Posts Tagged ‘working out’
As the popular Christmas tune reminds us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”—assuming that running around like a chicken (partridge?) with its head cut off equates to “Wonderful.”
Even with this seasonal mayhem, I confess that I’m the person who secretly plays Christmas music over my earbuds while working out in November. But I also admit that once Thanksgiving hits, life can feel like a rollercoaster racing toward December 25th at a record pace. It’s as if we’re suddenly contestants on a manic game show and must complete an inordinate amount of tasks in order to not be disqualified (and/or disappoint friends and family members who might be counting on us to make their season bright—no matter which winter-inspired holidays we observe).
As someone who extolls the virtues of being present and taking time for one’s self (something that was essential to my taking off 250 pounds of excess weight and keeping it off), I often need reminders to stay mentally present more than anyone during this time of year. This was recently proven yet again when recently attending a friend’s Christmas get together.
This wasn’t a work-related occasion. Nor was it a huge party that had the potential to leave one feeling lost or inconsequential. This truly was a simple gathering among close friends with the sole purpose of enjoying twinkling lights and good company. There was also amazing food and drink (count me in for that—even if it would require some extra time on the treadmill to offset the extra calories).
It was the following morning (while working out at the gym) that I started thinking about this small party that occurred the night before—realizing that I hadn’t actually been fully present (mentally) at the event. Sure, I was there. And I ate, drank and made merry. I talked to friends and even inquired sincerely as to what was currently going on in their lives. But I also remember going over my “December to-do lists” in my head while talking and listening.
Similarly, I was concerned about what time I would get to bed since I knew I had a busy schedule the following day. I was also thinking about the foster kitten I had at home. And a million other things that I had going on—even though it would have been perfectly fine to set all of that mental anguish aside for a few hours so that I could have been fully present at said get together. Instead, I was in a sort of “no man’s land”—neither fully in my head or fully enjoying the time with my friends.
Realizing this initially left me feeling sad. And then, remembering that shame is no one’s ally, I decided to use the realization to make me glad. Mainly because this realization could help me recognize that as much as I want to be present (“in the moment” as it were), that I can be as guilty as anyone else when it comes to getting distracted by an overfull agenda.
By not being fully present with friends (in a lovely setting with amazing food and drink), I wasn’t allowing myself to be in the moment and enjoy the respite from life’s busy-ness. Had I accomplished being there 100%, I might have even woken up with a clearer head the morning after—better able to handle all of the important tasks that needed to be taken care of.
These helpful reminders make this an appropriate moment to re-introduce the old adage that “Less (thinking) is more.” Sure, we all have a lot to do. And yes, there never seems to be enough time in our days (during the holiday rush or at other times of the year) to fully embrace all that’s going on. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be fully present during all aspects of life (yes, even when at the grocery store or dry cleaners—and especially when participating in what has the potential to be an enjoyable event). Living in the now is a gift we can give ourselves again and again (making it an acceptable re-gift).
Try inserting quiet moments into your day to help bring yourself back to the here and now. I attempt to make a habit of this when getting in and getting out of my car. For others, my car check-in might translate to checking in with yourself on a bus or while on the subway—or maybe when you sit down at or get up from your workstation. No matter where you decide to do it, take a quiet moment, just a few seconds really, and breathe in and out several times. Close your eyes if you can. And as you breathe in, think “In.” And as you breathe out, think “Out.”
Breathing in and out just 3 to 5 times sequentially can bring your mind and body back in sync—and, therefore, your entire self back to the here and now. This mental state is where we all want to be in order to achieve peace of mind—not to mention be our most productive and to get the most out of every aspect of life.
It’s when embodying presence in every aspect of our lives that the popular Christmas tune referenced earlier has the potential to become reality—truly making it the most wonderful time of the year (no matter what time of year the calendar says it is).
Photo Credit: Obesity Goodbye
If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times… Working out not only helps us burn calories, lose weight, stay fit, look good and even feel better (thanks to the endorphins), but a recent study reveals that people with early Alzheimer’s disease who had better fitness ratings had less atrophy in key brain areas associated with memory. This according to research first reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease (AICD).
