4th of July Exercise

There are many ways to exercise — as we are discovering here:  passively, actively, resistance, cardio, weights..

And so many things to exercise as well:  abs, glutes, biceps, self-discipline…

Today we celebrate our country and stop to consider one of the first exercises in citizenship we ever learn: The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag.

Red Skelton learned the pledge the same way I did, and I remember as many of you  do, too,  the words “under God” being added when Eisenhower was President.  It was an interesting time. Some felt there were compelling reasons to specifically point out that our nation was “under God.”  Most folks simply felt we could assume that our country would remain strong so long as we kept our faith strong — in whatever way each individual found best.

As we grow past that first exercise of citizenship, we are not likely to forget how we first learned to respect the symbol of the freedom  — freedom that allows us differ in it’s very expression.  

Give a doodly-squat!

This is just serendipity.

I’ve been struggling to get my workouts in since my favorite trainers have been off-line for the past week. Sometimes what helps is to try something new. I was getting ready to think about starting to look for something I maybe could do (are you sensing lack of motivation here?), when I opened my e-mail to find a post from one of my favorite fitness bloggers.

If you’re like me, you really can’t resist something simple and effective that invites you to try it out right now. This is just such a find. And what’s even better, this particular move is foundational, revs up metabolism because it works those large muscles, can be done anywhere and almost anytime, and is just perfect for the little break from the computer that you will be taking when you finish reading, right?

You’ve already guessed it from the title: It’s squats!

Nothing hard about that, is there? Ah, but stay with me here. You know how most trainers advise you to protect your knees by one of two ways: Either they warn, “Be sure your knees do not extend over your toes” or they advise, “Just pretend you are backing up to a chair and squat down just as if you are getting ready to sit.”

What’s wrong with that? Oh, so many things: How do I know if my knees are in line with the ends of my feet? I really have big feet — and small knees — so maybe this advice doesn’t work for me. And who is going to check for me. And if I look down to see, then my spine and neck won’t be neutral, will they now?

See, it’s complicated! Furthermore, who ever really squats when they sit in a chair? Do you really stick out your derrière when you plop yourself down? Well, maybe we should, but it does feel peculiar, don’t you think? And thus not a really good template for doing squats correctly.

So here is the answer: JC found a short video that I share here with you. The surprise? It’s called “wall squats’! Such a simple adjustment and easily adaptable to anyone’s level of expertise and comfort. The more we do it, the more we benefit. And as always, remember to practice with intention. Really focus on the muscle groups you are engaging. Give a doodly-squat!!

Are You Sitting Down?

Stop when you get to the end of the next sentence.

When you get to the end of this sentence, stop for ten seconds and think about your tummy. Good. When you thought about your stomach did you focus on hunger/fullness or on muscle/flab?

(Now that I’ve asked you to think about your stomach, it’s hard not to focus your attention there, isn’t it? Once again – good. That’s what today’s fitness post is all about: core awareness.)

Whether your first thoughts were about your breakfast or about your six-pack, it’s all about being aware of the state of your stomach.

If you focused on hunger and fullness – and are right now fighting the desire to get up and snack — there are a couple of things you can do to serve the urge. Go ahead. Get up. You need a break from your computer anyway (because your ribs were probably resting on your hip bones – more about that below). And when you get up, either stretch up tall, arms over your head, feeling your torso len-g-th-en out as you do, or head for that snack.

If you make it to the kitchen, stop and think before you get to that piece of muffin you saved from the bottom of your purse on your Starbucks dash. Instead, take another ten seconds and decide whether you’re hungry or bored. If you agree with Winnie the Pooh that it’s time for a “little bit of something,” think about fruit or protein. Strawberries and blueberries are in season; stone fruits are coming in; bananas are always like a little vacation! If it’s midday or mid afternoon give yourself a longer energy boost with a dish of plain yogurt, a hardboiled egg or a handful of edamame. If you’re just needing a break, well then, you’ve just had it. Come back to the computer and we’ll talk about that midsection you’ve got all smooshed up.

If you focused on flab and muscle then feel that feeling again. If your ribs are indeed sitting on your hip bones then your lungs are pressed into your spine, your poor heart smashed into your diminished chest cavity, your head is sitting like a bowling ball on a stick way out over your desk. GROAN.

