Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Powering Through

It’s a good thing I don’t have a couch in my office.

If I did, I’d probably nod off every day about 2PM. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an afternoon nap. The Huffington Post actually has nap rooms for its employees and president Arianna Huffington is a firm believer in the importance of getting enough rest.

But most days I have to power through a busy afternoon and and a nap isn’t going to happen.
I’ve discovered a good midday sweat sesh makes a difference.

I get my heart pumping over the noon hour at Fly Fitness, a studio near my office that offers a variety of classes. Most of them are 45 minutes so I can shower, fix my hair and get back to work in no time. Jazzercise offers a 12:15 express class that's 30 minutes and my favorite weekend classes are the 1:30 Fusion and Flip Fusion formats.

Afternoon classes fuel the rest of my day and clear out the cobwebs.

There’s science behind the idea that exercise increases productivity. Physical exertion actually boosts energy by stimulating the development of mitochondria. Mitochondria is known as the cell’s power plant because it produces ATP, the chemical your body uses as energy, not only for physical tasks but for your brain, as well. Okay, enough biology. All that matters is exercise helps stimulate the brain.

Add a motivating playlist and you have the prescription for an energized afternoon.

Take, for example, the Fly Ride cycling class I took last summer taught by Kim Barrett. Kim is a friend and colleague and the human personification of the Energizer Bunny. She stays on top of the crazy schedules of two kids, a spouse and a job and still manages to teach fitness classes. With a smile on her face.

Kim knocked it out of the park with a class she called the Empowerment Ride. Throughout the class, she nudged us up those hills with a kick-a** playlist and a series of motivating messages, including:

Fight for you goals.
Be present in your life.
Be proud of yourself.
Figure out what you want and go after it.
Rise up.
Be powerful.
Be confident.
Support each other.

I went back to work feeling strong, determined and ready for anything.
Don’t mess with me.

Even when I can’t get away for a full workout during the day, I try to get up from my desk and take a short walk to clear out the cobwebs in my brain.

So if you’re the kind of person who starts to drag in the afternoon, head for the gym at lunchtime. If your schedule doesn’t allow it, lace up your shoes and take a quick spin around the block. You’ll be glad you did.

By the way, here are the songs on Kim’s Empowerment playlist, in case you want to make your own. I did.
            Remember the Name – The Rising Tied
            Rise Up – Audra Day
            Powerful – Major Lazar
Broken Arrows – Avicii
Me Too – Meghan Trainor
            Not Afraid – Eminem
            The Power – SNAP!
            Confident – Demi Lovato
            Stand By You – Rachel Platten

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September is the new January...

…minus the snow and ice and bitter cold.

Fall is my hands down my favorite season of the year. I love cool crisp mornings, a warm sun during the day and no humidity. Football and pumpkin spice. Yes, this is my time.

It always feels like a new beginning.

I don’t have school age children but I work on a university campus so I feel that return to routine. I get the urge to buy school supplies, pull out some colored markers and fill in my planner. There’s a new energy associated with fall that is just like the start of a calendar year, but without the pressure.

Here are some of my wellness/fitness related goals.

·      Do more meal-planning and prep on the weekend. I don’t want to spend hours cooking on Sunday but it helps to have a plan for the week. And I’d like to do a little prep so that I’m not scrambling to throw together a healthy dinner when I’m exhausted after work.

·      Boost the protein in my diet. I always try to get my nutrients from food but this one is a bit of a challenge. I’m going to research protein powders and try some in my smoothie in the morning.

·      Go hiking somewhere beautiful when the leaves change. Fall is the perfect time for outdoor exercise.

·      Indulge in a luxurious spa treatment. I have a gift certificate for a local day spa that I haven’t used yet and a facial/massage/hot stone something-or-other would make a great weekend activity.

·      Make roasted pumpkins seeds. They’re easy, yummy and nutritious. And you have to carve a pumpkin to get to them.

·      Sit by my fire pit. Drink red wine. (Is that a wellness goal? Sure. File it under mental health.)

Do you like fall as much as I do? What are your goals?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Random Thoughts during PT at the Park

I recently completed a session of Personal Touch in the Park, a four week small group class offered through Jazzercise and taught by Fara. (Fara of triathlon fame.) It's one of my favorite classes because it's outside, it's a different workout experience and it's fun. Which is not to say there isn't some whining involved.

