Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fitness Blogging.....Oxymoron or Regular Moron?

Do you know what an oxymoron is?  The set of Funk and Wagnall’s New Encyclopedias that my parents bought from our local grocery store when I was in middle school defines it as, “A figure of speech in which contradictory terms are brought together, as in a phrase.” I think Fitness Blogging somewhat matches that description. If you truly think about it, most fitness bloggers have to sit down and search the internet to come up with all of the information, photos, etc that they need to produce a nice blog post. I know that mine can take me up to an hour to perfect. The whole time I am sitting and the only muscles I am engaging are my eyes, brain, and fingers. This is not so great for improving the five components of physical fitness:
  1. I am not working my cardio vascular system unless I’m working on some kind of breathing exercise while I do my work, but even then, it’s not really taxing the system enough to produce significant gains in my VO2max.
  2. I am not improving my muscular strength because I am not lifting anything while I type.
  3. I am not improving my muscular endurance except for in said small muscle groups and thereby not improving my actual physical fitness.
  4. I am not working on my flexibility. In fact, I’m kind of ruining parts of it as the natural posture of anyone on the computer is to slump forward at the shoulders and let go of any engagement in the core muscle groups.
  5. I am not improving my body composition. A lot of times I snack while I work on the computer and that is not really doing anything great for reducing the amount of calories I take in or creating caloric balance because I’m not burning hardly any calories while I type this.
So, how do I combat work at the computer? First is that I try to work upstairs in my office area and not to bring snacks other than water up to work with me. I try to sit on my physio ball so that I engage my core more, sit with better posture, and often find myself bouncing for fun that gets my heart rate up a little bit. I try to take breaks to try out the exercises (especially for Tone It Up Tuesdays) that I’m writing about because it helps me to write about the movement. And I take breaks. I take breaks to move around and check on kids and just stand up.

It used to be (before email, computers, texting, etc) that people who worked in real offices had to walk down the hallway or across the office to ask each other a question or to get a document signed. There were couriers who delivered documents via bicycle (and there still are in some places, although that number seems to be dwindling) and office runners. Now we don’t even see people we work with for days on end. We are like hamsters stuck in a wheel…..minus the exercise. Some of this has to do with the discussion yesterday about moderation and our inane drive to always have more which always seems to leave us with less. And part of it is negative effects of a technologically advanced society. My tip to you this week, whether you’re at home visiting people, or cramming in hours at work so you don’t fall behind over the holidays, is to find a way to move a little more.
It’s some of the same principles we hear about every day, but I think we always need a holiday refresher:
  • Park the car further away when shopping
  • Get outside and play a game of football with the family while the turkey is cooking
  • If you’re where there is snow, it’s never too early for sledding
  • Take an after dinner walk with the family around the block or at a nearby park
  • Go caroling around the neighborhood, even if the neighbors are a mile away
  • Replace the chairs at the table with physio balls and see who can drink and stay up through the meal
  • Have the family compete in plank contests at commercial breaks while watching the Thanksgiving Day parade or other holiday specials
  • Carry your groceries from the store to the car instead of using the cart
  • Take the stairs up 80 flights to your friend’s Manhattan loft while carrying the Jell-O mold
No matter how you choose to do it, get active this week!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

What family traditions do you have to improve the activity at the holiday?
Do you work in an office?
Do you move around for your job?
What’s your favorite oxymoron?

Come back on Thursday for all things Black Friday and what I really want for Christmas to combat Fitness Blogging Oxymoronic-ness…..

Thankfulness

Here's another post that didn't post yesterday, so I've updated it for today and this afternoon you can find your Tone It Up Tuesday post.