This study was the first time that MRI Brain Imaging was used to reveal the connection between cardio respiratory fitness and Alzheimer’s-related brain changes in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that’s important for memory and other functions). The hippocampus is reported to be one of the first areas of the brain to be hindered upon the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition to the study mentioned above, ICAD also reported that home-based exercise programs lasting for 12-months actually helped with balance, help reduce falls and even help maintain independence among people challenged by dementia.
William Thies, PhD, Vice President of Medical and Scientific Relations for the Alzheimer’s Association, was quoted as saying “These studies reinforce the need for increased awareness and education about the importance of living a brain-healthy lifestyle, including staying physically active. Growing evidence shows that physical exercise does not have to be strenuous or require a major time commitment. It is most effective when done regularly, and in combination with a brain-healthy diet, mental activity and social interaction.”
If an exercise routine can bring benefits like these to people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, imagine what exercise can do for you – no matter what your current physical level is. You can always start somewhere.
Check with your doctor and devise an exercise routine that’s right for you, your age, your abilities – but don’t put it off any longer. Our bodies are made up of trillions of cells that live for a few weeks or months, then die and are then replaced by new cells. The scientific and medical communities continue to prove through research that an active lifestyle can have an amazing affect on the body in regard to cell growth and renewal – as well as overall health.
Sure, finding time everyday to workout can prove to be difficult given our way-too-busy lifestyles. But when you consider the alternative, we really don’t have much choice other than to make the time to workout.
And a gym isn’t necessarily required. Summer’s here — making this a great time of year to get outdoors. Try going for a walk around the block this afternoon or even during your lunch break. Just one block. And tomorrow? Make it two blocks. And add on from there. Your health – now and in the future – depend on it.
Click to these links for helpful information to build upon
or add to your own exercise program:
The other morning, while working out at the gym, I had a work-related stress playing on an endless loop in my head. Even though the incident had happened a week earlier, I was still obsessing over the whole ordeal (wishing I’d said things I didn’t say at the time, wishing the other party would come to their senses, wishing the whole thing would go away, etc.). Needless to say, my worrying about this incident only made things worse in my mind and even though I’d had a productive workout, left me in a gloomy state of mind as I left the gym.
It was while driving home from working out that I remembered one of the key commands I picked up during dog training that I use pretty frequently with my puppy, Latte.
As anyone who has a dog probably knows, our canine friends occasionally come across a smell, a chicken bone or some other foul object that excites their senses to no end. It’s at this moment that we must command them to “Leave it!” in a terse, authoritative way so that they don’t get into trouble, hurt themselves or (heaven forbid!) end up rolling in something disgusting.
Even though I had been expertly trained to use this command with Latte, I realized after my workout of mental duress that perhaps I needed to use this command on myself. After all, as mentioned, this particular stressful situation had happened a week earlier. So at this point, no one else (not even the offending party) was responsible for my stress and worry other than yours truly. On a virtual level, I was “rolling” in something disgusting. In this case, my own self-defeating thoughts.
So in this case, I was the one who needed to “Leave it!”
When Latte is told to “Leave it,” he usually jumps (having been “caught” doing something that he should know better than to do) and then quickly moves away from the offensive object and is soon distracted by another smell, a passing pooch or some other form of whimsy. Similarly, by telling ourselves to “leave” something that’s weighing us down (figuratively or otherwise), we then, too, have the opportunity to move on to other things — more pleasant things, and with a cleared mind, perhaps even a potential solution to whatever we think we can’t solve while in the throes of “Why me?” We can’t undo what’s transpired. But we can move on if we choose to.
I imagine that, like myself, many of you reading this are sometimes plagued by situations, incidences or predicaments that sometimes can’t be washed away from our brains — as if obsessing over them might offer a solution (which, really, the obsessing never does). Instead, we need to just let it go, move on and welcome another scent (or situation) that can offer us not only new ideas, but also peace.
All together now: “Leave it!”
I’ll conclude by adding that if you ever see me working out with a scowl, feel free to walk over and tersely tell me to, “Leave it!” Like my puppy, Latte, I might jump (having also been “caught”). But I’ll appreciate the reminder that some things need to be left where they belong… In the past.
