You only need one thing to enter your happy place

As humans, we strive for certain things. First of those things is happiness. Being happy and optimistic helps us overcome minor problems and be more resilient. Who wants to be doom and gloom all the time, right? And yet so many of us are not happy. Sure, some things in all of our lives weigh us down. But there are lots of facets to each of us. And most of those facets can make us happy. It just takes one thing to enter your happy place. Now, my happy place is probably very different from yours. And your happy place is different from anyone else’s. All are equally happy to each of us. What’s that one thing we need? A mindset shift.

Exercise: from “no way” to “happy place?”

I’ve said it before, I don’t like to exercise. And yet I do it every day. How do I get from moping around and saying, “I have to go work out. I don’t want to do it. Why do I have to work out?” to “I get to work out now!” How? That one thing to get to my happy place is a shift in the story I tell myself. “In 45 minutes or so, I’ll be done. I can relax and take a nice warm shower. Then I can sit down and read for a few minutes.” Notice the fact that I don’t dwell on the workout itself, but on the reward. Once I get going, I don’t actually mind the workout. I can enjoy the music and the choreography. And I know that if the weights are really heavy, then I’m probably almost done. 

Except for running. I really do mind the running. And then I found something to make the running more enjoyable: audiobooks. I listen to a rollicking adventure while I’m on the treadmill and that takes my mind completely off of what I’m doing. I made something about running fun and that keeps me motivated during those workouts.

Gray winter ugly to aesthetically pleasing

This can work for other activities as well. That one thing to enter your happy place when you’re seeing gray, dirty snow on the ground in the depths of winter could be admiring the lines of the bare branches against the sky. Or enjoying how your dog romps through the stuff.

Treasure hunt!

And if you’re not a fan of organizing, but you’ve got a closet that you promised yourself you’d get to, then you need that mindshift, that one thing to enter your happy place. Tell yourself that you’re going on a treasure hunt in the closet. Because you never know what you’ll find there. You may find long-lost treasures to wear or even to sell. Schedule a few hours to do it. Yes, put it in your calendar. And get it done.

I’m no Pollyanna, but I’ve been working on putting a smile on my face every day. I’ve been exercising that mindshift to become happier, no matter what else is going on. It works for me, and discovering that one thing to enter your happy place will work for you, too.

Everyone’s getting into the balancing act

I’ve got to admire Al Roker. He’s looking great these days, and this month he’s focusing on improving his balance while he walks. In the clip on the Today show, he merely said he wanted to improve his balance, so that’s the focus of their February challenge. Stephanie Mansour, the fitness consultant for Today, has put together a month-long challenge for members of the show’s “Start TODAY” 100-day challenge that will combine balance, walking and core work. The show’s website provides a calendar that indicates the kind of work to do on any given day – walk, balance or core.

We use balance in everyday movements

Mansour emphasizes the importance of balance in overall stability because we use it for things we don’t even think of every day – like getting up from a chair or picking something up off the floor. With better balance, we don’t even think of movements like this. But if our balance is weak, then, for example, we’d think twice about picking that piece of paper up. And it would take at least twice as long to brace ourselves to get out of a chair. Mansour includes core work in this challenge because strong core muscles lead to stronger balance. Our core helps our posture, our breathing, and our ability to move.

We know that balance is crucial for our healthy aging. Without our working to maintain it, our balance erodes over time. But, we can do something about it. Al Roker recognizes this. We can work to improve our balance with simple exercises. The “Your Week of Core-Centered Balance Moves” Guide gives you some of the exercises that will help.

Some Balance Moves

The recommended exercises highlighted in the Facebook group Balance for Fitness, Balance for Life, are just that – recommendations. They’re not the only ones that will help to improve your balance. Mansour highlights other, probably more advanced, balance exercises. She includes the yoga “Tree” pose, Plank Shoulder Taps, and “Warrior III.” The Plank Shoulder Taps combines core and balance, where you tap alternating shoulders while you’re in Plank position. Warrior III is another balance move that’s quite challenging. There’s also a move that Mansour calls the “Balance Beam Walk,” that’s like Inline Walking, but balancing a book on your head. Again, it combines balance, walking and core.

