Routines

Get Started On Your Spring Walking Routine

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The cold winds of winter have passed and spring is in the air.  Flowers are blooming, gentle breezes touch your skin, and the sun is warming up the earth.  You feel the urge to get out, get moving, and enjoy the beautiful weather.  You've been wanting to start exercising, and you've heard that walking is a great way to start (it is!)  

Here are five steps to help you get started with a daily walking routine this spring:

1.  Check with your doctor.  If it has been a long time since you have walked, or if you have a chronic health condition, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.  The chances are that she will be thrilled that you are planning to exercise, and will be able to offer advice on how much you should try to do starting out, as well as any precautions you should take. 

2.  Get the right shoes.  Many athletic shoe companies now make shoes specifically designed for walking.  You will need shoes with a flexible sole and a low, supportive heel, because your heel will strike the ground first and then role to the ball of the foot as you walk.  Your shoes should be lightweight, breathable, and fit properly.  And if you tend to roll your foot to one side or the other as you walk, you may need special shoes or orthotic inserts.  Stores that sell running shoes often have sales people who are trained to evaluate your gait and help you choose just the right shoe.  If you haven't purchased walking shoes in a while, this can be a great resource to make sure you get shoes that will help you be comfortable and safe while walking.

3.  Learn to walk properly.  What do you mean?  I've been walking since I was a baby!  But as we age, and our joints get stiffer, we tend to lose some of the mobility we had when we were younger.  If you walk using bad posture or incorrect technique, you will end up with aches and pains you don't want (and that could derail your exercise plans - been there, done that!)  Stand tall, tuck your bottom under your hips as you walk, and maintain a loose, comfortable stride.  Look forward, not down, and relax your shoulders and arms.  

4.  Stretch.  Before and after your walk, take a few minutes to gently stretch your muscles in your legs, back, arms, and shoulders.

5.  Start slowly.  Walk for short distances to begin with and focus on enjoying yourself and taking in the surroundings.  Gradually increase the distance and time you spend walking each day, as well as your speed, as you build your endurance.  And change up your route to maintain your interest and motivation.  

Do you need support to build your walking routine?  Join us in our Facebook group!

21 Ways To Make Time For Fitness In Your Daily Routine

You know you need to be more active, but how can you fit exercise into your day when there is never enough time?

_I hear people say, 'I don't have time for fitness,' which is true. You don't have time for it. You make time for it._ --Richard Branson.png

Between work and family responsibilities, many of us feel like we are running frantically from one task to another with little time to focus on taking care of ourselves.  Here are twenty-one ways to get in some intentional exercise, no matter how busy you are.

1.  Extra steps. 

Park far away from the door at work and at stores so that you have to walk farther to reach your destination.

2.  Get up earlier. 

Rising 30 minutes earlier would let you get in a brisk 30 minute walk or jog.  Be sure to go to bed 30 minutes earlier, too, so you don't miss out on important sleep.

Photo by  Adrien Robert  on  Unsplash

Photo by Adrien Robert on Unsplash

3.  YouTube exercise videos. 

Seriously, there are a ton of free workouts available on YouTube, some of them just 7 minutes long.  And 7 minutes is better than 0 minutes.  

4.  Recover lost time. 

Do a time study on yourself.  Write down everything that you do during a day, and the time each activity takes.  Is there time in your day that you could substitute exercise for something else?  I found I was spending an hour drinking coffee and reading the news first thing in the morning to "wake up."  That's a time suck that could be better filled with exercise and a healthy green smoothie.

5.  Take the stairs. 

Stairs are great for building large muscle strength in your thighs and glutes.  Take the stairs at every opportunity!

Photo by  Anna Sullivan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

6.  Walking/Standing desk. 

Sitting is the new smoking, so if your workplace allows you to use a walking or standing desk, take advantage.  

7.  Office routine. 

If you work at a desk job, every hour or two, get up and walk around the office.  Set an alarm to remind you if you tend to get absorbed in your work.  A quick walkabout will allow you to return to your work refreshed and re-focused.

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8.  Desk Exercise. 

That sedentary desk job is not helping your physical fitness.  Take a few minutes every hour to work in some stretching, lunges or squats, calf raises, glute squeezes, or wall pushups.  

9.  Desk weights. 

Keep a pair of small hand weights at your desk, and do a few reps of curls, shoulder presses and  throughout the day.

10.  TV Exercise. 

Instead of kicking back to watch your favorite show, use that time to get in some exercise time.  Treadmill, stationary cycle, marching in place, squats, weights, leg lefts.  

11.  Bedtime stretching. 

As part of your before bedtime routine, engage in slow stretching exercises or yoga.  You'll maintain your flexibility and the relaxing stretches will help you sleep better.

Photo by  Lena Bell  on  Unsplash

Photo by Lena Bell on Unsplash

12.  Dance your way to a cleaner house. 

When you are cleaning, turn on the party music and bust out the dance moves.  You'll be more physically active and house cleaning will be way more fun.

13.  Multi-Tasking. 

Cooking in the kitchen, washing dishes, and folding laundry can be physical exercise time, too.  Add some squats and wall push ups as you go through your tasks.

