Category Archives: Movement

The Cryptic Prescription of Exercise

 

The last few weeks I have been writing a lot about food and food-related issues, but I don’t want anyone to think that movement and exercise is any less important in your own personal equation of health and wellness.  So, let’s hear about exercise, shall we?
Are you doing it?  You are, right?
If you want to simplify the issue, it’s enough to say you have to exercise regularly.  But nothing is ever that simple and exercise certainly is a very complicated enterprise.  Open your Internet browser and surf around for five minutes, or open a newspaper, turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, and you’ll likely find an overwhelming amount of (often conflicting) information about exercise.  How to do it, when to do it, where to do it, what works and what doesn’t.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of ways to exercise.  There are volumes written on what is the “best” workout and why.
I recently came across a blog post written by a woman named Julie Foucher.  She is a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and she is also a competitive CrossFitter coming in fifth overall in last year’s CrossFit Games.  She knows the human body, to say the least.  Anyway, I thought that this blog post from last week was so fascinating and telling.  In it (and I strongly encourage you to read it as well as the resulting comments), she basically says that doctors are very free and easy about handing down the “prescription” of exercise to patients, but pretty much leave them in the dark from there.  She makes an excellent point that if she had strep throat there is no way her physician would make a casual recommendation about what medication to take and then leave it to her to figure out dosage.  S/He would be very specific about what medication to take, when, how much, etc.  Her point is that we seem to be pretty much on our own when it comes to figuring out what to do for ourselves as far as exercise and even our doctors, who we hope are the most educated guides we have as far as our health goes, aren’t much help.
So, it isn’t enough to think to yourself or to hear from a doctor, health coach, or blurb in the media that you must “exercise”.  What the heck does that even mean?  What is the exact prescription, dosage, and timing for effective exercise?
It means something different to everyone and it’s up to you to figure out how you can best serve your body through exercise.  Luckily, there are many helpful hints and sources to help you.  Here are a few to consider:

  • Think about what you like — I know someone will read this and laugh because he/she doesn’t like anything about exercise.  I’m not even going to entertain this kind of thinking because we’ve already established that it’s necessary and non-negotiable.  I’m talking about giving some serious thought to what you can see yourself doing repeatedly and getting a modicum of enjoyment out of.  Or if it helps you to think the other way, rule out what you definitely do NOT want to do.  For me, this is easy.  I do not at all like to dance and so workouts like hip-hop dance classes, Zumba, pole dancing, and all of its cousin workouts are all out.
  • Figure out what time of day works for you — Sometimes figuring out when you can schedule exercise will determine what will work for you.  I met a woman at a holiday party last month who said that in order to fit a workout into her life she had to find a class that she could attend before her kids woke up for the day.  She also wanted something tough and no-nonsense.  She found a early morning boot camp that fit the bill and she’s a regular.
  • Decide if you want to workout alone or with others — Personally I love group fitness classes because I know enough about myself to know that I need a social reason to go.  If I know I’ll see my friends and they’re expecting me to show up, I’ll be even more likely to go.  Some people I know would rather workout alone without the added social element.  The important thing is to know what will work for you.
  • Know your level of ability — This is very important. You won’t be doing yourself any favors if you jump right into an advanced class or if you set out to run a half marathon on your first day.  Find something that suits your current fitness level and build from there.  It is also wise to consult a doctor and a fitness professional about this too.
  • Consult a doctor and a personal trainer for help with any preexisting injuries — Have weak knees and a bad back?  Maybe joining that rugby team isn’t for you.  There are so many ways to get a workout and you’ll need to find one that doesn’t exacerbate any weaknesses or injuries you might already have.  You might want to relive your contact sports days, but if your body won’t allow it at the moment, it probably isn’t the best idea.
  • Consider cost — Between equipment, outfitting yourself, class fees, and gym memberships, exercise can get expensive.  But it doesn’t have to be.  There are many ways to get a workout and mind your budget.  Figure out what you can afford and plan accordingly.
  • Don’t limit yourself to one thing — I think it’s smart to start out with one form of exercise until you get into the habit of it, but don’t limit yourself to just one activity. In any given week I do some combination Pilates, yoga, CrossFit, and running and in a few weeks I’m adding Thai Kickboxing.  I do not do all of them in one week, but I find time for at least two of them to keep my workouts interesting.  You don’t have to commit to just one form of exercise, and there is evidence that you shouldn’t.   Find that you’re growing bored with one activity or your tastes change, try something new.  The important thing here is to keep moving.
  • Listen to your body and how it reacts to exercise — Is biking hurting your back?  Does tennis make your elbows ache just thinking about it?  Maybe your chosen activity (or activities) aren’t right for your body.  Pay attention to the messages your body sends to you about how it’s reacting to a particular movement.  It’s natural to experience muscle soreness and to be tired, but it can be dangerous to ignore pain and injury.  Do not hesitate to consult a doctor, trainer, or physical therapist for more information on your aches and pains.
  • Just do it — Isn’t that under some kind of copyright?  Probably, but it fits here, so I’m using it.  Do not get mired down in the details of what to do and when to do it and how to do it and why to do it and on and on and on.  Start somewhere and do something.  And once you’ve done it once, you’ll have to do it again and again.  You just have to do it.  Talk to your doctor about what he/she recommends.  Don’t accept the cryptic prescription of “exercise” and let that be the end of your conversation.  Ask questions about what would best suit you and why.

