Take a look around you

All too often we live on autopilot. We wake up at the same time every morning, have the same routine as we get ready for our day, eat the same thing for breakfast (mostly), go to the same places every day and we don’t pay attention to the world around us.

We listen to the same news on the radio, the same songs, drive the same route.

Our minds are always busy. Busy with lists of things we have to do, chores we have to do, tasks we have to accomplish, groceries we have to buy. Busy with thoughts of work, politics, the weather, the latest news stories, the latest text from your spouse or kid.

As we drive, do we really pay attention to what’s around us? Quick, now – what’s the color of the building on the next block?

I thought so…

All too often we’re so inside our thoughts that we don’t pay attention to the world. Yes, there are problems out there and some not-nice people, but over all the world is a beautiful place.

I’m happier when I stop a couple times a day and just look at the sky. Or the plants (in the winter, the shapes the bare branches make, or the snow on them). And if I can, sometimes I’ll just talk to a person about nothing in particular to find out what they’re thinking. (Not very often, though, because I’m an introvert – working on that!)

Be mindful of what you’re doing. Pay attention to where you put your keys, how your fold your clothes, the colors in your closet or drawers. Look at the world around you. There are beautiful things out there. Even a sunrise or sunset through the electric wires can be pretty. A bird flying overhead.

You’ll feel calmer, more at peace, and better able to handle the chaos of modern life.

 

Better than a crunch

Whatever my workout of the day is, I always make sure that it includes abdominal work. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. I want to minimize my middle! If there’s one thing I really dislike, it’s my midriff hanging over my waistband. To me, it’s sloppy. And, to me, it’s uncomfortable.
  2. More importantly, I want my core to be as strong as possible to support my back. Back pain is debilitating, and I don’t want to experience it again! Having back pain makes everything harder. Even work done while sitting is harder! Sitting is painful, and while lying down might be easy, you’ve got to get up sometime!

So, I always incorporate ab work into my workouts. If it’s not part of a video I’m doing, I’ll do some on my own.

Crunches are effective, done the right way, but they can be tedious. And form must be spot-on! So I try to look for variations in ab exercises.

The plank is a great all-around exercise. It targets the core, the arms, and the legs. And there are a zillion variations that you can do.

I also try to practice my balance every day. (Have you gotten my free download yet? A Week of Balance! – get yours up and to the right!)

So, here’s a plank variation combining abs and balance. Just lift your opposite arm and leg and hold. Make sure your stomach is in, your back is flat, your hand is directly under your shoulder and you have equal weight on your hand and foot.

If that’s hard, start on your knees.  You can also start by just lifting your leg or your arm, not both. As before, make sure your stomach is in, your back is flat and your hand directly under your shoulder. (And, of course, it always helps when your dog helps! That’s Booker’s rear end in the photo.)

 

Fun? Yes! It balances all the hard work you do!

Add fun to your hard work for balance!

Add some fun to your routine! Yes – fun! We work hard every day – work, family obligations, chores, shopping. It’s important to balance all that hard work with fun. I work out so that I can have fun my way!

This is a terrible picture! Both Tango (my Brussels Griffon) and I are out of focus because we’re moving. But I think you can see that Tango is looking up at me and having a good time. I train my dogs not just because a trained dog is a happy dog, but because I enjoy it. The ribbons that we get and the titles that we earn are just a reflection of the enjoyment we both get out of the experience.

I’ve said it before – I work out 4 or 5 times a week, and a couple of those times are running. I hate running, but I do it so that I can have the endurance I need to run Booker (my other dog – a Boston Terrier) in agility – which I do love to do. I don’t work out for the sake of working out. I do it because I want to do other things.

I want to have fun on my terms. Yes, sometimes that fun is reading on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Or napping… But more often that fun is training my dogs. Whatever puts a smile on your face.

I wasn’t going to train my dogs this morning since we have a house guest (and her three dogs) and things are a little crazy, but Booker insisted. And I’m glad I took the time because no matter how stressful the rest of my day is, I had fun before work!

What’s your fun? Walking in the park with a loved one? Running around in the back yard with your dog? Reading a good book? Taking a cooking class?

