Don’t feel like working out?

self_0416Some days you just don’t feel it. Me too. You don’t feel like getting sweaty. You’re tired. Your legs are tired. You’d rather be reading. You’d rather be listening to music. You’d rather be playing with your dog. (I know, I advocate playing with your dog over almost anything else, but …) But working out is something I have to do at least 5 days a week. What tricks do I use?

First, if I’m feeling especially frumpy I put on my good workout clothes. Silly, right? Good workout clothes? Isn’t that a contradiction? Nope. If I feel like I look good doing those lunges, it makes it better. So, put on those leggings! Put on that body-hugging top that makes the most of what you’ve got! You’ll feel great, and more likely to do the workout. And if you look like that inspiring trainer you saw on Facebook, you may just get a better workout!

Next, promise yourself 8 minutes. Just start. 8 minutes is nothing! Then it’s 10 minutes, 15, 25 and then you’re done! It just takes 30 minutes a day. That’s it!

And if you don’t work out for yourself, do it for those around you! Yes, when you’re done, you’ll feel great. You’ll feel virtuous! But you’ll also be more patient. You’ll be nicer to those around you. You’ll have more time for the family. Work out for everyone else as well as yourself!

(That’s me feeling all virtuous!)

Feeling down? Play with your dog!

Play with your dog!Here in Chicagoland it’s cold, rainy, snowy, and just generally miserable! Yes, it’s April and we know that the weather will improve (eventually), but right now it’s just miserable. I’m tired of wearing three layers inside. I’m tired of having cold feet (with the ensuing blue toes – this creeps out my sister). And I’m tired of having to blow my nose every hour because it has a tendency to drip when it’s cold. We had a very mild winter, so I feel kind of bad complaining, but it’s April! The continual grayness just depresses me.

So, what do you do when you’re feeling low? I play with my dog! Not sitting on my butt and throwing the ball for him and letting him bring it back when he feels like it. No – I get down on the floor and tug with him. I push on his chest and he comes roaring back at me, ready for another game. Then I’ll chase him around. And I’ll let him chase me! That will get the blood flowing and some feeling back in my feet. And then I’ll throw his ball and race him for it. He’ll win, but he’ll love the game – as will I! And when we’re done I’ll have a tired dog and a smile on my face.

The body achieves what the mind believes

Your body can achieve what the mind believesThe body achieves what the mind believes. Strong stuff. How much is really in your mind? Can you achieve anything you believe?

I think you have to temper that with a short dose of reality. I know I’m never going to be a rock star. For one thing, I can’t carry a tune. Wait – that doesn’t stop a lot of “rock stars” I hear on the radio. For another, I don’t play the guitar. Hmmm, again, not a prerequisite. And, I’m 60 years old. Well, I guess stranger things have happened. I’ll have to work on a look.

But, really. The mind is incredibly powerful. Let’s think about something a little less esoteric. Say, my goal is to do 10 regular pushups. No girlie pushups on my knees. No – real pushups on my toes. And my starting point is that I can’t do any from my toes. No problem. Do 20 pushups on my knees. And 10 with one leg straight, the other knee on the floor. And switch to the other knee. The next day, I’ll do more, and try one pushup on my toes. The key is to practice every single day. Eventually I know I’ll get stronger and I’ll be able to reach my goal. And then I’ll make a new goal.

Walk well to age well

runningman1We all want to get old, but we want the best quality of life as we age. We want to be able to do what we did when we were young (or as close to that as possible). What’s the secret?

Retired occupational therapist Barbara Knickerbocker Beskind suggests that good posture and a brisk 30-minute walk every day are the keys to aging well. In her article, “The Surprising Secret to Aging Well” in The Next Avenue, Beskind suggests that good posture and that walk from early childhood on will build bones and keep us young. It will build bone density and balance reflexes that will cut down on debilitating falls and injuries in later years.

Beskind states that walking has enormous benefits — emotionally and even creatively. This is in addition to the well-known benefits to the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. A sturdy gait pattern with alternating arm/leg movement helps maintain balance reflexes and strength in lateral hip muscles. And going for a walk frees the mind for creative pursuits.

So you don’t have to go crazy – just a brisk walk (with your head held high and your arms swinging in opposition to your gait) will help you achieve the golden years of your dreams!

Breathe properly for more energy

Breathe for energyDid you know that breathing correctly helps you feel less tired? Yup, it’s one factor that internist Dr. Holly Phillips identifies that proper breathing is one way to feel more energized in her book, The Exhaustion Breakthrough.

At least once an hour everyone should make the effort to breathe correctly, that is, consciously and deeply, from the diaphragm and not from the chest. Inhale fully and exhale fully. You’ll stand straighter, with no slumped shoulders.

Check in with your body once an hour while you’re at it. To start, set an alarm – your phone has one built in.  From the top of your head, down through your jaw, your shoulders and chest, your back and hips, your legs and your feet. Stop clenching your teeth and locking your jaw. Align everything. Put your feet flat on the floor. Check for any areas of tension or discomfort. And fix it! Poor posture makes you look tired and feel tired! Stand up and walk around. Then, when you sit back down, you’ll be more energized.

Take 10 deep breaths when you sit down. Full, slow, diaphragmatic deep breaths. You’ll be straighter and maybe even taller! Now reset your alarm and get back to work.

Keep moving!