So let me know what you plan to do!  For those of you who are already active, what are you doing? Why do you love it and what keeps you going with it?  For those of you who haven’t started yet, what do you plan to do this week to begin exercising?  What are some ways to exercise you would consider?  Share with me in the comments!

Back on task

I’m alive!  I haven’t quite kicked my cold yet, but I’m definitely improving.  I spent this past weekend blowing my nose, drinking glass after glass after glass of lemon water, sipping on my broth and resting.  This is why I missed my normal Saturday post but today I’m back on schedule.
So, now that I’m getting back to normal I’m wrestling with a little problem.  It has been since the week after Thanksgiving that I’ve been on a regular workout schedule.  Last week I was down and out the entire week!  And today, while still not 100%, I’m healthy and strong enough to get back to it.  The problem?  I don’t wanna!!! (I’m saying that in the whiniest, most pathetic voice I have.)
This is a common problem I see with the clients I health coach.  They’re on a really good streak of working out and eating right, and then something – like getting sick, traveling, kids, work, etc.  – derails them and then it seems impossible to get back to those healthy habits.  I’m there right now!  I LOVE to workout.  I love my gym, my trainers, my friends are always there.  But even with all that gym love, I’m dreading going back.  I can understand how it seems insurmountable and impossible to those who don’t feel the same way.
But! It’s not impossible.  It just takes a little motivation and oomph to get your buns up of the couch and go.  Here are some tips to getting back on the horse after you’ve fallen off:

  • Remember why you started in the first place – This is of UTMOST importance.  Why did you start working out?  Has that reason changed or vanished since the distraction?  Don’t you still want to be healthy/lose weight/run that race/meet that goal/best that challenge?  Chances are, you still have the same reason for starting and if it motivated you once, it can motivate you again.  Take time to reflect on why you started and use that same reason to go back again.
  • Ask why it’s so easy to not go back – Remember when you were a kid and didn’t want to go to school so you faked a stomach ache to try and stay home?  (I can’t be the only one who did that.) Usually it wasn’t really because you wanted a day off to lounge around and play, but rather it was perhaps you had a test you didn’t prepare for, or you had a fight with someone and you didn’t want to face him. There was a real reason why you pulled the old stomach ache ploy.  So ask yourself, what is the REAL reason you’re finding it hard to go back to the gym and get to the root of the problem.  For me, I know that after a 10 day absence, the workout is going to seem so much more difficult than it was when I was going regularly and the chances of me getting sore afterward are pretty high.  That’s a real fear and a real possibility.  But, after thinking about how much I want a lifetime of health, and how important having a fantastic quality of life in my old age is, the impending soreness is a temporary issue.  I’d rather have a long-term benefit and sacrifice in the short-term.
  • Make a change in your routine – Maybe going back to the same old same old is making you dread the gym.  Why not try something brand new after a long absence to give yourself something to look forward to?  Perhaps a new class or a fresh challenge will be just what you need to renew your excitement.
  • Make a date – Ask a friend or your partner to go to the first few workouts with you.  Knowing that someone will be there at the gym waiting for you might make you more apt to show up, plus knowing that someone is enduring the workout with you, and experiencing the same things that you are can make it an easier transition.
  • Start back slowly – Especially if, like me, you’ve been sick, starting back to your workouts at your former intensity might not be a good idea.  Ease back into your routine slowly and take it easy.  Promise yourself that you’ll commit to a small amount of time at first, and then build back up.  Stick to it and before long you’ll be back to your regular workout frequency and intensity.
  • Bargain with yourself – Make a deal with the little devil on your shoulder who is telling you to stay at home that if you do SOME exercise or part of a workout then you can rest.  When I’m really dreading a training run and I just don’t want to go, I promise myself that I’ll run for one mile and if I’m in agony and can’t stand it anymore, I’ll go home.  But almost 100% of the time, by the time I have a mile in, I am into it and figure that since I’m outside already running with all my gear on, I might as well finish.  Plus I usually feel great by one mile in and I’m glad to finish.
  • Stay positive – This may be the most important item on my list.  It is so easy to fall off the wagon for whatever reason and eat a million cookies and forget your workout.  It is also so easy to start making judgments about yourself based on that.  Am I right?  How many times have you slacked off or gotten sick or eaten too much and then called your self a lazy jerk or a weak loser or worse?  Can I say this loudly and forcefully enough? THIS IS NOT HEALTHY.  Negative self-talk is hurtful to yourself and will NOT help you reach your goals.  Negative self-talk is counterproductive, damaging, and frankly you ought to have zero time for it.  Every day is a chance to start anew, and every meal is an opportunity to make great choices.  Nobody, and I mean NOBODY is going to be perfect each and every time.  The important thing to remember is that beating yourself up over mistakes or trashing yourself in your own mind only makes the misstep worse and makes it more difficult to start again.  YOU are your best coach.  YOU are your biggest cheerleader.  If you’ve faltered or fallen out of your routine, then tell yourself that you CAN get back up and do it again and that you’re worth the time and effort.

