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Hiking Fail August 14, 2010

Posted by Jen in Exercise, Strength Training.
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This morning I was supposed to meet up with a new friend to go hiking. It did not work out as planned.

Last night I packed lunch and snacks, got my Cambelbak backpack ready, printed out a map of the area where we were going to hike, and packed a set of extra clothes just in case.

This morning I got up, did some strength training on my lower body (a smart thing to do before a hike? Since I didn’t end up hiking, I’ll never know), had breakfast, and headed out.

I got to our meeting point about 10 minutes early. Let me tell you, this area was empty…scary empty! I live in Western North Carolina, and although there are plenty of people here, there is also lots and lots of woods and protected land without much of a population.

We were supposed to meet at 9 am, but my friend wasn’t sure exactly when she’d get there because she didn’t know how far the spot was from her house. After waiting for 43 minutes I really had too pee, so I gave up and went home ūüė¶

Hiking fail.

Instead of giving up altogether on exercise, though, I headed out to my usual walking or running spot and did a hill-filled 36 minute walk that had me nice and sweaty. Of course, the extremely ridiculous humidity may have had something to do with the sweat!

And, bonus, I already had my lunch made! Score.

It’s not a very nice Saturday here; grey, overcast, humid. Instead of hiking I’m doing laundry and reading. Not such a bad way to spend the day, I suppose!

What do you do when exercise plans fall through?


Remembering Interval Training August 13, 2010

Posted by Jen in Exercise.
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This is a picture of me about ten minutes after I completed the ING Half Marathon in Atlanta last March.

I looked like this after my interval workout this morning.

Okay, maybe I wasn’t that sweaty, but man, I was pooped! And even wearing the same shirt as in this photo.

For a while there I was getting into doing some High Intensity Interval Training and some regular old (it all feels painful and high intensity to me…) interval training, but I kind of got out of it. For the past 2 months or so I’ve really upped my strength training, and have backed off on intense cardio, preferring long, hilly walks, power walks, and hikes.

However, I was reading, again, how great interval training is for you, so I decided to give it a try. Here’s a quote from Dr. Mark Hyman’s book Ultrametabolism:

Everyone knows that you burn calories when you exercise, which promotes weight loss. But is there a way to burn more calories after you exercise, during rest or sleep? Is there a way to exercise less and get more benefits?

The answer is yes. The key is something called interval training, short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by longer periods of lighter exercise.

He goes on to talk about a Canadian study in which two groups of participants each exercised, but one group did interval training. The IT group ended up reducing their body fat nine times more than the endurance group because they increased their resting metabolic power. Um, yes, please.

I am in no way, shape, or form, a personal trainer, so you don’t have to listen to me, but Dr. Hyman recommends that a beginner follows the following program:

  1. Warm-up: 5 minutes of walking at 3.5 miles per hour.
  2. Speed up and walk at 4.0 mph for 60 seconds.
  3. Slow down and stroll at 3.0 mph for 75 seconds.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 five more times.
  5. Finish with 5 minutes of walking at a comfortable pace to cool down.

Obviously, if you work out regularly, this workout ain’t gonna do nothin’ for you. I usually warm up on the treadmill at 4.0! Anyways, a more advanced exerciser can follow these instructions, according to Dr. Hyman:

  1. Warm-up: 5 minutes of jogging or cycling at the lowest possible percentage of your all-out effort.
  2. Run or cycle for 60 seconds at about 80 to 90 percent of your all-out effort.
  3. Slow down to 50 perfect of your all-out effort for 75 seconds.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 five more times.
  5. Finish with five minutes at 30 perfect of your all-out effort to cool down.

He recommends anyone over 30 gets a physical before starting an interval training program.

I have decided to integrate interval training as my cardio at least two times per week. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Have you tried interval training? Do you like cookies?

Craving Control July 30, 2010

Posted by Jen in Binge Eating, Emotional Eating, Exercise, Healthy Eating, Meditation, Mindful Eating, Motivation.
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A few days ago I picked up the book Change Your Brain, Change Your Body by Daniel G. Amen, MD. This book, as the title suggests, is about ways to use, train, and change your brain to affect your body in a positive way. There are tips for craving control, balancing hormones, foods that help the brain, and more. The author, Daniel G. Amen is a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and brain imaging expert.

