Thursday, January 29, 2015

Achieving Balance. Literally.

     Earlier this winter when there was snow on the ground, I was walking to my car and did one of those very ungraceful dances on a patch of ice, arms flailing as I tried to regain my balance. I didn’t fall but I’m sure if someone had a camera rolling, the video would have gone viral on YouTube.
     Balance is something I take for granted. Then I nearly do a face plant into the concrete and remember why you have to work on balance when you exercise.
     We do balance exercises in some of our Jazzercise routines, sitting on the ball or standing on one foot, for example. And balance is an important part of yoga. (Tree pose, anyone?)


     In one of my strength classes at Prairie Life Fitness, the instructor had us stand up and sit down without using our hands. #fail Balance decreases as we get older and is a serious health concern for the elderly. However, instability at any age or fitness level can lead to sprained ankles, twisted knees and other injuries.
     When police officers ask a motorist to stand on one foot, eyes closed and then touch their nose, they’re checking proprioception, or the ability to perceive where your body parts are in relation to each other and the environment. (No, I don't know this from personal experience!) Impaired proprioception may cause you to miss a step on a staircase or wobble a little when you’re running on uneven ground.
     Whether you’re walking to work, running a marathon, playing kickball with the kids or reaching for something on a shelf, balance is essential.
     One way to improve balance is to work on core strength. Strong trunk muscles help maintain equilibrium and avoid falls.
·      The stability balls we use in Jazzercise challenge the core and keep us a little off balance so that          we have to fight to keep our position. Try doing crunches on the ball with one leg lifted.
·      Tools like BOSU trainers do the same thing. Have you ever tried the “dead bug” on the BOSU?       You balance on your back with your arms and legs up in the air. It looks silly but it's great for balance and core strength.

·      Incorporate balance into weight lifting. For example, do biceps curls or another upper body  exercise while balancing on one leg.
·      Close your eyes. Vision is an important part of your balance system so when you take it away, you’re challenged to regain equilibrium. Try doing those single leg bicep curls with your eyes
·     Add a yoga or Pilates class to strengthen your core and improve flexibility.

And while you're at it, use the word "proprioception" in a sentence.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Yes, I Did

I am a master at coming up with inventive excuses to blow my diet.

Take last night.
I got home from working out and had this conversation with myself.

ME: Wow! My fitness trackers says I went over 11,000 steps today! Plus, I worked out really hard for an hour. I can certainly afford to eat this cupcake that's sitting on the counter. I'll just eat that instead of fixing dinner.

ME (one hour later): I'm really hungry. Maybe I'll just have a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter. That's protein, right?

ME (while getting the peanut butter jar out of the cupboard): I forgot about those raisins. A little box of those can't hurt, right?

ME (after making toast with peanut butter): Okay. I'll just have one little spoonful of peanut butter.

ME (after eating said spoonful): That was so good. Maybe just one more.

ME (while cleaning up the kitchen before bed): I could really go for something sweet. Just a taste. That would take care of my cravings. Wonder if I have any chocolate chips?

ME (Three healthy handfuls of chocolate chips later): Well, I think just blew it. Might as well finish the bag. Tomorrow I'll get back on track.

Just out of curiosity, I decided to add up the mindless calories I consumed last night.
It's not pretty.

Cupcake with frosting: 400 calories
1 slice of bread:            100
Raisins:                         129
3T peanut butter            285
Chocolate chips             300

Grand Total:           1214 Calories

Yes, I did.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Water Woes

Confession: I don't like water.

There. I said it. I'm sure that statement brings a chorus of horrified gasps in the blogger-sphere.

And for good reason. Water keeps your body functioning properly and flushes out the toxins. It helps prevent kidney stones, revs up your metabolism and makes you feel full so you're less likely to overeat. Deydration, at it's worst, is life-threatening but even mild dehydration can make you feel tired and sluggish. Water also improves your complexion and may help you lose weight more easily.

Check out this slideshow on WebMD that outlines the "Seven Wonders of Water."

Drinking water has always been a struggle for me. I'd rather have a Diet Coke. (Cue horrified gasp.)

