Feeling my age…

Every once in a while my body reminds me that I’m over 60. (Yikes! How did that happen?! Anyone else feel that way?)

This morning I woke up stiff. My back hurt, my knees hurt, I did something to my hamstring, my ankle hurts, my hands hurt.

I guess the combination of standing around all weekend on concrete at an agility trial and a plyometric workout yesterday was too much for the old bod.

I not only enjoy running my dog in agility, I also enjoy watching others compete. I can see how people handle especially tricky parts of the course to figure out what works and what doesn’t work. While the agility course itself was on turf, spectators watched from the concrete floor. And I’m so short that sitting down means that I can’t see… And I certainly wasn’t going to skip or change yesterday’s workout because I was on my feet all weekend. All the jumping in that plyometric workout helps keep me agile.

But I knew that if I cater to my aches and pains, I’d just be complaining all day and moving would be even more difficult. So, I got up, stretched, and went through my normal morning routine. It may have been a tad bit slower than normal, but things needed to get done.

I’m more careful today to get up and walk around more often so my hips and knees don’t stiffen up even more. And I am trying to drink more water to stay hydrated. This also helps keep everything moving.

It’s also important that I not skip today’s workout. I have an upper body workout planned, focusing on the arms, chest, back and core. Yes, the lower body is also involved (no sitting!), but the focus will be on the upper body. It’s imperative to keep moving. Why?

Dog obedience class is tonight!

Bored with your workout?

Are you bored with doing the same kind of workout day after day? You know that I’m not a fan of working out. I do it because I want to do other active things. And the workouts that I do are short, so I’m not getting bored during the workout. I switch off between a couple of workout programs. 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme are incredibly effective. And PiYo is great for getting strong and lean. But that still doesn’t mean that I don’t get tired of doing the same programs.

So I switch it up. Every couple of months I’ll do a week of yoga. I love yoga – nothing gives me the sense of peace and calm as a good yoga practice. Or leaves me feeling at one with my body. Or I’ll do a week of Pilates. I don’t love it as much as yoga, but it still gives me that strengthening and stretching I need. Or I’ll do a couple of days in a week on the treadmill. I really hate running (more than other workouts!), but I enjoy competing with my dog in agility. He’s a fast little dog, so I need more speed and endurance.

And then after I have my switch-off days, I’ll go back to my old standards and enjoy them more. I’ll do the plyometric workout in the 21 Day Fix Extreme program and realize again that jumping the right way is really not bad for my knees. Or I’ll do the “Drench” workout in PiYo and remember that I really do love the flow sequence.

So, when you start to dread your workouts (even more than usual), switch it up for a week. Do a different program for a while. You’ll engage your brain, which is always good. And you’ll also be cross-training, confusing your muscles, which makes your workouts more effective.

Track this to be healthier

A vital part of good health is the right amount of sleep. Most people these days don’t get nearly enough.

We know that so much in our health depends on getting a good night’s sleep. If we don’t get enough sleep, we may not feel like eating right or exercising. Our weight-loss plan will definitely suffer. Our metabolism suffers. When we sleep our bodies heal. If we don’t get the sleep we need, our bodies lose out on the healing, and our hormones and immune system suffer.

With all the screens that we look at, the light coming in around our shades, the glow of our electronics even when they’re turned off, we’re distracted and most times unable to stop our minds from churning and we can’t get the sleep we need.

We’ve all seen the recommendations – don’t look at your phone before bed, get black-out curtains, read a real paper book, and some nights we actually follow them. But it’s still a struggle to get to sleep sometimes. We’ll drink warm milk and not watch TV in the bedroom. And still can’t get to sleep.

Our bedrooms can be the coziest haven we can imagine. Nice fluffy pillows, a soft light blanket. The fan will add white noise and keep the temperature cool. And we still can’t get to sleep.

One thing that may help is to track our sleep. Take note every night of the approximate time you go to sleep and when you wake up. Over time you may see patterns. For example, if you have a hard time falling asleep on the nights you have a class, you may be over-stimulated by the social interaction. Pay extra attention to your nighttime rituals on these days. If you always have a hard time falling asleep on Sunday nights, you may be thinking about the work week ahead and need to go to bed a little earlier.

Try tracking your sleep for a month and see what patterns emerge. And do something about it so you get your sleep!

Snacking is inevitable …

I’ve written about snacks before. About how snacks should be avoided if at all possible.

And I’m still usually a non-snacker. I don’t think snacking is a good thing, as a rule. Especially mindless snacking. Shoving fistful after fistful of anything in your mouth without thinking about it is bad. I think that’s inarguable. Agree?

BUT – I’ve come to believe that snacking is inevitable. It will happen. And snacks can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

So, be prepared for it!

In your refrigerator, have carrot or celery sticks (or both) front and center. Have grapes and apples all washed and ready to eat. Have snack bags of almonds ready to grab. In fact, I usually have a baggie of almonds with me – just in case!

That way, when the munchies hit, you’ll be ready.

By all means, think about what you’re doing, though. When a snack craving hits, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or are you bored? If you’re bored, go for a walk. Dance to a tune. Play with your dog. Clean up your junk drawer.

