Taking Time For You is Not a Luxury

When you feel good you are better able to care for others, however I meet many people who feel like taking time for themselves is cheating. Honestly, that’s not the case.

You can’t help others if you are wiped out. Be it from work, school, home life, or an illness if you are overwhelmed your ability to help those you care most about can be compromised. Instead schedule time for you everyday. During this time do something that re-energize you. Maybe its a walk, reading, cooking (for fun not because you have to), a bath, time with friends, or other activity that allows you to “get lost” for a short period of time and regroup.

It doesn’t have to be a long personal session but it should be something you enjoy doing and it shouldn’t be something you feel like you have to do – no matter how much it might be good for you.

Its Time to Get Back on The Fitness Wagon!

I don’t know about you but I’ve been slackin’ in my fitness routines. I’ve been loving the summer weather, traveling, and playing but none of it with really direction toward fitness. I can’t say I’ve grown any rounder but I do feel I’m lacking some feel good energy I get from a solid fitness routine. As the calendar turns toward September I am motivated to start again. Here’s what I’m going to do.

First, I’m going to begin with cardio. I don’t know why but this always seems to get me motivated again. And its going to be a hard cardio session. Not a killer one but one I know I did some work in when I am done. Next, I’m going to get going on weight training. Back to lifting a full body routine 2-3 times a week for the first couple of weeks maybe even the first month. After I have my cardio (which isn’t always a high intensity workout) back to 4-5 days a week for around 30 minutes and my strength training at 2-3 days a week I’m going to start breaking into more interval work. I’ll add intervals into my cardio and super sets into my strength training to get an extra blast of cardio in without compromising my time. I’m big into yoga so I’ll keep my daily practice going and I eat pretty good now but I can definitely add some more fresh veggies in while we harvest our small garden and stock up from the farmers market for our winter preserving.

All this coming together sounds like a lot of time but really I’m looking at about 5 hours/week. That’s nothing when it comes to good health – I think I can find that to keep my quality of life high — no problem the trade offs just aren’t worth not doing it!

10 Ways to Add More Activity to Your Day

Here are 10 Ways to Add More Activity To Your Day:

1) Park and Walk
2) Take the Stairs
3) Play with your children or other people’s children
4) Walk the dog
5) Take a stretch break every 90 minutes – get up from your desk and do a couple of simple stretches
6) Pace with you are on the phone
7) Carry your own groceries out
8) Make your lunch or break an active one – replace a sedentary meal with an exercise routine and smaller lunch – if you sit down and eat healthy following a workout you might enjoy it more than a long, sedentary, routine eating habit
9) Each time you go to sit down do a squat first – Act like you are going to sit down but when your butt hits the chair stand back up. By the end of the day you’ll have done a whole set!
10) Add some intensity to your house cleaning routines. When picking up around the house add lunges, squats, and rows to your chores. If you are feeling really good add some jumps or run stairs.

Get creative about your movement and watch your energy rise, your sleep get better, and your motivation to move grow!*

*no guarantees, though 🙂

Letting Go of Perfect

Many of us begin our fitness path with an ideal. We have a vision of what we want to look like, achieve, and accomplish. Sometimes these goals which were so inspiring to begin with begin to weigh us down. Soon they become the albatross that doesn’t let us go and we no longer enjoy.

I was hiking last weekend with my family in the mountains of Colorado. We were taking a somewhat difficult climb for our three small children but figured they could make it to the high lake with plenty of breaks. At first all went as planned, but soon the “how much longer” and “I’m too tired to move” became a constant creating stress for all within hearing distance. Was it my 4-year-olds fault he was bored of this multi-hour walk (we have completed others just fie) or my 6-year-olds fault she preferred the flowers in front of her to the lake we couldn’t see yet? No!

Looking back the only problem was that we didn’t honor the beauty right in front of us because we were too focused on the goal. Along the trail there was much to be discovered and had we been less focused on the end result and more focused on the process we could’ve have seen it.

The lesson in it all was this: having a destination (goal) is good however you should also find the beauty along the road (the process of reaching your goal). As it was we never made it to the lake but were able to learn this lesson halfway in. On the return trip we spend much more time checking out flowers, waterfalls, rocks, mud-puddles, and views!

Why Fat Is Important in Our Diet & Selecting Good Fat Choices – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

Let’s talk fat. I think we have finally gotten away from blaming this big hitter for all our woes. Fat is important. Fat caloric values are worth twice the fuel the other two contribute. No wonder we store it so well. When our bodies are overfed we store fat. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our bodies are amazing! They know we are feeding to get ready for something, so they hang onto the fuel. Fat helps us feel satisfied, full longer, and it gives us more bang for the buck when it comes to energy. As with carbohydrates we need to make smart choices about our fat intake.

Our bodies need fat to function, many of our vitamins need fat to be absorbed, so it is important to choose wisely and make sure to get the right amount and types of fat in your diet.
Here are some examples of good and bad fats taken from Heathcastle.com

The “Good” Fats
Monounsaturated Fats
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). Nuts including peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pistachios, avocado, canola and olive oil are high in MUFAs. MUFAs have also been found to help in weight loss, particularly body fat. Click here for more weight loss nutrition tips.

Polyunsaturated Fats
Polyunsaturated fats also lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Seafood like salmon and fish oil, as well as corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils are high in polyunsaturated fats. Omega 3 fatty acids belong to this group.

The “Not so Good” Fats
Saturated Fats
Saturated fats rise total blood cholesterol as well as LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Saturated fats are mainly found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs and seafood. Some plant foods are also high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Trans Fats
Trans fats are invented as scientists began to “hydrogenate” liquid oils so that they can withstand better in food production process and provide a better shelf life. As a result of hydrogenation, trans fatty acids are formed. Trans fatty acids are found in many commercially packaged foods, commercially fried food such as French Fries from some fast food chains, other packaged snacks such as microwaved popcorn as well as in vegetable shortening and hard stick margarine.

Food As Fuel – Eating A Balanced Diet Before and After Your Workouts

How many of you see food as an enemy? Something to be controlled? Food and health go hand in hand, and with all the choices out there, its no wonder we are confused.

First let me qualify this loudly: I am not a nutritionist. Today’s topic will cover basic stuff. With that said, confusion about food is usually the most common complaint I get, and I would be doing a disservice if we did not touch on it.

Whether you are a recreational weekend warrior, an athlete, or a self-proclaimed couch potato you have probably thought about food. Am I helping or hurting my progress by putting this in my mouth? Common concern. Talking with a registered dietitian, a nutritionist, or your health care provider can help answer this question more clearly.

Let’s break down food. Food is simply fuel. We need it to function. From our food choices we derive the nutrients and minerals our bodies need to function well. We classify food into two basic categories: Macro and Micro nutrients. Macronutrients are Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats. Micronutrients are smaller, like vitamins and minerals.

When we exercise for a period of time we need to replenish our bodies. Its smart to eat a small meal about 30 minutes before your workout and another one within 45 minutes of finishing a workout. Try to get a mix of carbs and protein and look for foods which allow you to do activity after without causing you digestive problems. Following your workout is a great time to add simpler carbs in allowing your muscles to suck up glucose and re-fuel for your next workout.

Here are some ideas for pre and post workout snacks from www.fitsugar.com

Five pre-workout snack ideas:
1. Half a chicken, turkey or lean roast beef sandwich on whole-wheat bread
2. Low-fat yogurt with a sliced banana
3. Low-fat string cheese and 6 whole-grain crackers
4. Hard-boiled eggs, yolks removed and replaced with hummus. (Check out my own recipe here!)
5. Skim milk blended with frozen fruit to make a smoothie

Five post-workout replenishing meal ideas:
1. One or two poached eggs on whole-wheat toast
2. Bean burrito: a whole-wheat tortilla filled with black beans, salsa and reduced-fat cheese
3. Stir-fried chicken and vegetables (try pepper, zucchini and carrot) over brown rice
4. Whole-wheat pasta tossed with chicken, broccoli and eggplant
5. Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal, with milk and fruit (such as a sliced banana)

The Power Of Protein – Good Protein Sources: Eating A Balanced Diet

Protein is what your body uses to build muscle among other things. Another needed source of fuel, protein can help you feel full longer. This means that eating foods high in protein, usually means you won’t eat as much.

Snacks such as; apples with peanut butter, cheese and crackers, cottage cheese and a fruit or vegetable can go a long way helping you reach your nutrition needs and keep your hunger at bay. Protein is especially important if you are trying to gain weight or muscle mass. If you are considering supplementing protein, read labels and research companies as many have long ingredient lists which may contain items you don’t want to be eating.

It is also important to understand how much protein you really need. The RDA recommends .8g/kg of body weight. If you are an active person you may want to pump that up to 1.2-1.8g/kg of body weight. Many people think they need a bunch of protein especially if they are looking to build mass, however the body only uses what it can so supplementing too much protein for your activity level will just result in excreting the extra, so that expensive supplement becomes very expensive pee. You also need to be cautious of too much protein because it can cause problems and place your kidneys under stress to rid the body of toxic ketones. As the kidneys do their work you risk dehydration because the body will need more water to do this.

Protein is needed for many body functions and is an important part of a balanced diet. Take care to get your protein from good nutrient dense sources and be aware of consuming too much.

