I like to read and I will read just about anything. Over the years, especially during and since grad school, I moved away from books and read a lot of research and scholarly articles. Of course that makes sense, both in terms of necessity and interest, but I missed reading books. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer holding a book and turning actual pages to an e-reader. Several years ago, I participated in the GoodReads Challenge www.goodreads.com/challenges/7501 and discovered just how far I had strayed from something I enjoyed. Life had gotten in the way! As a working Mom, it can be challenging to carve out time to do something you love. Regardless of the battle cry that self-care isn't selfish, work-life balance is a struggle and often feels just out of reach. Is there something you love to do that you can't seem to find time for?
My husband works for a company that specializes in automation products to help companies run smoothly and more efficiently. Life hacks, tips & tricks, call it what you will. I think most of us are looking for ways to simplify and automate the things we must do, so we can enjoy the things we want to do. I have decided to share some of the ways I make time for me and still manage to take care of all the various hats I wear. Healthy habits are less difficult to maintain if they are just that, a habit. Finding joy in your daily routine is essential to self care. To get back in the habit of reading, I signed up for the challenge above. I was already visiting the Southeast Regional Library weekly with my daughter, so I signed up for the summer reading program that I signed her up for every year (you can earn a free book). They also offer a winter reading program for adults that begins tomorrow winter.mcldaz.org/
Every year I try to read one best seller, one classic and re-read a favorite book, usually from my childhood. When I began, I started with ten books for the year and added one more each year, a very attainable goal. Good Reads sends a monthly, "how are you doing?" that keeps me on track but inevitably I fall behind at some point. One thing that has allowed me to meet my reading goal are books on cd. We usually take at least one road trip a year and books on cd make the time go by and count toward my reading goal! Typically, it's a book the whole family can enjoy, so we often find ourselves with a Rick Riordan novel.
Reading is exercise for the mind and there are many health benefits. Check out this great infographic embedded in this article www.businessinsider.com/14-reasons-why-reading-is-good-for-your-health-2016-12
If you've been wanting to get back to reading, explore the links above. Happy reading!
So often we question ourselves and our abilities, sometimes driving ourselves a little crazy in the process. I think doubt is like stress, a little bit is good, motivating even, but too much can wreak havoc. Think about it. If we had no stress, we might not get things done. Without a deadline to meet, a time to get to work, a schedule to adhere to, would you finish that project or get ready to go? Of course down time is essential to rest, relax, play and create but we treasure our down time in part because of the demands of life and the stress that comes with it.
If we experienced no doubt, we wouldn't know how it felt to conquer our fear. Stress is a physiological response to fear, real or imagined, intended to power our bodies to fight or flee. The problem is we often don't have the opportunity to respond the way nature intended. If you are stuck in traffic, there is no where for you or your stress hormones to go. Exercise and mindfulness are the answer. Doubt, is to take pause and question. Asking questions before we act can be a positive. Doubt becomes negative when we allow it to immobilize and limit us. Using doubt to evaluate, problem solve and plan ahead can actually help rather than hinder.
I recently shared with a class that sometimes it's hard to get up in front of everyone and teach a class. Even after all these years, I still have days when I don't feel prepared, or confident. Days when I'm aware that I may not be what people expect a fitness professional to look like or I don't want to wear work out clothes or I'm distracted. Over the course of my career I have learned to show up and just begin. To let my education, experience and personality push those doubts out of my mind. Doubt is part of the reason I encourage my students to listen to their bodies and challenge themselves. When you give yourself a little push and walk away feeling successful, it is so satisfying.
We all have doubts and we live in a world where constant comparing is a part of daily life. No matter how good we feel about ourselves and abilities, there are days when doubt creeps in. We can let it unravel us, or we can show up. Every time we do the latter, we build mental muscle creating a fit mind as well as a fit body. Confidence, resilience and connection are necessary skills to live a healthy, happy balanced life. When we cultivate these skills through every day acts of bravery, we lay the foundation to take risks and try new things. I like to say your body should surprise and delight you. Having a little doubt and crushing it with a good workout allows you to experience surprise and delight. We are capable of so much, especially when we work together!
