Less Is More

Jul 07 2012

I have a realisation to contemplate that I wish I had come to a lot earlier. Less is truly more.

For example, we were recently on vacation in Chicago. After the first time or two eating out there, we realised it made sense to split those giant restaurant servings between two people. There were two of us who definitely couldn’t, shouldn’t eat a whole one by ourselves. Did you know that restaurant servings are usually 2-3 times as much as you should eat? We weren’t home, so we couldn’t save any leftovers, and it seemed awfully wasteful otherwise. So, less food is more, including more savings!

At home, the same is true. I’ve noticed it takes much less to satisfy me now. I want to emphasize quality food over quantity of food.

This is true in other areas. Think of clothing and possessions in general. Isn’t it more satisfying to pursue quality rather than quantity?

It seems common for people spend the beginning of their adult lives continually acquiring stuff, then later we all realise that it’s just too much and have to labor at weeding things out.

If you’re in that just starting out phase, just remember to leave yourself plenty of space and save your future self a lot of work by being very selective in what you acquire. Another tip is that we all need to continually assess and weed what we have on hand. Remember that many charities will gladly take your old stuff and then others can benefit from it!


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Jun 16 2012

Today, I want to warn you all not to do what I have done! Of course, it can be hard to resist . . .

There I was, in a really fun group exercise class at the gym. The music was energizing, the camaraderie was high, the instructor was encouraging . . . so I threw myself into the high-impact, high-intensity class with all my might. I could hardly help myself.   I should add that although I had my heart rate monitor strapped on, I ignored the readings.   So, later in the day yesterday I was limping around with sharp foot pains, feeling totally exhausted and a little dehydrated. Last night, I tossed and turned. My weight even crept up a couple of pounds overnight. Huh?

It turns out those are all symptoms of over-training. It can indeed cause bodily aches and pains, exhaustion, insomnia, weight gain (due to stimulating the stress hormone cortisol in your body), and even more.

So, what to do? From what I’ve read, the only cure is rest.  (Don’t be one of those sad people still pushing to run while injured and wearing a knee brace!)  That, and drinking a lot of water.

To prevent it from happening again, it’s important to mix different types of exercise into your schedule and alternate high and low intensity days.  We need to listen to our bodies and our heart rate monitors.  We have to learn from experience and remember to keep our enthusiasm in check if necessary!

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Surviving Sleep Deprivation

Jun 04 2012

The feeling you get when you haven’t gotten enough sleep is something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. It’s best to develop habits that allow you to get enough sleep in the first place. Sometimes, though you just can’t avoid a short night of sleep.

So, here for you are my top tips for coping with sleep deprivation. These were refined through years of experience.

1. The very most helpful thing for me has been getting outside to walk in the fresh air and sunshine. I take the day off from strenuous exercise if I had less than six hours of sleep, but just a walk helps quite a bit.

2. Coffee, but only as a secondary measure. It doesn’t help as much, because if you drink too much you’ll feel jittery but still wiped out.

3. Not expecting too much from myself that day. Staying distracted from thinking about how I feel is good, just like when I’m sick.

4. A nap would be great if possible. The most strategic time is after lunch between the hours of one and three. Since I’ve been a terrible napper historically, sometimes 20 minutes of meditation is the most relaxation I’ll get. Although one can lead to the other…

5. Try to get to bed on time the next night. Anticipate a much more well-rested tomorrow.

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Best Beverages

Jun 01 2012

With summer here, it is more important than ever to stay hydrated. I’ve noticed that when I don’t drink enough, I can get a headache and feel less energetic.

So what to drink? Here’s my personal hierarchy of drink choices:

1. Water. You knew I’d say that, didn’t you? It’s the purest form of hydration – no added ingredients. According to “7 Wonders of Water” (WebMD), it helps you stay slimmer, boosts energy, lowers stress, helps you to build muscle tone, nourishes your skin, helps you stay regular, and reduces the occurrence of kidney stones.

2.  Smoothies.  I make my own smoothie a couple of times a day (beware the retail ones!).  This is my favorite way to eat fruit, and also incorporate other nutrients I’m trying to build into my diet, like milk and protein powder.  I freeze the fruit, use a relatively high proportion of fruit to liquid, and they turn out so thick and good!

3. Tea.  Provides numerous benefits (see “Types of Teas and Their Health Benefits” (WebMD article). Drink iced or hot!

4.  Lattes (coffee plus milk).  Did you know coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet (see “Coffee is No. 1 Source of Antioxidants” (WebMD article)? It also provides benefits, though side effects may be problematic for some people (“Coffee and Your Health”, WebMD).  I mix my coffee with hot milk because I know I need the calcium found in milk, and it tastes so much better that way!

5.  Vegetable juice.  Better to eat the whole vegetable, since it will have more fiber and less sodium.  But V8 is a great way to get your veggies in when your diet hasn’t been great for the day.

