Many aspects of fitness

The aspects of fitness are more than physical

Fitness is not just physical – there are many aspects of fitness.

We’ll be focusing on each of these aspects in more depth soon, but an overview might be helpful here. Because it’s the most obvious, let’s talk about the aspects of physical fitness. Health, balance, strength, cardio fitness are all elements of physical fitness. What you do to increase one aspect of physical fitness helps another.

Balance is one aspect of physical fitness

Balance moves like this one also improve strength.

As an example, by practicing your balance (and you can get a free Week of Balance by subscribing to my newsletter!) will increase your strength. By doing a cardio workout, you can also increase your strength and balance – think of hops and side-to-side leaps. Even jumping in place can improve your balance.

If you focus on improving your strength, you’ll probably also improve your balance. Those one-legged squats will definitely challenge your balance while at the same time increase your strength. Add a pair of dumbbells and you’re working upper body as well as lower body strength. (Talk about multi-tasking!)

Eating clean will also improve fitness

Eating clean helps your overall fitness.

We can’t talk solely about physical fitness, because so many aspects of your life can affect it! If you focus on eating clean, you’ll improve your overall health, you’ll feel more like exercising and thereby improve your strength and cardio fitness!

And by attempting to eat a cleaner diet, you’ll not only probably lose a little weight, you’ll be cleaning out your system. More fiber in your vegetables and fewer processed foods will tend to move things along in your digestive system.

Mental fitness may be more difficult

Mental fitness is like a dresser. Here's an organized drawer. An achievement to strive for.

More complex is the aspect of mental fitness. I like to think of this as a bureau, or dresser. Currently mine is a mess. Socks are mashed in with underwear, t-shirts and pajamas. There are even swim goggles and pantyhose in there. There’s no order in those drawers. Too many ideas, problems, chores, and other things to do are running around in my head. How’s yours?

First off, a plan is probably needed. I need to figure out what to do with all those items. How best to organize them? I really should start to write everything down. Then categorize them. This is called a “brain dump.” I should really do this every month or so.

If all the aspects of fitness work together – body and mind, happiness ensues. I’ll have to try it. Let’s start together!

It’s impossible

Balancing everything in your life is impossible. Prioritization and scheduling are key.

It’s impossible to do it all and achieve balance

It’s literally impossible to do it all. You’re trying to balance all aspects of your life, and there’s just too much. Work and family. Chores and friends. Clean out the closet. Read that book. Train the dog. Go grocery shopping. Sleep and everything else. Something’s got to give.

What gives is you …

There just are not enough hours in the day to complete everything. Usually when that happens the things that don’t get done are the things most important to you.

Should other things come before you?

You put family first. Your home. Your job. All those things are important, certainly, but without you, your health, your sanity, you won’t have those things.

Balance is the key

The only way to keep your sanity and stay happy and healthy is to have balance in your life. Balance work and family. Balance your chores with your friends. Don’t spend an hour a week training the dog when just a few minutes every day will give you immeasurable progress! Get the family involved! A shared load is an easier one. And if everyone helps, they’ll all have an investment in the outcome, ensuring its success!

How to get balance?

So, how do you achieve this balance? Prioritization is paramount. Write everything down that needs to get done. This will probably take the longest! Prioritize tasks. Make notes on who can help you with them. Call a family meeting and let everyone know that you’re feeling overwhelmed but that they can help you! You may be surprised at your family members’ willingness to chip in. Especially if you break jobs down into very small, specific tasks. If something seems like it won’t take a long time, it’ll get done!

A calendar will help

Now that you have your tasks, schedule their completion! A big wall calendar will keep the whole family on task. And if everyone writes in their jobs, their investment will continue and things will actually get done!

New Year’s Resolutions are Bad

Living Well Planner to schedule your happiness! You don't need to make New Year's Resolutions for that!

That’s my opinion, of course. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. If there’s something that needs doing, I don’t wait to resolve to get it done.

Why wait for a totally random day to start?

Yes, I know – the whole New Year, new start, new you thing. And there may be some validity to that sentiment.

But why wait? Will you keep your resolution more if you make it on January 1 than on December 27?

If the thing you’re resolving to do really matters to you – if it’s important enough to be called a “resolution,” then the date shouldn’t matter.