Whatever your fun is, make sure to incorporate it into your day! Every day! It makes you happier. And that leads to better focus and productivity in other areas of your life!

Effortless movement

Play with your dog to relieve stress!Is effortless movement a goal for you? Do remember fondly when you were able to go from here to there without even thinking about it? Do you want to get back down on the floor and play with your dog or the grandkids?

What’s holding you back? Are your joints bothering you? Your back hurting? Knees? If a doctor hasn’t told you to limit your movement, then chances are you should start moving!

It used to be that when you hurt your back, bed rest was prescribed. Now the medical community is in favor or movement!

And the last thing I wanted to do when my knees hurt was get up and walk.

And when my back and hips were in spasms, I could barely get out of a chair without a heating pad.

But I hung onto a table and stood up, holding that heating pad on my back, and took a couple of steps. Then I put the heating pad down and took a couple more steps. Hunched over, leaning onto my thighs at first. And then I sat down again on that heating pad. But an hour later I made myself do it again. And then next day the pain wasn’t quite as bad. So I moved some more. And the day after that I could go a little further. And a couple days later I didn’t need the heating pad.

You get the idea. That old adage, “use it or lose it” applies! The more you move, the easier it is to move.

I’ve told you that I started running on the treadmill a couple days a week to increase my speed and endurance for agility competition? I still hate it, but I’m getting better at it. And I am getting a little faster. And my knees don’t hurt.

I also learned to strengthen my core and improve my balance to strengthen my back. And I haven’t had spasm (knock on wood!) in a couple of years. If you’d like to improve your balance and strength, a great first step is doing the Week of Balance. Click on the box to the right for your free, downloadable .pdf for your copy.

Crazy, busy life? Some tips for that …

Google calendar to set my mind at easeEveryone I know is always on the go. Working awful hours, running all over town for meetings, markets, other chores, off to dog training, family obligations, and on weekends to competitions to see how all that dog training is paying off.

Some things have got to give. Sleep should not be one of them.

Here are some tips to help you get through a typical crazy, busy day and keep a smile on your face.

1. Organization. Write everything down in a planner. Sometimes pen and paper is better than a smartphone, but be sure to use what choose! I like Google Calender because all my appointments are on my phone or my desktop, and the devices synch when something changes. And I can get my Agility Class updates on it too – our instructor updates the ever-changing schedule for us. (And lets us know if a classmate is bringing treats to celebrate!) You can get a holiday calender on Google Calender too – any number of event calenders are available to synch to your account. But, when you make appointments be sure to update whatever calender you use!

2. Relieve stress. It’s bound to happen. A meeting goes badly at work. The kids are in mutiny. The dogs are misbehaving. Customers are being ridiculous. That’s life, and you need a way to release that stress. Exercise is a good way to do that. Physical activity can clear your head, and you can pretend that you’re stomping those unreasonable people into the ground!

3. Eat healthy! Plan ahead for the week, and it doesn’t take any longer than the drive-thru. And eating nutritious meals will keep you energized for the things you have to do.

4. Prioritize. We all have a million things that need to get done. But there are probably only 3 or 4 things that ABSOLUTELY have to get done today. Do those first and you’ll feel great about it, and eager to get other stuff done. You’ll be more productive throughout your day if you get rid of the big chores first.

Your One Non-Renewable Resource

It’s time. You can spend it, invest it, and waste it. You can never get it back.

There are a finite number of minutes in every day, and it’s up to us to decide how to use them. We can decide to be productive at work. We can decide to plan a healthy menu for the week. We can decide to spend it with friends and family.

I decide to spend lots of time training my dogs and playing with them.

And we can fritter time away. We open Facebook and see a cute video opened right on top. And then we scroll a little bit, and there’s another.

If a thought pops into your mind, you can Google the answer. But, wait – there’s a site that looks interesting. And this doesn’t really answer my question, but it’s cool.

Too frequently, these applications just suck the time away. Before you know it an hour has gone by. And then another.

How many of us have had that happen? Or we turn on the TV for company and get sucked into a program that we really don’t have an interest in?

