live it active


On Physical Activity While Pregnant

I can’t tell you how many comments I’ve received about exercising while pregnant. “You’re doing this class?” or “You’re still working out?”, have been common questions over the course of my baby’s six month gestation. I received a lecture from one of the nurses I had the misfortune of interacting with (there have been plenty of nice nurses too) and my current OB (I know, I know, she’s doing her job telling me about how the pelvic floor works).

Interestingly, I have had a phenomenal pregnancy so far. And while I appreciate this is anecdotal evidence, it would seem being fit pre-pregnancy and remaining active while incubating a human are quite helpful. But wait, the research also supports this relationship; exercising increases blood flow to the baby and improves brain development, helps manage birth weight and lowers risk for gestational diabetes…you get the picture.

As you’ve likely guessed, I will continue to exercise until I deliver (well, I hope to). I will walk to and from work for as long as my body and the weather will allow. I will continue to lift weights and maintain my cardio; however, running has become more of a challenge due to the recent development of shin splints. I will continue to teach Zumba until the end of this month and try out cross-country skiing in December. I will do all of this while paying great attention to my body. I will not do anything that feels awkward of uncomfortable. I will adjust as necessary.

This post reads like a confession. And to be honest, you often do feel like a sinner while pregnant with all the judgment and unsolicited comments that come your way (diet related comments are by far the most common and the most annoying). It’s a balancing act to navigate the research, old wives tales, stories from friends and family, and still ensure you have the pregnancy you wish to have. So if confessing is what I need to do, so be it.

Yet, the true intention of this post is to assure other pregnant ladies that exercising (in whatever way works for you) should be completely safe while pregnant. It is not okay for women to be told that their miscarriage was a result of heavy exercising (yes, this has happened). Of course, you need to talk to a professional, but make sure you talk to a few as the opinions can vary widely. I’ve run two half marathons and a trail race while pregnant with no issue – don’t let fear mongering take hold.

Listening to your body is always a good rule. If you’re too tired to workout, don’t. If you need a nap, take it. If you feel up for a jog, go for it. If you’re nervous about hurting the baby, do some reading and / or talk to your doctor.

Happy exercising,

M

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Wednesday Workout Tip: Keep Exercise Alive on Vacation

Who doesn’t want or need a relaxing vacation? I think everyone I know could use some serious R&R. But going on vacation doesn’t have to mean that all activity stops, eating increases, and alcohol consumption starts at 10 AM. If that’s what you want, go for it. Yet, I imagine you don’t always feel super rested when you return from an all-inclusive or any vacation with limited physical activity and binge eating. Do you?

Well, I don’t. I usually feel like garbage after only a few days of doing nothing. I’m more restless, sleep more poorly, get hungrier more often (blood sugar spikes and valleys), become irritable, and feel tired and sometimes, sad. That’s a lot of things to feel in just a few short days, but there’s a solution.

If you can relate to my story, you may want to consider fitting in at least 20-30 minutes of activity per day while on vacation. It won’t take long and it will make you feel so much better.

Kathleen Trotter, a guest columnist in the Globe and Mail provides readers with a straightforward, no-nonsense 20 minute workout for vacation times (or anytime really). I encourage you to read and implement the elements that work for you. Also, along the side of the article are videos on how to ensure proper form when engaging in exercises such as squats, lunges, and planks. Please, please watch the videos. Poor form can really hurt you in the long run.

I’m heading to L.A. next week for training. I’m going to be living in a hotel, enjoying (but also not enjoying) prepared restaurant meals, and sitting in a class room for an extended period of time. The hotel will undoubtedly have a gym and I plan to take full advantage of it AND enjoy the beautiful and sunny weather that L.A. has to offer.

Happy exercising on vacation. And remember, squeezing in a workout isn’t mandatory, but I do encourage you to try it out and see how you feel. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Oh, and one last thing, exercise does not need to be overly intense to have benefit. If you’re not up to the 20 minute interval training session that Trotter suggests, go for a long walk along the beach, enjoy a swim in the pool, take the stairs to your hotel room, do whatever works for you that gets the heart rate up and you out of your pool chair.