14.  Shared time. 

Get in some quality time with your spouse, children, or BFF by going for a walk after work.  It's a great way to catch up with focused, undistracted conversation while improving physical fitness.

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15.  Team sports. 

If you are used to waiting in the car while your children are at team sports practices, get out of the car and walk around the building, field, or parking lot.  Get your exercise while they get theirs.

16.  Playtime. 

Are you taking the kids or grand kids to the park or playground?  Instead of sitting on the bench, get up and play with them,  Run around, climb on the equipment, slide down the slides, jump in puddles, play ball.  You might start to feel like a kid again.

Photo by  Justin Young  on  Unsplash

Photo by Justin Young on Unsplash

17.  Join a class. 

If you pay for it and there are other people there, you will feel more obligated and committed to go.  Better yet, join with a friend or your spouse.

Photo by  bruce mars  on  Unsplash

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

18.  Running errands and getting to work. 

For errands close to home, walk or ride your bike. If your job is local, ride your bike or walk to work.  If you take public transportation, get off at an earlier stop and walk the rest of the way.

Photo by  Anna Sullivan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Anna Sullivan on Unsplash

19.  Change your friend activities. 

Instead of getting together for lunch, coffee, or a movie, meet up for a physical activity - golf, tennis, or bowling.  Planning a get-together with work mates or friends?  Suggest a fun and physical team activity like paintball or a charity walk.

20.  Reading exercise.  

Do you love to read?  Get your books on audio and walk while you listen.

21.  Yard Work. 

You can burn a lot of calories working in your yard or garden.  Using a push mower, raking, digging, turning compost, and carrying bags of soil, rocks, bricks, will all build muscle and stamina.  And you'll have a beautiful yard as well!

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Do you have more ideas for fitting exercise into your busy day?  Share them in the comments!

Three to Thrive: Three Behaviors That Change Everything

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The American Heart Association recommends the "Simple Seven" - seven steps to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. 

I'm going to make it even more simple.  There are really only three main things you need to focus on to improve your health and well-being, and if you get these three things right, it follows naturally that you greatly increase your chances of achieving the rest of the Simple Seven.

Three to Thrive

  • Be Physically Active
  • Eat a Healthy Diet
  • Don't Smoke

Sounds simple, right?  Common sense?  Yes and yes.  But not so easy in a sedentary world filled with unhealthy but delicious food choices and seemingly endless binge-worthy shows to watch, along with work that is all to frequently done sitting at a desk. 

Perhaps the easiest habit (if you never take it up) is the third - don't smoke.  But anyone who has ever come under the nicotine spell knows how hard the chains are to break.

But you can take control by making changes in your habits in each of these areas that will lead to lifelong and life-prolonging improvements in your health.  Start small, make one little change, and keep at it until that change becomes a new, healthy habit.  Then make another small change.  Small improvements over time really add up!

Why Boring Is Good When You Are Dieting

Photo by  Shumilov Ludmila  on  Unsplash

There are millions of websites filled with recipes and meal plans devoted to specific diet plans - paleo, gluten-free, Weight Watchers, Whole30, primal, vegan, Atkins, and on, and on, and on...

Each website has gorgeous pictures of mouth-watering food, and meal plans to get you through the week.  And I'm not knocking any of them. 

I love food.  I love to cook.  I love to cook delicious food on my diet plan du jour, and websites like these have provided me with inspiration, great recipes, and some real winners in my recipe box.

When you are starting a new diet plan and trying to figure out what you can eat, these sites can be a real lifesaver and time saver by helping you to figure out meals and calorie counts or macro counts and ideas for foods that you and your family can all eat and love.  

But the sheer volume of possibilities can be overwhelming once you get started.  So I am going to make a little suggestion: once you find a few sites and a few recipes that you love - repetition is actually going to help you out. And by that I mean once you find a few recipes that work for you, then set up your meal plan so that you make those recipes over and over throughout the month.  

For example, since starting the DASH diet challenge, my daily lunch when I pack a lunch is almost always mixed greens sprinkled with lemon juice, deli turkey or chicken, an apple, and a cheese stick.  It's simple, it's easy for me to pack in the morning, I don't have to put a lot of thought into it, and it's a snap to enter into my online food diary.  My breakfast on weekdays is similarly boring - two boiled eggs, a cup of low sugar yogurt, and an apple or grapefruit.

I'm tempted by all the beautifully prepared bento boxes on Pinterest, but to be quite honest, I don't have the time.

Dinner is where I get more creative, but since I and my family all have long work and school hours, something that can be made in the Crock-pot is most often on the menu.

It may seem a little boring when there are so many recipes to explore and try, but there are advantages to a "boring" menu rotation.

Menu Simplification

Let's face it - most of us are living very hectic lives.  It's hard to stick to a diet when you are trying to plan a complicated menu and create something "new" every day.  Creating a menu plan once that follows your diet plan and incorporates all the appropriate macros and micros, and then sticking to it week in and week out will make your shopping, your planning, your documentation (if you keep a food diary), and your meal preparation so much easier and simpler.  

