Category Archives: Getting started

Swimming

As I’ve mentioned a few times (here and here) my left ankle is sprained. It is interfering with my life and I don’t like it. I am very much inconvenienced by how long it is taking for it to heal and I find it frustrating that perhaps the length of time it is taking is in direct proportion to my age. Hmm…..

I have barely been able to workout for 6 weeks now. Immediately after the sprain happened Dude and I went on vacation and I didn’t workout at all, although I wasn’t exactly sedentary either. Casual walking at most, which to me isn’t a workout.

After seeing a doctor when we returned he suggested two weeks of no activity (except walking from the couch to the bathroom and to the kitchen and back, plus physical therapy). Talk about a drag. I mostly listened, although I started going back to Pilates because nearly nothing we do there involves my ankle and the few things that did I either modified or just didn’t do. It felt good to move my body again and challenge myself and be sore after doing something. (As an aside, isn’t it weird how you miss the soreness? Maybe I’m just an oddball.)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Pilates. I have the best instructor in Pittsburgh and classes are hard. But I’m used to a combination of CrossFit, running, and Pilates and not being able to do two of my three favorite things was starting to bring me down. I started getting depressed and feeling grumpy. All I could do was follow my doctor ordered physical therapy and wait. My spirits were flagging. I was hoping my quest for a pull-up would buoy my mood, but it really didn’t. I was losing my drive to do anything.

I posted a question in the Facebook forum for the Steel City Road Runner’s Club. Certainly someone there would have had a similar experience with a sprained ankle and impatience with it healing. I asked for advice on what to do and more than one person suggested biking/spinning and swimming.

Genius.

My Dude works at FancyPants U and they have a pool and as the spouse of a staff member I am eligible for a “sponsored” ID card and can use many of the campus facilities for free.

(Not the worst photo! I’m wearing my lucky necklace too.)

I got very excited and started researching pool workouts and looking for advice on swim caps and all that jazz. I was INTO it! But then I stopped to realize that although I do know how to swim, I was not sure just what I could do. This was foreign territory for me, for the most part. I had taken swimming in lieu of traditional “gym” in junior high school, but that was 25 years ago. My swimming life has mostly consisted of sunning myself poolside or oceanside and splashing around in the water to cool off. I wasn’t even sure I could swim a lap.

But this isn’t the time to be milquetoast about anything. I had to keep in mind everything that Coach Matt had pointed out to me. I lack confidence, I short change myself, I mentally quit and check out when things get tough or even when I perceive them to be tough. I need to conjure up some focus, determination, mental toughness, and intensity in all my workouts. Maybe I would really stink up the pool but I can’t let that stop me from trying. Life-long fitness is something I want and being a baby about swimming (or any workout) won’t get me there.

I showed up on campus, went to the fitness desk, showed my cute ID card, and got a wristband to wear that lets everyone know that I’m a swimmer. I had packed my sweet little gym bag with my suit, a towel, comb, hair dryer, my new swim cap, and goggles. I was SET. I had all the accoutrements and was accessorized properly. But I wasn’t quite mentally prepared for what happened next.

First of all, this was the first time I was in a locker room since high school, and duh, there were naked women in there. Now, I’m no prude and the sight of a naked woman didn’t faze me one bit, but the thought of me having to be naked in front of strangers did. There is an extremely small set of people who regularly see me naked these days and they include someone I’m married to and others to whom I give a copay before shedding my clothes. That’s it. I didn’t even consider any of this before getting there.

(Fresh green pedicure for pool workout one. These feet helped propel me a long way!)

But I just figured, “What the hell.” and took my clothes off and put my suit on. We’re all human females with all the same parts and nobody is really looking. Plus I routinely wear a two-piece swimsuit so I had no reason to feel exposed or anything. I got over myself quickly, showered off before heading out to the pool, and headed for the door.

I asked a guy wearing glasses while swimming (?) if I could share his lane with him and got in. I know most people swim the front crawl/freestyle, but I’m partial to breast stroke. It’s easiest for me and at this point I was looking to get to the other side of the pool and back any way I could to see how easy or difficult it was going to be. I just had no idea if one lap was going to be a piece of cake or a grueling, breathless pain in the fanny.

