live it active


A Toast to Everyday Champions

September, for most people, is often associated with change, excitement, and for a few lucky individuals, new clothes. Unfortunately, I am not one of the lucky ones when it comes to new clothes, but I have decided to change it up on the blog – well, just a bit.

To mark the dawn of a new school year, I’ve decided to run a series on the ‘Everyday Champion’ for the entire month of September. Who are these champions I speak of?

They’re people who get up and go to work everyday, who manage families, and work hard to find time for their health and well-being (and finding time for that can be very hard with a full-time job and family). They’re people who may have endured a life-altering experience that motivated them to change their habits, start exercising, eating better, and taking care of their stress levels. They’re people coping with a chronic illness. They’re people approaching retirement and want to stay healthy.

Who are they not? They’re not Olympians. They’re not professional athletes. They’re not exorbitantly wealthy individuals with a tonne of time on their hand.

They’re students, business-owners, fundraisers, researchers, marketing professionals. They’re everyday people, just like you (my amazing readers) and me. And over the month of September they will share their personal stories with us.

Stay tuned for my first post this Monday.

Happy weekend and Happy September!

M

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Wednesday Workout Tip: Don’t believe every piece of exercise advice you read

OK, so I’m somewhat shooting myself in the foot with that title, but it’s true – you shouldn’t believe every piece of exercise advice you read.

In one of my favourite magazines, Real Simple, they always have a section allocated to health, wellness and exercise tips. This month, their in-house health guru (not sure if he/she is a personal trainer or has any education in the area) reviewed 6 relatively new exercise fads and whether they are worthy of your precious time.

The fads reviewed included: 

  • Barefoot running shoes
  • CrossFit workouts
  • Digital body monitors
  • TRX Suspension trainer
  • High-intensity interval training
  • Myofascial release therapy

My major issue was with the review on high-intensity interval training (HITT). Again, I’m not sure who wrote the piece and yes, they did consult with  health experts, but what makes them the expert? Because they own a gym? Anyways, the health “expert” who was referenced in the HIIT review (who was a gym owner for your information) states that “HIIT is an excellent approach to cardio…your body’s metabolism stays elevated for a longer period of time”. And I completely agree, it is an excellent approach to cardio and will result in an elevated metabolic rate for 24-48 hours post-exercise session (though exercise has to be above 70% of your maximal oxygen intake level). But, yes there’s a but, HIIT is, as the name reveals, highly intense. This particular health expert, nor the writer of the article, mentions the dangers of engaging in this form of exercise.

Dangers? Yes, dangers. If you were thinking about getting into the exercise game and read “HIIT may be more effective at whittling fat from the belly and legs”, what would you do? Would you start slow, increase your fitness gently, or would you grab your trainers and start sprinting? Any time we hear the mention of “whittling belly fat” we’re hooked. And then, two days after that intense session, with our muscles screaming and our brain telling us to quit, we quit. Quitting is just one of the many dangers.

The second danger depends on our current health state. If you have a heart condition, diabetes, asthma, joint pain, or tendon issues, talk to your doctor. Secondly, if you and the couch have grown close over the last couple of months and / or you are carrying more weight than you should be for your height, age, and sex, talk to your doctor. Seriously, your doctor should have a good idea of what form of exercise will best work for you. Yet, some doctors are pressed for time and give very little advice when it comes to exercise and healthy eating. If this is your particular dilemma, I would encourage you to connect with a certified exercise physiologist. They have engaged in training and formal education to earn that designation and will be able to prescribe an exercise regimen that is right for you.

So there you have it – don’t believe everything you read. While most of you know I am a huge fan of HIIT, I also realize that it is not right for everyone. Magazines and newspapers are often limited for space and want to make a splash. Knowing this will hopefully make you a more savvy exerciser.

Happy Wednesday!

M

 

Images from Flikr – Creative Commons

Running Shoes – TimTak

Running Man – esbjorn2


It’s Friday, give yourself a break

In all honesty, you should give yourself a break each and everyday. You don’t have to earn it, just take it. Say what? In my opinion, a large number of North Americans (and other nationalities around the world) have this notion that we need to “earn” our breaks and vacation time. Do we? I’m not sure.

If if I am being honest, I operate the same way. My relaxation time feels so much better if it has been an arduous journey to get there. For example, I will feel more gratitude for my glass of wine and dinner tonight if it’s been a rough day at work. Honestly, I think this way of thinking is a little twisted, but at the same time I don’t only because it’s a cultural norm.

