Use these lazy days of summer to your advantage

The days may be warm, but you've got things to do

Yup – me too. Dog days of summer perhaps? Especially theses days, we see on the calendar an unending stretch of similar days. Not even the weather changes much. The last few weeks have been hot and humid. Not much precipitation. One after another.

Feel that sense of urgency?

You know you should be doing things. You just know that you’ll be sorry in three months that you let this stretch of days with no appointments, no urgency, no places to be end with nothing to show for it. So use these lazy days of summer to your advantage!

Set a goal!

How to snap out of it? Well, think of what you would like to see accomplished at the end of those three months. That’s a quarter of a year. Would you like to perfect a new dish? In 13 weeks you can prepare that dish at least 6 times without getting bored yawns from the family.

Want to lose weight?

Or would you like to lose 5 pounds? Completely doable. Figure out your eating plan for the next few weeks and exercise schedule. You’ve got it covered.

Would you like to learn how to crochet? You can order a few different size crochet hooks, some yarn and a beginner’s pattern or two, have them arrive and try it out after watching a few YouTube instructional videos a few times during this quarter year.

Want to be a writer? I did too. Now I have a published book.

Or how about writing a story? Completely possible. Write your ideas, organize the plot and start writing. It won’t take long if you devote just a half hour or so a day. For me, writing a non-fiction book about my training journey with my reactive dog Tango was both cathartic and rewarding. And I got it done in about 4 months. Tango: Transforming My Hellhound.

The point: anything is possible

The point is that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. The first step is to set a goal.

Next is to break that goal down into smaller chunks. And smaller. And smaller – until you’ve got about an hour a day of “work.” But it won’t seem like work because it’s something you really want to do, and an hour out of 24 is nothing. Writing your goals down, and then scheduling your tasks on a planner or calendar really help keep you honest.

In a rotten mood?

Serenity for your bad mood

How often are you in a bad mood? A really bad, mean, rotten mood? The kind of mood when you just want to smack somebody? But you don’t because, well, non-aggressive. But you really feel like it?

If you frequently feel that way, perhaps it’s time to seriously change a constant in your life. It could be that you’re not getting an important nutrient – study your diet. Or you’re not being stimulated mentally. Or you’re dissatisfied at work. Or your relationships need work. Or the human connections you have require too much from you. Or you’re not getting enough fresh air. Or exercise.

The point is, if you’re in a bad mood all the time – it’s not the world, it’s you. Time to figure it out. I can’t help with that. No one can but you.

Yes, I figured it was time for a kick-in-the-pants post. A big part of fitness is the mental side – the whole mind-body connection. Get your head working right and the rest will follow as long as you’re working on it.

There’s no question about it, and we hear about this constantly from every media outlet – these are difficult times. We’re all trying to figure it out together. Some people seem to have a better handle on it than others, though.

So, what’s their secret?

I don’t think there is a secret. I think the people you see who seem to be handling these “difficult times” the best fall into two categories – those who are hiding their true feelings and those who are working on making things be OK.

Hiding your true feelings can be as bad as lashing out, but the person you’re hurting the most there is yourself.

But working on making the best of things seems to be a healthy road to take. Work actively on the relationships that are important to you – your family, your friends, your coworkers. Maintain a healthy diet. Get moving – exercise has been proven to be a mood-lifter. (I wrote about that a while back.) Do fun things frequently. Play with your dog. Dance to your favorite music. Watch old episodes of your favorite sit-coms.

These will help you get out of the doldrums.

Fix these 5 mistakes to help your back pain

Even a modified plank works the core, which will help your back.
Even a modified plank works the core, which will help your back.

As we age, we seem to be more susceptible to certain kinds of pain. For me, it’s my back. I’m sure that some of you are experiencing more back pain too. I’m working away, then get up from my desk to check on stock and … POW!!! … that unmistakable twinge in my lower back that tells me that I’m going to have pain for the next few days.

I try to sit properly – not hunched, both feet on the floor, not twisted. I don’t know why I’m prone to back pain. It was never an issue when I was younger. But I am now and have to deal with it.

In my research, I found 5 mistakes to fix to try to alleviate or eliminate back pain. I’m not sure that all of these apply to me, but some do. And they may apply to your situation.

  1. Performing repetitive physical activities the same way every time. Take a different approach when doing things you do often. For example, if you frequently carry a heavy bag on one shoulder, try switching sides regularly to change the load on your spine.
  2. Don’t bend from the hips and lift. I’m certainly guilty of this. I frequently just bend at the hips to pick up something. When I empty the dishwasher, I frequently just bend over to get to the bottom rack. Experts recommend that you squat with your back straight and chest up to take pressure off the spine and not push out the disks in your lower back.
  3. Don’t sit or stand all the time. I try to get up frequently, but sometimes get caught up. Experts say you should move around or take a walk at least once an hour. This will boost your productivity as well. Give you a change of scenery and spark creativity.
  4. Don’t neglect your core. I’ve said it before – a strong core promotes a strong back. I’d hate to think what my back would be like if I did neglect my core. Experts say we should strengthen the key muscles that support the back – the multifidus which runs along the spine, and the transversus abdominis which wraps around the abdomen. Planks have gotten some bad press, but they’re great for the core.
  5. Don’t move in ways that feel wrong. Avoid twisting and lifting at the same time. I’m guilty of this at times. That old dishwasher – I bend to stack the plates and then pick them up, twisting to get to the cabinet. Note to self: be more conscious of this! And ask for help with heavy or awkward objects.

And, in general – listen to your body. You know it best, so if something strikes you as wrong, go with that instinct. Otherwise you may pay for your bad judgement later.