M


Dealing with Death

When you begin writing a blog you vow to yourself, your readers, and your friends and family that you will not, I repeat, will not discuss your personal life. Sadly, I broke that vow quite early on and I’m going to break it again today.

I was in Ontario last week for a family emergency. My granny was and still is dying. The doctors told my family that she did not have long for this world and the best thing to do was to bring her home from the hospital. So we did. We bundled her up like like a Russian doll (you know the ones, except there wasn’t a smaller version of my granny inside…at least I hope). She took the ambulance ride like a trooper, joking with the EMTs when appropriate. After two days at home she asked for food. This request may not seem that startling, but as my granny had not asked for food in almost two months, it came as a surprise to us.

From that point, she started to become more engaged. Eating a little bit more each day, drinking water and juice, and even joining the family in the living room. While she remains a shadow of her former self, her unexpected rally (which is still happening) was a pleasant surprise for me and my family.

Yet, even though it was a pleasant surprise it was and remains stressful for all involved. As a family, we had to accept the fact that bringing my grandmother home would result in her death. We moved through this challenge and came to some level of acceptance of what was to come. Then we had to accept that death wasn’t going to occur within the time period the doctors had estimated – that she was going to live longer. I had to inform my work that my grandmother, after two months of basically being non-responsive to food, liquid, and family care, had decided to live again (if even for a short while). My family had to do the same – informing their respective workplaces that they would be returning to work within the next few days, that my granny had come back from the almost-dead.

Moving back and forth between life and death is an exhausting process. It’s sad, stressful, and completely gray – there is no black or white, well, until the person actually dies. It’s exhausting because every person involved in the dying person’s care has a different outlook and expectation about what should happen. Some family members are spiritual, some are not. Some don’t like using the word death while others cannot stand using inaccurate terminology. So whilst dealing with the process of losing someone you love, you have to manage your own expectations and behaviour so as not to offend or upset a family member. And let’s face it, that’s hard for anyone, regardless of intellect, age, or life experience.

So why am I sharing this with the blogosphere? Perhaps it’s helping me to process the events of last week. Perhaps it’s because throughout the week I managed to remain fairly level-headed and calm. My emotions didn’t run away with me. I helped when needed. I cared for my granny when she asked. And I find this surprising based on my behaviour in the past when dealing with stressful or difficult situations.

I attribute this relative state of calm to two things: 1) Mindfulness and, 2) Exercise. Since integrating and accepting the concept and practice of mindfulness into my life almost a year and a half ago, I have noticed a seismic shift in how I approach and deal with stress. I still have a way to go, but I am impressed with the results so far. And lastly, exercise has been and always will be my go-to coping mechanism. I managed to get to the gym twice last week (I even got to workout with my mom which I always love doing) and went for a walk with my dad (in -20 weather, eek). My workouts were not overly intense, nor long, but they allowed me a break from the ongoing and ever-stressful situation of dying. Yes, exercise is a stress on the body, but it’s a good stress. It makes you stronger and better prepares you for future stress. It makes the body and mind more resilient. So not only were last weeks workouts beneficial, but all the workouts I’ve ever done before last week.

As the creator of mindfulness states, “it is better to weave your parachute before you jump out of a plane”.

We must think of exercise, mindfulness, eating healthy, taking breaks at work, or whatever you do to effectively manage stress as threads within our metaphorical parachute – the more we do, the more threads we have and the stronger our parachute becomes for the inevitable jump.

My parachute was ready for the jump. My only task now, make the necessary repairs and continue to weave for the future.

M


It’s Cold Season. Avoid the Sickness.

It’s cold season. The more time we spend indoors, the greater our chances of becoming sick. No, I’m not advocating that you stay outside in a blizzard, but I am recommending you do a few things to help stave off the sickness.

Apparently, adults average 3 colds per year and kids can expect between 6 and 12. That’s a whole lot of sickness, just within one family. While it may seem like a challenge, especially if you have little ones in daycare, there are a few simple things you can do that can help.