The weather is changing (finally) and the cooler temperatures that accompany the Autumnal Equinox bring the promise of further change. It is said that change is the only constant in life, whether it is a new school year, a new season or any number of challenges life brings. Change is best when we choose it, but more often it arrives uninvited.
This has been a year of change and subsequent reflection as many in my personal circle have experienced unprecedented changes. Though some change is positive as friends have started new jobs, welcomed new family members or begun some other new chapter. Sadly, the story has ended for more than a few friends and family members and still others have been challenged with illness. These are the kind of changes that remind us tomorrow isn't promised and challenge us to make today the best we can.
Just under a hundred days remain in 2017. Rather than waiting until you're exhausted from the holidays leading up to the New Year, why not consider making some small change now? Ideally, we build upon those small changes but what if you don't? What if you only make that small change? What if you decided to take a walk most days of the week, or added more fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet? Wouldn't it still be better than nothing? I think it would.
Forming new habits is hard but small changes make it easier and those small changes do add up. I have returned to dance and even though I feel a bit self conscious dancing with students that are younger than my marriage, it feels good to be taking a step in the right direction (see what I did there?). You might not want to jump in to Ballet 3 twice a week (oops, I did it again) but why not embrace the seasonal change and start your own?
Ah, Labor Day. That glorious three day weekend that we know as an opportunity to take a trip, a chance to relax and a day filled with fun, family and food. But, it didn't start out so nice. As with many holidays, the beginnings were a lot less pleasant than what we have come to know. A bid by workers and unions for fair treatment that turned deadly. Why must we continually fight for fairness and respect? Why is it that so many things need to get worse before they get better? Human nature is intriguing to me, especially our treatment of one another and ourselves. It's certainly interesting that we tolerate and even become accustomed to mistreatment by others as well as ourselves. What prompts us to take a stand and make a change? So often I work with people that wait until they are in pain to find time to exercise, or look for the perfect diet rather than make small attainable changes to their eating. Spoiler alert: there's always time to move more and the perfect diet doesn't exist but eating healthfully does!
A former health student came to see me the other day and seemed horribly embarrassed because he had gained about 60 pounds since he took my class three years ago. He was anxious to regain his health and return to fitness but he is returning to school and has had two children since I saw him last. I encouraged him to start small and build on his success. It took three years to get to where he is today, it will take time to get to where he wants to be. It's not like one day of eating too much and not exercising causes a 60 pound weight gain. It is choosing to eat poorly and or overeat and not making movement a priority that catches up to you. I think most people understand this but change is hard so we do everything besides taking a walk and eating less stuff out of a box. That, my friends, is called denial, wishful thinking or being stuck in the first few steps of behavior change. www.prochange.com/transtheoretical-model-of-behavior-change
I can tell you that even people who know this stuff, including me, can still get stuck. Sometimes the comfort of the known, even an uncomfortable known, is less scary than the unknown. Often, like my former student, you realize there is no good time for change unless the change is good. Wait, what? Being willing to change means navigating the unknown which can be uncomfortable. To make change less uncomfortable, small steps are necessary. You can read all the stories in the world of people who made significant changes in their life, but usually they have one thing in common. It's not just deciding once, it's making that decision everyday. Usually by the time we take that first pivotal step, we have considered it many times, but guarding that choice by making other choices that support it is the key to success known as consistency. Consistency is not synonymous with rigidity but it does require prioritizing your goal. I like the 80/20 rule for most things, but there are a lot of definitions for 80/20, so here's my take- eating healthfully and moving your body more often than not. Here's a bit more on the 80/20 rule as it pertains to diet-www.popsugar.com/fitness/What-8020-Rule-32131660
It means there's wiggle room in your plan for a day of rest, a celebration or a holiday like today. Being aware of your choices, finding balance (80/20) and being consistent are my ABC's for a healthy life. Like to read? Here's a couple of books worth a look-
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg www.goodreads.com/book/show/12609433-the-power-of-habit?ac=1&from_search=true#
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell www.goodreads.com/book/show/2612.The_Tipping_Point?ac=1&from_search=true
I tell stories when I teach my fitness classes. Of course I teach the movement, explain the purpose, the anatomy and keep the class as fluid as possible using music to set the rhythm and humor to set the mood. Along the way I try to share stories that amuse, inspire, distract (sometimes you just don't want to think about another set) and connect. Usually I get a knowing smile, a glance of acknowledgement and even outright laughter. We work, we sweat we connect. I love it when I am able to create connection in the group of participants that decided to attend.