I was recently re-watching Eat. Pray. Love. I actually liked it more the second time around. There’s a line said by one of Julia Roberts (J.R.’s) friends in Italy that has always resonated with me and this time, I thought I would blog about it.

J.R. is saying that she feels guilty as she has only learned a small amount of Italian since arriving. He replies (and I’m paraphrasing here) that she feels guilty because she is American, that Americans know entertainment, but they don’t know pleasure. He states (and I am not paraphrasing here) “you Americans, you work too hard, you get burned out and then you come home and spend the whole weekend in you pajamas in front of the T.V…you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told that you’ve earned it. You see a commercial saying it’s Miller Time and you say to yourself, ‘That’s right, now I’m going to buy a six pack’…An Italian doesn’t need to be told. An Italian walks by a sign that says ‘You deserve a break’ and the Italian says, ‘Yes, I know'”.

I think the Italian’s synopsis of how North Americans operate is quite succinct and unfortunately true. I’m not discounting the fact that this type of thinking doesn’t make for productive workers, a good economy (usually), and well-operated country (usually). There are some definite pros to this type of thinking. And if you’ve ever been to Italy, you will notice a very different approach to work and the individual work ethic…and the speed at which construction projects get done. It’s different and not necessarily better, but I do think there is some validity to what J.R.’s friend had to say.

I think we do need to take more time to reward ourselves during the week. Our weekdays compose the majority of the week. Our weekends are just two days and they flash by in an instant. Why not try to find some pleasure during the week? Why not enjoy a nice dinner out? Why not have a glass of wine or a gelato (or ice cream)? Why not take a long stroll instead of doing an intense workout at the dull and dreary gym? If you want to do something on a weeknight, why not? I am sure, like me, you can come up with a million excuses, but I implore you to stop. Get out there and start enjoying.

Don’t wait for a commercial, or your boss, or your inner “good / bad” voice to tell you deserve a break or not. If you want one, take one. If you can’t at that exact moment because work needs to get done, plan for one later in the day. Be responsible in your breaks (don’t overdo it), but be kind to yourself.

Happy weekend and future weeknights to come!

M

 

 


Wednesday Workout Tip: Manage Your Stress

I talk a lot about stress. Mainly because the majority of us experience it everyday in a variety of settings – in the workplace, at home with our family / partner, in the car, at the gym, in the grocery store, even at the library.

Your baseline stress level and ability to cope with everyday stressors depends on a multitude of factors – genetics, the mix of stress hormones you were exposed to in the womb, the environment you grew up in, and your parents stress habits and coping styles. As you may have noticed, there is very little control, albeit none, that you can have over these influencing factors. Yet, there is still hope.

Fortunately, our brains are very malleable and open to new ways of thinking and doing; however, it may not seem like it at first. Old neural networks are hard to break and reroute, but its possible. More simply put, changing your habits is difficult, especially if you have had a relationship with them for the past 26 years.

Researchers say it takes around 14-21 days to start and sustain a new habit. But I’m sorry, to me, the non-doctor that I am, this is a major underestimate. I’ve been working for the past 3 years on integrating stress management techniques into my everyday life. Yes, 3 years. So Perhaps I need to go back and read the fine print on that time range. Perhaps it is only for rather small noxious habits such as nail-biting or sitting with a slouched back. Regardless, learning how to and actually engaging in stress management techniques on a regular basis, so much that they become unconscious, takes inordinately longer than 14-21 days.

I apologize if this seems rather depressing. My intent is not to depress, but to enlighten. Making positive, impactful change in your life (i.e. learning and implementing new coping / stress management skills) is time-consuming, arduous, challenging, painful, and sometimes irritating, BUT the end-result is worth it.

Imagine – you spend less time fretting about whether your boss likes you and more time doing meaningful work. Imagine – you spend your evenings and weekends completely immersed in the task that you are doing, not replaying the workday’s events. Imagine – not getting angry over the cat pooping in the kitchen as opposed to their top-of-the-line snazzy litter box. Just imagine.

Now it’s important to remember that eliminating everyday stressors is impossible. They are a natural and normal part of our experience. Furthermore, it is important to discern the difference between external and internal stressors. External stressors are those that we have no control over – the death of a loved one, the loss of a pet, demotion or promotion at work, etc. Internal stressors are the stressors that we have control over – getting enough sleep, eating well, or partaking in drugs and alcohol. Making this distinction helps us to better understand what we have control over and what we do not. It helps us to understand what we can change and what we cannot. Lastly, how we view and react to those external stressors can be altered in such a way that we become better able to let things go and deal with them effectively and efficiently. This is critical for our current and future psychological and physiological health.