So, who am I going to see out there exercising today?  Who is going to get back on the wagon today?  Who is going to renew her goals today?  Who is going to break a sweat today?  I’ll be out there and I hope to see you too.  Check in with me and let me know how you did.

Holiday gift guide - part 2

Did you see part one of my holiday gift guide?  Have you done some shopping yet?  Gone out and purchased a few cooking goodies for yourself?  Well, I hope you haven’t spent your whole holiday budget yet because here is chapter 2!
Today’s focus is on exercise and athleticism.  Whether the folks on your list are regulars at the gym or just contemplating getting started with an exercise regimen, you’ll find some great ideas here.

    • Clothes — Unless your loved one is an ancient Greek, chances are he/she doesn’t want to work out in the nude.  There are all kinds of sources for good workout clothes and prices range from bargain basement to uber-spendy.  Going the less expensive route is perfectly fine, but as with many things, you get what you pay for with workout clothes.  They’re going to be drenched in sweat, stretched all over the place, out in the elements, washed frequently, and generally abused.  It’s my experience that investing a little bit will pay off in the long run when they won’t need to be replaced as often.
      Target has a line of Champion athletic wear that is pretty good and not very expensive.  Old Navy also has a somewhat trendy line of activewear at a low price point.

      Moving up the price scale are online retailers like Athleta, Title Nine, Gaiam, and prAna.  All of these offer fashionable, higher quality gear in a medium price range.
      On the upper end are lines by lululemon, Nike, Reebok, and Lucy.  The quality will be great, and the clothes really stylish, but you’re going to shell out more than a few pretty pennies.  I’ll let you decide if it’s worth it.