Not long ago, I talked about how I had to learn to love the desert. Having moved from a geographically diverse and beautiful area north of San Francisco, I struggled to find beauty in such a different environment. When I first moved here all I saw was brown. The dirt, the buildings, the air, it all looked brown to me. It is also loud and fast. The constant hum of traffic is so pervasive I drive with my windows up to quiet the noise. Mostly flat wide roads make it easy to drive fast and people fly by the speed limit signs as though they are just suggestions. I was incredibly homesick and I sometimes still pine for my wine country roots, but I live here now, and the solution was to look for the beauty around me.
As much as I'd love to recreate Nor Cal in my back yard, it would be too expensive and not sustainable, so I try to find green public areas with trees or water. After I told my class about learning to love the desert and finding places I loved, students approached me and asked where I go? The picture above is the path I walk every day with my dog and where I find my daily dose of calm and green. I also love the Riparian Preserve and walk there often.
I have hiked in several areas around the valley. When you can get away from the freeways, the traffic and the urban sprawl, you can find peace and beauty in the desert. I am a member of the Desert Botanical Garden www.dbg.org/and find peace beauty and tranquility there too. Finding the good in any situation is a skill that translates to many areas of our lives. Nurturing our souls daily and connecting with others is a basic human need. There is nothing more rewarding than finding a way to help others discover what works best for them. Keep looking, and when you find it, make time to do it. Connecting with yourself is just as important, if not more so, than connecting with others. If finding beauty in your surroundings is important to you, here are a couple of resources to get you started.
Today, Wednesday April 5th, is National Walking Day and a great day to get out and start moving more. Walking is one of the best, inexpensive and accessible forms of exercise to improve your health and fitness. I walk everyday, it is sort of a moving meditation for me. I walk my dog about a mile every morning and usually walk again later in the day with my family. It is a great way to relieve stress, connect with nature and spend time with loved ones. Some of the best conversations with friends and family happen on a walk! The American Heart Association has a page dedicated to helping you get off on the right foot (see what I did there?)
People often ask me, "what's the best exercise?" and my answer is, "the one you'll do". Walking is one that most people can do, especially if you have a dog or children. It is a simple way to maintain your health and theirs. A walk to the park is good for the whole family. If you don't live in a walk friendly environment, consider mall walking or visit a nearby school track. Hiking is another great way to start walking, enjoy nature adding interest and cross training to your usual walking routine. If you've been thinking about exercise since the New Year consider walking. Joining a gym, and buying exercise equipment are great but start by putting one foot in front of the other. If you can build a routine with minimal expense and discover you are motivated to add more movement into your life, there are lots of options. To get started KISS, keep it simple sweetheart. To quote Nike, "just do it"!
If you are looking for a way to get started and need a little more guidance than what is offered above, look into WalkIT Arizona, a walking intervention through texting program offered through Arizona Sate University www.walkitarizona.org/
There is a woman that walks her dog in my neighborhood and there's just something about her. She carries herself with confidence. She is a reasonably attractive woman with a nice figure, not stunningly beautiful or super fit, but she seems comfortable in her own skin and you can't help but notice. I wonder if it would be as noticeable if more women carried themselves that way, including me? It seems we are constantly focused on what we need to improve, fix or change rather than all of the wonderful qualities we possess. The truth is, we are all works in progress, we improve with practice. But the world we live in champions perfection, even though true perfection is often subjective and rarely attainable. We hear "practice makes perfect" but I believe practice makes better is a more accurate statement. Better is attainable and a worthy endeavor but sometimes it is important to consider your perspective.
