live it active


“30 Challenges for 30 days of Growth”

I can’t take credit for the title of the post as it comes from a recent post on the blog, Marc and Angel Hack Life. I must also give credit to my friend Atif (check out his blog!), who sent this post to me.

So the post describes 30 different challenges that you should aim to do over 30 days. Being a rather competitive person, I am totally game for a good challenge, but…this list of challenges is rather overwhelming.

For example (I’m only going to list ten of the 30), the authors challenge you (the reader) to:

1. Perform one selfless act per day (not too hard)

2. Try something new everyday (OK, a little bit more challenging, but doable)

3. Teach someone else something new everyday (starting to become a little more time-consuming)

4. Dedicate one hour to something you’re passionate about (I know a number of people that cannot spare 10 minutes let alone an entire hour. And while I agree that making time for yourself is important, it may not be feasible for say, new moms and dads, single parents, working men and women, the list goes on…)

5. Ditch three bad habits in 30 days (um, hard, but a good challenge)

6. Read one chapter of a good book everyday (I love reading, but a number of people really do not enjoy this past-time. However, I recently had a non-reading friend convert to being an avid reader, so making this change is possible. Also what constitutes a good book?)

7. Every morning watch or read something that inspires you (OK, this is definitely possible)

8. Go alcohol or drug free for 30 days (I may try this one)

9. Do something everyday after lunch that makes you laugh (again, this is about making time which is difficult for a number of people. While I think this challenge is important, it is likely one that will get pushed to the back-burner.)

10. Cook one brand new, health recipe everyday (Oh my goodness, I could never do this)

Wow, so I sound like a true-blue negative-Nancy. The thing is, I love all the challenges, but I think trying to accomplish this much change in such a short period of time is pretty much impossible. I firmly believe that making slow and meaningful change to your life is possible and thus, would encourage you to try some of the challenges over a longer period of time.

Why a longer period? Because you’re bound to fail and I don’t want you beating yourself up for it. I want you to see that you have the time to get back on track. I don’t want your resolutions to cause you stress. I want your resolutions to assist in bringing your stress levels down.

So to the authors of this post, thank you. Thank you for providing us with some excellent ideas for the future. And to my readers, be kind to yourself when accepting some of these challenges (if you choose to do so). Make allowances, but not necessarily excuses. Challenge yourself, but don’t comprise yourself. Be optimistic, but maintain a realistic attitude.

Happy Wednesday.

M


Belated Wednesday Workout Tip: On selecting a running surface

As a runner (OK, a casual runner) I am cautious about where I put my feet. This is primarily because I don’t want to trip or fall in a pothole, but also because I’m aware that different surfaces have different levels of shock absorbency and thus, will have a greater impact on my joints….or so I thought.

Turns out this may not be true.

It turns out that we humans seem to automatically adjust our running stride to counteract the differences in shock absorbency between surfaces. A professor at the University of Florida, Mark Tillman, validated earlier claims of this human adjustment using force-sensing shoe inserts. He found no difference in the in-shoe forces felt by runners on asphalt, concrete, grass, and synthetic track.

The only problem with making such adjustments is that the change in angle of the knee, hip, etc. may lead to a greater risk of injury on a certain surface. The important distinction is that the injury is not a direct result of a harder surface, but a secondary one. As Alex Hutchinson (PhD), the author of Which comes first, cardio or weights? succinctly summarizes, “…the simple picture – harder surface leads to more pounding leads to injury – isn’t supported by the existing evidence”.

While this information may be useful to a number of you, I would still like you to exert caution when running. Our joints are precious and can take a lot of abuse before breaking down. And yes, they will eventually wear down and call for replacement. So be nice to your joints. Even if the surface isn’t the problem and more the angle of your knee, it’s still a problem.

M

References:

Hutchinson, Alex. 2011. Which comes first, cardio or weights? McClelland & Stewart Ltd., Toronto.


On learning what I don’t need to (happily) survive

Since graduation this past July, I have been slowly watching my finances deplete. Soon, Ontario Student Loans will be a knocking and my dwindling funds will be even further depleted. Yes, I run my own health promotion business, but times are tough for most North American businesses and therefore investing in a health promotion strategy isn’t feasible for many at present. I know that I am not alone in the dwindling-bank-account-department as many North Americans are in a more precarious financial state than I. Remembering this during low periods has definitely helped me.

In order to ensure that my dineros deplete less quickly, I instigated a number of money-saving techniques that have been unbelievably useful. Thus, not only have I saved money over the past few months, I have learned perhaps a greater lesson – that I truly do not need that much to survive.

So what did I do?