Here are some of the thoughts that go through my head during the class.
  • It's 350 degrees out and I feel like I'm in the jungle. I'm already sweating and I haven't gotten out of the car yet.
  •  It's almost time for the class to start and Fara's not here yet. Maybe she's not coming. 
  • Oh, no, here she is with that big smile on her face, carrying an armload of red tubes. She's relieved that the weather isn't as bad as she thought it would be. (Because if it were any more humid it would be raining.)
  • Maybe she'll take it easy on us because it's so hot.
  • Nope. We're running. And we're running up that hill. Well, actually, other people are running up that hill. I'm sort of trudging, hobbling and muttering under my breath. I can't do this. It's too hot. I can't do this. I can't....
  • Hey, I made it! I am awesome. I am a beast. I can do this.
  • Oh, no. I can't do this. Step-ups onto the picnic table bench are made for tall people with long legs, not short people like me with legs still quivering from the hill. But only twenty. I can do twenty! What?! Twenty each leg? She's kidding, right? Followed by 50 squats. 

  • Moving on to chest and arms with the tube. Sweat is dripping off my face. Why do I sweat so much? It's not a good look. 

  •  MORE CARDIO. Just a little sidestepping and a few lunges. A few million lunges. 

  • Ahhh. A breeze. 
  • Planks, planks and more planks. Who invented planks? This could substitute for waterboarding. I'd give up a lot of secrets to be able to put my knees down right now.
  •  More ab work. At least we get to lie down. What if I can't get up again?

And done!
I feel great! Let's do it again!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

We're Halfway There

So far in July…

This happened. 

·      A holiday weekend that was SOOOO much fun but didn’t exactly break fitness records. My favorite quote from the weekend was: “Do you need sugar before you do this? Well, I do.” (Yes, Sharon, you gave us permission to buy red licorice. And yes, it does taste good with beer.)

·      One workout. Just one. I went to Jazzercise on Saturday. Okay, I did take the dogs for walks so I wasn’t a complete sloth. But most of the time, I sat there. In a lawn chair by the lake. Around the firepit. Around the cabin drinking coffee. At home in front of the TV.

·      Lots of delicious food. Shish-kebabs, pasta salad, cookies, breakfast casserole. We even ate cherry pie straight out of the pie pan, falling upon it like a pack of dogs. Not a pretty sight.

It occurs to me, that we’re halfway through the year and I’m not really on-track with my fitness goals.

I did get back at it yesterday with a sensible diet and a cycling class at Fly Fitness. This morning there are TWO boxes of donuts in the break room at work and I refuse to succumb. And I AM going to Jazzercise after work. 

I feel better already.

I’m also re-focusing on my goals.
Here they are:

·      Lose ten pounds.
·      Try paddleboarding.
·      Get my resting metabolic rate tested.
·      Meet with a nutritionist
·      Organize a healthy meal-planning class.

What’s your fitness plan for the rest of 2016?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Diet Rebound

Some of my clothes from last summer are just a tad snug. 

I tell myself it's not about the weight, it's about health and fitness and feeling positive about my body. Progress, not perfection. But then something doesn't fit right and I start to panic. Why did I throw caution to the wind and dive into all that wedding, birthday and graduation cake? The three-day holiday weekend didn't help any. I'm mad at the scale and myself and I want to do something drastic.

Like starve myself.

I've been here before. Yes, I'm a recovering diet addict. Like the alcoholic who falls off the wagon, I'm tempted to take that deep dive into  grapefruit or cabbage soup or whatever diet will get me back into my skinny jeans ASAP.

Of course, the thought of that much deprivation is sad and dreary. Crash diets make me  HANGRY, that combination of hungry and angry that results in severe grumpiness. And usually, diets just trigger the desire to Eat. All. The. Cookies.

You've heard that old joke: "My goal this year was to loose ten pounds. Only 15 to go."


I also believe my long tradition of yo-yo crash dieting is what contributes to weight gain. And a recent study of The Biggest Loser contestants seems to back that up. 

Now, I'm not obese - I'm tend to stay within about ten to 15 pounds of what I consider my healthiest weight. But some of the findings from the study resonate with me.