So far I’ve read through the chapter called “The Craving Solution” and “The Weight Solution”. I especially liked the former chapter. Amen’s suggestions include some things that I love to do and some things that I hadn’t thought much about. I thought I’d share some of this tips for craving control below.

  • Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. I feel like crap if I don’t get about 7.5 or 8 hours each night. The best way to achieve this is to pick a bed time 8 hours before you’re alarm is going to go off and get in bed at that time, no excuses. Also, stick to the same sleep schedule, even on the weekends. For instance, I’m not working today, but last night I was still in bed by 10:15 and woke up slightly before six. I feel great! No need to sleep in.
  • Maintain a healthy blood sugar level by eating frequent smaller meals. Do you wait until you’re starving and then cram down whatever you can find to eat? The book refers to a 2007 article by Matthew Gailliot and Roy Baumeister that shows self-control failures are more likely to occur when blood sugar is low. Drinking alcohol, skipping meals, and consuming sugary snacks or beverages cause dips in blood sugar and can impact how good you are at sticking to self-controlling behaviors. I didn’t know this before, and it’s great information!
  • Exercise to boost blood flow to the brain. You already knew exercise was great for your waistline, your butt, your heart, and your lungs. It’s also great for brain health and your overall well-being. Stop making excuses and start exercising! Even if you just start walking briskly a few times a week, you’re on the right track!
  • Practice mediation. Over and over I have tried to consistently practice meditation, and it’s getting easier for me. This book has convinced me to make it an absolute priority every day, period. If you’ve never meditated at all, just try sitting in a quiet spot for ten minutes a day and focus on your breath. At first it might feel very uncomfortable, but keep it up and eventually it will become much easier.
  • Create focused, written goals. When I read this recommendation I started singing from the rooftops. I love written goals. Dr. Amen states that the brain needs clear direction and that when you are focused on what you want, it makes it much easier to match your behavior to make it happen. Your mind is powerful and it makes happen what it sees. He suggests writing down goals for relationships, work, money, and health, and posting them somewhere you can see them every day. I have done this and plan on reading them each morning when I get up and each evening before bed.
  • Be careful with too much technology. Apparently we’re completely frying our brain’s pleasure center by being on the Internet, watching TV, and playing way too many video games. He suggests watching less than one hour of TV per day and keeping computer time (outside of work) to a minimum. This one is a toughie, but imagine how much other stuff you could do with your free time if you weren’t sucked into the reading the latest about Lindsay Lohan and the war.
  • Write down five things you are grateful for everyday. This is one of the many suggestions he has for calming the brains emotional centers. This helps you feel good and focus on the positive in your life. By focusing on the positive instead of the negative, you actually change your brain.

This is just a teensy bit of great information contained in just one chapter of the book. My favorite thing about the book is that it states plainly that the brain (and that includes will power and habits) can be changed. The more often you say “no” to overeating and “yes” to healthy habits, the stronger the brain will become. It will be easier and easier to keep up good habits!

Motivating Yourself to Strength Train July 28, 2010

Posted by Jen in Exercise, Strength Training.
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I love cardio. But I hate(d) strength training. Sooooo boring! But now I’m finally doing it regularly, and I’m seeing results!


Okay, so this is Madonna, who, at 50+, still has a way more muscular bod than me, that’s cool.

The point is, strength training can take some getting used to. And keeping up with it takes some serious motivation.

Here’s how I got myself motivated and have kept it up regularly for the last few months:

  • Focus on the benefits!¬†I’m 30, and I know my body is already going to start losing muscle mass if I don’t counteract it. Not only do I want to counteract any muscle loss, I want to build it, because lean muscle makes me look good, feel stronger, and impresses my cats¬†because I can now 12 bent-knee push ups in a row. Another benefit? Calorie burn. Muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you’re sitting around scratching your butt, so you want to have more, people!
  • Don’t go it alone. If I had gym buddies to help motivate me, I would go that route, but because I only join the gym in the winter and have a perfectly good DVD player at home, my best friend for strength training is Cathe¬†Friedriche. Followed by Jillian Michaels. I do sometimes life free weights on my own, but I find I push myself much, much harder if I’m working out with someone else, even if they’re on the TV. Lately I’ve been doing this DVD, which kicks my ass (actually, my abs, biceps, shoulders, chest, and ass).