1. Created a budget and started writing down every purchase (yes, even those 50 cent purchases).

2. Scrapped dying my hair, purchasing any major cosmetic products, and waxing. Cost savings = $920 per year.

3. Got rid of my gym membership. Fortunately, I teach 5-7 fitness classes per week so this decision was easy for me. Cost savings = $600 per year

4. Reduced my alcohol intake and thus, purchase of alcohol. Cost savings = $500 per year.

5. Made a weekly meal plan that incorporated less meat and more beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Cost savings = being figured out.

6. Started drinking more water and less pop. Cost savings = $270 per year.

7. While I bought clothes a few months ago, I haven’t purchased any athletic gear since graduation which is a major challenge for me. I love new athletic gear more than new shoes, clothes, makeup, you name it. Cost savings  = $400-500 per year.

8. Started grocery shopping at Food Basics and No Frills instead of Zehrs/Loblaws. Cost savings  = being figured out.

9. Stopped purchasing coffee out. I now make my second cup at home which is easy for me as I work/search for part-time jobs from home. Cost savings =$780 per year.

10. We stopped going out for cheap dinners (as much) and save up for special occasions. Cost savings  = $1560 per year.

In total I am saving approximately $5030 per year! And that is not including the savings from shopping at cheaper grocery stores and reducing my meat consumption. And not only have I saved a bunch of money, but I have become healthier. Drinking more water and less alcohol/pop, eating more grains/lentils/etc., and not dying my hair are much better for my body.

And as I said above, I have realized something very important – I don’t need much in order to survive, and to happily survive at that. Yes, sometimes I wish I could purchase something without feeling the purse-strings tighten, but I continue to move forward. And to be honest, it’s quite refreshing and enlivening to not have so much unnecessary stuff, products, food, etc. lying around the house.

I encourage you to see what you can (happily) live without. I think you’d be surprised.

Happy budgeting.

M


“You will love again the stranger who was your self”

I thought I would share some quotes with you today composed by Rumi, one of the most influential 13th century Persian poets. Rumi practiced Sufism which is considered the more esoteric (meditative, contemplative) practice of Islam. He believed that God should be celebrated through song, dance and poetry.

For those that know me, they will know that I am not a religious person. Thus, my reason for sharing some of Rumi’s poems with you is born out of my interest in the teachings of this individual. His short poems are thought-provoking, simple yet complex, and seem more focused on the relationship you have with yourself as opposed to the one you have with God. And having a relationship with yourself, in my opinion, is perhaps the most important thing for you to accomplish in your short existence.

“Be empty of worrying / Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison / when the door is so wide open?”

“Sit, be still, and listen / because you’re drunk / and we’re at the edge of the roof.”  

“Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” 

The last poem I will share with you for today is not by Rumi, but is fitting with the theme of this post.

“The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. 

You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. 

Sit. Feast on your life.” 

~Derek Walcott

 

Happy Monday.

M

 


Dealing with the Holiday Food Hangover

Happy Saturday! It has been a lovely day here in Guelph, giving residents the opportunity to Christmas shop without fear of soaking their newly purchased wares.

T’is the Christmas/Holiday season or perhaps more commonly known as throw-caution-to-the-wind-in-regards-to-portion-control season.

I lovely holiday parties; delicious snacks, flowing beverages, and of course, more snacks. It is hard to resist the pastry-laden goodies or the dripping-with butter treats – believe me, I completely understand the challenge.

I write not to say “don’t” but to say “do” indulge your sweet/savory tooth this festive season. Yes, that’s right – indulge, dig in, over-imbibe, inhale, binge, snarf, feed your face….OK, you get the picture.

There are other ways you can combat the Holiday Food Hangover scenario/bloat.

1. Do your grocery shopping at a full-out sprint. I know dealing with erratic walkers is a grocery store runner’s nightmare, but consider them part of your agility training. At the check-out keep up the pace, just on the spot. Don’t worry, people are only staring because they’re jealous of your Running Room jacket.

2. Drink gallons of water. OK, don’t drink gallons, but drink a lot. Drink enough to make you a little queasy and then you’ll definitely stay away from the holiday treats (just kidding on the queasy part…)

3. Laugh. It’s a good kcal burn.

4. Take my Holiday Zumba Challenge from Dec. 27th to 29th in Guelph, ON. OK, stop groaning. I know what you’re thinking “if I hear the word Zumba one more time come out of Morgan’s mouth I am going to…” But seriously, it’s fun, I’m fun, the group is fun, it’s totally fun and you’ll definitely burn off A LOT of calories (that is a serious statement – I just wanted to clarify as there aren’t many of those in this post).