It you want to start keeping a scheduler or planner, I understand that most start on January 1. But you can take a blank sheet of paper and state your resolve – plan out your days – before then. Some planners, though, can start whenever you like because you write in the dates. Like the Living Well Planner (pictured).

To state, “I resolve to lose 25 pounds in 2019,” without truly committing to that goal – or any other – is setting yourself up for failure. In fact gyms and health clubs offer incredible deals for the New Year because they know that their resources will be stretched thing for just a few weeks. Most people who join a gym or health club at the start of a year drop off in a month or so.

Why? Because people just aren’t committed to the goal of getting fit. It really takes an effort to work out 3, 4 or 5 days a week – especially if you’re driving to a new place, pushing yourself in ways that it hasn’t been pushed before (or in a long time), showering and changing clothes in a locker room with strangers all around you. I give people loads of credit who actually follow through with that any time of year!

Even more difficult than working out at a gym or health club is the mind-shift required to make the change in your behavior. It’s hard to conceive of eating differently. Or acting differently. It’s too easy to do the same things we’ve always done than to commit to a change.

You have to really, really want something badly to actually make that change. And flipping the page on a calendar doesn’t usually qualify as motivation. Things have to get bad – so bad you can hardly bear to look at yourself in the mirror. You have to reach a point where the status quo is intolerable. And then you can start to discover the ways you can change to produce the results you want.

So don’t make resolutions this January 1. Instead, spend time with family and friends. Spend time reflecting on the various aspects of your life. Are you happy? What areas aren’t you happy about? Are you unhappy enough to want to change things?

Think about where you want to be and how you want to feel a year from now. Will the direction your life is pointing to take you to that place and feeling?

If not, think about how you want to change things.

11 States in 13 Days

Mountains, rivers, streams …

I’m still recovering from my marathon driving trip through more than ⅕ of the United States. Booker and I traveled through 11 states in 13 days. Over mountains, over rivers, over bays, over the Gulf of Mexico, over the Atlantic Ocean, over bridges, and through countless construction zones. Healthy traveling is not always easy, but I did my best.

The hard part

I disposed of Hurricane Irma-damaged items from our storage unit in Marathon, Florida, and packed the rest in my Subaru Forester to bring home. I cleared the unit out completely.

The good part

Sunset over the Gulf of MexicoI ate some delicious local seafood and maybe the best pressed Cuban sandwich ever! (Not at the same meal.)

I visited good friends in Marathon and heard of their hurricane horrors.

Other friends and I shared our experiences with our soon-to-be all-natural gray hair. We each stopped coloring our hair at about the same time.

Saw some incredible sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico while I was in Marathon. Met Katie and Adam, a cute couple staying at the same hotel, and took their sunset-kiss picture, now used as Katie’s profile picture.

Had wonderful down-time in late afternoons for a few days, just reading and watching the waters of the Gulf. Booker didn’t quite understand, but he was willing to lay on his cot and get treats for doing nothing.

After a few great days in Florida, it was time for the next phase of our trek. On to Virginia and a new puppy!

Puppy time!

Booker’s six years old and Tango is nine. The other dogs in the household (my sister’s Frenchies Teddy and Torque) are 8 and 4, so the time for a puppy is now! We’d never had two Boston Terriers at home at the same time, and thought that the dynamics would be good. Booker would have another Boston to chase, and to chase him. He’s always trying to get the other dogs to chase him, and it never works.

The breeder who showed Booker’s father to a breed win at the Westminster Kennel Club show had a couple of 10-week-old little boys that I could choose between, so that was an opportunity not to be missed! I figured that I could swing up to Virginia on my way home to the Chicago area.

The bad and ugly

Arriving in Brunswick, GA after driving for 8+ hours that first day leaving Marathon was a nightmare. I had reservations at one of the moderate chain motels. They mistakenly put me in a no-dog room, and when I inquired about it, they moved me to a dog room. OK. I understood…

Except that this room smelled, and the locks didn’t work. I complained about that and the manager checked me out. Yup – kicked me out. Homeless on the streets.

Brunswick is not a bustling town and I was able to get a room at a dog-friendly motel a couple of miles away. (That reminds me – I should post a review about that first motel.)

Destination reached!

Another 8 hours of driving the next day brought us to Chesapeake, VA. I could have continued the final hour to the breeder’s home, as she kindly offered me her guest room, but didn’t want to impose for an extra day.