Meditation Monday on the week of Thanksgiving and we're still talking about Brahmacarya. I have spent some extra time on this topic and my meditation because moderation is such an important part of how I live my life and the things I teach in my line of work.
I'm good enough; I'm smart enough; and doggone it, people like me!
In the Day 40 reading in the Gates book he writes that we (humans) live with “the mistaken belief that we are not ok as we are.” I took deeply to this reading at this time of year because what a better push to reflect on all the ways that we should be thankful than to realize that we reside inside of this misguided image of always needing to be more. That we are causing our own intemperance by doing more and seeking more that always ends in more strife. We view our lives as unsuccessful when we cannot find external validation for all of the hours we put in, the money we spend, the giving of ourselves. We live, very often, in a state of “keeping up with the Joneses” and very rarely in a state of contentment with what we have. It takes a lot of courage to walk away from the struggle that is life, from addiction, from the fear of not being enough. It takes mounds and mounds of courage to walk into a life of self acceptance and moderation. We realize that it is not about “thenwhat?” or “how does life get better?”…..it’s about “how great is this as it is?”

I am kind of behind in sharing this link, but purposefully waited until this week. 
Let’s spend this next week appreciating what we have and not what we don’t. Don’t ask yourself what you could change to make yourself better, but what you could change about the way you look at yourself and your life to make your world better. Imagine if we stopped judging ourselves and others and just saw the light inside of each of us and were thankful that it was there. What if we let that light shine as brightly as it could without casting clouds of need and self doubt over it?

This week I am thankful to be here in Iowa. Thankful for my friends and their health (at whatever stage it is that has kept them to this day). I am thankful for my students and co-workers and that they exist to enrich my life in ways that are not measured in dollars and cents. I am thankful for my family and my children who are miracles beyond belief to me. I am thankful that I exist and that my lungs fill with air each day. I breathe in, I breathe out, I am in awe of the world around me.


What are you thankful for this year?

Monday, November 24, 2014

More from the Pie Man

I have just had to go in and edit this post so that it will post today, a day later than I had scheduled it, so sorry for the double posting today...I can't read a calendar.

I should be almost to Iowa by the time this post goes up. It's Simple Simon Sunday and it's almost Thanksgiving. I am driving half-way across the country with my two little guys and my sister to enjoy the time with my side of the family and we (my sister and I) are supplying the dessert this year: PIE! She wanted to learn how to make a cherry pie from scratch with a lattice top crust. She's never made any kind of pie, so I agreed to teach her since she somehow missed out on learning to cook when we were growing up. It could have something to do with the fact that we're almost 7 years apart in age and our family dynamic changed in there somewhere. But, if you know my sister you can probably come up with your own conclusion.

Enough about her....back to the pie. I am not a big fan of fruit pies myself. Something about the cooked fruit seems too mushy for me. But I do love a good pumpkin pie because that screams THANKSGIVING to me all day long. I am very sad that Cool Whip no longer makes their French Vanilla Cool Whip for the holidays for topping said pumpkin pie, but I think I've kind of outgrown Cool Whip anyway. We'll see when I get to Iowa and it's time to go shopping.

We used to do Thanksgiving at our house growing up. There are four kids in my family, so it kind of made sense to have it here and not to tote us all over. We had most of our family from both sides over and we'd put the table in the living room. I remember my mom always yelling at me to get it set while I was distracted by the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. (Have to remember to watch that this year with the kids!) Then, some years we'd do it at my dad's parents' house and eventually at my aunt's. After my parents split up (I remember the one Thanksgiving going to my mom's parents' house without him), we pretty much always spent it with my mom's family and dessert shifted from straight up pies to other things. My dad's mom always made three pies: cherry, pumpkin, and pecan (pronounced different ways depending upon where you are from). 

This year we will have my sister's cherry pie, a pumpkin pie (made with Libby's of course!), and the no bake french silk pie I've been raving about from time to time on here.

What is your favorite kind of pie?
What will be the desserts at your Thanksgiving?
Do you watch the parade?
What do you bring?
What's your favorite food to eat that day?
Do you know who that man is?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Airport Blinders

It's the Friday before Thanksgiving and I've set this post to auto load. I'm driving across the country with my two kids and sister in tow. Someone please help me avoid holiday travel hell! Why are you already singing Jingle Bells?!