Researchers followed contestants from the reality TV series for six years and the results show just how hard your body fights back when you diet. The study is detailed in a  New York Times article by reporter Gina Kolata, After 'The Biggest Loser,' Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight. What was most disturbing was the change in metabolism that lasted for years after the intense diet and exercise program ended. 

"As the years went by and the numbers on the scale climbed," writes Kolata, "the contestants’ metabolisms did not recover. They became even slower, and the pounds kept piling on. It was as if their bodies were intensifying their effort to pull the contestants back to their original weight."

One contestant who had a normal metabolism when he appeared on the show six years ago, now burns 800 calories a day fewer than what is normal for a man his size. A female contestant burns about 437 fewer calories a day.

The reasons behind diet rebound are complicated. But experts point to hormones and metabolism as two culprits that pull you back after you lose weight, whether it's 100 pounds or ten. Your body has a certain weight it can maintain without a lot of effort and when you challenge that, you've got a fight on your hands.

I've never watched The Biggest Loser because I believe extreme diet and exercise is unhealthy and unsustainable. And this study just confirms that belief. As frustrating as it is, slow and steady weight loss is the way to go. Small steps, healthy eating, moderate exercise. 

And information. I'm going to take advantage of a service offered where I work, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The campus recreation center offers a resting metabolic rate assessment along with a nutrition consultation. I'm going to do this and find out science says about my body and how it should be fueled.

I'll let you know what I find out. 

Were you ever a crash diet addict? What do you do now to maintain a healthy weight?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Music Makes It Better.

I usually enjoy working out. When I don’t exercise, I get grumpy and lethargic and you just don’t want to be around me. Getting out there and breaking a sweat is the ultimate cure for a bad day.

But I also have those days when I just don’t wanna. Maybe I’m tired and feeling overwhelmed by life. I want to wear yoga pants and binge watch Real Housewives. On those occasions, I often drag myself to Jazzercise with the promise that I’ll give it 15 minutes and if I’m STILL not feeling it, I have permission to leave.

Nine times out of ten, I end up staying. Why? Pitbull! Lady Gaga! Megan Traynor!  MUSIC.

Instructors are  introducing new songs and new routines in class this week and it’s definitely a motivational shot in the arm. Dancing to new music really does improve my workout. 

And there’s science behind why that’s true.

First of all, music with “high-groove” qualities will improve YOUR groove. (Music that moves you, Music Psychology) Groove in music is defined as the aspect of a tune that makes you want to tap your foot. The music excites the motor areas of our brain and it's impossible to sit still. 

Just ask Elaine.

Music also makes us work harder and longer. (Phys Ed: Does Music Make You Exercise Harder?, NYTimes)  Up-tempo music distracts from the pain and at the same time, gets us moving. In one study, volunteers riding stationary bikes and listening to up-tempo music produced a more powerful pedal stroke and racked up more miles than when the tempo of the music dropped.  In another study, basketball players who had trouble performing under pressure did better at the free-throw line when they listened to an upbeat tune. 

I find that music also just helps put me in the zone, if you know what I mean. A good music set makes for a very short hour.

Scientists aren’t quite sure why music works because the interplay of music, your brain and your body isn’t totally understood.  Songs with a tempo of between 120 and 140 beats per minute (bpm) are said to be effective because they mirror your heart rate. (7 Reasons You Should Listen to Music When You Work Out, Huffington Post) 

I found this cool website that actually lists the bpm for songs and recommends music for running, walking or cycling. Jog-FM also has playlists for everything from a half marathon to a 3.5 mph walk. You can also build and share your own playlist.

If you run, walk or cycle with headphones in your ears, watch the volume. I know, I know, I sound like your mother. But really. High volume over a long period of time will cause ringing in the ears. Have you ever set next to someone with headphones on and you can still hear the music? Yeah, that’s too loud. It also prevents you from hearing what’s around you, like that car coming when you run across the street.

Okay, that’s my mom lecture for today.

One of my goals for the upcoming weekend is to put together a “Happy” playlist. I’m going to fill it up with songs that boost my mood and turn to it whenever I’m feeling a little stressed or blue. Right now, that includes songs like Hold My Hand by Jess Glynne, a current favorite of mine.

What songs are on your Happy or Workout playlist?


Friday, January 15, 2016

A List of Anti-Resolutions

How are the New Year’s Resolutions holding up? I’m a goal and list maker so I always enjoy the process of making resolutions at the beginning of a year, even if I don’t always stick to them.