Nothing cuter than Boston Terrier puppies!Early the next morning I drove to the breeder’s house. It’s on a beautiful street, with established homes and mature trees. I wasn’t entirely sure which house it was because the numbers on the mailboxes were mostly worn. But then I saw her van in the driveway with a license plate that was unmistakably that of a Boston Terrier owner. I parked next to her, walked to the door and rang the doorbell. After a bit she opened the door, exclaimed that I was there and gave me a big hug. Her husband, who was traveling, called at that moment to let her know that someone was at the door. The wonders of a “Ring” doorbell!

Booker and I were warmly welcomed, we met the puppies, and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Long trip home

Our trip home was completely uneventful (thank goodness!), but long (16 hours over two days) and inconvenienced by much construction on our route. The puppy was a champion traveler and slept for much of the drive. I was very happy, though, to park in front of my house and not get in my car for over 24 hours after that!

Takeaways for you:

Things to keep in mind when embarking on a long trip:

  • Keep your cool! Everything can be worked out. One way or another. Breathe deeply when things don’t go as planned.
  • Family comes first. When things didn’t go right, foremost on my mind was keeping my dogs safe, cool in the heat, exercised and fed when needed.
  • Stay fueled. It’s much easier to keep your cool when you’re not starving. Fortunately, on a driving trip it’s no problem to keep healthy snacks on hand – for both my dogs and me! And healthy meals are easy to find. Salads are great, with healthy proteins included. If you’re using really good quality ingredients, minimal dressing is all that’s needed. A dip of my fork’s tines is plenty. As for the car – I’m a bit cautious, and look for a gas station when the needle creeps close to ¼ tank.
  • Exercise when you can, but don’t stress about it. When I’m back to a regular routine, I’ll get back to intense exercise. Walking while on vacation is the best way to see new places, meet fun people, and work off that full feeling.

Almost fall! Time to prevent them!

Prevent falls this fall!

It’s almost fall – and it’s the time of year to prevent them! You know that I’m a huge advocate of practicing your balance to prevent falls. I interviewed Kathleen Cameron, Senior Director of the Center for Healthy Aging, a while back about preventing falls – http://fitness-over-50.com/2017/07/prevent-falls-my-interview-with-kathleen-cameron/ .

I even developed a series of simple exercises anyone can do to improve their balance and prevent falls in just minutes a day. And I run a Facebook group with ongoing balance challenges.

Sleepwalking through balance exercises

I became complacent about doing (or not doing) my balance exercises and fell!I became complacent, though. I’ve been sort of half-heartedly, sort of somnambulently performing the balance exercises myself.

And I fell Friday night. Granted, it was while I was carrying my 20-pound Boston Terrier over a 2-foot fence, but it gave me a wake-up call, all the same!

Naughty puppy!

Booker had jumped the fence (within our larger fenced back yard – it’s an area we don’t want the dogs to go in) because he thought he saw a chipmunk. There was no other wildlife in there, he was just being a jerk. In the heat of the moment he jumps the fence with no problem but can’t seem to figure out how to get back. I climbed over the fence – angry, short-tempered – and as I was climbing back out my foot caught in the top of the fence and I fell. Naturally, I didn’t want my dog to get hurt, so protected him. My face seemed to catch the brunt. Fortunately, just scrapes and bruises. There doesn’t seem to be any deeper damage.

It could have been worse, but …

And perhaps because I do some balance work, I was not hurt as badly as I could have been. But, I knew that I’d been slacking on some of the balance exercises!

So, with renewed commitment, I’ll be focusing much more on practicing balance and preventing falls.

It is almost fall. And after fall is winter, and ice and snow. Slippery stuff. It’s easy to slip and lose your balance and fall. Why not do just a few minutes of balance exercises a day to try to prevent any falls you can! Read my interview with Kathleen (http://fitness-over-50.com/2017/07/prevent-falls-my-interview-with-kathleen-cameron/) to see the statistics on just how prevalent falls are, and then commit to prevent the falls that you can!

 

Chocolate is allowed!

Chocolate contributes to a healthy lifestyle

Chocolate is part of a healthy lifestyle.Chocolate can be part of a healthy lifestyle! You may have thought that healthy eating was all spinach, quinoa and kale, but that’s just not the case. While I do enjoy a good spinach and quinoa lunch on occasion, and sauteed kale is yummy, seasoned properly (I can give you recipes if you like), there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying chocolate. On occasion. Once in a while.