  • Set a goal. The main reason I think setting a goal is important is so that you give yourself enough time to actually see results. Your goal may be to strength train twice per week for six weeks, or it might be to follow an outlined muscle-gaining plan that lasts much longer.¬†Your goal might be to lift a certain amount of weight, or whittle your waist to a certain measurement. Whatever you decide, make sure you pick something tangible that you can check off in your mind and say, “I did it!” Pick a goal that will yield results you can see.
  • Let your results be your biggest motivator. I’m telling you, now that I can actually see my biceps and triceps and actually feel stronger, I want to strength train. Sure, like any other exercise I sometimes have to get my mojo up to do it, but those results and my desire to continue to gain strength and tone are the biggest motivator for strength training I’ve ever run into.

Strength training is just as important as cardio and stretching, not to mention doing things for your mental and spiritual health, to your overall wellness. Quit making excuses and pick up those dumbbells!

If I Can Exercise, Anyone Can! July 24, 2010

Posted by Jen in Exercise, Motivation.
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Do you work out? How often? Why not? What are your favorite types of exercise? Do you strength train? Do you stretch?

I just like to ask alot of questions, don’t I?

I love to workout. I’m working on loving strength training. I am often too lazy to stretch, but I’m a work in progress, as we all are. In fact, 10 years ago, at age 20, I was just starting to get a taste for exercise.

Growing up I was about as un-athletic as they come. I hate gym class, was always picked last for every team, and pretty much dreaded anything that required any coordination on my part. I did ride horses from maybe age 10 to 14, which certainly was a workout, though I only did that once a week.

I hated to run, hated to play volleyball, hated gym. Did I mention I hated trying to be athletic? I should add that I didn’t mind walking and biking around my neighborhood, and I have liked hiking since high school. I didn’t think of those activities as working out, though, just as fun things kids did.

In college, though, I started hitting the gym with my roommates. Over the winter I joined a gym for a month. I finished college and purchased workout DVDs (and videos, hello!) to follow along. I bought free weights. In my mid twenties I started running. Not competitively or anything, but I have run two half-marathons at this point. I still walk regularly, hike, lift weights, go to the gym, etc. Once I got started it didn’t take long before I was hooked.

And if you’re not hooked yet, trust me, it can happen to you, too. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a team sports player in high school; I actually have great coordination and can do step aerobics. It didn’t matter that I would walk the mile instead of running it during the bi-annual Presidential Fitness Challenge; I have now run a mile in as fast as 7 minutes and 30 seconds. Why do I exercise? Because my life doesn’t feel complete without it. Because it feels good.

Imagine waking up in the morning and having energy. Imagine really wanting to head outside for a brisk walk or a run. Imagine being excited about getting sweaty! If you are resistant to the idea of exercise, think about it as a gift to yourself, not as something that is taking you away from other activities. What would you rather be doing? Watching TV? Surfing the ‘net? 30 minutes of physical activity will leave you way more invigorated than that!

What’s your excuse for not exercising? And how are you going to change it starting NOW?

How To Stay on Track on Vacation July 12, 2010

Posted by Jen in Exercise, Mindful Eating, Motivation, Weight Loss.
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I just got back from a weekend camping trip. I’ve certainly gone on trips in the past where my days were spent¬†consuming too many potato chips, cookies, beers, and other junk food, and I usually ended up feeling sick and bloated later. This trip was different, though. I kept in mind my own gentle guidelines for good living, and came off the weekend feeling great. Here are some of the things I did, and how you can do them for yourself:

