Pain and movement

One ice pick for bursitis

I’ve told you that I have bursitis in both hips. Bursitis pain? Think of an ice pick inserted into the hip joint. And then hit it with a hammer.

But, thankfully, my bursitis pain is under control … most of the time.

Another ice pick for sciatica

Add sciatica to the bursitis and it’s really fun. Sciatica pain? Think of an ice pick jabbing you from your lower back down each leg. And you never know when that ice pick will strike.

And a combo ice pick

So when you mix sciatica and bursitis, you get spasms. Multiple ice picks going at your hips, your back, your legs. You can’t move. You can’t breathe.

You’d do anything to not feel that pain. A severe bout of spasms hit me a few years ago, and I started doing research on what, if anything, could be done…

Remedies?

Ice packs. Heat packs. A strange and kind of nasty potion of Certo and grape juice. Cortizone shots.

Temporary fixes at best. I wanted something long-lasting, so that I wouldn’t feel that pain again.

I found that the solution is movement. Just move. Don’t sit for an extended period of time.

Teeter-totter flare-up

You know that I enjoy training my dog in agility and competing with him, and my sister enjoys agility with her dog as well. The contact obstacles (A-Frame, Dog Walk, Teeter-Totter) are the hardest to train because it’s difficult to train all the time on these obstacles. We don’t all have the luxury of a big training area. The hardest is the Teeter – it moves, it’s narrow, it makes noise.  My sister and I do have a back yard, and even if it’s too cold or too hot to spend a lot of time training outside, a few minutes is doable. So we decided to build a Teeter. We’ve put together a base, and wanted to rubberize the board for better footing for the dogs.

So rubberizing the Teeter board was our project this last weekend. That’s me in the picture above, with the just-completed teeter. You can’t see the sweat, nor can you see the pain just starting to jab my hip and leg.

Yup – a dreaded flare-up of my bursitis and sciatica. I immediately (well, after my shower) resolved to get up every hour and move around. I hoped to avoid the spasms… I also resolved to stay hydrated. Hydration also helps to avoid spasms. Plus, I’d have to get up and walk to the sink to get more water. (Not to mention the washroom…)

It’s been a few days, and, thankfully, no spasms. A little pain remains, and I’m still getting up and walking around every hour. It really does help.

 

In a funk?

You may have sensed from my last post that I’m in a funk. I’m feeling my age. I had to really push myself yesterday to do my workout, and the day before that wasn’t great either.

Some days are like that. Some weeks are like that. The cycles we go through in our lives leave an impression. The seasons affect us. The weather affects us.

It had been cool and rainy here for days, which certainly did not help things. Joints were stiff and creaky. People were in bad moods.

When I’m in a bad mood, I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to associate with anyone. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Those days I wish I could put myself in a bubble with a “Do Not Disturb!” sign on me.

Of course, that’s not possible.

So what I’ve learned to do is paste a smile on my face during working hours and try to be as helpful as humanly possible to the people I meet. And hope that the smiles I receive in return will make an impression on my brain and stick there!

It’s really hard to keep that up indefinitely, though. On days like that, it’s all I can do to be nice to the dogs!

And working out yesterday was not fun. I did not want to do it, but I made myself. I wanted to quit after every exercise for the first half of the workout. By the second half, I conned myself into finishing – “You’re more than halfway done. You can do this!” And I did. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun, but it was done!

And afterward I took a long warm shower with “Citrus Fresh” essential oil dropped onto the baking soda disc, which was delightful. And I felt better when it was done – quite virtuous!

It’s nice and bright and warm today, so hopefully that will put a more positive spin on things.

Let me know how you combat your blue funk days!

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.

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.

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.

Hate to exercise?

Having fun during 21 Day FixDo you hate to exercise? I’m not a fan either, but I do it because I like to do other stuff, as you know. But if that isn’t enough of a motivation, and you know that you need to exercise, start small.

Just walk for 15 minutes. Or 5 minutes. If it’s a nice day, just tell yourself that you’re going outside and breathe for a few minutes. Pretty soon you’ll be taking a few steps and you’re around the block.

Starting small leads to big things! Tell yourself you’ll do 15 jumping jacks, and pretty soon it’s 30 because 15 is easy.

Tell yourself you’ll jump for 2 minutes. Just up and down – maybe not even leaving the ground. And pretty soon it’s 5 minutes. Full squats and everything.

Tell yourself you’re just taking the dog for a walk. You’re snapping on his leash and pretty soon you’re both walking for 20 minutes. It’s good for both of you! (Just don’t forget pick-up material!)

It’s finally starting to feel like spring here, and the garden needs work. Tell yourself that you’re going outside for 5 minutes to pull weeds. Pretty soon you’ll find that you’ve been outside working for a half hour. A few weeds turns into raking and cutting back, and who knows what else!

Just don’t overdo it! If you haven’t exercised in a while, and those 5 minutes of walking feels too easy, just do 6 and see how you feel the next day. The goal is consistency – if you’re too sore to get up the next day, you’re not going to exercise and then you’ll forget all about it for the future. And that’s bad.

So it’s okay to start really small and build up. 5 minutes today, 10 minutes tomorrow. Then maybe add in a little jog for a few seconds and see how you go from there. Remember, there’s no deadline!

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.)

 

More reasons to exercise!

I hate working out. I do not like to exercise. You know that – I’ve told you often enough. But I like to do active things. I like to eat. So I exercise. And here are some more reasons why we need to exercise:

Exercise reduces bad moods and depression. That “exercise high” is not a myth! Regular exercise helps the brain produce a protein that seems to fortify parts of the hippocampus susceptible to depression, neuroscience has revealed. And Swedish researchers have found that exercise helps to keep your brain safe from harmful substances (one is called kynurenine) that build up during stress. Exercise produce changes in skeletal muscle that can purge the blood of kynurenine before it has a chance to cause the brain inflammation that is linked to depression. Some doctors have even begun prescribing exercise to their patients!

Exercise also helps your muscle memory stick! Try that new skill then do some aerobic exercise for 15 minutes right afterward. A test at the University of Copenhagen showed that people who exercised right after practicing a new skill did better the following week than those who did not exercise. That same brain protein (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF) improves muscle memory as well!

Aerobic exercise also increases memory power! A six-month study at the University of British Columbia showed that older women who power-walked twice a week for 40-minutes each had better recall than those who just lifted weights or did not exercise. The power walking raised the study subjects’ heart rates to 70 – 80% of their target heart rates.

Still not convinced? Exercise can also reverse the mental decline – the effect of a long-term fatty diet. Now this shouldn’t be a license to go crazy and eat spaghetti and pizza like crazy, but there is hope! At least in rats – a University of Minnesota study found that when rats on the equivalent of a burger-stuffed-pizza diet exercised daily, their mental deterioration reversed itself after four months. At four months, these fat-fed mice who ran had better memory function than non-exercisers on a low-fat diet. And if you like the occasional adult beverage, exercise can help you there too! A new study published in Alcoholism showed that drinkers who worked out had far more white matter than their sedentary peers.

So, I guess I’ll be working out regularly for the foreseeable future. How about you?