Exercising in an hour? Have a cup of coffee!

It’s not just for breakfast any more! Coffee can improve your workout, researchers have shown. Researchers conducted a study in which a sample of inactive men were monitored biking with and without caffeine. While the men said they put forth the same amount of energy whether or not they had consumed caffeine, the results revealed faster cycling rates after caffeine consumption. Another set of researchers conducted a study and found participants who had caffeine before a workout had an easier time holding back cravings. In fact, those who had caffeine ate 72 calories less after the workout than those who hadn’t consumed the stimulant.

I don’t think it’s surprising. The caffeine in a cup of coffee will boost your energy and help you stay awake, so it’ll give your workout a boost too. You don’t even realize that you’re working harder. If you’re not sleepy, then you can pedal (or run) faster. The caffeine also boosts your stamina – letting you work longer, getting in that extra mile (or half-mile for me!)

Heidi Skolnik, a sports nutritionist, also says that coffee also increases the release of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters. So you can work past what you might otherwise perceive as pain or weakness. The benefit of coffee to your workout starts about an hour after you drink it.

Now, don’t go crazy! Putting in lots of cream and sugar or other calorie-laden additions might taste really good, but the extra calories will outweigh any benefits the caffeine will give you. A little milk is good though – the protein and carbohydrates it adds will help kick-start your brain!

And remember to drink water while you’re exercising. It’s important to stay hydrated, and coffee alone won’t do that! Get a good night’s sleep, and drink plenty of water and you’ll get the most benefit from your workout.

Want killer abs? Or just a strong core?

I’m past the age that I want to show off my midriff. Yes, that’s me – hopefully showing that it is possible to get a toned tummy with hard work! This is pre-workout (no sweat!) and I just snapped the picture to show that it’s possible at any age to get the results you want if you work for it!

I was never a bikini girl, and the only 2-piece bathing suits I wore kept that part covered! But I still want a strong core. A flatter stomach would be nice too.

And, I’ve talked about it before but it’s true! A strong core means a stronger back! If you want less back pain, work on your core! Have you ever felt that twinge when you bent over and felt something in your back? Me too. Less now than I used to, thankfully. A few years ago I had spasms when my sciatica acted up. (I sound so old… Bursitis and sciatica…)

But I’ve been working to make my core stronger and it doesn’t take sit-ups or crunches! Professional trainer and dancer Jennifer Williams says that a toned midsection will improve your posture, relieve back pain (I can vouch for that!) and even help maximize toning of other parts of your body when you work out.

Here are five easy ways to work your abs all day for a strong core and a strong back!

Suck it in all day! Whenever you think about it, contract your abdominals, flex them, contract them – make them work! This will add so much strength to your core. Every so often, when I finish part of a task, I focus on pulling in my stomach. I do get distracted (SQUIRREL!) and sometimes let go, but then I re-focus and tighten.

Stand tall! Correcting your posture when you think about it also strengthens your core. Pull in your stomach, and feel yourself lifting up higher.

Sit up straight! We all tend to slouch when we’re sitting down. When you’re at your desk, focus on sitting up straight and pulling in your abs. Make sure your posture is erect and controlled. Pulling in your abdominal muscles gives them a workout when you’re not at the gym.

When you exercise, exhale sharply. You’ll feel your abdominals pulling in. Hold them there! On each exhale, think about pulling them in more. You’re not only working your abs more, your breathing during your workout is better, so your session will be more effective.

When you’re doing your abdominal exercises, focus on the deepest muscles. You may not be able to feel them, but they’re under the top layer of muscles and they’re the ones that will give you a flatter stomach! I’m focusing on those! Easier said than done – I still can’t feel those deep transverse muscles, and I’ve been trying to strengthen my core for years…

So, no matter what you’re doing, you can work your abs for a strong core and a stronger back!

My sure-fire way to stay focused

As we get older, too many things can be buzzing around in your brain. I know that’s true for me. I keep thinking of things I have to do. Chores to be done. Things to pick up at the grocery store. What happened today in the news to make me want to smack my head. What new rule the credit card processors put in place to make my life more miserable? Bills I have to pay. Training I want to do with my dogs.

And the list goes on and on…

I’m sure you have one too. That list is never-ending.

But it’s not the most important thing.

Choose one thing that you MUST complete. Just one. Not two. One single thing. And write it down. Perhaps in your calendar, as I do, since it’s the first thing I look at every day. Or maybe a post-it that you stick to your bathroom mirror.

Make sure that it’s something that can be completed in a single sitting (60 – 90 minutes). If there’s a huge task weighing on you, break it up into manageable chunks. And choose the first one.

And do it. Just that one thing. To completion.

You’ll be focused on that one thing to the exclusion of everything else. If you find that your mind is wandering, chances are that you haven’t defined the task narrowly enough. Or you’ve been sitting for too long. Set a timer for five minutes and walk around a bit.

And then when it’s done, get up, stretch, take a drink of water.