5.  Conduct a family snowball fight. Build igloos. Build snowmen. Demolish them. Play capture the snow-chicken (a new breed just discovered in Iceland).

6. Heat up by the fire. More specifically, heat up your partner by the fire (double heat effect). “Say whaaaaat?” Seriously, do it.

7. Just start jiving at your work Holiday party. Party is already over? Not a problemo, just start jiving in your office, create a dance train, sing carols to your boss, or just start something festive (I don’t know what that is exactly, but I know it’s going to be good).

If you’re feeling brave, why not share some of your very serious techniques for dealing with the Holiday Food Hangover.

Happy throwing-caution-to-the-wind!

M


Wednesday Workout Tip: Leave the gym in 30 minutes

I strongly dislike working out at the gym. Unless I am in a class or working out with a friend, I get bored. And when I get bored, my work to rest ratio becomes slightly unbalanced. So how do I maintain my attention when I am at the gym or at home? I perform high-intensity interval training, followed by weights and stretching. I can typically accomplish what I want in 20-35 minutes. Sounds awesome, right?

Yes, it is awesome and for many reasons. I am not stuck in the smelly haven that is the gym for hours upon hours. I am not required to listen to grunts and groans for an extended period of time. And more importantly, I have a lot more free time to do other things that may be a little more fun than working out.

The only downside to working out in this fashion is that my workouts are intense, challenging, and very muscle-fatiguing. To me, these should go in the benefits section, however, if you are new to working out or do not like experiencing an intense muscle burn, this may not be the workout for you.

So what do I do?

1. 5 minute warm-up on a bike. And not, the recumbent or the other one that uses buttons. I am talking about the bike that you manually twist the knob to increase or decrease the resistance.

2. Begin your cardio session. Increase the resistance on my bike and begin pedaling for 20 seconds as hard as I possibly can. I am aiming to work at 80-90% of my maximal oxygen uptake. What does that mean? I am basically pushing myself to maximal exertion.

3. I follow this intense pedaling session with 40 seconds of active rest (1:2 work to rest ratio). What this means is that I am still cycling, but I have lowered the resistance level on the bike and am pedaling at a much lesser intensity.

4. Increase the resistance level back to where you started and pedal for 30 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of active rest.

5. Once again, increase the resistance level and pedal like a madman or woman for 45 seconds, followed by 90 seconds of active rest.

6. Repeat the 45 second mad cycle and then go back down the pyramid (from 30 seconds to 20 seconds). Please note: you are going to be sweaty (or should be) and rather fatigued after this pyramid set. Take a 2 minute rest before moving to weights. Total time spent doing cardio (including rest) = 9.5 minutes.

7. Move to weights. Now, you can choose to do your weights after or before your cardio workout – it’s a matter of personal preference and what your goals are for the workout. If you’re legs feel like jelly after that intense 10 minute workout, than I would encourage you to save weights for another day. If you feel OK, do the brief weight-lifting routine listed below.

If you are stretched for time, I would encourage you to do squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks. I would encourage intermediates to select a weight that is challenging (i.e. by the time you get to the 12th repetition, you are struggling). For intermediates, aim for 10-12 reps per exercise and 2-3 sets. If you are beginner start with a lighter weight, higher reps and fewer sets. These exercises utilize a number of muscle groups and will give you the greatest bang for your buck. You should aim to spend 10-15 minutes doing weights.

8. Stretch. Please, please, please make time for flexibility. Flexibility training is crucial, yet under-performed. Each stretch should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds. Take time to stretch out muscles that were used during your cardiovascular and resistance training program. The more flexible you are, the better your range of motion, ability to respond to emergencies (e.g. running to catch the bus without pulling a hammie), and you will likely experience a reduction in muscle aches/pain. This should be about 5-10 minutes in length.

Total workout time: 26.5 – 36.5 minutes (includes that 2 minute rest between cardio and weight-training).

Happy training.

M


Your thoughts…

Good morning!

I would greatly appreciate your feedback as I begin to prepare my posts for the New Year. I am making the resolution (now) to get my blog posts organized in advance. With this in mind, I would like to know what you’re interested in. What do you want to learn more about? What weekly feature would you like to see? Is there a topic I haven’t covered that I should?

Let me know. Send me an email at liveitactive@gmail.com or post a comment.

Have a lovely day!

M


On New Year’s resolutions

Soon, the gym parking lot will be packed, weight-loss clinics booked to the maximum, and the voice-mail of holidaying personal trainers will be full (let’s hope).

It is the time to turn over a new leaf, to make the annual New Year’s resolution.