Side plank in PiYo. Great for strength and flexibility.Whatever you do, keep moving. To stop is to atrophy. And to atrophy is to die.

I know, there are some days when it just hurts to get out of bed. I have those days too. From the bottom up and the top down. Neck hurts. Shoulders hurt. Back hurts. Hips are killing me. Knees hurt. Even the ankles hurt.

But that’s no excuse! Whether it’s arthritis, bursitis, muscle soreness or just sleeping funny. Get up, get dressed and move!

I know it’s not easy. Life isn’t easy. But the more you move, the less you hurt. Those first steps to the bathroom are slow and uneven. Maybe I’m even limping a little. But by the time I finish my morning ablutions, it’s a little better. And then when I’m dressed and the dogs fed, it’s better still. And by the time I finish my coffee I can face a short walk. And then I can work out.

And don’t skimp on the workout! You’re cheating yourself if you do! Yes, modify the moves. Yes, take a break when you need to. (If you’re doing a DVD exercise program, hit pause – again, you don’t want to cheat yourself!) Drink plenty of water during the breaks. But don’t cheat yourself!

And when you’re done, chances are you’ll feel great! Or, if not great, then at least you’ll be proud of yourself for finishing!

Knit for your health

knitting reduces stressKnitting and other handcrafts are more popular than ever. And it’s thanks in no part to the health benefits you derive from it. The Craft Yarn Council reports that a third of women 25 to 35 now knit or crochet. And now men are starting to join in!

Dr. Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind-body medicine and author of The Relaxation Response, says that the repetitive action of needlework can induce a relaxed state similar to that associated with meditation and yoga. Once you get beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

But unlike meditation, craft activities result in tangible and often useful products that can enhance self-esteem. A good idea is to take pictures of your end products on your phone – look at them to boost your spirits.

Another benefit is that when you’re knitting or doing other hand work, you can’t mindlessly eat – this cuts down on snacking. And if you’re knitting, you can’t smoke! Another health benefit.

I recently knitted a pair of fingerless mitts to keep my hands warm this winter. It felt really good to do something productive in the evening rather than just watch TV!

Pain! Do you stop or continue?

Don't baby yourself! Recognize muscle soreness and move on.Many years ago I dislocated my shoulder. I have never experienced pain like that! Think of an ice pick going through your shoulder and then twisting. And then grinding. And then pulling it out a little at a time. And then someone is bashing your shoulder over and over again. That’s the kind of pain. So severe I passed out from it. And then a few days later when I thought it was better, I dislocated it again in my sleep. The doctor said to cut out the aerobics for a while and do other strengthening exercises.

Over time the shoulder got stronger, and I could forget about the dislocations. I lift weights – probably baby weights to many people’s way of thinking, but they’re good for me.

And then a few days ago my shoulder started hurting again. I didn’t think anything of it, but it went on for several days. My mind started to worry at it – what if my shoulder dislocates again. Should I stop working out? Should I stop using weights?

But my brain kicked in and said, “Go easy. It’s not that kind of pain. Yes, it hurts, but the shoulder is not going to dislocate!” And my intelligent brain was right, rather than my panicked brain. I went a little easier, assessed what was going on and moved on. And now my shoulder is fine.

So, the take-away here is to know your body. Know the different kinds of pain that you experience. If something is new and scary, get it seen to. Get to know what muscle soreness is like. You’ll recognize it and move on.

Suit your workout to your mood

Side kick in a Turbo Jam workoutOrdinarily, I advocate following an exercise program for the duration. If it’s a 21 Day program, do it for those 21 days, no excuses! 30 days – ditto! But some days you’re angry at the world and need an outlet before you punch your kids, spouse, dog, mailman… A good kickboxing workout is perfect for those days. If you’re feeling lethargic and almost under the weather, then maybe a yoga practice or Pilates session is the best bet. One day a while ago I felt what seemed like a cold coming on and I did an intense yoga practice. I forgot about how my nose and throat felt and focused on my brain! I felt totally fine at the end of the final pose, Shavasana.  Some days I feel flighty and want a super-intense workout to bring me down to earth.

Today I was in a bad mood, so I popped in one of my favorites, Turbo Jam’s Kickin’ Core. There was kicking, punching, work on the stability ball – it had everything I needed! Even some Capoeira for an intense push. All that in 45 minutes! Needless to say, my mood turned around and I was able to face the rest of the day with equanimity. After my shower…

Unplug – for your sanity

Rest and unplug for sanityWe’re surrounded by our electronics and our devices. There is no escaping the fact that to live successfully in 2016, we need to be plugged into the world around us. It’s how we stay in touch with our friends, how we keep tabs on our kids, know if our flight is on time, how late the bus is going to be,  how we get our news.

But once in a while we just need to unplug. Stop the noise. Get some peace back into our lives. Turn off the computer. Turn the phone off. Turn the TV off.

And then we can go about regaining our peace and sanity. Just sit for a few minutes with your eyes closed. Let the thoughts zoom through your mind. Acknowledge them but don’t take any action at all. Then open your eyes and read a book for 15 minutes. Cook your favorite meal without the TV blaring. Play with the dog for a while, or go for a walk with him. Or by yourself. Look at the trees, at the bushes, at the houses. Or just think about the things and people that make you happy.

It’s easy to become immersed in our technological world, but once in a while it’s important to live in our own head and figure out who we are inside.