It turns out it was somewhere in between. My form isn’t the prettiest, nor am I fast or sleek in the water, but I made it. My ankle made its presence felt, but it wasn’t painful at all. I was being lapped by the man I was sharing a lane with plus the collegiate athlete in the lane next to me, but that was fine. I was in the pool pushing myself to get it done.

I’m not going to lie, there was some wheezing and some coughing and some panicked thoughts about getting to the other side without having to call upon the lifeguard’s expertise, but I did it. Several breast stroke laps, several freestyle laps, and two backstrokes for good measure. I channeled Coach Matt’s words of advice and encouragement and I have to say that I am kind of proud of how I did.

(I was in the lane on the far left. I figured pool workout one called for me to be in lane one.)

I admit to getting quite discouraged when I try something that is new to me and I’m not great at it right away. I also admit that when I want to accomplish something, I really have to push myself to do it. I’m not as naturally driven as some. But I am determined to make this work for me for several reasons.

  1. I don’t have many workout choices due to my ankle. I am back to Pilates and probably to CrossFit next week, although I cannot do everything I used to do there quite yet. Running is still out of bounds for me for a while and I want to keep improving my level of endurance (which is still quite sad in spite of running a half marathon).
  2. I need a challenge. What kind of life is it if there are no challenges in it? I don’t want everything to be easy for me because that means that I won’t accomplish anything. Plus, as I stated above, my default is to generally avoid challenges and I don’t like that about myself. Time to change that.
  3. It’s there. I have free access to a really nice pool and a swimsuit. Why NOT do it? It shakes up my current state of working out affairs and I can’t think of a reason not to give it a go.
  4. I want to prove myself. If Coach Matt saw my weaknesses then others saw them too. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by friends and trainers who like me and care about me in spite of my flaws so it’s not as if I am being shamed or called out all the time. But I don’t want to be the girl at the gym who is known for not giving her all. Plus, I’m a health coach, after all, and it’s my job to show others that challenges can be bested and obstacles can be overcome. I can do this.

So that is swim workout number 1!! In the books! The Thorpedo I’m not, but I’m out there trying.

Now, it’s your turn – What are the challenges you’re facing lately? What are you doing to overcome them? Who are my readers who are swimmers and what advice can you offer to a total newbie like me? Share with me in the comments below or on Facebook.

The Kick in the Butt

Last week in the 2012 Goals Project update, I mentioned that I’ve had to kick my pursuit of an unassisted pull-up into high gear.  Especially because I’m still mostly unable to do any kind of activity that involves my leg or foot due to my ankle sprain.  I emailed Matt, one of the trainers at my CrossFit box (who also happens to be a fantastic attorney!) and asked him for some help with what I could do to finally get my chin up over that confounded bar.

He wrote back a lengthy note and while it did include a LOT of great advice for what I ought to be working on, also contained within was a swift kick in my behind.

Um, thanks?

When I first read the note I was a bit taken aback and wondered why in the world advice on pull-ups was all muddled together in a really blunt note about my other shortcomings.  Yikes.  Here are some excerpts from his email:

First, as you know, GAIN CONFIDENCE.  Because of Pilates, you have excellent form.  The form is the basic movement that most people do not have the patience to perfect before adding intensity.  What you need to do is start adding intensity.  Have you heard the CrossFit saying, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”?  I hate those cheesy sayings, but in your case, it applies.

The basic answer is to do more pullups.  However, you also have to concentrate on strengthening your entire body.  This means you have to come to CrossFit WODs and put forth the most intensity you can at each WOD.  You have to give up, “I am tired” or “I can’t do one more” or “I can’t lift that weight.”  You have to replace this with, “Can I do one more rep”  “I am not going to die if I do one more rep, so I am going to do one more rep.”  “85 lbs is going to be hard as hell, but I am going to accept the discomfort and do it.”  “I don’t think I can do one more pullup, so I am going to stop after my last full ROM [range of motion] pullup and take less rest time than I would if I attempted one more pullup and failed.”

The emphasis is mine.  I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss the part where Coach Matt called my weaknesses out.  How dare he do this?

But you know what?  I am SOOOOOOOOOO glad he did.  He is 100% right. Initially it was a bit of a bummer to see my flaws in black and white, and it was slightly embarrassing to know that someone else noticed them. But it’s turning out to be just what I needed.

