Monthly Archives: November 2014

Healthier Together Series: Cycle 4C. Relaxation & Sleep — Meditation

filip-mroz-zK049OFP4uI-unsplashThe act of quieting the mind…Meditation.

Meditation comes in various forms and is easily misunderstood. It does not require one to empty the mind. How many times have I heard, “I can’t think of nothing!”?  In fact, you can let the thoughts pass by in your mind and observe them.

There are many ways to meditate, but the focus is on practicing to quiet your mind. You might learn to quiet your reactions to thoughts and events in the past and future. You may work on focusing on the present and practice bringing your mind to the present and experiencing the present (Mindfulness Meditation). You may train your mind to be quiet by distracting it, such as with a mantra (Transcendental Meditation) or deep breathing exercises or by incorporating specific physical activity (Tai Chi or Yoga).

It does not require too much time. In fact, you can choose and you can meditate for various amounts of time based on time you have available or stress level in your life. Also, as you practice, like any sport or activity, it gets easier and you are more effective and efficient with the time. There has been evidence that as little as 12 minutes a day can make so much of a difference that it structurally changes your brain (for the better) and improves your overall function. It reduces stress, improves depression, anxiety, reduces pain, improves chronic disease management, improves quality of life, trains our minds to be more adaptable and flexible and it works for children too!

Meditation can be done anywhere, but it is easiest in a quiet place. There are apps on the phone/computer/tablet and there are books, classes, meetings and audio files. It can be learned on your own or with a guide or teacher. It’s pretty cool because it’s about you and it’s good for you and you can notice positive changes in other areas of your life pretty quickly. Your neurons in your brain start to work together and coordinate. Your body has a chance to check in with itself and reconnect.

Find a way to incorporate some practice of meditation on most days of the week. Work to find a time when you can disconnect from the electronics and focus on you, in the present moment. Give yourself a time out and allow yourself to be You. Just right. Right now. Exactly as you are.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

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The 5 Keys to Incorporating Morning Exercise & Healthy Nutrition – How To Guide

stil-N9uOrBICcjY-unsplashPrioritize your health. Learn to plan and to follow a plan successfully. Make “Success” your habit.

1. Develop a PLAN. Every 2 weeks: Plan exercise in 2 week chunks. Make your exercise plan every 2 weeks.

  • Sit down with notebook and calendar.
  • Write how many continuous weeks you have been exercising as planned.
  • Review how the last 2 weeks went & determine how you change your workout or advance it for the next 2 weeks.
  • Write down what you learn from your review.
    • I total the calories I burned in the last 2 weeks and the total minutes exercising.
    • I make notes of what I want to do differently or if I will try a different exercise or weight.
    • I note if certain music correlated with more enthusiasm or a better workout.
  • Then write what you will change for the next 2 weeks, such as increasing the weights you were benching or the incline on the treadmill or the lower body exercises you are going to do in the upcoming 2 weeks.
    • I write my plans for improvement
  • Look on the calendar and note any significant scheduling challenges in the next 2 weeks (such as travel).
    • I might move a harder workout to a better day fo th
  • Look at the next 2 weeks and pick 5 days each week that you CAN workout in the morning. PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR exactly when you will work out. Include time for your shower, blow dry, etc. and your commute if applicable.
    • For example, I am least motivated to workout on Monday mornings and Friday mornings- so those are my “flex” days when I don’t plan to work out. The rest of the days of the week, I will plan a workout. I figure out when I have to be on the road to work & I schedule my workout 2 hours before I go off to work. 2 hours gives me time for my planned workout & shower & getting ready for work & eating breakfast. If I will be travelling or have a particularly EARLY morning, I may move one of my workout days to Monday and/or Friday– my “flex” days.
  • Make sure there is NEVER 2 days in a row without a work out.
    • For example, I have been following my plan and working out Sat, Sun, (Mondays are off),Tues, Wed, & due to a family emergency, I miss Thursday (which is my usual workout day), I will make it up on Friday (instead of taking that off as would have been my usual). So, Mondays & Fridays act as my make up days, my “flex” days.

2. TRACK it. Every Workout Day: Log every workout in the notebook on the day you work out.

  • Log at a minimum: date, time, what you did.
    • I log my weight & my heart rate (HR) monitor data: average HR, maximum HR, calories burned. I also take a minute to rate how motivated I was prior to my workout (scale 1-3) and how much effort I put in (scale of 1-3).
  • Jot down any notes on the past 24 hours including today’s workout .
    • I might reflect on how much I was yawning during my workout & recognize that it is because I ate so many starchy carbohydrates yesterday. Basically, by reflecting, I am learning to read my body and understand how I am feeling and how to optimize my daily function and happiness. It is kind of like mindfulness meditation.
  • Review what you will do tomorrow & make adjustments as necessary based on your reflection of the past 24 hours and how you are doing today.

Again, prioritize your health. Learn to plan and to follow a plan successfully. Make “Success” your habit.