Old Ben was right

I abide by Ben Franklin’s motto of “Everything in moderation.” In the case of sweets, maybe a little less than moderation…

I love chocolate, and any existence that does not include chocolate is just not worth it. I enjoy chocolate – the darker the better – and try to have a little bit every day. It has to be really good chocolate, though. If it’s not truly satisfying, the temptation is to eat all of a not-so-great chocolate bar instead of just a quarter of a really good one. Chocolate is definitely part of my healthy lifestyle!

80 – 20 Rule

I try to also eat by the “80 – 20 Rule.” As long as 80% of my intake is clean and healthy, the other 20% can be chocolate! That is – 80% of my calories should be lean protein, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit and healthy fats.

Balance is key

Again – life is a balancing act. Every day we have to balance our meals, our work, play, chores. We want to eat healthy – we know it’s better for us than eating fast food all the time – but we also want our meals to taste good and satisfy us. The 80 – 20 Rule is just that. A sustainable eating plan. And if your indulgence is pizza – that’s good too! Just watch portions and make sure the rest of your diet is healthy!

Dark chocolate tastes best

Why dark chocolate? It’s my favorite. And it also contributes to a healthy lifestyle. Dark chocolate has anti-oxidant properties, it may improve blood flow and even lower blood pressure! And dark chocolate may improve brain function.

Get happier!

Are you stuck in a dark rut?

Even though darkness looms, happiness can emerge!All too often we find ourselves doing the same things – day after day. Repeating the same tasks and not finding happiness in them. If we don’t have happiness and joy in our lives, we have no motivation to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When we’re not happy, our fitness suffers.

Can we dig ourselves out?

So, how can we lift ourselves up and find the joy again? Even when we are doing the same things day after day, we can be happy!

Permission for happiness!

The first step is to tell ourselves that we can be happy. The mere act of giving ourselves permission sometimes makes it true. Try writing down the three biggest factors that made you the person you like today. They could be life-changing moments, like a big presentation or a job change. Keep that list prominent so that you can look at it every day and remember that you’re a person to be proud of!

Change the scenery

Another method is to change the scenery. I’m not talking about a tropical vacation (although that would be nice). Go for a walk. Change your route to work. Sometimes just looking at something different changes your perspective to a more positive one.

Re-energize!

Take a nap. Have a healthy snack. Refuel and re-energize! When your stomach is full of good stuff and you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you feel more positive.

Acknowledge the downsides

Be aware of the negative aspects of a task. That will motivate you to take action and turn those negatives into positives. Your brain will be more nimble trying to turn things around.

Get another opinion

Talk to someone. Things may not be as bleak as they seem to you. Sometimes we’re too close to a situation to look at it objectively. And don’t always consult someone who has the same beliefs as you do. They may see what you consider bleak situations the same way.

Stress can be good!

Channel your stress into a positive outcome. If you’re anxious about something, try to determine the real reason for the anxiety so that you can take action. Taking action is a positive step and leads to a brighter outlook.

So the next time you feel yourself going to that deep, dark place, try these tips and aim for the sunshine!

You matter

If you’re like me, you go through your days doing the same things you’ve always done. I get up at the same time every day, eat the same breakfast every day, go to work at the same time, take the same route, see the same people at training every week. Get take-out from the same restaurants. All this without even thinking.

I’m feeling introspective today, so I’m wondering, “Why?” Why are we here? Is it just to do the same things every day? How can I justify my existence if that’s it?

So perhaps I’ll strive to make a difference today. Maybe not to the whole world, but if I can make a difference to one person, that could be enough for today.

To make a difference, I think, you have to make someone’s life better, happier, more fulfilled.

So, I’m telling you today that you matter!

To your family, your friends, your coworkers, your pets. You matter! Their lives would be poorer without you.

The old James Stewart movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” recounts the story of George Bailey – who wished he’d never been born one Christmas Eve, and how the town he loved would have been dramatically different if he hadn’t existed. (Not for the better!) The film demonstrates that we’re each here for a reason – we’re here for the people we know and love.