In this great piece by Kelly Roberts, the notion that you have to look a certain way to be an athlete (or anything else for that matter) is challenged by what she is able to accomplish with her body www.outsideonline.com/2156246/dont-tell-me-what-strong-looks
I read the article above on Facebook and was pleasantly surprised to see supportive, positive comments. After the comments on Lady Gaga's body in her Super Bowl performance, I was hesitant to even look at comments. So many people had negative things to say about this incredible artist, it's no wonder the rest of us have trouble putting ourselves out there. Most of those comments were about her body, not her performance, or her ability, but what she looked like in her costume. I thought she looked fantastic, fit & fabulous as does Christie Brinkley on the cover of Sports Illustrated with her daughters. www.yahoo.com/celebrity/christie-brinkley-63-back-her-013240262.html The comments about her were snarky as well but seemed to come more from other women than men. Women that claimed she had the time and the money and anyone could look like that if they had those things. Does it matter how old she is, that she has time and money to exercise, that there is a possibility photo shop was used? She looks amazing, and aside from great genes (as evidenced by her children) she does the work to continue looking amazing, it is her practice.
Tearing another down will never make you feel better about yourself, so what can be done? Champion one another, celebrate the fact that we are in this together, that each of us has our own practice in life. I know how hard it can be to walk through the door, to show up and be seen. I love looking around a room full of women and men and seeing all different ages, bodies and abilities because it is what group fitness truly is to me: A group of individuals doing the best they can with what they have to work with in a group setting. A successful class is one that I managed to encourage, challenge and accommodate all of my participants, maybe with a dash of humor for good measure. I try to bring the same focus to one-on-one training too. I have spent a lot of years in a room full of mirrors and sometimes I have had to fake confidence but if you practice something long enough you get pretty good at it. Practice makes better and we are truly better when we practice together.
There seemed to be less "New Year, New You" advertising this year. Still, on a walk recently, I noticed a "coming soon" sign on a soon to open fitness facility. The advertisement showed barely clad muscled bodies gleaming with faux sweat. Trendy haircuts and edgy body art completed the look. The models were hot! The idea, of course, is that you will be too if you work out there. I'm not knocking them, we all know sex sells, but in a world with an aging, sedentary population, this approach is (pun intended) getting old and fails to meet the needs of most. Very few people look like that, even within the fitness industry, and I couldn't help but wonder why we tell people not to judge others by their appearance and then promptly do exactly that? Just because you look good, doesn't mean you're fit. So often it is struggle to be authentic and align our actions and words. The solution? Practice.
Part of the reason I enjoy Pilates is because it is a practice. I have recently been taking some Pilates classes at different locations (always good to be a student) and one of the other students in class asked me what keeps me doing Pilates after so many years? I replied that Pilates allows me to do everything else. The core strength and body awareness leave the studio with you and help you navigate the physical and mental challenges of daily life. Joseph Pilates said, "with body, mind, and spirit functioning perfectly as a coordinated whole, what else could reasonably be expected other than an active, alert, disciplined person." That person can be of any shape and size.
I've been at a professional crossroad lately, trying to make sense of where to go next. I love what I do, but wonder if I'm out of touch? What I understand as a professional in both the educational and fitness environment do not align with the package that is sold regularly. I often tell stories and make jokes about the history of my industry and my own personal fiascos in navigating the nonsense along with the science. The truth is, I like making people feel comfortable because I know how hard we can be on ourselves, and the way we look. Over the years, I have had many people comment on my body, not all positive. I recognize that I do not have the aesthetic that many have come to associate with a dancer or Pilates instructor but my body is capable and so is yours. It is so rewarding helping people discover the joy of movement, it's fun to watch people surprise themselves!
I don't mean to say we shouldn't strive to be better versions of ourselves but those better versions will be as varied and unique as the individual.
Pilates, among other things, gives me the strength and confidence to try new things. My body functions well and lets me undertake those challenges. Spending too much time in front of a mirror can sometimes cast doubt about what a body should or shouldn't look like. Challenging yourself with a new class, or a different activity will remind you of what you are capable of and what is ultimately important; how well you function. Instead of focusing on your perceived individual figure flaws, pick something fun you've wanted to try and let's work on it. Here's looking at you!