Yes, it’s great that people are preparing to make a change for the better (I hope). Taking time to take care of yourself is unbelievably important and under-appreciated. Yet, how many people stick with such resolutions?

Norcross et al. (2002) attempted to answer just that. They conducted phone interviews with resolvers (n=159) and comparable non-resolvers (those desiring to make a change, but with no resolution in place; n=123) for a period of six months to determine self-reported outcomes, predictors of success, and change processes.

So what did they find? After six months, resolvers significantly reduced cigarette consumption and weight relative to non-resolvers (i.e. 16 vs. 23 cigarettes per week and 160 vs. 167 lbs). They found that 46% of the resolvers self-reported success relative to only 4% of the non-resolvers.

What does this suggest? That making resolutions is important; merely having the desire to make a change as in the non-resolvers is unlikely going to result in the change occurring. Norcross et al. (2002) found that the key to long-term (i.e. six months) resolution success is to employ willpower, reinforcement management (rewarding yourself for changing), and positive thinking.

While this percentage seems promising, we must keep in mind that the data was collected via self-report methods which are always subject to bias. More importantly, you must determine whether you think maintaining a change for six months is synonymous with a long-term change.

I don’t. Making the attempt to change is great. Making and sustaining the change for six months is also great. But if the change is too demanding (e.g. going to the gym 4x per week, preparing to run a marathon, not eating chocolate) it is unlikely that you are going to stick with it past six months to one year.

A long-term change in my mind, means life-long.  Thus, the resolution must be realistic and maintainable. Not eating chocolate for the rest of your life is NOT sustainable, nor enjoyable. So merely resolve to reduce your intake, not completely rid yourself of the decadent delight. I would also encourage you to NOT make resolutions for the New Year. Make them for today, tomorrow or January 15th. I have an un-tested theory (perhaps it has been tested) that if you make a New Year’s resolution, you are more likely to give it up. Why? Because nobody else keeps their resolutions, so it’s not a big deal if you don’t either.

So instead of waiting for the New Year, make a resolution today or tomorrow. Ensure that you break your resolution into steps, perhaps reading my post on goal-setting would be helpful. And ensure that your resolution is realistic and maintainable for the rest of your life.

Happy resolving,

M

 

Reference:

Norcross et al. 2002. Auld Lang Syne: Success Predictors, Change Processes, and Self-Reported Outcomes of the New Year’s Resolvers and Nonresolvers. J Clin Psych: 54(4);397-405.


Why investing in your employees is essential

A good friend of mine passed along this article to me the other day. It discusses the importance of workplace wellness programs and the return on investment for employers. Just to give you a quick idea of how beneficial such programs can be:

  • For every $1 spent on health promotion, businesses experience about a $3.27 reduction in medical costs and $2.37 reduction in absenteeism associated costs[1]
  • Employees who reduce their stress levels can save employers approximately $925/year[2]
  • Employees who quit smoking can save their employers approximately $3,396/year[3]
  • On average, Canadian workers who experience minimal stress call in sick an average of 6x/year relative to their stressed out counterparts who call in almost 14x/year[4]
  • Improved employee retention and ability to attract high calibre employees
  • Increased productivity
  • Improved client satisfaction
  • Enhanced business growth

You get what you give when it comes to your employees. The healthier your employees, the more productive they are. The more productive they are, the better your bottom line.

If you’re comfortable, share these statistics with your employer. Print them out and post them on your office fridge. Talk to your colleagues. Hold a workplace wellness meeting and create a committee.

In order to be productive and successful, you must have your health. Employers need to realize the necessity of investing in employee health and well-being. You know you’re important – your employer should think so too.

Happy weekending,

M

 


[1] Baicker et al. 2010. “Workplace Wellness Programs Can Generate Savings” Harvard University: Health Affairs.

[2] Buffet & Company Worksite Wellness. “Did you know”.

[3] Sun Life Canadian Health Index. 2010. “Employee Health Matters: Breaking down barriers to reap the rewards of a healthy workforce”.

[4] The Health Communication Unit at the Centre of Health Promotion, University of Toronto. “The Case for comprehensive workplace health promotion


Wednesday Workout Tip: Don’t forget to exercise your face!

Ever wondered about how to exercise your face muscles? Well, I seem to have stumbled across the answer. I am just so glad to have found this cinematic gem and truly believe that by performing these exercises “we will eradicate the need for plastic surgeons”.

I hope you laughed just as much as I did. The breathing technique used before each stretch was perhaps the most interesting component of the video.

Happy Wednesday.

M


%d bloggers like this: