Use Intervals to Stay on Track This Season

For many clients I create quick workouts.  I deal with busy people, people who have children, people who work long hours, people who have life outside fitness. These people are able to fit it all in because they understand the value of exercise and the payoff they get is more energy, less stress, better sleep, and they are more productive even with minimal amounts of exercise. Now, I do not mean to lecture so let’s talk about quick workouts.

Many people use interval training to get better at an activity. I use it with clients to build their endurance. Basically, you begin at a lower level, push yourself harder for a short time, and then recover at the lower level, repeat as often as necessary. For example: Begin walking after 2 minutes, then walk faster raising your rate of perceived exertion to 8 or even 9 for 45 seconds to a minute, then return to a pace that will bring your heart rate down and your rate of perceived exertion to a 5 or 6 for 2 minutes. Repeat throughout the workout and you’ve got interval training down.   The last thing you need to consider about cardio work is, how hard should I be working?   The rate of perceived exertion scale is an easy way to measure intensity.  I like a simple one to ten scale.  One is easy, ten is too hard to continue.  Work around a 7.  If you have been sedentary work up to 7 for 10-15 minutes per session. Initially, you may only be able to maintain 7 for a very short time, slowly increase your time at that intensity until you are reaching your goals. This building and recovering from 7 is interval training.

Remember anyone can do intervals as long as you listen to your body, work within your current exercise level, and you should always talk with your health care provider before beginning any exercise, just to be safe. Intervals can be a great way to move yourself beyond a plateau, build endurance, and get the most out of a short workout. When you complete an interval workout you will feel great, excited, and successful. Its not easy but few things worth anything are!

Eat Six Meals A Day!

Try eating six small meals a day rather than three large ones. If that sounds hard – read on – here’s some ways to get it all in.Eat breakfast – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you are trying to lose weight do not skip breakfast, it helps rev up metabolism, which in turn burns more calories. No matter what your goal, eating breakfast ensures that you are ready to meet the energy requirements of your day, and usually will then make better food choices throughout the day.

Follow breakfast with a snack a few hours later, then lunch, then another snack, dinner, and possibly another snack. Wow! That seems like a lot of food, but remember it is about how many calories you consume. It will be too much if each meal is an all you can eat buffet, which you participate heavily in and each snack is a calorie dense and nutrient low choice. You’ll end up feeling worse than you did to start.

Try making the six small meals small, but balanced. Balance out your carbohydrates, protein, and fats each time. The food guide pyramid is a great resource, and you can customize your readout. Check it out at http://myplate.gov – don’t have Internet – the library offers it for free, and they’ll help you!

All six meals should be about the same size and small. Half a sandwich and soup with a good beverage and maybe a piece of fruit. Half a bagel and peanut butter with a smoothie. You have lots of choices. The key to diet is in your choices. Get educated about food choices, begin slowly, and watch what happens to your energy and your waistline!

Staying on Track

And so it begins.  Here we are at the crossroads of holiday seasons, the first of December.   You have probably already begun the craziness of the holidays,  and are attempting to tell yourself it will not get hectic this year.  Well, it will.  A good plan will work better than delusional self-talk.

First, remember this time of year is different. Your routine will not be the same. Your focus will not be the same, and you will have to accommodate increased commitments. In the place you record your daily schedule, remember to record time to move. Write down when, where, and what you’ll be doing this holiday season to meet your exercise quota. What are your exercise goals? Are they still realistic given increased demands on your time? Do you need to revamp them for the next four weeks? Are you ready for the New Year? You should be able to answer these questions clearly. If you cannot, review past articles on planning and New Year’s Resolutions to help you identify your goals and direction. Is it time to schedule time with a personal trainer? I know many think this is a luxury, but a session right now to help you realistically plan for busy times is not luxury when you consider the alternative – falling off track and beginning from scratch… again.

Second, keep in mind that a full length workout may not be in your best interest. Especially if the time commitment of a regular workout deters you from beginning at all. You are better off with shorter workouts than none at all. A professional can help here by creating a condensed workout so you don’t neglect any part of your goal. Many workouts can be shortened to reflect busier times without losing their overall umph for a short period of time.

Third, holiday times are stressful for many people. Many deal with too much to do, money issues, concerts, parties, social events, fundrasiers, and more. Others deal with depression surrounding the hype of the holiday season. No matter which end of the continuum you are on, exercise can help. Exercise is proven to help reduce stress, help you sleep better, it gives an emotional boost, and can help you gain perspective this holiday season. It is important to take time for you during the busy giving season. We know when we are well cared for we can give more to others. The only person who will make sure you are well cared for is you, so do not neglect yourself this winter.

