Monday, January 21, 2013

Week 4: Sweat a Little More (Part 1 of 4)

How did you do last week? I found last week's challenge to be pretty easy as long as I brought my water bottle with me. If you are interested in a new water bottle--I strongly recommend the Camelbak Eddy. They have a larger bottle that holds 1 L--so for those of you who have jobs that prevent regular trips to the water fountain (ahem--nurses, physical therapists, teachers, etc). this little bottle is WONDERFUL.

Ok, moving on...

This week's challenge focuses on getting moving! We have been discussing eating & drinking habits the past few weeks, but clearly, we can't forget about exercise.

So, why exercise?? Exercise offers amazing benefits for our health, helps us achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and builds lean muscle tissue to keep us looking and feeling our best! In addition, exercise promotes good cardiovascular function (and gastrointestinal function!!--hey, as a Women's Health PT, I couldn't help myself!) as well as promotes decreased anxiety and depression. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published a new set of guidelines regarding physical fitness in 2011. You can see a summary of their guidelines here. Based on these recommendations, our regular exercise should include the following:
  • Cardiovascular Exercise: minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week. 
  • Resistance Exercise: 2 or 3 days each week working all major muscle groups, taking 48 hours off between days of strength training
  • Flexibility Exercise: 2 or 3 days each week holding each stretch 10-30 sec, 2-4x in a row for a total of 60 sec per stretch. 
  • Neuromotor Exercise: 20-30 min, 2 or 3 days each week. Exercises should include balance, coordination and proprioception exercises (i.e. tai-chi, yoga, etc) 

When you look at these recommendations, they can at first seem difficult to achieve. So, we're going to take this step by step, focusing this week on Cardiovascular Exercise as part of a 4-week series. Week 4's challenge is to sweat a little more. Look at last week and determine how many minutes of cardiovascular exercise you performed. Now, add a maximum of 60 min. to that amount to encourage bringing yourself closer to the "150 minute" recommendation. Read the article I posted above to find more guidelines for reaching your 150-minute goal!

Have fun with this challenge! Push yourself to try different exercises than you have tried in the past--find out what works for you! Are you having a hard time fitting exercise in your work day? Try these tips:

  1. At the start of each week, schedule the times and types of exercise you are going to do during the week. 
  2. Don't make unrealistic goals for yourself! If you normally exercise 1x each week, don't plan to exercise 5x the next week! Be slow, and realistic--this will help you see success so you don't give up! 
  3. Bring your equipment with you to work! This has been a great tip for me. If you pack clothing and shoes ahead of time (even for multiple days!), you won't have the excuse of not having what you need to exercise! Also, I have found that if I have to go home between work & exercise, I am WAY less likely to exercise. 
  4. Mix it up! Don't do the same thing every day. Try group fitness, swimming, cycling, running, rock climbing, hiking, etc. to put some variety in your day! 
What else? What tips do you use to stay motivated and fit exercise in to your daily activities?

Good luck and I look forward to next week for Resistance Training! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Homemade Peanut Butter Protein Bars

Just made a DELICIOUS work snack, and had to share. I found the original recipe here, but modified it slightly based on the reviews I read, and what I call the taste-factor. It is Andrew-approved, which believe me, is a very good thing for a healthy protein bar. Try it out and see if you like it!

Peanut-Butter Protein Bars
makes 16 bars, 140 calories each

1/2 c. skim milk
1 c. all-natural crunchy peanut butter
2 T. honey
1 1/4 c. chocolate whey protein powder
2 c. oats

1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk, peanut butter and honey over low heat until mixed and creamy looking.

2. Add protein powder and mix well.

3. Add oats. You will most likely have to use your hands at this point because it will be somewhat sticky and hard to combine.

4. Press into 9x13 baking dish and allow to cool. Once completely cooled, Cut into 16 bars (looks granola bar-ish if you cut them in half lengthwise, then slice each half into 8 bars.

I love this as a base recipe. I'm excited to try different combinations. My ideas are:

  • Chocolate & cherry almond bar: use almond butter, dried cherries & dried almonds. 
  • Peanut butter flax seed bar: use peanut butter, flax seed, sunflower seeds 
  • Honey apricot bar: use vanilla protein powder, dried apricots, almond butter, almonds 
Hope you enjoy! I would love to hear any other combinations you try! 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Week 3: I'm so hungry I could eat a....camel.

Welcome to week 3 in our journey toward a more fit & fantastic 2013! This week's challenge is a little bit different...and easy...yet challenging. Our focus this week is fluid intake. (Hence the camel comment in the title...get it? I'm hilarious, I know).

Did you know that your body is composed of 60% water? That's amazing, right? We desperately need water to survive and our bodies will try to give us cues to drink the amount that is needed--even if that means convincing you that you are starving. That's right. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, so we need to listen to our body's cues and give our bodies the much needed fluid during the day.

