A first look at guilt

Guilt and exercise / or not exercising

I’ve been thinking about guilt lately, specifically how it relates to exercise.

Are you torn between your guilt about exercising and not exercising. Spending time working out or with family? Do feel like your brain is on the treadmill even when you’re not?

Have you felt guilty about not exercising?

Or guilty about exercising when you could be doing something for your family?

I’m here to tell you to get over it!

If you’re doing something productive –

If you feel guilty about not exercising – are you doing something else that’s worthwhile? Are you working? Earning a living? Helping your family with something? If you’re engaged in an activity that’s productive, then you can work out another time. Schedule it! Put it in your calendar! (One that you actually refer to on a regular basis.)

If you’re not doing something else worthwhile, then you should feel guilty, so get up and move!

Seriously, though, you’re probably spending more time and energy feeling guilty than you would if you’d stick in a DVD and did a workout. You’ll feel terrific afterward – virtuous and healthy!

Are you exercising when you should be doing something else?

Are there really important things that you should be doing when you’re working out? Or are they just things to get to … some time?

If they’re the really important things, go do that and, again, schedule a workout.

Now, only you can determine if those things you’re thinking about are “really important things” that should be done now, or if they can wait.

The key, it seems, is to prioritize tasks. And then use your calendar so you’re sure not to forget the specific tasks that you need to get done.

But don’t leave out exercise!

If you’re feeling guilty about spending time on yourself when you could be doing other things for family, friends, or work, then don’t.

By spending a little time (as little as 30 minutes a day 4-5 times a week) on yourself exercising, you’ll be gaining a healthier you. A you that will be around longer for your family. A you that can spend the quality time with your family that they deserve. And a you that will be more productive at work.

So stop feeling guilty. Write down and prioritize the things you need to do.

Why would we want to prevent pain?

“It’s easier to prevent pain than to squelch pain. Literally and figuratively. “

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, posited this as a rule for life that happy people know. It’s true. I’ve thought about it a lot on the physical side – how to prevent injury, and how to deal with an injury.

And, if at all possible, it’s a whole lot easier to prevent an injury. Make sure you stretch properly. Drink plenty of water. Warm up slowly. Challenge yourself, but don’t push when you shouldn’t be pushing! And take the time to do a proper cooldown.

I practice this all the time, both with my workout DVD programs, and when I run on the treadmill. Even though my DVDs have warmup periods, I try to do a little before I even turn on the machine – I’m old… I need more of a warmup. And for the most part I’ve been successful at avoiding injury. Sure, I feel my muscles if I try something new and sore muscles are part of the fitness journey. But that’s not an injury. It won’t cause long-lasting effects.

But how about emotional pain?

Do we want to prevent emotional pain? Do we lock ourselves away so that we prevent the pain of someone letting us down, or of separation? I don’t think so.

Emotional pain is part of being human.

You know that old saying, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?” I think that’s true. If you don’t put yourself out there to be loved and to love someone, that’s quite a lonely existence.

We need each other! That’s part of being human too. Sure, we have to be smart about which relationships we pour ourselves into – don’t fall for a married guy… Or a gay guy… But, we need human interactions. Form friendships wherever you can. Do nice things for people. Put yourself out there. That’s how you feel human and engaged, and fulfilled.

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!

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.

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!