And revel in its completion. And move on to something else.

If you get up in the morning and the merry-go-round starts in your head again, it may be a good idea to write that one thing down before you go to bed.

When you can do that one thing that you’ve written down with consistency, you can write three things down that must be completed that day (or the next day if you prepare your “Must-dos” the night before).

If you tackle tasks like this, you stay focused. And when the task is completed, you’ll have a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. You’ll feel better about yourself, and your remaining tasks don’t feel quite as daunting.

Overstuffed?

We’ve all been there. But the pizza looked so good! I couldn’t resist the Alfredo! Just one more piece of apple pie? Munchies during the game! Mindless munchies watching a movie.

And now, even a day later, you still feel stuffed.

Don’t beat yourself up about it now. What’s done is done. You can’t go back in time and not eat all that (no matter how much you might want to!).

And you can’t starve yourself today! Your body still needs the fuel to carry on today!

What do you do?

Do your regular workout, perhaps with a little more intensity. Walk a few more blocks. Drink a little more water.

If you have watercress in your crisper, put some in your salad – it protects your cells against free radicals, and is a natural diuretic.

Squeeze some lemon in your water – the Vitamin C helps detox your body and burn fat. Plus it helps with digestion and it’s delicious.

Eat more dark leafy greens – in your salad, in your soup, or saute them with a little olive oil. Dark leafy greens boost chlorophyll levels in your digestive tract which helps to eliminate environmental toxins.

Have an apple (or another fruit) – fruit is full of vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.

Eat some cabbage, artichokes or beets – they’re great for cleansing the liver.

Ginger and garlic help eliminate free radicals.

There you have it. Go eat some healthy stuff. But don’t overdo it!

Feeling the chill?

It’s much too easy to just sit at your desk, and keep on working all day. You’ve got things to do, tasks to complete, and you’re focused! That’s great, until you realize that you’re freezing in place.

Here in Chicagoland, it’s been a very cold winter. Really cold… There was an article in the Chicago Tribune not long ago that offices are routinely kept at a much colder temperature in the wintertime  than is comfortable for most people, to cut costs. Many people wear extra layers, keep sweaters in desk drawers or use electric heaters to combat the chill.

I’m at my little shop, where the furnace doesn’t work all that well. And some days this winter it’s been exceedingly cold. I try to make a habit of getting up and walking around every hour or so, just to keep my knees from getting stiff. But on really cold days, I need to get the blood flowing even more.

So, I’ll stand up and do a few sets of jumping jacks. (Not when customers are in the shop, of course!) Or I’ll turn on the radio or Pandora (yes, the free version) and get up and boogie. Yes, I’ll dance right out in public! It’s kind of freeing… Knowing that anyone can walk in the door and I’ll be grooving to some classic rock!

But I’ll be warmer. And then I’ll drink some water.

Even in the winter it’s important to hydrate. It’s all too easy to become dehydrated in the winter, because you’re so cold you don’t think about it!

So, this winter, dance and drink water!

What does 62 look like?

Weird to think that I’m 62. And a half. I don’t feel much different than I did when I was 40. Or 30. But maybe I just got used to it?

Anyway, this is my 62. I do stuff I like to do – in between the stuff I have to do. I read stuff I want to read. I fall asleep in front of the TV in the evening.  I cook stuff I like to eat. And I eat stuff I like. Most of it’s healthy. I have a cocktail in the evening (sometimes). I train my dogs and compete with them in performance events.

I write. I listen to music. Sometimes when a song I like is playing, I’ll get up from my desk and dance to it.  (Probably not well, but it makes me happy.)

I like to travel and see the sights on foot. Not from a tour bus.

I work out so that I can do all the stuff I mentioned above. I don’t work out for the love of working out. I don’t. I don’t run on the treadmill because I like to run. In fact, I hate it. But I like doing the stuff that I like doing so much that I’ll work out and run on the treadmill to keep doing it. And I’ll watch what I eat too.

And I practice my balance. As we age, our balance diminishes unless we actively do something to strengthen it. There are statistics I could quote about this, and I have in the past. Almost every day we hear on the news that a public figure has fallen. There are so many more that we don’t hear about. I don’t want to be another statistic. I don’t want my friends to be statistics either, so I make them join me in my Balance Facebook group. They’ve joined the group. I can’t make them do the exercises, but my hope is that they get a little scared by all the statistics and try them.

My goal is to inspire others to join the Balance for Fitness, Balance for Life movement. Especially now, in the winter, when it can be so dangerous outside on the ice and snow. If you’re reading this, thank you! Click through to the Facebook group and join me. Don’t be a statistic.

What, exactly, is fitness?

Fitness means something different to everyone, I think. It could be that what I think of as being “fit” looks like a total slug to someone else, or a workout maniac to a different person.

I think that being fit means being able to do the things you want to do. I want to run around and play in the backyard with my dogs, so if I’m able to do that, I’m fit. Step it up a notch – I want to compete with my dog in agility, so I run on the treadmill a couple of times a week in addition to other workouts. If I can do that, I’ll consider myself fit.