We know that we need to work out at least an hour a day. We know that it can be broken down in manageable pieces and still count towards our daily dozen times five. But did you ever consider how much you can gain from passive exercise? There is much evidence that shows why fidgety people are leaner than those without some amount of ADHD. Tap your feet, roll your shoulders, flap your elbows, do a few toe raises with your feet flat.   You can get the same body benefit as a natural fidget.

Even better, really do become aware of your posture and your core. Sit correctly and relax your face. You will have more energy for the task at hand, and when your special someone walks through the room you’ll seem to have taken years off your age! Set your email reminder to play a different chime. Retrain your ears to ignore the e-mail and lift your abs up and in for five seconds every time you hear it!

Stop when you get to the end of this sentence. Raise your right arm so your upper arm is next to your ear. Bend your elbow and place your hand flat as far down your spine as you can reach. (It’s okay to help it along by pushing down on your right elbow with your left hand). Now… Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!

Robbers and Builders

Weight bearing exercise builds bone.

Perhaps you have the same scary image of your bones as I sometimes do:  picture a spongy, crater-strewn tube of once solid bone connecting all our moving parts.  I must have seen horrifying graphic of osteoporosis somewhere.  It looks like Orlando does from the air — a thin sheet of brittle material barely connecting all those round lakes and sinkholes.  What keeps it from caving in on itself?  That’s one of the thoughts that send me to my treadmill when I just don’t feel like it. I fit the osteoporosis risk profile too closely – older, small boned woman of Anglo-European heritage.

It’s the same with teeth, right?  Even though I suspect one doesn’t get the same benefit from crunching corn nuts as from carrots, the principle is the same – when you exert pressure on those calcium filled gnashers, you build bone and your teeth last longer.

What is the role  of diet in this bone-building equation?   I thought that was a no-brainer as well until I read this clever series from health.msn.com. Even though as adults we don’t drink much milk, I imagine you are as mindful as I am about getting enough calcium from other sources – leafy greens, fortified soy, supplements and so forth.

What a surprise to find that legumes are robbers!!  Our good protein friends — beans, beans the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you … increase protein, right?  Pinto beans (burritos!), kidney beans (great in salad!), garbanzo beans (mashed with tahini in hummus!), navy beans (in the U. S. Senate cafeteria no less) — all legumes are high in fiber, low in fat, high in protein.  However–

The Robber:  Beans have a substance – phytates – that bind with calcium preventing absorption.  Thus the “robber” effect. A thief in the night — who knew?

The Builder:  No need to get out your shotgun or install a burglar alarm.  Just soak the beans overnight and cook in fresh water.  Then wait a couple of hours after eating to take a calcium supplement — even if you just carry an antacid in your pocket.

Check out the link to more “Robbers and Builders” right here:

Some of your favorite foods and beverages may be undermining your efforts to keep your bones healthy. Here’s what you can do about it.

a one, and a two, and a Treva!

We just got back from Florida and celebrating Mom’s 90th birthday.

“Shh,” she said. “You don’t have to tell.”

“Mom!  I just sent invitations to all your family and all your friends inviting them to help us celebrate your 90th!”

“Oh, well, then.  We might as well have a party.”

It was beautiful.  Yellow roses everywhere — even on the chocolate cake.  Grandchildren and great-grandchildren all on their special-for-grammy behavior, long lost cousins, and near and dear friends from her retirement village where mom is in extended care — everyone participating in the special pleasure of seeing how we never outlive our delight in waking up to another year with mother earth.

The day before the big event we hung out with mom for a quiet day.  How does an almost ninety year old spend a quiet day?  By working out, of course!  There is a trainer – Treva – who holds classes at the village – yoga, tai chi, aerobics.  And she carries her training over even into the Health Center where Mom lives.  When husband-never-hubby joined us, I knew he was in for a surprise!