So how do you go about managing your stress? Watching the video posted below is a great start. I have to thank a friend of mine, Kevin, for sending this my way. Following the video, I would encourage you to start educating yourself about the consequences of chronic, unaddressed stress. I’ve listed a few book recommendations below the video

If you’re a reader, I would encourage you to explore the following books on stress management techniques:

  • Spark, my favourite book on stress, discusses the benefits of using exercise to better manage stress
  • Anything by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of mindfulness. He can be a bit verbose, so read what you can. I’m sure you’ll find a few nuggets. If you’re interested in other books on mindfulness, please send me a quick email at liveitact8ive@gmail.com
  • Lastly, if you’re open and interested, The Power of Now is a very eye-opening, yet complex read on living in the present moment. This book was life-changing for me, but his style and method isn’t for everyone.

If you have found a stress management book, technique, practice that is working for you, stick with it (and share it with us).

Happy Wednesday!

M


Share your Success Story

Good afternoon!

Yes, I know, two posts in one day is a rarity for Live It Active, but I thought I’d shake things up.

This is not a typical post, but a request to my lovely readers. If you’d like to share your exercise / health success story on Live It Active, here’s your chance. As I mentioned this morning, I will feature posts written by everyday health champions over the course of the next month or so. I’ve already secured a number of spots, but the more the merrier.

If you’d like to share your health success story, email me at liveitactive@gmail.com. I am happy to help with the writing and editing process.

M


When Success Happens

I blog a lot about setting goals, working towards your goals, how to stay motivated, and the challenges of finding success. I rarely talk about what to when you are successful. And it’s an important question to ask, “What happens when I reach my goal?”

Over the next month or so we are going to hear from people who were successful, who achieved what they thought impossible, and are working towards new goals. They will discuss their trials and tribulations and share their tricks to success. These people are not professional athletes, but amateur athletes who love a challenge. I think the stories of athletes are inspiring, but not necessarily relatable.

Happy Monday!

M

 


Happy Friday

I must be honest, this is not original content. I saw the video on another amazing blog, Sarcasm Soapbox, which you should definitely check out for a good laugh.

I hope this particular video makes you laugh. It sure made me chuckle.

Happy Friday!

M


Wednesday Workout Tip: Switch up your routine

I appreciate that I have talked about the importance of routine and consistency in other posts. Go figure, I would write about something completely the opposite, but I am.

If you’re bored of the gym, why not try something different? If you’re not bored of the gym, but your routine, well…change it up. Yes, it is that simple. Even changing the order you do your exercises in will help shake things up. However, I would encourage you to incorporate new weight-lifting moves and different forms of cardio.

For example, if you always run for 10-15 minutes prior to your weight-lifting regime, start on the bike. If you usually do cardio, weights, cardio, why not try, warm-up, weights, skipping, weights, skipping, erg machine? If you’re short on creativity, visit YouTube and watch a couple of muscle heads who will happily provide you with some ideas. If you do go down the YouTube path, please be cautious. The majority of people posting videos are likely not trainers, just people who love pumping the guns (which doesn’t necessarily make them bad or incorrect, just means they’re not certified). Use with caution.

If you’re boredom stems from the very gym itself, there are other options out there. I’ve talked about the importance of finding something you love doing in earlier posts, but I will say it again – find something you love doing. If you do, you’re more likely to stick with it. There are a number of ways you can do this, and relatively cheaply.

1. Explore classes offered at your gym. If you’re not a member, find a friend who is and join them for a class or two.

2. Go and hit some balls at the driving range. Is golf your game?

3. Visit your local rowing club and ask if you could buy a package of 1-2 introductory lessons at a discounted rate. You can barter. Be strong.

4. Attend a local sporting event – triathalon, duathalon, Iron Man, half marathon, etc. Do you like what you see? Is this something you could see yourself training for? Believe me, it’s a lot of fun and a great challenge.

5. Organize a curling bonspiel with your coworkers. This could be for a Christmas party or staff bonding event.

6. Join an intramural sports league with friends.

7. Go on a trailride with your sweetie this weekend. Again, so much fun!

8. Ask the local dance studio if you could attend 1-2 ballroom dance classes. Explain that you’re nervous and really just want to try it out. Sell it to them as an opportunity for their business. People are often intimidated to buy a package of 6-8 classes because of the dreaded ‘what if?’. Convince the owner (you need to talk with the owner) that selling an introductory package of 1-3 classes would be more attractive to buyers.