6.  Orange juice.  May be the only fruit juice really worth drinking, due to the high vitamin C content.  Always better to eat the whole fruit.

7. Wine and other forms of alcohol.  You certainly wouldn’t want these to be your go-to drink for daily hydration, but in moderation there are some health benefits.  Moderation is defined as up to two drinks/day for a man, and one drink a day for a woman.  A very touchy topic, since if you go beyond moderation, drinking can be very detrimental to your health.  Use with caution as you would any drug.  Any tendencies toward alcoholism?  You may want to skip altogether!

8. Fruit juice (not orange).  Pretty much just sugar water.  That’s why the USDA recommends limiting it to a half cup per day.

9. Pop.  Really no redeeming virtues for either the diet or sugary varieties.  Drink only occasionally!


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Coach on my Wrist

May 31 2012

My favorite fitness gadget is my heart rate monitor. It consists of a chest strap that measures my heart rate and a watch that does things with those numbers.

I highly recommend heart rate monitors. They help you to exercise at just the right level for you – not too hard or too easy. You can push yourself hard enough to get more fit without hurting yourself.

(Of course, you should consult your doctor too before beginning a fitness program if you’re older, quite out-of-shape, or have special medical issues.)

My heart rate monitor is a mid-range model (Polar F6), so features may vary according to what you buy.

To use it, first you set user specifications (weight, height, birthday, and sex). You also choose exercise settings. One setting determines a personalised target heart range by monitoring your heart during a specific warm up period. You walk progressively faster the first three minutes, then jog for up to two minutes until it tells you what level you’ll be aiming for.   You can set the heart rate alarm to beep if you’re going too slow or too fast. You can also choose a light, moderate, or hard workout within your zone.

If you don’t want the heart rate monitor to determine a training range for you, there are also automatic (based on your age) and manual settings.

It also keeps a history of each workout for me (time of day, minutes, calories burned, % fat burned, average and maximum heart rates as a number and a percentage of my maximum, and number of minutes spent in my training zone.

I described the use of the monitor for walking and running, but it can be used for any aerobic exercise:  biking, swimming, fitness classes, etc.

Maybe I’m an exercise geek, but I find it very helpful and motivational.  I want everyone I know to get one!  Hope you give it a try.

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May 28 2012

this is a test

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Balancing Your Activities

May 23 2012

Did you know it’s good to get a mix of several different kinds of exercise? You need aerobic/cardio exercise, muscle strength and endurance, stretching and balance. Sources vary about how much of each kind you need.

I’ve read several books over the last few years that dealt with exercising while aging. A couple I found highly enlightening in planning my workouts are Running Until You’re 100 and Younger Next Year.

I tweak my configuration of exercise with the day and the season, but here’s where I’m at right now. I try to do at least 45 minutes of cardio, at least 4 times a week. I do yoga every day (usually a different 20 minute video for each day of the week). I do a strength workout of 20 minutes to an hour twice a week.

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A Good Sick Day

May 22 2012

I’m taking a sick day today. No matter how healthy one’s lifestyle is, it’s impossible to avoid sometimes being sick. So these are my tried-and-true guidelines for making the most of it.

*Rest! Do not go to work or try to work out. The body needs everything you always hear about: resting, lots of water, whatever the appropriate medication is for your condition…

*Rest, but don’t mope. I start the day by getting dressed and showered and doing as much of my normal morning routine as possible. If you’re able to do this, it makes you feel better.

*Practice distracting yourself. This could be sedentary tasks, watching TV or reading. It’s better not to think about how you feel.

I’m planning to eat lunch now, then do some napping this afternoon. Hopefully, I’ll be as good as new tomorrow.

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Monday, Monday

May 21 2012

Isn’t it tough to get moving on a Monday? I think it’s because we do relax more deeply over the weekend. We move less and eat more.

When it comes to exercise (especially on Mondays), I think we have to “just do it”, realising we’ll feel better when we’re done.

Today, I started out feeling depleted and off-balance, but after going to the gym I feel wide awake and athletic.

I really think consistency is the key to fitness. You don’t have to push yourselves to any extremes unless you feel like it. Just showing up regularly will do much more for you than occasional heroic efforts.

So, find what works for you and stick to it. It will become a habit, and that makes everything easier.

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May 21 2012

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work…” -  Exodus 20:8

“Let there be a day just for picnics, with wine and bread” – Crash Test Dummies

I really like the idea of having a Sabbath. Could there be any better excuse for slacking one day a week? Why don’t we take advantage of this more? I understand that sometimes people just have to work on Sundays, but this is really a gift for us!

I don’t think we function well without some down time.  A sabbath gives us a break from continual striving to accomplish goals. We can shift our perspectives from our own little world and reflect on bigger things.

See you at church!

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