Got sleep?

We all know that sleep is important for our health and fitness. And we don’t get enough of the right kind of sleep. We have trouble falling asleep. We have trouble staying asleep. And then we have trouble getting back to sleep. Lack of sleep affects our health. We’re sluggish, don’t move as much, eat more. Our productivity is diminished.

About sleep

There are three phases of sleep: light, deep and REM (rapid eye movement). We usually start with light sleep and move to deep sleep. Then it’s back to light sleep and REM, when we dream.

The cycle

Deep sleep happens most during the first part of the night usually, and is very hard to wake from.  You’ll spend about a quarter of your night in deep sleep and a quarter in REM, which is easy to emerge from.

Deep sleep helps you feel rested

You can survive on just light sleep and REM, but deep sleep is the phase that helps you feel most rested. It’s what we crave from spa treatments and pills

Pills won’t do it!

But we can’t rely on pills to take us into deep sleep. Too often when we wake from a medicated sleep we feel foggy.

Try a cave!

If you want real deep sleep, turn off all your lights. Make your bedroom a cave.

Meditation works too! If you’re new to meditation and have heard of its benefits, try guided meditation – send me a message and I’ll email you one of the short guided meditations I’ve created in mp3 format. They’re restful and soothing (and free). Just the thing to help you sleep!

A Cautionary Tale

FranI went to the dentist the other day – nothing earth-shattering there. I do it every 6 months. (All those pearly whites are my own!) I really like my dentist. She’s a cool lady and she talks about stuff I’m usually interested in – books, dogs, music, card games (well, not that interested, but OK) and roller coasters (definitely not interested in going on them myself, but I have a horrified fascination in others who enjoy coasters).

But this time I learned that she doesn’t have any dogs at the moment and probably will not be getting one in the foreseeable future. The good doctor rescued senior Labrador Retrievers and cared for them for their remaining lives. What a good thing! But she told me that at about the same time that her last one passed away, her husband had a bad fall and broke his hip and his wrist. He’s out of rehab now, but will probably need a walker for the rest of his life, sadly.

Too close to home

This is getting too close to home! I recently wrote about my conversation with Kathleen Cameron, Senior Director of the National Council on Aging regarding the seriousness of falls and how they can be prevented.  http://fitness-over-50.com/2017/07/prevent-falls-my-interview-with-kathleen-cameron/

I asked my dentist what she does to maintain or strengthen her balance, and she said, “Well, just keep up my strength, I guess…” Not good enough. You can prevent falls by improving your balance!

Our bodies change as we age

As we age, our bodies change and lose the ability to balance. Even if you work out regularly, even if you eat right, your balance will diminish unless you specifically do something about it!

Can you commit?

Practicing Yoga is good. Tai Chi is also good. But these practices must be continual. You have to really commit to them in order for your balance to show improvement.

Maybe not, but you’ve got 2 minutes a day!

But you can improve your balance in as little as two minutes a day. Exercise your balance. Do specific balance exercises. Join the “Balance for Fitness, Balance for Life” community on Facebook which gives you an exercise a day to perform. Like standing on one leg while brushing your teeth. This is an older picture – Booker is bored with my routine now and doesn’t feel the need to supervise.

I know it’s helped me! I recently fell – stepped on a rock the wrong way at night in a parking lot. It was extremely painful, and I thought my knee would be injured badly. But the only damage was a scrape on my shin that was gone in a couple of weeks. (I do have a scar as a memento now because I never keep scrapes covered for as long as you’re supposed to…)

So, the moral of this tale is, don’t fall and need a cane or walker forever! Practice your balance!

 

Don’t let them squash your joy!

Fran holding Booker with the judge
Booker and the Judge (and me)

I’ve talked about the ups, and downs, and more downs, and frustrations of dog training here. It’s part of my life, so I talk about it. I train my Boston Terrier, Booker in Obedience. I’m holding him in the picture to the left. To our right is the judge at the Obedience Trial where we earned Booker’s Novice Obedience title.

Doing Obedience with a Boston takes a great deal of patience and consistency. You don’t see many at Obedience trials. You see lots of Golden Retrievers and Border Collies.

Bostons are goofballs. It takes about 3 years for their brains to start to settle in. All they want to do is play, eat, play, sleep, and play some more. To earn an obedience title on a Boston takes a whole lot of persistence.

And now that we’ve earned the first regular title in AKC (American Kennel Club – the organization in which Booker is registered), I aim to continue and progress to the next level. Which will take even more training and practice and persistence and patience and consistency.

