Fitness

On Patience

How're those resolutions coming along?

It Doesn't Have to Be Epic

Epic change sounds great in your head, but it almost always leads to disappointment. Here's how to set yourself up for success in the new year.

Take Me, I'm Yours!

Want to lose weight? Learn how to cook healthy foods? Whip up delectable & healthy smoothies? Work out more effectively? Need an accountability coach? I'm your gal. Give me a ring-a-ding-ding - my new coaching venture has LAUNCHED!

What I Eat

You asked for it, you've got it. What I eat on any given day.

Strategic Eating

How I've found "Strategic Eating" and the awesome effects it's having on my bod.

A Few Of My Favorite Things

See my top likes & re-pins this week on Pinterest!

Lunchtime Chat!

My first-ever lunchtime chat vid - check it out, let me know what you think!

Frustration, And Its Antidote

bannerpodrunner

Did you notice?  No post at 9 a.m. today?  I'd drafted a post about my newfound love, chia seeds, but somehow Wordpress had other ideas and deleted all but three lines . . . discovered this at 9 p.m. last night and was just too beat (L. up at 5 a.m., thank you time-change!) to regroup and redraft.  Lesson learned.

So this'll have to be quick - I've got PT soon and a bunch of errands on tap today - I promise I'll get back with a better thought-out post tomorrow!

I was p*ssed off this morning about the post, and had scheduled myself to ride the bike at the gym today (pool was closed, double grrr) . . . so what did I do?  I took out my anger on the bike (D. & L. will thank me later).  I have to say, it was one of the best rides I've had in a while, and that's saying something since I ride the bike a lot

To what do I attribute my success this morning?  Two things - first, I got a great night's sleep last night, so I was rested and strong.  Second, I decided to switch up my music today and cycle to a Podrunner mix.  You may remember this post on workout music, I mention the Podrunner mixes there.

Today's mix was called "Upgrade*," and it is a 140-170 BPM mix.  You can look it up in the archives that are right on the Podrunner home page.  This mix gradually increases in tempo as you get further through the hour.  It helped me go faster and longer today - I've figured out, finally, where to set my bike so that I can spin fast, with lower resistance, and still keep my heart rate in the zone . . . in the "old days," before foot issues, I used to cycle with a lot more resistance, but at a slower RPM.  So actually now, the Podrunner mixes are even better for me than they were before!

I urge you to check 'em out - you don't need an iPod, just a MP3 player.  You can subscribe on the site and be up-to-date on the latest mixes (now bi-weekly due to budget issues), or if you do have an iPod, you can just subscribe and you'll be scheduled to download new mixes as they become available. 

And if you like what you hear, do us all a favor and donate to Podrunner . . . they're remarkably well-thought-out mixes for a fraction of what you'd pay to download and create your own playlist.

Happy sweatin'!

*P.S. Another one of my favorites is a 140 BPM mix called "Progressive."

Grab A Foam Roller For Cheap and Easy Workouts At Home

foam roller

Many of you know I've been dealing with some pesky orthopedic issues that are keeping me from weight-bearing exercise.  After 8+ months of this garbage, I'm getting a little nutso . . . watching my fitness level and body tone decline and just feeling bored and out-of-sorts about the whole deal.  So lately, I've been getting aggressive about seeking out new ways to regain my strength and conditioning.

One Saturday, I was complaining to my Pilates instructor that my right hip was sore and bound-up (as it has been for months).  She whipped out a foam roller and showed me some self-myofascial release techniques (really a fancy phrase for self-massage) that have given me more mobility and comfort in my hip and IT band than I've had in years.  Seriously, I am not exaggerating.  I bought one from her at the end of my session, brought it home, and began to explore workouts using the roller.  I can't believe that in 20 years of being an avid exerciser and PT-regular, I've never used one of these.  I'm a convert.

You can use a foam roller in myriad ways - to stretch and massage sore spots, but also to do some challenging balance and strength moves.    A foam roller costs about $25 and it's easy to store - a perfect addition to your home-exercise studio (or living room, as is the case in our house!).  Some days, I do moves on my roller while I watch t.v. at night, others I'll bike at the gym, swing home, and do another 1/2 hour of stretching and strengthening on the roller. 

I have a 36" full round roller (they also come in 1/2 round, if you need more stability to start with).  Most gyms have them, so if you want to try one out for "free," check one out there.  If you want your own, you can order a foam roller from Amazon, and read up on all the variations.  Power Systems has them too, for less money, and I've ordered from them before with good results.  Or, you can call around to sporting-goods places and/or medical supply outlets in your area to see if they carry these.