You Will Reach Your Fitness Goals

We have come to that time of year again.  The frazzled, stressful, exciting, busy, and wonderful time of the holidays.  Thanksgiving is up first. Many view Thanksgiving as a time of overindulgence and gluttony, which for many of us it is.  Some view it as a leap off track as they try to complete health ideals they know will be seriously compromised throughout the next month.  Some view it as the beginning of the end. What can we do to make sure the holidays do not derail our plans to a healthier life? One word…Plan.We have spent some time talking about planning. Lets review, first you must be honest about your goals.  What are they?  Are they realistic?  Do they match your desire, or are they someone else’s ideas?  Next, are you committed to making these goals a reality?  I mean really committed because here comes the test – the holidays.  What will you do to ensure your commitment?  Then, ask yourself, what are the obstacles that could pop up?  What will you do in response to those obstacles?  How will you stay focused on your goal? Again, are you committed to these goals? Finally, relax, you will reach your goals if you are persistent and committed.

What exactly does that mean, you ask. Well, it means that the journey is more important than the end location.  What you choose everyday is greater than the sum of choices on one day.

Thanksgiving Day Plan – to stay on track for your health goals, that is.

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time of family gatherings and lots of good (even if not so healthy) foods, many of which are long time comforts for you.  Thanksgiving is also a time of gratitude, a day to be thankful for all that you have in life, not a day to beat yourself up over an extra helping of grandma’s best pie; she made just for you. With those thoughts in mind let’s set some guidelines.

First, do practice moderation. Thanksgiving naps happen for a reason. Aim to keep your portion sizes reasonable and go back for seconds only after you have given yourself time to determine whether you really want seconds or not. Watch the beverages, remember they are calories, too. That also goes for the snacks you consume as you are making all the goodies for dinner. Many of us unconsciously consume calories as we taste, snack, visit, and gather. Try to pay attention to what you put in your mouth. Be pro-active bring a healthy food item to snack on or contribute to the family meal. At least you’ll have one great healthy choice. Eat something small before you meet up with the group. This way you will not be famished, which can lead to overeating.

Second, suggest something active after the meal. Start a new thanksgiving tradition and go for a walk after the big meal. Engage the children in your gathering in a game of hide-n-seek or tag. Do not forget the importance of dish washing. All that cooking and cleaning do burn calories, just do not consume the same amount in snacking while you are completing these tasks, defeats the purpose of your sparkling dish rack. Get others to help clean and you will create bonding time, as well. Play games. Games like charades, twister, gestures, and others allow you to use your brain and your body, plus they are hilarious to watch and play. All that laughing does wonders for your health!

Third, relax and enjoy your day. For many of us Thanksgiving is a time to rest and rejuvenate. Keep in mind the spirit of the day and enjoy it. Stay present in the moment of the day and you will find that watching portions, snacking, and fun are all taken care of. You just have remember to stay focused.

How Will You Give Thanks This Season?

The season of giving thanks for the abundance we have is upon us.  How will you be celebrating what you are thankful for this year?  

You could:

Take a walk in the woods. Listen to the silence and notice the peace which surrounds you. We are lucky to live in an area that allows us to get into nature easily. The Superior Municipal Forest off 28th street, Wisconsin Point, Pattison Park, Amnicon Falls, and more are available within minutes.  Beware of hunters!

Collect fallen leaves and write what you are thankful for on them. This is a wonderful  activity I do with my children. After collecting leaves I write what each is thankful for, then paste them to a “tree trunk” made of construction paper.  Their Thankful Trees become our decorations for the season. It is a wonderful way to help children understand the abundance which surrounds them and to talk with them about what is meaningful in life.

Make a list. Write down all the things you are thankful for and say thank you. If you can tell the people responsible for the items on your list. If not say thank you out loud – no one has to hear but say it and feel it.

Get out and do a Turkey Trot, a Christmas Fun Run, or another active event for charity.  This is a great chance to feel your own strength, give thanks for it, and help others in the process. Not to mention the friendship and camaraderie you gain and can give thanks for as you build relationships in your life.

When cooking meals for those who will share your spaces this holiday season, create healthy meals and do so with love and enjoyment. As Kahlil Gibran states in The Prophet, “For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.”  Give thanks for your friends and family by cooking healthy foods for them.

Watch the snow fall.  I know snow means winter has arrived, but without winter we would not have spring.  As the days turn colder we move within ourselves.  Think about the amazing task it must be to create snow, and so much.  Think about how beautiful the land looks when covered by a blanket of white.  Think about how quiet it is after snowing – to me it is always more quiet.  Enjoy the quiet and give thanks that you are able to watch this moment.

I know I’ve been a bit more philosophical this time, but I do believe we are surrounded by abundance if we chose to look.  Even in these times of economic crisis, crazy politics, and uncertainties we are surrounded by beauty and in beauty we find abundance for the spirit. It takes us to realize the abundance in our lives and through activity and rest we are better able to see what surrounds us, feel what moves us, and give thanks for what we do have in our lives.  Happy Thanksgiving!

 

The Art of Being

The art of being. The ability to just let the flow and rhythm of your world take over. Times when we are able to let everything but we are working on in this moment go when the world has aligned for us. Times when we just be.

To focus on one thing at a time. To just be and in being it is enough; doing exactly what you should be doing in this moment. Keep in mind your body has its own best interests at heart. Gobbling down extra chocolate cupcakes? I won’t say wrong, but I would examine motives: am I being present to this moment or hiding from another?