Why Eating Carbs is Important – How To Choose Good Carbs In A Balanced Diet

Are you fighting carbs? Please don’t. Our bodies need carbs, they are the backbone of our fuel source, however carbs come in varieties.

When choosing foods look for complex carbohydrates. These are things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, brown and wild rice, and some cereals. When choosing breads look for fiber content, make sure that a slice has at least two or more grams of fiber. This helps ensure you are eating true whole grains and not one that has been colored to look like wheat. When choosing cereals look again for whole grains, but watch your sugar counts, aim for food with less sugar. Limiting our intake of simple carbs is an excellent idea. Please, read food labels and nourish your body with the complex carbohydrate fuel that it relies on for energy.

indian spice
Here are some ideas on good carb choices:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole Wheat Breads
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole Grains
  • Cereals
  • Beans

Take Your Workout To The Park – Workout Outside

This is the time of year to get out and to the park. This is my favorite time of day. I load up the kids, pack a book on tape if I think there is the slightest chance they may fall asleep during the walk, and make our way down to the local playground. My eight – six – and four year olds are excited and I’ll be crossing workout off my to-do list. Yep, I will be moving too. This isn’t time for me to sit on a bench and read, talk, or yawn wondering how many more times the slide can produce such a gleeful sound. Why should I wonder…why not find out?

In my line of work I repeatedly hear, “I’m just too busy to spend time working out.” We’ve all heard obesity is on the rise. Childhood obesity is steadily climbing, and is a risk factor in many diseases. According to the University of California, Irvine Medical Center, Type II diabetes is on the rise in children. “Known as “adult onset” diabetes because it usually affects people over 50, the disease is afflicting children as young as 4”, for many Type II diabetes is linked closely to obesity and inactivity. Fortunately, obesity in most cases is preventable, but yields enormous health risks if left unattended, and people aren’t listening. They continue to blame someone else for the extra weight they are packing around; just look at the newest trend in lawsuits and petitions to claim obesity as a disease along the lines of AIDS. Instead we can change our lives. We have the power to create a better quality of life just by moving our bodies.
So, next time you make a trip to the park, play with your kids, run, jump, pull-up! Research shows a correlation between parent-child activity behaviors. Study after study show links between parent activity levels and their children’s activity levels. Being active is not only going to benefit you, it will directly influence your child’s attitudes about activity and their lifestyle choices for the rest of their life. If that isn’t reason to move, I don’t know what is.

Check out my Youtube Channel for ideas on home exercises. Then adapt them to your park setting.

Next time you visit the park,(children optional); try these moves:

General Guidelines:

Pay attention to the muscles you are working. Exhale as you complete the exertion or work phase of the movement, and keep proper alignment. Maintain core (abdominal and back) strength to protect your spine as you work, and lastly have a great time – your kids won’t be the only ones begging to head for the park once you’ve become a player, too.

Lower Body:

Entire Lower Body~

Determine the approximate distance you’ll be walking to get to the playground. Divide that number into six sections. Begin by walking one section. Follow that with walking lunges for one section, repeat until you’ve reached the park. If your sections are large, do 10 walking lunges at a time, rest by walking, do 10 more, repeat until you’ve completed the section.

*Safety Notes: If you are a beginner, wait until you’ve reached the playground and perform lunges while holding a bar for stability until you are confident in your form. More advanced practitioners begin by practicing while standing still. To avoid overstressing the knee, keep your knee over your ankle. This is more difficult while moving forward. Tip: Pick up your toes while practicing to get the correct position. You’ll get the bonus of balance practice, too. Once you are able to do a correct lunge standing still, practice moving slowly in a forward direction keeping the knee over the ankle.

Center your weight over both legs and keep your shoulders over your hips. Go down only as low as you can while maintaining good form. Keep your head and chest up, and keep your back knee off the ground.

Hamstrings~

Run with your children. This can take the shape of a game or whatever they are doing, let them lead you. Try this variation while you run, kick you heels toward your buttocks while keeping your knees close together. This will help you focus on the hamstrings plus run slower letting the kids win one!

Quadriceps~

Another variation on the run, one your kids will love, running backwards. Aim to keep the shoulders over your hips, as you move backwards bring the leg out, extending from the knee. Try to move slower and focus on the quads as the leg extends. To add more intensity lower your body into a moving squat as you slowly move backwards.

*Safety note: Never completely lock out a joint during a regular workout. 95% extension of a joint will protect your joints and allow you to move through full range of motion. Remember to keep the knee over the ankle. Pick your toes up to help you find the correct position, and make sure you are able to maintain it while moving before beginning advanced movement.

Abductors & Adductors~

The kids will love this one. You may remember karaoke from grade school gym class, but never knew you were working on so many things as you performed this drill, did you?

