Incorporate exercise into your daily life

toe walkThe best way to exercise is to do it and not even realize you’re exercising! Many day-to-day activities can incorporate exercise. So you’ll get a double benefit. You’ll do the task you had to do, and you’ll exercise while doing it! This idea is especially useful when your schedule is so busy you can’t fit another thing in it!

For example – you have to walk to the garage to get in your car, right? Incorporate some toe-heel walking. Place the heel of your foot directly in front of and against the toe of your other foot. You’ve taken a step (okay, a small step) and you’ve exercised your balance. This is actually harder than it might seem, and it really does train your balance.

Another good functional exercise is to get up out of a chair without using your hands. Also harder than it might seem, and you’re strengthening your legs. Try it on one foot, and you’re doing all that and practicing your balance!

Try standing on your tip-toes and leaning to the side. Ever reach for something in a cabinet? That’s what you’re doing with this exercise.

Of course, no matter how you exercise, practice good posture – suck in your stomach and lengthen your spine!

Accept your weaknesses

truffle-piecesWe all have something we’re not great at. Something we wish we were better at. Do you have a weakness for chocolate? Can’t stop at one piece? Me too. I accept that. I love chocolate – the darker the better. It’s really easy to fall off the healthy nutrition wagon and go overboard with dark chocolate. After all, it’s good for us, right? Yes – in moderation! And that’s the key. One is good, two and more – not so much. I know this, and as much as it pains me, I make my chocolate hard to get at. I put it in a plastic baggie in the refrigerator. It’s there, and it’s still yummy, but the harder I have to work to get a piece, the more I will think about it. I’ll indulge myself with one piece, then put the rest back in the baggie in the refrigerator.

So, from this example, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m a chocoholic. I don’t let it rule or ruin my life. I eat chocolate in moderation – it doesn’t ruin the rest of my diet. And I’m working to space out the chocolate I eat. One day it will get easier to do that.

Don’t multitask

deskDon’t multitask with the important stuff. One thing at a time when it really counts. Finish a task and then move on to the next one. You’ll be able to finish that first task quicker, and better! When we think we’re multitasking, we’re really trying to focus on one thing, then another thing, and back to the first thing. It takes longer to switch our attention than to just focus on the task at hand. Say you’re writing a report and balancing your checkbook. You open a document for research, read a couple of sentences, and then try to add a couple of check amounts, then go back to your research. You’ll have to start over again because you forgot where you left off! I know it’s boring, and balancing your checkbook isn’t much better, but you’ll get both done quicker if you balance your checkbook then move on to your research for the report. Experts estimate that switching between tasks can cause a 40% loss in productivity. It can also cause you to introduce errors into whatever you’re working on, especially if one or more of your activities involves a lot of critical thinking. Are you always checking your email? Cut it out! It’s stressing you out. Check it at the beginning of the day, at lunch time and then in the middle of the afternoon. Reply to any crucial matters, then shut it down and move on to your next task. You’ll be happier and get more done!

How’s your balance?

bal_bathroom2How is your balance? No, really – how is it? Can you stand on one foot for 30 seconds? How about 15? No? Time to work on it.

As we get older, our balance can diminish. But as with most other things, we can improve our balance with practice. The more you test your balance, the better it gets! Just a couple of minutes practice a day will show remarkable improvement in just a week’s time.

Gradual changes linked to growing older—such as weak or inflexible muscles, slower reflexes, and worsening eyesight—affect the sense of balance. (Better Balance, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School) You’ve experienced this. When you’re young, you can run along a curb and not have to take a step in the street. Now, even walking slowly it’s difficult to keep to that curb and not step in the street or on the grass next to the curb. And in the winter, we’re all scared of losing our balance and slipping on the ice.

But, it’s been shown that balance training programs reduced falls that caused injuries by 37%, falls leading to serious injuries by 43%, and broken bones by 61% (published online in the BMJ). So, while it’s important to exercise vigorously to improve our cardiovascular system, it’s also important to work on our balance!

My favorite multi-tasking balance exercise is to stand on one foot while brushing my teeth – switching every 30 seconds. Or 15 seconds, or 10 seconds. Be safe, though – make sure the sink is handy for holding onto if you need it! (Canine supervision is optional!) Or just stand next to a chair on one foot for a couple of seconds and then switch. Just do something to improve your balance!

Play with your dog!

racquetballGo ahead – play with your dog. You know you want to! Toss a ball down the hall, play tug in the living room. Push him away and laugh when he comes bouncing back at you. Rough him up! Scratch his ears. Run away from him, then turn around and wrestle! If the weather is decent, go outside and take a walk with him.

Playing with your dog is good for both of you. It increases both of your activity levels, burns some calories, and makes you happy. It’s a little exercise for both of you.

As we go into winter, most of us tend to be more sedentary, and we have to do everything we can to combat it! A little exercise every day is crucial to not only our physical health, but our happiness. And why else do we have dogs, than to be happy? Exercise can also keep us a little warmer, and if you’re anything like me, we need that warmth! And exercise can help keep those winter pounds from piling on. Eating healthy combined with exercise is an unbeatable combination!

So, go play with your dog. It’s good for you. If you’re a cat person, you can try…

Don’t Get “Hangry!”

Do you get “Hangry?”

GORP: Good Old-fashioned Raisins & Peanuts (with a few chocolate chips!)
GORP: Good Old-fashioned Raisins & Peanuts (with a few chocolate chips!)

