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?

When you’re on vacation…

When you’re on vacation, be on vacation! I’m writing this in the beautiful Florida Keys. Right on the water, watching the boats and the sea birds. This is a working vacation for me, but I plan to make the most of my hours off.

It’s much too easy for my mind to go a million miles an hour, thinking about things I have to do, worry about things that might happen, what’s planned for the hours to come. I’m a big worrier – mostly about things I have no control over.

This time, though, I have resolved to focus on the now. What I have to do right now. Not about tomorrow or next week. I know that there is no sense in worrying about things I cannot control, and I will do my best to stop that as soon as I feel the worry starting. Just breathe and focus on the task at hand. 

To help me, I have also resolved to plan my goals and outline the steps that must be taken to accomplish them. That way, when I start to worry about the future, I will focus on the goals I’ve set and the fact that the task I’m working on is a step in that direction.

But during those off-hours, I plan to breathe and enjoy what’s around me.

I break my own rule – constantly

You know how I just told you to find a workout you love and you’ll be more likely to do it? Well, I don’t do that. I found results that I love and do the workout program that created them!

Reality check here – I hate working out. No, really! I’d much rather be reading a book than sweating and squatting. I’d rather be training my dogs than doing lunges. I’d rather be writing … anything … than doing bicep curls.

But I do it because I love to eat. I do it because I do love to train my dogs. I love to run agility with my dogs. I love to hike in new destinations. I love being able to run up and down the stairs five hundred times because I forgot … whatever … or I have loads of laundry to do.

And I love not having knee pain, back pain, hip pain. I stumbled in my dog agility class the other night. (I’m not the most graceful person, and some of the moves our instructor had us doing were a little complicated.) I didn’t fall, but I could feel the stress on my knees, ankles and shins. I thought to myself – well, tomorrow’s going to be an Aleve day! But it wasn’t. No pain.

Of course, I do like seeing more definition in my arms and abs. I like that my pants are feeling looser in the hips and tummy.

And it just takes 30 minutes a day in the basement for me to do an insane workout. Yup, a lot of days I don’t feel like working out, but I do it because it is just 30 minutes. I know that I’ll feel virtuous for having exercised. And that shower afterward feels SO good!

Is your head exploding?

Stress is bad in more ways than you know. It can also slow down your metabolism. Many people are stress-eaters. If you feel stress, every couple of hours, take 5 minutes and just breathe. Empty your brain and focus on your breathing. Close your eyes and think of water, mountains, flowers (like pansies), or whatever makes you happy. Not work. Not the kids. Not all the chores that aren’t getting done! Just the ocean or snow-capped mountains. Set a timer so you don’t worry about the time.

When the timer goes off and you open your eyes, you’ll be in a better frame of mind to tackle the work, the chores, and the kids.

If you’re not into meditating but still feel the stress. Go for a walk! Climb some stairs. If you have one, close your door and dance to a couple of your favorite songs. Bounce on the balls of your feet and get the blood moving. Sing along if you want to! (Off-key is fine!) Again, when you go back to your desk, you’ll be better able to manage the stress.

You won’t want that candy bar, but definitely have a drink of water! Your metabolism be chugging along, and you’ll feel much better.

Burn more calories every day

cross_jumpHere are a couple of easy tips. First, work out in the morning. You’ll burn more calories! Why? Since you’re more rested, you’re probably working harder and you may be exercising a little longer. Fewer rest breaks, too. It’s more convenient for me to exercise in the afternoons on most days. It’s just how my day goes. I understand that I’m burning fewer calories, and I may be taking an extra rest break. But when I’m done, the stress from my day is gone and I feel so much more virtuous!

Increase your speed and you’ll burn more calories! If you’re walking or running, add in a sprinting interval and up the speed. You can do this even if you’re doing a video. Double time it! And make sure you’re swinging your arms – you’ll up the calorie burn by as much as 15%!

See a flat surface? Do some counter push-ups! When you’re picking up a few things at the grocery store, use a basket rather than a cart and you’ll be working your arm muscles (biceps and triceps). Adding strength moves is a good idea since more muscle mass increases the calorie burn. Also, take the stairs when you can. Work your abs by sitting on an exercise ball rather than a traditional chair!