I’m a baby.  I go to the gym and I think I try really hard and I’m all hot and sweaty after the workout and I’m out of breath and I have all the soreness that everyone else has.  I pat myself on my filthy, sweaty back and tell myself that I did a good job today.  And sometimes I did do a good job.  But since this wake up call from Coach Matt, I’ve had to ask myself if I regularly give it my ALL.

If I’m being honest, I don’t.

I think it’s a common thing hold back or take the easy way.  Most of the time it’s harmless – taking a shortcut to work in the morning or using some kind of time and energy saving something to make life go more smoothly. We all do it.  But it took this blunt email from someone I like and trust for me to see that in this case not giving something all of my effort was only hurting me in the long run.  My little issues and fears about collapsing or dropping dead or being sore or failing were NOT getting me to do a pull-up.  My distaste for being uncomfortable was holding me back and keeping me from achieving a goal that I really want to achieve.

I’ve also begun to ask myself if there are other parts of my life where I’m not giving 100% and letting lack of confidence hold me down.  Sadly, yes.

There is a really cool project that has been floating around in my head lately and I haven’t done much with it other than think about it because I keep telling myself that it would be “too hard” to do it.  This kind of defeatist attitude isn’t getting me anywhere.  I’m taking Coach Matt’s advice and I’m tackling this project head on.  I can’t wait around until the time is right or until I have somehow cultivated the right amount of confidence.  I’ve just got to do it.

(source)

So, now I’m going to challenge all of YOU!  This is your wake up call. This is my version of Coach Matt’s email.   You probably aren’t giving something all of your effort.  You probably have told yourself that you can’t do it.  You probably are afraid to get uncomfortable.  Drop that negative crap and get to it!  A cleaner diet?  Starting to workout?  That big work project?  Whatever it is, it’s time to give up the excuses and get on with it.

Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.  Let me know what you’re going to give 100% to starting today!

 

 

Shyness, Embarrassment, and Intimidation

After reading my previous post, I hope you have explored the idea of adding exercise to your health plan if you haven’t already done so, but I understand that there might be another obstacle or roadblock in your way before you ever really get going – shyness, embarrassment, and intimidation.

I have spoken with so many people about their healthy goals and almost all of them have said that they’d certainly join a gym or go to an exercise class, but they’re too shy/embarrassed/intimidated to do it.   I’ve also often heard of people wanting to get in shape before they go to the gym. Crazy.

I can respect the decision that a gym membership might not be your style.  That is fine if you truly find other activities more fulfilling.  But if the one and only reason a gym membership or fitness class is out of the question is that you’re shy, embarrassed, and/or intimidated, then let’s talk.

The first thing I want to say is that nobody, and I mean the all caps NOBODY, has the right to come between you and fitness.  Not even you.  Your health and wellness is the most valuable thing of all that you possess and there isn’t a soul in this world who has the power to keep you from it.  Everyone, no matter their fitness level, weight, or experience, has the right to join a gym.  It’s one of those places that should welcome everyone.

Did you see what I said there? A place that should welcome everyone.  If you are going to a gym that discriminates against you for any reason, especially one of fitness level or weight, then they’re jerks and you need to get out of there immediately.

Let’s break down some common reasons some feel awkward when going to the gym, m’kay?

  • Having no idea what all the equipment is all about, what to do with it — Yes, a standard gym is rife with with crazy contraptions, weights, and all kinds of stuff that you may not be familiar with.  If this is the kind of gym you are going to join, then it is in your best interest to get an orientation.  Almost all standard gyms have trainers on staff whose job it is to show you around, explain what they equipment is for and how to use it, and also to assess what your abilities are so you know just what to do when you get there.  Take advantage of these people!  It’s their job to help you and they will.
  • The place is filled with beautiful people who are in shape — That’s probably only a little bit true.  The gym is indeed a place where fit people go to stay fit, but it is also a place where people who aren’t yet fit go to GET fit.  See above – you have every right to be there too, as much as the “already fit” people.
  • Everyone will know I’m a newbie and look/laugh/stare/make fun of me — I’m here to tell you that the overwhelming majority of people at a standard gym or in a fitness class barely notice that there are others around.  They’re there to do the work and get out.  It’s natural to feel like all eyes will be on the new face, but trust me when I say that the other members are more concerned with their own sweat and awkwardness to bother with what you are doing.

