Meditate? ME?!?

Meditation can make you healthier!

Are you saying, “Nah! It’s for gurus in India!” No! It’s for everyone!

When you think of meditation, do you think of people in long robes seated cross-legged on the floor with their hands on their knees, palms up and chanting? I used to, as well.

I’m summarizing here – One of Webster’s definitions of meditation is to engage your mental awareness to try to achieve a heightened level of spiritual awareness. Another definition is to focus your thoughts.

For me, that just means to clear my head. I close my eyes and breathe for a few minutes, thinking of absolutely nothing. When my head is clear, I’m calmer and ready to tackle difficult (and not-so-difficult) tasks. If my mind starts to wander, I can recognize this and shut down those intrusive thoughts.

Clear mind = calmness

The nice thing about meditation this way is that I can do it anywhere (except when I’m driving!). If I’m at work and I’ve been bombarded with customer requests, I can just sit at my desk, close my eyes and meditate for a few minutes.

And productivity!

I’m more productive when my mind isn’t scattered. I can focus on one task and complete it. And when I’m productive, I’m happier. And when I’m happier, I tend to eat healthier, exercise for a longer time and with more intensity.

The last couple of weeks have been difficult for me – read the last few posts  – and meditation has helped me over some of the worst hip and back pain. I recognize the pain, close my eyes, try to think of nothing, breathe, and after a few minutes the pain has subsided a bit.

Meditation is for everyone! A beginner’s guide:

Even if you’ve never meditated before, you can try it. Right now: just sit back. (Read this paragraph first…) You can set a timer for 5 minutes if you like – if you’re afraid you’ll take too long with your eyes closed and might miss something. Put your phone down. Put your hands in your lap. Close your eyes. Think of nothing. If a stray thought enters your mind, accept it and get rid of it. Picture it like a cloud – just floating away. And just breathe.

Now open your eyes. Feel refreshed? I thought so!

Guided meditations:

If you had trouble getting rid of your thoughts, sometimes a guided meditation works better. Just descriptions of peaceful places. Here are 3 free .mp3 downloads: Each is just a couple of minutes to get you started:

Garden meditation

Ocean meditation

River meditation

 

Stay in your rut!

We love routine! I think we’re all happiest when we have a schedule that we can stick with. I know I am.

Get up at (pretty much) the same time everyday.

Eat meals at (pretty much) the same time.

Go to (pretty much) the same place every day.

Exercise at (pretty much) the same time every day, or as my schedule dictates.

Go to bed at the same time every day.

Until something happens to disrupt the schedule.

Like an injury.

Then it’s a major obstacle to do regular things. Even getting out of bed can be a chore.

Making meals for myself and the dogs takes twice as long as it should.

Walking to and getting in the car? Agony.

That’s what happened to me the last few days. Yes, things were not easy. Routine things took twice as long as usual – or longer.

But, the closer I came to sticking with my regular schedule, the happier I felt. The closer I felt to being on track.

Of course, the workouts were not my usual workouts, because I physically could not do the exercises I wanted to.

But I made sure that I did a workout.

Meals? It was more important than ever to eat right. Eating healthy is one of the best ways to stay on the fitness track.

And getting up to get water kept me moving. To the water jug (and the bathroom). If you can, and if it’s in alignment with your doctor’s or your PT’s orders, keep moving. As I said earlier in the week, movement will get you back to normal quicker than sitting on the couch will.

And the more in line with my regular schedule I was, the closer I was to feeling more normal.

So, stay in your rut as much as you can. If something throws a monkey wrench into the works, work around it.

So, after an injury – Eat right. Drink plenty of water. And move!

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!

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!

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!