In 2006 when I was on one of my big training kicks, my husband bought me a Polar heart rate monitor. I had never used one before and quickly set about figuring it out. It was really simple with just a few features tracking heart rate and calories burned. It didn’t take long before I wouldn’t workout without it. I loved being able to see how many calories I was burning and also being able to keep track of where I was on my intensity levels. I replaced the battery in the watch and the strap on the chest band numerous times. In February of 2016, it finally died. It was like losing an old friend who had been there through all the ups and downs and all the sweat and tears.
When I started to look online for a replacement, I was soon overwhelmed by all the choices of different monitors as well as all the features available on each one. The heart rate monitor had come a long way in the past ten years! Also, now on the market were new things that tracked your daily movement and connected to your smartphone. It took a good month of research and reflection to decide what exactly I wanted and needed. I was intrigued with being able to track movement when not working out, but I also wanted a strap for accurate heart rate readings when I was working out. I also didn’t feel like I needed notifications from my phone showing up on the watch. And I wanted a decent sized screen on the watch, not just a little slit.
I bought the Polar A300 and it has been fantastic! It not only tracks heart rate and calories burned just like the old one, but it also does so much more. I can program different activities to select for each workout, for example running, biking, group exercise, Crossfit, etc. It tells me how many hours in a day I am active, how many steps I took and how many calories I burned for the whole day. It also buzzes and vibrates when I’ve been sitting still for too long to remind me to get up and move. If I wear it all night it tracks my sleep and tells me how much of it was restful and how much was restless. You can set a daily activity goal and it shows you your progress towards that goal and buzzes when you reach your goal for the day. You sync the watch to the website and the mobile app to see all the data. It has all kinds of graphs and charts to show the data in multiple ways. They also have some sort of social media feature where you can post your data and see others’ data, but I haven’t really explored that much. The watch has interchangeable bands that you can purchase separately so that you are always color coordinated if desired. It’s water resistant meaning its ok if it gets wet, but don’t wear it swimming or in the shower. The only thing I don’t like about it is the strap. The way it hooks together when you have it on isn’t a great design. Often when I go to take it off, I find the hook is about to slip out and I often have to stop working out to pull it up because it is sliding down my torso.
While I am partial to this product I am using, the bottom line is I think training with a heart rate monitor, regardless of which one or what kind, is a great way to help you stay focused and motivated to get the workout done. I love seeing how many calories I’ve burned after working out or I’ve used the calorie count to push myself harder and keep going to reach a certain number before stopping. So I now have a new workout friend, and I hope this one last ten years as well!
Hi my name is Jenny and I’m a book-oholic. I have bookshelves and bookcases filled with books. Some books I’ve read, but most are books I haven’t read yet. Most of the books I buy at a second hand store, but sometimes I hear about a new book and I have to have it, so Amazon Prime comes in really handy to get it in my hands quickly. I recently did just that, but wasn’t quite finished with the book I was currently reading, so I went to put the new book on the shelf with all my other self-help/health/fitness related books. As you can see from the photo above I have a few. I’ve already read eight of them and two of them I’ve read twice.
I love these kinds of books because they help me to stay focused on my journey. Even though every book is slightly different, they all have the same overall message. Reading books like these all the time is a constant reminder of the things I need to do to live the happy, healthy, and active lifestyle that I want. If anyone reading this has any suggestions on books, please leave the title in the comments. My next read is the new one, No Sweat, which is about the science behind motivation. I can’t wait to get started!
One of my co-workers once told me, “Sugar is the anti-christ.” And I would have to agree! I completely eliminated sugar from my diet when I was in my Paleo phase. For those who don’t know about paleo, the idea is to eat primarily meats and vegetables, and a little fruit. The claim is that our body basically sees processed grains the same as it sees sugar and uses it the same way as well. I was very strict on Paleo for about 60 days and I would read every label and not buy anything with sugar. I even bought a sugar-free ketchup which was also all natural and organic, and it wasn’t half bad (although my kids wouldn’t agree with me). Since then I still greatly limit my sugar consumption, but I’m not as strict and I allow myself an occasional indulgence.
I really feel that the most important thing I gained from the Paleo phase was the firsthand knowledge about the evilness of sugar. Since then I’ve read or watched things that support this claim. There was even one study done, I believe at UC Davis, where they did MRI’s on the brains of people who had just drank a sugary drink and the MRI showed that the brain’s pleasure center lights up the same for sugar or cocaine. That blows my mind! And that’s just one example of the many crazy things scientists are discovering about sugar.