Now here are some suggestions for things to do to make your time at the gym more fulfilling and less intimidating:

  • Remember that everyone was a new person at one point — Every person you see at the gym who you feel has a perfect physique was the gym newbie at some point.  There is no need to be intimidated by experienced gym goers because they were once in your shoes.
  • Go with a friend — Sometimes having someone with you can make you feel more comfortable in a new situation.  Find a workout partner who wants to join the gym as much as you do and together you’ll have no reason to be intimidated or embarrassed.  You could even take a friend who is experienced at the gym to show you around, introduce you to others, and help you out.
  • Take a class — This is especially helpful if you don’t know quite what to do yet.  You’ll receive on the spot instruction from a trainer, and blend perfectly into a crowd of people.
  • Try CrossFit — I have mentioned before that one of the workouts in my rotation is CrossFit.  I love it, and although it has the reputation for being very difficult, that is rather misleading.  Yes, it is definitely a challenge, but it is not the kind of challenge that only super-fit people can take on.  Besides, all the strategies I suggest above for finding a good gym and not being intimidated or embarrassed about are alive and well at your average CrossFit gym.
    Each session is lead by a trainer (or “coach”), and regular members are expected to welcome newcomers with warmth.  CrossFit gyms are not the kind of places where big gym egos live, and you’ll never have to wonder how to workout because you’ll get individualized instruction.
    You’ll inevitably find very fit people there, but because it is a non-competitive environment you need not feel intimidated.  As long as you are working as hard as you can to the best of your ability, you will be cheered for and encouraged.
    The workouts designed to be as difficult as YOU can handle.  In the CrossFit world they use the term “universally scalable”, meaning that every movement that is done and every weight that is prescribed can be changed or reduced to your own personal level of fitness.   At any given class you might have someone lifting 300 pounds next to someone lifting 50.  It is not uncommon to see 20-somethings working out along side 60-somethings at CrossFit.
  • Get over yourself — Yes, this might sound harsh, but if you’re still using shyness, embarrassment, and intimidation as an excuse that’s keeping you from being healthy, then it is high time you drop that attitude and get over it.  The fitter you is inside and it would be a shame to let hang-ups and excuses prevent him/her from coming out.  There are trainers, health coaches, friends, and even strangers who want to see you succeed.  Forget the naysayers, drop the negativity and excuses, and show the world that you can do it!

If you are a gym newbie, have you let shyness, embarrassment, and intimidation keep you from getting fit?  If you are a regular gym goer, what advice or tips do you have for those just starting out?  How did you get over any initial hesitancy you might have had when you first started working out?  Share in the comments!

It's a brand new year!

Hello everyone!  Welcome to 2012!

I trust everyone had a great holiday season, hopefully with those you love most in life. I know I did.  It has been a great 10 days of family, friends, sleeping in, and (yikes!) eating a lot of food.  Mostly good-for-me foods, but I admit to overindulging a bit.  I’m glad to say, however, that today I was back to the gym and back to making food choices that are right for me.

For my inaugural post for 2012 I wanted to share my thoughts on the most thrown around word this time of year – RESOLUTION.  Did you make a New Year’s resolution?  Are you resolution pro or con?  I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the issue – some saying that to make a bunch of heavy-handed rules only set one up to fail.  Others saying that it’s great to have something to work towards or a project to set your sights on.  Both valid points.  I, naturally, find my opinion falling squarely in the middle of the extremes.

I think that the start of a new year puts many of us in the mood to feel like we can start fresh.  It’s a blank page and we can write this year’s story any way we see fit.  It gives many of us an excuse to change things and take a look at where we are and where we want to go over the next 365.242199 days (I had to look that up. Ha!).  Should we have been eating and exercising and doing all these nice things all along?  Yes, of course.  But many of us didn’t and I don’t see anything wrong with using January 1 as an excuse to start.