Back to the main theme…

Booker and I earned that title in 3 days this Spring. Since we earned the title all in one year, we’re qualified to enter the AKC Obedience Classic. Every dog that earned a title all in one year is eligible to enter the Classic.

As any user of Facebook does, I was scrolling through my groups and newsfeeds today. And there is a long discussion that the Classic is nothing more than a money-maker for the AKC.

That may certainly be one reason to hold the trial, but I’m not looking at it like that.

The Obedience Classic is a venue to show how proud the competitors are of the work they put in. Proud of their dogs and their training. It’s a chance for all of that training to be recognized in a venue where people may observe that might be inspired to train their own dogs.

The Classic is held at the place where the Agility Invitational and the National Dog Show is held. But people who may get tired of the noise could stop in to watch some of the best teams in the country compete. Watch the bond these teams have – person and dog – nothing better!

So, for those who say that anyone can get in to the Obedience Classic, and that it’s nothing more than a regular show, I don’t buy it. It demonstrates the love and passion a person has for their dog!

Much more than just a vegetable

Mashed cauliflowerI’ve been re-introduced to the wonders of cauliflower! We’ve always just steamed the florets and added a pinch of salt and perhaps a bit of butter, but I learned that you can do so much more to it!

The Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Cauliflower contains Sulforaphane, which is a cancer-fighter, helps to reduce blood pressure and improves kidney function. It also contains Sulfur which is an anti-inflammatory and helps to remove toxic substances from the body. This versatile vegetable also contains multiple antioxidant phytonutrients. One serving of cauliflower contains almost a whole day’s recommendation of Vitamin C. It also contains Folate, Vitamin K, Fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids! Wow!

I mentioned that a key property of cauliflower is fighting inflammation. Inflammation can contribute to many debilitating illnesses, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and even cancer. Reducing inflammation also stabilizes blood sugars, helping to manage and prevent diabetes.

Studies have shown that cauliflower, when consumed once a week, helps fight colorectal cancer. And cauliflower doesn’t have to be cooked! It’s been shown that eaten raw, cauliflower binds with bile acid to help cholesterol levels.

Not Just a Side Dish

Steaming cauliflower and eating it just like that is still a great option. And steaming is much better than boiling cauliflower, according to the experts. When boiled, many of the phytonutrients are left in the water.

Besides mashing cauliflower and adding a bit of butter and a dash of salt as a healthier alternative to mashed potatoes, I’ve got to try ricing cauliflower! People swear by it! And using it as a pizza crust. A friend says you can actually pick up flattened riced and cooked cauliflower like bread!

 

What happens when you skip a workout

Sumo squat with weightLife happens! We’ve all been there. You have an early meeting, or a late meeting, you had to work late, or you have to take the dog to the vet. You usually work out on the weekend and you have a dog show. And you miss a workout. Guess what? Nothing happens!

Good news

Yes, nothing happens if you miss a workout. But don’t think that you can slide and miss a few! Not much happens in one to three days. According to “Tone It Up” trainers Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, resting for a day is encouraged. Don’t beat yourself up, just get back on the bandwagon and take up where you left off with your workouts.

Too often missing a workout starts a cycle – “I missed one workout, and nothing happened. I didn’t gain any weight. I feel the same, so I think I’ll go shopping today.” Or, “I already screwed up, so I’ll eat more chips.” Don’t do it! Shift your thinking.  Instead say, “It’s OK that I missed one workout. My body needed the rest. I’ll crush it today and feel virtuous.”

Bad news

Liz Letchford, MS, ATC, PhD candidate and personal trainer says that missing a workout for more than three days starts the spiral of “performance decrease.” While this is most observable in weight trainers, all of us can experience it. That’s because the connection between your muscles and your brain becomes weaker the longer you don’t use it.

The Timeline

  • 3 days – as long as you don’t change your diet drastically, not much happens.
  • 10 days – you’ll start to lose muscle tone.
  • 2 weeks – you’ll start to lose muscle mass but not necessarily strength. (On vacations, try to fit in a couple of workouts to maintain your rhythm, so it’s not as hard to get back in the routine when you get home.)
  • 3 weeks – you’ll experience a loss in anaerobic power. You’ll notice it in running up the stairs or running to a building from the parking lot.
  • 4 weeks – you’ll start to lose aerobic capacity.
  • 6 weeks and beyond – you’ll notice a definite loss in power and you’ll feel more tired.