  • KEY POINT: Once it is planned, you do not deviate from the plan unless you “plan” to deviate from it at least 1 day prior to the event. Here is an example using your workout plan: you planned to work out Upper Body on Tuesday, Lower Body on Wednesday, Upper Body on Thursday. Tuesday goes great. On Wednesday, after your Lower Body workout, you realize your Upper Body is not going to be ready to do the workout that was planned on Thursday. On WEDNESDAY, you can ADJUST your original Thursday workout plan, while you are reviewing the next day’s workout. You should change the workout plan for Thursday on that Wednesday- maybe you decide you will just walk on the treadmill. Now, when you wake up on Thursday and get ready to workout, your notebook tells you the plan is to walk for 20 minutes at a brisk pace. Fine. You are still ON PLAN and being SUCCESSFUL. You know the adjustment was thoughtful and deliberate instead of because of your “mood.” You are training yourself to be healthy and successful and feel good about what you are doing.

3. Have a BACK UP Plan. ALWAYS makeup any missed workout with SOME movement.

  • If possible, even if the workout will be missed, consider doing at least 5 minutes of some physical activity that will boost your heart rate.
  • 8Fit is an app with quick body weight exercises that can be done without any equipment in a small space- even a dorm or hotel room.
  • From the example above, that upper body workout that I planned not to do on Thursday, I will plan to make it up on the Friday morning. I put it on the calendar. I will also note that when planning my next 2 week workout schedule, I will need to reconsider if I need to change my workout pattern, the weights or the exercise(s) I am doing.

4. Keep meal planning simple. Have a plan for your basics (as back up in case you don’t have more exciting meal plan available) & modify as necessary. Here is an example of mine using drive thru which is on way to work :

  • 4 Breakfast options – availability and convenience are key, I don’t have to think about it.
    1. At home: Eggs with baby spinach, mushrooms, feta cheese with avocado &/or tomato slices or other veggies. Tip: Make Omelette Muffins. Mix up a large bowl of 12 eggs with a handful each of: chopped vegetables (left overs from dinner the night before are fine), chopped ham/bacon/sausage/lox (optional), and grated/crumbled cheese (cheddar, swiss, goat, or feta cheeses work great) and pour into greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes into omelette muffins. Store in the fridge or freezer for quick grab and go breakfast options that can be eaten cold or heated up.
    2. Home or easily transportable: Omelette muffin (above), Chia seed pudding or Plain Greek yogurt with 1 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes, dash of cinnamon and 2 Tbsp almond butter. Bonus additions: chopped pecans or ground flax seeds or Chia seeds too. Occasionally, I add 1/4 c. fresh berries. If weight or carbs is not an issue for you, you can add 2 Tbsp Old Fashioned Oats and/or 6 bittersweet chocolate chips.
    3. Traveling/On Road/No Kitchen/No Time: Drive thru breakfast sandwich or wrap with at 2 eggs (ask for the extra egg if it only comes with 1)- key when I am not able to eat breakfast before leaving the house and the boys ate the last of my prepared breakfast options.
    4. Anywhere: Large iced or hot coffee with cream with plan for midmorning “snack” or  late brunch out or just plan “not hungry.” Tip: If you make your own coffee at home, add cinnamon to the coffee grounds to jazz it up.
  • 3 At-Work QUICK Lunch Options:
    1. Time crunch day- no time to prepare or plan or grab a salad: In my work refrigerator: plain Greek yogurt, almond butter, cheese, boiled eggs. Will mix up yogurt, nut butter and nuts (always in my bag) for protein power lunch.
    2. Bring from home: salad or prepared salad pack & leftover protein from dinner night before or salmon or tuna pack. Often, I add cheese crumbles and/or avocado to the salad. Salad dressing at work.
    3. In a Rush/Out of Groceries at home: Drive thru Cobb or other salad with chicken, egg or other protein on top with unsweetened iced tea.
  • Dinners Vary. Make extra for lunch the next day. Always have protein & non-starchy vegetables. If no salad earlier in the day, I will have one with dinner on most days.
  • Drinks: Drinks are water, black coffee & unsweetened teas.
  • Desserts: Dark chocolate and berries and unsweetened fresh whipped cream,  individually or in various combinations, are favorite desserts. Nuts and cheese make a nice crunchy/savory option too.
  • The Day OF my plans to go out for dinner: If I am going out for dinner, ie. on Friday, I eat breakfast later and then nibble some cheese, handful of nuts or celery with peanut butter in the afternoon if I get hungry before dinner.
  • Eating out: Majority of the time– keep it simple with protein & veggies. Replace the bread/fries/potato with side of veggies or salad. If I had a great workout and did not eat any sweets or starchy carbs earlier in the day, I may share a dessert.

Keep your nutrition plan simple and easy to keep track of. Eat lots of veggies and eat your protein and stay hydrated. You don’t need to spend energy thinking up new ideas or figuring out what you need to eat when you are in a panic or have limited choices. Plan ahead and be prepared. Follow your plan.

5. Develop Self Compassion. Perfection is not the goal. You are human. Striving towards excellence as a human, as the most perfect version of you, means that sometimes, there are deviations. In those moments, practice saying to yourself: “I am doing the best that I can, right now.” Then, let it go.

Tomorrow, you can choose to reflect and learn from it. Ask yourself if there was something you could learn from that experience. For example:

  • Reflect: Was there something, a person, an event, a place, that triggered the deviation or altered your plans?
  • Learn: Is there anything you can do differently in the future under similar circumstances?
  • Reaffirm: Repeat to yourself, “I am doing the best that I can, right now.” Then, move forward as a wiser and more prepared You.

Summary: Prioritize your health. Learn to plan and to follow a plan successfully. Make “Success” your habit.

This post is in honor of my mom.

Photo by STIL on Unsplash