On the other hand, I really do believe that there are too many people starting on a path with no direction, no concrete goals, or hopes that they’ll accomplish something that is either unreasonable or dangerous (I’m thinking weight loss here).  Often people burden themselves with lengthy, arbitrary, and oppressive lists of rules that even the most ardent dieter or fitness expert couldn’t (or shouldn’t) follow.  Sometimes people set themselves up for failure by making a really great resolution and then fail to make a plan for how to see it through.  All of these scenarios lead to disappointment and defeat, and I think this is why the very term “New Year’s Resolution” has a negative connotation. This is what gives resolution making a bad rap.

If you are the type to make resolutions, I say make them intelligently and deliberately.  Know yourself and what you need to succeed with your goal.  Are you the kind of person who tends to exercise more often when you have a friend to do it with?  Then maybe you and your friend ought to sign up for some fitness classes together.  Are you the kind of person who needs some accountability from someone about your eating habits?  Then maybe you need the services of a holistic health coach (ahem!). My point is that taking a long, hard look at the circumstances that help you succeed in anything and then applying them to your 2012 goals will carry you far in reaching them.

Ask yourself how you plan to reach this goal, and then write down an exact and detailed plan.  Don’t leave it to chance or whim that you’ll magically find the time to workout.  Schedule the time. Put it in your calendar.  Set aside specific dates and times and then stick to it.  You know when you’re getting your next haircut, so you ought to know when your next workout is.  Don’t think that some magical food elves will stock your fridge with healthy food.  Plan your meals and grocery shop on a scheduled date at a scheduled time.  PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!

Set your year-long goal, but set some intermediate goals that you want to have reached after a month’s time.  Want to run a marathon?  Why not set the goal to have a 5K under your belt by the end of January.  Parse your big goal into smaller mini goals to give yourself some victories early on in the year to keep yourself interested, motivated, and working towards your ultimate goal.

Don’t give up.  It’s almost become a trendy, funny thing to admit to in a group of people when talking about New Year’s resolutions, that last year you made a resolution to do XYZ and didn’t even make it to January 3 before you cheated/gave up/forgot/etc.  Hearing this doesn’t make me laugh or make me think the person saying it is clever.  It bums me out and makes me sad.  Sure, slip ups and out-and-out failures are going to happen, but giving up is a real shame.  It says that you don’t believe in yourself enough to keep trying.  DON’T GIVE UP!  There I go again with the all caps.  That’s how important this is.

So! I want to hear what your resolutions and goals are for this new year! Something that I find motivating is publicly announcing my goals and then using that motivation to reach them.  On Thursday I am going to share with you my fitness, food, professional, and personal goals and resolutions.  And then I’m going to check in with all of you in the first post of each month with how I’m doing.

Here’s the thing, though:  I don’t want to do this alone.  I want YOU to do it with me.  I would like you all to send me your goals/resolutions and I will share them here with the other readers – this can be anonymous or not.  Your choice.  I’ll email you at the end of each month and see how you’re doing and I’ll share each month’s progress here on the blog.

If you don’t want to be anonymous about it, tell me all about your 2012 goals in the comments or on my Facebook page.  If you do want to be anonymous, email me and I will hold your name in the strictest confidence.  We’ll come up with a saucy pseudonym for you and nobody will ever know your true identity when we do our monthly check in.

I’m looking for some interaction here, friends!  I want to provide as many people with a community of support as I can this year.  We can all meet our goals and have our resolutions last 12 months, and who DOESN’T want to be cheered for?

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Bit by bit with Bittman

(source)

Monday night I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Mark Bittman speak.  The Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures brought him to Pittsburgh as part of the Drue Heinz lecture series.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Mark Bittman, he is an author, blogger,  frequent Today Show guest cook, activist, and food journalist for the New York Times.  He is most noted for writing a column in the Times called The Minimalist where, for 13 years, he wrote about food and recipes that were made to be used by novice cooks, but still celebrated the best his ingredients had to offer.

I thought he was going to talk about cooking, as he is quite revered for his ENORMOUS and thorough book, How to Cook Everything. (In fact, as an aside, if you happen to have an iPhone or an iPad, do yourself a favor and spend a few bucks for his How to Cook Everything app.  The foolproof step-by-step instructions on how to master nearly ANY cooking technique makes it worth it.)  Instead of talking about great ingredients or cooking, he instead talked about the importance of food activism, battling big food corporations and their influence, changing food policy, and changing public health.