Last week when I traveled to Brockport, New York (Quick shout out to my great group there: Beth, Emily, Kevin, Katie, Josh, Chris, and Nate!) I started thinking about how hard it is to get through the airport without feeling like Louie (only watch this if you're okay with some offensive material and are not around your kids....Thanks Sarrah!).
So, here are a few quick tips for those of you flying today.

Ways to Avoid Eating Junk at the Airport
  • Douse yourself in a disgusting smelling perfume so that you can't smell the aroma of all of the food court food around you
  • Wear blinders like horses do so that you cannot see anything that is not directly in front of you (Skymall should totally sell these! See my post next Thursday about Skymall and Thanksgiving Day shopping.)
  • Eat a ton of rice and beans before you head out for your flight so that you cannot possibly be full in the airport
  • Pack your own snacks. Unlike water, they don't steal those at security check points and it will also save you a lot of money. Just think $5 M&M bag....Yikes!
  • Take a refillable water bottle with you that you can fill up on the other side of security. Avoid lots of unnecessary calories consumed by drinking and money on purchasing them. Remember, you can always get a small free soda on the flight
  • Keep your hands busy by doing crosswords, Sudoku, knitting (if they allow those needles through), etc because busy hands don't feel tempted to fill the mouth
  • Remember that the airport food court does not sell any food that you can't get somewhere else for less and when you won't be sitting for hours on end
  • If you have to eat there, choose mindfully and if all else fails.....
  • "Workout" at the airport! Look at what I found (and used) at the Philadelphia Airport!
These were free to use and I know I need a new phone so I can snap far better photos!
For more fun blog posts about air travel, read these:
Fit is a Feminist Issue, lots of articles about travel
The Next Delusion, the Knee Defender

Are you going anywhere for the holidays?
By air or by car?
Would you travel half way across the country with two little kids under age 4?
How do you feel about stores selling holiday gear way before the next holiday is even over?
How do you avoid eating at the airport?
Would you ride one of those bikes while waiting for a flight?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Free Quotes in Minutes

Another Thursday of word vomit or is it brain vomit since the words are not vomiting out of my head like these random thoughts are? Either way, I'd like to join a little group here and announce that my future Thursday posts will be "inspired" by Amanda and her ingenious Think Out Loud Thursday campaign. Linked here:
Thinking-Out-Loud2
I was first brought to the attention of Amanda(http://www.runningwithspoons.com/thinking-out-loud/) by one of my new favorite bloggers, Charlotte at Commitness to Fitness (http://commitnesstofitness.com/) and her Think Out Loud Thursday posts. Until I decided to go ahead and try them, I wasn't convinced it was going to stick, but now it gives me a great something to do with all of my random bits of pastel card notes that don't fit anywhere else during the week. And keeps them from piling up too. Check them both out, they are amazing ladies and Yes, Charlotte did make a "blog guest" appearance at my last workshop. Her bit on food labels was just too perfect not to share!

In continuation of my random spew here today I thought I would enlighten you on a topic that I find to be both intriguing and ridiculous at the same time.

Health Insurance!

Insurance: Scam or Unhappy Necessity?
As this is being posted I am having my first full-on physical in about 6 years, not counting annuals and when I was pregnant both times. This is one of three "scheduled posts" I have for this week because of travel etc. So, I have no idea what the outcome of this physical will be, but I do know one thing for sure: It better not cost me one damned cent! Now, I'm neither here nor there about "Obama Care" because I don't fully understand (and I don't think anyone does yet) what all the good or bad to come out of this system will be. But I do know that if I pay $98.90/month for 12 months for something, then someone needs to figure out what I was paying for. I think the whole idea of insurance is ludicrous because, for someone who is not sick very often, where is my money going? Am I paying for other people to go to the doctor? If so, what is their insurance paying for? Why would we not just reduce all the costs so that when you have to go to the doctor you can afford to, but if you don't have to go, you just keep your money and spend it on other things.