More Core Moves

Of course Mansour highlights “Plank” as a good core strengthener. Others exercises in the Today challenge include “Bird Dog” (raising opposite arm and leg, alternating) and “Dead Bug” (Lying on your back with arms stretched up and legs lifted, bent at a 90-degree angle. Touch the opposite knee with your hand and go back to the original position.).

Get into the balancing act! You’ll work everything – and combine balance, walking and core.

Push-ups Work Everything

I’m really bad at push-ups. There. I said it. I’m weak, my elbows hurt when I try to go deep into a push-up, and I’m really bad at them. But I keep trying. Because I know that push-ups work everything. Experts not only recommend 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week, but also 2 days of strength training.

Strength training helps build muscle and also bones. We smallish women over a certain age can become fragile over time, and must do what we can to stay strong and vital, crucial for our healthy aging. Being strong means that we’ll be more resilient, too, able to face whatever life throws at us. And there’s nothing that builds and tests your strength more than push-ups.

Amber Harris, a certified strength coach, notes that including push-ups in our workouts helps us increase strength and muscle mass which we lose at a rate of 3 – 8 percent every decade over age 30. Push-ups also help us lift and push things, like boxes and doors. And, by working the core, push-ups also help us maintain good posture. But they’re hard.

Doesn’t something else work?

If you’re like me and don’t like to do push-ups, you’re thinking, can’t I do something else? And the answer is, of course. There are loads of exercises that build strength in your arms, your shoulders, your back, your core and your legs. Just not all at once. Push-ups work everything all at once, so it’s a really efficient exercise. Talk about multi-tasking. A few push-ups, even modified ones, pack more of a punch than an equal number of biceps curls, for example.

But I can’t do full push-ups

Me neither. Not many, anyway. Full push-ups, the ones where you’re on your toes, bending your elbows so your chest brushes the floor, are ridiculously hard. I can do maybe four of them. I know that if my goal is to do 25 full push-ups at some point, then I have to keep trying. For the rest, I modify.

Bianca Vesco, a NASM-certified personal trainer and fitness instructor, advocates modifying push-ups to meet you where you are so that you can build on them. You can start by doing standing push-ups, hands on the wall. Then progress to lower inclines, like your kitchen counter, a table, an ottoman, a step stool and then finally a full push-up on the floor. This progression gets steadily harder, but as you make your way through, your body will get stronger and you’ll succeed. For all of the modifications, though, remember to keep your neck straight, your core tight, your butt tucked and your back straight. Another progression, when you’re getting to the really hard ones, is to lower your body in the modified position, then when you’re as low as you can get, put your knees on the floor and reset to the starting position. This adjustment helps build the muscles you’ll need for the full push-up.

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, push-ups will help you build the strength you need. Because push-ups work everything.

Give your body what it needs

You may say, “Oh, I don’t need a lot. I’m happy with the way things are.” But what you really mean is, “I eat healthy and get the nutrition I need within my calorie allotment. I move my body the way the AHA and CDC recommends. I give my brain all the stimulation it could possibly need.” But, is this really true?

It’s a lot. And if it really is true, that’s fantastic! But let’s take each of these individually to see if you do give your body what it needs.


I’m no expert, but I know that if I eat my 3 squares a day, load up my plate with lots of veggies and legumes, a little meat, and not nearly as much potatoes or pasta as I like, I’ll be eating well. I’ll probably be within my recommended calorie range. I’ll be getting enough protein, enough fiber, and enough vitamins and minerals to keep my body fueled. Of course, I also add in a bit of chocolate to keep me happy. You’ll want to check with your doctor or a nutritionist, but I’ll bet they’ll tell you pretty much the same thing.


You’ve heard it from me before. The Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, and even more strength work. How you get those minutes in is up to you. You know you’ll want to keep your workouts fun – because that keeps your motivation up. But, if you don’t exactly enjoy your workouts, but you know you have to keep it up, what do you do? You might want to hop on the “Cozy Cardio” bandwagon. That’s making your environment appealing. If you walk or run on a treadmill, or use a stationary bike, that’s a great way for your workouts to be more inviting. Listen to an exciting audiobook, like I do when I run, or watch a favorite TV show while you exercise. You’ll enjoy the ambiance, if not the workout.