If you’re hungry, have a drink of water first before you hit the snacks. Many times you’re thirsty and don’t realize it. It’s easy to become dehydrated if you don’t have water readily available. So take a drink. Have a water bottle or a glass of water by your side all the time.

Then wait about ten minutes – do something else and don’t think about a snack.

If you decide, after those ten minutes, that you really are hungry, by all means go get a snack. And don’t feel guilty about it!

This last Saturday, I did all those things and decided that I really was hungry mid-afternoon. So I ate a fun-size Snickers bar. I was really craving junk food. I drank some water. I took the dogs out. I read a chapter of my book. And I still wanted that candy bar. So I ate it! And, at only 80 calories, it was a good snack! It satisfied my hunger, it had some protein, chocolate and was delicious!

Add These Things to Your Life to Become Healthier

You know me – whatever I do, my goal is to get healthier!

Here are some easy things to add to your life to add to that healthy bucket:

Water! Drink more water. No one (well, hardly anyone) drinks enough water. When you’re hydrated, you feel better. It’s easier to say no to some favorite cheat foods – you’ll feel more full, so you won’t want to eat as much junk. If you’re hydrated, you’ll get fewer headaches. This is true – I’ve felt a headache coming on, and then realized that I was thirsty. I drank some water and the incipient headache went away! Staying hydrated helps your skin look good, too. And it helps to keep your internal systems operating at peak efficiency.

Veggies! Eat more vegetables! I talked about this earlier in the week. Veggies add fiber, vitamins, minerals, nutrients and lots of volume with fewer calories. In fact, there’s a report of one woman adding just one green to every meal and losing over 100 pounds! You may not have 100 pounds to lose, but adding more greens is nothing but healthy!

Movement! Add more movement to your life! Park farther from the store and walk – more steps! Don’t circle the parking lot close to the store for an empty spot. Park further away – you’ll save gas and increase your movement! Take the stairs instead of the elevator for a floor or two. Little things like this add up to big wins. You’ll be stronger, your knees will feel better and so will your back! Or when a great song comes on the radio, dance! If you’re in your car, move your shoulders, boogie and sing along! It’ll make you happier. And who cares what anyone in the car next to you is thinking?

These are easy things you can add every day to make your life healthier. And these are easy things to maintain in your life! Fill up that water glass! Eat another green! And move!

Don’t Eliminate – Discriminate!

What’s the first thing you think of when you think “diet?”

Restrictive? Eliminate something? Cut out …? I can’t eat …?

Stop it!

I’ve told you that food is the most important thing when you’re trying to lose weight, right?

Everyone needs food to live, right?

We might as well eat food we like!

Losing weight is simple math. Consume fewer calories than you expend, and you’re bound to lose weight.

Those calories should be calories we like to consume!

Yes, in order to be healthy we need certain vitamins and minerals, and certain nutrients. In order to feel good I like to feel – if not quite full, then – satisfied. That requires a certain volume of food. And nothing equals volume like vegetables. So, lots of vegetables are good.

And, we’ve got to keep the system moving, right? (not to be indelicate…) That requires a certain amount of fiber. And nothing equals fiber like fruits and veggies – again! So, again, lots of vegetables are good.

And we’ve got to keep the muscles and bones strong – that means protein and dairy!

But, let’s get real, here. After the requisite fruits and veggies, and dairy and protein, nothing makes me happier than chocolate.

I’ve been on diets that eliminated all the good stuff. Bread and chocolate, ice cream and fats. And I stuck with them. For about two weeks. Restrictive diets just don’t work for a sustained period.

Thinking to myself, “I can’t eat that” is guaranteed to make me want it. Whether it’s chocolate ice cream, a candy bar, whatever. I know that sooner or later I’m going to succumb to temptation and eat a candy bar. And a container of ice cream. And chocolate cake.

So, build your “cheats” in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a serving of ice cream every couple of days. But if I’m going to wait a couple of days to have my ice cream, I’m going to have THE BEST ice cream around! And I’ll be satisfied with one serving every couple of days. Better to have one serving of ice cream than blowing your calorie count for the next week.

Start with food!

Summer’s coming! Summer means fewer clothes, and less material to hide in. I said it before – I hate those rolls over my waistband. And when I’m just wearing a T-shirt and jeans, those rolls can be highly visible. So now is the time to do something about it! Before it’s tank top and shorts season!

Nutrition and fitness experts all say that abs are made in the kitchen. That means that to look good we have to focus on what we eat. And nutrition experts agree that fruits and veggies are the focal point of those abs. (Not that looking good should be the main reason you lose weight! It’s certainly a factor, but health is my motivator.)

Jennifer McDaniel, RDN, nutritionist and owner of McDaniel Nutrition Therapy in St. Louis, says that we should up our intake of those fruits and lower-carb vegetables to about 10 servings a day. Figure that a serving is about a cup. Start with those first, and by the time you’re done with the fruits and veggies you won’t want many carbs or sweets.

Half of each meal should be predominantly vegetables, then fruits, and whatever’s left protein. Carbs are an afterthought.