How much water is needed? Well, that one is up for the debate. Many of us have heard, "Drink 8, 8-oz glasses of fluid per day," but truly, water intake should vary based on the person and on his or her level of activity. For example, if I go to a hot yoga class today you better believe I need more than 8 c. fluid--but--if I spend my entire day sitting at a desk, 8 c. fluid may be sufficient. That being said, we need to be more attuned to the needs of our bodies to truly care for our bodies.

The Mayo clinic (here) actually recommends that most men need approximately 3L (That's closer to 100 oz) per day and most women need approximately 2.2 L per day (which is close to 70 oz). Now, I have to add a small note for people who hate water. First, I will say, I don't really understand you. I love water. It's easy for me to drink. However, in my profession--working daily with people who have bladder problems--I have learned that there is a large group of people out there who literally find water to be disgusting. I could go on and on about the need to hydrate for your bladder, however, that is not the purpose of this blog.  So, if you are a "water-hater," here are my recommendations:

  • Iced & hot herbal teas (not caffeinated--that will irritate your bladder and you'll have to take in a lot of caffeine to get your 2.2 L) 
  • Infused water: Slice of fruit, cucumbers, etc. and soak in a pitcher of water overnight to help give your water some taste. 
  • Diluted Juice: I'm talking really diluted--like a splash of cranberry in your water. Most juices are too sugary to be taken in at 2L per day. 
  • Crystal Light or some other flavor giver: This is not my preference because it is artificially sweetened which is not the best for your bladder or health, but if I have to choose between dehydration and crystal light, I'll take the crystal light. :) 

Ok, that being out of the way--here is this week's challenge. Knowing that 1) our bodies need to be hydrated and 2) we often mistake thirst for hunger, your challenge is the following: 

 1. Drink a minimum of 2.2 L per day (women) or 3 L per day (men). This should be adjusted based on your activity level for that day.

2. When you are hungry, drink at least 8 oz of water. Then wait 15 minutes prior to eating a snack or meal. This will help your body cue in to "hunger" or "thirst" and prevent you from overeating.

So, what are your favorite water substitutes? What have you found to be helpful in encouraging you to drink more fluid?

Good luck on this week's challenge!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Repent--of your Health Habits?

So, hopefully you have been tracking your food for the week like I have. If I'm being honest, I was a very good tracker over the week and the weekend was a little bit harder for me. How did you do?

In church this morning Fr. Tom gave an excellent sermon on repentance. Of course, his purpose was not to give me motivation and encourage me in my fitness--however, his sermon did just that. (You can check out his sermon once it's posted here) The focus of his sermon was on the root of the word repentance which from the Greek and Latin root means to re-think. This was very interesting to me as I often think of repenting as "feeling sorry about," but rarely think about it as "re-thinking my actions."

So, now you're wondering how this relates to health and fitness and more specifically. how does this relate to tracking our foods for a week? Well, perfectly. Often when we make goals for our health, we focus on what we "feel sorry" about--eating too much sugar, not eating enough vegetables, eating too many carbs, etc. In doing that, we "feel sorry" then move on and try to change without really "re-thinking" why we are having that problem in the first place. For example, in my tracking, I realized that I struggle with mid-day snacking at work. My initial thought was to "feel sorry" and stop snacking--however, this does not address my main problem. So, "re-thinking" means looking back and saying, "why do I struggle with unhealthy mid-day snacking at work?" And here's what I found:

  1. I get hungry in the afternoons. Every single day. 
  2. I don't bring enough healthy snacks with me to work. 
  3. When I do bring snacks, they usually aren't as tasty as the chocolate cake & cookies my patients bring me. Seriously. My patients bring DELICIOUS treats. We are very spoiled.
So, in re-thinking, I realize that in order to truly "repent" of my poor health habit, I need to start bringing healthy and delicious snacks with me to work every day, so that not only will I stop eating unhealthy snacks, but I will instead choose to eat good healthy foods. 

Now, it's your turn. Let's assess your week of tracking. Look through your week and ask yourself these questions: 
  • Where did I struggle with eating/drinking healthy? 
    • Do I eat powerful, wholesome snacks or high-sugar, low-nutrient snacks?
    • Am I drinking enough water during the day? 
    • Did I eat enough fruits/vegetables? 
    • Did I eat processed foods or natural foods? 
    • How large were my portions? 
  • Where was I successful in eating and drinking well? 
After you assess your week, choose 1 or 2 areas where you would like to improve. Then, "Re-think" why you are currently struggling with these negative health habits. Is it because you aren't eating regularly enough? Are you eating foods that are lacking nutrients? Are you not drinking enough water? Now, choose 1 action step you can do this week to change those habits. It will look like this. 

  • Problem Area #1: Poor snacking habits during the day at work. 
  • Solution: Bring healthy, high-energy, delicious snacks to keep me satisfied while working. 
  • Problem Area #2: Over-eating high sugar foods late at night. 
  • Solution: Eat a healthy, strong dinner & keep low-sugar, delicious snacks to eat if needed after dinner. 
Now, it's your turn. Let me know how your analysis comes out! And watch out for your next challenge tomorrow for this upcoming week!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Week 2: Track what you eat!

