Another good reason to exercise

Sumo squat with weightMy mom had terrible psoriasis patches on her elbows, down her forearms and ankles. She suffered horribly with the itching, and it hurt me to watch her. Those red, rough, scaly patches were unsightly to start with, and when Mom scratched at them, they bled and hurt.

Thanks, Mom

Psoriasis is somewhat hereditary. And I do get patches in the same spot on my elbows, from time to time. My outbreaks are nowhere near as severe as my mom’s were, but they’re still bothersome.

Why am I bringing up a horrible skin condition? Because exercise helps! I had patches on my elbows a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t think much of it since that happens from time to time.

Those rough patches are gone!

And I noticed today that those rough patches are gone!

When I first noticed the psoriasis weeks ago, and I have to be honest here, I had not been really putting my heart and soul into my workouts.

Get with the program

I picked up the pace, and have been much more diligent the last two weeks. I did a week of PiYo (my fave Pilates and Yoga combined workout program) and then this week I started 21 Day Fix Extreme. And today that psoriasis is gone.

Scientific proof

It’s not just my imagination, either. Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have found that vigorous exercise can reduce the risk of psoriasis by as much as 30%! 2 hours of vigorous exercise a week is required to cut the risk – and walking doesn’t count. The researchers found that running and calisthenics helped the most. Psoriasis is an effect of chronic inflammation, which can be reduced by diet, and by regular exercise.

And running and calisthenics is what I get from the workout programs I mentioned earlier. So 30 minutes, 4 days a week, of calorie-busting exercise with my favorite DVDs is saving my skin, as well as giving me so many other benefits!

 

4 Things to Make Exercise a Habit

Fran in a cute workout outfit. Wearing cute stuff to work out in is one way to make exercise a habit - you look forward to wearing it!Most people I know don’t like to work out. I have to talk myself into it almost every day. But these tricks can help you every day make exercise a habit. You may not look forward to it, but you’ll be working out every day.

  1. Cool workout clothes. They always say that if you look good, you feel good. And having at least one great-looking workout outfit will make you feel spectacular. Every time you get a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, you’ll say, “Darn, I look good!” You’ll look forward to putting on your spiffy workout clothes and doing your workout.
  2. Look beyond the workout. You’ll feel wonderful when you finish your workout. You may not want to start your workout because you know it’ll be hard, so look ahead a half hour. Yes, your hair may be a mess when you’re done, and you may stink to high heaven. But you’ll feel amazing! Your cheeks will be flushed, your eyes will be bright and you’ll feel like you can take on a whole football team and win!
  3. Your cool workout clothes and your sneakers will be staring you in the face. And you don’t want your free weights to get lonely, do you? And if you work out at home like I do, you only have to push “play” to start. No commute time or anything. And you’ll be done and feel amazing (see #2. above) in no time.
  4. Set tiny, achievable goals each day. If your workout has a set of 10 pushups and you’ve been doing them on your knees, do one full pushup. Or if you’ve been using 3 pound weights for curls, try a set with your 5-pounders. Or try jogging for a half-minute when you’ve been marching. Pretty soon you’ll be doing the full workout, and you’ll have to buy heavier weights!

Balance – still important!

Torque

I almost took a tumble yesterday. We always take the dogs out, even though we have a fenced yard. There have been too many reports of hawks flying away with small dogs for us to be comfortable just letting the dogs out when they need to do their business. Plus, we don’t want them eating unidentified things that they find in the back yard. And, we don’t really want them catching stray rabbits that find their way under the gates.

Torque bounced, I flailed!

So, yesterday I followed the dogs into the back yard, when, sure enough, they all came racing back to the front, chasing a rabbit who was probably feasting on the herbicide-free grass and dandelions. (Yes, rabbits are stupid. We have four dogs, and rabbits can probably smell that. That’s probably why they reproduce in such quantities. And thinking about it, the bunnies probably were not munching on the dandelions – there are too many of them for the wildlife to be enjoying.)

Torque has absolutely no sense of personal space or staying out of anyone’s way. He will find the shortest path, even if it’s right into me and through my legs. He’s definitely adorable, but Torque needs to learn about going around obstacles.

Keeping my balance

Torque ran right into me, chasing after the stupid rabbit. He bounced, but I was flailing. I did not fall, though!

I credit my ability to stay on my feet to the balance exercises I do every day. As we age, we’re more susceptible to falls, so I’m doing everything I can to prevent it. There are a variety of exercises to strengthen that balance muscle, and it just takes a couple of minutes a day to do one. I lead others in my Facebook Balance Challenge – join us!

 

Celebrate Every Victory

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

Celebrate every victory – big, little and not just yours!

Victories are few and far between. Therefore, it’s really important to celebrate every single one that you can!

I recently had a big victory with one of my dogs. I train and compete with him in AKC obedience. Crazy, I know… The training creates a strong bond between us – and if he’s my best friend then we need to have a strong bond! Last weekend we earned the Companion Dog title. That doesn’t sound very impressive because, after all, what else would a Boston Terrier be but a companion dog?