(That’s Hungry mixed with Angry.) I do. I get so hungry that I lash out at anyone near me. One word not to my liking, and “Off with their heads!”

Not nice, but I can’t help it. The worst thing is that I don’t know when it will hit. So the best thing is to be proactive.

Most days are routine, and I know what to expect. Breakfast at 6:30, lunch at 12:30 and dinner at about 7. I know what to expect, so I can plan for it. But some days are out of the ordinary. If I’m going to a dog show, for example, I never know when lunch will happen, if it does at all. So I bring snacks! Healthy snacks that I can grab when I’m taking the dog for a potty break between agility runs, or before we go into the obedience ring.

Old fashioned “GORP” is a big favorite! That’s Good, Old-fashioned Raisins and Peanuts. Healthy and filling, not to mention yummy.  I might substitute almonds for the peanuts if I’m feeling virtuous. Or add a few M&Ms if I’m feeling daring! A handful of GORP and I’m good to go!

Or, for a mid-afternoon snack, I’ll have a carrot, or a few almonds.  I just make sure not to leave the house without a snack and a bottle of water. (That’s my reusable water bottle with ice and our good Skokie tap water.)

Assess your pain

What kind of pain do I have today?

091215_rtangleI worked out today, but I sure didn’t feel like it. My knee hurts. My hips hurt. But I powered through it, and I’m not sorry.

But, sometimes, we really have to ask ourselves if we’re pushing too hard. Working out 3-5 times a week for me is plenty. Some weeks 3 times, other weeks 5 times. And we really have to be in tune with our own bodies and ask ourselves how much is too much. Working out for the sake of working out, just because it’s on our schedule, sometimes defeats the purpose of that workout.

If I really had an injury to my knee, then I would have to ask myself if doing a regular workout would hurt that knee more. Should I just skip the workout and put ice on the knee? Today, I knew that I was on my feet a lot yesterday and the knee was just feeling that. And the hips always hurt from bursitis. So, I put the pain to the gauge from 1 to 10 – if it’s a 10, maybe I’ll skip the workout and put the heating pad on.

But today was just normal achiness so I worked out. And now I get to feel virtuous!

Do something for you

mossroseEvery day, do something that’s just for you. You’ll go crazy, otherwise. Just for a few minutes, and it doesn’t have to be something monumental. If you have a garden, water it or pull a couple of weeds. I like flowers, so I take pictures of flowers I see on my walks. (Weather permitting. When flowers aren’t blooming, I look at pictures of flowers.)

Close your eyes and breathe. Don’t think, just breathe. If you can’t not think, then think of a place that makes you serene and happy.

Play with your dog. Throw a ball. Have a rousing game of tug. Let your cat chase a piece of string. Look at a favorite painting. Read a chapter in a good book. Draw a pencil sketch (if that’s what you like to do – I have no artistic talent that way, so that’s not what I would be doing). Just for a few minutes.

You’ll come back to your task, whatever that might be, refreshed and more productive. And it just takes a few minutes. Nothing outrageous. Something simple. But it has to make you happy. Put a little smile on your face that can last until the first irritating phone call, anyway.

I’ll eat healthy if it kills me!

Pasta with rubies (beets) is beautiful and healthy!
Pasta with rubies (beets) is beautiful and healthy!

I’ll tell you why it’s so hard to eat healthy!

We’re tempted at every commercial break by fast food and other fatty options. Our friends post pictures of delectable desserts and easy casseroles, filled with cream and butter. Driving down any street in America we’re bombarded by multiple fast food restaurants in every strip mall. And even at family restaurants, the portions are huge! It’s no wonder Americans are gaining weight.

What to do? Play with your dog during commercial breaks, or do a few crunches. “Like” your friends’ posts, and eat those fatty concoctions with your eyes only. Drive right past those fast food restaurants! And if you’re eating out with your family, split the entrée with someone else at your table, or take half home for dinner the next day. Before you even start eating, cut the portion in half and decide that you’re taking the left (or right) half home!

It’s not easy. I know it’s not. And no one can decide for you that you’re going to eat healthy. It’s been a lifelong battle for me. All you can do is your best – I decide one meal at a time that it’s going to be a good one, and I don’t eat between meals. My sister is amazed that I don’t snack – but I know, if I start, I won’t be able to stop. Will power can be learned. All you have to do is judge for yourself whether you want that bag of potato chips or if you want to fit into those jeans…

Don’t sit too long!

A great day for a short walk outside at work!
A great day for a short walk outside at work!

I have bad knees and bad hips. When I sit too long I stiffen up. Do you? I’m feeling fine – working away and then when I get up, the knees lock up and I stumble. Not a pretty sight. And painful.

So I make a point of trying to get up every 15 to 20 minutes or so and take a little walk. Not far – perhaps just to look out the window at the traffic. Or the sun shining on the leaves, or the wind blowing those same leaves. And I try to drink enough water that I have to get up periodically for a washroom break!

I’m lucky enough that I can bring my dogs to work a couple days a week. When they’re with me, I have a terrific excuse to get up – I have to train my dogs! Or take them outside. If it’s nice out, my sister and business partner totally understands if I take them for a short walk.

Another benefit of taking breaks is that I feel fresher and more productive after changing the scenery for just a few seconds. I’m able to get more done without feeling tired.

So taking breaks is good for my work as well as my knees!