Less Cheating

If you already know what you're going to make for breakfast, lunch or supper, you're less likely to think, "Let's just get a pizza tonight because I don't know what to cook" (guilty!)  You don't have to devote head space to figuring out dinner because you already know.

Less Variability

One week you're hitting all the markers on your diet and the next, you're way off, and then you wonder why the diet isn't working for you.  Changing up what you're eating every day or every week can lead to getting off plan and your diet going off the rails.  When you eat the same meals each week, you're creating consistency for your body.

More Control

By following a meal plan that stays the same or similar over a period of time, you gain control over your eating behaviors, the calories you take in, your macros and micros, and your portion sizes.  When you are working on changing your way of eating, feeling in control of what you are eating goes a long way to making the changes stick.

More Flexibility

Ironically, when you establish a standard meal plan, you actually gain some flexibility.  When you know what your daily caloric and macro intake is going to be, you can then plan for treats that will fit into your diet without worrying that you will exceed the diet's limitations.

Budget Friendly

Creating a meal plan that works with your budget and then repeating that meal plan can help you save money as well.  You're not constantly having to stock your pantry with items you use infrequently or purchasing food that you find out you don't like.  You get a sense of how much of an item you will use during the week or the month and stock accordingly.

Habit-Forming

Consistency is a key to forming good habits.  You stand a better chance of improving your eating habits by being consistent in the foods you eat, just as exercising at the same time every day will help you to build an exercise habit.

"But variety is the spice of life!" I hear you saying.  You can build variety even into a "boring" meal plan in several different ways:

  • Allow yourself a daily "treat" that you change up each day
  • Allow a weekly "cheat meal" or date night meal (even if your date is just with yourself)
  • Eat a consistent daily breakfast and lunch, but change up your dinner meals daily or weekly
  • Eat a consistent meal plan throughout the month, and then change to a different meal plan monthly

Have you found a "boring" meal plan that you like, or a tip you would like to share?  Comment below!

 

 

 

The Guilt Gremlin

Photo by  boram kim  on  Unsplash

Photo by boram kim on Unsplash

With two employees out, it was another night of working late.  The other staff members, working short handed and getting on each others' nerves, were snipping at each other, and two of them were in tears, and as their supervisor, I had to listen to their complaints and try to end the fighting.  I had a pile of reports still to complete before I could go home.  My daughter had a band concert, and I (once again) would have to miss it.  My husband was complaining he never got to spend time with me.  We were getting to see each other a few minutes every day in between work and sleep.  Our relationship had been suffering for months.  Weekends were spent trying to catch up, or de-stressing just enough to get back to the rat race on Monday. 

Eating healthy?  Cooking at home?  Exercise?  Right.  Not a chance.  And the thought of taking time to exercise created a stressful sense of guilt.  How could I possibly even consider it when my job was already stealing so much time from my family?  My hours were so limited?  The stress and frustration were building to unsustainable levels, my weight was growing along with my frustration, I was tired, angry, sad, and most of all, feeling guilty all the time, because I couldn't give any aspect of my life the time and attention each deserved.

We as modern women struggle with a lot of guilt. 

The tension between work, family and social life seems to be tailored to create guilt whenever any piece of the triad falls out of balance.

Feeling guilty for not being able to give everything we have to our work, family, and friends, we can easily feel like we are spinning out of control.  Breathless.  Out of oxygen.  

You've no doubt heard the airplane analogy that when the cabin loses pressure, you should put your own oxygen mask on first before helping those around you.  But as women, our first instinct is to take care of those around us first.  To give until we have nothing left.  To deplete the oil in our lamps, and therefore extinguishing our own light, giving oil and light to others.

Until we find ourselves stressed out, burnt out, done.

It's an impossible situation.  And it's a situation that cannot be allowed to continue if we are to be healthy and able to continue to care for those we love. 

Put on your own oxygen mask first

Put on your own oxygen mask first

We have to put our own oxygen mask on first.

As I've entered my fifties, I still have a busy, stressful job that requires long hours and long commutes.  I still have teenage daughters and a husband who need my time and attention.  I still have a home that needs cleaning.

I also have a life that needs living.  My job, my family, my home, my friends - I won't be able to take care of any of them if I fall apart.  So if I am going to feel guilty about anything, it shouldn't be that I'm not giving enough to any of those pieces of my life.  I'm giving them all I've got.

If guilt is to be useful at all, it should be to let us know that there is something in our lives that we need to change. 

And in my life, my guilt really meant that I need to change my priorities.  I need to put my oxygen mask on first.

I need to take care of myself. Taking care of myself is not a luxury.  It's a necessity.

That means a thoughtful re-assessment of how I'm spending my time and what is important for my health.  A re-assessment first of my morning routine.  How can I change my morning routine so that I include exercise, a nutritious meal, mapping out the priorities for the day, and a brief meditation to set a positive focus.  That's my me time.  That's my oxygen mask time.  

Because when I can take care of myself, I can take care of those I love.  And I can stop feeling guilty.