I also like the trend of choosing one word as a focus for the year. Some of my friends have done this, choosing words like "joy" or "courage". The idea is to use that word as a guide for actions or projects you take on during the course of the year and make each effort more meaningful.

So I’ve been pondering.  What should MY word be?

I actually came up with a phrase for 2016. I borrowed it from Gretchin Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before, (two books I’m obsessed with and highly recommend, by the way.) Gretchen has a list of personal commandments and one of those is, “Be Gretchen”.

So instead of a word of the year, I’m adopting a mantra of the year.

Be Me.

What that means is that I have to know myself, what works, what doesn’t, what makes me happy.

And sometimes, that means I’m giving up.

Here are a few health and fitness things I’m NOT going to do in 2016.

·      Run. Anywhere. I keep thinking it’s something I should do. It’s a great way to keep in shape, it can be done anywhere and anytime. And the organized race events REALLY look fun. Sometimes I even sign up for them and imagine myself training hard and pushing through to the finish line.  But when training time arrives, I can’t get myself out the door and the idea of a treadmill sounds so deadly. This year, I’m facing up to the fact that I’m never going to be someone who runs for exercise. And this is where I apply the “Be Me” mantra. Just because someone else enjoys it and finds it an effective way to stay healthy, doesn’t mean it’s right for me.

·      Get up early and exercise. Nope. Not gonna happen. I’ve tried and tried because I know it’s a good time to work out for many people. That said, unless there are zombies chasing me, I’m not going to get out of bed at 5 AM.

·      Meditate. OH, how I wish I could do this. Meditation is a proven stress reducer and an effective way to practice being in the moment. Again, this is something I’ve tried repeatedly. I even downloaded the app Headspace and did the 10 day starter program. For about three days. I just can’t stick to it. I have managed to develop a love of yoga, however, and that has a certain meditative quality. Does that count?

·      Follow a “diet plan”. Not paleo, vegan or raw. No South Beach, Atkins or Zone. Forget about grapefruit and cabbage soup. Not going to cleanse or count carbs. Likewise for meal replacement shakes. These strategies are helpful for others but don’t work for me.

·      Eat my way through the weekend. When did “cheat meal” become a cheat weekend? I've GOT to practice a tad more self-control in that area!

·      Compare. Sometimes I look at #fitinspo pictures of women with rock hard abs and no cellulite and it makes me want to throw in the towel. The thing is, I know nothing about that fitness model with the six-pack. Maybe she’s airbrushed and photo-shopped. Maybe she never eats and works out 3 hours a day. Or just has great genes. The point is, comparison is the thief of joy. Not going there.

What are you NOT doing this year?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Letter to the Newbies

Dear New Person,

It’s a new year and I know you made that resolution to get fit. Welcome to my world. I won’t gloat and be smug about the fact that I kept up with my exercise over the holidays. Okay, I might have skipped a few workouts here and there. And yes, if I had a blood test right now, doctors would marvel at my high levels of eggnog, sugar and wine. But other than that, I’m in great shape.

And a little annoyed that I have to put up with all these newbies in my exercise classes.

I drove into the parking lot at Jazzercise on Saturday and guess what?! All the places closest to the building were full. So were the spots in the second row. In fact, I had to park clear in the back and WALK all the way up to the door.

What? You mean, I should do that anyway because every extra step counts? Soon you’ll be suggesting I take the stairs at work instead of the elevator.  

Not only did you take my parking spot, you took my spot in class. I literally can’t even.  

That spot is mine and I HAVE to stand there or I just don’t feel right. If you accidently stand in my spot, I won’t push you aside. Instead, I will glare at you, roll my eyes a lot and sigh heavily.

But don’t let that scare you. If you keep coming to class, I’ll get to know you, which is what happens when we sweat together. Like the TV theme song from Cheers, I like to exercise where everybody knows your name. It gives me a sense of accountability and obligation. I HAVE to show up because they’ll recognize I’m not there! And what will they do without me?! They’ll miss my whining and groaning! And my flawless dance moves!

Just don’t stand in my spot.

And if you are consistent, you’ll see great results.

Remember, we are stronger than our excuses. Unless there’s a BOGO shoe sale. (After all, we are not Superwomen.)

The One Who Stands Near the Left Wall