So what can you do to reduce or eliminate sugar from your diet? I know this sounds crazy, but when I was strict Paleo for 60 days, I got to the point where I didn’t crave it anymore. It was like I detoxed my system of it and didn’t want it anymore. Even now when I don’t eat much sugar and I have something sweet, I really don’t enjoy it. It just tastes TOO sweet (definitely not something I thought I would ever say!)
So the first thing I recommend is you’ve got to find a way to stay motivated, so search online for articles about how bad sugar is and also read firsthand experiences of people who have eliminated sugar. The stories of how they feel are almost unbelievable. I follow a page on Facebook called Sugar is Killing Us, which is great because their reminders just pop up in my feed. Second, when you go to the grocery store, DON’T BUY IT! If it’s not in the house you can’t eat it. Avoid the inner isles and read every label. Have kids and don’t want to completely deprive them of a sweet treat once in awhile? Then buy something for them that you don’t like. I used to always buy my kids Oreos because I did not like them so I was then never tempted to eat one. Next, skip dessert, pretty much always. I know that’s a sad thought, but it really is just an extravagance that most of us really just don’t need, not for the sugar and not for the extra calories either. I usually allow myself to have cake on my birthday and then only on a handful of other holidays per year. That’s it. It’s hard to sit and watch everyone else indulge, but that’s where the mental toughness comes in. Use a mantra (see my previous post about mantras), excuse yourself for a bathroom break, or have a piece of fruit. It’s amazing how sweet and delicious fruit tastes when you aren’t eating any sugar. There are even books and programs out there that give you an exact program to follow.
I don’t know who this quote belongs to, but I love it: “Sugar? No thanks, I’m sweet enough already.”
I feel like I’ve striven to eat well for the past 15 years. Always trying new food plans or diets based on the latest information out there. I went through a Low Fat phase; a reduced calorie phase; a vegetarian phase; a clean eating phase; and most recently a Paleo phase. The biggest issue I have with all these different schools of thought on nutrition is how do you know which one is really best? They all cite evidence for their way of eating, but it is all so conflicting. Regardless of all the different phases, I’ve managed to strictly limit the junk food. Rarely eating sweets or fast food and completely removing soda from my life.
With all these years of pretty healthy eating, I was strangely surprised to suddenly start having digestive issues. About a year ago, I would get these strange ripping pains in my stomach occasionally, often after eating. I didn’t really pay much attention to these pains, but when I started having female issues, I mentioned it to my gynecologist. She did an ultra sound of all my female organs and found no issues. She suggested I see my general practitioner because it could be digestive. I never did this and suddenly last Wednesday afternoon I started feeling nauseated at work. The next day at work I had sharp pains in my abdomen off and on all day and kept feeling like I was about to throw up. In the afternoon I stated having heartburn. I took Tums, but they did not help. This indigestion continued all evening and got so severe that it was debilitating. Again I took Tums and did not get any relief. By this point I had reached the 24 hour maximum consumption of Tums. The next morning, the heartburn pain was less frequent but my stomach pain was unbearable. I finally couldn’t take it anymore so I went to the Urgent Care. There I was diagnosed with acid reflux and esophagitis, which is the inflammation of the esophagus. They gave me some pills for the acid reflux and told me to stay away from caffeine and alcohol due to their high levels of acid.
This is a huge blow because I love my coffee in the mornings and I regularly enjoy a nice glass of wine. In all my years of attempting to eat right, it has always been a choice. I’ve never had food or drink limitations put on me for medical reasons. I’ve now gone 2 days without coffee or wine and I’m surviving. It’s going to take some serious willpower to not have coffee. I’ve also been researching other foods and drinks that are highly acidic to limit as well as what food are good for my gut. I also just learned today about probiotics, but that is a topic for a whole other day! For now I’m just going to do my best to love my gut and make better, more aware choices of how what I consume affects my gut.
When you are struggling with something, how do you manage to get through the day? In the past I have often used mantras and I’ve found them to be very helpful. I first read about mantras over 10 years ago in a book called, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S. Sharma. Like many books that I’ve read, this one emphasized our inability to control our thoughts and how that contributes to or even creates the issues we toil with. In the book the author says, “A mantra is nothing more that a collection of words strung together to create a positive effect.” Sharma suggests using mantras daily and all day long in order to affirm all the good in life.