I feel like I'm paying someone's salary who is not doing a whole lot (sorry insurance industry people). Are doctors not seeing enough people each day to be able to reasonably live on what they could charge if they charged everyone directly? Are insurance companies not just another middle man? If you're going to mandate anything, just mandate the pricing structure so that no one gets charged out of healthy living and move on with it. It's kind of like food to me. Do I buy insurance to make sure that the food will be there fore me when I need it or do I just pay for the food and the farmers grow it? Makes sense to me, but maybe I'm missing something here all together. Or maybe I'm a socialist or a communist or however that works. I didn't pay attention very well in government.

Either way, I know it's not a perfect system, but when I was previously married I had military insurance. Say what you will about the wait times etc, but when I needed shit, I got it. And it didn't cost me a thing because I already paid for it in my taxes. I know there are some Canadians that read this and I had some friends from GB when in college. They all have enjoyed (to some extent) their government run health care. I even watched Ricki Lake's documentary (http://www.thebusinessofbeingborn.com/) that showed how much better it is in other European countries in regards to prenatal and postpartum care with government insurance. All I'm asking is that my insurance company contacts my doctor (she's new to me and I'm not sure if I will like her or not) and makes sure that whomever in her office is in charge of billing codes everything correctly for my $1200 physical. Thanks.

Do you have insurance or are you planning to pay the penalty instead?
Do you know how much the penalty is for not having insurance?
How often do you go to the doctor?
Do you like your doctor?
How did you find your doctor?
Would you buy into government run health care?

PS - I'm sorry for the pasted in links.
Blogger was not allowing me to link things in this post the day I wrote this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Balance

Most people know all about the two main components of a fitness program: Cardio and Strength Training. At least that's what we'll call them for now. However, those of us in the fitness industry know that it goes far beyond running on a treadmill and lifting some weights. You need to have flexibility, which is totally different than just sitting there trying to touch your toes for 10 seconds and jumping around while shaking your arms and legs to feel "limbered-up". I have totally seen people doing that at the gym and you know who you are! It also includes stability and balance training and for a select few of us, agility training. So, this week, let's talk about balance and your ADL's.

I am very glad to see that a Google search of "ADL's" comes back with a majority of links to information regarding Activities of Daily Living instead of something random to misinform the public. There was also one link to the Anti-Defamation League, but that's not where we're headed today. So, what is an activity of daily living? It's anything that you do daily to go about your day. So:
  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Oral Care
  • Toileting
  • Transferring
  • Walking
  • Climbing Stairs
  • Eating
  • Shopping
  • Cooking
  • Using the Phone
  • Housework
  • Laundry
  • Driving
  • Computer Work
  • Childcare
  • Gardening/Outdoor Work
Etc, etc, etc. Your list may look totally different than my list, but this is a sample (with a few added) that I found online.

The point is that as we grow older (Yes, I know I'm only 34, but I don't want to wait until I'm 64 to prepare for this) we lose all sorts of physical fitness. Our respiration is slower, our muscles are atrophied, our flexibility is decreased, our bones are less dense, our balance and stability are off, and our reaction times decline. This is why I think we all need to take a moment to focus on balance today in 3 ways.

Balance in Our Work/Home Lives
I work from home part of the time and part of the time I work out of the home. I am somewhat scared about what life will look like in 4 years from now when my youngest goes off to school and I re-enter the workforce full-time. I will be closer to 40 with no real "career" longevity at any one company to show for my time. But, for the time being I try to make life work without making work the number one priority. Remember, we should work to live, not live to work. So, evaluate your life and especially what you do for work and determine, how could I make work work better for me? Are you doing things at work to stay healthy? Do I move often at work? Do I pack my lunch or at least choose wisely at my eating times? Do I eat mindfully or sit in front of the computer screen mindlessly gobbling whatever I have in front of me? Do I take advantage of health and fitness opportunities offered at my work? How can I improve my functionality at work to improve my life away from work? Can I leave work at work?

Balance in Our Mental/Emotional/Spiritual Self
This is an area in which I am currently working. It's important to know how to keep yourself happy and what that entails. What makes you feel fulfilled in life? What gives you a sense of purpose? 6 years ago, when I got divorced from my first husband, I went through a year of self-discovery. During that process I learned a lot about myself and it all eventually led me to being who I am today. However, in the past few years my life has changed again. I became someone else's wife and two little someone's mom. Therefore, it's always good to re-evaluate from time to time. I know, that personally, when I do not devote enough time to yoga and exercise, to my meditation and to reading and learning, then I feel the weight of the world upon my shoulders and it's awfully heavy. We all need our own personal escapes; the "ME" time. Finding balance in your heart, your mind, your soul.