And when you exercise, you’re also feeding your brain! Vigorous exercise improves your memory, makes you happier, more resilient and helps you sleep better. 

Put like that, it’s not too much to give your body what it needs.

Make it easy to track it all every day using your Fitness Journal and Tracker!

Why can’t I do the same workout every day

The first step in beginning a fitness regimen is finding an exercise program that you like. I’ve said that a lot. Because if you don’t like it, you won’t do it. Simple as that. If you have a program that gets you on your feet, gets you moving, and you actually look forward to it, then why in the world wouldn’t you do it every day? You’ve got built-in motivation, so get to it, right? Now you’re saying that’s a bad idea? Why can’t I do the same workout every day? Here are some answers, prompted by personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist Rachel Trotta with my own comments thrown in. And my own article about cross-training may have some ideas for you, too.

First, remember to recover

Our bodies need time to recover. When we work our muscles intensely, they need time to recover and get stronger. So if you love to run and want to run everyday (I don’t understand this, but I know many people do), try to find something else that you love for alternating days. If you emphasize strength workouts, try to work different parts of your body every other day. 

But if, like the series that I like, your workout program actually does target different areas of your body on different days, you may not need to do a different program. If you’ve found an instructor that you really like, that’s terrific. Try to find different programs that target different areas to mix up your workouts.

The dreaded plateau

If you do the same workout every day, your body gets used to the movements and you’ll hit a plateau. Your body is great at adapting, but that’s not what you want when you exercise. In order to get stronger, or leaner, or improve our cardio response, we need to keep progressing in our workouts. Lift a little more, or do more difficult moves.

The boredom factor

Why can't I do the same workout every day?

No matter how much you like a workout program at the beginning, if you repeat it too much, you will get bored and you’ll lose your motivation. It’s the same thing with your favorite foods. Eat the same thing every single day and you’ll get bored with it and look for something new and exciting. I think that’s one reason we find it hard to stick to a restrictive eating plan. If you stick with it, you’re bound to lose weight, for example, but we want variety. Same thing with our workouts. If we do the same workout every day, we’ll get sick of it.

Over-exercise may result

And doing the same workout every day may result in over-exercise. Over-doing a move may result in injury. Or, if you’re merely going through the moves without focusing on them, you won’t get the full benefit.

So what’s the solution?

If I can’t do the same workout every day, what do I do? As I said before, if you’re streaming workouts and have found an instructor you really like, look for other programs that they do. While you’re enjoying that instructor’s workouts, also look for other programs you think you might enjoy and try them out. Also, try something totally different. You might like that too.

Fill up your sleep balloon

I heard an interesting story on the radio as I was driving to various errands the other day. We’re all feeling a little discombobulated right now because we’re not getting the proper sleep. At the holidays we enjoy get-togethers with friends and family, which is great, but we tend to lose sleep, eat more unhealthy foods and drink more alcoholic beverages than usual. We also tend to sit around more and not be as active as we should be. And now we’re feeling the consequences of not getting the proper sleep. So we need to fill up our sleep balloon.

Sleep balloon? Sounds weird

Joanna Kippax, a Sleep Hygienist, has floated the idea of a sleep balloon being the key to getting a good night’s sleep. Kippax noted in her work with kids diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Disorder that many symptoms were alleviated once proper sleep habits were put into place. 

So how do you fill up your sleep balloon?

Picture this: you wake up and your sleep balloon is all deflated. So you wake up and open your shades to the morning sun. You’ve started already! Soaking in some daylight is a key component of getting a good night’s sleep. 

Fill your day with social interaction and activity. Meet with friends. But also get in your exercise. Exercise is crucial to our sleep health. And even if you had a bad night, don’t take it easy the next day. Follow your usual routine. Get the exercise you need. And don’t be tempted to take a nap. That will just make it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep the following day.

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Routine is key. We’re creatures of habit, and a regular sleep routine is a very healthy habit to have.