This morning as I was struggling with being tired and wishing I wasn’t at work, I had some time to fill, so I took my class on what I call a Mindful Walk. We walk outside around the building on our way to Physical Education class and we are silent and focused on what we notice in the world around us. As I started on this walk I was not paying any attention to the world around me and instead was lost in negative self-talk. I caught myself and for some reason decided to use a mantra. There was recently some tragic teenage deaths in a nearby community and the mantra that sprang to mind was, “I’m lucky to be alive.” Just reciting this mantra silently to myself during the first few minutes of the walk allowed me to relax and let go of the negative self-talk and actually do the Mindful walk as I had instructed the students to do. I believe that this positive self-talk and the feelings it evoked allowed me to have a much more positive day than I would have had otherwise. I want to remember to use mantras more often because I feel they are a very effective tool for me.
For more information about the book and author visit: http://www.robinsharma.com
What is it about the weekend? All those hours free from work and those are always the hardest days for me to get a workout in. Since I have to be to work so early on weekdays (7:30am), I savor those weekend mornings where I can sit around in my pajamas and sip coffee until 9am. Then I eat breakfast and I have to wait for some digestion to take place before I can workout, but then I get busy with some chore or other activity and forget about working out. By the time I remember, it’s time to eat lunch, so again I have to wait awhile after eating. And so the pattern continues for the rest of the day!
Another factor that affects my weekend workouts is that lately, I always feel so exhausted from the week at work. I’m not sure if it’s my age and the menopause or the high stress of my job, but I don’t remember always being this exhausted on weekends. I’ve always been a high energy, get stuff done type of person. I’ve never been one to sit around lazily watching TV or something when I could be productive. Now, every weekend, I just want to sit and read, or play some dumb candy crush video game, or even watch TV. There are some days where I don’t even have the energy to leave the house! I’ve done some reading on menopause and energy levels, and there just isn’t any conclusive evidence that menopause causes a decrease in energy levels. I know I always have more energy after I workout, but on weekends it’s like pulling teeth to get myself to do something active.
So what am I going to do in order to break this cycle? First, I’m going to make plans or dates with someone else to workout with. Whether it’s a game of tennis, a Zumba class with my daughter or even a walk with my husband, I need someone else to help hold me accountable. Second, I’m going to schedule my weekly rest day for one of the weekend days. I usually plan the rest day to be a work evening where I am busy with some other event, but I think I need to give myself the reprieve of a lazy day on the weekend in order to recover from the work week and prepare for the upcoming week of work. I need to learn to be just as flexible and easy going with myself as I am with others.
If I had to describe my childhood in one word it would be SPORTS. I was born to a Physical Education teacher and a sports fanatic. They had me throwing softballs, swinging a tennis racket, and bouncing a basketball by the age of three. High school and college games were often a family outing where even grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were in attendance. I did every youth recreation sport available and had weekly private tennis lessons for many years. I played four sports in high school and earned the coveted “White Sweater Athletics Award”. I even played basketball and tennis for one season each at the community college level. As an adult, this sports life morphed into training for 5K races and triathlons and doing Crossfit.
So naturally when I had kids of my own, I got them into sports. My oldest daughter, Breanna, tried lots of sports, but she just wasn’t into any of them. She was more into art, fashion, dance and cheerleading type activities. I struggled with this and while I supported her choices, I really had a hard time relating to her. I didn’t know any other life than one dominated by sports. When she went to middle school in 6th grade, many members of her new peer group played volleyball. I was pleasantly surprised when she decided she wanted to play too. That decision was the beginning of her playing volleyball year-round on the school team as well as on a traveling club team. We spent many weekends driving all over southern California to volleyball tournaments and countless evenings transporting her to and from practices. When she graduated from high school she continued playing in college at the Division 3 level where she has earned all Conference Honors every year.
I’m blogging about her today because tonight is her college senior game. The last home game where they recognize the seniors on the team. This night is surreal for me. My baby is all grown-up, about to graduate from college and start her life. Her eleven years of playing volleyball is coming to an end. Like many lifetime athletes, the end of competitive sports is a big change and can be hard emotionally. I’m glad now that she wasn’t the diehard sports enthusiast I was. While she definitely loved volleyball and I’m sure she will miss it, it hasn’t dominated her life. She has many other interests and talents and being an athlete is just one part of the wonderful young woman she is.