      If you’re a bargain hunter (like me!), it is often worth it to shop sales, go to stores like Marshall’s or T.J.Maxx, and to hit outlet stores. If you are patient and don’t mind searching through racks of clothes, you can find top-quality workout clothes at great prices.  Also, mine is not an exhaustive list.  It seems that nearly every store is offering a line of activewear, so shop around to find what you like and what fits your budget.
      Obviously getting gear that fits the activity is important.  A loose, flowy yoga top is going to be useless when training for a triathlon.  If you’re unsure what to purchase, ask a salesperson for advice, or many of the websites I mentioned above have their online stores organized by activity.
    • Personal training sessions — This can be an especially thoughtful gift for the person who is just starting out because it gives him/her a starting point and guided help right from the beginning.  It can be intimidating to walk into a gym as a newcomer and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  A personal trainer can give a gym orientation so that it’s not foreign territory, help establish workout routines, and that’s one person you’ll know when you arrive everyday.  A few one-on-one training sessions can also be helpful for the experienced gym-goer to gain insight into improved technique and form, help shake up established habits and plateaus, and offer additional challenges.  The cost of one-on-one training sessions varies by facility and by trainer.  Some trainers do in-home training for additional costs, so it’s worth it to carefully consider what your recipient would want.
      If individual training sessions are too expensive maybe the gift of a gym membership for a month or two would be better suited to your budget.
    • Jump rope and resistance band — Between these two pieces of equipment and one’s own body weight, you can craft a difficult workout to do on the go.  This is especially helpful for your loved ones who are travelers or find it hard to make it to the gym.  They are both inexpensive items and easy to find at any big box or sporting goods store.
    • Foam roller — This seems like a goofy piece of equipment because it’s only a firm, cylindrical piece of foam.  But if you have ever had sore muscles this little baby is pain and pleasure wrapped up in one package.  Rolling out your sore and stiff muscles hurts like the dickens, but offers sweet relief at the same time, and if your loved one is just starting out with exercise, there are going to be some sore days.   Foam rolling can help head DOMS off at the pass and make the inevitable soreness less severe, or eliminate it all together.  Retailers must know how awesome a foam roller is because they’re a bit more expensive than you’d think they’d be at $20 to $30 or more.
    • Yoga mat — For more more than yoga, although that’s a great use for it.  They’re available everywhere, they’re inexpensive and they can be used for any kind of floor exercises from Pilates to sit-ups to just stretching it out on a soft surface.
    • Emergency ID wristband — It’s unpleasant to think about but accidents do happen.  If your gift recipient walks, runs, or bikes outside alone, then it’s a smart idea that he/she carry some kind of identification and emergency contact information.  These wrist, shoe, or ankle bands usually have a person’s name, address, phone and the contact info for a loved one on it in case the unthinkable happens.  They’re relatively inexpensive, ranging from $15 to $30, but can be invaluable should something happen.  I have a Road ID, but there are other brands and styles out there.
    • Music — I don’t know about you, but I seem to move my fanny faster when I have some sweet tunes to rock out to.  Music can be very motivating and can make the difference between skipping a workout to chill out on the couch and getting up and out to get a sweat on.  Why not treat those on your holiday list to an iPod Shuffle or Nano or any other kind of MP3 player?  They’re small enough to clip on a waistband and be out of the way, but powerful enough to hold thousands of jams.  If those on your list don’t need the player, an iTunes gift card can bring those inspiring workout songs home!

How is that list shaping up now?  Inspired to outfit the fitness guru in your family?  We’ve got the food taken care of, we’ve got the exercise taken care of, how about a little TLC for your spirit?  The final installment in my gift guide series will be on Saturday and focuses on making sure everyone on your holiday list gets the new year started in the right state of mind.

Lay your hands on me

 (source)

Today is my birthday.  I’m one of those annoying people who loves everyone around me to know it’s my birthday even if you’re a total stranger.  I can’t help myself.
So, like every other day of the year, I try to keep it as healthy and as positive as possible even on my birthday.  I don’t like cake, and I’m not a big fan of pie, ice cream doesn’t mean a thing to me.  I do like cookies, and there are some really great cookies out there.  Plus it’s easy to control portions with cookies.  I’m one and done, or maybe two and done if it’s a special occasion.  My point is, my birthday isn’t a dessert bonanza for me. Instead, I like treating myself in other ways.
Yesterday I had a massage.  Now THAT is how I celebrate a birthday.
Aside from just feeling really really great, there are tons of benefits one can get from a massage.  The relaxation and focused “you” time alone is worth the cost.  But if you’re stressed, have high blood pressure, sore muscles, or are just feeling low, massage is a great natural treatment option.
My point is, there is always a healthy way to celebrate.   There are always ways to put your health first even when it’s your birthday.  And for my money, getting a massage is not only a terrific treat, but one with healthy side effects too.
How do you celebrate your birthday?  Who is into getting regular massages?  What are your experiences with the healthy benefits of massage?
p.s. I mentioned that I don’t like cake, but if I did, I would want my birthday cake to look like this:

(source)

 

Goaaaaaaaaaaaals!


Well, I took a very big (for me) leap yesterday.  I signed myself up for my very first half marathon.  Only 171 more days!
Ok, let me be straight here.  Running is not my thing.  I envy those who can just run and run without a second thought or pain or wheeze. I don’t know if there are naturally born runners or not, but there sure seem to be people who are very comfortable with it.  I am not one of them.
So why am I doing this?  Because I strongly believe in stepping out of one’s comfort zone and trying something new.  I think it’s valuable to set what seems like an unattainable goal and then achieve it.  I know that shaking up the status quo is part of what makes life exciting.  I am not in an exercise rut by any stretch of the imagination.  Believe me, I’m still challenged at the gym.  But this is something that I never thought I could do and I plan to prove myself wrong.
Let’s call this half marathon project “Health Coach Help Thyself”.  I am going to be taking some of my own advice and recommendations and put them into practice to accomplish something I never thought I could do. Below are some strategies for taking your own leap.