To earn this title, though, the dog must walk in “heel position” (his shoulders even with my leg) through a pattern that includes right and left turns, about turns and two or three stops (when the dog must sit in “heel position”) – both on and off the leash. The team must perform a “Figure 8” around two people standing 8 feet apart 4 times, with 2 “halts.” This is on-lead. The dog must stand perfectly still, off-lead, while the judge touches him on the head, the shoulders and the rump while the handler is 6 feet away. The dog must come to the handler only when called, from a sit position, and sit in front of her from across the ring. And then go to the heel position while the handler stands still. And then the dog must line up with other dogs competing in the same class, spaced a couple of feet apart. They’ll sit and stay there while the handlers go across the ring – for a minute. The handlers come back. Then the dogs lie down and stay for 3 minutes with the handlers across the ring. And the dogs have to do this successfully 3 times – at 3 different trials – under at least 2 different judges…

OK – enough boring stuff. That’s what I’ve been doing, though. That’s what I’ve put in hundreds of hours training with my dog for. All for very expensive ribbons and a piece of paper. (The training fees and trial entry fees.) So I’ll celebrate this victory for a while!

Celebrate the bond

Most importantly, I will celebrate the bond that I have with my dog.

Celebrate a day with sunshine

But, I haven’t been waiting to celebrate victories. I celebrate a day with sunshine. Celebrate a day that I don’t misplace my keys. When I don’t miss another piece of bread on my sandwich.

Celebrate not having to stop at every traffic signal – when the lights are green! Celebrate when you receive the information you actually requested from a co-worker. Celebrate a conversation with your in-laws that didn’t feel like pulling teeth.

But not with chocolate cake…

Celebrate every little thing. But not with chocolate cake. At least, not every time! Save that for the bigger victories. Lean back and smile. Say, “cheers!” with your water glass. Take a deep breath and tackle the next issue.

5 Reasons to Get Up!

I have a (mostly) sedentary job. I work at a computer, so I’m sitting most of the day. When you reach a certain age … you expect to get stiff and for things to fall asleep if you stay in one position for too long. And when you have bad knees and bad hips, you KNOW that you’re going to be stiff when you get up. But it doesn’t have to be that way, if you’re diligent.

Get up every hour and walk around for a couple of minutes. It doesn’t have to be a long march around the block, or a hike in the woods. Just for a couple of minutes. I walk to the front of the shop and back a couple of times (our miniscule shop is less than 500 square feet). That’s all it takes for me to feel looser. But on nice days, I might take the phone with me and walk outside a little bit. A little Vitamin D helps too! If your hips feel especially tight, stretch out those hip flexors, like the stretch in the photo. I feel this where my hand is.   And take a drink of water every time you sit back down – you’ll need to get up in about an hour! So, how does getting up and moving around help?

  1. Get up and move around to loosen things up! Yes, it works. The hips are definitely looser and the knees are working better.
  2. Get rid of the clouds in your head. You’ll think better.
  3. That problem you’ve been pondering has had a chance to settle itself in your brain without you consciously thinking about it.
  4. That email you were waiting for has probably reached your inbox.
  5. You’ll have a better outlook on things. The world of doom and gloom might look cheerier after a short walk. You may see something to make you smile. You’ll at least gain some perspective after a change of scenery.

I hope you try it. Set a timer for an hour each time you sit down if you lose track of time. Your hips and knees will thank you.

Meditation for Sanity

My mind is spinning!

meditation for a clear mind and sanity
meditation

It’s Monday morning, and my brain is whirling. Feed the dogs, feed the lizard, make my lunch. Boil water for coffee. DON’T SPILL IT! Wait… the lizard isn’t eating his bugs… wait … wait … wait … Would you eat already? I have to water the plants … I have to wash my hair … I have to …

Just wait. Stop. Why am I stressing? I love my little lizard. He’s just waking up. Other stuff can just wait. Focus on the important things. My family. The dogs are fine. My sister and I are fine. I’ll get to work when I get there.

The answer is to think about nothing!

So often our minds are spinning out of control, we’re anxious and stressed about things that are unimportant. It’s easy to lose focus.

When that happens to me, especially on Mondays, I have to just stop and take a couple of minutes and close my eyes. Think about absolutely nothing. Just nothing. If my mind wanders, I consciously bring it back to nothing. People call this “meditation.” I call it thinking about nothing.

“Meditation” has gotten a bad rap in modern society. People hear the word and they see yogis in long skirts sitting in the lotus position with their hands on knees. Or they think of hippies in the ’60s with tie-dyed t-shirts, tattered jeans and barefoot at Woodstock.

But meditation has helped me to focus. When I clear my mind, important tasks become clearer.

If I’m having a hard time clearing my mind to think of nothing – if there are too many extraneous thoughts running through my mind, then I’ll picture a beautiful sunset or a single flower.

After a couple of minutes I can open my eyes and the day is clear. The tasks are lined up in the right order and I can be productive.