All of these are naturally extremely important topics, but there was one bit of a message that really struck a chord with me.  He explained that the USA is in the midst of a health crisis.  Obesity rates are higher than they’ve ever been and climbing and that lifestyle diseases (diabetes, heart disease, etc.) are now killing more of us than communicable diseases for the first time in our history, and the only way to change these trends is to change the way we think of food and how we eat.

He explained a continuum of ways of eating that starts on one extreme with the worst of the worst foods, in the worst quantity.  Junk processed fake foods in enormous quantity for every meal.  On the opposite end of this continuum was the cleanest, healthiest, most pure, natural, all organic diet around.  We all fall somewhere along that continuum.  I’m willing to wager that most of us are not eating Cap’n Crunch and Hawaiian Punch with Ben and Jerry’s chasers all day, and I also feel comfortable saying that none of us are also angelically pure with our diets either.  We all fall somewhere between those extremes.

So, here’s the part that really got me excited:  Mark Bittman’s punchline in his lecture, my goal as a holistic health coach, your goal as someone who wants to live a long and healthful live, our goal as citizens who want a healthier populace should be to get ourselves and our families moving from Cap’n Crunch’s neighborhood towards the healthy side by making small conscious decisions to do so every single day with every single meal. 

When he delivered this point I should have stood up and applauded.  Or tried to start The Wave or something.

There can be lectures, news reports, websites, scientific findings, billboards, radio ads, and banners flying behind airplanes galore telling us to eat our greens and get more vegetables and eat humanely raised and organic meat, but until we start making small changes, one by one with each morsel of food, we’re not going to get anywhere.

We each have hundreds of opportunities each day to gradually change the course we are on.  With each meal or each snack of each day we can choose better.  So this is my charge to you today, fine readers: Choose something better, and move away from the bad extreme and more towards the healthy one.  Choose quality over quantity or impulse. Good health is made up of thousands of times where we chose to do better than we did before.  If it’s getting rid of your daily breakfast bagel and replacing it with a few scrambled eggs with vegetables, do it.  If it’s not having the cheese danish at the meeting each afternoon, do it.

And report back!  Tell me what you changed, no matter how small you may think it is.  I want to hear about it.  What’s getting you out of the Cap’n’s neighborhood and closer to the side of better health?

 

 

A plan: It's what's for dinner

 

It’s Saturday! For me that means an extra hard workout, running errands, spending time with my husband and kitty, having fun, loafing, laundry, and naps.  But even more important than those things – even naps, if you can believe that – is that it’s an opportunity to get ready for the upcoming week.  By this I mean meal planning.

I have a little routine that I run through in my mind each weekend when it’s time to meal plan.  I want to share my steps with you and in upcoming posts, I’ll break down some of the more involved steps and we’ll dissect the finer details to help you with strategy.  These five are generalized and will probably need to be personalized for you and your household, but I think they’re a good place to start.

1. Check my calendar – Are there any days in the upcoming week when we are busy and can’t prepare a meal?  Will someone be out of town, home early, home late, etc.?  I figure out how many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners I’ll need to plan for based on what is happening in a given week.

2. Figure out if I’m under a time crunch – Since I am the primary cook in my house (although my husband, Dude, cooks breakfast every morning! He’s a gem!) I need to know how elaborate I can get with each dish.  Some weeks I can afford to get creative, some weeks I have to plan for quick meals.

3. Choose what I want to make – This might be as easy as picking from old standbys or getting inspired and trying a new recipe from a trusted website or favorite cookbook.

4. Make a grocery list – Nothing complicated here; I figure out what ingredients I need, what I already have, and draw up a list.

5. Go to the store – Duh.

This quick set of five steps seems deceptively simple, and like I said above you might have to tweak and change in order to accommodate your life.  Also, things get complicated when you factor in things like budgeting, seasonal foods, availability of things you need or want for the week, surprise interruptions in your schedule, kids’ schedules, you hate to cook, etc.  Use these as guidelines to get you going on the right path and we will get detailed about these specific variables and more.

Set yourself up for success by knowing what your next meal is going to be, and having all the materials to make it already in your kitchen before the week even gets started.

Download and print this basic meal planning grid to help get you started with meal planning!

So, what are going to eat this week?

 

Let's get cooking, people!