The world today is hectic. We’re bombarded by outside influences all day every day – through multiple screens, speakers and neon signs. We’re caught up in the day’s headlines, our newsfeeds, Twitter feeds, Instagram posts. It’s easy to be nervous about the state of the country and the world. It’s hard to think about why we alone might matter to someone else. But you do! So, take a few minutes in a quiet place and think about that!

Just like you exercise your muscles, practice your skills

Use it or lose it!

They say, “Use it or lose it!” And that’s true of pretty much everything.

We exercise to improve our health. If we don’t exercise, our health tends to decline.

We exercise to improve our cognition. Yup, exercising our body helps our mind.

We exercise to get stronger. Use those muscles or they become weak.

We exercise to retain flexibility. Don’t stretch and our flexibility decreases.

We exercise aerobically to strengthen our heart and increase lung function. Don’t exercise for a few days and we’re out of breath faster.

Practice not only makes perfect…

The same holds true for other skills. If you played piano when you were younger, you know what I’m talking about! Don’t practice and you won’t even remember where the keys are.

We practice our balance to stay upright and prevent future falls. Falls, especially as we get older, can be dangerous, if not tragic. From slipping and falling on the ice to rolling an ankle on broken pavement, improved balance can help.

Download my “Week of Balance” booklet. A free .pdf file to help you get started retaining your balance.

In dog training it’s the same. Lots of skills are involved in training a dog to compete in obedience or agility. Don’t practice one of them and the behavior deteriorates. My agility instructor likens this theory to circus performers spinning plates on a long dowel. He’d get a row of plates spinning, and when the last one started the first one would start to slow down and topple. The performer would have to run back to the first one and start it spinning again.

Calm your mind

Being able to calm your mind is another skill that requires practice. There are so many distractions in the world that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to focus on a single thing. From our own devices – phones, tablets, laptops, TVs – to the world around us, there’s a lot to take in.

I find it imperative to be able to narrow my focus. I get more done when I’m not trying to do several things at once. We all have heard people extol the virtue of multi-tasking, but the only things that benefit from multi-tasking are computers.

We’re much more productive when we can focus on a single task and then move on to the next one.

Guided meditations can help calm the mind

But many find it hard to calm the mind at first. It just takes practice. And sometimes a little help. Check out my free short, guided meditations. Sometimes just a couple of minutes of a guided meditation helps clear your mind. And there are also lots of free smartphone meditation apps. (I find these to be a little long, but everyone’s different.)

Guided meditations:

Garden meditation

Ocean meditation

River meditation

Yet another study supports what we know …

Another study that supports what we already know: that those who exercise  are in better health than those who don’t.

Cycling and exercise for health

82-year-old Norman Lazarus, a professor emeritus at London’s Kings College, requested that a study be performed on the health of older active cyclists. King’s College and the University of Birmingham took him up on it. Researchers compared 125 amateur cyclists, ages 55 through 79, with a group of people ages 57 through 80 and with a younger group ages 20 through 36. All of the noncycling group were healthy but did not exercise regularly.

Lazarus had noted that he and his riding group were not experiencing many of the frailties, such as joint problems or chronic illness, that affect so many other people as they age. His group had been avid cyclists for most of their lives.

Less evidence of aging in cyclers

The researchers found that those who exercised – in this case cycled – regularly did not show evidence of the outward signs of aging.

The male cyclists in the study had to be able to ride 62 miles in 6½ hours, and females had to be able to ride 37 miles in 5½ hours, according to the study, published in the journal Aging Cell. I’m not a cyclist but seems like a fairly intense regimen.

Less loss of strength

In a series of lab tests, researchers found cyclists did not lose muscle mass and strength like the noncyclists did. The cyclists also stopped the clock on increased body fat and cholesterol, and the men’s testosterone levels remained high.

Improved immune systems

One of the most surprising findings was that the cyclists’ immune systems were equivalent to those of healthy young people in the study, as measured by the presence of immune cells, known as T-cells. The cells are produced by the thymus gland and typically start to decrease as the thymus begins to shrink after age 20. Depleted immune systems are one of the greatest barriers to health in the elderly.

Intense exercise is the key

We know from other studies that cycling is not the important part of this – the intense exercise is.

The CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes a week of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.

The moral

The moral here – do something! It’s better than nothing. And even if you can’t do even moderately intense exercise now, you soon will be! So get moving!