I know this may not seem like the best challenge to get us started, but bear with me. I first tried "tracking" when I joined weight watchers approximately 2 years ago. Now, all programs have their positives and negatives, but for me, weight watchers was great at the time. I lost 10 lbs and felt better than I had in a long time. It also helped me to look good in my sister's wedding (which, if I'm being honest, was one of my main objectives!) The problem I had with weight watchers was that whenever I stopped tracking, I gained weight. And tracking was hard. Really hard. Especially for me, because, well, I'm lazy. Also, I found that I could be successful at weight watchers without necessarily being healthy. For example, exercise would give you "activity points" that would allow you to eat more food, but you could also not exercise and get by just fine. Also, I could literally eat a cinnamon bun every single day as long as I could somehow fit that into my points. And personally, that just doesn't seem like a great idea. Not that cinnamon buns are bad. They're awesome. But probably not every single day. (Note: One of my weight watchers members literally did this, and still met her goal weight!) Now, I'm not bashing weight watchers. You can do weight watchers well, and be healthy and successful. But it's not for everyone.

Ok, enough about that, and back to tracking food for a week. When I was doing weight watchers, I initially found it to be very helpful to track what I ate. Often, we eat mindlessly and don't even realize what we are feeding our bodies. Now, in my opinion, there are no "bad" foods, however, we have to make sure that we eat certain fattier, higher calorie foods in moderation, and feed our bodies with foods high in nutrients to help our bodies be strong and healthy. So, your challenge for this week is to track every single food and drink you consume. Every. Single. One. Measured Out.  Easier said than done, right? Well try it. Then, at the end of these 7 days, I will post about how to evaluate your current eating habits and make goals for the future.

There are several tools you can use to track your eating:

  1. Pen & Paper: Pro: easy to use, readily available. Con: it won't give you caloric or nutritional information about your foods.
  2. Pro: easy to use, calculates everything for you. Con: None for the tracking log. It's wonderful :). I believe they are still doing free 7-day trials, but if not, there is a cost. Go to for more information. 
  3. MyFitnessPal: This is a free online tool that will track your food & exercise in a diary for you. It also comes in an app version for those iphone users out there. Pro: easy to use, calculates everything for you. Con: Again, none for the tracking log. Plus it's free. Go to for more information. 
Good luck with your tracking! Try to be VERY consistent with it over the next 7 days and we will check-in and evaluate it on Sunday! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Goal Setting: How did you do?

This week's challenge was to develop a baseline for your health, focusing on where you are now and where you want to be. So, how did you do?

I decided to use the following measurements for my success:

  1. 1 Mile Run  
  2. Push-ups in 60 Seconds
  3. Waist Measurement 
  4. Hip Measurement 
  5. Weight 
When first starting to exercise and change your lifestyle, you might see your weight go up. This does not mean you are "gaining weight" per se, but the inflammation in your tissue from muscle breakdown (that's what has to happen to get you stronger) causes people to sometimes weigh a little more. So, that being said, try not to weigh yourself too frequently. Weigh no more than once per week to track your progress. I recommend retesting your other measurements once per month so you can track your progress. 

When setting goals, remember to be realistic, yet challenging. One of the first things we learn in PT school about setting goals for patients are that the goals need to be functional and attainable. If a goal is too challenging, you will be frustrated with your lack of success and this will make you less likely to stick to the plan. It is also helpful to make short-term goals for yourself to help you see success over your trip. For example, try setting 3 month and 6 month goals. Then at 6 months, you can re-evaluate and make goals for 9 months and 1 year. 

Look for next week's challenge tomorrow! It's going to be a GREAT week! 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wisdom from Hot Yoga

Image credited to:

I went to a hot yoga class yesterday, for the first time in about 6 months. (Check out 90 Degree Yoga here) This puts me off to a great start for this year!! Between sweating (literally dripping sweat!) and trembling to maintain the poses my body was struggling hard to remember, my instructor gave us charges to focus on in the upcoming year.  These stuck with me, so I wanted to share them to also inspire you forward toward a more peaceful year of health and wellness!

They come from the book, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and stem from the group Toltec Wisdom.  Honestly, I had never heard of them before, but I looked them up and they seem to be focused on our personal spiritual journeys. I'm normally more of the "exercise" rather than "spiritual" aspect of yoga, but this was helpful. So, here are the four agreements:

  1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak the truth with integrity. Follow through with what you say. Keep your promises and keep your words kind and loving. 
  2. Don't Take Anything Personally: Easier said than done, believe me. This comes down to realizing that everything isn't about you. Realizing that most people do have good intentions. Being open to becoming a better person through the guidance of others. 
  3. Don't Make Assumptions: Don't be afraid to communicate openly with others to truly understand what people say and mean. Again, realize that most of the time it's not about you. 
  4. Always do your Best: As true in yoga as it is at home or in the workplace. Your best will vary day to day, but strive to be the best that you can in the moment. And avoid judging yourself for how good that best is.  
I hope these are as encouraging to you as they were to me. Imagine how our world would change if we were all trying to live this way! Happy Saturday!

For more information on the Four Agreements, go to