Begin moving sideways by bringing the feet together. Alternate crossing one in front of the other. Again, center your weight and focus on the muscles you are working, inner and outer thighs. Repeat with the other side leading.

Bonus: When you cross the midline of your body you are causing both sides of your brain to cooperate and are building coordination.

Calves~

My personal favorite muscle to say, gastrocnemius, can be effectively worked as you move up the stairs to the slide. On each step pause to do a calf raise. You can lift with both feet or more advanced, one foot at a time. Step on the edge of the stair; push up onto your toe. Then complete the move by bringing your heel back in line with your toes.

Upper Body:

Chest~

The good ole fashioned push-up is here. Find an elevated surface: Stairs, ledge, bar, etc. Standing, place the wrists in-line with the shoulders and extend the elbow. Bend the elbow and lower the chest towards the hands. Breathe out as you extend the arms back to the starting position. Get the kids to do them with you. Work up to ten.

Safety Note: Stabilize the core to protect the back. You will be ready to move into a more advanced exercise when you can complete 10 in good form. The more horizontal you are, the more advanced the move. Remember small is still good – better than big motion, bad form. The spine should stay long and natural.

Back & Biceps~

Everyone’s favorite – the pull-up. The playground is a great place to pull-up, there are lots of bars at different heights…ok no cheating with all your weight on your feet! Find a bar at an accommodating height. You don’t have to be straight up and down. Begin with a lower bar where your body is at an angle underneath. Grab the bar and pull your upper-body to your hands. The more advanced you are the higher the bar. Once you are completely up right use your feet only for balance or cross you ankles and bend your knees to pick your feet off the ground. See who can do more, you or the kids.

Shoulders, Triceps, & Biceps~

Get the little ones involved – let them be the weight! Depending on the size of your child they may be just what the trainer ordered. With your feet shoulder width apart and your knees soft, stabilize your core. Position your hands firmly under their arms and slowly lift your child off the ground. Keep your elbows and child close to your body as you bring your hands towards your shoulders, once you’ve given your child a kiss, extend your arms up and lift them over your head. Again, keep them close to your body. Their feet should dangle in front of your face.

Safety Note: Be careful with the child! A slow movement is required to keep the body in alignment and not use momentum to get the weight over your head. Do not strain your back as you reach up – it is easy to arch back to support the weight – remember good form first.

If you child is too big or doesn’t want to cooperate pack along some hand weights or find two rocks – pebbles don’t count, but make sure the weight (child or not) is accommodating to you. You should be able to perform 10 lifts with good form – if you can do more add more weight.

Triceps~

Back to the stairs, find a low stair and sit on the edge. Position your feet out in front of you – the further you move them away the harder the movement will be. Place you hands directly under your shoulders next to your hips. Slide your buttocks forward and lower straight down until the elbows and shoulders are in a line. Finish by pressing up into the starting position. Aim for 10.

Core Strength~

The swing set is calling your name. Begin by swinging. As you move higher into the air use your abdominals to pump your legs. Add variations: Curl into a ball at the top of the movement – bring the shoulders and knees together. Bring the knees to one side and alternate for an oblique crunch. To build back strength, add a slight back extension as you move yourself higher into the air.

Safety Note: Pay close attention to your body and alignment during these activities. It sounds easy, but adding the mental element will enhance your muscle activity making it an exercise rather than just movement. Exhale as you crunch in.

Most importantly remember to have fun! Move with your kids and they will learn to love moving on their own.

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/projects/cda2.htm

Warn, Ed.D., FACSM, Dianne. “Getting Kids Active Begins at Home.” Fit Society. Quarterly Publication of the American College of Sports Medicine. (Fall 2001): 1,6 http://www.acsm.org/pdf/fitsc401.pdf

http://www.ucihealth.com/News/UCI%20Health/Fall02Diabetes.htm

Eating A Balanced Diet

Choosing healthy foods can be confusing. Especially when we are so removed from where our food comes from and how it is grown. It is important to start with the basics and learn how to balance your diet.

Food can be confusing. I advocate a diet without labeled foods (whole foods) and eating an abundance of colors (fruits and vegetables). If you must read a label, choose a small ingredient list (listed from most to least). Try to avoid processed foods with long ingredient lists, especially if the majority of the list you cannot pronounce, and those full of artificial flavors and colors.

Fat and carbs are not the bad guys, they are simply fuel for our bodies. Protein has a nutritional benefit; however, it can cause problems if taken in great quantities. An educated consumer has the means to make wonderful food choices each day. We have a plethora of foods available to us, more than at any other time in history. Educate yourself about food so you understand what you are putting in your body, because you are what you eat – for better or worse.

In the next few weeks we’ll look at carbs, protein, and fats individually so you’ll have the tools you’ll need to make educated food choices