  1. Pack Healthy Snacks! I made sure we stopped at a fruit stand on the way to the beach, picking up peaches and tomatoes and corn. I packed oatmeal in case we had breakfast at the campsite, and brought whole grain bread and crackers, peanut butter, and plenty of water. I did pack some cookies, but they were made with whole grains and weren’t too unhealthy. Being prepared in any situation is key. How can you eat healthy if you don’t have healthy choices?
  2. Stick To Your Schedule. Sure, it might be harder to stick to a workout or eating schedule on vacation, but make your best effort to do so. I walked at the beach each day, and kept a pretty regular eating schedule. Sometimes I ate later than normal, but I continued listening to my hunger cues and feeding my body what it wanted when it told me I needed to eat!
  3. Keep Your Goals In Mind. I wanted to eat delicious food if we went out to eat, but I also wanted to stay relatively healthy. There are far, far too many opportunities to overeat in modern-day¬†America, so it’s best to really try to eat healthy most of the time (plus your one treat or sweet per day!) I stuck with salads with dressing on the side, fruit instead of hash browns, plain baked potatoes, and limited the number of slices of pizza I had to two. I got plenty to eat and never felt deprived. I also had a soft serve ice cream. However, it was huge, and I chose to knock some of the ice cream off and didn’t finish the whole cone – if I’m going to have a treat, I’m still going to listen to my body’s signals – and my body said it didn’t want the entire thing. I also limited myself to one drink per night – no need to let alcohol ruin my healthy choices.
  4. Pat Yourself on the Back.¬†You’re making a choice to live a healthier lifestyle. Good job! Now congratulate yourself for the changes you’ve made, big and small. This isn’t easy, but eventually it will become second nature.

What do you do to stay on track?

Simple Ideas for Health July 7, 2010

Posted by Jen in Exercise, Motivation, Weight Loss.
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We’re always looking for simple ways to improve our lives, right? And improve our healthy eating habits and waistline. Here are some ideas to get you started on your journey to healthy, vibrant living:

Limit Your Sweets & Treats. This might seem obvious, but sometimes people fall into a trap where they deny themselves all sweets and treats, trying to be “good” or healthy or lose weight. Then, when they do indulge, they eat the entire bag/box/cake/pinata. What’s a good middle ground? I suggest one serving of sweets or treats per day. An ounce of potato chips if those are your thing. Two small cookies (or one big one). A serving of dark chocolate. A regular sized candy bar (No, eating the King Size Snickers that is really 3 servings does NOT count as one treat or sweet per day!). One delicious white flour and butter laden biscuit. When you’re eating your treat or sweet, sit down. Enjoy it. Savor it. That’s why you’re eating it, right?

Try New Produce.¬†You know you’re supposed to be eating at least a couple of servings of fruits and three or more servings of veggies a day, right? In fact, I think getting five or six servings of veggies is a worthwhile goal. But, before you run screaming, why not try something new from the produce section of the grocery store. If you hate broccoli, try kale. If you love spinach, find new ways to incorporate it into your life. What about jicama for your salads? An avocado on your sandwich instead of mayo? A banana with peanut butter as an afternoon snack instead of a granola bar? Dried fruit with breakfast in the morning? Pick something up you haven’t ever tried, or something you haven’t tried in a long time. You’ll feel adventurous, and your body will thank you.

Ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone. Find an online community, a friend, a family member to support you. You can make better choices in regards to food choices, portion control, and exercise. Sometimes having a friend’s encouragement is all it takes. If¬†no one in your “real” life is as motivated as you, check out an online community like Spark People, where you can keep an online food and exercise journal and talk to others who are on the same path as you.

I’ve got many, many more great ideas, but I’ll leave you to ponder those!

Freedom July 4, 2010

Posted by Jen in Exercise, Motivation, Sprituality.
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Happy 4th of July!

I know the 4th is all about celebrating our freedom as a country (if you’re from the U.S., that is!), but I thought it would be a good time to think about our freedom on a personal level.

In what area of your life do you feel bound, trapped, or stuck in a constant cycle of fear and distress? Where would you like to feel freedom?

How about being able to look in the mirror and feel free to smile at your reflection, no matter your size, shape, firmness, zittyness, hair style, etc?

How about the freedom to sit down to a meal and enjoy it, thoroughly, while listening only to your body’s satiety signals, not your mind telling you what it thinks of the food and drink choices you’re making.

How about feeling free to love yourself completely? To walk or run or jump or play and feel completely free to move your body any way you want to, just for fun, not for calorie burn? To ask for exactly what you want without apologies or regrets. To dream big. To tell yourself every single day, “I can do anything.”

Where would you like to find freedom?