The Bottom Line

Definitely take a rest day every now and then. Enjoy it! During that rest day do some stretches, or exercises on the foam roller (my personal nemesis). Don’t defeat yourself with your diet on your rest days, and get right back to your regular workouts!

credit: Dominique Astorino

 

Prevent falls! My interview with Kathleen Cameron

Balance for Fitness, Balance for LifeI recently had the privilege of interviewing Kathleen Cameron, MPH, Senior Director of the Center for Healthy Aging, part of the National Council on Aging (ncoa.org), about balance, falls, and health as we age.

Kathy told me that older Americans’ falling is one of the most significant public problems today. It’s estimated that 25 to 33 percent of people over the age of 65 fall every year. About 25% of those who fall are injured. Most common are broken wrists or hips. Femur breaks are also common, even though the femur is one of the biggest bones in the body.

Falls are also the leading cause of traumatic brain injury, and can also exacerbate other problems to the point where the person never recovers, and may even die.

Falls certainly account for many trips to the emergency room, hospital stays and courses of rehabilitation. It’s estimated that falls have cost $31 billion every year.

A descending spiral

The fear of falling alone can restrict activities, although most falls occur at home. People become more isolated and fearful of leaving home, which can lead to depression.Those who suffer from depression can fall even more.

You can see the spiral here. A self-fulfilling prophecy. People fear falling so they don’t do the things which can prevent falls, which causes an increased risk of falling.

Good news

The good news is that many falls can be prevented. Staying active, starting as early in life as possible, can prevent falls. Regular exercise, including strength and balance work, also can prevent falls. (And people give me funny looks when I tell them about my balance work…)

Kathy says even entirely healthy people aged 60 and older are more prone to falls than those 10 to 20 years younger. Changes occur to the body in aging that contribute to falls. As we age, we tend to lose muscle mass and strength decreases. To counteract the effect, it’s even more important to combine strength exercises with our cardio and balance!

Pre-existing conditions

Many older Americans also suffer from chronic conditions – heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes – which also contribute to the risk. And medications that are prescribed for these conditions may have side-effects such as dizziness and drowsiness, which contribute to falls.

Once again, though, there is good news. If a healthy and fit 60-year-old does suffer a fall, his or her recovery may be easier than others’. I told Kathy about a recent fall of my own. I stepped on a rock funny in the dark, fell and skinned my shin. 2 weeks later, it’s all better except for a little scab. Kathy said that it’s probably due to the strength and balance work I do that my injuries were not worse and my recovery was so fast.

Practice helps!

Practicing balance truly does help to reduce the risk of falling. But it needs to be practiced on a regular basis – in fact, daily! Tai Chi is one example of exercise that improves strength and balance, but it must be practiced for at least 50 hours before it produces any benefits. Starting early will help later, but it’s never too late to start!

Yoga has not been studied specifically for reducing falls, but if you’re physically able to do it, it certainly can’t hurt. Balance and strength, which yoga improves, reduce the risk of falls.

Balance is a combination of many factors

Kathy said that balance combines many sensory inputs. Input from the eyes, ears, and touch are all integrated through the brain and output through the muscles. All of your senses combine to affect your balance.

Balance also has a psychological component which may be even more difficult to overcome. Fear of falling is a real problem for many. There is an evidence-based program, “A Matter of Balance,” that the National Council on Aging encourages, helps to overcome the psychological effect of the fear of falling. If you or someone you know has a fear of falling, I urge you to contact your local area Agency on Aging and take advantage of this program. Everyone should be able to enjoy the world as much as they want to!

Shoes make the woman (or man)

shoes are important in balanceFootwear makes a difference in balance. According to Kathy, high heels significantly increase the risk of falling – no surprise there. But going barefoot or in socks at home also increase the risk, due to a higher risk of slipping. Low-heeled shoes with firm, slip-resistant soles like rubber are recommended. And be sure to wear your glasses, even at home!

Vision plays a very big role in balance. Everyone should have their vision checked every year, and have their corrective lenses adjusted. Your home should be properly lit. Don’t sit in the dark! If you can’t reach a burnt-out light bulb, ask for help. Don’t climb on things to change it! Have a clear, well-lit path from the bedroom to the bathroom. There are attractive modern switches that dim or light a path. Use one!

Weighty matters

The obesity epidemic in America is also a factor in falls. People who are obese may be less physically active, they may not be as strong and their balance may not be as good. Kathy said, many obese people who fall feel hopeless and helpless, feeling that nothing can be done for them. Again, increasing the risk of more falls.