Here are just a few of the great resources I've found on the 'net for foam roller workouts:

  • This guide from the About.com Sports Medicine area gives good background on what myofascial release is, how it works, and includes tips for self-release techniques for common hot spots.  Includes pictures.
  •  This detailed guide shows you, with photos, how to get at some of your rough spots, and then goes through some good balance and core strengthening exercises.  Some of their exercises require 2 rollers for extra stabilization work.
  • This total body routine from Paige Waehner at About.com incorporates pushups, extensions, stretching and more.  It also includes pictures and recommendations for beginners, intermediate and advanced exercisers.
  • This set of 6 Pilates-based moves provide a nice combination of balance, strength and stretch, and also includes pictures. 

I would never say that the roller replaces the good work of a manual therapist (our PT is absolutely amazing, if you need a recommendation, email me), but it's a great way to work out kinks on your own, in between sessions, and/or to keep up the good work you're doing elsewhere.  Give one a try!

Guest Post: Finding Joy In Jill

Today I'm proud to announce my first guest blogger, Jill Feldman.  Jill's going to tell us about a passion of hers, Nia - a workout, lifestyle and personal growth program all rolled into one. Many, including Jill, have found that Nia's a fabulous way to condition, heal and transform the body, mind and spirit.

Maybe Jill will inspire you to try Nia?  It can be incredibly refreshing for your body and your mind to take up a new form of exercise after many years of doing the same ol' thing.  I'm going to try it out and I'll keep you posted - Jill is going to lead me in a special Nia session adapted to my current zero weight-bearing exercise restrictions . . . yes, you can even do Nia in a chair! 

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Jill Nia 3

I love to exercise.  All my life I have struggled with my weight and my health (I am a young breast cancer survivor and suffer other chronic health conditions), but exercise has never been my problem.   When someone (like Oprah!) complains that she hates to exercise, I have two responses.  First, she must not have enough time.  I can relate!  There have been many times in my life when healthy living has taken a back seat.  (When I was working full-time, studying for the Bar exam, and planning a wedding--all at the same time--finding time to exercise was a problem.)  My other response, though, is that she must not have found the right type of exercise.  It is my belief that there is a type of exercise for everyone, and once it is discovered, making time is no longer a problem.  For me, it is Nia.    

I came to Nia by accident.  A few years ago, I walked into a studio close to my new home looking for a yoga class and picked up a flyer on Nia.  The class time worked for me and it sounded fun, so I decided to give it a try.  After one class, I was hooked!  I had spent my whole life exercising--walking, tennis, yoga, aerobics, machines, running, weights--you name it, but I had never experienced the click with my body that I felt in my first Nia class.

Nia is a form of creative movement that was developed 26 years ago in Portland, Oregon by Debbie Rosas and Carlos Rosas.  Set to music, a Nia routine combines the energies of 9 different movement forms—3 from dance, 3 from martial arts, and 3 from healing arts.  Depending on a particular song or routine, Nia can look more like any one of these types of movement—jazz, yoga, tai chi, tae kwon do, etc.  Experience in any one of these areas is not necessary.  All that is required is the ability to move the body in the smallest of ways and the desire to have fun.  Nia can be done with a variety of limitations (it has even been adapted to sitting in wheelchairs) and at all fitness levels. 

 A typical Nia class is an hour in length and includes a slow moving warm-up and a cool down on the floor.  Every class begins with a focus, which varies from class to class.  Approximately 80-90% of a class is choreographed, with the remainder comprised of free movement.  In class, students are asked to become their own personal trainer, to work at their own level in a way that feels good in their body.   Awareness of the body and how it feels on any given day is key.  Nia students achieve a fitness result by seeking the sensation of pleasure, not pain.  The movements can be heart-soaring and large or small and deliberate--either is perfect.  As the Nia motto says, “Through movement we find health.”

Meeting my body where it is on any given day has rewarded me with new levels of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-healing.  After two and a half years of practicing Nia, my fitness level has sky-rocketed, and the shape of my body has dramatically changed.  Nia inspires me to move almost every day--whether I am taking a class or not,  whether I feel well or not, and whether I actually have the time to or not.  The result is improved health, less pain, better balance and posture, and the ability to truly enjoy living in my body.  Joy!

At the end of June 2009, I took my first level of intensive Nia training and became certified to teach.  As a Nia teacher, I share with my students all that I have learned on this journey to health:  the body holds within it an enormous capacity for pleasure that is available to tap into every day, and there is always time in life for having fun and choosing joy.

Jill teaches a Nia class every Friday morning from 9:30-10:30 at Moving Celebrations in Somerville, MA.  She also teaches some Sunday afternoons at MC from 4-5, including this Sunday, October 18!  For more information, email Jill at jill_feldman2002@yahoo.com or visit www.movingcelebrations.com.  If you are interested in finding a Nia class in the MA/RI/NH area, visit www.niaboston.com.  To learn more about Nia, visit www.nianow.com.

Shocking Nutritionals, For Sure!