It was a year ago this month that I was attacked while walking to the gym one morning. This is a walk I had made for over three years at the time — and although I knew the neighborhood I lived in was a bit on the “edge,” I never expected anything like this to happen. Granted, it was very early in the morning (before 5 a.m.) — a time of day that I’ve since been told that no one should be walking by themselves.
Still, I had always been cautious when out at such an early hour. And on the day that this happened, I could hear noise coming from two “rowdy” guys sitting on a curb in the middle of the block I happened to be on. Using common sense, I crossed the street (from the side they were on) and continued on my way. I didn’t have far to go — only had about two more blocks to go to get to the gym I belonged to.
When I noticed one of the guys running over to me, I could tell from his somewhat manic behavior that this was going to be trouble. These two guys were not vagrants and didn’t even look to be criminal types. They did, however, seem to be very “high” on some kind of substance. The guy crossing over to me kept asking, “Where are we? Where are we?”
When I finally answered him (while trying to quickly move on), he suddenly punched me in the eye, then hit me in the back. While ducking to avoid the third hit, I asked “What are you doing?” (as if I might be able to reason with him). I then ducked again as he pulled at my backpack and I started running down the block (with said backpack intact). Luckily, my assailant didn’t chase me but, instead, crossed back over to his companion and sat down.
Now at the far end of the block in question, I could see both of the guys sitting in the same spot they were originally in as I hid in the shadows and dialed 911. I kept pleading with an operator to send the police since the assailants were still in sight. It took over 20 minutes for a police officer to come (20 minutes after I hung up with 911). By then, both of the guys were gone. I later found out from the police officer that a security guard at a construction site (on the same block) had seen the incident, but never came forward to help.
To say I was shell shocked was an understatement. Besides having my first (and hopefullylast) black eye, I was horrified that such a thing could happen in my neighborhood (even though the police officer had told me that this particular block was notorious for criminal activity). I later learned that I was probably “lucky” that the assailants were gone, as I would have had to press charges (a citizen’s arrest, as it were) and that because of jail overcrowding in LA, there would have been no jail time served — even if the guy was found guilty and convicted.
What was that? I was supposed to feel “lucky?” Um, yeah… Okay.
I was pretty useless for the first 48 hours after the attack. But on day #3, I realized that I actually was lucky. Despite having a black eye, I was alive. I was healthy. Nothing was stolen. And I was now smart enough to drive my car to the gym first thing in the morning. Sure, I missed my walking time, which served as a good mental warmup for my day. But if driving was the way to go, I could do that. I had a car. I had my safety. I had my determination.
Although a horrific experience, I realized that I was the one hurting myself and my spiritafter the attack. It had happened. It was over. It was time to move on (with lessons in hand — and in mind). Friends were surprised that I sprang back so quickly. But I refused to let someone take away my joy for life (even if they had taken away my early morning walking time).
One of my dad’s favorite sayings has always been, “Hindsight is always 20/20.” And you can bet that I rolled my eyes every time I heard him say it as I grew up. But looking back on this experience with a year’s worth of hindsight tells me my dad was absolutely right to always remind me of that. Not only did this incident prove to me that I could bounce back from a seemingly-horrific experience, but that I could take positive action because of it.
The attack led to me finally looking for another place to live (something I’d wanted to do for a while — for different reasons than the questionable neighborhood). And through what would be an odd set of circumstances, I actually ended up buying my first home, rather than renting. I’ll spare you all the boring details, but you can be sure that none of this would have been set into motion had I not been attacked (mugged, jumped — whatever) that morning in November 2012.
These days I can even joke about having moved, saying, “You didn’t have to hit me in the eye twice.” And yeah, I must admit that people give me an odd look when I joke like this. They’re not sure whether to chuckle or shiver. But trust me, you can chuckle. It’s like another old saying goes: What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger — and sometimes helps us to get off our butts to make some changes we can be grateful for down the road (black eye and all).
What does this mean for you? Whatever you’ve survived, the key word is you survived. Yes, you might have a black eye — or other forms of emotional or physical scarring. But don’t let a horrific incident (or incidences) take away your joie de vivre. This life is for living. And no one (no one!) can take that away from you permanently — unless you let them.