Same for snacks. Half fruit or veggies, and perhaps a little nut butter on the apple slice.

And don’t forget to hydrate! Hardly anyone drinks enough water! I recently read a couple of sources that agree that we should each drink 1/2 to 1 ounce of water for every pound we weigh. So a 150-pound person should drink at least 75 ounces of water every day. Start early and drink all day! It sounds tough, but it’s easier as the temperature gets warmer. So, start now and by summer you’ll be used to it!

Water also has the added benefit of making you feel more full. Start every meal with a chug of water.

Studies have found that people who focus on drinking more water and eating more fruits and vegetables without counting calories lose more weight and keep it off!

There’s incentive!

What’s the hardest thing about losing weight?

We’ve all done it – tried to lose weight. Sometimes we’re successful. Sometimes not so much.

Some of us have done it lots of times! I’ve done it! Lose weight, gain some, lose it again, gain it back. And every time it seems that much harder.

It’s hard to get up the commitment, courage, gumption, whatever you call it, to start a “diet” plan. It’s really hard to start an exercise program.

I think starting may be the hardest part of losing weight. Because, to “start,” you have to “end” something. And change is extremely difficult.

Leaving the tried and true behind. Leaving the comfortable routine and trying something new is really hard.

And yet, we know that our comfortable routine is what’s making us unhappy. I’m not happy in my clothes. I’m not happy with how I feel. I’m tired all the time.

There usually comes a sticking point. We just can’t take it any more. We’re fed up. We’re sick of ourselves. As a friend put it, “I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

And that’s when change happens. We get off the couch and walk around the block. We think twice about that ice cream. At the salad bar we bypass the macaroni and add a few walnuts. We choose the grilled chicken rather than the fried.

That’s hard. Making the decision to actually do something about your situation is difficult. You know that there will be difficult times ahead on your journey to fitness.

Take it one decision at a time. I’ll work out today. I’ll have a boiled egg and not a fried egg. I’ll walk the dog and not watch TV. I’m really not hungry, so I’ll have a drink of water and not a snack.

In coming days I’ll explore other hard things about losing weight, and we’ll try to work through them together.

What’s the hardest thing for you about losing weight?

Should you weigh yourself every day?

I never weigh myself. Maybe that’s a bad thing. I have absolutely no idea what I weigh. My pants fit, so I’m happy. When my pants start to get tight then I start to restrict sweets and carbs a little more, and maybe step up the intensity of my workouts.

But I know that’s not how many people operate. When my sister was losing weight, she used the scale as a tool. She would measure her progress by the scale.

It used to be that people on “diets” or weight-loss programs were taught to only weigh themselves once a week, if that. So often women, especially, can gain a pound or two of water in a day. That pound is extremely disheartening! We work so hard to lose weight that seeing the scale creep up can make all that hard work seem for nothing. Then we think, “What’s the use? I can’t lose the weight. I might as well have those chips.” I did that. It was depressing to me to weigh myself every day. It was only seeing the weekly or even biweekly numbers that motivated me to keep going.

But now a Cornell University study has found that participants who weighed themselves daily and charted their results lost significantly more weight than those who did not. They were also able to keep the weight off.

Daily self-weighing and tracking “forces you to be aware of the connection between your eating and your weight,” lead study author David Levitsky said. “It used to be taught that you shouldn’t weigh yourself daily, and this is just the reverse.”

The researchers found that self-weighing and tracking are simple ways to reinforce and strengthen positive behaviors such as eating less and maintaining regular exercise.

“You just need a bathroom scale and an Excel spreadsheet, or even a piece of graph paper,” said Levitsky.

Even after the weight-loss goal was achieved, if you follow this program, you should continue to track your weight.

Do you think this makes sense? Will tracking your weight every day work for you?

Investments

Lately I’ve been talking a little bit about convincing yourself to exercise or make it more interesting, or about making your diet healthier.

Why? We’ve each got just one life. It’s up to each of us to make our own lives better.

Do the things we want to do. Go places we want to go. Be the person we want to feel good about.

We’ve got to invest in ourselves first.

That may sound selfish, but it’s really the best donation to the human race we can make.

If each of us gets our own life in order, think how much we can serve others! If we feel good about ourselves, we’re more likely to help others feel good about themselves!

And it’s not just about exercise and nutrition!

Putting my closet in order, getting rid of clothes I haven’t worn in years and donating them will help others get clothes to keep them warm. (Not necessarily fashionable, but warm!) I’ll get more space and, rather than filling it up with more stuff, I’ll fill that space with calmness.

When you clean off a table, that clear space just makes you feel more open, calm and accepting. You’re motivated to keep it clear (at least for a little while).

When you clean a room, don’t you just breathe deeper? That, too, evokes a sense of calm and peacefulness.

And getting back to exercise and nutrition – when you feel good about yourself, you have a tendency to be nicer, kinder, more patient with others, more accepting of others’ foibles. You feel good knowing that you’ll be around for your family. You can help friends when they need it. You’ll be able to do things you want to do.

So, by investing in yourself – in that exercise and nutrition program, you’re investing not just in you, but in your family and friends as well.