Do you know the Hungry Girl?  She's Lisa Lillien and she has a great web site and daily email about nutrition and weight loss that you can subscribe to for free ("tips and tricks for hungry chicks!").  Although I've been a subscriber for years, I definitely pick and choose what I take from the Hungry Girl's emails.  She gives lots of good advice about counting calories and food awareness, and she highlights new diet-friendly foods and all the time, but a lot of those foods have loads of artificial ingredients, which I try to avoid.

The fabulous Hungry Girl also often gives up the 411 on nutritional information for restaurants and "fast casual" places - she is correct that knowledge is power when it comes to taking charge of your waistline and your health.  A lot of places have made this information available on-line (try Googling "Bruegger's nutrition information" or "Panera nutrition information," etc.), but many places have been loathe to disclose.

Well, because so many cities and states are requiring restaurants to post their nutritional data, more information is becoming available every day . . . including (finally) info. on Friendly's, a place that I actually eat sometimes with my daughter.  There is this Honey BBQ Chicken Supermelt sandwich that I dream about, and, well, after checking the stats just now, I don't think I'll ever order it again.  Even I, a dyed-in-the-wool calorie-counter and health-conscious consumer, never anticipated the disaster that is that sandwich . . . . check it all out for yourself here, (scroll down to the second reader question) and also find info. on food at the Cheesecake Factory, Olive Garden, IHOP, T.G.I. Fridays & Applebee's - places I know for sure some of you eat.  'Fess up.

Next time you're going to one of these places, take a peek at their nutrition info. before you leave, and try to choose something that'll fit into your daily budget for fat and calories.  Even if you're not counting calories, etc., you can think about how you've been eating in a given week - if there's been a lot of junk or rich food and not a lot of greens and fiber, you might want to try easing up a bit at, say, Friendly's.  And if you want to damn-it-all and enjoy that Supermelt, well, you know what you'll have to do to make up for it afterwards. 

Belly up!

Shake Your Groove Thing

I'm usually tired when I arrive at the gym in the morning.  And if I'm not tired, I'm often bored - I am there an awful lot, and even though I have strategies to beat machine-boredom, it happens.  But more often than not, once I get in the building I can motivate myself to exercise hard, despite my boredom and/or fatigue.  So what's my "secret?"   Music.  Nothing psyches me up more than a high-energy workout mix.  Music will inspire you, and research shows that music can distract you from fatigue so that you can exercise longer and harder.

It turns out that even some serious athletes use music as a source of inspiration to aid their performance in both training and competition.  The British tennis player, Barry Cowen, listened to a personal stereo system during his match with Pete Sampras at Wimbledon in 2001.  And Cowen later partly attributed his excellent performance to the inspirational music he was listening to during the change of ends. Ethiopia’s Haile Gebreselassie set an indoor world record for 2,000 metres while his favorite song was playing in the Birmingham arena. He later suggested that the music gave him a rhythm that matched the required pace of the run. And in a longitudinal study of Russian weightlifters, participants found that their training quality, volume and intensity improved substantially when music accompanied weightlifting sessions.

There are all sorts of things mere mortals like us can do to harness the motivational power of music in our workouts.  I often do intervals to songs - if I'm on the bike, I'll cycle at 70 RPM as a base, and then rev it up to 80+ during each chorus.  Or if you have songs of differing beats per minute (BPM) in your mix, you can do longer intervals - speed it up for the high BPM songs, slow it down for the lower.  If you're in the treadmill, do hills for the slow songs, and then bring your incline down to 1 or 2 and run or speed walk for the fast songs.  If you want to get really fancy, iTunes will show you the BPM of your downloaded music, and you can make a mix tailored to your gym activity - you can make up a classic warm up, high intensity, then cool-down mix.

I suppose you want suggestions?  I have eclectic music taste, and although I'd rarely listen to it outside the gym, I have a lot of cotton-candy pop, hip-hop and house music in my workout mixes.  If you're interested, I'll see if I can make some of my workout mixes public on iTunes. 

Another tip - for variety, I also listen to the PodRunner/PodRunner: Intervals mixes - they're organized by BPM, but a warning:  they're geared more toward the high BPM activities (running, for instance).   You can download these directly from the site, but if you do have an iPod, you can subscribe to the PodRunner podcasts on iTunes and you will have a continuous stream of new material. 

For even more ideas, take a peek at this Boston Globe article from last April - I can attest to the fact that the majority of these'll get your heart pumpin' and your fitness level up.

Go for it!

Balance. In all things, but especially exercise.

Ahhh, "balance."  It means different things to different people, but most of you would probably say you're continually striving to achieve it, right?  That its state is an ever-elusive destination?  It is for me. I know it when I feel it, but I don't feel as regularly as I'd like.