  1. Allow your child to build an immune system. Purell did not exist during my childhood and like most children, I was not a super regular hand-washer. I also grew up in the country, had many pets, and spent a lot of time at the barn. Also, and you may cringe at this, my father paid little attention to best-before dates on dairy products and other such goodies. I still do the same today. While this is completely anecdotal evidence, I do believe that being exposed to such things has helped my immune system to become the army that it is today (now watch me get a cold). All in all, let your kid be a kid. Eating stuff off the floor, licking toys at school, and getting into the garbage (not sure if kids actually do this, more so dogs) is likely beneficial in the long run…unless they eat raw chicken. 
  2. Stop using Purell. Regular hand-washing does the job. By constantly purell-ing ourselves we never give our immune system the chance to practice, to exercise, to perform. An army that doesn’t get regular exercise, is a lazy, slow-to-the-draw kind of army and nobody wants one of those. My recommendation – wash your hands after you go to the washroom and before you prepare a meal. Otherwise, you’re probably good.
  3. Eat colourful fruit and veggies. They do your body a tonne of good.
  4. Forget the Cold FX. It costs a lot of money and it works via the placebo method, if at all. Don’t believe me, read this. Positive thinking, “I won’t get sick. I won’t get sick.” will accomplish much of the same.
  5. Drink water. Aim for the 8 glasses a day, but don’t beat yourself up if you just can’t drink that amount. Perhaps aim for one more glass than you usually drink.
  6. Watch your stress levels. Stress can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to catching the virus. Baths, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends, cooking/baking, exercise, yoga, stretching, being in nature are all great ways to relieve stress.
  7. Exercise. After you exercise, your body goes into repair mode. Your immune system is fairly busy. Yet, this constant workload helps to make the immune system stronger and smarter. I do not, however, recommend exercising when sick. Your body is already working hard enough, let it rest.
  8. Sleep. Go to bed at 8:30 if you must. Sleep when you feel a cold coming on. It will undeniably speed along the recovery process.

There are likely hundreds of other possible remedies, these are just mine. As you can tell, I am not an advocate of supplements or hand sanitizer. Furthermore, I do not take vitamins. I aim to get what I need from what I eat. While many would argue that doing so is impossible, I seem to manage okay. Sickness does not visit me often (seriously, watch me get a cold today) and when it does, it doesn’t stick around for long.

Good luck this flu and cold season.

M


Tell me, what’s your favourite position?

I am referring to weight-lifting position, just in case you needed some clarification…

Typically, I provide you with a Wednesday Workout tip, yet I am in need of some inspiration. I am asking you, my wonderful readers, what exercises, routines, activities you have been doing to stay fit and healthy. Feel free to comment on the post or send me an email. With your permission, I will write about your exercise/routine/activity on the following Wednesday Workout posts. Don’t worry, you’ll definitely get the credit.

Happy Wednesday!

M

 

 


Pushups & Pee?

The Globe and Mail is offering up some interesting exercise advice this morning – how to squeeze in a workout during your bathroom break.

I want to preface that I am a big advocate of fitting in exercise into your daily routine, but this is a stretch, even for me. Running or biking to work, walking during lunch, taking the stairs, sitting on a Swiss ball instead of a desk chair, or stretching mid afternoon are all fairly straightforward examples and less likely to result in a bacterial infection (well, one can hope). Doing pushups on the wall, right beside the urinal, is a little much.

The author of this article has likened exercise to hand-washing. It seems that both things are natural behaviours in the bathroom. Well, they’re not (well, hand-washing is fairly standard).

Personally, I don’t want to exercise in the washroom and I would hasten a bet that most of you wouldn’t want to either. And it’s not because it’s ‘weird’ (I like weird). It’s because it’s down right unhygienic and stinky.There are so many other places in the workplace to work on your pecs. The first place that comes to mind, your office. The second, the break room. The third, any wall that is not in the bathroom.

Let me restate this, I am all for fitting exercise into your daily routine, but even I have limits. Yet, if you’re comfortable with getting your sweat on in the bathroom, go for it. As the expression goes, to each their own.

Happy workout…wherever you may be!

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



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