9. Next time your kid is at karate, think about taking an adult class. Thinking costs nothing, but I would really like to you try an adult class.

10. Find a local Lululemon and attend a free yoga class. Yes, they’re free.

If you have other ideas on how to switch up your routine whether it be routine or activity, please comment or send me an email. I love hearing other ideas.

Happy Wednesday.

M


Wednesday Workout Tip: Stay Hydrated

Did you know you should be drinking 150-350 ml of water every 20 minutes during strenuous exercise lasting more than an hour? 

Did you know the that water is absorbed by the intestine at a rate of 30 ml/min, but that we sweat approximately 50 ml/min of water during strenuous exercise? Thus, no matter how much we drink, we’re never going to remain fully hydrated throughout any exercise session.

Hypohydration is a common occurrence for professional athletes and active recreational athletes alike. There are a number of consequences: poor performance, muscle pain, and potentially a trip to the hospital. Yes, being hypohydrated is very serious, however, I am sure you already knew that.

In summary, it is important to drink during and after exercise as you have some catching up to do. Furthermore, if you are engaging in strenuous exercise past 1 hour you should consider reviewing your pre-, during, and post-exercise diet in addition to your electrolyte needs. For most recreational athletes, you should be fine just the way you are. Yet, if you are preparing for a half marathon, marathon, Iron Man/Woman, or Olympic Triathlon, you should definitely be energy intake, the quality of calories, and your hydration practice throughout the day.

Happy hydrating!

M

 


Hiking Trail Etiquette

Recently, Evan and I have been doing a little hiking in our new province and I’ve got to say, it pretty much rocks (pun intended…Sorry for the Tuesday-morning-after-a-long-weekend-humour). We have learned, through both experience and our trusty new hiking guide, that there is something called trail etiquette. Heard of it? We hadn’t, but thankfully our mothers trained us well (i.e. basic manners) and saved us from making many a faux pas.

Next time you are out hiking, climbing, mountain biking, or whatever else you do on trails, please remember the following:

1. Do not listen to your Iphone or Ipod so that everyone in a 20 meter radius can hear it. I dont’ like your music. Neither does the couple a head of you, nor does the red squirrel trying to catch a few z’s. Seriously, you’re being a total jerk.

2. You don’t have to say ‘hello’ to everyone you pass on the trail. Some people don’t want to talk and that’s OK. I have found this a hard one to accept, but it’s getting easier and easier. Plus, it saves me a lot of energy. Smiling is OK, but not necessary.

3. Talking at the summit is a definite faux pas. I learned this the hard way. We were chatting with another couple, being perfectly cordial, but the lady sitting close to us got up and said to her husband “let’s go to the other side”. I didn’t think I was being loud, but according to Evan, I have a country voice (i.e. very loud). Apparently, it was my fault the lady’s blissful moment with nature was interrupted. I am sorry lady. Lesson for Morgan and all current/future hikers: keep your mouth shut, whisper or talk quietly if necessary (yelling is only OK if you’ve fallen close to the edge and need assistance), and allow others to enjoy the view in silence.

4. Don’t litter. I mean, come on people. This is a no-brainer.

5. Leave rap music videos for the street. Yesterday, we arrived upon a fairly strange scene at the top of Yates Mountain. There was a rap music video being filmed. Yes, mountains, scenic vistas, and ravens are exactly what I associate with rap music. Not cars, massive necklaces, and hoochie mamas.

6. Don’t feed the chipmunks. I know they’re cute, but they’re wild animals. And wild animals should be left alone.

7. Be quiet. I don’t care if you’re hiking with 6 close friends, keep it down. Remember, the trail doesn’t belong to you (or me for that matter), but good ol’ mother nature. Be respectful of both nature and your fellow hikers.

8. Pick up your dog’s poop. While I stepped in and got my backpack, shirt and hand covered in the poop of a small animal on the weekend (a story for another time), I also noticed  a number of little presents left behind by canine friends. I know it’s nature and all, but seriously, no one wants to step in your dogs poop. Remember, the poop and scoop rule applies to all environments.

I am sure there are more ‘rules of engagement’ when it comes to hiking and I will add them as I learn. For now, please try hard to abide by the above suggestions.

I believe a “Happy trails to you…” is more than appropriate as I sign off for the day.

M

 


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