I truly believe that sports, especially team sports are very beneficial to children, but if there is anything to take from this story it’s to expand the horizons of children and expose them to everything, not just things you are into.
Today, while at work, my body was feeling a little stiff and sore from workouts I’ve done the last few days, so I went from a standing position into a squat (ass to the floor) and just kinda sat there in that position for a few minutes. While I was sitting there enjoying the way this position felt on my stiff and sore body, I realized how limited I am in my movements at work each day. As a teacher I spend most of my day standing, with a little bit of walking and an even less amount of sitting. I consider myself lucky that I can at least stand and walk all day and that I’m not stuck sitting at a desk. Now I’m not saying I expect to be able to do a workout at work, but I could definitely incorporate more movement into my day.
So here’s my brainstorm list of ways to move more at work:
- Participate in Brain/movement breaks that I guide the kids through
- Squats or stretches on my lunch break
- Calf raises while standing
- Glute squeeze: firmly contract your glutes and thighs and hold for 10 seconds
- Ab brace: tighten your ab muscles as if you were about to be punched in the stomach and hold for 10 seconds
- Shoulder stretch: bring one arm across chest and place other arm under and in front to it. Pull your arms close to your chest and hold.
- Stand with your feet under your hips and sway from side to side, even holding and stretching on each side.
If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments!
I read a book, 5 years ago called Younger Next Year for Women by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. While I thought it was good, the focus audience is women 50 plus. Since I was still in my 30s then, it didn’t really resonate with me. When I came across it again recently, I decided to reread it. This time the book changed my life. The premise is that there are things you can do to improve the quality and longevity of your life. The authors are a doctor and patient with the doctor giving the science behind the ideas and the patient telling of his own experiences. They relate aging and physical decay to the tide of the ocean. It’s continuously coming in and each time it takes over a bit more of the shore. So while aging and decay is inevitable, their argument is that by following their program, you can keep the tide from coming in too quickly. The program consists of 7 rules that need to be implemented. Rule #1 is “Exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.”
While I’ve been a serial exerciser my whole life, I’ve never attacked it as something I have to do, every day, for the rest of my life. Thinking about it that way has been a big change in thinking for me. The book says to consider it a job, so that’s how I’ve been attacking it. Now when I don’t feel like working out, I tell myself I have to go to my second job and that often helps me get moving. One of the authors, Chris, gives lots of great suggestions. He encourages readers to join a gym and try group fitness classes or activities. He also suggests that readers find an athletic passion to make the working out more fun. I’ve taken those suggestions to heart. I’ve been playing tennis lately, a sport I’ve loved my whole life. I’ve also tried Zumba, which is totally out of my comfort zone, and I’m enjoying it immensely!
I’ll probably talk a lot more about this great book, but I encourage everyone to read it. There’s even a version more geared towards men called, Younger Next Year, as well several other books. They also have a website: http://youngernextyear.com
Balance is something that I’ve struggled with over the years. I know how to be super diehard strict- sticking to a workout and food plan diligently for several months. I also know how to be super lenient- eating whatever I want, drinking wine several nights a week, and not working out much, or at all. What I can’t seem to do is find the middle ground. The balance where I can eat well and workout most of the time and then splurge once in awhile.
I also need to find balance in life, just in general. Work takes up so much time and energy that it is often hard to come home and have the energy to engage in things I enjoy or to be mentally present when spending time with family and friends.
When all these aspects of balance in my life get off kilter, I often find myself slide into a funny, depressed state I call a “funk”. And boy are funks hard to get out of! I have found that eliminating or limiting sugars and processed carbs from my diet is highly effective in helping me get into a better state of mind.
This is ironic because part of the reason I slipped into this funk in the first place is from eating bad foods. I also find that listening to music I like is very uplifting. Even just blasting my favorite song on the short car ride to work puts me in a slightly happier mood as a I start my work day.
I guess I could say that my whole adult life has been one big teeter-totter ride…bouncing up and down over and over again, trying to to balance the darn thing out and never being successful for long. So balance is going to be a big focus for me this year in my attempt to live a happy, healthy, and active lifestyle.