One of my resolutions for 2015 is, once again, drink more water. This has been on my list before. Usually, I start out okay but my commitment fizzles and my water intake drops from a flood to a trickle.

To help prevent another failure, I did a little online research about water and here's what I found.
  • You know the old adage to drink eight, 8-ounce glasses of water a day? Turns out, that's not backed up by science. It actually depends on your weight, your activity level and where you live. If you're a 200-pound roofer living in Arizona you're going to need more water than a 100-pound bookkeeper in Alaska. But the 8x8 rule is easy to remember so shoot for between 6-8 glasses. More if you exercise and are very active.
  • While water is the best choice, other beverages and even food count as part of your daily water intake. I'm thrilled to discover it's not true that coffee and tea cause dehydration. A moderate amount of caffeine is okay and can be included as part of your water intake. Foods like watermelon and spinach have a high water percentage so they count, too.
Based on that information, my resolution is to drink a glass of water with each meal and one in between each meal. I also drink about another 8 to 16 ounces of water during and after exercise, coffee in the morning and a cup of green tea in the afternoon. Adding another five glasses of water is doable. Much less intimidating than 8x8.

Now. How do I make it taste a little better?

I've been trying this. It's a water bottle with an infuser you can load up with fruit. I added a lime yesterday and an orange this morning and I'm thinking  lemons or blueberries would be good, too.

I also have a Soda Stream at home and I love carbonated drinks. I might just bring a bottle of bubbly water to work and add my own flavoring.

Someone on my Jazzercise Hard Core and More Facebook group posted this recipe and I think that's worth trying. It looks tasty. I was also told to use a straw and drink it at room temperature to help it go down faster and easier. (Ice cold water helps you burn a few extra calories because your metabolism works harder to warm you up. So either way is fine.)

Anybody else have any great ideas that help you to drink more water?
(No, adding vodka doesn't count.)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

It's January. Can you tell?

In case you haven't noticed, it's a new year.

Cake ball recipes on my Pinterest feed have been replaced by all manner of concoctions featuring kale and quinoa. My spot at Jazzercise is taken and I can't find a parking place at the health club. Everyone is on a green juice cleanse and every other commercial is a diet or exercise plan.
And, we're trapped in this Polar Vortex thing so that shriek you hear is me changing into workout clothes that have been sitting in the car all day.

No wonder the month of January always feels about two months long.

Here are some tips for newbies and veterans alike to help us all battle the crowds and keep our sanity in class.
  • It can be intimidating to jump into a new program. But keep at it and you're comfort level and confidence will grow. We were all new once!
  • This is not a competition. My goal is to challenge myself, not compete with the person next to me in class. 
  • By all means, wear the new Lululemon to class. But shorts and a t-shirt are okay, too. And don't try to get by with bad shoes. I'm guilty of this. One of my new year's resolutions is to invest in better athletic shoes and replace them more often.
  • Find balance. I follow an exercise regimen that focuses on cardio, strength, flexibility and balance. All of those areas are equally important. 
  •  If you've been at this awhile, like I have, you have to set new goals to keep it fresh. How many Jazzercise classes will do this month? By June? This year? Try something new, like a paddle board class or a 5K. Belly dancing lessons, anyone?
  • Dear group fitness instructors: I don't like partner stuff. It's nothing personal. It just reminds   me of elementary school when we had to do square dancing in gym class. (Do they still do that?) Awkward.
  • Here's something else that's awkward. People who let it all hang out in the locker room, sans towel. When you try to carry on a conversation with me, I don't know where to look. And by the way, please don't shave your legs in the steam room. Ew.
  • It's okay to rest. In fact, it's essential. Muscles need time to repair themselves and over-training sets the stage for injury. And you really don't need to exercise two to three hours a day. If you only have thirty minutes, use it. Just move your body.
  • On your off days, try yoga or a long, relaxing walk.
  • Don't forget the rest of your day. Get up from your desk and walk to a co-workers office instead of shooting him or her an email. Use the stairs. Take a walk at lunch. Remember, sitting is the new smoking.
What's your advice for easing into the new year?