Treva the trainer put all the elders through an hour of chair aerobics and weights.  You would be surprised how much marching in place, pointing and lifting toes, hoisting weights while being encouraged to keep abs “up and in” gets the blood flowing and the smiles going.  She has a good mix of music — Beatles, swing from the forties — and keeps the pace lively.  She remembers who needs a one pound weight in the left hand but can manage a two pounder in the right, who needs to strengthen their left side from a stroke, who needs an extra cushion behind their back for support during marching.  It’s challenging and lively.

If that’s how you get ready for a birthday when you are entering your centennial decade, I’m in!

How should I begin?

Lately what I’ve observed most about peole who “intend” to get fit — the Intenders — is that they haven’t committed to making a change.  What is a productive way to start thinking about how to put this essential back into our lives?

Was it already there at some point?

Oh , yes!  Just look at children.  Where do they get their energy, we ask?  It comes from their human condition.  Somewhere in the not-so-distant past, when we grew up, we just took that childhood energy and put it to work for ourselves — in fields, forests, rivers — wherever it was we found our daily bread. Now we convert that  “go power” to mental energy to do other work we love — at desks, in buildings, behind steering wheels of all sorts.  It’s not a bad trade.  But no one told  our bodies we’d made that transfer!

Today’s focus (and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrrow, creeping into our petty pace if we will just let it) combines what we know about habit forming with what we know for certain about our bodies’ enduring needs for movement.  You’ve read your Napolean Hill.  You know that to develop a new habit it takes 21 days of consistently performing the new action.  Sometimes we do this unconsciouly – and end up with a bad habit.  Sometimes we unleash the mighty power of our will and consiously go after a new, beneficial habit.  Here’s how to do that in order to put fitness back into your life:

Set your alarm clock for five minutes earlier!  No more, no less.  Faithfully get up  five minutes earlier and instantly do something!  You can begin with sets of toe raises.  It’s easy.  Stand all tucked in — you know, abs tight, shoulders down, tail slightly tucked under and forward.  Hold lightly on to the side of the dressser or bed post (you just got up, remember?). Standing on  your right foot, place your left foot hooked slightly behind your right heel.  Gently raise up on the ball of your right foot — with control both up and down.  Repeat twelve times, slowly.  Switch legs.  How many slow sets can you fit into five minutes?  (I’d be curious, actually.  My number is surprisingly low if I do it with intention.

That’s it!  You have now made a beginning.  And from there you build. Back to the future one might say.  Recapture that childhood energy to harness how you will — five minutes at a time.

Oh, for Pete’s Sake!

Didn’t I know  this was going to happen?

(You wouldn’t know unless you know me, but if you do, then you may not be surprised).   What’s the fuss?  It’s been three weeks since my last post!   Oh, for Pete’s Sake.  So on with it then — (and if you want the exciting news that has absorbed my attention, post a comment or send me a message on FB.)

Today it’s about ROI — Return on Investment!

One tip is about physical fitness, the other is more about fiscal fitness.  Fitness covers a heap of territory, doesn’t it?  So why not apply the idea of paring down to how we spend our time?  Check out Y’s Business Blog to get the skinny on accounting, as well as a new way to think about how spending time is not so different from spending calories.  It’s all about the ROI!

1.   Y’s Business Blog: http://ys-business.com/blog/

2.  Aging bodies and brains:

In one surprising trial, researchers randomly assigned 155 women  to three separate groups.  They then compared the effects of two kinds of exercise:

a. resistance training, done once or twice weekly, in which participants worked out with free weights and weight machines and did squats and lunges, versus

b. toning and balance exercises, which participants did twice a week, versus

c. no exercise.

By the end of the yearlong study, the women —  aged 65 – 75 — who weight-trained saw an improvement in their performance on tests of memory, learning, decision-making and conflict resolution. The women who did balance and toning may have had cute legs on which to balance, but their brains were no better off than with no training at all.

The muscle-strengthening exercise also helped the volunteers boost their walking speed, a commonly used indicator of overall health status in the elderly, as faster pace has been linked with lower mortality.

There it is – good news and bad news!  The good news? We can heft some weights and enjoy every part of our lives more.  The bad news?  I’m now considered “elderly.”

Got to run — I need to lift some weight so that I won’t forget to post here before I leave for my mom’s 90th birthday party!

*http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1956619,00.html?xid=rss-topstories#comments#ixzz0dmQnmPEO