  • Goal setting – Setting goals is somewhat of a balancing act.  You want to put something out there that will require some challenge to meet, but not SO impossible that you could get discouraged if you can’t accomplish it.  Set yourself up to succeed!  Ask yourself if your goal is attainable in the time you’re allotting yourself.
  • Making a plan to meet your goal – Making the goal declaration is all well and good, but useless if you don’t have a clue how you’re going to accomplish it.  Ask yourself what the steps you have to follow in order to be successful.  Training plans, new eating strategies, working with a health coach (ahem!) or personal trainer are all great ways to help you get from here to goal achieved in no time.
  • Time – Whether you want to lose 30 pounds, run a half marathon, cook a new recipe a week for a year, or whatever, you have to carve the time out of your day to devote to achieving your goal.  This might mean getting up earlier than normal, devoting time to meal planning, being faithful to packing your lunch every day.  If the accomplishment is important to you, you must find the time.
  • Know what will preempt a setback – Put yourself in a situation that encourages your goal achievement.  If your want to lose weight and your weakness is ice cream, skip that aisle of the grocery and don’t buy it.   If you know that sleeping in a few extra minutes in the warm cozy bed sounds more appealing than going on a training run on a snowy morning, plan your runs for your lunch hour or in the early evening.  Manipulate your own situation to ensure your success.

Now what are you ready to do?  You don’t have to wait for 2012 to set a goal, let’s do this together.  Share your thoughts with me in the comments and we can support each other.
 

I get buff with a little help from my friends.

Since I’m a holistic health coach, food is my main focus. My ultimate goal with my practice and this website is to educate and guide people into making better food choices, ones that will help clients maintain health and fuel them well throughout their lives.
But I can talk about food and vegetables and organics and pastured and locally grown and leafy greens and blah blah blah until the humanely raised grass-fed cows come home and I’d be a terrible health coach if I omitted information about movement and exercise.
To condense it down into a few words – you have to do it.
Now, there is great debate out there about what kind of exercises are best. There are cardiovascular exercise devotees who don’t ever stray from the running trail, elliptical, or treadmill. There are strength devotees who lift weights and do nothing else. We probably all know a few yoga enthusiasts, Pilates lovers, power-walkers, Jazzercizers, hikers, rowers, Zumba zealots, etc. And then there’s CrossFit, P90X, Insanity, TurboFire, and on and on.
I’m not going to start a debate about what method is most effective and what everyone ought to be doing. I’ll save that for the future. For now I’m just going to encourage everyone to move. Do something. Start out by doing it in your own style, at your own pace, and for your own reasons. We’ll get into the nitty gritty of the science of working out in due time.
I do, however, want to focus on one tip to get the non-exercisers up and out there. It’s something that made all the difference for me and my secret to getting on this active path I’m on right now and plan to stay on forever.
There was a period of time in my life when I knew I should have made exercise a daily habit, but I just couldn’t find the motivation or desire to do it. (Let’s be honest, this “period of my life” was the first 30 or so years.) I was intimidated and frankly a bit disinterested in the whole enterprise. I tried things, got really into it (tennis! running! aerobics! stationary bike!) and then my interest fizzled and back to my couch potato ways I went. I can say, though, that the single greatest influence on my picking up a regular workout schedule and sticking with it for several years and making it a regular part of my life is the fact that my friends were working out with me.

I made friends with my Pilates instructor. I made friends with the other women in my regular class. I made friends with my CrossFit coach. I made friends with the other athletes at our box. We socialized together and had at least this one thing in common. And on the days when I feel lazy and uninterested in going, I remember that my friends are there waiting for me. I told them I would be there and the last thing I want to do is let my friends down. If you are like I was and find yourself having a bit of trouble getting started, don’t go in it alone. Grab your best buddy and try something and promise you’ll do it together and if your best buddy doesn’t want to go, make new friends at the gym. The power of this cannot be underestimated.
For those of you who are regular exercisers, what got you into your favorite activity? What keeps you sticking with it after all this time? How big of an influence are your friends on your habits?
For you non-exercisers, what new activity are you and your friend going to try today? What kind of workout appeals to you most?


Here’s a photo of me and two great friends, Jacky and Liz, at a recent weightlifting fundraiser we did at our CrossFit box, Barbells for Boobs. I would have never found the motivation, inspiration, or drive to do something like that if it weren’t for the cheering and encouragement of my friends.

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