Monthly Archives: February 2018

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!