If you have time to waste, that’s OK. But most people don’t have unlimited free time.

Be conscious of how you spend your time. If you decide to spend 10 minutes scrolling your Facebook feed, that’s fine – but set a timer so that it’s not more than that! Consciously decide to stop drifting from one website to another.

Make a list of productive or fun things you can do in 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 or 30 minutes. Keep it handy – perhaps on your phone. And when you find yourself with a few minutes between chores or appointments, refer to your list and choose a better way to spend those minutes.

We all have a limited amount of time. Don’t waste it!

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.

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?

Got sleep?

We all know that sleep is important for our health and fitness. And we don’t get enough of the right kind of sleep. We have trouble falling asleep. We have trouble staying asleep. And then we have trouble getting back to sleep. Lack of sleep affects our health. We’re sluggish, don’t move as much, eat more. Our productivity is diminished.

About sleep

There are three phases of sleep: light, deep and REM (rapid eye movement). We usually start with light sleep and move to deep sleep. Then it’s back to light sleep and REM, when we dream.

The cycle

Deep sleep happens most during the first part of the night usually, and is very hard to wake from.  You’ll spend about a quarter of your night in deep sleep and a quarter in REM, which is easy to emerge from.

Deep sleep helps you feel rested

You can survive on just light sleep and REM, but deep sleep is the phase that helps you feel most rested. It’s what we crave from spa treatments and pills

Pills won’t do it!

But we can’t rely on pills to take us into deep sleep. Too often when we wake from a medicated sleep we feel foggy.

Try a cave!

If you want real deep sleep, turn off all your lights. Make your bedroom a cave.

Meditation works too! If you’re new to meditation and have heard of its benefits, try guided meditation – send me a message and I’ll email you one of the short guided meditations I’ve created in mp3 format. They’re restful and soothing (and free). Just the thing to help you sleep!

A Cautionary Tale

FranI went to the dentist the other day – nothing earth-shattering there. I do it every 6 months. (All those pearly whites are my own!) I really like my dentist. She’s a cool lady and she talks about stuff I’m usually interested in – books, dogs, music, card games (well, not that interested, but OK) and roller coasters (definitely not interested in going on them myself, but I have a horrified fascination in others who enjoy coasters).

But this time I learned that she doesn’t have any dogs at the moment and probably will not be getting one in the foreseeable future. The good doctor rescued senior Labrador Retrievers and cared for them for their remaining lives. What a good thing! But she told me that at about the same time that her last one passed away, her husband had a bad fall and broke his hip and his wrist. He’s out of rehab now, but will probably need a walker for the rest of his life, sadly.

Too close to home

This is getting too close to home! I recently wrote about my conversation with Kathleen Cameron, Senior Director of the National Council on Aging regarding the seriousness of falls and how they can be prevented.  http://fitness-over-50.com/2017/07/prevent-falls-my-interview-with-kathleen-cameron/

I asked my dentist what she does to maintain or strengthen her balance, and she said, “Well, just keep up my strength, I guess…” Not good enough. You can prevent falls by improving your balance!

Our bodies change as we age

As we age, our bodies change and lose the ability to balance. Even if you work out regularly, even if you eat right, your balance will diminish unless you specifically do something about it!

Can you commit?

Practicing Yoga is good. Tai Chi is also good. But these practices must be continual. You have to really commit to them in order for your balance to show improvement.

Maybe not, but you’ve got 2 minutes a day!

But you can improve your balance in as little as two minutes a day. Exercise your balance. Do specific balance exercises. Join the “Balance for Fitness, Balance for Life” community on Facebook which gives you an exercise a day to perform. Like standing on one leg while brushing your teeth. This is an older picture – Booker is bored with my routine now and doesn’t feel the need to supervise.

I know it’s helped me! I recently fell – stepped on a rock the wrong way at night in a parking lot. It was extremely painful, and I thought my knee would be injured badly. But the only damage was a scrape on my shin that was gone in a couple of weeks. (I do have a scar as a memento now because I never keep scrapes covered for as long as you’re supposed to…)

So, the moral of this tale is, don’t fall and need a cane or walker forever! Practice your balance!