Obese people suffer from diabetes and arthritis at a higher rate, which leads to more pain and discomfort, which limits their activity, and increases the number of prescription medicines they’re on, according to Kathy. Some of these medications’ side effects increase the risk of falling. Pain medicine, for example, produces side effects such as sleepiness and dizziness, leading to more falls. Obese people also tend to be more depressed. Anti-depressant medication also increases the risk of falls. More dark spirals.

Common medications may increase your risk

prescriptions may cause fallsMany older Americans are on some form of medication that contributes to falls. Kathy says that even some common prescriptions can increase your risk because they are psychoactive in nature and affect the central nervous system.

Many opioid pain medications increase the risk. So do insomnia medications such as benzodiazepines, and blood pressure medication. As we get older, our bodies don’t flush out medicines as quickly as when we’re young. Dosage could be a factor that increases our risk of falling. Get your medications checked on a regular basis.

Get your orthostatic blood pressure checked – sitting versus standing. If there’s a significant drop when you stand up, that could be a problem in your medications or their dosage. Our bodies’ response to medication changes as we age.

Even over-the-counter medications can also increase your risk of falling. The active ingredient in Benadryl and other antihistamines can lower your blood pressure, causing you to be dizzy and fall. It’s also found in sleep medicine that you can buy over the counter. Non-sedating allergy medicines are recommended, especially for people over 60 and those with a higher risk of falling.

What to do

In terms of exercise, walking alone doesn’t reduce falls, Kathy says. Walking is certainly important for cardiac benefits, but it should be done in conjunction with strength and balance work. The CDC recommends 20 minutes or so of vigorous activity 4-5 times a week, and moderate- or high-intensity strength work 2 days a week that involve all muscle groups.

Before anyone starts an exercise program they should check with their doctor and start slowly. Set realistic goals and build slowly. If you haven’t exercised in the past, the “Stay Active and Independent For Life” (SAIL) program is good for older adults. Then progress to “EnhanceFitness” and “A Matter of Balance.” These are evidence-based programs and are promoted by the National Council on Aging.

On a personal note, I add balance work to my regular exercise, which combines cardio and strength work.

Draft your doctor to help

If you’ve been to the doctor and had a bone density test, and you’re fine – Kathy says don’t be complacent! Falls are caused by many factors. At your next visit, ask your doctor for a falls-risk screening and assessment. Be pro-active and know your risks. Less than half of older Americans talk to their doctors about falls and their risks, not realizing their doctors can help.

What’s our take-away?

Be active and stay active! Be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines on exercise, and add strength and balance work to your regimen. Contact me for suggestions!

If you’re overweight and fall into the “obese” category, get physical and psychological support. We want you to be healthy!

get your vision checkedTalk to your doctor about fall prevention, especially if you have fallen, have a fear of falling, or feel unsteady on your feet.

Have your prescriptions monitored for interactions and side-effects that contribute to falls.

Get your vision checked once a year and your corrective lenses adjusted accordingly.

And turn your lights on!

Wear safe shoes – there are some cute ones out there… I checked.

Join my Facebook Balance CommunityBalance for Fitness, Balance for Life!

Be sure to subscribe to Fran’s newsletter for news, tips, recipes and (sometimes) fun stuff!

Stay in control of your falls risk. You have the power to prevent a fall!

Like exercise? Not me…

Side plank in PiYo. Great for strength and flexibility.Many of you may be under the mistaken impression that I like to exercise. Ummmm… no. I post exercise pictures, sweaty selfies, my crazy circus moves (like the side plank, left) to motivate myself and anyone else who might be inspired to follow my example. But like exercise? No.

Why?

I exercise because I like to do other things.

I want to be able to train my dogs and compete with them in not only obedience, where you just have to run for a short distance, but in agility as well, where you run for a minute or so – remembering an obstacle course, and directing your dog to do those obstacles.

I want to take hikes in pretty places. and I want to be able to travel to those pretty places, preferably without pain and on my own two feet.

I don’t like to shop, so I want to spend as little time in grocery stores as possible. That means to check the produce myself and pick the good stuff, select all the other things necessary, maneuver my cart through the store, take the stuff out of the cart, put it in my car, bring it in my house and put it away myself.

I want to cook delicious meals for myself, my family and my friends. That means being on my feet for an extended period of time.

I want to go out with friends and family and not worry about being a hindrance to them.

I want to eat good food!

Exercising burns calories, so I can eat more good food. Including desserts (especially chocolate)!

I want to use my brain!

And I want to keep my cognitive function for as long as possible.