The mind likes to be active and can spin out of control finding all sorts of forgotten things, like where that thing I lost two years ago must be hiding. When we slow our minds we are better able to connect with our higher selves, to listen to our bodies, and have more clarity about what we are doing and why.  Life becomes vivid.

To get started try to remember a time when you were totally caught up in the moment.  Were you dancing, walking, gardening, doing dishes, playing with children, what were you doing the last time you completely lost track of time?  Remember how that felt.  Do you remember the bliss of just being?  If a moment eludes you don’t worry.  For many we are so driven, focused, or have been taught idleness is wrong we try hard to avoid it and instead stay busy.

The easiest way I know to slow my mind is movement. I find a simple activity I can do while staying conscious of my breathing, like walking. With each step I step mindfully. In other words, I am focused on where and how I place my foot, how the movement feels in my body.  Step one I inhale, step two exhale, and repeat the pattern. If I get lost in thought, I just come back to the pattern of stepping and breathing. Try this for 2 min, 5, or 50.

Once you have the basic feeling of staying mindful transfer this technique to other activities, such as housekeeping, playing, or sitting. This is a time to keep your mind clear so TV, radio, and other distractions are not the point. The point is to go inside yourself so you can listen to your thoughts, feelings, and needs better. Those things take us out of ourselves and distract us.

There you have it, at the beginning of the holiday season, the art of doing nothing and permission, should you need it, to just be.

Hunting Workout Ideas

Are you a hunter? Do you love spending the day wandering the woods, being observant of your surroundings, listening for anything that might be moving around you? Hunting is a physical activity and you could train for it – making it safer and more enjoyable.

If we think about hunting like we do sports we just begin to break the activity down into its smallest parts. First, lets concentrate on walking. Many hunters walk long distances when they hunt but not in the rest of their life. On top of that they carry extra weight in their gun, packs, and clothing. If you live where I do you’re hauling that extra weight up and down steep rocks, mountains, and trails. All this combines to make your hunting more strenuous than your daily life which could result in you not getting the best results.

Second, consider the length of time you will be moving to hunt. Many people who hunt take whole days or weeks to accomplish their task. It may be one of the most enjoyable times because you are actually spending time slowing down, away from technology (for the most part), and just being. However, just the simple number of hours you’ll be walking, climbing, and moving can be a big change over your daily life. This means you’ll need more endurance than normal life asks you to have.

In both situations you can become a better hunter, find more enjoyment, and keep injury at bay if you do some pre-season training. Begin by trying to get regular exercise in, especially walking for periods of time. In addition, strength training will come in handy when you have to cart around extra pounds, climbing trees, and hauling out your rewards.

Holiday Exercise

I know its a bit early for the holiday exercise lecture, but ya know what? The stores are already gearing, the parties are being planned, and the frenzy is just around the corner. Many people dread the holidays because they feel they always put on weight. However, with a bit of pre-planning you can make it through the holidays without too much trouble.   First, look at your schedule. For many people the holidays either become overwhelmingly busy or they become a time to not go out because everyone else is so overwhelmingly busy. If you are in either camp or somewhere in between it is a good idea to take realistic stock of how your life changes during the holiday season now. This will allow you to begin to modify workouts that need it now.

Next, start adding intensity to your workouts now while you’ve got the time. This will allow you to continue to workout for the whole time but pump up the caloric burn while you do so. This allows you to begin to cycle your workouts so the upcoming weeks which have more going on you’ll be able to workout shorter durations saving you time but not sacrificing all you’ve gained.

Finally, remember the 80/20 rule. 80% is going to go as planned and 20% its not. This goes for workouts, party foods, and obligations. So don’t beat yourself up if you show up at the party and they are serving your favorite meatballs drenched in the best sauce ever – I used to cater and this was one of my favorite downfalls during the holidays! The trick is to honor its something you want, have a bit, and if you still have a bit more remember you want the overall picture of your diet and workouts to reflect the 80/20 rule so you might need to make a few changes in the next few days to get back into balance.

Oh – and don’t forget to prioritize your time. Its very possible you don’t need to attend every party, gathering, concert, or whatever you are invited to.

10 Ways to Keep Working Out in Colder Weather

Are you the type of exerciser who loves to workout in summer, when the sun is shining, the weather nice, and the list goes on?  How do you keep working out when the weather turns colder? Here’s 10 ideas of activities to keep you on track this winter.

  1. Re-evaluate your goal. Is it still what you are working toward?
  2. Put your workouts in your calendar
  3. Create a visual representation of your goal. Write it down, cut out pictures and make a goal sheet, anything that will help you “see” your goal.
  4. Find a workout buddy
  5. Consider joining an exercise class
  6. Is your workout in need of more introspection? Try a yoga class
  7. Opposite to 6 – do you need to pump it up more? Try adding intensity to your workouts.
  8. Do you need to change the time of your workout? This time of year evening and morning workouts may be too dark for you. Consider a lunch workout instead.
  9. Try circuit training – get your cardio and strength in at one time allowing you to workout for a shorter period of time.
  10. Start an exercise journal to help you see how successful you are when you workout regularly.