a machine after all and mine is getting up there in miles.  So, now is the time.  Now is the time to fix it.  So I am.  We just finished week one of Executive Edge and I’m down 1.8 pounds, though I realize I haven’t been drinking nearly enough water to push through all the extra exercise I’ve have been doing and the good eating I have been doing.  I also have a very sore muscles. I’ve done some very hard workouts this week and last Saturday I was part of a Partner Play training session led by Kari Merrill, an amazing trainer and woman as well as the Group Fitness Director at Western, and three other great women. It was the hardest hour I have ever spent working out in my life.  Thanks, Kari, Vikki, MarLynn & Amy!

So my focuses are: maintaining the exercise schedule I have been doing this last week (3 strength training workouts a week, 3 cardio training workouts a week and 3 yoga workouts a week; staying within my calorie allowance by eating good food; getting enough proteins and potassium; and getting good quality sleep.  Strength, cardiovascular improvement and flexibility; proper portion control and food choices along with quality, plentiful sleep. I know those are the keys to long-term good health and reduced risk of injury.   Oddly enough, you would think with as much as I’ve been working out I would be exhausted.  But, I have had a terrible time sleeping this week. I think it is my body adjusting to all of the changes.  Last night, I slept 8 hours – that was exciting!

I invite you to join along with me.  You don’t have to be on the crazy train like I’m on, doing 9 workouts a week, but I encourage you to do what you need to do for yourself.  The national recommendation from ALL of the experts is a minimum of 5 days a week, 30 minutes minimum of good active exercise per session.  Eat fruits & vegetables, eat whole grains, eat good healthy fats (a non-fat diet is not healthy either!) a low and healthy fats diet is very appropriate.

Over the next 12 weeks, I will be sharing my journey, my struggles, my frustrations – I will also be sharing links and great information to help you, wherever you are.  I hope this helps and you will check back to see what is going on.  I encourage you to subscribe to our Live Healthy Brown County newsletter.  I will add a link to this week’s edition at the bottom of this post.  If you want to subscribe, there is a button to do so in the newsletter.  We will get you on the list.  It has articles for information & education, a healthy recipe of the week,  runs and walks coming in the Greater Green Bay area (some outside the direct area as well)  to get you and your family outside and active while we still can here in Northeastern Wisconsin.  It also includes volunteer opportunities.  I will spend a post in the next several weeks about the importance of volunteering.  It is all part of your mental/social health and those are key to good health as well.

Until next week … have a great week – a great healthy week.  Live healthy!

PS  If you like the LHBC newsletter and are new to it, you can catch up on previous editions HERE

 

 

 

 

Womens Health & Leadership

This week is National Women’s Health Week.  It started on Sunday and is celebrated through May 18th.

National Women’s Health Week is a weeklong health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. It brings together communities, businesses, government, health organizations, and other groups in an effort to promote women’s health and its importance. It also empowers women to make their health a priority and encourages them to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases:

  • Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings.
  • Get active.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress.
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, not wearing a seatbelt or bicycle helmet, and texting while driving.

Monday (the 13th) was “National Check Up Day,”  a nationwide effort, coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, to:

  • Encourage women to call and visit health care professionals to schedule and receive checkups; and
  • Promote regular checkups as vital to the early detection of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health illnesses, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions.

Yes, it was yesterday, but if you are a woman and haven’t either already had, scheduled or getting your head around getting scheduled for your annual check-up, do so today.  If you are a man, encourage the women in your life to do so.  Women often serve as caregivers for their families, putting the needs of their spouses, partners, children, and parents before their own. As a result, women’s health and well-being becomes secondary. As a community, we have a responsibility to support the important women we know and do everything we can to help them take steps for longer, healthier, happier lives.  This isn’t about martyrdom ladies, it is about being in a position of good health in order to take care of those who depend on you.  This is the rationale behind being on your oxygen mask before you help those around you put theirs on.  You can’t help anyone if you are unconscious, ill or dead.

This is also about leading.  Women are often the leaders in their families.  (sorry guys … just true)  They are usually their heart and nerve center of their families. I remember hearing the phrase, “if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” and not understanding it.  But it is so true!  In this case, if the caregiver isn’t well, she can’t provide care to anyone.  Taking care of our own health is the first step in leadership.

This week also kicks off our Path to Leadership, our summer personal leadership development series.  Tomorrow morning at Rennes Health & Rehab Anna Steinfest from U.S. Bank and AFF Research and Cassie Schuh from Zaptastic Professional Coaching will kick-off the series with sessions on Personal Leadership Philosophy and Personal Leadership Brand.    This series is designed to help improve and grow the participants personal leadership and I’m very excited!   Every group I’m in, both personally and professionally, often focus on leadership; but most people aren’t trained in leadership or in growing their own leadership skill-set and ability.  When I typed “personal leadership” into my Google search, it returned 776,000,000 results!  I’d say it is an important topic!  I have multiple books in my office, in my home, on my Nook, on my computer and on my Kindle app about leadership.  Two of the final classes I took last year to (finally) finish my Bachelors Degree had the majority of the classes dedicated to leadership:  definitions, lessons in good & bad leadership and how to improve as leaders.

Be a leader in your life.  You can join us to learn in our very hands on sessions of the next 3 months, you can read some great books or attend the myriad of leadership courses available online and in person.  Hand-in-hand with that education, however, is making sure you are fit to lead (thanks Prevea and Western Racquet!).  And you have to be healthy to do so.

So .. focus on leadership.  Focus on learning.  Focus on taking care of yourself.  You can’t lead anyone anywhere worth going if you don’t!