Balance in Our Physical Bodies
Finally, because it is Tone It Up Tuesday, think about balance in your body. Yoga brings a lot of balance to the body by way of practicing poses on each side individually and by practicing "balance" poses. Lots of "functional" exercises prepare the body for regular movement by challenging individual sides in ways that we move day to day. The wood chopper exercise from last week is a prime example. Simple measures of balance like sitting on a physio ball can tell you a lot about the physical balance you have in your body. Do you feel like you will fall off or like it would be fun to bounce up and down? Do you think you might be able to do this?
If you're new to balance training, I don't recommend you start with anything like this, but perhaps just try this:
  • Stand with your feet hip width apart
  • Spread your toes out as if you're gripping into the floor or mat
  • Relax your arms away from your body as they fall gently to the sides
  • Relax your shoulders away from your ears as your head rises up through the crown toward the ceiling
  • Let the weight of your body fall evenly throughout your feet, ankles, knees, and hips
  • Close your eyes
  • Examine your body head to toe in your mind and look for areas that are higher than the opposite side, further forward or back, carrying more weight, more tight
  • Then, without shifting your hip, pick one foot up
  • Set the foot back down slowly
  • Repeat on the opposite foot
An exercise like this can tell you a lot about yourself inside and out. It can tune in some somatic awareness as well as kinesthetic awareness. It can be the beginnings of true balance training and improving your stability and coordination. Give it a try and tell me what you find below.

Where in your life do you have the most balance?
Thoughts on balance training?
Do you call it a see saw or a teeter totter?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Yoga Is Not a Religion

Dear Infinite World Around Me,

I do not know if I have ever truly prayed....at least not in the sense of how Gates speaks of it in relation to Brahmacarya. He says that prayer is a surrender to something greater than yourself. I remember being younger and attending Religious Education at the Catholic church and being taught to pray. I know the words of several prayers, but I'm not always sure that my intentions are behind the words being said. I don't remember ever having that feeling; a deep commitment to something greater than myself. At least not something that I feel I am 100% sure exists. I know the days I have longed for that. I know the times I have prayed and asked for something to be the outcome I desired.

I have never considered myself to be a religious person, but always felt that I knew what I believed in and that was good enough. I have faith in people. However, I have never been able to put into words what it is that makes me have faith or what exactly it is that I believe. I guess I just figured that when I was confronted with a situation that I'd know what I feel is right and wrong and that would be good enough. But to surrender? To give up all control and doubt? To know that I should no longer ask for something to be an outcome, but just to let it be?

I don't know if I really do believe in something greater than me some days. I don't know if that means that I don't truly stand for anything. I don't know if it's a sign of being scared to find out what else there is. And I don't know if I could ever be truly selfless in prayer as I've not been conditioned to pray in that way. Without sounding selfish....some answers please?


Sincerely,
Me

I feel like this interpretation of prayer and of the practice of Brahmacarya could be very controversial. I want to make sure that people understand that Yoga, in itself, is not a religion, but blends well with other religious practices because it asks you to consider many of the same things that religion does. However, in yoga, we seek a connectedness to something greater than ourselves that exists within each one of us and is not totally defined. For someone like myself who likes organization and definition, practicing yoga is a practice of wills. Structured and organized religion should be a place that I flourish, but it is not. I like my yoga journey because, although it makes me wonder what I really stand for, that is kind of the point. And in doing it this way, I am able to work at my own pace and choose my course. When I'm ready to accept that the control is not mine, my yoga will be there to hold me and connect me. As I am not yet there, my yoga is there to guide me and hold some structure to the world around me.

Do you prefer self discovery or organized religion or a combined practice?
Do you ask for things when you pray?  
Have you surrendered to a higher power?