The best position for meditation

Do you have to sit cross-legged to meditate? Nope. Just sit in a comfortable position so that you can totally relax. It’s traditional to have your hands palms-up on your knees to be receptive to good things, and I like that. Sometimes I’ll sit in a chair. Sometimes I’ll sit on the floor. Most often I’ll sit on a low stool or yoga block so that I can sit cross-legged and my knees are comfortable.

3 Requirements for a Great Meal

Who thinks that healthy meals are boring? Not me! Nope – every meal can be tasty, filling and healthy. If you’re trying to lose weight, the worst words in any language are “I’m going on a diet!” Yes, “diet” is a 4-letter word, but it’s just a word. It’s not good, bad or indifferent.

Your “diet” is just what you eat. Food is “fuel.” And that’s another 4-letter word. Food is what fuels your body. It’s imperative for everything!

So, what you put into your body should help you in your daily activities – the food you eat fuels your body, like gasoline fuels your car. (But, that doesn’t mean that your fuel shouldn’t be tasty!)

Every meal has to be filling, tasty and appetizing! It has to last for a few hours, until your next meal or a (planned) snack. Lean protein and complex carbohydrates help in filling you up.

The chicken in this picture was grilled, with a rub of spices, which add no calories but tons of flavor. I sprayed the grill with a little oil so the chicken wouldn’t stick. The broccolini was steamed and sprinkled with a little of the spice mixture, and the sweet potato was baked. I did add a tiny bit of butter to the potato. No artificial stuff – a tiny dab of butter for a bit of umami goodness. Yes, it adds a few calories but satisfies the craving for more.

What makes this dish appetizing to me are all the different colors. Sometimes in the depth of winter we’ll make meals that are all one color, which are basically unappealing to the senses. So whenever possible, we try to include food of many different colors. They satisfy the palate, the stomach and the soul.

A late workout is good!

Side kick in a Turbo Jam workoutI work out in the late afternoon. Many advocate an early-morning workout since distractions may be fewer, but late afternoon works for me. And it turns out that I may have inadvertently stumbled onto the most effective workout time!

  1. Better sleep when working out later. Studies have shown that those who lift weights later have better sleep than those who exercise earlier.
  2. Those who work out later have more muscle growth and better endurance.
  3. A study in Journal of Strength Conditioning Research found that those who exercise later lowered their blood pressure by 15% more than those who work out earlier.
  4. A study from The New England University of Birmingham found that those who work out in the evening can go 20 percent longer and at a higher intensity. So, more calories burned!
  5. Your body will be ready to work out later in the day! Studies have found that cortisol levels (which inhibit muscle growth) are higher in the morning, but testosterone levels (which boost muscle growth) are higher in the evening.

So, I’ve been on the right track all along.

But that’s not to say that you shouldn’t work out if the best time for you is the morning. Any workout is better than none!

7 Early Morning Things to Jump-Start Your Fitness

7 early morning things to jump-start your weight-loss journey:

1. Get plenty of sleep! You’ll be full of energy, which will help you stay on track. If you’re tired, you’re more likely to reach for whatever’s easiest, like those chocolate chip cookies.

2. Catch some rays – just a bit. Sunshine helps increase your energy level which boosts your metabolism. Don’t lie in the sun, just lift your face to the sunshine as you walk to your car. And when you reach your destination, do it again. It’ll lift your spirits and boost your metabolism.

3. Eat protein – lean protein also helps boost your metabolism! Egg whites are great for breakfast.

4. Drink water with your breakfast (after coffee…) more water helps fight bloat!

5. Pack snacks – pack healthy snacks for your day. A few almonds, celery or carrot sticks will help you avoid the vending machine. 10 almonds are just as satisfying as a fun-size candy bar – and much healthier.  A little thought saves a trip to the vending machine!

6. Get moving – try to fit in 20 minutes of exercise early – another metabolism booster! And just think how virtuous you’ll feel, having exercised before work. You’ll even have more energy before lunch.

7. Walk part of the way to work. Add to your exercise regime! And take a flight or two of stairs instead of the elevator the entire way.

Get to Sleep…

I sometimes have trouble falling asleep. Not like my dogs – they can take a nap anywhere, anytime. No matter what’s going on around them, and especially after some intense physical activity, Booker and Tango are out.

Not me. Even if I’ve had a busy day – one that’s productive and full of exercise, I still have trouble falling asleep. I know that a good night’s sleep is important for good health, but that doesn’t help me fall asleep.

Many people swear by this breathing method to help fall asleep:

Called the 4 – 7 – 8 Method, it’s been proposed by Dr. Andrew Weil as the body’s natural tranquilizer. (Sounds exactly like what I need.) Dr. Weil maintains that this method will help relax you when you’re feeling stressed, or help you fight off that sugar craving that hits at about 3:00 in the afternoon.

  1. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise.
  2. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  3. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  5. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  6. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat three more times for a total of four cycles.

It’s worth a try, right?