Short, effective workouts

So I exercise. I don’t particularly like it, but I do it. I’ve found that combining cardio and strength for a very intense 30 minutes 4 or 5 times a week is quite effective at keeping my joints happy, the weight off, and my brain going. 21 Day Fix Extreme works for me most of the time. (I find it easier on my knees than 21 Day Fix.) Every couple of months I do PiYo for a week, just for something different. But I don’t exercise to be entertained. I exercise for the outcome.

So, there you have it. I don’t like to exercise, but I do it.

What is it about dog shows?

Booker and me at a high-energy dog show!Going to a dog show always energizes me. I think it’s because a dog show is so alien from most of our day-to-day lives. Most of us go to work every morning and sit. We spend our days looking at a computer screen or on the phone. Writing notes, completing spreadsheets, and not having much interaction with others.

A dog show is very different. First of all, by its very nature, there are beings of a different species present! Lots of dogs… Most of them are happy and wagging their tails. (Although, personally, I don’t have much experience with tails.) Loud and panting, perhaps, but generally happy. The whole place is loud, usually, with people and dogs moving around. It’s very dynamic with lots of energy.

Even at an obedience trial. Yesterday was the annual trial of the obedience club that I’m a member of. Even though it was a lot of hard work to put on the trial, I think each of us involved had a really good time. I know I did – and not just because of the ribbons!

It’s the interaction between the people and the dogs. And just the fact that there are dogs there to pet and talk to makes the place happy.

The energy of the place transfers to others.

And Booker won the trophy for Highest Qualifying Scoring Boston Terrier at the trial! That’s me on the left and the judge on the right.

Stress – it’s not going away

Play with your dog to relieve stress!Stress, our old friend. It’s ever-present. And it’s not going away. Every day we hear on the news something that makes us gnash our teeth. And since social media makes everything immediate, even from the far-reaches of the globe. Former allies are now questionable, and we’re cozying up to former enemies. Your boss is asking for ridiculous deadlines. The talk-show host on your favorite radio program has gone insane. Even commercials are making us angry and on-edge.

And when we feel those stresses, they can manifest themselves in our behavior. Many people eat when they’re stressed. Some get cranky with those they love (because getting cranky with the boss can get you fired). Some people become ill. None of these are good things.

So, how can you keep your blood pressure (figuratively) under control?

Take a step back. Unplug for a while and turn off the TV.

Go for a hike in the woods. Or just a nap under a tree in the back yard. Enjoy some nature.

Close your eyes, clear your mind and breathe for a few minutes.

Talk to a friend about your dogs.

Play with your dogs.

Work in the garden.

Listen to music. Not on the radio.

Some people advocate meditation. I honestly do think it helps to ground me. I do a couple of minutes every day or so – without meditating for a bit my mind tends to take off into the “What if …” zone. And then it goes around in circles and spirals, and I get all hot and bothered. So I sit down, close my eyes and think about nothing.

Some people like listening to guided meditations. They’re good too – in fact, I’m developing a series of short guided meditations.

But, whatever you do, make sure the stresses of today’s world don’t affect you adversely.

One sure-fired way to stay sane

Google calendar to set my mind at easeLife is nuts. It’s just crazy, and getting crazier by the day. So many things to do, places to go, stuff to get done. It’s practically impossible to keep it all straight.

Dentist appointment. Hair appointment. Take the car in. Go grocery shopping (and where did I put that clean-eating shopping list?). Take the dogs to the vet. Buy that birthday card. Do laundry. Go to agility class once a week. Train the dogs. Work out. Answer emails. Write.

I know I can’t possibly remember all that. Something is sure to fall between the cracks.

I rely on Google Calendar. It’s my planner, my to-do list, my reminder. I can sync it to my pc and all my devices. I can color-code reminders and appointments. Whenever I think of something, I just open my Calendar and enter it. When I enter an appointment on my phone, it shows up on my pc. If I think of something I have to do on Monday, I can enter it on my tablet and I can see it on my phone when I’m running around.

And the calendar has a repeat function for appointments that repeat, like weekly classes.

I know that I haven’t even scratched the surface of all of its capabilities, but I’m getting good use from the Calendar, and it’s helping me to erase some worries. I worry that I’ll forget to do something, and being able to enter it the instant I think of it has eased my mind somewhat. I’ll probably have to use it more, and explore it to discover other ways to make life easier.

You can access holiday calendars that are formatted for the Google calendar. My dog Agility instructor even has our club calendar in the Google format. And I can even find out when the Cubs game is on my Google calendar!

If I don’t have to worry about things I have to remember to do and where I need to be, then I can focus on reaching my goals!