Got a full sleep balloon? Go to sleep

If you’ve done all the right things and you’re exhausted at your regular bed time, then it’s time to go to sleep. To fill up your sleep balloon is a key to healthy aging. You’ve recognized the importance of a good night’s sleep and, therefore, prioritized it. You’re on the way to more happiness and resilience. With good sleep, you’ll be able to handle life’s stresses.

What can you get done?

What can you get done in 15 minutes? A whole lot, as it turns out. My sister and I cleaned out 3 generations of stuff from our house in 15 minutes. Not all at once, but in 15 minute chunks. Not only my parents’ stuff, and my sister’s and my stuff, but my grandparents’ stuff too. Every corner of the house was filled with stuff.

Hoarders with 3 generations-worth of stuff

We had moved my grandmother into a nursing home and she shipped everything to us. My sister and I inherited our family home and we were not interested in moving. So we had to go through everything. A daunting task. The show “Hoarders” wasn’t on the air when we did this, but our house could probably have been featured. It’s not pristine now, but it’s no longer even close to a hoarder’s abode any longer. And we did it in 15 minutes at a time.

We tackled the job just like that – a job. We knew that if we tried to do a bigger part, like a whole room at a time, we’d never finish. But we set a timer and got busy. Sorting the stuff, 15 minutes at a time. Keep, toss, donate. Keep, toss, donate. Just that simple. It was our job for those 15 minutes every day.

What can you get done?

What can you get done in 15 minutes? A half hour? An hour? Anyone can do anything they set their mind to. Anything. I’m a firm believer. I write about goals and discipline all the time. Because that’s what it takes to get things done.

The problem is that many people don’t consider their personal goals the same way that they do their work or career goals. And that’s why they don’t achieve things that are important to their personal lives.

Personal goals = work goals

Renegade row - one of the killer moves in Saturday's workout

One productivity expert, in fact, proposes that we should view our personal goals exactly like our work goals. Use the same tools at home as we do in the office. For example, at the office we plan the day’s work to achieve the goals we set. It should be the same thing at home – but just if you want to achieve life goals too. (Just kidding, of course you do!) So, use your planner – or get one for your personal life. I created the Fitness Journal and Tracker for every part of what you want to get done. It’s much more than just for exercise. Track that, of course, as well as your diet, your water, your sleep, and anything else you want to keep track of. 

Figure out a plan to get it done

Create goals for yourself and write them down in your Journal. High-flying, big, pie-in-the-sky goals. And figure out a plan to get them done. Above all, be specific – that’s the key to achieving big goals. If you know you want to achieve a lot, but don’t know how to start recognizing goals, download the Get It Done Guide. Use the worksheet. That’ll help. You’ll increase your resilience, your happiness, and, not only that, you’ll improve your mindset. So, what can you get done? A whole lot. Get to it. Start now.

Eat more protein

We all want to live a life that’s long and healthy. And part of our healthy aging is making sure we get the right nutrition. Boring, I know. But with a little forethought we can plan our meals and snacks so that they’re fun, tasty and nutritious. Even with that planning, though, it’s common to not get enough protein. Highest on the list of protein-rich foods are meats and yogurt. But many seniors skip the meat, perhaps because of budgetary or other concerns. But the fact is, protein will help us keep up our energy. And we need to eat more protein.

Why we need to eat more protein

The “formal” government recommendation for protein is the same for all adults age 19 and up, but recent research has shown that we older folks probably need more. We know that as we age our muscle mass declines – by up to half. And, as we age, we have more chronic ailments, many of which affect our ability to process the protein we eat efficiently. Why do we need protein? Simply put, protein can help us build and maintain muscle mass. And it also replaces the proteins that chronic systemic inflammation depletes.

We need a LOT or protein

According to the official recommendation, we need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (1 kg is about 2.2 pounds). I did the math, and I need about 45 grams of protein every day. That’s a lot of meat. But other foods have plenty of protein as well. Plan your meals and snacks with protein in mind. Breakfast is a perfect time for an egg. And hard boiled eggs are also great snacks.