I've been thinking about balance this week 'cause it's been a crazy week for me, and yesterday I woke up feeling overwhelmed.  When I'm feeling like that, I try my best to tune in and listen to what I might need to perk me up and chill me out, and yesterday it was to skip working out in the gym and to enjoy the great weather a little bit instead.  So I decided to work in the yard for a while after I did the camp drop-off.

Now, this was not easy for me.  Know this about me, I can get a little bit compulsive about things - you may have guessed this just reading the few entries I've posted already.  I'm regimented, dedicated and driven in most things I take on - exercise being one of my biggies.  And when I say "exercise," I don't mean a stroll around the block, I mean a heart-pumping, muscle-engaging, sweat-producing ass-kicking workout.  But in the last few months I've finally learned that balance in matters related to exercise can be better for me, overall, than killing it every day.

I got here the hard way - again.  I've had a series of relatively minor over-use injuries over the years, but since January, I have been dealing with a stubborn case of plantar fasciitis in my left foot, and until recently, I was unable to do any exercise at all that involved my feet.  I had to quit going to my fabulous trainer, who I'd been seeing twice a week.  The arm bike (yawn) was my friend, and even my daily activities had to be very circumscribed.  I was panicked.  I was sure that this would lead me to balloon to proportions I'd never before witnessed.  And you know what?  It didn't.  I did gain a little weight, and I did spread out a bit from lack of weight training, but I could still wear my clothes . . . albeit with a few extra handles in places they hadn't been. 

And after doing some soul-searching, what I finally have admitted to myself is that my compulsive exercise ways, although commendable, routinely get me in trouble, and that really what I was doing was abusing my body instead of improving it.  So, in honor of turning 40 recently, I've made a resolution.  To take it easier on myself.  To take better care not to pound on my body every single day - each week to incorporate one day of yoga, at least one day of water exercise (have you tried aqua jogging?  It's a killer workout and zero impact), a little more biking, a little less running.  So I'll still watch the weight and not allow myself to gain, as I have for the last 18 years, but I'm going to try to stop worrying about the exercise component so much and instead, learn from the experience and move forward in a more gentle way.

I've read it before, and I'm reminded of it here again - Pema Chodron has said:

"People get into a heavy-duty sin and guilt trip, feeling that if things are going wrong, that means that they did something bad and they are being punished. That's not the idea at all . . . you continually get the teachings that you need to open your heart. To the degree that you didn't understand in the past how to stop protecting your soft spot, how to stop armoring your heart, you're given this gift of teachings in the form of your life, to give you everything you need to open further."

Think about it - what freaks you out, what's going on in your life, and what can it teach you for the future?  Maybe you need to be gentler with yourself, too.

Don't Drink Your Calories

It's advice well taken, especially if you're trying to watch your weight.  I've never been a big juice or sugared soda drinker, but in college I was a big alcohol consumer, and all those calories caused me to reach maximum density.  After college, when I began to diet by counting calories, it quickly became clear that if I wanted to put more food in my mouth, I didn't want to blow 150 calories or more on a drink.  So I quit drinking alcohol, and I quit drinking any sort of caloric beverage. 

So I drank water, Diet Coke and coffee.  I used to be a BIG Diet Coke fan.  I drank a lot of it - for the caffeine and for the taste, and I loved that it had no calories.  And although I'd use a bit of skim milk in my coffee, I always sweetened it with Sweet-n-Low.

Now, though, I no longer drink coffee and I try not to drink any artificially-sweetened drinks, either (although I confess to a continued love affair with Diet Coke from the fountain.  Once in a while I have to give into that temptation).  So . . . what do I drink?

Water and tea.  That's pretty much it!  I have a juicer and once in a while I do juice, but mostly vegetables.  I hardly ever drink alcohol - I don't get that much pleasure out of it, and there are some good studies that suggest that drinking booze is not such a great idea for women in terms of raising breast cancer risk. 

Water:  I don't drink 8 glasses a day, I let thirst be my guide.  A lot of diet guides tell you to drink a lot of water, and I have to say that frankly, I have never noticed that my weight loss is affected by water consumption.  It's good to be hydrated, and if you're not drinking other stuff, you'll likely end up drinking enough water without being regimented about it.

Tea:  My default hot tea, what I drink every morning and throughout the day for a lift when it's cool outside, is an organic green "gunpowder" tea from Special Teas.  It's bold, and it's got a lot of caffeine.  When the weather gets warmer, I make iced tea in this glass pitcher made by Bodum.  I've had it for a couple of years and it's held up well - has a stainless insert so that you can brew loose tea.  Special Teas has a great assortment of flavored loose teas to choose from.  One of my favorites is Japanese Cherry, and this year I've made a lot of the Ginger Peach Apricot.  I make iced tea every night while I clean up the kitchen, pop it in the fridge, and by the morning it's cold and ready to drink.  I usually drink a pitcher myself over the course of a day - the only downside of this thing is that it's not big enough to share!