And when I’m working at the shop, I need to be able to demonstrate products to customers, and that means being on my feet. And when we get in a new product, I need to be able to work with our dogs who model them – and sometimes that means getting down on the ground to keep a puppy’s attention! (Like baby Booker, in his very first modelling gig!)

I want to travel and be able to see the sights on foot. That’s a different level of fitness than seeing the sights from a tour bus. But, some level of fitness is still required to be able to fly to that destination and get on the tour bus. I want to take long hikes and really see the countryside in places I visit. That requires, again, a stepped-up level of fitness. Perhaps one day I’ll visit my cousin in Scotland. And another cousin in New Zealand!

And I want to be able to eat delicious destination foods wherever I travel. If I’m hiking, I figure I can afford the calories!

But, mostly, I just want to be able to be comfortable. I want to not be in pain, and I know that I need to be active for my knees and hips to not hurt. I need to be at a healthy weight, too, for my joints to be healthy. And I want to do the things that I want to do, without even having to think about whether or not I can do them!

What does fitness mean to you?

This didn’t have to happen…

It’s a new year, new resolutions, but same sad statistics. Here’s a short video I posted today on Facebook. A man in northwest Indiana lost his mom the day after Christmas because she lost her balance while taking out the trash and died of hypothermia. She had been waiting to see a doctor for balance-related issues. Granted, some balance issues need medical support and prescriptions, but it’s been proven that simple exercises can improve balance dramatically. Just a couple of minutes every day in the comfort of your own home can improve balance. Especially in the winter, this is so important. Much of the country has seen slick conditions in the last week. If a couple of minutes a day can help to prevent a fall, wouldn’t you want to do that?

Lazy? Procrastinator?

Yup, that’s me! My sister says I’m not lazy, but here it is, more than a month since I’ve posted here and I feel terrible about it.

Paper and pen!

I have tried to be consistent, but obviously that’s not working on its own. I need help! So I’m going to be using a real, paper, appointment book, and using pen and ink, to remind me every day to write. I may not post here every day, but I’ll be writing and polishing.

They say that you have to do something consistently 30 times or so before it becomes a habit. The same thing, at the same time every day. I’ve gotten to the point where exercise has become a habit. I don’t enjoy it, but it’s a habit, and I feel like something’s missing if I miss more than a day of exercise. I don’t even have to schedule it on my calendar.

So, I’ll be writing my little heart out every day at 9:00 in the morning for about a half hour.  I don’t know the topics, yet. Very often I just “write off the cuff,” as it were, and that could be the problem. Too often I think to myself, “I should write a blog post,” and then can’t think of a topic… What might work is keeping a topic list and consulting that when nothing occurs to me.

Organization module?

I’ve toyed with the idea of having an “Organization” module – heaven knows I need one that works for me. I’ve tried many, and have been enthusiastic about it at first but it becomes too much and I drift away.

I’ve discovered that part of “Fitness” is having a fit mind – and if I’m completely disorganized, I feel that I’m falling down on my fitness.

So, anyone out there who’s reading this – how would you feel about including “Organization” as part of “Fitness?”

Feed a cold?

Apparently what I was feeling was not that I didn’t want to work out – it was actually a really bad cold.  And I’m just not used to being sick. I can’t even remember the last time I had a cold. I eat right. I drink plenty of water, so perhaps my immune system is a little stronger than many others’. People around me can be sneezing, hacking, snorting and blowing their noses, and I don’t catch their nasty germs.

Until now.

A good friend was visiting from Minnesota a couple of weeks ago. She stayed with us for a few day, and we love having her. Usually. She complained of starting to feel sick the day after she arrived, so we fed her chicken soup and she took some Chinese herbs. And she was feeling better in a couple of days.

Those were apparently mighty strong Minnesota germs. The day after our friend left, my sister came down with a cough and cold. And then a couple of days later it hit me.

Like a ton of bricks.

I hate having a cold. When I have a bad one I will use up an entire box of tissues. My nose will not stop running. Where does it all come from? I hate to be in public, just because I’m so disgusting! I hate needing a tissue against my nose all the time… but I hate dripping more. And eating is ridiculous. Forget about eating around others! Nasty!

And then the sore throat. That was just adding insult to injury. When I was younger, when I got sick it started with a sore throat. This time the sore throat kicked in when I thought I might feel better in the next day or so. It could have been post-nasal drip (there was certainly enough drip for that!), but whatever led to the sore throat it was just disheartening. I really didn’t want to take anything for the sore throat because all the lozenges out there taste so horrible. And tea with honey only helps as long as the tea lasts. And gargling with warm salt water is a temporary and messy solution.

And then the cough. Yes, I’ve had some fun over the last week.

Fortunately I think I’m over it now and can go back to my regular life. I’ll try not to complain too much any more.

But I wish our friend had left her Chinese herbs with us…