More high-protein snack ideas

If you’re feeling hungry in the afternoon (for me, about a half hour before my workout), have some almonds or pistachios. They’re high in protein, and they taste good. Greek yogurt is also high in protein. Something I don’t often think of as a great snack is jerky – but it’s tasty and full of protein. Dry roasted edamame beans is another possibility. Another great snack is an apple or stick of celery with a bit of peanut butter.

When doing some reading, I found a recipe for roasted chickpeas that sounds amazing. For a main dish, try lentil soup.

The point here is, if we need to eat more protein, we’re not limited to roasting a chicken or broiling a steak. Sure, those are great, but we thrive on even more choices. And there are plenty of protein choices.

Tighten your core for everything

My balance group people are probably sick and tired of me telling them to “tighten your core.” But the core is the center of, pretty much, everything. Your core holds you up, helps you breathe, saves your back and saves you from falling. Strengthening your core also helps to improve your balance. Back to the core of it all – your core.

What is your core?

In a nutshell, your core includes all the stabilizing muscles in your middle – front and back. Your transverse abdominis is deepest and wraps around your middle like a girdle. It connects your rib cage to your pelvis and holds everything in place. Your internal and external obliques are next out toward the surface. These muscles criss-cross your middle and help with twisting and bending. Closest to the surface is the rectus abdominis – your six-pack – which also helps with bending and pelvic control. So, literally, your core really is the center of everything.

What will a strong core do for me?

You’re probably slumping in your chair. Straighten up! See that – you engaged your core! When you tighten your core, you’re able to sit or stand more upright. And when you’re upright, you can breathe more fully, get more oxygen into your lungs, and into your bloodstream.

Got a bad back?

I had back pain fairly regularly after a fall I took a few years ago. While I was healing I had time to do some research and found that improving your balance helps to prevent falls. My research also indicated that a strong core helps improve balance, and it also helps to prevent lower back pain. (This is from a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.) Core strength training helps alleviate low back pain. This is crucial for our healthy aging. Nothing ages us more than pain, and many older people complain of back pain.

Tighten your core for better quality of life

Imagine a life without back pain. A life with free breath and limitless movement. This is the potential you can have when you tighten your core. 

How do you tighten your core? Suck it in. That’s easiest. Feel your stomach pull in. This is easiest when you’re lying on your back on the floor. Put your hand on your abdomen and tighten. Now stand up and do the same thing. Now, download your Week of Core-Centered Balance Moves and do an exercise a day. That’s a great start to strengthening your core.

No weights required for strength training

So many things you should do for your healthy aging. And most of them are expensive. Even with insurance, visits to the doctor cost most of the time. Care for your hair and skin aren’t getting cheaper. Those nice socks aren’t cheap. So, it’s great that even though the CDC recommends strength training a couple of times a week, you don’t have to go out and buy free weights. You don’t need a gym, either. There are no weights required for strength training.

Your body weight will do

You may not want to build muscle, but we all want to maintain what we’ve got. And it’s possible to do that and improve our strength by just using our own bodies. I think I’d look kind of stupid with bulging biceps, but if that’s your thing, it’s possible to get those as well by doing body weight exercises. First thing, though, according to Sten Stray-Gunderson, MS, an exercise physiologist and trainer, is to eat enough protein. So many of us focus on vegetables now that we don’t get enough protein in our diets. He recommends 1.2 to 2.2 grams per pound of bodyweight a day of protein to preserve your muscle mass – probably the lower end for those of us over 60. For exercise, Stray-Gunderson says high reps and many sets of body weight exercises will help increase muscle mass. 

For those of us who want to just maintain and get stronger, not necessarily build muscle, focus on the time under tension while we do the exercise. For example, lower into a squat slowly, and come up again just as slowly. It’s hard, but that’s the way to build strength. Focusing on form and control is the way to make an exercise really effective. There are no weights required for strength training here.

What exercises to do?

The aforementioned squat is an all-time favorite, of course, as is the plank. There’s nothing like squats for the lower body and the plank works everything, especially the core. Just make sure that you’re using good form. For the squat, your back is straight, legs are wide and knees are behind your toes as you look down. For the plank, keep your back straight and head in line. Of course, for everything, keep your core tight. And if you get bored with a regular plank, there are many variations to hold your interest.