After talking with many many people about their health and wellness goals, casual conversations at social gatherings, reading book after blog post after article after press release after scientific study about what is keeping us from being a population that is on top of our health, I feel pretty confident in saying that a big obstacle we face, maybe the biggest, can be reduced down to one word:  Cooking.

I am going to come right out and say it. I don’t think we cook for ourselves and our families often enough.  And by “cook for ourselves” I mean getting the food at a grocery or market, taking it home and preparing it with our own hands and kitchen appliances.  Because we’re not as connected with the food we ingest and having not prepared it ourselves, eating and fueling ourselves then becomes a meaningless act, when it’s actually one of the most significant we do all day.

Earlier this year, appliance maker Bosch conducted a survey about why folks aren’t cooking for themselves  (Warning, the interesting statistics turns into an appliance ad really quickly!).  Many responded that they do not cook because someone else in the household does it (51%), and there were a sprinkling of other reasons, the most humorous to me was the lack of desire of cleaning up afterward (25%!!).  But the most shocking to me was that a whopping 28% of respondents say they don’t know how to cook. 

Sad face.

I’m not in the business of shaming people, or whining over statistics and survey results.  I am in the business of getting people healthier and more connected with food and what it can do for the body.   I’m going to consider this a challenge.

I’m not saying that we all have to develop an Italian grandmother’s zest for food preparation or become artisan cooks.  We’re all busy, and we all have full lives. (Even 21% of the survey responders say they’re too busy to cook!) I’m saying that I don’t think there are enough home-cooked meals being eaten each day and together we’re going to change that.

Take a look at this article written by a personal hero of mine, food writer, author, and kitchen adventurer Michael Ruhlman.  It’s a ranty and perfect call to action to get us into our kitchens and at the end there’s a recipe for a roasted chicken.

Make the chicken.  This is your assignment.  If you don’t like or don’t eat chicken, find a recipe for something you DO like and get in your kitchen and make it.

Being connected with what you eat everyday is positively ESSENTIAL to good health.  Period.

To help change that 28% figure to something smaller I’m going to keep encouraging you to cook for yourself and your loved ones.  I’m going to share techniques, ingredients, recipes, and inspiration.  This is just the start.

So, what’s it going to be?   It’s day 1.  Who’s cooking dinner tonight and what are you making?

Take time to make time

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I really believe that the single biggest obstacle in getting healthier, eating better, or starting a workout routine is time.  It’s not intention because there are really very few people out there who are not interested in getting healthier and making daily improvements.  It’s really finding the time that is the key.

We’re all busy.  All of us are.  Between jobs, significant others, kids, extended family, housework, errand running, friends, and having a wee bit of fun now and again, I’m willing to bet that you could take a poll of the average man/woman on the street and if asked if they have enough hours in the day, most would say no.  There are too many things going on and too many obligations and too many people pulling us in different directions everyday.

Fulfilling all these commitments and running around like beheaded chickens does not make us happier.  All it’s doing is making us a sicker, heavier, and more depressed nation and hopefully if you’re here you’re interested in changing that in yourself.

I know it’s terribly easy to be sedentary and not pay attention to what we eat or how we value each hour in the day.  It’s time to stop being a slave to your calendar and your busy schedule and it’s high time to start finding the minutes and hours in the day to devote to healthier living. Make it a priority. (Aren’t there some song lyrics out there that say, “You’ve got to find some time and devote it to you.”? Great advice!)

So, I have a little assignment for you!  (Have you ever read a blog that gives homework assignments?!)  Think about everything you have going on in your life right now.  Think about all your commitments and all the different directions that they pull you.  Now answer these questions:

  • Are you genuinely happy with your life the way it stands now?
  • Do you feel great and have plenty of energy throughout the day?
  • What commitments do you have that you feel are weighing you down?
  • What is standing in your way of meeting your health goals?
  • Where in your day can you find 30 minutes for yourself?

I think you can see where I”m going with this.  It’s time to take time to make time for YOU.  Do something healthy for yourself – join a gym and plan to use your membership everyday, take a walk during your lunch hour, prepare tomorrow’s lunch so you’re not tempted to go out and eat something that will work against you, take an evening power walk with your dog and/or favorite person, sit quietly without distractions and meditate.  Something.  Anything.

Just find 30 minutes to do something for yourself.

Where are you going to start?